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The armored skiffs hum low over the gray, humid earth, speeding toward the Castle of Silence. An AI gunship escort follows each skiff, weapons trained on the dark horizon. Inside your skiff's cockpit, the pilot grimly triple-checks the cloaking device to ensure they have enough charge for the ride back. Knight-Brother Mountain unlocks his harness and enters the ship's passenger hold, casting an apprising glare over the lot of you. You may have been hand-picked by Iron King Ischyros himself for this mission – even made to swear an oath of secrecy on pain of death – but the Knight-Brother's judgment was subject to his own insurmountable standards.

"Wake up, soldiers," Knight-Brother Mountain says. "We'll arrive within the hour. Consider it your new home; you're gonna be here a while."

Mountain flicks a button on a terminal in the center of the hold, portraying a holographic projection of a grand ziggurat, countless miles tall and wide, extending far deeper underground: Agatecastle is its official codename, but it is better known now as the Castle of Silence. Once home to millions and millions of souls of every race and walk of life, it is now nothing but a grave.

"For reasons unknown, Agatecastle fell to the Dreaded Ones, millennia ago," Mountain begins. "Either they infiltrated before the Castle's Heart could erect its protective barrier of light, or, worse, they broke through that barrier. If it's the latter, then whatever broke through could still be out there. And they'll come for the other Castles sooner or later. Agatecastle exists on no official records anywhere in any of the nine remaining Castles, so we have little to go on. All we know now is that the place is crawling top to bottom with Dreaded Ones.

"Your primary mission is to discover why the so-called Castle of Silence fell. Data chips, paper records, get whatever you can find that points to something concrete, something we can kill. As for your secondary mission: As you know, every Castle has a self-destruct mechanism, known as the Sword of the Five Gods, located on Layer Zero. It can only be operated by the keys and authorization codes held by the Castle's royal family. These should be located somewhere in the royal Palace, all the way down on Layer One. Find the keys and the codes from Layer One. Infiltrate Layer Zero and arm the Sword of the Five Gods. Then get the hell out of there."

Knight-Brother Mountain looks over his shoulder, through the glass windows of the cockpit, and flicks off the hologram; there is no need for it anymore. The dead steel walls of the Castle of Silence lurk at last upon the horizon.

998 posts and 4 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.


"Hello. We were worried that the kid might not be able to handle the shock of finding people alive and well again without any familiar faces. It'd be hard to learn anything if he's busy with culture shock and a panic attack, right?"


"Indeed we do, I apologize that this wasn't brought up earlier but I'm sure Mister Green's cooperation would be better received if I were there with him."


The two of you aren't able to pick up much more than idle gossip from the other expedition teams – braggadocio about Dreaded Ones slain, complaints about this or that expedition member, speculation and theories, but none of it very noteworthy.

During your eavesdropping, you realize that you are alone with Steadfast; Cautaa and Huitlapan apparently accompanied Firmgold and Conflagration.

"That won't be nec–" Knight-Brother Mountain begins, before the Magister's eyes slide in his direction.
"Won't be a problem," the Magister says, with Mountain falling silent. "Please, come along."

The Magister turns, leading the reluctant Green and silent Mountain toward the end of the hall, where there is a door locked by a keycard reader. She swipes her card, and holds open the door. You see a smaller medical chamber within, one more akin to an examination room than a full-on decontamination hallway for the standard trips in and out of Agatecastle's interior.


I wait for Green to enter then trot in after him.
"Cozy little place."


I follow the Magister into this room and remain within sight of Green, giving him a nod and a gentle smile when he sees me.


After standing around for quite some time without hearing anything interesting, Deadweight huffs, "Hmph, doesn't seem like we're really getting anywhere." She closes Chirper and ponders for a second. She then takes out her data chip and stares at it for a moment more. Finally, she says slowly, "We should probably take this to the Spymaster's Office," not sounding too confident herself.


She pondered it for a moment.

