No.725018[Last 50 Posts]
The party's expedition into the Shifting Sands has been successful, though it did not come without great change.
Upon returning to the initial spot they found the Egg, they found only Discord, freed from his stony prison and weakened by his long slumber. The first thing he did upon meeting them was to drain the seer Mercutio, absorbing the power he had granted him and effectively removing the Mad Oracle from existence. All that remains now is Purdue, wiped of his memories of his centuries-long ordeal, slowly adjusting to his newfound consciousness.
Upon reaching the Hive, where the Egg was being hoarded by the guardians of the Sands, they did not find the Egg themselves; instead, they found their old adversary Clawson, acting as transport for Lysander in the form of a flock of cuckoos, along with several other prominent adversaries of the party. These include:
Cecile Grosvenor, the Lady of Braildorn, Lysander's closest confidante. Aegis has promised to kill her in the name of the demon Ragalaseab.
Elaina, Grosvenor's personal assassin, who can effortlessly phase between the astral and physical plane.
Reck, a largely unknown figure to the party. He appears to be a member of the Bloody Mummers.
Kairon Irse, the deposed Queen of Equestria, unwittingly freed by Norv. While she accompanied the party for a long time, she eventually abandoned them in favor of Lysander, finding him more to her liking.
Through spying, they learned that Lysander had cut ties with the Oneiromancer completely, renouncing his scheme to erase the Echoes in favor of using the Egg as a bargaining tool to gain greater power in the realm. After a long and brutal skirmish, the party managed to steal the Egg from under their very noses, fleeing the scene and heading south, vowing to hide the Egg in a place it can never be found again.
This skirmish did not come without consequence. Not only is Violet's face disfigured and Aurora paralyzed and comatose, but the party's ship, the Fate's Fortune, has been horribly damaged, and Dawn's husband Carabas killed by the swarming insects of the Sands. Clawson too has been killed, his ship having crashed headlong into the party's.
Nevertheless, the Egg has been claimed. All that remains now is to find a suitable hiding spot for it.
>Four days laterhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iWrg3hgH4Jg
Your crippled ship hobbles over the Shifting Sands, limping across the endless sea of red. The heat of the sun mercilessly batters you all day in and day out, baking you within the wooden walls. Your encounter at the desert's did not come without consequence: the ship is beset by persistent sandstorms, all traveling in the opposite direction, towards the Hive. Where the spire once stood is now a constant swarm of scarlet, gathering insects from all across the desert to it, steadily growing higher and higher, resembling an enormous cloud of blood.
Aboard the ship, things are quieter than normal;
Rabi's hip injury continues to plague him, biting persistently even when at rest. Etrigan appears to know a thing or two about wound treatment, and fashions him some bandages to change periodically.
Violet has come to. Horrified by her injuries, she has taken to wearing a cloth mask to conceal her twisted face. She is quieter than usual, and shy.
Dawn is even more of a hermit than ever before. She never leaves her room, save to grab food from the kitchen, and barely speaks to anyone who'll try to reach out to her. Not even Etrigan, who's been with her through many adventures before you ever met, can get much of a response from her.
As for Etrigan, he has taken it upon himself to hang Carabas' sword up on a wall in the kitchen, as a small sort of shrine to his fallen friend. He seems to intend on giving Carabas a proper grave when you have the time.
Purdue has tried to assert himself a little more. Unlike his prior iteration as the Mad Oracle, he has neither the playfulness of Mercutio nor the arrogant, biting air of the previous Purdue. Instead, the "real" Purdue proves himself to be rather erudite, a bit introverted and awkward but happy to make conversation with anyone who'll pay him a visit. He is knowledgeable of magic from a purely academic point of view, as well as on space. He has requested of Norv, and by extension the party as a whole, to bring him any astrological maps they may happen to find on their travels. In return, he can study the heavens in order to provide insight on what the future may hold.
After several days of harsh, unforgiving travel, food and water supplies are starting to dwindle, as most of it was destroyed in the skirmish. While this did not faze you much originally, the combination of the heat, the lack of food and, more importantly, dehydration is slowly beginning to creep in.
There is a light at the end of the tunnel, however. It is currently morning, and you have just crossed over the barren mountain chain that borders the Shifting Sands. From above, you can see the remains of an abandoned fort, from which comes a faint but visible plume of smoke. Seems someone's taken shelter here overnight. Beyond this comes a welcome sight, one that you'd almost forgotten existed: a patch of yellowed grassland, littered with stubbornly surviving trees here and there. You can also hear birds from somewhere.
Then, something unexpected happens; a bright, burning light shoots up from the fort, leaving a trail of brilliant red smoke in its wake. It zooms past your ship and hangs almost suspended in the air for a while. It's a signal. Before long, a second flare fires up. Whoever's in the fort is very keen on getting your attention.
Etrigan looks at you quizzically. "Hm. I don't mean to order anyone around,"
Purdue comments - Etrigan seems to have taken a liking to him, and vice versa - "but perhaps you ought to investigate? They may be in distress down there."
"We're in distress ourselves," Violet points out, her voice muffled by her mask. She doesn't disagree, however, peering curiously over the edge of the railing to observe the fort ruins.
Between his hip injury and the general mood of the ship, the stallion can't really find it in himself to try and talk much. He'll spend most of it trying to rest up and relax with Silver, and the rest of it on occasionally stepping out to check on the rest of the group.>>725019
"Maybe we could help each other? They might have a little bit of something to spare for us." he suggests, gently looking over the railing while keeping the wait off of his bad leg.
I frown as I look at what probably is
a distress signal. I sigh. At least we had four days. I smooth the fur on my head back and shake my head. "Let me go grab my things," I say. "We should check it out."
I run below deck, grab my sprayer, and load one of the sleeper poison canisters into it, grab two oil canisters, and three additional sleeper poison canisters. I pull my mask onto my head as I head back above deck, but don't pull it over my face just yet.
Much of Silver's time after the skirmish was spent fretting over Rabi's worsening injury. While not so versed in saving ponies, she did her best to tend to the wound with the tools she had.
Climbing up to the top deck, i spot the fireballs as they sail overhead.
"Goodness, that's certainly one way to get our attention! While i'm not adverse to helping others, we do
still need to take care the egg isn't stolen away in the process."
Zunden has been busy between healing and managing repairs to the ship, now sleeping on a pile of pillows in the dining hall. She has been humbled by the events at the spire, her voice soft spoken and careful.>>725020
"Yez, we are in diztrezz. Az Rabi haz zaid, perhapz zhey might have zomezhing to zhare. I doubt Lyzander haz had time to update hiz minionz on ze current zituation.
"I can remain on ze zhip, and we zend a few down. We know Lyzander not to have went zhiz direction.
Etrigan nods in approval. "It does seem like we're running low on supplies. I feel you have the way of it, sir!"
Purdue says eagerly.>>725024>>725025
Violet follows you, grabbing her helmet, armor and twin blades, just in case of a skirmish.>>725026
Violet nods. "Well, it's safe with Z. Right? I don't think anyone could take it without having to deal with us first.">>725027
"Yeah, I don't think whoever this is would be with Lysander. The timing seems off. They went in a completely different direction. What would be the odds?">>725023>>725024>>725026>>725027
Zunden lowers the ship down to the fort. After a moment, two figures emerge from what's left of the front gate.
The first is familiar to some of you; a light-furred, dark faced female Felid, slim of build. She is wearing different clothing now, but Aegis and Norv would remember her as the bodyguard Grosvenor had with her at the Swap Meet.
The second, to your great surprise, is Hermodur.
"Well, color me surprised," Hermodur's familiar voice comes from under the hooded cloak he is wearing. "Or a pessimist if you're feeling critical. I expected to find just more of Lysander's goons. But, no. For once, something good has come my way."
"I've found you all at last," Hermodur says as he pulls the hood off. The entire right half of his face is covered in burnt scar tissue. His right ear is almost completely gone. His right eye has been replaced with a fake glass one.
"What happened to the ship?" he asks with concern. "Did you run into a unicorn named Gavrilo?"
Fuckin name fix, bruh.
I pull my rodent-like gas mask over my face, take a deep breath, and adjust my coat. I stay behind the rest of the party as we descend the gangplank outside the gate. As I see the bodyguard beside a robed figure I tense up, tighten my grip on the nozzle, and aim it at the two. >>725030
My jaw drops and I relax a little as the hooded figure pulls his hood back to reveal Hermodur. Or most of him, at least. "Holy-" I pull my mask back up over my face and point the poison sprayer back at the ground. "Out of everyone I woulda expected to run into, you were pretty low on the list, H."
I briefly glance over my shoulder at the ship before turning back. "Lysander's goons. That's what happened. What happened-" I vaguely gesture toward my own significantly less scarred face. "Here."
Hermodur frowns. "This dragon is becoming a nuisance. Have you seen him recently? Have you seen he's gotten bigger? Have you heard HOW?"
Zunden looks out at Hermodur from aboard the ship, unsure of what to do or say. She leans against her staff watching the others come up to him.
"Hopefully it'll be something easy, for our sake- the last thing I'd want is another fight on our hands, after all this." he says, starting to make his way off the ship.>>725030>>725034
"I… huh. It's good to see you again, Hermodur." the stallion says, a little surprised more than anything else. "And… we have, yeah. Pretty worse for wear, but we made it out."
I nod. "Saw him at the Swap Meet. He didn't recognize me, luckily, but we've talked with him controlling a cuckoo since. Something about gaining power instead of physical things?"
"It's good to see you too," Hermodur says with a smile as he extends his hand to shake Rabi's hoof. Except, it's definitely not a normal had. It's a steampunk robotic hand.>>725037
"Normal dragons are fueled by greed - they get stronger as they gather more things. As it turns out, Lysander is fueled by wrath. It seems the schadenfreude of causing other people pain in the name of vengeance is what makes him stronger. He kept me for a while, I suspect for the exact purpose of empowering himself."
"Oh. That-" I swallow. "Yeah, that's pretty messed up. I just assumed it was still greed. Just greed for more power or something." I nod to the gate. "Any clue what's going on here?"
"I haven't seen anyone else here," Hermodur says with a shrug. "We were the ones who shot the flares."
''That explains your appearance'' Aegis came to the scene as she spoke up, followed by a cough, her voice was dry and barely audible, taking an effort to talk with a dry throat ''You look terrible, Master Hermodur''
Making my way off the ship, it takes me a moment to recognize the battered cat before me. Covering my gasp with a wing, i rush over to greet him!>>725031
"Hermodur?! Goodness me, you're the last
i'd think to find out here! When you left, i had assumed we wouldn't see you again.. but my word, what happened to you?" i ask, giving you a concerned look.
"We've fought Lysander again and paid dearly for it, but we have what he sought to take for himself, and for now we've won." i finish, nodding satisfactorily.
I scoff and pull my mask back down. When I speak again my voice is muffled and slightly rhaspy because of the mask and the filter cloth inside. "Not without paying for it."
"Oh, the torture actually doesn't have anything to do with this," Hermodur points to his face. "That was from fighting some hired guns he sent to take me back after I escaped."
"No, that was," he says as he pats down his body. Though, he pauses and looks down at himself. "I don't actually remember which ones are from what…" he mutters.>>725042
"You should see the other guy," Hermodur laughs in response.
"But in any case, good job sticking it to that bastard. We have him on the offensive now. Which means HE has to come to us. Eventually, he'll slip up and we'll kill him."
"I'm quite aware of what we've lost to get it, thank you. I was
the one to Carry carabas' sword back to the ship, you know.."
"So, why the mask?" Hermodur asks curiously.
I don't look over at her as I say, "Just seemed a little chipper about it is all."
''Seems like you had quite the fun without us'' Aegis says with a hint of nothing in her voice
''Zunden will not be happy to hear this''
"The main idea is to help protect against backdraft from this." I hold the nozzle out, not pointing it at him. "In case my poison gets blown back at me. I'm sure something that protetcts both my eyes and
lungs'll come in handy even outside that. Plus it looks cool."
Much to your surprise, among the gathered party members is Coldhooves, of all people. His eyes flash with recognition, and he takes a few steps forward, then hesitates and settles for bowing in greeting."I have no idea who you are, but you seem important. Hello!"
The nasal voice comes from a gleaming silver pony skull that has been propped up on the railing. It has glittering emeralds for eyes. You vaguely remember this artifact from your final day with the party; it was presented to you as some sort of insane oracle, though its demeanor was much more… animated than it is now.
Violet looks like she's seen better days too; most of her face is covered by a cloth mask, as well as a helmet fashioned like a bird skull. She sports dual patterned blades with long handles. She does a double take as she recognizes you. "…Big guy?" she blurts in shock. "I… Wow. What are the odds? What are you doing out here?"
You notice Aurora is conspicuously absent.>>725033>>725035>>725036>>725041>>725042
The felid notices Norv's trepidation, motioning calmly for him to put the weapon down. "Easy. We're all allies here." She steps forward and introduces herself calmly. "My name is Marisol. Hermodur and I have been traveling together for some time now. Rest assured, I have no love for Lysander. …Or Lady Grosvenor, for that matter."
"Hmm.. i suppose given my experience with such matters, i can appear less afflicted by what happened during the fight." i admit, clearing my throat behind a wing.
"Do forgive me, i assure you i'm quite shaken by the event as well.. I've been tending to Rabi's injury for the better part of the journey now, quite surprising it still hasn't healed properly..">>725050
"Oh? An enemy of Lysander as well? Excellent news indeed. Given the depth of his coffers i suspected he'd have turned all of the Echoes against us by now.."
"I am Silver Song, a pleasure to meet you." i add, extending my wings in a bow.
''I remember you. You were at the swap meet with both of them before'' Aegis says, nodding to the felid ''You seemed quite loyal to them, what made you part ways with your Lady?''
"Oh, right- I heard about the hand. At the least… it's kinda neat?" he says, trying to offer some sort of silver lining. "By the way… you wouldn't happen to have any traveling supplies, would you? We're running a little low.">>725050
"Good to see both of you, then. We're not in the best straits, but we could bring on a couple more."
I deflate a little and sigh. "Yeah, sorry, I-" I pause and shake my head. "No, that ain't an excuse. We're all tired, hungry, and thirsty. I'm just bein a jerk. Sorry.">>725053
"I mean it ain't like we're broke. Just haven't had a place to stop to restock. Could probably find something-" I nod toward the gate. "Here. Especially now that we know it wasn't a distress signal.">>725050
I stare at her through the round glass eyes for a long moment, a little skeptical. After giving Hermodur another glance, I look back to her and nod. "Norvegicus Black."
"How is she?" Hermodur asks with concern.>>725049
"Good thinking," Hermodur says with a nod of approval. "Where did you get it?">>725050
"Looking for you all," Hermodur says to Violet. Though, he's preoccupied with Coldhooves.
"How did you find your way here?" he asks the mute moose(?).>>725053
"Only what Marisol brought with us," Hermodur shrugs in apology.
"Swap Meet. Along with this." I hold out the flaps of my coat. "Miss my suit, but having lots of pockets is nice."
''Tired, but she's holding up quite well. Piloting the ship and planning our next step. Do you want to come see her?''
"I miss my suit as well…" Hermodur nods. "It got ripped to shreds, though.">>725057
"I would like that, yes."
"He'll try, I imagine," she muses ominously.
"Likewise. I've heard a lot about you and your group. Quite impressive, how you managed to steal Lysander's ship right from under his nose. And the slaying of the Beasts of Braildorn. That was your doing, wasn't it? I imagine you'll have quite the reception if you go there again. …Not that you'd want to. Lysander and Grosvenor are cracking down on securing the city for their own use." >>725052
She doesn't deny it. "I served Lady Grosvenor as a bodyguard for many years. Far too long, really. She's gone down a path I can't follow. …Even if it brings shame to my family," she adds, looking away. "Her search for immortality… the things she's done to my sister… It's unconscionable.">>725053
She gives a stiff little nod. "If you will have me, I'll help however I can."
At the mention of supplies, she thinks. "Hm. Verigan's Hold here might have something of use. Otherwise, the best bet would be to fly to Last Hearth. It's not too much further from here. Quite a thriving town. …Though, the Chanticleers will be there soon. I don't know if you'll want to deal with them.">>725054
She seems to sense your skepticism. "You have every right not to trust me. I would not be here if I did not need your help, though." She digs around in her pocket for a minute, producing a set of three small glassy objects. They look like droplets of water, completely transparent, with a crystalline texture. The light seems to bend and refract off of them unnaturally. "Do you know what these are?" she asks sincerely.>>725055
The talking skull looks a bit downtrodden at being ignored. "…I'm Purdue,"
he presses. "Pleased to meet you!"
He, naturally, gives no reply. "Oh yeah, that's right," says Violet. "You did meet Etrigan. He told us. He joined us along with Dawn and Carabas a while ago. Been traveling together quite some time now." Coldhooves, or Etrigan as his name appears to be, nods in confirmation. His black eyes linger on your mechanical prosthetic with curiosity. You sense a hint of regret from him, for having had to do what he did to you.
"Likewise," Hermodur says to the skull distractedly.
"Yes, I owe him a great deal," Hermodur says, nodding to Etrigan. "It's thanks to him that I was able to remove the Oneiromancer's curse," he says, holding up his mechanical hand.
I rub the back of my head. "I got a new one, but I don't get much of a chance to wear it anymore. Not as practical when you have to fight every three days.">>725059
I grin and stand a little straighter at the mention of slaying the Beasts of Braildorn. "That was my plan!" I excitedly add, jumping at the chance to talk about one of the few things I've really done since I've been here.
Looking down at the tiny crystals, I shake my head. "Should I?"
I look back at Purdue. "Right! I guess even then you hadn't really known H that long, so-" I turn to Hermodur. "That's Purdue. You probably only knew Mercutio." I hang my head. "Who's gone now. Jeez. A lot really has happened since you've been gone."
I look down at the arm that was torn off by the Balur, lift my hand, flex my fingers, and chuckle. "Maybe I should've gotten one of those. This thing still hasn't stopped hurting."
''Then come aboard, and if you're thinking of joining us, bring everything you have, we are in a dire situation with barely any water or food''>>725059
Aegis stares at the felid for a moment too long ''I see. I suppose an extra ally and an enemy less will be the tip in the balance we'll need. You should come aboard, I'm certain Zunden will be glad to meet another one with a troubled past like the rest of us''
''Now, I am going to go ahead and investigate the place for anything useful, anyone is free to join me''
"I… think I remember them. I wouldn't say it's a pleasant idea, but we'll take what we can get."
"The Chanticleers? I do believe we've spoken with them before, though only to purchase water for the trip.. I suppose if we keep our heads down we could resupply before they can give us trouble."
Purdue seems a bit offended, and gives up on trying to introduce himself.
"Fancy," Violet remarks, admiring the craftsmanship. "Hadrian's work, right?"
"Hey. Why don't you come on board and say hi to Z? Sure she'll be happy to see you again? Wow. It's really been a while, hasn't it.">>725061
"Was it? It seems to have worked well. My city owes you a great debt."
"Frozen tears from a Divine Archdragon," she explains. "One of two items Lady Grosvenor covets to acquire immortality. …I'm going to destroy them. No one should have that power. I had hoped you would all be able to help me in this. She'll be targeting me, after all.">>725062
"I think I will. Thank you." She doesn't need help, nimbly leaping up onto the ship in a single bound.
Etrigan silently volunteers to accompany you.
A brief exploration of Verigan's Hold reveals little of value, sadly. It is little more than a pile of decaying rubble. The only signs of life are the camp Marisol and Hermodur made in one of the watchtowers. It's entirely possible they missed something, though.>roll for looting
[1d10] Etrigan looting>>725063>>725064
She nods. "We had to travel with them ourselves to get here," she explains with a bit of a lip curl. "They are utterly vile, but as long as we don't cross them ourselves, we should avoid combat. They're delivering a cargo of slaves for something called the "Night of the Hunt". No clue what that entails, but it can't be anything pleasant. In any case, Last Hearth is a thriving little town. We should be able to find food and water there. I'll cover the expenses, if you're all running short," she offers.>>725035
After a while, the felid leaps on board, presumably invited, while Aegis takes off with Etrigan to scour the ruins. You watch from afar as the felid starts exploring the ship, making herself at home already.Roll #1 6 = 6
Aegis made sure to throughly look through the watchtowers, spreading out with Etrigan to cover more ground faster
'1d10' lootingRoll #1 3 = 3
"Yeah, that definitely sounds pretty nasty- hopefully we can sail right past it. As long as they have food and water, I think we'll be set- unless you two need something?"
I nod. "Alright. I can't see H letting something like that happen, anyway, so I believe you." >>725062
I glance over at Vi. "I'm gonna take a look around too. There's gotta be something
." I follow Aegis into the keep.
[1d10] Loot.Roll #1 8 = 8
"We… aren't doing much better, I'm afraid," Hermodur scratches the back of his head.>>725061
"Well now, don't discount the importance of appearance, even in combat. There's little as threatening as a well dressed murderer. You can win many fights that way without having to harm anyone.">>725065
"Hadrian is incredible," Hermodur says, admiring his hand. "He says he also has more ideas on how to upgrade it."
"Yes," Hermodur nods. "We should get moving anyway. Marisol and I have been camping here for a few days now. It's only a matter of time before Gavrilo or someone else tracks us down."
Hermodur boards the ship with the others.
"Yeah, I've actually kind of been trying to put that into practice." I let out an uneasy chuckle. "Hasn't really been working out like I'd hoped."
"You don't yet have the muscle or demeanor for it. But, I admire that you've come to that practice. You DID say you wanted to avoid killing. Good to see you've found an effective path to that," Hermodur says, patting him on the shoulder.
"Actually," he says as he eyes Norv's equipment. "The poison sprayer and the gas mask may be enough to portray that threatening persona… It certainly has the image of 'psychopath'," he chuckles.
"Not to worry, we'll be able to afford it. It's simply the matter of getting there that could have given us trouble. Lysander has done significant damage to our ship, though thankfully it would appear we're much closer to a town than expected."
Waving off her concern, i make my way back onto the ship with the others.
Zunden ignores the other felid for now, focusing on Hermodur. She holds up her gloved hand, nodding to the familiar feline, "Hermodur, I am glad to zee you.
" The saurian speaks in a much softer voice than she once had.
I stumble a little at the pat and laugh. "Yeah. That's kind of something I was hoping for. Won't have to horribly poison someone if they give up because they think I'm going to horribly poison them. I'm gonna go take a look around for now. Defintiely want to catch up when I get back to the ship, though."
You don't find much except cobwebs and skeletons. Not even the undead kind.
Etrigan manages to find a rare shrub growing with a couple of large, yellow, spiky fruits resembling melons. While he doesn't say anything, his intent is clear; they are edible, though they don't look appetizing at all.>>725068
"I'll wait on the ship," says Violet. "Be safe."
You find a small barrel of dried fruit in a corner, with a Dog skeleton slumped over it. They still seem edible. Plus, the skeleton has a few coins on him still. >+30 bits>>725069
"Oh? Well, let's hope that pans out. Though, might be tricky getting to him. He lives in Braildorn after all."
Violet nods and follows you, taking Purdue with her. "Who's this Gavrilo guy you keep bringing up?" she asks. "Sounds like a bad time."
The ship is much as you remember it, save for the damages. The upper deck is mostly intact, but down below, it seems to be falling apart at the seams. You can see several of the silent blue phantoms known as Servitors hard at work repairing the ship as best they can.>>725067
"I only ask for safe transport," she replies politely. "We're all outlaws among outlaws, after all. We ought to stick together. With any luck, we'll be able to avoid whatever rotten business the Chanticleers are brewing."
"I should ask. Where is it exactly that you're going from here? I've heard about your intent of retrieving the Cuckoo's Egg, but where will you take it from there?">>725072
"If you insist. I owe you much already just for letting me travel with you, really. An enemy of Grosvenor's is an enemy of mine, though."
She nods as you mention the proximity of Last Hearth. "By my reckoning, it's only two days flight from here. With any luck, supplies will hold out."
I try my best not to touch the skeleton as I rob him of his money and food. After pocketing the bits, I squat down, wrap my arms around the barrel, and wrap my arms around it. Slowly, I carry it back to the ship.
"I'm… not really sure, actually. It's hard to say what would be safe." (apologies if we hashed it out already)
''Terrible, but its better than nothing'' Aegis says as she meets the other two ''Lets head back. We shouldnt waste too much time'' She said, making her way to the ship
"I'm at a loss for ideas as well, unfortunately. Something as important as the egg will certainly need a clever solution. Perhaps a severance-lined container buried somewhere decidedly deadly.." i trail off, in thought.
Hermodur smiles. He reaches into his pocket and pulls out the sun that Zunden gave him.
"I followed your directions," he says proudly.>>725075
"Gavrilo is a hitman hired by Lysander. He's sadistic, calculating, and strong. He had a massive dragon with him, but I managed to kill him."
Hermodur takes off the top half of his cloak to reveal his body. Under his left shoulder are three circular scars, each one about 2 inches in diameter. Across his abdomen are three massive scars that look like some huge beast scratched him deep. All over his body, particularly in his arms and legs are a huge number of small scabs - like someone tried doing acupuncture way too violently.
"All of this was done by Gavrilo and his dragon. He is dangerous, he is clever, and he is insane. Worst of all, he's still after me. I came back to ensure that he doesn't use you to get to me. He's already killed others in his mad hunt for me. I need to make sure you're all safe."
Zunden stays quiet for a moment, but nods, "You are here ztanding, if you had need to uze ze zun, I likely would not have had a chanze to meet you again.
The skeleton judges you for your sins.
The barrel is quite lightweight. You don't have too much trouble carrying it back to the ship. Violet gives you a hand hoisting it up, beaming as she sees what's inside. "Nice find! Should be enough to last us the next few days. At least until we get to Last Hearth." "I miss fruit,"
Purdue comments from the side, looking at the barrel wistfully. "Eating in general, really. And drinking. You live ones have it easy.">>725077
She tilts her head with a slight frown. "You… don't have any sort of plan? You could hide it anywhere in the world. Anywhere at all. …Preferably somewhere remote though.">>725078
Etrigan nods and follows you back to the ship. You find most of the rest of the team there already.>>725079
She nods at the idea of the Egg being warded by Severance. "You would need a powerful enchanter indeed to protect the Egg with such a rune," she muses. "There are few who could, to my knowledge. Scriniarii, perhaps. Or the Bloody Damsel… Black Pudding might be able to. Might." She shrugs.>>725080
Violet winces at the sight of your many scars, paling a little at your description of Gavrilo. "…Well. We'll have to deal with him at some point, I suppose. He's just one pony, and there's…" She does a head count. "Ten of us. Maybe eleven. He's outnumbered. Nothing to worry about. Right?" She doesn't seem too certain, but gives you a smile under the cloth mask.
"Working at it- I don't really know the Echoes too well. Maybe we can ask around for some more remote places in that town you mentioned… or, at least get a map.">>725079
Rabi gently leans off his bad leg, before grinning a bit and saying "We could… hide it in an omelet?"
"There were many times I felt like I should use it. When I felt like I needed the extra power or a quick heal. But, I reminded myself that you said to use it wisely. I wouldn't get another. So, I held onto it. I didn't want to make you worry. I'm sorry if I did.">>725082
"My concern isn't a straight-up fight. I managed to fight him and his massive dragon alone until Marisol came to help me. My concern is what he will do to make it NOT a straight-up fight. He's very clearly demonstrated that nothing is out-of-bounds to him."
"Yeah. Considering how cleaned out the place was I'm surprised I found anything." I nod to Purdue. "Yeah. Sorry. But hey, there's getting to eat and drink and then there's having
to eat and drink. So I guess it's a tradeoff."
She offers a small smile, "Zinze you have left, I have had to teach myzelf in ze ability to truzt ozherz to take care of zhemzelvez. It waz inzulting to take on burden after burden not giving ozherz ze benefit of ze doubt.
" She continues to speak softly, "Ztill, I am a healer. We have had many injuriez and I am tending to many, but az you are here, you do not have to worry about wazting a valuable rezourze now. If you wizh, I will alot time to help azzauge ze damage to your body az well.
"Much as i'd like to consult Black Pudding, i've not the foggiest where he could be. I remember speaking with him at the swap meet, though I'm sure he's long since picked up and left."
"Perhaps we can ask around town, though i suspect he will make himself known when available. For now, Zunden's runecrafting will have to suffice. She's gotten quite good, with severance at least.">>725083
"Well, i'm sure that would be quite the breakfast!" i reply, covering a laugh with my wing.
"I had a skilled healer treat most of my injuries already. I don't think there's much more that can be done for most of this," he says, gesturing to his body. "I wouldn't want to add to your burdens anyway. You seem to have enough on your plate…"
"Are you okay?" he asks softly.
Marisol nods. "I'm sure there's some sort of cartographer in Last Hearth that could help you. Truth be told, I don't know much about the place, other than it being one of the larger towns in this part of the Echoes.">>725084
Violet frowns. "In that case, we'll have to be extra careful," she muses. "I've dealt with thugs like him in the past. Almost cost me my life more than once. It's never pretty when they show up. To say the least.">>725085"Yes, I suppose it's not all bad. Only have the rest of eternity to ponder my existence. Hehe. …Say. Mr Black. If it wouldn't be too much to ask…"
He chickens out. "…No, never mind. It's nothing.">>725087
She pulls out a wooden compass with gold trimming. You recognize it as being just like the one that the party have, to guide them wherever they need to go. "This should help us…"
As she focuses for a moment, the compass starts spinning madly in circles. Marisol frowns and puts it away. "Hm. Seems the pellar doesn't want to be found. Interesting."
At the mention of Zunden, she blinks. "I don't believe I've met her yet. Though I've heard a lot about her. We shall have to discuss it at some point.">>725087>>725083
Marisol doesn't so much as crack a smile. Humor is absolutely not her strong suit.
I cock my eyebrow and walk over to him. "Nah, what is it?"
"Phyzically. I've been humbled, but I do not have time to be zhaken. Conzider it clozer to reverenze. I am treating ze zituation wizh caution and zhought.
''We will have to find a way to get him by surprise then, and force him to fight us head-on. Then I imagine we will finally have some relief. Ever since the day I stepped in this realm, it seems the source of all problems have been coming from Lysander, and honestly at this point I am tired of hearing his name'' Aegis muses as she eats some of the dried fruit, making a barely visible effort to not make a face>>725089
''I dont think I have heard of this Last Hearth before. How is it?''
Aegis also turns to adress the party ''Are you wanted there too?''
"Hrm… well, it's enough to go off of, at least. We can figure it out when we get there.">>725092
"Well, we know he's going to come after us eventually. If we need to get him by surprise, we have plenty of time to set up somewhere."
''Only after we hide the egg, and after we ensure the knowledge of its location is erased from our minds, to be certain. Lysander is cunning, if we protect the egg from being located he will either scour every corner of the Echoes or will come find us with a mind reader to extract the knowledge from us… That is, unless we kill him, then our only major worry will possibly be the Oneiromancer''
"What happened?" Hermodur asks with continued concern.>>725092
"I feel the same way.">>725089
"He killed a whole group of civilians. Right outside the Swap Meet no less. All just to lure me in. Bad news indeed," Hermodur growls.
>>725090"Well… if it's not too much to ask, I was hoping you could take me with you. Next time you're out and about, I mean. The ship is all well and good but it gets rather dull. I could fit on the back of your belt, or something. A-and if anything tries to sneak up, I'll let you know! I'd just like to get out of this place, really. See the world a bit more. What do you say?">>725092
Marisol speaks up. "Lysander is notoriously hard to reach ever since he lost his ship. He could be anywhere. Showing up in person isn't his style. He'd rather mock his enemies from afar, or have them brought to him. You may know who he is, but you won't know where he is. And you'll never see him coming."
Marisol shrugs. "As I said, I haven't been there before. Only that it's an affluent town in the shadow of the desert beyond." She looks out the window towards the Shifting Sands, staring at the omnipresent cloud of gathering insects with a frown.>>725093
She nods. "I'm sure I can help you all formulate a plan. We have a common enemy, after all.">>725095
Violet blinks. "That's… wow. Hope we don't run into him any time soon. We've got enough on our plate already, really. More so given the situation with…" She shoots a glance at Marisol. "With her." She lowers her voice a little and leans in. "Are you two…?"
"Are we, what?" Hermodur asks, furrowing his brow. "What's wrong with her?"
"In ze dezert, we had an encounter wizh Lyzander and Grozvenor. Dawn, ze mare I nurzed back to healzh at ze moneztary - her lover waz conzumed by ze zwarm of inzectz. Aurora, zhe iz comotoze, I've zpent dayz at her bedzide. Violet, zhe can tell you az zhe zeez fit the brunt of her damage, zhe haz felt to keep zhat hidden. Rabi, while he walkz wizh confidenze, had part of ze zhip zkewer him in ze zhigh. Hiz wound iz ze eaziezt to heal, but it will ztill be weekz before it can be fully fixed.
Hermodur's expression turns from concern to grim contemplation as Zunden speaks. He looks down at his own hands.
"This would usually be the part where I sit down and pray. Prayer is a form of meditation, you know. Meditation is thought to bring about a heightened form of thought to help enable to you to process emotions and understand the world on a higher level. There are those such as myself who believe that that heightened thought comes from divine sources."
"But, I am not that Felid anymore. I don't know what to do at a moment like this. I can't do anything except apologize. I wasn't here for any of you. I left thinking it would help. And, maybe I was right to do that. But, I still can only look at what has happened in my absence and wonder how much of it I could have prevented."
Hermodur trails off for a moment. He wipes his face with his good hand. Then, he looks back up at Zunden.
"Well, this time I'm still here! This time I was able to get back! This time, I won't let everyone die! Cease with your humility for this will be the turning point in the story, I guarantee it! Hermodur proclaims it proudly with a thump of his chest!"
I chuckle. "That's all? I actually asked Mercutio and you that before, but you weren't always up to it. Nah, that ain't a problem at all." I rub the back of my neck. "Actually," I say. "Guess I'll admit that I'd already been tryin' to think of ways that'd make that easier."
"You left to prove to yourzelf your fate iz your own, I zuppoze. Ztill, I am zhankful you have returned, Hermodur. Az time goez on, ze ztregzh of our bondz iz what will keep uz alive in zheze unforgiving landz.
"Cool. I don't have too
much experience with this sort of thing, but I feel confident that I could help set up some sort of ambush.">>725099
"Yeah. There's not too much we can do about what could have happened, so let's focus on what we can do." he suggests, trying to smile a little bit.
Violet thinks. "Heard it's controlled by some wealthy family. And that it's kind of out of the way. Right in the middle of a big woodland area. Other than that, can't really say much about it," she shrugs.>>725097
"You know. An item. …I mean you rock up out of nowhere with a girl like that. I just assumed you guys were dating. Am I wrong?">>725191
He brightens up. "Oh. Well thank you. Sincerely! I-I just want to make myself more useful around here, to be perfectly honest. Even if I can't move, I'm sure I can be of some use, some assistance. Really, this means a lot to me.">>725439>>725087
Marisol nods, pondering the options of what to do with the Egg. "If we're looking for a remote place to hide the Egg… I know there's a volcano further to the north. One of the tallest mountains in the Echoes. Perhaps in there? Or in the cave system beneath. I've heard they stretch for miles beneath… Or in the Lands of Always Winter. Nothing lives there, and that land stretches forever. Or the Brightly Shining Sea, or the Lake of Tears… It'd have to be somewhere almost impossible to get to. That's the most important part, the way I see it.">>725438
As you converse, you are dimly aware of the Felid having entered the room. Dressed in a roughspun hooded cloak, she is smaller than Hermodur, with a white coat and a brown face like a Siamese, with the matching bright blue eyes. She is looking around the ship curiously, and does a bit of a double take as she sees you. "Oh. You must be Captain Zunden. …I'm Marisol. Hermodur's companion." She clears her throat. "…Would you happen to have room for another on board? I don't mean to impose, but I don't have anywhere else to go for now. …I'd… like to help with your group's predicament, if I can. And I could make it worth your while." She pulls out a small bag of coins.
