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 No.743587[Last 50 Posts]

Last time, on PirateQuest…

Cutlass, now awake again after her fainting spell, shared her suspicions of Kukulcan with Alder, Splendid, Prisma, Paraiba, the mooks, Make Believe and her four assassins. Her notion that Kukulcan was not who or what he claimed to be was backed up by the fact that Monty, her rumormonger snake amulet, changed his story about Kukulcan and the Watchkeepers after Kukulcan claimed that he was a god. Colobok asserted that he would leave behind one of the papers of his aura ability, Shadow Archive, to spy on Kukulcan and peer into his mind, to see if he was telling the truth. Colobok, Sparkler and Make Believe then left with the godray crystal to deliver it back to the Hidden Dagger before nightfall.

With evening upon them, and much of our crew still injured, Magoja (interning as the Thunder Serpent's surgeon) suggested that our crew ingratiate themselves with Kukulcan's. One such method, he suggested, was to challenge them to a drinking game. Nothing beats heatstroke and dehydration like alcohol, after all.

Cloud, escorted by Bent Scales of the Beesting, escorted Cloud partway to the Thunder Serpent. She broke off partway through, leaving to join the rest of the Beesting crewmates who had been spying on Kukulcan all day to get intel on him and his crew. Cloud arrived at the Dreamer's Moon just as Cutlass got several drinks deep with Cycle Kick. Alder, meanwhile, was being taught in the fishing and culinary arts by the hairless diamond dog they met earlier, the one with the compulsion for orderliness.

Cerulean continued to plumb the depths of the Skull Temple with her pets, getting as far as B5F. While her dog friends found another way around the pitfall obstacle she just cleared, she pressed onward, finding herself in a long hall, with a corridor to the west and one to the east. After going partway down the eastern corridor, she was stopped by a familiar sight: Herself, standing on the other side of what looked like some kind of translucent, watery mirror.


The larger one's head visibly shows surprise, and replies back with, "friend, as long as you two don't attack me." They look over to Tabasco, then back to the both.
"So… who are you two?"

By now, you are close enough to see that the figures standing before you are Cerulean and Tabasco. Between you is a wavering film, like the undisturbed surface of water, like a mirror. However, as you saw just now, the actions on the other side of the "mirror" are delayed by a variable time span – in both cases, the figure on the other side didn't respond until you finished talking, but in both cases, she perfectly mimicked your every action and word – even though your second reaction, the one made just now, was longer in time span than your first.


"Ooh!" Splendid says. "Wonder when I'll get me own title, too."


"I didn't say we were done," the dog says, passing you some cut limes and lemons, and sets shakers of spices and salt and pepper on the table. "Now, we flavor as we cook. Squeeze and shake!"



You can't tell, in your wavering vision, when he took it from his pocket, but Cycle Kick now has his magical coin held between his claws as he drinks, fiddling with it as the superstitious do with a good luck charm.

Rather than answer you right away, he knocks back his tankard of ale, practically drowning himself in the flow of ale.

>Cycle has 1 failure

[1d10+3: 12] 3 TBP, DC 7
[1d10+5: 9] mental fortitude vs suggestion


>Meanwhile, aboard the Thunder Serpent.

"Aaagh!" Paraiba cries. "Prisma, would you quit it?"

Droplet rolls over in his hammock, looking at where the massive chicken has been pecking at the floor off and on for nearly fifteen minutes by this point. He reaches out with his telekinesis, and grabs ahold at the object that's held her attention all this time – which fell out of Alder's plumage when she pecked him.

"Huh," Droplet says as he twirls it in the light. "Doesn't look like it's got Aura on it, or magic. Wonder where it came from?"

A pale golden feather.

Magoja sips his ale.



"Seems everypony got that or something else from that big stunt we pulled. Only a matter of time before you pick up one for yourself too."


"Oh, bloody hell," Splendid gripes. "Now I'm gonna be all self-conscious what I do, tryna get people to gimme a gnarly knickname. All you had to do was lose an eye! Lucky you, eh?"

She laughs crudely, socking your arm. Despite her muscles, you withstand the hit. "You wanna coldie? Captain Cutlass and one of our new friends is havin' a drink-off."


Alder chirps a little bit, trying to focus on seasoning the fish to the best of his ability.

"Nicknames are nice- I am sure you will get a good one, Splendid!"


"I'd suggest Peg-leg Splendid, but you had to go and ruin that for me by saving me life, didn't you?" she admonishes jokingly.

Following the chef's example, you season and salt your fish as they cook, the lemon and lime and spices sizzling and popping along with the flesh. This continues, until the chef, with dramatic flair, tosses back his exsanguinated fruits. "Enough!"

The three of you pull back your fish, the air filled with tantilizing scents of a meal well-cooked. "It is done," the dog says, wiping his paws on his apron. "Eat, and taste the fish of your labor."



Cutlass glares at Cycle Kick. "Something tells me you're cheating…" she says with playful suspicion before drinking more.

>[1d10] drink moar

"I'm guessing this is your aura power, then? Something like a 'save state'?"

>[1d10+2] Critrange 9+, Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 8 = 8 / Roll #2 9 + 2 = 11




Roll #1 10 = 10


[1d10+1] 1 TBP, DC 8

Cycle sighs and coughs a little as he finishes his drink. He furrows his brow, looking down at the coin in his hands. The look on his face is one of pure and genuine confusion, as if he not only had no intention of taking out the coin, but no memory of it whatsoever. Confusion turns to shock as his fingers start to twirl the coin, as if they were acting independent of him.

But in the next moment, shock and confusion fade, and he refills his drink.

"No, no, nothing so crudely practical. I suppose I can't delay answering this any further, hmm… If I had to put it into words, my reticence to answer you about my abilities comes from a modicum of regret that I have for even making them.

"I made my abilities to aid the search of my dream," he continues, staring into his reflection in his mug. "But, right before my eyes, without my notice, my abilities caused my dream to crumble away. By reaching for it, and grasping out to it with my abilities, I very nearly destroyed all that I had set out to find… nearly."

He knocks back his mug, and looks you in the eyes. "Captain Cutlass, what is it to desire something?"

Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6


Alder chirps a little and pulls his away with a start, before giggling happily and saying "We did it! Here, Splendid- would you like to have some?" he asks, offering the larger of the two fish he cooked.

"A-And, I suppose I did. Peg-Leg would sound nice, but I think we can come up with a better one."


Cerulean raises a brow at all of this and raises a hoof up and tries to touch this wavering film she's seeing before her.


Without hesitation, Splendid chomps into the fatter half of the fat fish, and almost inhales it. Manners come to her as an afterthought, and she holds up her hand before her mouth. "Hmm… this is good," she says as she chews. "…The Splendid Chef… Splendid the Seasoned… Spicy Splendid… Lemon-Lime Splendid…?"

The dog chef clicks his tongue. "You cannot claim for yourself a culinary title until you can cook your own fish from the very beginning of the process."

"Alright, alright," Splendid says, wandering off to the lakeside with her fish. "Alder! Get me a drink while I get me own fish!"

A moment later, the other Cerulean raises a brow at all of this and raises a hoof up and tries to touch this wavering film she's seeing before her.

Your hoof permeates the surface of the wavering film as easily as entering the surface of water. And, as your hoof breaks the surface, your mirrored self's hoof passes through, entering onto your side. The other you is totally intangible, at least to you; though your hooves pass through one another, they do not interrupt one another's movement.

Roger observes this, and his mirrored self, and goes a step further: He dives all the way through to the other side, and his other self comes out. You notice that the temporal relationship has not changed – your Roger swims about in a circle, while the one that just came out, the mirror-Roger, mimics his movements a few seconds afterward.



Cutlass gives Cycle a serious, contemplative look as Cycle talks about his dream. "Your dream to be a famous sports player?" she asks, not minding the fact that she is revealing her own power since she's more or less said it already.

Then, when Cycle gets philosophical, Cutlass throws her head back and laughs. "If you want to get philosophical, I'm game. But, I'm also drunk. So, you're going to have to give me a bit more context before I can comment on whatever it is you're trying to say."

>Drink again [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1


Cerulean takes Roger's lead and steps on all the way through, looking at everything going on with a very confused look on her face, and trying to make sense of it all.



Roll #1 6 = 6


"An eye, the wings, a few other things. Don't worry though, Alder will stitch you back together when you get yours."
Cloud jokes.

"Thanks, but I'll pass. Probably should be taking it easy after getting this leg back to working condition."


"Spicy Splendid sounds good, thought you are far too sweet for that, I would think." he teases, swiping at her beak with his tail before going to try and get another fish!
>[1d10+2] (+1 from TBP, +1 from Griffon Flight (Divebombing))

Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5


The mirrored Cerulean takes Roger's lead and steps on all the way through, looking at everything going on with a very confused look on her face, and trying to make sense of it all.

Your mirrored self emerges on the other side of the film, where you once were. Her actions, and Roger's actions, continue to lag behind yours. The two Tabascos, after some hesitance, switch sides as well.

This mirrored world that you stand in seems to be identical to your own. You see a few cracks in the tiles and a few loose stones, mirrored on both sides, that confirm that this is indeed a mirrored world.

But there is one difference: In one of the mirrored Cerulean's saddlebags, there is a blue stone statue sticking out of the corner of the bag. You have no such statue sticking out of your own.

You dive, but catch no fish. Splendid, swallowing the rest of her fish, dives in after you to take her shot at it!


Upon noticing you, Juniper comes over, fanning away the afternoon heat with her fan. "You're another one of Cutlass' crewmates, aren't you? Can I get you some flavored water? I can do all kinds of fruit flavors with my magic."


>Critfail going to count for two failures, putting you and Cycle at 2-2 for dramatic effect.

[1d10+1] 1 TBP, DC 9

The world begins to revolve about you, twisting and dancing like a cheap carnival ride as you finish your drink. Cycle leans forward, leaning on his mug, slick with spilled beer.

"My dream to have everything," he says, not breaking eye contact for even one second. "I wanted all that I did not have, all that was over the horizon, all that waited for me over the next threshold. A silly dream like that was even enough to convince others to join me… and not all of them would live to see that dream fulfilled."

"But… as I pursued that dream, with abilities tailor-made to facilitate claiming the entire world under my banner, I unwittingly killed the very thing that I truly wanted, but didn't realize. I didn't want to have everything. Having things is a greater responsibility than just its mere possession. You have to care for it, or it'll rot away. You have to guard it, or someone else will come and take it. More and more abilities I made, all to maintain this gigantic pile of stuff I was accumulating. And the more I accumulated, the less I wanted it. I would take something, only to lose interest in it the very next day, and wonder why I'd spent so long chasing after it. Before I knew it, and without my realizing it, everything I had was becoming a prison."

"Only recently have I realized that I didn't want to have everything, after all. I wanted to hunt everything. To seek, to chase, to dig, to search, to inquire, to fight, to hunt… it was the very act of going out there to go after something, that I was after."

He raises his mug to his beak.

"Do you really want to know my abilities? They're boring, drab, and most of all, they're burdens, not powers."

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7 / Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3


"Oh, no. I'm with the Beesting's crew."
Cloud corrects.
"Sounds like some great magic. Surprise me with something tropical or exotic."
Cloud says, taking up the offer.


Cerulean blinks for a moment as she notices the statue. Wanting to get a better look at it, and seeing what's been happening so far, she does the movements of reaching into her saddlebag and grabbing where the statue would be if she were to have one, and take it out.



Cutlass listens and ponders. "I don't really know what I want. So, I guess I can't even really tell you what it is to want. I just know I want… SOMETHING. I came out to sea and became a pirate because it felt like it's what I had to do to be happy. Like being a pirate was in my actual veins. My father was - is - a pirate. I guess I inherited it from him."

"But, I got out to sea and I was lost. I failed again and again. It's only this time with this crew that I've felt successful. The only thing that has felt different is that I have had something to do each step of the way. The only time I didn't… I just floated along with whatever happened… and then one of my best crewmates died for it…"

"So, I guess you're onto something. The hunt is more important than having it. Having something to DO is what really matters. You have the soul of a pirate too," Cutlass nods. "We were both just too dumb to figure out what that meant."

"If nothing else, I'd like to know for idle curiosity," Cutlass says with a small smirk as she sees that there's no way Cycle Kick will make it through this drink. Might as well keep him distracted and talking for the short time he's conscious so he can't call her out on not drinking.


Alder will try again, unless Splendid makes a decent catch!
>[1d10+1] Fishe

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5


Splendid catches a large trout. As she comes up from the water, her drenched feathers and fur cling to her muscles, accentuating them as if she were some kind of water goddess. She stomps back onto shore, shaking herself out.

All you catch is a tiny goldfish. He looks at you with a glimmer of adventure in his eyes.

"Hopefully you're not sick of this island's fruit already," Juniper says. She goes and grabs another mug, and fills it with fresh water from a nearby barrel. With a sticker-covered grimoire that looks more like a diary than a magic book, she sprinkles some sparkles over it, and turns the water over to you. "They're called magmafruits, if you're not already familiar."

Your mirrored self takes out the statue, pantomiming your every movement. You can see that it is a small icon of a winged, feathered serpent with a fierce and mighty scowl, though the statue is no more than a foot in length, and made of beautiful dark sapphire. You're close enough that you could take the statue from your mirrored self, if you desired.

>The "you" refers to Cutlass; Cloud and Alder can see this too

"Very well," Cycle Kick says, propping himself up on one elbow. A shadow passes over his eyes, and though he looks like he's about to collapse at any moment, you feel a spike of dread coming from your shadow, transmitted by the bond you and Ossie share.

Cycle Kick's hand slowly stretches out toward you.


"The first of my abilities is called Purchasing Power – the ability to buy or sell anything in existence. I could buy the clothes off of your back, the skeleton right out of your skin, the brains right out of your head. I could get quite the fortune for your brain, too… they're in high demand and low supply these days. And speaking of selling…"

You're suddenly beset by a nauseating and disorienting wave of pressure, as your drunkenness shoots through the roof. You suddenly feel as though you'd just quaffed twice as much alcohol as you had. Through your blurring vision, you see a small pile of gold manifest before Cycle Kick, who slides it into one of his belt pouches.

"Thank you for your patronage," he says, now sitting up straight with no issue. "I hate losing, and I hate hangovers more."



As the nausea hits her, Cutlass doubles over. She's barely able to think. All that is in her mind is what he just said about buying and selling anything. But, how could he sell something to her she didn't want to buy.

Then, a thought occurs to her. If it weren't the thing on the forefront of her brain, she might not have thought of it in this extra inebriated state. The fact that she now has so much alcohol content that it could legitimately kills her fuels an adrenaline rush that helps her as well.

But, she's in no state to do math.

"Ossie!" she calls out to her friend. "The coins he just gave. Count it out. Give him double back," she orders, unable to articulate her plan better than that.



>no barf [1d10]

Roll #1 5 = 5


"Haven't had a chance to try out the fruit here, so this is perfect. Magmafruit though, is it spicy?"
Cloud says, taking the mug and tossing back a gulp.

Cloud turns as he hears Cycle kick go on about his powers, concerned with the talk of buying body parts after his experience with the doctor. As the look of drunkenness swaps over, Cloud keeps his eye on the pony, but doesn't do anything else quite yet.


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1


Seeing that actually work, she mimics handing the statue through the mirror and pass it over to her.


Alder hums a little… he doesn't have anything to keep the goldfish in, but he'll look around and see!

He looks back to Splendid to check on Splendid, and finds himself struck silent. He stammers a little and flushes, before shaking it off and smiling "S-See? You got one this time! V-Very, uhm, very nice."

>[1d10] Perception
Alder lets out an annoyed huff, before fishing through his pack to try and put together something to take some of the pain away from Cloud Shear.
>Natural Remedy: [1d10+2] (+1 TBP)

Roll #1 9 = 9 / Roll #2 10 + 2 = 12


"Sweet and spicy," Juniper says. "They're the hard-shelled fruits you might have seen earlier, the ones that the Watchkeepers seem to love.

Indeed, the taste is a bit like melon, with a fiery kick to it at the end. It reminds you of some of the stronger sauces that Chiu cooked with back home.

You obtain the sapphire statue. As you hold it, you see that it has no base, and no end of it is flat; it is clearly not meant to stand anywhere as a decoration. Perhaps it goes somewhere…?

As you examine the statue, you happen to look back behind you, to see if there is anything further east. You notice that there is none; rather than continue further, this corridor inside of the mirror world does not go very far, and instead ends in a black wall of void. You recall there was another corridor to the west that you haven't explored yet.


Cutlass barely gets through her order before she vomits all over the grass beside her, her stomach twisting and churning with blinding pain.

>Cutlass lost 2 wounds, but regained thru Natural Remedy

Juniper gasps with confusion, and Alder can see that Juniper's eyes are scrolling from right to left, as if they were flying over a page in a book.

"How about we just get an exchange!?" Ossie shrieks, zipping out of Cutlass's shadow as little more than a black blur, hurtling toward Cycle.

At the exact moment that Ossie jumps out to attack Cycle, Juniper jumps as well, and grabs her from behind. She hooks her arms about Ossie's, and rolls back, binding her in a pin.

"H-huh!?" Juniper cries. "Wh– who are you? I'm sorry, what am I even doing!?"

"Huh…" Cycle repeats. He blinks in confusion, looking just as lost as Juniper is. He looks down at his fingers, which are twirling the demonic coin, then at Cutlass. "C-Cutlass!? You alright?" he gasps, stepping forward to aid her.

But at the moment that he steps forward, his eyes lose their color, going blank and dull. He stops in his tracks, completely halted. The only part of him that remains in motion is the hand that twirls the coin.

The hand flips the coin upward. As it reaches its zenith, you see the "heads" side glimmer in the light. The cameo on the heads side changes – going from that of the Crimson King to that of Cycle Kick.

As the coin comes back down, the griffon before you catches it. He stands, getting up from all fours, and extends himself to his full height. Reaching back a claw, he slicks back his white head-feathers. He holds up the coin between thumb and index finger for all to see.

"Money really is a useful thing, isn't it?" the Crimson King asks.

Cutlass's drunkenness fades quickly as Alder feeds her the potion. He realizes, now that the jar is empty, he has temporary storage for the goldfish.


Cloud savors the drink, the melon doing nice to quench his thirst and cut the heat of the sun, and the fiery kick gives him a nice kick up in alertness.
"Wow, this is great! I'm gonna need to grab some seeds so I can have a supply of these around."

In the rapid flash of attacks, counters, and confusion, Cloud jumps up from his seat, unsure of what is going on himself.
As Cycle flips his coin, changing to the Crimson King, Cloud shifts into a defensive stance, taking half a step back in concern.


Cerulean looks over the statue, really liking the color of it. Even though she's sure of what'll happen, she looks to her reflection.
"Thank you! Good luck with your journey," she says and moves to leave and check out the west hallway.



Cutlass figures it out as she drinks the the potion and loses most of her alcohol -before he even speaks at makes it obvious. She kicks herself for not figuring it out sooner, but chalks it up to the alcohol.

"I thought something was weird…" Cutlass mutters and coughs as she stares at her vomit on the ground. "That story didn't sound like Cycle's story at all. That dream didn't sound like his either. Definitely didn't think YOU'D be here, though."

"Of course, the greatest tragedy of all of this is that I'm not nearly as drunk anymore," she shoots Alder a mostly-playful accusing glare.

"I'm not even going to bother asking how or when. I probably wouldn't understand it. It's mostly meaningless anyway. The WAY more interesting question is why. Did you just want to play a drinking game with me? Did I leave that much of an impression on you that you decided to pull of some switcheroo just to play with me?" she laughs.

"I'm honestly flattered."


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3




Roll #1 3 = 3


Alder hums a little, scooping some water up and gently dropping the goldfish inside.

"Yes, Captain Cutlass." he says in response, sticking his tongue out.
Alder lets out a startled squawk, reaching for his spellslinger and aiming it at the Crimson King. "W-What happened to Cycle Kick?


The goldfish looks ready for adventure.

Ossie shrieks and thrashes upon the ground, trying but failing to break free of the bind that Juniper keeps her in. "I'm sorry, but could someone tell me what's going on!?" Juniper squeaks. "I can't move my own body – I just moved on my own!"

Ossie cranes her neck to the side, twisting herself into a pretzel trying to bite down onto Juniper's neck, but Juniper, crying with confusion, headbutts Ossie back.

The Crimson King shakes his head to Cutlass. "Not at all. I hadn't intended to reveal myself at all during this trip. You were the one who challenged me to a drink-off. But I overestimated Cycle's ability to hold his grog, and had to come out, lest I be the one to deal with this hangover. I assumed that this was all one of your manic schemes, being the pony with the gumption and the idiocy required to steal The Golden Vein. I was wondering where either I or Cycle had gone wrong to give it away."

"Cycle Kick…" Ossie spits. "Did you have to match up the initials?"

"Actually, yes," The King says. "Do you know how difficult it was to find a soul on the black market with the same initials, and a similar body type? Harder than one might think. It was Juniper Yumeno here who fixed the differences with a bit of dress-up."

"I did!?" Juniper exclaims.

"Juniper… Yumeno…" Splendid murmurs in thought.

The Crimson King turns to Alder, holding up the coin that now has Cycle Kick as its cameo. "Oh, he's right here. I wouldn't throw away an asset so easily now that the jig is up. I paid good money for him after all. Him and Juniper."

The mirrored Cerulean looks over the statue, really liking the color of it. Even though she's sure of what'll happen, she looks to her reflection.
"Thank you! Good luck with your journey," she says and moves to leave and check out the west hallway.

You go back to your side of the mirrored world, and proceed back to the central hall, then to the western corridor. About halfway down it, you can see another watery, wavering film. This time, however, the figures on the other side are already waiting for you: A mirrored Cerulean, Roger and Tabasco. Just like before, you can see that the mirrored Cerulean has a statue sticking out of her bag. This one, made of ruby.



"Alright, first of all, everyone calm down. Since when is the Crimson King our enemy?"

She pauses for a moment. "Okay, allow me to rephrase. Since when is anyone here stupid enough to have the Crimson King OPENLY their enemy?"

"Everyone, just put your weapons away so Juniper can let Ossie go and she can have her free will back. Momentarily. Whatever. Not sure how that works. But, also none of my business."


"Another one?" She looks around a bit, wondering if there is a spot to place the statue, or if there was a place back where the two hallways are connected.


"Do you not remember what you did?"
Cloud says to Cutlass at her calm collection over this, taking yet another step back.
"He's not exactly our friend either, otherwise he wouldn't have been hiding."



"I already talked to him about it. I gave his ship back directly to him. And, he knows it was never about him. I was trapped on an island by some people who happened to be allied with him. It's just unfortunate circumstance that I did what I had to do to not be trapped anymore. He certainly seemed to be understanding."


Alder puts the fish away somewhere safe.

"O-Oh… I see. W-Well, that is just… eugh." the griffon says, shaking his head.

"I-I would not be so startled if he had not just… changed form?" he says, uncomfortably. He looks to Splendid, before cocking his head to the side. "Do you recognize the name?"


"Another one?" She looks around a bit, wondering if there is a spot to place the statue, or if there was a place back where the two hallways are connected.

This time – something's different. You don't realize it until after it's done, but this time, your mirrored self's actions preceded yours. She seems to be a span of some seconds ahead of you, but mirrors all of your actions and words just as well as the other one did. The same goes for Roger and Tabasco.

You recall the central corridor in which you dropped after passing the platforming obstacle. In addition to the west and east corridors here, that central corridor proceeded forward to the north, though you could not see the end of it.

"S-sorry," Splendid says. "Must have been before me time. Was wondering if I heard of any bounty hunters or pirates by the initials of 'J. Y.'"

>roll memory

Ossie stops thrashing, and the Crimson King nods to Juniper, whose body relaxes, and looses its grip. Whimpering with fear and confusion, Juniper scoots out from underneath Ossie, crawling away behind a barrel.

"Well," the Crimson King says. "I would hate to see you all put off from this adventure just on my account. I am Kukulcan's crewmate, and you are his hired help, after all. Wouldn't you agree that we can still work together to get to the bottom of this expedition? It seems that what we want is at the bottom of this Vault that we've all been seeing in our dreams."

He reaches his hand out, and Ossie tenses herself to pounce, but the Crimson King causes her to freeze with but a look. He simply leans forward, his hand held out for a shake.



Cutlass takes everything in for a moment. Then, she laughs. "This is actually perfect. You know how much time this saves me?"

"So, to be clear, you, the Crimson King, have always been a part of Kukulcan's crew? Not just Cycle Kick who happens to be possessed by you? You were hiding because you didn't want us to know you were here, not because you're hiding your presence from Kukulcan?"


"I don't really trust that it's all water under the bridge."

Cloud says nothing, already knowing it's better to not say things to demons from his experience earlier, walking back to grab his mug and finish off his magmafruit water.



"'Water under the bridge' implies there was ever anything to build a bridge over. He was never bothered by it to begin with."


Cerulean takes note of that and thinks to herself on how to work this one out. She really seems to be wracking her brain, but then an idea hits. She leaves back towards the hallway and hides so her reflection can't show up on it. She then sets her sapphire statue down, then goes back to the room to see if her reflection is still holding hers.


>[1d10+1] (+1 from TBP)
"No need to apologize, Splendid. though, hrm… I am not sure."

"I, hrm… I do not like it. Though, I might be outnumbered in the choice."

Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4


"And I still doubt that."


The mirrored Cerulean still has the ruby statue. Although her movements are ahead of yours, you still seem able to take the statue, just as you did from the one that lagged behind.

"No, no, you were right the first time," the Crimson King says. "Technically speaking, he is one of the captains of my fleet. He is upon my payroll, with all that entails. It was Cycle Kick we had to retrofit to be part of his crew – nothing that a bit of suggestion cannot handle. Now, as for why I took possession of Cycle Kick, it has nothing to do hiding my presence, but it does have to do with you, or rather, with Cerulean. With her advice – that I go out and do things the hard way. Wearing another's body, especially with that other being's soul still inside, is quite difficult, and limits one's power. You may think of it as playing a game with a severe handicap in points, either for a challenge, or for the benefit of the opponent."


Seeing everyone leave him hanging on the handshake, the Crimson King reaches out his other hand, which holds the coin between finger and thumb. He flips it, and it turns back into Cycle Kick's. The Crimson King then shakes his own hand with Cycle's, and then turns the hand back to "normal."

"In any case," the Crimson King says. "As I was saying, I plan to get into the Vault that Kukulcan's after. It is the closest thing to a clue that any of us have to the location of the Heart of Gold. How ironic that I end up here despite pledging to do things myself, the hard way. Though, I didn't actually purchase the clue as I had originally planned. Ah, that's neither here nor there.

"What's important is that I'm doing things the hard way. You may notice I have nothing but the clothes on my back, a single bodyguard, and the money I made off of Cutlass generously purchasing my drunkenness. I am not a captain, but a lowly swab on a strange Vola's ship. Once I'm inside the Vault, any gold that I get my hands on will be fair game for me to use however I wish. And if I might add – I am going to be looking for a new crew to hire."

"No amount of money would ever convince us–" Splendid begins.

"Everything has its price, dear Si…" the Crimson King says, before narrowing his eyes. "…Miss Splendid. Even loyalty. Especially loyalty. Purchasing Power lets me buy and sell anything in the world, global same-day delivery. Do not think that any of you are above it."

The night after the attack on Kaco Island, you recall a conversation overhead from the mooks who went with Cutlass to take the Golden Vein, of a terrifying abomination of a crewmate that guarded the ship – half machine, half chimera… the Yellow Jester.


Cloud listens on as the Crimson King talks about doing things the hard way, surprised it was by Cerulean's words. But the end of his speech leaves him with worry and dread, having the ability to buy loyalty from a person. With how he traded drunkenness with Cutlass, the worst comes to mind.


"I… hrm. I think the name is familiar. Some sort of Yellow Jester. An abomination, of sorts." he says, humming.

"A-Anything? Goodness, that's… awful to think of." the griffon says, shivering a little bit. He flicks his ears and looks to Splendid, before asking "SW-What was he going to say?"



"Hmm," Cutlass says contemplatively. "I can see why you regret your own power. You're certainly an interesting person I can learn a lot from. Which is one of the reasons I'm so ecstatic to have an opportunity to have this conversation. Assuming everyone can stay civil."

"You've actually convinced me of something, in fact. I don't want the Heart of Gold for myself. I'm just here for the adventure, not the result. Which leads me to why I find these circumstances to be so fantastically perfect. It's been my intention all along to allow Kukulcan to get the Heart of Gold so that he could bring it to you. The fact that you're here just saves us all so much time."

"Even better, with this out in the open, maybe Kukulcan can stop lying to me and endangering my crew in so doing. Would you mind sharing the truths he continues to withhold from me?"

>[1d10+2] crits 9+, Whisper in your Ear

Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8


"Heheh, nice!" She says as she approaches her approaching reflection and moves her hoof to as to receive the ruby statue from herself.
"Thanks me!" She says happily, pretty sure that was it for here and goes back to grab the sapphire statue.


Cloud nearly coughs out his drink as Cutlass prattles on. He walks, over, speaking in an exclaimed whisper.
("Do you not remember what they all said way back on Kaco when we stopped all of his stuff in the first place?! Why do you want to help him?")


"That 'si' sound?" Splendid whispers. "Honest, I don't know. Thought he mighta been bout to call me 'sister' or summat, like we're both griffons? But I never heard anything like that where I'm from. Is it a trend where you hail?"

"Oh…?" the Crimson King asks, tilting his head. "You don't need to keep using your ability on me: I'll give you this one for free. You'll need to pay up if you want any more. He hasn't withheld a single truth from you, and does not intend to do so."

"We aren't after the Heart of Gold?" Ossie asks, mouth open in shock.
"You aren't?" the Crimson King asks. "Now that's something you should doubt, mister Azure-Eye Cloud."
"Set that aside!" Juniper shouts, trembling and shaking. "Alder, what was that? A Yellow Jester? Wh-what's going to happen to me!? Where's Cycle?"

With the ruby and sapphire serpents now in your possession, all that's left is to head down the final corridor of B5F.



"What reason do I have to fear the Crimson King?" Cutlass asks calmly in response, not whispering.


Alder looks at Cutlass in confusion, narrowing his eyes and frowning. He starts to step a little closer, before flicking his ears and looking back to Splendid.

"It was, ehm… I do not think it is, no." he says, frowning a little as he tries to think about what it was Crimson King was going to say.

Alder folds his ears back and sets a claw on Juniper's shoulder, before saying "R-Relax, please. C-Cycle is still here… s-sort of. I do not fully understand any of this myself, but panicking will only make it worse."


Cloud's eyes shift to the Crimson King for a moment, but he keeps his focus on Cutlass.
("I didn't say anything about fear. Why do you want to help his goals?")


Cerulean looks at the two statue pieces, then to Roger and Tabasco.
"Gotta say, three of us do pretty good, huh guys?" With a confident grin, she heads down the corridor to see what awaits them next.


At the end of the corridor is a high and narrow door of obsidian, with brass metalwork surrounding it. Clear panes in the door allow you to see the complex machinations within. At about eye level, there are two indentations, in the shapes of serpents, identical matches for the statuettes you found.

Could this really be all that there was on this floor…?

Juniper sighs, trying to calm herself as she sniffles back tears.


Cerulean takes a moment to look at all of the machinery stuff, blinking a bit as she understand a single bit of it, but it looked neat and fancy. She inserts the statues in the indentations and stands back a bit to let the door open.



Cutlass giggles impishly. "That last one was just to confirm whether or not you could sense me using it. I figured you'd say something."

"I guess if you both insist on lying to me, then you can continue to lie to me," Cutlass shrugs. "I don't see what benefit it gives you at this point. Speaking of no benefit, I can see why you were insistent on grabbing all the gold you can in the vault. I still don't see why it matters. If the Heart of Gold is really there, then it you'll have all the gold in the world - literally. I'm sure you'll understand, however, that my stance on that subject hasn't changed. As per the agreement with Kukulcan, I get all the treasure, you get all the items of historical value. That would include the Heart of Gold, obviously. If you don't like that deal, then I suggest you make sure your own subordinates don't go around recklessly making deals that are counter to what you want."


"I never said The Secret Assassins were coming here for the Heart of Gold," Cutlass says to Ossie. "We're here for untold amounts of treasure. That has always been the truth of it. Thus the deal I made with Kukulcan. If the Beestings happen to get the Heart of Gold first, well then I suppose that's what happens. It doesn't affect me any."

Cutlass doesn't acknowledge Juniper.


"He can obviously hear you whispering, you idiot," Cutlass rolls her eyes.


Alder rubs her shoulder a little, and tried to offer a smile. "He is still okay. He is still him, just… not here right now. He will be back. We can, ehm… maybe find a way to remove that from him."


"E-Excuse me, but what exactly are you on about? What is this?"



"It's exactly as I've said I've been doing the entire time," Cutlass shrugs. "I'm just here for gold. What really confuses me is what the Beesting's plan was. You also agreed to give Kukulcan anything of historical value. Did you intend on betraying him for the Heart of Gold?"


("I know what I'm doing, alright? You need to watch your words around these things.")


Ossie bites her tongue, but glowers at you.

"How unfortunate it is that you are so full of lies that you cannot recognize plain truth before you," the Crimson King says. "Kukulcan may be a fool, but an honest one. Ask your amulet if you are still in disbelief. In any case, let the one who gets there first be the one who lays claim to the gold. I tire of this conversation. Unless you want to drink some more, I suggest you regroup among yourselves and resolve this disagreement among yourselves about the Heart of Gold and who gets what."

"Yeah… yeah, we can," Juniper says, wiping at her eyes. "But… we also need to figure out why I lost control of my body just now, and why the King said all that stuff about my dress-up magic."

The doors shudder after you insert both statuettes, and with a great ger-chunk, slide back panel by panel, to reveal the path beyond.

Before you is another great corridor, about ten feet or so wide, and seemingly interminably long. Instead of walls on either side, you see the watery mirrors, whose glistenings fill the corridor with teal light.

Future Cerulean, the one who held the ruby statuette, is upon your left, already waiting for your entry.

Past Cerulean, the one who held the sapphire statuette, is upon your right, and doesn't take her position until you do.

At the very far end of the corridor, or at least, nearly to the end of what you can see, a very tall obsidian Watchkeeper appears, in the shape of a Vola that looks… somewhat similar to Sir Kukulcan. Two others appear alongside him, in both the future mirror world, and the past mirror world. However, all three of the Vola move in perfect synchronicity, unaffected by whatever magic causes your reflections to move ahead and after you.

In the Vola's hands is a very sophisticated contraption, seeming to be partway between a long crossbow, and a gun.


All three of the Vola take aim at the Ceruleans before them, past, present and future.

>each turn, roll an instant dodge roll for all three Ceruleans. All three Ceruleans must perform the same actions each turn, but roll separately. The differences in the rolls will represent the differences in time

>All Ceruleans share your H/W
>You can switch between which path you're on, Past, Present, or Future, as a free action



"Nothing has changed," Cutlass shrugs to the Crimson King. "You have your competition with Cerulean or whatever. I don't intend on interrupting that. I'm just here to ensure SOMEONE gets it."

"It was a pleasure speaking with you. I'll take your advice."

Cutlass turns to leave.

She heads far enough away that no one from Kukulcan's crew or the Crimson King is within eyeshot anymore. She pulls out her Caller Conch. "Ossie, I have a favor to ask of you," she says to her as she's getting ready to speak into the Conch. "We need to have the power to know when we are being eavesdropped. Someone is feeding him and the news information. We need to know who."

Then, she speaks into the Caller Conch the code to call Schnitzel.


Alder huffs a little, and ignores Cutlass.

"W-Well, perhaps he has some sort of power over you- a sort of power we should seek to cleanse from you, if we can."


Cloud turns back, stepping aside as it seems the topic has ended, unsure of how this expedition will go now, and more worried about who is safe to talk to.


Juniper wipes her eyes a bit, then looks to the Crimson King. He shrugs at her. "You may go with them if you wish. The Pattern Juggler would have a fit if he knew I was going without a bodyguard, but at last I have some proper cash on me. I am in no danger."
"Alright…" Juniper sighs. "Wait, why did I even stop to ask your permission!?"

She storms off alongside you and Splendid.
"Oh, er…" Splendid says. "Maybe this ain't a good time, but I wanna get that dog's name, the one what taught us how to cook."

"You have reached Captain Schnitzel's sausage delivery service," Schnitzel says.

As pirates, you've grown accustomed to hearing a peculiar tone of voice – when the one on the other end of the line is irredeemably drunk, yet somehow manages to put together coherent sentences.

"For one hot, fresh wiener delivered straight to your mo– no, gimme that back, you bit–!"

You hear some violence, and a few exchanges of Aura.

"Thought I confiscated all of these already," Miss Sunshine grumbles. "Hello, yes, what is it, who is it."