"Perhaps we should make another copy just so we have a back up in case something happens to that one and the files are lost?"


Magister Colonnade opens a large cabinet in the corner, containing many sets and sizes of patient jumpsuits and slippers in sterile bags. "Your size?" she asks Green, glancing over her shoulder.
"M-medium," Green mutters.
The Magister fetches the appropriate size, then hands it to Green. "You'll find the washroom there," she says, gesturing to a door at the eastern wall. "Leave your current clothing in the sealed bag at the bottom."
Green nods, enters, then soon comes back out, having left his old garb in the washroom.
"Let's begin, then," the Magister says. "Have a seat in the center there."
Green nods, then sits, always keeping one of you in his eyesight.
The Magister takes her time wheeling out a mobile magitech terminal – a trio of monitors resting atop a block of arcane machinery, fitted with tubes and pipes and all manner of meters and readers. Green tenses at the sight, clenching the arms of the examination chair.
The Magister looks at you with a kindly gaze. "Could you help calm our person of interest here? It won't quite work if he's in an anxious state of mind."
"Work?" Huitlapan repeats, but the Magister offers no response.

You recall, during your pre-travel briefing, that the Spymaster's Office is at the northern end of the FOB.

However – as far as making a backup of the security footage goes, you could possibly still save a copy onto your Magicomps, despite the Magister's warning about it containing malware. There should also be research terminals in the Observers' Chamber, on the western end of the camp. They might be wary of you using their terminals, however, so you may wish to head in with a proper excuse.


"Hmm, I guess. I'm worried about the thing hacking into whatever we use to copy it, though," Deadweight says with a pensive look on her face.


"Try to think happy thoughts. Like about bonfires, or campfires, or lanterns, or matches."
My eyes glaze a little as I get a warm, fuzzy feeling.


"Mister Green, I'm sure you remember the mural painted in the mall. It was such a beautiful and… curious thing, could you describe it to me please? I have pictures of the faded project but I must admit I've never seen colors used in such a fashion."
[1d10+2] Word of Power

Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5


Green clenches and tenses as the Magister starts to attach tube-connected nodes over his head, face, and upper chest, but as the two of you start to distract him, he manages to release a long-held sigh.
"In the mall? Y-yeah… I really like the way it looks. It's an image of the beach, just as the Dark Hours approach on the horizon."

The Magister suddenly stops and glances up at Green, but his eyes are fixated upon the wall as his mind goes to the mural. She smiles a small smile, then goes to the terminal screens. Upon them, you can see diagrams of Green's silhouette. Each diagram seems to be gathering some particular reading of his body – mental wavelengths, spiritual purity, bodily ailments and disfigurements.

>roll instant to make sense of it (Optional)

"Continue," Magister Colonnade says. "What do you like so much about it."

"W-well, it's when the water turns just that… right shade of orange-pink, just like how the ceiling panels turn as they start fading into the Dark Hours. It's a really nostalgic thing for me."

The Magister isn't even looking at him at this point, fixating instead on the diagrams displayed on the monitors. An obsessive gleam sparkles across her spiral eyes. "Go on. Continue."

Green furrows his brow, starting to get creeped out once more. He looks to you for advice.


After several seconds of contemplation, Deadweight makes her decision. "I don't wanna risk compromising any of our equipment. We'll just take it to the Spymaster's Office." She puts the data chip away and starts walking north.


[1d10] Making sense of it
After looking at the screen I shrug and make a go-on motion with a hoof.

Roll #1 8 = 8


I quickly nod for him to continue.
"Mister Green I urge you to understand that the murals we've come across in your castle are unique. Our own murals have a stronger, more determined look to them- oh now I should have brought some pictures of them."
Instant sense [1d10]

Roll #1 8 = 8


I feel its a bad a idea but I won't stop you."


Deadweight suddenly stops. She bites her lip and eventually says, "I have that feeling, too." She goes on her magicomp and messages her best kirin friend, "Ay, you well enough to meet us at the Observers' Chamber?"


