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 No.720713[Last 50 Posts]

Last time, on PirateQuest…

Despite Professor Shrimp's best attempts at bribery, making threats and pleading, the party turned him in to the Constable's Barracks. There, he would wait in a small aquarium unti he could stand trial and receive his punishment, which would be determined via majority vote by those whom he had conscripted into his would-be army. They collected their bounties, coming in at a whopping 900 gold per person.

With multiple jobs now under their belts, the exhaustion of their hard work, compounded by the heat and hunger, finally caught up with them. Many members of the Beesting started up a potluck, ordering takeout dishes from a variety of Manenhi's more popular eateries. They brought the dishes back to the Beesting, allowing everyone to pick and choose as they pleased and eat aboard the comfort of their ship.

There was, however, an unsettling matter at hand. Cutlass was still nowhere to be seen, and even the Hidden Dagger was missing. Not a single member of her crew was present at the docks, nor anywhere else in town. Things only got worse when Thessaly attempted to contact them via the Caller Conch. Not a single person picked up. But just as she was about to hang up on the final call, she found an answer. It was the voice of Philip the Gentlecolt, and though Alder was unaware of the conversation, he learned just that day of Philip's role: One of the dreaded fleet commanders of the Crimson King.


Squatz raises his own mug to yours, toasting you. "To many MORE fights! I hope I never learn Aura!" he declares, before knocking back his drink.

You knock back yours, noting at first the crisp, tangy flavor of the blue fruit, mixed with the refreshing clarity in the diamond-colored pear, and then–

A sudden wave of floatiness washes over you, sublimating your senses in a dreamy sense of both weight and lightness, like being carried by the waves while half-asleep. Very quickly, your whole body relaxes, from snout to tail, awash in a pleasant totality of languid luxury. The last thing that you hear clearly is Paraiba telling Zerk to write your last will and testament and naming Paraiba as the sole inheritor of all your possessions and property.


Chiu reciprocates the hug, but it seems to do little for her anxiety. "What does it mean to adjust, though? I don't think it just means preparing ourselves mentally to run into something bizarre and Aura-filled every other week. If we don't want either of us to come home with all kinds of eyepatches and prosthetics and whatnot, we need to prepare ourselves physically."

She pokes your stomach in a soft, ticklish spot. "And that means hardening ourselves up."


Splendid blinks a few times in confusion, looking at you as if she is confused by the very fact that you're asking it. She then blinks, sobering up a bit. "Oooooohhhhhhh. Nah, nah, I completely forgot you're not from here. It's a rhyme that I was taught when I was growin' up, yeah? You talking about those kids you helped out today brought it to mind for some reason. The Virtues were in charge of education where I… uh…"

She pauses, then has another long quaff of her drink. She pulls back a bit to keep from squishing you, but still leans on you pleasantly. "'Nuff said about them, then. All in the past, innit?"


"Having impatience in a conversation is a very bestial quality," Philip says. "Akin to excessive cursing or saying a whole lot of words, but not stating anything of value. You have nothing to get worked up over, besides. I'm not the one who targeted them, but rather they, your Captain, who went off in pursuit of one of my underlings. This aggression is exactly what I'm talking about."

You hear the clattering of some porcelain game pieces before him, and the exchange of what sound like casino chips and coins. "Random attacks, violent outbursts have no place in a well-functioning, well-adjusted society. Such tendencies need to be ironed out, and antisocial individuals tending toward those impulses need to be socialized properly."


She seethes quietly as she realizes he's not going to shut up and spill the beans any time soon. She changes her tone a little, still far from friendly with Philip but less aggressive. "…I see. So who are they after? Where are they now?" She tries not to show her fear for Cutlass' safety.


There is a loud thud as Cerulean's face plants into the food she hasn't eaten yet. There is a slight rumbling from the food, likely her trying to speak, but its likely muffled and slurred to all hell and back.


"By the last status report, there are whispers of a kind of spontaneous mutiny among the Hidden Dagger crew," Philip languidly continues. You hear dice rolling in the background, and he politely, curtly laughs. Chips pile in toward him. "To be honest, I'm disappointed to hear it. The latest rumors flowing in from Black Market information brokers suggested that yours was a crew that was truly making a name for itself, based on recent events. I was hoping the infamous Hidden Dagger would not be so prone to… imperfections."

The last word flicks out of his mouth like a serpent's tongue.

A most pleasant feeling, like soaking in warm water, wells up from within you. It is as though you were resting on a warm wave both inside and out. Faintly, you are aware of muffled voices some distance above you, coming through as if you had a nice soft feather pillow on both ears, and you were tucked into bed. Someone rolls you onto your side, and you feel the soft pecking of Roger's mouth against your cheeks, cleaning off the food.


Cerulean begins to fall asleep right there, idly chewing on whatever food manages to find its way into her mouth. She drunkenly pets Roger, which ends up as a pat on his body, then his head, then completely missing and splating into more food.
"Ngaaah……sho shleepy…."


"Hrm… These 'Virtues' control education then? I suppose rhymes about them only make sense, then. But… All in the past, yes. I would like to learn more about life in the Ribcage sometime though, if you'd ever be inclined to share."

The griffon adjusts himself now that Splendid has taken some of her weight off of him, and takes a sip of his drink before asking "Though, a tad unrelated… what exactly does it mean to call someone a cunt? Is it an insult? I think I've heard it said as one, and I remember you saying it earlier…"


She frowns. The thought of a mutiny against Cutlass had crossed her mind in the past, but she had not given the thought serious consideration. Then again it’s very possible he’s just trying to sow discord. “That does not answer either of my questions,” she states bluntly.



"Well it means to not be thrown off by what we'd run into. Like when I moved to the city it was kinda like this, not as dangerous though. Once I adjusted and knew what to expect, there was nothing that could trip me up."

Cloud tries to stifle a chuckle, poorly, at the prod.
"Hey, no fair poking the stomach after I ate a bit. Try poking my legs, those are plenty hard."
He says in defense of his body.
"So you mean start training instead of relaxing. Greeeat idea," He grumbles in a droll, though Chiu can tell it's his typical sarcasm, "Alright, how about this. I'll start toning up more if we get a workout plan we do together."
He says, poking Chiu in the side the same she did to him.
"Can't have the future captain getting soft either."


Splendid nods. "Yeah, they're part of this religious order, a kind of ecu– ecumen… er, whatever they calls it. Like a joint group between two religions, or some such. They did a lot of charity, took in the poor, clothed the widows and orphans and whatnot. Taught us our letters and our maths and everything. For a while I thought 'bout joinin' up. Lots of me friends were givin' it a go, but… well, it didn't work out."

As you ask the meaning of cunt, she begins to laugh, but a burp comes out instead. The burp gets caught, mid-laugh, in her throat and she's caught between the two states for a good few seconds. "Nah, nah, nah! Not when I use it at least. It's a right term of endearment comin' from me. B-but don't you go and repeat it to anyone, least of all to a girl."

"Hmm? Oh, pardon me. I was distracted with a certain matter before me. It's rare I ever get to have a free moment to stop and think about less important affairs – so I distract easily."

In a strange turn, you hear muffled gunshots in the background. It's orderly, organized – not like the chaotic fire of a gunfight or skirmish at sea. It's hard to tell where they're coming from in the scene. The sounds of dice clicking across a velvet table indicate that the game is still going on in spite of the sudden violence. "Something about an old crew of hers, coming back to haunt her. As for where? I can't know everything, can I? I'm sure they're out at sea right now. I should hope Miss Cutlass will be able to find her way back – it'd be a shame if she lost her Accompass out there."

And that's the dreadful thing. Cutlass' crew does not have an Accompass, as they are rare; she's been relying on the Beesting's. Without it, she'll have to navigate by the positions of the stars, and there's no telling how far Agyl Island will have moved by then.

Alder is able to see that Cerulean has passed out from her heavy drinking, laying semiconscious on deck with a look of inebriated contentment. A few of the mooks have gathered around, laying her on her side and checking to see if she's alright. A few of them call out to him, calling for his aid.

"Eeehehehe!" Chiu squeals, even after a light poke. A few heads turn nearby, but they just scoff and laugh it off. Chiu flashes pink with embarrassment. "Oh, jeez, I haven't worked out since my days in the military, but even that was a joke. I hardly remember much of my old routine, but maybe we can fish up something at that Library tomorrow?"


"Didn't work out? I see… well, they sound like a good-intentioned enough group, at least. It is surprising that any group would get widespread in such a chaotic place as this Ribcage." He says, humming to himself a little. He cocks his head to the side, confused by her explanation of cunt, but offers a smile regardless and gives the larger griffon a short, soft hug. "W-Well… thank you then, Miss Splendid."

He goes to ask something else, but turns instead to look over at the source of the calling… and frowns a little. "G-Goodness. Just a moment, let me take a look. I will be right back if you'd excuse me, Miss Splendid- I was a little curious about you, but I should check on Cerulean first." he says, starting for the crowd around the sharkpony.


Cloud snickers at Chiu's squeal. He puts a hoof around her, pulling her up close to his side.
"Haven't worked out in a while judging by that reaction," He jokes, "Alright then, first thing tomorrow let's check out the library for some exercise books. And some for aura too. Now that you got yours working, we'll need to train that up too."


Cerulean is blissfully unaware of anything as she's in this heavy drunken stupor.


She jumps a little at the gun shots. She has no idea what's going on on the other end, and something tells her she doesn't want to know. He'll probably give some vague cryptic answer anyway.

"If you don't know where they are," she presses, "how is it that you have Cutlass' number?" Her tone is slightly accusing.


Splendid tenses with surprise at the hug, and looks down with shock at you. After a little while, she returns the gesture awkwardly, appearing to concentrate as if she has need to focus on the act to complete it.

Cutlass is being tended to by Paraiba and Zerk for the moment, while Squatz remains nearby. Each time Paraiba's hoof slips toward Cerulean's saddlebags or other belongings, Zerk and Squatz have to slap her hoof to keep her on the straight and narrow.
"Looks like she mixed a pretty killer drink," Squatz says. "Here I was just trying to put together a little margarita for myself and she goes and dies of alcohol poisoning!"
Cane Shuga rolls his eyes. "After all she's took down, you think a drink's gonna kill her?"
"It killed Alexsaddle the Great," says Etch, sitting nearby with a mug of ale.

Chiu grins. "Sure! As long as we don't have any other business to attend to. I've been listening to what some of the others are talking about, and they keep bringing up that diving expedition. So we might want to check in on that before we let the day get away from us tomorrow.

Suddenly, at the mention of the expedition, your mind is forcibly drawn back into that dreadful vision you had during your surgery. The dream of the darkened temple, dripping seawater and sand from above, the ruins of a civilization buried in its depths… it floods back into your mind, just for a moment, then you're back at the ship.

"Come now!" Philip chuckles lightly. "I can't share information like that. A Caller Conch is not a safe medium for sharing private details, like one's magical or Aura abilities. You never know who might be listening these days. This sea has become chaotic in recent years. The Haku of many islands are at war, and new rogue pirate crews have been making more moves as of late, all trying to knock out rival crews, consolidating power and coin to try to make a name for themselves. No, no, information about specific individuals' Aura abilities is a precious commodity. I don't go around asking you about your dark magic, do I, Miss Thessaly?"


Cloud visibly shudders as Chiu mentions the expedition, remembering his surgery dream.
"That's not for while still, right? Not feeling too much in the mood to go diving anytime soon."


She hangs up on him mid-sentence, not hearing him use her own name. She's sick and tired of hearing people blather today. Her mind racing, she heads back to the ship, tracking down her companions at dinner.

"Does the name Philip the Gentlecolt mean anything to you?" she asks, forgoing any sort of greetings and just sort of appearing at the dinner table out of the blue.


Alder giggles a little bit, and waves as he steps away from Splendid

The griffon gives Cerulean a once-over, and shakes his head before fishing out some of his herbs and beginning to work together an 'antidote', of sorts. "Not dead, but she definitely drank enough to. I do not believe I have ever seen someone drink as much as some of you pirates do- It is astounding, in its own right." he says, mixing the mashed-up slurry of plant matter with water, shaking it up, and gently pouring it down Cerulean's throat.


Cerulean does not respond as she's way out of it.

After Alder makes his weird slurry thing, she starts to cough from the unexpected taste and wakes up.
"Ugh…what happened," she asks holding her head.
"Did I go into a food coma?"


"Liquor Coma, more like. Sorry for the foul taste, Miss Cerulean. I hope you feel a little better, at least."


Cloud shrugs.
"I've never heard it before."


"The newspaper we got last Sunday said the deadline to apply was in two weeks, so – today's Saturday, right? It should be in another week, then." Her expression then turns toward concern. "Oh, right. I'm not sure what the pressure might do to your new eye."

But then she frowns, and you can tell she's getting one of those little moments of intuition whenever she can tell something's being hidden from her. "What's on your mind?"

The Caller Conch is, of course, just an object, but after you lower it from your ear (hanging up, that is; it has no buttons) – a very peeved energy can be felt coming from it.

Alder's emergency concoction tastes like a fierce, brief fire, filling her whole body with a brief, hot wave radiating outward from her stomach, which quickly diminishes, leaving her mind with a vicious clarity. She's still a bit dazed, but no longer drunk. She awakes to Paraiba trying again to poke through her bags, her eyes glimmering at the sight of gold within.

A few of the other crewmembers gather 'round when Thessaly fast approaches. "P-Philip the Gentlecolt?" Kling Klang asks with disbelief.
"Vox Populi Philip, the Million-Follower Warlord," Etch says, after quaffing the last of his ale. "He's quite the celebrity. He began his career leading the Slaves' Revolution on the Isle of Baubles. Somehow, he fought off Haku Acibiades' Colonial Army that occupied the Isle. Outnumbered, outfunded, outsupplied, and outgunned, he took the whole island with a handful of slaves, forcing the Colonial Army to sign a treaty granting the Isle's independence."
Bee Holder pulls up her own chair. "Since then, he took to the seas as a pirate captain, striking out at other islands' colonial holdings, fighting as a mercenary on the side of freedom, or so they say. Any revolutionary group, no matter how small, he'd join up and help. Not a single revolution he joined ever failed. So naturally, he got quite a cult following after that. Haven't heard of him in a while, though."


"Oh, didn't think about that part."
Cloud mutters in thought as Chiu brings up the pressure's effects.

He looks up at her as she questions what's up.
"I had a strange dream about some underwater ruin, and seeing one of those bee queens again. …It was pretty unsettling."
He says, a little off-put at remembering.

Cloud turns as the others start to talk about this gentlecolt.
"Helps out revolutions? Sounds like a decent guy. Wonder where he was during that whole bee nonsense."
He scoffs.


"Wait a moment… Phillip the Gentlecolt? I have heard of him before… I-I did not hear anything good about him, though. I didn't know he was such a popular figure, though… why do you ask? Is something amiss?"


"Yeah, a bit? At least I'm awake."

Though still a bit dazed, Cerulean tries to smack her tail onto Paraiba like a mouse trap.
"Hey now, save that for when the not nice guys are drunk and out of it. Ugh…remind me never to do that again, though. Unless I drink more often, which I don't think I want to do…that wasn't all that fun."

"Who?" She asks very simply and plainly.


She frowns and gives Cerulean a little nudge to stir her out of it.

"Apparently he's in cahoots with the King now," she says grimly. "And our dear captain Cutlass has business with him. He would not elaborate, of course. He talks a lot, but does not say much. He did claim that he had heard whispers of mutiny among Cutlass' crew. But from speaking to him as briefly as I did, I can tell. Lying is as easy as breathing for him. Make of this what you will. I am unsure of how to progress from here, I must confess."


"Sounds more like a nightmare," Chiu adds. "Sorry, I didn't mean to bring up that bad memory. But when was this? You didn't mention anything like this after we fled Kaco Island. Was it just recently?"

"I know, right?" Kling Klang says. "Would've been a big help to have someone as powerful and influential as him on our side. We'd have certainly gotten a lot more of the common people taking up arms, I bet – especially the underclasses that were hit the worst when the Queens came and wrecked the island."
"As Thessaly said, they say he's joined up with the Crimson King, in recent years," Etch continues. "He probably had an interest in seeing things play out in his employer's favor."

Paraiba zips away at the last second, pouting a little that her thievery was unsuccessful. She even tears up. "What a spoilsport. My thieving skills are going to rust away if I don't have any way to practice them!"
"You heard the shark, save the crocodile tears for the King," Zerk grunts.
Paraiba blinks, and all her tears are gone. "I guess I need acting practice too."

"So that's where Captain Cutlass went," Cane Shuga says.
"If there's a mutiny on her ship, and he's involved, my money's on the chances that he's helping out that mutiny," Bee Holder says. "It's pretty much his thing."
"We should go help her then, right!?" Paraiba asks.
"Do we though?" Chiu adds.
"Without some way of being able to track down Cutlass in a hurry, I'm not sure how we could," Bee Holder says. "Thess, you find out what direction she went?"


"Should we though?"*


"It happened when I was under back at the doctor's. It was pretty vivid."
Cloud says, shivering again.
"Eugh, remind me never to get in that situation again."

"Everything seems to revolve around that king guy. Didn't think his minions would be lazy too."
Cloud scoffs at Kling and Etch's comments.

Despite how much he rags on Cutlass, Cloud looks a it worried at hearing she went off and rumors of mutiny were heard.
"I wonder what the news was that called her off our qurupeco mission. Do you think somepony stole her ship or tried to trap her?"


"I think we should do what we can to help her out, for sure. If what I've heard of him is true, he's not particularly… pleasant. Is there any way we could maybe have the accompass track her, somehow? I am not fully sure on the workings of ours, but…"


"Bwah!" She snaps out of it a bit more, though she still seems a touch iffy.
"Oh, hey Thess."

Cerulean can't help but laugh a bit at the banter.

"I am a bit worried for Cutlass. She may be prickly like an urchin, but she's still nice sometimes."


Reluctantly, she shakes her head. "No clue which way, begorrah. It seems all we can do is hope she stays safe."


"Captain Cutlass is quite talented and resourceful- I am sure she will be fine… and, yes. she seemed rather prickly at first, but I think she is quite a good pony. Y-Younger than I had expected, though."


"I don't think I can stop you from having a whole dream, but if you have it again, just think of me and I'll come get you," Chiu says.

"I'd hoped we'd seen the last of them, but this reeks of something the Aristar Mafia Families would resort to," Bee Holder muses. "With how much of an embarrassment the massacre during the circus was, they'd be champing at the bit for revenge."

"An Accompass can only find the island where a person or an object is from," Bee Holder says, shaking her head. "They can't find their current location – at least, not with their inborn ability, that is."
"We'd need some kind of magical scrying if we don't know what her coordinates are," Cane Shuga muses. "Any of you capable of that?"
One by one, the crewmates shake their heads. Some seem more worried than others; it seems Cutlass has a mixed reputation on your ship.
"If we can't, and don't know anyone who can, then it's as Thessaly said," Bee Holder concludes. "And give Cutlass a little credit! She whipped up her own damn revolutionary army before we ran into her on Kaco. I doubt that this will prove to be too much for her."
"And if we can't change it by worrying about it, there's not much point in worrying, is there?" Kling Klang chimes in.


Cloud smiles.
"Thanks. Any dream with you will certainly turn around quick."

"Wonder why they didn't do anything to our boat then."
Cloud comments to Bee Holder's assumption.

"Yea, you're right. Cutlass disappeared and showed up with a crew before we came into the Ribcage. She'll be back eventually again."


"I suppose that is true. She is naive, and brash, but also clever and skilful. I dare say she will pull through." She sits down at the dinner table and helps herself to a serving of assorted fruits, cutting a slab of meat for Bran to chow down on. She also pours herself some wine.


The moment you say that about the Beesting, Bee Holder stands up with sudden fear. She raises her arm to command the crew, but they're already on it, fanning out to inspect the ship for tampering, sabotage, bombs or any other kind of danger. They work quickly, checking both the deck, and the outside of the ship. But nothing comes of it – they discover no tampering. Mook teams move quickly down to the lower levels, continuing their search.

Though a general sense of unease fills the air, dinner resumes once it's been verified that the deck is safe. Bran enjoys his meat, sitting down and chewing with the side of his mouth while he holds the slab with his foreclaws. Thessaly's wine and fruit platter are ripe and flavorful, bought from the freshest stock with the earnings from the Lilliput's salvaged loot.

With the unease from earlier starting to fade, the rest of the crew who aren't searching the ship get back to their own meals, and idle chatter and banter resume.


Cloud is shocked as the crew suddenly goes into high alert to check the ship, not in any condition to go help. At least they come back with news of nothing found, which helps relieve that shock.
"Maybe that totem we found is giving us some good luck."
Cloud comments as he goes back into his taco bowl.


"I… suppose not, no. The most we can do is hope she's well, I guess." the griffon says, sighing a little bit and rolling his shoulders out. He packs up his medical equipment and settles it away in his room, before heading back out to the deck to the rest of the crew, and his drink.


She watches with uncharacteristic fondness as Bran eats, refilling her wine glass idly.

"Totem? What totem?" she asks with casual curiosity.


"There was this statue I found on that ship we looted. It's a mother goddess gryphon. Granny said as long as you treat it well she'll protect you. Which seeing the condition I cleaned it up from when we got it, I think it's paying off. It's down in my cabin if you want to see it."


The inspection teams quickly scurry below deck, spending time on the second and third levels, but like before, they find nothing of note – just a few spots that might need to be repaired, which is pretty standard fare for a pirate ship.
"Ah!" Granny says. "Ye just reminded me o' her. Make sure you and your mare go down there and show your appreciation. Gods don't work thanklessly, ye know."


>Time for a timeskip!

Despite this disconcerting news about Philip the Gentlecolt and the danger that Cutlass may be in, you are able to relax for the evening, chasing away the exhaustion with good food, drink and company, as well as the option to wash off if desired. The sun finally sinks below the horizon, and the brilliance of the stars and the gleaming, waxing gibbous moon fills the night sky.

Bee Holder assigns extra lookouts for the night, patrolling both the ship's exterior and the docks for any signs of mafia agents and the like. Thessaly, with her room aboard the Hidden Dagger unavailable for the night, sleeps aboard the Beesting. Regrettably, there are no open rooms, as Splendid took the last "room" (a supply closet they cleared out just to give her a tiny space of her own). Thus she has to sleep on the floor in a spot of her choosing. At least she has Bran, and some blankets and pillows that other members of the crew donate for her.


That night, your dreams are restless and furtive. For a time, you lay imprisoned in the hazy state between waking and sleeping, unable to sense anything but the uncomfortable stirring of your own bodies, tossed to and fro as if you were being tossed by the waves of the sea. This passes for a period, and though you are below deck, it is as though you can perceive the stars, so many brilliant stars, endless multitudes, glimmering and blinking and fluttering and swirling, beginning to stir, spinning about in the inky blackness like a dizzying storm cloud, whisked into a frenzy, swirling like a tornado.

So many stars.

So many stars.

So many stars.

The stars are getting closer.

The scene changes, and you are standing in a low stone courtyard. High sturdy architecture, wrought from stone, stretches above you, their silhouettes resembling thrashing monsters, serpents and hounds, bats and jaguars and terrible birds. You are waiting for something, anticipating it with great joy welling in your hearts. But you are not ready, you realize. There are preparatios to be made. People around you, priests of a sort, clothed in feathers and flowing garments, hand you tools for carving and excavating stone.

We must meet them.

You awake, this time to the world of the living. It takes you much longer than normal to wake up this time, your bodies groggy and weak, as if immense pressure were bearing down on you, the weight of the waves. Each of you lay in your rooms, or in Thessaly's case, in the hallway.


Cerulean gives a bit of a groan, wanting to wake up to a new day, yet also just wanting to laze around. Roger floats over to poke her a few times, prompting her to try and turn over. She then falls out of her bed with a resounding thud and just lays there with a groggy groan as she silently vows to herself to never drink what she drank last night ever again.


"How queer," she comments. "It seems all manner of mystical beings are out to play. First the demon Galutisons, then this totem. Do you suppose it means anything?"

Thessaly awakes with an unhappy frown, finding herself curled around the Liber Animarum protectively. She instinctively moves to touch the amulet around her neck, assuring herself that it is still there, then proceeds to stretch her limbs. She looks around for Bran first, then her companions.


Alder lets out an uneasy groan and half-rolls out of bed, deciding it'd probably be best if he took a little while longer to get up.

Ten or so minutes later he pulls himself out of bed, groaning a little and rubbing at his head.


"Who knows. That demon king is a big name around here, the Ribcage probably attracts all of these strange things."
Cloud says with a shrug.

"Right. Especially after today."
Cloud says with a nod to Granny. Once dinner and talk is finished, Cloud makes up one last taco bowl, going with the meat this time. While he's not sure what it tastes like, or what all the different options provide, he tries his best to make a nice dinner with it. He heads down to the cabin, Chiu helping lead him, and places the dinner in front of the statue for a nice offering.
"Thanks for keeping the homestead safe."
He says, bowing his head.

Cloud tosses and turns in his sleep. Normally the night sky is a comfortable sight for the bat pony, but the dream only feels stressful. It only goes worse as he finds himself in the courtyard, dread filling him.

He wakes up, staring up at the cabin's ceiling. A bit of mild panic sets in with a deep gasp as half his vision is gone, taking a second to recall his current state, and the blue field covering the right half of his vision. He rolls his head to look at Chiu beside him, hoof spread out wide across the bed as if he laid in bored torment all night.
"…I think I had that dream again."
He groans, looking beat.


There is no response from the statue that evening as you and Chiu make your offerings. She bows as well.

The next morning, the taco bowl is gone, crumbs and all, leaving only the plate.

When you wake Chiu, she looks a mess, her eyes bloodshot and haunted, face pale and harried. "You too… did you see – what did you see?"

Once you get up, you hear the dull sounds of your crewmates getting up and ready. They are noticably much slower than normal, filled with grogginess and uncharacteristic lethargy. You notice, from the sunlight pouring in, that you and the rest of the crew have greatly overslept your usual waking time. It's about midmorning. From her position in the hall, Thessaly is first to notice the awful state that the rest of the crew is in. Baggy eyes, disheveled hair, and a general weakness in their movements. There is little talking among them.

Instead of heading for the deck, as is usual for breakfast, the crew starts heading downstairs toward the mess hall, a much less common choice for meals. Once down there, you see the cook mooks passing out bread and porridge and hunks of cheese and fish for the meat eaters – something quick that requires little preparation. Bee Holder and her first mate circle sit at the head of the table like usual. It takes only a look at them to confirm that they had an equally terrible time sleeping.


She nods thoughtfully. "It is like a convergence. Entities from all manner of worlds, even other realities, all drawn to the same place. It cannot be coincidence."

Once she sees how maudlin everyone seems, she begins to suspect something is the matter. Recalling the strange dream she had, she takes her breakfast and sits close to Bee Holder. "Bad dreams, captain?" she asks, with a slightly conspiratorial throne.


Tone* idk where throne came from lmao


"I was stuck staring at the sky, but that was new. And not really all that nice. But I saw a courtyard, and it felt like the last dream. Not quite the same, cause I wasn't stuck in a big stone labyrinth, but it felt close enough."
He says, yawning partway through.

After a considerable amount of effort, Cloud manages to sit up. He glances over at the dresser, seeing the food gone. He stares in silence, too tired to think about it. He grabs his eyepatch off the table, putting it over his eye now that it's daylight, gives Chiu a morning hug as they both get up, and then takes a shower to try and perk himself up (and since he was too worn to bathe the night before).

Cloud heads out into the hall, but at noticing everypony head downstairs, he turns and heads down for food. He grabs a bowl of porridge for him and Chiu, and a hunk of bread each, and sits down with her. He stares at his food for a bit, his body begging to be properly refreshed after his ordeals yesterday.

He slumps forward, resting his head on the table and starts to drift back into sleep.


"Y-You too, then? What sort of thing could cause some sort of… shared dream like that?" the griffon asks, shifting around uncomfortably and trying to straighten his feathers.

"M-Mister Cloud, maybe you should go back to bed?"


Cloud just mumbles unintelligibly as he hears his name.


"What gave it away?" Bee Holder yawns, grinding her hoof against her forehead as if trying to push that miserable dream out of her memory. "I thought we were always this rowdy and ripsnortin' in the mornings."

Bent Scales yawns, then has a start with surprise as she looks out the window at the brilliant sunlight pouring in. "Oh, hell… what time is it?"

"Last I heard, the town bells chimed seven in the morning," Bee Holder says. "Why?"

"You'd forget your own tail if it wasn't connected to your ass, captain," Bent Scales says. "Sir Kukulcan's coming by at eight to meet the crews before the expedition!"

"…Ah, shit."

Chiu fetches Cloud a small portion of coffee – not a lot, as coffee is a rare luxury at sea, and you're only afforded a small ration per week. When she hears that Alder had the same dream, her eyes shrink, unnerved. "That's right. A courtyard, and the night sky, that's what I fixated on. Then, at the end, they handed me a chisel, some rope, a pick, and pieces of sandpaper…"

"I-if you don't mind me chiming in, it looked like some kind of temple to me," says Splendid as she approaches. She sits down by Alder, and Granny serves her a plate of food, helping out the cook mooks by passing out breakfast to everyone. Granny, you notice, appears to be the only member of the crew to have not been affected by the dreams. She seems as alert as ever, but she still says little to anyone.



Last time on PirateQuest…

The potluck dinner aboard the Beesting afforded the crew a well-deserved chance to rest and relax, rejuvenating themselves with food and drink. For Thessaly however, the dinner had a much more sinister element. In her attempts to reach Cutlass and the crew of the missing Hidden Dagger, she only managed to reach Philip the Gentlecolt, one of the Crimson King's fleet commanders.

Philip was highly reticent, preferring to teasingly speak in circles instead of answering Thessaly's questions directly. He did imply that Cutlass and her crew fought some of his underlings, but left their ultimate fate unknown. All the while, Thessaly could hear a dreadful kind of music from the sounds coming from the background. While porcelain dice rolled, and poker chips exchanged hooves, gunshots rang out in the distance. These were not the chaotic, frantic shots of a firefight, but slow, consistent, and orderly – almost rhythmic. Whoever was firing the guns was in control of that situation.

Later, the crew learned a little more about Philip from Etch, the Beesting's lead shipwright and carpenter. "Vox Populi" Philip made a name for himself as a youth when he led the Slave's Revolution on the Isle of Baubles, driving off the better-armed Colonial Army that held the island in the name of Haku Alcibiades. From there, he slowly rose to a legendary status by supporting several armed uprisings, aiding whatever revolutionaries he could find in throwing off their chains and defeating their masters. Among slaves and many pirates, he wasn't just a celebrity, but a near mythical figure, a revered champion of freedom.

During a conversation afterward, the Beesting crew concluded that they didn't have enough information to find where Cutlass had gone, even though many wanted to go and help her. Their one comfort, though, was that Cutlass had vanished from them before but had survived, and was a skilled captain in her own right. Wherever she was, she could probably handle herself, even up against Philip himself.

That night, the good cheer from dinner dissolved. Every member of the crew shared in an ominous fever dream, of a land steeped in shadows. By the light of countless, hypnotic stars, the silhouettes of dreadful monsters loomed in the sky, scowling beasts wrought from stone. A strange anticipation filled their hearts, excitement bordering on joy. But they did not feel ready for whatever mystery waited for them. There was something to be done. Priests clothed in feathers and flowing robes handed them tools for carving stone, and they resolved themselves to meet "them."

When they awoke, they were groggy, ill-rested, and hungry again. They met in the mess hall, instead of on deck where most meals are held when the weather permits.


You thrash about, half-aware of the bed under you and sheets atop you. Though you murkily recall the shadowy dream of the stars, and the temple, and the priests, a new dream has risen up from the depths of your mind, wrapped in the night's black. You are fleeing from the site where the stone monsters lay, myriad stars your only source of light as you stumble and sprint through a miasmatic forest. Your body is not your ow; you feel half a dozen insect legs skittering beneath you, but the fear is true, whether yours or not. Something behind pursues you, announced by the monstrous crashing of bush and tree alike under its thundering footfalls.

An animal spike of fear drives into your spine, as you feel the monster's presence come within an inch of your back… but just as it nearly falls upon you, the rush of night terror flings you awake. The sound of the monster's footfalls blends into the sound of someone knocking on your door. The dizzying dream held you under its spell for a bit longer than the others. Sunlight is already pouring in through your window, leaving you unpleasantly hot. Sweat clings to the back of your neck.

>Cloud, Thessaly, Alder

Chiu fetches Cloud a small portion of coffee – not a lot, as coffee is a rare luxury at sea, and you're only afforded a small ration per week. When she hears that Alder had the same dream, her eyes shrink, unnerved. "That's right. A courtyard, and the night sky, that's what I fixated on. Then, at the end, they handed me a chisel, some rope, a pick, and pieces of sandpaper…"

"I-if you don't mind me chiming in, it looked like some kind of temple to me," says Splendid as she approaches. She sits down by Alder, and Granny serves her a plate of food, helping out the cook mooks by passing out breakfast to everyone. Granny, you notice, appears to be the only member of the crew to have not been affected by the dreams. She seems as alert as ever, but she still says little to anyone.


"What gave it away?" Bee Holder yawns, grinding her hoof against her forehead as if trying to push that miserable dream out of her memory. "I thought we were always this rowdy and ripsnortin' in the mornings."

Bent Scales yawns, then has a start with surprise as she looks out the window at the brilliant sunlight pouring in. "Oh, hell… what time is it?"

"Last I heard, the town bells chimed seven in the morning," Bee Holder says. "Why?"

"You'd forget your own tail if it wasn't connected to your ass, captain," Bent Scales says. "Sir Kukulcan's coming by at eight to meet the crews before the expedition!"

"…Ah, shit."


Your body is not your own*


Cerulean startles awake, falling out of her bed with a loud thud. She groans a bit when she wakes up, then answers the door as she hears it knocking.
"Mmmmwhat," she greets drowsily, not taking a moment to fix herself up and looking about as bad as she feels.


Cloud slowly opens his eyes as the scent of coffee wafts into his nostrils. He raises his head, and then plops his muzzle into the cup, slowly lapping away at the brew and letting the aroma fill him to try and perk him up enough to stay awake for the day.
"Temple, courtyard, whatever," Cloud grumbles, "Where's Princess Luna when you need her to clear out these bad dreams."


"A temple, hmm? Well… troubling. I do not remember many details, but are there any islands with a big structure of note like that nearby?" he asks, nodding semi-cheerfully to Splendid as she settles in.


She listens in on the crew's griping. "It appears we have suffered a minor setback," she comments, stifling a yawn. "Some sort of oneiromancy at work, or I am not a sorceress. This is troubling, to say the least. I do not suppose you can think of any enemies we have that may possess such powers?"

At the mention of Kukulcan, her expression is vaguely puzzled. "Who?"


It's Sickly Sweet at your door, and he looks as disheveled and tired as you are. He offers only a grunt in reply, and without waiting for a response or permission, he starts to examine your face, particularly your eyes. "Feeling ill…?" he yawns, rubbing an eye. "…Didn't see you in the mess hall. Thought you might've been hung over. Lot of crewmates sleeping in apparently."

Chiu lazily starts to flip through the Sunday edition of the paper, her eyes unfocused as she tosses the pages about. The pages then droop as she looks up. "Wait… didn't you say something yesterday about a bad dream?"

Splendid stretches, popping her back and neck with a satisfying ccccrrrriiick. "N-not that I know of off the top of my head," she says. "I didn't get a good look at the architecture, and I'm no historian or archaeologist."
"If we all had the same dream when we got to this island, do you think it might have something to do with the island itself?" Paraiba offers. "It's not like we've ever all had the same dream before now."
"Could be," Zerk adds as he waddles up to the long table. The bench creaks as he sits on it. "We've only been to this one town. For all we know, there's something like what we saw somewhere else. Deeper inland, maybe?"

Bee Holder and Bent Scales think back. "…In all my years of sailing, I haven't come across any dream-manipulators. Plenty of folks with power over the mind, but not specifically dreams," Bee Holder says. "Those I've encountered who can manipulate minds can't use their powers on this scale, though. The mind is the hardest thing to touch, in both Aura and standard magic. You need some kind of whatchamacallit… a sympathetic connection to the person in order to even touch their mind. Their true name, or a part of their body."

Bent Scales chimes in as you ask about Kukulcan. "He's in charge of the sunken island expedition for which we came to this island. The Captain, Cerulean and I met up with him yesterday to check it out. Remember when we had Prisma check that vase you took off of Toko, and how she pointed under the water? Kukulcan has an artifact of his own, and when his Accompass, Two Reeds, examined it, she pointed under the water as well. It may be that this vase and his artifact are from the same sunken island."


Cerulean doesn't resist the examination, and in facts talks during it. Even without brushing her teeth yet, they still look as white and razor sharp as ever.
"No. Just a really bad dream. Like I was on land and something chased me down and stuff." She shivers as she thinks back to it.
"Got that feeling of being chased by a bigger shark again. Haven't felt that in awhile."


Cloud gives a muffled 'Mhm' from inside his coffee cup.
"Yea. Kinda the same thing as this one, sorta."


She bites into an Apple thoughtfully. "If it is so, we are dealing with quite the magician. I only hope they are more benevolent than the dream would suggest."

"Intriguing," she comments. "Perhaps our shared dream and the sunken island are connected. The vase Toko carried seems rather sinister. I do not have high hopes the expedition will go smoothly." She pours herself a cup of pure black coffee, with no milk and no sugar, sipping it as she contemplates recent events, occasionally pulling away scraps of bacon and feeding Bran under the table.


"You too, huh?" Sickly Sweet grumbles, holding up a hoof to keep spittle from getting on his face as you talk. "Sounds like everyone in the crew had the same dream, but ours was about… I don't even know. We were below deck, but we could see the stars anyway, somehow. And there were so many of them… then we were in some kind of stone courtyard, and there were all these stone monsters around us, but the stars were the same. Then this… priest looking guy, or maybe a warlock or a sorcerer of some sort, he handed us all these tools for carving."

This all matches what happened in your first dream, before the one about being pursued in the forest. "I don't recall being chased, though," Sweet continues. "Didn't hear anything like it from the others, either. You sure that you dreamed that?"

"Then it has to be connected, doesn't it?" Chiu asks, frowning as she pieces things together. "You've never had dreams like that before now, haven't you? B-but where would we go to investigate this? I've never studied anything like this when I was learning magic."
"I can't, but my grandma could always interpret dreams pretty well," Paraiba comments. "She was the village's wise mare when she was still around. Everyone'd go to her to get their dreams figured out. Everyone always thought there'd be omens to be found in there."

"But why show us all this, if it is a magician after all?" Bee Holder wonders aloud. "I don't see what he's got to gain by leaving us all with bad bedhead and black circles under our eyes."

"That may be the case, but it ain't like we got any other leads on this Heart of Gold that the Crimson King's after," Bent Scales replies. "Cerulean's little talk with the King at the Circus has put us on the path to hunting for the Heart ourselves. If he finds it before we do, he'll have all of the Ribcage under his control."

Bran snuffles and grunts as he chews the scraps of bacon beneath the table. Then, haughtily, he clambers up onto the bench, head held high as he sniffs the rest of the food on your plate. Seems he's too proud to be content with eating under the table.


"Pretty sure, I mean," she looks down and inspects herself, "I'm very sure I don't have six legs right now……I don't have six legs right now and I'm seeing things right, right?"


"Hrm… maybe we could read up ok some islands, then? Look for some with a large structure, or a powerful wizard. At least, to narrow things a little… oh!"

The griffon looks to Paraiba, and asks "Is your grandmother still around? Maybe she could help."


She shrugs. "It may just be a side effect of manipulating our dreams. I suppose only time will tell why this is happening. For now, I consider it more of a nuisance than something to worry over."

She nods. "And then what?" she wonders. "In the unlikely event of our failure, what does the Crimson King do if he gains dominion over this land? What is his endgame, do you suppose?"

She is a bit taken aback by Brian's forwardness, but shifts over a bit to make way for His Majesty, passing him what leftovers she has to offer; a few mandarin slices, an apple core, a few half eaten hash browns, and a slice of buttered toast.


Cloud shrugs.
"My parents used to say reoccurring dreams and stuff was the Princess' way to make you realize something. Course, they wouldn't be nightmares, or this draining, or this terrible, and she'd usually show up in one way or another…"
Cloud prattles on, almost sounding like sleeptalking until he takes a drink of his coffee. He looks over at Paraiba.
"Got any way of contacting her?"
He asks, and then gets a second idea. He flips up his eyepatch.
"Hey Hmm, what do you know about shared dreams?"
He asks, starting to drift as he leans to the side, resting his head on Chiu's shoulder.


"There is that library over by the bazaar and the town square," Squatz says. "I don't have any patience for books, but it may be our only option."
"No, no, she passed a little while before I left home," Paraiba says. "Must've been about eleven or twelve years now." She then gives it some thought. "This IS a modern, urbanized dock town, but I bet even a modern place like Manenhi has its share of old legends, superstitions, folk customs and all that. Surely there's a wise woman somewhere around here… perhaps a folk healer, or a witch."


"The library seemed quite well-stocked, so it would be worth a look. And, hrm… I might be able to ask around and see if there's anyone that could help interpret dreams. I met with a group that seemed very well-connected, so maybe they could assist?"


Sweet laughs, waving his hoof dismissively. "We might have had a rough night, but you definitely only got your four legs and your tail. Things didn't get THAT crazy… whatever it was that caused all this."

He pats your shoulder and heads further down the hall toward the other rooms. "Clean bill of health. Go get your grub while I check on all the others who overslept. Oh! Almost forgot: Get yourself presentable. When we're done here, that Kukulcan guy's apparently going to come and visit the ship. He wants to meet all of us prior to the expedition. Bee Holder also said something about showing him the artifact we got from Toko too."

Hmm squawks sleepily, and judging from her ruffled feathers and sleepy posture, it seems she didn't have a good night's sleep either. "Traditionally, group dreams're considered a sign of a shared fate. If having one dream over and over again is a sign that there's something waiting in your future, and that you need to realize something in order to prepare for it, then a group dream means that all of your fates are heading toward the same point. It can be likened to dozens of strings being tied together in a kind of knot. A knotted rope can be either good or bad. It can save your life if you are flung overboard in a storm and someone tosses you a rope, or it can hang you from the gallows."

After a moment she yawns and adds, "Rawk…"

"If we split up, we could cover both of those options," Paraiba says, but her interest grows when you bring up this group. "Who would that be? If we can meet with a wise mare directly, that'd be ideal."


"After my lunch with Kukulcan yesterday, I decided to look up the library's newspaper archive to see what they had on the King in recent years," Bee Holder begins. "What I saw made me retch.


"What we saw on Kaco Island was but one of his ways of taking over an island. If an island is engulfed in war, he might pick a side and help them conquer, like with Kaco, or he might fund both sides and swoop in when both armies are too exhausted to keep fighting. If an island is at peace, he may move in by establishing businesses that can undercut the competition's prices. Then he'll buy out said competition once he's nearly bankrupted them. Once he has a secure grip on the economy, he leverages it, along with bribes, blackmail and coercion, to make the Haku, be they mayors, daimyo, kings, or even emperors, bend to his will.

"From there, once the island's power centers are at his beck and call, he puts production into overtime, using all of the business under his control to tap into the island's natural resources. Ores for making metal and jewelry, herbs for making medicines and drugs, rare monsters for selling on the black market, clean water, natural magic wellsprings… all of it is itemized, processed, and turned into economic units. He ruthlessly drains each island of every last drop of value he can squeeze out, leaving the Island Turtle a gray, cold hunk of dying flesh. The land and skies are left murky with soot and smog, the populations, too poor and dependent on his patronage to rebel, grow thin and sickly from the pollutants that fill their lands. Species go extinct, ecosystems and villages vanish.

"Then, once he has wrung out every last bloody penny, he simply leaves them, moving on to the next island. What has held him back the most was lack of funds. It's a high investment for him to take over an island like that, so if he were to acquire the Heart of Gold's limitless wealth… well, that's the endgame for us, then. We're nothing more than economic units to him, in the end."

"That's why his fleet commanders do so much to put down rogue pirates," Etch says. "Nothing throws off the economy like unaccountable variables."


"Hmm, I was gonna meet those breezies again today. Maybe they'd know something, since they're all naturey and stuff."

"Huh, didn't think you'd need to sleep, being a spirit. Thanks though."
Cloud responds to Hmm, pushing himself off of Chiu and sitting up straight.
"The crow said it's some sort of shared fate thing. So by that, something's gonna happen to our whole crew, or we're all going to the same place."


She listens with an earnest expression. "How vile. I cannot comprehend what would drive someone to be so utterly consumed by their own greed. My question still lingers, though, but I cannot imagine you have an answer. To what end? He conquers the Ribcage and makes all the money in the world. Would that truly buy him happiness?"

"It seems to me a strange thing, is all. Mystifying. To lust for money and power to such a degree… it is unconscionable. The Crimson King is an animal. I daresay we shall have to put him down."


"It would be the Guard's Guild. I believe they should know a thing or two, at least. I do not think they have any wise mares in their employ, but maybe they could direct us towards one." he says, before humming. "Splitting up could be good, yes."


Get outta here ya horse


"Oh? Okay then!" Cerulean goes back to her room really quick to get herself prim and proper…as prim and proper as Cerulean usually is, anyway. Once she's gotten herself cleaned up, she gives Roger a ride to the mess hall and get some food to start the day with a better note.


"Now that the Eye is bound to your body, my life force is tied up with your own," Hmm explains. "So, if you're hurt, I'm hurt. If you're plagued with restless dreams, then so am I."

Your nearby crewmates look on with a combination of vague dread and confusion as Cloud shares the symbolism of a 'shared fate' inherent in a group dream. This is offset though, by what Alder says, which gives them some means of figuring out the puzzle laying before them. By now, this starts to shake off the sleepiness they had earlier. Paraiba in particular looks energized. "Alright, then let's get ourselves ready. Let's get that meeting out of the way so we can figure out what's going on. Hopefully I can find something worth pocketing with all this dream stuff."

Around this time, Cerulean comes out of her room, looking better cleaned up than most of the crew, though still sleepy. Without missing a beat, Granny struts forward with a tray of fish, dried meats, and a smidgen of coffee and a sugar bun, laying it on the table before Cerulean the moment her rump hits the table's bench. She then ties a little bib around Cerulean to allow her to dig in however much she wants. "Anything else Ah can get ye, girl?" Granny asks.

"As you said, only the King himself will know the answer," Bee Holder says. "Maybe Alder and Cerulean have some kind of insight on it. After all, I heard they talked with the Pattern Juggler at length during the circus. I can understand it a little bit: Gold and treasure, I lust for it myself, but only when I can take it myself. I only want the treasure I've grabbed with my own two hooves, whether I've stolen it, conquered it, dug it up, or earned it by the sweat of my brow. Siphoning it out of someone else's work, or from some shady business, that's just slimy."

Bent Scales reaches into a tattered coat pocket, pulling out a beaten-up pocketwatch. "It's getting close to eight. Kukulcan should be getting here soon."


"Oh! Good morning, Miss Cerulean! You look a tad better off than the rest of us. You may take as much time as you wish- the rest of us were planning on doing a bit of research in town." he explains, before looking back to the group he's talking with.