Cutlass just rolls her eyes at the antics. "Make Believe, Sparkler, and Colobok are on the way with some sun crystal that should keep the giants that come out at night at bay. Are they back yet? Have there been any problems?"


Present Cerulean looks to the two others and grins.
"Alright, let's do this!" She says, likely out of synch with the two others and she charges forward and moves her path around to mess up the Volas' aim.

>Future [1d10]

>Present [1d10]
>Past [1d10]

Cerulean gets her tail ready to give the ground a slam behind her, watching as her future self is already doing so and flooding her ground, and her past self is starting to get her aura ready.

>All three use Slam on the ground not to damage, but more to activate Tide Pool

Roll #1 7 = 7 / Roll #2 6 = 6 / Roll #3 3 = 3


Cloud looks over as Cutlass calls her crew, concerned over the plans she's making.
"Hey, Hmm," He asks Hmm, now that they'd away from earshot of the enemy crew, "How the Crimson King was able to take over that gryphons body, that's not an easy thing, right? We won't need to worry about his crew hijacking us right?"


Alder rubs Splendid's side a little, and says "I think that is okay. Go ahead and ask, Splendid."


Splendid waddles off to where the dog is busy organizing all the cooking supplies. You overhear a bit of their conversation as Splendid asks his name.
"Itz," he replies.
"It's…?" she asks.
"It's Itz."
She waits, thinking he's stuttering.
"It's what?"
"Just Itz."
"Just Itz!"
"Oh… It's Itz, isn't itz?"
"It is Itz," he confirms.

"I don't know any optimistic way of putting this," Hmm says. "If he had the money, and the will, he could buy any of you with a snap of his fingers. At the very least, it's not cheap. But if the Vault's as full of gold as they say, and he gets his hands on it…"

"They called ahead not long ago," Miss Sunshine says. "Had to take a few detours to avoid wandering Watchkeepers, but they're en route. Without much else to do here, the crew decided to get drunk. We're going to need to crack open the budget to replenish our stocks here soon. Please tell me you're finding lots of treasure out there."

You realize that Ossie said nothing to your request. You catch her sitting nearby, facing away from you, cheeks puffed out.

Showers of magical bolts fly from the three Volas' bowguns. You and the Future Cerulean dodge and weave around them, water filling the ground in your wake, but Past Cerulean, her actions delayed by precious seconds, gets caught by stray shots. Her wounds appear upon Future Cerulean first, then on you.

>Cerulean 10/7

>Shooters' actions to come next week



Last time, on PirateQuest…

Cutlass' drink-off opponent turned out to be none other than the Crimson King himself. Cycle Kick was, it seemed, still a real person, but his body and soul were being possessed by the King to serve as both a disguise and a self-imposed handicap. Both Cycle Kick and Juniper Yumeno (believed to be possessed by the Yellow Jester) had been purchased off of the black market; their minds had been overwritten through hypnotic suggestion so that they believed they were but ordinary crewmates of Kukulcan, and their bodies had been warped by Juniper's dress-up magic to better fit their roles.

The King confessed that he had no intention of revealing himself to our crew at any point during this expedition, as he had been convinced by Cerulean to go on a journey of hardship by seeking after the Heart of Gold "the hard way," with only minimal assistance from his near-omnipotent Aura Ability, Purchasing Power, which let him buy or sell anything in existence provided he had the money for it. He revealed himself solely to use Purchasing Power to avoid losing the drink-off, and had assumed that the party had already seen through his disguise by that point. They had not, and in fact, the drink-off had been Magoja's suggestion from the start…

Later, Cutlass took the party aside to discuss what had been learned, and to get in contact with Schnitzel via the Conch. Vice-Captain Little Miss Sunshine answered instead, because Schnitzel (and the rest of the crew) was blackout drunk, and apparently in a very… peculiar mood. Juniper Yumeno, terrified about the proposition that her body and soul were being possessed by a demonic entity, went along with them.

Meanwhile, Cerulean puzzled out the gimmick of B5F's trial. The floor was divided into three sections, each divided by a watery veil. On the eastern section was a mirror of Cerulean, Tabasco and Roger. These versions of her group repeated everything that the real Cerulean, Tabasco and Roger did, only they did it a few seconds after the real ones did – a temporally delayed mirror. On the western section was the same thing, only these mirrored selves acted before the real ones, a kind of glimpse into the future.

From both the past and future Ceruleans, our Cerulean obtained a statuette of a ruby and a sapphire snake, and used those to unlock the door at the end of the floor's central corridor. Beyond it lay an extremely long hallway, guarded by three Vola Watchkeepers armed with magic bowguns. It was a straight shot to the end, with nothing to serve as cover against the snipers – Cerulean would have to make a break for it, while enduring the damage that her future and past selves incurred.


Splendid waddles off to where the dog is busy organizing all the cooking supplies. You overhear a bit of their conversation as Splendid asks his name.
"Itz," he replies.
"It's…?" she asks.
"It's Itz."
She waits, thinking he's stuttering.
"It's what?"
"Just Itz."
"Just Itz!"
"Oh… It's Itz, isn't itz?"
"It is Itz," he confirms.


"I don't know any optimistic way of putting this," Hmm says. "If he had the money, and the will, he could buy any of you with a snap of his fingers. At the very least, it's not cheap. But if the Vault's as full of gold as they say, and he gets his hands on it…"


"They called ahead not long ago," Miss Sunshine says. "Had to take a few detours to avoid wandering Watchkeepers, but they're en route. Without much else to do here, the crew decided to get drunk. We're going to need to crack open the budget to replenish our stocks here soon. Please tell me you're finding lots of treasure out there."

You realize that Ossie said nothing to your request. You catch her sitting nearby, facing away from you, cheeks puffed out.


Showers of magical bolts fly from the three Volas' bowguns. You and the Future Cerulean dodge and weave around them, water filling the ground in your wake, but Past Cerulean, her actions delayed by precious seconds, gets caught by stray shots. Her wounds appear upon Future Cerulean first, then on you, then upon Past Cerulean.

>Cerulean 10/7

The Future Sniper takes aim at Future Cerulean:

[1d10+2] Marksman Shot, Autocrit

The Present Sniper takes aim at Present and Past Cerulean:

[1d10+2] Repeating Fire, Trick Ammo: Split

The Past Sniper launches a barrage of strange rounded canisters from his bowgun, arcing them high into the air over the long road before you.

[1d10+2] Smokescreen

You are currently 15% down the path.

Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5 / Roll #2 2 + 2 = 4 / Roll #3 8 + 2 = 10



"That shouldn't matter, should it? No amount of gold would get me to abandon Chiu or work for a demon, so if everypony else feels the same way we should be safe then, right?"


"Your case might be different because of your love for her and your incoming foal," Hmm says. "But, here's the rub… and I'm not even sure if the Crimson King himself knows this, but… his ability is to buy and sell anything. The means with which he buys and sells is irrelevant – I sense in his heart that he has devoted himself wholly to the pursuit and manipulation of gold, but things can be bought and paid for with any kind of 'currency.' If he came into possession of something you valued…"


The Ceruleans each does their own moving around as they proceed onward.

>Instant dodge


As the Ceruleans move, out of sync, they call out for their Rogers to fuse together with him, then dive down into the stone floor to avoid further gunfire as they move forward.

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #3 6 + 1 = 7


>fixing H/W


"That's not gonna happen," Cloud says without hesitation, "I've screwed up before, but it won't happen again."


Wave after wave of magical gunfire flies overhead as you dive into the floor, with Past Cerulean just narrowly escaping as she lags behind you and the Future Cerulean. The sounds of gunfire continue, muffled, for a while after you dive, and you can hear the canisters land and explode, followed by the sounds of whooshing smoke as a smokescreen overtakes the way ahead.

You are currently 30% down the path. The gunfire stops once you vanish, the snipers reconsidering their plan of action. But, they aren't stopped for long. Suddenly, as you swim through the gray darkness of the earth, you hear shots ring out, and ricochet against the ground, ripping up tiles and leaving deep indents in the ground around you!

Future Sniper fires indiscriminately at the ground of the path!
[1d10+1] Barrage

Present Sniper tries to get a bead upon you…
[1d10+1] Sight Beyond Sight

You can hear the Past Sniper loading an exceptionally heavy-sounding charge onto his bowgun!
[1d10+1] Remote Charge

>no dodge rolls necessary until bond with Roger expires

"I'm just telling you this so that you can keep this in mind, if something happens!" Hmm says. "I prefer you either lazy or stubborn, pick one and stick to it!"

Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6 / Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #3 10 + 1 = 11


"Ah- well, thank you for the lesson, Mister Itz!" the griffon says, offering a grateful bow. He'll also try to hide his snickering, and gives Splendid a soft peck on the cheek.


"I'll pick whichever one suits the situation the best," Cloud retorts, "Just need to worry about the others if things get bad with the King…"


The Ceruleans keep going down their lanes, moving faster now that they're in the water and doing dives and other 'underwater' acts she learned from the circus to try and keep the speed up.

>Full steam ahead for all three


"Not my fault he didn't articulate his words," Splendid grumbles, poking you with one of the bones from the de-boned fish. "Now, did I see you slippin' a fish into your non-existent trousers earlier?"

Cutlass, Ossie and Miss Sunshine appear to be engaged in some kind of intense discussion. You get the sense that they plan to keep it among themselves for now. As that goes on, Juniper's expression starts to fall. "I bet it's because I'm here…" she sighs, having lost her usual tomboyish energy. "They probably think I'm a spy."
"Can't blame them, even if you're not at fault," Splendid says with a shrug.
"Yeah… what about you guys, though? Are you alright with me staying over here for now? I just don't want to be around that guy now that I know something's up with me and Cycle."

The shots from the Future Sniper chip away at your sides, scoring small hits along your chest and shoulders. Tabasco, still stuck on the surface, grits his teeth and suppresses his whimpers each time he's grazed.

>Cerulean 9/7

Suddenly, an ominous chill grips your heart, as you're beset with a psychic pressure, the sensation of being intensely watched. Even without having to see it, you know one of the shooters has got your number.

You are currently 50% down the path.

Future Sniper takes aim at you!

[1d10+2] Basic Attack, Trick Shot Knockout

Present Sniper will as well!

[1d10+2] Marksman Shot

Past Sniper doesn't shoot, but you can hear an ominous chirping above you…

[1d10+2] Remote Charge detonation

Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9 / Roll #2 7 + 2 = 9 / Roll #3 9 + 2 = 11


Alder sticks his tongue out, before giggling. "Hmm? Oh! I found a small fish, and it didn't look… hrm. Not good for eating, but perhaps a pet." he says, holding up the jar.

"Ah- well, I do not think there is much to do about it, so I will not hold it against you."


Cloud looks over, distracted from his talk with Hmm as Juniper's mood continues to fall.
"Well, our crews only just joined up, so you really can't be considered a spy," He says, trying to make it better, "From everything that went on, you're still you, so I don't mind you around."


Cerulean attempts to speed up her pace, pushing herself as she darts forward suddenly.

>Using Sprinter to cover more ground


"Could be something of an appetizer, or a fishy-on-top for a larger dish," Splendid says. She backs away when the goldfish gives her the stink-eye. "…Right then, didn't think they were capable of that. Might even be a guardian beast with an intellect like that."

Juniper groans. "Thanks, guys. So, uh… well, they're certainly having quite the discussion," she says, leaning over to look at Cutlass and Ossie. "What about your other friend, Cerulean was it? How do you think she's doing?"

As the three Ceruleans dart forward, you suddenly see Future Cerulean flip and spin, her body suddenly covered with inexplicable burns and myriad wounds as she's launched back toward the surface. And you soon understand why: A moment later, an explosion rips through the earth around you, tossing you and Past Cerulean through the air in a smoldering heap. Your head rings and your vision distorts, but you can see that the Past Sniper took out a great chunk of the path with some kind of massive explosive attack, leaving behind a vast crater. Your last burst of speed, combined with the propulsion of the blast, has left you and your copies laying upon the rim of the crater.

>Cerulean 0/6

Roger flops out of your body, but quickly starts to try to nudge you back to your hooves. As all three snipers take aim at you, the Tabascos leap into action, holding them off with a volley of suppressive fireballs.

You are currently 80% down the path, won't make more progress until you recover.


The Ceruleans all groan in pain, but a look at the snipers and their long-ranged antics make them growl. Trying to use the aid of the water created earlier, the Cerulean attempt to get back up and closing the distance.

>Earthly Affinity makes recovery from helpless DC 4

>Future [1d10+1]
>Present [1d10+1]
>Past [1d10+1]

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7 / Roll #3 10 + 1 = 11


"I'm not sure what she's up to, but she's a tough shark. I'm pretty sure she has whatever it is covered just fine."


As you manage to get back up, the snipers take an unusual tactic for long-range fighters. They quickly dismantle parts of their guns, breaking off longer barrels and stocks, until they are left with shorter-ranged weaponry: The Future Sniper holds a crank-operated machine gun, the Present Sniper a pair of pistols, and the Past Sniper some kind of strange cross between a grenade launcher and a handcannon.

Just beyond them, at the end of the path, you see three great doors, just like the ones at the front of the hall. They are shut, but do not appear to have any lock system that would mirror the ones on the doors through which you entered. Perhaps if you're swift enough…

But the Snipers apparently don't want you to even try and make a break for it, as they fly toward you, guns raised for action.

>Cerulean 13/6, need to make dodge rolls again now that you're aboveground.

The Future Sniper cranks his machine gun at Future Cerulean!

[1d10+2] Basic Attack

The Present Sniper launches a volley at all three Ceruleans!

[1d10+2] Barrage

The Past Sniper does not shoot, but reaches his hand out toward the rubble scattered by the blast. Chunks of stone fly through the air, pulled toward the Past Sniper; they gather upon the ground before him, arranging themselves into barricades stretching above your head!

[1d10+2] Building high barricades to block off the exit

"Hrm, well, alright…" she forces a smirk. "I'm trying to fish for ways to ingratiate myself with you guys. Just what a real spy would do."
"Probably not something to joke about, what with Cutlass being concerned 'bout spying and all," Splendid says.
"Yeah, you're right…" Juniper sighs. "What else is there to do? That kid that liked stickers is gone, so I can't bribe him with any of mine. Your companions are still in the infirmary, but that Droplet guy gave me some strange vibes."
"Pushup contest, now that Cloud's got most of his bits and bobs back?" Splendid offers.

Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11 / Roll #2 10 + 2 = 12 / Roll #3 8 + 2 = 10


The Ceruleans proceed to get back to running through the slightly-flooded lanes, so close now that they're sure they can almost reach them soon….


Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #3 7 + 1 = 8


"Yea, Cutlass doesn't have a sense of humor so you need to watch your jokes around her."
Cloud says.
"Could do that, or something less physical."
He looks to Juniper.
"So where'd you learn that flavor changing magic? You practice in shaman magic stuff?"


Alder snickers a little, before patting her on the head and saying "Who knows? The ribcage is strange, yes."

"I think she is doing… fine. Well, I hope she is- she seemed rather preoccupied, but doing well enough. She is quite hardy, so I doubt she is in any danger."


"First things first, though!" Splendid says. She winds up her fist, acting like she's going to clobber you into next week with a vicious haymaker. But as she swings, she dampens the speed, giving you only a pat on the cheek. "You can't have a feisty fish like that in a tiny vial. It's downright cruel! Think we can shake down Mallea for a bigger bowl. Oh, but… best if I don't accompany you for that. I'm asking much of her as it is."


>12 results in 7 damage, times three from targeting all 3, = 21; 11 results in 6 damage, = 27; failure of 3 on the first dodge adds 3 damage, = 30; result of 10 and 8 removes 8 damage, = 22

As you run under the snipers, they hit you with a powerful volley of gunfire. Your armor absorbs most of the damage, but many shots pierce through, riddling you with holes. All three of the Ceruleans crumble before the doors, but before they can grab onto the handles, the Past Snipers make some barricades out of the stone, and place them before the doors.

>You are currently at 95% of the way down the path; victory achievable at 100%

Instead of shooting further, the three snipers set aside their guns, and start to pull at the barricades from afar with magic. The barricades slowly grind forward, pushing you away from the doors in the process.

>You will lose 5% each turn you are helpless

"Hang on," Juniper says. She goes over to where the Crimson King sits, and liberates some stools, giving him the stink eye the whole time. The Crimson King hardly takes note of her, instead consulting a dark red book, in which he writes.

Juniper comes back with the chairs, setting up a circle in the grass. "Oh, it's all just applications of dress-up magic. It's a very widely-applicable kind of magic, if I can put my head to it. Apparently, I even changed Cycle Kick's body to better accommodate the Crimson King… they must have made me forget that with their hypnotic suggestion."

Juniper sits for a moment, but is soon up again, restless with worry. She starts doing pushups in the grass, apropos of nothing.

"Hang on now," Splendid says. "…Wonder if you two were the only ones that the King did some suggestion on."


>Cerulean 0/5


"Pretty wide range to go from dress up to changing taste."
Cloud says, taking a seat.
"Sounds like you can change just about anything," Cloud comments, starting to think a bit, "If he had you change Cycle's body to accommodate him, could you do the opposite so he can't use his body?"


Cerulean gives some loud yells of pain as they get shot up, but growls when they feel the nudging of the barricade against them. Which prompts them to try and get back up quickly.

>DC 4 still


Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #3 7 + 1 = 8


Alder lets out a startled chirp and flinches slightly, before giggling a little more and saying "Ah! Got me. And, yes- we need to get a larger bowl than my vial. And, please- you are not asking too much by coming along, it is fine!"

Alder gently pats Juniper's shoulder, and says "Relax, please. Getting worked up will not fix the problem, yes? Just make it worse." He looks back over to Splendid, and cocks his head to the side. "Who else, do you think?"


"Well, the act of 'dressing up' basically just means to rearrange things and present them in new and different lights," Juniper says.

Alder's suggestion appears to do little; she grips her dress's skirt between her hind legs, then starts doing hoof-stand pushups like it's no big deal. "It's not a big jump from breaking down something's outward appearance to breaking down its internal composition, and rebuilding it from there. But I have to be really familiar with whatever it is I'm breaking down to make any sort of complex alterations."

She mulls over Cloud's suggestion. "…No. It's not impossible, but impractical beyond reason. That brief glimpse of his Aura was the most frightening I've ever seen. He's beyond the level that most people would consider to be of a Master."

"It depends on who actually did the suggestion," Splendid says. "The King mentioned suggestion by name, but never said the practitioner's name. If it was Magoja… it makes me think there's a chance that the lot in the infirmary might have been subjected to hypnosis before we got here. Maybe even Droplet, too…"

All three Ceruleans manage to get back up, but before they can cross the barricades, the snipers go for a change of tactics! The barricades bend around you in a triangular formation, and suddenly pull inward to try to trap all three of you in a case of hard stone!


Roll #1 3, 1, 1 + 2 = 7


The Ceruleans each grin as they see they're up, and something solid is getting in their way. Something that they can finally slam with their tails! Seems they plan to use their brute force for the final leg of this!

>Slam Crits 8+, +2, DC -1, take better




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



Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #3 1 + 1 = 2


Although the snipers' barricades close in upon you, the three Ceruleans, acting in sequence, bash, smash and annihilate the stone walls, dodging and waving around the flying chunks of shrapnel and earth that hurtle about them as a result.

>Cerulean 10/6

You make a break for it, and get to the doors; the watery veils at your sides curve inward at the doorway, and all three Ceruleans are united there. But the handles are incredibly heavy, and hardly budge even with the three of you trying to get them open.

The snipers, seizing their last chance, raise their guns.

[1d10+2] Marksman Shot

[1d10+2] Reflex Shot

[1d10+2] Barrage

Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8 / Roll #2 3 + 2 = 5 / Roll #3 3 + 2 = 5


"Huh, didn't think about it that way. Sounds like a pretty adaptable power."

"What about yourself? If you can rearrange stuff like that, could you change yourself so whatever control that happened earlier on you won't happen again?"


"Would something like that work? It does sound far too dangerous to interact with Crimson, so…" he shrugs a little bit.

"That is a troubling thought… I wonder if it would be possible to detect if someone has been tampered with?"


As the Ceruleans notice and heavy door, they just grin at the strength challenge and attempt to pull their hardest!

>Tough: They can also lift, carry and move heavier objects than unicorns and pegasi.


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



"Doubt it," Juniper says. "Under normal circumstances, yeah, but while I'm possessed like this, I doubt it'd just sit by while I try to work my magic. I'd need a longer ritual to pull off changes on a deeper level. The… thing possessing me was able to take control on a hair trigger, with how I jumped out at Ossie like that. It'd be impossible to slip a longer ritual past a reaction time like that."

"They say that victims of hypnotic suggestion often respond to certain keywords, which activate their programming," Juniper says. "Or, which can shut them down, make them freak out, stuff like that. If we could discern what words might be a trigger for them, we could determine which ones are hypnotized."
"Wouldn't that risk affecting you too?" Splendid asks.
"Only if they used the same words for everyone," Juniper says. "But I'd prefer that so that we could at least identify what's been done to me, Cycle and the others."

You endure a final barrage of bullets, and with a mighty roar of effort, yank open the door to the path. A vast circular chamber lies beyond, but before you can enter, you notice something quite strange…

>Cerulean 4/6

…The bullets have stopped. You look back, and see that all three shooters have disengaged, their arms now pointed safely away. The three Watchkeeper snipers watch you with appraising stares for a moment, before flying off into the air, from whence they came.


>Cerulean 4/5*



"We're making progress. We're going to get a good score soon. There's a lot of roadblocks. A lot to do. When Make Believe gets back, tell him to get together with Schnitzel. The two of them need to call me alone. Due to the fact that we seem to have a mole, they need to be sure they are alone with no one around when they call me. Got that?" Cutlass instructs Miss Sunshine.

Once Miss Sunshine gives a positive affirmation of understood instructions, she hangs up and turns back to Ossie.

"Two breakpoints. Maybe three. That's all I need to beat him - Heart of Gold or not. Until we know our conversation isn't being listened to, I can't really say more than that. What's eating at you? I'll say what I can."


Cerulean pants as she watches them fly up and away, giving them a bit of a wave goodbye.
"Everyone alright?" She checks over Roger, but especially Tabasco as he was left alone for that short bit of time.


"Feels almost impossible to go through that method, who knows what word they could've used, or if they even did that."
Cloud says.
"If this is a thing that demons or whatever can do there has to be some sort of easy-ish counter, right?"
Cloud looks up to the sky, getting an idea. He tries to think back through Obstinence's memories again, figuring the Virtues of all ponies would know something about this, or at least a clue to it.
>Memory Hunting [1d10]

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Hrm… the trigger words could work, but might be dangerous- is there not a way to 'feel' for it? Or, 'see' it? I am not sure hwo this sort of thing works, but it is like with hidden stashes- I have hidden things after attempts before, so I can sometimes spot when someone else has done the same."


Roger and Tabasco have some minor injuries, and are winded from the sprint, but it doesn't appear to be anything serious. Their eyes blaze with determination from how close they are to their victory.

In this chamber, you see another healing pool before you, like the one you encountered at the resting spot before. This one is out in the open, giving it a more ceremonial than private atmosphere. A bench is there for resting, and a small pit for making a fire to aid with drying off.

Beyond it, there is a vast and circular pit, great in diameter and depth. Along the outer edge, a staircase spirals into the darkness, illuminated only by periodic light crystals embedded into the walls.

Obstinance's wealth of knowledge alerts you to something strange. Demons have many methods for overwriting one's mind. Possession, corruption, seduction, mind erasing, mind breaking… all of which, they prefer to do through brutal methods, direct assaults on the mind through the power of Magatsuhi, against which most mortals are helpless. As demons, both the Yellow Jester and the Crimson King should have access to that. Hypnotic suggestion, a far more subtle and less powerful tactic, is a method used by con artists and quack doctors, not by demons. Yet, the Crimson King either opted to do that himself, or have someone do it for him.

"You'd want to avoid saying the trigger phrase until you're sure you want to activate the victim of hypnosis," Juniper says. "So it's usually some kind of nonsense word, or a long and complicated string of words that people aren't usually likely to say out of nowhere. Of course, the longer it is, the harder it is for those words to take effect, so it can't be too long… and you'd want to be able to get it out quick in an emergency, so it has to be easy enough to remember."
"You're quite knowledgeable," Splendid comments.
"I know it looks bad for me to drop all this information," Juniper protests. "But, I honestly did know it from before all this! And if I really was a spy, why would I lead you along!?"

"Uh, right, we need a mole exterminator," Miss Sunshine says. "Wonder if Brand can get on that…"
After you turn back to Ossie, she grumbles. "I hadn't thought that a crew of pirates would pass up on the greatest hoard of treasure ever spoken of in legend, especially when we've got ourselves an adversary who specializes in using gold for limitless ends. I wanted to get to it for myself."


"Hey, another one of these. Alright guys, another bath and snack break before we get back to it," she says and proceeds to take a nice bath again, focusing on the spots she got shot at and helping the other two in to get their injuries treated as well. Then a nice rest by the fire (likely provided by Tabasco) and what little bit of snacks they have left from when they started from the camp.



"There will be plenty of gold to grab. More than we will be able to grab," Cutlass assures Ossie.

"But, the Heart of Gold? No true pirate in their right mind would EVER want such a ridiculous thing. Put aside the fact that it ruins all future adventure, and you still have an object that will make you the target of every greedy person and organization in the world. So long as you hold such a ridiculous item, you will never know freedom. And, that's what any true pirate should truly be striving for."

"If you think the Crimson King wins by gaining such a target on his back, you aren't thinking long term enough. I acknowledge that he'll likely do a lot of damage with it in the mean time. But, he'll still be beatable. Aura guarantees that. Infinite potential means infinite ways to lose."


You get you and your pets all nice and cleaned up, the rejuvenating magical waters of the healing spring helping to clean and close your wounds. Then, drying by the fire, you finish off the rest of the snacks you had brought with you, with Tabasco and Roger play-fighting over the last few scraps, in order to unwind from the stress of the trials thus far.


Cloud thinks back to when Maella was telling him and Chiu about Magatsuhi, noting down mentally that finding a way to see that would be goo to spot if anypony is influenced by demons. The Crimson King though spoke of doing things the hard way, which might make the hypnotic suggestion more likely, which means it'd be easier to break.
Cloud mutters aloud as he thinks deeply.


"I…" Ossie grumbles, before falling silent. "…Very well," she snorts after a while.

"Any inspiration?" Juniper says. She has now switched to sit-ups over pushups.


Alder mulls over whether or not he should point out that a spy might, but decides against it- she doesn't need that right now. "So, something that's not easy to say, but not so difficult that you couldn't say it."




"I know," Amy chuckles slightly. "I want infinite wealth too. It's just… too costly. As ironic as that sounds."

"Are we good?" she asks, sounding much more vulnerable. She blushes slightly.


Cerulean takes a deep breath, watching over the two with a bit of a laugh as she watches them play together.

After a little while of resting, Cerulean will get up and put her armor back on and gets set to go.
"Alright, I think we're making good progress, so let's keep it going." Fired up and ready to go, Cerulean and company descend down the staircase and into more of the unknown.


"Something that's unlikely to come up in conversation, as well," Splendid says. "An outlandish accusation, an unthinkable request, a bizarre compliment… doesn't help when the possibilities still feel endless, does it?"
Juniper falls silent as she mulls it over. "…Think we'd be lucky enough that they might have it written down somewhere?"
"Doesn't strike me as unthinkable, no," Splendid says.



*Cutlass chuckles

It's been a long day!


>Perception, Electroception if applicable

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Even if we don't see eye to eye, you are still the Captain, and your rule is absolute," Ossie responds flatly. "I'll go with your orders."

Tabasco and Roger stick close as you descend the spiral staircase. Deeper and deeper it winds into the earth, with the eerie green light-crystals in the walls seeming to provide less and less light with each step. Just when it seems that the stairs may be utterly interminable, at last your hooves settle down onto the entryway of a brief corridor.

Lying beyond that corridor, is a vast, and seemingly empty stone chamber, utterly pitch-black and devoid of anything of note that you can see or hear, other than the echo of your own steps.


Cerulean eyes the chamber warily, then looks to Tabasco.
"Hey, think you can try and light things up a bit," she asks before proceeding into the chamber and awaiting what will happen next.



"Well, I'm happy to hear that, and I should hope that's the case. But, that's not what I…" Cutlass trails off. She blushes more.

"You know what? Nevermind…"

Cutlass heads back to where the others are.


"Perhaps something like a compliment? Just a very strange, out-of-place remark. And, well… I'm sure it is written down somewhere. Is there somewhere you might place it, Juniper?"


Tabasco extends the glow of his flame-body, but even his expanded light does little to illuminate the vast and endless darkness all about you… at least for a while. Without warning, Tabasco tenses, staring dead ahead, as at last a presence breaks the emptiness.

It's a small Watchkeeper spider, just barely visible at the end of the radius of light. It's about the size of a clam shell. It does nothing, despite Tabasco's suspicions.

"In either Kukulcan's quarters, or in possession of the King–" she gasps, then lowers her voice. "The book he had earlier! You think it might be in there?"


Cerulean looks at the little spider and tilts her head at it curiously.
"Huh…that's odd," she takes a few steps forward towards it, "it kinda reminds me of the one back at that one village keeping watch over those monkeys."


The spider turns about, and takes a few steps away as you approach it. However, it lingers just at the edge of Tabasco's light. The fur on the back of his haunches rises with worry.



"What in the world are you two talking about?" she raises a curious eyebrow.


Cerulean notices Tabasco's odd behavior, and notes how the spider keeps back away from them. A thought crosses her mind.
"Hey…think you could send a fireball or two up at the ceiling?"


"Oh! Goodness, it might be- it'll be difficult to say for sure where to look inside it, but… I remember where I hid it. We could go look, yes?"


"Maybe. It would be hard to steal something off of him though, wouldn't it?" he asks, frowning a bit.


"The Crimson King mentioned using hypnotic suggestion on Cycle and Juniper to make them forget they'd been bought off the black market," Splendid says. "Makes me wonder if he used a similar trick on any of our allies what are still in the Thunder Serpent's infirmary. So, we've been discussing how to tease out if they've been hypnotized and what to do about it."

"If everything else fails, we could just buy it off him," Juniper says.
"Erm, let's save that for a last resort," Splendid says. "But it would be a difficult task… didn't he say he was Kukulcan's subordinate on this expedition? Can't we try getting him to order the King to hand it over?"
"Maybe we could finesse it some other way…" Juniper says. "Have you guys found anything on this trip that might be of assistance?"

Tabasco obliges, quickly firing off two fireballs in wide arcs across the ceiling. The first one fizzles out at the end of its arc, illuminating nothing of note. But the other…

As vast as the fireball's light is, it hardly illuminates more than a fraction of the great beast. Obsidian armor as vast and glimmering with light as the night sky; brass metalwork that could fill a factory; and with it, a twisting network of strange pipes, darkened cloth, strange dials, and the cold and damp glimmer of seawater, clinging onto everything about it.

There's something up there.


Cerulean looks at the spider and backs away now from it, looking more cautious about being around it now. She looks up to the ceiling.
"Hey! We know you're up there! So how about turning on the lights or something?!"



Roll #1 1 = 1



"I think it would be a lot easier, and more practical long-term, to come up with a way to remove hypnotic effects," Cutlass comments after a moment of thought.


"Oh, I was just thinking it's a bit odd that if they are using hypnosis, why that and not any of the stronger stuff that'd be more permanent."


>Roll to remember anything that might help us finesse it off of him! [1d10]
"I am somewhat talented at thievery, so if it came down to it I might be able to. Though, he is rather aware of all of us, I think- my normal act of feigning innocence might not work."

Roll #1 2 = 2


"Maybe it's just too hard to do? Or, it's too noticeable. If it is just a hypnotic effect, they can be in control most of the time, and those around them are none the wiser."


The only thing that comes to mind is that puzzle box you found during the brief dive into the sunken pirate ship that you found before the cave that took you all the way down to where Cuauhtemoc now lies. You never finished it, but something clearly designed to teach a thief would assuredly hold a gift for the most talented thieves…

"Oh, that's…" Splendid says. "That's a good question. Not like he has any special feelings towards us. Or does he?"
"Maybe he just wasn't good at any of the stronger kinds?" Juniper says. "I wager that hypnosis is pretty delicate business. Press too hard and you could break somethin you don't wanna break."

"You're going to need a lot more crewmates with aura potential at this rate," Ossie grumbles. "And a tolerance for having abilities chosen for them."
Splendid winces, sensing Ossie's sudden new wave of frustrations, seemingly against you.

It obliges, if not your request, then the spirit of your challenge. The chamber shudders as an incredible weight detaches from the ceiling, and comes crashing down atop you. Your body screams out with pain as an unbearable weight lands from above, cold and damp metal shoving you into a deep new crater in the earth. Seven more shudders ring out as each of the monster's legs land in sequence.

>Cerulean 0/6

Imprisoned beneath its giant leg, all you can see is a sliver of Tabasco's light as he desperately starts trying to dig you out, from beneath the hold of…




"That is true, but since when are demons subtle?"


"Well, we did not notice him until he revealed himself, did we?" he says, before humming.


After Juniper finishes her situps, she looks around and grumbles. "Some chin-ups would really round this out…" she says, but finds no suitable place for them.

Splendid, being nearly twice her height, extends her arm out as an offering. "Ah, perfect," Juniper says, and resumes her workout. At her tiny size, she does not so much as make Splendid's arm dip.


Alder blinks a little bit and watches, before letting out a soft giggle. "Well, it is very good of you to offer something like that, Splendid." He says, fluttering up and pecking at her beak.


"How's it feel knowing I've got just as many ladies hanging off my arms as you do?" Splendid asks smugly.

"Seventeen… eighteen…" Juniper grunts. You swear you hard her skip a few here or there.


Alder puffs his cheeks out a little bit, before ruffling Splendid's head plumage a little bit and saying "Well, if I only get to have one, I think I found the best one."


Last time, on PirateQuest…

Cutlass, Alder and Cloud talked with Juniper and Splendid about the present situation. Splendid was wary that those allies who had been left in Kukulcan's infirmary overnight – namely, Prisma, Paraiba and their mook companions – had also been subject to the King's hypnotic suggestions. Thus they came to the topic of code phrases, or triggers: sequences of words that would activate or deactivate a hypnotized person's programming. Juniper saw the King writing in a small red book earlier, and suggested that the notes contained therein might have the key for setting her, Cycle and possibly their allies free.

In the Skull Temple, Cerulean cleared the sniper's runway, despite the handicap of having three different bodies that the shooters could target. After being afforded a final chance to rest and heal her injuries, she descended a deep stairway that spiraled all the way down to B6F. All that awaited her there seemed to be a vast and empty pitch-black chamber, but soon she came across a tiny Watchkeeper spider. It led her further and further in, until she was within the grasp of the room's master…


The only thing that comes to mind is that puzzle box you found during the brief dive into the sunken pirate ship that you found before the cave that took you all the way down to where Cuauhtemoc now lies. You never finished it, but something clearly designed to teach a thief would assuredly hold a gift for the most talented thieves…


"Oh, that's…" Splendid says. "That's a good question. Not like he has any special feelings towards us. Or does he?"
"Maybe he just wasn't good at any of the stronger kinds?" Juniper says. "I wager that hypnosis is pretty delicate business. Press too hard and you could break somethin you don't wanna break."


"You're going to need a lot more crewmates with aura potential at this rate," Ossie grumbles. "And a tolerance for having abilities chosen for them."
Splendid winces, sensing Ossie's sudden new wave of frustrations, seemingly against you.


It obliges, if not your request, then the spirit of your challenge. The chamber shudders as an incredible weight detaches from the ceiling, and comes crashing down atop you. Your body screams out with pain as an unbearable weight lands from above, cold and damp metal shoving you into a deep new crater in the earth. Seven more shudders ring out as each of the monster's legs land in sequence.

>Cerulean 0/6

Imprisoned beneath its giant leg, all you can see is a sliver of Tabasco's light as he desperately starts trying to dig you out, from beneath the hold of…



"He mentioned Cerulean, but I don't think he really has any care to all of us."
Cloud says in thought.
"I don't think any other kind is out of grasp for him, and breaking somepony sounds like something demons would enjoy too."



"He must have some more important reason for using hypnosis specifically, then," Splendid. "I'd say it's to keep a secret, but he seemed to throw it out there without any coaxing on our part. He didn't have to mention hypnosis by name, but here we are."


"Hrm… oh! Perhaps I should finish that puzzle box- I never did open that. It might have something of note within it."


Cerulean growls as she tries to wriggle her way out from underneath the giant leg.
"That was…a cheap shot!"


Roll #1 6 = 6


"It did seem like it was designed for a thief's edification," Splendid says. "We'd better get back to the ship now that it's cooling down for the evening."



"Okay, ouch," Cutlass responds to Ossie. "I guess I deserved that… But, to be fair, that's not what I meant in this case."