You begin deciphering the diagrams and the values and readings that the terminal spews out. It seems that, despite having been affixed with that evil sigil, Green's soul shows little signs of lingering corruption – no more than that which naturally accumulates upon the soul when within the presence of the Dreaded Ones, as you all have been. Assuredly, nothing which might not be removed by standard blessing procedures.

His physical and mental readings are far more alarming, however. He is terribly malnourished and deficient in nutrients, and shows signs of having been subject to various internal and external parasites as a result of having to scavenge food for quite so long. Both because of and as a result of these physical afflictions, his mental state is in quite a bad way. The terminal has picked up a history of terrible nightmares, and even periodic waking hallucinations, as well as signs and symptoms of various other traumas and anxiety, which the terminal attributes to living in a constant state of stress. However, it looks like your encouragement is doing something to bring it back down.

"Unique…?" Green repeats. "Well – that's cool. I'd like to see what your Castle's look like – I don't think I've ever met anyone from or who has been to another Cast–"
"Can you perhaps remember," the Magister interrupts. "What about these murals is so nostalgic to you? What do they evoke for you?"
The terminal shows a spike of anxiety, then a moment of calm, followed by sorrow. "…Going to the mall to find CDs with my dad," Green says.
The Magister's smile diminishes, the look in her eye going from one of intense interest to disappointment. "…What else? Anything, anything at all?"
"That's really, pretty much it," Green says, his voice quieting as old memories are tinged with pain.

>"No but I'm down lmaooooo, watch these nerds try to stop me," Xu messages back.


"Lol ok just don't break your head again," Deadweight messages back.

"Let's go to the Observers' Chamber. There should be some research terminals there we can use to copy the footage without risking our magicomps. Do you have an extra data chip on you?"


"Talk some more about the beach. That sounded nice. Did you make s'mores there? Roast marshmallows?"


"Indeed Mister Green, the oldest and most fond dreams are often the very same that bring sadness to us. However are there other murals that depict different… oceans? Sceneries?"


She nodded and stuck close and checked to see if she had one on her person.


"I don't really have much of a sweet tooth – or teeth for that matter," Green says. "We were always more about cooking the fish that we caught. Little salt, lemon, butter, garlic, cloves… Then we'd always start to play volleyball, calling over anyone who happened to be around. People were really friendly back then, didn't even have to know their names or where thhey were from…"

"Yeah, there's a few around the mall, but that one was always my favorite, cause whoever made it really got the colors just right…"
By now, the Magister's smile has faded, and Green's eyes widen in surprise as she starts disconnecting the nodes and tubes from his body. "Your detainment will continue, but rest assured you won't be treated as a prisoner. We'll still require you to answer some questions about the breaching of Agatecastle, but those will come some time after we've gotten you on the appropriate medications."
Huitlapan sighs with relief that things seem to be going well so far, but Cautaa seems to harbor unspoken doubts. Green stands up once he's free of all the nodes. "S-so, where too now?"
"To the standard medical facilities for treatment," the Magister says, proceeding to the next door. "Come along, everyone."

After some time, you hear an awkward gait behind you, punctuated by the landing of a walking stick upon the cold tile. It's Xu, wrapped up in a an extra-warm and insulated patient's jumpsuit, which looks a bit like snug pajamas. She's got a walking cane for her forehoof.
"Sup bitches," she says in greeting, her eyes glassy and somewhat unfocused.
Lost Hope has no extra data chip, but it would be possible to purchase one from the commissary on the way over.


I scrunch.
"Unicorns are horrible at volleyball. Well, time to get cleaned up."
I follow after the Magistrate.




Oh dear, you really shouldn't be out of bed so soon." she muttered.


I give Green a reassuring smile and walk ahead of him.