"Regardless of who goes where, we could start at the Guard's Guild- that way I could introduce you all."


"I must aver I have never cared much for riches. Money is a necessity, but it should not be a luxury. The struggle for martial superiority is tiresome to me. Knowledge is power, not brute strength or wealth. …Though I wager that is not a popular opinion in present company." She gives a humorless smile.

She looks over to Scales. "I am interested to meet this Kukulcan," she comments. "What is he like?"


"Hmm…" Cloud hums in thought, "Alright, I'm fine with that."
Cloud comments as Hmm says they're tied together now.
"Since you are, can you give me an idea of when I'll be healed up enough after getting you installed?"

"Do we have to do anything for this meeting, or is it just on the captain?"
Cloud questions as Paraiba mentions getting ready.

Cloud looks over as Granny sets everything up for Cerulean.
"Hey, how come you're waiting on her hoof and hoof?"
He complains in his typical laziness.


Cerulean has a big grin on her face as Granny brings her the food.
"Ooo, a lot of my favorites! How'd you know?" She looks at the bib, but paid it little mind as she began to dig right in. Granny would quickly find the bib serving its purpose.
"Nah, ah'm goohd," she says with her mouthful.

She swallows whats in her mouth as she hears Alder talk about things, looking curious.
"Researching what exactly?"


Bee Holder and Bent Scales uproariously laugh. "You can say that again," Bee Holder says. "Not a whole lot of big thinkers around here. We're more inclined toward the little thinks. Little thinks are easier to get out of the way while we're fighting toward the next treasure chest or island or whatever it is we happen to be sailing out to find that week."

Bent Scales taps her chin. "…'Flashy' is the most generous word that comes to mind. I hope you like the color teal, and I hope you like bombastic types. Fortunately, he tends to get right to the point. He won't blab your ear off unless you request to hear it. A good quality for an employer and a captain."

Bee Holder nods. "Scales here is the one who keeps me in line. Otherwise I'd be rambling all day about this and that voyage and expedition from when I was a filly."

Hmm just shrugs grouchily.

"All I heard was that he wanted to meet all of us," Paraiba says. "Bee Holder signed us up for the expedition, so there's probably just a little paperwork to go through too."

"Leave it to Paraiba to miss the important detail," Squatz teases. "Apparently, he wants to see that vase you took when you killed Queen Toko. Do you still have it?"

Granny clicks her tongue at Cloud's protests. "Cause Ah feel like it. Ye lost yer eyes, not yer fackin' hooves. Ye can get food just fahne, cahn't ye?"

Alder's offer to introduce them to the members of the Guard's Guild causes Paraiba, Squatz, Zerk and Splendid to perk up, piquing their interest greatly. "That'd be a good place to start. I hear they're well connected," Squatz says. "…Though I hope none of them recognize me from the market yesterday." He laughs and taps his coat pockets, still fat with presumably stolen gold.


She doesn't find it very funny. "Philistines," she mutters under her breath. "It seems I am out of my element," she says more conversationally, "getting entangled in this whole rigmarole. I can imagine worse fates, I suppose."

"Wonderful," she says without a trace of enthusiasm. "Another talker. I have had enough of jumped up windbags in the last few days to last a lifetime. At least he sounds more pleasant than the last two."


"Ah. I am sure they will not mind too much… b-but, watch your belongings. They have faster fingers than mine."


Cloud groans.
"Ugh, alright when will this be."

"Uhh, yea, I think. Probably in my cabin, I'll check on it in a minute."
Cloud answers Squatz.

"She has her hooves too. Why does she get special treatment?!"
Cloud retorts to Granny.

"Guard's guild? Are they the adventurer type, or are they the cops around here?"


Cerulean is quick to get her meal done, but she made sure to save a bit for Roger, who is happily floating and eating.
"Thanks again Granny. Just what I needed to start the day."

"The Guard's Guild? There's a whole guild for the guards here?"


"Mmm, 'Guard' is short for 'Bodyguard', but they do many things. Not the guard though, no."


Bent Scales and Bee Holder just shrug, like two peas in a pod. "You're just a little out of your element on a pirate crew like ours. We'll take good care of you until we can send you back over to Cutlass, so don't you fret."
"It'll be just like a sleepover," Bent Scales jokes dryly. "You'll braid the Captain's hair, I'll teach you how to turn someone's inside into mush with a saber, and then we'll all cut some coin purses and rob the town treasury. You know, the usual girl stuff."

"They've got some fellow thieves there, eh?" Zerk asks. "Heh! They might feel threatened if we let them witness our superior skills."
"It'd be a good way for me to get that practice I've been craving," Paraiba says. "Now I'm looking forward to it even more."

Granny just shrugs with a carefree grin. "Life is simply unfair, kiddo."
"I think she figures I'm your personal assistant," Chiu hazards. "…Which is not too far off the mark."

"Like Alder said, it's a bit of a misnomer," Squatz explains. "The town guards are called Constables around these parts. The Guard's Guild is named after the bodyguards they train, but they have all kinds of mercenaries for hire there."

Your attention is caught when a few of the mooks come down from the deck, evidently the morning shift lookout. "Oi, look alive ye bilgerats! Up here!" the lead one shouts to get everyone's attention. "We got some posh lookin' tossers up on deck, one Sir Kukulcan an' his li'l entourage too! They wants to meet the crew before the dive next Sunday, so get yer arses up and meet shake 'is 'and, will you?"

The crew starts to get up, stacking their plates and bowls for the cooks and bussers to clean up later. Still a bit groggy, they start filing up the stairs so they can meet this Sir Kukulcan fellow as requested.


"Ah, so it's a for hire place. Gotcha."
Cloud surmises on the explanation of the guard's guild.

Cloud grumbles to Granny's shrug, but his mood is cut to Chiu's remark.
"You're far more than just an assistant, future-captain."
Cloud says, a bit more awake now after all the chatter.

When the mooks bring alert of Kukulcan's arrival, Cloud stretches with a yawn.
"Let's get this over with."
He finishes off his breakfast and coffee, and then heads back to his cabin with Chiu. He makes a quick change into his newer pirate uniform rather than his general clothes, and then looks around for the vase, finding it in one of the dresser drawers. But when he spots it, he tenses up, the horrid vision of Hurscurs he saw in his coma dream flashing back through his mind, seeing her just after finding the jar in the dream. He feels ill at ease, picking up the jar after a moment of staring distantly through it.

He follows the others up to the deck, looking presentable now, but still with bags and a dimmed mood. He definitely looks like he doesn't want to be there to anypony who sees him.


"More than a few thieves, yes- I actually went there to train a pair of pickpockets yesterday. It was… quite fun, honestly. I believe Miss Chiu and Cloud saw me?" he suggests, before leading the group onwards


"Oh neat. I wonder if he'll have more sushi." Despite having just eaten, she's got a look that just says she's ready to eat some more.
"Man, just remembering that was so tasty."

She quickly proceeds up on deck, looking a bit more awake than before and likely more chipper mood than most of the others present.


"So that's what you were doing when we saw yo in the alley. Oh, hey, so how did that shadow clone work out for that? Great I assume?"


"Very good, actually! I was amazed by how fantastic it worked- I need to give Chiu my thanks."


"It is not like Cutlass' crew is much of an improvement," she says, smiling wryly again. "But I should not complain."

She blinks at Scales' joke, not entirely sure what to make of it. She is about to offer a snarky reply, but is distracted by the arrival of Kukulcan. "I suppose that is our cue," she shrugs, joining the rest of the group in trundling upstairs to meet the apparent team leader for the expedition.


"Looking sharp!" Chiu says as you dawn your newer outfit. She pecks your cheek to try to lift your mood, but her efforts are thwarted when you come across the obsidian vase. It seems to look back at you, though it is simply an inanimate object. You recall the vase you saw during your first dream of the temple, the one you had during your surgery – the spitting image of this one, infinite sand pouring out of its broken body.

"Oh yeah, I caught you zippin' all over the place yesterday while I was hawkin' the wares," Splendid says. "Blimey, but I didn't know you could fly that fast!"
"Yep! Medic, thief, sharpshooter, athlete, he's one talented bird," Chiu says to hype you up.


Your large crew gathers up on the deck, squinting and holding up their hooves to endure the sun's brilliant light, made worse by their sleepiness. Once you're up on deck again, you see three figures standing tall upon the bow of the ship.

The first, and central figure, standing tall above the others, is a bright teal Vola, a humanoid bird, resembling a cockatiel with brilliant and fluffy plumage of teal, red and yellow. He cuts an imposing figure, standing at six feet tall, and well dressed in a dapper padded gentleman's peacoat. His expression is bright, and his eyes sharp with discernment and experience. To his left stands a dazzling figure, a moth-tribe Krikral, about the size of a pony. Her body is a rich obsidian, and has spots of gold decorating her wings and body in a pattern like the spots of a jaguar. On the other side floats what appears to be a kind of living dust devil of sorts. It is a floating, spinning cloud of dust, rock, gems and metal, in a humanoid shape. He has a head, with two glowing eyes made of gemstones.

The central figure steps forward, then bows low to you all, flourishing his arm to the side. "At last, I get to meet the dreaded Beesting pirate crew! It is an honor, truly. I am Sir Kukulcan, and to my left and right here are my colleagues, Miss Two Reeds and Sir Diamantaire.

"Allow me to cut right to the point: I've come today because your captain, Bee Holder, signed up your crew for the deep sea diving expedition I am organizing, and I wished to meet you all and explain my aims. I am on the hunt for a sunken island, its name and history lost to time, but I know that it is out there, somewhere at the bottom of the sea. Agyl Island has finally moved into position where a dive toward the sunken island's coordinates is finally a viable option.

"In my possession, I have an artifact from that island, and Bee Holder told me that you may have an artifact which leads to that same island. Thus, this expedition shall benefit all of us. If the one who has the artifact in question will approach with your crew's Accompass, I shall have my own Accompass, Two Reeds, demonstrate why I believe they are from the same island."


For once, a kiss seems to have no affect on Cloud in his thousand yard stare on the vase.
"… …Yea."
He says simply once he comes out of it. He glances up at the mother gryphon statue after taking the vase, internally praying that they do have a blessing over them.

Cloud stares at the trio once he comes up deck, the sight of the three odd, two overly flashy and the dust devil being an odd one out.
When he questions the artifact, Cloud takes out the vase, showing it to Kukulcan but still keeping an oddly tight grip on it.
"Yea, here."
He says flatly.


She is not very impressed by Kukulcan's bravado, taking more interest in the living whirlwind, as he resemble one of her elementals.
[1d10] Knowledge? not sure if Thessaly's seen something like this before

She looks to Cloud, waiting for him to present the Accompass, having little else to contribute for the moment.

Roll #1 7 = 7


"A-Ah, goodness. You are all too kind… t-though, I have always been rather quick in the air, I suppose. It came in handy many times. Thank you for the kind words." he says, letting out a soft giggle. "A-Anywho, let us take a look inside

"Oh!" he says, stepping on to the deck to see the bizarre trio of figures. "Uhm… I see! Were we to do this right away, then?" he asks, cocking his head to the side "I-I'm afraid I lost track of time."


Cerulean grins a bit at seeing him and silently waves happily in place of loudly saying 'hi again' as serious talks seemed to be going on.
"Everyone looks so flashy, huh Roger," she somewhat whispers to him. Roger, having no concept of flash and flare, simply floats idly.


Now Chiu's own expression falls when she sees your mood interminably dampened by the sight of the vase. In a rare moment, she is at a loss for words.

Up on deck, Sir Kukulcan looks at you with similar concern, but lets the moment pass.

Racking your memory, you recall faintly a note in an anthology of the fringe cultures of the Ribcage, about a race matching the description of what you see here. In their language, the name of their people means something like "Of the elements," and this has been haphazardly translated into Equish as "Elemen." They are a group of sapient and highly intelligent beings composed almost entirely of a powerful magical binding and a particular element of the world. Solitary, nomadic and slow to reproduce, the Elemen tribes have remained at the fringes of the world, holding no major territories apart from their limited tribal holdings in lands that are replete with magic, such as the Soulcrag Islands. Sadly, as their bodies tend to accumulate crystals (for their uncanny ability to hold magic energy and keep it pure), they are often hunted by Black Market gem merchants.


As Cloud climbs up onto the bow to present Kukulcan with the obsidian vase, Prisma follows him. The brilliant peacock-chicken clambers up onto the bow and stands next to Two Reeds. Kukulcan nods eagerly, passing Two Reeds a blindfold. Then, Sir Diamantaire drags forward a small treasure chest. He opens it, and in it, you see a fragment of a stone statue, resembling the head of some strange monster. Momentarily, your blood runs cold as you recognize it faintly. The memory of the dream is hazy, but it seems to you to be either one of the stone statues you saw in your dream, or at least very similar in design and aesthetic. The statue fragment is faded, seeming to have been eroded over time, but the similarities are unmistakable.

"To demonstrate, I shall blindfold my own Accompass, Two Reeds, and have her identify the origin point of this statue fragment," Kukulcan explains. "If your captain and I are right, this shall be the same location as the obsidian vase that you recently came across. Miss Two Reeds, if you should be so kind?"

Two Reeds simply smiles, shutting her eyes and donning the blindfold. "And just to make it interesting…" she says, then raises onto one foot. She twirls about in a circle, spinning in place in order to make sure she is disoriented by the end. The crew gawks silently, and judging by their faces, they're not really sure if it's necessary to do all this.

Two Reeds eventually stops spinning, and Kukulcan puts a hand on her shoulder to steady her. He presents the statue fragment to her, and once she has a chance to touch it, she hums with thought. Eventually, she turns to the northwest, pointing with her finger down at the gray seas, steeply downward. "That direction, many fathoms below us," she says.

"And now, your crew's Accompass shall divine the location of your vase," Kukulcan says, gesturing to Prisma. Prisma squawks, then hops around in a little circle, imitating Two Reeds. In time, she comes to a stop, and then looks at the vase in Cloud's possession. After some thought, she turns toward the northwest, pointing with her beak down toward the gray sea, in roughly the same area and with the same angle that Two Reeds used.

"And there you have it!" Kukulcan says.

The crew murmurs with surprise and intrigue, fascinated now that they have an indication of where that strange vase may lead. Quiet murmurs about the Heart of Gold and its legendary wealth waft through the crowd.


Cloud nearly lets the vase slip from his hooves as Kukulcan reveals his statue fragment, the dream similarities haunting him after all the discussion of it over the late breakfast.
He watches on as the moth twirls around and they make a big show over the reveal, reminded of various showy street vendors he'd see back in the day.
"…Did you really need to go through all that? I think we were already on board for the expedition."
Cloud says, a little grumpily.
"Do you know anything about this island, or what your little statue even is?"
He follows up, just a tad bit accusatory.


"Ah. W-Well, I suppose that solves that- we may not need to worry about looking too much harder, then."


Cerulean claps happily, as if she had just watched some kind of street performance. She even gave a few tail slaps, just to add to the volume, though she's likely the only one in the 'crowd'.
"So that means we were headed in the same way you all were going, right?"


"It has taken me years to accumulate the evidence, but I know more than any other explorer in this field, I can assure you," Kukulcan says. "Much of what has been written about this fabled sunken island has been lost due to shipwrecks or fires at the research institutions which held the materials. I say without bragging that I am an expert in what little there is left. If you care to see it, I would be glad to sit down with you and share my copied notes."

"That is indeed the case!" Kukucan says with joy and pride. "I am so glad to be with one of the up and coming pirate crews of the new era. After hearing what happened on Kaco, I was shocked to hear that Bee Holder herself wanted to sign up for my expedition!"

"After our talks, I decided it was necessary," Bee Holder says in response to Cloud's concerns. "I may have volunteered 'my crew' for the expedition, but that doesn't mean anyone has to go. You may be my crew, but you are all free people. I only lead those who follow me of their own free will. This will be a dangerous expedition, deep under the sea, so I wanted to make as sure as possible that it's going to produce results and get us… closer to what we're hunting for. So, a demonstration was in order, to convince anyone with lingering doubts about going deep underwater."

You realize that she usually doesn't talk this reticently about treasure. She may be trying to keep some things from Kukulcan.

"For those of you who are doubting, you may rest assured that I am a capable and accomplished diver," Sir Kukulcan says. "Training, suits and other necessary equipment will be provided so that you are all ready for the mission come next Sunday. I'll just need you to sign a little paperwork so that we can keep track of personnel, and record your skills so we can find the best role for you during the dive."

He nods to Two Reeds, and she produces stacks of simple paperwork from her bag, similar to what Cerulean filled out yesterday – basic paperwork for signing onto the diving expedition formally.


"Hrm… I don't know. What does everyone else think? It could be worth the experience, and a sunken island sounds… interesting, at least."


"Can you tell a little here so we know what we're getting into?"
Cloud asks.

Cloud looks over at Bee Hold as she explains.
"That's nice for you consider our choice," He glances back at Kukulcan, "But did they need to make a big show of it? In my experience, those that get all flashy usually aren't the best."

Cloud glances over the paperwork, reading it over a bit more intently that he normally would read something, checking to see what he's signing onto before even thinking of grabbing a pen.


Cerulean gives a few giggles as she gets praises and such, clearly liking the compliments.
"Aww, it wasn't much. At least I don't think. There was A LOT going on that I couldn't keep track of, and even now I still dunno everything that happened. But what I do know: bees taste kinda weird."


In response to your repeated questions and skepticism, Kukulcan only seems to grow more bold and enthusiastic. "I'll answer some simple questions now, and we can get more in depth later. My goal here was to get right to the point, as I know you are all very busy people, and I did not wish to take up much of your time. But, I can tell you one thing: The island's name, something no other scholar, nor archaeologist nor diver nor hack novelist speculating about this island has ever been able to discern. It is something I know for certain after my research into their pictographic script. It is Cuauhtémoc, the Roost of the Serpent-Devouring Eagle."

As the paperwork gets passed out, murmurs from the Beesting crew seem to indicate that the crew is more than intrigued now. Some talk about the treasure to be had there, or on the Heart of Gold, while others talk with furtive obsession about getting to the bottom of the dreams you had last night. Still others seem to be interested in the very act of diving underwater, having gotten a taste of it from seeing you all dive for the Lilliput a week ago.

The paperwork is simple enough stuff, asking for your name, occupation on the ship, and relevant experience relating to sailing and diving. Some information has already been filled out, namely the section that asks you for your current ship affiliation (The Beesting) commanding officer (Bee Holder, Captain) and fleet affiliation (None). You recognize the handwriting as Bent Scales' chicken scratch. She looks at the paperwork with exhaustion. Seems like she had to fill out a lot of it in advance.

Seeing the others get in on it, Chiu, Squatz, Paraiba and Zerk all sign up. Splendid is more reticent, looking to see what Alder decides.



Last time on PirateQuest…

During a groggy morning breakfast, the party sat together and discussed their strange dream, tossing around hypotheses and speculation with the rest of the crew about what the dream might mean.

Though they were still in the dark about its ultimate meaning, they had a few leads they could try. Hmm, the crow-spirit housed inside the Eye of Wisdom, suggested that a group-dream like that signified a shared fate or destiny. Paraiba suggested that they visit a wise mare or a witch for help interpreting the dream, as was tradition in her native village. Alder had the idea to ask at the Guard's Guild if they knew of anyone capable of guiding them, and if all else failed, the library might have its own entries on the dreams.

Afterward, they went up to the deck, where they finally met Sir Kukulcan, a colorful cockatiel Vola of considerable height. He was the organizer, sponsor and leader of the underwater expedition, which is what they had come to Agyl Island for. Kukulcan introduced himself and his two allies: Two Reeds, a moth-tribe Krikral, and Sir Diamantaire, a member of a race known as the Elemen, sapient entities composed of magical energy bound to the world's natural elements.

Sir Kukulcan then explained the purpose of the expedition. He intended to dive to an ancient sunken island at the bottom of the ocean, a great many fathoms below Agyl. The island's name was Cuauhtemoc, the Roost of the Serpent-Devouring Eagle, and it was Sir Kukulcan himself, through years of painstaking research, who discovered the island's very name after it had been lost to time.

Then, by Bee Holder's request, he demonstrated that he indeed knew the location of the fabled island. He produced a fragment of an old statue from his bag, which everyone in the crew recognized as a piece of the head of one of the stone monster statues from their dream. He presented it to Two Reeds, who was his crew's Accompass, and to Prisma, the Accompass of the Beesting. Both discerned that the artifact was from an island deep below the surface of the sea, substantiating Kukulcan's claim. Then, he requested to see the obsidian vase that Cloud took from the deceased Queen Toko. Both Two Reeds and Prisma pointed in the same direction, demonstrating that they were indeed from the same island. If Kukulcan was right, then it was not just any island, but the sunken island of Cuauhtemoc.


Racking your memory, you recall faintly a note in an anthology of the fringe cultures of the Ribcage, about a race matching the description of what you see here. In their language, the name of their people means something like "Of the elements," and this has been haphazardly translated into Equish as "Elemen." They are a group of sapient and highly intelligent beings composed almost entirely of a powerful magical binding and a particular element of the world. Solitary, nomadic and slow to reproduce, the Elemen tribes have remained at the fringes of the world, holding no major territories apart from their limited tribal holdings in lands that are replete with magic, such as the Soulcrag Islands. Sadly, as their bodies tend to accumulate crystals (for their uncanny ability to hold magic energy and keep it pure), they are often hunted by Black Market gem merchants.


In response to your repeated questions and skepticism, Kukulcan only seems to grow more bold and enthusiastic. "I'll answer some simple questions now, and we can get more in depth later. My goal here was to get right to the point, as I know you are all very busy people, and I did not wish to take up much of your time. But, I can tell you one thing: The island's name, something no other scholar, nor archaeologist nor diver nor hack novelist speculating about this island has ever been able to discern. It is something I know for certain after my research into their pictographic script. It is Cuauhtémoc, the Roost of the Serpent-Devouring Eagle."

>Cloud, Alder, Cerulean

As the paperwork gets passed out, murmurs from the Beesting crew seem to indicate that the crew is more than intrigued now. Some talk about the treasure to be had there, or on the Heart of Gold, while others talk with furtive obsession about getting to the bottom of the dreams you had last night. Still others seem to be interested in the very act of diving underwater, having gotten a taste of it from seeing you all dive for the Lilliput a week ago.

The paperwork is simple enough stuff, asking for your name, occupation on the ship, and relevant experience relating to sailing and diving. Some information has already been filled out, namely the section that asks you for your current ship affiliation (The Beesting) commanding officer (Bee Holder, Captain) and fleet affiliation (None). You recognize the handwriting as Bent Scales' chicken scratch. She looks at the paperwork with exhaustion. Seems like she had to fill out a lot of it in advance.

Seeing the others get in on it, Chiu, Squatz, Paraiba and Zerk all sign up. Splendid is more reticent, looking to see what Alder decides.



Cloud gives Kukulcan a flat look, both from being tired still and from being unimpressed.
"Yea, that doesn't help me any. What's a name supposed to do for me? Plus, you could be making that up. Tell me something to expect on this island at least, I know there's something more you gotta be looking for than just the thrill of discovery."

Cloud glance over the paperwork, a bit skeptical to sign. But seeing Chiu sign on board, Cloud signs his as well.


"Maybe he doesn't fully know," Cerulean explains once the wonder and amazement of the spectacle had worn off on her.
"Kinda hard to try and explore things underwater when you have a limit air supply. At least, I'd assume. I've never had that problem."


Kukulcan retrieves a heft of notes from his bag. "You must understand, first, that the island is completely submerged, as it has been deep underwater for countless years. We may have to deal with whatever species of bottom dwellers have taken up residence down there – Emperor Squids, Trawler Rays, Grappler Crabs, and Coral Castles, most likely. Not to mention the varieties of Understorms we may have to brave just to make it down there. That's why I've hired pirates as infamous as you are, after the Tragedy of Kaco Island! There will be plenty of battles to endure on this trip.

"As for me, my interest lies in…" he hesitates, rolling his hand about as if searching for words. "My chief focus is recovering what might remain of the island's religious practices. Their gods, rituals, sacred caves and temples, holy tools, sacred scriptures. I am afraid so much of it may be lost with the island's sinking, but if any can be recovered, it is my duty to reclaim it."

He glances at your name on the paperwork, then takes your hoof and shakes it. "Good to meet you, good Cloud. Reach me anytime you have questions before or during our journey."

You note that he stops to shake the hooves of everyone who comes his way to turn in paperwork and call them by name. The crew seems to appreciate this.

"Not to worry, good Cerulean!" Kukulcan beams. "We shall have technology on our side to ensure that our ships can endure the dive. The finest and latest underwater-capable magitech, courtesy of our sponsor, the Crimson King. Air supply shall be of no concern, and safety shall be our utmost priority."


Cloud is a bit shaken at hearing the list of underwater creatures, the image of the twisted Hurscurs going by his head.
"…You better be supplying plenty for this mission then."
He says simply.

Cloud shakes Kukulcan's claw, a little unexpected at the sudden grasp.
"Right, yea…"


Alder looks over all the papers, before going ahead and signing. The others seem to be!

"How… exactly does an island sink? Is it a lot of rain? Did something pull it downwards?"


As the list of creatures to expect are listed off, Cerulean's stomach growls as if it were told a menu instead of a beastiary.
"Opps, hehe, guess I didn't eat big enough this morning."

"I hope so safety is a concern. I like going around with everyone on this ship." She smiles happily.


She stays quiet during Kukulcan's spiel, listening with interest as he elucidates the nature of the sunken island. She has no questions of her own, ruminating on the nature of the shared dream from last night. Surely not a coincidence. She doesn't hesitate to sign the paperwork, although she lists the Hidden Dagger and Cutlass as her ship and captain.


"Of course!" Kukulcan says. "Not to worry, we're taking every precaution before this trip. We will supply your ship with the additional armoring and weapons she will need to endure the trip down there and back, along with magitech and certain charms and spells that will more than last through the journey. We shall not be felled by mere wildlife."

With a final look of hesitation, Splendid joins you in writing down her name. Her handwriting is rather loopy and well-made. She passes in her paperwork with the other pirates, forming a stack which Kukulcan and Two Reeds take. Kukulcan doesn't let a single pirate go without a firm handshake, and you two and Splendid are no exceptions.

"Surprisingly, there is still much we do not know about Island Turtles," Two Reeds begins, with a far calmer and more reserved atmosphere than Kukulcan. "From what scholars know, Island Turtles never submerge their backs underneath the surface of the water, except in a few cases. One of the only known instances in which an Island Turtle may submerge is if it is sufficiently injured that it cannot continue to swim on the surface – or if it is killed.

"But no weapon known to mortalkind has ever been demonstrated as being capable of even scratching an Island Turtles. During the Century of Blood, when the dreaded pirate Zheng the Hurricane brought countless islands under his control, Zheng used every weapon at his disposal – cannons and bombs, spells that called forth firestorms and tornadoes, even Aura abilities that could level a town – but couldn't kill the Island Turtles, even when he attacked them directly. Only two things are known to be able to kill an Island Turtle: Total environmental desiccation… or a fatal attack from one of the legendary Ancients of the Sea. One of which, we believe, is a beast known as the Hunger."

Nearby pirates go quiet at the mention of the legendary monster.


Cloud listens in silence as Two Reeds explains the durability of the Island Turtles, and the reasons they sink. His assumptions on this journey go a little darker at hearing what can take out a Turtle, especially after hearing hte Crimson King is sponsoring the expedition.


"The Hunger? Oh, tell us more! This sounds cool!"


Her ears prick up at the mention of the Hunger, looking at him with a curious expression. Her mind is on the vision she was shown by the Atlas not too long ago. "What do you know of the Hunger?" she asks plainly.


Alder takes note of the other griffon's surprisngly neat and loopy handwriting, figuring it might be worth asking about later.

"I assume The Hunger is a more likely cause than Dessication, from the sound of it? What exactly is hunger?"


*The Hunger


File: 1563246365297.jpg (72.44 KB, 450x281, example 1.jpg)

As some of the nearby pirates appear somewhat nervous at the talk of sinking islands and the Hunger, Kukulcan attempts to break the tension by laughing it off. "What a way to begin a story, miss Two Reeds!" he says, clapping her on the back. "Let me be clear before she continues: We have no reason to believe that we will encounter something as awful as the Hunger on our way underwater. If that monster was anywhere NEAR this Ring of the Ribcage, everyone and everything in a mile's radius would know it without a doubt."

Two Reeds looks a little embarrassed when she notices how your crewmates grow nervous about talk of the legendary monster. You notice that a few make superstitious-looking gestures, or fiddle with various whalebone charms – most likely rituals for warding off evil or bad luck. She clears her throat, then reaches into her bag. She withdraws a long scroll, and Sir Diamantaire floats over to help her unravel it. What lays before you upon the scroll is a charcoal etching of an ancient mural, flowing with runes and abstract art, resembling what you may have seen in museums, the relics of old and long-dead societies.


Almost the entirety of the scroll depicts a dreadful monster's body. Serpentine and sprawling, the body seems to be made of countless serpents, mouths unhinged horrifically wide, eyes sharp slits, teeth so real that they seem ready to tear right through the page. Its head is an inky black mass, rendered here as somewhere between a dragon's and a monstrous bird's, sleek and predatory, with countless scales jutting off like a kind of mane. The monster tears through the waves on the page, and with a real chill, you see that it appears to be attacking dozens of island turtles all around it. From each of the islands, a boat rides forth, packed with dozens of warriors armed to the teeth, sailing out to fight it head on. Upon the other side of the mural is a massive boat, a true ark, and at its head stands a singular warrior, a pirate, he seems, wielding a golden harpoon.

"We have reason to believe that the Hunger's attack is what sank Cuauhtemoc," Two Reeds begins. "Legends and ancient murals dated from around the same time as the last historical mentions of Cuauhtemoc all share the same story. One day, a colossal sea-serpent rises from the depths, its mouths stretched so wide as to swallow the sun and moon and every star. It is a being of pure desire, of unquenchable ravenous hunger. Everything and anything it covets, no matter how small or insignificant, devouring everything in its path, leaving naught but a void. Thousands upon thousands of souls are lost to it as it rampages through the waves, roaring and tearing through the world. Only when the people of the islands can build a worthy vessel and face it can it ever be stopped. Otherwise, the Hunger would tear through the world eternally."

"Call it a fable, folktale, legend, myth, whatever," Kukulcan says. "It is the most likely reason that Cuauhtemoc vanished, and if anything can be recovered from that island, we intend to salvage it. I hope that you will also find whatever it is you're looking for, as well," he adds with a gesture at the obsidian vase.


Cloud looks at the scroll, reminding him of told historical writings and tidbits of history he'd see in a museum.
"If the Hunger's leaves nothing, then it couldn't have been the cause here if there's still an island left."
Cloud scoffs to lessen the overbearing threat the crew feels over that name being mentioned.

He clutches the vase as Kukulcan gestures to it.
"That's something I wouldn't mind missing. So are we done here? I believe you enough now."


Alder is a little stunned by the story, and by the idea that something that size could even exist. He starts to wind himself up worrying about what someone could even do if they ran into something like that, before flicking his ears and listening to Cloud.
"E-Ehm… he is right, I suppose. If the island was merely sunk, the beast had certainly been run off- we should have nothing to worry about." He offers, trying to chime in in the batpony's favor.

"Out of curiosity, sir- how does the Total Dessication occur? Does the plant life on the island keep the island turtle alive? I am confused how an entire island would dessicate…"


She listens carefully, recalling the vision once again. She shoots a side glance at Granny, assuming she's around, trying to gauge her reaction. "So where is this Hunger now?" she asks, feigning a mere scholarly interest. "Surely it has not been slain yet, according to the legend."


Cerulean listens intently to the tale, enjoying the tale and the description of the great beast.
"Woah. Sounds like me when I get extra hungry. Sounds dangerous, but I kinda wouldn't mind going tooth to tooth against that."


"Every Island Turtle has a symbiotic relationship with the plants and animals that live on its surface," Two Reeds explains. "Even the soil, the rocks, the very air all around the island, the Island Turtle is symbiotic with that too. But like any other part of the world, it is possible for the balance of nature to be disrupted. Plagues and environmental disasters can seriously damage an Island Turtle's health by killing off the life on its back en masse, but it can usually recover from that. Actually, in modern times, the most common way for an Island Turtle to undergo total desiccation is as a result of uncontrolled resource harvesting."

Her expression grows disgusted. "Black Market investors often buy up unclaimed Island Turtles whose backs are home to high-value natural resources. Mines full of gold and other jewels, fields full of rare plants and animals, forests and valleys home to natural magic wellsprings and sites – if a Turtle has any resource that can turn a profit, then Black Market investors will try to establish a colony on it as soon as they can. Then, they harvest and harvest until the Turtle has no more to give, and it simply falls beneath the waves, a hollow and dead shell."

Granny is nearby, within earshot definitely, but she doesn't look at Kukulcan or his entourage, and is stubbornly grinding away at the deck with her mop. She seems to be cleaning an area that doesn't have any blemish or messes on it.
"Nobody knows," Kukulcan says. "But, popular legend and pirate lore holds that it jealously guards the mythical Heart of Gold, circling around the island eternally, biting its own tail to sate its own insatiable cravings."

Kukulcan and a few of the nearby pirates can't help but laugh at your self-description. "We'll have to add your name to the legendary Ancients of the Sea, then. Perhaps you shall be the one to make a meal of the beast and leave the Ribcage's inhabitants with one less thing to worry about."

"That is what you might think upon first examination," Kukulcan says, helping his companions to roll up the scroll carefully. "But I am more than certain that the island still exists in some capacity. It *must*. There is no other explanation. Nothing I have found in my years of research have ever suggested that Cuauhtemoc suffered any symptoms of environmental desiccation, and both your crew's Accompass and mine were able to sense the island's presence when presented with artifacts taken from it. There is no other explanation: Cuauhtemoc still exists, and I shall be the one to find it."

Kukulcan then bows as Cloud implies he should hit the road. "Yes, if you are satisfied, I shall take my leave. Excuse me if I have stayed overlong, good Cloud. As I said, if I may answer other questions you have, then you have but to ask. We shall be finishing our preparations aboard the Thunder Serpent until the expedition this coming Sunday."

He turns to Captain Bee Holder, who nods. "Dismissed, Kukulcan. We'll surely be in touch."
Kukulcan turns and offers you a brief, pleasant wave, and starts to make his way off the Beesting with his entourage.


"Right, I'll track ya down if I have anything else I want answered."
Cloud responds to the farewells.

Cloud waits until Kukulcan and his entourage heads off the docks, then turns to the party and crew.
"Did anypony else get a bad feeling off that guy and his story?"


"Until then," she nods, waiting for him to leave.

She nods. "I have little reason to trust most people on this island. But showy, talkative types I trust the least of all. I very much doubt his interest in the island is purely academic as he claims. He is up to something. We will have to be extra careful on this expedition."


Cerulean waves back to them, then gives a relaxed sigh.
"Well, that was fun. But I gotta go pick up my beetleband from the repair shop, then maybe explore around the city a bit." Cerulean then heads into the city.


"I feel the exact same way. I think we should be careful of what we point out to him down there."


"O-Oh… t-that is tragic, honestly. Is it commonly done? Is it frowned upon?" he asks, before blinking "O-Oh! No, no more questions. Thank you for answering mine." the griffon says, bowing his head.

"Something seems very… off. I also do not like the sound of this serpent business."


She looks over to her as she prepares to leave. "What of the arrangement we had struck?" she asks, with a slightly icy tone.

She nods. "It would be wise to keep that jar away from him. I feel he may covet it, for reasons beyond us. Best to keep it secret and safe."


"We could stow it in my room- I have an eye for hiding things where a thief wouldn't look."



"He seemed very…" Paraiba begins, struggling to process all the information Kukulcan and his entourage shared. "You know, it was like he was getting really emotionally invested into all this talk at Cuauh– Cua… that island."
"I'm not the only one who felt that, then?" Chiu asks.
"Academic types do tend to get pretty obsessive about their work, don't they?" Kling Klang says, shaking his head dismissively. "He's just an egghead with a lot of money to burn. I wouldn't overthink it. We can clean out his wallet if we play this right. Request supplies here, or armaments there… there's real profit to be made here if you think like a pirate."
Zerk shrugs. "Well, we've got a week until the expedition. Plenty of time to try to figure out what he may or may not be up to, and all this stuff about our dreams."

Leaving the Beesting, you head back through the city's streets, retracing your steps from yesterday evening until you reach the multi-story adobe stone house with the workshop on the second floor. You enter and head up the creaky old stairs, and find the workshop in the back. At the counter, the spider sits, reading the day's newspaper and smoking a long pipe in his rocking chair. On the desk before him, your Beetlebands hang out, good as new and freshly repaired. They appear to be practicing their music.

Kahuan is also there, looking at various tiny clockwork instruments. As you enter, he looks your way, and grins with a glint in his eyes.


"…Should I just keep it with me then? He can't steal it if somepony is always watching it."
Cloud asks for the group's opinion, looking down at the vase.

"I don't know if he has a connection to the place or not, and I might just be feeling paranoid from my dreams, but… You all heard him say the Crimson King is behind this, right? What if they want to find out how the island sank for a better way to do it themselves. Toko was going to use this jar against us, what if this island is some sort of weapon stash?"
Cloud says, genuinely worried.


"No worries, I'll be quick about it," she says, trying to reassure her with a smile, "just tell me where we can meet up and I'll meet you there, but with music this time."

As Cerulean enters, she waves happily to the spider shopkeeper.
"Hi again," she then glances to Kahuan and greets him as well, though with less enthusiasm.
"Oh, hey again." She looks back to the spider.
"I'm just here to pick up my little guys."


"That could work too, yes! If you want to, at least. As far as what it could hold… maybe something to do with money? What if it was a wealthy island? The money gives him power, right?"

"I thought I pirate would just take his wallet… but, yes! I suppose we can just be wary and think of what we can do to benefit more."


"If everyone else is in assent, it is a viable option. I could also carry it, if there are no objections."

"He does not seem the scholarly type. I am not the greatest judge of character, granted, but I can confidently say at this point I know a pirate when I see one. And then there is his mention of the Crimson King… We should expect the worst when it comes to him. I feel we are almost certainly walking into a trap."

"Do not take this personally, but given your recent ailment, perhaps you are not in the best condition to safeguard it. I would take it myself, if you are in agreement."

"Very well. I will be waiting here."

"Another matter. Cerulean and I have arranged to go on a trip into the nearby vale to investigate some matters. A small commune of farmers is being raided by local Kalphites, and in addition, I have been tasked with investigating some magical anomalies present there in the evenings. Are there any among you that would join us in this venture?"


"I would like to go, yes- just in case something goes wrong, I would much rather be there during rather than after… is there anyone else you would like to bring?"


Kahuan looks crushed as you greet him with little enthusiasm. His shades slide off his snout, and he has to wriggle his nose to get them back up on the bridge of his nose. The spider repairman, meanwhile, folds up his newspaper. "Morning! These little guys seemed to miss you, and I was getting a little worried myself, but I suppose you pirates are always busy, mmm?"

The spider helps your Beetlebands pack up their instruments securely in their cases. One by one, the four of them hop onto your back, apparently eager to get back on tour. They then turn toward Kahuan with a vindictive glare. He simply smirks back at them. "You should let me get your Conch code, by the way," he says. "Then we can plan a Battle of the Beetlebands whenever we want."

"I used to do that, but then I ended up with too many wallets," Kling Klang says. "I was always misplacing my money, my papers and all that. The Captain even yelled at me for misplacing everything! It was a real hassle. So now I just con people into buying me shit. It's not as effective as when Bent Scales or the Captain does it, though."

Chiu and Paraiba perk up as Thessaly asks for companions on the trip. "Sounds a heck of a lot more fun than bartering for goods," Paraiba says. "What kind of anomalies are happening out there?"
"I'm just here to make sure Cloud doesn't become a quadruple amputee by day's end," Chiu says with exasperation.
"Ooh! It's my turn for a mission, too!" Zerk says. "Squatz, you gotta stay here this time. Behave yourself."
"I adamantly refuse," Squatz says. "Buuuut I got my share of fun last time. Monster hunting's not my thing."
"Oi, if you got room for one more, might I tag along, gents and ladies?" Splendid chimes in.


"I don't know if there's money in this thing, but that island would definitely have valuables with how old it is."

Cloud looks back down at the jar for a moment.
"…I think I'll keep hold of it. I can hear if anypony tries to get close to take it, I'll just make sure I stick around you guys if things get rough."

As she offers an invitation on a venture, Cloud eases up a bit.
"Anything to get my mind off last night, and this stuff just now. Though I did promise to meet those breezies again to help them wit ha few things… This won't be like that Qurupeco job again, will it?"


"Hey, I don't plan on losing anything else for the rest of this trip."
Cloud retorts to Chiu.

After the mention of heading out, Cloud remembers the little bag that Sparrow gave him for saving her tortoise. He pulls it out, and works his magic to size up the contents inside, as he never bothered to check it before as he focused more on the cookies.


"I am not partial to any of you coming along," she replies aloofly. "Whoever wishes to may come. I will not stop anyone."

"I cannot say. Apart from Kalphite raiders, there could be anything out there."

"Details are limited," she answers Paraiba. "But from what I know, there have been lights in the skies, townsfolk disappearing, travelers finding themselves suddenly in different locations, all sorts of strange occurrences. It seems like a magical experiment gone wrong. We should be prepared for anything."

"Which brings me to another point. Because the events only happen during the evening, we may have to remain in the desert overnight. It would be best to notify Bee Holder of our absence, and prepare for having to camp. The alternative is hiking through the desert back here in the dead of night, which I am sure we would all rather not do. I cannot blame anyone for not wanting to do this. Before we depart, we will have to acquire camping gear."


"Yeah, sorry about that. Had a run in with a crazy qurupeco," she briefly explains, and grins brightly to the beetleband.
"Sorry to make you all wait a bit longer, but no worries. Back to adventures and stuff again."

At the offer of exchanging Conch code, Cerulean shakes her head.
"Thanks, but I don't think I really want these guys getting hurt again. Nothing against you," she says to the shopkeeper, "but I just wanna have fun with them without them getting all dinged and bent and stuff."

"Anyway, you guys ready?" She asks, looking to the beetleband members, "we got ourselves a bit of a walk today, I think, and I got a friend who I think will love to hear you all play."


"Ah, I suppose that makes sense. I will

"We can pass through the market on our way over, and grab some camping gear there."

"I would not be opposed to others coming along- if you would like to, feel free!"


"Ok, so what's a kalphite then so I can know what to expect?"
Cloud asks.
"Camping out at night? I'm fine with that, night time is where I thrive."


Chiu slaps your arm – though not too hard. "Don't jinx it! Your wings are on loan and you're down an eye. I'd prefer not to bring you home as a brain in a jar. Your parents would kill me."
Inside, you find 200 Bits, just as Sparrow promised for the job's completion yesterday. Seems that even they use Bits as their currency, just shrunken down for their convenience.

Paraiba and Zerk look truly wounded at Thessaly's indifference, but Chiu and, surprisingly, Splendid seem unfazed. Paraiba shakes it off as you start explaining what Gullveig shared. "That does sound par for the course. Escaped familiars, or spellbooks and staves taking on a life of their own and deciding to cause some mischief, perhaps," she says.
Splendid's eyes glimmer at all the talk and speculation on magic. Bran, meanwhile, sniffs at Thessaly's outfit, apparently looking for a snack even though he just had breakfast. It's easy to surmise Gullveig spoiled him.

The guitarist, who didn't put his guitar away earlier, plays a quick riff, and the rest of your Beetlebands nod in enthusiasm. Kahuan clicks his tongue in annoyance, then wheels to the other side of the shop, where other instruments lie. "Well, it's your loss. See you soon, either way."
The spider repairman shakes his head. "No offense taken, young ma'am. As long as you use your beats for good, and not for evil, my soul will be at peace."

After Thessaly's group leaves the ship, and Cerulean leaves the workshop, you both head toward the bazaar, as the marketplace is roughly midway between the docks and the workshop. Merchants are setting up for the morning, but things are already picking up steam it seems. Traders flag down passing customers to make a sale, and town criers pass out newspapers and belt out the day's affairs, stock trading prices, and so forth. Alder even notices the jittery insurance salesman he saw yesterday, talking a mile a minute.
"Camping equipment, camping equipment, where might we find some of that?" Zerk wonders aloud.
"It's gotta be at a good price, too! Don't forget!" Paraiba insists.
[1d10] they search for a good bargain

Roll #1 5 = 5


"Some sort of lesser life form native to these lands, from what I understand. A mindless rabble of insectoid wretches. Not too threatening to seasoned travelers, save perhaps in hordes."

She rolls her eyes at Bran looking for second breakfast, swiping an apple off the main breakfast bench on the way out and feeding it to him.

Reunited with Cerulean, she starts scouring the bazaar for outdoors gear, looking for something for desert traveling.
[1d10] if needed

"Cerulean," she nods as they reunite in the marketplace. "Are your affairs in order? I have assembled a rather large contingent for this expedition, as you can see. We will be leaving as soon as we have secured the necessary equipment for the night."

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Yup, got the band back together," she says, letting the beetleband greet Thessaly.
"So looking for camping stuff, right? Hmm…lemme see…." She begins to look around a bit for some good deals.


Roll #1 6 = 6


"Bug seem to be a big thing on this island."
Cloud comments on the description.

Cloud nudges Chiu in the shoulder.
"Now look who's jinxing it. I already got three jars on me, let's not mention anymore."
He pours the bits out onto his hoof, letting the 10% portion vanish away as his part of the deal, and tossing the remainder into his own coin bag. To keep the obsidian vase secure, Cloud puts it in the now empty breezie bag to help hide it, and then tucks it away.

Cloud walks with the group, now awake as they start to move, though still wishing he could rest just a bit more. He gazes around the market now setting up, usually a good time to grab stuff when they're not too desperate to make a sale or trying to gouge you at closing time.
"Don't forget food. Gotta have the good stuff if you're camping."
Cloud looks around the bazaar for the usual camping supplies. A tent for two, a pair of sleeping bags, and seeing if the food stalls have any good supplies, hoping they might have the materials for smores all the way out here in the ribcage.
>Quality Hunting [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3


[1d10] Deal Hunting
"Do you like Magic, Miss Splendid? I do not know a lot about it myself."

"Is it a horde of them, or just a small infestation?"

Roll #1 4 = 4


She looks at the beetleband with a slight frown, tilting her head to the side. "What are they? Some sort of magical construct?" She goes to pick one up and examine it more closely.

"From the little I know, Kalphites are a native species like any other, living in small groups. It so happens that one such group has taken to looting the ostrich farms."


With the demeanor of a spoiled royal, Bran arrogantly takes the apple, chewing it as he walks along with you to the bazaar, demonstrating skill in how he manages to eat it with only his mouth.

The lead guitarist of Cerulean's beetleband greets Thessaly with a sick guitar riff. She can see that they are clockwork beetles, rhinoceros beetles to be exact. Though they are small, about the size of Alder's fist, they are elaborately made, a skillful work of clockwork engineering. A simple magical examination shows that they are animated by magic too.

"Oh yeah…" Chiu says, apparently only thinking of it just now. "Never took you for such a jarhead."