"I will do everything I can to make up for my absence," Hermodur says, putting his hand on Zunden's shoulder.>>725439
"Indeed. It's as I've said before. A winner looks at the way the world SHOULD be, not how it is.">>725442
Hermodur appears to be intensely uncomfortable. He grimaces and fidgets with his hands. His body is stiff. "We ran afoul of Lysander's mercenaries together. It just seemed… convenient to continue to travel together."
I give an awkward dismissive wave, suddenly embarassed from the blatant show of appreciation for some reason. "Pffff, nah, it's not a problem. I, uh-" I clear my throat. "I've actually been thinking of ways to, you know, maybe help you get a body or something. I don't really think we should tamper with the magic binding you to the skull." I pause, and my ears fold a little. "Unless you, you know- don't want
your soul bound to something." I don't want to flat out say that maybe he wants to die, so I leave it at that. "Anyway, there are some ideas I have. Some folks I can talk to. I probably can't get you any sorta actual feeling or anythin', but I might be able to find some way to get around that doesn't involve you being tied to my coat. Hopefully."
Zunden giggles softly as she hears the title of Captain affixed to her name,
"Pleaze, no titlez, exzept maybe Reader.
she looks back up at Hermodur, "Zhank you. And if you truzt Marizol'z involvement, zhe can azzizt in ze matter. Zinze you have left, ze zhip haz been made immune from zcrying, zo zhe will not be watched by her prior employer.
"Hmm.. burying it somewhere deep underground could suffice, far enough that if even we
struggle to make it, that would be guarantee enough for its security.."
"Doubtless we will have to doubly ward a container for it, and a room to speak in for the final decision, but for now at least we shall take things one hoof at a time, a ship to repair and supplies to acquire first and foremost."
>ret 2 skip
"I do trust her…" Hermodur says slowly. "But, I'm afraid that her being here brings with it a bit of a complication… The reason she's been targeted by Lysander despite previously being a bodyguard for Grosvenor is because we have stolen an ingredient to a potion that will apparently grant immortality."
"Az I have heard. We have Lyzander'z zhip, we are juzt az much a target. Zhe two have allied zhemzelvez, zo no more complicazion zhan we already have.
''That much I could already tell. He either doesnt like dirtying his hands or is too weak himself to do so. Still, there must be a way to attack him'' Aegis shook her head ''If only my sister was here…''>>725442
''We should be careful then, Lysander might have bought the favor of the town's leaders. This wouldnt be an issue for me before but… I regret having allowed Lysander to see me earlier, I could have much more freedom to act if I wasnt spotted''
"There is an alternative to hiding them. Something more definitive. Making the recipe for immortality will destroy the tears in the process. If we start the recipe up to the point where the tears are destroyed and ruin the recipe afterwards, we would permanently remove the problem."
"Of course, the issue is that we don't KNOW the recipe…"
"Hrm… I guess we'll just have to look a little into each of them, and see what looks best. Underwater could be good… t-though, it worries me a little. I don't really know how to swim all that well, myself." he admits.
(If we're looking to skip, I'd be down. The most I'd want to do is talk to an NPC over the skip.)>>725448
"Well, I doubt it'll bring all that much more heat on to us, to be honest."
''Why would you want to do that and not claim immortality if you went to the trouble of doing all that?'' Aegis turns to Hermodur, her expression unreadable
"I suppose so, though my principle concern would be the egg. An immortality potion reagent is one thing, a dimension destroying artifact is another."
"First of all, we would presumably NOT have to go through the process of acquiring all the ingredients, so we wouldn't be that close to immortality anyway. Second, we are no gods. We should not be immortal."
"Do we have a method of destroying it?"
Aegis stared at Hermodur for a second
''Still, the potential of immortality is something many would give their lives and more in pursuing. If we could hold on to the tears, we could make good profit of it, even if we dont use them''
"Well.. no. Not without destroying the echoes entirely. Our best option, unless we find some means to safely destroy it, is to find the most remote, most dangerous place in the realm and bury it."
"How tragic that we found it in the first place…">>725457
Hermodur merely crosses his arms and gives Aegis a disapproving look.
Aegis returns the look, indifferent ''Yes?'' she asks after a couple seconds
"We were moments away from Lysander
taking it for himself, so i suppose it was for the best." i reply with a sigh. "Even within the heart of the shifting sands it wasn't enough to keep him at bay.. With luck we may find a better option."
"Yes, but he wouldn't have known where to look if we didn't find it first.">>725461
"I was just thinking to myself I understand how you got here."
She smiles under her mask. "Ah. Okay then. If you say so. …Truth be told though. I'm just kind of nervous about the whole Grosvenor thing she's bringing. Are you really sure you can trust her? I mean I don't doubt she means to help us, but being associated with her just makes us even bigger targets. Don't you think? …Then again I suppose we're already being hunted by a psychopathic dragon who also happens to be one of the most influential people in the land, while also protecting an artifact that could destroy the multiverse if we so much as look at it funny. It can't get much worse. Haha." There's not much humor in her laugh.>>725445"Is… is that even possible?"
he asks. "I mean stranger things have happened, I suppose. It would mean so much if you did that for me. I can't imagine it'd be easy, though. And I'm newer here than you are, so I won't be able to help much… I just feel so helpless not even being able to move around. At least I get the chance to flap my gums every once in a while. Not that I have gums anymore. Nyehehe. But um, if there's anything I can do to help towards getting a… a new body, then I'll do whatever it takes. You can count on me, brother!">>725446
Marisol looks confused. "…Reader, then. May I travel with you? At least until I can find a place to live in hiding? If so, how much per night?" She starts counting out the little coin she carries.>>725447
She nods. "It seems this place went through quite a battle. Still. It would be good to have a proper round table discussion about this at some point, with the others.">>725450
"Not likely," Marisol comments at the idea of Lysander buying out Last Hearth. "The town is isolated. Remote. They're not a major port like Braildorn or Fiddler's Green. I think we'll be safe there, at least for a time.">>725451
"Maybe Black Pudding would know?" Violet suggests.
Marisol nods in agreement. "I've dealt with the Druid before several times, running errands for Grosvenor. If we can find him, he's sure to be able to help us - me, really - find a way out of this. Of course, the issue is he doesn't want to be found." She holds up her spinning compass to show it.>>725452
Marisol nods. "Again. Consulting a cartographer would be the way to go. Last Hearth is small, by all accounts, but we might be able to find someone who knows the land."
Hermodur and Marisol settle themselves in as best they can on the ailing ship, claiming separate rooms.
The journey westwards is rather uneventful. Aurora remains comatose, while Dawn is as elusive as ever following the events at the Hive. Neither Hermodur or Marisol have had the chance to introduce themselves to her, as she only leaves her room when everyone else is as away.
Violet and Marisol seem to get along well enough, despite the former's initial reservations. They train together frequently, both being skilled fighters.
Etrigan starts spending time with Purdue often. The latter, as a scholar, is quite knowledgeable of the world outside the Echoes, and the latter is more than happy to listen to him ramble.
Whether it is the Oneiromancer's doing, or the Egg's, or just a byproduct of the circumstances, none of you sleep well in the nights that follow. Your dreams range from slightly uncomfortable to horrific nightmares, and you get very little sleep if at all. This combined with the dwindling food and water results in everyone being constantly tired, hungry, and vaguely stressed.
Two days later, you can see the town of Last Hearth on the distant horizon. You have been traveling west-south-west, away from the arid lands surrounding the Shifting Sands and towards more wooded areas. Last Hearth is built in a valley, from the looks of things, on the border of a thick expanse of forest.
You see a few points of interest in the surrounding area:
A nearby farm appears to have been attacked, or raided. The windmill stands broken, and you can see smoke coming from a nearby house. No signs of life from what you can see.
A rainbow portal opens far to the left, and a single figure falls from it. It is the sort of portal that indicates a new arrival to the Echoes.
Off in the distant trees, you can see a wisp of smoke, indicating a small campfire.
Etrigan seems interested in the farmstead, peering over the edge of the deck at it, trying to discern what happened.
Marisol clings to the rigging, looking curiously at the portal. "A new arrival. Should we investigate?" she suggests.
Violet doesn't seem interested in any of them. "I just hope we get to Last Hearth soon. I need a drink. And a holiday. A very long holiday.""If we're running low on supplies,"
Purdue suggests, "perhaps we could approach the campfire? They might be able to help you. Us. Maybe."
Recalling my part in it, i look away, clearing my throat behind a wing. "Ahem, yes, well, We certainly will not make that
mistake again, not while we have the severance runes and we know just who we're dealing with."
"Grosvenor is already allied with Lysander anyway. The only problem Marisol poses for us is that Grosvenor will still hold a grudge even if her alliance with Lysander ends.">>725464
"How can he stop himself from being found by one of those compasses?" Hermodur asks, practically astounded.>>725465
"There could be something edible on the farm or in the windmill," Hermodur suggests. "They must also have a supply of water."
''Do you?'' Aegis tilts her head>>725464
''We will never be truly safe as long as we are in the Echoes, so dont think this is our chance to have some downtime yet. We can only rest once Lysander and the egg are dealt with''
''The Last Hearth is still a day or so away. I rather we go down and fetch what water we can find before any of us passes out from dehydration, or Aurora succumbs to it''
"With that callous and criminal attitude? Sure. I may not know the specifics, but I don't have to."
"I am alwayz in favor to firzt return ze favor Violet onze gave uz and give ze newcomer a ztart in zhiz foreign land. Bezidez, we know zhem not to be tainted by Lyzander'z influenze.
Zunden nods, "I agree. After greeting ze newcomer, I zhink we zhould vizit ze farm.
Quite disheveled due to the lack of supplies, i make my way onto the deck to observe the situation, eyeing the camp and farm with interest.
"Hmm.. While the farmstead may have been picked clean, i highly doubt whoever has made camp there would be willing to part with their food.. Perhaps we could divide our efforts? scour both locales, using the ship and our carpet.. if it survived the fight, that is."
"Hrm… I'd say help the newcomer first- at least help them get their bearings, yeah? Maybe check out the farm, or the campfire next."
I smooth my hair back as I look around "You and me both," I tell Violet. I sigh, shake my head, and nod toward the portal. "We should probably go check out the necomer," I say. "We should be careful obviously, bit we've had pretty good luck with them so far. seems like we all agree on that." I nod. "Yeah, I say we split up after."
"I suppose that's true. We'd have had to deal with Grosvenor anyway, I suppose."
"Severance," she replies simply. Etrigan joins the conversation, producing a piece of paper with a symbol drawn on it. You recall he drew the same symbol when you encountered him earlier. "Only a few know the secrets of runes," Marisol explains. "At least, enough to be able to use them like Black Pudding does. And Severance is one of the most potent, when used correctly.">>725468
Marisol nods in agreement. "It'd be foolish to let our guard down, ever. But we need somewhere to lay low for a time, don't we? It's better than nothing.">>725467>>725471>>725469>>725472>>725473>>725474
"Looks like it's pretty unanimous," Violet comments. "Let's see what's going on with the newcomer."
Zunden takes the ship closer to where the portal appeared, moving into the valley more and landing in an open, grassy field with several boulders. As the portal closes, you find that it has deposited an odd sight. There is no cage containing a prisoner, but instead, what you see can only be described as some kind of doll.
Made in the shape of a pony, the doll is quite small, about six times smaller than the real counterpart. It seems to have a wooden and metal skeleton, with joints in all the right places. In lieu of hair, it has been covered in what looks like burlap, giving it the appearance of a child's toy. The mane is made of stringy wool, and it has a featureless face save for two black button eyes. Where the mark would be on a pony is the number 7
, clearly written in ink.
The doll lies lifelessly on the ground, staring up at the sky with its button eyes. A few curious mosscats have come out of the woodworks to examine the new arrival. They scatter as you approach.
Marisol frowns at the sight of it, not knowing what to make of it. "…Huh."
Violet looks curious, pointing out the number. "Part of a series, maybe?"
Etrigan seems a bit apprehensive, awkwardly poking at it with his hoof, to no response.
Purdue just looks confused. "I thought this place was a prison for criminals. …Did the doll steal a loaf of bread or something?"
I walk over to the doll, crouch down, pick it up, and turn it over in my hand. "Huh." I look around. "Think whoever brought this here already disappeared off into the woods or something? Weird to leave one of the few things you get to bring with you."
[1d10]perceptionRoll #1 6 = 6
Zunden keeps her distance, investigating from afar,
"If i recall correctly, Purdue, ze echoez iz treated by zhoze in ze Dominion az a magical 'trazh can'. Anyzhing problematic or no longer uzeful can zimply be willed away and zhey'll never have to deal wizh it again. Now, whezher or not it waz banizhed out of malize or dizcarding old zentimentz remainz to be zeen."Roll #1 4 = 4
Hermodur immediately gets a bad vibe from the doll. "I suggest we destroy it now."
''You can think what you what, Master Norvegicus'' Aegis nodded and looked away''>>725475>>725476
''It might be cursed. Or it might come to life at nightfall to kill us in our sleep''
I pale, gently set her back on the ground, and pat her on the head.
Disembarking, i look on with the others as the view of the doll greets me.
"..Really now, a doll
? Have they well and truly gone mad back home?" i ask aloud, laughing heartily behind a wing.
"Ah, a good joke was just what i needed. Pitiful thing, really, though perhaps an interesting add to your collection, eh Zunden?">>725477
"I… huh. Well, that's not really what I would've expected. Maybe it's down here because, I don't know… maybe something about making it is illegal?" he suggests.
He'll take the weight off his injured leg, and look around. [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"My curio iz no more.
Violet takes a look around. "No cage. No recent hoofprints. It's just this."
You find that the doll has some sort of zipper on its burlap body, opening it up from the back. Doing so reveals a metal box in its chest. It seems to contain something, but it's screwed shut.>>725477
You sense something magical about this doll, but nothing malicious. Whatever it is, it doesn't appear cursed."That's… a bit depressing,"
he comments. "It's like nothing here is wanted up above.">>725478>>725479
Violet looks at you funny. "Jumping to conclusions much?" Etrigan seems to agree with the sentiment though, eyeballing the doll hard. >>725481
"Clearly someone didn't want it around," Marisol muses, not finding it very funny. "A failed experiment, perhaps?">>725482
You take a look around the immediate area. There's no sign of the usual cage shoved through the portal, nor are there hoofsteps, or indeed any sign of someone having been here recently. You do, however, notice something far off in the treeline, from where the campfire is. A pair of ponies are watching you curiously, presumably having spotted your ship. They look rather wild, like they live in the forest themselves. As you make eye contact with the far off watchers, one of them cautiously raises their hoof in greeting to you.
''There was a fun story we used to tell back at my home, about a beautiful doll that would eat your heart as you slept, trying to become a real living pony. My sister would tease me relentlessly with this tale since I got one for my birthday, since then I've gotten a distaste for dolls''
Rabi looks to the two strangers, and gives a little bit of a wave. "We've got more, I think. They don't look bad, at least."
"Ah, zhink of it zhiz way, Purdue. Ze Echoez iz a land of zecond chanzez. Zome zimply did not belong amongzt ze denizenz of ze Dominion to begin wizh. Fate iz fickle.
She finishes looking over the doll, "It iz of magical nature. I do not enough interezt to take it along, but if zomeone elze wizhez to, zhey may.
"They spent the time and resources to perform the ritual necessary to send this here. That speaks volumes for how dangerous it is."
"The only reason I rescind my advice that we should destroy it is because I'm sure they would have if they could.">>725485
"Hmm…" Hermodur muses. "Dolls that eat hearts you say? Interesting, then, that this doll has a locked box in its own chest."
It's unclear whether or not Hermodur is seriously considering the possibility.
"Ah.. I see." i trail off, clearing my throat. "Did we manage to save any of it?">>725484
"Quite possibly." i reply "given the benign nature of it, i suspect it may have failed whatever experiment they had in mind.. for the best, i'd hope."
"The box has me a little curious.. perhaps i could examine it closer with my tools back on the ship."
"That, uh… w-well, I don't know how I like the sound of that. Let's hope this one isn't like that, then."
''It was just a tale, obviously, but who knows. Maybe some ill-intentioned Mage made it true, do you want to comfirm it?''
"Huh." I take it back and put it away. "Well, no sense leaving it here to rot. Where to next?">>725485
I gulp. "I, uh- I'm sure it's not that. Just a weird doll.">>725489
"I could too. I think I might have what I'd need to tinker with the box a little, if it wasn't destroyed."
Violet looks a bit disturbed. "Well I'm sure we don't have to worry about that. It doesn't even have a mouth. See?">>725486
"Hm?" Marisol looks over with slight suspicion, eyeing the two ponies in the distance. "Interesting. They don't seem like agents of Lysander, at least. It might be worth our time to investigate.">>725487"…I suppose that's one way of looking at it. Hm. …I'd be nodding if I could, so just imagine I am."
"I can't deny I'm curious," Marisol muses. "I don't feel it's my place to say if we should keep it or not, though.">>725488
"You know what, that's actually a good point," Violet nods. "Might be best to just leave it.">>725489
Marisol 'hmm's again before pulling out her dagger, trying to pry the metal box open, but to no avail. "We'll need a screwdriver of some sort," she grunts, sheathing it again. "If we meet a master enchanter, maybe they could shed some light on this… thing.">>725492
You put the doll away for now.>>725492>>725489>>725488>>725487>>725485>>725486
"So," says Violet, adjusting her mask. "With that out of the way. Where to from here? Should we split up? Guess we should go see what's going on at that campfire. Might be able to get supplies from them. Maybe. Though, if there's people still alive at that farmstead, maybe we could help them. Wonder what happened…"
Etrigan and Marisol seem indifferent, while Purdue doesn't have much of a say, going where Norv goes.
"So, you're taking it with you?" Hermodur asks with trepidation.>>725494
"Regardless of whether there's people alive, there's sure to be more resources readily available at the farm."
"Worth checking out, yeah. Let's go say hey…"
The stallion offers another wave to the two ponies, and calls out "Come on out! We won't bite."
It is quiet aboard the ship. You currently have it flying over a stretch of sparse bushland, heading west towards Last Hearth. It is mid afternoon at the moment, on a cloudy day. Violet and Marisol are having a rather intense discussion about something, while Etrigan is off in the background scoping out your balaur, petting it and generally watching its antics. Dawn is presumably in her room, while Purdue is humming idly. Someone placed him on the upper deck, and he is happily watching the scenery fly by.
Having finished taking stock and rationing out the next few days of food, Zunden goes about her rounds, pacing around the ship. Thinking herself to have an afternoon where the health of the others aren't critical, the saurian heads towards Dawn's room, rapping softly on the door as not to spook the blind mare.
You notice a slight shimmer around the door, almost like a flicker of light. It remains closed. "Who's there?" you hear Dawn ask rather shakily, followed by the sound of spells being cast.
"It'z Zunden, Dawn. May I be allowed in?
" Zunden speaks softly, though trying to be heard through the door, "You can say no, I'll rezpect your zpaze.
"Oh. C-certainly." The door opens on its own, allowing you to enter. Dawn's room is immaculately tidy, well kept, and otherwise pristine, like it's never been used. All her belongings are kept in the closet, or folded neatly and tucked under the bed. You notice that Carabas' gear is nowhere to be seen. Dawn smiles. "I wasn't expecting a visitor. It's a shame we don't get to talk more often. Wh-what can I do for you?">roll Perception
"I have been buzy healing ze ozherz, I've been trying to find free time to check in wizh ze crew. It haz been a long few weekz.
" Zunden sighs, gauging Dawn's face.Roll #1 2 = 2
You can't help but feel that there's something off about the room. It's almost too perfect.
Dawn looks different to you. Thinner, perhaps. Tired. More weary. Nonetheless, she smiles. "I'm fine. …Really. I've just been doing some… some soul searching, I suppose. Times are hard. But I'll get by. I always do. …I always do," she repeats, as if affirming it to herself.
Zunden nods to herself silently, "Do you mind if I zit near you?
" She asks before moving in further, not wishing to alarm given the mare's lack of sight.
Despite the quieter voice she's been toting, the saurian's intonation still manages to curb some of the edge it might normally have, "I am here for you if you need me, however you may need.
"No, don't-" You step in, but your foot bumps into something invisible. You hear the shifting of broken materials. Dawn freezes. "I… I…"
She seems unsure of what to do for a moment, then silently, as if resigned, her horn lights up. The room around you seems to melt away, the pristine surroundings replaced with the truth. Dawn's room is in shambles, partly from the crash and, it seems, partly from her having leveled it in a fit of grief. The wardrobe has toppled over, reduced to splinters. There are clothes and broken curios everywhere. The walls and floor are riddled with scorch marks.
Dawn herself looks worst of all. She has forgone her blindfold, revealing her face; her eyes are covered in milky fog, surrounded by jagged pink burn scars. Her mane is limp and disheveled, curtaining her countenance. She looks grubby and ragged, and overall completely miserable. The scene is grim, to say the least.
"…I'm sorry," she says softly. "…Don't tell the others."
"I won't, I promize. Iz it alright if I pick up a bit?
Zunden slowly takes to picking up any broken glass or exposed, sharp objects from around the floor, wanting to clear a safe area in the immediate area of both of them.
"I can fetch you zomezhing warm to drink, if you'd like.
Dawn nods slightly in response to both offers, looking ashamed. As you start picking up debris, she reaches out with magic, fumbling around with her telekinesis a little before joining in in clearing the area. "…I didn't mean to, you know," she says softly. "It just… happened. It's part of why I haven't left the room. Trapped myself in here." She offers a pained smile, and you notice that she has a few scrapes, bruises and cuts on her legs from trying to pick through it herself.
"I made a terrible mistake, didn't I." She's more talking to herself than to you. "Getting you involved in our affairs. You saved my life, and I've done nothing but ruin yours. After what… what happened… I think it's for the best if I lay low. Disappear. I won't be able to hurt anyone that way, at least."
She looks up to you and wipes her face. "It's the least I could do, really. Otherwise I'll probably find a way to ruin things for everyone again." She sighs. "I just don't know what I'm doing, really. Especially not after what happened. I only act like I know everything…"
"Dawn, in what world did you do any harm to uz." Zunden asks without the softness in her voice she's held for weeks, "Lyzander already held a grudge againzt Violet, we had already aczidentally known ze location of ze egg before we knew it'z importanze, ze brief time you've been wizh uz you've done nozhing but help and try to be uzeful."
A servitor manifests in the kitchen, beginning to heat some water to bring tea and hot chocolate over, as well as some wet washcloths.
"I do not know when we've required you to know anyzhing, or to help uz wizh our goal. You're a guezt, and a friend too uz all too. We're all drifterz, we look out for eachozher.
She shakes her head. "I put you up to this," she answers, her voice trembling. "I came to you and told you of the Egg. I got you involved in the Oneiromancer's schemes. I made you take us all to that awful desert…" She chokes up a little and looks away. "I-I-I don't know if I can do this anymore," she half whispers, breathing shallowly. "I need to get out of here, I need to go…" She rises to her hooves instinctually and stumbles over a wooden beam.
Zunden instinctively goes to catch Dawn from slipping, keeping the mare steady.
"I'm zorry Carabaz died, Dawn. I know you cared deeply for him."
You stop her from falling, only to find yourself hurtling backwards, hitting the wall painfully and falling to the floor momentarily yourself.>Zunden takes 2 hits
"Please… don't," she says between deep breaths, trying to compose herself. She doesn't even seem to notice she just blasted you clear across the room. "Don't… don't say that name…"
After an uncomfortably long time, Dawn begins to recover, her breathing giving way to quiet sniffling. "I'm not doing very well, am I," is all she can say. "Haha…"
Dawn fumbles around again and curls back up on the bed. "I just wish I could've… could've done something to stop it… but it all happened so fast… and the swarming… Gods, the swarming… And the rocking…" She tries to hide away slightly, shrinking away from you.
Zunden stumbles up and through the damaged room, rubbing her side and resting her back up against the side of the bed, making an effort not to disturb Dawn more. She remains silent, giving Dawn her space to continue to elucidate, eventually getting back up to pick up the room.
"I have zome tea coming, will you want a cup?
She closes her eyes for a while, seemingly not having heard you. You repeat the question, and she responds with a simple small nod. There is a prolonged silence as she slowly begins to calm down, taking slow, deep breaths.
She breaks the silence eventually with a simple question. "Where will you take it?" she asks quietly. She seems to have composed herself somewhat, at least enough to be able to talk things over.
"I'm burying ze zhip zomewhere cold and unforgiving. Ze oppozite plaze an egg zhould be, it doez not dezerve warmzh like a nurzed clutch doez.
" Zunden says in a low tone, stopping her cleaning momentarily. She comes to with the arrival of the Servitor, taking the wet wash clothes and setting them aside, letting the Servitor stop a small distance from Dawn.
"I have a Zervitor here wizh ze tea.
Looking for a bit more to do than sitting and waiting to heal up, Rabi makes his way downstairs to Dawn's room. His pace down the stairs is rather slow, but he manages it on his own okay enough. He leans against the wall and takes a few moments to collect himself, before knocking on the mare's door.
"Hey, uh, Dawn? It's Rabi. I wanted to know if you wanted to talk for a little while. I get you if not, though."
She nods. "It should be locked away where no one can find it," she agrees. "Marked with Severance. Perhaps you should all have your memories wiped, so if he catches you, he can never find it himself. Just don't tell me where in the Echoes you'll take it."
She looks up as the Servitor enters. "Oh. …Thank you. You shouldn't be showing me so much kindness." She reaches out with telekinesis tentatively to receive the tea.
There is a comfortable silence as you both sip the tea. It has a little honey in it. "…And then what? With the Egg seen to, what would you do next? Burying the Egg doesn't make any of the ones after us disappear."
You make your way to Dawn's room and knock. She opens the door telekinetically. Her room is messy and neglected, and she herself looks exhausted and wan, but she smiles as you enter. "Ah. Hello, Rabi. Excuse the mess, I haven't… haven't been quite myself lately…" She seems to drift off in thought for a moment, but quickly snaps out of it. "Wh-what do I owe the visit? Something I can do for you?"
"Dizappear. Eizher make zhem grow complazent or paranoid, make friendz. Recover and figure out to do in ze mean time.
" Zunden continues to speak in a low tone, "But remain togezher all ze zame. If we are to zeperate, it iz only eazier to pick uz off one by one.
"I understand completely, Dawn. And, uh… I guess this might be kind of weird, but I wanted to talk to you about… magic. You seemed like one of the first people on the ship that came to mind, so I figured I'd check."
The stallion smiles a little in response, and leans off of the wall to step inside.
Dawn agrees, after thinking it over for a while. "Last time you were divided was when Hermodur left, wasn't it. We could have used him at… at the…" She drifts off for a minute, freezing up involuntarily. She sighs. "Maybe you're right. If you don't object, I think it would be better if I stayed. For now. I'll have to move out of this room, though. I… I can't be in here anymore."
She looks over in your direction. "Thank you, Zunden. For being a friend. I don't feel I deserve your kindness. You're the best of us. Truly."
"Oh?" She seems surprised you want to learn from her, but is happy to oblige. "I could show you a thing or two, I suppose. Better to do it somewhere else though."
She opens a silver door to the upper deck and steps through it. "Much more open here," she explains. "Less risk of breaking things."
"Now then. What would you like to know? Shall we start with the essentials? You should know, not everyone has the aptitude for magic. It's nothing to be ashamed of if it doesn't work." You get the feeling she doesn't realize you know magic already. Presumably because she can't see you casting spells.
"Let me ztay and help you move. I alzo brought zome wet clothez, if you'd allow me to wazh your hooves.
"That… that'd be lovely. Thank you." She finishes her tea and struggles to her hooves, wincing as she gets up. She reaches out with telekinesis and pushes away some of the debris in her room, trying to make her way over to you, wincing with every step. "Where are you?"
"Oh, yeah. I'd hate to mess something up in here, so let's g ahead and…" he blinks a couple of times as the mare opens up a silver door, before letting out a soft chuckle. "Right, right. Man, this is just so handy."
After they step out on to the deck, he gives her a somewhat curious loook. He tries to think of what to say, before blinking in realization and speaking back up with "Actually, I can already do some magic. A lot of it is self-taught, and it's not really the strongest, but I've got the basics down."
"Oh! Forgive me, I didn't know. Well, I'm happy to help however I can. What can I teach you? …I-If you're not sure, perhaps I could help you expand on what you do know…?" She seems eager to help you learn more advanced magic.
"Pleaze, ztay on ze bed, I can come to you.
" Zunden reaches out, resting a clawed hand on the blind mare. Once Dawn's comfortable again with her consent, she starts to clean the wounds mare's wounds, healing them as she goes.
[1d10] mendRoll #1 2 = 2
"On what I know? Well… a lot of what I know's kinda basic- elemental magic, blasts of energy, that sort of thing. The first thing I sorta experimented with was a magic-made bowstring, but I've known that for a few years. The newer stuff I picked up though is sort of what I want to expand on. I learned how to astrally project after using a scroll with the spell, and it just feels… I don't know, different. I like it a lot, but I'm not sure where to really go from there."
Dawn nods and sits back down.
You use your magic to start healing Dawn's injuries. She winces and instinctively jerks away as you do so, but mumbles an apology and lets you do your thing. You heal the most painful looking ones, but some of the cuts look dangerously red and swollen. There's not much you can do about them without more time.
"It's always been like this, you know," she says softly as you work. "Whenever things start to go wrong, I just… I can't help but explode. I try to keep it under control, but… well. I guess I just wanted to say I'm sorry for hurting you. Just before, I mean. It's just so hard, ever since the sands…"
"I don't know what I'll do but follow. …One thing I do know though. …I'm going to kill him." She says it with quiet conviction. "Whatever it takes."
"Astral projection? I might be able to help with that. I've practiced it a bit myself, before I lost my eyes. But, there are other methods. Including ones of forcing an astral form out of a physical form."
She moves towards you, her horn glowing silver before passing the spell to her hoof. It sparkles with magical energy. "May I demonstrate?" she asks politely. "It won't hurt, I assure you."
"Huh? Oh, uh… sure." the stallion says, trotting in place a little and trying to get ready. He eventually stops, and stares at her glowing, sparkling hoof.
"Ready whenever you are."
"Ah, wizhout a pazh and the need to avenge a loved one. I'd implore you zpend zome time wizh Aurora onze zhe awakenz from her coma. I zhink you two zhare a great deal.
Zunden sighs, offering a small smile, "You needn't worry for my healzh, zhough. My raze iz known for it'z zturdynezz.
" She pats her own chest, "Again, I am here for you, zhould you have any need of me. You are not alone.
She hesitates for a moment. "It won't hurt," she repeats earnestly. "But it won't be comfortable either."
Then, she gives you a single precise shove with her glowing hoof, right where your heart is. You feel a sudden shock run through your body and a whoosh
like of rushing wind. It takes you a few moments to process what she's done. You're in your astral form, watching your own body fall to the floor as if in slow motion. Dawn holds her stance, maintaining her hoof extended. Something's different. For the few brief moments you're out of your body, you notice that you're floating a few inches off the ground, not just walking as usual.
Dawn pulls her hoof back, and with another rush, you feel yourself get physically dragged back into your physical form. You almost topple over, but Dawn quickly reaches out with telekinesis and stops you from collapsing.
"A simple spell," she states. "But quite effective. Forcing someone into the astral plane isn't something that can be held for long, but for the unexperienced, it is quite something. Wouldn't you agree?"
"The stallion lets out a startled whinny as he's knocked out of his body, and squirms around a little- he's used to projecting himself, but being forced out is something else entirely. He takes a moment or two to try and get his bearings straight, which isn't aided by the fact that he's somehow floating off the ground.
Before he can really settle down, she yanks him back into his body, and he awakens with a start. He regains his balance with the help of her telekinesis, and lets out a little bit of a nervous giggle "T-Thanks. A bruised snout would've been a pain. But… how did you do that?"
he asks, leaning in and letting out an giddy little whinny. "That was… that was something else! Were you holding me there, somehow? I wasn't really touching the ground like I'm used to."
Dawn nods. "I'd heard as much. She's told me about herself a bit. She doesn't really hide what she is. …It's good, what you've done for that girl. Setting her on the right path. I can't imagine where she'd be if she hadn't stuck with you all."
"This isn't just blind revenge, though. It's justice. Even here in the Echoes, Lysander's crimes are… they're unconscionable. You know what he's become. He has to answer for them. It won't be easy, but he has to die, for the good of all."
She looks towards you, smiling genuinely. "Thank you. I don't feel like I've been a very good friend so far. I've barely spoken to anyone in the last few weeks, ever since we came aboard. I think I should fix that."
"Just as you can exit your body willingly into the Astral Plane," she explains, "so can the astral form be forced out of the physical form unwillingly. A throw as opposed to a calculated jump. I can show you how, if you like."
She frowns as you describe what happened. "That's not normal. How long have you known how to project yourself again? …Actually. Do me a favor and try to project now. I'm curious to see what happens."
Rabi hums a little, and nods. "I see, I see. I guess I'll have to get used to focusing on it a little differently… I think I could manage it, though! As for how long I've been doing this, well… three or four months, I think? Time passes odd, here."
The stallion works himself down on to his haunches with a strained huff, before trying to focus on projecting. "Here goes…"
"I don't dizagree, I have come to termz wizh it for a while now. We all know what'z at ztake zhould he zucceed at hiz goalz.
She sits near Dawn, stopping her room pickup for now, "At your own time, Dawn. I only azk you make zure to eat a meal every day.
" She says, giving a soft chuckle, "If you'd like to zleep in ze room acrozz from ze dining hall, you could knock at your own door and I'd hear. If you need eyez for anyzhing, I mean..
You exit your body once again. It is still different. You are a few inches off the ground, floating like some sort of ghost. As you move about, you find yourself passing through things; and, with a bit of concentration, you can even make yourself move up and down; effectively, you can move about weightlessly now.
Dawn, unable to detect you in this form, waits to hear what you have to say.
Rabi spends a few moments trying it out, and actually starts to float off into the air… before snapping back to reality and realizing it'd be rude to just leave Dawn waiting.
He wakes back up in his body with much less shock than before, and lets out a giddy little noise. "It works! S-Sorta, at least! I have to concentrate on it, but I can float around!"
"Is that normal? I don't really know how projection's supposed to work, honestly."
"Complete domination of the Echoes. Somehow, I don't know if that's better or worse than the annihilation the Oneiromancer wants."
"That would be lovely. I think I'll try moving there now…"
She opens a silver door to that room, reaches around blindly to gather her belongings, and moves through. Before she does, though, she stops and looks at you again. "Thank you, again. For everything. You have a heart of gold. Don't let them take it from you."
Then, she walks through, and closes the portal behind her.