Deadweight's surprised to see the kirin standing before her. Something seems different about her. It's probably just the whole patient getup. She smirks and says, "Hey. We've got somethin' real interesting on this data chip," she says after pulling out her data chip and waving it back and forth. "It might have some Dreaded Ones malware on it, though, and the higher-ups are acting real weird about it, so we're gonna try to make a backup with one of the research terminals. Just gotta get a data chip, first." She then leads to group to where she can purchase a data chip, then after she acquires one, she goes to the Observers' Chamber.


"Pffft. That's crazy," Xu says, just barely managing to not slur her words.

After acquiring a fresh and empty data chip, you head west through the FOB, with Xu zipping up her patient's jumpsuit all the way, and pulling over the hood and plastic visor over her head. You soon see why: The makeshift shutters on the hangar doors are open once more. The hangars gradually shut, and light shimmers gleam in the demarcated landing zones. There, armored skiffs and their gunship escorts appear as they turn off their cloaking systems.

"Must be the second wave of incoming expedition members…" Xu mutters, half lucid. She mutters something else under her breath.

>roll for hearing (Optional)

You make your way next to the Observers' Chambers, which, like the rest of the FOB so far, is basically not much more than a cluster of vast tents and yurts, through which you can see the glimmer of magitech terminals. The Observers are an infamously eccentric and disorganized lot, and this is rumored to be a result of their constant magical and technological spying into the Outlands. Such characteristics have carried over to this section of the FOB – there seems to be nothing of a directory or a front office to keep things organized, or anything of the sort. Just tents and terminals.

Magister Colonnade leads the way through the decontamination compound's side-halls, until you at last emerge in the middle of the medical ward. A vast and rounded central desk sits in the middle of several treatment rooms, separated by curtains and plastic walls. The Magister approaches the central desk with Green, and together, with the Magister's direction, they start to check in Green to one of the treatment rooms. You overhear talk of security and watches.

Knight-Brother Mountain turns to you at this point. "You're dismissed. Go ahead and check yourselves in for the remainder of the Cycle, and turn in that tattered gear over to the supply unit for repairs."


I wave goodbye to Green.
"See you later! Come on, Firmgold, Steadfast, let's get our armor fixed up then grab some real food."


Lost did her best to stay near Xu in case she needed to lean on someone as she tried to hear what she said.

[1d10] Hearing

Roll #1 4 = 4


"We shall meet again Mister Green!"
"Indeed mister Conflagration."
I'll go get seen, then disconnect my magicomp and keep it on myself before having this suit disassembled for repair.


Deadweight casually walks over to the closest open terminal and slides in the two data chips, keeping an excuse ready in case she needs one. She says to Xu, "Mkay. Make sure no weirdness is happening with the terminal, and once it's done copying, get rid of the log."

>Deadweight now has two data chips and 140 Schillings



Roll #1 1 = 1


And if I haven't already, I get decontaminated.


Xu appears to be mumbling something completely incomprehensible, probably to herself as well.

In any case, you enter a nearby empty tent, which contains several desks and terminals. Deadweight strides up to an open terminal, logs in and is greeted with the standard desktop screen, a plain and spartan thing devoid of icons, decorated with nothing but the Iron Banner displayed in a black field for the background. She opens the file transfer program, inserts the two data chips, and initiates the transfer of the security footage. Xu then steps in, opening up several programs with the command line, and keeps an eye on whatever it is the programs are telling her.

It is as the transfer reaches about 25% completion that you hear some steps approaching your tent.

"I'll… hopefully see you later," Green says, waving to you for a final time. "And– and thank you! Thank you for every…thing…"

He trails off, rapt with a final uncertainty as he ponders what he's gotten into…

In any case, after a customary final blessing, decontamination and physical check-up and treatment to address your physical and spiritual wounds, you are allowed at last to leave the medical ward. You stop by the supply unit, and check in your armorsuits to have their damage repaired. An emergency armorsuit is placed on standby for both of you in case of things going awry until then.

At last, you are free to do as you please for the rest of the Cycle. It's about 1400 hours at this point, and you're both feeling peckish.