"I fancied it as a career choice, once," Splendid says. "Though, when I tried to learn it as a wee chick, all the tutors available on the island had a very systematic, very scientific kind of approach to it. They put all the theory and calculations and paradigmism first and foremost in our lessons. Never got the hang of it, and they lost patience with me shortly into the lessons. Really, I just wanted to learn to make me some fireworks, and maybe some simple spells or two to help some of the servants around the monastery."

You comb the marketplace, comparing prices and quality on the various options that are out for sale. Eventually, you find what appears to be a good median. One of the vendors, who appears to be a humanoid ferret, about four feet in height, is offering camping sets for about 150 Bits apiece. Each set includes cable, poles, pegs, twine, a tarp and canopy, and a bedroll. Though other vendors offer for cheaper, theirs appear to be of lesser quality. A feeling in your head seems to tell you it'd be a bad idea to skimp on the tent.

"We can pick up some food and water rations from the ship on our way to the northern gate," Paraiba says.
"I'm sure Bee Holder will give you some too even though you're not on our crew, Thessaly," Chiu offers.
"This should be everything, then," Splendid says. "Unless there's something we're forgetting? We probably should make triple sure we ain't lackin' anythin'."


She is more impressed by their handiwork than amused by their antics, gently setting the guitarist down and letting the beetles do their thing. "Curious."

"It would not hurt to ask. I will return to the ship after this, and see about procuring rations. We should not need too much; it is only for the day, after all." She buys a tent for herself, pledges to reunite with the rest of the team in a minute, and goes back to the ship, asking Bee Holder about rations.


"Hrm… have you ever considered giving it another go? There are some talented mages aboard our ship- perhaps one could teach you? Failing that, we could find you some books on it. I would not have expected calculations involved in magic, though… is all magic like that?"

"Perhaps a tent or two could be a good choice? We could split the cost." he suggests, before looking to Thessaly.

"What is an ostrich? Some form of cattle or livestock?"


"No idea. It is what I was told, nothing more."


Cerulean buys herself a full kit and tent, just to make sure she's nice and prepared or the trip ahead.

"I know, right? And they're so small its cute!" Cerulean seems to be almost gushing with happiness at the fact they're so small.


Cloud snickers.
"Gotta have some hobby when we're on a boat for days on end."

Cloud picks up two camping sets, one each for him and Chiu.
"Camping set, food and water, think we're covered on everything."
Cloud comments as the others check on what they have. Though, to be truly sure they have camping supplies, Cloud does do one more sweep for smore materials.
>Market Search if needed [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4


Splendid seems to get a bit flustered at first, but her excitement quickly pushes that hesitancy away. "Ya think I could ask 'em for it? Was only just a week and some change that I invited meself onto the crew, but hell, I'd certainly like to take another crack at it. Don't have anything I could offer in exchange, though. Oh! I could barnacle the ship for a whole month in exchange for a lesson! Or I could clean and de-bone all the fish we catch out at sea for the rest of the year."

Chiu shakes her head. "I've never heard of magic as being so rigorous and systematic. There's always a sort of mystery to it, something you just have to feel when you use it. Overthinking magic always makes me screw it up."

Taking a detour back to the ship, you find Bee Holder standing on top of Bent Scales' shoulders and dictating the chores and tasks of the day to the various crewmates. It seems now that there's going to be quite a lot of work done on the ship itself. Not just the usual cleaning and repairs, but a more thorough kind of renovation, probably in accordance with whatever Kukulcan was talking about earlier with the magitech and armor he would provide as part of the expedition's agreements.

Once that's done, you get her attention and explain briefly your plans for the day. Bee Holder nods, sending a couple of mooks to rustle you up a canteen and a light set of rations – nuts, dried seaweed, some seed cakes, hay, and of course water. It's a bit light, so if you want something with more flavor and substance, you'll probably need to find it yourself.

After you get your tents purchased and hooked up to your saddlebags for convenient carrying, Cloud spies what he was looking for, but not quite, either. A sweets shop on the corner of the bazaar seems to be selling marshmallows, chocolate and sweet crackers, but they are a tad expensive, coming out to a total of 90 Bits altogether – pure robbery.

Aside from that, though, it looks like you're all set in terms of supplies. When Thessaly comes back from the Beesting with her supplies, Paraiba flags her down. "Alright, I think we're set. Do you have a map to this village, or directions?"


Cloud grumbles at the price of these simple treats, but he tosses down the bits anyways, not in the mood to start arguing with a street vendor at this hour. Smores will be a private treat on this trip it seems.

"Yea,where is this place. I didn't see a desert when we were heading out yesterday. This better not be on the entire other side of the island or something."


"Please, I do not think you will need to work so hard to repay them. It will be nice to have more mages, too!"

The griffon looks to Chiu and cocks his head to the side, before shrugging. "I suppose there are different variants of magic? I wouldn't know much, though."


"Yes and no, in a manner of speaking," Chiu says. "There's different ways of using the energy we call capital-M Magic, and we call all those different ways 'magic systems,' or just different kinds of lowercase-M 'magic.'"
Splendid looks totally lost.
"…We'll just have to test out what you might be good at," Chiu says. "I did a little teaching in the use of magic scrolls and items for the military, but not so much for using magic as such. You'd be better off with someone else, sorry."
Splendid looks like her hopes just sank a little, but nods and smiles anyway.

While you get the last of your supplies together and make your preparations for the long trek out to the desert ostrich farmers, Zerk and Chiu split off from the group slightly, flagging down passerby to ask directions and what they might know about the situation as Thessaly described it earlier. They hear rumors now and then about some of the strange anomalies reported out in the desert, but not so much any new information about it besides what Thessaly shared before.

Mixed in there, though, is an interesting rumor you have not heard til now. Only a few people mention this, but you hear tell that someone reliable has been hired to stamp out whatever magical anomalies have been happening out there.



"Perhaps we can find something in town to help too, Miss Splendid- and, perhaps once you understand the basics, it can be a more… self-taught thing? Much of what I know is self-taught, so I doubt it is impossible to learn that way."


The more that Splendid considers the subject, the more that a new stress seems to take shape in her expression. "No… after all, there's plenty of folk out there what got some kinda weird magic or another. They can't all be experts in theory, can they? But now the question is, what kind do I learn, if I can learn it at all?"
"Oh, you have your pick of hundreds of kinds of magic!" Chiu says eagerly. "Alchemical arts, household cantrips, elemental binding, elemental striking, elemental taming, elemental weaving, elemental sculpting, Songspinning, martial arts techniques, prayers for small gods, warding spells, spirit communing… don't even get me started on everything you can do with shadows alone!"
As she rattles off the seemingly endless varieties of magic, Splendid's eyes seem to spiral, dizzy with the endless dread of too many options.


Alder lets out a soft giggle, and shrugs "I would not have thought so many options possible. Perhaps we can pick something a little more… simplistic, yes?" he suggests, taking note of Splendid's dizzied expression. "Maybe… we think of something you like to do, or want to do, and see what kinds of magic could do something like that?"


"Divination, exorcism, psychic manipulation, temporal magic, necromancy, witchcraft, all the various branches of enchanting, too…" Chiu continues, lost in her world.
"RAAWK!" Splendid squawks with exasperation, then claps both hands over her mouth with embarrassment.
Chiu winces apologetically. "I'll stop."
"Fireworks for sure," Splendid says. "And… hrm… what kind of magic deals with locks?"
"Lots of kinds, I'm sure," Chiu says. "Magical categories aren't precise, they overlap all the time. Off the top of my head, the most general category would be Binding magic. You can specialize in stage magician tricks for escaping from binds, or thief skills for opening and closing things that are bound, like safes and padlocks."
Splendid now seems more focused and interested after narrowing it down a little.


Alder flattens his ears, before offering a short shrug. "I-I suppose she is just rather excited about it. But, let's see… Fireworks, and Lock-related Magic? Those both seem pretty doable. Why those in particular, if you do not mind me prying?"


"W-well, I remember quite fondly these fireworks during the midsummer and harvest moon parties that my island's court wizards would put on, when I was a chick. That's the main reason, anyway. But, I'd wager there's a whole bushel of other uses for fireworks. Light, loud sounds, even an attack in a pinch," Splendid reasons, fiddling her claws with an excited energy, full of nostalgia and childlike pure enjoyment.
"And locks?" Chiu asks.
Now, though, Splendid pauses. The excitement seems to wither. "It'd be useful if we were ever… captured, you know? To be able to bind and loose locks like that."


"Oh, I see! Well, yes, they definitely could be useful- I think it is a fantastic place to start, especially if it's something you are passionate about." The griffon says, smiling a little to encourage her. His smile falters a little when she mentions the reason behind locks, and cocks his head to the side. "Rest assured, Miss Splendid- I am quite capable at picking locks. Though, it wouldn't hurt to have a couple ways of dealing with it." he offers, patting her on the shoulder lightly.


Splendid forces some cheer back to her face, but her tail restlessly swishes about with a kind of subdued anxiety. Chiu too looks confused at all this. "Just in case, I'd want the backup," Splendid says. "Just in case we're not always together, you know? The waters are unpredictable after all, and I'm hearing some rather blood-curdling things – in the bazaar yesterday, we heard some talk 'bout the Black Market and the Haku war what's going on… it's getting rather messy out there. Folks disappearin'. Towns gettin' burnt. Refugees pilin' onto half-destroyed ships or getting picked up by pirates and slavers…"


"I understand completely. It is better to be safe than sorry. A-And, yes, from what I've heard, it is getting rather messy." Alder says, pausing a little ways through as he tries to remember what he's heard. "I-Is there anything you want to talk about, Miss Splendid? You seem very unsettled. I can understand the news being unsettling, but… it sounds a little personal."


Between your Aura training on Semetyer Island, all of the chaos of the war between the Three Aristar Families and the Bee Queens, and now everything that's happening with Sir Kukulcan's expedition, you haven't had a whole lot of time to listen too deeply in on the gossip and news about that war.

What you *do* know is simply that several islands to the north are now engaged in a large war, involving not just those islands' militaries but contracted pirates as well. You might be able to learn more from the newspaper, which should still be available on the ship, if you are interested.

"Not…" Splendid begins, pausing uncertainly. "…No. Not yet. I'd best focus on what I can do for the crew now, should I not? Still got me magic to learn, don't I? I haven't even gotten a chance to induce magic potential into me, so I'd say we've got plenty to think about for the time being."


Alder makes a note to take a closer look at the newspaper later, but decides to leave it be. He flicks his tail a little when she declines, but just offers a reassuring smile. "I understand. I am always here to talk if you would like, though. But, as for the magic… maybe we could look around in town when we have the chance, or check out the library? I am sure we could find someone to help you with the basics."


Splendid snaps her fingers, and a look of inspiration chases away the dread and uncertainty that colored her face a moment ago. Going over to the town noticeboard, she studies and intricate, sprawling map of Manenhi, poring over the winding and complex roads and legend-symbols and all that, drumming her talons on her beak. "Where… where…?"


"What exactly are we looking for? It seems like you saw something earlier, or heard about it?" he asks, leaning around Splendid and taking a look at the map.


"Aha!" Splendid declares, putting her finger onto a small cozy spot near the town's poorer districts on the outer ends of the town, near the slums and seedier inns. It appears to be a small sorcery shop of sorts. "Gullveig's Affordable Sorceries, here," she says, then trails her finger down toward another shop, in a more wealthy part of town to the west, inculcated by a gated wall from the poorer eastern end. "And here's the Beaker Apothecary. Those are the places we ought to try, I reckon. Overheard somethin' Thessaly said earlier about the first shop, and I think the second shop might be able to point us toward something that can induce magic ability in people who don't have magic blood."


"Ah, I see! Is there one in particular you want to head to first?" Alder asks, looking at both of the locations and humming a little. "We may not need to worry about no magic blood- perhaps the method they tried to teach you initially just was not a good choice? Though, it could not hurt to try both of them out, for sure."


"Yeah, nah," Splendid says, shaking her head with frustration. "I asked Thess, then a few other crewmates what showed a little talent with magic. Most everyone had the same kinda story. Ya can't use magic 'less you got someone in yer family tree – within the last few generations – who could use magic. It gets passed down like that in most cases. That's what they call the 'magic blood'. There is an upside, though. There's ways to induce that magic into you. Crystals, herbal teas, visiting magic wayshrines and whatnot. I don't know all the bits and bobs of it myself, but there's ways I can get into it."

She looks at all the supplies you've gathered for the trip into the northern valleys for the mission out by the farming communities. "Why don't we check the pharmacy first, eh? Might want some potions to take for the trip."


"Huh. I suppose I did not know how important it was… in that case, sure- why don't we head to the apothecary? Even if we find nothing of use for magic, we could at least get some potions for the trip, yes."


You and Splendid spread your wings, soaring over the city now over to the western districts, located to the northwest of the bazaar. There is a noticeable difference in the building and street quality as you pass above the streets, and there's a bigger difference between the western and eastern districts. While the eastern areas, such as around the docks and Guard's Guild, are visibly poorer, more crowded, filthy and full of rough-looking types, the western district is by far cleaner. The buildings are taller and more spaced out, and there are fewer walking around the area, in contrast to how packed the rest of the city is. It just feels comforting to be able to see it all.

You fly over the gate surrounding the western district; the guards look at you but do nothing to stop you. On the ground level, you see that there's a gate with a long line, with people waiting for entry at a checkpoint. Splendid looks down at this with a frown but doesn't stop.

Passing over some buildings that look more like small castles and tower over the neat and orderly white streets, you follow the map's directions until you reach the apothecary's shop, a tall tower with ornate adobe carvings on the outside, as well as an outdoor garden with a high wicker fence surrounding it. Arcing glass windows fill the front of the shop with sunlight, and between the velvet curtains, you see high walls packed with clean-looking potions – a far cry from the grime and comfortable clutter you've mostly seen in towns thus far.

Finally, you notice a heraldic banner on either side of the door: A golden-red dragonfly circling above an ear of multicolored maize on the cob, beautiful and brilliant shades of purple and red itself. The letters "CDM" stand underneath the cob in beautiful gothic script.

Splendid is flabbergasted at the mere sight of it. "Oh."


Alder's more than happy to fly above the city for a little- with all the cramped city, it's nice to get away from it. The aerial view lets him get a good look of the town too, which he hasn't been able to until now.

"Goodness, I had no idea it was quite this large, or… varied. I suppose I should not be too surprised, but the sheer difference is rather shocking." he comments to Splendid, soaring close enough to be able to talk comfortably.

Once they land in front of the apothecary, the griffon looks it up and down and lets out a soft hum of surprise. "I expected something nice, given the location, but… wow. Perhaps I could learn a thing or two myself… though, what is 'CDM'? Do you happen to know, Splendid?"


Splendid retrieves a papyrus tourist pamphlet from her bag, clicking her tongue as she scans the brochure. "Hmm… Hmm… where did I see… aha! 'Ere the li'l bugger is."

She points at an illustration of that same heraldry on the pamphlet. "Casa de Maíz, or the Maize House, or House Maize. Whatever you prefer – says here the terms get used interchangeably. In any case, that's their little insignia, as it were. Although House Maize is the official patron of most of the businesses on the island, the heraldry only gets hung 'round the doors of the shops owned by members of the House's official bloodlines… sort of like what royal families do, you know?"

She folds up the pamphlet, slightly wringing it in her hands as she gawks up at the towering pharmacy. All that excitement she had earlier seems to have dried up. "You don't reckon we can just barge in, do you? Now that I see it up close, it's like I'm back 'ome all over again… we might need to make an appointment with the master of the house, or get an official pass, or get approval from the king, or pay a fee just to look at them or… or whatnot."

She laughs nervously. "Why not we just come back some other time? I wouldn't want to bother them."


Last time on PirateQuest…

During his demonstration aboard the Beesting, Sir Kukulcan answered more of the party's questions about the voyage, and chiefly expanded on the history and fate of Cuauhtemoc. According to Kukulcan's years of research about this ancient, dead island, countless historical records and myths from several other islands all point to a cataclysmic event happening many centuries ago that likely wiped out Cuauhtemoc.

That event was the awakening of a godly sea-monster, one of the legendary Ancients of the Sea, a draconic sea-serpent called the Hunger. This monster was the incarnation of insatiable desire, always craving and devouring more, with no regard for the thousands upon thousands of lives displaced and lost by its catastrophic rampages. The histories disagree on how and by whom the Hunger was defeated, but the legends hold that a group of warriors, building a colossal ship, rode into battle to face it. Where the legends leave off, imagination must fill in the blanks. Somehow, those who rode the great ark subdued the Hunger, sealing it away before it could destroy every island that lay in its path.

Kukulcan was obsessed with this scroll and those legends, asserting that, though the island-turtle called Cuauhtemoc was likely killed during this cataclysm, it was not entirely destroyed. He had made it his life's work to find what remained of it, and was eager to convince the party of his cause, inviting them to seek him and his companions Two Reeds and Diamantaire if they ever had questions.

With that finally settled, the party set out to gather supplies and make preparations for the two tasks that lay before them that day. The first was to deal with a pack of kalphites that had been stirring up trouble for the farming communities in the valleys to the north. The second took place in the same location, more or less. According to Gullveig, a sorceress Thessaly encountered yesterday, there were strange supernatural happenings going on in that area as of late: Unexplained disappearances of livestock and people, strange lights in the sky, and the appearances of monsters and other wildlife not native to the region were just a few examples.


>Thessaly, Cloud, Cerulean
While you get the last of your supplies together and make your preparations for the long trek out to the desert ostrich farmers, Zerk and Chiu split off from the group slightly, flagging down passerby to ask directions and what they might know about the situation as Thessaly described it earlier. They hear rumors now and then about some of the strange anomalies reported out in the desert, but not so much any new information about it besides what Thessaly shared before.

Mixed in there, though, is an interesting rumor you have not heard til now. Only a few people mention this, but you hear tell that someone reliable has been hired to stamp out whatever magical anomalies have been happening out there.



>Yesterday, around the time of the quest that would eventually lead the others into Professor Shrimp's lair…

The mook's message was short and bloodcurdling, delivered so breathlessly that you could tell how badly he was still in shock:

"The crew has abandoned you!"

With no time to waste, you bolted back to Manenhi, sprinting back to the docks and nearly bowling over everyone who was fool enough to stand in your way. There, you saw that the mook's message was not entirely accurate. About half of your crew, in fact, still remained, desperately trying to gather up supplies, fix the riggings and ropes, and make preparations to set sail.

Among those still present on the dock were Godot, Colobok, Make Believe and Puddin' Tame, and around half of your mook army – a crew of 29, and you made 30. Suddenly, the pressure and difficulty of managing a ship built to hold many more people dawned upon you, as you watched even the expert sailors provided by the Gates of Justice struggle to get the ship ready for departure with their numbers halved.

As you ran aboard the ship, practically flying onto it, Colobok met you, his brow strained with frustration and disappointment in himself. He summarized the key points as quickly as he could, cobbling together testimonies from every witness among your crew. Earlier in the day, while your crew was out selling the spoils of the Lilliput and working various other jobs, strange pirates approached your crewmates, approaching anyone who was by themselves.

What happened in each case was more or less the following: Every crewmate who was approached had a brief conversation with the strange pirate, ending with a hand/hoofshake. Afterward, those crewmates went and got aboard another ship a great distance away, on the other side of the bazaar's docks. Once about half of your crew got aboard the ship, she weighed anchor and departed.

And as he gave you the key description, the ship's jolly roger, your blood ran cold with recognition. The jolly roger was a most unusual one, disarmingly girly for a pirate's colors. A heart-shaped skull, a shade of pink so saturated as to almost be blood, with bones behind it. It was, of course, YOUR jolly roger. Or at least, it was before… his mutiny.


Colobok stands before you on the deck, his face grim as the crew desperately scrambles to get the ship ready. "Orders, captain? By all accounts, the enemy ship went due northwest, following the winds. If we can get ourselves to sea soon and get all fliers on wind support, we may still be able to meet them."


"Surely it would not hurt much to just knock on the door and ask, yes? At the least, we could find out what we need to do to gain entry next time." he suggests, before humming a little. "If you do feel uncertain as to whether or not we could manage even that, I suppose we could catch back u0 with the others."



Cutlass lets out a low sound that is something between a growl and a groan as the jolly roger is described to her. Up until that moment, her demeanor was something between panicked and annoyed. After hearing of this, it shifted to pure, smoldering rage.

She does not speak until the ship is ready to go. She stares out at the sea with a barely-contained rage.

But, before she gives the okay to go, she asks, "Where is Plague? Ossie? Schnitzel? Droplet?"



>Add Miss Sunshine to that list


As Cerulean waits for everyone else, she tries to go looking around for more desert-related survival things. PErhaps even something to help her not dry out like a beached whale while she's out in the sun and sand.


"N-nah mate, I dragged you all the way out here, wouldn't be right to just waste yer time and fly all the way back 'cause of me cold talons."

Another puzzling phrase: her talons have always been warm in the few times you've touched them.

Working up courage, Splendid puffs out her feathers and fur, strutting up to the front door, and knocks. It opens by itself, revealing more of the well-kept pharmacy within. You smell incense wafting in the air, and the white adobe floor is polished to a sheen, and covered by an ornate mandala rug.


At the front desk, lounging in a chair, you see a posh looking beetle, wearing a layered gentleman's coat. Various jars, beakers and vials float about, surrounded by Aura, mixing potions and the like autonomously. Splendid's eyes glimmer as she enters, totally missing the beetle's brief sneer as he surveys your pirate garb.

"We do not usually get visitors from the docks," the beetle begins. "I'm afraid you'll find little rum or wine on my shelves. Is there anything you need?"


Before returning to her companions, she opts to leave Bran on the ship, assuming Bee Holder agrees to it. The desert is no place for a badger, after all. She feels a bit guilty leaving him behind, but it's for his own good.

Afterwards, she reunites with the rest of the party, toting the food supplies for overnight. "Bee Holder was gracious enough to grant my wish. We shan't starve, at least. If everyone has made preparations, we should move."



Cloud packs up all his supplies and purchases, throwing the pack over his back and all ready to go.
"Alright, let's head on out and find these anomaly things."




(Spent 1 BP on Whisper in your Ear)


"Gone, every one of them," Colobok seethes, barely containing his own rage. "Not a one of them said a word before leaving. I thought Ossie was with you, but the swabs confirmed it for themselves! All of them went with that mysterious ship. None have answered any calls I've placed in the last half-hour, either."

A mook calls out from the stern. "Ready to weigh anch–"

"Then weigh it already!" Colobok snaps. "Fly the colors and ready the guns! Every one of you that's winged, build a wind and get us out to sea! AFTER THEM!"

Panting and harried, the crew follow Colobok's instructions, scrambling to their positions. The fliers group themselves around the three masts, using their wings and natural affinity for clouds and weather-manipulation to build up an additional wind to propel your ship toward the northwest so as to pick up that headwind.

Colobok tosses you a collapsible spyglass and extends one of his own. "Forgive me taking the initiative, Captain, but we need every pair of eyes out on the waters. Holler if you see them, and we'll adjust course to catch up as soon as we can."

With that, he heads for the bow to begin spotting for the ship.

You wander around the market stalls for a minute or two, bouncing between all the oddities and baubles laying before you. Soon, though, the smell of sandy incense catches your attention. A desert beetle Krikral has set up some wares upon a floating carpet near the bazaar's fountain.
Among his wares you see the following:
Large Water Gourd: Can hold half a day's worth of water. 50 Bits.
Sandbug's Garb: White long sleeved and hooded robe that staves off heat and intense sunlight. 100 Bits.
Sandbug's Sombrero: A wide-brimmed sombrero that provides shade in a wide radius around one's head. 50 Bits.
Bag of Salt Tablets: Excessive sweating causes the body to lose salt it needs to stay healthy; chewing these salt tablets can stave off that danger. They go great with chips too. 50 Bits for a bag of 10.

Bran licks your nose before you go, before trotting belowdeck as if he owns the ship already.

Zerk and Paraiba look around, and as they do, you notice that Alder and Splendid have gotten off somewhere.
"Did those two ditch us?" Zerk asks.
"I heard the new girl, Splendid I think her name is, say something about visiting an apothecary," Paraiba says. "Do you want to wait for them? I'm sure they can catch up, if we're in a hurry."


Her ear flicks in annoyance. "I suppose we shall have to wait," she grumbles, before splitting up again. She goes to search the marketplace for magic shops, keeping an eye out for trinkets and baubles.
[1d10] if needed

Roll #1 5 = 5


"Ah… no, not here for magic. My friend here was interested in Magic, and believed you may be able to help. I believe she has a better idea of what we are looking for, so…" he gestures to Splendid, before taking a look around.

Deciding to ignore the sneer for now, he continues with "We were also interested in seeing what sort of potions you might have for sale."



At this revelation, Cutlass' face twitches with an unbridled fury. She lets Colobok take command, not saying anything. She heaves with each breath, her fury seething throughout her body.

"BRING ME THE SHIP SHREDDER!" Cutlass shouts out, expecting everyone within earshot to obey her demand. Because they don't have a choice. [1d10] Whisper in your Ear

She didn't really mean to use aura. It just slipped out. But, it felt right.

Roll #1 10 = 10


*not here for alcohol



>forgot the +1


"They know where we're going, right? We could probably get a start and let them catch up."
Cloud says, no real preference one way or the other.


Cerulean sees this place, and while her search for desert gear is sated, her attention is caught mostly by the flying carpet. She curious looks under it. She also waves a hoof under it, as if thinking its being held by strings or something.
"Woah…that's neat!"

Her curiosity sated for now, she looks around for a robe in her size and gets two gourds of water.
(paying 200)


Splendid, tapping her talons together nervously, approaches the counter. "Yessir, we were looking for something that might induce one of those magic wake-ups in me, if you got something like that."
"An Arcane Awakening, you mean," the beetle says with a frustrated sigh. "Even if I wanted to sell such a thing to you, I cannot. Regulations prohibit it, and I am not a Black Market vendor."
"Regulations?" Splendid asks with frustration. "What are you talking about?"
"Shaka, the great Mage's Guild, has forbidden the sale and distribution of materials known to cause Arcane Awakenings in others, without the express written or oral permission of one of their Archmagisters. Can you imagine the chaos that might be unleashed if anyone who wanted to learn magic could gain that ability simply by downing a bit of medicine?"
Splendid grumbles. "…I heard that just about anyone can learn Aura if they have half a mind for it."
The beetle scoffs. "Rest assured that Shaka will take care of that, too. Anyway, if you want to persist, the only way to do so would be to gain the favor of an Archmagister. The closest one resides on Horshuu Island."
Defeated, Splendid shrinks, clicking her tongue with frustration.
"…That would, of course, be the LEGAL way to do it," the beetle adds with an arched eyebrow.

"Most of my stock is in need of replenishment," the beetle says. "I had a rather large order completed just recently. Along the far wall there, you will find what I have in stock."

Among various other potions, the following stand out to you:

>Tonic of a Sturdy Mind: For the duration of battle, prevents you from being inflicted with a status condition that dazes, disorients or confuses you. 50 Bits

>Salve of Sound Body: Treats any diseases that might be too potent to remove with a healing spell or other effect. 100 Bits
>Smoke-Powder: A bag of powder that, when exposed to oxygen, creates a most wondrous and dense fog, obscuring all sight. Can be used in various ways with a little ingenuity. 100 Bits
>Lucid Dreamer's Drink: A heady drink that enables you to have a lucid dream the night that you consume it. Guarantees eight hours of sleep. 50 Bits.



[1d10] spyglass searching

Roll #1 4 = 4


The bazaar's offerings of magical trinkets is limited, and certainly nothing that can compare to Gullveig's deceptively humble magical shop, tucked away neatly on the other side of town near the slums, dead-end inns and poorhouses. You do, however, find a rather kitschy mobile cart hawking various magical wares, carried by two ostriches and manned by a very large fly wearing a fez and glasses that have a lens for every one of the panels in his compound eyes.

>Wind-up Pegasi: A bag of five wind-up toys resembling pegasi. They have simple enchantments that enable them to carry out basic orders, like a golem. They cannot attack, but are small enough that they might go unnoticed. If broken, they can be fixed by giving them a jolt of magic energy, activating their self-repairing enchantment. 100 Bits

>Dagger of the Beastmen: A dagger used by some tribes of the Vellus, a wide Genus of sapient beasts who prefer to walk on two legs and are capable of language. If the wielder of the dagger kills a foe (not necessarily with the dagger), their Shade can be raised, and stored in the obsidian hilt of the dagger. That Shade can be then called upon as an Undead minion to serve in battle until released or defeated. 100 Bits
>Super-Scribe Quill Pens: A bundle of five quill pens that, when assigned to a person, write down everything that they say as long as they have ink and paper available. The person doesn't have to know or give their permission for the quills to work.

The beetle bundles up your wares and hands them to you, tipping his sombrero in gratitude.

Chiu takes out her conch and calls up Alder, waiting for him to pick up. "We'd better make sure before they come back and find that we've left them behind," she says while she waits.

Immediately, about half a dozen crewmates scramble below deck, and shortly after, run back up, carrying with them the Hullshredder, which was collapsed and put away for safekeeping since last time. As they set it up on the deck, you scan the sea-line, but find only a dark fog waiting you on the horizon, dark clouds hanging over the waters.
"Captain, be careful with that," Colobok says as the mooks set up the gun. "We don't know why they left us! Can you think of any reason why Ossie, why Droplet – hell, why Miss Sunshine would just up and abandon you? I haven't heard them express any discontent with this voyage so far!"


"Oh fine. Hope they hurry it up though."
Cloud says as Chiu calls the gryphon. While they wait, Cloud starts to grow a bit bred, and begins to wander the marketplace like a kid would through a mall to find anything entertaining.


>Super-Scribe Quill Pens are 100 for a bundle of 5*


Alder hums a little, looking over the selection. He'll take the Tonic, the Salve, and the Drink.
-200 Bits

"Hrm… I suppose there is other methods, then?" he asks, in response to the remark on 'legality'



"It's that damn Shifty Pete," Cutlass grumbles furiously. "This isn't the first time he's done this to me," Cutlass answers.

"That Jolly Roger was mine. He took MY crew. Now he's doing it again! Just like he always does. I'm taking him down!" she practically shrieks by the end with a manic look in her eyes.


"Oh? Hello?"



[1d10] to keep looking

Roll #1 8 = 8


She looks at the ostriches with slight bewilderment before perusing the wares, settling on the dagger and the pens. Both seem very useful to her, if not for this mission then for future endeavours. Afterwards, she returns to the gate at the edge of town, waiting for the rest of her company to finish their business.


"I know nothing of the sort," the beetle says after wrapping up your potions in a cloth bundle for ease of carrying. "As I said, this is a respectable establishment. I'd never even THINK to encourage any illegal activities under my roof. I am simply observing that, for someone who cares little for law, such as a pirate, there are other ways around this particular conundrum… but she will find none here."

Splendid squawks softly, stroking her beak, clearly picking up what he's putting down. "…Then it looks like we're all done here if you are, Alder. Shall we be off?"


Cerulean heads back to the others with her purchases and makes sure to get the gourds filled up before they leave.


"Ahh, I see. I suppose we will not find what we look for here. I am ready to head off- should we meet up with the others, or keep looking?"


If it's entertainment you were searching for, by a stroke of luck, you found it. A little distance past the bazaar's fountain, you hear a bit of music playing. A group of street performers, armed with a hurdy gurdy, guitar, violin, brass and drums, are playing to a small crowd nearby. In front of them, there are a pair of griffons, armed with puppets made to resemble pony skeletons, rigged up on control strings hooked to rings on their fingers. The two skeletons appear to be acting out some kind of drama based on the song.


"Alder! Hi!" Chiu says, motioning for the rest of the group to gather near so they can hear the conversation via conch. "We're getting ready to leave for the village, are you and Splendid almost done?"
"Raaawk!" Splendid cries through the conch. "Sorry, sorry! I didn't know we'd be making you wait! W-we'll be right back, promise!"
"Ooooookay…" Chiu says. "No big deal, we're just checking in. It looks like we're all good to go here, so why don't we all get a move on?"

Colobok nods grimly. "Splatter him all across the seven seas, then. Just don't hit a one of our crew. They are still Gates of Justice first. If you should harm them…" he then smiles, a faintly threatening force hidden behind his eyes. "No, I'm sure you wouldn't be so reckless."

Suddenly, a dark shape becomes clear on the horizon, ten degrees to the north: A pirate ship, heading away from you, but you can clearly see their jolly roger from the other side. You don't recognize the ship itself, and can surmise that it's not your old vessel, the one you got kicked off. In fact, it looks bigger and stronger than that one. But either way, you can clearly make out those old colors; you wouldn't mistake them for anything.


Cloud's ears perk to the direction of music as he walks. That should kill some time he thinks, so he turns and heads off in that direction.
He comes up to the performance, listening in on the music and watching the puppets dance around. He was fond of watching a street performer now and then back in the city, some of them had real talent. He watches out the rest of the act, hoof tapping along to the music.


She looks up from examining her new dagger, turning it over in her hooves absent mindedly. "I am ready," she confirms. "Let's hurt up about it."



Cutlass quickly turns to look at Colobok. There is still anger on her face, but it's not directed at him. Her eyebrows furrow in confusion.

"You think… Some power did this?" she asks, as if her world-view is being shattered.

Then, she spots the ship. "That's him," she nods with an angry growl. "Though, that's not the old ship."


"Ah, yes! Apologies for making you wait- we will be right over!" the griffon chirps, jumping a little from the loud squawk. He spreads his wings out and perches to take off, before looking back over to Splendid and cocking his head to the side.

"Ehm, one more thing… What do you mean by 'cold talons'? It seems warm here."


Cerulean laughs a bit from the conversation over the conch.
"Yeah, I'm all set to go. I'll get changed when we get to the warmer and dryer part."


"I should hope so. It's the only sensible explanation, anyway," Colobok says, more to himself than to anyone else. "Some of the scoundrels I could see turning coat with the right motivation. Money, booze, mares. But the majority are loyal to you, Captain. We wouldn't have braved that fight on Kaco if it weren't for that loyalty. I don't see how a few smooth words and a hoof-shake could change all of that."

Not to mention, Make Believe adds, That that all sounds like a condition for using a strong Psi-type ability.

As you call out the ship on the horizon, the harried and exhausted crew proceed toward it at full speed, the fliers panting with exertion as they create a stronger wind, adjusting course to intercept that ship.


Eventually, you come close enough to it to see figures on the deck. Most of the enemy crew is of a strange race, beasts who stand upright, wearing clothing and mottled armor made of sea-monster hides and bits of jagged metal. Tough and coarse, their fur is mottled, many missing appendages or eyes, their bodies scarred. Any one of them looks like a match for at least five of your crew, and there are dozens aboard that ship.

To make matters worse, most of your crewmates are aboard that ship, visible among the enemy's crew. They are mingling with them, talking and chatting as if nothing were awry. You see Ossie, Droplet, even Miss Sunshine and Plague and Schnitzel too. You can't get a clear shot on any of the enemy without risking the rest getting hit by the Hullshredder's imprecise fire.

As you get closer, the enemy crew turn and observe you, not reaching for their weapons just yet, simply studying you from afar. Your remaining crew start to grow nervous.

"Just a turn of phrase I'm afraid," Splendid says. "You say it whenever you get nervous, you know? Mostly my talons aren't clammy, I promise."


With all your pre-trek business taken care of, you arrange to meet Alder and Splendid by the northern gate, and after a little while longer, the two fly your way, crossing your path. Splendid is extra apologetic, much to your group's chagrin.

In any case, you have everything you need… hopefully. Clothes, food, water and directions. All the rest of the dangers that await you… you'll just have to hope you're ready. Proceeding north, you reach Manenhi's great wooden gates. The guards nod, parting to let you pass through the towering gates, which creak open into a wide-open road, flanked on either sides by artificial trees of varying sizes.


You trek along the wooded road northward for a few hours, finding it easy at first to travel across the artificial landscape, but the road quickly slopes downward, and the ground on either side starts getting rockier and higher, forming two great cliff walls on either side as the path grows more stony and dirt-ridden. The further you get from the town, the more natural, and less forested, the ground starts to become.

A few hours into your trek, you start to feel the toughness of the hike set in. The sun is high, the sky is cloudless. Your trek takes you through a hard and harsh scrublands, full of harsh squat plants, towers of rocks, and the occasional man-sized lizard running across your path, though thankfully they don't attack you. The strangest thing, though, is that there seem to be high rock walls running through this region, some crumbled, others remaining intact. They somehow remind you of some ancient city, carved into the rock. Occasionally you come across bits of potsherds that might corroborate this hypothesis, but they are too old to identify.

Time withers by, punishingly slow, as thirst and sun-weariness start to build up.

>Roll for endurance at a -1 penalty due to the heat. Drinking some of your water can remove the penalty. Cerulean has a +1 due to the desert robes, cancelling out her penalty unless she also drinks water.


"Ahh, I learn more phrases every day. Thank you, Miss Splendid!" the griffon chirps, giving her a friendly shoulder pat before taking off to meet with the others.

"Ahh, hello! I grabbed a few things while they were out. Nothing quite so vital, but a few potions that might be of use." he says, before humming a little to himself. He passes Cerulean the Sturdy Mind Tonic, and smiles "Here, Miss Cerulean! This should keep you from getting disoriented in a fight!"


Cloud tosses 50 bits to the performers once the song ends, turning back to rejoin the others at the northern gate as they head off on their expedition.

Cloud treks along as they march through the landscape, turning from artificial and pony-made to the more natural. He gazes up at the cliffs around them, a convenient passage though a bit odd.
"You think somepony carved this path out?"
He wonders aloud as they walk.

As time passes, Cloud grows weary. It feels like they've walked forever, though it may have been the rough sleep that makes it feel as so, plus the lingering weariness from his surgery. He glances up at the sky, grumbling something unintelligable. His eye glows orange, attempting to get some cloud cover and a fresh drizzle for them to beat off this weather.
>Climate Control [Rain] [1d10]
>Endurance [1d10-1]

Roll #1 10 = 10 / Roll #2 10 - 1 = 9



As Colobok speaks, her expression begins to lighten up. "They're… loyal to… me?" Cutlass asks as if she's afraid of the concept.

Then, Cutlass shakes her head. "Whatever," she says in a haughty tone. "This is what happens every time. They always leave me. I'm not getting my hopes up just yet."

Once the ship pulls up close enough to the one they are pursuing, Cutlass steps up to the side. "PEEEEEEEEEEEEETE!" she shrieks at the top of her lungs. The shrillness and pitch of the voice makes it less intimidating than she would have liked. She even squeaks at the end. "COME OUT HERE NOW, YOU SHIFTY BASTARD!"


She trudges through the desert in silence, occasionally mumbling a foreign curse under her breath. She takes a swig of water periodically, willing herself to keep moving.
[1d10] Withstand

Roll #1 10 = 10


Cerulean tries to remain composed, the robes thankfully helping, but the sharkpony was starting to look quite uncomfortable.
"This sand is so loose and…dry. How does anypony live out here?" She takes a drink all too readily.


After her drink, she looks to the others.
"Anyone else want some? I bought two for a reason."

Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2



[1d10] to be intimidating

Roll #1 10 = 10


>Endurance [1d10-1]

Roll #1 9 - 1 = 8


The performers don't stop playing, but do nod appreciatively at you for your donation.

Splendid chirps in kind, carefully timing a flex with your touch so that you get a handful of sheer muscle.

Most of you manage to handle the heat, apart, ironically, from Cerulean, even though she wears the light robes that are supposed to ward off the sunlight. The dry, burning air and the painfully stark light feel as though they're scorching her right now, and she half-knows what it's like to be a dried fish. Her head swims with dizziness as her skin burns.

>Cerulean loses 1 wound

With a great deal of effort, Cloud forces himself to conjure a powerful spell, forcing Mother Nature's designs away. A small, thin collection of clouds starts to build up over your party and the surrounding area, providing some much needed shade. Raindrops soon fall, and many of them turn to steam, evaporating the moment they hit the scorching ground. Soon, though, the local temperature starts to drop, but Cloud finds that he'll have to keep up a continual effort to resist Mother Nature's power and maintain this rain.

>Cloud must roll again to keep the rain going. As long as the rain's in effect, you don't have to roll endurance.

Your path continues downwards, sloping deep into the heart of the scrublands, the ground beneath you turning red-orange from some kind of mineral in the dirt. More lizards and the occasional strange six-legged mammal will dart across the road, hunting each other, but otherwise leaving you alone. Paraiba and Zerk try to make light conversation, but trail off each time, still feeling weak from the sun even with the cloud covering. They eventually quiet down to preserve their strength.

Eventually, with the harsh sun now high above, your path takes you into a high-walled canyon pass. You know from asking around earlier that you'll have to cross this pass – known as the Gecko's Footprint by the locals – to get through. You did pick up on some warnings though. The pass is treacherous, and home to many poisonous gecko species whose bites can cause chemical burns.

The path ahead of you, leading down into the pass, is rocky and treacherous, and you see a glimpse even of some cliffside roads you will have to shimmy down in order to cross. At first that seems like the only way through, but then you notice that the rock wall here seems to have some kind of thin shelf-like levels to it. It's possible you could climb up that and seek an alternate path.

Taking a moment to pause, Zerk and Paraiba slump to the ground, while Splendid fans them and Chiu with her wings.

At first, the Beastmen seem puzzled, looking about among themselves with murmurs. Most are too far away to make out, but you catch words here and there. "Vice-Baron…? Is she talking about… how does she know the Vice…"

Their words are cut off by heavy stomps coming from below deck. The Beastmen make way as a colossal figure comes up onto the deck. A gorilla, black as night, wearing a thick coat and a captain's hat, shuffles out onto the deck, and a much smaller silver monkey perches on his shoulder. Both are covered with scars, the gorilla more so. You note that he towers over everyone nearby, standing at twelve feet in total, his body as hard as steel.

"Why are you calling for the Vice Baron?" the gorilla growls in a voice like rolling thunder. "State your name, pirate."



"I am Captain Cutlass," she calls back, annoyed. "He'll know the name. Tell him to get off his lazy flank and do something for himself for once!"

[1d10] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 2 = 2


She trudges to a stop and wipes her brow as she surveys the landscape, honing in on the rocky wall. "That seems like a shortcut, rather than taking yonder roads. What do you all think? I, for one, would like to be done here as soon as possible."


Cloud tilts his head back, letting the rain wash over him, opening his mouth to save on their packed water as well.
"Ahh, never before have I been more glad to be able to do this."
When the clouds start to thin a bit from the intense heat, Cloud keeps his focus going on the weather manipulation. This is the first time he's been in any overly harsh climate, but he's not going to turn away from this challenge.
>Climate Control [Rain] [1d10]

Cloud sits as well when they reach the cliff-edge. He looks down at the deep twisting roads into the valley, groaning at the normal path looking treacherous, even aside from the creatures living inside it.

Cloud looks up at the ledges leading upward as Thessaly points them out.
"Let's go for it, I'd like to skip poisonous lizards if I can."

Roll #1 6 = 6


c'est moi


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3


[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 6 = 6


File: 1563857291015.png (66.19 KB, 659x609, So Good.png)

Cerulean finds herself really suffering and, the moment they stop, she unceremoniously slumps over with a loud groan.
"Please tell me we're close." Just as Cerulean's suffering was reaching an all time high for once, the rains begin to fall and Cerulean perks up.
"Yes! Cloud, you're the best!" She takes the hood off her head to let the rain fall right in her face, making sure to get the robe all soggy in case this rain goes away.


"Oh! Impressive!" the griffon chirps, giggling a little at Splendid.

"Excellent work, Mister Cloud Shear! Your control of weather seems handier every time you use it."

"Hmm. I think I do not like the heat much- I'm glad we have Mister Cloud Shear." Alder says, letting out a soft huff and shaking his head. He tries to get a closer look at the cliff walls, to see what's there.
>[1d10] What's there!

Roll #1 8 = 8


Cloud smirks with fangy smile as the two praise his magic and him.
"Oh it was nothing. Can't let the weather beat down on my friends now, can I?"
He says, totally not letting it go to his head at all.


"Vice-Baron Pete is not on this vessel, but we act by his will and the will of the Crimson King who commands him," the gorilla replies. Though his voice is but a whisper, you hear it clear as day, almost too loud to be comfortable to hear. "I am Captain Kuro, leader of the Proud Shanty, this vessel here, named in his honor! What business do you have with the Vice-Baron that you make such an entrance?"

The rest of your crew, those who left you behind, stand on the deck, blankly staring at you as if you were just another pirate. You see no hint of loyalty or interest in their gaze, cruel and cold.

Perception is needed to find out more

It's hard to see what might await you on top of the canyon walls' upper levels, but you do occasionally get glimpses of some rather large avians, zipping across the sky this way and that. They look, in the brief glimpses you get, to be some kind of raptors or bearded vultures, vicious and scowling, with evil looking heads and coats of feathers with brilliant colors, waves of menacing reds and purples. It's only after they're gone that you realize just HOW much bigger than ordinary birds they were…

That is, a lot bigger.

"Poisonous geckos down here and big-ass birds up there?" Zerk groans. "I miss the city."
"You signed up for this, you big baby," Paraiba groans, laying on the cool ground with Cerulean.

Steeling herself, Splendid tries to spread her wings, though there's not a lot of room in the narrow pass. "If it's the upper road you want to take, I'll help you all up! What shall it be?"



Cutlass looks to Colobok. "What did the one who shook their hooves look like?"

Cutlass looks around at the enemy ship. She eyes the ones who are supposed to be on her crew. She eyes - eyes! In her panic, she nearly forgot she's gotten stronger since the last time this sort of thing happened.

>Soul Vision on the gorilla thing

Also, [1d10] for general perception on the ship to see if anything or anyone seems off (moreso than everything else)

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Hey, big things aren't an issue with me around," Cloud says as he gives Zerk a nudge, "I should be able to handle my magic a lot better today too."

Cloud stands back up, continuing his focus on keeping the rain flowing, that much at least is not feeling too straining.
>Climate Control [1d10]

"We're going up!"
Cloud says, looking up the cliff again with a sigh.
"…I wish I had my wings."

Roll #1 5 = 5


"Goodness. Nature is fascinating, to say the least… I wonder what birds that size eat." he ponders.
"Up it is, then! We should have enough wings between us to help the group up- though, I'm glad we have you around, Miss Splendid. I think lifting Miss Cerulean would be… difficult, to say the least." he says, humming a little.


She looks very disgruntled at the sight of the giant raptors. "Grand."

She gives Zerk a withering look. "If you would rather not be here, you are welcome to turn back."

"I am indifferent to which danger we would rather face. Both seem equally pleasant." She looks to her companions, waiting to her their thoughts on the matter.


As much as Cerulean would love to just lay here and say moist, she knew she had to get up and going eventually.
"Going up? Alright." Feeling refreshed, Cerulean begins to actually climb the cliff.
"I'll just get a head start. You guys take care of the others. I'm pretty sure they're a lot lighter than me."



>Climb [1d10]

Roll #1 6 = 6


>Shork Climb

Roll #1 2 = 2


[1d10] Flight or Climb, either works

Roll #1 3 = 3


Seeing everyone else start to try and climb, she joins in.