"I mean, if one of them want to do it, whatever. But, hypnotism has been a thing since before Aura. There must be techniques or items to undo it."

"No that I'm going to out of my way to solve this problem. I'm barely invested in this as it is. Juniper's kiiiinda been a bitch to me this whole time. And, she doesn't really keep very good company either. Seems like karma."


With Tabasco's aid, you wrench yourself out from the crater. As you do, the gigantic spider leaps back into the darkness. You don't hear any great thud of impact or other signs that it's landed, completely obfsucating any signs of where it might be right now.

Tabasco concentrates, attempting to expand his flames, and thus the light available to you.


"I whaaaat!?" Juniper scoffs. "Like, when? I helped with your plan, didn't I? And I drank with you too! If I was ever mean to you then I'm blaming the demon possessing me!"
"Maybe you should keep this demon around," Splendid jokes. "You could use her as an excuse whenever you need one."
"Now's not the time…" Juniper grumbles.

Ossie ignores the outbursts, staying on topic. "We should take Splendid's suggestion and make for our ships. If hypnosis is on the table here, we better not stick around. Prisma, Paraiba and the others may have been a captive audience, but if they can perform hypnosis with any degree of reliability, we better not risk even letting them have the chance to attempt it."

Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11


"Mhmm! Perfect timing, too- I got through part of it. I am sure that I can get through more of it if I focus harder."

"I do not know, I would say regardless of attitude, no one deserves this. But, back to the ship."



"We'll never make it back before dark. Plus, we'll have to travel ALL the way back here the next day. Which will leave us tired and give us less time to accomplish the next day's tasks."

"Besides, from what it sounds like, the trek to get the control rod will be a multi-day affair. What are we going to do then? If we are going to rely on ourselves to defend ourselves from potential hypnotism then, why not now?"


"Maybe he's just trying to make us paranoid and nothing really happened at all."
Cloud says, trying to think around the subject.


"You can just ignore her, she's always like that."
Cloud says to Juniper as Cutlass calls her bitchy.

"What about Paraiba and the others though? Can we carry them back right now?"



"There's that concern as well," Cutlass nods in agreement.


Ossie frowns as the majority put together a good case for remaining behind. "Fine, but we'd better make lodging separate from the rest of the Thunder Serpent's crew, and maintain a guard all hours of the night."
Splendid turns to Alder and Cutlass. "Cutlass, you going to call over any of your crew in the morning? We can have them pick up Alder's puzzle box and bring it over with them on the way."
"I'm still part of Kukulcan's crew," Juniper says. "Regardless of all this hypnosis nonsense that guy was blabbering about earlier. So I can appropriate a few tents and cots for the night."


Cerulean tries to focus her own senses, specifically of the electrical kind, as she tries to go back to her hunts in deep, dark waters.
"Gotcha!" She says and runs to where she's picking up the electricity from, charging up her tail for a flood-inducing slam.

>Cerulean is able to breathe underwater and can detect movement of things via their electrical impulses, allowing her to see/target stealthed/hiding enemies.

>DC -1, crit 8+, take better, Tide Pool

Roll #1 4 = 4 / Roll #2 1 = 1



"That's… incredibly generous of you," Cutlass says to Juniper. "I'm… sorry about that bitchy comment earlier."

"And, I hope someone here can attest to how difficult it is for me to admit when I'm wrong."

"I'll call over whichever two of my crew want to come along tomorrow," Cutlass says to Splendid. I'll tell them to meet us at the temple to save time. And, I'll tell them to bring the puzzle box."

"We should get the others from the Beesting over here too. As for watching out, Ossie and I can take first watch. I'm still barely tired, having just slept for however long I was out. I'm still waiting for a call on my conch anyway."


You focus, and begin to see an outline high above and far ahead of you, hanging from the ceiling, the circulating of a massive spider's internal electrical currents. Though the currents don't quite show its total shape, you can see that it is far different in structure from the Watchkeepers. While the Watchkeepers were normally orderly, blocky, and with designs that made practical sense, despite the exposure of some joints, this… this thing is a confusing mass whose shape only bears passing resemblance to a spider's. You can sense also a deep chill coming from it. Not the malevolent burning of a demon's soul, but something else altogether.

You run, leaping up along the side of a pillar to reach where the spider hangs from, but it reaches over and swats you out of the air toward the ground.

>Cerulean 12/6

As you fall, the Giant Spider opens its maw, and a putrid deep blue ink spews forth from within, spraying over in your direction in a wide arc.


Meanwhile, Tabasco keeps increasing the light of his flames.


Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5 / Roll #2 3 + 2 = 5


"Acquiring a few tents would be very nice of you, Miss Juniper." the griffon says, bowing a little.

"Ah! If you are sure- will Ossie be alright, as well? I could take watch, if needbe."



"I don't know if Ossie COULD rest soundly while I'm unsafe," Cutlass says, looking to her. "But, if you're not up for it, Alder and I could keep watch together."


"I can help with the guard. Nopony will be able to sneak up on me at night."
Cloud says proudly over his battributes.



Cerulean rubs her jaw a bit as she gets up from being swatted.
"Okay, that was a better hit," she remarks as she tries to show off her maw. Or at least, show it biting down on one of its legs.

>Great weapon attack


Roll #1 6 = 6


You're a bitch and you stink," Juniper deadpans.
"I should kill you for that remark," Ossie says.
"Are you?"
Ossie suddenly becomes intensely interested in a fish swimming about in the lake. "Sorry, what were we talking about?"

"What a bad pun," Juniper says.
"What pun?" Ossie asks.
"Wha…?" Splendid says. "Whoever said that?"
"Uh… I dunno," Juniper says, suddenly getting shifty eyes. "Guess it just occurred to me as a pun someone might make."
"It is a pretty bat pun," Ossie says.
With a frustrated screech, Juniper leaves to go collect the tents as she suggested.

>Timeskip to nighttime available; roll perception for night watches

You dodge and weave around the river of pitch that spews from the monster's mouth. As it lands, it does not spread out, as one might expect from even a dense liquid. Rather, it lays where it is. It neither bubbles nor boils, but simply seems to sit there. The only notable effect is that it grows miserably cold around where it landed.

You clamp onto one of its legs, but this hardly slows the behemoth, as its foot has a breadth long as nearly twice that of your own body. It waves its limb about to shake you off, but you remain upon it quite solidly. It changes its tactics then, raising you to its mouth to crunch you in its vast mandibles.


As the behemoth opens its mouth, Tabasco fires off a string of fireballs in its direction.


Roll #1 7 + 3 = 10 / Roll #2 4 + 2 = 6


As Cerulean is dropped to its mandibles, Cerulean opts to slam her tail into its mouth to try and break its mouth if she can.

>DC -1, crit 8+, take better, Tide Pool


Roll #1 2 = 2 / Roll #2 10 = 10


"I'll take whichever shift you don't want, Captain," Ossie says, having apparently given her frustrations a necessary venting through her crass comments.


"Ah- that is very sweet of her. But, I will be fine taking her spot." the griffon remarks.

Alder blinks a couple of times at the exchange, managing a little bit of a snicker before settling in to rest- until it's time to sleep, the griffon will play a little bit of music on a flute he'd had tucked away in his saddlebags.



Cutlass watches the exchange between Ossie and Juniper with growing suspicion. "Ossie…" Cutlass asks slowly. "What IS your full name?"

>timeskip after answer

>don't forget I'm expecting that conch call still, please


"Very well, then. I suppose WE will take the first watch."


Cloud snickers at the pun talk.
"Hey that's a good one. I should use that on Chiu."

As they set up their own little separate campsite, Cloud sits outside the tents as he sits watch to make sure nothing shady happens. After all his dealings with Stone Cold Classic, he doesn't feel comfortable enough to sleep with the Crimson King nearby anyways.
>Night Watch [1d10]
>Echolocation: passive; Bat ponies can use the sound reflected off of objects to “see” their surroundings. Your ability to see is unaffected by darkness. While in low-light conditions, enemies without means of seeing in the dark (e.g. Light sources, Hawkeye, Phase Aura, Fourth Eye, Hornlight and similar effects) have DC+1 to all rolls against you, you receive a +1 bonus to all rolls against them, and you are counted as stealthed to them (But you don’t gain the Autocrit bonus of Stealth).

Roll #1 6 = 6



[1d10] perception

Roll #1 4 = 4


>Night watch! [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4


"Ossicone Bolts," Ossie says. "Why do you ask?"


The Sun Serpent descends over the horizon while Juniper and a collection of Thunder Serpent mooks come back with tents and cots for you to use as you wait at the edge of the camp. As the Moon Serpent rises, followed by an underwater night sky, Sir Kukulcan comes out from his ship, and with Two Reeds sets up a godray crystal of their own near the Dreamer's Moon. It fills the area with its stored sunlight, chasing away much semblance of the night in the immediate area. The combination of the night sky with the day's brightness down by the lakeside makes for a surreal, but beautiful backdrop.

Juniper, along with the rest of Kukulcan's crew, goes back to her own ship, so as not to raise suspicion.

During the first watch, when Ossie and Splendid are asleep, Alder and Cutlass are sitting together near the shore of the lake, when her conch begins to ring.

Meanwhile, Cloud, sitting some distance away, notes a rustling in the nearby bushes. Before he can react, Bee Holder sticks her head out of the bush, holding back a yawn.

The spider's mandibles mangle and chew you like a bit of shrimp as you're dropped into the maw, and you barely manage to cling to the edges of its mouth to keep yourself from being sucked all the way in. You feel its horrid tongue trying to wrap about you and yank you into its gullet, and wherever it touches, you can feel a deep numbness and frigid cold taking hold of your body.

With a swelling of strength, you manage to wrench yourself free, knocking loose a great portion of its mouth through which you escape, falling to the ground near Tabasco's light. In the light, you can see that much of your tail and left hind leg are covered in pitch – you can barely move them, too.

>Cerulean 7/6, max Hits reduced to 7

Tabasco's fireballs fly right past the spider, apparently missing it, but you see they hit their mark after all: A flame lights at the top of the room, beginning to immolate all over a network of webbing that covers the ceiling and the pillars all about the vast chamber.

The spider scrambles deeper into the shadows, concealing its physical body evermore. It spews pools of pitch at you from afar.


Roll #1 3 + 3 = 6



"Finally," Cutlass says as She answers. "Did everyone make it back okay?"


Alder looks over to Cutlass's conch, waiting to see what comes from it.


At first, there is silence over the line, then the sounds of a conch passing hooves. "Sorry," Miss Sunshine says. "Make Believe had the conch just now… still not able to say any words, poor kid. Uh, anyway. The group's all back and resting. Some minor injuries, but nothing noteworthy. The crystal's set up, and the giant you all brought back is still immobile and inert. Oh, and Splendid passed along that discussion about hypnosis you guys had earlier. We've quarantined Make Believe, Sparkler and Colobok until Mallea can give them the all clear for any magical influence. Now, if the hypnosis was done by more mundane means, there's still a risk of lingering, and in fact, undetectable effects."


"Oh no! Get back here, coward!" Cerulean runs after the spider, moving about a lot faster now that the area is wetter and in her favor more…or it would seem as she seems to have trouble moving the hind legs, but seems like its equaling out fairly nicely. Either way, she runs after the spider and tracks it via its electricity to run up and chain it up with her aura chains and force it to 1 v. 1 her.

>Hákarl: Recharge 3 when effect ends. Cerulean locks a target into a duel with her with her aura for three turns. If the opponent attacks anyone other than Cerulean, she can make a free Instant attack against them. Crits 9+


Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3


Cloud's ears perk as he hears the rustling, but thankfully Bee Holder reveals herself before Cloud can panic or jump. He turns, and scoots a little closer.
("Oh, hey. Didn't think you'd be all out here too.")
Cloud whispers, surprised to see the captain out on watch.


"You thought we'd just stay on the ship like boring little homebodies when we're at an underwater island?" Bee Holder scoffs. "We've been keeping busy; one half of my group has been mapping Cuauhtemoc, and we're nearly done getting its perimeter, but the southern end of the island has proved all but totally inhospitable to visitors. As for the other half, well, Bent Scales already let you know that we've been spying on the Thunder Serpent, with you as bait."

She hands you Alder's puzzle box. "I heard from Splendid that Alder had need of this?"


("I'm bait?")
Cloud questions, before taking the puzzle box.
("Oh, yea, they were mentioning that earlier. You're pretty quick.")

Cloud's eye shifts back and forth, just to double check they're alone.
("So I don't know what you know from your spy group, but the others are thinking the crewmates Kukulcan saved might've been hypnotized. And also the Crimson King is here in disguise.")


"Mmm. For now, that is the most we can do, I think. We are trying to figure things out on our end."


With the flame at the top of the arena lighting the way somewhat, you hook your chain onto one of the horizontal web-strands, and use it to swing and climb yourself up to the top of the webbing, where the spider lurks in the darkness. As you look about for your target, a bolt of pitch flies out at you from the dark, smearing over more of your hind legs, further stiffening and numbing you at the hips.

Out of the darkness, you see the creature's outline spark with a stream of sudden electricity – and it heads right for you. From the spider's mouth comes a bolt of lightning, stunning and shocking you, turning the water you've spewed to its advantage.

>Cerulean 3/6, Max Hits reduced to 6

An odd ability for a spider to have, you realize. This is only corroborated further when a strong wind begins to brew about the arena, stirred up by deep pulses of wind coming from the spider's mouth! The web you stand upon begins to sway, threatening to toss you to the ground.

>roll to hang on, DC 7

Tabasco continues to spew fire above to burn the web and light the arena.


Roger swims away, out of the chamber.

"Had someone back aboard the ship meet Kling-Klang halfway," Bee Holder explains.

Bee Holder clicks her tongue. "Just what I warned Thessaly about. Damn it all to the deepest trench… alright. We're getting them out tomorrow. It'll be just what Kukulcan wants, if it's him who hypnotized them. Not expecting much resistance there. But the King? Didn't think he'd make it down here after we thwarted him from finessing that vase. What's his business here?"

Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3


Rather than hang on, Cerulean swings herself and tries to use her tail to block the wind, and hopefully have enough momentum left to slam her tail into its face again.

>Slam, crit 8+, DC-1


Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10 / Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7



Cutlass doesn't say anything for a moment.

Maybe it's just the paranoia after a long day of deception. But, this doesn't feel right.

"How did Splendid contact you?" Cutlass asks, trying to sound more confused than suspicious.

"Do you remember what I asked you for last time I called?"


Alder blinks a couple of times, and tilts his head to the side to wait.


"Over the conch," Miss Sunshine says. "And Schnitzel's… well, I'm just up the hall from his quarters, but he's hardly lucid right now. He's either still blackout drunk or hung over. Either way, he won't come out. Need me to coerce him with my Ability? …Huh…? Yes– yes I'll tell her. Make Believe says he can get Schnitzel to wake up if you want him to. Basically, pick whichever Ability you think might get a more coherent answer."

You leap, and pull a somersault in the air, cutting through the gust of air, the second of the spider's strange powers. You spin until your frigid tail makes impact with the spider's face. But… nothing happens. There's no great impact, no cracks, no damage. Enough of Tabasco's flame is visible that you can see some of the obsidian face before you: Indeed, your tail had no effect. Instead, you take swings with your forehooves, scoring two powerful direct hits. Those ones, you know for sure dealt some damage.

But before you can puzzle out what's going on, the webbing begins to warble even worse. Tabasco's latest volleys were a little too successful, and he hit the spider's web at its center, just over the midpoint of the chamber. The flame loosens the web on which the spider (and you by virtue of being on the spider) stands upon. With a great series of snaps, the web collapses, and you and the spider begin falling to the bottom.

>roll to break landing, DC 9, or make some other appropriate method of avoiding the fall, DC varies by skill used

As the spider falls, it spews something green and goop-like at you, not its usual stream of pitch.


[1d10+3] spider roll

Roll #1 10 + 3 = 13


"Is, hrm… is that normal for him?" the griffon asks, somewhat concerned."


"Not before… well, not before the events in the manor," Miss Sunshine says, her tone dropping into worry. "I said earlier that the crew 'decided' to get drunk, but the real story is that it was more of Schnitzel's leadership there. Even before tonight, he seemed to be the one leading the charge to crack open the grog barrels the last few days."



Cutlass furrows her brow in a sort of confused concern. Then, she sighs. "Forget it. I need to talk to you tomorrow morning anyway. I'll call then. For now, everyone get a good night's rest. But, make sure there are extra crew members on guard tonight. And, tell them to be extra alert. If they see anything suspicious from anyone, from our own crew, from the Beestings, or from anything else, tell them to sound the alarm. Good night and get some rest."

With that, Cutlass hangs up.

She looks to Alder and sighs. "This is getting really annoying. I enjoy a good amount of subterfuge and deceit. But, this has passed the point of being unfun. I just need SOMEONE I can trust…"


("He wanted to get in some door or gate thing that has treasure inside it. The others know more about it but Cutlass made it sound like the Heart of Gold is down here and she's gonna give it over to him without a fight if it is. The only weird thing is is that the Crimson King mentioned Cerulean talked him into doing things the hard way, so he's posing as a crewmate of Kukulcan, like he's starting fresh.")


"I hope Captain Cutlass's strange schemes and dealings don't give you any ideas, young bat," Bee Holder says. "I'm going after the Heart of Gold regardless, and I'll make sure each pirate fool enough to help me gets a captain's share of the treasure himself."

She looks about, then starts to head back into the brush. "I've no other orders for you for now – as you were, and try not to make any more deals with devils will you?"

With that, Bee Holder slinks away.


Cerulean notices the fall and tries to break her landing by using the terrain to her advantage as well as using her aura chains on the spider to do a swing to lessen the impact.

>Hakarl for swing

>Earthly Affinity for terrain bonus of water

Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6


Alder folds his ears back a little, before sighing. "No one amongst your whole crew? Not even Ossie?"


("Not at all. I don't have any intention to let him even get close to the Heart of Gold.")

As she backs of, Cloud nods.
("I already learned my lesson plenty.")

After Bee Holder slinks back off, Cloud gets up and joins Alder and Cutlass by the shore. He holds out Alder's puzzle box to him.
"Hey, got a package for ya."


"Oh! Well, thank you. Let me see if I cannot make some progress…"

>Master Thief [1d10+2] (DC-2, +1 from TBP)

Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4


"Yes mom– tain. C-captain, captain, I said capt–"

After some stuttering and stammering, you hear Miss Sunshine toss the conch back to Make Believe. You can only guess what's going through his head at all this.

You manage to break your fall by swinging to the ground, using the giant spider as something of a counter-balance to aid your swing. But despite that, your landing is hard, and the shock of impact renders you immobile for a moment – just enough time to let the spider encase you in a stream of green glop, which rapidly hardens from exposure to the air. Before you know it, you're encased in an entire chrysalis, basically immobile except for some minimal struggling you can manage within the hard gel.

>Cerulean 0/5

Tabasco barks with alarm and dives sideways as the spider rights itself, and jumps upon the chrysalis. You begin to wax cold, and tired, as the gel starts to hum, filling your head with dizzying sensations, making you feel like a puddle bestirred by the stampeding of animals.

>roll endurance to avoid what the spider's doing right now.

Splendid rolls over and hugs onto Ossie, both remaining asleep.


You manage to press one layer deeper into the matroyoshka-style lockbox. However, as the next set of locks rises up, you note that the lock structure is starting to get more complicated. No solutions immediately jump out at you; you're just going to have to see what sticks to the wall with this one.


"Hrm… certainly a confusing lockbox. I have no idea if I am any closer to the center than I was before."

>Master Thief: [1d10+2] (DC-2, +1 from TBP)

"At least they seem comfortable."

Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7



Cutlass wasn't sure that hanging up on Miss Sunshine would be the right call. But, as she hears Miss Sunshine accidentally call her mom and then the ensuing embarrassment, she knew she made the right choice.

The 16 year old takes a moment to recover from being called "mom" by someone who is probably older than her. What did that say about her? It certainly didn't feel like a good thing. But, that could partially be because her own mother was such a failure of a role model. She didn't know what it meant to be 'motherly'. There was her grandmother. But… something told me that sort of mental abuse wasn't exactly how your typical mother should act. And, more importantly, she did NOT enjoy the idea of being anyone's mother.

Her face turned red for a moment before she shook her head and pushed all those thoughts down.


"Ossie is acting weird now too," Cutlass sighs. "But, that could just be that she's kind of mad at me right now… I'm not a great friend." Then, she looks over at Ossie and Splendid together.

"And, I'm suspicious of Splendid as well. Miss Sunshine just told me that Splendid gave her information about the whole hypnosis thing, but I'm not even sure that how or when Splendid could have done that. I think someone might be stealing her identity or something. And the fact that the two of them are suddenly getting along is… disconcerting. This is all so weird and annoying."

She looks back to Alder. "I don't even know why I'm telling you any of this. I guess, for some reason, I feel like I can still trust you… Even though you and I are two of the most likely to have been targeted. ESPECIALLY if Splendid has already been targeted. She was taking care of us."


Cerulean grits her teeth as she tries to power through whatever it is currently trying to do as well as break free.


>Tough if the flavor text applies

>Helpless recovery if that is allowed at DC 4 due to Earthly affinity


Roll #1 6 = 6 / Roll #2 1 = 1


"Well… that is fair. We might need to look into it more, however we can manage that. And… she definitely has some sort of secret, though I am not sure what it is. For what it is worth, I will try to look into it as best I can from my end… and, thank you for trusting me. I… do not feel any different lately, at least."


"So what do you think is in that thing anyways?"
Cloud asks, taking a seat by the group.



"I don't either. But, I DO still have a lot of alcohol in me that could account for me not being able to tell," she laughs.

She looks back at Splendid again, contemplating something. "What… kind of relationship do you two have?" she asks as if she's meticulously choosing each word.


"Hard to say, really- there might be something that can help us, so… it's worth trying, yes? It would certainly be a shame if there was nothing inside…"

Alder cocks his head to the side, and says "Dating, I believe the word is. Why do you ask?"


Despite all the rattling that assails your mind from whatever it is that the spider's attempting with the goo, you manage to retain some semblance of focus and clarity of mind. You feel its forces pulling at your mind and body, as if you were being yanked in all directions at once. But though you manage to keep hold of your mind, your body is not so fortunate, being drained like a juicy haul of fish.

>Cerulean 0/4, max wounds reduced to 6

Before the spider can come again with another attack, you hear Tabasco barking at the doorway you entered the chamber through. Soon, more barking follows it in kind, and a stampeding of paws. The hounds that you recruited earlier flood into the chamber, led by Roger. The spider turns its attention to them, spewing a wave of gunk to slow their tracks. Meanwhile, the dogs leap toward it, claws and teeth bared to stop its assault. Meanwhile, Tabasco runs to your side, trying to burn away the chrysalis.

[1d10+3] Spider

[5d10+1] Hounds

[1d10+2] Tabasco

Through a combination of luck and wit, the key tools of any thief, just barely does Alder manage to ply the lock loose, pulling it up to its final layer. The last lock rises for him to challenge it, but this time, there is no hole nor tumblers for him to fiddle with. What presents itself now is some kind of sliding tile puzzle, a simple one, yet one that defies an easy bypass.

Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5 / Roll #2 3, 1, 2, 5, 3 + 1 = 15 / Roll #3 1 + 2 = 3


Cerulean sees the sight of the hounds arrive, only motivating her more to try and get her body freed from this goo to help out and get into the fight again.
"C'mon…! Let me go!"

>DC 4


Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7



"I'm just… thinking," Cutlass sighs in response to Alder. "You make it seem so easy."


"Hrm… a, ah. A tile puzzle." the griffon remarks, giving it a curious look-see. He furrows his brow and tries to focus on it as best he can.
>Master Thief: [1d10+3] (DC-2)

Alder flicks an ear towards Cutlass, still focused on the puzzle for the most part. "Make… what?"

Roll #1 6 + 3 = 9


You make a neat shape… but still, it remains closed. However, all may not be lost. Call it intuition, but you've got a good feeling about the way some of these tiles are placed. Perhaps only a few more need to be rearranged…

>DC reduced by a mysterious amount


"Being locked up that tight, there should be something good in there."

While it's hard to tell how late it is with the sun crystal aboard the Thunder Serpent shining over the lake, it's been long enough since the 'sun' set that Cloud feels confident that most will be asleep by now. He turns to Alder and Cutlass.
("Guys, I got something I need to tell you two. I would've waited for Cerulean to get back but this seems like we should plan for it sooner than later")
He whispers to them both, gesturing for them to get in closer.



"I don't know… being friendly, I guess? Making people like you. Making friends. Making… more than friends?"



Cutlass eyes Cloud suspiciously. "Go on…" she whispers.


"I would hope so- I seem to have made significant progress. There is… hrm. I think I am very close, but I cannot say for sure." he says, looking up and nodding in recognition of what Cloud whispered.
>Master Thief: [1d10+1] (DC-2)

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5


Hmm… no that's just a smiley face.

Though the hounds fall and fall upon the gigantic spider, it manages to bat away almost each and everyone one of them, knocking one even into Tabasco, who rolls across the arena with a pained yelp. But his small spark is enough to loosen the goo to the point where you're able to wriggle an arm loose, and punch your way through the rest, allowing you to slump to the ground, free and able to fight.

>Cerulean 6/4

>Paused, post for next time / continue conversations


Cerulean gets a moment to catch her breath, just long enough to watch the fighting going on around her.
"Dang…you guys are a great sight to see," she says to the dogs, then watches them get swatted around. This only spurs her on as she charges at the spider and, seeing as how her tail doesn't seem to be working, she gives a loud yell and opts to slam her head into the spider as hard as she can.

>Slam, normal DC, crit 8+, extra +1 from Arabian Agility since I think the spider is on the ground/water now, take better


Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3 / Roll #2 8 + 2 = 10


Cloud leans in close to Cutlass and Alder, then raises his wings around the three of them for an extra layer of security to keep anypony from reading lips.
("Ok, so I had to hop back to the surface to deal with my genie problem, and I went through Gullveig's as a shortcut with they key Thessaly had. But when we opened the door, her whole shop was trashed and she wasn't anywhere around. She was looking into if somepony was spying on us, but with this Maella, Chiu, and I think we might have a spy or someone on one of the ships leaking out info.")


>I forgot to respond aaa
"W-Well, hrm." he tries to think on it for a little bit. "Making friends? I, well… hrm. It is kind of difficult at first, yes. You just need to be willing to open up, and trust a little. Is trusting, well… hard?" he asks, cocking his head to the side.

Alder looks like he looks pretty dumb for a moment, but shakes it off- he goes back to trying!
>Master Thief: [1d10+1] (DC-2)

("Really? Do you have any ideas who it might be? There has to be something that can help narrow it down…")

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7



Cutlass looks visibly uncomfortable with the proximity. Even more uncomfortable when the wings wrap closely around her.

"Yes," she says, keeping a level head despite her discomfort. "Word of that had already reached me. I had basically come to the same conclusion already. I think, more specifically, someone is pretending to be us and using that to spread information."

"I just spoke with Miss Sunshine and she was already privy to information that she wasn't told yet. She said Splendid told her. I haven't confronted her on that yet, but I'm not sure when Splendid could have told her."

"The alternative is that we're all hypnotized and we are all the ones leaking information. And, we don't remember due to the hypnotic state. We already know that Juniper and Cycle Kick were effectively hypnotized and don't remember that it happened."

"None of which, by the way, excuses you as a suspect. I'm more than aware that you could easily be the mole and this could just be a tactic to get me to see how much I'm onto you. I just don't really care for this confusing mess of subterfuge anymore. Lying is less fun when everyone is doing it."


Cutlass lets out a long sigh. "You have no idea…"

From her sitting position, she looks off into the sky. She grabs her legs with her hooves and pulls them in so that she's curled up into a little ball, staring off into space.


Alder goes to place a claw on Cutlass's shoulder, but decides against it- he doesn't want to make her uncomfortable. "Have bad things happened most of your life for trusting?" the griffon asks, scooching closer.


Cloud looks at Cutlass as she mentions Cloud himself could be the spy.
("First off, no,") He says in reponse to seeing how much she is into him, ("But this spy would've been on our ships before this mission, since those wanted posters of our crews have info they shouldn't have had. Like, they gave me the name 'Azure Eye', but I only got this eye put in that day we got the posters.")

He refocuses, looking between Alder and Cutlass.
("Anyways, we already have a plan working. I had to get Obstinance in to deal with Stone Cold Classic, and Cutlass's crew heard plenty about it. So, me and Chiu had the idea to tell the Beestings a different way how the fight went, since Ifigured information about a Virtue like Obstinance would be really important information to anypony out in the Ribcage, whether they're a demon or not. So, we just need to see what the news outside gets wind of, and we can have the crew narrowed down at least.")



Cutlass laughs lightly. "That makes it sound like it's just that I have a messed up point of view."

"I don't know, maybe I do? But, I'd argue it's just that I never really had the… filter that most people had growing up? Eh. That makes it sound like a crappy childhood. I didn't. I was rich. I don't want to complain about that. I had everything I needed! But, still I ran away anyway…"

Cutlass looks up at the sky and lets out a loud groan. She sounds like she's more having a conversation with herself than with you. "It's so… frustrating!"

"I'm sorry," she focuses back on Alder. "To answer your question, yes. I never really had anyone I could both open up to and trust. My grandfather definitely had no room in his heart for me. I was just there to be groomed. My grandmother was NOT someone you could trust."

"My mom… I thought I could trust her. But, she… well she had the same grooming I was getting. And, I found out too late how much that messed her up."

"After that? Pirates?" she chuckles. "You can't open up to OR trust pirates. Which feels like family to me," she says bitterly.


("As sound a thing as any. Any other things that might tip us off?")

Alder listens patiently, his tail occasionally swishing back and forth as he tries to take note of everything. "I… see. I had my own issues at home, but there were always those around me I could trust." the griffon remarks, frowning a little. "Though, I was not being 'groomed' for a position, or anything close to that."

Alder cocks his head to the side a little, before humming "I… hrm. There has to be someone on your crew you can open up to. Like, well… like you have done here. I understand pirates are pirates, but you must find people you can trust."



When Alder mentions that Cutlass just opened up with him, her eyes widen a little bit. She glances at him and looks away, blushing.

"I-I don't know why I said any of this… Like I said, you just make it so easy. It's weird," she says, looking down at the ground.

"I'm sure I can trust a lot of them. But, I can't open up to them. I'm their captain. If I talk about this kind of stuff? I'll look pathetic… More pathetic than I've already looked to them. I know what I am. A tiny unicorn, barely a mare, out here captaining a bunch of full grown people who have lived lives that have hardened them way more than mine. I have to try extra hard to make myself look tough."

"Not that I'm not tough," she adds quickly. "I am. You wear a mask long enough, and it ends up fitting eventually."

"But, really, it's not a matter of whether I can trust and open up to them. It's a matter of whether they will trust and open up to me. They won't open up, and they SHOULDN'T trust me. I've definitely established that precedent," she laughs.

"I mean, why not? Everyone leaves eventually anyway. My dad left me before I was born. I left my family. Like 4 previous pirate crews left me. YOU GUYS left me to get arrested by that Gates of Justice agent. Why shouldn't I lie to them? They won't be around long enough to unravel it."


("Other than waiting for this, I got nothing. We guessed maybe it's one of the newer crewmates we picked up from Kaco Island, but that's the best we can guess outside of questioning everypony.")



"I'm sure it's just someone on my crew," Cutlass shrugs. "I mean, I have 4 Gates of Justice agents on board. Not to mention that a lot of them are soldiers provided by the Gates of Justice. A lot of the others are prisoners that could have made some deal with the Gates of Justice."

"It could easily be WAY more than one person on my ship. But, that won't matter soon. I'm already working on a solution."


("Gonna replace them for a new crew?")
Cloud questions.



"No. I'm just working on a system so that no one can spy on me and no one can lie to me."


("Well, that sounds good and all but how does that stop anypony from spying on the rest of the crew, or the Beesting?")


Alder smiles a little, and says "Well, I am glad I am easy to talk to. But… I think you should try. At least, try and find one or two. I do not think you have to look flawless for them- you just have to be willing to lead, yes?" he asks, cocking his head to the side again.

"A-And… I am sorry for leaving you behind- I had not intended to, but that does not change that it happened all the same. But, you should not have to keep it going- you can try and find the ones you can trust, and keep them with you. Maybe it will help you hold on to some of them, yes?"



"Not really my problem," Cutlass shrugs. "Not like I tell you guys everything."


"It won't matter…" Cutlass grumbles. "Even if I do find someone, they'll always have someone else."


"But, they will have you, too." the griffon remarks, ruffling his wings and giving his puzzle box a curious look.


("If somepony is spying on your crew, isn't it your problem since you're the captain?")



"It won't be a problem," Cutlass repeats enigmatically.


"It's not enough," Cutlass says bitterly.


You leap to your hooves, then barrel across the arena into the darkness, and smash your skull into the spider's, whereupon you feel a calamitous crumbling of obsidian stone – and the sharp whine of dented metal. With a roar, the spider thrusts its mandibles forward, tossing you backward toward Tabasco's small light. Briefly, you get a glimpse of your reflection in the water that you've splashed about the arena – your skin has become pale and waxy, and blotched here and there with oily, dark-black splotches. You are reminded of the crewmate that you and Thessaly found inside of the chest cavity of the Metal Man; he had been afflicted by a similar condition, and his eyes were blank and watery, and though he yet lived, he was unable to speak. For now, you are able-bodied – for now.

The spider retreats into the depths of the shadows, leaving only a metal grinding to signal where it yet may be…

[1d10+3] Spider

The hounds get up, still full of fight and vigor, and charge bravely onward.


Tabasco snarls, and tilts his head up at the webbing between the pillars around you, firing wave after wave of flame to light the arena.


>Cloud, Alder, Cutlass

As you three discuss the break-in and assault at Gullveig's shop, and the possible identity of the spy among you, you hear a clicking from the magical lock box in Alder's grip. The sliding tile puzzle upon the box's final layer begins to sink deeper into the box's surface. Now that the tiles are all in place, you can see their proper design that the tiles were meant to convey: a slit-eyed mask made of an intricate mandala of what seem to be flowers.

The tiles split apart, and fold away into the box's sides, revealing the contents below – a pair of arm bracers, made of interlocking flowers, much like those that composed the illusory mask upon the tiles. Their colors are wondrous and strange, otherworldly shades that capture and play with the dim light from above, playing with the light of their own volition.

Roll #1 3 + 3 = 6 / Roll #2 5, 6, 5, 6, 4 + 1 = 27 / Roll #3 1 + 2 = 3


Alder flicks his ears a little and lets out an excited chirp as he finally manages to get the tile puzzle properly ordered. He doesn't have too much time to study the patterns before it begins sliding open, but does gently remove the bracers to give them a look. "I, hrm… these are not normal, clearly. I wonder what they do?"


Whatever they may be, you can sense a faint thrilling upon your fingertips as you touch them – not that of magic, but of Aura. Perhaps with study, their purpose may be ascertained.


Cloud peers over as Alder's box opens up.
"Nice job bud. So what's your prize?"


Alder the Surgeon (M. Hermit)7/6


>Ignore that

"Some sort of bracer- they seem wonderfully made, and… they have the tingle of aura? They definitely do something, then- perhaps something with shadows, considering how the light flickers around them?"


Cerulean takes note of this, figuring it might be best to try and bring it down as fast as she can. Seeing it start to run off, she brings her aura up and forms her chains.
"Oh no! Not gonna let you get away THAT easily," she yells and lashes her chains out to force it to 1 v. 1 her.

>Hákarl: Recharge 3 when effect ends. Cerulean locks a target into a duel with her with her aura for three turns. If the opponent attacks anyone other than Cerulean, she can make a free Instant attack against them.

>Crits 9+

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11


"Give them a try, see what they can do then."


The end of the chain hurtles into the darkness, then clatters onto something with a satisfying clank. A sudden force yanks you forward, but you dig your hooves in, beginning a tug-of-war so fierce and fraught that your muscles burn, begging you for mercy. You and the spider pull each other closer, until at last the chain gives slack.

At the same time, Tabasco's flame waves succeed, but much too well. Burning webbing falls from the sky, and the dogs yelp as they run about to avoid the flames. But the burning webs become a kind of pyre that lights the arena, at last giving you a look at your opponent.

Though much of its body is like that of the rest of the Watchkeepers, the spider is a defiled and twisted thing. Much of its upper body is covered with not the smooth black obsidian of the Watchkeepers, but with dense and waterlogged cloth, and a sprawling tangle of black and silver pipes, like that of the Metal Men. Upon the spider's back, there rises a bulbous mass of murky glass plates, also reminiscent of the Man. In fact, much of the spider's body seems now limp, and the parts covered by the cloth and metal are animated – in fact, they are probably controlling all of the beast, by your reckoning.

The Metal Spider's head spins on a swivel, encasing the Watchkeeper hounds in cocoons of dark green, which starts to darken as it encases its quarry. Your Aura invigorates you, propelling you onward for an attack!