She frowns her head. "No, not at all. It's an improvement on before, definitely, but I can't imagine what caused such a change…" She starts pacing as she thinks. "When was the last time you used it before now?" she asks.
"Back on the ship during the… you know, the whole thing with the egg. I passed through that gate you made, checked out their ship, and snapped back. Before that, it was checking out the Bug Hive. I don't know what there could've caused it, though…"
"Hm… That was when the assassin attacked you in the Astral Plane, wasn't it? I didn't know that was even possible." Dawn looks pensive for a while. "…Er, anyway. If you like, I could teach you how to force someone into their astral form. You may find it useful."
"Yeah… that and stepping through the door are the first things that came to mind, but I can't say for sure if either of them caused it. Anyways… I'd love that, honestly! When do we start?"
"Now," she answers with a smile. She seems to appreciate your enthusiasm.
Over the next one or two hours, you pick up on the spell. You find it slightly difficult to learn at first, but eventually, you start to get the hang of it. Dawn offers herself as a willing target for the spell, and after some time, you get a better grasp of the mysteries of Astral magic, as Dawn calls it.
>Astral Strike>recharge 3 when effect ends>Force an enemy to Astral Project, leaving their physical form comatose. The effect lasts a maximum of 3 rounds, or 5 on a crit, but requires the caster's turn each round to be dedicated to holding the spell as an Automatic action. Targets attuned to magic may roll to try and re-enter their physical form. Astral Strike will not work on constructs or most undead.
"I… I think I've got it! This was kind of fun, honestly- I haven't actually learned magic from another person in ages. How'd you learn all of this, anyways? Stuff like this and the doors seem really, really complex."
"You're very welcome," she replies warmly. "I'm sure it'll serve you well. Do use this responsibly though."
"I was a Professor of Mystic Arts at the Collegia Arcana before I came here," she explains. "I've dabbled in all sorts of magic. Though the gift of the Silver Key has always been a specialty of mine. Since I found myself here it's been hard to find like minded souls. Though I'm in good company now. You and Aegis are very fast learners. And so eager. It was a pleasure to be able to teach again."
"Is there anything else you would like to learn? Cantrips, perhaps? Or a warding spell?"
"Oh! A professor?" the stallion asks, cocking his head to the side "I guess that makes a lot of sense, though… is the Silver Key something you were especially good at, or came up with? I don't think I've ever heard of something like that." he asks, flicking his tail back and forth.
"I'm glad you're enjoying teaching, though- I-I'll try to not misuse anything. As far as teaching goes… what exactly is a 'cantrip'?"
"A bit of both. Portals are nothing new in magic, but this variant of it I helped create was a unique advancement in the field. It was invaluable for my career. It not only allows for portals at an extreme range, but they can also be moved around, and even resized to whatever shape and size is needed. It can even unlock doors. It's actually not so complex. A simple matter of applying the Lulamoon Radius to an advanced Gate Incantation and… Well, I won't bore you with the details." She stops herself from rambling.
She seems surprised, but explains. "A very simple form of magic. Usually the most basic for any aspiring spellcaster. Small, unobtrusive effects, usable even without a means through which to channel sorceries. Like so." She creates some sparks with her horn, and levitates a few small objects nearby, demonstrating a variety of tiny little magic tricks. "Shall I teach you? With your prior knowledge, I don't imagine it will take too long."
"Huh… so, you took something that was already around, and put your own spin on it? That's really cool, actually. I don't know if I fully understand some of the terms, but I'd love to hear more."
The stallion gives Dawn a sheepish grin, and says "I see, I see. I'm not great with all of the words… anywho- I'd love to learn some of those cantrips, if you'd be willing."
"More or less," she nods. "Of course, it wasn't easy. The primary limitation of Gate manipulation at first was the alteration of the astrophysical form when passing through said gates. Gates in motion are responsible for the Kyne Paradox, after all. So the question was how to maintain the fidelity of the astramaterial while altering the properties of spatio-temporal gates and avoid invoking Kyne. The answer was actually to purposefully invoke Kyne. Enter Lulamoon's Constant, which states that the dissolution of an astramaterial object in a moving Kyne gate is reconstituted as standard when crossed with a mirror reality. Therefore, anything that passes through a gate opened by a Silver Key spell momentarily ceases to exist due to the Kyne Paradox, then taken from a mirror reality, and instantly reconstituted on the other side. The result: anything that passes through a Silver Key gate will, for an imperceptibly small amount of time, cease to exist, then is pulled back into existence harmlessly and with no lasting Kyne afflictions. It's only magiphysics! …Er, try not to think about that too hard."
"Naturally. It's just a matter of applying the latent magic within every living being, really. As per Starswirl's First Law of Reality. It goes something like this…"
It doesn't take you long at all to pick up on how to use your magic spells in this fashion. Before long, you find yourself able to perform a variety of magical effects easily, though nothing too dramatic.
>Cantrip>Apply any of several small, flavorful magical effects at will. These include: moving small objects with your mind, creating sensory effects, lighting or snuffing small light sources, producing a small, fragile, useless item and vanishing it at will, putting a small mark or symbol on a surface, making tiny objects invisible for a brief moment, creating harmless sparks to act as a temporary light source, and any other manner of magic effects that may occur to you. This is not counted as a spell, and therefore does not require a catalyst.
of the astramaterial form*
It takes Rabi a little while to try and comprehend what exactly she's saying, but he sort of gets it; going into the door makes you cease to exist for just a little, and pop back in. "I… see. Sort of, at least. How would you practice something that risky? Did you start by, like… opening the door, and chucking a rock through?"
Rabi picks up the cantrips a little faster than he did the Astral trick, and lets out a giddy little whinny as he manages to make his hooves sparkle. "Hey, this is super nifty! Thanks for being willing to teach me all this stuff- even if I don't really get all the words, magic is just kind of… well, kind of cool."
"We started with small objects, yes. Rocks, pencils, then larger and more complex things like books, chairs… The hardest part was getting it to work as intended on living things. Luckily, we had plenty of insects and mice to try on. Of course, they were hesitant to let us test it on something sapient, so I just tried it myself. Luckily, it worked, and I'm in one piece." She rubs the back of her head, looking a bit uncomfortable at the tense memory.
She beams with pride as you get a hang of the cantrips, clearly delighted to be able to impart her knowledge. "Haha. Yes. Yes it is. It's fantastic to be able to share sorceries with a student again. We should do this again sometime. Perhaps another day? I'm a bit tired out right now, but I'd be happy to teach you more spells, in due time. …Maybe something else I could do for you?"
"On yourself? Well, I guess that's some real confidence." the stallion says, chuckling a little bit. "And, yeah! I'd love to do something like this again sometime. Though, for now… since you're tired, why don't we just have some tea, or get something to eat?"
"That sounds lovely," she smiles, and opens up another Silver Gate to the mess hall.
There is woefully little to eat, given the current circumstances. Too many mouths to feed and limited food supplies due to the crash. Nevertheless, you manage to find a basket of apples that survived the crash, along with some bread rolls, a jar of strawberry jam, a cheese wheel, some milk, a water pitcher, some sugar, and a container of oats. Not particularly savory, but enough so you can have some sort of snack.
Dawn doesn't join you in the kitchen, sitting at the table. "I'm afraid I'm not very good in enclosed areas," she explains apologetically. "Tend to knock things over. If it's not too much to ask, would you mind bringing me something? I'm not particularly picky."
"Yeah, of course- I'll grab a little of whatever looks good." the stallion says once they step through, and takes a look in the kitchen. He'll grab a couple rolls of bread, a few apples, and the jar of jam, returning to the mess hall and setting it all down. "Here we are, Dawn- apples, bread, and jam."
She produces a small flame with her horn, lightly toasting the bread, offering it to do it for you as well. She then struggles to find a butter knife before spreading the jam, munching the jam on toast thoughtfully.
"So," she says after a while, "just out of curiosity, what made you decide to start learning magic? You have quite the aptitude for it, you know. And a lot of potential. It's remarkable that you were able to capture the Astral Strike so easily."
"Ooh, thank you." he says, helping her find the butter knife. He'll wait for her to finish with the jam before he slathers it on his own piece of bread and chows down.
"When did I start? Uhm… shoot. I was like ten, I think. My younger sister was around, but not my brother. We were staying at a little camp on the edge of town, and one of the drifters had a knack for magic. It was… well, the same kind of thing as with all of this. I'd never seen anything like it before, and I just got so curious. I picked it up pretty well, even though he wasn't around to teach me all that much. He was actually the one who gave me the idea of making one of my bows into a catalyst. It took a few tries, but… I got it to work! Granted, I'm not sure if I'd say learning that was for the better- I didn't necessarily use my talent for the best reasons."
The jam on toast is a simple meal, but quite filling. Better than nothing, really.
She listens politely, smiling slightly at your recount. Her expression falters slightly at the last part. "Oh. …Well, I won't pry. The past doesn't tend to be much of a topic of discussion here in the Echoes. Whatever you did, you have a chance to start over now, way I see it. It's never too late to start helping people instead of hurting them. Right?"
She takes another nibble of toast. "Besides. Once the Egg is seen to, we'll all be able to start anew, won't we. If we travel somewhere far off, away from Lysander and all his minions, we can just… disappear. At least for a time. We'll finally be able to rest."
"What will you do with that time?" she asks idly. "We could do anything we wanted to once the Egg is sealed away. What do you want to do?"
"Eh, it's nothing I feel the need to hide, if you're curious. You're right, though. We've all got a chance to try again, so there's no sense in squandering it. Anyways… yeah. I've been looking forward to that for a while. A chance to take a break, and… hmm."
He thinks on it for a little bit, and says "I think first thing's first, I'd want to take some time off with Silver. After that, well… I kind of want to see if contacting the Dominion is possible. It may have not been the best place, but I've been wanting to hear how my siblings are."
She smiles again, though it's a slightly painful smile. "That sounds like it'd be lovely. For both of you. I'd actually planned on taking time off myself with C… With…"
It's like a shadow passes over you both. She can't even bring herself to say his name. There's a long, uncomfortable silence between you. She stares blankly ahead, trembling slightly. Eventually, she composes herself, taking a long, deep breath. "…Sorry."
"I… I don't know if that's possible. Not without finding a way to link both worlds first. And no one's ever done that. I've entertained the thought in the past, though. Perhaps if we had access to one of those rainbow portals that deposit one of the new arrivals, it might be possible to reverse engineer the magic from it, in some form. The problem is they're rare, and open only for the smallest time. And I wouldn't be able to help with spotting one, anyway," she adds with a slightly bitter tone. "In any case. If we could get access to the magic from those, it'd be a start. Not much, but a start."
"O-Oh. Uhm…" he trails off, not really sure what to say. The stallion sets a hoof on the mare's shoulder, and keeps it there until she speaks back up. "No sorries necessary, Dawn."
At the mention of the portals, the stallion strokes his chin in as he thinks back… and raps his hooves on the table in recollection. "Right! Silver and I found one of the swords used in the banishment ritual. Neither of us could make heads or tails of it, but… if it was a part of the process, maybe we can figure some of it out from there."
She sniffs a little and takes a drink of water. "It's just been a rough week," she says softly. She seems to appreciate the gesture greatly.
"Oh? May I see it?" Talking about magic seems to improve her spirits. "If there's even a trace of magic in it still, I might be able to glean something from it. Don't get your hopes up, though. It may very well be a dead end."
"Hey- even if it is a dead end, it's worth giving a check, right? At the least, it's a very finely made sword. If you'll give me just a few minutes, I'll go and get it." he says, shoving the rest of his cut of bread into his snout and hopping up to go and find it. Things are a little unsettled after the crash, but it shouldn't be too hard to find.
You find the sword in Aurora's room. The crash has resulted in the blade being snapped in two, little more than a jagged handle, but you still sense some traces of magic in it.
You bring the broken sword to Dawn, who rests her hooves on it and starts running them up and down, trying to get a bead on it. "Hmm… Oh, it's broken. What a pity. …Ouch! Still sharp… Aha. There it is."
Her horn glows, and she extracts a strand of rainbow energy from the sword fragments. It glows silver with her telekinetic energy, coalescing into a formless, ever-shifting iridescent shape, pulsing and swirling like an exotic jellyfish. It's raw, extracted magical energy in its purest form. "It must be beautiful," Dawn comments as she focuses on it. "I haven't had a chance to work on magic like this in a long time. Let's see now…"
She proceeds to alter the magic physically. Under her telekinetic command, it changes shapes, colours, and sizes. You begin to hear an imperceptibly low ringing sound coming from it as she works, trying to glean more about the magic in question.
"Hmm… This is very old magic. It's been passed around for a long time. …Dates back to before the Blackout back home. Wow."
She telekinetically opens a satchel by her side and floats out a glass vial, almost like a test tube. She uncorks it and holds it up to the rainbow swirl. With a soft, nearly imperceptible sigh, it pours into the tube and stays there, churning gently. She fits the tube back in her bag. You catch a glimpse of several others clinking about.
"It's going to be a tough one. There's not much from pre-Blackout, you know. And what's there is, well, thick milky. I'm sure I can put it to use, but it'll take time." She floats the broken sword handle over to you hilt first. "Thank you for bringing this to me. It'll give me something to work towards, at least. Hopefully, to put towards the cause."
"You know, if we happen across any other sources of magic like this, do let me know. It'd help my work. And by extension, you." She offers you a smile. A genuine one, this time.
Rabi winces a tad and helps guide her hoof away from the jagged bits, and on to the flat of the blade. He watches in surprise as the mare pulls the magic from the blade, and swirls it about in the air. He continues to observe silently, until she finally stores the swirl of magic away.
"I… huh. I didn't know magic could take a form like that… I don't know what the Blackout was, but is this something unique to time before it?"
>>725617>>725616>Forgot an important bit!
The stallion returns her genuine smile- even if she can't see it, she might hear it a little in his voice. "I'll make sure to, Dawn. I don't know what exactly to look for, but… I'll try."
She seems surprised, but shrugs it off. "We must be from different times, then. Everyone in my time remembers the Blackout. It happened when I was about… oh, six, seven? It was like a wave that swept over Animus. Every source of magic was just gone. No one could cast so much as a spark. It was madness. The whole world stopped cold. Ten days of pure darkness… Then, it just came back. But we had to start over. Learn how to use magic again. Must have been terrifying for my family. I was too young to understand back then."
"I wouldn't say this is a unique find, but it's rare to find a trace of magic from before that. At least back home it is. The question is, why would someone banish a a Banishment Sword?">>725618
"Well, ideally, more swords like this one. Or one of those cages they use to transport us. The optimal find would be a portal itself, but they open and close so fast. By the time you get to one it's gone. Still. This is a start. I'll be working on this as much as I can. We might be on to something here."
"Geez. That sounds, just… horrible." the stallion shudders a bit, before shrugging it off and humming "Never heard of it, so probably different times. As for why someone would banish a Banishment Sword… hard to say. Maybe it was part of some weird trick? Like, the person thought if someone snuck a sword in during the banishment, they could use it to get back once they got here? Or… do you think it might've been two-way once? Seems dumb, but I'm just tossing ideas out there. Anyways, we're bound to see a banishment again someday. Maybe we can catch one in the act, or find a cage sometime."
She nods. "Perhaps. It seems likely an explanation as any. Odds are we'll never know. Whatever the case, it's the first step towards finding a way back home. The chances are still slimmer than slim… but it's something."
"That would be best. I only wonder what could happen if we were right up close to one of the portals when it opens, and tried to go through…" She ponders this for a moment.
"Anyway." She stands up, having finished her jam on toast. "This will keep me quite occupied, at least for the foreseeable future. A mind needs work like a sword needs a whetstone, if it's to keep its edge. Really. This was a gift. Thank you for bringing it to me, Rabi."
"Now, was there something else you wanted from me? It might be best if I get to work as soon as I can."
"If we tried to go through? I'm… not really sure, actually. Maybe it'd spit us back out- like trying to go upstream." he suggests. "Anyways, there's no need to thank me- it's the least I can do for you, with all you've done to help. "
At the mention of anything else, he thinks things over… and shrugs a little bit "Not that I can think of. I'm sure I'll come up with something eventually, but I'll let you work for now."
She considers this. "I've heard people call the Echoes "Downstream" before, actually. There might be more to it than just a nickname. Still. It wouldn't hurt to try. Right?"
Very well. If you need anything, you know where to find me. Don't be a stranger. It's always lovely to have someone to talk to." She smiles again and makes her way back to her room.
With that out of the way for the day, the stallion returns to his room. He hadn't had the spare time to really give it a closer look, but now he can turn his attention towards his latest find; the peculiar music box.
With Silver out and about, you take some time to investigate the music box further. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=znsUh6vBWLI
The little porcelain ballerina pony figurine is lifeless unless the box is wound up, dancing gracefully to the wistful little melody that tinkles from the wooden box. While she does not or can not speak, you find there is a great sadness in her eyes, as if pining for a part of her that's missing. She pauses ever so briefly to make eye contact with you, then continues her eternal dance. As the box winds down, her movements grow more sluggish and weary, eventually coming to a complete standstill, the light leaving her sculpted eyes as the box winds down and goes silent.
"Hrm… something about this isn't right. I do't want to go pester Dawn just yet, though, so…" The stallion tries winding the box back up, before setting it back down and trying to project himself. Before anything else, maybe he can see if there's a more noticeable presence Astrally?
You step into the Astral Plane once again. As you do so, you feel a strange presence, like there's someone else in the room beside you, watching you from afar. You can't see anyone here, though, but the feeling lingers. It's like some sort of spirit trying to reach out to you.
Rabi tries to feel out whatever, or whoever is in the room with him. He just knows he can get further than this, if he tries.>[1d10] Feel it out?Roll #1 9 = 9
You reach out to the presence. You're starting to feel like it's some form of spirit or ghost haunting the music box. It seems to be trying to communicate with you from beyond, but without a proper medium, it seems impossible to.
'Okay… I need a different approach, then.' the stallion says to himself, popping out of Astral Projection. He snaps awake and gently picks the music box up, before going to find… Dawn? Maybe she'd have a better idea of what he needs.
You find Dawn in her room, reading a Braille book. She seems to struggle with it. As you enter, she stirs, closing the book and looking toward you. She seems to recognize your hoofsteps. "Oh. Back so soon? What can I do for you?"
"H-Haha, sorry to bother. I actually just remembered something I was trying to figure out, which was a…" he stops, and takes a look at her book. "Oh. Braille, right. If you ever hear about a book you'd like the sound of, I could try reading it for you. I'm not the best with big words, but…"
he shakes his head, and blinks "Right. So… I found a little music box. I think someone's trapped inside it."
She smiles. "That would be lovely. Braille is rare to come by. We struggled to find even a handful of books at the Meet."
She looks a bit confused. "Trapped inside? As a spirit, you mean? Or a homunculus? Let me see…"
You pass her the box, and she starts examining it, probing it with magic as she did the sword. She flinches a little as she does so. "Oh. Oh my. …There's definitely a spirit bound here. It's… Mournful? Odd… Why… Now that's interesting. It's not a spirit at all. It's a soul."
She hands it back to you. She looks a little shaken. "Someone lived by this. And in death, they're bound to it. They wish for something to be at rest. I couldn't tell you what, though. You'd have to find a way to speak to the dead."
"Sorry I can't be much help here. This isn't my normal area of expertise."
"A way to speak with the dead… damn, I don't think I can figure that one out. I guess I'll need to keep looking, then. She only seems to be… active? Awake? I'm not sure how to put it, but she seems aware when you wind it up."
"Interesting… Near complete spiritual integration with the immaterial… That's not unheard of, but it is quite rare. A more cruel person would sell that to a collector for quite a sum. I hope we can find a way to commune with this spirit somehow. I'd keep an eye out if I were you."
"Yeah, I've never even heard of something like this. I heard of spirits in the desert haunting where they died, but this… I'll have to find a way to talk to her. Thanks for the help, Dawn. I can find my way around a desert, but stuff like this? Completely lost."
"You're very welcome," she smiles. "Anything else I can help you with while we're at it?"
"This time, I think I'm good. I suppose it's only fair to ask if you need anything? Or, want anything- I'm fine with just chatting, if you'd want."
"Oh, I'm fine. Don't worry about me. I just like it quiet, is all. I like my books, and my spells. …If you want to do something for me," she adds playfully, "then keep practicing your magic."
"Hmm? O-Oh, sure! I'll see if I can't show you something cool next chance I get." he says, offering a big grin. Realizing she can't see that either, he gives her a soft, gentle rub on the shoulder. "Enjoy your book, Dawn. I'm closeby if you need me."
She twitches slightly as you touch her unexpectedly, but she seems to appreciate it. "Thank you. And likewise. Do take care of yourself, Rabi. It's a brighter world with you in it."
"Ha. Now I've got you and Silver telling me that… guess I should aim to please then, huh?" he says, flicking his tail before heading out of her room.
She looks a little surprised, and doesn't offer much of a response. Though she cannot see, you can feel her staring in your general direction as you leave, deep in thought.
With the Peculiar Doll in their possession, the party split up momentarily to investigate the points of interest they spotted.
You, Violet, Purdue and Etrigan head off towards the copse, where Rabi spotted a pair of ponies. While they are gone by the time you get there, you pick up on certain tracks through the dense woods, following the cleared path to a small clearing. As you walk, you begin to hear the sound of voices coming from up ahead, though they are in a strange, rapid fire language you do not recognize.
Eventually, you start getting closer to the source of it. Through the thickets, you can see a flickering fire, and the voices are slightly louder. You can make out the silhouettes of a handful of ponies there, though details are unclear. You can smell cooking meat, unusually.
Etrigan and Violet freeze in their tracks, motioning for you to do the same. "We don't know what these guys are about," the latter warns. "What do you think we should do?"
>Rabi, Silver, Zunden, Hermodur, Aegis
You get an ominous feeling as you approach the farmstead you spotted earlier, accompanied by Marisol. It seems to have been raided, judging by the ruined state of it, but by who or what is unclear. Marisol frowns as she looks around. "Desperate bandits, perhaps," she suggests. "Or lunatics. Or a combination of both. We should be cautious."
You can spot the following locations in the vicinity:
A stone wall runs across the perimeter, about chest high, with a single gate near the front.
The main house sits at the top of a hill, a simple stone building with a thatched roof. The wooden door seems to have been kicked in.
A single barn, similarly raided, is off to the left.
A wooden shed is off to the right of the main house; at least, the remains of one. It seems to have been burned down fairly recently, judging from the smoke.
There is a small stone wellhouse on your immediate left. It is unremarkable.
Behind it all is a windmill, the sails torched and crippled.
"Ze zhing I fear iz ze raiderz are where Norv and ze ozherz went.
" Zunden drums her fingers against chin.
"Perhapz ze zhack firzt, ze damage zeemz mozt rezcent.
Arriving at the Farm, I note the devastation before turning my attention to the house further up the hill.
"Hmm.. Of everything here, the farmhouse appears the least affected by the damage. Perhaps there might be something of use?"
I pick my way along the path and move towards the open door, mindful of the our surroundings.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
"Let's go to the house first. There may be someone in danger still inside," Hermodur suggests, walking with a brisk pace toward the house.
As he walks, he looks around at the rest of the farm. He looks to see how much was actually taken. What crops this farm seemed to be growing.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
"Dang… I'd say picked clean, but this is a bit more than that. Maybe they missed some stuff." the stallion says, heading for the farmhouse.>[1d10] Perception
(Will post updated sheet at home!)Roll #1 7 = 7
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
I swallow. Shoot. Why couldn't one of the others have come? Someone smarter than me, like Z or Silver. "I- I'm not actually sure," I whisper, squinting through the underbrush. "But is that- Is that meat? Weren't those ponies that we saw?" I shake my head. "Something feels off."
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Seeing everyone split up, Marisol does the same, heading off to investigate the wellhouse.>>725899>>725904
You head towards the wooden shed. It's difficult to navigate it, as most of it is little more than a pile of charred, smoking wood. It can't have happened more than a day ago. The shed seems to have been filled with farming tools and boxes for storage. It doesn't seem like they took anything from here, whoever 'they' are. >>725901
It seems like whoever owned this place was mostly growing crops; there is a field of corn nearby, mostly harvested at this point. As you pass the barn, you can hear chickens pecking about. Interestingly, this points at them not actually having taken much. >>725900>>725901>>725903
The house interior seems to have had the worst of it. It has been stripped of most valuables, including small time decorations. Much of the furniture seems to have been upturned or broken. Notably, the kitchen has been stripped of food.
You are currently in the living room, which is connected directly to the dining room. There is a piano here, along with a few sofas in front of a fireplace. Past the dining room is a flight of stairs leading to an upstairs area, while the kitchen behind you leads to the back porch, as well as a guest room down a hall.>>725903
You spot a faded black and white photograph on a cabinet, the glass framing shattered. It shows a family of four earth ponies, standing in front of what you recognize as the farmhouse you're in right now. Everyone looks happy.
You do manage to find something that the raiders must've dropped. There is a small leather pouch in a dusty corner. It has a satisfying weight to it.>+40 bits
Etrigan nods. "Well, we can eat meat too, you know,"
Purdue comments. "Just most of us don't really like it."
It's a bit odd hearing his voice coming from your belt. It's like he's disembodied. Which he is, in a way.
You risk sneaking a little closer, peering through the bushes at the campers. You see there are about five of them. They are earth ponies, their coats all earthy shades. They seem to be chatting in a language of their own, roasting some sort of large lizard on a campfire. They wear little to no clothes, and look overall rather wild, like they live out here in the woods.
Hermodur opens up the piano and inspects the insides.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
''Isnt it interesting?'' Aegis says, creeping up behind Rabi, looking over his shoulder at the photograph ''How people who have been banished to this realm still manage to find a new life, start families and make of the Echoes their home?''
I'm visibly relieved when I see it's just a lizard being roasted. "Well," I whisper. "Do you think we should try to communicate with them, or just turn back? I don't really know any other languages, but maybe they do?"
"Quite the state this home is in now, I'd imagine this farm would have been quite lovely before the destruction.."
picking past Hermodur, i make my way to the stairs to investigate the upper floor.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
"Huh… looks like I found something, at least. Shame it couldn't be a survivor." he says, tucking the bag away. >>725909
Rabi lets out a startled whinny and jumps a little, before letting out a soft, nervous chuckle. "Not too much, honestly. A little money, not much else."
He pauses a little bit and thinks her question over, before shrugging a little. "I… I guess people'll just manage to find a way. If you're stuck, you might as well make the most of it, right?"
Taking up a pitch fork, Zunden investigates the content of the boxes by prying them open.
[1d10] for when you need a rollRoll #1 8 = 8
''I suppose. If one accepts that they will be stuck here forever, what else can they do'' Aegis says, still keeping her eyes on the family photo, adjusting it so it sits neatly on top of the cabinet
''I'm heading to the guest room'' She says, turning around and leaving
'1d10' perseptioneRoll #1 3 = 3
"It's still one of the nicest places around," Hermodur comments.
"Right. I'll see what else I can find…" the stallion says, checking out another room.>Perception [1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"True, It is
quite the rare sight to find stone structures outside of the larger cities, let alone a proper piano!"
"They had to expect this sort of thing. Strange they didn't have more defenses."
Seems ordinary enough. Oddly, you notice that just one of the piano keys doesn't work. Playing it results in a muffled thunk
, like something's blocking it.>>725910
Etrigan looks to the ponies, then back to you, and nods. "I know a few languages,"
Purdue offers. "Maybe they speak one of them?"
Violet lets her guard down a bit. "They look harmless enough. Let's go say hi, why not."
The four of you approach the ponies, trying to appear as harmless as possible. They jump as you appear, eyeing you with suspicion, most of them reaching for the axes and spears by their sides. There is a bit of a standoff at the moment, but they seem to relax slightly as they get a better look at you. One of them, an older, white-bearded fellow, says something and points you out especially, which seems to put them more at ease.
The older one looks to you again, wordlessly motioning to you to take your mask off.>>725911>>725916
You head up the stairs. There are two bedrooms here, both in ruins. There seems to have been a violent struggle here. Closer inspection reveals a grim sight; there is a body in one of the bedrooms. A male earth pony, gruff looking, with a familiar skull and axes tattoo on his foreleg. A Bloody Mummer. Seems to have been hit over the head with something.
He's not dead, unlike what you initially thought. Just unconscious. He groans quietly as you look around the room. There's a crack in the wall, as if someone got thrown into it. Presumably him.>>725913
The crates are full of chicken eggs, presumably to be sold. Others contain assorted crops; corn, mostly, but also oats, barley, wheat and different types of beans. Yet another contains an assortment of large pumpkins.>>725914
The guest room seems to have been picked clean by the raiders. There are some ominous bloodstains on the bed, but no sign of a body. Through a broken window, you can see through to the garden, which seems extremely well kept for what it is. It has a variety of beautiful flowers on display.
I study them for a moment. Good. It looks like they aren't going to attack us. I hook my thumbs under my mask, pull it off, and tuck it under my arm, revealing my scarred but otherwise floopy and unassuming face. In hindsight maybe it would have been less intimidating if I'd taken it off before approaching.
I give them my best "we're not here to kill you, just hoping to trade" smile and say, "Hello! We were just passing through, saw your fire, and were hoping you might have some supplies you'd be willing to trade with us?" Probably best to cut to the chase. "My name is Norvegicus Black."
"Hmm.. Marisol mentioned The Chanticleers were making their way to Last Hearth, perhaps the ones living here were overwhelmed and taken?">>725919>>725916
Climbing the stairs, i spot the injured mummer crumpled on the floor.
"Oh my, a survivor? Perhaps one from the group responsible?"
approaching him, i turn him over to inspect his injuries.
[1d10] Wound assessmentRoll #1 7 = 7
"Hrm… well, let's hope whoever lived here managed to get away. Did a number to this one, it looks like.">>725921
"With the tattoos? I'd imagine so, yeah. Any idea how long he'll be out for?"
Aegis took a moment to look over the window, examining the outside and the guest room quietly before heading back, heading upstairs to join Silver and Rabi>>725917>>725916
''Master Silver, I found-'' She stops herself as she sees the unfamiliar pony
''Is he…'' Aegis points to him, looking over to Rabi, but Silver's inspection aswers her question
"Not dead, no- he looks like he might've been one of the raiders. What'd you find?"
"Judging by the scene here, i'd assume for quite some time. Whatever he was fighting, it nearly sent him through the wall." i reply, gesturing to the cracked wall above him.
"With luck, Zunden can mend him enough to shed some light on this farm's struggle.."
On closer inspection, you find what was blocking the key. There is a golden ring wedged in there, with a crystal clear gem in it, and an elaborate pattern around its perimeter. It seems to have been stuck there a while, judging from the dust. You're not sure whether it's enchanted or not.
"They didn't do it on our way here," Hermodur responded, thinking over the possibility. "I suppose if it was them, they did it after they dropped us off at that fort.">>725926
"Hmm," Hermodur ponders as he gets the ring unstuck and observes it. "I'd say they hid this, but it seems to have been stuck in there for longer than just this attack."
Hermodur wanders into the kitchen.
Zunden goes around giving the foods sniff-tests, cracking one of the eggs to see what's salvageable.
''I was going to say that I found a garden outside of the guest room. Perhaps you would find something useful there. I am not skilled in alchemy but I noticed you were gathering ingredients, Master Silver''
Violet does not take her own mask off, but acts friendly nonetheless. "I'm Violet, and this is Etrigan." Etrigan nods in greeting. "And I'm Purdue. A pleasure, I'm sure. …Er…"
He starts speaking in a couple of other languages, none of which are familiar to you. Nor, seemingly, to the earth ponies.
Nevertheless, the older pony relaxes his guard. "Kurddal," he introduces himself. He seems to have somewhat of a grasp of Equish, at least enough to hold a conversation. "Welcome to Country. If you are not with the Pales, then you are friends."
"Pales?" Violet asks.
Kurddal nods. "They come for us sometimes. Them with the white faces. But you are not of them."
As Kurddal speaks to you, the others stand down, speaking amongst themselves and looking at you more with curiosity. One of them points at Etrigan and says something to the others, who laugh heartily. Kurddal suppresses a smile, but does not explain the joke. Etrigan looks a little hurt.
"We have little to give to outsiders," Kurddal continues, sounding apologetic. "And what we have the Pales take." He shrugs. "It is the way of things."
He seems to have taken a heavy blow to the head, and has a few cuts and scrapes on his arms. Apart from that, he seems fine. He is starting to come to, stirring and trying to get up, not finding the strength to do so.>>725927
The kitchen has been stripped of food and any possible valuables, save for a pot of cold garlic soup. There is broken glass everywhere from the attack, and you notice a frying pan with a heavy dent in it, as if it had been used to hit someone hard.>>725928
Just about everything here seems salvageable to you. If the owners aren't coming back any time soon, then it seems like you could stock up the ship with it instead.
Drawing one of my shivs, i apply a coat of midnight oil before prodding the still prone form of the pony. "Now now, no getting up just yet.">sleep serum, taking 6>>725924
"Rabi dear, do you have something to bind him with? Injured he may be, he is
a bloody mummer. The last thing we want is for him to start swinging before we can learn more."
My eyes drop to the ground. I really shouldn't offer to help. We're low on supplies and we have to get going. "Oh. Well, heck. Thanks anyway." I chuckle. "You didn't attack us on sight, so that's really all I could have hoped for." I turn to look back where we came from and fall silent for a moment. I squeeze my eyes shut, sigh, and turn back. "So they just kind of attack and raid? Like bandits or something? You know anything else about them?"
Hermodur finds a bowl and pours himself some cold garlic soup. Beggars can't be choosers.
"Hmm? Yeah, I've got plenty of rope." he says, pulling out a few coils and getting to work.>Do I roll for bondage? [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Sealing the crates back up to check backup on, Zunden makes his way towards the house the others went to.
"Oh? They've a garden yet to be picked clean? I'll certainly have to take a look. Perhaps they've some baser ingredients i might gather before we leave."
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
With the information given, Aegis made her way back downstairs and out of the main house. She started then making her way to the barn
"Not bandits, no." It is one of the others who speaks, an intense looking stallion with a wiry physique. "Bandits just steal things. Pales, they also steal us." Kurddal nods grimly. Violet gives you a side glance, wondering if she's thinking what you're thinking.>>725932>>725935
With a low groan, the Mummer loses consciousness even before he fully regains it, thumping to the ground. Rabi manages to tie him up firmly, resembling some overgrown grub by the time he's done. There's no way he could break out of these bindings.>>725936
You enter the house. It seems to have been hit hard by the raiders. You can hear Hermodur investigating the kitchen, while Rabi, Silver and Aegis are upstairs dealing with something.>>725934>>725938
As you take a sip, you feel a cold, unpleasant iron taste in the soup. Blood. Looking down at the pot, you realize there's bloodstains inside it, and additional drips across the bench, leading towards the back porch and the subsequent garden.>>725939
You enter the barn. You are immediately hit with the musty smell of hay and feathers. It is a bit dark inside, but providing a magical light source reveals a large amount of frightened chickens inside, all huddled together in a corner, clucking nervously and watching your every move. There's not much else of interest here, at least not at an initial glance.
Wiping the shiv clean, she sheaths the blade before moving to one side of the roped mummer.
"Right then, all that's left now is to have Zunden revive him and reveal what he knows. Could you help me carry him downstairs, dear?"Roll #1 3 = 3
Hermodur sighs and pushes the bowl of soup away. Apparently, beggars CAN be choosers.