Roll #1 10 = 10


Splenda [1d10]
Chew [1d10]
Zork [1d10]
Parabola [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7 / Roll #2 1 = 1 / Roll #3 9 = 9 / Roll #4 4 = 4


Colobok nods his head subtly at the silver monkey perched on Kuro's shoulder. "It was that one, for the most part. From what I gathered, the other members of their crew met up with the monkey after each time they shook one of our crew's hooves. So, it was like this: The enemy's crew would be with the monkey, then they would talk to one of our crew, and then go back to the monkey and repeat the cycle."

The monkey, as if sensing Colobok's gaze, hoots and hisses, and leaps among the "recruited" crewmates, using them as pony shields.

Captain Kuro, it seems, is a simple sort. You see vast fields of material wealth in his mind's eye. Jewels, gold, food from every corner of the world, courtesans of various Beastman monkey species, too. Overlooking the beach, he sits in his castle atop his hoard, lazily eating a banana as he watches the Crimson King's banner fly over the world. His appetite is voracious, but his mind and heart are simple.

"Answer me, or scuttle your ship and quit wasting my time," Kuro growls. "Again, answer me, I say. Who is this Captain Cutlass who calls upon Vice-Baron Pete, agent of the Crimson King?"

Finally, you note that your "recruited" crewmates who stand on Kuro's ship don't seem to be looking at you at all. They're rather looking past or even through you. Their gazes are lazy, distant, as if their heads were all vacant, their minds somewhere else.

"Thinking about getting a steady job again?" Chiu scoffs. "Not for me, no thanks. I couldn't ever go back to a weekly paycheck after all the gold we've taken ourselves on this trip."

"Not until I've made it rich! I'll never turn back, ya hear me? You're stuck with the most forward and family-friendly thief until the day one or both of us dies!" Zerk declares. Splendid, Chiu and Paraiba all tune him out, all looking away at other things as if all distracted at just the right time.

Finding a set of climbing equipment and cables in your ourdoorspony packs, you hook up some of the cables and hooks, though none of you have a whole lot of experience with this category of gear. There are ropes and hooks and pegs, nothing too fancy or any kind of safety gear, either. You're left just to feel it out for yourself.

Thessaly finds it natural, using the hooks and pegs and rope with the cliff's natural grooves to scale it easily. The rest of you find it harder, with Alder and Paraiba ending up with various nicks and bumps on your way up, but nothing serious. Cloud and Zerk manage to make it up too, but Chiu is not so fortunate. With a squeak, she loses her grip as a stray rock comes loose, falling off the cliff wall and landing atop Cerulean, knocking both of them to the ground, Chiu on top of Cerulean, but looking much more pained than her.

>Cerulean loses 4 Hits, Chiu loses 1 wound

Meanwhile, at the top, you see a flat, winding expanse on top of the canyon's walls. It is a rather beautiful sight. From up here, you can see the whole of the canyon's walls, winding down the landscape like some kind of ancient writings or runes, their tops a brilliant red from the earth's natural clay. Beyond that, in the distance, you can spy out some kind of distant settlement built atop a plateau.


She looks down at Chiu and Cerulean with a mixture of annoyance and suppressed concern. Without a word, she reaches out to try and help them up via telekinesis.

Roll #1 2 = 2


You fail to lift either one of them.


Cloud scoffs with much exaggeration to Chiu's question.
"Please, I'm aiming to no have to lift a hoof ever again once we get back home."

Cloud slowly makes his way up the cliff-face, finding the task of climbing with all these cables and cords a bit difficult. He manages to reach the top easily enough, but turns back as he hears the squeak from Chiu.
He's too slow to do anything as he watches her fall back down, impacting and landing on the shark. He quickly rappels back down the cliff, not caring about the time it'll take to climb back up. He trots to her side, helping her off Cerulean and checking to see if she's alright. Though by her pained expression, she probably isn't.
"Don't worry, I'll get you up there."
Cloud says, eye glowing orange as he attempts to enlarge himself to make this cliff and carrying her not an issue.
>Wax/Wane [Self] [1d10+1]

Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4


Cerulean gives a surprised noise as she's sent back to the bottom.
"Oww, sorry. Give notice next time you go and do that, okay," she says with a bit of a laugh. She just lays there and lets Chiu get up at her own pace.
"Hey, I think I'll just wait at the bottom for now and catch anybody who might fall off again."


>fixing hits


Alder hisses a little as he scrabbles and stumbles up the cliffside. Turning to take a look at the others, he lets out a somewhat nervous warble.

"If you would like me to, I could work on patching the both of you up now. It may be better to wait until this is dealt with, though."


Seeing Cerulean decide to climb last, she focuses on trying to help Chiu.

Roll #1 4 = 4



Cutlass looks over her vacant crewmates, then looks to the little monkey Colobok is speaking of.

>Soul Vision on little monkey

Then, she looks back to Captain Kuro. "It would seem I was mistaken. I heard that you were flying that Jolly Roger - MY Jolly Roger, by the way. And, I naturally assumed that Shifty Pete was here. He has a nasty habit of stealing my crew. Thus the stolen Jolly Roger. But, it seems that he's found more shifty vagabonds just like him - too lazy to actually come up with a loyal crew on his own."

"You stole half of my crew," Cutlass says, looking more toward the little monkey than the big one. "I would like to at least speak with them and find out why they left."

[1d10] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 5 = 5


You make yourself somewhat larger, but the shock of seeing her drop like that makes it difficult for your spells to have much effect. You see Chiu carefully tapping and patting her limbs and torso, checking for wounds. "Mmm… nothing's broken, and I can still move my hooves… I don't think it was as bad as it looked."

"Sorry!" Chiu winces, gradually getting off you once she's convinced she's not too badly hurt.

The others gather at the cliff's edge, with Zerk and Splendid lowering their ropes off the side to help you back up, now that they're at the top. With this and with Thessaly's help, Chiu manages to carefully shimmy up the cliff's wall, eventually slithering to the top and laying flat on the ground once she's made it. "Thessaly, I will never forget this favor you have done for me," she says.
"Should be easy going from here, right?" Paraiba asks. "And with those birds about, it'd be better for you to heal them now, Alder."

>No roll needed now that the others at the top can help


"Ah! I meant until they reached the top, but… that was faster than expected!" he says, and quickly gets to work on patching the two up- starting with Chiu, and then working on Cerulean
>[1d10+1] Natural Remedy

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3


Cerulean waits to make sure Chiu gets up there with no problems this time before going up herself with the others helping. She gives another sort of tired groan when she gets to the top, already starting to look a bit more beat up than any fight she's been in thus far.
"Jeez. Thess, I like you and all, but please never go out into a desert again. I didn't think it'd be this bad out here."


"I believe recompense is in order. I will be content with no less than your soul," she answers in a deadpan. She keeps an eye on those birds, not trusting them one iota.
[1d10] Perception if needed

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Noohoohoohoohoohoo!" the silver monkey laughs. "Have you any idea what value our time has? We're burning precious money waiting here to talk to you! We could be making a profit on fish and diving for sunken ships with all these new recruits we've got! If you want to pay us, then perhaps you might be able to, but if not, then get! Beat it! Go on, get the hell out of here!"

In contrast to Captain Kuro's simple materialism and hedonism, the silver monkey's ambition is far more sinister, far more subtle. He wishes to be popular, you can surmise – no, not just that. You see books printed with his face on them and on every page, illustrations of various expressions on his face. People toss out old books that don't have his face on them, throwing them into the sea or into fires. People get tattoos of his face, people name their children after him, people even tattoo his face onto their own. People line up for days at a time just to talk to him, just to touch him, just to look at him, paying their bottom bit for the privilege of simply being in the same city as him. He wants to be depicted in toys, in Flicks, in great art and architecture! He wants his face everywhere and on everything!

"Shiro," Captain Kuro says. "Enough of that racket."
"Screw you, Kuro!" Shiro retorts. "Who's the popular one here? This crew is mine! I call the shots on who gets to see them, talk to them, touch them and take them!"


Cloud sighs in relief.
"Phew, ok. Think I'll go behind you next time."
He says, smiling after as he helps her up.

As he said, Cloud waits, following up behind Chiu as she shimmies up with the extra ropes and Thessaly's magic. He stands on the top of the plateau, looking across the plains.
"Yea, treat her now before we starting heading back out into the heat."
Cloud says as Alder offers.

He gazes at the winding labyrinth of a valley they would've had to go through before, glad they don't need to worry, and spoting the settlement off beyond.
"You think that's the place we're heading too?"

Though there's no signs of the big birds yet, Cloud takes a breath, easing his nerves and eye beginning to glow as he focuses on growing himself again. He feels some relief as no pain has come, hopefully his body healed enough to be fine with these tasks. Though he also wonders how long it would be before he doesn't need to wear the eyepatch anymore.
>Wax/Wane [Self] [1d10+1]

Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10



Roll #1 2 = 2


"Y-Yes, yes. Apologies."
>Medic's Knife [1d10]

Roll #1 6 = 6



Cutlass lets out a long sigh as the two monkeys bicker. "Why MY crew? This is NOT a coincidence. Why did Pete send you here to take MY crew?" she asks, growing angrier, louder, and more shrill with each word.

[1d10] Whisper in your Ear to get information, but perhaps more importantly, keep them talking

Once she is done speaking, she begins thinking to Make Believe. If we get a sticker on Shiro, do you think it would negate his effect? What about if we instead got a sticker onto each of our allies? Could you block it?

Roll #1 1 = 1


"Sorry, I've already sold that, got a refund and sold it again," Chiu says. "I shall have to bake you one of my father's award-winning, world-renowned noodle dishes instead."

Alder mixes some potions and gets to work with the medic's knife, healing Cerulean's and Chiu's wounds sustained from the trip, even chasing away some of Cerulean's earlier symptoms of heat exhaustion. Cloud then grows himself to about twice his normal size. The clouds above you start to fade, and the sunlight pours back in. For a few moments, though, the air still remains cool enough to be bearable.

The clouds' disappearance, though, has another effect. You realize that, for the duration of the climb, you didn't see the buzzards circling overhead. As you look up now, you realize that they must have been obscured by the clouds, for now that those clouds are gone, a trio of massive birds circles your party, in a radius of about 50 meters from you. Even from this distance, the birds appear gigantic, and you estimate that up close they'd probably be somewhere around the height of a grown oak tree. Massive, beautiful birds, but with heads viciously predatory, glowing green eyes all alight with keen interest. Their stony sharp beaks seem, even, to be grinning at you.

"If only a moment's rest weren't too much to ask…" Paraiba gripes, backing away closer to the group's center as the towering, beautiful buzzards circle and circle, neither getting closer nor further away.

If I can sharpen my willpower to be stronger than the monkey's, I can… probably… override his effect. That's how it goes for Mind-type effects. His mind will be pitted against my mind for the duration, but he's just a monkey! I don't think he's exactly a brainiac.

"You wanna know why, huh? I'll bet you really, really wanna know why? Don't you? Don't youuuuu?" Shiro asks. He rubs his thumb and two forefingers together. "What's hard to understand? I already told you how you can get all these answers! It's easy, it's easy! And if you're hard on cash, I accept ALL KINDS of payment if you've got the… booty."

Kuro shakes his head with disgust, then glares at you. "Newspaper," he says to a nearby Beastman, who then nods and starts to head down into the deck.

>Paused, reply for next time



"Blegh," Cutlass groans in disgust at Shiro's implication. Though, her face also turns bright red. She instinctively fidgets with her dress as if to adjust it enough to protect herself from any eyes.

"Never! I am a pure maiden! And, even if I wasn't, never with a monkey like you!"

Again, the main goal is to distract and keep things nonviolent for the time being. [1d10+1] Whisper in your Ear

Make Believe, give Colobok some stickers. Colobok, use your power. Get them on Shiro. Stealthily if you can.

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8


Now relatively giant, Cloud feels much more confident to deal with any of the animals they cross, though also feels a bit more of the heat as the sun now shines down on his massive form.
"I hope we don't have much more to go now."

He looks up as he sees three shadows circling around them, spotting the giant vulture-esque birds overhead.
"Great… Guess it can't be a desert without those."
His eyes glow again, trying to pull their cloud cover back, now to deter the birds as well as to beat the heat.
>Climate Control [Rain] [1d10+1]

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7


"Apologies if the knife is somewhat concerning. It is useful, at least…" the griffon trails off, taking a look up at the buzzards with worry.

"I-I suppose I can see what they might eat to stay such a size."
>No Action yet: Getting ready for one, though.


>A tad earlier
"Say, Miss Splendid- since we might be walking into a dangerous situation, what exactly do you do? You certainly seem strong, but I don't know if I have ever actually asked."


>During the climb/flight segment

Splendid continues to fly up, her arms folded, and she has a frown. "…N-not much."

There's an awkward pause, as if she intended to say more, but it is followed by silence.


"Not much? P-Please, do not sound so concerned- I was merely curious. Is that a bad topic for me to pursue?" he asks, flicking his tail nervously.


"…Ain't got much in the way of training, skill or even experience, really," Splendid says. "Remember when I grabbed Cutlass' knife and dived in to get you while you were gettin' attacked by them sharks and that elemental what got away from Thessaly's control? I barely knew which end of the knife to stick 'em with, let alone what I was going to do once I got to you. Lucky me that I didn't have to put it into action – I grabbed you, pulled you back to the Esper, and that was that."

(Optional): Roll insight


>Insight [1d10]

"I… I see, yes. I supposed with how tumultuous this land is, I assumed things might be a little like home- even as… unfit in a fight as I am, I trained from a young age in archery. The outside world never ceases to surprise me, though."

At the mention of the Esper, he coughs a little bit, and offers a friendly smile. "Thank you for the help, though- your quick thinking did a lot of good, regardless of what you did with the knife."

Roll #1 4 = 4


Something about what she just said doesn't ring true, to you. Life in the Ribcage is brutal, nasty and short, so almost everyone, even landlubbers, needs and has some ability to defend themselves. Not only that, but Splendid, who once worked on a slaver ship, should've been witness or maybe even a participant in many fights. It's highly unlikely that her statement was true.

Splendid clicks her tongue. "I'll just be a runner. You know, like they have in military clashes on land. Those guys who run out, scoop up the injured and take 'em back to camp? Thought I did pretty good there while we were salvaging the Lilliput."

"Nope, that won't do!" Zerk says, huffing and puffing as he clambers up the wall. "Gotta get you trained! Can't let a body like yours go to waste with nothing but cardio! I'll get you crushing skulls within a month of training?"

"Yeah, will ya now? Nah cunt, I'm good," Splendid retorts dryly.

Zerk nearly loses his grip with shock at her language.


"I-It is okay, Mister Zerk- 'cunt' is not a bad word, apparently!" he chirps, before looking back to Splendid and regarding her carefully.

"I… will not press too much further for now. Though, I would feel more at ease if you at least had a way to defend yourself. It sounds like… a touchy subject to say the least, and this may not be the best place to discuss such things, so I understand the hesitation… I think."


"The cultures of the Ribcage sure are varied…" Zerk grumbles. "I wouldn't have a tongue if I said that on the Sand Tide. The Earth-Elders had no patience for calves with tongues of poison like that."

Splendid rubs her beak. "No, you do got a point… well… what's… alright, here's a stumper for ya, what's the least violent way I can contribute to the group, then?"


"I… see. An aversion to violence is admirable, to say the least. As for what you could do… well, hauling someone out of trouble is never a bad thing, and you have shown to be more than strong enough for that. Hrm… I am sure you could grapple someone quite well, but that might fall in to the 'too violent' category. Would it?" he asks, humming a little to himself.

"Oh! Perhaps that is another avenue we could explore in magic for you- magic can do many things, yes? Perhaps look for magic that aids someone- making them quicker to act, or stronger to strike, or things like that."


"Those are all options," Splendid mutters as she flies upward. "But now there's the matter of what to pick… I don't want to spread myself too far out. That's what it was like when I was growing up. I was trying to learn so many different things that I never felt like I was really good at any one good thing."

"But what if you try to get good at something that's not useful?" Paraiba asks, taking a break from the climb by sitting on a small outcropping.

Splendid just turns and frowns at her. "I'm already indecisive, you can't do that to me, going on and making it worse!"


"Well, there is certainly no rush in making a choice- rushing such a decision likely would not be for the best, if my experience is anything to say. I am always willing to listen if you need help deciding, and I'm sure plenty of the crew could offer an ear or a thought."

Alder looks to Paraiba, and cocks his head to the side. "I… do not understand."


Paraiba lifts a hoof. "It's the age-old dilemma, to be a specialist, skilled highly in one field or power, or a Jack, skilled moderately in a few different fields. You know, like the story of Everypony Jack, the Jack of all Trades."

You feel you may have heard this story once, roll memory at DC 4 for more info (if you want).

"I know!" Splendid says, slamming her fist into her palm triumphantly. "I'll make a survey of the crew, get their opinions and all. They can give me their input on what they feel is lacking from the crew's toolset!"

"That's actually kind of a bad idea," Chiu says.

"Now what!?" Splendid cries in exasperation.

"Okay, watch the volume… what I mean is that people tend to be secretive about their special powers. This applies to magic, Aura, and everything else out there. It's even more prominent in the Ribcage than anywhere else I've ever been. I read about this in an old newspaper while I was waiting for Cloud's surgery to finish. The fear is that anyone who knows the full extent of your powers has far less reason to fear you. Once they know what you can and can't do, they can take countermeasures to prepare themselves to take you down."

"All fear is the fear of the unknown," Paraiba says. "When there's nothing more to be known or discovered, all fear, mystery, intrigue, it all goes away. In the case of a battle, this reduces victory to a simple equation."

"So they wouldn't surrender those details too quickly to a rando like me, eh?" Splendid asks.

"And neither should you be so free with talking about your own powers," Chiu finally warns.


"Hrm… it is troubling indeed. Perhaps you should focus on yourself, then? Members of the crew have overlapping talents- it should be less about what others do not have, and more of what you think works best for you?"

Roll #1 1 = 1



Roll #1 4 = 4


You remember snippets of a popular and well-known fable among pirates, and in fact you're pretty sure you've also seen snippets of an adaptation in the weekly comics section of the Sunday issues of the newspapers that get delivered to the ship.

Everypony Jack is an ambitious figure of many talents but little discernment, a young pony who tries to become skilled at everything he sees, no matter how niche, trivial or unconnected it is to anything else he might be doing. Onlookers and friends (he has many mild friends, but only one of any real intimacy, his brother) call him the Jack of all Trades, for he tries to become good at all trades. But in the process, he makes his life tougher when he attempts things far outside his expertise with his limited knowledge and skill. His stories are cautionary tales, every one, against living such a superficial life.

Splendid seems puzzled at your reasoning. "Aren't I in your debt? I need to pay what I owe for you taking me onboard your ship."

"…Unless you did borrow money from Alder, that's just a turn of phrase for when you're feeling grateful," Zerk says.

"Yeah, Bee Holder won't shut up about how we're all free people. You don't have to serve anyone if you don't want," Paraiba adds. "Be free like a cassowary! Pursue whatever weird magic or crafts you like. Carve chairs. Open a brewery. Hunt treasure. Live with freedom!"

"…Freedom's not a virtue," Splendid mutters under her breath, though almost as if involuntarily, on reflex.


"Splendid, please… I can tell your life before was not easy. But, on our ship, in our crew, Freedom is something we all have. You're free to choose what you want, and be what you want. You do not 'owe' me anything, at all. You even saved me, back during the salvaging run. If there has to be some sort of 'cost', consider that payment in full- even and over with, yes?"


Last time on PirateQuest…

Thessaly, Alder, Cloud, Cerulean, and their entourage consisting of Zerk, Chiu, Paraiba and Splendid went north out of Manenhi, quickly leaving behind the forested region around the dock and shore for a scrublands landscape. Harsh sun, biting winds and bitterly hard ground bore down upon them as they passed scorched trees and slithering reptiles taking refuge under rocks. The hours wore by interminably as the uncaring elements wore away at them.

Finally, around mid-afternoon, the party found a refuge of shade in the form of tall, winding box canyon walls that towered above them, covered with runes and sprawling inscriptions. It looked like the remnants of an ancient, ruined city, lost to time. There, they learned that this region was referred to as the Gecko's Footprint. If they proceeded any deeper, they would come across poisonous geckos that lived in the walls and crevices, risking serious injury. Deciding to avoid this, they strapped up the climbing gear they bought in town earlier and decided to scale the walls, proceeding along the tops of the canyon.

Meanwhile, a day earlier, Cutlass was in hot pursuit of a ship she recognized all too well. It was her own ship – her old one, to be precise, from her previous crew who had mutinied against her, under the leadership of the infamous Shanty Pete. Pete, formerly a bumbling fool of a crewmate, seemed to have risen up in the world, because that old ship was not commanded by him, but by a pair of apes: Kuro the gorilla and Shiro the macaque. They referred to him as "Vice-Baron Pete, agent of the Crimson King."

Shiro and Kuro had apparently "recruited" about half of the Secret Assassins, including Ossie, Droplet, Sparkler, Miss Sunshine, and many others who showed no signs of wanting to leave Cutlass. Eyewitnesses to the "recruitment" reported seeing the beastmen under Kuro and Shiro's command shaking hands with all those who left Cutlass, suggesting the use of some kind of Aura or magic.



Make Believe starts moving closer toward Colobok, while acting like he's trying to look for someone in the crowd of your former crewmates. One of the beastmen on Kuro and Shiro's ship snarls at him, and Make Believe backs up with a start, bumping into Colobok. Colobok grunts and shoves him away with a scowl, but out of the corner of your eye, you see Make Believe slip some folded-up stickers into Colobok's hoof.

Colobok sets his hoof back down, and you see shadows from your ship start to pool up underneath him.

1d10+2[ 1d10+2 = 8 ]

Shiro grins, peeling back his lips to show you a grotesque row of bumpy, discolored gums and protruding teeth. "Are you suuuuuuuure? A mare on a crew of mostly male pirates?" He licks his lips. "I don't think a flower like you has a single clean petal left."

A beastman comes up from the other ship's deck, handing Kuro a newspaper. Tuning out of the conversation, Kuro starts to flick through the pages, and he stops a few pages in, his eyebrows twitching. He frowns. "…What did you say your name was?"

More clouds gather overhead, but the air just starts to turn humid, as the heat here is quite strong. The bearded vultures circle overhead, a gruesome tapestry of flowing feathers, with beaks and talons even larger than your head, black against the sky.

Splendid seems genuinely confused for a moment, but shortly after, she closes one eye and strokes her beak, in a sort of caricature of typical cartoonish "confused" behavior.

"Well, alright then, friend. We'll forget all this talk of debts and payments then. I'll mark it in me ledger until we open up a new one, right?"

She claps you on the arm in a friendly way that knocks you about a foot forward. It doesn't hurt, though.

>Everyone but Cutlass

Alder mixes some potions and gets to work with the medic's knife, healing Cerulean's and Chiu's wounds sustained from the trip, even chasing away some of Cerulean's earlier symptoms of heat exhaustion. Cloud then grows himself to about twice his normal size. The clouds above you start to fade, and the sunlight pours back in. For a few moments, though, the air still remains cool enough to be bearable.

The clouds' disappearance, though, has another effect. You realize that, for the duration of the climb, you didn't see the buzzards circling overhead. As you look up now, you realize that they must have been obscured by the clouds, for now that those clouds are gone, a trio of massive birds circles your party, in a radius of about 50 meters from you. Even from this distance, the birds appear gigantic, and you estimate that up close they'd probably be somewhere around the height of a grown oak tree. Massive, beautiful birds, but with heads viciously predatory, glowing green eyes all alight with keen interest. Their stony sharp beaks seem, even, to be grinning at you.

"If only a moment's rest weren't too much to ask…" Paraiba gripes, backing away closer to the group's center as the towering, beautiful buzzards circle and circle, neither getting closer nor further away.

Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11 / Roll #2 9 + 2 = 11


>Enlarged: +1 to all rolls

Cloud glance up as the air just becomes an uncomfortable humid and not the refreshing rain he wanted.
"Ugh, can't even get decent clouds out here. And those sure aren't helping…"
He grumbles as the vultures circle over the group. His eyes glow again as he tries to strengthen the cloud coverage to restore the cooling shroud they had.
>Climate Control [Rain] 1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 11 ]

Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3


Alder offers a friendly smile after re-organizing himself from the jostling, and sets about preparing his mixtures for the scuffed-up and injured party members. "Good! Thank you, Miss Splendid."

"Perhaps a strong wind could deter them, Mister Cloud? Large as they are, I imagine they cannot resist strong winds."




Cutlass' face goes even redder. Though, now it's from a combination of embarrassment and anger. She is furious that he would insinuate such slanderous, untrue things about her. Her jaw drops, momentarily at a loss for words. Though, in classic Cutlass fashion, she quickly finds them.

"How DARE you!?" she squeaks. "I have half a mind to prove it to you right now if it weren't for the fact that you don't deserve to see such a lovely sight. I'm afraid that just by being seen by you, your disgusting visage will rub off on me."

She then looks toward Kuro with a more composed and ominous look. "Captain Cutlass," she says, adding aura to her voice for intimidation. 1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 3 ] Whisper in Your Ear

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7



1d10[ 1d10 = 6 ] perception roll

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


You can't quite get a read on what might be bothering Kuro, but you do note that he very quickly folds up the newspaper in such a way that the page he opened it to gets buried under all the other pages, thereby perfectly concealing it. Still in that panicked speed, he puts it into his hat.

"Never heard of you," is all that Kuro says.

>roll again

Shiro's smile sucks back into his mouth, and he glowers at you with what looks like an empty black scowl, a pit of dark where his mouth would be. With a snarl, he starts to scoot forward, evidently trying to work up a comeback with his small brains, but it's at that moment that a streak of shadow, quick as a dart, zooms out from under Colobok and slaps Shiro across the leg. Shiro looks down in confusion at his leg, baffled that there is no wound, but a collection of stickers – a detective, a thief, and a butler.

At this point, Shiro starts to tilt his head, scrunching up his eyebrows with confusion. Some of the Beastmen look at him as he starts twitching, and Kuro, after looking at Shiro, gives you a deathly glare.

"What did you do?"

The intense heat makes it highly difficult to squeeze any moisture from the nearby area, but with some prolonged concentration, you coerce humid rain from the parched clouds. As the rain hits the dry earth, steam rises from the scorching stones, soon building into a light mist.

As the birds get closer, Zerk, Paraiba, Chiu and Splendid start to group up closer together, apprehensively watching the circling trio of brightly-colored buzzards, each of them practically a miasma of long pink feathers, bloody beaks and long curling talons that could, with so much as a squeeze, eviscerate you.

"It should be fine, carrion birds only go after corpses, right? Let's just keep moving," Zerk suggests.
"Maybe not, we've never seen buzzards anywhere this big or weird looking," Paraiba says. "Anyone have any meat we can toss 'em?"


>using 3 Temporary Bonus points this turn

Cutlass glares momentarily at Kuro, trying to figure him out. She squints at the newspaper. She doesn't need to see the story. If the paper is recent, then it's surely about what she has done recently.

1d10+3[ 1d10+3 = 13 ] perception

But, she only gives it a moment's thought as the sticker hits Shiro's leg. Without missing a beat, her telekinesis envelopes the Ship Shredder. At first, it aims directly at Kuro. But, this is more for dramatic effect and to get used to aiming it than anything else. She quickly then aims it up and toward the front of the enemy ship.

Before giving them a moment to react, she quickly pulls the trigger and yanks the Ship Shredder around toward the back of their ship. Thus, cutting all of their masts in half. She aims high enough to do significant damage to the masts while minimizing damage done to her crew members.

>Ship Shredder cleave attack on the front 3 masts 1d10+3[ 1d10+3 = 10 ]

>Ship Shredder cleave attack on the back 3 masts 1d10+3[ 1d10+3 = 11 ]
>thus, the middle mast will be attacked twice

Roll #1 6 + 3 = 9 / Roll #2 7 + 3 = 10 / Roll #3 10 + 3 = 13 / Roll #4 9 + 3 = 12 / Roll #5 4 + 3 = 7 / Roll #6 8 + 3 = 11


Cloud frowns as the rain almost evaporates immediately not providing much at all.
"Alright, guess we're going to have to make this trip quick then if we want to beat the heat."

Cloud considers Alder's proposal, but shakes his head.
"I think it's better to leave them be. If they're like normal buzzards, we should be fine. And I'd rather not risk provoking them and making so we have to fight in this heat."
He says, starting to walk along as they continue towards their destination.

A thought comes to Cloud. While the cover still lasts, keeping the sun at bay for just a moment before it fades, Cloud lifts his eye-patch so his sapphire eye can see the birds.
"Hmm, do we need to worry about these birds attacking us?"


He was certainly lying when he said that he didn't know you – that much was obvious. But what you realize now is something's off in his expression, nearly imperceptibly. You become certain of this: His expression, try as he might to hide it under a poker face, is the expression of someone who knows they're going to be punished for a wrongdoing.

That is, if they're caught.


You see both Shiro and Make Believe convulse and writhe, shaking and screaming (silently, in Make Believe's case). Pink Aura surrounds Make Believe, while a black Aura surrounds Shiro. As the two convulse, Shiro's Aura starts turning pink, while Make Believe's starts turning black. This flow goes back and forth as the two start vying for control.

1d10+3[ 1d10+3 = 13 ] Shiro
1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 2 ] Make Believe

At the same time, the thunderous, deafening Hullshredder gunshots annihilate the masts of The Heartthrob, showering great peals of timber, cloth and splinters upon the crew below. In a throng of chaos, the Beastmen scramble for cover, but in the madness, Kuro starts beating his chest, calling out with the echo of a king beast.

1d10+3[ 1d10+3 = 6 ] Psi-Type: Moshpit


Energized by the outbreak, your crew start to look to you. "Permission to board!?" Colobok shouts at you.

Roll #1 8 + 3 = 11 / Roll #2 4 + 3 = 7 / Roll #3 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #4 3 + 1 = 4 / Roll #5 9 + 3 = 12 / Roll #6 7 + 3 = 10


"Hrm… I do not think I have enough food for something that size, unfortunately. That could be a good idea, though." he says to Paraiba, before shrugging.

"If you are sure, Mister Cloud. As for worrying… perhaps. I doubt they will bother us unless they are hungry. If they have eaten recently, they may pass us by entirely." he suggests.
>Perception `1d10`



Roll #1 1 = 1



Cutlass cackles over the commotion. She was already cackling from the moment she started firing the Ship Shredder. The destructive power is intoxicating.

But, she cackles more at the threat. "When have you ever met a pirate who knows what's good for them?" she shouts back jovially. "I daresay none, considering the horrendous mistake your crew and you have made today."

>1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 6 ] Whisper in your Ear intimidation


Cutlass turns to her more trusted allies (Colobok and the other named NPCs). "Kill Shiro," she orders them in a more quiet voice so that only they can hear.

She then turns to board the ship with everyone else. 1d10[ 1d10 = 6 ]

Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #3 8 = 8 / Roll #4 1 = 1


Hmm audibly gasps the moment that you let her see the trio of buzzards. "Get Cerulean out of here right n–!!"

Before she can complete her thought, one of the buzzards breaks from the formation with horrifying speed, and before you can register it, one of them snatches up Cerulean, gripping her around the neck and tail with its massive black claws, completely encapsulating her head in its grasp. Cerulean thrashes and flails within its grasp, but even her power isn't enough to get free.

The buzzards circle overhead for a moment, until the one with Cerulean in its grasp lands on an outcropping of rune-inscribed rock some distance above you, pinning Cerulean under his talons. The other two land near him, curiously looking over at the buzzard which has Cerulean but not getting much closer.

Trotting and pacing quick with fear, Zerk and Paraiba look to you. "What do we do, what do we do?"

The very moment the order leaves your mouth, Colobok vanishes, leaving nothing but a few black streaks in his wake to even signal that he was ever there.

In a flurry of swinging ropes, what remains of your crew start to swing over to the broken Heartthrob, where the Beastmen, surrounded now by a white Aura that seems to spread from where Kuro was standing, meet them with blades drawn.

'3d10+1' Hidden Dagger crew in battle
'3d10+1' Shiro and Kuro's crews

A good deal more of the Beastmen start to grab the "recruited" crewmates, who are stumbling about the battle with looks of confusion and disorientation. The Beastmen who aren't engaged in the battle (about ten) start snatching up the "recruited" crewmates, using them now as living shields.

As you hop aboard the ship, Make Believe starts to keel over, black Aura swamping his body and drowning out the pink Aura, enclosing around it and pushing it tightly against his body. Make Believe starts silently whimpering and gasping.

'1d10+1' MB
'1d10+3' Shiro

With an intense, high whistling, something comes flying by your ear like a shot, and it's only after it's gone do you realize it was Colobok.

'1d10+2' Colobok

Roll #1 6, 10, 1 + 1 = 18 / Roll #2 3, 4, 7 + 1 = 15 / Roll #3 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #4 9 + 3 = 12 / Roll #5 6 + 2 = 8



Upon boarding the ship, Cutlass slowly strides over to where Shiro struggles on the deck. She ignores everything else happening around her. As she walks, a great multitude of daggers float out from within her dress. She grimaces at the simian.

"Don't fuck with my crew," she says as she lets the daggers fly.

>Dance of Blades

'1d10+1' '1d10+1' '1d10+1' '1d10+1' '1d10+1' '1d10+1'

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #2 4 + 1 = 5 / Roll #3 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #4 8 + 1 = 9 / Roll #5 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #6 6 + 1 = 7


Alder squawks a little bit and ducks as one of the buzzards swoops past them, snatching Cerulean up and carrying her off.
"U-Uhm… maybe we scare them off? Cloud could shrink one? I-I don't know, I-I don't know!" the griffon warbles, walking in place uneasily.


Cloud opens his mouth to question, already fearing what Hmm might be going for, but he can't even react in time as the buzzard swoops down and snatches Cerulean away, not even able to hear it coming. By the time he goes to move, it's already too late, and their shark is carried off to the distant rock.
He starts to chase after, taking out his Wind Wand as he quickly swings it to send a torrential gale at the buzzards, now not worried about provoking them as he concentrates to blow them away.
>Wind Wand '1d10+1'

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7



'1d10' perception

Roll #1 5 = 5


The two crews erupt into a fierce battle all over the broken Heartthrob, and no clear winner emerges over the opening volley of blades. Your crew avoid drawing their guns for fear of hitting the "recruited" crewmates, and its the presence of the "recruits" that makes them hesitant even to charge into battle. But as your crew start to gang up on Beastmen who aren't fast enough to take hostages, the tide starts to turn, and your crewmates start subduing those stragglers. You notice that many of your crew start to tie up the Beastmen they capture, dragging them away, kicking and snarling. Most of the Beastmen are too big and heavy to pick up and use as living shields, though.

'3d10+1' Hidden Dagger crew in battle
'3d10+1' Shiro and Kuro's crews

'1d10+1' MB
'1d10+3' Shiro

'1d10+2' Colobok

You strike multiple times into the writhing and thrashing Shiro, but soon after your daggers land into his monkey flesh, you are blindsided by a sudden pummeling as a Beastman clocks you on the side of the head with the hilt of his cutlass – an awful irony.

>Cutlass 0/4

The impact sends you flying, and you crash against the stump of the shattered mizzenmast. Blood obscures your vision, but as the Beastman puts his foot on your chest, raising his sword to end it, his head does something strange. With a loud crack, it goes flying out into the water. You then see a blur of motion, vaguely looking like Colobok, lunge for Shiro once more.

But then, a streak of dark pings in the corner of your eye. You see Kuro swing across a rope over the gap between your ships, landing on the deck of the Hidden Dagger. Stomping and leaping, he makes a break for the Hullshredder!

Roll #1 7, 4, 2 + 1 = 14 / Roll #2 2, 10, 8 + 1 = 21 / Roll #3 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #4 10 + 3 = 13 / Roll #5 4 + 2 = 6



Cutlass looks up at the beastman standing on her chest with wide eyes, unable to do anything to defend herself. However, upon the beast dying, she lets out an 'oof' as the heavy body slumps over onto her small frame. She gags and wretches and pushes the disgusting sight off of herself.

Then, she looks around to get her bearings. She spots Kuro. "STOP HIM!" Cutlass shouts. "HE'S GOING FOR THE HULL SHREDDER!"

1d10[ 1d10 = 7 ] to get up

Roll #1 1 = 1 / Roll #2 7 = 7


The tide of the battle takes a turn as the Beastmen start to push back against your crew, putting up a fight now that most have gotten some kind of "recruited" crewmate to use as a shield. The "recruits" no longer struggle, staring blankly ahead with glazed eyes. Many of your crew are knocked to the ground or otherwise badly injured, but subdue a few of the Beastmen in return, until the pace of battle is about even.

Some more debris from the broken masts falls from above, knocked loose by the chaotic fighting, and opens up small injures all along your body.

>Cutlass 0/3

But then, all attention turns to Kuro as he bolts toward the Hullshredder. Make Believe, who remained on the Hidden Dagger to concentrate on his mental battle with Shiro, weakly stands to stop him, but Kuro simply stomps on his back, and the colt gasps silently, coughing up spit and bile. Kuro then turns and reaches for the Hullshredder, but most of your crew level guns at him in return.

Just as Kuro's finger settles on the trigger, you see a flash of brown. Colobok stands in front of you as a shield, holding up Shiro in a chokehold, his hoof poised to take Shiro's head off at any minute. The black aura around Make Believe and Shiro starts to falter. Many more guns click as the Beastmen and your crew start raising their own guns, pointing them at one another, at Kuro, and at you in a series of standoff lines.

Kuro growls with frustration, unable to fire upon his own ship, even though almost all your crew is on there now. His finger remains immobile as he stares down Colobok, though it's not fair to say that Colobok stares back. Colobok's expression, though you can't see it well from this angle, is one that screams murder, surrounded by cloudy shadows. Your blood runs cold just being near it.

"…We certainly got off to a bad start, didn't we?" Kuro asks, forcing a chuckle. "I apologize. My methods tend to get… extreme… when I am surprised by unfortunate events. I'm sorry I didn't recognize you sooner, Red Dress Cutlass."



Cutlass is taken aback for a moment. She has a nickname now? NOW? Apparently, she didn't get out of the whole thing with the Bee Queens as anonymously as she thought. Though, if the news is giving her a nickname, then it seems they only talked about the good stuff. That's good… She definitely didn't need them to know about the fails and the crying.

But, then her mind is drawn back on the here and now. Recognition? Delayed?

"Bullshit," Cutlass spits back in response. "You can't tell me this is a coincidence! My crew ends up in the news, and your shifty bastard of a master shows up and messes with me again? And, you expect me to believe that he didn't send you to me on purpose?"

>Whisper in your Ear 1d10[ 1d10 = 5 ] to get answers

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



There should be a +1 if that helps…


"I'll give you the full story, but only if we can reach an agreement here," Kuro begins. "I want a solemn Vow from you."

Many of the Beastmen and the pirates on your crew gasp, some with interest, others with dread.

"Fulfill this Vow, and we all walk away from this. Well… float, rather. Steer? Mmmph. You get my point. A Vow that we will stop our battle here and now, before either of us does things that we will come to regret. No more killing, no more recruitment, no kidnappings, no more bloodshed. If you agree, I'll start to lay out my terms, and then you can lay out yours."

"You ARE familiar with this kind of deal, aren't you?" Puddin' Tame whispers, crouching nearby with a captured Beastman pinned beneath him. "That's not just an ordinary promise. It's held by the Oath-Words."



"Explain," Cutlass whispers in response to Puddin.

And, to occupy Kuro, she follows that up by shouting back to him, "I'm letting you know now. I'm not agreeing to anything if it doesn't involve the full return of 100% of my crew with absolutely no lingering effects on their minds, souls, or bodies. Depending on what I hear, I may have other demands."

1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 6 ] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7


Puddin' rolls his eyes and hangs his head. "I thought someone as dreadful and infamous as Red Dress Cutlass would know such basic–"

He tenses up as Colobok's head tilts just a few degrees toward him, a measurable level of bloodlust and contempt oozing from it. "Right! Let me explain!"


"Oath-Words are an old kind of magic, some think it's the oldest kind," Puddin' begins. "Used, if the stories are trustworthy, to sing the Worlds into existence at the dawn of all creation. Not just our World, but others, so they say.

"Oath-Words are invoked when you make the most severe, most serious, most grave agreement with someone. I'm not talking some flippant promise or careless deal, this is something you really have to agree to, and carry out. If you don't mean it when you agree to it, or if you go back on your word, there are serious consequences. This is one of the ways that a Curse is born. If you break that agreement, it'll rebound against you for all of time."

"An albatross," one of the older mooks adds.

"It's how people bind gods and demons to their will, and even other people," Puddin' continues. "The other party is just as bound to their word as you are to yours. If Kuro were to violate the terms, it'd rebound against him."

Kuro smiles. "I won't agree to anything explicitly just yet, but I will say I am amenable to such terms… hypothetically."

"That's why he's being so vague now," Puddin' says. "If he gets too explicit, he'll get tied into an agreement prematurely."



Cutlass takes everything in and lets the silence that follows fill the air for a while. The tension of everyone's weapons pointing at each other can only add to her ground to stand on in this argument.

"I don't know what they've been saying about me, but I'd like to think my spitefulness is notorious," Cutlass responds to Kuro. "At least, it will be depending on how this plays out. You're only hurting yourself and your crew by being difficult. I WILL NOT enter an Oath with you until I know that at the very least, my previously stated condition is met in that Oath."

"You may see it as callous, but I assure you, the opposite is true. I will not abandon ANY of my crew. You took them from me. And, I am NOT happy about it. When I'm not happy, I get spiteful. So, be the bigger man. Be the one who isn't stubborn."

>1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 5 ] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9 / Roll #2 3 + 1 = 4


Kuro scoffs, now drumming his left hand's fingers on the side of the Hullshredder's handle, much to the dismay and discomfort of everyone still aboard the Heartthrob, Beastman or otherwise.

"When you hear what unfortunate circumstances led us here, you will be assured that I am not at fault for your crew coming into my possession. A truly unfortunate turn of fate, this was. If we make a Vow, then I will gladly return your entire crew, down to the last flea on their heads, with no additional baggage put upon them. Doing anything less would deeply shame me."

"But conversely, I wouldn't dare enter a pact with Red Dress Cutlass, infamous traitor of the Bee Queens, bloodthirsty architect of the Tragedy of Kaco Island, and liar extraordinaire, unless I knew that she would agree to not shoot me, my crew, or my ship once I have let her crew go free. I'd also have to get her word that she wouldn't order her crew to attack me and mine, nor to allow them to attack me and mine of their own free will, or put any sort of awful curse or aura effect onto us… or anything of the sort."

"That's what you'll have to do," Puddin' whispers. "Think of every possibility and nail your terms down to the last exacting detail. The Oath-Words are sticklers for specificity."



Cutlass can't help but let out another cackle when she hears Kuro describe him. Though, it causes her to cough thanks to her injuries. The whole display is tragically unladylike.

"Is that what they're calling what happened on Kaco Island? A tragedy? How delightfully naive. Well, I assure you, my 'betrayals'" she says the word mockingly. "Are exaggerated. Though, how much exactly I can leave to your imagination," she adds with a wink and ominous grin.

"Speaking of loopholes, I'm not an idiot. I'm not agreeing to any of that unless you agree to not attack my crew or me in any way as well. Also, I want all my crew's possession returned as well. That includes the Hull Shredder you're dirtying with your hairy hands."

>'1d10+1' Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2


"Oh, you know those yellow newspapers. Always looking for muck to rake up, always looking to break the big news, even if they flub some details along the way. It'd be awful for them if your story were to end with 'lost at sea,' wouldn't it? You should show them a little consideration. Don't make a mistake now and wind up dead before they can get their eye-catching cover story," Kuro says.

Colobok squeezes Shiro's neck, causing him to gag, and Kuro frowns, his expression turning grave again.

"Yes, yes, yes. They won't have a single item lost. The Hullshredder, your crews' swords, guns, and so forth. Every last drop of gold. But in return, you must agree to not leave behind any items whatsoever, either deliberately or unintentionally. You must take everything with you, in accordance with my agreement to give back all that I took from you."

He then taps his foot against Make Believe's back, who is still pinned under him, by the way. "This one may seem a diversion, but bear with me: Do not say a word of today's incident – that is, our recruitment of your crew, this battle and this negotiation – to the Crimson King, or to any of his Court. That includes the Yellow Jester, the Pattern Juggler, the Gardener, the Princess of Embers, the Black Queen… and yes, even the Fire Witch. To anyone else, you may speak of it."


even that treacherous Fire Witch*



Cutlass stares at Kuro curiously for a moment. "Agreed. I have no objection to that. I agree to every condition you've said as you've said them."

"Now, I think for the sake of everyone's hearts, before we go into the story of how we've come to this situation, we should finish this Oath so we can all put our weapons down."

1d10+1[ 1d10+1 = 3 ] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9 / Roll #2 1 + 1 = 2


"And I agree to every condition you've said, as you've said them," Kuro replies.

At that moment, you feel an intense thrilling, like a current of water and fire were rushing up within you. It is a feeling that you recognize in a way that you don't recognize. It is like being reminded of something you have never experienced but know perfectly well anyway. The experience fades as quick as it came, but it leaves you feeling that thrilling all over your body. It's like what you felt when you first gained Aura from Doctor Godot's drug, except more… ancient, if you had to pick a word. The weight of your words hangs heavily in the back of your mind.

With that done, the two crews look at each other for a long time. It's not clear who acts first, but one by one, guns are lowered gradually back into their holsters. Daggers are sheathed, blades tucked away into belts. People let go of their hostages, and Beastmen go below deck, and shortly afterward, start coming back up with bags, weapons and so on, and stuff them into the hands of the still-woozy "recruits."

As this slowly goes on, Colobok lets Shiro go, and the latter coughs, beating his chest in pain. Kuro quickly lets Make Believe go, helping him up and dusting him off as if Make Believe had simply tripped on a playground or something. Make Believe winces, softly crying.

"So here's how we're going to do this," Kuro says. "You're going to stay over there, and your crew will come over one at a time with one of my crew. Then, once all of your crew are back over here, along with mine, you and I will change ships at the same time, and then my crew will come back over to my ship. While our crews are moving, I'll tell you the whole story and answer what questions I can."



Last time on PirateQuest…

Thessaly, Alder, Cloud, Cerulean, and their entourage consisting of Zerk, Chiu, Paraiba and Splendid went north out of Manenhi, quickly leaving behind the forested region around the dock and shore for a scrublands landscape. Harsh sun, biting winds and bitterly hard ground bore down upon them as they passed scorched trees and slithering reptiles taking refuge under rocks. The hours wore by interminably as the uncaring elements wore away at them.

Finally, around mid-afternoon, the party found a refuge of shade in the form of tall, winding box canyon walls that towered above them, covered with runes and sprawling inscriptions. It looked like the remnants of an ancient, ruined city, lost to time. There, they learned that this region was referred to as the Gecko's Footprint. If they proceeded any deeper, they would come across poisonous geckos that lived in the walls and crevices, risking serious injury. Deciding to avoid this, they strapped up the climbing gear they bought in town earlier and decided to scale the walls, proceeding along the tops of the canyon.