>Hakarl activates!

The spider stomps forward, trying to slam you down into the earth!


The dogs attempt to break free of their cocoons!


Roger and Tabasco flee in circles, and you soon see the cause – the burning webbing that falls from the sky.

>roll dodge, instant, for the next 3 turns; this does not occupy Hakarl's action as it is classified as Free despite the use of Instant in text

Roll #1 4 + 3 = 7 / Roll #2 7, 10, 8, 9, 3 + 1 = 38


"Keep it up, guys! I think we got it on the ropes now!"
With the invigoration of her aura, and the unknown timer she feels she's on, Cerulean is quick to go for a bite at the spider's leg as it comes down.

>Great weapon attack


After the stomp, she bobs and weaves about the spider's legs to better avoid the falling web balls of fire.
>Earthly Affinity: Movement is automatic, not sure if that might confer a bonus to dodging stuff

Getting a better look at the thing, she eyes the glass plates as she thinks she might've found a good spot to hit. She gives a tug of her chains to throw it off balance, and give her a good swinging point to get her on it for another head smash.

>Slam the glass! Crits 8+, +2, take better


Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4 / Roll #2 1 + 1 = 2 / Roll #3 10 + 2 = 12 / Roll #4 6 + 2 = 8


Alder nods a little bit and slides the bracers on- maybe they'll do something special?


Immediately, both of Alder's hands fall straight off.


Alder lets out a panicked screech, waving his forelegs around and reaching for his claws! He'd clench his talons nervously if he could, but… they're not attached, so what could they do?


The Metal Spider brings its mighty leg down upon you, wringing it back and forth, pushing you deeper and deeper into the stones below. Blood spurts from your sides as the crushing weight brings incredible pressure upon your veins.

>Cerulean 0/3, continue to roll dodge despite helplessness

Yet, just as the Metal Spider raises its leg to finish you off, you roll aside, and yank yourself upward with a desperate strength, flinging yourself overhead. In a crescent arc like the curl of the moon over the stormy ocean, you crush your tail down onto the Metal Spider's head, shattering the glass. Black, coagulated sludge oozes forth from the opening, and the Metal Spider utters a deafening shriek of metal upon stone.

Four of the hounds break free of their prisons, running back toward the Metal Spider, heedless of their own safety as they run to your aid.


The Metal Spider turns its attention to them, barreling forward with you still chained upon its back.

[1d10+3] AOE

>Hakarl activates; may be used upon successfully rising

A great chunk of burning web falls from above, nearly crushing Tabasco and Roger. It blocks their path toward you, and so the two regain their focus, and begin to run about it toward the far side.

As you reach toward your claws, they clench nervously, and start to reach out toward the grass! Spinning about, they even fly right toward you! In fact… it almost seems like you're still in control of them…

Roll #1 3, 8, 10, 3 + 1 = 25 / Roll #2 9 + 3 = 12


"Hanss! I, ah, u-uhm, I feel them? They, uh… t-they are still there!" the griffon says, looking at his behanded forelegs, then at his talons. He tries to reach out at Cloud Shear, curious what they'll do.


You can feel him, just fine. For all intents and purposes, your hand still seems perfectly functional. Two matters remain, however – whether interrupting the line of sight between the stump of your forearm and the hand will have any effect, or whether there is a limit on the range that your hand may fly free of your body.


Cerulean slaps her hooves to her face and tries to get herself to refocus after all the hits lately, giving herself a splash to better clear her head.

>Earthly Affinity: DC 4 helpless recovery


As she tries to regain herself, she tries to shimmy herself through the water to avoid more falling, flaming debris.

>Instant Dodge


Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11 / Roll #2 7 + 1 = 8


Back up and all it, she sees an opening as the spider tries to charge. She grabs the chains with her teeth and gives a mighty heave to throw off its balance and cause to hurt.

>Great weapon attack


She then pulls herself along the chains until she's close enough to get her teeth on the spider and go to rip and tear.

>Another great weapon attack!


Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5 / Roll #2 8 + 1 = 9


Cloud reels back in panic when Alder's hands fall off.
"Whoa! A-Alright,. no worries, we can put those back on with that healing knife of yours, right?"

Cloud reaches out to try and help Alder pick up his talons, until they reach out and grab onto him while dismembered. A chill runs down his spine.
"Okay, so they still work, and that's really creepy."


Alder seems rather unsettled by the whole experience himself, but starts to calm down a little. "They seem to, ah… be fine? This is incredibly strange, but… yes, creepy is the word." the griffon manages.

"Now, hmm… let me check something." the griffon mumbles, deciding to try out a couple things! For starters, he tries to put one of his hands back on to the stump. With his other set of claws, he'll try to 'walk' it out of his sight. Can he still control it if he can't see it?


Indeed, you still can – but eventually, you can sense your hand stop moving, after it gets too far from you. With a little mental math, you determine that your range is about 10 meters in a circle about you.

The Metal Spider's swift charge sends you flying, but you chomp onto the edge of the chain with your teeth, and barely manage to hang on. A few teeth, knocked loose by the violence, fly away, but you hardly notice through the rush of battle and blood – they'll be back soon enough anyway. You haul yourself upward, then leap up once more and clamber onto the top of the spider. You bite down onto a torn chunk of cloth, and rip upwards, yanking the spider backward. This throws off its trajectory, slowing it down before it can bowl over the group of Watchkeeper dogs. They are still hit, and scattered, but because the charge was slowed, they yet have their strength.

The dogs circle about the Metal Spider, and despite their wounds, bite down onto its legs, pulling back as best they can. The spider, caught off guard by this coordinated strike, is thrown off, as you and the dogs pull it backward…

…But a sinking feeling in your gut warns you that you just might be right where it wants you. A sudden sense of gravity tells you all that you need to know. The spider is now standing vertically, prompted at first by your pull, but now by its own scheming. You're dangling at its head, at prime position for a splash.

The spider throws itself backward, aiming to crush you underneath the totality of its weight, made deadly by the shattered glass and the putrid black gunk inside of its head.


The dogs desperately fling themselves away.


Roll #1 1 + 3 = 4 / Roll #2 5, 2, 1, 9, 4 + 1 = 22


Cloud watches the hand 'walk' off and out of view, still unnerved with the whole dismemberment aspect.
"Those are some weird little bracers you got…"


"It is, hrm… v-very weird, yes. I do not need to see my hand to move it, though it must remain at least somewhat close- this is very weird, but… incredibly useful, I think. As long as I conceal my stump, my hand can do plenty, I think." he says, fluttering over to his disembodied talon and re-attaching it.


Seeing the spider about to drop itself down on everyone, Cerulean gives a tug of the chains to rotate it more in the air so she's on top instead, then tries to slam it down into the ground with all her weight.

>Slam, crit 8+, +2, take better


Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4 / Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8


As Alder winds his hand back, Splendid comes alongside with the hands, her face as red as it could possibly get for a griffon with blue feathers, and eyes so wide she may just need a larger skull. She walks… with quite a strange gait… as if recently wounded…

As she gets to Alder's side, she towers over him, plainly ready to clobber him into dust.

"…You think that just because you can move your hands wherever you like, you can just put them on or in anything you like…?" Splendid asks, murder written all over her face.

>roll to resist intimidation

You deftly take over its splash, and the Metal Spider is the one to plummet and slam down onto the stone. Chunks of obsidian, twisting curls of metal, and great shards of glass fly all about, as black coagulating sludge, putrid of odor and color, floods all about, threatening to push away all the water you splashed about to your advantage. Pillars of dark fire erupt all about as the dark sludge makes contact with Tabasco's flames, and the arena's air becomes a maddening dance of darkness and light.

The Metal Spider wriggles and flails about under your grasp. You have little time to act, before it will be up…

>Metal Spider unable to act!

At last, Tabasco and Roger circle about the burning webbing. The two stop, and take aim: Tabasco spews a current of fire from his mouth, while Roger, a yet of high-pressurized water.

[1d10+2] Roger
[1d10+2] Tabasco

Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5 / Roll #2 9 + 2 = 11


"A-Ah! What are you talking about, Splendid? I cannot see where my hands were, s-so… w-what did they do?" he asks, stepping backwards a little.

Roll #1 6 = 6


"Hmm, if you got some gloves to wear over them, you could probably pull off all kinds of things with that."
Cloud suggests.

Cloud scootches back a bit, familiar with this situation and letting it unfold between the two gryphons.


A shadow descends over Splendid's face, and Alder barely manages to stand firm against a wave of emotional energy that would knock most others flat on their back. At last, the shadow passes, and she steps back just a tad. "…I'll show you later. Now then, if you're done chit-chatting, those of us with a work ethic are done setting up the camp. Each of us has a tent and a cot. I ain't able to use Aura or Magic yet, so the lot of you are gonna have to give it a peek before we lie down and sleep in the company of demons. Ossie caught me up on the King and the Yellow Jester."


"U-Uhm… okay? Are you sure this is not something we should discuss now? T-That was, ah, c-concerning." the griffon says, stepping back a little more until the energy subsides. "And, yes. Let us go give it a peek."


"Hopefully we shouldn't have much to worry about," Cloud says, standing up to check out the tents, "Didn't plan on sleeping much anyways after the Crimson King showed up anyways."

Cloud then pauses a moment.
"Hey, Splendid, you know a bunch about the Virtues, right?"


Cerulean feels the battle fever as she gives a bit of a roar as she tries to stick her head into an open part of the spider and try to rip and tear as much of the insides as she can out.

>Great Weapon attack


Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3


"Well, if you really must know right now… it was here!" Splendid squawks.

At once, her claws fly out – and start to tickle Alder all along the ribs and sides of his stomach.

>roll endurance, DC 8

While tickling Alder, Splendid looks your way. "I know… some things. I believe I've already mentioned that I was raised on Sepulchre Island, which is where they made their headquarters. Though, I wasn't tutored by them for very long… nor was I initiated into their higher orders before my education was through. What do you want to know?"


As you bring your jaws down for a final blow, the Metal Spider suddenly shudders, and tosses you aside as it rolls back onto its feet. You fall upon your side, and sharp metal and stone pierce your skin, gushing forth more of what little blood remains within you. Below you, stained now in your blood, lie the broken remains of one of the Watchkeeper dogs – and in the dim light of the dark flames surrounding you, you see that four others lie broken and scattered all about.

>Cerulean 8/3

At once, the Metal Spider wheels about, grating a high and ear-splitting groan from its corrupted innards, a dying roar of fury. Black sludge erupts from its shattered glass, flowing toward you – and from its surface, hands of every possible kind, from each and every race, rise upward, fingers mutated by the metal and cloth of the terrible giants. They reach toward you, poised to drag you down into themselves.

[1d10+3] Unknown Attack

Roll #1 4 + 3 = 7


Cerulean looks down at the remains, then the scattered remains of the others.
"No…you all…." She grits her teeth and and eyes the hands reaching towards her. Her grip on the chains tighten. Even if it was a short time together, she still liked the mechanical pooches.
"You want me so bad, then come and get me!" She charges forth right at the spider, using her speed, mass, and aura to barrel through the hands and full-body charge into the spider.

>Slam, crit 8+, +3 after one aura point, DC -1 from Sprinter, take better


Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5



Roll #1 10 + 3 = 13


Alder lets out a shocked squawk, flailing helplessly and trying to get away from the tickling!
>Endurance [1d10]

"Hmm? Why do you ask, Cloud?"

Roll #1 7 = 7


Alas, you are helplessly trapped, beyond recourse, and have no choice but to laugh in the most embarrassing matter possible.


Spurred on by an incredible bolt of power, you leap through dark flame and black sludge both as you rush on toward the spider. As you run through the sludge, the hands touch your body – and go right through it, before pulling out and way a great number of strange objects. Crystal spheres do they hold, each one containing some image within. Some, images of your family. Some, unusual icons and glyphs that you do not recognize – but as they are pulled out, you feel vast gaps emerge within your mind. Skills, knowledge, memories, personality traits… all of it disappears.

>Cerulean loses all Skills, including Aura Skills

>Max H/W reduced to 1/1

But still you run onward, and collide, head-on with the Metal Spider. Bone meets steel and obsidian, and a shockwave explodes from the impact site. The Metal Spider bears down with all of its weight, and you hear a thunderous rumbling as it pushes you back, charging forward with all its power to shove you back into the black flames…


…Then comes a sudden cracking. You look up, and between the blood that gushes from your forehead, you see a great fissure opening on the spider's head. With a final crackling and groaning, the fissure spreads throughout the rest of its gigantic body, as it crumbles to its end, folding in on itself.

There lays before you the body of the Metal Spider… and as strength leaves your legs, so too do you fall.

The black sludge that poured from its body starts to grow still… and the hands that emerged from the sludge recede at last, surrendering their crystal spheres.

>roll perception


Alder lets out a rather embarrassing, snorting laughter, left a little too dizzy to focus for a while.


Cerulean has a big, relieved grin as the spider goes down, and even as she goes down. She lays there to pant and catch her breath. She looks at the crystals with a mystified look.
"Huh…wonder who…these belong to…." She looks around some more, not feeling sure of her surroundings…how did she get here again?

>Perception. Electroception if applicable


Roll #1 9 = 9


Although you don't know what's going on, or where you are, or who you are, or what you're doing, in fact, you seem to have quite the sense that those crystal spheres belong to you – they are scattered about the area, but you are confident that you know that those before you are all that were missing.


"Wait…those are-yeah, pretty sure those are mine. C'mon…uhh…," she says, cutting herself off as she can't remember the name of her body. She shrugs it off and wills herself to get up enough to take back the crystals closest to her first.


Shortly after you touch each crystal, it vanishes into a cloud of glimmers, which then sink back into your body. Each time, you feel the great expanse that is your mind fill up with something quite familiar – and on instinct, you immediately understand that each missing piece was once yours.

By the time that you finish recovering all of the crystals, you recall all that has just transpired, and have regained your body and mind in full. Your mind, in particular, goes to the slain dogs – and you see that the situation may yet have hope.

As you recall, the Obsidian Watchkeepers' souls are contained in the dark red gemstones that make up their eyes. And, as you look about the burning temple arena, you see, through electroception, that the dark red gemstones are still animate with power. All around you, very tiny Watchkeeper spiders are busy gathering up the gemstones into a neat row. A quick count reveals 18 animate gemstones altogether – 10 for the destroyed dogs, and eight… for the giant spider.

Something cold and wet nudges your leg – it is Tabasco, whining with concern. Roger has extinguished some of the black flames around you, leaving just enough to light the outer edges of where you fought.


Cloud lowers his voice, whispering to keep it confidential just in case with the Thunder Serpent nearby.
("I was wondering if you knew anything about the Maze of Mirrors.")

("Obstinance wished Stone Cold Classic off to there, and Mallea didn't want to talk about it, so I curious to how bad the place is since the genie was terrified of it.")


Splendid suddenly gulps, and lets Alder go after hearing Stone Cold Classic's fate. "O-oh… well, not much, actually. I'd only been there once or twice, actually. But, from what I've heard, it's not so much the Maze itself, but the Virtues who have made it their training grounds. The ones they call The Dharmachakra. If even one of them was present when Obstinance and your genie went there… the wheel will grind the evil karma from that genie… or so they say."


Cerulean looks down and gives Tabasco a hug, then Roger when he comes close enough. She rocks them, and herself a bit, really not liking the feeling that she forgot them.
"Its okay, guys. Its down and out. We're safe…I think."

Seeing the soulgems of the dogs, Cerulean cautiously goes up to them, not wanting to make the spiders upset next. She also tries to see if she can take them, but is ready to move her hoof away if the spiders take offense. She only passively regards the gemstones of the spider, looking at them with a slight shudder. Whether its from memories of the fight, or her body hurting, not even she knows.


"So Stone Cold is done for, basically."
Cloud says, sighing in relief.
"That sounds a lot better than what I was expecting. Obstinance was pretty roughed up, and I thought this place was some horrible obstacle course or monster pen or something. If it's just other Virtues being the danger he should get patched up real quick then."


"Ah, hrm…t-that does sound rather foreboding, yes. Do these Dharmachakra ever leave the maze? It is their training ground rather than a home proper, yes?"


The spiders gladly step aside as you approach to take the gemstones. The spiders seem to have taken great care to separate each set of gemstones into pairs, and to keep those separate from the eight of the giant spider. It seems quite important to keep each Watchkeeper's eyes separate from the others, so that they do not get mixed. As you gather the gemstones, two spiders play out a strange drama. They take two halves of a broken joint, and pantomime putting them together. They repeat this multiple times – perhaps suggesting it is possible to rebuild them.

Once you're finished gathering up all the dogs' gemstone eyes, the small spiders push the giant spiders' eyes toward you… perhaps hoping that it too may be rebuilt. Tabasco and Roger stay close, but seem too exhausted even to offer their trepidation at the idea of rebuilding an enemy that nearly took away everything from you.

>roll memory

"Depending on which of the Dharmachakra was training there when he arrived, Obstinance may not be home free just yet," Splendid says. "They wouldn't harm one of their own… at least, not deliberately. It's guaranteed that one of them was in the Maze at the time Obstinance arrived. Only one of them is allowed to train there at any given time, and for good reason. The entire clock is divided evenly between them, and some are quite finicky about their allotted time not being interrupted."


"Ah, I see. I imagine that regardless of who it is, we will not see Obstinance for some time then, yes?"


"They wouldn't kill him though, right? I guess I can see punishment for interrupting training, but they wouldn't take out their own order, especially since he was removing another demon which sounds like their whole deal."

>Memory [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1


Cerulean watches the spiders pantomime and gives it a go of rebuilding a dog to try it out.

When she sees them pushing the spider's gems up, she gives a slight pause.
"Are you sure thet's really a good idea," she asks the little spiders, "it seemed a bit…different from the others I've seen here, you know?"


Your mind is occupied by fantasies of Chiu cooking meals for you and your future son or daughter.

>try again

"Oh, no, he'll be alright if he can get their attention," Splendid says. "At most, he'll be stuck on Sepulchre Island until he's finished with all the chores they'll assign him in retribution."

Unfortunately, you don't have the tools or materials required to rebuild any of the obsidian creatures. Every one of them was thoroughly destroyed. You recall Kukulcan's claim that he had built them himself. Perhaps he may be able to assist you in that endeavor.

The spiders gather around you, looking up with hope. When you express trepidation, they turn and point toward the cloth and the different type of metal that covered much of the spider. It seems now that the giant spider was completely under the control of whatever type of Metal Man that was. Rebuilt without it, it may have a different personality and temperament. Still, it's quite the risk… but the spiders are adamant.


Cloud frowns, wondering if Obstinance could even get their attention without his memories.
"…I hope they take it easy on him. A good chunk of his head was burnt."
Cloud says, covering up the reason for his worried look.

>Memory [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4


Something occurs to you – not from your memories, but from Obstinance's. He seems to recall himself and the other initiates heading into the Maze of Mirrors – a grand and towering stone stupa – for training, when they were quite young. That memory fades, and another follows it – a few years later, he walks near the hill atop which the Maze is built, and notices Splendid heading up there, alone. Yet another memory, spurred on by the first and second, comes as well–

Splendid seemed to head to the Maze quite often, more than the other initiates.


"Hmm. Well, I suppose that is a relief… I think. I do not know what their chores would consist of. Though, we are getting distracted- we wanted to look around, yes? Or was it something else?"


Cerulean's concerns seem to be dispelled as she gets the hint of their explanation.
"Huh…I see. Well, I'd be happy to but…I don't really have anything to fix them with," she admits sadly, not really wanting to say it cause she knows the spiders would look at her sadly. Her body is feeling broken; she didn't want her heart broken next.
"Oh, but, I do know somebody who could help! So don't worry, okay? Just need to…ya know, get out of here or something, okay?"

She looks herself over and gives a tired huff, sitting down on the ground.
"I think…maybe I should head back? Or maybe take a moment to rest?" She gives a tired sigh.
"I feel like I'm so close now but…." She looks to Roger and Tabasco for possible suggestions…at least, as best as they can explain their thoughts.


"So, uh, if the clock is divided up, do you know who would've been in there a few hours ago?"
Cloud asks Splendid, more questions being raised as he delves into his memories.
"Wait. Hmm, what time was it when that wish was made? An exact time might be better."


You recall that this is B6F of the Skull Temple, and that your goal was B7F – it would be wise to rest up, just in case a final trial awaits at the Temple's bottommost floor. Tabasco, thinking on this, grabs you by the saddlebags and tugs back toward the stairwell – you recall now that there was a healing pool just after the trial involving the three shooters and the long hallway split into Past, Present and Future.

"Ah…" Splendid says. "Well, I'd prefer not to say their names. Call me superstitious, but it always seemed that the Dharmachakra knew when they were being spoken about. We might be 20,000 leagues under the sea, or close to it, but still…"

"It was about 4 PM when you finished the battle with the genie," Hmm says.


"That's fine. It was around four when they went to the maze, so without saying names, is that good or bad for him?"


"Ahh, good idea. Alright guys, how about we take a soak and nap?" She follows Tabasco to the healing pool. Her mind goes back to the fight and she looks herself over, remembering she was turning pale and all sorts of other things during the fight.


"He couldn't have picked a better time," Splendid says. "Any earlier and he could have been on a fast for the next few years. Well, not that he's really our ally, but you can rest assured he won't be slain for his choice."

>roll two separate memory checks, yours and Obstinance's

"Oh, right," Splendid says. "Let's have a look around camp. You two will have to use your magical and aural senses to check to see if Kukulcan's goons have left any bad enchantments about."
"And I can help!" Juniper says, running in from just out of frame.
"How much of that conversation did you hear?" Splendid asks.
"When I saw you guys whispering, I decided to do my stretches over by the Thunder Serpent, so as not to overstay my welcome," Juniper says. "But once you started talking normally, I came back over to make myself useful."
"I see…"

It seems that the cocoon attack that made you pale was of a similar nature to the hands that stole parts of your being from you. Now that you have recovered all of yourself from the Metal Spider, you seem to be missing nothing.

After getting cleaned, you set up a little makeshift resting area for yourself and your buddies. They curl up, ready for sleep. Perhaps you might check in with the others, or sleep however long you wish.

>timeskip to night or morning available


As Cerulean lays down for a bit, she takes out her caller conch as it has been awhile since she's talked with anyone. She decides to try and call Cloud's conch first, as even if he doesn't pick up, then Chiu might be nearby enough to pick up instead.


Alder hums a little bit, before shrugging to himself. He'll make sure his claws are both attached firmly to his forelegs, before giving Splendid a little prod and starting off for the camp.


"Oh, good, that's a relief. I still need to thank him for all his help."

>Cloud's Memory [1d10]

>Obstinance's Memory [1d10]

"I'll give it a try, not sure how to scan for aura exactly."

Cloud's ears perk as Juniper jumps back in.
"Oh, uh, thanks for respecting our privacy."

As they walk back to the camp, Cloud feels his conch ring.

Roll #1 1 = 1 / Roll #2 5 = 5


"Hey Cloud! It's me, Cerulean!" She says excitedly into the conch.
"Was just calling in to see how you all are doing."


Splendid prods you back.


After finishing your discussions, you head back from the jungle's edge where Bee Holder was in hiding. From there, you wander back to the eastern shore of the Dreamer's Moon, and can see Kukulcan's ship and crew docked at the western shore, far out of your earshot.

By the shore, you enter the camp that Kukulcan's crew set up for you, and you can see that it's not a whole lot to speak of. A lean-to has been erected for each of you – Splendid, Cloud, Alder, Cerulean, Cutlass, Juniper and Ossie. They are arranged in a circle around a recently-dug firepit. Some kindling has been laid out, but not lit yet. Dried meat and vegetable rations, along with squares of hardtack, has been laid out on a blanket near the firepit. Probably Itz's doing.

Ossie is already wandering about, checking each lean-to herself with a scrutinizing eye.

>roll magical and aural perception

You recall another of Obstinance's memories, from a fourth time that he saw Splendid enter the Maze of Mirrors. She is greeted at the gate by a gigantic puff of beautiful white feathers, with a beak sticking out of it – it's hard to ascertain the race, because they seem to be naught but a puff of feathers, a cloud of feathers in fact. But Obstinance recalls a great set of arms – Vola arms – coming out of the cloud of feathers, which pick up Splendid in a tight and bracing hug, a hug which Splendid apparently endures. But soon after, the puff pulls Splendid in.

A name comes to mind… but escapes you before you can recall it.

You feel like you're missing one other thing…

Tabasco munches on your tail, as he tends to do when hungry.



Cutlass goes with Ossie, keeping her eyes peeled.

>Magic perception [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7


>Magical Perception: [1d10]
>Aura Perception: [1d10+1] (+1 from TBP)
>If Master Thief applies to either, +1 to it!

Alder hums a little bit and slinks around the camp, trying to spot anything that might give him a bad vibe.

Roll #1 3 = 3 / Roll #2 8 + 1 = 9


"Hey Cerulean! We're doing alright, just got camp set up out here. Where are you at?"

Cloud looks over the small little camping site set up, about as much as to be expected. He's wary of the food though, and peers over the sight, unsure of really how to look for aura tampering as he hasn't ever looking at that too specifically aside from Yellow Jester's flaunting at the circus.
>Observation [1d10]

As the memory leaves Cloud with something missing, he finds it frustrating, being left with this taunting feeling of ending just before one thing. He almost forgets about looking over the camping, trying to focus more on this memory of Obstinance's.
>Memory [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10 / Roll #2 2 = 2


"Camp? Neat. As for me-ow, hey, okay I'll get you something to eat," she says, moving her tail from Tabasco and getting some food from the saddlebag for herself, Tabasco, and Roger.
"Sorry Cloud, Tabasco was hungry. Anyways, I'm still in the temple place. If I remember right, I'm on the…sixth floor down. Pretty sure I'm almost to the bottom!"


"You're still at it? That place must be massive," Cloud comments, "What's in that temple anyways?"


You check over everything in the camp, from the lean-tos to the cots to the surrounding environment, but find nothing of note, either made of Aura, or of magic. If Kukulcan or any member of his crew is planning anything nefarious, they don't seem to be acting tonight. It's more than likely safe to sleep out here, if you don't mind the bugs and the exposure to the elements. You are still at the edge of the godray crystal's light, however, so you will be safe from the Metal Men.

Ossie frowns, but shrugs. "I hate to admit it… but we should be safe here."
"If only those lean-tos were a bit bigger…" Splendid complains.
Ossie scoffs. "Think about how I feel. I can't even stand up in mine."
Splendid laughs. "That's not quite the reason I was complaining."
Ossie cringes, screwing up her eyes for a moment. "…I'm okay. I didn't hear or visualize that. Moving on: let's divide up the guards, and get some rest."

This time, it's the exhaustion of the day that distracts you. Perhaps you will recover it in the morning.

Tabasco leaves you be while he eats his fish, and Roger contents himself with the crumbs around your mouth.


"Yup! It's very big! There's a whole bunch of the obsidian things here, but they're not all so bad. I actually made friends with a bunch of dog ones, but they kinda got broken in the latest fight I had against a giant spider. Oh! And there was also a dragon one I rode on while I was here! Got into some pretty rough fights, too."


"Hrm… no tamperment that I can detect. We should be in the clean- err, the clear."
Alder gives a somewhat confused warble at the comment about the lean-tos, before humming and saying "Well… I do not think we could put the two of ours together to make it larger, but we could try?"



"Can you not sleep in a shadow?" Cutlass asks Ossie curiously.


"I'll take one of the later guards, just need to shut my eyes for a little bit after the flight over."
Cloud says, feeling the wear of the day getting to him, along with the battle and dealing with the trawl through Obstinance's memories.

"You've been fighting those obsidian creatures? Are you alright? How are they friendly?"
Cloud exclaims, finding this hard to believe after his incident.


Ossie shakes her head. "Well… I could, but it's not particularly fun. It doesn't feel like anything, so it's pretty difficult to get comfortable. It's like you're falling, except without the sensation of falling. It feels like nothing in particular. Even sleeping on the ground is less unnerving, because at least then you're secure. The grass here is pretty springy from the lake, so I could handle that better than in a shadow."

"Fascinating," Splendid says with a yawn. "But it's time we got some shut-eye."

"I'll have the first watch," Juniper says. "Doubt I'll be able to sleep much anyway… after all the news I got…"

"Fine, wake me next, then I'll wake Cloud," Ossie says. Cutlass can tell it's a lie – Ossie will probably stay awake with Juniper, knowing she's possessed by the Yellow Jester.

>timeskip to morning available

Tabasco crawls up under your neck, and positions himself like a shawl, before burping and getting settled in to sleep.


Splendid honks your beak. "Maybe… next time."


"Well, the dog ones were friendly cause I sang to them a bit, then gave them a bit of food. They started following me around after that. There was also a pig one that I just needed to lift and move out of the way, and the dragon one I just needed to prove I was the apex predator," she explains in between bites of snacks.
"As for alright, yeah, though had some close calls. There are these healing pools that are nice to swim around in."

"But, there was something weird with the last fight. There was one of those metal guys, ya know, like the one we brought back to the Beasting? It was on the spider and controlling it. I beat the crud out of it and just broken on the ground now, but there are these little spiders that were asking if I could put the spider back together," she explains as her tone get a bit more serious and slightly concerned.
"It also tried to make me like the one crewmate we found in the Metal Man, but I beat it up before it completely did that to me. I'm beginning to think these Metal guys might not be worth the trouble of figuring out so much anymore…."



"No one better touch me in my sleep," Cutlass says as she heads inside to sleep.



"Sounds like a plan."
Cloud says, walking into his tent.
>Good to skip

"That… all sounds like a rough time."
Cloud says, worry clear in his voice from hearing about all the constructs Cerulean fought.

"Yea, let's not rebuild that. That sounds like a horrible idea."
He says in agreement.
"How much more of that place do you think there is?"


Alder warks a little bit, and squeezes Splendid's beak in response, before getting ready to sleep.


"I think one more floor. I can tell you more later when we meet back up. Oh, speaking of meeting back up, how is everyone else out there? Also, what time is it out there? I haven't seen sunshine nor moonlight down here."


"We're doing alright, I think. Cutlass has something planned, and Alder got his little puzzle box open, so it's mostly good. It's pretty late out here, we're all getting ready to sleep."


After your conversations end, each of you retires to bed.

Like on the previous nights, you dream of the perilous vortex into which all nations and races of the world seem to be gathered. Just as the last ones did, the dream ends with the Vault opening. The Metal Men pour forth, and the Watchkeepers rise, screaming and roaring, to banish them back beyond the Vault's threshold. But, in this dream, the Metal Men reach further and further upon the land of Cuauhtemoc, stealing away ever more of the sunken island with each step.

At last the dream ends, and each of you wakes up where you lay. Cerulean finds that she has not been disturbed in her sleep, and the only disturbance that the rest of you have met is the presence of the rising Sun Serpent, who swims through the eastern clouds, bringing with it the light of a new morning.

Cloud notices that his Conch is ringing.

>Paused, reply for next time.


"Oh shoot, really? Sorry if I was holding you up then. But still, good to hear from you guys. Pass my hellos and all to everyone, alright? G'night!" She then hangs up the conch and cuddles up with Roger and Tabasco.
"G'night guys. Thanks for sticking with me through all this." She nuzzles both of them before going to sleep.

Cerulean awakens with a yawn and has a quick snack of breakfast, passing some to Roger and Tabasco.
"Alright boys, pretty sure we're in the home stretch now, so how about we go and see what's gonna happen next?" She excitedly gets ready for the day, and any other fights, and heads off back to the room she fought the spider in previously to head to the next area.


"Oh it's no problem, it was good hearing you're alright too. I'll tell everypony you said hi, night."

Cloud settles in his tent, taking out the photo of the gryphon goddess statue and propping it up against the inside of the tent so it can keep watch like it does back in his and Chiu's room. And soon enough, sleep catches him despite his worries.

Cloud wakes up, his mood unchanges from the previous night after that dream. He isn't sure if it's his paranoia after the fight with the golem when they first arrived, or just more of the same with the haunting dreams they've been plagued with.
He rubs the sleep from his eyes as his conch rings, picking it up after the third one.
He sleepily groans in greeting.


Alder groans a little as he's awakened by yet another disturbing dream- the more unsettling part being how much further the Metal Men get before he awakens. He shakes it off a little and mutters to himself in his native tongue, before getting out to try and stretch a little bit.



When Cutlass wakes up, she checks to make sure that nothing was stolen from her.


Upon arriving back in the spider's chamber, you find that it has been greatly cleaned since your chaotic battle. The remnants of the Metal Spider have been spirited away – you realize that you saw gashes in the floor on your way to this chamber. Perhaps whoever dragged the corrupted thing's corpse out of the room dragged it out to the cleansing Sun Serpent-light which paralyzes the Metal Men.

The chamber is now dimly lit by high crystals, recently embedded in the sides of the pillars which hold up the room. Perhaps these may be the godray crystals you have heard of from Kukulcan.

Crawling across the floor before you is a small Watchkeeper spider, the one who lured you into the Metal Spider's attack last night.

When Cutlass awakes, she finds that both Sir Pent and her hat are gone. As Alder steps out to stretch, he sees that said hat and snake are both upon Ossie's head. Ossie, along with Splendid, is busy preparing a breakfast of fish, using what Itz taught Splendid yesterday.

"Cloud!" Chiu says over the conch. "Hey, it just occurred to me, but – didn't you use Gullveig's key to bring Obstinance down to Cuauhtemoc? Go get a newspaper!"


Cerulean looks to the spider and gives a little wave to it.
"Hey there. You guys sure worked fast during the night, huh?"


Alder stretches out a little, careful to not accidentally detach his claws again. He'll unfurl his wings and flutter over to Ossie and Splendid, before giving the latter a soft nuzzle.

"Ah! Good morning- apologies for getting up so late, sleep was… disturbed, as is the norm, I suppose."


"Oh, morning babe," Cloud greets, mood lifting as he hears the call is from Chiu and not bad news from the Captain or somepony else, "Good idea. Let me just get ready. Wonder if this works on tent flaps…"
Cloud, still on the line, tucks the statue photo away in his pocket, stretches, and tries taking Gullveig's key to the flap on his tent to see if it works to open to her workshop.


The spider waves back, but seems incapable of offering much in the way of conversation. Other spiders trek about in the darkness, taking care of this thing or that, but the one before you stands at attention. It's difficult to tell without verbal communication, but it seems ready to offer some assistance if need be – answering questions and such.


Cerulean gives a little giggle to the spider, finding its response cute. Though it might be due to how small it is compared to her.
"Hey, so I have a question: what's down there on the floor below? Anything you can tell me about it…or well, try and tell me?"



Cutlass has a momentary panic attack when she fails to find her hat and snek. She quickly scrambles out of the tent, her hair a mess. She spots her hat on Ossie's head.

She sighs a massive sigh of relief and heads over to Ossie. She telekinetically retrieves her hat, taking care to not knock Sir Pent off. She places it on her head, giving Sir Pent a loving boop.

"You nearly gave me a heart attack," Cutlass says to Ossie, sounding relieved. "What happened?"


Sir Pent affectionately gnaws on the corner of Cutlass's ear for a moment. Ossie shrugs as she finishes separating the meals. "No deep reason. But a dream like that was sure to leave us all in a sour mood this morning. Thought I would try to change the note on which we started."
"A hearty breakfast will help," Splendid adds. "That's why it helps to make friends with whoever you can."
Ossie snorts, recalling how Cutlass antagonized Itz. Breakfast is a fruit spread with a side of fish, carried upon leaf rolls. Grooves in the leaves have made for handy containers of some kind of syrup for the fruit - or the fish, for those of unorthodox palette.
"What's the plan for today?" Ossie asks.

There is no effect. You require a keyhole, and the lean-tos have latches. The closest keyholes would be somewhere on the Thunder Serpent.

Chiu clatters away at breakfast while she waits your report.

The spider turns and heads deeper into the dimly lit arena, clearly expecting you to follow it. You can see now that the chamber is far longer than the space in which you fought the Metal Spider – you cannot see the end of it.


"Oh, guess I do need a door."
Cloud mumbles as he puts the key in his pocket and steps out of his lean-to.
"You think it'd be safe to open up a door on the Thunder Serpent?" He asks Chiu, "There's… been a lot of things since yesterday, and since he is with the Crimson King you think opening a door to Gullveig's for them to see would be safe?"


Cerulean watches it at first, but get the hint suddenly and hurries to catch up with it until she's at a calmer walking pace.
"Woah…this place is huge! Do you little guys take care of the place all yourselves?"


Alder happily accepts both the fruit and fish, finding a place nearby to take a seat and eat.
"Plan for today? I… hmm. doing as Cloud suggested wouldn't be a bad idea, and after that… do you think we ought to look around the camp some? Maybe return to where we were searching yesterday?"


"I… I wouldn't," Chiu replies after some hesitation. "Not unless you can find a hidden door somewhere discreet. Oh, what about in the surgeons room? You could pass it off as visiting the infirm. I feel like there's still some unresolved matters with the crime scene, and if the King is the one who's behind the attack, we wouldn't want him to know we're investigating."