Instead, he chooses to investigate by following the trail of blood.
[1d10] investigationRoll #1 6 = 6
So slavers too. I nod. "So do they call themselves
Pales?" I look over the group and chew my bottom lip. "And is there anything we can do to help?"
Zunden heads upstairs to investigate the scene above.>>725941
"Have I heard my name?
Aegis stared down at the clucking chickens for a minute, before she started levitating a couple of them off the ground, taking them with her as she made her way back to the ship, chickens levitating in a slow circle behind her
She did this until she brought all the chickens in, leaving them in an unnocupied room
"Ah, Zunden, excellent timing!" i call out, struggling with the weight of the bound earth pony.
"We've found somepony who might know of what happened, one of the bloody mummers' thugs. I've put him under and Rabi has tied him up, but he's quite injured. Can you heal him enough to talk?"
"Ha! Well, that went pretty well.">>725941
"Of course!" the stallion says, leaning down and working the stallion on to his back. It's a little slow going, but he manages it.>>725944
"Good timing- we just found a live one."
"Have you enzured zhere iz no one for him to zhout to in ze vizinity? Zhey left him here out cold.
Between the two of you, you manage to haul the unconscious brigand onto Rabi's back. He's surprisingly heavy.>>725942
You follow the blood into the garden, where you find its source. There is a body slumped at the foot of one of the trees, an earth pony mare in an apron. She seems to have been stabbed in the gut. It's too late to save her now.>>725943
One of the other wildlings says something. "We do not know their names," Kurddal answers. "They paint them faces white. Like ghosts."
"Chanticleers," Violet muses.
Kurddal looks back at his companions, then shrugs. "They are too many. You cannot help. But thank you.">>725944
You find Silver and Rabi crouched over an unconscious Mummer.>>725945
The chickens flap, squawk and tumble in midair as you escort them on board, shutting them in one of the spare rooms. They are difficult to maintain a grip of, as they are loud, frightened and hyperactive. It takes a while, but eventually, you manage to shunt them all on board. The din coming from the closed room is unbearable.
As you are carrying the last three, you run into Marisol, who stares at you completely dumbfounded, unable to tear her eyes away from the floating chickens surrounding you. "What… what are you doing?" is all she can ask.
"Oh, he was coming to- won't be anymore, I think." he says, chuckling a little.>>725949
Rabi's legs wobble, and he re-orients himself to keep the weight off his bad leg "O-Oh geez. Let's make it quick."
''Storing these chickens. I found them in a closed barn and decided to find a good use for them instead of leaving them to starve in there'' Aegis began to walk past Marisol ''We can feed them seeds and have a reliable source of food with their eggs, or at least you, Hermodur and Zunden can eat them. You dont dislike chicken do you?'' She briefly turned to the felid
Hermodur grumbles with dissatisfaction at finding the dead body. Surely there wasn't just one person living here. He looks around to see if there are any signs of anyone else hiding out here in the garden. Or any signs of where they might have gone.
[1d10] investigationRoll #1 9 = 9
I rub the back of my neck. "Yeah, that's what I expected." Well, at least we'll probably end up running into them anyway, so maybe there is
something we can do. "Alright. Well, sorry for botherin' you. Were you expecting them to show up soon? Or do you think you're safe for a while?"
"I wouldn't be surprised if they has assumed he was dead, whatever he had fought nearly put him through the wall upstairs." i add, setting him down on the floor.
"As far as we had seen, they may have truly left him here.. perhaps they were too much in a hurry to check if he survived?">>725950
"Oh, careful dear! I should have been more careful, the commotion with the mummer here was quite distracting.">>725949
"Very well, you want him healed?
Having set the mummer down, i excuse myself to step outside, scanning the treeline for more of his allies.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 9 = 9
"Indeed, if only enough to tell us what happened."
Zunden nods and does so.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
You struggle to hold him up, eventually finding your footing. Your bad leg smarts, but the pain eventually fades to a dull throbbing you can ignore, to a point.>>725950>>725958
Zunden reaches out with her healing magic, tending to the Mummer's injuries, imbibing him with energy. He begins to come to again with a groan, stirring atop Rabi's back. He manages to open one eye, then the other, looking around the room blearily before focusing on both of you.
"Who the hell are you?" he mumbles, trying to get his bearings. He struggles against the bindings, to no avail.>>725951
She blinks. "I… Well, I suppose not, but…" She shakes her head and changes the subject, trying to ignore the bizarre spectacle. "I didn't find much in the wellhouse, except for a dead guard dog. Have you or the others found anything?">>725952
You see some trampled flowerbeds nearby, along with other flecks of blood here and there. Looks like there was a struggle, but there's no sign of the others in the garden, at least. Perhaps they were taken.>>725953
"They will come soon. It is that time. We will fight them. We always fight them. Sometimes we win. Sometimes we do not. It is the way of things.">>725956
You head downstairs, exiting into the garden. The well kept flowers and trees belie the sight of a dead mare, which Hermodur is investigating. There seems to have been a fight in the garden, but there doesn't seem to be a sign of any of the other Mummers.
Hermodur follows the trail. If he can't find the ones who were taken, he can at least find where they were taken. Or at least in what direction.
[1d10] investigationRoll #1 6 = 6
"R-Right, right. Sorry.">>725959
Rabi settles the stallion on to the ground, now that he's awake. He'll be ready to clonk him if the situation arises.
''There was an uncounsious Bloody Mummer in one of the bedrooms, Silver and Rabi took care of that, though I'm not certain what they are doing with him right now. This, combined with your findings, show that there was quite the raid in this place. I wonder if this is just the work of petty bandits or if there is something more to all this''
Aegis turned around and began making her way to the ship again ''Either way, this is not important compared to the task at hand. If you want, go ahead and meet with the others by the house, I will get back to them as soon as I put the chickens in their place''
I glance over at Violet and nervously tap my finger against the side of my coat. "Soon enough for us to help you fight them off if we stay for a night or so? Or I guess you wouldn't have any way of knowing. Sorry."
continuing my search for a moment more, i note the body and the garden with a glare, leaving Hermodur to examine the body while i return to check on the captive.
"A healer. Mummerz left you, zhen? Or juzt taking a nap.
From following the trail of destruction and the trampled greenery, it seems there were about seven of them. They seem to have headed north, past the windmill and off towards the distant foothills where Last Hearth is nestled in the distance.>>725961
You put him down at the foot of the bed. He keeps struggling, looking up at you and Zunden angrily. "What do you want from me?" he demands.>>725962
She nods. "I'll go see for myself. You go… see to your chickens."
You go and do just that, finishing the task of herding the chooks. As you close the door, Zunden's balaur pokes its head around the corner, running over to the closed door before beginning to scratch at it like a needy cat.>>725963
Kurddal eyes you curiously with a slight smile. He has the sort of look that says you could never understand if they tried to explain their way of life to you. "Soon," he simply says, and leaves it at that.
"I think we should get going," Violet says to you. "Much as I'd like to help these guys, there's not really much we can do for them right now.">>725964
You find Zunden and Rabi with the captive, who's come to again thanks to Zunden's efforts. He looks over to you, angry and confused, silently eyeballing you.>>725965
He seems reluctant to talk, but the fact that you helped him makes him trust you, at least for the moment. "…Must've thought I was gone," he mumbles. "Do healers normally truss their patients up? Lemme out of this."
"You're a Mummer. Eizher way, I waz not ze one to tie you.
She looks to Silver,>>725964
"Ah, excellent! It seems Zunden's magic was successful in reviving you." i brightly lead in, entering the building to stand before the tied horse.
"I am Silver Song, a pleasure to meet you. Forgive the bindings, we were unsure of your temperament, Bloody Mummer that you are. Pray, if you would answer a few questions i would gladly see you freed and on your way."
[1d10+2] Persuasion, DC-1 (Helpless)Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
Hermodur sighs as he sees that the trail leads to Last Hearth.
"Damnit," he mutters under his breath.
He turns and heads back inside. He looks to see what the others have found.
I look over at Violet and nod without actually making eye contact. "Yeah. I guess not." I sigh and pull my mask back over my face. "Alright," I say. "Guess we should get going, then. It was nice meeting you, Curdle. I-" I trail off. "I genuinely wish there was more I could do to help. Not that that is worth a whole hell of a lot."
"Don't mind me- I'm not the talker of the group." he says, settling on to his haunches to wait.
"What, you got something against us or something? You with the Talons or something? Keepers? Windblown? Who do you run with?">>725968
He does a double take as you introduce yourself, his eyes widening a little. "You're Silver Song? Like, THE Silver Song? The Butcher of Levin? Oath! Morganne would want to meet you, you know." He looks at you in a completely different light. "Look, Miss Song. You let me go, and I'll put in a good word for you at HQ. Might be there's work in it for you if you run with us. What do you reckon?">>725969
Rabi, Zunden and Silver seem to be interrogating the survivor upstairs. Aegis is nowhere to be seen. Marisol catches up to you, striding stiffly towards the house and hailing you with one gloved hand. "Didn't find much at the wellhouse, except a dead dog. You?">>725970
Titters of laughter from the group as you mispronounce his name. Kurddal smiles, showing shockingly white teeth. "You have a good heart, Norvegicus Black. Thank you for offering. We live close by, if you ever want to visit." As usual, he doesn't specify how close by is close by, instead pointing off into the trees, through which you can hear the running water of a stream. They must have a village somewhere nearby.
You bid farewell for now and start heading back towards the farm and your ship. "Well that went nowhere," Violet comments. "Feel kinda bad for those guys though. Getting raided like that by the Chanticleers. Must be brutal.""Nothing out of the ordinary, really,"
Purdue comments. "The strong preying on the weak. Happens all the time.">>725971
"Yeah? Then what are you?" he asks.
"It seems they may have taken survivors to Last Hearth," Hermodur answers in a hushed tone so they Mummer can't hear them. "That's where the Chanticleers were headed, wasn't it…?">>725972>>725971>>725968>>725967
"It seems some survivors may have been taken north," Hermodur reports as he walks in on the conversation. "Has he said anything of use?" he asks, looking at the Mummer with disgust.
"Oh? So you've heard of me, then?" i reply, surprised at the recognition. "I had assumed the news of the banishment would take longer to reach the echoes, but i suppose it can't be helped." i add, laughing lightly into my wing.
"Tell me, what were you doing upstairs, injured as you were? It looked as though you were nearly sent through the wall!"
[1d10+2] persuasion, DC -1 (helpless)Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
"Patience, Hermodur." i whisper, "Plying my craft will take a moment yet."
I smile and wave. "I'll keep that in mind. Might drop back in some time."
As we head off, I sigh. "Yeah, normal or not, I still wish there was something we could have done. Not that we're in the best of shape ourselves, I guess. So, where to now? Back to the ship, or up to the farm to see if the others found anything?"
"I'd show you, but we need to talk and all." he says, waving an electrified hoof around.>>725973
"Oh- survivors? That's a relief. We'll have to see if we can get there quickly. He hasn't said too much."
"I assume there's survivors, anyway. There's barely any bodies around here. Which means they've been hidden or they've been taken. Have you found any bodies anywhere?"
"Just this one, luckily- I doubt we missed one."
"No need to worry about that, it'd just waste time." Rabi says, rubbing at his bad leg a little and letting out a soft sigh.
"Wizh zhoze prezent.
" Zunden says to the prisoner, turning to Silver at the mention of her name.
"When you are finizhed zpeaking wizh him, a word.
Aegis's ears perked up and she turned back, opening the door, looking down at the Balaur ''What is it?'' She says, standing over it
She nods. "Hopefully we can avoid getting entangled in their work," she answers, with the same hushed tone. The Mummer sits up slightly, trying to listen in on what you're saying.
"Nothing to you," the bandit replies with disdain. There's an odd glint in his eye; a gleam of recognition, perhaps. But he doesn't voice his thoughts.>>725974
"Longer?" he parrots with slight confusion. "It was old hat when I got banished, and that was forever ago now. Guess it's true what they say about time being convoluted here."
Despite having a bit of respect for you, he clams up, eyeing you and the rest of the group with suspicion. "I was admiring the view," he lies blatantly, not even trying to hide it. "Seemed like a good spot for a kip.">>725977
Etrigan nods, nodding pointedly towards the farm in the distance. "Perhaps the others have found something of use,"
Purdue suggests. Violet simply nods, and starts moving towards the farmstead.
As you arrive, it becomes very clear that the place has been attacked. The old mill has had its vanes torn down, while the main farmhouse directly ahead has had its door kicked in. You can hear voices coming from inside. They sound familiar. You can see a torched shed and a ransacked barn. Violet looks saddened by the sight of the place. "Bandits," she muses. "Or worse."
She starts looking about the area for clues. Etrigan takes the hint and does the same. Purdue looks off to the voices coming from the house. "Sounds like our friends are in there. Maybe we should go tell them what we've found?">>725978
He looks concerned at your slight display of magic, but scoffs. "What are you going to do, zap me? What do you want from me, anyway? What happened here's got nothing to do with you lot.">>726335
"And who might "zhoze" be then?" he asks with a slightly demanding tone. "Apart from a washed up crook, a half dead cat and a rock collector.">>726336
It starts scrabbling at the gap in the door frame. It seems to really want to get at the chickens, staring at you with a demanding aura.
I swallow as I look around at the destroyed farmstead. "Yeah, probably." I adjust my gas mask, grip the nozzle to my sprayer, and follow Violet.
"Well, that's not all I could do- but, we're here to talk. I'd hate to delay that any."
Hermodur stares at the Mummer for a moment. "Have we met?" he asks idly.
[1d10] for recognitionRoll #1 2 = 2
"Zinze when haz ze luxzury of having queztionz anzwered been exzpected while bound in plaze?" Zunden asks in return, head tilted.
Aegis picks the small creature up with magic, then takes one chicken at random from the group and floats them both outside of the room, taking them to the kitchen, settling the Balaur down and floating the chicken out of its reach ''You want this?''
My cordial disposition fades slightly as the mummer refuses to talk. "Really now? Sent nearly through the wall, collapsed in a pool of your own blood, and you were 'admiring the view'?"
I pull a shiv from it's sheath, toying with the point as i pace around his bound form. "The others clearly didn't realize you survived, given the state of the damage. I'm certain they would love to hear from you, though if no help has arrived they must expect the worst. tell us what you know about what happened here and you can prove them wrong."
[1d10+2] Persuasion, DC-1Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3
You head towards the farmhouse. It looks like there was a raid inside as well, with most of the furniture and decorations smashed, upturned, and generally misplaced. What used to be a comfortable little home is now a ruin. You hear your friends upstairs, following the sound into a bedroom, where they are interrogating a tied up, mean looking stallion. Marisol gives you a little nod of acknowledgement as you walk in, while the stallion just sneers. "Just how many of you are there?" he says in slight disbelief. "Seems we can't have a minute of peace without another one of you lot popping in.">>726704
He's not impressed. "You're not very good at this, are you," he sneers. Despite being tied up, he's got a mouth on him. "I know your kind. Wouldn't have the guts to hurt someone if your life depended on it. Gonna take more than sparks coming out of your hooves, friend.">>726705
You don't recognize him.
"Don't think we've met, no. Just… thought I recognized you from…" After a moment, something clicks for him, and he grins, still keeping his secrets, presumably to frustrate you.>>726707
"Lady, did you see the mark on my arm or not? If the Bloody Mummers find out anything happened to one of their own, they'll skin you all alive. I bet they're on their way back here right now.">>726710
The chicken squawks and flaps desperately as you hover it over the hungry beast, struggling against your telekinetic grasp in an effort to get away.
The balaur rears up on its hind legs, eyeing the flailing bird hungrily. It reminds you of a particularly ugly cat.>>726712
He eyes you firmly as you pull out the shiv. "How do I know you won't just kill me? I mean you were crazy and stupid enough to let yourself get caught on your little rampage, and I'm sure you've heard what happened next by now. Tell you what. You cut me loose and I'll tell you what I know. Though I still don't know why you'd even care."Roll #1 6 = 6
Aegis reinforced her mental focus, maintaining the magical grasp on the chicken
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
"Well, if you're a Mummer, it's probably just because they hate me," Hermodur comments in the same disinterested tone.>>726712>>726707>>726704
"Let me know when you want me to get him talking," Hermodur says, eyeing the Mummer. "It won't take long. Or he'll bleed out. One of the two."
[1d10+2] intimidation to get him to stop being so difficultRoll #1 7 + 2 = 9
>>726713>forgot to italicize last post"Many will zkin you alive juzt for looking at zhem ze wrong way. Little changez.
"I have nozhing to add here, when you are done, zhen.
Zunden looks to Silver.
"I'm really not, no. I tend to leave this sort of stuff to the others, so I'm… not really sure what to say, really."
I stop in the doorway. They have a hostage? A survivor from the raid? No, from the look of it it's more likely a surviving raider. Looks like Silvy is interrogating him. Instead of saying anything, I just stand in the doorway with my hands on my sprayer, staring at him through the thick eye glass of my gas mask.
[1d10]Improvise, make him really uncomfortableRoll #1 2 = 2
Rolling her eyes at the 'crazy and stupid' bit while behind his back, i return to face him.
"True, we do
have a schedule to keep, but the range and fury behind the destruction of this place has peaked my curiosity. Whatever happened here must have been quite the brawl indeed, it would be a shame to leave without knowing more."
[1d10+2] persuasion, DC-1>>726718
I nod to you in confirmation.>>726716
"With luck, we'll learn what we can and move on without your assistance." i reply, loud enough for the mummer to hear. "I may be patient and calm, but i'm certain you've more, ahem, straightforward
means of learning what happened from our mummer here."Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3
Your grasp slips completely, and the chicken flies from your grasp, flapping chaotically around the kitchen, throwing pots and pans around and even smashing some plates in its panic. The balaur's hunting instincts activate, and a madcap chase ensues as both of them start scurrying around the ship interior, knocking things off the walls as they go, leaving a trail of feathers in their wake.>>726718
"Yeah. But this time it's literal. If you're lucky, Morganne will only feed you to Tiny after that. Now get me out of this and I won't say a word." He struggles against his bindings and tries to stand up.
"Don't even know what to say when confronted with a real stallion?" he says mockingly. "You're even more pathetic than I thought.">>726721
He doesn't seem very intimidated by your appearance. "You deaf or something? Take that ridiculous thing off. You look like an idiot.">>726723
"Yeah, that would be a shame, wouldn't it. Surprised you went to all this trouble just because you're "curious" though. What are you really here for, Butcher?">>726716
He just keeps smirking. The smirk fades, however, when you mention making him talk. He eyes your mechanical hand, licking his lips nervously. "If you're really that desperate for answers, fine. Family here stopped paying their debts, so me and the boys came to torch the place to teach 'em a lesson. Got into a scrap with the miller what owns the place. Near ripped my head off before I knifed him some. Must've passed out after that. No clue where the others went, or why they just left me here. Or if the farmers are still alive. If they are they probably got taken to be sold to the Chanticleers. Now would you get me the hell out of these ropes?"Roll #1 9 = 9
Aegis chases after them, trying to bring a stop to their shenanigans by re-taking the chicken in her teleknetic grasp
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
Zunden holds out her staff, letting inky tentacles continue to hold him in place as he struggles.
[1d10] SnareRoll #1 10 = 10
[1d6+1]Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4
[2d3+1] correctionRoll #1 1, 1 + 1 = 3
"Is selling off those who can't pay their debts common practice?"
"Ah, and thus we've finally pieced the story together! Not all that original, mind you, but at least we've learned the nature of the destruction."
My satisfaction wanes as i see him near successfully break from his bindings, prompting another dose of midnight oil to end his struggling.>sleep serum, taking 6
My heart leaps. So he's a slaver collecting on a debt by, what, selling the debtor and
his family? I feel my grip tighten around my spray nozzle, but I continue to quietly stare. Seems like the others have this under control. I still want to do something, but I don't know what.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Oh! We got everything, more or less? Cool! Then, I'm going to use this chance to give something a little test…" the stallion says, giving the Mummer a magic-laden prod in the chest>Astral Strike
Both the lizard and the chicken evade your grasp, leading you on a wild goose chase throughout the ship. The chicken starts hurtling towards the room with all the other chickens. The balaur lunges to try and grab its prey!
While the chicken throws itself into the air and upwards to avoid it!
As he tries to stand up and starts loosening the bindings, you throw your hand out to stop him. Squirming black tendrils burst from your forearm, surging forward in a constantly twisting, oily rope, wrapping around the Mummerlike a snake constricting its prey, reinforcing his already firm bindings. His annoying bravado is shattered by the sight of them. "Agh! What the hell?! Get em off! Get em off!" >>726732
He's too frightened by the sudden burst of black tentacles from Zunden to speak for a moment. "We… The Chanticleers…They're in town, the Hunt is on soon… Rakka said it'd be for the best if… Just get them off me!">>726733
As he starts panicking and flailing, you put him out of his misery, poisoning him with the midnight oil. He hits the floor like a sack of potatoes, out cold.>>726735
You watch as both Silver and Rabi give him a one two combo of poison and unfamiliar magic to render him completely helpless.>>726737
You mimic the actions Dawn taught you, hitting him square in the heart. You hear a whoosh
of magic energy, and a smoky form appears over his body, like an aura. It seems the spell worked. Marisol tilts her head, frowning. She looks concerned. "Astral magic? …Where did you learn that?"Roll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
"That's not up to me," Hermodur shrugs in response to the Mummer's pleas.
Then he looks to everyone else. "So, what's the plan?"
The balaur grabs the chicken by the leg, slamming it into the door before taking off with the still terrified bird in tow. This has the unfortunate side effect of opening up another can of worms. Or room of chickens, in this case. As the door is pushed ajar, they are startled, and start flocking towards it in an attempt to escape.
"Zilver zpoke our namez aloud.
Zunden says, keeping the Mummer bound despite being him unconscious.
Rabi nods a little as it seems to do the trick- he can't talk to the guy, but he feels pretty satisfied about that. He looks back over to Marisol, and cocks his head to the side. "Huh? Oh, uh… to be honest, some of it's self-taught. I really liked the chance I had to use it from a scroll. A friend of mine is helping me expand on it more… though, why the concern?"
With the Mummer bound in eldritch tentacles and unconcious, i trot up to him and drag my shiv across his neck with force.
"Hmph, insult me and
Rabi will you?" i mutter as i work "This is quite the fast way to go, but we've spent enough time dawdling already."
With the task done, i clean my shiv on his clothing and leave the building, back to the ship.
"Right, let us be off, we certainly wouldn't want to draw the ire of the chanticleers before we repair and restock, would we?"
"Quite the impressive spell, dear! Though i must ask, what exactly does it do
, anyway? It looks as if you've knocked the soul out of him.."
I hook my thumb over my shoulder when he falls unconcious. I'll let them know what I found later. "I, uh- I'm just gonna-" I back out of the room, turn around, and head back downstairs. I'd really rather not think about where this is going.
Aegis slid to a halt as she saw the door being thrown open, and headed back to push the chickens away, but noted it was too late to close the door
Thinking quickly, she produced an illusory burst of fire on the doorway, hoping to scare away the birds
"That's… exactly what it does, actually." he says, wincing a little when the mare slits the stallion's throat casually. "It's sort-of a forced projection, Dawn taught it to me. I wanted to try and learn more with it!"
"The Mummers already hate us."
"Zhey did not have our namez, nor facez. Only if memory waz jogged.
"Ah.. i see what you mean, Zunden" i reply, looking away before clearing my throat. "Perhaps my interest in chatter oversteps my need for security. I shall endeavor to mind what i say." i add with a nod.
"My sister, Elaina… she uses similar magic. But it's… it's consumed her. In a way. Grosvenor's seen to that. She's practically a ghost. …A word of warning. Be careful using it. And try to avoid confronting my sister if you see her. The astral plane isn't meant to bleed into ours.">>726744
You finish him off with a single precise slash. Marisol twitches involuntarily as you do so, looking a bit uncomfortable at your precision.>>726739>>726742>>726743>>726744
"If I may make a suggestion," Marisol pipes up. "Perhaps we ought to use other names from hereon out, to avoid leaving a trail. We could even go so far as to change our appearance. I know of someone who's an expert in refashioning flesh, but I don't know where she could be.">>726746
Wishing to avoid the unpleasant scene, you head out, finding Etrigan and Violet snooping around on the front porch. "There's a body over by the tree," she says, sounding a bit disturbed by it. "I… I don't think she was one of the bandits. If they were bandits. …You find anything?">>726747
Most of the chickens are scared off by the flame, but five of them manage to exit the room, running out and scattering into the bowels of the ship. Only one of them behaves, walking about idly next to you, bobbing its head as it struts about calmly.
"You think that extreme of measures is necessary?" Hermodur asks Marisol.
I clear my throat. "The others found a surviving bandit. They're, uh… they're cleaning up." I hang my head. "I-" I look up in the direction of the tree. "I think we should bury her. I should be able to dig a hole without too much effort. Is she in pretty bad shape, I guess?"
"I think I remember her, actually- had a run-in with her when we were going after the egg. I'll, uh… I'll be careful. This sort of stuff is neat, but I'd hate to lose myself to that."
He hums a bit and taps his chin, before saying "New names? That sounds a little easier to do than refashioning."
"Yes, perhaps a new name could work, though if my reputation is as common as the mummer mentioned I may want to consider a mask of some sort.."
"We'll have time yet to make names for ourselves during the journey to town, at least."
Aegis shuts the door immediately after depositing the calm chicken in, keeping some of the chickens in the room as she bolts after the Balaur
"Ze zhip leaves a trail, wherever we dizembark we will be noticed by it. Falze namez zeemz adaquate, zhough. Even zomezhing az zimple az 'Zaurian' I would not mind.
Zunden holds out her claw to the now corpse after ensuring the heart has stopped beating, mending the knife wound any rope burn to hide the cause of death.
"Retrieve your rope, he haz died from ze farmer'z reziztanze, not a zecond party tying him up.
"Roll #1 2 = 2
"It almost sounded like he knew you from before you were arrested."
"Personally, I think that a little infamy might do us some good. At least… once Lysander is dethroned."
"To avoid Lysander? Maybe. Though we should be far enough from him to not have to worry about him or his allies for a while.">>726755
"Seems like they stabbed her in the gut," she says, seeming downcast at the state of the farm. "I think that'd be good. Better than leaving her to rot, really."
You follow her over to a tree behind the house, where a mare is slumped over at its base. She is middle aged, and dressed in an apron. If it weren't for her clammy face, she could pass for asleep. Etrigan bows his head, while Violet sighs softly. "Do what you have to, I guess.">>726756
She tilts her head slightly. "Oh. …Have you noticed anything different since? Anything that's changed with your magic?" >>726757
Marisol nods. "With your… notoriety… it's probably best to avoid being identified completely. Though wearing a mask does tend to draw more attention than otherwise.">>726759
You follow the balaur into the cargo hold, where it's curled up around a very dead chicken. It hisses quietly at you as you approach, protecting its prize.>>726760
You close the wound on the now dead bandit, save for the blow to the head. It's as if he'd died from that instead.>>726761>>726757
"What do you suppose he meant by 'what happened next'?" Marisol wonders out loud. "Sounds like something happened after Silver was banished."
I nod and walk over to the body. Times like this I wish I was a religious dog, because I have no idea what to say or do besides putting her in a hole. Leaving her for the scavengers just seems wrong, though. I look around for a decent place to bury her before getting to work digging the hole.
[1d10] Burrowing hole if needed.Roll #1 5 = 5
"After he's dealt with, maybe." the stallion says, shrugging a little.>>726763
"Hrm… now that you mention it, I did find out I can float recently. I didn't really know what to make of it until now, but is that a bad thing?" he asks, shifting about nervously.
"If I am to change my form, zhen it will be done with magical guize, not permanent alteration. A charmed trinket perhapz.
"We zhould leave. Ze zhed haz rationz, if you will azzizt in tranzportation. Ze longer we linger, ze more chanze of Mummerz returning. I already worry fate haz a way of bringing trouble to uz juzt az we make planz to err on ze zide of caution.
Aegis eyes it for a couple of seconds ''Well, you earned your prey. Just try to not make too much of a mess
With that she leaves the balaur to have its dinner and heads out to round up the remaining chickens
"No point worrying about it," Hermodur shrugs regarding whatever happened with Silver's incarceration. "It's not like it'll ever affect us.">>726766
"Well then that's a mission accomplished," Hermodur nods.
"Hmm.. I'm not sure myself. I'd imagine the reputation of my father's business may have been tarnished, but i had assume he managed to sweep this matter of 'the butcher' under the rug.. Perhaps the next Mummer may know more.">>726766
"Ah, rations untouched you say? Excellent, i'd be happy to help."
Finishing with the house, i follow Zunden to begin hauling the supplies found back to the ship
"I'd be happy to! Let me just…" the stallion works himself off of his haunches with a bit of difficulty, but seems ready to go after!
Roll #1 2 = 2
You dig a 6 foot deep hole, and Etrigan gently lowers the mare into it. After filling it with dirt again, Violet tries to say a few words for the complete stranger, but can't think of anything to say, shuffling in place awkwardly for a moment. "…Let's, uh… just go back to the ship. The rest of 'em should be coming back soon. Right?">>726765
She frowns. "I… I don't know. I'm not a magician. Just be careful, for now.">>726769
"What are the odds every single Mummer knows about your past?" she asks with slight incredulity.>>726771>>726767
You can feel it staring at you as you leave the hold.
Amazingly, the chickens seem to be actively trying to find hiding spots, as you search the ship but find little but feathers and droppings here and there.
Up above, you hear the gang returning.>>726764>>726765>>726766>>726768>>726769
You all return to the ship, the main group reconvening with Norv, Violet and Etrigan. The latter nods in greeting. "Hey guys," says Violet, smiling under her makeshift mask. "Manage to get to the bottom of what happened at the farm back there?"
You can hear an odd sound coming from below deck. The flapping of wings, and the constant clucking and rustling of what sound like… chickens?
Aegis begins to relentlessly search for the chickens in the gaps and nooks of the ship, producing a light to aid herself
'1d10' find themRoll #1 3 = 3
"More or less," Hermodur nods. "More importantly, we got some supplies out of it."
Then, he looks in the direction of the chicken sounds. "And, it sounds like you did better than us."
"Ah, Aegiz haz found where zheze cratez of eggz came from.
" Zunden says with a short chuckle.
mention my reputation preceded me. If he was so sure the others would be interested in me working for them i'd imagine there are a few who might know something
Returning to the ship, i wave a wing to Violet. "Indeed we have. It seems the Bloody Mummers are operating nearby, the farm a target of debt collectors. Captured and sold to the Chanticleers, by one of the surviving Mummer's count."
Hearing the commotion below, i peer down the stairs into the lower decks. "..Is everything alright down there?"
"Hrm… I'll, uh, I'l try to be more careful, at least- maybe a town we come across'll have someone that knows more." he suggests, before heading out with the others.>>726772
"Heya, Violet. We got to the bottom of it, it sounds like they were brought in and are going to be sold off. Not the best result, but… they're alive, so it's not un-fixable.">>726776
"Yeah- I guess it's the difference in time, but it sounded like a decently well-known thing to him." Rabi adds, before cocking his head to the side "Wings? It's not more cuckoos somehow, is it?"
You find a trail of feathers leading to a storage closet. Peering around with the light, you catch a glimpse of beating wings before the frightened fowl flies right into you, giving you a faceful of musty feathers and panicked flaps. It makes a squawking din to raise the dead. You hear Dawn poke her head out from her room. "What's all that racket?" she calls out with confusion.>>726774
Violet nods happily as she sees the crates you hauled. "Good, good! Here, let me give you a hand." Before you can protest, she takes one herself, beginning to carry it to the kitchen with little effort.
Etrigan frowns and tilts his head. "That… wasn't us," Violet says, looking perplexed.
"Aegis found some in hiding, if memory serves," Marisol chimes in. "It seems she brought some on board. For better or worse.">>726775
Marisol, stiff and serious as she is, can't help but smile a little at the joke, but quickly brushes it off. >>726776
Marisol nods. "I'm sure we'll find someone who knows what happened. …It's not really my place to say, but I don't get the feeling things went well. Hopefully nothing awful."
Violet's expression darkens. "Mummers again," she muses. "Thought so. Hope we can stay clear of them, and their slaver buddies."
"Speaking of. Turns out the Chanticleers have been kidnapping ponies from a forest village. So that's fun. Norv seems keen to help them. I'd like to as well, but I don't know how much we can afford to attract attention."
Down below, you see feathers, droppings and claw scratches tarnishing the ship's interior. Up on top of a cabinet is a single enormous brown chicken, clucking idly and watching you with intense apprehension.>>726777
"Hopefully over in Last Hearth," Marisol nods.
Violet blinks. "Not… not all of them made it. There was a mare out in the garden. We buried her. …I don't even know if we can afford to try and free the rest. Much as I'd like to."
''It's me Master Dawn'' Aegis says, grabbing the chicken with magic and holding it still ''I am gathering the chicken I brought to the ship. I apologize for the noise''
"Ah, well then my congratulations to Aegis."
"My, so it seems the slavers have been quite busy indeed. With any luck, we'll be left alone while we repair and restock in town."
"Were we not burdened by the egg, i'd be more inclined to assist, but priorities must be made to find a safe place first."
"I… I guess we can't, no. I just don't feel great about having to leave them."
I cock my eyebrow and look toward the direction of the clucking and wingbeats. I nod in agreement with Violet. "Yeah, we didn't actually get anything at all." I look back to Marisol. "Is she going to take care of them?"
My ears fold as Violet mentions that we probably shouldn't attract too much attention from either the Mummers or
Chanticleers. My eyes drop to the ground and my tail tucks a a little. "I don't know," I say. "I- I just don't know if we should leave-" I sigh. "Well, I guess we'll see what everyone else has to say. It probably is a bad idea, but it wouldn't feel right, y'know?"
Zunden attunes herself to the ship as she finds the others already discussing their findings, making her way below deck to Aegis, >>726779
"You have been rezourzeful, it zeemz. I had alwayz zhought it might be a good idea to keep fowl aboard for frezh eggz.
"The… the what?" She looks completely bewildered. "Where did you get chickens from?" She emerges from her room as you subdue the chicken, spinning in circles idly above your head, clucking nervously.>>726781
Marisol nods. "With any luck, Last Hearth will be a chance to gather our thoughts, regroup, and plan.">>727025
Marisol shrugs, looking a bit wary of having all the chickens on board. "Ask her yourself. I didn't have any part in it."
The chicken on top of the shelf flaps down chaotically, starting to peck curiously at the ground, disregarding all of you.>>726782>>727025
"I don't feel great about it either," Violet admits, "but you know what's at stake. If either of them find out what we're hiding, who knows what they could try to do.""I'm rather out of my element here,"
Purdue chimes in, "but I do feel like with the resources we have at our disposal, we should at least try to do something if we can. W-within reason, of course.">>726779>>726780>>726781>>726782>>727025>>727026
You all reconvene below deck, joined by Dawn for the first time in a while. She looks frail and tired, and perplexed by the sudden racket of the chickens on board, but otherwise in somewhat better spirits than usual. She introduces herself to Marisol politely.>>726780
You have met Dawn once before. She and a hippogriff named Carabas were the ones who came to the party with news of the Egg. They are enemies of Lysander's through and through. She is a beige unicorn, with a messy light pink mane and a blindfold over her eyes. Despite her visual impairment, she is mostly adept at navigating her surroundings. She turns to you with a polite smile. "Hello again. I'm sorry, I don't believe I remember your name, though I'm fairly sure we've met. I'm Dawn.">>726779>>726780>>726781>>726782>>727025>>727026
Violet pipes up again, watching with amusement as the chicken goes about its business. "Should… should we get going? Unless anyone else wants to do anything, I feel like we're done here for now. Would be good to get to Last Hearth soonish."