Meanwhile, Cutlass launched her counterattack against Kuro and Shrio, co-captains of the Heartthrob. In a twist of irony, the apes had stolen Cutlass' crew using the very ship of which she was once captain, prior to being thrown overboard during a mutiny orchestrated by Shanty Pete. Cerulean annihilated the ship's masts with two sweeping bursts from the hullshredder, while Colobok led the charge to board the ship. The combat that followed was ferocious and explosive, made all the more challenging with the Beastmen having Cutlass' crew as hostages. It quickly came to a standoff when Kuro, amid the chaos, boarded the Secret Dagger and took control of the Hullshredder, but was kept from firing by Colobok who took Shiro as a body shield.

What followed was a tense negotiation between Kuro and Cutlass, made using an ancient magic called the Oath-Words. This would be no ordinary agreement, which any pirate worth their salt would betray without a thought. The Oath-Words ensured that the negotiators had to follow through on their agreements. Breaking them would result in a curse coming upon their head. When the negotiation finally concluded, Kuro suggested that both crews go back to their original ships, while he explained the situation to Cutlass, including how and why they targeted her crew.


"And I agree to every condition you've said, as you've said them," Kuro replies.

At that moment, you feel an intense thrilling, like a current of water and fire were rushing up within you. It is a feeling that you recognize in a way that you don't recognize. It is like being reminded of something you have never experienced but know perfectly well anyway. The experience fades as quick as it came, but it leaves you feeling that thrilling all over your body. It's like what you felt when you first gained Aura from Doctor Godot's drug, except more… ancient, if you had to pick a word. The weight of your words hangs heavily in the back of your mind.

With that done, the two crews look at each other for a long time. It's not clear who acts first, but one by one, guns are lowered gradually back into their holsters. Daggers are sheathed, blades tucked away into belts. People let go of their hostages, and Beastmen go below deck, and shortly afterward, start coming back up with bags, weapons and so on, and stuff them into the hands of the still-woozy "recruits."

As this slowly goes on, Colobok lets Shiro go, and the latter coughs, beating his chest in pain. Kuro quickly lets Make Believe go, helping him up and dusting him off as if Make Believe had simply tripped on a playground or something. Make Believe winces, softly crying.

"So here's how we're going to do this," Kuro says. "You're going to stay over there, and your crew will come over one at a time with one of my crew. Then, once all of your crew are back over here, along with mine, you and I will change ships at the same time, and then my crew will come back over to my ship. While our crews are moving, I'll tell you the whole story and answer what questions I can."


The intense heat makes it highly difficult to squeeze any moisture from the nearby area, but with some prolonged concentration, you coerce humid rain from the parched clouds. As the rain hits the dry earth, steam rises from the scorching stones, soon building into a light mist.

>Cloud, Alder, Cerulean, Thessaly

Alder mixes some potions and gets to work with the medic's knife, healing Cerulean's and Chiu's wounds sustained from the trip, even chasing away some of Cerulean's earlier symptoms of heat exhaustion. Cloud then grows himself to about twice his normal size.

You realize that, for the duration of the climb, you didn't see the buzzards circling overhead. As you look up now, you see that a trio of massive birds circles your party, in a radius of about 50 meters from you. Even from this distance, the birds appear gigantic, and you estimate that up close they'd probably be somewhere around the height of a grown oak tree. Massive, beautiful birds, but with heads viciously predatory, glowing green eyes all alight with keen interest. Their stony sharp beaks seem, even, to be grinning at you.

"If only a moment's rest weren't too much to ask…" Paraiba gripes.

As the birds get closer, forced lower by the rainclouds that Cloud conjures with magic, Zerk, Paraiba, Chiu and Splendid start to group up closer together. They apprehensively observe the circling trio of brightly-colored buzzards, each one a miasma of long pink feathers, bloody beaks and long curling talons that could, with so much as a squeeze, eviscerate you.

"It should be fine, carrion birds only go after corpses, right? Let's just keep moving," Zerk suggests.
"Maybe not, we've never seen buzzards anywhere this big or weird looking," Paraiba says. "Anyone have any meat we can toss 'em?"


"I do not think any food we have would suffice for them. Perhaps if we keep moving, they will ignore us?" he suggests, frowning nervously.


She looks up at the giant buzzards with slight indignation, secretly glad she did not bring Bran along. "Shoo," she says to them unenthusiastically.

"Unless one of us is willing to give their life, I doubt we have anything that can placate them. It would be best to keep moving and hope they lose interest. …Or perhaps they do nothing turning on their own kind, and we could kill one then leave it to them to ravage. Whatever we do, we should be quick about it."


Or perhaps they do not object to turning on their own kind*


Cerulean gives a big sigh of relief as Alder's potion does the trick.
"Whew, thanks. I really needed that."

Cerulean hears the offer of meat and look around her bag, and gives a slight groan.
"Darn, could've sworn I saved a bit of breakfast for later. Oh wait, later must've came and went…well shoot."



"Hang on," Cutlass objects suspiciously. "What's the point of your crew coming over with mine?"


>Enlarged: +1 to all rolls

Cloud grumbles as the clouds he pulls fail to produce any more rain. His eyes glow faintly as he focuses just to make some cloud cover for them to keep away the sun and have a barrier between them and the buzzards.
>Climate Control [Clouds] '1d10+1'

"They haven't attacked us yet. Let's just ignore them and keep walking."
Cloud says to the others, continuing on their march.

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8


"Call it paranoia, but I don't want to be on the same boat as you or your crew," Kuro says. "But since there's no way to instantly switch places, I want your crew to go back to your ship where my crew can keep an eye on them. My crew won't take any more of your precious, precious time than necessary. Is that going to be a problem?"

The birds show no sign of losing interest, even though you're all still alive and well. The ravenous way that they look at you gives you the feeling that they suspect you will be dead soon, and don't mind a little bit of a wait. But those gargantuan talons, those jagged black beaks – if they were so inclined, they could speed up the process without much trouble. For now, though, it looks like they're going to remain in the sky, simply eyeing you.

The path that lies ahead of you is winding, narrow, and branching. You have climbed up onto a canyon wall, and the canyon's walls spread out beneath you, resembling the sprawling, criss-crossing roots of a tree. It's practically labyrinthine how the walls turn and twist and split. More high rocks loom around you, but the paths ahead are mostly clear and simple to walk across. Each of the canyon wall's many twisting paths is just wide enough for you to be able to walk down, two abreast. The scorched red rock looks stable enough to walk across, but there are loose places where the earth looks unstable.

Falling quiet in the hope not to disturb the massive bearded vultures, Chiu, Zerk and Paraiba walk onward. Splendid floats, being so large that the canyon's walls aren't all that safe for her to walk on.


>Roll at DC 5 for navigation unless you're flying or being carried. DC will increase if the temperature rises, so Cloud must roll to keep the rain and clouds on.

Roll #1 5, 9, 9 = 23


Cerulean sees the maze-like canyon structure, but her face brightens up at the sight of this.
"Oh oh oh! I know how to get through this one! All we gotta do is just follow the left wall!" She then happily does as she thinks is the answer.

1d10[ 1d10 = 3 ]

Roll #1 5 = 5 / Roll #2 1 = 1


Cloud follows along behind the rest of the party, being larger now from his magic making the narrow path a bit more treacherous to walk across. Though the upside of the fall not being as far either is an upside, he prefers to go on ground already treaded on.
>Navigation [DC5] '1d10+1'

While he walks, he also keeps his magic flowing to keep clouds overhead.
>Climate Control '1d10+1'

Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3



Cutlass grumbles in annoyance as she mulls things over.

"Listen up!" she shouts to all of her crew. "Everyone on my crew, pay special attention to who you walked over with. Do NOT leave their side. After this is all over, I want each and every one of you to report to me whether or not you are 100% certain that the person you came over with left our ship."

Then, she looks to Kuro. "Fine, have it your way. Now, talk."


When no one is looking, she pulls faces at the giant buzzards out of spite.

She takes a moment to size up the canyon wall, inching forward on the path and following the party onwards cautiously, keeping an eye out for danger.
'1d10' Navigation
'1d10' Perception

"That seems like a recipe for going in circles," she comments.

Roll #1 7 = 7 / Roll #2 4 = 4


"G-Goodness… I suppose they may decide not to wait. We should be wary, lest they decide to… hasten our demise."
'1d10' Navigation

"What exactly would these birds dislike? Maybe we could scare them off if they swoop in?"

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Nooo, its fine! I've seen this trick in a whole bunch of movies!"


"Truly? That would be very convenient, if so."


Slowly, with suspicion, your crewmates start to head over, accompanied by the leering, monstrous Beastmen. Though weapons have been put away, everyone keeps a close hand or hoof on his sword or gun. Planks are grouped up between the two ships to help speed things up.

While all this happens, Kuro rubs his chin. "Where to start? Ah, yes. Our job, as underlings of Vice-Baron Pete, is to perform recruitment runs for him. Technically, most of the pirates that we recruit using Shiro's ability end up going to work for Fleet Commander Philip the Gentlecolt. He gets an 80 percent cut of all pirates recruited.

"This has been quite the conundrum for Vice-Baron Pete, since you can't exactly build your own fleet with your boss taking almost everyone you pull in, so we've been taking extra shifts and expanding our operations. Lowering our standards, too. We came to Agyl Island, actually, by Vice-Baron Pete's order. He wanted us to recruit from a pirate crew that the intel team knew was headed there. When we arrived, we saw your ship's jolly roger and knew we had found the crew."

Kuro pauses, sucking breath between his teeth. "Now here's where the trouble lies."

He whistles to a Beastman, who goes downstairs, then quickly returns with a newspaper. The Beastman hands it over to you. "Open it to page twenty."

"The bird's natural enemy is the cat. Everyone knows that," Zerk instructs.
"Too bad we don't have any of those lying around," Paraiba says.
Chiu sneaks a glance over at Thessaly. "You couldn't conjure a cat demon by any chance, could you?"

The going is treacherous, the paths narrow and burning hot underneath your steps. The clouds struggle to produce anything more than a light drizzle, but even that soon fades, choked by the stagnant, burnt air. The clouds still remain, but Cloud can feel that they will dissolve soon under the withering sun.

Cerulean, unfortunately, learns quickly that her tried-and-true method of navigation does indeed turn her in circles, as Thessaly prophesied. There are many stone bridges that cross over the various canyon walls, so a simple attempt at getting by with only left turns will not suffice.

Along the way, you continue to spy long-faded and weather-beaten stone oddities, resembling benches, bridges, even sign-posts and strange stone poles that stretch above you, bearing an ancient language, like the remnants of some kind of stone city. They seem to bear an odd logic and order to them, even though they appear ancient and carved straight from the earth. Every now and then, Paraiba or Zerk will stop to study them with interest.


However, Thessaly notes something as she makes a face at one of the buzzards. It comes in low against one of the higher canyon walls, claws extended. It scrapes against a canyon wall above you, knocking loose a small grouping of rocks – rocks easily the size of a pony – that start to fall down toward the party!

Roll #1 1, 4, 9 = 14



Cutlass opens the paper to page 20. Cautiously. So as to not fall into any booby trap.

1d10[ 1d10 = 3 ] for probably unnecessary caution

Roll #1 4 = 4 / Roll #2 4 = 4


Cloud manages to tread along the walls without worry, letting him able to take in the carvings and remnants of this area more.
"So this place was like an old city or something it looks like. wonder if those bugs used to live here."

Cloud is about to refresh his clouds, but his ears perk up as he hears one of the buzzards scrapping on the rock above them. He decides to take this quick opportunity, eyes glowing as he softens up the rock it flies against into a deep pit of quicksand, pulling in the buzzard for it's attempt to pelt them with rocks.
>Earthen Grasp '1d10+1'

Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2


"In that case, I suppose you have the right of it," she deadpans.

Her eyes widen and she hops backwards in an attempt to avoid the falling rocks, bodyblocking those behind her. "Get back!" she warns.
'1d10' dodge

Roll #1 6 = 6


"I… am half cat. Would that work, perhaps?" he suggests, with a nervous giggle. The giggle quickly turns into a startled squawk as a few chunks of the cliff are dropped on top of them!
'1d10' Dodge

Roll #1 8 = 8


At the sight of the danger, Cerulean instead goes to cut the rock off and slam it with her tail in an attempt to keep the others safe.

>Slam, DC -1, Crit 8+, take best


Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11


The newspaper opens up without any trouble or traps. Surprisingly. You reach page 20 without incident.

What follows is a gruesome full-page spread, with a stark, all-caps headline at the top: [font20]TRAGEDY AT KACO ISLAND[font12]

The story of the attack on the circus follows, roughly chronicling the night's events from several eyewitnesses, as well as statements from bystanders and even a statement from the Dextrose Family, who were the intermediaries between the Aristar Mafia Families and the outside world.

Skimming through it, you find that the account of events was fairly accurate, at least from what the public would have known. The Bee Queens, several VIPs including nobility and aristocrats from other islands, and at least three dozen ordinary attendees were killed. Most deaths actually followed from a fire that started under mysterious circumstances toward the end of the night, not during your initial burst of gunfire. Said fire destroyed most of the circus-grounds, making the Gates of Justice's investigation much harder. The Crimson King and his Court vanished, as have almost all members of the Aristar Mafia. In the power vacuum that followed the attack, the Gates of Justice have stepped in, and have their hooves full managing the chaos. Most residents openly resist their rule.

But what really catches your eye are the bounty posters, printed around the article in the corners of the text. You notice that each bounty poster is marked in the corner by the Crimson King's jolly roger.

"Red Dress Cutlass"
"Alder the Surgeon" (NO PHOTO AVAILABLE)
"Azure-Eye Cloud" (NO PHOTO AVAILABLE)

"Black-Book Thessaly, the Sea Witch"
"Cerulean the Hungry" (NO PHOTO AVAILABLE)

Countless other posters follow, some with photos, and some without, that depict other members of your crew and members of the Beesting. Cerulean and Thessaly are the only ones listed as "Alive Only."

Kuro waits for you to digest the information before continuing.

>Roll perception

Cloud notes that Chiu is unaware, right in the path of the falling rocks. Unable to conjure his spell in time, he has no choice but to throw himself in front of some of the collapsing rocks, letting it hit him instead.

>Cloud 0/4

Thessaly, Zerk and Alder scatter, while Paraiba and Splendid are caught off guard, and freeze in the split second that it takes for the rocks to fall toward them. But Cerulean is quick, and knocks the rocks away, sending them hurtling into the canyon.

High above, the bearded vultures screech high and long, in a call that sounds much like a derisive laugh. While Cloud nurses his wound, the cloud covering starts to dissolve.

"Are you alright?" Splendid cries with concern, helping him up. '1d10'

Roll #1 8 = 8


>forgot reply

She pretends to seriously consider Chiu's request. "Not at the moment, no. Perhaps later."


>before the rocks fall

Chiu pouts with disappointment. "Let me know when you do."



Cutlass reads the newspaper with a grin. It makes her look dangerous enough. Though she is happy to be wanted, she can't help but wonder who actually put a bounty on her.

"Who determines who is 'wanted'?" Cutlass asks curiously. "I'd thought I left things on decent terms with the Crimson King. Of course, I suppose he needs to keep his public image."

'1d10' perception

Roll #1 5 = 5



"Wait a minute!" she suddenly squeaks out in a slightly embarrassing manner. "How did they get a photo of me!?"

>description of photo please?


Cerulean gives a slap of her tail as she sends the rocks flying away, giving a content sigh.
"Jeez, these birds REALLY don't like us today. Too bad they're not like those seagulls I could just chomp up from below them."


>H/W 5/4

Cloud turns his head at the last second, cutting off his spell to jump over Chiu, using his larger form to be a shield for her. Once clear, he leans himself against the wal, back and side sore from the pelting.
"Gotta pay more attention."
He says to Chiu in a pained groan of sarcasm.

"Yea, I'm fine. Just need a second."
He answers to Splendid as she helps him get his bearings.

"How much farther do we have to go? I'm starting to get worn own by all this desert."
Cloud complains, looking up as his clouds fade, trying to stitch them back together.
>Climate Control '1d10+1'

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7


She winces a little as Cloud is toppled, glaring up at the birds with murderous intent. She's half tempted to fire a magic missile at one of the giant birds in retaliation, but seeing Splendid already helping him up, she takes a back seat and waits for everyone to be back in order before continuing onwards.
'1d10' Perception for the fuck of it

Roll #1 5 = 5


Alder spits out a mouthful of dirt and coughs a little as he picks himself up, and looks around the group.

"Oh goodness, Mister Cloud!" he half-shouts, running over and trying to look him over.
>Natural Remedy '1d10+1'

Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10


"Those were put forward by the office of the Crimson King under commission of the Mafia Families," Kuro explains. "And, you did end on decent terms… that's the trouble. You'll notice his jolly roger on each poster. Those marks indicate that these bounties are NOT to be hunted, until such time that new posters are officially released WITHOUT the jolly roger. The fact that your posters have the jolly roger shows that you have his protection, at least until it's removed. There's rumors going around the fleet that Cerulean the Hungry was the one who bartered with the King for that protection."

As he explains this, you notice four details that stand out to you.

1. Most of the posters don't have photos, except for yours and Thessaly's, and a few blurry photos of the Beesting mooks, probably taken during the attack on the circus. There is an open call in the article for info brokers, Black Market or otherwise, to send in any photos they might acquire so that the posters can be updated.
2. Your photo and Thessaly's are from Kaco Island. It appears that the photos were taken during your walk with Magoja to the hotel where you had your negotiations with the Mafia Heads and their bodyguards. But there's something strange about Thessaly's. Hers is a full-body photo, and her bag is visible. The top of her bag is loose, and the top of the Liber Animarum, a black grimoire, is poking out… almost as if it's peeking over the edge at the world outside. You don't recall ever seeing her with a book like this. In fact, you hadn't heard of the book until after that dive to salvage the Lilliput… but that was well after the events on Kaco.
3. Cerulean's and Thessaly's photos have another insignia on them. A simple wagon wheel mark is stamped onto both of them at the top.
4. Splendid, the griffoness who joined Alder, is not present among the bounties.

"Bloody feckin' cowards is what they are," Splendid curses. Thankfully, the wound isn't deep, and Alder is able to treat it easily, leaving Cloud feeling much better in a short while. The buzzards continue to drift overhead, but don't make another attempt to strike you. Instead, now and then, they will fly near the cliff walls, as if teasing that they'll make another attack, which causes your companions to tense up, but they don't go for it.

Eventually, as you journey on, you reach a plateau, beyond which the canyon walls all start to slope downward into a valley. In the midst of the valley, laying in the shadow of a towering mountain ridge further north, you see a small, tightly-packed pueblo, made of many adobe houses that are built on top of one another. The town appears to be comprised of three major clusters of interconnected stone houses.

The town is like a mountain in its own right, each and every building seemingly connected. There is also a vast network of pulleys, gears, wires, carts and other machines that connect from building to building and cluster to cluster, fully connecting the town with all manner of simple technologies and contraptions. Farmland lies to the east and west, comparatively much more open and free of technology besides the occasional plowshed or yoked beasts of burden.

You figure you'll probably reach it before sundown, at this rate.

>one last roll for navigation, please


"Curious," she remarks as she observes the interconnected buildings. "I wonder what purpose their designs serve." She keeps moving along with (presumably) her companions, down towards the strange town, watching the skies with trepidation.
'1d10' Navigation

Roll #1 6 = 6



Cutlass stares at the black book in Thessaly's picture with a disturbed expression. "Could I… keep this paper?" she asks slowly.

Then, as if to change the subject, she asks, "What does this wagon wheel symbol mean on these two posters?"


"Woah…this is pretty neat. Lots of dangly bits hanging everywhere it looks like," as she continues along, looking excited to possibly get away from these nasty birds.


Roll #1 7 = 7


"Thanks Alder."
Cloud says as he's treated up, feeling a little relieved.

Cloud trots on, eyes alert for the buzzards approaching and eyes keeping watch for what they might do and anything else that may fall.

As they come to a change in scenery and elevation, showing the pueblo off in the distance.
"Oh thank Luna, somepony please tell me that's the place we're going to."
He asks of the party, continuing on with one more casting of cloud cover.
>Climate Control '1d10+1'

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3


"Oh… this is an interesting town. Are the buildings made of… mud? brick? It looks surprisingly nice, though. At least we seem on the right track.

Roll #1 2 = 2


Kuro shrugs. "By all means. Now, the wheel, I don't know. It could be that grunts like me just aren't important enough to get told all the details.

"Now that's what brought us here, actually. Vice-Baron Pete has had Shiro and me on a serious time crunch, so we didn't look too deeply into who we were recruiting, and he didn't tell us, either. We went in, used Shiro's ability, Recruitment Drive, to recruit those we could find, and got out. It wasn't until you showed up that I had my suspicions. You probably noticed me checking out the paper during our initial dispute. That's when I realized that Shiro and I had violated the King's official protection order. Every member of the Hidden Dagger and the Beesting are under that protection order until the very moment that new bounty posters are printed without the King's jolly roger on them."

Though your legs and hooves tire of the journey, and your backs and sides sting with the heat and light let in by the dissolving clouds, you manage to make it past the town's borders, marked by old gates that have been chewed away by the heat, wind, and judging by various dents and holes in the wood, gunfire and arrows. The sun starts dipping behind the mountains, casting a dim shadow over everything.


The connected and industrial town lays prone before you like a creature in the sand. Few people mill about, and all of them are Krikral, in the forms of various desert insects. They wear wide-brimmed hats and loose clothing like dresses and ponchos, designed to cover everything from the sun. Everything is quiet and still, but not peaceful. It is the stillness of heat exhaustion, which particularly grips Alder and Cloud, who start to feel their legs wobble underneath.

The town is arranged somewhat like a triangle, with two major clusters to the west and east, and one to the north. All are connected with bridges and wires, supplying electricity and transport to the town. Few lights are on, though, save for the winking of some broken lights outside a bar. In the midst of the town is a dry well, from which a stagnant odor wafts upward. Windows are shuttered, and doors locked tight. A few bullet-holes and scorch marks pock some of the buildings to the east and west, where you see the farmlands.

Apprehensively, Chiu, Splendid, Zerk and Paraiba stick close to you all. "Guess we'd better investigate?" Paraiba hazards.



"Then, why didn't you say something right then and there? Could have saved us all a lot of trouble."

"More importantly, why did Pete send you after me specifically? Didn't he know about the King's Protection."


She nods absent mindedly to Paraiba as she surveys the landscape. "I have seen crypts with more cheer than this place," she muses. "Perhaps it would be more apt to take some time to convalesce, and travel to the farms over yonder come nightfall."


As they draw in close to the town, Cloud ends the spell on himself, being large now being more of a hindrance in giving more of him for the sun to burn since it's been a simple walk for this last stretch.

Reaching the still, old fashioned town, Cloud looks around at how empty it appears to be. Exhausted, tired, and legs ready to give up, Cloud simply approaches the nearest Kirkal.
"Hey, we're here for some job poster but right now I'm ready to crash. Where's the inn?"


"A-Ah. I suppose I should not have expected much more. This seems rather… dreadful." the griffon says, before trying to shake off the exhaustion. "I suppose we should go look around, then?"


"At first, I assumed you knew about the protection, so I was trying to buy time while I thought of a way to pay you off. But as our talk went on, you never brought it up. This told me that you didn't know."

He scoffs. "I might have gotten a little greedy there, toward the end. Half of me fancied that we could trick you and the rest of your crew into coming closer, allowing us to use Recruitment Drive and get even more for Vice-Baron Pete. Anyone we failed to recruit, we could just dispose of using my ability, Moshpit."

Kuro then scowls. "There's no reason he couldn't or shouldn't have known. He told me that the Crimson King's intel team was sure your crew was headed for Kaco. If he didn't get the memo about the protection order, the intel team would have told him. But, he just told us to look for a ship with your ship's description and your jolly roger, and left out the other details. As for why, you'll have to ask him yourself."

He grins. "But you'd better not tattle to the King. Remember our Vow, after all."

You notice that most of the crews have now migrated to the Hidden Dagger without incident. This leaves you alone on the Heartthrob Kuro starts to head over to the plank that connects from the bow of the Hidden Dagger to that of the Heartthrob. Then points toward the plank that connects the two ships' sterns.

"I'll cross over here, by the bow. You cross over by the stern."

"Sundown should be coming in an hour or so," Splendid says. "We've got a good amount of time to get our bearings and a spot of grub, too."
"What about those raiders?" Zerk asks.
"Be patient, they'll show up when they show," Chiu says.

The krikral doesn't stop walking, holding up a claw cautiously between himself and Cloud. He mutters something in the language that you heard Manny using back on the wayward baby island turtle. The krikral makes a beeline for his house, shutting the door behind him.
"Looked spooked. Suspicious of outsiders," Zerk grunts.
"We're probably going to need a translator," Splendid says. "Port town residents tend to speak Equish as a common trade language, but small town folks deeper inland stick to their native tongue."
It's hard to get a feel for where anything is, whether any given door leads to a house or to a bar or to a shop. The sun and the mountain cast long and odd shadows, obscuring any sense of direction you might have.

>roll perception. master thief applies.


"Huh…the place seemed like it'd be more lively from far away…."
At the mention of grub, Cerulean opts to try and follow her nose to the smell of anything being cooked. Or something that smells tasty and edible in general.


Roll #1 7 = 7



"I have no interest in snitching on you," Cutlass says as if the very idea is childish. "Where IS Shifty Pete? I have many questions for him now."


The oppressive heat and the long shadows that lay upon everything can't stop your sense of smell, though. You can pick up on the grilling of chicken meat, and the smells of old limes and liquor, clinking around in bottles and glasses that have a layer of grease within. It's coming from a house on the second level of the western cluster, which you can access by a large ladder on the first level.


Master Thief '1d10'
"Hrm… that could be difficult. Maybe an odd trader or two could help, if one happened to make the trip out here? I know back home, the traders would tend to do translating for travelers when they came through our land."

Roll #1 7 = 7


"Grand," she says plainly when she realizes no one here speaks Equish. Seeing as the townsfolk won't be much help, she starts looking around trying to find any sort of pub or inn.
1d10[ 1d10 = 1 ]

Roll #1 1 = 1 / Roll #2 8 = 8


"Yeesh, you'd think they wouldn't need to worry being in the middle of the desert."
Cloud comments as the Kikral runs back off to it's home.

"Great, came all this way and we can't understand anything."
Cloud grumbles as as Splendid brings up the the language barrier issue. Despite this, he looks at the signs for where an inn may be for them to rest.
>Perception '1d10'

Roll #1 6 = 6


"Oooo…something smells good. Kinda smelly like that alcohol stuff, but the meat smells great." Cerulean follows the trail and see where the scent trail leads her.

>just going to the building, not entering yet


"This may not have been a condition of my Vow, but believe me when I said I was honest about answering your questions," Kuro adds as a caveat. "With that said, I honestly don't know. The last we saw him was over a week ago. Most of our contacts have been via Caller Conch. What I can tell you is that he isn't doing the grunt work of small fry like us. As Vice-Baron, he's overseeing the missions given to him by the Fleet Commander, Philip the Gentlecolt, himself. Luckily for you, the Fleet Commander is the Crimson King's official ruler for these waters. It's unlikely that you'll miss him."

You follow Cerulean and your general sense of direction toward the second level, coming a few doors down to a working-class bar. You stop outside and peer through the window. If you thought that Coop's Stoop looked rough, this one puts that to shame.

The patrons look weary and beaten down, their bodies tough, squat and bruised by years of laboring, their chitinous hides scorched dark by continuous sunlight. Most are scorpion-tribe, beetle-tribe and ant-tribe. The barkeep is the lone spider-tribe member, a tarantula krikral. Talking is minimal, and only in whispers, if that. Most just focus on their meals to recover after the day's labor – mostly chicken, pulled pork, carne asadas, and menudo. The barkeep occasionally slides down a cerveza to a patron with only so much as a nod or a grunt.

The air of exhaustion is felt here too, and the bar is stuffy and humid. A lone fan drifts away from the ceiling, feebly failing to drive away the heat.

Outside, on the ground level, you see a trader's cart laying, the wheels locked up for safekeeping. Chances are, the owner is somewhere inside, and if they really are a trader, you can surmise they'd speak Equish.


"Look, a trader's cart. Perhaps we may find someone that can speak Equish in there?" he suggests, following closely behind the others.

He does pause to look over the carne asada longingly, before snapping out of it and following back along. "T-The food looks nice, at least." Maybe we can get some water, at the least?"



"Well, you tell that bastard if he tries to pull shit like this again, I'll chop of his penis and get my doctor to surgically place it where his tongue used to be! So, he can spend the rest of his life as a mute autofelatite!" Cutlass exclaims in a high pitched tone with a savage expression on her face.

Then, just as suddenly, her entire demeanor returns to that of a refine, dignified pony. "Understood?" she asks in an equally dignified tone.

1d10[ 1d10 = 4 ] to intimidate

Roll #1 4 = 4 / Roll #2 8 = 8




Damn typos ruining good moments!


As they walk into the bar, Cloud keeps close to Chiu protectively.
"So, what exactly was it we came out here to do again?"
He asks the others.


"I remember it was to help Thess out with something. Well, more me cause she helped me out and all. But right now, I really want some of that meat I'm smelling." With sating her hunger on her mind, Cerulean enters the divey-looking bar.


She has a humorless smirk as she observes the absolute state of the place. "Faith. And here I was hoping I would be able to get a Bloody Mary."

She gives you both a withering look, but reiterates with a slightly condescending tone. "Two things. One, the locals in these parts have been being harassed by Kalphite raiders. Don't ask me what a Kalphite is, because I do not know. Second, there have been reports of odd magical anomalies out near the edges of civilization. Usually at night. So we should try to find someone who speaks Equish and ask about either."


Even the Beastmen, who until now had seemed vicious and unthinking, bloodthirsty and unshakable, are given pause by the extremely gruesome visual that you present. As if to underwrite the point, Godot clears his throat, and flashes the blade of a scalpel in his talons, producing it with a flourish as if he were an assassin playing with a dagger before the kill.

"Alright! Alright!" Kuro growls, waving a hand as if to clear away the idea. "That's not going to be necessary. I'll pass along the word. Now, cross already! We've got some rowing to do."

The Beastmen begin making their way back toward the Heartthrob, keeping their backs to their ship and their eyes on your crew. Your crewmates make no attempt to stop them, instead making sure that the "recruits" are alright. Those who were injured during the chaos are being taken downstairs into the surgeon's room by those who are still able-bodied.

"If those stories about the magical anomalies are true, then you just might be able to get that Bloody Mary," Chiu jokes. Zerk and Paraiba just tilt their heads with confusion.
You enter the working-class bar, and an old rusty bell on the door rings as you do. the patrons and barkeep all turn and look your way. The laborers talk a little among themselves, keeping an eye on you. After a few moments of scrutiny, they get back to their meals, resuming their talk.
The tarantula barkeep looks up and whistles. You hear some skittering from above, and then a door behind the bar counter opens. Out comes a young mantis, vaguely looking like Manny. The tartantula gestures to you, and then the young mantis comes your way.
"Been a while since we got strangers," he says gruffly, tinkering with a multitool in his oil-stained claws. "What can I get y–"
"Water," Chiu says.
"Water," Paraiba says.
"Water," Zerk says.
"Water," Splendid says.
"Fresh out," the mantis says. Your allies are aghast. Then the mantis clicks his tongue. "I'm just playin'. What about the rest of youse?"



Cutlass waves to the slightly terrified pirate crew with a girlish grin and wave of her hoof as they leave. Once they are off her ship and onto their own, she knocks both planks overboard with her telekinesis and turns to her crew. "Set sail!" she shouts. "What a waste of time," she grumbles to herself.

"Is everyone back safely?" she suddenly adds in a more concerned tone.


She looks deadly serious as she turns to Chiu. "Don't joke about Bloody Mary," she says sternly.

"Water," she agrees, "followed by a mojito, if you please. We shan't stay for long. We are after information, if you have a moment."


"Water, and a little food. I am rather famished, honestly… I-I am glad you were merely joking."


"Water too. A bucket of it if you have it," she says with the biggest look of relief anyone has probably ever seen on her face.
"Oh, and some of whatever the good smelling chicken stuff I smelled earlier is," she adds on, her stomach growling a bit in confirmation.


"Alright, raiders and magic. Sounds like a job for tomorrow then."

Cloud can't help but have a little snicker as the mantis fakes the crew out. It was too good of an opportunity to pass up he has to admit.
"Water. Lots of it."


Chiu looks flippant, as if she's about to make some quip back, but the look on her face shifts, as if remembering you're the occult expert around town. "Yes, ma'am. Wouldn't dream of it, ma'am."

The young mantis starts to write down all of your orders, but stops partway through, folding the notepad back into a pocket on his poncho. "I hope I remember all that. Water, a mojito, and some chicken carne asadas." He gives you a look up and down. "Make those mild carne asadas."

He leaves, and your party start to put together two tables, gathering the chairs. With relief they sit down, and the mantis comes back shortly after, carrying the trays of waters and the mojito. He sets them out, passing them around – two glasses of water per each person.

"I figure I'll keep the drinks coming. You people look like you're going to want some sunscreen. Actually, make that some aloe vera too. If you need anything, ask me. Nobody else will give you an answer you can understand, by the looks of you."

The mantis shrugs. "I'm not in a rush. The food will take its time. What do you need to know?"

The Beastmen draw back up the planks, and start heading belowdeck. Kuro doffs his hat, offering you a brief bow, but Shiro simply makes a grotesque gesture with his fingers, and flips you off on his way back down. "Any final questions, my dear?" Kuro asks, evidently the professional of the two.

It seems that everyone is indeed back, though definitely worse for wear. Those who were recruited seem to be in a state of semi-consciousness, even though Shiro's Aura is gone from them. From what you know about Make Believe's ability, it's likely that this is a side effect of having someone else's Aura affect their bodies and minds.


Cloud takes a seat, tossing back one of the glasses water in a deep chug.
"Is this town that far off, or is everypony all tight lipped cause of those raiders?"
He asks the mantis.



"Ah… I see…" Cutlass says, observing her own crew (and paying Kuro and Shiro no mind).

"Make Believe!" Cutlass suddenly gasps, only just now processing the situation they were in. She rushes over to where his side. "How are you?"


She sculls the mojito in one go, mint leaves and all, then closes her eyes and leans back slightly with a sigh of contentment, taking a while to answer the mantis as she relaxes in her seat after the long day's trip. "…My companions and I have heard about problems troubling the locals," she says eventually. Kalphite raiders, for one. And odd occurrences at around this time. Disappearances, phenomena in the sky. Magical oddities. Would you happen to know of this?"


"Aloe… vera? I am afraid I do not know what that is. And yes, we should be here for a little while. We came to help out a companion of ours."


Cerulean unceremoniously downs one glass of water very quickly, almost on the verge of swallowing the glass itself as well. The other glass sees some of it drank, then the rest poured right on her head, making gives a shaky exhale and slouch a bit in a much more relaxed way.
"Ahhh yeah…that felt really, REALLY good."


The windows on the second deck level of the Heartthrob open up, and long oars start poking out. With their masts destroyed, it looks like the Beastmen will have to row back to wherever it is they're headed now.

Make Believe lies near the Hullshredder, being tended to by a weary-looking Colobok. Make Believe appears to be putting on a brave face, but is still sniffling and blinking away tears. Colobok holds up his hoof, keeping you from getting too close. "He cannot be moved. At least two broken ribs. Possibly more."

Godot is there too, carefully touching various parts on Make Believe's back and sides, occasionally wincing. "Don't count them just yet…"

"You put it on the skin when you get a sunburn," the mantis says. "You? Probably won't need it, I don't think. Too much fur and feathers. Though, maybe you might like the taste."

Everyone gawks with a little admiration and interest as you pound the drink in one go. The mantis, though, looks a little worried when you talk about the magical anomalies. He leans in, gesturing to the other bar patrons. "Keep your voice down. They might not understand everything you say, but they can probably still tell."

"The Kalphite raiders have been hitting our fields in the past months. It started with some thefts in the night. Eggs would go missing, and then chickens. We thought it was normal. Coyotes get into the pens now and then. We'd just patch up the fences, get another lock for the coop, and forget about it. Well, soon they started getting more bold. They eventually moved up to the ostriches. A few of the older guys and my uncles went out with guns and clawrmor, and took 'em back. I heard they killed a few too. But then, more kalphites returned, and struck gold. They managed to find the gates unlocked one night, and ran off with two hens and some cocks, too. So not only could they breed ostriches of their own, they had enough adults to come and attack us whenever they want."

"So why keep hitting the farms?" Chiu asks.

"Who knows? I think revenge," the mantis says. "They could start their own farm at this point. They've got enough hens, as far as I know. They don't take much whenever they raid. They're definitely not making any money off raiding us. No, it's about hitting back for the kalphites that my uncles killed. Clannish monster races are like that."

"As for the – for the other thing," the mantis says, lowering his voice to a whisper. "It's the manor on the northern end of town. It used to be the mayor's. Nice enough guy. Got along with everyone. Never worked anyone too hard, always happy to support us when crops were bad or hens died from complications with laying eggs. But then he married… that girl. La brujita."

One of the patrons looks over with a suspicious glance.

"The mayor's gone now. Died last month. But she's still there," the mantis explains. "And now those strange things are happening on the outskirts of town at night. People vanishing for days without realizing it. Monsters appearing and attacking the farm gates. Sometimes, worms will pop up in the food, or in the unfertilized eggs we serve here. People are blaming it on her.

He gestures outside. "B-but I don't think you'll have to worry about that. There's already someone on the case. He said he was with the Virtues – an exorcist."

Splendid nearly gags on her drink, inhaling it with wide eyes.



Last time on PirateQuest…

Cutlass and Kuro spoke at length about the situation that led Kuro and Shiro to attempt to abduct about half of her crew. Shanty Pete, who had overthrown Cutlass and taken over her previous ship, was now known as Vice-Baron Pete, and had become an underling of Philip the Gentlecolt. By extension, he was also a servant of the Crimson King. Pete, still ambitious and hungering for more advancement, sent out Shiro and Kuro to forcibly recruit more pirates to serve him, using Shiro's Aura Ability, Recruitment Drive.

However, because Philip took an 80% cut of everything that Pete gained, Pete forced Shiro and Kuro to work overtime practically all the time. Shiro and Kuro sailed to Agyl Island to recruit Cutlass' crew, but Pete didn't tell them about Cutlass, or that she and her crew had been under the protection of the Crimson King ever since the Tragedy of Kaco Island. Until the moment that the King lifted his protection, no bounty hunter or info broker was allowed to hunt down her or the Beesting crew. Kuro was more than glad to let Cutlass' crew go so long as she didn't rat them out to the King for violating the protection agreement.

Meanwhile, Thessaly, Cloud, Zerk, Chiu, Paraiba, Alder, Cerulean and Splendid made their way north through the sun-scorched canyon roads, a journey that took them all from morning to nearly sundown. They reached the farming town, plagued during the day by kalphite raids, and during the night by magical anomalies, such as the unexplained disappearances and reappearances of townsfolk, spatial distortions that shift the landscape, and the emergence of worms within clean, fresh food, including in chickens' eggs. Stopping to rest and recover from the intense sunlight, they stopped at a dive laborer's bar, but found that nobody spoke the common tongue, save for a young lone mantis who presumably traded on the town's behalf in Manenhi.


The windows on the second deck level of the Heartthrob open up, and long oars start poking out. With their masts destroyed, it looks like the Beastmen will have to row back to wherever it is they're headed now.

Make Believe lies near the Hullshredder, being tended to by a weary-looking Colobok. Make Believe appears to be putting on a brave face, but is still sniffling and blinking away tears. Colobok holds up his hoof, keeping you from getting too close. "He cannot be moved. At least two broken ribs. Possibly more."

Godot is there too, carefully touching various parts on Make Believe's back and sides, occasionally wincing. "Don't count them just yet…"


"You put it on the skin when you get a sunburn," the mantis says. "You? Probably won't need it, I don't think. Too much fur and feathers. Though, maybe you might like the taste."


Everyone gawks with a little admiration and interest as you pound the drink in one go. The mantis, though, looks a little worried when you talk about the magical anomalies. He leans in, gesturing to the other bar patrons. "Keep your voice down. They might not understand everything you say, but they can probably still tell."

>Thessaly, Alder, Cloud, Cerulean

"The Kalphite raiders have been hitting our fields in the past months. It started with some thefts in the night. Eggs would go missing, and then chickens. We thought it was normal. Coyotes get into the pens now and then. We'd just patch up the fences, get another lock for the coop, and forget about it. Well, soon they started getting more bold. They eventually moved up to the ostriches. A few of the older guys and my uncles went out with guns and clawrmor, and took 'em back. I heard they killed a few too. But then, more kalphites returned, and struck gold. They managed to find the gates unlocked one night, and ran off with two hens and some cocks, too. So not only could they breed ostriches of their own, they had enough adults to come and attack us whenever they want."

"So why keep hitting the farms?" Chiu asks.

"Who knows? I think revenge," the mantis says. "They could start their own farm at this point. They've got enough hens, as far as I know. They don't take much whenever they raid. They're definitely not making any money off raiding us. No, it's about hitting back for the kalphites that my uncles killed. Clannish monster races are like that."

"As for the – for the other thing," the mantis says, lowering his voice to a whisper. "It's the manor on the northern end of town. It used to be the mayor's. Nice enough guy. Got along with everyone. Never worked anyone too hard, always happy to support us when crops were bad or hens died from complications with laying eggs. But then he married… that girl. La brujita."

One of the patrons looks over with a suspicious glance.

"The mayor's gone now. Died last month. But she's still there," the mantis explains. "And now those strange things are happening on the outskirts of town at night. People vanishing for days without realizing it. Monsters appearing and attacking the farm gates. Sometimes, worms will pop up in the food, or in the unfertilized eggs we serve here. People are blaming it on her.

He gestures outside. "B-but I don't think you'll have to worry about that. There's already someone on the case. He said he was with the Virtues – an exorcist."

Splendid nearly gags on her drink, inhaling it with wide eyes.


Cerulean just listens to everything, then looks over at Splendid oddly for almost choking.
"Easy there. You don't have gills like me. Might drown yourself, ya know?"

"Also, who names their kid that? I dunno what it means, but sounds like a mouthful already. Imagine adding a last name to that?"



Cloud finishes off a glass of water, setting the empty container down and grabbing for another one.
"So we have persistent raiders, and a haunted mansion. Alright, seems like it's pretty straight forward. Now, what is a kalphite, exactly? Are they some other tribe or something?"
Cloud asks the mantis.

"Hey careful now, don't go tossing the whole thing back."
Cloud says to Splendid as she nearly chokes on her drink at hearing of the exorcist.




"You did well, Make Believe. You saved over half of our crew. A real pirate's work," Cutlass congratulates Make Believe. "I'm proud to have you on the crew."

"J-just don't let it go to your head," she adds quickly with a blush.



File: 1566266486782.png (759.74 KB, 1280x1280, Thessaly.png)

She nods and lowers her voice a little from hereon out, leaning in conspiratorially.

She listens closely as he tells them about the Kalphites. "So what would you have us do?" she asks plainly. "Kill them all? Drive them away? Take back what they've stolen? We could do either for you."

Her eyes widen a little as he explains the issues with the strange widow, not flinching as Splendid makes a scene. "Cailleach," she whispers under her breath, looking sour at the mention of the Virtues. "An exorcist, you say?" she says to the mantis. "It is my understanding they are called on in cases of demonic possession. Not witches. An odd choice."


"Look, that's not her real name, but if I say the real thing, they'll throw me out," the mantis hisses. "My parents already yelled at me for a full night for even walking near the manor one evening. It means 'little witch,' in your language."

Splendid continues coughing until Paraiba pats her back a few times, which helps her calm down, panting and sweating. She still looks unnerved. "A Virtue… no, Beatitudes be, I'm alright. I've been good."

"No, no, no, I already told you. Don't go near that manor – the exorcist will take care of it," the mantis cautions. "Seriously. Nobody else in town will get close to that place, or to la brujita. Even I can't go there when I'm picking up things to trade in Manenhi."

When the talk turns to the kalphites, the mantis seems to relax, and he scoffs. "Tribe? Nah, they're not like any of us Krikral. They're… what's a good comparison? You ever fight a goblin, or a hobgoblin? They're like that. What goblins are to ponies, kalphite are to Krikral. Nasty. Not intelligent enough to have their own society, but intelligent enough to cobble together simple weapons – or swipe our guns and crossbows. Spawn like pests."

He looks Thessaly's way. "You won't find a Krikral around who will shed a tear if you wipe out the whole nest. Though, just wiping out this band of warriors that's been attacking us should probably do the trick. It'd be best if you could do it without killing the ostriches they nabbed. Round them up and bring them back home. Really, that's what hurt us the most. We really rely on those eggs for the trade.

"That's what we thought at first," the mantis says. "But when we went to the Virtues for advice, they said they'd better send one. Where a bruja goes, a demon follows, they said. The guy's already here. He's staying in a camp just north of the manor, on the boundary of town. It's funny – the kalphites won't even go near him, even though their cave is somewhere even further north. The last time their raiding party came into town, they swerved WIIIIIDE to the west to avoid his teepee."

Hey, Make Believe says, tilting his head toward you as Godot examines him. Tears drip from Make Believe's eyes, but his voice is steady and cold. When do I get to finish the job and make their minds dissolve?

Faint pink Aura glowers around Make Believe, but it has a vicious, almost poisonous undercurrent to it, like some brightly-colored predatory insect. His eyes are flat in color. This lasts until Godot flicks his cheek. "Not until you get out of your cast, young colt. You have four broken ribs."



At first, Cutlass stares at Make Believe with a wide-eyed expression, not sure what to do or think.

Then, as Godot calms him down, her eyes narrow. She continues to stare at Make Believe for a moment. Then, she looks to Godot. "Did you know about… whatever that was?"


She nods. "Consider it done. Where can we find these Kalphites? I imagine they are not too far from this place."

She thinks for a while, mulling over the manor situation, which has suddenly become much more complicated for her. She doesn't offer much of a reply yet.

She turns to her companions. "It appears we have our headings. What should we do first?" she asks plainly. "Apart from resting, that is." She looks back to the mantis. "Is there anywhere in town we may purchase rooms for the night?"


"You've heard of this exorcist before?"
Cloud asks Spelndid as she repeats Virtue.

He looks to the mantis as he warns of the manor.
"Come on, what you described hardly sounds like bad luck. Sounds like somepony just messing around. Besides it sounds like it might be interesting to peek around."

He pauses as the mantis describes the kalphites.
"So they're like big cockroaches then," Cloud questions, with a bit of a shudder, "Alright, either job sounds simple enough."


"Not gonna lie: all this talk of *not* going near the manor is making me want to go near it all that much more," she admits honestly to everyone present. She passes some water to Roger to make sure he stays hydrated as well.


Godot looks up as a pair of mooks bring out a shoddy-looking stretcher. Colobok and Godot ease Make Believe onto the stretcher, then the two mooks slowly proceed below-deck, presumably for the medical ward. "It's no secret that Aura is… colored by one's emotions, so to speak. Aura is always reflective of the user or object that it's bound to. It reflects their personality, their goals, their ideals, their will, their history, their virtues, their vices. It's the totality of their being.