Time for two heaping plates of roasted vegetables and a large salad. I'm famished. Once we're seated I have a look at Firmgold and Steadfast.
"So. What do you two make of our latest adventure?"


Deadweight keeps her cool, not moving a muscle despite hearing someone approaching them.


"Mister Conflagration, I believe that question would better serve us all to be asked of Miss Deadweight and Miss Hope as well. Yet I can't believe an individual of such… understandable paranoia would still live within the confines of this castle. It's, well, outrageous!"


Lost moved to fill the doorway and see who was approaching?


"Better than living outside the castle, I guess. I wonder what exciting things we'll find next in this ancient, abandoned city. I wonder how my skeleton friend is doing. We should get him a magicomp so we can chat with him."


It appears to be a harried-looking Observer, distinguished by a special, dark purple, apron-like gown worn over their armorsuits, upon which they wear various badges to distinguish their particular field of focus and study. Said Observer is a lean and dark-haired Yagi. Although he looks forward, his eyes are distant, focused on the thoughts in his head. You still have a chance to deter him from discovering you – but a slim one.

You sit in the mess hall with your afternoon meals.
"What do you three make of the questioning the Magister posed to him?" Cautaa at last says, glancing subtly this way and that to ensure others aren't listening in.
"Oh, that–" Huitlapan says between mouthfuls of lettuce. "I thought it was queer that she dropped the questioning altogether so quickly after his first answer about the mural. My assumption was that the questions were intended to evoke different emotional responses for the machine to register, but she gave up so quickly when talk turned to the beach."


"Whatever it is, I do hope there's some profit to be made. Scholars covet lost technology but seldom do they wish to afford such.. wonders as some would put."
I'll finish my plate and speak again.
"I'm sure your skeleton friend would have little doubt in reporting what he sees to his summoner. Not that I wish to declare such a statement as truth of course."


Lost looked around and took her canteen and worked to kick it away to another area to create a distraction for them.

[1d10] distraction

Roll #1 2 = 2


Catching Lost's drift, Deadweight tries to kick the canteen away a little more successfully.



Roll #1 1 = 1


"It's pretty strange, especially considering what Green had to say about his history. I don't want to imagine it's as bad as it sounds, but where there's smoke there's fire."
I take a bite of my veggies.
"And there's a bunch of smoke."


"Mister Cautaa, Mister Huitlapan, I'm sure you both saw the mural we spoke about. If such a work of art could be preserved and moved back to our hive, it would sell for the fascinatingly warm colors alone. Pair it with what a 'sunset' and 'beach' are and you'll not have to worry about fine dining for years. That untouched splash of colors.. goodness."


Lost Hope passes the canteen to Deadweight, who beans it straight into the side of Xu's head. She falls over, and blood gushes from the point of impact, but she doesn't appear to have noticed, as she gets back up and continues to watch the programs with her obsessive gaze.

The Obsever stops, peers into the tent through the window, then hurries and enters, gawking at the horrid scene of blood. "What… what the hell did I just walk into?"

"Err– right," Huitlapan says. "If anyone wanted to buy that mural, it was assuredly the Magister herself. She seemed downright annoyed when Green stopped talking about it and began talking about his late father. I don't think she simply wanted to know about his mental state when he talked about it."
"We've certainly got time," Cautaa says, gesturing to his Comp. "Perhaps we might try to discern what the Magister's true interest was, as regarding the mural. If she were just after the art, there would be little need to take Green aside and hook him up to a machine that scans his mind."


"Maybe there's a secret door in it that hides treasure?"


Deadweight can't help but mutter an emphatic "Shit!" under her breath when she accidently hits Xu with the canteen. While still muttering curse words, she pulls out a medical kit and tries to stop the bleeding from Xu's already injured head, hoping to Regn she didn't just give her permanent brain damage, if she didn't have any already. She shouts to the Observer, "Don't just stand there, get a medic!" At least they got their distraction.


"Seriously! She's hurt! the last thing we want is her getting even more hurt!"

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