Seems like Purdue holds the same thoughts I do. I pull my mask off , tuck it under my arm, and smooth the fur on my head back. Egg or not, we really should do something
. I shake my head. "Doesn't seem like there's much else for us here. May as well get going."
"I'm with you on this one, Purdue. I'm not really a fan of… leaving it all like this. If we absolutely can't afford to, though, then I guess we should get going."
''I thought the same, I'm glad we had the same idea. I just didnt think they would be so… Elusive'' Aegis glances to the hallways before back to Zunden
''Your pet, the Balaur, it caught one of them and is having its meal as we speak. Is that a problem?''>>727027
''From the abandoned farm we investigated. Its previous owners were most likely killed so I decided to salvage them before they become prey to a wandering predator''
Aegis walks past Violet, carefully floating the chicken above the mare ''Yes, lets keep going, please tell me about your findings once I finish rounding up the chickens… And tell me if you see any wandering about, please''
Zunden takes the ship up as she gets settled, moving towards the direction of Last Hearth.>>727030
Zunden gives a bassy chuckle,
"No, he dezerved a treat after all we have gone zhrough. If you have made yourzelf in charge of taking care of ze liveztock, enzure ze chicken are kept locked in ze zpare room at all timez. Juzt don't need zhem making a habit of eating zhem.
''I was hoping I could have used that as an opportunity to train it. Small as it is right now, it is still a balaur, and can prove to be an ally in the future, if disciplined properly''
"Yes, i'll certainly rest easier once we've reached the relatively safe harbor of Last Hearth, the sooner the better. With luck we can find somepony who could treat Rabi's leg, his limp is.. more than a little worrying." i trail off, eyeing his injury
Zunden blinks, "I… appreziate ze zentiment. I had no idea you were familiar wizh training animalz..
Hermodur smiles. "I approve of your moral compass. But, if the others don't want to, then there's not much we can do about it.">>727027
"To be honest," Hermodur says to Dawn. "I don't remember meeting you. But, I'm sure you're right that we have met. My name is Hermodur.">>727029
"Well, that's three for helping them."
Seeing she's outnumbered, Violet simply shrugs. "Yeah. Okay. Let's see what we can do for 'em when we get there. Let's just tread lightly though. Lysander has his hands in too many pockets for us to let down our guard.">>727035>>727033>>727031>>727030>>727029>>727028https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=VI5aGnwopP8
With everyone back on board, Zunden takes the reins, piloting the Fate's Fortune
upwards, due north-north-west. The trip to Last Hearth takes roughly a day.
Purdue spends time with Etrigan, regaling the mute elk with stories from his own time. He seems to appreciate having an audience, and Etrigan enjoys listening immensely.
Dawn is elusive as usual, though she spends most of her time performing what seem like magical experiments. Later that night, she tells Rabi something odd: "The work continues".
The chickens on board continue to prove rebellious, but after launching a proper manhunt, Violet and Aegis manage to corral them and put them back in the spare room. Zunden's balaur scratches at the door eagerly all through the afternoon, terrorizing the birds.
Marisol helps keep watch, staying above deck most of the time, watching the horizon until the sun sets.
The doll Norv found remains inert for now, though he swears he sees it twitch once. Unclear whether this was a trick of the light or not.
The next day, you soar down into a valley and come to the gates of Last Hearth. Nestled at the foot of a great mountain and overlooking a dense woodland area, Last Hearth resembles a settlement and more a great fortress. Protected by an outer wall of stone,it seems the further one goes into the town, it gives way to underground sections, tunnels carved into the mountain itself. As you fly across, you can see several guards on patrol atop the battlements, who eye your ship with suspicion.
Outside Last Hearth, you can see three other points of interest:
The woodland valley Last Hearth overlooks appears to have diminished over the years, the trees cut down for timber, making space for smaller settlements on the town's outskirts.
A huge convoy of caravans is stationed outside its walls. Marisol and Hermodur recognize them, having traveled on this very caravan earlier. These are the Chanticleers. As you watch from above, you can see several aristocratic looking unicorns leading wretched looking folk of various races bound in chains, shunting them towards a side entrance to the town.
Finally, there is a familiar and not unwelcome sight. A wagon pulled by a mechanical horse is trotting up to the town's walls, manned by a friendly pair of saurians. Rosen and Gilder seem to be visiting the town as well.
You are suddenly aware of the guards on the battlements once again. Not only are they watching you, you see that they have siege weapons trained on you, ready to fire if you try anything. It seems you shouldn't expect too much of a warm welcome.
''I'm not, but surely it must not be so different from disciplining others. Perhaps this Balaur could be my first ever student''
[1d10] HerbalismRoll #1 5 = 5
Searching the farm, you find the following ingredients:
>Plianna Root: The bulbous root of a weed endemic to the Echoes, commonly found in bushland. A key ingredient in an alacrity draught.
>Bleeding Heart Cap: The cap of a mushroom shaped like a heart, with gelatinous red bulbs on its surface. A catalyst that enhances the effectiveness of most poisons.
>Imperial Basil: An uncommon herb usually found growing in clumps in dense bushland. A key ingredient in a Boiling Blood potion.
"If it iz no mind to you all, I would like to keep up the practize of landing ze zhip a good diztanze, perhapz half an hour out.
Zunden blinks again, "And you have experizne in dizciplining ozherz, zhen..
"Yeah, that sounds like the safest bet- I'd rather not see if they're willing to let us land any closer, anyways.>>727037
"Oh, look- Rosen and Gilder. If we're going to be walking there, maybe we ought to check in with them? I've been curious about picking up a thing or two."
"Sounds good to me. Might be a bit of a pain carrying everything, but probably for the best if we don't land in
town. Are we going to leave someone to guard the ship and Aurora?"
Hermodur spends a majority of the trip exercising and meditating.
Once the town comes into view, he approaches the side of the ship to silently observe the approach.>>727043
"Lysander is actively hunting me, and I'm fairly easily noticeable. It may be for the best if I stay on the ship at least until you find out more information. So, if no one objects, I'll stay guard."
Having stored my plants away during the journey, i eye our options carefully from the deck of the ship.
"Oh my, Rosen and Gilder? Quite the surprise to see them here! We should have enough time to pop in and browse before entering the town, right?"
"Sounds like a plan to me," says Violet. "I think I'll join you staying behind. Might as well do some cleanup around the ship for a while.">>727041>>727042>>727043>>727045>>727046
You land the ship on the outskirts of the town, in a recently deforested area, and trek out to the town. Marisol and Purdue are the only ones present; Violet is staying to help guard the ship, Etrigan doesn't seem to feel very welcome in civilized areas anymore, and Dawn is busy working on… something. Presumably to do with what Rabi gave her.
You approach the town readily. The main gate is enormous, carved of two stone slabs, and has a single rune carved on its surface which Zunden doesn't recognize. As you get a better look at the guards, you notice something odd about them. They do not seem entirely… sapient. They are all ponies, varying very little in build, and entirely covered in off white bandages under a navy blue uniform. They wear distinctive black peaked helmets, obscuring their vision, but this doesn't seem to hinder them. They carry crossbows for weapons, as well as nightsticks by their sides. Two of them stand at the stone door as the group approach, with more visible behind side doors leading to barracks.
Off to the side, Rosen and Gilder appear to be trying to secure entrance into the city, having a rather heated discussion with one of the guards. Whatever they are, they do seem capable of speech, having a very low, warbling tone, with some sort of filter over it. As tensions rise, one of them brandishes a nightstick threateningly at Rosen. Or maybe it's Gilder.
In stark contrast, the Chanticleers have free reign to come and go as they please through the city, entering through a smaller side gate easily. The guards don't even so much as look at them.
"Not very friendly at all, are they," Marisol comments. "What do you suppose they are?"
Purdue asks. "In all my years I never saw anything like them back home.">>727044
You stay with the ship for now, with Violet, Etrigan and Dawn as company, along with Zunden's pet reptilian. You suspect the others will be gone for quite some time, giving you some time to catch up with most of the others.
''Some sort of cloning technique, maybe. Either way they seem different from regular guards, likely will not respond to bribery, or intimidation'' Aegis points a hoof to the Rosen and Gilder situation
''Maybe this is why this place is one of the few that isnt under Lysander's influence''
Zunden gazes at the rune inquisitvely. [1d10+1]
"Homunculi, undead? I know not, it iz magic I am not familiar wizh.
"Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
"Ah, an excellent point! A construct of some sort wouldn't be persuaded by any of Lysander's tricks.">>727047
Trotting along with the group i make my way towards the familiar merchants, tilting an ear in an attempt to pick up some hint of their conversation.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
I sigh. "So it's possible we won't even be able to get in. Seems like R and G are having issues." I shake my head and follow along. "Oh well. Should still probably try."
Hermodur nods at Violet. "Would you like some help with that cleaning?"
"Well, we did run into animated armor before, yeah? They could be something like that." the stallion suggests, looking over the guards.>[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Marisol nods, considering your theory. "Seems that way, yes. I think as long as we obey what laws they have here, we should be fine.">>727049
You've seen the rune before, but you're not sure what it means yet. It's a nonagon, with intersecting lines inside of it like a spider's web. Marisol notices you staring at it, answering what you're probably wondering. "Lady Grosvenor is a masterful runesmith. I saw her invoke that one a few times. If I remember correctly, it means 'creation'.">>727050>>727051
You see them backing off at the guard's threat. "We're just trying to make a living here! What's so bad about our stash?""Entropic goods are forbidden within the walls of Last Hearth. Dispose of them or turn back."
"We NEED these goods to make a living! We can't just-""Dispose of them or turn back. Malcompliance is not an option."
"Bloody unbelievable. Came all this way just to get turned back by a bunch of tin cans."
"What the hell are entropic goods anyway?""Cargo has been detected that is anomalous and chaotic in nature. Negligent containment of entropic cargo can lead to a breakdown of order in Last Hearth. Dispose of your goods or turn back."
"Forget it, let's just go. Maybe Sprig will want to buy some of our stuff." They start packing up and getting ready to turn around, not having noticed you yet.>>727053
You get a closer look at one of the guards. As they move, you can hear little mechanisms moving, and the slight squeaking of hinges. They seem to be automatons of some sort. One of them notices you staring. "State your business, outsider,"
it drones, stopping in its tracks. This gets the attention of several more guards, who stop and stare at the party. Marisol looks uncomfortable at the sudden attention. "I don't like this…"
"Sure, if you're offering. Might as well." She readjusts the cloth mask she wears now and gets to work in the kitchen, putting away pots, pans, and food that's been left out since breakfast.
She makes idle conversation as she works. "You know, I haven't had much of a chance to say it, but it's good to have you back. Really. After everything that's happened recently, we need all the help we can get. …If you don't mind me asking though. What made you change your mind? …Er, outside the obvious."
''Let's see if you're right'' Aegis says, approaching the guards with Rabi, but doesnt say anything
"I know a few folks interested in buying somethin', at least!" I call out, continuing towards the packing merchants.
Hermodur chuckles as he helps her clean up the kitchen. "What exactly might the obvious be?"
"Rosen, Gilder! I see you're having some trouble getting inside?" i begin, waving a wing as i approach. "I must say it feels as if it's been ages
since we last met! How's business?"
She blinks, looking a bit embarrassed at being called. "…Well… You look different. Guess we all do, now. Not just that though. I mean, I don't mean to pry, but I get the feeling something really changed in you while you were gone. …Am I wrong?"
Zunden takes note of the Marisol's description and remembers it for later, "Zhank you.
Zunden grins softly as she sees R&G turned away,
"Perhapz zhiz means a dizcount.
"I've… come to a conclusion that I feel the others won't approve of. But, it's a conclusion that made me want to come back here to protect everyone."
"We're not going home. This is our home now. There's nothing to go back to. So, I want to make a home here. And that home will be everything worth protecting. Which is right here."
"I don't know if that's what you expected. But, the fact that everyone else was injured while I was gone just proves to me that I made the right decision coming back. I failed everyone by leaving them. I won't let that happen again."
"I've already failed too many people close to me…" he says wistfully. Then, he rubs his eyes.
"Why the mask, by the way?" Hermodur asks, changing the subject.
"Huh… I guess they're not fond of a lot of things, then." he says, before whinnying a little when one of the automatons blurts something out at them. "We're looking to pick up some traveling supplies- food, water, that sort of thing."
She looks a bit surprised, pausing in her menial work for now. "I… I don't think most of us want to go back, actually. Silver, maybe. And Aegis. But the rest of us are happy here. I think what would be good would be to find a way to bridge both. Find a way to communicate with the outside consistently. I don't think it's right for us to be isolated, but I don't want to go back either."
She frowns a little as you get wistful. "Something happen? You can talk to me if something's really eating you, you know."
She looks sensitive as you bring up the mask. "I… I got hurt while we were retrieving the Egg. I don't really like showing it. I'm hoping to get it fixed."
"I used the Dreaming Spring water to watch my Goddess get murdered before my very eyes…" Hermodur says glumly. "I failed her. I failed the world. There's no one and no reason for me to return to."
"I barely have a purpose here. I'm just hoping to find one…"
Then, he makes another attempt at changing the subject. "You never struck me as one to think of vanity," Hermodur says with a bit of a smirk.
The guard stares at you blankly as you approach, watching you unsettlingly.>>727063"Provide yourself and your companions for a mandatory equipment check and state your reasons for being in the Echoes for access to Last Hearth,"
Rosen and Gilder do a bit of a double take as they see you, lighting up. "Oh hey, it's you guys! Fancy running into you all the way out here!" Rosen jabs a thumb at the guards. "Aren't these guys awful? Been traveling since the bloody Meet just to get here, and we get turned away at the last minute."
"I reckon it's cause of what that guy sold us," Gilder chimes in, folding his arms and drumming his fingers idly.
"Yeah, he seemed kinda fishy. What was his name again? Percy? Parzival?"
"Per-something." Gilder shrugs. "Er, if youse are interested in buying, we've got all kinds of stuff for grabs. Take a look!"https://pastebin.com/qNkjAyPP>>727056
Rosen and Gilder are a pair of friendly saurians. One is short and squat, with spines on his chin and neck making a sort of beard, while the other is tall and lanky with a prominent frill. You're not sure which is which though. The short one gives you a friendly wave, looking you up and down. "Don't think we've met, miss. You are…?"
Violet covers her mouth in shock. "That's… that's awful. I… I'm so sorry to hear. I can't even imagine what that must be like for you. …You're sure of what happened, though? Maybe it was an illusion, or you saw wrong, or… I dunno. How do you kill a goddess?"
She doesn't seem very amused. "It's not really a vanity thing. I just… I just don't want people to look at me differently. I've got plenty of scars as is, but this is… well, you don't want me to take it off. It's better this way. Been meaning to ask Marisol about that face sculptor she mentioned. Maybe they can help me with this…"
"Well…" Hermodur struggles to admit. "She was not FULLY a goddess yet. She was as much of a goddess as Luna and Celestia were before they ascended. So, she was technically mortal. But, just as grand and loving as Celestia and Luna were. It took an army to defeat her… The world couldn't accept her rule."
He shakes his head. "My apologies, I don't mean to imply you have any sort of vice. There's nothing wrong with a little bit of vanity. Appearance is an important and valuable thing. I'm just surprised to find that you might agree with that notion."
"Ah… hm. I'll go ahead and tell my party, and we'll get back to you when they're all aware. " he says, scooting off to the rest of the party.>>727066
"Hey, everyone- it might be a little hard for all of us to make it into the town, looks like- they want to know why we're in the Echoes, and also want to check our equipment over. It'd be worth it to see who and what an get through." he says, before giving the Saurians a friendly wave. "Hey, good to see the both of you. Since it sounds like you might not be getting in for a little, mind if I take a look? I'm in the market for something really particular… relating to spirits, that is."
"Very well. I will return shortly then"
With that Aegis rejoins the others "To get in we'll have to subject ourselves to an inventory check, and also state the reason we have been thrown into the Echoes"
She turns to the duo salesmen
"Aegis Glaze, I joined the drifters shortly before the Swap Meet" she says with a curt bow "Pleased to meet you"
"…I see." She looks somber. "…I'm sorry. That must have been horrible to see. I can't even imagine…"
"Well… Truth be told, I'm not really doing it so much for myself. It's…" She struggles to find the right words. "I don't want Norv to see me like this, most of all. I mean, he's not the type to judge on appearance, but… I dunno. Maybe I'm just being stupid. I just want to look nice for him, is all. Gods, that sounds dumb saying it out loud. I don't even know why I'm telling you this. Sorry." She clams up for a bit, focusing on the task at hand.
" Zunden nods to each of them in turn, grinning, "I hope you've zeen better dayz zhan we have. It waz mentioned a good while ago to me you had an item zimilar to zhiz?
Zunden fiddling with her hooded cloak and pulling out The Chariot.
Again Hermodur laughs. "Do you think I dressed up so much because I enjoyed it? It was for Ailuros…"
He trails off. "I realize I didn't technically answer your question," he muses out loud. "I suppose I didn't technically see her die. I saw the killing blow leading up to the moment of impact. I still have one more drop of Dreaming Spring water…"
Hermodur clutches his pocket. "But, I can't bear to look. I can't stomach the thought of seeing her dead…"
"Spirits? Like… shots?" Rosen scratches his head.
"Or like ghosts?" Gilder asks. "Cause we've got this little bell that summons a dude, but I dunno if it's what you're looking for.">>727070
"Likewise!" one of them says cheerily. "Let us know if you see anything you like in there! We've got all kinds of knick knacks for grabs.">>727072
Rosen returns the grin, while Gilder raises his eyebrows in greeting.
"Ooh. That's a pretty one," Gilder comments. Rosen simply nods and starts rummaging through their equipment. "Aha!" He produces one of the cards, seemingly from the same deck as yours. It depicts one of the Saints whose name you don't recall, a white unicorn with a curly purple mane, pouring liquid from one golden cup to another. You can feel magical energy coming from it. "This what you're looking for?"
"Ghosts- my bad. That doesn't sound like what I'm looking for, unfortunately… know anywhere I could start looking, maybe?"
Violet looks at you worriedly, hesitating before patting you on the shoulder reassuringly. "Maybe there's still hope," she says quietly. "Only one way to find out, right? What if she is still alive? What then?"
"And, that hope is exactly why I cannot bear to look," Hermodur responds, resting his hand on Violet's hoof on his shoulder. "She might still be alive. As long as I don't check, I can keep telling myself that."
"Oh? and what was it that he sold you? It must be quite interesting to keep you from entering the city."
I take a little bit to look through their wares, taking the time to grab a couple of wands. The mead horn, which I noticed before, catches my eye and my arm suddenly aches a little. I don't think I've had a proper drink since I finished off the last of my whiskey. Last, I rub my chin as I look over the small metal and wooden orange. With how much I've been tinkering around with stuff, if I can figure out how to actually use the parts that could be something useful to pick up.
"Alright. I think I found everything I want. A Wand of Haste, a Wand of Prayer of Healing, the weird orange, and the mead horn."
After taking a couple of minutes browsing through the wares, Aegis settled on the more common items
"Two bags of animal treats" she points with a hoof "And ten no-bakes, please"
Rosen shrugs and shows off some of their latest acquisitions: the Clockwork Orange, the Shatterhorn, the Tarantellantula, the Dragon Snails, and the Manservant's Bell. "Seem pretty harmless to me. Dunno what's got the Keepers so worked up.">>727079
Gilder wrings his hands eagerly, and the two of them get to work picking out your requests, wading through assorted magical items to get to what you asked for. "'Ere you are!" Rosen crows, waddling back out of the wagon with the items in tow. "That'll be… er… 215 bits," Gilder adds, folding his arms again.
Violet nods understandingly. "Maybe you'll see her again someday. Might be she chooses exile over death, and she ends up here. Wouldn't that be something."
She rather abruptly pulls away, but continues to make conversation as she finishes working. "What about that Marisol girl? Seems like you get along well with her. How'd you run into each other?"
"Nothing fancy today then?" Rosen asks conversationally as Gilder fetches the No-Bakes and treats from the shelves. "That'll be 70 bits."
Hermodur quickly looks to Violet with a look of disgust. "Why bring her up in this conversation?" he asks angrily.
"We both have reason to hate Lysander and now we're being hunted by him. That's all there is."
Zunden's grin reduces to a soft smile, but she remains cordial throughout, taking off the rune-marked pendant she wears.
"I've been ztarting too many collectionz az of late, and want to focuz on one or two inztead. Perhapz you will help eaze my burden?
She runs a claw over the Refracted Pendant, rubbing the rune, "A charm to abzorb and return attackz. Waz looking to rezearch runez in ze Zwap Meet and found it. Zpent a little over twice ze card on it, perhapz zhat and zome coin for it?
[1d10] negotiateRoll #1 9 = 9
She quails a little as you get angry at her mention. "S-sorry, geez. Just thought you might… Didn't mean to pry. Sorry. I'll just… leave you to it, I guess. Good talk." She quickly finishes putting away some crockery and leaves the room, embarrassed.
Gilder lets out a low whistle as both of them ogle the pendant. The two huddle for a moment and put on their thinking caps, discussing something in quiet tones before turning back to you. "Give you the card and 30 bits for it. How's that sound?" Rosen asks, with a more business-like tone. "And, er, how come you're so eager to have this? You a collector?" "Cause if you are," Gilder chimes in, "we might know where to find a third. We'll tell you if you trade the bauble to us with no extra charge. Eh?"
Hermodur lets out a long sigh as she leaves. He rests his head on the kitchen counter. His mind wanders to the Dreaming Spring water still in his pocket. He can't get the thought of drinking it off his mind.
"Well it depends on what you're looking for exactly," Rosen says conversationally. "I know your buddy here has like a collection of ghosts." He jabs a thumb at Norv. "Otherwise, er… Hm. Well if you're looking into hauntings and whatnot, I know there's a manor here in town said to be haunted. Leastways that's what I heard last I was here."
"I heard it was just an abandoned house full of squatters and junkies," Gilder comments.
"Whatever the case. If you're looking for ghosts, it might be worth a visit. Or, if you're looking for an expert on spirits and whatnot, I'm about 90% sure there's some sort of witch living here in Last Hearth. But I don't really get involved in that. Might be worth your while to ask around. If the Keepers even let you in."
I nod and look up at Z, wagging my tail hopefully. "I, uh… I haven't been keeping bits like I used to. I only have 25 left."
You subconsciously touch the almost empty vial in your pocket, contemplating what to do with it. Your reverie is interrupted by the sound of magical sparking coming from Dawn's room, followed by a sharp hiss of pain. It is steadily replaced by a soft, melodic humming, as if of some magical aura.
Hermodur looks up and furrows his brow in the direction of the sound. He follows the sound to Dawn's door. He knocks on the door.
I turn my attention to Rosen and chuckle. "Oh. You knew about that? Doesn't really seem like there's anything like that here this time besides the bell, and 150 seems a little steep to ask them to pay for."
"Hmm… maybe I need to try harder to get into that town, then. Thanks for the info, at least. Speaking of the town, what's up with these Keepers? Automaton, right?"
Zunden pulls out the rest of her deck, fanning them and offering a small chuckle.
"Reader, by trade. Zhey interezt me, even if I do not know zheir kind'z pantheon zhat well. Interezting how ze culturez have zuch zimilar beliefz in zhiz regard, dezpite little to no contact.
She shrugs, though interested, "I am trading at a lozz, if you are to value ze card ze zame az ze one you hold. A dozen bits wizh ze card and info? Maybe a reading if you're interezted too.
Zunden smiles warmly, "Pleaze, Norvegicuz, you could take all we had, if you believed it would truly help uz.
" The saurian tosses the bag of holding to Norv, nodding.
"Take more zhan what you need.
''I'm not particularly interested in anything else at the moment, thank you. Also please add up my tab with the others'' Aegis says as she levitates the bags of animal treats and the no-bakes
''Do you know if these are good with Chickens? And Balaurs?''
''Oh and also, could you please tell me how well-known these no-bakes are?''
I stand outside Aegis's room ringing my hands as I try to prepare what to say. I've left all of my stuff in my room, including my mask and coat, and currently only have a stained formerly white, now pale tan undershirt and pair of scarlet slacks from my suit.
She'd planned on raising the chickens, but from what I'd heard she hadn't actually had much experience with animals at all. Considering her blunt and kind of bitchy personality I can't help but feel like she might accidentally be a little mean.
Steeling myself, I take a deep breath, reach up, and give her door a few light knocks.
Moments after the knocking, there is a faint creak and a thud as Aegis hops off of her bed, a couple of seconds later the door opens for Norv, and Aegis stood on the other side of it, her cold eyes rising to meet his in an icy glare. She is wearing a casual baby-blue dress that just barely covers her Cutie Mark
''Good afternoon, Master Norvegicus'' She says without a hint of excitement in her voice
''What can I help you with?''
I jump a little as the door opens and avert my eyes from her hard stare, briefly noting the short dress before looking away completely. "I-" My voice cracks and I clear my throat and continue messing with my hands, painfully aware they're there but having no clue what to do with them. "I was working on something and was wondering if you had any kind of thin string? I have rope, but it's too thick."
I force myself to look up at her, clearly a little on edge and uncomfortable.
Aegis remains there, still as a statue, glaring at Norv as he talks, and for a couple seconds more after he's finished. It's kind of hard to tell if she's even breathing
''I do, but I'm not sure if it will work'' She aswers curtly and stands aside the doorway ''Please come on in''
"Right. Neat. Thanks." I let out an awkward chuckle and follow her in. "Couldn't hurt to try, right?"
''It depends. What do you need it for, if I can ask'' She closes the door behind the diamond dog and heads for the shelves on the right side of the room. Most of it is as empty as it was when she came, with black bishops on the bottom row, but above it sat a few trinkets, namely a bell, a pair of glasses, a cat statue and a couple ice cubes, neatly stacked on top of eachother
And on the far corner, sat a ball of red yarn, which she hastily pulled to herself with telekinesis
Turning around, she presented it to Norv ''Here, its not common string, The closest thing would be yarn, but I'm not even sure if it is that either''
Upon closer inspection, the ball of yarn is oddly moist…
"Oh, it's not a secret or anything. I don't know if you've seen since you've been here. You might have seen them scurrying around, but I don't think I've had them fight with me in a while. I actually train rats. I stopped because-" I pause and sigh. "Well, one of them died. Another almost died. I figured I've been sorta tinkering around with some stuff, and I have some metal from what's left of this trapping kit I bought a while back, so I figured I'd try to make them some armor so they were more protected if I decided to summon them in a fight."
I curl my nose a little at the ball, but actually take it and look it over. "Huh. It looks like it's probably about the right size. Do you know what it's made of? How strong it is?"
''Armor… I see'' She nods ''A good fix for an ultimately flawed idea. Unless they attack as a swarm of hundreds, I dont think Rats are fit to fight directly. I'm surprised it took you this much to realize this, Master Norvegicus, I thought you wiser than this'' She glances up at the dog, still with her unreadable expression, before looking down at the red ball
''I was told it was sinew, but again, I'm not certain, its one selling point is that I was told its endless, so I bought it thinking of the applications for an infinite string. Its strong enough that I couldnt snap a piece of it with my own strenght, but cutting it should make things much easier if you're planning to stitch something with this''
Hey! That was rude! I blush and look away. "You'd be surprised. Four rats, when coordinated right, can do some serious damage. I don't think I could've killed the balur without them, and they've helped me out plenty not only since I've been here but in my life."
I regain some of my composure as I continue to look the ball over. "Huh. Sinew? That's kinda gross, but definitely something I can use. I'll have to test it, but it seems perfect. Especially if it's actually endless. That would be extremely useful."
''… I see, you sound like you know what you are talking about so I apologize for doubting you. I always imagined Rats would be a better fit for espionage and intel though''
''You can have it for as long as you like, so long as you return it to me after you're done with it''
I smile, nod, and take the ball in my hand. "Alright, thank you." I chuckle, this time a little more light-hearted. "You're not wrong, either. That is what they're best for. They can get into just about anywhere, they're fast, and they're good at hiding. I just don't really know how to use that. Still, best not to underestimate them in a direct fight. Especially when the guy using them is as crafty and conniving as a rat too." I give her a quick wink. "Not sure how many times that's saved my ass."
She doesnt seem very amused
''Why dont you tell me an example then? I would love to hear it''
My smile falls a little. "Well, there was this one time I was sparring with Violet that I pretended like I was going to throw a sword strike, so that's what she was defending for. What she wasn't ready for was a rat running down my arm and jumping in her face to throw her off balance."
I scratch my chin in thought. "Then there was this one time we broke out of prison and me and Silvy were sneaking around, sorta scouting. The guards guarding our stuff almost caught us, but I threw-" I snort as I realize how crazy this sounds and can't help laughing while I talk. "I threw this rat at him. One I'd made friends with during our sentence. Freaked him out and gave Silvy a chance to hit him with her-" I struggle to remember what she called it. "Uh, her sleep poison. We got in and got out with barely any problems. I could probably think of a few more, and probably even several from before I got here, back when I was in pest and animal control."
Aegis kept her eyes locked on Norv, following his every movement as he talked
''I should point out both of these examples seemed more like distractions rather than combat, but regardless, what matters is that they were useful. You have unique allies with you, Master Norvegicus, its good to know you're seeking to protect them''
She tilts her head a little ''That said, I find it odd that you used to work for pest control. Wasnt your job to exterminate the rats rather than befriend them?''
"That's actually kind of a long story. I did both. Honestly it seems a little silly now, but that's one of the ways I ended up here. I used to have a sort of rat room in my basement. I had to kill them in my line of work sometimes, but more often I'd try to trap whatever animals I was taking care of. Some of the rats ended up with my little group." I rub the back of my head. "Well, I guess it was actually kind of big. A hundred or so? Maybe a couple hundred. I never really kept count with how fast they came and went. They don't really live that long. But yeah, whenever I could I'd try not to kill them. Rats, racoons, opossum, things like that I'd try to trap and release back in the forest." I shiver. "Not bugs, though. Always made sure to poison the hell out of them."
''Hm, we never had to deal with bugs where I lived'' Aegis glances off to the side, pensive for a moment
''So you were thrown in the echoes for keeping a legion of rats in your house? That sounds like a petty reason, but the Dominion has always been intolerant with many things''
My face pales. "Actually," I say. "They almost killed a guy. Maimed him pretty bad. They charged me with animal hoarding, assault, and attempted murder."
Aegis stares at Norv for a moment, then nods ''I see, that is pretty bad, didnt you discipline them properly to avoid that kind of thing from happening?''
I defensively throw my hands up. "I did! He was just-" I clear my throat. "Well, he was trying to collect a debt I owed. He opened the basement, and I think they were trying to protect me."
Aegis squints a little ''Debt?''
"Yeah, I-" I shift uncomfortably. "A gambling debt." I put my hands up. "But I almost had the money! I just needed a few more days, and he burst into my home with a knife!"
''Gambling… I didnt think you would be the kind to do that, Master Norvegicus, even if you didnt seemed so bright, you always seemed like an honest dog to me, what caused you to do something as dangerous as gambling with the wrong kind of people? You had a job, didnt you?''
"Yeah, but I didn't make that much, and it turns out I'm pretty dang good at it. Poker, at least. I'd won every game leading up to that day, but I just struck out. And I learned I really like doing it, too. It's not like I'm a crook. It was an honest card game!"
''I'm sure it was. Then I suppose it is your fault for being banished after all, debts must be honored''
The icy mare shook her head ''But I wont antagonize you for it, I too enjoy these sorts of games and could have made the same mistakes''
I give a solemn nod. "Yeah," I say. "But I'm a different dog than I used to be, too. That seems like it was a lifetime ago." I cock an eyebrow, and feel my finger twitch. "You gamble?"
''The few times I did I enjoyed it immensely, though I only played Go and Mahjong, I just know Poker from overhearing some conversations and never played it''
I let out a quiet hum. "I mean if you wanna learn-" I trail off and cock an eyebrow.
Aegis glanced back at her bed, her shield brightened up with magic and a book floated from under her pillow. She placed it properly on the shelf before turning back to Norv
"Do you have a deck?"
I grin and my tail starts to beat against my pants. "Yeah! It's a little beat up, but I have one back with my stuff! I'll go grab it right now!"
I go grab it and come back. "So, I don't have chips or really any bits. How do you wanna do this? Points or something?"
"We can write down points, sure, at least until I'm comfortable enough to wager something"
Aegis took a couple of steps back and sat down on her haunches besides her bed
"Now then, please teach me, Master Norvegicus"
"Sounds good to me." I pull the beat up deck of cards out of its package and do a few quick riffle shuffles, sit down on the bed, and ribbon the cards across the mattress to show it was a normal 52 card deck. I give it another few shuffles and nod. "Alright," I say. "Just start us both off with 50." I deal two cards to both of us. "We're learning no limit hold'em."
"Understood" Aegis says, climbing along on the bed
"Is this the standard way to play poker?"
"There are a few ways. This is the main way I play, though. There's no real 'standard', but hold'em is pretty common. Just behind five and seven card draw."
''Let's see how it is done then'' Aegis says, levitating her cards in front of her
"Alright, so you start by placing the blinds. . ."
I take the next ten or fifteen minutes to explain the rules and play a mock game where we trade the 50 points we both started with until I finally win after a couple dozen hands.
"So," I say, shuffling the deck again. "Think you got it?"
"Yes, it's simple but has a surprising depth to it. That explains why it's so well known even where I am from" Aegis nods, intently staring at Norv's shuffling
"Perhaps one day, if I find a set, I could teach you how to play Mahjongg"
"Unti then, I think I'm ready for a serious game"
'1d10' luckRoll #1 7 = 7
"Yeah," I say, dealing the first hand of the next game. "It's more complicated than it looks when you first look at it. More to it than just 'this hand beats that hand, hope you draw good'." I chuckle and nod. "Yeah, I'm all for learning a new game. If we can even find it here. Playing cards are pretty common anywhere you go. Not as sure about your jong."
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Aegis shrugged "You can find anything in the Echoes I'm sure"
'1d10'Roll #1 10 = 10
"Well, that's true. Never know what'll wind up in one of those merchant caravans or a random shop. It's crazy." I look down at the cards on the table and nod. "Alright," I say. "Raise."
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Aegis looks at her hand and nods
"I'll take your raise and add my own. I raise 10 points" She says without taking her eyes off her cards
I smooth back the fur on top of my head as I set my hand face down on the table and chuckle. "Yeah," I say. "I fold."
I deal the next hand.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
Aegis nods and takes in her new hand
'1d10'Roll #1 8 = 8
I laugh, gather up the cards, and shuffle them back into the deck. "Well. Shoot. Guess that's the end of that. You had some pretty darn good luck. So, what do you think? I've wanted to get some of the others in on a game but-" I shrug. "We've been pretty busy."
''It was nice, but it would be better if we wagering something, but I guess betting money is mostly pointless at the moment. And dont worry, after we are done with this whole ordeal, there will be plenty of time to play, granted everyone doesnt go their own separate ways''
"Strange indeed.. perhaps the magical nature of the items is the cause of the denial."