"So, during periods of strong emotion, when mind and body are clouded by feelings, it is natural that the Aura will be affected too. That may hinder or help one's capacity to use an Ability. In some very rare circumstances, it might even change the effect of one's Ability. Of course, this almost always results in whiplash against the user. Letting one's emotions take over in ANY situation is a bad idea. With Aura, those consequences are amplified. If Make Believe should ever act that way again – or if anyone else on the crew should for that matter – it is my advice that you immediately order him off the battlefield, if you want to let him live to see the next day."

"Their cave is by the foot of the Macua-Snake mountain range to the north, on the south-east facing side. Follow the road north from town, and you can't miss it. They've got their territorial markings all over the place. Spears with all kinds of dead lizards on 'em. Skulls. Skins. Trust me, you won't be able to get lost."

"N-not him personally," Splendid says, shaking her head. "But the Virtues were in charge of education where I'm from. I was a star pupil, I was. Never broke a rule, never violated a mantra."

Roger sips the water until it's all gone, smacking his lips afterward.

The mantis sighs, shaking his head as you all insist on heading to the manor too. From the counter, the tarantula-tribe krikral calls to the mantis, holding up a tray of chicken carne asadas. The mantis gets up, retrieves the tray, then returns, passing out the dishes to those who ordered them. He also pours you some refills on your water.

"I can't stop you, I suppose. Look, if you're dead set on going to the manor, then just do yourself a favor and talk to the exorcist first. Assuming he can't talk you out of it, maybe he can… I dunno. Make you a charm or something to keep you safe. As for me? I won't step near it. Not again."

He scoffs. "Can I at least know your names before you get yourselves killed or possessed?"


"Yea I agree with Cerulean, this manor sounds like a good place to check out."
Cloud pauses for a moment.
"Huh, maybe Granny was right about bat ponies and the occult."

"Oh good, so you can give us a good word with this guy then."
Cloud says casually as Splendid says they taught her.

With waters refreshed, Cloud grabs one and takes a chug.
"Nothing's going to happen to us, but if you insist, my name is Cloud Shear."


"Across from here is a lodge and hospice," the mantis says. "Normally they only serve religious pilgrims, but…"

He takes out a slip of paper from his notepad, and scribbles something onto it, tears it out and hands it to you. "Give that to the inn-keeper, she'll make an exception for you. Good prices too. Only 20 Bits per person per night."


She pets Roger on the head with a smile. She makes sure to split the refill with him.

"I'm Cerulean! And I'm not looking to have either happen, so expect me back for more of those carny asadas thingies you were serving!" She gives a big, confident grin to the mantis.



"Hmm," Cutlass contemplates out loud. "I wonder if that means he's done that before… If he knew he could dissolve minds when his power changes, then he must have experience in it. That explains everyone's fear of him."

"I should speak to him later. But, for now, how are the others?"


"I would prefer not to get entangled with the Virtues," she asserts, "but if the rest of us are dead set on going, I suppose I will have to follow and make sure you don't get yourselves killed."

She nods as he tells her where the Kalphites can be found. "We will see it done," she says simply.

She thanks the mantis for the water with a nod.

"I'm sure we have seen worse," she states simply. "Whatever lies in there, it can't be anything we haven't dealt with before."

"Thessaly," she says when asked for her name, and leaves it at that.

She nods and takes the piece of paper with a rare smile. "Thank you. Truly."


"Tranquilino," the mantis replies. He offers his claw for a shake/bump.
"Hey, sorry to interrupt, but you look so familiar," Chiu says. "You wouldn't happen to be related to this one Krikral, whom we met near Kaco Is–"
"Oh, because he's a mantis and I'm a mantis, we must all be related?" Tranquilino asks, completely deadpan.
"S-sorry, that's not what I was getting at! Trust me, that happens to me all the time with Chineighse mares!" Chiu protests.
Tranquilino laughs, waving his claws. "Relax, relax! I'm playing! Yeah, I'm surprised you met my older brother!"

Tranquilino nods. "Yeah, not a problem. You folks are good people. Not hard to tell, considering you came all the way out here. Common mercs wouldn't be this dead-set on doing a job right, or in sticking their nose into this shit with the manor. Need anything else 'round town, call me."

"Perhaps it'd be best if I didn't," Splendid says, suddenly becoming very cagey and tight-beaked. "If you're going to poke around that tent, like Tranquilino suggested, I shall stay outside at the boundary."

Godot wrings his fingers through his feathers with worry. Your ship creaks as the able-bodied crew work on turning her around, back in the direction that they hope Agyl Island lies in. The late afternoon sun beats down upon you, an uncomfortable heat that seeps into your skin and into the very wood of the ship.

"Not well," Godot says. "First, we're out at sea, adrift and far from Agyl Island without an Accompass of our own to rely on. With the Beesting still docked in Manenhi, we can't rely on Prisma to show us the way back to the island. Those who are still able-bodied are worried.
"As for those who were recruited, that Shiro scumbag designed his ability with no consideration for those he recruits after he releases them from his power. Most of them are out of commission, apart from certain strong-minded ones."

As Godot leads you down through the ship's interior toward the medical ward, you hear Sparkler shouting orders from down the hall, her voice both muffled and rapid. Many hooves trot around with fear as they attempt to fulfill her orders.



"Well, Sparkler sounds like she's doing well," Cutlass says in a combination of concern and amusement.

She cuts away from Godot to see what Sparkler is doing.


Cerulean happily bumps, thinking a shake might end up kinda awkward.
"Oh, he's your brother?! Wow, Ribcage is a small place. Yeah, he was very nice and helpful!"


"You know who these Virtues are too?"

Cloud bumps Tranquilino's claw as they introduce themselves.
At the deadpan tradeoff, Cloud can't help but laugh as the mantis messes around.
"So he was your older brother? He was a pretty cool guy, helped us out quite a bit."

When Splendid says she'll stay distant from the exorcist, Cloud simply shrugs.
"Alright then."


"Your brother is the Grove Keeper?" she says with a modicum of surprise. "Interesting. We shall have to tell him we met you."

"We shall. I think we have everything we need for now, however." She looks to the rest of the group expectantly, waiting patiently for everyone to finish up so they can go rent rooms from the lodge Tranquilino mentioned.


Godot opens up the medical ward's door, and inside, you see that the beds are packed, full of those who are unconscious or semi-conscious following being released from Shiro's Ability. Cots and hammocks have been brought in from the quarters to help accommodate for the extra numbers in the room. Sparkler stands in the middle of it, leaning heavily upon an IV drip full of liquid shadows, looking like she might drop at any moment. Ossie helps to hold her up. Some of the able-bodied mooks run about the room, tending to the infirm while Sparkler gruffly barks instructions, at times slurring her words. Now and again she steps in, wringing out a shadow or two to provide some kind of nutrition to the infirm.

As you enter with Godot and Colobok, Sparkler wheels about.
"Slap him," she says to Ossie.
Ossie vanishes, and a brief and explosive slap fight breaks out between her and Colobok, their arms zipping so fast through the air that you can only see their afterimages. It ends with Colobok being slapped.
"But why?" is all Colobok says.
"Fer… fer gettin'… fer gettin' into battle while yer eye's still fuuuuuuged," Sparkler slurs, leaning on her IV. "Yer still recoverin' from that crazy Yellow Jester bitch's surgery… and your torture."
"I am so glad you care for me," Colobok says. "Never do I doubt your love, comrade Sparkler."
Sparkler stumbles and squints at you. "Captain… how many'd we lose?"

"Good he's doing alright," Tranquilino says. "He said some pretty wild things when he left home, left the dojo. Some things I can't even repeat… things I hoped he'd reconsider. If he's being all nice and helpful like you say, then it's a sign he's still him. That's good. Hope he stays that way. Anyway, I've got some things to work on in the back. You all take care. Come back alive, will you?"

Tranquilino takes the tray and the empty plates, heading for the back of the restaurant.

Paraiba yawns, snacking on her own provisions instead of the carne asadas in front of Splendid and Cerulean and Alder. "Do you guys want to start tonight or tomorrow?"
"Sundown's upon us, but still have a few hours left in the day," Zerk suggests. "Maybe we could meet that exorcist, scout out the situation with the manor before we head back to the inn?"


"I'm feeling a bit better after getting something to drink… though I probably should push myself too much still."
Cloud says, thinking on it.
"Eh, I'm good with whatever the rest of you want."



"Shockingly few," Cutlass answers Sparkler dispassionately. Then, she grins. "Well, shocking to some. Of course, such results I've come to expect of myself."

Then, she tugs on Sparkler's IV hanger with her telekinesis, forcing Sparkler to follow it. "You need to lay down. You're mad at Colobok, but you're doing worse. Lie down and rest. That's an order."

She continues to use her telekinesis on the hanger to lead Sparkler to a bed.

"You too, Ossie," Cutlass says, turning to her. "Honestly, I'm surprised you still have the strength for such a slap fight considering Sparkler's condition. We don't need pirates overworking themselves."

[1d10] for auraless persuasion

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Tomorrow would be preferable," she answers Paraiba. "We are all exhausted. A good night's rest would do us good, before we get caught up in all this proper."

"I would prefer not to meet with him at all," she says firmly. "If he's anything like the rest of the Virtues, he's a small minded bigot. If he…" She lowers her voice. "If he finds out about me, then we'll be in a world of trouble, won't we. I'd hate to draw more attention to us, especially after the stunt on Kaco Island."


"Oh! What a coincidence, then. How did the two of you end up so far apart?" he asks, cocking his head to the side.

"Oh, do the Virtues not like you? Apologies, but I don't know you well, Miss Thessaly. Should we look elsewhere for information tomorrow, then?"


"Well, since I don't know much about spirits and all that kind of stuff, maybe visiting someone who does would be nice."


"That huuuuUUUUuuurts!" Sparkler gasps and whines, crying like a little filly while you tug on her IV and lead her to a cot. Coincidentally, it's right next to the bed that Droplet lays in, half-awake. Droplet glances at Sparkler, then crawls out of the bed and into the cot, freeing it up for her. With a huff, Sparkler flops into the bed. "Only because you're the… fuggin' Captain…" she mutters.

Ossie takes considerably less effort to get into a bed. "Oh, I didn't."

She flops into bed next to Sparkler, falling unconscious nearly the moment she hits the cloth.

Godot rolls his withers and gets to work, seamlessly picking up from where Sparkler left off. Colobok looks your way. "Anything for me to do, Captain? It may be some time before we reach Agyl Island. I only hope that island turtle is swimming toward us, or we may be out at sea for many days."

Tranquilino looks away. "…I'd prefer not to get into it."

Paraiba nods. "Got it. No snitching… personally, I think we may want to see what he knows about the manor, if nothing else. I won't mention you, though."
"Same here," adds Zerk.
Chiu silently nods.
"Best if we just get the room, then." Splendid asks.
Tranquilino briefly comes back, dropping off a sheet of paper with your bill on it. Altogether, your meal was only 60 Bits.
"60 for eight people?" Zerk asks. "What a steal. Here, I've got it."

He claps the money down onto the table, even throwing in a tip. "Let's be off then!"


"You have a run in with them or something?"
Cloud questions.
"But alright, getting right to the issue sounds better to me anyways."

As Zerk tosses down the bits for the whole group, Cloud stands up as they're settled on hitting the inns for the night.
"Yea, let's get some beds already. My legs don't have much more in them."


Cerulean looks excited to go to sleep for once. After dealing with a dry desert and dry sand, she and Roger look happy to rest finally.


"I am a witch," she states plainly. "The Virtues are witch hunters. So no, we don't exactly see eye to eye."

"I am less worried about you snitching and more about the possibility of having to work with him. I cannot exactly conceal my powers if it comes to combat. And as much as I dislike the Virtues, it would not go over well if I murdered him."

She blinks in surprise as Zerk pays, already having had her bag of bits out to cover her drink. "Oh. Go raibh maith agat." She stands alongside the others, ready to go book the rooms.



"For now, just see to it that those who are able-bodied are doing their part to sail us back to Agyl island," Cutlass answers Colobok as she runs her hoof through her mane.

She feels a hangover coming on. Not only had she just recently passed the considerable amount of alcohol for her size through her system, but she then immediately went to work on a whole variety of mentally and physically exhausting tasks. "I need to get a drink of water…" she grumbles.

She walks away, continuing to grumble, as she goes to the storage for some water. As she does, she fishes Sir Pent out of her dress and places him on her hat, giving him some loving pats every now and then.


Cloud asks, surprised to hear.
"Huh. Alright, yea let's forget this exorcist and just jump right by him."


"A-Ack. Sorry to touch on a sensitive topic then, Tranquilino." the griffon says, bowing his head apologetically.

"Anywho, we can talk more tomorrow. I do not suppose you would mind sharing a room, Miss Splendid? Unless you would prefer someone else." he offers, ruffling his wings a little bit.

"Ah. Well, I would very much like to avoid them then. I would not like to run into them, for your sake."


Colobok nods, quickly jogging back up the stairs to the upper deck. Meanwhile, you find some peace and quiet, at last, as you make for the larder, helping yourself to a mug-full of water. Sir Pent leans down from your hat, occasionally poking his head down to your mug to help himself to some of your water. He also flicks your face with his tongue, made cool by the water.

>Timeskip ready when you are, but make four rolls for sailing once you are. Any relevant leadership bonuses apply.

"I DON'T MIND," Splendid blurts out, cutting you off just as you begin to say "Unless."
She then clamps her beak shut. Paraiba and Chiu just smile at her enthusiasm.

You and your allies head out, leaving behind the dive bar. Following Tranquilino's directions, you head across from the western cluster to the eastern one, crossing over on a metal bridge made of shanty slabs of aluminum. Those few people you saw out and about earlier have completely vanished now as the sun dips past the mountain range, covering the entire town in a layer of murky black. Finding the hostel, you note that it's a very quiet little establishment. The beetle-tribe krikral in charge seems shocked to even see visitors. It seems to be empty apart from you – no other patrons. The innkeeper examines the note, nodding and clicking his mandibles with approval. He takes your money and leads you to your rooms, and you see that there are two beds per room, simple and small rooms with little furniture besides a chest of drawers and a nightstand.

Zerk bunks with Paraiba, Chiu with Cloud and Splendid with Alder. This just leaves a room for Thessaly and Cerulean to share as they please, or not.

It is up to you what happens.


During the night, your dreams are restless and fitful, but subdued, somewhat. You are dimly aware of your bodies shifting and rolling, fraught with a nervous energy, but it is not as nearly as vivid as it was when you were sleeping aboard the Beesting during the previous night. Fragments of memories glow and fade in your vision. Faintly you recall them, seemingly only afterward. The temple. The starry skies. The anticipation. The tools, the building. But tonight, the visions seem blurry, murky, as if they were having to pass through some kind of interference to reach you.

At the end, something new appears – a dark scene, more vivid than the last. A wrecked great house, illuminated by the moonlight, lays upon the chasm of a divide opening up underneath. One half of the house is sunken into the earth… and with a crumble, the rest follows suit.


You wake, under the morning sun filtering in through the windows.



Cutlass giggles at Sir Pent's playfulness, but needs her water. So, she lets Sir Pent down to go hunt whatever rodents may surely be on the ship. She sits and waits for him while they sail.

[1d10] [1d10] [1d10] [1d10]
>Master Thief leadership

Roll #1 6 = 6 / Roll #2 3 = 3 / Roll #3 1 = 1 / Roll #4 10 = 10


Thessaly reluctantly bunks with Cerulean to save money, claiming one of the beds and curling up to sleep with her back to Cerulean.

She wakes up the next morning, frowning as the sun shines right on her face. She groggily clambers out of bed, washes up and throws her clothes on, ready to keep going. Her mind is on the recurring dreams. Doubtless the others experienced the same.


Cloud heads up to his room with Chiu, relieved to finally rest after their desert trek. Through the night, he ends up pushing the beds together for added comfort.
Sleep comes easier that night, not as disruptive as the previous one. While the images do haunt, he at least manages to get a full rest.

Cloud opens his eyes as light starts to pour in, eased a bit into waking up this time and not as groggy or irritated. He rolls over, looking to Chiu, though caught off guard for a moment with half his vision being blue nothingness.
"Still need to get used to that… Did you sleep well?"



Cerulean happily cuddles up with Roger like he's a little teddy bear. She gives a happy goodnight to Thess before going to sleep.

Next morning she wakes up from her stomach letting her know its breakfast time. She sits up from the dream, gives a yawn, and shakes her head a bit to shake the bed head out. She sees Thessaly is up already.
"Mornin' Thess. Hey, you know a lot of that magic voodoo stuff, right? Know anything about weird dreams?"


"O-Oh! I didn't expect such enthusiasm, but okay!" he chirps back, gently tugging at the larger griffon's foreleg to lead her to the room! The griffon would be too nervous to offer much more than pushing their beds together.


Alder gets up a little earlier than he'd intend to, groaning a little to himself as he thinks over the night's dream. Two vivid experiences like that can't be a coincidence, so he'll have to ask the others if they experienced something similar.


Thessaly mumbles an indistinct goodnight.

When asked the following morning, Thessaly nods in greeting. "Good morning," she says politely. "I am not an expert in dreams, no. But I know someone who may know a thing or two. She is the one who asked me to see to the matter of the witch that resides here. Once we have done that, I will return to her, and tell her what transpires. Perhaps you or some of the others may like to meet her."


Sir Pent slithers away to hunt for rodents and keep the ship clean.

What follows is a hard night and day at sea. With half the crew down for the count, and the other half still sore and weary from the fight with the Beastmen, managing the ship is far, far harder. To make matters worse, the seas are stormy, obscuring the skies above, and thus the stars, your main guides, are of little help, drifting in and out behind murky clouds. Every time you or another crewmate might attempt to reach out via Caller Conch, you are only met with quietude from the Conch.

For the night and a full day afterward do you sail like this, battling waves and winds as you make your way back toward where you think you last saw Agyl Island. The journey is hard and battering, leaving little time for sleep except in brief bursts when the waters are calm enough to drop a sea anchor. Most of the crew's morale badly drops during this time, especially when one of the mooks, a new recruit from Kaco Island, flies overboard, and it is only through your stalwart presence, and a few strong words here and there, that you are able to make it through this time. The recruit was never found.

During your brief chances to rest, your dreams are frightful, fraught with awful visions of murky temples, monstrous stone statures given an unnatural glow in the midst of the moonlight, and a deeply unsettling perpetual unease, an anxiousness to build something – a great structure, with tools provided by nameless, featureless priests whose every word you hang onto. Each time, you wake before the dream can reach fruition.


On the dawn of the second day after the battle with Kuro and Shiro, you awake in your quarters, stirred by the sunlight drifting in through the window. Sir Pent is curled up in the crook of your neck like usual. Someone is shouting outside.

"About as well as I could with dreams like those," Chiu says.
"She couldn't sleep at all," Hmmm informs you.

You awake in Splendid's secure, muscular vicegrip. It is only when she starts to wake that she realizes what's going on, and she releases you, simultaneously saying good-mornings and apologies for manhandling you, jumbling her words in the process. Stumbling, she bolts for the door.


Meeting up in the hall, your allies look disheveled and weary, but not as bad as they did yesterday after that miserable sleep aboard the Beesting. Chiu idly flips through some newspaper comics, while Zerk and Paraiba are already up, seeming the most alert of the bunch. They appear to have brought out coffee for everyone – black, of course, as it's meant to be. Quietly, the others start to break into their rations from the Beesting, putting together a scratch breakfast.


"That'd be nice. These dreams have been getting weirder and weirder lately. This time a house falling down some huge hole…." She looks very perplexed by this dream.

Cerulean comes down with Thess chatting, and at the sight of breakfast, immediately sees if she can get as big as meal as possible.


Most of the food consists of biscuits and gravy, heated up on a small stove in the hostel's kitchen, which the innkeeper allows you to use without much asking. Splendid tosses a few strips of salted ham and bacon onto the grill for you, her and Alder to share. Paraiba and Chiu prepare some celery and peppers for the vegetarians.



Cutlass crawls out of bed with an annoyed groan. She lets Sir Pent coil around her neck like a necklace, too tired to do anything with him.

She would like to say that she stormed onto the deck, but really, she just didn't have the energy for it. Instead, she limps out onto the deck like a sleep-"deprived" teenager, angry at the world. She looks around for whoever it is that is shouting.


"Your guess is as good as mine as to what it means," she shrugs. "I hope we find the source of it and quell it quickly. I've already had enough bad dreams to last me several lifetimes."

She greets her allies politely, eagerly making a beeline for the food and coffee. She scalds herself a little sipping the latter, but pretends nothing is wrong, and thoughtfully munches on a few sticks of celery as she surveys the table.


Alder is a little shocked to wake up to being manhandled, but it's definitely a pleasant surprise. He lets out a soft giggle as she stammers and stumbles her way out of the room, before slowly trying to smooth out his feathers before heading downstairs.

"So, another communal dream then? you do not suppose some sort of… dream mage, or sage could help us figure out what the cause of it is." he suggests, fixing a somewhat modest breakfast and getting a cup of coffee before sitting down next to Splendid.


"I was telling Cerulean just now, I know someone who may be able to help. After we see to the matter of this manor, it would be wise to pay her a visit."


"Oh! That would be very good, yes- are they here in the Ribcage, or elsewhere?"


Nearly blinded by the sunlight, you realize that the shouts are coming from the crow's nest. The lookout up there is calling toward the horizon. Upon it, you can see land fast approaching, a rocky landscape that vaguely resembles Manenhi's port, except you see no port nearby, at least in your groggy sleep deprived state. Most of the crew, including some of Shiro's recruits, hustle out onto deck, helping to steer the ship, raising the masts and securing the lines to expedite your journey to shore.

"Well, don't keep us in the dark, what's her name, Thess?" Splendid asks, sitting beside Alder despite her earlier snafu and embarrassment.
"I bet this witch might be able to help us too," Paraiba says. "Whether they're called a witch or a wise mare, I've never been let down by one of their ilk.


"It was definitely better than yesterday at least."
Cloud comments.
"Wait, how do you know Hmm?"
Cloud says while still facing Chiu in bed, almost sounding like he'd be questioning her if not for him calling out Hmm by name.

Cloud puts on his eyepatch, figuring he should still keep it on if they're in a desert area, being safe on it's recovery. He then hops out of bed, dressed up in his pirate garb, and follows Chiu downstairs to meet with the others.
Cloud takes his cup of coffee, taking a sip to perk up a bit while his fishes through some of his rations, taking out the fruits mostly as he sits close with Chiu to share in the comics.


"There's nothing I don't know," Hmm says. "I know everything!"

Chiu passes you the comics while she tends to breakfast with Splendid and Paraiba. Zerk looks over your shoulder at the comics.


Cerulean salivates at the sights and smells, not sure what to get first. So when everyone else is done, she has herself a good bit of everything.

"I mean, we've come across crazier so far. So it wouldn't surprise me."


"She's based in Manenhi. It is at her behest that we're exploring the phenomena plaguing this town, actually."

"Gullveig. A powerful witch if ever there was one. I met her yesterday, by chance."


"Yea you say that, but it seems more like you were peaking at my mare while I was sleeping."
Cloud says to Hmm.
"Hmm, actually… Do you know what's going on at that manor up north of here?"

Cloud takes the comics, flipping through them for a morning read. His ears turn, followed by his eyes glancing back as he sees Zerk spying over his shoulder. Cloud holds up the paper so he can see a bit more, so they can share the funnies.

"A dream mage? Why would somepony like that be giving us these dreams."



Cutlass squints out at the distant port. At first, it's due to her tired state not processing what it is she SHOULD be seeing. But, upon seeing it, she becomes confused at the lack of port.

She looks around for anything suspicious. [1d10] (Master Thief if applicable)

Roll #1 2 = 2


"Ah, that is even better then!" the griffon chirps. "And we already have a good connection to them, hopefully. All the more reason to finish this quickly!"


Hmm turns around, pretending to be distracted by something in the blue expanse of the crystal in your eye.

Zerk occasionally chuckles as you flip through the comics. "Heh. Funny."

"Sounds like either her or la brujita might be able to decipher these," Paraiba says.
"You're suggesting we go to the manor, knock on the door and ask for her help?" Chiu asks.
"Didn't someone say that most of the strange magical anomalies were occurring around nighttime?" Paraiba asks. "Things should be alright in the morning, shouldn't they?"
"Everyone knows that's how the supernatural works," Zerk adds sagely. "Things are always a little less magical and dangerous when it's bright out."
Splendid rubs her temple.

Unfortunately, it looks like there's no port in this entire area. It looks like, with some effort, you could attempt to find a cove somewhere, but this wall of the coast appears to be highly artificial, straight and with a very designed level of evenness and symmetry. Perhaps you could take your chances and command the crew to sail northward or southward to try to find an actual port where your ship can be safe.


"You're not much of a help, you know that?"
Cloud says to Hmm.
"Do you at least know when I won't need this eye patch anymore?"

"Doesn't hurt to try."
Cloud says with a shrug as Chiu questions asking la brujita.
"She's right here and on the way to the kalphites. We could kill three birds with one stone today."


She nods firmly. "This is all well and good," she agrees, "but the sooner we're out of this thrice-cursed desert the better."

"That's… that's not how it works," she says to Zerk. "That's not how it works at all."

"She looks over to Paraiba and Chiu. "Though you may be on to something. I feel like there must be more to this than what we have been told already. Perhaps we can come to some form of agreement with this witch. Or perhaps not."



Cutlass looks around for a moment. Confusion about her current location fills her mind. Then, a thought occurs to her. She has an item just for this.

She reaches into the breast of her dress and pulls out the Serpent Amulet. She looks at it with confusion and trepidation for a moment, not exactly sure how to use it. "Where are we?" she asks it, hoping for an answer.


"Well, what if they keep getting worse during the evening? Or, like Mister Zerk said, it might not get that much less dangerous, so it could still be quite awful."

He gives Splendid a soft pat on the shoulder, before giggling "Do not worry too much about it- we'll get to the bottom of it, yes? It is rather confusing, though."

"Mhmm. A-And hopefully, I will be there before you get hurt, r-rather than after." he says, with a nervous giggle.


Cerulean nods along with the simple logic of magic while she stuffs her face full of breakfast. She makes sure to leave a biscuit for Roger.


The amulet slithers under your grasp, the silver trinket seemingly coming to life. Green slits carved into the silver head begin to glow faintly with an enchanting allure.
"You are near the Fisher'ssss Bay," the amulet whispers. "Fishersss of all sssstripesss sssail out here in the wee sssssmall hourssss of tthe morning, hoping to catch their quarry in the sssssilence away from otherssss. There issss good fish to be caught here to be sssssure – sssssunfish and moonfish and ssstarfish too, but the allure comesssss from the quietude. Only the breeze and the watersssss and treesssss can be heard here. We are far from any port."

"Once your eye heals! Or once you get another one," Hmm says, turning back around. "You won't need it then."

Roger munches it gratefully, sticking himself to the underside of your chin to pick away some crumbs once he's done.

Zerk appears truly distraught, as if his worldview has been shattered.
Paraiba, Chiu and Sparkler scarf down their meals, quickly getting back energy after the restless night of fitful dreams. "If everyone seems to think it's a good idea, I guess we can try it," Chiu relents. She starts to help clean up the mess while Splendid polishes off the last of the ham, though saves a few pieces of bacon for Cerulean.

With that, they gather up their possessions, getting ready to head out for the manor.


After a brief pause, she helps Chiu clean up the table wordlessly, and gets ready to head out again. "Giorraíonn beirt bothar. Though in this case it's eight. Let's be quick about it."



Cutlass stares at the amulet with an annoyed expression as it speaks. "Do you HAVE to do the whole cliched snake speech?" she asks, mostly rhetorically, not actually expecting an answer.

She shakes her head. "Where is the nearest port?"


"You're doing this on purpose, aren't you?" Cloud sighs, "When will my eye be healed?"

As eveerypony finishes up, Cloud drinks the last of his coffee and munches down the last bits of his breakfast. He tosses the comics over to Zerk for him to have in full, all ready to go.
"It's a great idea. We could probably get this all settled before the afternoon if we're lucky."


"Wow, alright, sorry, didn't realize I had a critic," the snake amulet says. "Don't you believe in atmosphere? Bitch."

The amulet shakes its head and clears its throat. "Sssssouthward, jewelsss, peltssss, baublesss and even livesss are traded. Northward, one may find sssslaves, info brokerssss, and other Black Market sssservicesss and goodsssss. Manenhi liessss ssssouthward, a great distance. Xallan liessss to the north, a lesssssser distance."

You get the feeling he'sssss putting more ephassssssissss on the 'ssss' ssssoundssss thissss time.


Alder cleans his plate rather quickly, giving Zerk a somewhat concerned look as what they said sinks in. Once he's finished, he hops back up and checks his bags to make sure he's gotten everything.

"Ready to go, if everyone else is!"


"Heh-hey, that tickles, Roger."

"I'm all se-oh! Thanks Splendid!" She happily eats the bacon, the delicious pork disappearing into the black hole that is Cerulean's appetite.
"Okay. NOW I'm ready!"



Cutlass's jaw drops at the broken character. And, more important, being called a bitch.

Once it goes back into character, she looks at it with a bemused expression. "Really? That's how it's going to be?" Then, she sighs. "Whatever…"

"You missssssed the S in dissssstance, by the way."

Then, Cutlass looks to the helmsman. "Head north, up the coast," she commands.


"I'm just trying to do my best, and I'm new to this," the snake amulet pleads. "I'm not gonna get it perfect."

The helmsman nods, muscles bulging as he spins the ship around northward. The pegasi and griffons aboard the ship start to conjure a headwind with their wing-flaps, helping the ship travel north, parallel with the coast.

While this goes on, Ossie approaches you with a quill pen. "Care to sign Make Believe's cast with me?"

"Look, it's going to take a while, alright!? There's a number of factors that could speed it up or make it take longer! Just be patient!" Hmm snaps.

Splendid clicks finger guns at Cerulean as a 'you're welcome'.

You head outside, the innkeeper bidding farewell in the kirkral tongue. It's not hard to guess what a wave means, after all. Outside, the town seems to have some measure of activity going on, for once. In the cool of the post-dawn sunlight, the day laborers, still in their all-covering clothes, start to head to the machinists' shops. In the distance eastward and westward, you can see farmers and gardeners already working the fields. Below you, in the streets, groups of female krikral travel in groups, carrying baskets and buckets and sharing the morning gossip with laughter and clicking chatter. Occasionally, children dart out under the feet of passing workers, playing games of tag or keep-away. The odd dog and stray cat zoom around with them, chasing mice or gnats.

That liveliness continues for a little while as you pass through town, but there's a point where it very noticeably stops. As you make your way northward, you notice comparatively fewer people walking through this part of town. The further you go north, the fewer people and voices are around.

Eventually, when you get deep enough into the winding, closely-packed streets, the voices and ambient sounds stop altogether. Houses around here are boarded up, doors sealed with planks of wood haphazardly slapped onto them, as if the builders ran off in the middle of sealing the house. Not even a breeze or flies are there to break the silence.

Around here, the heat seems to grow, paradoxically, crouching, lurking on the rocks and stone. The heat seems to be centered around a great house to the distance.

…A great house… broken in twain…

The manor is surrounded by lesser blocks of buildings, and dwarfs them by comparison, though it is only two stories. It is done in a colonial style, with a brick gate and a watered garden. The only other plantlife you've seen around town are the occasional cacti or tough green shrub. The manor is surrounded by grass within the brick walls, and a succulent garden with a hedge and flowering vines.

One half fell into the chasm… and the other soon followed…

The manor's facade is well kept. Windows are dusted within and polished without, curtains drawn modestly. An attempt at the main gate shows that it is unlocked, open for visitors. A fountain flows in the middle of the brick path leading to the oak door, a stark comparison to the dried well lying by the town's entrance.

The manor looms above, full of silence.




"Awwww," Cutlass's usually cold heart thaws at the amulet's pleas. "I'm sorry! Please, keep it up!"

Then, Cutlass smiles at Ossie as she approaches. "Yes, that DOES sound amusing. Hmm… but what should I write…? I suppose I can take this oppurtunity to get used to 'Red Dress' Cutlass."


"There, now was that so hard to say?"
Cloud responds with a sarcastic tone as if he's playing a parent who finally got their kid to admit what they did.
"If you'd answer me right away I wouldn't have to pester you so much."

Cloud doesn't feel uneased as they slowly go into quieter and quieter parts of the town. He glances here and there as they start to pass abandoned, boarded up buildings.
"They're really paranoid about this manor, aren't they?"

As the come up to the manor, Cloud whistle as it stands so starkly against the rest of the town.
"You know, I'm starting to get why they're so iffy on this place. Looks like something you'd see out of Canterlot."
He says, pushing open the gate and stepping into the garden.



In honor of PirateQuest reaching 100 sessions, allow me to thank each and every one of you personally for making this quest one of the most fun experiences I've had in FEMTO, and for helping in countless ways to make it what it is today.

Here is to a successful voyage. You guys are the best.

Everyone receives 1 skill point.


>On the way
Alder hums a little bit, before cocking his head to the side. He gives Splendid a light tap on the arm, before asking "I feel I have been a tad… unfair. I have asked much about you, but I do not think I have ever told you much about me. Is there anything you would like to know?"


Splendid raises a claw. "Not at all, not at all! Ain't really been fair meself, have we? Keep clammin' up each time you ask me anything, anyway. Heheheh."

She taps her beak in thought. "So, I heard a bit 'bout you. That you're from a mountainous country, so big – and it's attached to the sea-floor, no less! It's not even on an island-turtle! Whoever heard of an island that doesn't have an island-turtle?"
"Technically, that's not called an island, it's–" Zerk begins, but Paraiba bops him on the nose, earning his annoyed silence.
"Aaaaaaanyway, I know I'm rambling, but me point is, what of the life you're leaving behind, eh? Haven't heard much about your brother and father much other than that you're leavin' em," Splendid says. "Go on 'bout 'em in exacting detail, if you would."


"Well, it is fair to clam up, Splendid. Some topics are… rather difficult. I have only known you for a little while, so being worried about saying such things is fine. I would very much so like to know more, but… only when you are ready." he says, smiling a little bit.

"Anywho, as for myself… I suppose part of the reason I left was my own fault. I tried to be something I was not- a warrior- and, because of that… I was never happy with myself. I feel somewhat embarrassed it took until recently for me to sort of just… accept my own strengths. I left to try and grow as a person- win glory and fame and riches, and all… b-but, it did not work out." the griffon says, with a nervous giggle. "Within a year I was little more than a street rat. I would not be here as I was today if it were not for my teacher."
He waits for Splendid to ask anything before continuing.


Splendid listens attentively, and the only sounds of interruption are her nibbling on tinned sardines and zipping from a waterskin. "…Don't just leave me hangin' in suspense!" she demands, then catches herself. "Err, if yer feelin' up to sharin' more, that is. What's all this about being a warrior? What happened?"


"Ehm, as you could probably expect, I am a tad… undersized, for my tribe. As for being a warrior, I mean… I can fight, but think of it like something akin to… knighthood? It is more than just a thing you do. I did not really stack up, so I was never able to do that."

"As for continuing, it isn't anything I dislike sharing. I spent a while as a thief- as you have seen, I'm quite handy with my talons and tail. Even if I was not happy, it was a natural fit. I did that for a little while, until I met my teacher. She was a, ehm… she is a tall earth pony, very slender? I forget the term. Anywho, she caught me when I pickpocketed her, but she didn't turn me over. She actually offered to take me in for a while. It was… well, it was nice." he says, smiling a little more warmly as he thinks back. "She helped me pick up a couple hobbies, like dancing. She was a traveling performer, you see- she felt that my natural flexibility lent itself well to dancing, and… it did, I suppose. She taught me to dance and play things like the flute or harp, along with singing. I am a little too shy to do some of that stuff often, though."


Splendid listens, lost in a little thought at first. "Seems stories like that aren't uncommon. S-sorry, not to downplay what you told me! It's just that I've been listening in on bits and bobs from other Beesting crewmates. Lots of the motley crew have a similar story. Fell from grace, squandered some investment, made some bad moves, and ended up on the bottom rung, the lowest castes. The aristocracy looks on people like us as untouchables – worse than the filth on the bottom of their carriage-wheels. Piracy's the only answer for people who hit that point, innit? The world's turned its back on you, left you in a garbage-heap in the back of an alley, without a name or a place. Why not ransack a little bit of the good life while you're there?"

Paraiba starts to look a bit guilty, while Zerk just nods along in agreement.

"So, what happened after all that?" Splendid asks.


"Hmm? No, do not apologize. I suppose everyone has something like that." the griffon says, after a bit of thought

"After that? Well, as much as I enjoyed living with her, I sort of wanted to… take another shot at it. It seems to have gone far better this time, as you can probably tell." he says, with a soft giggle. "Not too much else happened- I joined on with a pirate ship, and… here I am."


Splendid raises her hand toward the end of your talk.
"Yes, you, in the back, what's your question," Paraiba says, pointing to her with an imaginary yardstick.
"Wait, what?" Splendid asks, then looks at her hand. She puts it away with a slight blush. "Argh! Force of habit from me school days. Err, I got the gist of the events on Kaco from the others as well, while I was at it. Is that a normal thing for you lot? Killing royals, aligning with other pirates and… whatever and whoever that Magoja person is?"


"H-Honestly? No, I was rather terrified the entire time. I tried to ignore it as best I could. I-I think it is safe to say that almost everything I have done in the Ribcage has been rather new for me. The pirate we aligned with was actually a former member of our crew. She is rather nice, actually. hope she is well…" he shakes it off, before shrugging. "I do not know if this sort of stuff is 'normal', but I would


*"I do not know if this sort of stuff is 'normal', though. I am rather new at all of this."


"You both do know we're going to be taking on the Crimson King, right?" Zerk asks.
"That's why we joined your crew," Paraiba adds.
Splendid seems intimidated, wringing her hands together. "Sounds like there's more to come, then eh? Though from what I've heard, you all pulled it off and practically embarrassed those royals to boot. Figure we're in good hands if the company you keep is that skilled."
"We probably shouldn't get overconfident," Chiu says. "It's a slow and insidious killer."
"Where'd that come from?" Paraiba asks.
"Just trying to keep some perspective, and I thought it sounded cool…" Chiu says, looking embarrassed at the cheesy line.


"For what it is worth, Ms. Chiu, I thought it sounded 'cool'." the griffon says, in a reassuring tone.

"And yes, I do know- it does not make this any less, well…" he gestures with his hands a little, before shrugging. "Anywho- it did go decently well, yes- I don't think anyone got seriously hurt, which is all I was hoping for."


Chiu flexes with vindication and satisfaction that her line was indeed cool. Her muscles are moderate at best.
"What about all those people who got killed?" Splendid asks.
"Ah, don't worry about it. None of US were seriously hurt, and that's what matters," Zerk says.
Splendid then taps her beak again. "Thought I may have seen a story about it in the paper yesterday, but with how dreadful those dreams were, I could barely read a single sentence coherently."
"Think we should check it out again?" Paraiba asks.


"Ehm… it's definitely unfortunate, to say the least. It ends up difficult to avoid, but I would like to believe we try to minimize, uhm… collateral damage? I think that is the word." he says, frowning a little before cocking his head to the side
"Paper? I never got around to reading it- I read Equestrian very slow, and did not feel very good."


"Let's see here…"
Splendid mumbles to herself a bit as she digs through her bag, a leather purse, which seems to be a recent addition from the Manenhi marketplace, as it has a beautiful fractal-like multicolored ink design that you've seen on many art pieces and dresses during your time on Agyl.

"Aha!" she exclaims, pulling out the folded newspaper. She's about to hand it to you, but pulls it back upon hearing your difficulties with reading. "…I could read it to you if you care to review it."


Last time on PirateQuest…

Tranquilino gave our heroes some background on the issues plaguing his small farming community, nestled in the valley between the Gecko's Footprint canyon and the mountains to the north.

During the day, they are subjected to raids from bands of kalphites that live in the mountains. Kalphites are cockroach-like monsters, primitive and nasty, likened in many ways to goblins in their disposition and intelligence. These kalphites had a habit of stealing eggs, livestock, crops and most importantly, the ostriches which were the town's major export. Tranquilino advised the party that they would be rewarded if they either a) exterminated the whole kalphite nest, b) killed just the warriors, which would effectively stop the raids, c) stole back the ostriches or d) found some other way to stop the kalphites.

During the night, many mysterious magical phenomena and anomalies affected the town and surrounding area. These included spatial warpings, residents going missing and reappearing days later with no recollection of vanishing, and the spontaneous appearance of worms and other vermin in what was believed to be healthy food – even in chickens' eggs. Almost everyone around town believed that the anomalies were the result of some kind of curse. They believed that the previous mayor, who died under mysterious circumstances last month, was to blame in some way. The mayor, prior to his death, had married a witch that people only referred to as "la brujita." When the party expressed interest in fixing this problem too, Tranquilino advised against it, stating that an exorcist from a religious group called the Virtues was already on the case.

With their objectives in mind, the party retired to a local hostel for the night, where they had dreams similar to the ones that had plagued them last night. In addition, in this dream they saw a great house looming over a chasm that had opened up underneath it. Though the house held on for a time, it eventually cracked; one half fell in first, and then the next.


After Cutlass retrieved her allies from Shiro and Kuro, they were left with a serious dilemma. Night was upon them, and they had sailed out into the open waters in pursuit of Shiro and Kuro without an Accompass of their own. Until now, they had relied on Prisma, the gigantic chicken who guided the Beesting, for directions. They could not simply turn back around the way they came, as Agyl Island, like all the islands of the Ribcage, was swimming around in a pattern known only to the Island-Turtles. But without an Accompass of their own, they had no choice but to try just that.

Because of Agyl's movements, and because of storms that nearly threw them off course (and claimed the life of one of the Kaco Island recruits), the journey back to Agyl took a full day and then some. Exhausted and battered by the weather, they reached what appeared to be the Island's northwestern coast, a high rocky cliffside made of interlocking basalt columns. To the north lay the town of Xallan, and to the south, a great distance away, lay the town of Manenhi. Cutlass opted to head north and try her luck there.


NOTE: if you haven't already, add this skill point to your sheets. >>722829
You can save it for later, instead of spending it now.


The snake amulet clears its throat. "I'm ssssssorry I called you a bitch. It won't happen again."

As you head downstairs, returning to the medical ward, Ossie trots alongside you. "Between the storms and the hard sailing, I'm happy to report that most of the crew are recovering. Setting aside injuries incurred from the fight between our crew and the apes', the worst that the 'recruited' crewmates suffered were severe fatigue. The storm and tumult didn't help, but they should be shipshape in a matter of days."

Eventually, you reach the ward's door. "On top of that, thanks to testimonies from the most lucid crewmates, we have a good idea of how Shiro's ability works. If we ever face them again, we'll be prepared."


Hmm just grumbles and mumbles. "Are you gonna make me answer a lot of questions? Cause that's still pestering me."

>Cloud, Cerulean, Thessaly, Alder

Splendid clicks finger guns at Cerulean as a 'you're welcome'.

You head outside, the innkeeper bidding farewell in the kirkral tongue. It's not hard to guess what a wave means, after all. Outside, the town seems to have some measure of activity going on, for once. In the cool of the post-dawn sunlight, the day laborers, still in their all-covering clothes, start to head to the machinists' shops. In the distance eastward and westward, you can see farmers and gardeners already working the fields. Below you, in the streets, groups of female krikral travel in groups, carrying baskets and buckets and sharing the morning gossip with laughter and clicking chatter. Occasionally, children dart out under the feet of passing workers, playing games of tag or keep-away. The odd dog and stray cat zoom around with them, chasing mice or gnats.

That liveliness continues for a little while as you pass through town, but there's a point where it very noticeably stops. As you make your way northward, you notice comparatively fewer people walking through this part of town. The further you go north, the fewer people and voices are around.

Eventually, when you get deep enough into the winding, closely-packed streets, the voices and ambient sounds stop altogether. Houses around here are boarded up, doors sealed with planks of wood haphazardly slapped onto them, as if the builders ran off in the middle of sealing the house. Not even a breeze or flies are there to break the silence.

Around here, the heat seems to grow, paradoxically, crouching, lurking on the rocks and stone. The heat seems to be centered around a great house to the distance.

…A great house… broken in twain…

The manor is surrounded by lesser blocks of buildings, and dwarfs them by comparison, though it is only two stories. It is done in a colonial style, with a brick gate and a watered garden. The only other plantlife you've seen around town are the occasional cacti or tough green shrub. The manor is surrounded by grass within the brick walls, and a succulent garden with a hedge and flowering vines.

One half fell into the chasm… and the other soon followed…

The manor's facade is well kept. Windows are dusted within and polished without, curtains drawn modestly. An attempt at the main gate shows that it is unlocked, open for visitors. A fountain flows in the middle of the brick path leading to the oak door, a stark comparison to the dried well lying by the town's entrance.

The manor looms above, full of silence.



"From how you introduced yourself I thought answering questions was your thing. Do you just want to talk?"
Cloud asks.

Cloud doesn't feel uneased as they slowly go into quieter and quieter parts of the town. He glances here and there as they start to pass abandoned, boarded up buildings.
"They're really paranoid about this manor, aren't they?"

As the come up to the manor, Cloud whistle as it stands so starkly against the rest of the town.
"You know, I'm starting to get why they're so iffy on this place. Looks like something you'd see out of Canterlot."
He says, pushing open the gate and stepping into the garden.


"Ah! T-That would be very nice, actually. I have been trying to learn, but speaking came easier." he says, sheepishly tapping his talons together.

Updated Sheet: https://pastebin.com/HZDtCp5g

"Ahm… it certainly has an uncomfortable feeling about it, to say the least."

"Canterlot is like this?"


"A little. The places in Canterlot are always big and go extravagant. Getting a whole garden out in a desert fits that kind of personality pretty well."


"Ah, I see. I do have to wonder where all the water to keep this as it is would come from, though. It seems brutally dry out here."


Her eyes narrow with disdain and suspicion as she sees the ostentatious looking manor. As the group approach, she keeps her guard up, watching carefully for any signs of danger or magical glamour, especially the latter.
[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 6 = 6


"It is not unheard of in desert towns like this one for one person to control all the water. If you do so, you control life itself, after all. I can only imagine the mayor and his charming wife hoarded water like dragons."




"Well, to be fair, I AM a bitch," Cutlass says to the amulet practically proudly before going with Ossie. "Not that YOU are allowed to say it," she adds quickly.

"I'd be lying to you if I said I wasn't a little disappointed," Cutlass says to Ossie before entering the wards. "Not in you specifically, but the whole situation. I'm surprised how easily he took nearly half of my crew. WHAT happened?"


"If this was the mayor's place, he could've probably afforded it. That or some pretty strong magic to pull it up from wherever it's coming from."


"Ah, right. I suppose that would make more sense."


"Woah. Nice and big. If it didn't have all those ghost stories, and it was underwater, I might've tried to move in here."


"It's called Recruitment Drive," Ossie begins. "A Psi-type Ability, according to Make Believe's analysis. "It sounds like if Shiro goes up to anyone and introduces himself, learns their name and shakes their hoof or hand, he can get them to agree to basically any one request he makes, so long as he could phrase it in a single sentence. Similar to and yet distinct from Little Miss Sunshine's Consumer Copy, and from Make Believe's Sticker Star. Theirs would be classified as Attacks, while Shiro's would be considered a Trap.