"Yea, don't want to draw any more attention onto us than needed. Not sure what the other's plans are yet so I'll see what's going on. If anything else there should be doors around here somewhere since Cerulean was still out exploring through some ruins last night."
Cloud says as he steps outside to join up with the others.



"I have to call the ship and get a few things ironed out," Cutlass explains to Ossie.

"Then, we're going to start delving into that temple to get the control rod for these obsidian automatons."

Cutlass just eats a modest helping of fruit. It's all her tiny body needs.


The three of you meet up where Ossie and Splendid sit near the center of your small camp. In short order, Juniper Yumeno trots over, and is an odd sight; she's wearing her usual fancy dress, and fanning herself with her peculiar fan, but she's sweating, and panting slightly.

"Phew!" she exhales, trotting around a bit as she catches her breath. "Good morning everyone! Welp, goodbye now!"

Before anyone can get in a word, Juniper wriggles out of her dress in a single swift motion, and flings herself into the lake for a swim.

"I see that the bad news about her being possessed and hypnotized hasn't marred her athleticism," Splendid says.

Ossie turns to Cutlass. "Alright, Captain. While you call the ship, I'll check in with Cerulean. She spent the night in the Temple, and may have made some progress there."

The spider offers no response, but you somehow get the feeling he would if he were capable of it.

As you follow the spider, you are, bit by bit, wave by wave, set upon by a strange feeling of vertigo, and a slight disorientation. But, strangely, it is not an altogether unpleasant thing, as other instances of vertigo and disorientation tend to be.

The cause, you soon discern, seems to be the hallway in which you walk.

With each further step you take down the hall, a piece of it – comes away. Parts of the stonework pull back at your approach, vanishing to reveal a strange sub-space, hidden just behind the material world in which you walk. In that sub-space, you see gears turning, and pistons pumping, wires coiling, warm at a distance. The peculiar machinery is all of a muted gold, bearing their own slight radiance, but it is marred and dirty, and you sense that it has not been witnessed by a living soul in quite some time – let alone maintained. And though the hall has no twists nor turns, nor apparent changes in elevation, you cannot shake the sense but that you are heading deeper into the earth, in a clockwise fashion.

The spider continues onward, and though Roger and Tabasco have slowed their pace, they seem engrossed in the strange sights and feelings.


Cloud sits down, grabbing a hearty serving of the fruit to munch down on, his appetite larger than normal after the stressful day prior.
"So what is with that temple anyways, must be important if Cerulean went at it alone all night."
He glances back as Juniper quickly introduces and then departs into the lake.
"And what about the crew on the ship, how are they doing?"


Cerulean's pace slows down a bit as she looks around at all the bells and whistles and other fancy bits of technology she knows little to nothing about. She resists the urge to touch some of it since, after all, there'd be plenty of time for looking and touching when things were done.
"Woah…and I thought those deep-sea caves with the glowing stuff was fancy." She giggles at Roger's and Tabasco's reactions and motions for them to not fall too far behind as she keeps following the spider.
"So…you're not gonna try and turn me all mechanical and stuff, right? Not sure I'd be able to swim if that is the case down here."


Alder hums a little at that, and says "Sometimes, when one is faced with trauma, they try to slide back into normal things- it helps them not focus as much on it." He settles down next to Splendid to eat while they talk.

"She seemed to be doing okay last we heard… I think. I hope she is still doing well."



Cutlass grimaces as Ossie suggests she do something that separates the two of them.

She looks around to make sure no one else is paying attention to the two of them. She speaks in a lower volume. "I-I'm sorry," she says, slightly blushing. "I'm really bad these social things. A-are we… not on good terms?"


Again, the spider has no response – except the chittering of many, many legs upon the stone. You notice that, without warning, it is no longer just the one spider who leads you, but rather many more – and indeed, there are other Watchkeeper animals, of other sizes and shapes, who walk with you. Where they have come from is unknown, but they have a reverent air about them, walking with eyes slightly lowered. Not one of them walks directly down the middle of the hallway path, even as more and more of it breaks away to reveal the mechanical backing. Between the minute gaps between pipes and wires and gears here and there, you can see glimpses of some color, like the light of the night sky.

There is a small group of the Watchkeepers who deliberately crowd about you, corralling you in such a way as to keep you and your pets from walking in the center of the hall. They take absolute care to leave the center of the hall empty.

In time, all of the stone hall breaks away, yet there is wide enough piping below you that you are able to walk onward. Even with the floor itself gone, the Watchkeepers maintain their reverence. In short order, you see what are, without doubt, the objects of that reverence.


Sitting amidst the machinery, you see a group of mechanical beings, of humanoid, draconic, and avian shapes, and many others – the group does not seem to be overlarge, but for whatever reason, you are unable to get a proper count of how many there are, as they sit in the darkness. They look somewhat like the Watchkeepers, without the obsidian plating; they look incomplete, as if an echo of something now distantly missing. In their hands they possess tools and bits of metal. With glacially slow and imperfect movements, they attempt to build Watchkeeper skeletons. But you notice them often failing, dropping their tools.

Despite the decrepit nature of the mechanical beings, the Watchkeepers stand with reverence and respect before them.


Ossie gawks at you as if you'd just grown a third eye, then leans in to maintain privacy. "What…? I'm just trying to help you to get multiple things done at once. I learned recently that Conches can do multi-way calls. If you really want to do it all yourself, just do that."

Splendid looks on at Juniper's swimming technique (with purely platonic athletic admiration), eating her breakfast all the while. "Now that ya mention it, she's probably also tryin' to keep her mind off of Cycle. Those two were quite the pair – but I don't know. Hearing that there's hypnosis involved to hide their demonic possession, and that the Crimson King 'bought' them, makes me wonder just how much of them is really real."

Ossie looks back your way. "I haven't looked in on the crew still aboard the Thunder Serpent yet, so we ought to do that quickly. If there's fishy business going on, we might be able to slip in while Kukulcan's crew is making their morning preparations. Captain, with your permission, I'd like to get that underway. Perhaps some of the nearby Beesting members who are spying on us would like to sub out for guard duty."



Cutlass's face grows even redder. "I- okay. I'm sorry. I misread the situation, I guess. It's just, last night you made it clear you didn't like some of the things I'm doing. And, now you're suggesting we separate when, in the past, we've both agreed we should stay together at all times when we're not on the ship. I just…"

Cutlass sighs, growing more uncomfortable. "F-forget it," she stammers. "I'll go make my conch call. You do your thing. We're reconvene after."

Cutlass steps away to call Schnitzel and Make Believe.


Before you can step away, Ossie shakes her head. "One technique that Schwartzwelt was insistent on imparting to us was the ability to let things go. Like with the other techniques, I'm a bit of a prodigy; I forget more things than I remember. So, if you're worried about me being angry at you this morning, then you should stop worrying. This might as well be breaking news to me, for all that it's affecting me emotionally."

Make Believe picks up after the first ring – not that it does much good. Schnitzel takes significantly longer to pick up, but eventually he does, and the first thing you hear is a pained groan. "Mmmm… yea, yea, what is it."


"They're all together, right? I can make a check in on them while you guys get all planned."
Cloud offers, finished the last of his fruit and liking the syrup-leave holders clean.


"Hmm… I imagine more than you might expect- it would be a little tedious to make up every little thing about them, wouldn't it?" he suggests, wiggling his talons and trying out the bracers again. He won't let them wander far- just around in circles a few times, before bringing them back.

Alder glances between the two of them and decides to keep quiet for the most part.


Splendid keeps a close eye on those hands of yours, and occasionally fixes you with quite the powerful look, perhaps to deter – or encourage – any more funny business with them.


Cerulean looks around at the Watchkeepers around her, then back to the odd and old machines. Watching them mess up as often as they do fills her with a sense of pity. She stands for a bit, but not sure what to do, and also not being one to simply stay still, she tests her luck and takes a step forward towards them, looking at the odd gathering of machines, as well as the ones that lead her here.



Cutlass frowns, but says no more to Ossie.

"I see you're sober now," Cutlass says with a grin to Schnitzel. "Find Make Believe. I want to speak with the two of you. Alone. There's a mole among us, so I wish to be as discreet about this as possible."


The most Alder tries is prodding her leg, but he doesn't want to risk too much.


"Make Believe's right here," Schnitzel says, his voice straining. "But you're too far away for telepathy. He says he can hear us, he'll just be busy doing some jury-rigged hangover therapy with his stickers on me. I'll relay his wooooooordsssss… phew! Hey, give me more of that one, kid, that one's working!"

You feel a griffoness tail poke you in the hindquarters.

Ossie steps away from Cutlass, frowning in frustration at her troubles with the captain. "Okay. Cloud, I have no authority to command you, but I suggest you take at least one person with you to the infirmary aboard the Thunder Serpent. It's risky considering her possession, but Juniper Yumeno would be your best bet; she could put up a convincing cover for you if things go awry.

"Anyway, Splendid, Alder – I can't order you around either. But, if you want my advice, it'd be best to head for the Temple to recover the staff of the High Mechpriest with Cutlass."

Splendid shrugs. "I don't think any of us are bent out of shape about you giving us direction. Separate crews though we are, we're all of one goal. No need to be apologetic."

"Hrm?" Ossie asks, sounding distracted. "Oh. Fine – I'm in an off mood."

As you step forward into the mystical-mechanical space, more details, hiding just out of sight, reveal themselves to you. Each of the mechanical craftsmen seems to grow larger than they appeared when you saw them at a distance. You only take but a step, but even so, the shadows that surround them, cast by the light hidden behind the machinery, seem to be the shadows of giants.

And what more, the mechanical craftsmen seem to be sitting about in relaxed postures, contrasting with the holy reverence offered to them by the Watchkeepers. Every now and again, one of the craftsmen will look at another, and jaw away in silence, as if saying something – but all you can hear is the clacking and grinding of his ancient metal bones. The others respond to the one who speaks. Some bob their heads in a pantomime of laughter. Still others jut out their chins, a gesture of macho posturing and banter. You even catch glimpses of one craftsman looking at the project in its hands with a childlike fascination, as if the Watchkeeper he builds was not a weapon, but a thing of intense mystery.

The mechanical craftsmen sit in a crooked circle, with many spaces among them, where perhaps others sat. In one of the spaces of the circle, you see a most strange thing, propped up on a heap of scrap metal – a stone coffin. The coffin lays askew, as if plopped down carelessly by some giant's hand. Though it is askew, fresh offerings of fruit and drinks, served in stone cups, surround the tomb with meticulous and obviously reverent care. But most likely, not by the mechanical craftsmen – they jaw at the coffin with the same strange banter with which they regard each other.


Cerulean simply looks around with a great bit of confusion as all these details suddenly become more visible to her. But in that confusion was shark-like curiosity. Granted, not making her want to bite, but it was definitely helping her in wanting to keep stepping forward instead of staying still or turning back. And step forward she does, making sure to keep it slow and steady as to not, perhaps, give herself a sensory overload or something.



Roll #1 6 = 6


A shuddering of displeasure passes through the Watchkeepers as you step into the circle of giant craftsmen. A few of the smaller Watchkeepers step forward to retrieve you, but halt, once they see what happens next –


All at once, the mechanical craftsmen turn to look at you, as if just now noticing your presence. The weight of an unknown number of eyes bears down upon you as they size you up. Even now, you cannot tell how many there are. Even with your electroreception, your mind seems to enter a fog whenever you try to discern the giants' number. It is as if the giants themselves are not fully there.

The giant sitting beside you motions to the giant sitting near the coffin, who sets down the Watchkeeper in his hands, reaches to the coffin, and retrieves one of the drink offerings, as well as a set of the mysterious tools with which the giants make their Watchkeepers.

The giants pass down the drink and tools until they make their way down to you – and it is as you receive the tools that you realize there is something quite familiar about the one sitting at your side.

The giant beside you is of a curious structure – humanoid, but with an avian torso and limbs, and a skull that resembles both an eagle's, and a sea-serpent's. He wears an ancient crown of gold and gemstones, which resembles the crest of a cockatiel. In fact – much of his body, as you can tell with electroreception, is adorned in old and decrepit jewelry, barely containing hints of its previous magnificence.

As you look upon this familiar radiance, he seems to have a strange radiance of his own, constituting a vague, vaporous outline of some kind of body.

A body of teal.
A head of sunset gold.
And the wings of a Vola.

Each of them, reminiscent of Kukulcan.

This familiar giant hands over the tools with a flourish, and sets the drink at your side. With another motion, he gestures before you, where you see bits of metal laying in a heap, ready for the taking.


Cerulean can only blink as she seems a bit seized up from a myriad of emotions of the confusion and relief variety. She still tries to look around at all of them despite their numbers, but feels oddly at ease due to their familiarity.
"Kukulcan? You're here? But…up there and…taking a long nap?" She asks very confused before the drink and tools are handed to her. This seems to quiet her as her curiosity of the new things takes over her previous one. She takes a sip of the drink first, slightly worried about how long its been in that coffin, but perhaps putting her trust in the familiar figure to not have malicious intent.

She then blinks a bit at the tools before gently taking them, looking back at the figure with a confused stare.
"I…uhh…I gotta admit: I've never really used tools like these before," she admits nervously as she examines the heap of metal before her.


The drink is fresh, but blindingly strong. Some kind of fruit alcohol, which fights and kicks on the way down, and burns afterward.

As you manage to swallow your sip, the scene about you becomes somewhat clearer than before, like the sight of something coming up from underwater. Now, you are able to see more of the giants, more details and flesh, but they are still murky, unclear in number and kind. You catch bits of their voices, but their words are indistinct.

The figure who resembles Kukulcan sets his own tools to the side, then makes a prominent show of sorting through the metals that lay before him, taking a piece of scrap and inspecting it this way and that, setting it here or there. He remains silent through the process, but seems to be showing you the steps involved in working them.

Once he's gathered a suitable pile of metals, he takes the tools. Though they are old, and decorated in the style of shamanic totems and fetishes, their forms and functions are still apparent. Hammers, tongs, grindstones, pliers, screwdrivers, wrenches, augers. He takes a hammer, and it gleams with a current of lightning. He begins to beat and work the metal, and though there is no flame nor forge available, the metal curves to his designs, molding as easily as wet clay.

The strangely familiar giant takes a slower pace than the other craftsmen as they resume their work, so that he may demonstrate the steps to you.


Cerulean coughs a bit from how strong the drink is as the shark doesn't experience alcohol too much, let alone of this strength. She gives her eyes a rub as things become clearer and she begins to hear more.

She watches the familiar giant demonstrate and her tail perks up and lightly sways as her curiosity is being sated. It looked easy enough that even she could do it. In fact, it was even reminding her of the stuff Etch does around the ship.

Feeling more confident now, Cerulean takes a bigger swig of the drink and pushes past the strength of it as best as a novice can. She then picks up the tools given to her, and seems to be trying to think ahead by applying her Aura as the giant's tools had his become electrified.


Much of your body is rapt with a wondrous, and sweet-tasting pain as you knock back more of the intoxicating alcohol. Your Aura feels extra smooth and liquid as you conjure it, and it flows with little effort into the tool, coursing through it inside and out, allowing you to control it as you please.

When your eyes finally stop watering from the drink, more of the giant craftsmen become clear – but perhaps it may have been better if they had not. As their bodies become more visible, you see the depths of their weakness. The giants' bodies are fragile, brittle, emaciated, old; skin wrinkled, feathers falling out, chitinous carapaces filled with cracks. Even now, though you can see some giants clearly, others remain nothing but silhouettes and vague outlines. Those giants you can see are diverse in race and size and even sex; some appear more like the mortal races, while others seem more like divine, heavenly monsters.

Some have no faces. Others have partly blank and blurry faces, while others work away, despite having no head whatsoever. Others are missing arms, legs, and still others bleed perpetually from gaping wounds in their chest or torso, their blood vanishing into darkness.

But that does not stop them from talking, laughing and working. One gestures to you with his tool, and says –

"Hey, Thunder Serpent. I was using those tools. Take them back from the outsider."
"Oh, shut up," the familiar giant, the one addressed as Thunder Serpent, says. "She made a lot of ruckus getting down here. Let her take a souvenir back."


His voice sounds nothing like Kukulcan's. You see that he works the metal before him with a lightning-blue Aura. You recall that, when you saw Kukulcan fighting the Watchkeepers in the Temple's upper levels, that his Aura was a golden color – so too was Kukulcan's lightning.

You look up at the one who shares Kukulcan's title of Thunder Serpent. His face is the most clear out of all the giants sitting there. He looks – somewhat like Kukulcan. His face is blurry, the details vague. But you can tell that the resemblance is not perfect, as if it were an unfocused snapshot of Kukulcan.

Or perhaps the reverse.




"And, you're sure no one else is around?" Cutlass double-checks.

As soon as he's sure, she continues on. "Like I said, there's a mole among us. That combined with the fact that the I'm fairly certain we're being spied on in a variety of other ways and it's become obvious that the Crimson King and his guards can possess people, we need a way to detect liars. You two are the best for that job."

"I'm thinking some sort of combined aura power like what Hurscurs and Qarrowmarrow did back on Kaco island. My idea is that Schnitzel develops a power that can detect if someone is lying or withholding truth. Then, Make Believe works in conjunction with that - most likely with stickers - to determine what exactly it is they are lying about and what the truth is."

"I want to reiterate: there are spies among us. I chose you two for this not just because you are the best equipped for it, but also because I trust you two the most. I can't rule anyone else out. So, you have to keep this absolutely secret from EVERYONE else, understood. If people know the power you're developing, they're try to come up with a counter to it. More importantly, someone COULD come up with a counter to it. Whether or not someone does, the fact that they COULD if they found out about it makes this whole thing a lot less certain. We need this certainty right now. So, it needs to stay secret. People can't counter what they don't know about."

"Thoughts? No pun intended," she adds after a moment with a bit of a chuckle.


The talk of spies helps Schnitzel suppress his hung-over rumblings and grumblings, and he listens with rapt attention. "Yeah…" he whispers. "We can do that. The kid says we shouldn't discuss this outside of his telepathy from now on. Wait… uh, you sure? No, that name sounds stupid. Hey, watch your mouth – er, thoughts – you little bastard! No, put that sticker back, I need it! Alright, fine, fine, no need to torture me."

Schnitzel clears his throat. "Make Believe says he already has a name picked out: Argument Armament. Now see, I also have a name for it, and mine's better, it's Confessions: Act of Contrition! Whaddya think? Perfect, right?"


"Recovering the staff seems like a good idea, yes." he says, shrugging a little at Ossie's comment as he re-attaches his talons.

"An off-mood? If there is a way we could help, please let us know- this is a bad time to be distracted."



"I feel like Confessions fits better, but I don't think Contrition is quite right. More like Coercion. Did the Bee Queens share a name between the two powers? I don't know how I feel about that. Theoretically, at least Schnitzel may be able to do his half whenever."

"What if you split the name in two? Schnitzel's half is Confession. Make Believe's half is Coercion. Together, you have the single group power: Confession Coercion. I think that's pretty cool."


"Ehh…" Schnitzel grumbles. "I feel like coercion is more of Miss Sunshine's gimmick. I don't wanna step on her hooves. Yeah, Make Believe's not feeling it either. Look, we'll workshop it later, we're going to be late for breakfast, and if either of us is late, people are going to start asking questions."

Schnitzel hangs up.


Alder chirps a little, and responds with a poke of his own.


Cerulean spends her tool time testing out the tools first hand, looking more like a kid playing with his dad's tools compared to the old craftsmen around her. Once she got the hand of things, she fiddled around until she made something…roughly like one of the smaller Watchkeeper dogs that helped her against the giant spider.

As the voices come in nice and clear, and her own head got a bit more clear after the big swig, she looks around her at the more clearer-ish shapes. She looks up at Thunder Serpent, rubbing the back of her head but with a good-natured laugh.
"Yeah, sorry about that. But it was actually kinda fun." Her smile goes to a face of realization.
"Oh wait, I can hear you all now! If you're not busy…well, too busy, could you maybe answer some questions? The spiders are cute and all, but they kinda don't talk much…at all, hahah."


>Applying temp aura point since she is channeling her Aura for the tools

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5


You make a skeleton for a fierce-looking bulldog Watchkeeper. The Thunder Serpent whistles to one of the Watchkeeper spiders, who hurries away anon. Soon it comes back, bearing with it large chunks of obsidian stone, and drops them before the two of you. The Thunder Serpent takes a chisel, and makes a show of demonstrating how to cut and shape the tool to one's aims.

"Why are you apologizing? It's the whole point of the place," the Thunder Serpent says. "We wouldn't put an obstacle course down here for it to go completely unused."

As you request some answers, the Serpent nods, focusing on his chiseling.


Ossie sighs and shakes her head with defeat. "Not unless you can manipulate the Captain into not being so strange."

Splendid suppresses a squawk, then yanks on your tail with hers. You her Juniper gasping from the lake. Her face is quite red, and she soon submerges herself so as not to be scandalized further by such raunchy actions.


"Oh! Yeah! I guess that does make sense," she says as she watches how to the chisel the obsidian.

She gives it a go herself, then decides to ask as she works.
"So…wow, where do I start? Oh! So you're Thunder Serpent, but there's another person I know that looks a lot like you also calling himself the Thunder Serpent. But you're not him so…are there a bunch more Thunder Serpents?"


Alder frowns a little at that, and says "I am afraid she will likely remain strange… though, maybe some aspects could be worked on, over time. She seems to have a… lot going on."

Alder lets out another little chirp, and snickers a little before deciding to coil his tail around Splendid's and leave it there for the time being.


The Thunder Serpent pauses to think for a moment.

Then, retaking the obsidian in his hand, he begins to chisel anew, picking up his pace significantly.

>roll for your own chiseling

"There is only one Thunder Serpent, and I am he. Only the High Mechpriests may impersonate me on festival nights, flaying the divine night sky for its skin, to fashion a mask in my image. But the last of the High Mechpriests lies dead before us," he says, gesturing to the coffin.

"What you have encountered is an illicit impostor."

The change is minute, but noticeable – the giant's face changes, blurry though it remains. A slight widening of the eyes, a narrowing of the shape of the beak. He now looks less like Kukulcan, after having decried him as false.


Cerulean chisels and listens, nodding along and taking note of how the image was getting less blurry.

"Kukulcan. He said he made these guys and was trying to talk to them or something," she explains as she works, focusing on her work as she talks.
"He was gonna help us because we're kinda having some issues with these big, giant metal guys who can go invisible in the light. Who are they, anyway, cause one was stuck to your spider when I faced against it."

Roll #1 6 = 6


It takes quite a while, but you fashion a suitable head for your bulldog guardian, fierce and bold. What remains now is the body, and the limbs. Perhaps, as your skill grows, you may branch out into more unconventional designs…

"We are the ones who carve violence from stone, who craft war from steel. If an illicit impostor would claim these as his own, he should come down here himself and become calloused by the tools of gods."

As for your second point, the Thunder Serpent thinks. "We know not, but they have made themselves our most ancient enemy. They have come from the Vault, whose ravenous maw opens far, far to the south, and has devoured much of this Island. 'Twas we who sunk Cuauhtemoc when it became clear that, whatever the Vault was, it was assuredly one of the calamities who come out to shake the world to its very fundaments every few epochs: The Hunger."


Cerulean smiles at her handiwork, surprising herself a bit even. She picks up another piece and gets to work as the explanation goes on.

"Well, he tried to, but he got pretty messed up on one of the things on the first floor. To be honest, I'm kinda surprised I got all the way here, but it was fun!"

"Yeah, I was told of a vault thing. I was told of a control rod or something down here that was needed," she frowns a bit as she works on her obsidian, "but if you're saying Kukulcan isn't who he says he is…than maybe I shouldn't be looking for it?"

Roll #1 3 = 3


"…Good idea," Cloud says, realizing going along on a ship ran by the Crimson King would be a horrible idea.
Cloud gets up, taking a few steps to the lake.
"Hey, Juniper! Can you show me where the infirmary is?"
He shouts over to the swimming pony.


As for your second attempt… well, practice will make perfect. You can probably still buff out the cracks.

"Regardless of who or what this 'Kukulcan' is, he has the right idea," the Thunder Serpent says. He gestures to the giant who sits beside the coffin again, who rolls his eyes with mock annoyance for the inconvenience. He stands, and opens the coffin. You are able to see that mounds of skulls of various races are interred within, arrayed so as to look at the object in the coffin's center – a tall staff.

It is, unlike everything else in this strange and ancient space, unmarred in its beauty. Its body is white, and trimmed at the pommel and various rings about its length, in gold. Its overall appearance resembles that of some kind of cryptic key. The head of the staff is a curious lattice of metal and crystal, arrayed in numerous patterns evocative of star-charts, or perhaps mechanical diagrams – as you look upon it, it seems to be both.

"I don't know who he is, or what," the Thunder Serpent says. "And we cannot leave to find out. "But as you have reached us here, by law of the island, you have won what you have sought. Whether you use it yourself, or entrust it to this illicit impostor, will be a matter of your own judgment."

He continues to carve at the piece of obsidian. "Stay awhile and finish your project. I have something else I must make ere you go."

Juniper emerges from the water with a gasp, averting her eyes from Splendid and Alder's displays of affection. "Sure. Are you ready to head out now? I can take you there."
"You all might as well," Ossie says. "I think I ought to hang back with the Captain to see what's got her bothered. It won't do for either of us to be distracted, as you said, Alder."


"Woah…pretty," she remarks as she looks at the staff. She looks at her obsidian as she notices her distractions causing a dip in quality, so she tries to refocus on her task for a short while.
>Aura point

"Yeah, truth be told, I was gonna stick around a bit as well. The little spiders back there I think want me to help put it back together after I hit it a lot, and the dogs were too cute and friendly and helpful to leave broken and all, you know," she explains to Thunder Serpent, getting a fond smile on her face as she talks about them.
"And the spiders looked so sad and hopeful at me how could I say no?"

"So wait, I gotta ask: who is everyone else here…there," she remarks, pointing to the skulls that she assumes correspond to the other figures around her somehow, "or…however things go around here."

Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9


"Yea, I'm good to go now."
He says, taking notice of Juniper keeping her eyes away from Alder and Splendid.
"In a bit of a rush, eh?"


"Shut up," Juniper says. "I have exercise to get to."

You make a mighty chestpiece for your bulldog Watchkeeper. The limbs should be easy enough to carve in one fell swoop in comparison to the head and torso – now's the chance to trick him out, if you so wish.

>one more crafting roll required for your creation; repairing the hounds and Giant Spider may be defaulted on in exchange for spending most of the day upon it

"The former Head Mechpriests," the Thunder Serpent says. "They are joined to us in death, but they are not us. We are something older, and far different, as we have been in all our forms throughout the ages – once we were but high stone… a strong wind… the blasts of thunder… the glimmering of magic upon obsidian… the howl of the sea… the scorching sun… the wondrous moon…"

His words bring to mind what Kukulcan said about the nature of godhood, and its unity with Being itself.

"Whatever we have become, whatever we are now, and whatever we will become, are all but machinations of your kind," the Thunder Serpent continues. "Gods made in your image. Reflections in crystal, and glass, and water."


"Ah- squeamish, I guess. I believe I am ready to go, yes." he remarks, before nodding a bit to Ossie. "If the two of you get over…" he gestures a little, not sure what to put it as "-then please, tell us over the conch. Less so for coming to help, and moreso to know you are well again."


Cloud snickers.
"Alright, alright. Let's get to the infirmary and then you can get back to your laps."


"I don't know about squeamish – she's probably all a-fluster because her own griffon is 'occupied,' so to speak," Splendid whispers. "Could you imagine that? Being with your lover when you and she are possessed by demons?"
"Somehow I don't see the Crimson King going for the Yellow Jester…" Ossie whispers. "But Juniper is still being denied Cycle Kick's ball–"
"Hey, shut up and hurry up!" Juniper shouts, climbing out of the lake to get cleaned up.
Splendid's head snaps toward Ossie with surprise. "My word!"
"What?" Ossie asks. "His ball game skills. She has nobody to shoot hoops with."
Splendid narrows her eyes at Ossie's atrocious lie.

Juniper leads you and Splendid back to the Thunder Serpent. The motley crew is making their preparations for the morning, finishing breakfast and stretching as they plan the day's tasks. Neither Kukulcan, Two Reeds, nor the Crimson King is anywhere to be seen, but Sir Diamantaire stands watch upon the deck.

>Make stealth rolls if attempting to enter unseen

"Alright," Juniper says, as you reach the edge of the ship's camp. "How you wanna do this?"


Cloud shudders at the thought of demon possession as Splendid brings it up.
"I try not to. Been through enough demon stuff the last day alone for one lifetime."

Cloud follows with the others back to the Thunder Serpent. He looks to Juniper at her question.
"Can't we just walk in? Don't tell me Kukulcan has some protocol for visitors."


"Huh, that's…woah," she says, not quite too sure what to say in response. The answer was of very grand scale for her, and oddly poetic. As she works on the limbs, she gets a creative idea as she gives it bracelets, but tries to see if she could make it so the bracelets could rotate into wheels.
>spending last point

"Then, I must ask: do you guys know of the buildings and stuff outside of here? Because there was a city we came to that was abandoned. I had a gun that could tell me information about things, but for once, the gun didn't have all the answers."

"Oh! And in the trees was this big…structure thing guarded by monkeys and spiders like these. I think it was some sort of magic network thing…I dunno, magic isn't my strong suit."

>I will spend the time and default to fix the pack of doggos and giant spider

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3


"Ah- fair enough. That would put me out of sorts, for sure." he says, frowning a little bit. He'll follow along after Juniper, trying to keep an eye out for any sign of Kukulcan or the others.
>Perception: [1d10]

"As for what to do… I could try distracting the watchman, if needbe."

Roll #1 6 = 6


>Another craft…

>…and a perception


Roll #1 10 = 10 / Roll #2 4 = 4


Alder looks about, and confirms that neither Kukulcan, Two Reeds, nor the Crimson King are anywhere outside. Only Sir Diamantaire and the mooks are about.

Juniper shrugs to Cloud. "You could probably be fine just walking in, but sometimes the crew can get possessive of their treasure. They may not believe you if you tell them you're just interested in seeing your crewmates in the surgeons ward."

"Indeed," the Thunder Serpent says. "Pieces of the place are gone, aren't they? Even we cannot recall them."

You make some sturdy limbs for your bulldog, and in a moment of inspiration, you see how you might include some extra functionality within the tail…

>pick any skill or combination of skills worth up to 2 points, for your Watchkeeper.

Something about the Thunder Serpent looks off to you now… you can't quite place it, but his appearance has subtly changed.


"Believe or not, that's the only place I'd walk too. Plus if they're real pirates they should have their treasure guarded up so somepony can't just waltz in and take it."
Cloud says, opting to walk to the ship without sneaking around.


"Mmm, very well- let us try simply walking in first then, yes?"



Cutlass rolls her eyes at herself for getting caught up in their naming nonsense.


Cutlass returns to wherever the others are.


As you climb aboard, most of the Thunder Serpent's crew offer little more than nods or grumbled greetings. They look a bit severe, probably suffering from the same affliction that all pirates know well – hangovers. They mostly stay out of your way as you head for the entrance to the ship's interior.

Though, once you get near the door, Sir Diamantaire, a cloud of floating dust surrounding a series of crystals at his core, floats over toward you. You see that he is posted up in front of the door to Kukulcan's quarters, which is situated above the door to the ship's interior.

"Can I help youse?" Sir Diamantaire asks.


Just before Schnitzel hangs up, you hear him mumbling names under his breath.
"Nonstop Debate… Perjury! No… Ace Attorney… Adhesive Attorney… how can I incorporate stickers into all this…?"

see also: >>747548


Seeing as how this was mechanical, and Cerulean was noticing a slight trend with things as of late here, she opts to use the tail space to help it generate extra electricity to use outside of powering itself. Also taking a page from her own book, she gives the bulldog Watchkeeper some extra jaw strength so it could latch onto something about as well as she can.

>Giving the Watchkeeper Elementalist Electric and Grapple

Cerulean hums as she works, not noticing the change at first, but it starts bugging her enough to ask.
"Hey…did you do something to yourself? Dunno why, but feels like something changed about you," she hums in thought, "maybe I need to drink a bit more of…whatever this is."


Cloud goes to cover his face as the dust cloud floats towards him, forgetting that one of Kukulcan's crew was an elemental of sorts.
"Oh, it's you," He says, lowering his hoof, "Nah, we're just going to check on our crew in the infirmary."
He says casually.



Roll #1 9 = 9


At last, it clicks – the Thunder Serpent has regained, at least in part, his passing resemblance to Kukulcan, which had vanished when the god denied the captain. The cause, however, is yet unknown.


"Don't overthink it," the Thunder Serpent says. "As I am now, I may appear differently to different people, depending all on one's perspectives and beliefs. When a tale is known by only one or two souls, it is they and they alone who have control over the tale's contents. When a tale is known by many, it becomes stronger in the telling. But the Hunger has consumed most who knew me, who knew us. As such, there are few now who may dictate who and what we look like. Only when one of decisive will and charisma arises to settle the story to the masses, will my form take shape again."

At last, the bulldog Watchkeeper is complete… but it lays there, inert and without life. The Thunder Serpent looks to you. "Well well. You're outstripping my teachings, I see. I trust then, that I can leave the final steps to you to bring it to life."


"But…didn't have an appearance of your own? I mean, changing shape is cool and all, but I'd be kinda bummed if I just changed into whatever anybody said I looked like, even if it wasn't true."

Cerulean looks back with a nod.
"Yeah, I think so," she says and takes out one of the soul rubies from the dog pack. She tries to put it where she remembers them being housed.


You install the Ruby eyes into the Watchkeeper's skull, nut nothing yet happens.

"What do you think a serpent looks like?"


"Well, I know serpents usually look more like snakes. Not exactly like snakes, but snake-like or something," she said as she thinks back to a coral reef snake, and how their pretty colored bands was an instinctual warning for her to not mess with it.

She just stares at it, then gives a brief glance to her 'mentor', then back to her Watchkeeper.
"Uhh…hmm…I don't know what to do here. Does it just take a moment or…?" She pauses a moment.
"Really kinda nervous. It looks so important and delicate that I don't wanna…ya know…break it."


"What do you think a snake looks like?"

He looks down to the Watchkeeper. "Like all things, he needs his true name, and the light of life."

The Thunder Serpent reaches out in your direction, and touches the space before you; your aura activates, perhaps animated by his gesture.


"Well, they're really long and slender like a noodle. Covered in scales; the ones I remember had bands of black, and…well, sometimes they were white, other times they looked blue. I think it was a trick of the light or something," she says as she openly talks and thinks about it, "oh, a forked tongue and sharp, pointy fangs!"

Cerulean watches her aura flare up not of her will, but nods as she now understands.
"Alright, so some of my aura," she says as she lets it flow like water to the Watchkeeper. She hums in thought as she thinks of a name.
"Alright, time to wake up…Torpedo."


The Thunder Serpent subtly narrows his eyes at you. "What do you think a noodle looks like? And scales? Bands? A forked tongue, and sharp fangs? What do they look like?"

Torpedo's body shudders and clatters, each limb and joint vibrating where it lays, as your command and Aura animate him. Lights flash in his crystal eyes, and he eventually gains enough strength to command his shuddering body. In a scramble, he rises, bracing himself on four paws, crouching as if to pounce upon a foe.


"Err…one at a time," Cerulean says, seemingly a bit nervous by all the questions of what they look like so suddenly.
"Well, noodles are long and slender. Scales are these…little sort of…things on snakes and fish. Shiny things that can be a real chore to bite through sometimes. And bands as in like…rings. Like there's a bunch of leg bands and stuff to make a sort of striped pattern. The tongue is very thin and kinda flicks everywhere, but it splits at the end. Like a fork. And fangs are these teeth that are small, but super pointy. Pretty sure it could get past even my skin with how sharp and pointy."

As Torpedo gets up, Cerulean looks absolutely amazed by it.
"It worked? Oh woah, it actually works! I…I made a thing instead of breaking a thing!" She looks quite pleased with herself as she happily goes over and pets Torpedo on the head.
"Well good morning, Torpedo! Or happy birthday? Not sure what to call this."



Cutlass joins the others on the Thunder Serpent, saying nothing. She is unsure whether this is a ruse or they are actually just going to see their friends in the infirmary.


"Long and slender? Little sort of things? And shiny? Rings? Striped patterns? Thin, and split? Small, but pointy? What do these look like, and from where do they arise?"

Some of the other mechanical gods roll their eyes as the Thunder Serpent continues to repeat his line of questioning. "He's going to be all day with this…" one mutters.