"Have you spoken to the Chanticleers? It seems they passed through without so much as a glance, whether by deal or by clearance, they could know more of these guards and their reasoning."
"Yeah nah, not yet. We, uh, try and stay away from 'em," Gilder says. "Not too picky about who we trade with normally," Rosen explains, "but we want nothing to do with slave trading wankers. As if this place weren't chains enough, we've got these pricks roaming about in their fancy carts and stealing folks. Shudder to think why someone put in such a big order of the poor bastards.">>727092
The door opens of its own accord. Within, you find a very messy looking room, with a number of clothes and accessories strewn about carelessly. Most of the assorted mess has been cleared out, making room for Dawn's magic practices. She is currently studying something quite unusual. Floating at eye level is a formless, iridescent shape, constantly swirling and changing its properties. One minute it is a brilliant metallic purple liquid, the next a series of volatile sparks, then a spot of pure, blinding darkness, like the world is deleted in those few inches. Just looking at this bizarre, ever-shifting thing gives you goosebumps. You feel almost overwhelming magical energy coming from it.
Dawn doesn't seem too affected by it, and keeps working. You eventually realize that she is the one altering its nature constantly, evidently hard at work. You notice that she is cradling a small spot on her hoof where all the color has drained from it, her beige coat contrasted by a dull, sickly grey patch.
"Hermodur, I presume?" she asks, turning to you slightly before continuing her work, readjusting her blindfold. "What can I do for you?">>727093
Gilder nods. "Get seen in the company of ghosts, people tend to notice, y'know. And word travels quickly 'round here. 'Specially after a Swap Meet. We'll keep both eyes out for ya if we find more angry spirits lying about." He gives you a friendly wink.
"Seems you can't walk five steps without being up to your armpits in spirits," Rosen comments. As you bring up the bell, he perks up. "You interested? None of the prices are set, you know. Make us an offer!">>727094
"Bill's in the mail," Rosen replies jokingly.
Gilder looks over to one of the sinister sentinels. "Tin cans, yeah. Not really sure what their deal is. Don't come here too often. Kind of out of the way of our normal route. Been here long as we've known the place for though. Last Hearth's kind of a secretive place. Run by a group of fancy nobles in town. Creepy bunch, by all accounts. Wager they're the ones what had the Keepers built. Or maybe they're older than the nobles." He shrugs and starts rifling through to light a pipe.>>727095
"Make it 10 and you've got a deal," says Gilder unscrupulously.
Rosen shakes his head at your offer of a reading. "All due respect, but I don't believe in some bits of paper having sway over my future." He shrugs. Gilder, on the other hand, seems a bit more interested. "A reading, eh? What's that entail then?">>727096
"Sure. Most beasties go for it, big and small. But mostly small. Don't know what's in 'em, but animals go wild for 'em. Nerub 'ere got some for his rats from what I remember. Sure he can vouch for 'em." Rosen nods over to Norv.
Gilder shrugs. "Fairly well known I guess. Most folks we run into out there cop a few packs from us. Simple, useful, easy to carry, won't spoil easily… They're just solid options. Why do you ask?"
''…I want to share it with a friend but I want to make sure they know what it is before eating. If they ate it before it expanded, it surely could be fatal, right?''
"Out of the way? What brought you all the way out here, then- wanted to try a new market?" he asks, before humming a little and thinking over the automatons. "It's hard to say, honestly- I've seen other animated suits of armor, so it's not a wholly unique idea, at least."
I rub the back of my neck and let out an awkward chuckle. "Yeah," I say. "I guess that makes sense. If I saw someone walking around with a talking skull or a swirling green mist I'd probably remember it too."
I hum. "Well," I say, looking around at their wares a little more. "How much did you buy all that stuff from the guy for? From the sound of it we'd be doing you two a favor by taking them off your claws in the first place. And that means if we buy all of it from you -or potentially any of it from you, I guess- at least one of us'll have to hike back to drop it off. But if we were to buy everything he sold you that means you don't have any problems getting into town, right?" I tap my finger against my leg. "So," I say. "What if you could help us help you by maybe offering a decent discount on the bulk buy?"
[1d10]Persuasion, improviseRoll #1 2 = 2
Hermodur stares in a disturbed silence for a moment. Then, he shakes his head. "What are you doing…?" he asks with a combination of concern and curiosity.
"Ze tarot haz no way to change ze future my friend, at leazt an unenchanted deck zuch az zhiz one.
" Zunden smiles to Rosen, turning to Gilder, "A reading can be be zhort and zimple, or longer and more in depzh, depending on what azpectz of your life you'd wizh to conzulted over. If you are new to ze conzept, a zingle card daily reading iz a zimple reading I can do if you wizh for guidanze on your courze of action for a problem at hand or zimply zhingz to look out for.
She winks to Rosen, "At worzt, it iz socializing. Nize to hear different voizez zhan juzt eachozher. Eizher way, I will not haggle thrize, zo ten bitz iz fair.
"An understandable sentiment. Being this close to them has me on edge, the last
thing we can afford is to run afoul of them here."
having perused the wares for a time more, i step outside of their stall and back onto the street, watching for more signs of these slavers.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
Gilder nods. "Awful way to go. Imagine having a whole hunk of bread just suddenly appear in your throat…" He shudders.>>727462
"Figured it'd be worth giving a go, yeah. Looks like we have competition though." Rosen nods towards the Chanticleers.
"Yeah, we're no stranger to 'em either. Got Horse here after all." He points out the large wooden horse automaton that pulls their wagon. "These guys seem… different somehow to most though. Most tin cans can't talk, for one. And they're tricky to make, so it's not like they're mass produced like these guys. Whatever put 'em here had a lot of spare time.">>727463
"Nothing, actually. He gave us 'em in exchange for transport to the next town over. Weird guy, but we got some loot out of it, so I can't complain."
Gilder thinks for a minute, then pulls out an abacus and does some quick calculations. "Reckon we could part with all five of 'em for, hm… 200 bits. Usually 335. How about it?">>727464
"Finding a way home," she smiles. "For those who want it."
The anomalous form changes again, this time from a ring of flaming swords into a spectral blue cat with eight legs and eight eyes. "This is magic," she explains. "In its purest form. I extracted it from a sword Rabi found. I feel if I study it for long enough, and try to recreate its properties, maybe it could be a start to unlocking a bridge between this world and the other side of the sky. It's not easy so far though. It's difficult to work with this magic. It's from before the Blackout. Rare to find anything from then, but there are sometimes fragments…"
The cat becomes a legion of tiny stone soldiers. She seems to sense your concern, shifting her color-drained hoof. "Don't worry about me. I just slipped a little. It doesn't look so bad, does it?">>727465
Gilder nods. "Sure, why not. I'll humor you. See what happens."
"Ten it is then," Rosen grins, and hands over the card and the money. "Now then, about that other card."
"Might not be much to go off of, but there's a collector of antiquities over in Withick. About four days ride from here, on the edge of the mire." He pulls out a regional map, pointing out your current location compared to Withick. It is due west from where you are, and seems fairly large. "We're headed there next ourselves. The collector's name is Sprig. Might have something for you. Maybe not, but it's worth a shot. Right?">>727467
He nods. "Word of advice, miss. Don't even give 'em the time of day, or they're sure to try and sell you their "goods". Unless you're into that, I'd stay well away from those powder faced pricks."
You observe the slave drivers from afar. The Chanticleers are all dressed like foppish nobles, with ostentatious red and gold clothing, some with gloves, some with canes, and some with fancy wigs. The Keepers seem to be overseeing the whole thing, suggesting a close link between the Chanticleers and the town itself.
I think for a second and finally nod. "Alright," I say, holding out my hand. "Sounds like a deal." I chuckle. "Guess since I'm the one buying all of this I'll be the one to carry it back."
Aegis nods ''Thank you for the advice and the business, until then''>>727467
''It must be awful for them'' Aegis says, creeping up behind Silver
''Being stripped of all the right to be, reduced to wares to be sold, a product''
"Playing down your… injury… does little to assuage my concerns. If anything, it makes me more concerned. It makes you seem reckless. But, I won't tell you to stop. There would likely be little point in that. I will merely ask that for everyone's sake, including your own, you take care to not… slip… in the future."
Then, he takes a moment to process everything that was said. "I'm sorry, you mentioned something called 'The Blackout' before. What was that?"
"That is curious, yeah- I guess I'll have to try and get a closer look, if I can ever get the chance- they're definitely pretty unnerving, and way more advanced than I'd expect of somewhere out in the middle of nowhere. Anywho… assuming you can't get in, where are you planning to head next? I hope you've got the supplies for the trip- if you don't, maybe we could head in and try to get you some water?"
"Zhank you, Rozen. Now zhen-
" Zunden sits on the ground rather unceremoniously, making sure her tail is out of the way of being stepped on and shuffling her tarot deck. "Ze tarot are a collection of zymbolz and zcenez zhat are uzed to help interpret our every day life in order to make zenze of it and offer inzight on what courzez of action we might take. Az I zaid earlier, I am in no way a fortune teller, I hold no clairvoyanze over ze flow of time. Take out of zhiz what you will, nozhing more.
>Draw from the Arcana>Once per in-game day, she may seek more clairvoyant guidance by using the arcana to offer guidance, gaining a vague hint or brief vision from the past, present, or future that applies to their current situation.
"Yes, quite the grim life indeed, left to rot in some mine or warm some buyer's bed. Provided we stay clear of them, we should hopefully avoid sharing that fate."
"As they said, ponies have a habit of disappearing while the chanticleers are in town. Perhaps we should post a night watch while we're here.."
''If we do end up spending the night here then yes, that would be most wise, there are also things I would like to do while we're in this town so that is a plus''
"Nice," Rosen grins, and loads up the items for you in a bag, along with the glass container of dragon snails. It's quite hefty, and not very practical to carry around. "Can't say I'll miss having 'em. Thanks for that mate.">-200 bits>>727470
"Yeah no worries. Have a good one," says Rosen, content with the transaction.
"Oh, one thing," says Gilder. "Is there anything in particular you want us to look out for? Got a funny habit of running into your gang out there. If it helps, we could keep our eyes peeled, try and find something you might be interested in buying.">>727471
"Rest assured, I know what I'm doing. I've worked with raw magic before." The cat becomes an upside down rainbow, hanging above you both.
She blinks in surprise. "I guess we're not from the same time. Where I come from, everyone remembers the Blackout. It spread over the whole of Animus in minutes. All magic just… stopped… for ten days. No one could cast anything at all. The whole city stopped in its tracks. I was too little to understand back then. Everything got wiped out once the magic returned though. We had to relearn magic from scratch."
"So you see, it's very rare to find magic like this that dates from then. At least back home it is. This magic was bound to a Banishment Sword." The rainbow becomes a congeries of iridescent spheres. "Which begs the question of how it ended up here. I'm hoping to be able to answer that. And, eventually, find a way to reverse the magic to be able to link the other side of the sky."
"Not that I have much interest in going back, mind you. I know some of us do, though. I don't think the Echoes were ever meant to be isolated from the Dominion. No one can survive alone. Wouldn't you agree?" The spheres become a pillar of blinding white light.>>727472
He thinks. "Withick, most likely. Due west, about four or five days by wagon. Probably less for you. Seems like the next best option if they won't let us in."
"Strewth. That'd be great," Gilder grins. "Cheers for that.">>727473
Gilder makes a bit of room, clearing out some assorted baubles and sitting down in front of you. He looks a bit apprehensive. "Right. Think I get it. So, how does this work then?"
The cards tell of complete unpredictability; chaos, in layman's terms, perhaps meaning that their business will have fluctuating results. They also read of self-reliance, as if the merchants will have to make some hard decisions in the future.
I give a dismissive wave. "Yeah, no prob. I'm sure at least most of them will come in handy at some point anyway. Not really sure about the snails, but-" I shrug. "You never know." I heft the container a little, getting a better grip on it. Looking over my shoulder, I look for one of my party members to see if anyone is okay with helping carry them back to the ship.
"I think not being able to survive is sort of the point," Hermodur muses. "Why don't you want to go back?"
"Yeah, they're kind of a novelty ey. Don't think they're native to here. Must've been made by some crazy wizard or something." As you watch, one of the snails rears up to observe you, breathing out a tiny lick of flame before trundling off on its business.
Marisol, who's been quietly browsing their wares, steps up and offers to help carry it.
''I am interested in magic items and spellbooks. If you can find anything that you think is appropriate for a mage, I'll likely be interested in it, and just a likely to pay
a good price for it as well, I am also currently interested in demons and the otherworldy, if you manage to find anything on that matter as well''
She shrugs, the white light fading and becoming a yellow rose, which shifts slowly as if breathing. "There's nothing much for me up above. I have everything I need here. Besides. If I did, they'd probably just put me back here. This world is a cage, but I'm happy to stay behind bars." She smiles softly. "Not everyone sees it that way, of course. Which I understand. Helping our friends find their way home is the least I can do. Given the circumstances. Wouldn't you agree?"
"You feel you deserve to be caged?" Hermodur asks, raising a brow. "Why?"
"A mage, huh." Rosen nods thoughtfully. "Alright, we'll keep an eye out. Both eyes, if we can spare 'em." Gilder looks a bit apprehensive at the mention of summoning demons. "Hope you know what you're doing," he warns. "Occultism is no joke. Demons will do anything just to screw you over."
"For a zimple reading like thiz? I will draw one card, and explain it'z meaning. Zhiz zort of reading iz an inzight on your prezent life, and iz relevant until eizher your next reading or you believe zomezhing in your life haz changed. I zhink it'd be eazier if I go ahead and don't zpend all my time over explaining.
" Zunden giggles, her voice slowly leaving the soft, careful tonation it's had since the desert.
After a great deal of shuffling, she lays the top card on the floor and flips it over, revealing the image of a female galapagos land iguana saurian blindfolded and holding two swords with arms crossed, wearing a dress with the backdrop of an oasis surrounding her on all sides. A crescent moon rises overhead.
She pauses for a moment, before holding up a claw with a grin, "You'll zee the art iz all of our kind, zhiz deck is a relic pazzed down from generation to generation of my tribe. I figure you would be ze type to appreziate it. Regardlezz-"
Zunden clears her throat, looking over the card again, "Zhiz iz ze two of zwordz. Zhe tarot haz two zetz of cardz, major and minor, ze minor being much like a ztandard playing zet wizh 4 zuitz. Zwordz iz one of zhoze four, and iz bazed on ze mind. It iz ze domain of zhoughtz and beliefz. Ze two if zwordz in particular depictz a zaurian at an impazze - ztuck between difficult decizionz. Being blindfolded, zhe zituation bringz confuzion, unpredictability. It iz hard to tell what iz ahead, zo whatever ze rezultz of zheir choize iz can fluctuate."
She rubs her chin, back in her element, "Zo zhat in mind, perhapz you may have dealingz in zomezhing unknown or unztable, and you muzt make zome choizez zhat are not eazy. It'z very likely you're mizzing informazion zhat could lead to needing to rely on your intuition in order to pull zhrough." She shrugs, "zhingz may not be ze eaziezt right now, and zhingz are ztill up in ze air. Zuch iz ze nature of fate, often fickle and chaotic."
"Alright- we'll see what we can do, then.I figure at least one of us from our group can get in… I think." he says, before walking back over to one of the automaton.
"You said we needed to list why we were exiled, right? What sort of stuff would bar you from the city?"
''I am aware, and I am thankful for you worry. I will be careful, but without risk, real progress is rarely made, I'm sure you understand''
"Yeah. Well, don't have any problems giving them a home." I nod to Marisol. "Thanks. Sorry if it's a little annoying. Just don't think I should even bother trying to get in if they were the reason R&G couldn't get in in the first place."
"Deserve is a strong word," she answers as the magic shifts again, becoming a flock of black and white birds with long, curved beaks. "I chose to come here. Not out of guilt or shame. But out of curiosity. The Dominion can't be all there is. And I had little connections there. So I decided to leave it behind, and come to know this world better. It's worked out so far. To a point." She readjusts her blindfold as the flock turns into an eerie disembodied three-lobed burning eye. "I've always wanted to see more, to know more. I feel like staying in the Dominion would be to look at the universe through a keyhole."
He listens politely, observing curiously as you perform the reading. He frowns as you read the verdict. "That sounds… ominous. You mean business won't go well? It's been hard enough lately as is…"
"I wouldn't put too much faith in it," says Rosen from outside. "It's just a possibility. Right?"
>>727485"Your responses will be archived for future reference,"
the Keeper blurts. "Obey the laws here in Last Hearth, outsider."
"Right. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Still. It's a hard business, that. Wouldn't touch it with a broom. Long as you stay alive and keep bringing the money, we won't have nothing to worry about." Rosen gives you a shifty grin.
"Oh? And what might that be? I certainly have a need to speak with a healer, Rabi's injury isn't much better that before, i've concern enough to drag him in for a check-up."
She nods. "It's a fine thing you're doing, you know," she says as you carry the gear away. "Helping these merchants. I don't know if I would have done the same." She eyes the dragon snails curiously.
You eventually make it back to the ship and load everything into storage, with some effort.>>727482
You hear Norv and Marisol returning. Sounds like they're carrying something.
''I wouldnt have it any other way then. Farewell'' Aegis gives both Saurians a short bow and takes her leave>>727493
''I need to murder someone'' Aegis says in a hushed tone
"Oh, alright- that's easy enough, then. Should I leave weapons and anything magical behind, for safety?"
Blinking in surprised, i lean in. "Oh my, just who would try and cross you in this quaint little town?"
"Liztening in after all? Well your partner iz right, Gilder, ze minor arcana, az oppozed to ze Major Arcana like ze card i purchazed from you, focuz on ze typez of fate we can change. Ze card iz, after all, one of making dezizionz, and dezizionz imply multiple courzez of actionz. You two have each ozher, and you will likely need to rely on eachozher. Zhiz iz a card of weighing your optionz, zo put your mindz togezher zhould it come down to it. Again, a tip one doez not need ze tarot to know: zhink before you act. To balanze chaoz, zhink wizh order."
"Yeah, well, there's a lot of stuff I wouldn't have been able to do if it wasn't for the things I got from them, and out of everyone we've met so far they're definitely among the nicest." I chuckle. "Besides. I've taken them -Glider specifically- for at least a couple hundred bits in liar's dice anyway."
"Hmm…" Hermodur contemplates. "Curiosity for its own sake can be a dangerous thing," he cautions. "Especially when it's followed on such… whims. There is no way you could learn everything of the Dominion over the course of your lifetime. There was no need to come here to learn more."
"But… I do see your point. There is a different perspective here. For what little good that has done this world…">>727494>>727488
Hermodur trails off when he hears others arrive on the boat. At first, he goes to check it in the thoughts that they are intruders. But, upon seeing that it's Norv and Marisol, he drops his guard.
"Back so soon?"
''No one, this is for the demon I have summoned. Remember when I told everyone Lysander was using doves to spy on us? I obtained that knowledge through a deal, and now I need to kill someone for them to repay my debt''
The Keeper does not respond for an uncomfortably long amount of time. "……………..No anomalies detected. State your name and reason for being here."
"Yeah. Just dropping some stuff off. Rosen and Glider were at the gates so I bought a few things."
"That's… a lot of words, but I'll keep that in mind. Thanks. Hope it's not as bad as it sounds." He looks a bit worried by your words, while Rosen just seems skeptical.
"Ah, so a contract in need of fulfillment, quite grim work but i would imagine quite necessary."
"Though of all the towns to choose this one may prove quite the challenge, presumably stuffed to the gills with constructs. Have you put a plan together?"
She nods. "I've met them before, running errands for Lady Grosvenor. They're quite cutthroat when it comes to their business, but otherwise agreeable enough." She doesn't seem to approve of the gambling, but it's not her business to pry.
"Ah," Hermodur nods. "If you see them again, give them my regards. And my thanks."
"What did you buy?"
"Rabi. Here for trading, and for some water."
She smiles again, tapping her tail against the floor, "If zhey worry you too much? Remember zhey are juzt cardz, no magic tied to zhem. Zhere are many wayz people uze to interpret ze ztrange eventz zhat go on in ze world. I have been told back in ze Dominion by zome zhat I juzt uze playing cardz az a coping mechanizm."
She laughs, shuffling the cards again and putting them away. "Perhapz next we meet I can draw you a more pleasant card, zhould I ztill be around."
"Rabi. Here in the Echoes for Murder, I suppose."
''It was useful, both to keep track of Lysander and to get myself a taste of what is possible when you tap in to a demons power, and also learned me the consequences of doing so''
She tilts her head. "I've heard others say the same," she replies as the magic shifts into a silver key. "I don't regret coming here though. This place is fascinating, don't you think? If I still had my sight, I could appreciate it more…"
You excuse yourself and go to check on the newcomers. Marisol nods in greeting as she helps Norv haul a glass terrarium containing what can only be described as dragon snails. "Back so soon," she confirms. "I was just helping Norv carry this. We'll be heading into town shortly if you want to come with us. It seems safe enough. No influence from Lysander to be found."
You hear the scribbling of a pen on ink from somewhere nearby. The gate slowly begins to open, allowing entrance into the city. "Enter at your own discretion. Remember, do not break the laws here in Last Hearth. Order will be maintained."
"If there's no danger to the ship, then maybe I will," Hermodur replies, though he sounds dissatisfied.
Gilder smiles. "Well you've survived this long, right? Sure nothing will happen 'tween now and then. Safety in numbers, and all." He looks over his shoulder. "Seems you've got quite an army built so far."
"Of course, no problem. I'll just go give my partners the heads-up before heading in, if you don't mind." he says, stepping back to wave some of the others down.>>727505>>727503>>727501>>727498
"Hey, good news- I don't think it's too
hard to get into town. They seem to 'scan for anomalies' though, so I've got no clue what that means."
"Ah, just a moment dear!" I shout, waving at you with a wing. "I'll join you momentarily."
Approaching the gate, i flag the guard down and clear my throat.
"Silver Song, banished for murder as well." i state when asked.
I clear my throat as I start going down the list. "Well, a few things. I bought a couple of wands -the kind I used when we fought the Balur- an endless mead horn and actual war horn, a clockwork orange that grows into more clockwork oranges -that's so I can have some metal and wood to work with-, a bell that summons a guy, a loud horn, a fake spider that turns into a real spider and makes people dance, and some Dragon Snails."
''Well, I might not be accepted inside then, lets see''>>727513
''Aegis Glaze, banished for theft''
Hermodur blinks a few times as he processes all this information.
"First, does the clockwork orange stop growing at some point? Who decides when it stops? The bell… who does it summon? And… how? What possible purpose could the spider serve? And… what in the world is a dragon snail?"
she nods, thinking to herself and replying in her softer voice again after a few moments, "Far zmaller zhan our advizary'z. Nonezelezz, a pleazure trading wizh you, az alwayz.
Marisol finishes helping Norv and motions for you to follow.
After a short trek, you find yourself facing the entrance to Last Hearth, a great stone gate marked with an intricate rune. Stationed at the gate as guards are a series of ominous figures, all identical ponies with peaked helmets and navy blue uniforms. Oddly, they wear off white bandages around their face, hooves, and any other exposed area, and have no tails or manes. You can feel their eyes on you. "Sinister bunch, aren't they,"
Purdue comments from Norv's belt. "I wonder what their deal is."
You see the Chanticleers' convoy stationed at a side entrance, driving their "cargo" into the town readily. Rosen and Gilder's caravan is also stationed at the main gate. They appear to be conversing readily with other party members.
"It grows another orange like a normal plant, it summons a guy that I'm not totally sure about, the spider would be useful as a nonlethal option, and the dragon snails are-" I point to the snails. "Those."
"Likewise, likewise," says Gilder genially. "Come again soon!" Rosen calls as you leave. "Might run into each other inside if we can get past these guys."
"Does that mean you need to water and nurture the orange?"
The dragon snails are a group of strange creatures within the glass terrarium. They resemble enormous snails with tiny shells, two curled antennae as "horns", and an oddly reptilian head with doleful black eyes. As you examine them, one of them spits a tiny gout of flame. "Terrifying," Marisol comments unenthusiastically.
"I'm- well, I'm not actually totally sure. They said it just sorta grows, but I guess I'll find out. I just thought the parts could be useful."
Zunden catches up to Silver after her interactions with the merchants, handing the party's bags of bits over to the mare, "Zilver, would you be zo kind az to take care of looking for goodz in which to reztock ze zhip? I don't wizh to enter ze town, I want to uze zhiz time to identify a few artifactz."
"Hm? ah, not a problem, Zunden! I'll handle the restocking from here, take your time." i reply, tucking the bit bag away for later.
"Well then I hope our ship isn't overrun with clockwork oranges.">>727526
Upon spotting the chanticleers, Hermodur gestures for Norv to come with him to where the others are speaking with Rosen and Gilder.
"Hello again," he greets them with a head nod. "I apologize for abandoning you before without a proper farewell. I'm happy to see you're still doing well. Thank you again for all the assistance you gave me before."
Then, he quickly turns toward the party. "The chanticleers haven't entered the city yet. Should we make our move now before we lose our chance?"
''That is what we are working towards yes. Present your name to the guards and your reason for banishment to be allowed in with us''
"Precisely." i reply with a nod. "We'll make our way inside, restock out larders, perhaps gather timber for repairs and make our leave."
>>727528>meant to be in italics >>727529
"Zhank you Zilver, it iz rare I have time where I am not piloting ze zhip zo I plan to uze it effiziently.
With that, Zunden makes her way back to the ship.
They do a double take. "Hey mate!" Rosen says cheerfully, as Gilder offers you a friendly wave. "Ah, don't mention it. Good to know you made it. Had me a bit worried for a bit. But it passed. "Still rocking the new hand, ey?" says Gilder. "Good man. You take care of that. Hadrian's work is nothing to sneeze at."
You return to the ship. You can hear Dawn working on something in her room, as well as Violet pacing the ship restlessly. Etrigan is sitting at the dining table reading a book, looking up and bowing to you slightly in greeting.
"Do you think doing something right outside the gates in front of all the weird guards is a good idea?"
Zunden raises a claw in greeting and sits on the opposite end of the dining table, pulling out her bag of holding and beginning to rummage. Pulling out the piscine amulet she had purchased form Fumblemore far back during the Swap Meet, finally finding some time to do some item identification.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
"Oh…" Hermodur says, after a moment of confusion. "So we aren't helping the farmers."
Then, he shrugs. "Alright.">>727535
Hermodur approaches the guards. "My name is Hermodur Aput. My reason for banishment was conspiracy against the throne. May I enter now?"
"I still want to," I whisper, "But we kind of can't do anything right here
I follow. "Norvegicus Black," I say. "Criminal assault, animal hoarding, and attempted murder."
"Animal hoarding is a crime?" Hermodur laughs.
"Not to mention we've hardly any idea just who
these farmers are, especially when mixed in with the other slaves. At that rate we may as well free everypony there, quite the tall order."
Etrigan puts down the book and watches curiously as you begin to try and glean the nature of this amulet. It soon becomes clear that the phrase inscribed on it is very literal; the wearer will be able to breathe underwater as a fish, but on the flipside, will be unable to breathe on land while wearing it. A double edged sword. Moreover, this won't help them with swimming, only breathing.
I shrug. "Apparently."
" Zunden mumbles to herself, next turning to Norv's feather, "What waz zhiz..
[1d10] AntiquarianRoll #1 3 = 3
The Keeper, as they are apparently called, stares you down as you hear writing from somewhere in the adjacent watchtower. "……No anomalies detected. Enter at your own discretion. Remember, do not break the laws here in Last Hearth. Order will be maintained."
The interior of Last Hearth is enormous, a multi-layered maze of Gothic architecture. Towering pointed roofs dominate the skyline, the streets paved with cobblestone. The mountain it is built at the foot of towers overhead, and it seems that further back, the town extends into the mountain itself. The town's citizens seem to be mostly Dogs, though other races are present as well. There is a Keeper on every street corner, watching the town's denizens silently. Some larger ones carry enormous flanged maces, though the majority are equipped with crossbows or pistols. You notice other automatons at work as well; small, wooden and metal orbs can be seen flying overhead, propelled by some unseen magical tech. They have a single transparent crystal in the middle, essentially making them look like floating eyeballs. At regular intervals are lampposts, with what look like gramophones attached to the lamps, occasionally blaring a public service message. The voice is that of a male, calm and professional. "Welcome to Last Hearth,"
it says as you enter. "The safest town in the Echoes. Please remember to maintain the peace while staying. Curfew begins at 9pm and lasts until 5am. If you have come to participate in the upcoming Night of the Hunt, please report to Overseer Arryn in District C."
"We shouldn't overstay our welcome," Marisol says quietly, trying to avoid being spotted by one of the floating automata. "This place gives me the creeps."
Just holding the feather fills you with a sense of dread, a creeping horror that gnaws at the back of your mind. You have a vision in the back of your mind of the black egg shaking, cracks shooting across its surface like a spider's web before shattering into millions of pieces. And inside…
The vision passes, as if a mere daydream. The feather is from the Cuckoo. That much is certain. You recall he found it on him after having died inside the Fulcrum. Carabas had tried to burn it, but it only came back.
Turning away from the feather for now out of discomfort, Zunden pulls out her two magic tarot cards, using divine determination to feed her curiosity towards what the other's enchantment holds.
"Huh… l-let's just get in, and get out. I don't think I've ever felt this unsettled by a city before. What for first, then?" he asks the others, looking around cautiously.
''It seems very disciplined at least. If we obey then we wont have anything to fear while we are here. We can stay for at most a day to rest, after what we have been through'' Aegis walks past Marisol, nodding to the Felid ''Our last mission will perhaps be the most dangerous one yet, we must be prepared. Now lets find a place to restock''
"Unsettled by peace?" Hermodur chuckles at Rabi and Marisol. "It would seem the Echoes have gotten to you."
"By the peace? No, not that- being watched this closely just makes me feel a little antsy, is all."
Calling on the power of the Chariot, you tap into the magical force that imbues this card. Much like its deck sibling, you sense an extreme amount of power flowing through it, enough to be able to alter the threads of fate themselves. Turning it over to examine the other side, sure enough, you find the same cryptic triple goddess motif printed there. There's little doubt now that these are from the same deck.
>XIV Temperance>automatic instant, twice per session; When invoked, this card imbues the target with the virtue of Temperance, turning a failed or successful roll into the bare minimum for a success or failure, respectively.
>One of a lost deck of tarot cards, scattered across the Echoes. Their design appears to be themed around the Faith of the Alicorn Empress, although they bear a mysterious triple goddess motif on the reverse side. Each card resonates with immense magical power, though they are not to be invoked lightly.
Fascinated by the prospects, Zunden investigates the art of the card, taking in the small details of the artifact.
Entering the city proper, i look around with interest, the extreme control exerted through the city palpable.
"My, this is quite the sight! Security such as this is rare indeed for such a rough and tumble world.">>727550
"An excellent point, Aegis. Dreary as this place is, we may find no better chance to refresh our ship, stock and selves than here."
"Our first order of business is to find the market.. I wonder if they've a signpost near here.." i trail off, trotting around nearby in the search.
[1d10] DirectionsRoll #1 1 = 1
Aegis stops Silver by holding her down by the tail with a magical tug ''No, if this place would have a market it would be over here'' Aegis points to a different road
'1d10' directions!Roll #1 9 = 9
I blink. Oh. A curfue. Don't think I've ever been anywhere with one of those before. I knit my brow. "Night of the hunt?"
"Maybe we should find a guard, or a townsperson to ask about that? I don't have a clue what that would mean."
My jaw locks. "Do you-" I pause and adjust my jacket. "Do you think that has something to do with the slaves?" I shake my head. "I'm gonna go check it out. I'm probably overreacting, but this place is givin me the creeps."
[1d10] navigating to district C if we're splitting off nowRoll #1 4 = 4
"I'm… not sure, but that's definitely a thought I'm not happy with. We might as well give it a look-see, then.">>727951
"Hey, hun- I'm going to go check something out with Norv. Hopefully won't be too long." he says, giving the mare a kiss on the cheek before turning to catch up with Norvegicus.
Navigation, if it's needed [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
The artwork depicts a serene looking pegasus mare, pale yellow with a long pink mane, pouring water into a glass of wine to dilute it. She is standing with her wings spread wide, stepping into a clear blue pond. A common motif for Temperance art. The mare in question is one of the five major Saints in the religion of the Faith.>>727551
"This isn't true peace," Marisol says in a low tone as one of the floating eyes passes overhead. "This is hegemony.">>727953
Marisol shrugs. "Your guess is as good as mine,"
Purdue comments, "but I don't like the sounds of it at all. Though I must say, the technology used in this city is quite something. I've never seen anything like it before.">>727549>>727551>>727951>>727952>>727953
You start to explore Last Hearth some. You notice that bypassers are few and far between, and those who do tend to keep their head down. Most of them are thin, looking like they don't get to eat much, or eat healthy for that matter. It seems you can't go two steps before running into a Keeper or an Observer, as the floating automata are apparently called. You also begin to notice that much of the town's layout seems to be designed like spokes on a wheel, with an enormous building resembling a cathedral in the very center of it all. The back end of Last Hearth, however, seems to extend into the mountain itself, tunneling into it.
The calm voice that issues from the gramophones delivers announcements periodically:"The time is eleven o' clock. All is well.""Each and every one of you is responsible for the safety of Last Hearth and its good people. Remember, failure to report crime on sight is punishable by halved rations.""Crime will NOT be tolerated in Last Hearth. The tormentors of our good society will become its protectors.""Please remember that the Attilburg Mines have been declared Condemned due to the outbreak of dreg manifestations. Trespassers enter at their own risk.""Remember: the Parliament rule in the interests of the many, and not of the few.""Please do not vandalize the Observers. They are here for your own protection. Those caught doing so face up to six weeks clearing a Condemned zone."
Marisol accompanies you as you go to search for this District C. You find it after a bit of searching, and asking the Keepers for directions. Due to the circular layout of Last Hearth, it isn't too hard to find. You find yourself crossing a stone bridge over an aqueduct, and coming to an imposing looking building seemingly connected to the giant cathedral in the center of the city. It is made of pale stone, with a wide triangular roof and several carved pillars at the entrance; essentially resembling some sort of bank. It seems heavily guarded by Keepers, who you feel are watching you. "Well that's ominous,"
Purdue comments. Marisol seems suspicious of it, but shrugs. "Should we go in? Seems like the right place to report to someone, don't you think.">>727952>>727951
As the others leave, you start exploring the city on your own. Through an alley, you spot something rather brutal; a Dog is being apprehended by two of the Keepers, who have thrown him to the floor and are kicking him into submission. A third Keeper appears seemingly out of nowhere to block your path. "This is a restricted area. Move along, outsiders."
You eventually come to what you think might be some sort of market, an undercover area bustling with denizens going about their business. Instead of a traditional bazaar or market square, though, most of them seem to be interacting with giant machines of wood and glass, which seem to dispense rations of bland looking food. There are gangrel looking beggars lining the streets, holding up worn wooden bowls or shambling about in shabby clothes looking for scraps, though some get scared off by the Keepers, and, in stark contrast, you can see a few citizens being escorted by Keepers as bodyguards. These ones are given a wide berth, and seem to wear elaborate red and black hooded cloaks with golden patterns. They look like the elite of the city, despite the PA's claims of everyone being equal. Some of these elites, you notice, wear shining golden masks, devoid of any particulars, perfectly smooth and covering their entire faces save for the eyes. Overall, the Last Hearth marketplace is a slightly unsettling sight.