"Shiro can also transmit a one-time-use form of Recruitment Drive to his allies. Each of the Beastmen was able to use Recruitment Drive once, but once they used it, they had to go back to Shiro to 'recharge' it."

She looks ashamed when you castigate those who fell for Recruitment Drive. "I'm… sorry. I would have thought our mental training as assassins would make me, Droplet and Sparkler harder to win over, but it seems that we still have a long ways to go in terms of Aura. It's strange feeling like a novice again."

As you enter the medical ward, you pass by those pirates still bedbound. Morale is low among them. Except, of course, for Make Believe, who's somewhere in the middle of the room. He's laughing and reading newspaper comics while laying in a torso cast. Sparkler sits nearby, trying and failing to spoon-feed him applesauce. She's visibly annoyed with his constant laughs.

Splendid hands you the paper, now that the manor is looming overhead. "H-here, hold onto it until we get a free moment. By the looks of this house, we may want to keep every eye open that we can. Can't afford distractions."

"…It's complicated," Hmm says, scratching her arm awkwardly. "It's not always easy to answer these things."

After Cloud knocks on the manor's heavy mahogany front doors, there is a long pause, during which you can feel the eyes of the two lion statues that flank the doors boring into you.

The pause continues.

Just when it seems that nobody's home, you hear the lock turn, and the doors open slowly. At the front door stands a middle-aged mare, not especially beautiful, but with a sturdy presence that makes you stand up straighter just from being in it. She has long black hair that is woven together on her chest, a white blouse, and a dark tan leather skirt that is patterned with blue and gold tiles, shaped like a bird's eye view of a pyramid. She has a number of bangles and trinkets and earrings, and her skin is a lighter tan than her skirt.

She simply stares at you. None of your allies dare to speak a word. The mare raises an eyebrow.


Cerulean looks at the mystery mare, then gives a smile and wave.
"Hi there! Sorry if we're disturbing you, but we heard all kinds of things about this manor, and we were kinda curious about it all. Sorry if that sounds weird. We're kinda not from around here, ya know?" She gives a sheepish laugh and rubs the back of her head.


Nothing about the manor, either in the garden or in the building itself, seems particularly magical or unseemly to you. It's only when the mare opens the door that you can detect a spike in magical energy. There is no doubt that she is a powerful spellcaster.



Cutlass nods when Ossie finishes her explanation. "Well, I'm… happy to have you back," she says awkwardly. "It's hard for me to admit it. But, I panicked when I heard my crew was abandoning me. When I heard that the ones who stole you were using MY old ship, my panic turned into rage. I thought I knew who was responsible, and it would have been JUST like him to steal another crew from me."

"Well, I see the hero of the hour is feeling a little better," Cutlass comments as she walks up to Make Believe's bed. She is unable to hide the amused smile on her face.

"Not that you don't deserve a good laugh, but you DO need to eat to regain your strength. So, do yourself AND Sparkler a favor and save the reading until after you're done eating, hmm?"

"On that note," Cutlass turns to Sparkler. "Why in Equestria are YOU feeding him? We couldn't find someone… less important to handle this?"


She's isn't too impressed by the witch's appearance, eyeballing her right back, silently acknowledging her magical prowess. The two have a bit of a staring contest until one of the others pipes up.



Roll #1 7 = 7



Roll #1 2 = 2


"Am I being too specific?"
Cloud asks, then starts to catch on, or as much as he believes.
"Alright, I'll lay up on the questions, unless I really need something."
He says.
"Have you always been doing this?"

Cloud waits at the door after knocking.
"…Huh, guess no one's home."
He says, before the door finally opens almost like a a haunted house building up drama. He stares at the mare the opens the doors for a second.
"Hey. We're passing by the neighborhood here and wanted to stop by and say hi."
He says, in a half casual, half joking kind of manner.


"With an introduction like that, sounds like he's someone who needs to go on my list," Ossie says. "Who is it?"

Make Believe shrugs, then winces from the pain. Sparkler looks like she wants to stab him with the spoon. He sets down the newspaper and lets her feed him. Yes, Captain.

Sparkler gestures about the ward, and you can see that all of the affected crewmates have been patched up. Some are more bandaged than others, and some are hooked to IVs full of shadowy liquid. "Godot and I have already taken care of the others. It's this one who remains a stubborn patient, so I need to stay and give him more attention."

"She probably feels just as guilty as me and Drop–" Ossie begins, but Sparkler flicks some applesauce into her face, which shuts her up.

"For as long as I can remember, rawk!"

The mare is on the verge of shutting the door again until Cerulean speaks. She eyes you up and down, her gaze making each person it falls on feel very stiff.
>Cerulean notes that the mare's gaze lingers upon her and Thessaly for a long while. Conversely, the mare goes out of her way to not even look in Chiu's general direction. Cerulean notes also that the mare takes a step back from the door.
"You're not with that drunkard cat, are you?" she asks.
"…Wh-who?" Paraiba asks.
The mare glares at her for a moment. "…No, you don't have his air."
She then looks over you again with that scrutinizing steel gaze. "Give me your names. Real names, please. And then your business. Real business, please. When was the last time someone was 'just in the neighborhood' in this part of town? I mean, look around you."


"No? I mean, I know a few people who can really drink, but I don't think they're with us right now, and none of them are cats."

As the mare's gaze lingers on her, Cerulean meets it back with a curious head tilt.
"Okay, well my name is Cerulean. And I'm here to help my buddy with some kind of job. That, and I was super curious about this…uhh…la brujita thing everyone seems on edge about."


Alder takes the paper and chirps nervously, before tucking it away for later.

"A-Ah, right. My name is Alder, of Tribe Frostclaw. A-Apologies for the silence. I believe we were here for a couple of tjings, actually- Kalphites, and some odd rumors."


"Direct and the the point, eh? Alright, my name is Cloud. We came out to this town to check on those kalphites and all the magic stuff going on. When they filled us in, we decided to stop by the manor here first to see for ourselves. I'm feeling like they might've blown things out of proportion. Or, judging by your house here, blaming the outsider. Am I right?"


"Thessaly," says Thessaly. "We were sent by a benefactor to investigate certain magical occurrences around this place. The locals appear to be blaming you for it all."



"They call him Shanty Pete," Cutlass explains to Ossie as she telekinetically removes the applesauce from her face. "I call him Shifty Pete. Because he's a shifty bastard."

"Let's just say he and I have a… history. He's backstabbed me more than once. He's a devious pegasus scumbag who is constantly finding ways to undermine and use everyone around him. He considers himself the life of the party, but he party usually gets violent when he's around. If he's working for the Crimson King, you can be sure it's with the intention of betraying his way up the ranks."

"I didn't think he'd be dumb enough to go for such a big name, dangerous target. But, ol' Shifty Pete always WAS more greedy than he was clever. And, he IS very clever."

Cutlass looks around the ward as she speaks. Her gaze lingers on the IVs. "I've been meaning to ask this for a while now. What in Equestria is this?" she asks, jostling an IV with her hoof.


"He's going on the List, then," Ossie says. "Though if he's got the chutzpah to do that to the Crimson King, the King may take care of him himself."
I doubt it, Make Believe says. Guys like that have a devil's own luck.
"Do you not know what an IV is!?" Sparkler exclaims. "What backwards island are you from where medical technology hasn't even approached that point!?"
"I think she means the substance inside?" Ossie suggests, but Sparkler ignores her, preferring her own interpretation.

After a moment, the mare laughs. At least, you think she does. It comes out as a sort of stiff exhaling from her nose. "If they're still calling me la brujita, I clearly haven't lost even a little of my world-famous charm. And if you're all foolish enough to share your True Names with a Witch you've heard so many bad things about, you're trusting souls."

She steps back from the front doors, gesturing for you to follow her. This central first room of the house is almost like a reception area, with a coffee table flanked by chairs on either side of the doors. The room is large and oddly symmetrical, you notice. Seemingly identical bookshelves lie near the chairs. On the back end of the room is a set of stairs, which leads to a plateau. Two more sets of stairs split off from that plateau, zig-zagging up to the second level, which is a hall that has a door on either end.

The mare sits in a chair on the eastern side of the room. After a moment's deliberation, she uses her telekinesis to pull chairs from the western side so you can all sit. "My name is Mallea de Valle. As for these magical occurrences you're talking about, I'm well aware of them. I… am in the process of… shall we say, quelling them. A bit of a lingering effect. A holdover from certain experiments involving Communication magic that took place a while ago."

"You mentioned a drunkard cat?" Chiu hazards.
Mallea doesn't even look in her direction. It's far more obvious now that you are in the house.
"…You mentioned…" Paraiba begins, but Mallea cuts her off with a stare.
"Yes. If the townsfolk have told you about me, then they've also told you about that exorcist. He wanted to 'help' me take care of the anomalies. If I told him once, I've told him a thousand times… I've got it under control."


She gives the witch a slightly irritated look. "Well, it is not proper to pass judgment on someone until you hear both sides of the story, is it. We only know of you what the simple townsfolk have said, and we aren't here to pick fights. There's no reason not to trust one another yet."

She observes the room with slight curiosity, finding it perfectly adequate.

"I think we would both rather not get the Virtues involved," she brings up. "I believe we - or I, at least - would be able to help more in this matter." She takes a seat. "We have less bias towards ignorance, I would wager."


"T-True names? A-Ah, I suppose I have made a mistake." the griffon says, rubbing at his neck nervously. He follows her and the others inside the manor, trying to remain as watchful as possible as Mallea explains herself.

"What do you mean by Communication Magic? What would you be talking to to cause such issues? If, e-ehm… if it is okay to ask."


"I know a few witches already, so I figured they were probably jumping the gun."

Cloud follows into the house, looking around the rather nice looking insides, making the manor stand out even more from the rest of the village. As she pulls out chairs, Cloud takes a seat next to Chiu.
"Communication magic? So you're trying to close up portals or something?"

As Mallea ignores Chiu entirely, Cloud gives her a bit of a look.
"Yea I've heard a bit about him too. Guess he wasn't to friendly when you two talked?"



"W-what!?" Cutlass squeaks, taken off guard. "Do I NOT give off the air of my regal upbringing? Of course I know what an IV is? I'm referring to the bizarre substance you're putting in our crew!"


"Oh, yeah, they told us about an exorcist. Didn't say he was a cat, nor drunk, though." Cerulean sits down in a chair, making sure she's delicate about it as to not possibly break it.
"Though I don't know much about magic. Mostly just hitting things really hard. Oh, and good food!"


Mallea opens her mouth to protest, but then has another look at you and Cerulean. A sigh escapes her mouth, and some of her stiffness slowly seems to crack, breaking away as she reaches up to rub her temples. "…No, you are right. I could certainly use, if nothing else, more pairs of eyes to help me keep watch on certain things while I work. The basement… we never really got around to affixing lights down there. And with Palafox gone, I… find some rooms hard to enter."
"Palafox was the mayor, then?" Paraiba asks.
Mallea nods.

"I'm Splendid!" Splendid adds, noting Alder's nervousness about tossing in your True Name.
"My name's Paraiba."
"Hi, I'm Zerk."
"…And I'm Chiu," Chiu finally chimes in. By now she has clearly realized that Mallea won't look at her. She shrinks a little into her seat.
Mallea simply nods.

"The cat I mentioned – Obstinance – is a member of the Militant branch of the Virtues. The Militants are renowned as witch-hunters, demonologists, curse-breakers and exorcists of the highest caliber, and for good reason – they get results. Surprisingly, they have many fans and clients among pirates, because while they have no tolerance for crime, they sell lots of charms and talismans that demonstrably ward off misfortune and evil spirits. The prevalence of curses in pirate lore and pirate life makes most pirates jump at their shadows, throw salt over their shoulder, mutter names of saints every time they go to bed… you get the picture.

"Though, what isn't talked about much is HOW the Virtues-Militant get their results," Mallea continues. "In short, overkill is the only way they know how to operate. They resort to methods that they will later pay good money for the newspapers to omit from their reports. The last time Obstinance of the Virtues-Militant was called to exorcise a house possessed by a demon… he sanctified the house, then burned it and everything else within three blocks to the ground. He had to make sure there was no cross-contamination, or so he said.

"Suffice it to say, I have no desire for his 'help.'"

A chill passes through your allies as they hear all of this. Chiu raises her hoof with a frown. Mallea doesn't react.

Sparkler clearly gets frustrated and flustered. "Y-you did that on purpose! That's just medicine I wrung out from my shadow when I was feeling happy one day!" she says as if that's a normal sentence.

Ossie just chuckles and signs Make-Believe's cast with loopy cursive. She then hands you the pen.


>prior to Mallea's speech about Obstinance and the Virtues-Militant

"The School of Communication broadly refers to magics that endeavor to connect one thing to another," Mallea explains. "You might have encountered the popular Caller Conch in your travels. They are a natural form of audible Communication magic that anyone can use. What my husb– what Palafox and I were researching were methods of making Communication magic more precise, faster and more accessible. He primarily wanted to use it to boost the town's economy, as many of our citizens are poor and uneducated, owing to our remoteness from any of the major trading hubs on Agyl. If his experiments had proved successful, we could have boosted trade immensely with safe, reliable teleportation hubs. Currently, teleportation and other forms of magic that move something from one point to another are very difficult to rely on and often go haywire. Inter-island teleportation is completely out of the question at this point in magic's development."


"Wow, they seem like terrible ponies to hire, even if they work."
Cloud comments as she describes their overkill.
"And you don't want to lose everything you have, or worse. So how can we help?"
Cloud offers.

When Mallea ignores Chiu's hoof, Cloud takes offense at this repetition.
"Hey, what's your problem? How come you keep ignoring Chiu?"
Cloud says with an annoyed tone, glaring over at her.



Cutlass stares at Sparkler for a while with a confused expression on her face. "Your powers confused me, and I'm just going to accept that and move on," she says conclusively.

"Thank you," she then says to Ossie as she telekinetically takes the pen and signs Make Believe's cast.

"You were the star of the show," she says what she is writing out, actually drawing a star instead of writing the word. "Captain Cutlass."


"Wow…and I thought I was rough on stuff. That guy makes me feel like a guppy if he goes after three more blocks."

"But this Obstinance guy is planning t do something, right? I mean, I'm betting its not good…and also getting a slight suspicion we're gonna have to knock a tooth or two out of him so he doesn't. That, or I might just be hungry again."



*"Captain 'Red Dress' Cutlass" is how she signs it.


She frowns, both at her account of the Virtues Militant and at her treatment of Chiu. "Well, we are not the Virtues," she answers calmly. "Quite the opposite. I think you and I have aught in common, Miss de Valle. We are here to help you solve your problem, for your sake and that of the town.

"Though, that includes all of us. I can't help but notice you are neglecting my friend Chiu." It's a statement, not a question. She lets it linger as she waits for an explanation for her rudeness towards her in particular.


"Ah. That does sound very useful, actually. This Caller Conch is one of the more fantastic items I have seen… so, that is what should have happened. I suppose that the current problems are a side effect of it, ehm… failing?"


Make Believe winces as you sign it, but bites his lip and motions for you to finish the signature. He smiles as he looks down at it, then at you. Thanks! Next time you get broken, I'll sign yours too!
Sparkler just rolls her eyes and gets back to force-feeding him applesauce. "If it hurts then you shouldn't have let her do it. We need you at your strongest."
You know, the Captain had a point. Why ARE you doting on me?
"W-we just need a good Aura tutor! Don't read too far into it!"
From the cot on the floor nearby, Droplet laughs.
>Timeskip to Xallan available

"Not necessarily, if we can solve this quickly," Mallea explains. "The last time he and I spoke, I bargained, weaseled and coerced until I wore him down. He agreed to stay in his tent, outside of town, until the end of the agreed period. As of now, I have three full days of this freedom from him."
"Then what, once those three days run out?" Zerk asks.
"I'll annoy and haggle and dicker until I piss him off and get him to give me more time," Mallea says. "But it is a mute point. With a little help, I should not need so much as one day."

"Correct," Mallea answers. "I won't bore you with the details, but an experiment in teleportation as it relates to magical wards was the cause. We were testing the limits of the known warding spells and their efficacy in keeping out teleportation spells. Experiments were progressing smoothly for a time, until… well, as far as I can tell, we ended up stumbling on a ward that we had no idea was even around. In the process, we… ended up breaking it and releasing pent-up magic that said ward was holding in place. Magic goes bad after a while, you know. If it's not renewed, or dispelled, it's like keeping meat well past any respectable expiration date. It's just a matter of locating the nexus of each bad spell and getting rid of it."
>Alder roll perception (social), master thief applies

Mallea's mouth opens in surprise at Cloud's reaction, then she shuts it with a scowl. "…What was I thinking? Of course someone like *you* wouldn't be able to see it."
"S-see what?" Chiu asks, her annoyance giving way to confusion and the beginnings of nervousness.
"Nor would you be able to either," Mallea scoffs with vindication. She then turns to Cerulean and Thessaly. "But you two are different. Look at it. Look at it with your real eyes, that is, my would-be exorcists."
>Cerulean and Thessaly roll spiritual perception


She is starting to get more than a little annoyed with Mallea's attitude, but plays along for now, probing with her magical senses to try and glean whatever it is she's trying to get at.

Roll #1 4 = 4


Cerulean can't help but laugh a bit at Mallea's tactics of dealing with the cat.
"Well, all the better if it means I get to keep my teeth clean and tail unbruised."

Cerulean tilts her head a bit about the 'different' bit mentioned, then raises a brow as she thinks of an answer.
"Is it because of Aura stuff?"


Roll #1 5 = 5



Roll #1 1 = 1


>Master Thief [1d10+1]
"I… see. That is unfortunate, to say the least. I would not know much of magic- I have little exposure to it."

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3



Roll #1 7 = 7


"You were testing around on wards already here? Is that why you have this extravagant manor out here in the middle of the desert?"

Cloud scowls back as Mallea comments on him and Chiu.
"Now what is that supposed to mean? I might not be a witch but you're not going to keep something secret from me, especially if it involves Chiu if that's why you won't acknowledge her."
He says, further irritated.



Cutlass smiles and gestures for Ossie to follow her out of the ward. When they are alone in the hallway, Cutlass looks to Ossie while walking.

"It's my bad for telling you not to be in my shadow unless I've told you to be. But, if this incident has taught me anything, it's that we should be ready any time we aren't on the ship. So, as of now, I'm saying that if we aren't on the ship, you should be my shadow. Unless I have something else for you to do, obviously."

"Is that alright with you?" she asks, though the question of it sounded more awkward than the rest of what she said.



A terrible cold shoots all throughout your body as you can suddenly behold the demonic presence sitting atop Chiu's back. Some incomprehensible combination of many beasts, it is easily ten times her height and seven times her width and length.

Its body is massive, covered all along the outside with great, dark feathers, so brittle and hard and jagged that they resemble broken swords or even dragon-scales, pointing outward like spear-tips poking through a shield wall. They surround Chiu almost entirely, as the monster is so wide and long that it dwarfs her. However, all around her chest and stomach is very fine, small down feathers, almost like the feathers of a newborn hatchling, and pure white. They completely cover her below and on the sides, and seem most concentrated just behind her stomach.

Next are the dreadful hands as big as a pony, the claws segmented like millipedes, each with twelve talons apiece. There are six legs upon the monster, and most are perched upon her back. Its forehands are held aloft, poised to grab at anything nearby, while the pair below are coiled around her on the sides. Their posture does not strike you as possessive, but protective, positioned to intercept anything that might get too close. Like the downy feathers, they are concentrated just behind her stomach.

The demon's neck is long and coiled in many loops like a serpent lying in wait, coated in black feathers all around and with a dragon's frills along the back. The neck culminates in a massive head, the likes of which you have never beheld elsewhere, an abominable combination of bird, dragon and pony. Along its back is a beautiful mane, black and red-orange like a flame spewing smoke and ash. Part of it is tied in a bun, but many hairs spill out along the sides and below the bun. Many hairs are frayed and stick out oddly, as if to show some kind of intense stress or anxiety. Two curved unicorn's horns stick out from the forehead, one above the other.

The eyes are grotesque; the sclera extend from the front of the face along the sides and nearly to the back of the head, and fifteen irises exist in each eye. Twelve irises dart about along the sides, never resting, with the fraught anxiety of a prey animal. Three irises lay in the front, focused dead ahead at Mallea de Valle with the unblinking focus of a predator.

Below that is a tremendous scaled beak, long and sharp. It hangs open, and within, you see a hundred jagged mandibles lining the walls of the throat, like in the mouth of a leatherback turtle. From within the throat seeps a nauseatingly sweet aroma – like ripe fruit, or a blooming flower, or medicine laced with honey and sugar. Within the darkness of the mouth, two pairs of glimmering lights can be seen, thin and slit-like like dragon's eyes. The lights worm about in the darkness.

Finally, it has three thick tails, covered in its swordlike black feathers. Each of the tails ends with a dark bulbous protrusion, with a long, thin, hollow needle sticking out of it. Just looking at it gives you a feeling like an insect skittering down your spine.

The demon's face is but an inch away from Mallea's, and a low, vile growl emanates from within. Thessaly notices the Liber Animarum beginning to stir from within her bag.

Mallea turns to face you. "…Now do you understand?"



Something about all of what she just said doesn't exactly sit right with you. It's a familiar feeling… but you can't quite place it.
>Roll again if you want.

"We didn't know that ward was there when we made our experiments. We had intended to test on wards that we could cast, so that we could control variables such as the strength and size of the ward. Discovering that old ward was like tripping on a stone hidden in tall grass."

Mallea holds perfectly still as she looks at Cerulean and Thessaly. "…If you can stand to be in 'its' presence, then you just may be the people I need to help me. It would be best, however, if you could come back during the night. For reasons I don't fully understand, only at night can I find the nexuses of each bad spell. My searches during the day have resulted in almost no results."
"…Wh-what's going on?" Splendid asks, awkwardly staring between Mallea and the increasingly nervous Chiu.

Ossie cracks her very long neck. It takes a good while to get every vertebra. "I was hoping you'd say that. I don't want to have to figure out succession rules if someone or something were to take you out on the journey, Captain. I… still need to settle on an Ability, if I can make a confession."


"An accident then. Do you know what the ward was for?"

"Yea, what's going on here?"
Cloud parrots Splendid's question. Seeing Chiu growing nervous, Cloud puts a hoof around her to help comfort her.
"Should've just gone to those kalphites first."



Cutlass winces a little bit at all the vertebra cracking. But, she smiles at the opportunity to come up with more Aura powers.

"Well, I hardly think I can pick for you, but imagining new powers IS rather fun. And, I DO have to say that we make a rather good team if I say so myself. Y-you do agree don't you?" she asks less confidently.

"R-regardless," she moves on before Ossie can answer. "I would say it is fitting that we come up with a power for you together. There's the six types of Aura… though I can't remember all six. Which of the ones speaks to you the most?"



She manages to tear her eyes away from it after a while, and gives Mallea a little nod. Frozen with shock for a moment, she takes several deep breaths to compose herself, too shaken to say much of anything.

"…If you'll excuse me for a moment. I need to see to something. I'll be back shortly." She politely stands and exits the house, sitting under a nearby tree and paging through the Liber Animarum once she's out of sight, hoping to find something that'll help shed light on what she just saw.


Cerulean makes it painfully obvious she is looking at this weird creature thing, and scratches her head at the sight of it. Her face had an odd mix of visible fear and confusion, so she looks back to Mallea for possible guidance.
"Not really, no, I don't understand. Uhh…do we just ignore the big thing that looks like it crawled out of a really deep and black trench or what? Cause he looks like me when I haven't eaten in a week."


>[1d10+1] Master Thief

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5


"Of course, take your time." he says, looking back to Mallea.

Alder looks between the Witch and Cerulean and Thessaly, and frowns a little bit. "Should… we all come back tonight, or just the two of them?"


"I'd say the evidence has all been in favor of us!" Ossie says. "Even if it's just been one island and a few months at sea, we seem to fight well together."

She leans against the hallway and ponders your question. "Dyn, Themel, Maso, Psi, Kamer, Amnis… to be honest, even having six potential ways to go down has left me a little stuck. It's the problem of freedom, I think. Over the last couple days, I listened to Make Believe and Godot talk Aura. Setting even so much as a single hoof down practicing any of the Six Paths causes your Aura to irrevocably become entrenched in that Path. It's not something you can walk back, like a wrong answer on a test. If you commit, you commit… but it's even possible for a novice to basically 'break' his Aura by trying to walk down too many Paths at once. If I had to pick… heck, I don't even want to say it, but Maso and Themel sound the most useful for assassin's work. Then again… I could shoot lightning with Amnis or Dyn. Besides, we have enough Psi-types, don't we?"

You realize that she had the same sort of reticence that Splendid had. You can't tell what she may have been hiding, or why – you just intuit that she was hiding something.

"Stay calm and listen, all of you: Chiu has some kind of demon with her," Mallea announces bluntly for the benefit of those who cannot see. "From what I can tell, it means no harm to her, nor to any of you. If you have been unaware until now, there is good reason to believe that it is on your side… at least for now, so long as you do nothing to earn its anger."
Chiu just blinks in confusion for a solid minute.
"However, the fact that you can withstand being in the presence of a demon, even a demon's cloaked presence, means you are suitable to this task," Mallea says. "An ordinary mortal cannot maintain composure in the presence of a demon, even when the demon goes out of their way to hide. You obviously possess a strong enough will to remain standing, even ignorant of its very presence. In fact, perhaps you may learn a little more about that demon as you help me. I'll certainly volunteer what knowledge I may possess on demonology."
Cerulean can see the demon's neck recede from Mallea's face. It still eyes her suspiciously, but keeps its distance. It bends down and begins to preen Chiu's mane.
"I-is she telling the truth?" Splendid asks Cerulean.

You flip to about the middle of the Liber Animarum, where a blank page glows. The page's glowing fades as you flip to it, but then it begins glowing again, this time in the form of writing:

The Wetnurse:
A demon in the service of a forgotten mother goddess, whose face, name and worship were all lost when her patron subjects' island died, sinking into the ocean. Gods may wane when they are forgotten, but they have a very hard time dying. So long as even one person, even a non-believer, beholds their image, they can reach out and touch Mundus, the World of the Mortals. A god who forms a Covenant with a mortal may sometimes send a demon to that mortal's aid, and the Wetnurse is but one of these patron demons. Like her patron goddess, the Wetnurse has been largely forgotten. However, she seems to be a guardian figure, violently protecting her chosen charge so long as the right conditions are fulfilled. The primary condition seems to be that the chosen charge cannot endanger herself.

For obvious reasons, the Wetnurse only protects females.


Cloud's face drops a bit, holding Chiu tighter as he hears there's a demon with her.
"She has a demon? When cold this have happened? What is it doing right now?"
Cloud rattles off, now his turn to be worried and nervous.


She frowns, wondering how long Chiu's had this following her around. She keeps reading, hoping she can find some hint of how to be rid of it.
[1d10] if needed

Roll #1 7 = 7



Cerulean watches the demon as Splendid and Cloud express their concerns. She can't help but give a slight 'aww' as she watches it fix up Chiu's mane.
"Oh, no worries. Its just fixing Chiu's mane up a bit."

As Mallea offers her insight, Cerulean gives a slight laugh.
"Thanks, but I don't think I'd really understand it all. Thess might, though, so she might like to hear. Me? I'm not too good with all that whoodoo magic mumbo jumbo." Roger floats out just in time for Cerulean to smile more and give him head pats.
"I mean, its sorta reminding me of me a bit. Big, scary, and could probably rip everyone into filets if it wants to. But its actually really nice and just wants to help out instead of eat everyone." She gives a nervous giggle.
"At least, I hope thats how I am."



Cutlass blinks when Ossie lists off the names. "You remembered their… technical names. Can you even call them technical? Who came up with these names, anyway?" Cutlass shakes her head.

But, when Ossie mentions Maso, she smiles. "Ah, I DO know that one. Soul powers… Now, THAT is one of my favorites. It seems we DO belong together! A-as teammates," she adds quickly as if that makes it less committal somehow.

"Well on the subject of Maso and killing, I feel now is as good a time as any to bring up how I intend to develop my aura going forward. I feel I've hit the extent of what I can do to manipulate others without outright dominating their minds. And, mental domination feels… less effective in the long run than what I wish to achieve. What I need now is the ability to kill those in my way. And, on that front we seem to have hit a rather noticeable problem: Aura."

"Aura has given people a literally uncountable number of ways to survive what should be fatal. This frustrates me. It insults me. I wish to remove this problem. To that end, I intend to use Maso to empower my knives. My attacks will not cut the body. Rather, they will cut the soul. What I intend to achieve is an aura power that, as long as my knives strike something that is their body, was their body, or is produced by their body, I will strike their soul directly. I will rip cut their souls from their body or rip it apart entirely. No aura power can prevent damage done directly to your soul."

"But, it occurs to me… I will be rather alone in this soul-rending endeavor. I imagine it won't be an easy task. I may even lose the ability to actually harm people physically. While that obviously won't be a problem if they die from my attacks anyway, it DOES mean that no one will be able to help me hurt them the way I am. Which could result in my efforts being more or less useless in comparison. But… if I had a helper who hurt them the same way I did…"


Cloud looks at Chiu's mane as Cerulean mention the demon is fixing it, though the rest of what Cerulean says seems to not help reassure him.
"You can see it?"


Cerulean blinks in a confused way.
"Wait…you can't? But you can use aura like me…so……huh?" She continues to blink with a look on her face that she's thinking very hard on what is going on, but is obviously not getting anywhere.


"I… hmm. If that is the case, help would definitely be appreciated. Is it… trying to control her? Does it know that we know?" he asks, flicking his tail around nervously.



Roll #1 3 = 3


"I'm pretty sure I'd notice a demon on her with how much I look at her already!"


"Maybe it is some special quality separate from aura, or in addition to it? Maybe… a different type of aura?"


Cerulean simply shrugs to the both of them, really not sure what to say in response.


Roll #1 6 = 6


"It's sitting on her back, sizing me up. From where we're sitting, it could take off my head at any moment in a variety of ways," Mallea states bluntly, as if desensitized to the idea. "…Or worse. But the fact that it hasn't moved, nor acted against any of you, suggests that it's under control. Perhaps not under Chiu's direct control, but someone's. Demons are notoriously strong-willed and individualistic. For it to sit there and do absolutely nothing to any of us suggests that it is under the command of an even higher figure. Especially considering that it has shown no reaction to Cerulean and Thessaly seeing it, nor to us announcing it."
"B-but I've never messed with demonic stuff at all!" Chiu protests. "Not even my family members who're adventurers ever touched anything like–"
Her eyes widen. "…That goddess statue… from the Lilliput…"
"Let me guess… you found a statue of a goddess and thought it might be humorous to make an offering to it?" Mallea asks.
"N-no, I just thought it'd be respectful is all!" Chiu says.
"Mmm. Regardless, it's as Cerulean said. Chiu – and probably Clod too – must have made a Covenant with this goddess, and so there's a demon with her now. You don't seem to be in any danger, but if Obstinance, or any of the other Virtues get wind of this, you're in trouble. Or perhaps you might not, if you want to get rid of this demon."

Mallea stands. "As I said, if you still wish to help me, it would be best to do it around nightfall, when the magic anomalies are most easy to detect. You may stay here for a time if you wish. I'll answer what questions you have and help you in turn in whatever ways I can."

It seems that it can be dispelled through standard exorcist measures, such as salt, holy symbols, the various traditional exorcist rites or through the use of a Homunculus, though the book cautions that doing so may invoke greater wrath, both upon the exorcist and the female the Wetnurse was protecting, or against her child. It can also be dispelled if the female intentionally endangers herself or her child enough times. The Wetnurse offers extreme levels of protection against any number of physical dangers (violence from attackers, accidental injuries such as falls, rotten food or drink) and many supernatural ones (demonic attacks, malevolent magic and curses) but only does so so long as the female makes an effort to stay out of harm's way herself.

All this talk of demons triggers a memory to flash in your mind, of your time on Windy Island, and your encounter with Stone Cold Classic, the dickass genie in service of the Crimson King, who had made himself into a psuedo-god for the Gustie Tribe. You recall the wishes he granted the party, and the wish that you made: a wish for strength. SCC promised that he'd give you the strength of a demon… perhaps your heightened spiritual senses are just one part of that.

Then, on top of that, you remember the demonic lantern you scavenged off the Lilliput. It's possible that having that demon in your possession is what's allowing you to see this demon on Chiu's back.


Ossie just shrugs. "Not even Make Believe seemed to know. Everyone just sorts of rolls with it. It's like asking who came up with a particularly common bit of slang. Or like asking who invented profanity."

She then laughs at your gaffe. "Partners for life. Life partners, if you would."

After listening all throughout your long request, Ossie remains silent, knocking her horns on the hallway's ceiling thoughtfully. "You want us to make the same power, then? I… don't know if I can live up to that request, Captain. J-just try to remember what you're asking me. I'm still a total novice in Aura. Don't you think I might overextend myself by making such a ridiculously strong power? What I'm thinking might happen is that my lack of skill will cause my Ability to come up far shorter of expectations. Maybe if I gain the ability to hurt a soul, I'm only half as effective at it as I am at hurting the body. Not to mention everything else that might go wrong… what if I'm just not naturally suited to it, anyway? There's huge freedom in Aura, but we're still people after all, not blank slates. We have certain strengths and weaknesses and inclinations we can't overcome."


"The statue?"
Cloud repeats in disbelief.
"Hey, we didn't think it was humorous! We were told it's a protective statue so we treated it nice unlike the sunken ship it came from!"
He defends, taking Mallea's words a bit offensively.
"And now you're saying she has a demon stuck on her now? …And it's Cloud!"


Cerulean eventually remembers the genie, still kicking herself for wishing for such a silly thing. Though, seems like it might actually be helpful this time around, so maybe it was just a late bloomer of a wish she figures.
"Oh…right, there was that genie. And that hungry lantern."

"Well, since you know a lot about demons, could you tell me about the one in here?" She takes out the lantern to show Mallea.
"I've kinda been keeping it around cause he seems super hungry like me, and he doesn't mind taking bites out of baddies like me, so…yeah, kinda like a food buddy."


She's read enough for now. She closes the book, takes a deep breath and steps back into the house.

Thessaly walks back into the room holding the black book, secretly gauging to see of Mallea has any reaction to seeing it. [1d10]

"If we are to rid ourselves of this… thing," she announces, "it seems there are two ways to go about it. One is the traditional method of exorcism, but this may prove bloody. The other is for Chiu to intentionally expose herself to harm, until the Wetnurse tires of trying to protect her and leaves. Neither is ideal, to say the least."

She does a bit of a double take hearing that Cerulean is carrying a demon around as well. "Perhaps I could help there," she suggests, tapping the black book.

Roll #1 2 = 2


Cloud turns as Thessaly returns and speaks about removing it.
"This thing is supposed to be protecting her? Where was it when she slipped off the ledge before?!"
He says, before pausing in confusion.
"…Wetnurse? Is… Is that really its name?"


Cerulean looks at what she's tapping, then gets a nervous smile.
"As long as you read the book to me. I'm still sorta kinda learning to do that now that there are those things without soggy paper and runny ink."


"Ah… so, perhaps someone is watching us through it? that is an unsettling thought, to say the least. Could we be rid of it before we run into a Virtue? They sound difficult to deal with…"



"Not the same power, to be sure. It would be a waste to not cater it to yourself."

"Though, as you spoke, you made me think. Maybe it's not a good idea to give you the power to hurt souls. While it would help me kill faster, if it hampered your ability to hurt people physically, it might make it harder for you to defend both of us."

"Hmmm…" Cutlass puts her hoof to her chin in thought. "I guess I have three ideas. Some attack that you could use when the foe is unsuspecting, some power that would allow you to push everyone away from us, or some power you could use to empower me."


"According to the book it is," she shrugs.

She is a bit taken aback by her request, but merely nods. "Very well. …Though, do not expect a glass of milk or to be tucked into bed," she adds with a wry smirk.


"Think about it like this, if you found it was protective: Has Chiu been protected from things that would harm her lately?" Mallea asks.
Chiu thinks about it for a moment. "When I fell off the canyon's walls, Cerulean broke my fall… and when those buzzards knocked the rocks out from above, Cerulean and Cloud shielded me. You're saying that was the demon's influence? But they both did that, not the demon!"
Mallea shrugs. "I'm not going to sit here and analyze everything nor take credit away from these two. All I'm saying is that gods reward their worshipers. It would do you good to continue serving that goddess and doing nothing that would get on the goddess' bad side. Find out what this demon and goddess like and don't like. Do what they like and avoid what they don't. It's as simple as that."
"…Say, why is it only protecting Chiu?" Splendid asks. "Didn't you say you made an offering too, Cloud?"
"He did, but the demon is only on Chiu," Paraiba adds.
"…Oh come on, I'm sure you can piece it together," Mallea says.

"I don't want to do either of those things…" Chiu says. "C-can we just forget about it for now? I don't like to think about having a demon on my back, when we already have a lot of things to occupy us. We still need to take out the kalphites and clean up Mallea's magical experiments."
Mallea's eyes widen briefly upon seeing the black book, offering Thessaly a small smirk. In a rare moment when she doesn't simply look grouchy, she looks impressed.

When you take out the lantern-flail, you notice a faint white-blue line, like a thin string of fire, wrapping around from the lantern's perpetually-burning flame and up your arm to your chest, where it fades. Mallea examines it. "Oh, yes. This one is a lesser demon – a Devil, to be precise. I've seen some like this before. Pitiful things. Captured en-mass an used to enchant weapons with their souls. Its name is Taste, a lesser incarnation of desire. Perhaps if you feed it, it may bequeath upon you some reward. Sorry if I'm being vague – this one is so starved that it barely has any remnant of power."

Ossie takes a seat on the ship's floor, drumming her forehooves thoughtfully. "Run your prototypes by me. I can already tell you're a lot better than me at coming up with creative powers. I'd probably make something hamfisted if it were left up to me. Like lightning…"

She shudders upon saying 'lightning' like it's a bad memory.


She can't help but laugh a bit.
"Maybe next time when we don't have a drunk cat arsonist and who-knows-how-old spoiled magic stuff threatening things I'll ask."

Cerulean can't help but give a slight gasp.
"Oh gosh, I'm so sorry. I forgot to share some food from that bar with you! I'm a terrible foodie friend." She gives the lantern some apologetic pats.

Cerulean's mind is, on a surface level, focused on feeling sorry for her lantern buddy. Deep down, she's thinking about a huge fish on the grill again.


"Those couldn't have been the demon. I'm pretty sure I would know if something moved me to protect her."
Cloud says in thought.
"I don't intend on treating that statue poorly either way. We don't need our ship getting wrecked."

As Splendid and Paraiba comment, Cloud thinks a moment.
"Granny said the statue was a motherly gryphon or something. I guess she only protects girls," He says with a shrug, "Which I'm alright with. Having only one demon seems much easier to deal with than two."

"Yea… Don't worry, we're not going to force you into any danger. Though Alder does raise a point, we'll need to avoid that Virtue for sure now. Thessaly might be able to sneak by, but I doubt this could."



"My stealth attack idea is something like when they aren't expecting your attack, you attack them using some Psi or Maso or some other light refracting power that literally makes it so that they can't perceive that you ARE attacking. Or potentially that you HAVE attacked them at all. Use the power so that the first attack can't be dodged because they don't know they SHOULD be dodging. And, since they don't even feel the damage yet, you could follow it up with more hits."

"My second one is kinda simple. Just some burst of magic or wind or shadows or lightning or something that comes from my shadow while you're in it and makes everyone get blown away from me. Kind of cool, but not really useful… deadly."

"I don't really have a specific idea for my last one. But, since you're in my shadow most of the time, you must have some idea on how you could use Aura to augment whatever I'm doing, right? That way, you're useful, even when you don't have anything to do yet. Not that your presence isn't always useful to me. But, you know… I'm sure there are times in fights when you're feeling like you could be doing more than waiting for someone to get too close to me."

Then, Cutlass laughs. "Okay wait, no. You can't say something like that and get away with it! What's with you and lightning?"


"Ehm…I suppose we can just ignore it, for now. I suppose the, ehm… the realization rattled me a little. Could we possibly help with the experiments? If it needs to be at night, we could deal with these Kalphites, first."

"Hopefully, if we bump into the virtue, we could distract them a little? It would be best to avoid them, of course."


"Are you saying this demon and the goddess it serves are altering our fate to protect Chiu and Cloud?" she asks.

When Chiu speaks up and asks to move on, she nods. "This is secondary to what we came for. This demon is not your cross to bear. How would you have us assist you in removing these anomalies?" As a sign of good faith, she leaves the book on the table, allowing Mallea to examine it if she wishes.

"The book does mention it only protecting women," she confirms. "As long as the right conditions are fulfilled - the main one being that the one protected does not endanger herself - it will continue to serve loyally."


"Hopefully. If he's staying back from the manor for a few days, we could probably take the back door out and avoid him easily."

"Serve loyally… So it won't do anything? Though it would be better to not have it at all…"
Cloud mutters, still not looking all too keen.
"You have a book on this stuff?"


Splendid withdraws some dried and salted fish from her pack offering it to you. "I was going to suggest we see what the locals have, but will this do for now?"
You can faintly hear the lantern growling weakly. It clearly wants to chow down… but so does Roger.

Chiu's pupils shrink into dots. "Y-yeah, I'm sure that's the only reason the goddess is protecting me and not Cloud. Hundred percent. Only possibility."
Cloud, Roll insight/memory (DC 2)

"Yes, there's little point to me keeping you until nightfall, though if you're going to help me, you're welcome to stay for a time," Mallea says. "Though it sounds like you've already got a commitment to the townsfolk with this kalphite problem. It wouldn't do to have them accuse you of leaving them in favor of hanging out with la brujita all day."

"I will require several others to help guide me and make a map or a trail of sorts I can use to find my way back. It's not just outside of the town that these anomalies hit. At night, this manor warps at its boundaries. One room may turn into a hallway. A hallway may give rise to multiple rooms. There have been nights when even a third floor and a second basement level have appeared out of thin air. I've lost my way many times, only to pass out from exhaustion at the night's zenith. Then, when morning rises, I awake back in my empty bedroom."

She pauses, looking wistful for a time. "…Anyone who has expertise in antimagic would be most helpful as well. Though I'm sure that you, with that legendary book of yours, could help call in another bit of assistance."

Flipping open the front cover, she peruses the first few sections.


"Excuse me, but is 'la brujita' a bad term? I have heard you use it, and assumed it was something like 'Witch'. Is it similar? Worse? Better? And, yes- Kalphites."


"Yea see, the goddess protects her own kind."
Cloud says as Chiu agrees on his logic.

Though still bit worried, irritated, and really not having that great of a start to the day, Cloud looks over to Mallea as she explains the stuff she needs for dealing with the anomalies.
"I do have this knife I found the other day, I was told it can cut through magic and stuff."
Cloud says, pulling out his Yearing Knife for Mallea to see.
"I'll have no problem seeing at night either, so if you help out with this demon nonsense I'll put all this to good use."

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Psi, Kamer or Dyn would be the first one… Dyn for the second one… and probably Dyn or Maso for the third one," Ossie says. "Or, I suppose, Amnis for any of them. They're not very clear about Amnis' limits or abilities, that is. And the third and second sound far easier to pick up. Though, there's something to be said for making a complex ability. If I'm not able to push myself and make a complex power, something I have to really think about, I have no right claiming I'm an Aura-user, do I? I need to have the will to be able to do anything with Aura."

She then blinks, her expression falling into unamused flatness. "I've been struck by lightning. Eleven times as a matter of fact."


You can think of one other distinct possibility.


"Oh, wait. Maybe it because you put in the first offering."
Cloud says to Chiu, remembering she was the first one, offering some coins to the statue.
"Though a demon in exchange for that… I thought gryphons loved bits."


You can think of ONE other possibility.



At first, Cutlass's jaw drops with a horrified expression on her face. Then, she lets out a long, unladylike series of laughter. She bends over and starts gasping for air she laughs so hard.

"What!?" she says as the laughter begins to subside. She wheezes between shorts bursts of aftershock laugh. "Eleven times!? How!?"

"I'm sorry, I'm sorry. I'm not laughing at your pain. I'm just laughing at the sheer absurdity of it. Seriously, how!? People talk about getting struck by lightning ONCE being one of the least likely things in the world. ELEVEN TIMES!?"

"I won't lie, I'm most partial to the last one because it helps ME the most. You could - I don't know - help guide me using my shadow so as to make my attacks more accurate. Or make me unable to fall down. Because, I do admit, I tend to lose control in a fight."

"But, that stealth attack option probably IS too cool to pass up. Whichever one feels most… you. Are you the kind of assassin who kills quickly and silently, the kind that makes big explosions, or the kind that supports others?"


As Cloud recalls the statue and the earlier offering, he remembers Granny's exact description of it, and the posed depiction of the goddess herself as well.
He looks over at Chiu at the realization, at a loss for words.


Mallea casts her eyes off to the side. "It matters nothing to me, the slander of ignorance. A Witch cannot have a thin skin on this matter. I do not even believe that my greatest crime in their eyes is my Witchcraft. If you can believe it, some of them even used to come to me for advice and poultices and brews when their folk wisdom and folk herblore failed them. I really only began hearing it after they accused the mayor of infidelity – when the mayor divorced his previous wife and married me."

Splendid winces. Mallea picks up on this, and waves a hoof. "All in the past now. Enough talk of it. Not while the sun's up anyway. You said you were after kalphties. As a token of goodwill, follow me to my study, on the second floor. I'll get you something to aid in your hunt."

"I'm tall!" Ossie protests, not finding it nearly as funny as you are. "I'm tall for my age, and even as far as giraffes go. It got to the point where I trained myself to strike a posture when lightning was around so that it would pass through as quickly as possible without hitting anything vital. Just wait until I'm at my mom's age. I won't be able to fit belowdeck anymore. We'll have to upgrade to a ship the size of The Golden Vein at minimum. And if there's a storm, forget about it."

"Aaaaaaaaaanyway… while I do like your point about what kind of assassin I am, I think I want to diversify my skillset. Really, my modus operandi is what I tried on you back when you were in our prison – deception. Colobok is a scout, Droplet is a charger, and Sparkler is a poisoner. I'm a talker – my style is to get them to spill some kind of vital info without even realizing it. Though that's more of your thing now.

"I'll take your points in mind, though… I do already have a few ideas of what I could do to protect you and build off what I can already do with my shadow techniques. Shadow Bookmark, Shadow Mask and Shadow Piggyback Ride… out of the three, I think the last will lend itself best to this."

Chiu stands up and walks outside without a word.
Splendid and Paraiba are shocked and worried. Neither seems to have made the connection. "Sh-should we follow her? You want girl help?" Paraiba asks.
"Yes, y-you may want a lady's touch here," Splendid adds.




Cutlass blinks. "Okay, you're going to need to explain what those abilities would do," she says in an amused tone. "I'm not going to be a feared pirate if I'm piggybacking in battle."