Torpedo shows little reaction to your head-pat, simply turning to you as he stands at attention. He occasionally makes small grunts and huffs and snorts. He seems to be of a serious and dutiful temperament – Tabasco drops into a play stance, occasionally barking and nipping at Torpedo's paws to provoke a reaction, but Torpedo offers none, eyes focused on you.


"Just checking in on our crewmates." the griffon says, flicking his tail a little.


Sir Diamantaire falls silent, and though he has no eyes to speak of, you cannot help but feel as though some of the crystals swirling about in his midst are eyeing you up and down…

"Yeah, youse been on the ship before. Alright, you can come on in."

He floats over to the door, and it opens. He stands at the side and you can still sense his eyes upon you.


Alder nods a little bit, stepping inside and heading for the infirmary. "No wasting time, yes?"



"What IS he?" Cutlass mutters as they pass by.


"I, ehm… do not know. You could ask him."


Cerulean looks to Torpedo with a smile.
"Its okay, take it easy and relax for now. Play a bit if you'd like, just don't hurt each other, okay," she says to Torpedo, seeing if it knows how to play.

As the questions come out and he starts asking such things, Cerulean looks like she freezes up from thinking too hard.
"Well…long and slender is…long and…slender…things…uhh……." She blinks as she's at the point where she can't exactly describe them much further beyond knowing that 'little things are little' and such.


"Thanks bud," Cloud says as Sir Diamantaire steps aside to let them pass.
He nods to Alder in agreement, heading on down to the infirmary.

"I think he's some kind of elemental."
Cloud whispers back.



"I shouldn't be surprised, but are those just a thing now?"


"He's an Elemen," Juniper says with a bit of offense in her puffed cheeks. "They're not a numerous people, but they can be pirates too!"

Sir Diamantaire follows at a distance as you enter the ship, and he seems intent on following you all the way down to the infirmary. Indeed, he does, and once you reach the door of the infirmary, he pauses, floating at the end of the hall without so much as a gruff word.

Torpedo harrumphs, then turns to Tabasco, who suddenly gets a bit nervous. However, Torpedo is kind and not overly rough in his play, tempering the strength that he boasts in his jaws and limbs, and Tabasco soon relaxes.


The Thunder Serpent smirks. "Told you not to overthink it. I'll get to the point. What you think of as a serpent, or a snake, is merely a matter of perception, taught by your imperfect observations, and the words of others. All phenomena, all things, are made of smaller and smaller things. Each of those things can be broken apart further and further down, all the way to the smallest speck of dust. It's aggregates and aggregates, all the way down. You have died and been reborn many times over, as your body's cells perished, yet replaced themselves over the years. What any of us thinks of as 'ourselves' is an illusion.

"'The Thunder Serpent…' Give me a break. I was nothing but a rumbling in the sky, until someone with a wild imagination thought that an entirely DIFFERENT phenomenon, lightning, looked a bit like one of those crazy noodles he saw wiggling across the ground.


"A Serpent.

"And Thunder.

"So now, here I am," the Thunder Serpent concludes. "Only, now I am not much more than a rumor, held alive, it seems, by a well-versed impostor. I don't know him from the Poet, but whatever he's after, he'd better be worthy of the Name of Thunder, and the Will of Lightning, and the Shape of the Serpent."


"My mom would always talk about communing with elementals to keep the farm prosperous, never seen any myself though."

When Juniper answers what he is, Cloud shrugs.
"Oh, guess he's that then. I had half the name right though."

Cloud doesn't glance back as Sir Diamantaire follows them, his ears keeping a good enough track to remain inconspicuous. When they get to the infirmary door, Cloud opens it up and steps inside.



"Obviously, ANYONE can be a pirate," Cutlass chuckles. "That's the point."

She follows along with the others.


Cutlass blinks. "Huh. I always just pictured you coming from a totally boring, do-nothing family. What did your mother do that she would be in communication with elementals?"


Cerulean listens intently to the conversation as her brain recovers from perhaps having a near meltdown from how metaphysical the conversation was getting.
"That's…a lot of new stuff to take in, and really more than I ever thought I'd learn when I left home. Woah…." She glances over to the two playing companions as the gravity of the words settle in.
"Still, I don't really know what much else is going on neither with…well, everything, honestly. All I really know is; I've got giant iron guys to smash soon, and a bit of a competition with someone I gotta keep up with. Whether he's worthy of all those titles…ehh, I don't know. If I'm to be really honest, if he got that messed up against the stuff on the higher levels, I don't think he's really all that he likes to say he is…," she hums a bit in throught.
"Ah, sorry! That was kinda mean to say, wasn't it?"


Cloud turns to face the tiny mare.
"Hey, first of all, my family isn't boring or do-nothing."
He says in a stark contrast to his usual casual tone.
"But, my mom was a shaman," He says, voice back to normal, "She studied nature magic to help with crops and since we lived in a forested area, and talking with elementals is part of the basics I've been told. Never learned it myself though."



"So you, what, lived in the woods?" Cutlass asks with a little grin.


"You've never heard of Hollow Shades?"



Cutlass shrugs. "I'm not sure. It's just funny to me that you were even more poor than I thought," she says with a smirk.


"We weren't poor," Cloud retorts, "Hollow Shades is a large village. My family is one of the better off ones too, the farm has been through my dad's line for as long as anypony can remember, and it's the biggest too."


"Elemen? I do not think I have heard of something like that before." the griffon says as he pokes his head inside the infirmary.



Cutlass snorts. "Farmers…"


Cloud snorts back.



"I'm still growing," Cutlass says defensively.


"Yea, smaller."
Cloud counters.



"That doesn't even make sense!" Cutlass says petulantly.


"It makes perfect sense, you're growing smaller."
Cloud explains, even holding his hoof over her head to point across the height difference.


Alder mutters something under his breath, before stretching out and saying "So, crewmates?"



"That would be shrinking!" Cutlass objects. "Not growing!"




"Same difference."

"Right, right. Got a little distracted there."


"Not surprising," Juniper says. "They're a solitary people… and unfortunately, you're more likely to see them on the black market than on a crew. Sir Diamantaire talks about it now and again with us, but he probably wouldn't share much with you."

Sir Diamantaire doesn't follow you into the infirmary, seeming content to wait outside as a guard.

Inside the infirmary, you see Magoja tending to Droplet, Paraiba, Prisma and the mook. Breakfast of hardtack, fish and fruit is served, and Magoja busies himself with distributing various small pills and cups of liquid medicine. He looks over his shoulder, and nods in greeting. "Always a good morning with the Beesting and Hidden Dagger crews," Magoja says. "How fare you all after last night? If need be, I can prepare a hangover remedy."

His eyes gleam with mischief.


"Ah- nothing to worry about." the griffon says, waving a wing dismissively."

"I do not think I need a remedy for that, but thank you. Just came in to see how everyone is doing." Alder says, scooting over to give Prisma a friendly little pat.



Cutlass smirks, then rubs her bloodshot eyes. "I'll be fine, thanks," she responds to Magoja. "Thanks for putting me in the right direction, though."


"I'm good, didn't drink last night."
Cloud response, looking past Magoja to the crew.
"How's everypony doing?"



"Lucky you," Cutlass grumbles when Cloud says he didn't drink.


"For what it is worth, I am always willing to make a remedy for you."


"Can't go around getting into drinking contests all willy nilly you know."


The Thunder Serpent shrugs. "I began as nothing more than sound, and the Sun and Moon Serpents, naught but light and shadow. Anyone may rise, and anyone may fall. We shall see how my sister and brother judge, if this impostor is to ascend."

He reaches over and hands you the Key of the High Mechpriest. "But you've got other matters to discuss, slayer of the iron thieves. Go on, take what you've earned."

The Key of the High Mechpriest – the Thunder Serpent handles it with a casual air, this ancient relic. It floats and gleams with an otherworldly atmosphere, cold with the scent of death, yet warm and vibrating, as mysterious mechanical energy runs underneath its surface.

Roger joins in as Torpedo and Tabasco take turns chasing one another's tail.

Prisma, for some reason, scoots over and begins checking your head, picking at it as a chicken might pick at the ground for vermin and for seeds. It is not painful, but it is certainly thorough; she is undoubtedly searching for something.

"Hrm?" Magoja asks. "Whatever do you mean?"

"Recovery goes well," Magoja says. "They shall arise from bed anon, ready for the next great travail."
"To tell the truth, I'm feeling ready to get going now," Paraiba says. "But we've been talking about all the events from the past few days, and we'd feel better lying low until we know what's going on."
"Splendid caught us up last night," Droplet says. "Over the conch."


Alder hums a little bit, deciding to wait and see what Prisma's looking for. "Curious. I wonder if someone slipped something on to me."



Cutlass gives no response to Magoja, merely just smirking at him.

Then, she turns to Droplet. "How are you feeling?"


"That good to hear," Cloud says as they say they're feeling better, and that they've been caught up.
"We're mostly waiting for Cerulean to get back too, so no rush on getting out of bed."



"Didn't she go to the temple? Wouldn't it make more sense for us to meet her there? Besides, we don't even know if she's alive. She could be in trouble, and we'd just be sitting here doing nothing."


Cerulean takes the Key, looking it over a bit with curious wonder at the odd sensation she feels from it.
"Woah…neat. Thank you for, well, a lot of things. Really a lot of things. Then…I guess take care of yourselves…or however it is you…phenomenons do?" She questioned her own words as she said them as she wasn't sure whether to keep looking to them as Gods still, or just parts of nature like they claimed to have started out as.
"Eh, doesn't matter, right? Just take it easy!" She gives a slightly nervous, but happy laugh, before waving goodbye to everyone and walking away towards where she came in.

"Alright boys, everyone meet Torpedo! Make sure you all get along, alright?" She says to her growing-group of companions.
"Oh yeah, speaking of new friends, I should get in touch with my other friends!" She takes out her Conch as she tests to see if there is still reception in this place of twisted dimensions, or if she needs to walk out a bit further.


The calls do not go through. You must be too deep within the earth for it to work.

Prisma's pecking unearths nothing but a bit of dirt and grass, likely from camping outside the night prior. You feel refreshed from this bit of grooming, but Prisma looks ill at ease – it is easy to discern that her search has been thwarted.

"Good, good," Droplet says. "But a bit tired… I've been keeping watch all night after all."
"Despite our protests," Paraiba says.
"Well, when I heard what'd gone on topside between Cutlass and the King, keeping watch was the only proper course of action, wasn't it?" Droplet retorts. "Especially with hypnosis on the table."
"Yes, yes, your wariness is commendable," Magoja says. "He even made me taste-test all his medicines before him."
"Anyway, we're basically just lying low for now," Paraiba says. "But we could probably move if need be."


"Well darn. Guess that call is gonna have to wait a bit, then." She proceeds on, back to the room with the spiders and one of her more toughest fights here.

Once she gets back, she looks around for the small spider Watchkeepers.
"Hey! I'm back! And I got some fancy tools to fix up your big spider friend," she calls out, hoping that would spur the spiders into action to come out and help a bit. Plus, she did promise them she'd fix it and the pack of dogs.


"Hmm? What is it, Prisma? If you want to keep looking, I'll wait as long as I need to." the griffon says, patting around in his plumage a little
>Search: [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3


"She called last night and said she only had one more floor to go, so she should be on her way back by now I'd figure."
Cloud answers.

"Alright, laying low works for now. It would help to have Cerulean back anyways for escorting you all back to the ship.|


Acting quickly, the spiders make every effort to recover the broken pieces of the gigantic spider, amassing great heaps of scrap bronze and shattered obsidian, cleaned and stripped of the cold and slimy gray metal that had infested it earlier.


You recall Chiu's request for a newspaper…


"Oh, by the way, do you guys get the paper down here?"
Cloud asks, more of Magoja since their crewmates likely aren't focused on the news.


Magoja shakes his head. "We haven't gotten it since day three of our dive. The delivery fish dare not to tread in waters this deep. Why? Seeking your newest bounty poster?"


"Was just curious. So we're really cut off from everything down here then?"


Magoja nods. "Most forms of communication, even all but the most potent of magical ones, are completely cut off at these depths."


"And it'll take another week going back up, so we'll be cut off for a while…"
Cloud mutters.

"…Wait why would I have a new bounty poster? I haven't done anything since the last one was made."


"Thanks guys. Now then…." Cerulean gets her aura flowing into the tools again and gets go work rebuilding the giant spider. Part of her was actually excited now, mostly to see how it acts without the black sludge and all affecting it.

>spending the extra time to rebuild without rolling


"Bounty companies often update those when they feel they have acquired a more accurate photo of the target. They may also publish alternate versions of bounty posters to provide different angles of the face, especially if those angles highlight beauty marks, scars, and other important factors in distinguishing the mark."



"Well, this tiresome chore is what you get for defying my orders," Cutlass says to Droplet. "You weren't even supposed to be out here in the first place."


"So, wait. Are you telling me that Cerulean almost has the control rod already?" Cutlass asks, hardly believing it.

"That would put us WELL ahead of schedule…"


"Oh. Well, that doesn't change much for my case either way."

"What control rod?"



"There's a staff that controls all of the obsidian machines we're fighting. The plan for today was to go get it and use them to help us plunder the vault."


Prisma pecks you a bit more forcefully this time, eyeing you with annoyance. It is at this point that you spy something peculiar laying beside her on the surgeon's table: a yellow feather. It doesn't look like it belonged on her body at all, matching neither the color, size nor texture of her feathers. It is plain to see that it was deliberately set aside.

The work is long, meticulous and arduous, and your muscles and bones grow sore from the long bouts of stooping, bending and executing fine motions to repair the intricate machinery. Your trio of pets do their best to aid you, as do the spiders, who correct any missteps and provide themselves as a model for building.

Eventually, unable to see straight from exhaustion you are forced to retire for the evening.

After a deep and heavy sleep (so much so that you do not recall if you had that same haunting dream), you awake, and resume your work in what you can only assume is morning.

Then, after much ado… the giant spider is at last repaired. It lays inert, much like Torpedo did when he was completed.

"Sorry captain," Droplet says with his usual sincere smile. "Guess I just got too excited to explore."
"You planning to head up and get a newspaper?" Paraiba asks Cloud.



"That doesn't sound all that safe to me. I don't trust those things."

"Chiu wanted it for some reading, but if we're cut off I guess that's out then."
Cloud says to casually downplay the importance while they're around Kukulcan's crew.



"Yeah. Because we aren't in control of them yet," Cutlass says as if Cloud is being foolish.


"We should probably go meet up with Cerulean soon. Who here is good enough to travel?"


"Even with a controlling stuff, I wouldn't want to be around those."


Cerulean looks around to her pets and the spiders with a big smile.
"Whew, thanks for all the help, you guys. All that is left now…." She takes out the soul rubies that were the spider's eyes before she had her fight with it. She inserts them delicately, then backs away. She takes a moment to think of a name, assuming she's got to give it a new one as she never did know its original name.
"Alrighty, time to wake up Rip Tide."


"Hrm… that is a peculiar feather. Is this what you were looking for, Prisma?" the griffon asks, picking the feather up and looking it over. Maybe it has an aura, or something else?
>Identify? [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10


Magoja stands and shakes out his mane. "Since it sounds like you'll be heading out soon, I'll be off. I've got quite the list of herbs and roots I'd like to find to make sure our cabinets are properly stocked before the raid on the Vault. You'll find your medications by each nightstand. Be sure to stick to the dosage plans I wrote for each of you."

With that, Magoja nods and heads out. Droplet yawns, allowing his body to relax now that no members of Kukulcan's crew are nearby.

"I can come," Paraiba says. Prisma clucks, tossing off her blanket with a flourish of wings.

It is a large griffon feather, but is devoid of any kind of aura or magical effects, even those that might be concealed. It smells nice, but that's about it.

With a shudder and groan of metal and stone, the Giant Spider rises to its feet, every piece wriggling and shaking as it acclimates to its reconstructed and purified body. Its eight ruby eyes gleam as it surveys you, and at first it seems that there may be some hint of danger and malevolence, perhaps vengeance behind them… but when it looks down, and sees the small spiders milling about you, it relaxes its stance. The small spiders start to crawl up its legs. Riptide delicately turns about, inspecting the arena for dangers, while also taking care not to step upon you or the small spiders. Finding no danger, it at last lays down, facing the room's entrance.



"Good luck taking it easy," Cutlass says with a grin to Droplet. Then, she heads back out.


Cerulean smiles and takes a quick moment to speak with Riptide.
"Sorry I had to smash you like this, but you really weren't you when I came along. No hard feelings, okay?"

Regardless of answer, or lack of one, Cerulean then also looks to the entrance.
"Welp, I better be off, then. You're busy with this, and I gotta get to my own little 'spiderlings'," she says with a slight laugh. She then heads to the entrance and gives a wave.
"Take care everyone! And keep an eye on each other while I'm gone!" She then continues on with her trek back to the entrance with her pets.
"Now then…hopefully I can remember how I came here."


"Good luck with that."
Cloud says as Magoja departs.

With everypony who is able sets on going to meet Cerulean on her way back, Cloud follows as they depart.


"Hrm… a griffon feather? Is there even a yellow griffon around here?" he asks, somewhat confused. "When did you find this, Prisma?"



Riptide offers no verbal response besides a chattering of his mandibles. Perhaps that is all he is capable of. But if there's any doubt of any bad blood, he dispels those by tapping you once on the head with one of his legs. When he sees you heading for the entrance, he taps you once more, then turns, and launches some webbing up at the ceiling. He extends his leg, allowing you and the pets to get on if you so wish.

"Oh, she found that yesterday," Droplet says. "Not too sure where it came from. I'm guessing you don't dye your feathers?"

"I wanna read the comics section," Paraiba laments, missing the thought of newspapers.
"Uh…" Juniper begins. "You guys still want me hanging around for all this? You're all putting a lot of trust in me to bring me to where your infirm allies were."
"Wait who are you again?" Paraiba asks. "I feel like I've seen you before."
"I was one of the people who found you after your crash landing," Juniper explains. "As for after that… it'll take a while to explain."
As Juniper catches Paraiba and Prisma up on the situation, you exit the surgeon's room, and Sir Diamantaire escorts you back to the deck of the ship.



"I don't really trust a lot of people," Cutlass says, not turning to look at Juniper. "I definitely don't trust you. I just don't think your presence could mess anything up worse than it already is."


"Hmm… I do not, no. Maybe Splendid might have an idea? Or, one of Kukulcan's crew." he offers, shrugging a little.

"Ah- I suppose we ought to be out of here then, yes? Where to from here?"


"You're offering me a ride?" She beams at the prospect of not having to navigate her way back up and happily takes up the spider's offer by getting on its leg. She also helps the others up on as well and makes sure they're safe and secure on.
"Alright, looks like we're good to go!"


"After me," Cloud says to Paraiba as they head out.

"If you want, I think you're good enough to stick around."
Cloud says to Juniper.


Juniper laughs weakly. "W-well there's a first. Usually people can't stop talking about how I keep messing things up…"

"That makes one person…" Juniper mopes.
Splendid clicks her tongue at her woe-is-me outlook.

Splendid, who as we all recall entered the surgeon's room with you, inspects the feather, then shrugs. "Doesn't look familiar to me. There's griffons on all three crews, and Vola on Kukulcan's. Maybe you just bumped into someone and got it on you?"
"In any case, hold onto it," Droplet says. "With everything that's going on, who knows if that's something to be concerned about. It strikes me as too strange to ignore."

Together with Prisma and Paraiba, you leave the ship, and begin the trek to the Skull Temple, eastward. The Sun Serpent is low in the sky, and though the morning is warm, a chill breeze keeps the heat at bay. Splendid still pesters Alder and Cutlass to drink much water on the way over.

At last you arrive at the temple entrance, but no soul, living or mechanical, is about.

Riptide trails up the webbing, until at last he reaches the ceiling. Tabasco, Roger and Torpedo stick close to one another for security, nauseated by the dizzying height.

Riptide reaches up with a free leg to one of the stone panels of the ceiling, and traces his leg in an unusual diagram, seeming almost like an illustration of the sun and moon combined. He pulls his leg away, and the pattern he traced briefly glows. The ceiling panel vanishes, and in its place is a vortex, the color of the dusk sky. Perhaps some secret mechanism for the Mechpriests' convenience, when once they roamed this temple alongside their Watchkeepers.



Cutlass begrudgingly listens to Splendid's insistence on drinking water.

"We're ALL in danger of dehydration. You don't need to treat me like a child," she grumbles.

When they arrive, she strolls to the entrance of the temples, remaining cautious.

[1d10] perception

"So, anyone know where Cerulean went exactly?"

Roll #1 2 = 2


Cerulean blinks in awe at the sight, all this making her shark-like curiosity kick in.
"Woah…now that's really cool. Looks like we get to jump through it like a wild current ride! C'mon guys, and thanks again Riptide!" Cerulean makes sure her little posse is ready before grabbing them and hugging them close before taking a leap up and into the vortex.


Cloud hovers along with the others, taking advantage of his regained wings to catch up on a long time of missed flying. He also hovers to make for a safer retreat, still on edge of traveling through the forest after his last encounter.
When they reach the temple, he looks around if there's been any prints leading out.
"Think she's still in there?"



"Well, we didn't see her on the way over. So, she's either here or dead," Cutlass comments, not sounding concerned.


Alder hums a little, and gives Juniper a soft pat on the shoulder.

"Hrm… I think it is good to hold on to it, yes. Prisma seemed concerned about it, and she seems to have a good sixth sense." he remarks, tucking the feather away.

Alder drinks plenty of water, responding to Splendid's pestering with a soft peck on the cheek. "To be fair, it is like cold warnings back home- the warning is given to young and old, because the danger of death to exposure is quite severe. As for where Cerulean went… I do not exactly know. She seemed to be doing okay, at least." he says, looking around.
>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4




Juniper perks up at Splendid's nagging about water, and offers her dress-up magic to anyone who wants flavored water.


Before your questions can be answered in words, a vortex the color of the dusk sky manifests upon the central floor-tile of the entrance room. Cerulean flies out, finding herself involuntarily gasping and laughing as a result of the vortex's energy flow, which launches her upward like a trampoline, giving her an adrenaline shot with a ticklish joy. You see she has a new companion too: a Watchkeeper dog.

The sight reminds Alder of his new goldfish companion. He must be hungry.



"Then why isn't she pestering Cloud?" Cutlass grumbles.


"How does the dress up magic flavor the water…?" Cutlass asks with a combination of fascination and concern.


Cutlass fully anticipated having to save Cerulean from some absurd situation. When she finds Cerulean alright and seemingly in control of an automaton, Cutlass blinks.

"Did… did you seriously just accomplish alone what I expected it would take our entire group to accomplish?" she asks, hardly believing it. "Do you have the control staff?"


"Cerulean!" the griffon chirps, rushing over to the sharkpony. "And… thing! You pick up a lot of pets, Miss Cerulean. Are you alright? How did everything go? Do I need to patch your injuries up?" he asks, looking her over.

>Alder would have tried the guava water again.
Thinking back to his fish companion, he frowns a little. "What do goldfish eat?"


"She must be on her way up still."
Cloud responds simply.

Cloud drifts back as a vortex opens in front of them, wary until Cerulean flies out of it.
"Oh hey, there she is. Everything go good down there Cerulean?"
He asks with her laughing entrance. When he sees one of the golems follow her too, albeit smaller, Cloud distances a bit.


"Woah! Haha! Now THAT'S a shortcut!" She looks over and gives everyone a big and happy wave.
"Oh hey! Nice timing, guys!"

Cerulean gives a grin and laughs a bit, showing everyone the very ornate and clockwork staff. When Alder gets close enough, he's on the receiving end of a big, Cerulean hug.
"Yup! I even picked up a few other nifty things along the way, made a new friend, and learned a lot of things, too. Like…BIG things you should hear!"

"Oh also, meet our newest crewmate: Torpedo!" She says, introducing the Watchkeeper bulldog to everyone.
"I made him myself, after the real Thunder Serpent showed me how."



Cutlass slowly blinks in exasperation. "Please explain."


Cerulean's new pet, a Watchkeeper bulldog, stands at attention, eyeing you all with suspicion, looking quite protective of Cerulean. When Cerulean gives Alder a hug, he barks a few times, bouncing with each bark, but does not make any other aggressive moves toward him.

"Yeah, what Cutlass said," Splendid says. "There was a helluva lot packed into those few sentences that needs elaboration!"
"You want some flavored water?" Juniper offers.

"Oh, I asked Itz that earlier," Splendid says. "He says algae and other underwater plants can be suitable."



"I still want to know how you're flavoring that water…" Cutlass gives Juniper a sidelong glance.


Alder lets out a semi-choked squawk, before wriggling around a little and returning the hug. "T-That needs… elaboration, yes! It sounds like it went well, though. Want to take a chance to have some water and rest before you tell us?"

He snickers a bit, and says "I am surprised to see you… uninjured, honestly!"

"Oh! We should get some, then."


"MaAaAagic!" Juniper says, tossing a bit of confetti out of her grimoire. "We've been OVER this!"



"That doesn't make sense! Does magic have a taste?"


"Haha, easy there Torpedo. These are friends. We can trust them," she says and lets Alder go.
"Honestly, yeah, some water sounds good. I ran out, and the only thing I've had to drink lately was this odd alcohol stuff down there," she says and happily accepts the flavored water, then proceeds to chug it down.

"Alright, so…uhh…where do I even start? Cause there is A LOT to unpack about all this."



"Well, I'd like to hear an explanation as to why you decided to do this alone."


"How much could be down there? This whole island has had a lot of nothing, aside danger."
Cloud questions when Cerulean says she's learned a lot. When she introduces Torpedo as a new crewmate, Cloud looks conflicted, looking down at the dog.
"…You made him?"

Cerulean can also see that Cloud is flying, with wings he did not have when they last saw each other, plus he is without his crutches and leg-sling.

Cloud meets the bulldog's stare with his own of suspicion, keeping his distance.


Juniper throws confetti at you.



"I hate magic," she grumbles.


"Well, you guys were gonna venture out to some place that was all really hot and stuff. I don't mind hot water, but hot air? Nuh uh. I would've used all the water just to splash on me," she explains with a smile, "plus, this place was really big and had me super curious that I just wanted to check it out now, ya know?"

"Yup! I got these special tools that work with my Aura and-" she stops as she does finally realize that Cloud is flying, and not by strings or magic or anything.
"Holy shrimp! You got your wings back! How'd you get them back?!"


As all this goes on, Splendid goes over to the shore of the Dreamer's Moon, and comes back a few minutes later with some algae and other greens from under the water to feed your goldfish.

"Aw don't say that. It's a great thing. Want me to teach you some?"

>for All

Splendid, Prisma, Paraiba and Juniper get themselves situated, leaning or sitting upon their bags and spare clothing as they try to make sense of Cerulean's single-hoofed triumph over the Skull Temple. Torpedo relaxes at Cerulean's assurance that her allies are good people, but sticks close anyway.



"I did great in all of my studies," Cutlass explains. "Except for magic. It was… a constant source of disappointment for my grandfather. I just don't get it! It's so annoying. None of it makes sense! Except telekinesis. That's my special talent."


"Can we please stay focused!?" Cutlass says when Cerulean gets distracted by Cloud's wings.


"Thank you, Splendid." the griffon chirps, trying to feed the fish with a small bit of the greens for now.

"He did, yes! Several things have happened. I opened my puzzle box, for one." the griffon says, detaching one of his claws at the wrist and setting it down on the ground to skitter around. "Go on though, please!"


"Oh! Yea, while everypony else was going to find the crewmates that got lost, I dealt with that deal I had with that genie to get them back. It's… kinda a long story."
Cloud explains.
"Seems like we've both been up to a lot."


"Nice, but alright, storytimes for later. Important stuff." She finishes her drink and clears her throat.

"Alright, then I think I should start with the real Thunder Serpent. Simply put; its not Kukulcan. But since he was convincing a lot of people that he is, the real one started to look like him. But then when I drank a bit, and was told things, the Thunder Serpent just sorta…lost his shape, I guess would be the right way of putting it? Basically, Thunder Serpent is only a god cause we all believe he's one, but as he said to me, he's just the thunder and we sorta give him a form. The same goes for all the other 'gods' down there."

"I guess one thing to take away from it all is: Kukulcan isn't really who he said he was, so I don't really feel good on giving him this control staff."


"You haven't said no so far, just excuses," Juniper retorts.

The goldfish chows down, then spins some small loops in celebration.

Your companions lean in with a combination of surprise and interest as they hear of Cerulean's news of the true Thunder Serpent. Ossie comes out of Cutlass's shadow, and is the first to speak.

"If Kukulcan isn't the god he claims to be, then who is he, and why is he so insistent that he's a god? He could just as easily be after the Vault without such a story, couldn't he?"
"Maybe his crew find it more compelling to think they're serving a flesh and blood god," Paraiba suggests.



"It's stupid," Cutlass says indignantly. "I don't want to learn it."


"The plan was never to give it to him. So, everything's going as planned. Good job."

"That may also serve to explain the weird contradictions I've been getting from Monty. If Kukulcan convincing people of something can actually change a god's form, then he's essentially manipulating the truth."

Cutlass pulls out her pendant and speaks to it. "Monty, what do you know about gods? And specifically the Thunder Serpent?"


"If the Thunder Serpent looks like Kukulcan the more people believe he is Kukulcan, then maybe enough belief can change his personality as well?" Cutlass offers an explanation in the form of a question. "Then, he'd basically have a god-like version of himself to cooperate with."

"It's a weird ploy that seems superficially related to the vault at best. Maybe he thinks he has a better chance at surviving the vault with a god on his side."

"I'd be inclined to think that the whole vault is a lie if it weren't for the fact that the Crimson King himself seems intent to get in there."


"Ah! That did it, then." he says, looking at the goldfish happily."

"Perhaps the belief that he is a god might empower him in some way? Or… he has deluded himself, as well? That does concern me about what might happen if he actually got ahold of "his" power."


"Wait, so the guy we followed down here lied about his whole identity? Definitely don't give him that staff, or anything else we've found."

"I'd guess it's because nopony could disprove him otherwise. This whole island sank, and there's no sign of anything that lived or went on down here, aside from what Cerulean found. Playing up all that historical stuff too with it sounds exactly like what a con man would do. Or a cult leader."


"Well, it kinda explains why Kukulcan was trying to talk with that one Watchkeeper when we first saw him. Remember how he was saying 'he made them' or something? I think he was trying to trick them or control them without having to get the staff," she theorizes out loud, "but these guys are too smart to fall for that. Or loyal. I mean, I rebuilt a giant spider I smashed up, and afterwards, it was the one who got me back up here really fast."

"Speaking of that spider, there was another one of those Iron Man guys here. It latched itself onto the spider and took it over like some…black-goopy parasite. It almost beat me, but thankfully, I wasn't really alone," she says and gives Roger and Tabasco some pets.


Also get linked to >>748757



"Were you not here the first time we discussed that he's a liar?" Cutlass asks, rubbing her temples. "I can't keep track of this web of lies anymore."


"Kukulcan simply being deluded would actually explain a lot. This web of lies is so nonsensical and useless that I'm almost inclined to believe he just thinks its true."


"So, the real Thunder Serpent made these things?"

"Also, the control staff wasn't able to control the ones that the giants took control of?"


"I guess not? I mean, I didn't have it at the time I fought the spider, so…dunno."


"Perhaps the delusion is not fully of his own doing, as well- that would make it more convincing." he suggests, stroking his beak.

"Black, goopy parasite? Concerning. It seems like you recovered well enough, though."


"There isssss not much that I know," Monty says. "Not many ssssspeak of him now, and thosssssse who do tell contradictory talesssss. All I can ssssay is that the Thunder Ssssserpent is one of the lassssst godsssss of this land. All others are fading, or have faded. He, who made the Watchkeepersssss, sssstandsss alone with the Ssssun and Moon Sssserpentssss, over thissss empty graveyard of an issssland…"
"Wait…" Splendid says. "Wouldn't that imply he hasn't told his own crew of this?"

"Should we even keep working with him?" Paraiba asks. "I mean, what if he's lied about other things? Maybe he just plans to use us as sacrifices, either for himself or for the Vault?"
"I doubt we have much of a choice," Splendid says. "We got our ships down here using the engines he installed. For all we know, he fitted ours with only enough fuel to make it down here, and not back."
"Someone as insane or deceptive as him would be the type of person to find a way to come out on top here," Ossie says. "And besides, he has the Crimson King and Yellow Jester on his side. He's dangerous to leave to his own devices now, even moreso if he's able to wrest godhood from the former Thunder Serpent."



"Does anyone know of a way to speak with the Sun and Moon Serpents?" Cutlass asks Monty.

Then, she looks to everyone. "I intend to honor my deal with him. I get all the treasure, he gets anything of historical significance. Betraying him gets me nowhere."


"So he's trying to lie about being the real Thunder Serpent, and you said you met the actual real one who looked like him until you started talking about it… Does that mean you can just replace a god if you convince everypony you're them?"

"A lot has happened in the past day, and I nearly died. Cut me some slack in catching up."

"He's got to be relying on those golems if he tried to talk his way into controlling them. Right now we have the advantage with the staff and knowing he isn't who he said he was. But we can't just turn on him without knowing what else he has planned, or lied about."
Cloud comments.
"At least Kukulcan isn't aware the Crimson King is down here, he said he was being incognito last night so that's one less thing to worry about."


"Well, its a parasite to the Watchkeepers. To me, it was…really weird. Like it was slowly making my body numb and stuff; like my tail. It got my tail, so when I could smack it really hard like I normally did, I had to resort to a good, old-fashion headbutt. And its a good thing the fight ended there cause…I think for a bit, it took away all my memories. Just for a bit, I got them back, but that felt…really, REALLY weird."

"Well, that's just it: I don't think he's actually a god. If he was, then he could've did what I did, but maybe way faster. That, and the lightning he uses was different from the real Thunder Serpent's. Kukulcan's is yellow, but the real color I saw was blue."

"That, and also Thunder Serpent said that nobody can impersonate him, except for the High Mechpriest, but said mechpriest was in a giant coffin where the staff was being kept."

"Huh? What deal? Did we make another one besides the ship engine one and all?"


"Wait, the Crimson King is here, too?" She looks genuinely surprised by this.
"Well dang, guess I didn't make the most of that headstart like I thought I did. Hahah."



"The deal *I* made," Cutlass repeats herself, emphasizing the word. "We ARE separate crews. I feel like some of you seem to forget that."

"As I understand it, you Beestings made some sub-par deal where you get some small percentage of the treasure. On my end, I get all of the treasure."


"Cycle Kick is the Crimson King," Cutlass says flatly. "Or is possessed by him. It's hard to tell how much of a difference that makes. Apparently, the initials of their names matter. So, be on the lookout for names that might have the same initials as another name."


"Hrm… perhaps we should check some of our engines, that would not be a bad idea. But… I do not think we are in a place to turn on him. I do not know, at least."

"Mmm, that is very… concerning. W-Well, I'm glad you are yourself again."


"Well you said the Thunder Serpent changed after you met him, so you might've stopped Kukulcan's plans entirely. But… what if the Crimson King has more of his crew try thing, going around to replace gods and such from old islands?"
Cloud then pauses a moment.
"Wait, you lost your memories?!"

"He showed himself last night after Cutlass challenged him to a drinking contest. He said he's trying to fight from a clean slate with no money or something like that."


"If they do, they are not talking," Monty says. "Perhapssss we may ssssimply fly up and ask."

"Right," Ossie says with a nod. "We've little reason to panic and overreact so long as we have the control rod and an island full of monstrous machines at our command… assuming we know how to actually use the staff to command them. There may be limits on its power, or it may even have a will of its own, like them."

Paraiba shakes her head. "I wouldn't take the fact that the High Mechpriest is dead as a nail in the coffin… oh jeez, I didn't even see that one coming."
Juniper cringes.
"Anyway," Paraiba continues. "Impersonation of the gods is a powerful tradition. If Kukulcan fills the right parameters, which he might as far as we know, he could impersonate the true Thunder Serpent as easily as the High Mechpriest."

"Not of his own doing…?" Ossie repeats.
Splendid shrugs. "We don't know enough to speculate too deeply without getting lost in the weeds, so let's just focus on what we know and have. If he's planning anything nefarious for us, he misplayed by letting our one-pony-army here into the Skull Temple. I say we stick with things as they are now, but make ready to defend ourselves if he tries to betray us."



"Hmm. Monty, any info on how to use the control staff?"

Cutlass nods at Splendid. "That's pretty much how I operate."


"Yea, that's something we'd need to figure out before using for real. Don't really have any safe golems to mess with either."

"Hmm,do you know of a way we could speak to the Sun or Moon Serpents?"
Cloud asks Hmm after seeing Cutlass ask her amulet about them.


"Aww c'mon, how long you gonna keep that up? Aren't you the one sailing with us like a remora on a shark?" She giggles a bit and gives a wink to Roger.

"Huh…gotta say, he's really taking our little bet seriously, it seems. Well hopefully he's having fun, cause I don't plan on losing to him."