''Disappointing'' Aegis speaks up to the others, eyeing the scene ''Seems like we wont get quality goods from here''
She walks towards one of the Hooded elites, stopping before them
''Excuse me, could you direct us to somewhere me and my allies could buy good food, clothes and others, preferably the same place you bought yours from'' She raises a hoof, pointing at the citizen's outfit
"I, hmm… I really don't like the sound of some of these announcements. The more I hear, the less time I'd prefer to spend here, that's for sure.">>727959
"Might as well, yeah- unless you'd want to try asking one of the Keepers about this sort of stuff, at least." the stallion says, flicking his ears and looking around.
A flicker of concern crosses the eyes, but i nod, waving you off with a wing.
"Alright then. Do be careful, dear!">>727959>>727952
The feeling of unease intensifies as we stumble onto the guards, even moreso seeing the dismal state of the market.
"Ah, the market. How.. unique." she trails off, giving Aegis a forced smile as she moves ahead to examine one of the machines.
"I'm beginning to suspect there is aught amiss here.. perhaps staying the evening is too grand an ask after all."
The more I walk around this place the more creeped out I am. I continue through the town, watching the observers watch me watching them. "Seems like there are more guards than civilians," I point out. "And yeah, all the tech is weird. I wonder how it all even works."
I look up at the building, adjust my coat and mask, and take a deep breath. "Well," I say. "Only one way to find out. I'm a little worried I'm gonna end up breaking some law I don't know they have, though." Steeling myself, I head up to the building.
''We just need to obey their rules. It will be a bother for a while but we need to bear with it. Keep our goal in mind Master Silver'' Aegis says before glancing away
''I think I will ask for directions from one of those fancy-clad folk, excuse me''
You examine one of the machines. They seem to dispense a variety of items, not just food. The food in question seems to be a colorless paste wrapped in paper packaging. They also sell flasks of water, alcohol, soaps, featureless clothing, and other bare minimum essentials for living. Some, however, seem to cater more to outsiders like yourself, offering outdoors gear such as lamp, rope, towels, tents, hunting knives, bedrolls, etcetera. Most of them aren't too useful to you, seeing as you have the ship. >>727960
As you approach one of the cloaked individuals, two Observers fly out of nowhere and start orbiting you, blaring a harsh alarm. Some of the Keepers guarding them rush over to you, while the others huddle around the red cloaked figure even closer. "Halt, outsider! Parliament members are not to be spoken to. Move along. Final warning before malcompliance verdict."
Aegis quickly steps aside, letting the Member pass>>727962
''That didnt work'' She states, returning to Silver
Zunden looks up from the card, placing it away and leaving the feather on the table uncomfortably. She rubs her chin, wondering if the power of runes could help Norvegicus with removing it from his person for good.
Seeking parchment, the saurian gets up from the dining table and waves to Etrigan as she momentarily leaves, heading down the hallway to figure out where to get some. Her thoughts go to spending time in Aurora's room as she wrote poetry, and goes to visit the catatonic bat pony with a fresh bout of melancholy.
You enter the building, being watched with scrutiny by Keepers. It seems to be designed to make you feel as small as possible; the ceiling is incredibly high and the main hall extremely wide, taking a good minute or two to walk from one end to the other. Even the floor tiles are big, as if meant to be walked by some giant. The building has several booths, behind which official looking folk sit, all having the title of Overseer by the name badge on their booth. The clients of this strange place look either foreign like yourselves, are members of the Chanticleers, or are part of an enigmatic group of red cloaked individuals, some of which wear golden masks (see the previous post for a full description). They are always accompanied by at least one Keeper.
Marisol blinks and takes a look around. "Odd. What do you make of it all?" she asks.
"You say that as if that's not the path to peace," Hermodur responds to Marisol.>>727961
"I simply don't understand what has you so on edge," Hermodur says, in high spirits. "This place is delightful.">>727959>>727961>>727963
"Wait, I'm sorry. We're reporting someone?"
As the commotion of the observers and keepers plays out, I watch with concern, sighing once Aegis steps aside.>>727966
"I would say so, yes. It seems we'll have to find information elsewhere."
I gesture with a wing at the machine's menu. "This appears to be all that's here. Useful enough for a single pony though nowhere enough to stock a ship. You don't suppose there's more to the market further in?"
Etrigan nods deeply, seeming disappointed at the lack of interaction.
You visit Aurora in her room. She is still comatose, though showing some tiny signs of life here and there; a flicker of the eyelid, or a twitch of the mouth. You get the feeling she will wake soon. Not today, but soon.
You manage to find some parchment in her room; she seems to have stashed a few rolls in her closet. You find a few pictures she's drawn, mostly portraits of other party members, including yourself, Aegis, and Rabi. She's a mediocre artist, but she seems to have potential.
"Creepy and really well organized," I say, keeping my eyes on the Chanticleers. Why did I get the feeling I'd find some here? "I think I'm going to go talk to the one of the Overseer guys." I walk over to one of the booths and, assuming there isn't a line, clear my throat and say, "Excuse me? I was wanting information on the hunt?"
"I only see two problems," Hermodur answers Marisol. "One, they have a bureaucracy of some sort in the works here. That's not nearly totalitarian enough. Two, slavery."
''We have the time, come, let's go find it together. However…''>>727965
Aegis stops just in front of one of the machines, fiddling with it to get an order
''I would like a new, fresh towel or two, with the scarcity of water, I couldnt wash the used ones''
It is a simple matter of pushing a few labeled buttons on the side of the machine for it to dispense what you wish. You buy two new towels for yourself.>-10 bits>>727966>>727970
As the situation is defused and the Parliament member moves on, you are eventually approached by a marketgoer. Much like most everyone else in Last Hearth, this Diamond Dog looks pale and underfed. She has a golden brown coat and short fur, wearing all black. "You lost?" she asks simply. An Observer starts orbiting you both.
''We are new to this city'' Aegis says, holding up the towels and ignoring the Observer
''We would like directions, if you could help us''
I look around at the orbiting observer, before nodding to the diamond dog.
"Indeed we are. We arrived to restock our supplies recently but the selection is quite limited. Do you know where they would allow purchases in bulk?"
Marisol frowns with disapproval. "Look around you. Even the citizens are treated like slaves. This is not paradise.">>727969"Just exploring, brother,"
says Purdue from Norv's belt. "And trying to get to the bottom of what's going on here.">>727972
You approach one of them, a tall, lean griffon with bright orange eyes. He looks down at you imposingly from his beak, seemingly sizing you up. "You're no member of Parliament," he says, rifling through some papers. "What's your interest in the Hunt, outsider?"
"I heard the ad and thought about looking in to joining and maybe getting some information about it. Sorry for wasting your time if it's not open to the public."
Hermodur crosses his arms and looks at Marisol. "The only citizens being treated like slaves are the criminals. And, that's a suitable punishment. Better than locking them up. Both for themselves and society."
Zunden stands and looks at the picture for a while, eventually sitting on the floor and leaning her back against the bed.
"I am zorry, Aurora. I've been trying to figure out what I am zuppozed to do. I hold on to all ze rezponzibilitiez and I drove myzelf to ruin, I give it up and..
" She trails off, closing her eyes.
"You were ze perzon I prefered to talk about zhingz, you know what it iz like to take care of ozherz. Ehe.. my profezzion iz offering advize to ozherz yet I often find myzelf wondering what it iz I need to do do make zhingz right. Ze whole egg zhing iz ze only real zhing zhat'z holding ze party now, I know ozherz want a break from it like Norvegicuz.
She peaks into the poetry journal she remembers Aurora writing in, flipping it open and reading some. "Zorry for snooping.
"Depends on what you're looking for," she answers, folding her arms. "Don't get many travelers coming to Last Hearth. At least not willingly.">>727977
"There are proper shops further in. A few minutes walk from here." She nods behind her. "I can take you if you like." She extends her gloved paw. "I'm Lilura, by the way."
''We are looking for supplies of better quality, ingredients that can be made to food, clothing, soap and other essentials that arent mass produced. We would appreciate your help immensely, Miss Lilura'' Aegis nods
''My name is Aegis Glaze''
He seems annoyed at your ignorance, but obliges. "It'll be held in two weeks, out in the Whispering Wood to the west. A tri annual recreation event for the Parliament." He rifles through some paperwork and passes you a form to fill in, along with a long list of names, topped with the cockerel seal you've come to associate with the Chanticleers. "Please sign this form and pick up to three targets."The list of names has specific details next to each; race, height, weight, personality traits, and known history.>>727980
She just sighs a little and shakes her head. "You're hopeless, you know that. Open your damn eyes. No one group can have this much control over its people." She swats away an Observer that's started to hover above her. "This place is a cage. You can't do anything without getting put on some sort of list."
About to launch into a proper introduction, i recall Zunden's request and opt for the hoofshake.
"Silver. It's a pleasure to meet somepony willing to help here."
"Quite the culture shock, entering the city for the first time. I simply had no idea a place like this could exist in the echoes, for better or for worse." i add, nodding slightly to the observer.
"We were sort of curious, being outsiders and all- what exactly is this hunt even about?"
You open her book to a random page. She seems to be experimenting with more abstract poetry, not just haikus.
"Nurse me back to health
I believe I was poisoned
I think I've been poisoned
Cause the holes drilled in my head
They keep me from wandering
You keep me from wandering
Cause I was a dreamer
A dandelion prophet
Wherever the wind blows
That's where I'm headed"
"Well, we are in agreement on one thing," Hermodur responds. "No GROUP should have this power. Groups are susceptible to corruption and inefficiency. They should just have one person in charge."
"And, there's only something wrong with being on a list if you think you're going to do something to get yourself in trouble."
Hermodur looks at the list of names with some disgust, but says nothing.
I blanch behind my mask, but I'm careful not to let it show in my body language as I sloppily sign the form and look over the names.
She nods. "I can help you with that. Follow me.">>727985
"It's quite something, isn't it. A prison within a prison. But it's not so hard to get by, once you slip into the cracks of it all.">>727985>>727983
Lilura leads you away from the marketplace, through narrow, twisted stone streets. An Observer follows you for a while, but you eventually manage to shake it. "Eyes always watching," Lilura comments. "But they do have blind spots. Would've left this town ages ago if I had a way out. …Not too much farther, by the way."
"You mentioned a ship before?" she asks as you walk. "This place is landlocked…"
Zunden blinks, setting the book down and snapped out of her melancholy a tad. "I wizh I underztood poetry. It zounded nize when you zpoke it zhough. Wordz are prettier when zhey are not on paper.
She sits there a bit longer, before getting up with the parchment and looking at Aurora from the door, "I'll check back in tommorow, like alwayz. Recover zoon, Aurora.
Zunden makes her way back to the dining room, waving yet again with parchment held under her arms. "Apologiez Etrigan, buzy work and all. I am going to do zome experimentation with runecraft.
She sits herself closer to the deer this time, parchment and quill between them. "I waz not aware of zhem until coming to ze Echoez, are you familar any wizh Runez?
"A simple affair. The Parliament order a shipment of bodies, they get released into the woods, then they hunt them all down before sunrise. Some of the remains get sent to Morillcole for recycling." He arches an eyebrow. "Interested?">>727988
"That sounds even worse," she retorts. "One person controlling everything? Who's to say they know what's right or wrong? That's exactly what Lysander would have.">>727989
You look over the list after doing the paperwork. There must be at least a hundred slaves listed on it. It continues for quite a few pages. Many have been "claimed" already.
I go through the list and pick a few names from it. After, I pass the paperwork back to the Overseer, nod, and say, "Good hunting."
''We landed ours far enough from the city to avoid any issues with the guards. What do you mean way out however? Cant you simply pack your things and leave?''
"'Had a way out'? I suppose the lands around here aren't the safest, but surely one could find a better life leaving, correct?">>727994
"An airship, mind you. I suppose it's safe enough to mention it, but yes, we've one landed outside."
Etrigan merely shrugs at your apology. He seems to understand.
He seems relieved to have someone to keep him company. He thinks for a while, then draws two runes on the page. One is Severance; the other, unfamiliar. A circle, with two arrows at the top and the bottom, pointing clockwise. A smaller circle in the middle and a dot, like the eye in the middle of Severance. He looks up to you questioningly.
''Why would it be an issue to tell her about it?''
"Ah. I suppose that's what the… slaves are for? Why, out of curiosity?" he asks, trying to hide his disgust
"One would assume it's the same reason why we should make an effort to hide our names, less attention towards us makes for a safer trip. Lysander is still out there, after all, the fewer who know of the ship the better."
"Familiar wizh Zeveranze, yez. Not ze ozher zhough. If I'd make zome zort of guezz… Movement?
"Well, it has to be the right person," Hermodur responds to Marisol.>>727993
Hermodur raises an eyebrow at Norv, but still doesn't say anything.
Aegis blinks, looking at Silver for a moment
''Right, I havent considered that…''
"I've been here too long," she explains with a hint of regret. "Citizens aren't allowed to leave. Keepers would be on me in seconds. Plus, I have a… a condition. Genetic disease, makes my body fragile. Can't travel on my own for too long. This is the only civilized place for weeks on foot. So I guess I'm stuck here."
"'Landed'? You have a Sanctuary?" She looks eager to know more. "I've never seen one before. What's it like?"
She eventually leads you to a place, but it's not a shop at all. Rather, she unlocks a padlocked gate and takes you behind a building, into a withered garden, working on opening a shed. "So I lied. There are shops, but they won't sell what you're looking for. This place doesn't cater to strangers, if you haven't caught on. But I do. My brother and I stockpiled equipment for the longest time, hoping to find a way to escape."
She opens the shed. Inside, you find a veritable hoard of equipment; stockpiles of real food and not bland rations, barrels of water, tools and utensils, magical trinkets (including one of those rare compasses you own); essentially, everything you could ever need for a long trip. Lilura looks to you with a hopeful smile. "I won't be needing it anymore. You can have it all, if you can find a way to transport it to your ship. I won't be needing it anymore."
You pick three names: Aylward, a male Diamond Dog, Seventh Spear, a female pony, and Shiera, a female hippogriff. The Overseer seems satisfied and files the paperwork again. "Likewise. Remember, two weeks from today. The Whispering Wood, at nightfall. Be there, or someone else will take your prize.">>727998
"Fodder, for Keeper production," he explains. "With crime rates so low we can't rely on the old ways anymore.">>728001
"But who chooses who the right person is?" she presses. "How can anyone be trusted to know what's good for thousands of people?"
He shakes his head, picks up the pen and writes a single word above it: Return.
"If there's not enough crime to supply our fodder, wouldn't that be an indicator that you've done a good job and it's time to stop?" Hermodur speaks up.>>728004
"I wouldn't know," Hermodur shrugs. "It's not me."
I walk right past the party and outside while Hermodur seems to think it's a good idea to argue with the totalitarian nutjobs. Taking a deep breath, I look around for the Observers while trying not to turn my head.
Aegis admires her collection, taking note of the displayed items
''This is impressive, Miss Lilura, but unexpected, from someone we just met. To what do we owe this incredible kindness?'' Aegis asks, with no emotion to her voice
Looking at the horde of supplies, i raise an eyebrow at the dog's offer.
"It's quite the collection you have here, are you certain we can just take it? I would hate to simply canter away with the supplies in tow, having not offered repayment."
"Well, my brother's not around, and I won't be making much use of it. Be a shame to let it go to waste. I figure you might need it. It's not helping anyone just sitting here, after all.">>728009
"I've been waiting to be able to give it away for a long time, but strangers are few and far between these days. …If you can, though… I'd like if you could take me with you. Not too far, just to the nearest town. It wouldn't be easy, finding a way to get past all the guards, but I don't think I'll get another chance any time soon. What do you say? My supplies in exchange for transport?"
"Ah, a powerful conzept I am zure many here have ztrong feelingz towardz.
" She emulates the drawing, putting it to memory.
She then practices drawing the Union rune, "I like zhiz one ze bezt, Union. People are at zheir ztrongezt when banded togzeher.
She scratches her chin, continue to refine her sketches. "Return… I believe you have been azked about ze pazt before, but even prior? Do you have memoriez of ze Dominion?
"I think low crime might be a sign things are going well- do these Keepers break down so often that you, ah… need to replace them? With people?"
''Indeed, we would be able to make a better use of it'' Aegis says, still looking at the items, silent for a moment
''…Would you like to come with us?''
"I don't think it's anyone," Marisol says, folding her arms defensively.
"Keepers are used by the Parliament for more than security, outsiders," the Overseer explains. He doesn't elaborate, giving you a suspicious look. You get the feeling you might get in trouble asking too many questions.>>728007
You spot one flying overhead, circling the building like a vulture over carrion. "What are you looking for?"
Hermodur folds his arms. He doesn't need to ask anymore questions. He understands perfectly. They use them for corrupt, personal use.
I lift Purdue up closer to my face. "A spot to slip into the shadows where the Observer doesn't catch it," I whisper just loud enough for him to hear. "I want to try to follow those Chanticleers inside. They're helping supply the slaves so they probably know where they're being kept."
"Ah. Understood, then. Just wanted to get the low-down on stuff, sorry to bother." he says, before stepping back with the others.
[1d10]PerceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
"Quite the task indeed, bringing the supplies and
another out of the city." i wrack my mind for ideas, pacing slightly.
"The primary entrance is filled with keepers, far too many to simply fight through.. Are their any others ways out of the city?"
''Indeed, we would be able to make a better use of it'' Aegis says, still looking at the items, silent for a moment>>728019
''Sounds reasonable enough for what you're offering'' Aegis glances to Silver ''Though we'd have to ask the others to be sure… ANd what about your brother?''
He nods in agreement as you introduce him to the Union rune. He practices drawing it a few times, taking his time to get the hang of it.
He nods solemnly at your question, reaching into his cloak. He hesitates for a moment, as if reluctant to show you, but he does so, pulling out a silver locket. Inside is a faded, browning photograph of a young doe. You sense a great yearning in his dull black eyes.
You notice a blind spot in its trajectory in the form of a tiny alleyway next to the building that turns a corner. Waiting till it's turned away from you, you manage to get in, hiding yourself from sight. "Ah. Clever. Very clever. Now what?">>728015>>728017
You and Marisol exit, only to find Norv missing, as if he just vanished into thin air. She frowns and starts looking around, a bit wary of the circling Observer. "Mr Black?" she calls out.
[1d10] Marisol PerceptionRoll #1 6 = 6
"Now," I whisper. "We wait and hope they don't leave out the back for some reason." I tense up as Marisol searches for me. Shoot. I don't want her drawing attention to me after I just managed to get away from the Observer. I try to sink deeper into the shadows. I'll send my Harbinger to let everyone know I'm okay later.
[1d10]Stealth/ImproviseRoll #1 3 = 3
"Weird… I hope he's alright. This place kinda gives me the creeps… though, he might've just gone back to meet with the others early?" he suggests, taking a look around.
Perception [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Despite the softness in her voice, Zunden responds with warmth, "A lover, or family?
"There's a few exits," she answers. The western gate is probably the one you came through, but there's a northern and southern one as well. Those are all fairly well guarded. There's also the aqueduct. There's no Observers down there, but moving cargo that way could be tricky. There's also the mine, but it's a Condemned Zone… Hm…">>728020
"Keepers took him," she answers, looking forlorn. "Going on a year ago now. Caught him trying to tunnel out of the town and sent him to Morrilcole." She looks away. "…He'd probably want me to do this."
''I see, I'm sorry for your loss then''
''Then, could you define what exactly makes this zone Condemned?''
"Ah, an aqueduct, you say? That sounds as if it would be our best bet.">>728020
"Between the bag and the carpet back on the ship, we could move the majority of the items quite easily through the Aqueducts, provided the others are willing to make a hasty retreat through there. I suspect it will be a one-way trip."
Hermodur chuckles. "Mr. Black…" her mutters in amusement.>>728024
"I'm sure he's snooping. Why else would he be signing up to hunt people?"
As you hear Marisol start looking for you, you slink away, hiding in the alley and behind some abandoned crates. After a while, it seems she's gone. "You sure you want to do this?"
Purdue whispers. "They'll be worried sick about you.">>728030
Marisol looks back to you and raises an eyebrow. "What? That's his name.">>728024
Despite searching, there's no trace of him. "Maybe he just went back to the ship," Marisol suggests.
"It makes me sound far more rougish than he actually is," Hermodur comments. "It's amusing."
''We wont have to worry about the laws once we leave, and even more if we never return to this place again, which I think will be likely. We should see what they think of this, and what they managed to find''
"I'll send Marisol a note. If it's just me we're less likely to get caught, and I'm less likely to put anyone in danger for something I wanted to do. I'll let them know I'm okay." My nose scrunches as Hermodur laughs at my name. What's so funny about Black? It's a common enough name. "Anyway, I don't think I'll do anything rash right now. I just want to gather some information. Not go in guns blazing on some big rescue mission. That can come later."
"Hmm… I don't feel good about this, but I think loitering might look… odd. Maybe we meet up with the others?"
He nods when you mention family. You get the feeling the doe is his daughter. He looks at you earnestly, gesturing to his throat, then bringing his hooves together, as if asking you to help him find a way to speak again.
Lilura shakes her head. "I don't know. But it can't be anything good. It used to be a big part of the work force, but something happened that led to Madam shutting it down. Something about dregs. I don't know what those are, but it can't be anything good. If we go that way, expect the worst. …Can you fight?">>728029
She nods. "It's hard to navigate. Lots of paths to go. Places to slip. It's a maze down there. Plus if they catch us, we're done for."
"Is he not?" she asks. "I haven't seen most of your friends in action yet.">>728035
Marisol nods at your suggestion. "We should try and find Aegis and Silver, at least. Though they could be anywhere in the city by now. We should at least try retracing our steps though." She gets a move on, assuming everyone follows, trying to make her way through Last Hearth, searching for the others.
[1d10] NavigationRoll #1 4 = 4
>>728034"Ah. Good plan. Just try not to get caught. I don't like the sound of being recycled.""So, where to then?"
Despite his trepidation, he seems eager for adventure.
''Yes, we can hold our own in a fight, that is the bare minimum for surviving in the Echoes. Can you wait for us here, Miss Lilura? We need to rejoin the others and discuss this''
"I suppose he may have gotten more rougish since the last time I've seen him in action. In general, he's not the type for violence, though.">>728038>>728035
"If we're trying to regroup, would it not be wiser to head back to the ship?"
"Hmm.. Quite the decision to go through. We've more of our group within the city, for now we must adjourn to discuss this with them. How will we be able to contact you?"
A soft rumble comes from Zunden's chest, a sound she's made only a couple times when thinking deeply on something.
"I.. waz able to link Zilver'z vizion to Dawn when we were in ze dezert zhrough a Union between zhem.. I know not ze extent it would be… but I could attempt ze zame wizh mindz. I know from zhat experienze zhat it iz only temporary, but I would ztill need your total conzent firzt az I do know what would happen.
I gulp. Yeah, I don't like the idea of being 'recycled' either. "Well, right now I'm going to wait a little while to see if either one of the Chanticleers walk by or if one of the ones inside comes out. After that we follow them." I pull out my Harbinger and whisper, "Barker, take this message to Ms.Marisol. Tell her Norv says he's fine and just doing a little sightseeing, and he'll meet up with them at home, please. Tell them if I'm not back by tomorrow-" I pause. What then? I can't just tell them to come look for me, can I? "Tell them if I'm not back by tomorrow then I'm still somewhere in the city and I might need help."
"Right- I'm not really sure where they went, but it shouldn't be too hard to find, right?"
[1d10] NavigationRoll #1 3 = 3
Hermodur follows and remains on the lookout for the others. [1d10] perceptionRoll #1 6 = 6
Lilura nods in understanding and nods to the building whose yard you're in. It's a squat, run down one story house, with a few broken windows and a hole in the roof. "My house. Not much to look at, is it. I'll wait here to hear what the others think. And… thank you. Even if it doesn't work out. You're good people." She gives you a warm smile. She looks as if she could hug you, but manages restraint. "Thank you," she says again, more emphatically.
Aegis nods, bows and takes her leave ''We will return shortly''
With that, Aegis attempted to navigate the city, searching for the others
'1d10' city and directionsRoll #1 5 = 5
"Ah. Still, it's only polite to refer to people by their title."
"Well we don't know if the others went back or not," she points out. "And it wouldn't hurt to get the lay of the land a bit more either.">>728044
The wooden wolf springs to life, sitting idly as it takes in your message before scarpering off through a crevice to deliver it.
After a while, you see a small group of Chanticleers pass by, three or four of them. They are accompanied by a pair of Keeper bodyguards, as well as one of the red garbed nobles you spotted inside the office building earlier. >>728045>>728046
You don't manage to find much trace of them as you explore the city, walking past abandoned carriages, wretched beggars and ominous Keepers. Eventually, you are approached by a Harbinger, this one in the shape of a wooden wolf. It speaks in Norv's voice. "It's Norv. I'm fine. Just doing some sightseeing. I'll meet up with you guys on the ship tomorrow. If I'm not back by tomorrow, then I'm probably lost. Might need some help."
Marisol frowns and looks to you all. "What's he gotten himself into this time?"
Etrigan tilts his head, thinking it over. He seems excited at the possibility of being able to speak again, nodding eventually. He writes down a single question for you though: THROUGH WHO?.
"You don't call me Mr. Aput," Hermodur points out.>>728049
"I wonder why he felt the need to do this alone…" Hermodur muses. Then, he shrugs.
Back to looking for the others! [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
I take a deep breath, wait until all the Chanticleers and bodyguards pass, and try to keep myself hidden as I follow behind. My heart slams against my chest. Last time I felt like this was when I first went to The Downs by myself back in Braildorn, and here I am again, going out on my own.
I follow at a distance just close enough to keep sight of them and still easily keep from being seen.
"Welp… I guess that settles that. I'm not sure it's sightseeing, but… difficult to say, for now. Let's keep looking." he says, before following along with the others.
Perception/Navigation [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Zunden thinks on what the question means for a moment, before slightly tapping herself on the forehead with her palm.
"Ah, I had figured we are zome of ze only onez here right now. I would not like to disturb Aurora'z healing. Would you like to zpeak to me.. zhrough me?
You tail the procession from a distance, watching as the go past the office building and towards the giant cathedral-like building at the center of town. They get to a large wooden double doorway, and are met by a Dog in a porter uniform. They seem to give him some sort of password and are let in by an unseen second doorman, the door closing firmly behind them. You can see a few Keepers out the front guarding the way, and a pair of Observers on patrol. "Please be advised that Parliament House and its surrounding territory will not be open to the public until after the upcoming Night of the Hunt. Trespassers will be prosecuted."
For a moment you think it's talking directly to you, but it's just one of the PA gramophones declaring the laws to anyone that will listen. Before you can act, Purdue hisses a warning. "Behind you brother!"
Looking around, you see a third Observer coming in your direction, oblivious to your presence for now. The crystal is lit up like a searchlight, idly scanning for intruders like yourself.
Etrigan seems confused, as if doubting whether that would work or not. All of a sudden he seems unsure of all of this.
Zunden thinks on the subject, "Perhapz… it could be only my vocal chordz and mouth zhat I would bring to ze Union. I azzume ze trepidationz are towardz ze linking of memoriez.
" She waves a hand, "Ozherwize, again only wizh your ztrict conzent." She offers a small chuckle, "I wonder if if Ganzen haz ze capability to.
I barely manage to keep myself from making any kind of shocked noise as Purdue warns me about the Observer. Quickly, I try to slip out ot of the spotlight.
[1d10]StealthRoll #1 2 = 2
He gives a small nod as you bring up the memories. He seems wary, fearful even, and seems to decide not to try that. He doesn't seem to know who Ganzen is, tilting his head slightly. As if on cue though, the balaur skitters around the corner, having heard its name. By this point, it's grown to about the size of a dog. It bounds towards you eagerly, demanding attention. Etrigan looks a bit intimidated.
You're not quite stealthy enough to slip away, knocking over an empty food can in the process. Alerted by the sound, the Observer's crystal strobes, and it starts floating towards you with malicious intent.
[1d10+2] PerceptionRoll #1 8 + 2 = 10
I freeze and look down at the can. My eyes shoot to the observer and I book it, looking for an alley or sewer or anything to dip into.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Zunden pats her lap and grins despite the creature's weight, stroking Ganzen's scales under its chin.
"Ganz heard zheir name, I zuppoze. It was moztly a fleeting idea, I doubt zhey have ze vocal chordz capable of emulating zpeech. Zhey are uzed to ze zcentz of ze pazzengerz on ze zhip by now, zhough, zo zhere iz no worry of zhem being unfriendly.
" She tutters, looking at the balaur, "I only worry when hiz zpit-up ztartz to damage ze floor.
She clears her throat, "Zorry. Zhat being zaid, juzt bringing a union between my voice and yourzelf, zhen? Zilver waz not granted accezz to Dawn'z mind when zhe formed ze Union, zo I zhink zhiz would be ze zafezt bet.
You start running on all fours, Purdue grunting softly as he's knocked about on your belt. You manage to find a hiding spot in the shape of an open manhole. Without thinking twice, you rush to it, pull it shut and slide down the ladder leading into the sewers.
You are immediately assaulted with the nauseating stench of the sewer, a smell so strong it even permeates your gas mask. Your eyes water and your suppress a gag as you take in your surroundings. Channels of lumpy greenish grey sewage, moldy brick and stone, and narrow, slippery catwalks leading to who knows where. You are reminded heavily of the sewer system beneath Braildorn, though this one differs by being more vertically built, having several ladders leading to lower levels.
Up above, you hear Keepers running, speaking in their low, distorted warbling voices. More footsteps, more words exchanged, then, nothing more. It seems they gave up on looking for you. For now.
Ganzen jumps up on your lap and rubs its face on yours, as if to mark its territory. It flexes its claws and eventually curls up, making itself comfortable. There's no standing up now.
Etrigan nods in understanding, still seeming a bit unsure about it but willing to try. He doesn't seem quite sure of how to do it though, and extends his hoof warily, looking you in the eye. You notice he's started to go to further lengths to hide his nature, now covering his cold hooves with wrappings.
I gag at the smell, glad I have my mask. If it's this bad with it I can only imagine how bad it is without it. "Well," I say. "Looks like we're taking the scenic route. You don't think this sewer leads onto the cathedral grounds or under it or somethin, do you? That'd be a pretty big oversight."
>>728066"Sometimes it pays off to be dead,"
Purdue comments. "Can't say I envy you right now. Nyehe.""It's worth a try,"
Purdue replies, sounding like he'd shrug if he could. "I don't think they'd go as far as to make that mistake, but at the very least, it'll be a way to get around to somewhere else where they won't see you coming. Right?"
"Yeah. Should've bought some of that vanishing dust stuff from R and G. At the very least I'll have some idea of where I'm going if I check down here out, though."
I try to keep a mental map of the area in my head as I follow the sewers to what I think would be roughly below the cathedral grounds.
[1d10]NavigationRoll #1 2 = 2
"Think you can help me keep an eye out?" I ask, lifting Zunden's sun to get a good look around.
You take a few lefts, a few rights, a few ups and downs, always heading roughly north. You hit a brick wall in the form of an actual brick wall though, and are forced to backtrack for some time to keep heading in that direction. By the time you do, though, you realize you're probably way off from where you meant to go. You're completely lost, and the dead beggar in the water doesn't help improve your mood much, nor does it help when the body is suddenly dragged under by an unseen creature.
As you try and get your bearings, you hear slow, methodical trudging. A Keeper on patrol, no doubt accompanied by an Observer. The weight of it suggests it's one of the larger Keepers too, the ones with flanged maces. It seems to be coming from a level below you, around a corner. Neither of you can see each other yet.
"I have zeen zhiz onze and performed it onze, but ze latter waz done under durezz where emotionz were at zheir ztrongezt. I will form ze Union, and you need only to have a willingness to zhare my voize for ze time being. Az i have been taught, runez take zheir power from intention.
She looks earnestly, "If it doez not work, zhen it doez not work. We are zimply experimenting.
If she is absolutely sure of Etrigan's willingness, she draws the Union slowly upon the parchment, holding the undead's hoof with no discomfort towards his condition,
"It iz zhrough ze Union I, Zunden, join my voize wizh Etrigan, a momentary harmony of zpeech."
[1d10+2] Invoke Rune: UnionRoll #1 6 + 2 = 8
I take a step back, dimming my sun and hiding it beneath my coat as I try to dip out of sight. At the same time I keep an eye out for where the keeper is headed.
[1d10] Stealth, ImproviseRoll #1 5 = 5
He nods, looking more determined this time. As you focus on invoking Union, you feel a sort of tug in your mind, like something trying to call to you, to get your attention. For a minute, nothing happens; then, you feel the tug again, but this time it's more like a yank, like you're being thrown into a bottomless pit. In your mind's eye, you catch glimpses of memories, not your own. A doe in a pool of blood. A young fawn clutching your leg. Carabas, battered but unbroken, helping you up amidst a raging battlefield. Dawn, her eyes unburned, grinning and raising her glass in a toast. A knife piercing your chest. Lysander sneering. Oblivion.Are you there?
The memories come and go in the blink of an eye. You hear a voice, deep, determined, passing through your mind like a vague, distant thought.Are we connected?
You crouch and hide, watching from over the edge as the Keeper and Observer march past. They seem to be patrolling the sewer for intruders. Seems even here you can't escape them. After a minute or two, they turn a corner, out of sight once again.
I let out the breath I was holding and shake my head. "Alright," I say. "Jumping into this was a bad idea. Maybe I should take more time to prepare. From the sound of things we have two weeks."
Zunden closes her eyes and clears her mind for a moment, before testing the waters.Hello? I hear you - I'd imagined it would be you speaking from my mouth. Odd.
Zunden returns with her own inner voice, a clearer spoken version of her normal voice,
She makes sure she can still move around physically, making sure Etrigan can have access to the parchment and quill if he can.You know Severance, draw it and invoke the wish to seperate us if you ever feel the need to.
>>728075"Quite a while to get the lay of the land,"
Purdue agrees. "Assuming the others vote to even stay that long. Still. Wouldn't hurt to sneak aboutthe Parliament House a little more, if we can find a way up and out. Don't you think? Or should we go back to the ship and see what the others are up to?"
"No, I think as long as we're here we should try to find a way up into the house. I have an idea for if we can't, but it'd have to wait at least until tomorrow, so if I can get more info now then all the better. Think you can help me by keeping directions in your head so it's less likely we get lost?"
[1d10]navigatingRoll #1 7 = 7
You hear him breathe a sigh of relief. He looks overwhelmed at being able to speak again, even in some form.It… It's been so long… So long sitting in silence, frightening everyone that passes by, not being able to speak my mind… Merciful Mother… Thank you so, so much…
It takes him a moment to compose himself, taking another deep breath. This is a gift. Truly. It's a pity we cannot speak for long though. I imagine you will not want me whispering in your ear forever. I only wish there were a way to restore my true voice permanently.I… I asked because there's something I've been wanting to share of late. But I haven't been able to because of my… my condition. It's about the Oneiromancer. You've… you've seen him, haven't you? I think I saw it just now.
>>728078"Your call, brother. I can't do much to stop you, I suppose.""Sure, I'll scout ahead,"
, he says sarcastically. "…A-head. Get it? Cause I… Never mind."