"Bookmark lets me track a person whose shadow I've touched. No matter where they go or how far they get away from me, I'll always know where they may be. Though, I can only concentrate on a few shadows at any given time. Too many, and my senses would be overloaded. It'd be like having a dozen nagging voices in the back of your head. An Aura Ability that modified that… based on the principle of sympathetic connections, I'd wager I'd be able to strike someone from any distance, even if there were barriers separating us, so long as I registered their shadow using Shadow Bookmark.

"Mask lets me pull a person's fears out of their shadow and wear it as a disguise. It's best for ambushes or interrogations, like when I used it on Puddin' Tame. As for an Aura version of that? The obvious conclusion would be for the disguise to become a true, temporary transformation – letting me add the qualities of whatever they're afraid of to my attacks, probably.

"Finally, there's –" she glares at you for your comment about piggyback rides. "Look, this was the first technique I was taught. I was maybe twelve at the time, so that's how the name came about. Aaaaaanyway… Piggyback Ride is what I use most often, hiding within someone's shadow and attacking freely from any place within the shadow. Almost nothing can hit me while I'm within the shadow. My first idea would be to let me attack from inside the shadow without having to leave the shadow, rendering me effectively untouchable. The second is to become able to move the shadow freely, independent of any and all nearby light sources, increasing my attack radius to a full 360 degrees around my piggybacker. The third would be to let me jump from shadow to shadow. In that case, my Aura would be focused entirely on obviating Piggyback's inherent requirement. Remember: I need someone's permission in order to enter their shadow. If I remove that with Aura, I could jump into an enemy's shadow and attack them from within it."



"Well," Cutlass says with an excited smile. "That last one is obviously the best choice! Being able to enter an enemy's shadow and attack them from a place they literally can't get away from is phenomenal! I also have a thought for future advancement too: mix the enhanced Bookmark idea with the enhanced Piggyback idea! Enable yourself to enter any shadow you've ever touched no matter where that shadow is! Virtual omnipresence!"

"It would also allow you to do other things but still get back to me when I need you. Which I imagine would be nice for your freedom and peace of mind."

"Well, that's all something to think about. I leave all that to you. I have others I need to speak to. Let me know when you've decided."

With that (and any last remarks from Ossie), Cutlass leaves. She goes around for others of note that she's yet to talk to since the incident:

>Puddin (and his slave whose name escapes me)

>Miss Sunshine


Ossie makes a baritone, rumbling grunt – in your time with her, you've noted that it's a sign of her being deep in thought; a giraffe idiosyncrasy. "I'll consult our local experts. Maybe I'll even have to call headquarters on Kaco and get an input from that mantis guy – Manny was his name, right?"

She gives you a salute, then departs as well. After she departs, you realize that most of the people you want to talk to were among the forced recruits. You therefore return to the medical ward. The beds are still as packed as before, but your appearance earlier seems to have brought the mood up, at least a little. The Gates of Justice mooks are making an obvious effort to chat to the newer mooks and raise the morale with talk of treasure, battle and glory.

You find Schnitzel and Plague laying in beds adjacent to one another, while Miss Sunshine sits across from them, sleepily playing with a wooden toy marine. Puddin, being one of the few not to be recruited, is assisting Sparkler by bringing dishes back and forth between the dining hall and the medical ward.



"So, how are my dogs?" Cutlass asks, making an attempt at sounding affectionate, but just coming off as awkward. She is, of course speaking to Plague and Schnitzel. She walks up to the space between the feet of both of their beds.


"Fantastic boss, never been better! I could run a mile 'round the ship right now," Schnitzel declares, flashing you a thumbs-up.
"You know, the lie was like, almost believable with your first sentence," Plague says, somehow covered in trash even after being put into the medical ward. "The second one? Get outta town. Though, we should be up and at 'em in a day or so if we don't do anything stupid. Whattabout you, Cap'n?"



Cutlass stares at Schnitzel with a confused expression, even after Plague calls him out on the lie. "Why lie?" she asks flatly. "Especially about this. You're usually the type to lie to stay in bed LONGER, not the other way around."

Then, Cutlass looks to Plague with a severe expression. She lets out a sigh. "I'm… disappointed. I understand the first few people falling for the trick. But, how did it get so many. I would have thought having TWO VICE CAPTAINS," Cutlass says that part loudly, looking over her shoulder at Miss Sunshine, "would have at least meant that ONE of them would be paying enough attention to the crew to see that something was off. I get we weren't exactly in an alert situation, but you WANTED to be leaders. A part of leading is always being in charge of the ones you're leading."


"I'm a compulsive liar!" Schnitzel admits. "They fly out of my mouth. I don't even know why sometimes. I lie even when I don't stand to gain or even avoid a loss by not lying. It's second nature to me…"

He seems bummed. Several nearby pirates are visibly uncomfortable.

Plague winces, and Little Miss Sunshine becomes more alert as you call them both out. Plague is the first to speak, casting his gaze downward in a rare moment of humility. "…I'm to blame for that. With you gone, I decided to take to the bazaar and get some cash for the barrels we salvaged with the Beesting crew.

"Once we finally managed to get a feel for the tea, sugar and coffee market prices, we got a pretty good haul! I distributed the week's pay to the crew who were nearby and dismissed them for free time in the marketplace. I let them out of my sight… Ever since Kaco, I had it in my mind that danger would only come in big, obvious waves. I didn't think danger would sneak up on us like that. By the time I saw all the Beastmen coming up to talk to our guys, most of them were already heading for the Heartthrob. I ran up to Shiro myself, and he thrust out his hand for a shake. It's such a common gesture that I didn't think twice when I grabbed his hand… then when he asked me to join his crew, it was like he was asking me for the time of day! How could I not say yes? It seemed like such an obviously right thing to do."

"That's Psi manipulation for you," Miss Sunshine chimes in.



"I don't blame you for anything after the hoofshake," Cutlass says, putting up her hoof to cut him off. "And, thank you for all the work you DID do for our crew."

Then, Cutlass grins. "Really, though? All that suspicious behavior and you just shake his hand? Obviously something was going on! It was such a weird thing to do in that situation!"

Cutlass stops herself as she realizes she's raising her voice again. She lets out another long sigh. "Well, I hope lessons have been learned from this. Be more attentive. When things seem off, don't just shake a random person's hand, for starters."

Then, Cutlass eyes Schnitzel, noticing that he seems more alert and lively than the others who were recruited. "Did you even actually get recruited?" she asks him outright, using Aura to compel the truth out of him.

[1d10+1] Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5


"That's probably why Shiro chose a handshake for the catalyst of his Ability," Miss Sunshine chimes in. "Psi-type Abilities that manipulate someone else often need some kind of way to get the target to lower their guard. Brute-forcing your way into someone's mind is almost impossible, but if they give you some ground in their mental space – such as by agreeing to a request, or subconsciously seeing you as a reasonable person via a handshake – then you can walk right in and exert your influence."

Plague nods, folding his hands over his chest with resignation. "…Yes, Cap'n. I'll have a sharp eye out no matter the situation, Cap'n."

"Me? Of course not!" Schnitzel protests.

Yes, he did. It's all over his face. You wouldn't even need Aura to see it, but it's nice to have the proof. You suspect he was just so lazy even as a recruit that he didn't do much once he was on Shiro's crew.



"Right," Cutlass says in response to Miss Sunshine with a nod. "So, let's not give them that mental space. At the very least, not when things already look strange."

Then, she turns to Schnitzel. "What an odd lie…" she mumbles. Then, she continues to stare at him with a pensive expression. "What did you do before getting arrested, Schnitzel? For that matter, what WERE you arrested for?"

[1d10+1] Whisper in your Ear to compel the truth

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3


"Robberies and stuff," Schnitzel says nonchalantly. "It's a chapter of my life I don't like talking about much these days."
"Just robberies!?" Plague exclaims. "For you to get targeted by the Gates of Justice, you had to have been doing more than just robberies. C'mon, you had to have racked up an impressive file for them to come after you."
Schnitzel just shrugs, avoiding your gaze and Plague's.



"You know," Cutlass says, walking up to Schnitzel. She gives him a scratch behind the ear. He's one of the few people on the ship who keeps himself clean enough that she feels comfortable touching him. "We have several Gates of Justice people on this ship. Heck, one of them was assigned as a spy to the same cell as you! You really think no one knows what you did? I WILL find out."

"Now," she says, taking her hoof away to cease the ear scratching. "Wouldn't it be better if I heard it form you rather than from one of them?"

[1d10+1] Whisper in your Ear for truth

Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4


Schnitzel's hind leg starts kicking as you scratch, and when you stop scratching, he gives you a very dirty look. "That's a low frickin' blow. You're the type to steal a guy's cup from his bag before an aikido match and then knee him in the valuables just before the match begins!"
"That's specific. Are you talking from experience…?" Little Miss Sunshine asks.
Schnitzel ignores her. "Contrary to Plague's disbelief, it really was 'just robberies' – though higher profile than anything you have stolen. That's not a boast or a put-down, just fact. Most robbers would go for a bank for direct results, or a museum if they had ties to Black Market merchants. Not me and my crew. We targeted nobles, aristocrats, even royalty, stealing things that couldn't be replicated, couldn't be replaced: Heirlooms, inheritances, crowns, saints' relics, stuff that went back centuries and centuries! I was the face of the group. I always had a knack for bullshit, so my group always had me case joints, get guards talking on donut breaks, or butter up the nobles with petty court gossip in exchange for intel. I'd hear about patrol routes, weak points, blindspots… and then we'd be in and out without so much as a peep. It was a pretty fun life, I gotta say. What did me in was the Salt Licktenstein job."



"I AM a pirate," Cutlass grins at the accusation and shrugs.

At first, Cutlass is happy to have gotten Schnitzel talking. But, as he explains his past, Cutlass's grin fades. "You…" her head tilts to the side. "You know, come to think of it, HAVE I seen you before?" she asks mostly rhetorically.

"Yes, come to think of it, you DID seem familiar to me. I swear I've seen you before at some fund raiser or another when I was a filly. An auction, I believe. Yes, if memory serves, the painting that was sold didn't end up making it to the manner of the family that bought it…"

Then, Cutlass winces. "You know, it's things like that that make other heads of noble houses get more paranoid. And, when they get paranoid, they get… stricter…"

"A-anyway," she changes the subject. "What did you do in Salt Licktenstein? You know, griffons have the eyes of hawks… literally."


Schnitzel studies your face for a little while, then snaps his fingers. "Auction… you must be talking about the Neighport job. You might be surprised to know that that one got a little rough on the exit. Messed up our timing, and the guards finished their shift change right as we were heading for our rowboat. Caught us hauling dark bags from the back of the auction-house to the pier. Got some nasty shiners in the scuffle that followed. Ever since then, I've kept a blackjack handy. Anyway, small world, isn't it? Never thought I'd work for someone I probably stole from as a girl."

"As for Salt Licktenstein, that was just a shitshow all around," he shudders. "We got careless after an easy streak, wasn't as cautious as we should've been. The royal family's palace was far more complex than our crew was able to handle on our own, so I called in a favor and had a dead drop set up in a planter just outside the royal garden. Inside was a map with detailed notes on guard routes, shift times, and so on. What I didn't know was that Schwartzwelt himself intercepted the dead drop, swapping out the map with his own version of it. While the royals threw a ball on the first level, we broke in to the private studies on the third floor, tools in hand… Once our hands were full with glass cutters, lockpicks and bags, they dropped in from the ceiling.

"Some of us managed to escape that first wave, but only because we left behind the other guys. It was me, along with the Eyes, the Legs and the Muscle. We booked it out to our emergency escape route, rounded the corner, and we saw the windows we had left open… and those sons of bitches had already cut the fuckin' ropes. It was the Legs who shoved me into the oncoming assassins. With them distracted, the Muscle knocked down the assassins, and Legs and Eyes leapt out the window. Those guys had done too many things to go back to jail. Never found out if they made it…"

He trails off, growing a little wistful.



"Well, you didn't technically steal from my family. Just from the event we were a part of. Still put my grandfather in an awful mood for weeks… Thanks for that," she say sarcastically.

"Schwartzwelt himself!?" Cutlass lets out an impressed laugh. "You REALLY must have gotten on their bad side to get such a high up guy on you. Well, done, I suppose."

Cutlass turns to Miss Sunshine. "Any of this sound familiar to you? Do you remember your brother talking about a group of master thieves?"


"Heheheh! He may be big now, but it was our capture that got him to his current rank," Schnitzel says. "The Tech, the Face, the Muscle, and the Bang. Rounding up notorious thieves like us were what got him such a nice shiny coat of medals, from what I hear."

Miss Sunshine looks at Schnitzel with a newfound gravity and almost fear. "Only a little. He's very reticent about past jobs, always says that a swelled head will be his downfall. I can only get him to talk when I pester him or steal things from his desk."

"Probably not the only thing that makes him hesitate to talk," Schnitzel says. He starts to roll a cigarette. "He probably wanted to keep you safe and insulated from all the crime he had to deal with, lest you become a target for being close to him."

Puddin', coming back with a tray of pudding cups, snatches the cigarette from Schnitzel. "What'd I say about smoking in the medical ward?" He sticks the cigarette in his mouth and lights it. "You're not gonna recover when you smoke these."

Schnitzel grumbles and mumbles.



"I'm… pretty sure that's not the reason for that rule," Cutlass interjects with a bemused expression.

Then, she looks past Puddin and shouts out to Godot, not actually able to see him anywhere. "Hey, Godot! Are we allowed to smoke in the medical ward!?"


"NO!" Godot shouts from down the hall.

Puddin' takes a long, satisfied drag without a care.

Schnitzel shrugs. "Any MORE questions, Captain? I can assure you this is probably the longest I've gone without lying in a while. I'm starting to itch."



"So put it out," Cutlass says to Puddin before sticking her tongue out at him.

"No more questions for you, Schnitzel. But, I have to say that you're far more interesting and enjoyable company when you're telling the truth," she adds while she gives him one last scratch behind the ear.

"Anyway," Cutlass says as she gets up from Schnitzel's bed. "I've been meaning to apologize to you, Miss Sunshine. I'm sorry we didn't get to see your brother before we headed out. Things became rather… hectic."


Puddin' sneaks in one more drag before putting it out in an empty glass on the tray of dirty dishes he carries, then heads back to the kitchen, grumbling about how strict the rules are around here.

Schnitzel seems satisfied with this last ear-scratch.

Miss Sunshine shrugs. "I've been keeping in touch with him by Conch every now and again, but I try not to interrupt him too often. He's so busy managing the mess we left for him on Kaco that he hardly ever has time to breathe or do anything for himself. At least when I'm calling him, he has to sit down and pay attention, rather than try to micromanage some insurrection among the citizens, or housing projects they need funding for."

Her words inspire some curious grumbling among the nearby Kaco Island recruits.



"It sounds like he's been working hard nonstop for years," Cutlass says with a frown. "Doesn't he ever just… want to stop?"


"If I had to be honest?" Miss Sunshine says with a grimace. "I honestly don't think it occurs to him that stopping is an option. I don't think he could even formulate the want to stop, even if it crossed his mind. He's always been like this, I'd say. He's so dedicated to the job that it really doesn't seem like any other situation in life would be able to satisfy him. He just can't fit into other boxes, the way he is now. If he weren't going hunting down criminals and breaking up crime rings, he'd probably go mad with a loss of purpose."



"Well, I definitely understand wanting to fulfill a purpose," Cutlass nods. "It's why I'm here. But, the kind of 'purposeful' life he lives… it's all too familiar to me. Stifling, restricted. It's the kind of life my grandparents wished for me. There must be a sense of fulfillment, but he just doesn't seem to understand the value of time off… The value of freedom. He doesn't have the luxury of being his own person. Discovering the depth of himself and the world."

"I can't help but feel a tinge of guilt to adding to his work load. He's here because I enabled it. He's where he is because I chose it. It's not ideal, but my alternatives are all worse. Still, he could just… stop. He could just pack up now and abandon the Rib Cage. It would be healthier for him - better for him."

[1d10] auraless persuasion

Roll #1 9 = 9


Miss Sunshine nods along for a while, but something in her expression changes as you suggest he leave. Her eyebrows lower. "…Wasn't your whole deal with him premised on the both of you entering the Ribcage? Why would he leave now after how hard he worked to get *in*? And… why are you telling all this to me? He's the one who needs to hear it."



Cutlass shrugs then laughs. "My apologies, when you have high society beaten into you, you find it hard to ever truly escape its habits. Gossip about family is practically a hobby in noble circles. We got on the subject of family and their business and the words just began to flow. I stand by everything I said, but understand that it simply came from a place of idle chatter. Such is the bullheaded way of the people I've left - the people who still seem to be stuck in my head."

"Perhaps I WILL suggest he take a vacation next time we speak." Then, Cutlass shakes her head. "No, that's just going further down the rabbit hole of high-society. I need to keep things aloof. Though, if you feel strongly about it, perhaps YOU should suggest a vacation next time you speak with him. Try using the argument I just made. Maybe that will be more effective."


[1d10] to throw her off the scent

Roll #1 8 = 8


"I'm gonna have to stop you there. Vacation? I'd need a dictionary and a thesaurus just to explain the concept to him," Miss Sunshine jokes, though you can tell from her half-smile that she seems to buy the concept. "He'd only be willing to agree if he could find someone to take his place at the head of the logistics operations. That probably means more teams from the Gates of Justice coming in from Naval Headquarters. To justify that, particularly in terms of spending, he'd need some serious results on Kaco… but I think I could talk him into it then. Maybe lure him away with talk of all the beepony mares who are probably fancying him right now."



Cutlass giggles like a schoolgirl gossiping. "Schartzwelt and beepony mares!? No!" she says, practically scandalized.

"Well, all of that sounds like it might be more trouble than the good the vacation would do. But, if things go well for him… maybe it'll be easier."

"Anyway, I should go talk to Puddin' before he burns something out of spite. What I said to Plague applies to you as well," she adds, pointing an accusing hoof at Miss Sunshine. "Be more wary of suspicious situations. I'm relying on you two. Get well soon, everyone," she says to the whole ward, though she sounds a little insincere. Not that she doesn't want them to get well. Just that she doesn't express her emotions on the subject well.

Cutlass then leaves the medical ward to talk to Puddin. As she gets a moment alone, she shudders slightly. That was a lot of social interaction - not all of it comfortable. Amusingly, the only part where she felt safe was the part where Miss Sunshine became suspicious of her. The rest of the time, she felt judged. Still, she was proud of herself for taking the steps to better herself. She felt she was really improving at connecting with people. Though, she made a mental note that she still struggled with sincerity.


Miss Sunshine busts up laughing. "No, never mind, tempting him like that would probably drive him away. You've never seen a pony get flustered like he does when a mare likes him. Which is quite often."

She and the ward then give you their terse goodbyes and thanks, having picked up your, shall we say, attempt at sincerity.

After that, you're able to get a breather from social interactions as you head down through the ship's halls, eventually reaching the dining hall, which connects to the larder. Some mooks in cook's clothes are there, picking at rations and passing around a small cigarette which Plague probably salvaged from the cup. They look tired and weary, their hooves strained from having to make so many dishes specific to whatever Godot and Sparkler felt was necessary for nutrition, and with half a staff too.

Plague looks up from the table, a pile of almonds before him. He raises his brows but says nothing.


Puddin', not Plague



"Hello, idiot," Cutlass says to Puddin, practically affectionately. "You seem to be getting along with the crew well. Thanks for all the help. Anyone giving you any trouble?"


"Your people are surprisingly smart, so no. Didn't even have to put one down to establish my place around here," Puddin' says. "So, what'd you come to talk to me about? You gonna give me one of Make Believe's stickers for not getting duped like the rest of 'em?"



Cutlass laughs. "I don't think you'd WANT one of his stickers on you."

"I WAS going to ask how you managed to avoid getting recruited. But, after talking to you for five seconds, I remembered who I'm talking to. It makes perfect sense that you wouldn't have trusted them from the beginning."

"But, now I have a new question for you… What's this about having to put people down?"


"Not every crew is orderly or, dare I say it, friendly like yours," Puddin says. "Was honestly pretty shocked when I saw them working together in such lockstep. Though, yours doesn't really count; you're leading a bunch of marines and a handful of wide-eyed recruits from Kaco. Pirate crews on the other hand, they're not usually this cooperative. Most crews are a bunch of scoundrels – thugs who were born in jail or the gutter and would be happy to die in one too. They make their living trading drugs, lives, whatever they can get their hands on. They don't care about hiding their claws or fangs, unlike the dogs of the marines or mafia. Pirates know their lights are bound to be snuffed out at any time, so they'd rather burn out spectacularly and get themselves killed doing something fun and dumb, instead of waiting to die on a bed of old age."

He takes a drag on his cigarette. "All of this is to say that on some crews, a new recruit would have to beat an older member down to prove his place in the hierarchy. Maybe even kill them. I was looking for the weakest one in your crew, in case I had to, but nope, nobody's challenged made me do anything that they would come to regret."



"Well, don't forget that the whole reason I even allowed you to join was because of your valuable service in killing the Bee Queens. In my eyes - and therefore in the eyes of my crew - you'd already proven yourself and your place."

Then, Cutlass sighs. "To be honest, I'm happy with the… good nature of my crew. But, I wish we could have less trained marines around. It… takes away from the pirate vibe. But, they listen to me, so I guess whatever for now," she shrugs.

"So, you've been in several crews, then?"


"Hmm. Didn't think of it that way. Good point. Better to have at least some way for people to prove themeslves on joining."

"A couple, before this," Puddin' says. He then grunts. "Don't worry. I'm not looking for greener pastures until you give me a damn good reason to. I don't quit nothing easy. Only 'left' the last one because the Queens killed 'em."



Cutlass laughs, though it's a little tragically. "No, don't worry. I've involuntarily gone through my fair share of crews as well. I understand completely."


Last time on PirateQuest, and filling in for Autumn…

After a somewhat restful night sleep, the party began the new day by investigating the manor to the north. Once it was the home of the town's mayor, but now it lies alone, the neighboring homes abandoned in fear and paranoia of la brujita, the witch that lives there. While believed she is the cause of the anomalies plaguing the area, the party ventured to it fearlessly to investigate.

Initially cold, the witch, who's name was Mallea de Valle, welcomed the gang into her home. She explained that the anomalies were a unfortunate consequence of their experiments with Communication magic. Her and the mayor were testing the limits of teleportation and portals in order to boost trade for their town, and while pushing the limits of wards, they broke one hidden away in their home, releasing an unknown magic upon their home. Now at night the manor warps into a labyrinthine maze, making it difficult for Mallea to track down the source of the magic to end the distortions it causes on the town. And if that wasn't bad enough, a member of the Virtues, a cat named Obstinance, was called in to cleanse the magic. Virtues, however, also hunt witches, and this one in particular uses a scorched earth tactic in his work, leaving nothing behind where he goes. Mallea managed to negotiate him into holding off for 3 days, but the clock is ticking.

While Mallea was explaining the situation to everypony, they began to notice her completely ignoring Chiu as if she didn't exist. When called out, Mallea eventually explained Chiu was being shadowed by a demon. While most were in disbelief, Thessaly and Cerulean were able to see it and confirm it was true. And then the cause was found to be the statue Cloud salvaged from The Lilliput, a gryphon goddess that sent this demon when they made an offering to the forgotten deity. Mallea clarified this demon was a guardian, and that it may have in fact protected Chiu on the treacherous trek through the desert, but that didn't help ease the situation any. And the question still lingers on why it only latched to Chiu and not Cloud as well…


Cutlass, after retrieving her stolen crew from Shiro and Kuro, finally spotted land after a day of sailing to catch up to Kaco Island.

Learning where the nearest port was thanks to her snake amulet, her ship was set on course while she went to check on her crew. Those that were captured weren't too injured, mostly drained from the mental effect of Shiro's Recruitment Drive. Cutlass used this time to speak with her crew, getting to know them a little better, get closer, and even learned a bit more about aura as well. In the end she managed to raise morale quite a bit, making the recovery go along a little better and preparing the crew for any more future trickery they might face.


>>723230 Cerulean
>>723237 Alder
Mallea casts her eyes off to the side. "It matters nothing to me, the slander of ignorance. A Witch cannot have a thin skin on this matter. I do not even believe that my greatest crime in their eyes is my Witchcraft. If you can believe it, some of them even used to come to me for advice and poultices and brews when their folk wisdom and folk herblore failed them. I really only began hearing it after they accused the mayor of infidelity – when the mayor divorced his previous wife and married me."

Splendid winces. Mallea picks up on this, and waves a hoof. "All in the past now. Enough talk of it. Not while the sun's up anyway. You said you were after kalphties. As a token of goodwill, follow me to my study, on the second floor. I'll get you something to aid in your hunt."

>>723234 Thessaly
"I will require several others to help guide me and make a map or a trail of sorts I can use to find my way back. It's not just outside of the town that these anomalies hit. At night, this manor warps at its boundaries. One room may turn into a hallway. A hallway may give rise to multiple rooms. There have been nights when even a third floor and a second basement level have appeared out of thin air. I've lost my way many times, only to pass out from exhaustion at the night's zenith. Then, when morning rises, I awake back in my empty bedroom."

She pauses, looking wistful for a time. "…Anyone who has expertise in antimagic would be most helpful as well. Though I'm sure that you, with that legendary book of yours, could help call in another bit of assistance."

Flipping open the front cover, she peruses the first few sections.

>>723244 Cloud
Chiu stands up and walks outside without a word.
Splendid and Paraiba are shocked and worried. Neither seems to have made the connection. "Sh-should we follow her? You want girl help?" Paraiba asks.
"Yes, y-you may want a lady's touch here," Splendid adds.

>>723318 Cutlass (I know there's a post response to this but Autumn didn't leave a reply so I'm including it to keep all the party in this recap)
"Hmm. Didn't think of it that way. Good point. Better to have at least some way for people to prove themeslves on joining."

"A couple, before this," Puddin' says. He then grunts. "Don't worry. I'm not looking for greener pastures until you give me a damn good reason to. I don't quit nothing easy. Only 'left' the last one because the Queens killed 'em."


Puddin scoffs, dragging on the cigarette before letting it have another pass. "Don't get sentimental on me. Those guys didn't mean nothin' to me. Just another batch of vagabonds to cut a profit off of."

His face is stony and grumpy, but you can tell there's something more there (Master Thief).



Cloud is still in a bit of shock, only jumping up after Chiu gets some distance away and he realizes she is walking away.
"Help? Pile up all your gold, and get everypony else too. I need that genie here for a wish NOW!"
Cloud says to the group, quickly running outside after Chiu.


"Oh, well thank you! That'd be great. Which door after the stairs," Cerulean asks as she gets a start up the stairs, then following said directions to the study.


(Woah, Miss Cerulean! I did not know you were several dozen breezies in a trench coat.)

"Ah. Yes, any help would be greatly appreciated." the griffon says, ducking his head in gratitude. "A-And, for what it is worth, I am sorry they see you in such a way."



Cutlass nods. "The two of us are more like than either of us would care to admit," she commends with a stern but amused expression.

"Idiot," she adds with a smile after a moment.

>ready to timeskip to the next port


"Wait, what?" Cerulean gives a tug at herself, looking all the more perplexed by what Alder said.


"Interesting. I will do what I can, and doubtless my companions will do the same. I am sure we can find a solution if we put our minds to it. Though, this is not a form of magic I have ever encountered in person."

"Nevertheless. We will return by dusk after seeing to these Kalphite wretches."

She watches intently as Mallea reads the book, slightly wary that she might not want to give it back. "It is quite something, isn't it. It has served me well thus far, though the beings it evokes are less than ideal company. Read as long as you like. Perhaps you will find aught that can help us."

"By the way. Know you of the sorceress Madam Gullveig, in Manenhi? I feel like she would be interested in meeting you. We three are like minded in our practices, I feel."


Chiu stands outside on the outside patio, at the base of the stairs leading up to the manor. She keeps her back to you for a while, hoof over her mouth. It is only after a period of silence that she turns back around, eyes wide and pupils no bigger than dots. Her mouth hangs open. The truth is written in her eyes.

She pushes the book away. "…The book has chosen you, I'm afraid. It may get jealous if I have too long a look, actually. And besides, demonology is not my Craft. I am a chemist. A bit too scientific for some Witches' tastes, but it is what I do."

Her eyes alight when you bring up Gullveig, and she cracks a rare, stiff smirk. It's like a rectangle without a top line. "Oh-ho-ho, how could I not have guessed? It would be quite like her to send help uninvited. I thought I felt something familiar when you entered the threshold. Some of her Magic Wavelength must have rubbed off on you. Yes, I'm aware of her. Haven't seen her in a while, that old meddler."

She gestures up to the stairs. "Come, Friend of Gullveig."

"No matter. I have never cared for idiotic words. Accusations, rumors, insults – I do not mind such things. Foolish actions, vile deeds – now those I abhor. Thankfully, no matter what his former wife may say of me or Palafox, they have had the good sense – or at least the fear! – to not act on these things."

Mallea leads you up the stairs to a long hallway with an elaborate balcony, which overlooks the foyer you were just in. The second door to the left is an old oak one, and she unlocks it. Inside you see a tidy study, similar to an alchemist's lab. In the center is a cauldron on a raised platform, and the nearby shelves and counters are full of vials and all kinds of chemist's equipment. In the back is even some equipment for distilling alcohol.

Rather than be filled with the usual potions, most of the stuff in the lab appears to be different kinds of alcohol, jams, jellies, and preserves. The lab has a very sweet and fruity smell, an appetizing aroma, as a result. Fishing around on the shelves, Mallea eventually pulls down three jars with a light blue-white jam inside. It's slightly translucent, so you can see some grapes inside too. The jars are cool to the touch.

"This is Ice Grape jelly," she explains. "Eating a little, or keeping a Grape in your mouth, will keep away the heat and dehydration. You will find them most useful – the Kalphites' saliva induces dehydration in their victims, and they coat their weapons in that saliva like a poison. Eat this preemptively to stave off the symptoms. I recommend using white bread."
"To kill the Kalphites?" Zerk asks.


"Bitch," Puddin' retorts. The snake amulet hisses at him.



After a while, the dawn's light rises, illuminating the sea. Following the coast northwest, you in time come to a port town, somewhat smaller than Manenhi, but with structures that are far taller and with a more elaborate architecture than the squat adobe blocks of Manenhi. The town is shaped like a crescent moon around the port, and most of the buildings appear to have been wrought from a kind of glimmering silver metal. Every now and again, one of the buildings will shift and morph, reconfiguring itself in some way. Decorations like statures and gargoyles may change, or buildings may sprout from one rooftop to another, allowing the inhabitants to move as they please.

Your crew head for the deck as you pull into the dock, making the preparations to secure the ship before disembarking.


"White bread… to eat with the jam?" he says, stroking his beak in thought. "Regardless, thank you for the knowledge. I did not know their venom did such a thing." he says, more than a little surprised.



Cutlass looks at the odd buildings and furrows her brow. She telekinetically grasps the snake amulet and asks it, "What makes these buildings move?"


Cloud shuts the door behind him for some privacy, looking down at Chiu from the porch. He walks halfway down the stairs.
"Did you know about this before? Or did you just find out?"
He asks, confusion and still shock in his voice and on his face.


She tilts her head slightly. "It is blank for you?" she asks. "Curious…"

"I will send her your regards when this is over," she replies, returning the smile. "I have a means of visiting her, so you may give them to her in person if you like."

She looks around the study with curiosity, moving amidst the furniture examining the gear and equipment, almost like a cat presented with something new and exciting.
[1d10] Perception

She listens intently as she explains the use of the jelly. "Why, it sounds invaluable," she comments. "Thank you, truly. Our job would be much harder if we hadn't come here first."

Roll #1 6 = 6


Cerulean looks around at everything, mostly the alchemy stuff, with great curiosity. She knew better than to touch the stuff, but the curious nature of her made it very tough to resist. Even more so by all the sweet smells in the air, making her mouth water slightly.

At being told of the function of Ice Grape Jelly, Cerulean looks over with laser focus.
"Keep away the heat? Oh, that sounds great! Especially after the day I had today."


"Why would I keep it a secret if I knew earlier!?" Chiu snaps, and her hoof immediately covers her mouth. "I-I-I I'm sorry, I shouldn't have snapped, I just…"

Putting a hoof to her temple, she starts to pace, eyes to the ground. "It… it… would make sense…
e-even if… th-this is not happening."

"The will of their creatorsssss," the snake amulet hisses back. "Agyl Island issss not called the Artificial Island and the Artificer'sssss Island for nothing. The abodessss of wealthy townssss like Xallan are weaved from a rare metal called Poet'sssss Ssssssilver. It can be wrought and shaped by thossssse who bind their mindssss to it with certain magicsssss. Thossssse who live here are known assss the Poet-Magessss… and their will issss manifesssst here."

Ossie steps into your shadow as the gangplank is lowered, allowing you to disembark. The town is far less populated than Manenhi, and racially homogenous – all the inhabitants are Krikral of various Tribes, and many wear fine jewelry and robes as they walk, fly and float about their business. Several haughtily cast glances your way with a discriminatory air.

"Yes, they taste quite good together. Though, I suppose you could also use the tortilla chips they sell all around town."
Paraiba smacks her lips with anticipation.

"But today just started!" Splendid squawks.
"Yeah and this heat makes me wish it was already over," Zerk says.

"It is indeed. I could not use it if I wanted," Mallea admits. "How came you by it? Whatever the answer, I can assure you it was by no chance or coincidence. Such artifacts never enter the stage of mortal life without a good reason."

As you look about the lab, there is something quite odd you notice. Most things seem to be covered with a fine layer of dust. Very fine, that is – the kind that gathers only after a few days of inactivity. Even the freshest-looking concoctions have that dust.

Before you can ponder this further, you can feel the Karmic Seed humming slightly within your bag. It's reacting to something here.


"It was sealed away in a shipwreck. It seems I could not be rid of it even if I wanted to."

Noticing the dust, she gently brushes off a thin layer of it, looking over to Mallea inquisitively. She is about to ask about it when she feels the Seed humming. She pulls it out and starts pacing around the room, trying to find the source of what set it off.
[1d10] nani

Roll #1 7 = 7


"What Zerk said. I'm used to long stretches of sand while swimming through water, not all dry and airy."

Cerulean joins in on the lips smacking as this sounds like something tasty for something meatless.



"Puddin, Plague, and Ossie are with me. The rest are free to do as they wish. Miss Sunshine, you're in charge while I'm gone. No one cause any trouble," she orders her crew.

"What leadership is in charge here?" Cutlass asks the amulet as she steps off the ship.


"Ah… thank you for the tip, then. You are quite wise." the griffon says, bowing a little to her again. "Are there any other tips for these Kalphites you may have?"


"Why would I know? I never went through this before!"
Cloud defends.

He walks down the rest of the stairs, putting a hoof around Chiu as she begins to pace.
"Ok, we don't need to worry. This will be easy. We'll just head back to the port, and get the first ship sailing out of the ribcage."
He says with the calm clarity of a pony in denial.


The Seed's dull humming seems mostly even wherever you aim it, suggesting it may be reacting to the manor itself, now that you are some distance within its dimensions instead of just talking within the foyer. Mallea spies it with curiosity. "Aren't you just full of surprises and magic objects. Were you given this by one of your demons? It is soaked with a demon's essence."

Mallea doesn't seem to notice – but you do. The Seed's humming grows stronger when it is closer to her.

"We ought to get a spray bottle for you," Splendid sagely suggests.

"Sadly no, I am a chemist, not an exterminator. But even I have had my ear to the ground for the town's gossip. From what I have heard, the menfolk made a previous attempt to kill the Kalphites, but were driven away because of the immense number of traps that the Kalphites rigged their den with. Carry a light with you, and keep an eye to the ground. Just because the Kalphites are stupid doesn't mean they're not clever. Enough fools can eventually cobble together something clever, and the Kalphites will have the home field advantage if you're going to attack them in their own cave."
"Could we draw them out?" Splendid asks.
"I suppose," Mallea says. "Perhaps with meat? … Either approach may work, if you are careful."

Mallea awkwardly gawks at you for a time, before clearing her throat. "If there's anything else you wish to discuss, it is best to mention it now. Otherwise, I will busy myself with our preparations for tonight. It is best for you to come back just past sundown. For now, you have your bugs to exterminate, no?"

"With what money!?" Chiu asks. "With how difficult it is to get IN to the Ribcage, I don't think there are a lot of charter ships trying to get OUT. We've only ever heard pirates talk about how everyone with a boat wants to enter the Ribcage. We'd have to get Bee Holder or Cutlass to sail us out, and that's not gonna happen. We couldn't even afford our own ship – those are hundreds of thousands of Bits!"

She sits on the steps, then almost immediately gets back up, paces in a circle, then spins and kicks at the open air with a panicked garble. "…Whose parents are going to kill us first? Yours or mine?"

The crew salute you smartly, and Plague and Puddin disembark with you, the former eagerly and the latter reluctantly, entering the town. The flagstones are smooth and dark red, almost like mahogany. Though the buildings are almost all mechanical and metal, they have a veneer of that dark red shade, pleasant to look at, with a pattern like wood. It seems like they want things to look like they just sprouted up out of the ground, on that note. It seems like many of the buildings, now that you look at them, are stylized like trees, branching out and reaching for the sky.

"The Poet-Lordsss are a council of three Krikral who preside over the town," the amulet hisses. "Their abode is in the center of town, upon a hill overlooking the rest of Xallan."

"We just got into town and you want to know who's in charge?" Plague asks.
"Fixin' to take over already?" Puddin' jokes. "…Shouldn't we be linking up with those Beesting jokers?"


"Maybe two," she says in agreement.

"Yup, we sure do! Now bug squashing I can understand easily."


She nods. "Galutisons, the Daughter of Oak. She ordained me with a task in exchange for snuffing three lives." She decides not to elaborate for now, especially after realising it reacts to Mallea. She puts the Seed away for now.

"I believe you have answered all our questions," she states. "We will return at sundown, then. For now, we have a pest problem to see to."

"So. How shall we approach the Kalphite problem? Does anyone have any bright ideas?" she asks bluntly.



"Of course, I want to know who's in charge," Cutlass lectures the two of them. "When things inevitably go wrong, we'll need to know to whom we should speak."

"Because wherever the Beestings are, everything seems to go wrong," Cutlass grumble.

Then, she looks back to the snake amulet telekinetically floating in front of her. "Is it within your scope of power to know whether or not the Beestings are here?"


"I don't know, I'll figure something out! I could sell this jar everypony's been going crazy over! I'll do whatever it takes to get you out of here, this place isn't safe to be having a child in!"
And just as he says those words, the situation finally settles in Cloud.
"We're going to have a kid… You're going to be a mom… I-I'm gonna be a dad…"
For a moment, the panic seems to genuinely fade, he puts his hooves around Chiu and pulls her in close and tight.
"We're gonna have a family!"
He cheers happily.

But, then his eye shrinks in fear.
"…We are not telling your parents a word."


"Well, depends where they are. Like if they're in some nasty, stingy anenemony…err, anememonee……that stuff! If they're in something like that stuff, we could bait them out."


She deadpans. "…Anemones. …In the desert."


"Traps… that could be quite difficult, actually. I will remain as careful as I can- hopefully, theirs are not too different for me to detect. And… Yesyes! We will return this evening, Miss Mallea! Thank you for the assistance."

"Well, we must be careful- I can check for traps while we move."


She nods. "They seem like crafty beasts. I have no doubt they will have all manner of traps laid for us intruders."


"N-not exactly, but I don't think they'd come here," the snake amulet says. "Chances are, I'd hear about it if ANOTHER pirate crew got here. But I don't hear anything about another pirate crew. Assss for them, I don't recall them getting a reassssson to come out here."
"Well, just tell us the plan and we'll carry it out," Plague says. "We looking for jobs while we're here, or are we gonna sniff around for treasure?"
"What we NEED is an Accompass of our own," Puddin says. "I'm shocked you've made it this far without recruiting one. It never occurred to me while I was with you on Kaco Island that you hadn't thought to getting one of your own. Not very Captain-y to rely on another crew for direction."

"Brilliant! We'll fill one with freshwater and the other with saltwater!" Splendid cries.

"Par for the course for a friend of demons," Mallea says. A graveness sets into her gaze. "But take care that you do not let their wiles tempt you beyond what you can control. Nobody who seeks to tame or treat with demons can cross that line and remain themselves. Treat every Contract as a bloody, spike-laden trap – because they are."

"N-not to interrupt this talk, by all means continue it," Splendid says. "I-I'm just going to go check in on Cloud and Chiu."
She leaves the room, heading downstairs and to the front door.

The reality of it really only now seems to be hitting Chiu. As you pull her in, she seems to look past you with a moment of despair, but your embrace chases that despair away, leaving only the raw animal fear, joy and excitement of one who realizes motherhood waits for her. "You're gonna be a dad… I'm gonna be a mom… we're gonna have a family…" she repeats, as if tasting their truth and finding it sweet. Tears dot her eyelashes, and a smile lights her face.

"Yeah, I was gonna say! Dad would fly all the way over the seven seas to stomp your ass if he got word of this. And we're not telling YOUR parents a word either! I don't wanna even think about what your mom would do to me. B-but what are we going to do? Not only do I have a demon on my back, we have a goddess that we apparently revived watching over me… what if she doesn't want us to leave now that we've revived her? Wouldn't her influence over us wane if we left the Ribcage?"


"Well, not exactly those, but something like it. I mean, have you seen all the crazy stuff we've come across so far here? I'm trying to keep my head open for…almost anything at this point. Hell, maybe there's sharks swimming around in the sand! Who knows?! I know, but it sounds neat, right?"



"That's true," Cutlass comments to Puddin. "I had hoped my map would be more useful, but the Ribcage is too unpredictable."

"Where's the place we could buy or acquire an Acompass for the cheapest price around here?" she asks the snake amulet.


She nods. "This is a burden that will haunt me for months if not years to come. I feel I made a mistake invoking her to deal with this. But it cannot be undone."

She nods to Splendid. "I hope they are doing alright," she comments without thinking, then catches herself. "Er. For our sakes. We should be going soon. Let's hurry up about it." She looks to the other crewmen who came along questioningly, waiting for their input on the Kalphite situation.


"Hmm? O-Oh! Alright, Miss Splendid- we will be down momentarily." the griffon chirps, before looking to Cerulean and Thessaly.

"Is there… any way we could help you with such a thing? I do not know what to do with demons, but it would not do to lose you."

Alder coughs a little, before humming. "Perhaps we can either study a Kalphite as it goes to see how it would make its way into their lair, or hunt for another entrance? Sometimes traps are so tedious to disarm that you just hide a second entrance."


She looks at Alder rather aloofly at first, but then gives him a genuine warm smile. "If only you could. This is something only I can carry out. No one can help me with this burden. But thank you for offering."

"That seems like a wise plan," she nods. "If we can stalk one and see how they enter and leave, we may be able to follow suit."


Cerulean ponders a moment, then a lightbulb seems to go off over her head.
"Oh! That's right, I got that book from the library!" Cerulean fishes around in her travel pack and gets out the bestiary book.
"I think it might have something in here…or hopefully something I can understand good enough."


Cloud can't help but smile in their moment, their embrace.
"Our own family…"
It may not have been the best way to find out, but the news washes away every other worry he had. And he can't find any other way to cap the occasion than giving the mother of his future child a kiss.

"Don't even joke about that! I already feel like he's right behind me."
Cloud says warily.
"Maybe I jumped the gun a little on that one, eheh," He admits now that they've calmed, "I guess… we'll have to sail this one out, and hope we're not in this Ribcage for too long."
As they start to think of their future, Cloud leads Chiu to sit down, still holding her close.
"If what they all said in there was true, that this Wetnurse is protecting you, I suppose we'll play nice. And maybe show this statue around, if we get her a few new followers she'll be fine in letting us go when we leave, right?"


"Sssssslavery is not legal on Agyl," the snake amulet says. "If you wanted to purchassssse one assss a sssslave, you'd have to earn or buy the favor of the Maize Houssssse, for only their licenssssed merchantssss are able to ssssell Black Market goodsssss like sssslavessss.

"Otherwissse, you could try to recruit one assss a crewmate. Why break away from a tried-and-true formula? Tavernsss and guildssss make for good placessss to hire employeessss. Or you could place a perssssonal ad in the paper."

"Are you gonna keep doing that?" Puddin' barks at the snake amulet, who winces and lowers his head sadly.

Mallea shakes her head. "Even I know a little of the Mother of the Wayward, Galutisons. Though a demon, the tales of her speak highly of her benevolence upon those she favors. So long as you do not anger her, I would not worry so much about the burden she has placed upon you. If your fears persist, perhaps you could just… I don't know, talk to her about it?"

Zerk makes a note of Cerulean's comment about a shark swimming in the sand. Seems like a cool idea.
"Yeah, what Alder said," Paraiba adds. "A thief always has at least two entrances to their lair – one he wants his enemies to enter through, and one he wants to enter through. The former is the one with all the traps, obviously. If they've rigged up their lair like that, I think they'd probably want at least one other entrance they can use so that they don't have to go around all the traps when they come and go."
"Maybe we can capture a stray and interrogate it!" Zerk adds.

The bestiary has a plethora of information on Kalphites, most of which corroborates what you've heard so far from Mallea and others – they're none too smart, but nasty in groups. When they group up, they are referred to as a Horde.

Kalphite Horde
Large desert scarabs, Kalphites are always moving in numbers. They live in caverns below the sand and generally never travel far from home.
45 Health
2 Armor (3 Hits)
Standard Attack: Melee
Dehydrating Bite: Passive; Successful attacks Dehydrate the target for 1 damage for the next 2 turns, this effect stacks twice, any additional attacks after that refresh the duration.
Hivemind Revenge: Passive; When a Kalphite is killed in combat, all other remaining Kalphites will focus on whoever killed their ally and won’t change target until the target dies, another kalphite dies, or they die.
Loot: 1 - No Loot, 2-4 - Scales, 5-9 - Kalphite Carapace & Scales, 10 - 2x Kalphite Carapace & 2x Scales
Weak: Poison, Ice Grapes
Resist: None
Immune: None

Chiu blinks away her tears, but can't stop her smile at all. She starts to slow her breathing, reaching back to tie her mane in a bun. "Okay… we need to do some serious logistics and inventory-taking of everything we're going to need to do and keep track of. The goddess, the Wetnurse, my health and nutrition, and… oh jeez, can you imagine what Bee Holder's going to say when I start trying to baby-proof her ship? That's a lot of guns I'll have to confiscate!"


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4


You are vaguely aware of Splendid peeking out at you and Chiu through the slightly ajar door. Her jaw is dropped and her eyebrows are as high as they can go. Chiu doesn't notice.


"If you are sure, then. I wish you the best of luck." he says, bowing to the unicorn slowly.

"How would we interrogate one? Do we share a language with them, as well?" he suggests, before fluttering up above Cerulean's shoulder to try and look at the book. He stares at it for a while, straining himself, before letting out a frustrated huff. "What does it suggest, exactly? I fear I am a very slow reader."



"He's not hurting anyone," Cutlass defends the amulet against Puddin.

"Well, if we're going to a tavern, let's bring Schnitzel. SCHNITZEL!" Cutlass shouts back at the ship, expecting him to come on demand.

[1d10] for good dog

Roll #1 9 = 9