"Yeah, same here. I didn't like not remembering you all."

Ceruleans laughs a bit to Paraiba's unintended pun.
"Well, it'd be kinda tough to impersonate the High Mechpriest: the coffin was filled with a bunch of skulls from…a bunch of different things."

>to everyone

"But…while on that topic, there is something you guys should know. This Vault we're trying to get into, its more than just some place. Thunder Serpent said that he and those like him sunk this island cause it was some sort of calamity that would affect the whole world. I think he called it…The Hunger? Yeah…yeah! Cause all those who knew what he really looked like were swallowed up by this Vault thing."



"You're useful," is Cutlass's overly defensive response to the accusation.


"You had a bet with the Crimson King?"

"So this Hunger thing throws stuff that knows what it looks like into the Vault?"
Cloud repeats, making sure he followed it right.
"This is all sounding like we got wrapped up into something big."


"This 'Hunger' would explain the bizarre dreams then, I imagine. I wonder if its influence is beginning to spread a little further despite the distance…"

He perks his ears up, and hops up to give the sharkpony a pat on the back. "I would not like forgetting you, either."


Cerulean gives gives a smile and playful giggle at her response.

"Yup! That I'd beat him to the Heart of Gold."

"I dunno, really. I think it just happened to swallow up stuff that knew what it looked like." She shrugs.


Last time, on PirateQuest…

At last, Cutlass, Juniper, Cloud, Alder, Splendid, Paraiba and Prisma left behind the Thunder Serpent, leaving Droplet to look after the mooks still aboard the ship.

They went east to the Skull Temple, where at last they reunited with Cerulean, who was triumphant in her excavation of the Temple. She came back with the Key of the High Mechpriest, a mechanical-magical control rod, capable of issuing orders to the Obsidian Watchkeepers that jealously guarded this island from intruders of all sorts. With that, they would be far better equipped to defend themselves against the Metal Men from the Vault… and from Kukulcan. Cerulean relayed what the true Thunder Serpent said about Kukulcan, that he was but an illegitimate impostor of the true god whose title he claimed.

Between Kukulcan's false identity, the presence of the Crimson King and Yellow Jester, the attack on Gullveig's shop, the strange golden feather upon Alder's head, and the likelihood of an informant among the crew, this island's troubles were only just getting started…


"I am a rumormonger, not an insssstruction manual," Monty says. "Disssscern it for yourssssself."

"They typically don't deign to talk to anyone besides the priesthood of this island," Hmm says. "But with them gone, that's probably not an option. Oh, but the method by which the priesthood would grab their attention is still out there… it involves a sacrifice of one's enemies, however."

"Cuauhtemoc sunk countless ages ago," Ossie says. "At least according to Kukulcan… though it doesn't seem like that was a lie of his, judging by what we've seen. All it seems they've accomplished by sacrificing the island was delaying the inevitable, if the Hunger's influence escapes to this day."
"So it'll be only a matter of time before they can move beyond the island?" Splendid asks.
"Most likely," Ossie responds. "How much time that is, is unknown… but it'll certainly pick up, if Kukulcan, or the Metal Men, open that Vault."


"Yeah, it was all very weird, but was still neat."

"Oh! And check this thing out!" Cerulean drops the chest onto the ground in front of everyone.
"This thing was weird: it opens, but after putting a coin in."



"Are you suggesting that we should do what we can to kill these monsters?" Cutlass asks Ossie.


"Mmm… Well, let us try to keep it at 'unknown' and not 'very soon', yes?"


"Assuming that killing them is even a possibility," Ossie says. "It seems clear that they shall walk again if they are not pinned down by a constant ray of sunlight. No, this island will probably not find any kind of respite unless the Vault itself is somehow banished or excised from it."
"Maybe even from this plane of reality…" Paraiba says. "The easiest way to exorcise something is to send it back from whence it came; that's always going to have the strongest connection to something that doesn't belong in this plane of being. Though, we'd need to know more about what brought it here and how."
"So… just kill whoever or whatever brought it here?" Juniper suggests.


Splendid looks over at the chest with intrigue, and digs in her bag for a coin. She hesitates, looking at the slot. "Hrm… what happened when you put one in?"


"Huh, you must've been very convincing to get him to agree to a bet like that."

"When you say sacrifice, you mean like… actual sacrifice?"
Cloud questions Hmm.

Cloud looks to Ossie as they talk about the Hunger moving on from this island.
"Where would it go from here? Just to what's nearby, or would it roam free to pick a new island?"


"Well, it made a bunch of weird symbols, opened, and I got this," she says and holds out the Obsidian Macuahuitl she got from it.
"But it was weird: that was all that was in there, but it still felt kinda hefty and the symbol thingies reset themselves. Seemed neat, so figured I'd bring it along with me."

Cerulean chuckles a bit.
"I guess. I think I just kinda reminded him how fun doing things is when you don't throw a lot of money at it."


"Ritually immolate their corpse in the presence of the gods, with humble heart and reverence upon tongue and eyes," Hmm says.

Ossie rubs her chin. "That's what I don't know, and can't know. It'd probably move on elsewhere in this world if it's not properly sealed. It sounds like it's been on this island for quite a while, and systematically eating away at it through the Metal Men. Unless it wanted this island specifically, I imagine it'd find the next most appetizing island it can get."



"Uuuugh, that sounds like so much woooork." Cutlass whines. "Since when are we not just going for treasure?"


"If killing whatever brought it here works, then… sure, I think we could do that. How would we, ah… go about 'sending it back where it came from', though? Some sort of magic?"


"If it gets him to limit himself, it's a pretty good deal."

Cloud's face gets a little pale.
"Let's push that idea to a last resort."

"How has it been on this island this long then? I haven't seen much of anything here, unless it wants every little scrap of everything."


Ossie shakes her head. "Well… gosh, it's not like I'm an expert on the damn thing. Why don't we ask Kukulcan? I imagine he'll know far more than us."

"Typically, an exorcism involves severing whatever ties the haunting spirit has to this plane of being," Paraiba says. "Assuming this Vault operates on at least similar principles, we'd need to break or otherwise get rid of whatever it is that's holding it here… you can think of it like a ship weighing its anchor, or cutting the ropes that hold it in port."
As Ossie listens to Paraiba's lessons in shamanism and exorcism, she looks like she gets an idea. "…Those goals might not be mutually exclusive, Captain. You recall when we first got here, how it seemed that a strange assortment of things were missing from the island? And how that trend continued the further we got in – cities but no people, food set out that wouldn't rot, no matter how much time passed, the village of gibbons, and now what Cerulean told us about the Metal Man that attacked her in the Skull Temple, stealing away her every memory and power?"

Splendid excitedly rubs her hands together and inserts the coin.


Roll #1 2, 2, 1 = 5


Cerulean watches the chest, tail swishing back and forth in mild curiosity and excitement.


"If you think asking him might be good, we could try it- so long as we can find a way to, well… not be too suspicious, I suppose?" he suggests, before flicking his ear and looking at Pariaba "Ahh, I see. How could we go about looking for something like that… is it memories that keep it bound here, somehow?" he asks.

He'll also, after a pause, look at the chest.


"Doubt he's tell us directly if he lied about who he is already."

"Exorcising the vault, Mallea should be able to help with that, right?"

As everypony focuses on the chest as Splendid goes to open it, Cloud looks over as well.



"Yes, obviously these 'giants' are 'stealing' everything. But, why do WE have to do something about it. Wouldn't it be easier to just steal from them?"


"I mean, with how things go, I think us stealing stuff in there might be that 'something' to deal with them," she says without looking away from Splendid taking a roll on the chest.


Ossie's eyebrow twitches as Cutlass and Cerulean scoop her on her big revelation.

"…My thoughts exactly, Captain," Ossie says. "Paraiba, you've spoken much of your grandmother's witchery and history as a wise-mare. Am I on the right track?"
Paraiba nods. "Yup. It's a part of what's called sympathetic magic. So, you're thinking that what's keeping the Vault here is the fact that the Metal Men stole things from the island?"
"And to get rid of them, we just steal it back, and then some," Ossie says.

Upon the chest's lid, there are three rotating dials, which spin after Splendid inserts her coin. After a few seconds, they stop their spins, and the first two dials have turned to the same character, while the third has become a different character – none of which you recognize. With a clunk, the chest unlocks, and the lid slides back, revealing a small inside. Splendid reaches in – and retrieves a single gauntlet of obsidian, styled after the Watchkeepers' bronze limbs. It soon becomes clear that it is not a gauntlet at all, but one half of a set of claws, meant for direct stabbing and slashing attacks, with the sharpened finger-tips. It resembles the hand of some dreadful beast, rendered eternally in midnight-black obsidian.

Splendid gulps as she beholds the weapon. "That's… a bit of an odd choice. May I have another spin?"


"You sure stealing stuff would make it go away, and not just have those metal men come back in full force to revenge?"

After Splendid opens the chest after the roulette spin, Cloud looks down with increased interest.
"Hey now, let somepony else have a try. This looks like fun."


"Ah! Well, theft is… a specialty, sort of! I should be able to help with that." he says, shrugging softly.

"Ah, hmm… those are interesting, to say the least. I have a couple coins if you want another spin, Splendid."



Cutlass laughs. "I don't know about magic or demons. If that seriously works, that would be hilarious. Turns out, pirating is good for the world!"


"What IS that treasure chest?" Cutlass asks with increased fascination (and obvious greed in her eyes).


"Sure, I think," she says, shrugging unsure, though happily.
"Though now that I think about it: where do these coins go? And where do these items come from?"


"Well… that's probably just it," Paraiba says. "If the forces of the Vault stealing things from this island is what's keeping it here, then us stealing things back would probably have the same effect. We'd need to strike some kind of balance to make sure that the tethering effect gets cancelled out, and that the Vault can actually be exorcised."
"Well, that's one possibility," Ossie says. "The other… well, I'll have to investigate to see before I get my hopes up. I know we've plenty of reason to distrust Kukulcan, but between you and Sparkler, Captain, I think we can wring some answers out of him yet."

Splendid, after giving it some more thought, slips on the claw, wriggling her talons. Even her most minute of movements make quick and eerily beautiful sounds as the claw-tips slice through the air, so fine and sharp they leave tiny pockets in the air with each weave of the tips.

"Er… yeah nah, actually, I'd better keep it. Wouldn't be good karma to get ungrateful about it, wouldn't it? Coulda given me something worse now."

She pushes the chest toward the center of your little group for whoever wants it.



"Using Sparkler is… a bit aggressive. I'm certainly up for it. It will definitely change the dynamic of this mission, though."


"Well, whoever found the chest should get first dibs. Then, of course, it's the Captain's turn," Cutlass says with an air of superiority.


Cloud takes three coins out of his pocket, pulling the chest over to himself after Splendid pushes the chest towards the group.
"So how does this work, just like the old slot machines back in Equestria?"


"I do not think I have tried a slot machine before, but… I suppose I will try it, as well." the griffon says, waiting for Cloud to finish before giving it a shot himself.

"If you do not like them, you could stow them in my room. You do not seem particularly fond of weapons, and all."


"Ooooo, neat," she says as she watches Splendid seem to enjoy her prize.
"Even makes little shwingy noises."

"I guess? I dunno. Not a lot of your stuff likes to work underwater."

"Oh! Then want this?" She says, offering Alder the obsidian macuahuitl.
"I don't really use them myself, so maybe you might get to use it more."


"Alright, let's give this a try."
Cloud sits down, fitting the coins into the slots and rubbing his hooves together in wait for the prize.

Roll #1 2, 2, 2 = 6


"Well, normally, no," Splendid answers Alder. "But, with all this talk of what's to come, sure wouldn't hurt to expand me horizons, would it? Gotta be able to do more than just look pretty and punch things."

Ossie bounces in place a little, subtly rocking back and forth on her hooves with impatience when it seems that the attention has gone to the slot-machine treasure chest rather than her hypotheses and intrigue. "Right… well, if and when you're ready to figure out what we're going to do about the Vault, the Thunder Serpent is our destination."
"We're way ahead of schedule thanks to Cerulean," Paraiba counters. "Plus, I'm still waiting on my newspaper comics. We can take some time to get our strength up before moving on."

After Cloud inserts his coin, the three dials spin… and settle at last, all upon the same character. This time, as the chest's lid pops open, there is the sound of rattling, chattering bones – perhaps some method of fanfare.

Inside the chest, Cloud can see a most curious instrument – some kind of wicked, stringed thing, similar in shape to a lute, but as he can see, the body is made of an elongated skull, and the neck is made of a spine. The frets are held in place by a second, smaller skull, this one made of obsidian. Both skulls have eyes made of gemstones.

Juniper looks on in plain envy. Paraiba seems to have more of an academic interest in the thing, probably from her upbringing at the hooves of a wise mare and witch.


Cloud looks down with some apprehension of the skulled instrument, his first thought of them being real until seeing they're made of obsidian.
"An instrument, I think?"
He picks up the odd tool from the chest, pushing it over to Alder for him to try his luck.
"Wonder if it does anything…"
He mutters as he runs his hoof over the strings, not having been a musician before.
>Test [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1



"Yes, we ARE way ahead of schedule. Good job, Cerulean," Cutlass says genuinely.

Then, when Cloud gets something cool from the chest, Cutlass is unable to contain her childish enthusiasm. She vibrates with excitement. "MY TURN!" she shouts, pushing Cloud of the way.

This is what pirates LIVE for.


Roll #1 2, 1, 1 = 4


Cloud falls backwards from Cutlass' sudden shove of impatience.
"Whoa! Not acting very captainly, are you?"
Cloud comments as he rights himself back up.


Cerulean can't help but give a humble and happy laugh.
"Aww, thanks everyone. Glad to have helped." She then looks as Cutlass gets excited, giving a bit of a giggle at her sudden change in demeanor.
"Heheh, sorry about the distraction, but I think we need to take a bit of a free swim before we go back on course," she says to Ossie as she watches Cutlass spin to (hopefully) win.
"Plus, like you said: we should probably get some more info first before we go doing all that big thinking."

Cerulean looks surprised by the chest's reaction, though more how the symbols actually can get three in a row.
"I…think? Honestly, looks a bit more like something I would cough up if I ate something too fast." She has her attention split between Cloud testing out his prize and Cutlass' joy of gambling at a young age.



"Pirate captain," Cutlass reminds him.


"Mmm… fair enough. Claws are, at least, rather easy to adjust to for a griffon- instinctual, yes?" he suggests. "And, please… if you do not feel it is necessary, you do not have to push yourself." he adds, fluttering up to ruffle her head-feathers lightly.

"Oh! Have you played before, by chance? Give it a shot." he suggests, putting a few coins into the chest himself.


Cloud grimaces at the image of Cerulean coughing up a skull this big.
"Well, it has to be good if you got the chest down in there."

"Didn't know pirate captains act like foals on Hearth's Warming Day."



"I like treasure," she says defensively.


It is quite badly out of tune, and to make things worse, you fail to even play a proper chord. At first, it simply sounds unpleasant – but you feel something tapping upon your hind leg.

When you look behind you, you are assaulted by a flurry of blows… very small blows. A gang of skeletal dolls, in the image of ponies, donkeys, and Krikral, strike you with bottles, instruments, and bludgeons of various types. Each doll is dressed most peculiarly, yet elaborately, with the male ones wearing black suits printed with flowers, as well as frilled shirts, elaborately-pained wooden sombreros, and some, even capes and canes; the female ones are garbed in elaborate and multi-layered dresses, and no small variety of hats of their own.

After the dolls assault you for your crime against music, they vanish, just as quickly as they appeared.

Nothing happens after the reels stop spinning, landing on a familiar combination of characters. Cerulean recalls that it was this combination of characters – albeit arranged in a different order – that gave her the obsidian macuahuitl. Apparently, the order in which the characters appears does not seem to matter.

Splendid reaches for Alder – at first, with her clawed hand, then after thinking better of it, with her free hand. She squeaks his beak. "I haven't gotten Aura yet, and I'm just barely getting around to magic," she says. "If I don't push myself, especially with the more mundane things, how am I supposed to be able to use either of those?"
"Speaking of which," Splendid says. "I'm due at the Hidden Dagger. Mallea should be ready with her magic brew for me by now. Shall we be off then, or was there more we needed to discuss in privacy here?"


Alder holds his beak, letting an amused giggle. He gives the griffoness a peck on the beak, before nodding a little bit and saying "Very well. I will help you however I can, but I will not stop you from pushing boundaries."

"Hmm… is there anything else, Cerulean?"



Roll #1 2, 2, 2 = 6



Cutlass's expression is one of devastation as she opens the chest and finds it empty. She pushes the chest away from her and crosses her arms in a huff. "Stupid magic," she grumbles.

"That means there's only like 4 things in the chest!" she complains more loudly. "Lame!"


"Let's get out of here," Cutlass says moodily.


Cloud's ears fold down at the poor sound.
"Yeesh, that doesn't sound right."
He then looks back, feeling the tapping. The tiny skeletal dolls give him a little jump, leaving him in a slight panic after they vanish almost as quick as he saw them.
"D-Did anypony else see those?"

Cloud looks down at the instrument, second guessing about playing another note.
"Hey, Hmm, do you know how to tune whatever this is?"
Cloud asks, trying to figure out how to fix this thing.
>Tune [1d10]

Roll #1 6 = 6


"Hmm…guess it makes sense. Still, if it ever gets emptied out, still have a little fun thing to play with," Cerulean comments in an attempt to cheer Cutlass up a bit.

"Hmm…aside from telling you all what I faced down there, I don't think so. Will say though: I'm kinda beat after all that, even with the rests in between."


"Where are we going next?"
Cloud asks as Cutlass mentions moving, then looks to see she has nothing.
"Well, that's slots for you. Need three more coins for another spin?"



"I'm sorry, I couldn't hear anything over my crippling disappointment," Cutlass huffs.


Cutlass rolls her eyes.


There is no result for Alder, either, and you can see that he got the same combination of characters as Cloud did just now.
"That final treasure could still be worth putting in coins for," Ossie says, picking up the chest. "Let's see what it actually is before writing the whole thing off, Captain."

Ossie looks over to Cloud and Cutlass as they suggest getting a move on. "Well, there's either the Thunder Serpent or Hidden Dagger. I've my questions I wish to ask Kukulcan, but Splendid has her appointment with Mallea… and I doubt any of us want to split up after learning what we did yesterday about the Crimson King and what he's done to Juniper and Cycle."

"If I didn't know better, I'd tell you to give up," Hmm says. "That thing just might be older than me… here, I'll talk you through the process…"

After some time, you manage to get all six strings of the lute tuned.


"I'd vote for the Hidden Dagger. We can at least set that control rod Cerulean got there to keep it away from Kukulcan."
Cloud says as he fiddles with his instrument to get it tuned as Hmm walks him through it. Once he's done, he gives it a look over.
"Hopefully this sounds a little better. Know any good chords Hmm?"
He asks again to get some sort of good attempt made.
>Strum [1d10]

Cloud sets three coins on the chest for Cutlass to try again.
"Consider this the first payment in what I owe you."

Roll #1 7 = 7



"You're right that the best way to get answers out of Kukulcan would be with Sparkler. And, Mallea is also on the Hidden Dagger. So, it would probably be best to go back there. We've an extra day to spare anyway."


"I will not! How would that even make sense!?"


"You want to spend your own money for that last treasure? Alright, fine by me."


"Mmh. I can, ah, give you lessons, Cloud. You have the right idea, but you could use a little practice."


Alder waits patiently to see if the results are better this time.


"Yeah, after that split up, I think I need to be around you all for awhile. Really started to miss you all."


>Last time, on PirateQuest…
(using for ctrl-F flag)

Hmm begins to teach Cloud some beginner lessons in the lute as you discuss your plans for the day. With the morning still upon you, the jungle is unlikely to be overly hot as of yet, at least until later. Travel should be easier than it has been, before.
"If you're all ready, let's be off," Ossie says, stepping back into Cutlass's shadow.

>roll 2 navigation rolls; results will be judged on the two averages (first, second).



"I don't want the stupid treasure," Cutlass says petulantly.


"Let's go," Cutlass announces to everyone. "Back to the Hidden Dagger."

[1d10] [1d10]

Roll #1 8 = 8 / Roll #2 3 = 3


"Alrighty then. Alright boys, let's go," she says and begins off with her small little herd of animal friends.


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


>Navigate! [1d10]
>Navigate! [1d10]

"Ah- perhaps we should get a space for your growing herd on the ship, yes?"

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


She gives a bit of a laugh.
"Yeah, true, at this rate, my one room might be too cramped."


>6 and 3… but because you got trips, it's counted as a critical success

You take your time traveling the well-worn paths you have taken by now, at least as far back as the Sundial Plaza, where you first met Juniper and Cycle Kick. However, when the time comes to proceed further east, which would undoubtedly take you through the Gibbon Village, you chance upon a steep, but passable, route through the central mountains, allowing you safe passage around the eastern perimeter of the village, well out of the gibbons' sight, thus eluding another conflict.

By the time that the Sun Serpent arcs through the sky up to nearly its zenith, you emerge from the humid jungle foliage onto a hillside, come within sight of the Hidden Dagger and Beesting dry-docked at the northern end of the port town, where the crews perform the usual maintenance on the hulls and sails as they await news of your journeys.

But, from further back, Cutlass hears a rustling in the bush.



"More for somepony else then."

"We're heading back already? Good, been away from the ship for too long."

Cloud hovers in the air, following the party back to the ship as he practices his instrument.

>Navigation [1d10] [1d10]

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



Cutlass quickly turns to telekinetically toss a dagger at whatever is trying to sneak up on them.


Roll #1 8 = 8


Cerulean suddenly looks to Cutlass with a confused look when she TK throws a knife.
"Are you still upset about the chest?"


When they get back to the ship without any issue, Cloud sighs in relief.
"Phew, thought there'd be another ambush like last time. Gotta check on somethings, I'll get back to whatever our plan is next in a minute."
Cloud says to the others as he flies ahead to The Beesting, heading below deck and down towards his room to use the key to Gullveig's to be a bit more inconspicuous in heading to sea level.


"Ah- a relief to see the ships, I think. I have had enough of the jungle for now." he chirps, before tugging on Splendid's arm. "Let us go check in with Miss Mallea, yes?"


There's only a pained yelp in response – a yelp you recognize… that of Axolotl.

Splendid clicks her beak with growing excitement, and as you fly down to the Hidden Dagger, you note her subtly racing you, always flying just a little bit ahead as you catch up to her, punctuated by bemused smirks in your direction.

At last you arrive upon the Hidden Dagger, and proceed down to Mallea's chemistry lab and surgeon's room. The room is filled with a mingling of the sea breeze and various overlapping chemical aromas, and a thin mist, dimly sparkling here and there, dances upon the ceiling.

Mallea herself sits near an opened gunport – a new one. In fact, she's leaning on a cannon that she seems to have brought down from above-deck without Cutlass's permission. Setting that aside…

"Is it time?" Splendid asks.
"Only if you have the will and the guts for it," Mallea says. "Magic is never to be taken with butterflies in one's stomach."
Splendid gulps, and winces.

As you enter your room, you chance upon Chiu, curled up into an orb in your bed, with the remnants of her breakfast sitting on the nightstand. Atop her empty plate, is another plate, covered with a cloth, waiting for you. Another plate, this one also holding naught but crumbs, sits before the statue of the griffon goddess.


You quietly insert Gullveig's key into the inside of your room's door, and open it, proceeding back into Gullveig's ruined shop. Everything is as it was when you entered previously, except the front door has been shut, and held fast not by the lock, but by a chair that has been propped against the handle.



Cutlass lets out a little gasp. "Oh crap! I'm sorry!" she says as she rushes over to the brush where Axolotl is. "But, it's your fault! Why were you sneaking up on us?"


Cloud smiles as he sees Chiu sleep in the bed, a comforting sight after all the reveals back at the Thunder Serpent the night before. He quietly uses the key to go to Gullveig's, seeing it all the same aside the chair blocking the door, which he didn't do last time.
"That's odd…"
He looks around the room, checking to see if anypony is around inside that wanted safety.
("Hmm, you know who set that chair up?")
>Look [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7


Cerulean sticks around to keep an eye on Cutlass just in case.
"You know, asking "who's there" first or something does wonders for nobody getting hurt. Though she has a point," she looks to the bush, "why were you sneaking around like an eel?"



"And, if it WAS someone planning on attacking us, I wouldn't have been able to turn the surprise back around on them if I asked who it was first," Cutlass retorts.

Then, after a beat, she asks, "Do eels sneak around?"


Alder gently rests his claws on Splendid's shoulder, and says "Relax, please. Take a deep breath- we can wait a little while, if we need to."


Axolotl comes out partway to meet you, and you can see he's missing a fair chunk of the end of his tail. All things considered, it might not be the worst injury he bears – he's covered with scrapes, gashes, and is even missing chunks here and there.

"It's been a long couple of nights," Axolotol says, which you understand thanks to the trinket you borrowed from Thessaly. "Been a bit jumpy when every little sound you make gets you bit, stabbed or cut… so what'd I miss?"
"D-does he need help!?" Juniper squeaks.

"It looks like Chiu and Mallea decided to prop it up there to keep out anyone that might disturb the scene of the attack," Hmm says. "As for why they didn't use the lock… hey, how strange. The lock wasn't broken, it was undone."

Just as Hmm says, you can see that no damage has been done to either the door's lock or handle.

"So, this probably wasn't a break-in," she continues.

Splendid sighs, then takes a hearty breath, holds it… at at last releases, steadying and sturdying herself for what is to come. "No butterflies here, Mallea de Valle. Just a Hummingheart."
"So you say…" Mallea muses. "But though your soul is not that of a Witch, this be a Witch's ceremony all the same. By technicality, I shall ascend to the role of your Shekinah."
"Hrm…?" Splendid asks.
"To keep it brief – a teacher and overseer," Mallea responds. "It has been quite a while since I reared a Witchling, so I'm going to hold you to standards that may seem grueling, even cruel, by this era's mores. I won't be embarrassed by a student who cannot handle her spells. You are certain?"
"More than ever, now that I know I shall be in good hooves."
Mallea says nothing, but gains a gleam in her eye. Wordlessly, she floats over a teacup and saucer to Splendid, then dips a ladle into the cauldron, surrounded by glyphs and chemical diagrams. Stirring the bubbling mixture, which flits through shades of blue, and gold, and black, and white, and every hue in between, she at last withdraws the ladle, and pours some into Splendid's teacup. The soupy brew rattles and simmers in the porcelain.
Splendid looks your way, and raises her cup. "Cheers, mate," she says with a smile, holding it out for a toast.



Cutlass looks him up and down and sees all his injuries. "Wow, thank you so much for all the help you've been. Let's get you fixed up," she says, gesturing for Axolotl to follow him to the ship.



*follow her


"Witchling? I suppose that makes sense- the shaman among my people would take on apprentices, to make sure they knew what they were dealing with as their powers developed. Shaman can be very strict, as the wrong griffon learning how to handle such things, or trying to use them in the wrong way can be dangerous." he chimes in. He looks for a spare teacup to use, and pours some water into it. He'll raise it up and lightly tap it against Splendid's, before chirping a tad.


"That's smart, keep this area safe if there's clues to pull up."
When Hmm points out the lock, Cloud shrugs, pulling the chair aside.
"Probably couldn't find the key. Let's make this quick then to get a newspaper."
Cloud goes to open the door, then pauses. He takes out his eyepatch, putting it back on over his eye just in case, and then heads out to get the paper.


"Oh definitely. They swim all quiet like and hide in holes in rocky places, then jump out at you when you least expect it. Can't blame them, though: a lot of them can't see too well."

"Oooo, nice. He's got some good looking fight memories now," she comments as she looks over his injuries.


Back in Agyl Island's port marketplace, you wander a bit until you find and flag down a young beetle krikral who's having quite a difficult time keeping his newsboy cap upon his dome-shaped head. You spend a coin to get a newspaper (or more, if you wish to procure multiple for all the avid readers in the crews). the front headline, in large and bolded text, reads – "SHAKA MAGE'S GUILD TOPPLED!"
Below it, a stark black-and-white image capturing the moment that cannonfire erupts upon the facade of a terrible and imposing fortress-tower. A great many ships, bearing the jolly roger of the Crimson King, surround the fortress, enduring no small amount of magical attacks flung at them in retaliation.
A caption follows: "Photographers capture the instant the last assault of 'Vox Populi' Phillip the Gentlecolt against the Guild, whose leadership were proven by Phillip to be behind the capture and enslavement of Aura-users by influential mages."

Beyond that, this particular issue is quite dense, promising no end of stories…

>state which content Cloud will look for.

Mallea nods. "Hence, the Shekinah."
After a false start, Splendid manages to force her trembling hands into obedience, and knocks back the drink, swallowing it in a single go. She tenses, waiting some kind of disaster it seems – but none comes. She looks to Mallea in confusion, only to find the Witch pouring another spoonful.
"Nobody said you had to chug it, nor quaff it all in a single gulp!" Mallea says, her face stern but her voice betraying her wry amusement. "Whoever taught you that magic was like that – empty of nothing but destruction and spectacle? I offered you a teacup for a reason, girl. You and I shall take it slow, and enjoy it… for tomorrow, the grueling and the grinding begin."
Splendid, a bit embarrassed, raises the second cup to her lips, and forces herself in the opposite direction this time, sipping it bit by bit.

With a groan, Axolotl nods, and Ossie, Juniper and Paraiba help him during the walk down to the Hidden Dagger. Cutlass's crew lower a gangplank to the dry-dock to help you all climb aboard, and soon, you are just outside the surgeon's room, where you hear Alder, Mallea and Splendid talking.


Cerulean gives a couple of knocks to the room first, then suddenly barges her way into the room.
"Hey, we're back! Mystery bush turned out to be a friend!"



"The breadth of your knowledge continues to confuse me," Cutlass comments with a bit of a smirk.


"I see you're already speaking with Mallea," Cutlass comments to Alder with a nod. "Good. I have to see to it that our animal ally is treated well," she says as she leads the way into the infirmary.


Cloud buys three papers, one for himself and Chiu to look through, one for Paraiba to get the comics, and one for rest of the Beestings. The first headline catches his eye as he takes the paper, giving it a lookover.
"Wow, a whole guild taken out?"
He mutters aloud as he opens the paper, flipping to the bounties section, figuring if rumors were spread about him with their plan, that'd be the first spot to check.


Alder finishes his cup of water and giggles a little, stroking Splendid's side a little bit and waiting for her to continue.


"Hmm? What do you mean by that," she asks with a confused head tilt.



"Sometimes you come off as a bit… stupid. But, other times, you know some really specific information."


Cerulean can't help but laugh a bit with a proud grin.
"Well, I don't know a lot of things. But when it comes to ocean stuff, I like to think I've seen a lot of it."


Mallea nods, and walks over to Axolotl, ushering him to the nearest bed for treatment. She looks back to Alder and Splendid. "Splendid, my veterinarian skills are a bit dusty, so I'll be awhile. Your first task, as a Witchling: Drink to the bottom of the cauldron without having to lift a finger."
"Erm!" Splendid says, nearly coughing up her drink. "Erm… how, how do I do that exactly? I don't exactly feel any magic in me yet…"
"When you learn what we Witches truly do, you will be astounded that we bother with aether-based magic in the first place," Mallea says as she begins to treat Axolotl.
Splendid desperately looks to you for clues.

As you flip to the bounties, you find it is a quadruple-page section, listing particularly infamous crews and their last reported location, and the time of their last-reported appearance. A map in the upper-right corner of each page depicts the region of the Ribcage that this version of the newspaper is for, and its approximate configuration of Island-turtles.

You scan for any mention of the Beesting or Hidden Dagger crews… and find them together in a joint section. A note follows, informing the reader that your two crews are currently working together as one.




A special section is dedicated to those designated to be taken in if they are alive:



And then, you see your name…


Your title has changed… appended to it is the very name that Chiu suggested to you during your conch call yesterday.


Cloud's bounty should be 200,000 Bits.



"You seem busy," Cutlass comments to Maleea. "Is Godot even busier, then? I'd hate to interrupt whatever it is you're doing here."


Alder hums a little, before saying "I think what she means, is that you still have things to learn about magic- you might not feel it now, but the kind of magic she practices may be different. Besides, your magic also comes from somewhere special- you are a Hummingheart, after all. Take it slow, Splendid."


Cloud starts to read down the bounties, the various bounties on everypony giving some interest, especially Godot's dead only notice, and the higher price on the Beesting's Crew compared to the Hidden Dagger's. He nearly exclaims aloud at see the price and name on his listing, only just cutting himself short before drawing attention. The price must mean the plans worked, hopefully, but that name was only heard by Alder, Chiu, and himself.
He starts to walk back to Gullveig's, flipping through the paper for any headlines or notices about Obstinance or the Virtues in general.


Splendid's brain smokes as she tries to decipher the meaning of this cryptic riddle…


"That hatchling is out playing at herblore on the fringes of the jungle," Mallea says. "He said he wouldn't head very far from the town, but with his sense of direction and scale, he's likely on the island's southern tip by now. Good luck if you intend to find him."

You see no mention of either of those topics, which is quite strange – because there's an entire story on the exorcism of the town of Gecko, including the flame barrier that Obstinance established about the town for imprisoning Auntzi. No mention is made of the time loops, nor of Obstinance at all. The article and photographs seem to be framed around portraying Auntzi as some sort of fire-based insect demon, as it seems…

But before you can reach Gullveig's abode, you notice a peculiar personal ad, slipped in just before the comics:

>Lost: One Big Mechanical Idiot

>To whoever deems it in their best interests or desires to humor someone who put an ad out in a paper, I have lost my traveling companion during one of our escapades that he dragged me into. One might wonder why I would bother putting an ad out for one who I seem to have a disdain for but to be honest he's the only one who's stuck with me this long so he's something of a good luck charm and a great living shield.

>If you want a description of his appearance he looks like a big metal pony with a bunch of armored bits stuck to him so not hard to miss. He should have a green flame somewhere nearby him if he hasn't hit the bottom of the ocean. If he has please fish him up or drag him or something, you'll be paid regardless.


Included is a conch code for this "W.W." character.

Roll #1 6 = 6



"Will you be alright without him?" Cutlass asks Mallea with concern.


A final addendum:

You realize that every member of the crew, including those without bounties, has a bounty picture now. Including those who had no pictures whatsoever during the last round of published bounties.


Cerulean opts to wander about the ship a bit as curiosity and boredom are beginning to take hold of her.


Cloud flips back, still in shock over the price on his head. This time he notices the pictures, and that they each have one, when he knows there wasn't one of him before. They've been down in the sea for the past week so they could've been old pictures he's only noticing now, but somepony else on the crew would've said something, right? Thinking back like Chiu would when they were talking about finding the spy, he tries to look at where the pictures were taken from the backgrounds, or himself with his eye.
>Analyze [1d10]

After looking, he flips back to try and find anything on Obstinance, to no luck, despite the Gecko story.
("Do they cover up everything about the Virtues in the paper?")
Cloud mutters, flipping through the paper again and coming across the odd ad. With the connection to the comics, Cloud finds it a little funny, and the description of the metal pony sounds like a good story. He decides to call up W.W.'s number as he steps inside Gullveig's.

Roll #1 2 = 2


Alder watches patiently- as much as he'd like to help figure it out, it's up to her to guess that out.
He is a little curious what that might mean himself, though…

Roll #1 8 = 8


Mallea scoffs at the very question. "Of course. It's after he's back that I'm worried about – then he'll gripe that I used his entire stock of this or that in treating the wounded! But that's a dilemma for some future moment. I've more than enough to worry me now with this injured soul before me."

Torpedo obediently sticks close to your leg as you walk about the Hidden Dagger, so much so that he nearly trips you a few times as you try to navigate tight corners or through narrow passageways. You realize that this may be a recurring problem with how protective the little robotic pup is of you… The answer is clear. The only means by which this may be alleviated is a good old introduction to calm his nerves.

You take him up to the deck of the Hidden Dagger, where much of the dry-dock crew quickly take notice of the new sight. A collection of mooks approach, asking if they may pet Torpedo, but he tenses, staring them down…

It's simple: With neither fingers, nor magic to work with, Splendid simply cannot move the cauldron nor any utensil or dish whatsoever; she certainly cannot feed herrself. She's even keeping the teacup perfectly still.

So, someone else must do it for her.

Splendid, a moment later, seems to reach a similar conclusion, as she gives you a sudden domineering look up and down.

"You there… uh… my familiar!" she says, trying to affect a witchy tone. "Uh…"


You can't recognize the photos.



A long pause went between the call and it finally being answered by a somewhat tired and mildly annoyed voice "I'm assuming this is about the ad in the paper?" Was the first words that would great the pony on the other end followed by a few coughs.




Alder flicks his ears a bit and looks up to Splendid as she tries on a… commanding tone? Ominous tone? Either way, he gets the point. "Would you like me take the teacup for you?"