You keep exploring the sewers, evading the occasional patrolling Keeper, trying to make your way towards the center of town where the House is. Every once in a while, Purdue whistles a tune despite not having lips, passing the time taking in the slimy landscape.
Eventually, you come to another ladder, which if your navigating is right, will take you up to above Parliament House. The only problem is it seems to be guarded by a lone Keeper wielding a truncheon. "Hm. Should we look for another way up?"
Purdue asks. "Or should we give him what for?"
>>728079You are not an unpleasant voice to listen to, were it forever.
She smiles, I am glad it was some success then. I busy myself with so many things that I devoted nearly enough time getting to know you.
Her mood grows more serious at the mention of the Oneiromancer. Yes, he has interrupted my dreams once before, and he has followed from a vision of the Three after interacting with a magical artifact. It is concerning to know he can show himself to yourself as well.
She props her elbows up on the table, gesturing with the other, Go on, what happened?
I chuckle. "No, don't apologize. That was funny." I slowly navigate the sewer, trying to keep an idea of where I'm going. When we finally find the way up, I stop long enough to scratch a little X into the wall. "Just one guy? I think I can handle that." I pause. "Then again for the most part I usually use poison. doubt that'll work on these guys. Still worth a shot. I've fought bigger."
Slowly, I toss one of my darts through the grate and lower myself a little more back into the darkness.
You toss a dart, peering out and watching to see what happens. The Keeper's head twitches unnaturally at the source of the sound, moving away from you to investigate, trudging away. You can hear the faint sound of ticking clockwork and moving machinery as he walks.
I slowly inch my way back up and hold my breath as he gets nearer. Clockwork? Weird. I hope I can even move him. As soon as he gets just within reach I push the grate out and snap out like an antlion, grabbing whatever I can to pull him over and into the sewer.
[Cheap Shot]automatic/autocrit if still stealthed
As he draws close, you lash out, giving the Keeper a solid yank, hauling them over the edge and onto the sewer floor. It makes a distorted warbling sound as it hits solid brick, and you hear a surprisingly soft thud as of… sawdust?
The Keeper lands flat on its back, spouting preformed phrases. "Halt! Criminal! Stand down or face justice! Malcompliance verdict imminent!"
Before you can react, it reaches for some sort of knob on its chest, turning it several times. You hear a cracking, grinding sound with every turn, like a windup toy.
Before he has a chance to move I try to push him into the sewer water, hoping he can't swim.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
You shove it into the water. The Keeper starts flailing around, eventually righting itself and wading through the muck towards you. It pushes against the sewage with unnatural force, the clockwork inside it audibly grinding rapidly, as if given a new burst of energy by doing so. It reaches the edge and sprints up the stairs towards you, truncheon in hoof! "Stand down immediately!"
given a new burst of energy by being wound up*
I panic as the guard starts climbing out of the sewer. That wasn't at all what I'd hoped would happen. Taking the rope Purdue is hanging from, I swing him like a flail, aiming at the key the Keeper turned to keep himself wound.
[1d10]Improvise, Cheap ShotRoll #1 4 = 4
>>728089"Hey, what do you think you're- Ow! My sphenoid!"
You swing Purdue around and smack the Keeper straight in the chest. It stumbles briefly, but the energy flowing through seems to fill it with determination. It barrels towards you with inhuman speed, swinging its truncheon at your jaw!
[1d10+2]Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
>>728081It seems like most of the others are the same. I tend to have that effect, don't I.
He sounds a bit bitter.
He nods. We have a connection. Or had. I don't know if you know, but I died by Lysander's hand as he tried to turn me into a pawn of the Oneiromancer. His new Black Rook. Didn't take well to being dead, as you can see. But some fragment of that failed bond remains. I see him, sometimes. Out of the corner of my eye. Hear whispers of things. Hallucinations, you could call them. I'd mostly been dismissing them. But they've been getting… stronger? I believe that'd be a good word for it.I've been seeing him more and more often. Ever since the Sands. I can…
I can see him sitting at this table right now…
He looks disturbed. You see nothing there, however.I think since Lysander turned on him, he's been trying to find someone else to do his bidding. And I think his eye's fixed on me. Since there's that link now. And I think anyone else he's had contact with might be a potential candidate for his vessel. He's not happy about what happened. He's lost his most powerful ally in our world. And he's going to get desperateWho else on board has seen him? I know of you, and Hermodur. I could sense his influence on him the moment I met him. But has anyone else seen him? Dreamt of him? Anyone who has could be at risk. They need to know.
"Yeah, sorry. Had to do some quick thinking. Decided using your head was a better idea than using mine," I tell Purdue as I back off a little. "You alright?" I yip and duck out of the way of the club, holding my leg out in an attempt to trip him as he swings.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Zunden scowls at the thought of the Oneiromancer projecting itself next to her, passively clutching her locket containing the Severance symbol she first drew with Black Pudding.I believe we all have received nightmares before, but visitations has been mostly restricted to myself and the men of the ship, as I remember Rabi coming to me for guidance about his visitation, perhaps Norvegicus Black had as well.
She sits in her seat uncomfortably, If what you say is true, however, I fear for those more vulnerable, such as Aurora who has been resigned away from consciousness for such a long time. If she were to be targeted, none of us could know until she awoke corrupted and healed. I have placed a protective charm around her as well as the strong enchantment the ship holds but if what you have said is true, he may be able to bypass those even now.
Zunden into the dead eyes of Etrigan, searching, My other concern would be Dawn, who has been struck hard by the loss of Carabas. She is understandably unstable right now, and while she has made it her goal to end Lysander's life, could perhaps the Oneiromancer twist that desire into a mutual revenge? You know her better than I do, I believe.
>>728092"Didn't even know I could still get sore. Good to know."
You dodge his swing and lash out in an attempt to trip him over. He seems to anticipate this and instead goes for a body slam, sending you stumbling backwards and hitting a wall painfully.>Norv takes 3 hits
The Keeper closes in, still powered up by the clockwork, bringing the truncheon down hard!
[1d10+2]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
He looks back It's difficult to read anything behind his dull black eyes, but you get a sense of urgency and gravity to him. If you've had visions of him, and managed to push him away, then it's safe to assume he won't try to take over you. Especially if he's used Severance before. Still. Be wary. He will most likely try to control you. You have what he wants, after all.
[i[I also think Aurora may be at risk. I know what it's like to have him in control. To be a… a soulless meat puppet. He can take over at any time without warning. It's like being locked away in your own head. With the current situation, I fear he might try for a more subtle approach. When Aurora recovers, we may not even know if the Oneiromancer's using her until it's too late. Her return might not be a good thing for us.[/i]Dawn could be vulnerable too. I've known her for a long time. Longer than the Captain did. She has all this magical power, but it's not easy to control. Especially in her state. Someone like her would be an ideal target for the Oneiromancer. That cannot happen.
He says this last part with extreme emphasis. And moreover. I don't think she should know about it. For her own sake. She has enough on her mind as it is. Knowing she could be hunted by the Oneiromancer would put even more strain on her. Possibly make her an easier target. Be alert. Lysander is out of our hair for now, but we're going to have to deal with our mutual fiend soon enough.
I groan as the Keeper's body slams into me and pull myself back up. "Yeah, maybe trying to fight him was a bad idea," I say, rubbing my head. My eyes widen and I burst Z's sun, try to duck under the club, and grab the key and force it to turn backwards.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2
Ruse:Critfail becomes a critical success
>>728095I have lived with a great deal of paranoia since Hermodur made the pledge without any of our knowledge during the night. I have not wanted to disturb either of their healing, but again, if what you are saying is true we should take some sort of action. Perhaps I could form a Union with Aurora to check in with her mentally, or ask Rabi to practice his newfound powers. I know not the exact ways we are linked right now, from my omniscient view of the ship, I have watched him and Dawn talk on about projection and bringing others into a similar state. I would have to ask him on the subject.
She looks in the direction of Dawn's room as for Dawn - Would you like to.. speak to her in this way? I think she would find your voice most welcome, if you share a history. My only worry is possible injury you could sustain to outlash, especially if speaking in this more vulnerable way. I would be present, but you and I both know her emotions have more control of her magic than her restraint.
You take a blow to the head and reel, powering through it and throwing yourself at the Keeper. You twist the knob the other way, unwinding his springs in one powerful turn. The Keeper collapses to the ground, shaking and shuddering unnaturally, just like a windup toy running out. He spasms uncontrollably on the floor for a solid minute, then is still. Purdue looks at the body from his disadvantage point on the floor. "You think it's dead? Or just out of energy? Maybe we shouldn't stick around to find out."
"Yeah. I want to check something, though. This thing was way lighter than I expected." I crouch down and look for some way to open it up.
[1d10]perceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
Your curiosity gets the better of you, and you work on unraveling the bandages around the Keeper's head and extremities, as well as removing the uniform. The first thing you notice is that you can't remove their pointed helmet, and that the uniform too refuses to come off easily, as if stuck to the body somehow. With a bit of force, you manage to tear the dark blue coat off, revealing what lies beneath.Under the uniform, the Keeper is a stomach-turning amalgamate of flesh and machine. Seemingly stitched together from various other corpses, the body of the creature is more like another layer of clothing over a metallic skeleton. The uniforms are sewn onto their bodies, while the helmet is nailed on to a broken skull. The eyes and teeth of the mouth have been removed, the jaw dislocated and made to fit a round, black contraption resembling a speaker, with cables running down through the throat. In the eye sockets are transparent crystals, just like the ones found on Observers. Acting as padding between the skin and the metal skeleton underneath is a thick layer of sawdust in lieu of muscles. The chest has a steel protrusion connecting to the distinctive knob it utilized, which seems to power the rest of the body. In essence, a Keeper is little more than a fleshy puppet.
I pale as I look at whatever poor guy was turned into this
. Swallowing hard, I lean in and try to remove the key somehow. Whether it works or not I push the body back into the sewer.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
The key is firmly wedged into the box shaped heart, and refuses to move. After a few good tugs, however, you manage to wrench it loose. The Keeper twitches again, then emits a eardrum-shredding sound, like the blow of a policeman's whistle, but many, many times louder. Your head feels like it's going to explode, and you can't help but sink to your knees as the shrill, deafening whistle goes on. It lasts for about 15 seconds. Your ears are left ringing as the sound subsides. Purdue says something to you, but you can't hear what. Or anything else for that matter.>Norv takes 1 hit
I clamp my hands over my ears. That's not good. Whatever Purdue is saying can wait. I grab the guard's club, push him into the sewer water, grab Purdue, and try to find a place to hide before that whistle attracts more guards.
[1d10]StealthRoll #1 10 = 10
" Zunden emits aloud unknowingly Again, perhaps he has, in subtler ways. There was the night where I watched all those aboard wake from terrible nightmares, though none made mention of the Oneiromancer himself. Perhaps he is manifesting to others in ways we may not know. For instance, do you know if the Oneiromancer can take thralls in the form of lesser animals?
You find a crack in the wall, just wide enough to fit through. Looks like it was made by some sort of creature. You and Purdue squeeze through and wait for a while. Sure enough, three more of them show up, accompanied by Observers. They split up and start searching the area. It's not long before one of them finds the Keeper in the sewer, pulling him out with an impressive display of strength. They exchange garbled words, then two of them take the body away while the third stays put, patrolling the area warily, accompanied by one of the Observers this time. They don't seem to have spotted you.
I want to groan and curse myself. I should have known that would happen, but I didn't want it sufddenly getting up while I walked away. I decide to wait for a little bit in hope of the guard giving up and walking away.
After about five minutes, the Observer starts patrolling the area, the crystal lighting up like a spotlight and scouring over everything. You manage to shrink away from it in your hiding place. To your chagrin, however, the Keeper stays rooted in place, having taken up its comrade's spot.
I drag my hand down my face in an attemptnat a facepalm, but my mask stops it. Yeah. Should've seen that coming. I sigh and wait just a little longer to observe how closely he's watching the sewer or if there are breaks in his line of sight I can use to slip in. "Were you trying to say something a minute ago?" I whisper to Purdue.
[1d10]PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
>>728111"You should've run when you had the chance,"
he points out.
The Keeper is guarding the hallway in front of him, to the point where it's almost impossible to slip past unnoticed.
"Hey! I think I did pretty good! No way in the name of the sisters could I have done anything like that when I first got here." I look over the guard and shake my head. "But yeah. Probably better to come back better prepared. I don't think I can lure this one over alone now that they're more alert." I double check the X I scratched into the wall, slink back into the sewer and try to backtrack.
[1d10]NavigationRoll #1 3 = 3
I sigh. "Welp. Guess there's only one way out of this." Taking a deep breath, I dart out of hiding and sprint right at the guard, trying to tackle him.
You steel yourself before rushing out, throwing yourself at the Keeper and wrapping your arms around its midsection, tackling it to the ground. Caught off guard, it can do little but emit the piercing whistle, calling more guards to the area! "Now's a good time to get out of here brother,"
Purdue points out.>Norv takes 1 hit
I wince as the whistle splits my ears again. "Yeah, that was the plan." I sprint off into the sewer, leaving the guard behind.
You take off as fast as your legs can carry you. Before long, you hear the turning of not just one key, but several. You can hear at least four Keepers chasing you. With little regard to where you're going, you keep running blindly, heading further and further into the city. Your heart feels like it's going to burst, but you're fuelled by adrenaline at this point.
Stopping for a brief instant to catch your breath, you can see several routes ahead:
One is an unguarded ladder, leading up towards the surface. It seems quite long, however, and could potentially give them time to catch up with you.
One is a heavy rusted iron door that has been marked with a sign saying "CONDEMNED". It's almost certain the Keepers wouldn't chase you here, but who knows what lies beyond.
Another is a path leading deeper underground, further into the bowels of the undercity. It's dark down here, and you've used your only light source. You can also hear running water coming from here.
Another is a series of rotting wooden planks, leading across one of the canals deeper into the sewers. They don't look very stable, but perhaps you could bait the Keepers into breaking them, assuming you don't break them yourself.
Without even stopping to think I head past the door marked [CONDEMNED], eager to get the Keepers off my trail as fast as possible.
Change of plans. I take off toward the ladder.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
You keep running and leap onto the ladder, scrambling to climb up it towards the hatch. Looking back, you see one of the Keepers turn the corner, sprinting towards you as you climb.
I panic and try to climb faster. I really don't want to get caught fighting more than one of the guys, and I'm banking on this long ladder being a way out.
[1d10]ImproviseRoll #1 3 = 3
You keep climbing. You're almost to the hatch. Two more Keepers run in as the first one starts climbing the ladder, trying to catch up to you. "Climb harder, brother!"
Purdue urges. "He's got a dart gun!"
Sure enough, a dart tipped with a pale green fluid clatters against the wall. You hear one of them reload and fire again!
Not good. Not good, not good, not good. I look straight ahead, scrambling up the ladder with all my might. If one of those darts hits me I'm probably in for a bad time.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
You feel a sharp sting in your foot as you climb up, throwing open the hatch and climbing out onto a mercifully empty street. Looking down, you see that the dart hit you in the foot. Already you're starting to feel pins and needles in your leg. You can see all three Keepers climbing the ladder now with unnatural strength, coming at you with murderous intent!
I pull the dart out and pocket it before sprinting down the street, looking for an alley or building to hide in.
[1d10]stealthRoll #1 10 = 10
You half run and half drag your poisoned leg down the street and into a backwater alley, finding an empty garbage can to hide in. Without thinking twice, you scramble in and put the lid on. The smell is maddening, but you hold your breath to make as little noise as possible as the Keepers come, followed by an Observer. It feels like they search for you forever, and your lungs feel like they're on fire. You're almost about to pass out by the time they give up and leave, beginning to search elsewhere. You notice that it's harder and harder to move your leg at this point, and you can barely feel it at all. "That was far too close for comfort, eh,"
Purdue comments. "What now?"
"Now," I say, shaking my leg a little. "Now I have to start preparing. I get the feeling poison isn't going to work on those guys. I hope I can find R and G again, because I'm going to need more stuff than I already bought.
Since I'm pretty sure they aren't alive- at least not any more alive than something like zombies- I have a couple of ideas." I shake my leg again. "Maybe I should get this checked out. I feel like I should probably take off my coat and mask before doing anything else, though." I sigh. "Just wish I had something to carry them in. These pockets got me spoiled. I don't know, what do you think?"
"Oh, man. Yeah." I pull my mask off and tuck it under mu coat, knowing that it's probably the most obvious feature. "I can't even imagine how bad I probably smell. I should probably look for R and G first, but if I find some place to clean up on the way I'll take it."
[1d10]Navigation if neededRoll #1 7 = 7
You limp along, making your way through the city, avoiding Observers whenever possible; however, it is almost impossible to walk without having to deal with one eventually. You make your way due west, towards the gate you came through. Sure enough, before long, you find where Rosen and Gilder are stationed, having set up their wagon just inside the walls of Last Hearth, though to woefully little reception from the looks of things. They have an Observer orbiting them at all times.
They hail you, scrunching up their noses as you approach. You get the feeling they smelled you before they saw you. "Bloody hell! You look awful mate!" Rosen exclaims. "What happened? You alright? Mother on high, you smell bad…" "Don't mind him," Gilder adds, nodding at the Observer floating around them like an annoying halo. "Haven't been able to shake 'em since we managed to get in. This place is the pits, ey."
I shoot the observer shifty glances without looking directly at it. "Yeah, this place is pretty rough. Honestly can't wait until our business here is done." I nervously tap my finger against the side of my coat as I speak. "I actually have a couple of things. First, I just wanted to maybe buy a couple more things. Some of that vanishing powder, specificially. Two if you have it. Second, I wanted to know if you could hold onto a couple things for me." I clear my throat. "A couple of very specific, very identifying things. My mask and my coat. Things that I can, say, pawn to you for the vanishing dust as an entirely legitimate transaction that if asked about you could have no way of knowing is questionable or not. Then if all goes well, maybe I come back and buy them back for, say, about 80 bits?"
>>728108Ah, I mostly asked for the case of Ganzen, the balaur. Still, they have not acted strangely, and I do not feel threatened by the chickens.
The saurian rubs her temples, thinking on what to do about the Oneiromancer. So do you believe that the Oneiromancer manifests here through your mind, or without the need of a host? Has the enchantment of the ship waned after only some days or weeks?
They shrink away from you a bit, clearly put off by the smell. Gilder silently motions for you to keep your voice down, shooting a furtive glance at the eye in the sky. As you bring up the deal, the two huddle together and whisper for a bit.
"Alright, yeah, sounds like a deal," Rosen says after a while, speaking a bit more quietly. "We're gonna be leaving in the morning though, so either you make it quick, or you come find us later down the road. We're heading to Withick next. Four days ride to the west. Right on the edge of the Mire. Follow the roads and you can't miss it. Probably better off there for business than 'ere. So yeah, I dunno what you're up to, but you'd better hurry unless you wanna catch up with us later. Can't really afford to wait around, y'know?"
>>728192I have learned much more on the nature or runes since the warlock Black Pudding placed the protective incantations upon the ship. If we are to hide away the egg, the Oneiromancer must not be able to know where. I will see about reinforcing or adding my own runes to ward the ship further.
She turns her head back to the hallway, But most pressing I think would be ensuring Aurora's safety while she is incapacitated. She seems like the easiest to influence without any of us being the wiser. I know not the extent of Union, however, she cannot infer consent in her state. Rabi may be the better aide in this case.
She drums her fingers on the table, However again, I would like to extend the offer to allow you to speak with Dawn through this method, if you would like. Even if not to discuss the Oneiromancer, I again think you would be a welcome voice in her grieving.
He nods. Best to wait until they return and discuss this as a group. I am curious about Rabi's new abilities. Have you heard? Ever since his encounter in the Sands, his abilities to interact with the Astral Plane have improved considerably.
As you bring up Dawn again, he gives a nod of consent. Yes, perhaps we should speak. Lead on.
He follows you to Dawn's room. You can't hear anything from behind the door. Etrigan knocks, to no response. He gives you a concerned look.
>>728194I will look to see if she perhaps is resting.
Shifting her sight to that of the ship's omniscient view, she checks within without intruding on their physical privacy.
You peer into her room. There's no sign of her at all. It's as if she vanished into thin air. Anything?
Etrigan urges, looking nervous.
>>728197Perhaps she used a Silver Door?
he suggests. If so, she could have gone anywhere.
He nods at the suggestion of using the Return rune to try and find her. It's worth a try. Though if she did use a Silver Door, it's likely she values her privacy. Up to you.
Zunden pauses in thought, then nods. It is not urgent, perhaps a method in case she is ever missing for hours on end. I could bring it up next time she is available.
He reluctantly nods, but looks worried at her being missing. It's not like her to just vanish without warning. Maybe we sh-
She's back, stumbling through one of her Silver Doors, breathing heavily. She almost walks right into you. She doesn't seem to be hurt, just exhilarated. Clutched in her hoof is a small glass vial. She doesn't seem to have noticed you're there, sporting an uncharacteristic giddy smile.
Zunden makes sure Dawn has a tight grip on the vial as not to cause her to drop whatever it is she's holding before making herself known.
She does a double take as you call out to her. She looks a bit out of it. Etrigan moves to her side with concern, forgetting she can't hear him for a moment. Are you alright? It's me. You're safe. Zunden helped me with my voice. …What happened?
"Zunden? What are you… where am I? Back on the ship? I…" She takes a deep breath to compose herself. You notice she has a nosebleed. She doesn't seem to notice. She looks very excited about something, speaking rapidly. "I made… I made progress. On what I've been working on, for Rabi. And everyone else." She holds up the glass vial, within which is a strand of smoke, which strobes gently in all colours of the rainbow. "This is it. This is the key. I have the lock too. But the pins don't align. The door's still closed, but I'm one step closer to cracking it. I managed to incorporate the magic from the portals into the Silver Door. For a moment. I think I made it… stronger somehow. Able to cover more distance. With time… and if my theory is correct… I might be able to open a door back home. Eventually. It's complicated… very complicated… But maybe…"
"I need to try again. No time to waste. The theory… I need to test it… I… …I…" Her legs give way and she almost collapses, but Etrigan catches her. He looks to you, fraught with worry.
>>728202Rabi introduced her to a distraction, but she has made it an obsession.
"Dawn, allow yourzelf zome time zit and eat a meal. You're weakened. Zhiz I azk of you while you are aboard my zhip.
Etrigan doesn't reply. It's obvious it pains him greatly to see her in this state.
Reluctantly, she agrees. Etrigan helps her sit, and goes to fetch her something to eat. "Sorry," she says quietly after a minute. "I didn't mean to startle you or anything. It's just… after all this time, there's finally a glimmer of hope. I might be the one to bridge the worlds. The first in history! Can you imagine?"
She seems to realize she has a nosebleed, and wipes it. "Zunden. Listen. The theory. I think I might have stumbled across something."
"You might have heard the Dominion referred to as the other side of the sky before, yes? Metaphorically, of course. But… but what if it's literal? What if this dimension is physically linked to the Dominion? And that's why the portals appear in the sky? That's what I was testing just now. The magic, from that sword… it emboldened my Doors somehow. Maybe if I push hard enough, I can open a door to the literal other side of the sky. The Dominion. Do you follow?" She looks excited to share her findings with anyone who'll listen. "Where are the others? They need to know. I might be on to the discovery of the century!"
Zunden makes sure Dawn remains seated and allows her to speak, continuing to speak softly, "That iz incredible, Dawn. I'm exzited to hear your progrezz.
Zunden has her servitor fetch Dawn a blanket, not specifically to keep her cold but to more keep her in place.
"I azk you take zome time to heal after your recovery. If we do not deal wizh ze Cuckoo'z egg, zhen all your amazing findingz will be for not. Zhere iz no need to finizh now when we could not return wizh ze rizk of lozing everyzhing.
I relax a little and nod. "I appreciate it," I say, shrugging my coat off with my mask inside. "Trust me, I wouldn't want you guys to stick around this
place any longer than you have to." I chuckle uncomfortably. "Sorry again about the smell."
She jumps a little as the Servitor appears with a blanket for her, but she readily accepts it. Etrigan brings out some fresh grapes for her. "Oh. Is that you, Etrigan. Th-thank you." She starts eating them, calming down some more, offering you both some. Etrigan takes a few.
"R-right, yes. Priorities first. I'm sorry, I just… You do understand the implications of my potential discovery, don't you? A link between the worlds… after millennia… Of course, this is just the first step. I could very well be wrong. …Part of me hopes I am, really. If some of the things here got back to the Dominion… it'd be catastrophic."
"But yes. First order of business is to see to the Egg. If it breaks, there won't be a world to connect. I think we should see if there's a cartographer of some sort in the nearest town. Or at least some sort of map. We should weigh our options before deciding where we'll go next, after all."
"Oh, by the way. Have you given any thought to that idea that was being passed around before? About erasing our collective memories, so we cannot say where the Egg is. I feel it would be best for all of us if we did. But we'd have to find someone with the expertise to be able to do that, wouldn't we. Hm…"
"Yeah, it gives me the willies," Gilder comments. Rosen snickers immaturely on the sidelines. "I don't even think most of their guards and whatnot are alive. Can't help but wonder what's going on really. Who put these creeps in charge? Why all the control? Who are the leaders really? What's their agenda? Why all the secrecy?"
As Gilder ponders this, Rosen dives into the back of the caravan and brings out a pail of water and some soap. "'Ere. It's on us this time. Go wash yourself of, for Mother's sake. Where have you been anyway? Looks like you were crawling through a bloody sewer or something."
>>728207Only momentarily excitement, thank goodness.
"Of courze, Dawn. Az long az it can be done zafely. I am a healer, I can zee ze ztrezz you've put on your body. Give yourzelf time to heal between zheze dizcoveriez, you have time to perfect it. Juzt az it would be all for naught if ze Egg hatched, we couldn't do anyzhing about your dizcovery if we lozt you in ze prozezz. You are juzt az important az your dizcoveriez, Dawn, zo treat your healzh wizh ze zame pazzion.
Zunden takes some grapes, eating them passively, "I have made a dizcovery too, if you are interezted. Me and Etrigan, we were talking togezher before you appeared in ze hallway in front of uz. He haz a very nize voize.
" She chuckles quietly.
"I waz able to bring our mindz in Union enough to hear eachozher'z zhoughtz. I… waz wondering if you two wanted to zpeak? I zhought you two might like being able to able to zpeak to eachozher, az I zhink it'z been awhile, haz it not?
She nods. "You're right as always, Zunden. I think I might've gotten a bit carried away. I just… I live for this sort of thing. To see more, to know more. I hate looking at the world through a keyhole."
She perks up at the mention of being able to speak to Etrigan. "You can do that? I'd love to try it. We haven't spoken in… how long?" Five months. Maybe more.
"What do I have to do?" she asks, eager to try this. Etrigan moves over and gets ready for you to do your thing. Dawn looks excited to try something new.
I take the bucket and soap and nod in thanks. "Sewer. Trash can. Some deep crevices made by the sisters know what. Thanks guys. I really appreciate it."
"Sounds like a good time," Gilder grins.
Rosen handwaves your thanks. "Bill's in the mail mate. Now go get clean before you start wilting the flowers or something. You know where to find us."
I wave and go to find some place to clean up some. "I'll catch you guys around, then."
"Don't be a stranger!" Rosen calls as he and Gilder wave you off.
You head off and start looking around. You start to feel the numbness in your leg wearing off by this point. Seems the paralysis agent takes a few strong doses to really kick in. Among the clumped together buildings, you find a small, out of the way house that doesn't seem like it's been used for years. No Keepers or Observers here. There's a sign out front, but it's too faded to be legible, at least on first inspection. There's also an alley nearby full of overflowing rubbish bins, and extremely large rats. You could also just leave the city and wash up outside its walls.
Before making a choice I inspect the sign closer.
You can make out some of the letters on it.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what it says.
"The willingnezz of you two will form ze Union you wizh to create. If I underztand correctly, it iz zhrough intentionz zhat ze runez get zheir power, zo I would zhink it iz your willignezz to zpeak to eachozher zhat will cauze zhiz to be zuccezzful.
She begins again with the parchment, being to draw Union again, before stopping.
"I zhould probably cut ze connection I have wizh Etrigan firzt, for zafety.
" Come to me if you have need to speak to me again, or wish to speak to someone else in this way. I might try making a charm that allows you to do this yourself once I figure out how it works more.
She draws the Severance rune after he's responded, with the intent to cut the connection.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
Dawn nods understandingly.
Etrigan agrees, albeit reluctant to sever a connection. It's for the best. I only hope we can find a way to restore my voice properly. This isn't the most convenient way to communicate. Though it is more private…
As you invoke Severance, you feel a slight rush of energy flowing from the tip of your tailbone all the way to your skull, like a little shiver. It passes as quickly as it comes. Etrigan seems to feel the same. He and Dawn exchange a glance, then look to you, ready to receive your gift.
Welp. I have a bad feeling about that, so instead I head into the alley. Probably best I don't smell like sewer when I leave town.
"Alright, forgive me for any performanze anxziety, it iz no longer affecting me zo I will be trying to make zure zhiz workz out.
" Zunden chuckles nervously.
""It iz wizh Union Etrigan and Dawn will zhare zheir zpeech, to make a momentary harmony of voize.
[1d10+1] she finishes drawing her Union rune.Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
You shuffle into the alley and get clean with the water and soap as best you can. You feel much better about yourself by the time you're done. You feel a little self conscious, however, when you notice an Observer watching you intently from afar. It seems to be logging your activity. You're not sure if what you did is even legal, but then again, you've already broken plenty of laws today.
Etrigan closes his eyes, and Dawn bows her head as you try to bind them together by Union. At first you're not sure if it works, but then you see them looking at each other intently. No words are spoken, and you are not privy to what they are saying to each other, but you can tell it has worked. After a while, the two friends embrace, overjoyed to be able to speak again, at least in some way. They look to you happily, and you can see that Dawn's blindfold is damp. "Th… thank you," she says, shaken by the experience. "This is… this is a gift. Truly. I didn't realize how much we missed being able to talk." They look at each other again and smile. "…He says he's in your debt. …And that…" She frowns and looks at him earnestly. "Are you sure you want to do this?" she asks him out loud. He merely nods determinedly.
"He… he says that in light of everything you've done for us, he'd serve you, as a protector. A bodyguard. It's more than just a pledge. It's part of his culture. He feels that he owes you that much. On behalf of the rest of the crew." They both turn to you, Etrigan looking solemn, while Dawn looks a bit apprehensive. "Will you accept his help?"
I swallow. Well, at least washing off in public probably isn't that big of an issue if it's a problem at all. I gather myself and make my way to the gate.
You get your things and head back towards the gate. The Keepers block your way for a bit, but after scanning you they move aside to let you exit. Outside, the Chanticleer caravan seem to be finishing their slave drive, though they don't seem to be leaving any time soon. You could try and sneak in through there, or return to the ship and catch up with Zunden, Violet and the others. "Where to from here, brother?"
I watch the Chenticleers and sigh. "Back to the ship, I guess," I say. "Just wish I'd gotten to explore the parliment building a little more. I don't actually know for sure if that's where I'll find the slaves, or a clue to where the slaves are kept. I wonder if the question is too vague for the compass to find them." I shake my head. "Anyway, sneaking in after them isn't really an option. Not really much room to sneak back in past the slavers and the keepers, and I don't really want to risk interacting with them directly."
A deep pit fills Zunden's stomach at the talk of servitude as a bodyguard, having heard it once before. She is quiet for a long time, and speaks even more meekly.
"I… I have been azked zhiz onze before, by Hermodur. I have never liked… Being followed? It iz what lead me to arrive in ze Echoez in ze firzt plaze - zhould no one had come to defend me, ze boarding house would ztill be zhere today.
She lowers her head into a claw, wracked with worries, "I- really I zhould not make zuch a big deal of it. I have trouble aczepting. Maybe to a cauze, zuch az protecting ze egg. But not myzelf.
>>728354"Maybe you'll still get your chance,"
he says encouragingly. "Just… need a bit more of a plan is all! Those fancy ones in red seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe if you could pass as one…"
You return to the ship, shimmying up a rope on the side and heading below deck as usual. Dawn and Zunden appear to be in the dining room discussing something important, while Violet is deeper in the ship, seemingly taking inventory.>>728355
Etrigan nods deeply, while Dawn looks earnest. "He says he knows about what happened with Hermodur. He feels that… where Hermodur failed, he will not. His words. That's a bit harsh, don't you think?… …He also says he understands if you won't accept. The last thing either of us want is to be a burden."
You hear someone returning. From the lighter footsteps, it sounds like Norv. "Consider it, please," Dawn urges you on his behalf, and they look at each other again, seemingly conversing.
"That-" I smack my forehead. "That's actually a really good idea. I don't know how I didn't think of something so simple."
I follow the voices to the dining room and stop to knock on the door before entering. My dirty white undershirt is half tucked into a pair of black slacks, but my mask and coat are gone. "Sorry," I say, "Am I interrupting something?"
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Zunden rubs her temples, wrought with guilt for Aurora and worry from Hermodur's past actions. With one eye covered by the claw gripping her head, she looks to Etrigan, searching for something. About to open her mouth, she turns her head towards the footsteps.
"R-right. I'll let you zpeak togezher, I am zure it'z been a while.
Zunden turns and gets up to meet Norv, looking haggard. She notices Norv's state and and lack of signature clothing, and grips her staff with more worry. "Are you alright? What happened? Are ze ozherz okay?
" She asks with quiet urgency.
>>728498"It only sounds simple on the surface. How do you plan on acquiring their uniform?"
You find Zunden, Etrigan and Dawn seemingly in the middle of a deep discussion. Etrigan tilts his head slightly, seeming curious at the sight of you. "Oh? Who's there?" the latter asks. You notice she has a bit of a nosebleed, and generally looks a little bedraggled. "…Oh, Norvegicus. Hello. We were just discussing the current state of affairs. Zunden here has found a way for Etrigan to communicate with us more freely. Though, it's only one at a time, for now. As for myself… well, I've stumbled upon quite a discovery. If my theories are correct, it wouldn't be understating it to say that this breaks the world."
She lets that statement linger for a moment. "I was hoping to make the announcement when the others return." She looks over to Etrigan for a moment, and the two seem to communicate somehow, non-verbally. "Oh. You're alone, then?" she asks you. "Where are the others?">>728500
Etrigan's usual air of melancholy is replaced by a staunch sense of determination. "He says that even if you do not accept… he is here to help. Whatever you need of him, he will provide. …I feel the same, truth be told. We all owe you our lives many times over."
Norv enters the room, underdressed and looking rather shabby, like he's been in a scrap. He doesn't seem too injured, though.
[Last 50 Posts]
"Well, it's still something."
I nod a greeting to Etrigan and Dawn. "Hey," I say. "Oh, wow, seriously? That's incredible! You've been working on that by yourself?" I knit my brow and look at her bloody muzzle. "You, uh- you alright?">>728500
"I followed some Chanticleers to the parliment building, snuck in to get a look around, and killed a keeper. R&G are hanging on to my mask and coat because I ran away from a few others and I'm sure they got a good look at me. There's this event where people hunt down slaves, and the Chanticleers supply them. That's in two weeks. I'm not hurt, but I have a lot of planning to do. I'm sure the others are fine. I split up from them at the place you sign up for the hunt." I tap my finger against the side of my leg and think for a second befote glancing down at Purdue "Did I miss anything?"