Cerulean smiles down to Torpedo and gives him some head pats.
"Hey, no worries. These are also friends of mine. Relax like you're in an octopus' garden, okay?" She gives a little ruffle to his head, or at least, as best as one can ruffle an obsidian creature.
"You can, but nothing sudden, okay? He's a very protective, on-guard, and good boy."


Cloud tries to look over the photos, not picking up anything until the conch picks up, puling his focus aside.
"Yea, just saw it. Now is this like a robot you're looking for, or just a pony that wears a lot of metal or armor or something. And is this a sea salvage sort of deal, or just is we see them wandering about?"


final retcon: Chiu's surname is Ying-Keim, not merely Ying.


Splendid's face flushes from deep blue to passionate red, as she is caught in a terrible fit of stammering, unable to articulate her next command. Sweat beads on her forehead. Mallea glances over with concern, eyebrows furrowed.

It is at this point that you recall Splendid's hymnal – a key component for navigating Auntzi's time-cycling haunting. It was signed in the front cover by someone by the name of Headmistress Chastity… probably the smoking gun in Splendid's difficulties now.


Alder hums a little bit as he thinks back to the hymnal… and lets out a teasing giggle, before gently spooning some of the contents of the cauldron into the teacup and bringing it up to Splendid's beak. "See? This is not as hard as it seemed, yes?"


As soon as you offer the teacup to her beak, Splendid tilts her head back, and drinks its contents as slow as ice melts, savoring every drop. It seems that, with every drop, a bit of her reticence and reluctance melt away too. She clears her throat, still red in the face, but manages to hold your gaze. "Y-you there, familiar. Serve me until the cauldron is empty…!"

She squawks as she feels a bit dribble down the side of her beak, and her tongue darts out to clean it up. "And– wipe my beak, too!" she adds, growing bolder by the command.


Alder tries to keep from giggling too much more, instead nodding and chirping out "Yes, ma'am!"
Alder will go about serving Splendid the mixture within the cauldron, cup by cup, occasionally stopping to wipe anything that drips out.


By the time you at last reach the bottom of the cauldron, Splendid's forehead is damp, but she herself has a relaxed smile; tension has palpably left her shoulders, and she lets out a calm, but exhausted exhale after all that effort that went into being more of a dominant force in your relationship.

"…Tasted awful!" she remarks.
"Magic usually does," Mallea adds.


Alder hums a little, taking a chance to dry off Splendid's forehead and lay against her side with a satisfied chirp. "Mmm, I would not be surprised- my mixtures contain some magic within them, and they tend to taste rather bad. Not much to do now but wait, yes?"


"Robot, just happens to look like a pony. Though knowing his usual degree of response to that question, he would probably say he's that much closer to being a real boy."

Something between an annoyed snort and a begrudgingly amused noise followed.

"As for the degree of this mission, anything that reunites the two of us would be the answer I find to be most appropriate."


"A full on robot? Did you make him yourself?"
Cloud asks, impressed by hearing it.
"Oh, yea, where was the last place you saw him?"



"I did. It's one of the reasons I am partial to him, but as for where, let me say I had went into the market of a smaller but populous island looking for… let us say things that one might not find in the average stall."

"I was some what used to him wandering off but he's always come back. He hasn't this time and it has left me perturbed."



"Well, when you have a moment, we need your advice on exorcism," Cutlass says to Mallea. Then, she adds after a moment's consideration, "And possibly your services depending on how things go."


"Well I'm on Agyl Island right now, so if it was there I can give a look through for him. If he can swim though that'd make it a bit harder."


Mallea's mood immediately drops as you mention exorcisms. "I am listening. Continue, girl."

Splendid beams, hugging Alder and rubs her beak through his feathers. Mallea relaxes somewhat, seeing her apprentice pass her test. "Well-done. It shall take some time for your body and soul to acclimate to this new awakened power, especially as you are of a race not naturally given to magic, so we're going to take it slow. But if you can think, and finesse, then you're already on track to become a Witch."
Splendid rises, nearly ready to hug Mallea next, but Mallea leans back, her eyes narrowed like an annoyed cat, and Splendid takes the hint, backing down. "Ehehehee… right, I'll have to show me gratitude in another way, won't I?"
"You can start by helping me over here with Cutlass's wounded pet."
"Pet!?" Axolotl protests.

As you issue your order, Torpedo snorts and sits down, looking to the mooks with expectation. They're a rough and tumble lot, having had their share of brawls and scars since they were young, but they watch themselves around the tough guard dog, each one taking their turn petting his head and chassis. Torpedo, for his part, stiffly sits there, tolerating the pats… but toward the end, you notice him extend his neck as the last mook pulls away, trying to get in a few more pats, which the mook gladly obliges.

Torpedo's small nub of a tail wiggles ever-so-slightly.


It was actually…" a pause "Funny enough I am on the island on myself, but given how many cities there are, its not as if it's easy to cover multiple cities as one individual."

"Though I suppose the convenience of this makes sense given the local papers would probably have the first runs of my ad in it."



Cutlass pauses a moment, glaring at Mallea as she contemplates how to respond to being called 'girl' by a member of HER crew. But, she decides to let it go for now.

"The current theory is that these giant things that come out at night are either demons or the result of a demonic entity that exists within or as the vault which contains the Heart of Gold. You and Thessaly are our demon experts here. As such, we turn to you for guidance here."


"I'm not sure if anyone else here can understand him, but Axolotl objects to being called a pet. I do as well, to be honest. My bond to him is nothing like my bond to Sir Pent," she says as she lovely boops Sir Pent on her hat.


Cerulean gives a slight giggle at the end, and as the last mook steps away, she gives him a pat of her own.
"See? You can trust these guys. But don't worry; if there's someone who isn't nice with me, I'll let ya know."


"Cool, that makes this easier then. I'm in Manenhi, I'll look around after I drop off some stuff."
Cloud says as he starts to walk back towards the door back to the Beesting.


Alder returns the affectionate nuzzles with a happy chirp, before giving her an eager look. "See? You have this, Splendid. Just take it carefully."

He turns to look at Axolotl, letting go of Splendid to give her the free space to work.


"I'm closer to Xallan myself on my way to Manenhi, but if I hurry I might be able to meet you in the city within an hour or two. I normally don't get excited but the prospect of potentially competent help is something I don't get often."


Mallea soon shakes her head. "Demonology is not my focus, but even I can recognize demonic activity at a glance – you will recall that I was the first to be able to see Chiu's Wetnurse, even before my sister Thessaly or Cerulean, wielder of demonic power as she is. Whatever those things are, they lack any trace of Magatsuhi, the telltale sign of demonic influence. Whether Vexation, Obsession, Oppression, Possession – all demonic action leaves a trail as plain as a bloodstain. Yet, neither in this world, nor in the dream theatre, have I sensed any influence of Magatsuhi from them. I do not think that will be the proper course of inquiry for dealing with them."

Axolotl gasps, wounded worse by your backhoofed compliment worse than his physical injuries.

Torpedo barks once, in obedience. With that done, it's probably best to introduce him to the Beesting crew, even though there aren't many of them around at the moment.

Hmm gasps with a small start as you enter Gullveig's shop once more – but you see that it's just Chiu, standing there in the ruined shop. She keeps her steps delicate and small so as not to disturb the crime scene. Blinking sleep from her eyes, she braces herself as she sees the newspaper in your possession. "Well…?"

"Though," Mallea continues, lowering her voice. "On the subject of guidance, there is another matter of which you should be aware, Captain… Gullveig's shop was attacked, under unusual circumstances. Chiu and I have compiled our findings – and I have learned from Thessaly that there is more to the matter, but she did not want to divulge them over Caller Conch. She said that one of her calls has been intercepted already, and she fears further espionage. Let us retire to a more secure location to discuss this in private."


"Alright, I'll meet up with you then, if we don't find the robot first."
Cloud pauses as Hmm gasps, looking up to see Chiu.
"Give me a call when you reach Manenhi, gotta get going myself."
Cloud gives W.W. his conch code, hanging up as he walks up to Chiu.
"Morning Puppeteer," He says with a joking tone like an outlaw as he opens up the paper to show Chiu the new bounties.



"I see…" Cutlass says thoughtfully. "Truth be told, this is good news to me. Not knowing how to put an end to these things just means we won't be dealing with them, which is what I wanted in the first place."

"Thank you for your input," Cutlass gives a nod to Mallea.

Then, Cutlass rolls her eyes at Axolotl. "I didn't know you thought of me that way," Cutlass jokes, acting shocked as if someone had said something intimate.


Cutlass furrows her brow in thought at Mallea's news. "Do you expect this to have an impact on our immediate mission?" she asks as she gestures for Mallea to come with her somewhere more private.


"See you then." was the final answer


"Well, let's go. These are Cutlass' friends, but time to meet the ones we'll be around a bit more often." She leads the way to the Beasting, checking around to see who is still here.



"Mmm. That is certainly concerning- should we handle Axolotl first? I could tend to him, if it would be quicker. I would not want to intrude upon the training if you feel that takes precedent, of course!"



"What, do you not believe your girlfriend can handle it?" Cutlass asks with a smirk.


Alder hums a little, before saying "Could she handle it? Yes, I am more than confident she could. Though, if speed and privacy is of the essence, I am better suited for such a thing."



Chiu's grimace only gets worse the further down the bounty page she gets, until she turns full pale upon seeing yours. "200,000… these numbers are all over the place. Cutlass, Make Believe, Captain Bee Holder… I don't think I even want to know why Godot can't be taken in alive. But all of us… you, me, Mallea, Cerulean, Thessaly and Splendid, all being 'alive only'… I guess it's a relief that bounty hunters will have some motivation to watch their fire around us. Hrm…"

You see her staring intensely at Splendid's poster, and yours.

"Can't I at least be a pet after all this!?" Axolotl protests, gesturing to his now-disinfected and bandaged injuries.

Mallea stops herself from continuing her whispered talk until she finishes the preliminary treatment of Axolotl. She nods to Alder, stepping aside to allow him to take over.

Once Alder completes where Mallea left off, Mallea leads you both, and Splendid to her quarters, which she has intimately decorated with all manner of tapestries, charms, curtains, a small bed, and some other assorted furniture, taken with her from her damaged manor.

She seals the door, then sprinkles something from a glowing bottle over the doorway, whispering words of power as she does. Once she finishes this again with the porthole, she turns to you. "I have a sinking feeling that it will," Mallea says, at last answering Cutlass's question. "Chiu has sent Cloud to the surface to retrieve a newspaper in the hopes that it will confirm or deny our current theories… Chiu seems to think it might have to do with this speculation of an informant among us."

"Indeed, I share Chiu's worries," Thessaly says, her expression grim.

Thessaly begins to elaborate: She shares with you that, at the beginning of the trip down to Cuauhtemoc, she clandestinely sought out Gullveig, telling nobody of her plan. She sought Gullveig's help to discreetly set up magical traps all around both ships, traps that would detect and record any evidence of scrying being done upon the ships or the crew members. Scrying is a difficult art, especially with targets that move around constantly, and so if the informant were using scrying, they would have to use methods involving sympathetic connections, which would unavoidably leave behind faint trails of aether as the connection fed information to the scryer. Thessaly attempted to reach out to Gullveig many times after the elder Witch set up the trap, but not one call was answered – and, as she learned from Mallea after your arrival back in the port town just now, it was because her shop was attacked at some point after the trap was set.

Things are mostly quiet on the Beesting, with most of the named members being out and about at the moment, exploring Cuauhtemoc. But your nose leads you down to the barrack halls, where you can smell fresh breakfast. The scent trail leads you to Cloud and Chiu's shared room, where you can see that their door is ajar. A strange, magical film hovers over the doorway, making the other side shimmer as if it were underwater. You can see through the film that Cloud and Chiu's room is empty, but you can hear their voices coming from… actually, coming from where you're standing right now in the hall. Tobasco looks around in confusion.


Cerulean also looks around confused, not entirely sure what is going on.
"What the?" Cerulean tries waving her hoof around to see if they were just being invisible or something. She also tries putting her hoof through the shimmering bit, curious if she'd actually end up underwater.


"Bee Holder has some history with her, at least with Kaco Island I imagine. But, my bounty means our plan must've worked, hopefully. I didn't see any word about Obstinance in the paper aside from the whole mansion fiasco last week."
Cloud says, opening one of the other papers as he gets the idea to search for any mention of himself outside of the bounties.
"Hey, Hmm, who makes the bounties for the paper?"
He also asks as he flips through.

Cloud steps to Chiu's side, looking at the bounty photos with her.
"Do you see something? I tried to figure out where they could've taken these photos, but I got nothing."


"Hrm… t-that is very troubling. I suppose it is one way to bypass all the traps. Is there any evidence of who attacked her? Is there any way we could try checking the traps too, perhaps?" he asks, giving Splendid a nervous squeeze.



Cutlass grins at the lizard's earnest request. "If you think that that we are suitable enough home, then you can certainly be our pet. I just thought you were looking for… something else. But, if you want to be a pirate, you're certainly welcome! Give it some thought," she says to Axolotl before leaving him to get his injuries healed.


"Some of this isn't news to me," Cutlass says after the explanation. "Though, before we move on, I have to ask. I never asked before because it didn't seem terribly relevant. Who is Gulveig exactly? I'm afraid you met her while we were separated so I haven't quite become acquainted with what her role is in all of this."


As you put your hoof through, you hear Chiu make a sound of confusion. "Oh! A hoof like that has to be Cerulean. Step through the veil, then turn around and come back in. We're in Gullveig's shop right now. Just… watch your step."

"Well, I was wondering about Splendid's. Many of the crew didn't get a bounty at all, but even at 2,000 Bits – tiny in comparison to ours – she's also listed as 'Alive Only…' but, that's small-time in comparison to my issue with your poster. Did… did you… did you ever tell anyone about that name – 'The Blue-Eyed Bat?"

Outside of the bounty poster section, you only find a small blurb about the Beesting and Hidden Dagger in a column in the opinion section.

>"…But the fall of Kaco Island's royals, and the disappearance of its Mafia leadership, means nothing for the island's political stability in the long run. The political reins have simply changed hooves, as they always do. These newcomers to the Ribcage, the Gates of Justice, stepped in, while the island's liberators, the Beesting and Hidden Dagger crews, have not been seen for nearly half a month. Further would-be revolutionaries – on Kaco, and on other Islands – would do well to learn from the Gates of Justice's mistake – for if the rumors about 'Vox Populi' Phillip the Gentlecolt are true, he shall not be their liberator, but simply a temporary boss, just as the Bee Queens and Mafia Heads were, and the Gates of Justice now are."

"I don't know if she even succeeded in setting up her traps to begin with," Mallea says. "Or, if the informant removed them already. In any case, neither Chiu nor I could detect any unusual magical presences aboard our ship.
"I will search again later, but something tells me the latter theory is correct," Thessaly adds.

"Think about it like this," Axolotl says. "Pirates get all the booty they want, right? So how do I become a pirate!?"

"Gullveig is an elder Witch," Mallea says. "A seller of Fate. She was not my Shekinah, but I maintained a close relationship through my development as a Witchling. Now, unless you are pressed to leave for some other escapade right now, it would be best to meet with Chiu so we can go over our investigation of the scene of the attack in full."


"The Crimson King owns the newspapers, and they are the most popular bounty publishers – aside from their Black Market competitors. Anyway, the papers only post bounties after gathering and verifying stories about each pirate's notable deeds… but sometimes, groups with influence can pay to put out a bounty and name their own price for it. These are called third-party bounties."


"Hrm… w-well, then, we will need to be extra careful from now on. If the traps were set, then cleared, we might have a more dangerous foe aboard the ship, yes? Regardless, we should go meet with Chiu."



Cutlass deadpans at Axolotl. "I think we may be speaking of different kinds of booty."


Cutlass grimaces for a moment. "I had other things I needed to do today, but I suppose I can spend some time on this."

On the way to the 'crime scene', Cutlass asks, "I feel I should ask, how do you anticipate this to negatively impact our current mission?"


"Well, she was with the Virtues. And, I've seen her in some of Obstinance's memories… enough that I have some questions for her."
Cloud says in a low whisper.
"Yea… I noticed that too. It was only you, me, and Alder on that call when you said that. I know Alder wouldn't see us out, so either or conches are bugged or somepony was listning in on us. …Can conches be bugged?"

With only a brief mention of their crews in the paper, Cloud closes his copy with a sigh.
"Well, I can't be too sure, but I have to bet whoever this spy is is on Cutlass's crew. Having all this information of the Virtues, or Obstinance, is the only reason I'd be the third highest bounty out of all of us, whether it's the Crimson King wanting it or the Virtues themselves. At least we're both 'Alive Only', so that's a plus side, right?"
He says, looking at the silver lining.


"Alrighty!" She carefully does as she's instructed, making sure everyone else does the same and hopefully not cause a comical, though expensive, accident.
"When'd you guys turn your room into his shop?"


"Oh, hey Cerulean," Cloud says as she enters the shop too. "Nah, this is Gullveig's shop, we borrowed her key from Thessaly to portal up here for the paper."


As Cerulean enters Cloud and Chiu's small room, she notices that, behind her, the doorway no longer leads to the hallway of the barracks level, but to Gullveig's shop, and the doorframe shimmers with a slight magical radiance. Inside, stand Cloud and Chiu, in the midst of the destroyed shop. Glass lies scattered all about, gouge marks and blood stains mar the floor, walls and ceiling, and all the wares are in disarray, many of which are broken beyond repair.

"Conches probably can be," Chiu says. "Whether with technology like it, or with Aura or magic. But, I'd imagine we're too far under the sea to get a good signal to the surface… well, before I get too far into it, let's try to find Mallea and round everyone up. She and I did a pretty thorough investigation of the scene of the attack. Oh, and let's not do this in our bedroom, Cloud. I'd rather not have everyone knocking over our stuff, you know?"

"That is more difficult to answer," Mallea admits. "At first glance, the informant could be feeding their information to Kukulcan and his crew."
"I suspect they are," Thessaly says. "Magoja seemed to know of my transferal from Cutlass's crew to Bee Holder's, quite soon after I had made the switch, which was the night we bade farewell to Vice-Captain Plague, was it not?"
"But we are, ostensibly, working together," Mallea says. "The free flow of information between us and them is to be expected, not something to occult… so long as that professional relationship exists, I don't see how an informant would be necessary. And so, my current guess, for want of further evidence, is that this informant's purpose is only tangentially related to the current mission."

Mallea and Chiu get together on the Caller Conch, and Chiu arranges for you to meet aboard the Beesting, this time in front of the armory.


"Oh, well that's nifty!" She says, looking very impressed by the portal stuff.
"But…what happened here? I know it isn't you guys, but woah…looks like a nasty fight happened here. Really smells like it," she remarks as her breathing gets a bit deeper.


"That is a good point. One of the guys on Kukulkhan's crew said nothing could reach the surface this morning… which means whoever this spy is has to be down here with us!"
Cloud says, finding an upside.

With the change of local on the door being suggested, Cloud nods, going ot push the chair to block the door as it was before.
"Good point, we need to keep some bit of privacy."
He says in agreement, ready to move to the armory.

Cloud shrugs.
"We don't know. Somepony attack Gullveig and really wrecked up the shop. Thessaly asked her for some help on finding who was spying on us, so we think it was them, whoever it was."



"All this talk with words like 'ostensibly', I don't appreciate it," Cutlass says like a noble who has been slighted by someone's words. "I have said it again and again, my arrangement with Kukulcan is nothing but beneficial for me. The Crimson King's presence changes nothing about that. It would behoove both of us if he was more honest with me. And, I certainly intend to pursue that. But, I hardly care if an informant is feeding information to Kukulcan. If he intends to betray him, that's his own foolish decision."

"Rest assured, I've already been on the hunt for this hidden informant. The seeds of my plan are already placed in multiple corners. But, this is currently secondary to me."

Cutlass heads to the armory on the Beesting.


"Hmm… what could be their main focus, then? If only one of us had an aura power that could detect things more clearly… ah, well."

"I suppose that narrows it down, at least. Any suspicions?"


"Huh…I would say this is all very weird, but then again, I think the bottom of Skull Temple might be a bit weirder," she says as she follows the two out, once again making sure everyone else follows and don't somehow wreck the shop more.
"Wait, should I watch what I say then if this spy stuff is still going on? I don't want them using my library card for…whatever it is spies use that stuff for."


"I don't think they'll be going after your library card. We should be safe on the Beesting to speak."

As they meet up and Alder asks on the suspicions, Cloud shakes his head.
"All I can say is that they're on Cutlass's crew."



"Probably," Cutlass shrugs.

"I'm barely invested in this right now. It's distracting us from more important things."


"Mmm… I think some amount of effort should be put in if there might be a mole within the midst of your crew. What we have seen in the papers is all we know they have said- there could be more dangerous things they've leaked."

"What makes you say that? When updates are made?"


"Yea you want to hand over everything to the Crimson King or whatever, but this is something that's affecting the rest of us still. You could take responsibility at least for hiring a spy into your ship."

"It's the new bounties."
Cloud answers Alder, opening up the newspaper to show the party the new listings. >>749235


"Hmm…not sure if there's much I can add to this. I've been on my own for the past couple of days," she remarks out loud and has a thinking look on her face.

Cerulean looks at the new bounties, pointing to herself.
"Oh hey! That's me there! And…alive only? Whoever is doing this paper obviously has no clue who I am beyond my name…wait, why am I saying that like its a bad thing?"



"Like I said, I've already done a lot to find this mole. More than any of you have done from what I've gathered in this conversation. It's only a matter of time, now. Which is why we should be focusing more on the other things that need to get done today. But, I'm willing to devote a small amount of time to hearing what has been discovered."


"Hey! 30,000! Not bad," Cutlass says excitedly.

Then, her smile fades when she sees Make Believe's. "50,000!? That's such an overreaction! How is that fair!?"


"Which, actually, makes you a suspect," Cutlass says, narrowing her eyes.


"Wait, what, how?! Don't even joke like that!"



"Plenty of time to spy on us when no one knows where you are."


"I… do not think that is correct, no." he says, dismissively.

"Competitiveness, maybe? I do not know if this is something to be competed for, but it might just be innate."


"That's fine, we're just gathering clues right now. The important thing is to catch whoever this is, since they're stuck down with the ships until we go to surface."

As Cerulean complains about being listed as alive only, Cloud chuckles.
"Guess somepony wants you to themselves then."

"What have you done then? We're all sharing our findings so now would be a good time to speak up."

When Cutlass complains about Make Believe's bounty being higher, Cloud taps the paper.
"Look at mine." >>749236


"But you did know. I was in the Skull Temple for a bunch of days and never came up until I got the rod."

"Maybe? I mean, big numbers are usually a good thing, right?"


"Aww, how sweet," she says almost gushy-like, then after a pause, realization hits her, "wait no, not sweet. That's not a sweet way of getting me to like someone at all!"


>I recalled there being a typo so I thought my memory was wrong and the post you linked was accurate. But, now I'm going to roll with the idea that she thought it was a typo.

Cutlass looks at Cloud's bounty again, then squints. She laughs. "What a funny typo."


"Which would be the perfect cover if you were in cahoots with Kukulcan and he just gave you the rod."



"If I shared with you what I've done, it would render it all pointless."


"Hrm… it means you get more attention, though whether that is a good thing is up to you." the griffon says, stroking his beak. "I imagine part of it might be that some of the things you have done that might make you notorious end up not being the most obvious. You definitely seem to do plenty."


"Who knows how pirates think. But it could also be a sort of duel thing. You know like no one gets to kill you but them."

Cloud takes out the other two papers he bought.
"Would they really typo it three times?"

Cloud stares at Cutlass for a few seconds.
"Yea you got nothing."



"YOU'VE got nothing," Cutlass retorts childishly.


"They're all copied," she insists.


"But he didn't, though. He couldn't even get past that first room we found him in, and he definitely wasn't down there with me when I made Torpedo, so no way the faker could have done that, silly."

"Hrrrmmm…then I guess I'll just have to work on that…somehow. Be nice if the rules were written somewhere."

"Maybe. Though…don't the ones who are 'Alive only' seem kinda…odd? I can't really place my hoof on it, but something's making my sharky senses tingle."



"That's alllll part of the ruuuuse," Cutlass says with playful drama.


"Nooooo," she says back, not picking up on the playful part and begins stress-biting a table or something else nearby, "it's not me! You've gotta believe me!"



Cutlass bursts out into laughter. "Relax before you hurt yourself! I'm like 75% joking!"


"Mmm… perhaps stop going off on your own where no one can see to wreck havoc?~" he suggests, teasingly prodding at her. "Regardless, I imagine yours will go up in time. I do not see mine getting too much higher… or, I would hope not. It would mean I am doing my work poorly."


Cloud looks over the bounties listed for alive only.
"Hmm… You, me, Chiu, Mallea, Thessaly, and Splendid. Mallea and Thessaly are witches, Splendid was with the Virtues… There is some odd stuff now that you mention it."

"I have the 200,000 bounty because of my plan, and also the new title they added was only mentioned by Chiu yesterday afternoon."


Cerulean just lightly gnaws on what she had in her mouth now, calming down a little, but looking like her feelings were hurt a bit.

"Ah meensh…ang nn," she spits out what she has in her mouth, "I mean, it WAS a big temple with a cool name. It was like finding a new sunken boat to explore, but this one was REALLY big," she says excitedly.

"Yeah, kinda odd I'm on there. I'm just a sharkpony that's turning into a demon or something. I know why you're on here, but is Chiu only on here cause you two are biting each other,"" she says with the most serious and innocent look on her face.


"There's a lot more than biting going on," Cloud says with a snicker, but then pauses to thin ka moment. "Huh, you know, maybe it is. If they're telling everything about us, they'd know she's pregnant, and nopony would think of attacking a mother with her foal, right?"


"Merely teasing, Cerulean. I am sure you will have a large bounty in short time… provided you want that, of course!"

"I would hope so, yes. Regardless, it would be in our best interests to keep her safe."


"Kinda. Bigger is better, right?"

She gives a playful gasp.

"I guess? I dunno, I know nature can be scary sometimes," she says with an unsure shrug.
"No…wait a minute…I'm getting the big thinking going…." She squints her eyes a bit as she thinks on all the names and why its sticking out to her.
"…hey, wait a minute…is Splendid a demon? Or does stuff with demons?"


"The Virtues hunt demons, right? Splendid said they taught her, though I don't know if she did any demon stuff before we helped Mallea out."


"Is she a demon? I do not think so, no- She was raised by the Virtues, if memory serves." he says, a little concerned at the suggestion.


Oh, Make Believe says, sidling up nearby without a sound, as you head over to the Beesting. I've been building that up for quite a while. Guess hanging with you guys was the right decision! I'm on my way to 1,000,000!

Your discussions of the bounties continue until you at last gather aboard the Beesting, together with Juniper, Ossie, Splendid, Make Believe, Chiu, Thessaly, and Mallea de Valle. Your meeting-place is Etch's armory, who agreed to your use of it as a meeting-room while he works with the drydocks teams on maintaining the two ships.


Banging a cowbell, Chiu interrupts the discussion going on thus far.

"If I could have your attention…" Chiu says, setting aside the bell. "As you've been told, one of our ships was involved in an attack on Gullveig and her shop. Thessaly?"

Thessaly steps forward. "You will recall that we have suspected an informant has been feeding information about our ships to the Ribcage Informant. They are either someone among us, or using powerful scrying methods, as the papers have published information to which they should have had no access, most notably Cloud's replacement eye, which they reported the day after it was implanted, before he ever removed his bandages. To test this, I commissioned the Witch Gullveig to place magical traps about both ships, capable of detecting and tracing the telltale signs of scrying via sympathetic connection. Only, as Cloud, Chiu and Mallea discovered, Gullveig's shop was attacked sometime between the day of Vice-Captain Plague's burial at sea, and yesterday."

"After we discovered the scene of the attack," Chiu continues. "Mallea and I conducted an investigation as best we could to ascertain what happened, and where Gullveig might be now. We've got some initial findings, but since Mallea's been busy, there may be more we can uncover from investigation."

Mallea steps forward. "Here is what we know thus far."

"It was not a break-in. The doors were unlocked, and undamaged, although left ajar when we found them. The attack probably occurred during the normal hours of operation… except that…

"Gullveig seemed to be taken off-guard, as there are no physical signs that would suggest she used offensive spells in retaliation. All we could find were a few signs of defensive spells, but no counterattacks from her. Why she would not or could not at least use one or two remains to be seen.

"The attacker used a most unusual weapon, evidenced by the gouge marks along the walls, floor and even ceiling. We think it may be some kind of curved, two-pronged dagger, as the gouge marks follow a strange pattern. Each mark is actually two, so close as to be almost overlaid. The front mark is long and thin, making deeper gouges, while the back mark is wider and less deep.

"Gullveig is probably still alive, or at least did not expire at the scene of the attack. Aside from there being no corpse, there is not enough blood at the scene for her to have perished right there – although the attacker certainly attempted it. I wasn't able to ascertain much from a blood test, but I did determine that there was only one source of blood, and that the blood carried no trace of poison."

Only one source… Make Believe says. Did she even fight back at all?


"Hrm… what could have caught her so wholly off guard? And, there is a decent number of people here- perhaps someone has heard of a weapon of such a design? It might narrow are search, even if slightly."


Mallea bites her lip. "That's the most dark of the mysteries to me… To catch a Witch so off-guard that she did not invoke a single malevolent incantation, nor swing a single ceremonial blade… it's simply not done."
"This weapon you're referring to…" Ossie says, coming forth from Cutlass's shadow. "It sounds like you found a lot of gouge marks in the shop, to say nothing of how often it struck Gullveig. Was there any other trace of it at the scene? Perhaps something in the bloodstains?"
"None that we have found yet," Mallea says. "We searched high and low for metal shavings or chips from inopportune strikes, but we failed to uncover anything that might identify its material or maker. Reinforced by Aura, or protected by magic, by my reckoning."


"Is it possible the blade itself could be formed from aura, or magic? It could explain its peculiar shape and lack of evidence."


"A weapon? Huh. When I first went into her shop yesterday, Hmm saw a raven fly at us. When I asked her about who could've attacked, all she could see was something pretty big, with wings and a beak. I thought a gryphon scratched up the place, since Hmm was pretty sure whatever it was was a grpyhon."
Cloud chimes in after hearing Chiu and Mallea's investigation results.

"…What if the source of blood isn't Gullveig's?"


"Hrm… I do not think claws could have made the gouges as close as you are suggesting, but a beak… perhaps?" he says, before frowning a little.
"That… could be possible? Whose blood might it be, then?"


"Huh, didn't think about the beak doing it. That'd take some force to make gouges though."
Cloud comments.
"It could be the blood of whoever attacked."


"I guess that it could be talons… but, anyways. Do you think there is a way we could check who the blood belonged to?"



"What, Schnitzel didn't want to be involved in all the intrigue?" Cutlass asks Make Believe. "What's he doing right now?"

Once the scene is laid out for them, Cutlass chimes in. "I'm sorry to ask an obvious question, but how do we know it was even someone from one of our ships? Or that it was related at all?"


He went with Godot to pick his brain about Aura, but I'm preeeetty sure Godot's just going to use him to carry things back. Hrmph, Godot's not going to be happy about his bounty.

"My best guess so far is that either the informant attacked Gullveig, or hired someone to do so," Chiu says. "Thessaly got Gullveig to try to discern if the informant was using scrying magic to spy on us from afar, and Gullveig was attacked sometime afterward. And now, the informant is back to acquiring information that they shouldn't have access to. Just check Cloud's new moniker under his bounty poster."
"I suppose it is not out of the realm of possibility that Gullveig came under attack from another of her enemies…" Mallea says. "But any longtime foe of hers would know better than to stage a frontal assault on her domain… wait a moment…"
Mallea suddenly looks about. "Who has the key to Gullveig's shop!?"
Chiu produces it from her bag, nearly losing the tip of her hoof as Mallea grabs it and bolts for the armory's door.

"If the blood didn't belong to Gullveig, then why wouldn't she be at her shop?" Mallea asks. "From what we know, Gullveig was on the defensive that entire bout… it's only reasonable to conclude that she had to flee. I could conduct a blood test of everyone on board to see if there's a match, but I doubt that would turn up much."


"A blood test might have some value, so I think it could be worth it… provided it is not too time consuming, at least." he suggests, before frowning "Perhaps her defensive magic was stronger than expected? Or, the assailant used blood as a way to confuse things."



"I figured he would already know about his bounty," Cutlass shrugs. "He knows what he did. Speaking of which, what did YOU do?" Cutlass asks Make Believe with raised eyebrows.


"What exactly are you up to?" Cutlass calls after Mallea as she bolts off.


When Mallea asks and quickly snatches the key, Cloud follows behind her curiously.
"The key has left us since I borrowed it, if that's what you think."
He comments.

"A blood test wouldn't hurt, just to see."
Cloud suggests.


Cerulean grumbles with some frustration as all this is said.
"Jeez, I've really got nothing on this. Huh," she asks and looks to Mallea bolting, "hey wait! If you're heading back, don't go alone! Whoever did this might be coming back," she calls out and follows her.


No, no, Make Believe says. They reduced his.

Make Believe then produces his box of stickers. I learned the ins and outs of my Aura abilities, their limits, and all their unspoken conditions. It took a lot of tests.

Before Mallea can answer you, she inserts the key into the armory door, opens the door back to Gullveig's shop, and carefully picks her way over the crime scene, taking care to disturb nothing. She removes the chair holding the front door in place, and steps back out into the alleyway in which her shop resides. She walks out, about 15 meters from the door, and pauses, tilting her head this way and that with squinted eyes.

"Hrm… they are all still there…" she mutters. She turns back to Cloud and Cerulean, who followed her. "Gullveig's boundary wards are still intact. You might think of them as being like an intangible doorbell, alerting her whenever someone gets within a certain distance of her shop. I had thought, that if the attacker had taken Gullveig by surprise, they might have dispelled her wards so as to get the drop on her. But they're still intact, so if they'd come in through this way, there would have been no way Gullveig wouldn't have known of their approach."

"I apologize if this strikes you as, er, stereotypical…" Chiu begins. "But would you be able to assist with sniffing out the crime scene? The blood is long since dried, but perhaps you might be able to pick up things that Mallea and I couldn't."


"A magic doorbell? Is there a way to see if they were tripped? If these wards can tell who passed by them or when, that could help narrow down things."
Cloud says as he follows Mallea into the alley.


Cerulean looks a bit baffled by the magic talk a bit, but the offer from Chiu snaps her out of it.
"Yeah, sure. I can give it a go, though magic isn't exactly something I can smell…I don't think."



"Weird," Cutlass comments regarding Godot's reduced bounty.

"Also, regarding those tests, I'd like details some time," Cutlass laughs.


"So, to me, all of this is pointing to someone who Gullveig trusted. She knew of their approach. They either came in through the front or via a key. Either way, Gullveig knew of their arrival, but didn't anticipate an attack. Not all that peculiar since this is a shop."

"Which leads to an important question. How paranoid of a person was Gullveig? Would she have anticipated an attack from any random customer?"

"Also, how many of these keys exist? And, do we have exact knowledge of where our own key has been for the past few days?"


"Hmm… so, perhaps there is much more to this disappearance than it seems? If they somehow sidestepped the wards. I would say that perhaps they somehow compelled her to come out, but then… what of the blood?"


Make Believe shrugs. It's been a few years since he's done anything to get his name and picture put into the headlines, so they might be scaling it back, especially with all you new faces on the scene.

"The attack took place inside the shop," Chiu says. "I don't think that the attacker would get Gullveig all the way out beyond the ward just to try to kill her inside it."

"She'd exercise a degree of caution, as all Witches do," Mallea says. "But I do not think she'd make so complex a ward as to leave a record of all times that someone passed through the ward. Still, I will search for her runestaffs, and study them."

Mallea pauses to think on Cutlass's final question. "I cannot say for certain whether another of the keys exist – but I've my doubts she would pass them out to anyone other than a Witch."

"My key is the only one that I know of," Thessaly says. "Except when Cloud sought to borrow it, it's been on my person ever since Gullveig entrusted me with it."

"You're certain?" Mallea asks.

Thessaly tenses as she ponders the possibilities. "…No. To be precise, it's been in my saddlebag."

As Cerulean steps back into the shop, an array of smells – blood, sweat, oil, dust, metal, fear, all several days old – awash over her… as does the aetherial vibrations of magic, caught by her demonic senses. Torpedo starts to sniff about, nose to the ground, as he seeks to aid in the investigations.


"Okay, those are some new smells," she says and takes a moment to get used to everything. Seeing Torpedo get right to work, Cerulean tries to focus her senses on the scene as well as she wanders around the shop, much like a shark swimming around on the search for food.

>I'm gonna guess a perception roll needed


Roll #1 2 = 2


The overlapping odors quickly overwhelm your senses, and you're tossed into a brief fit of sneezing, which alarms Torpedo so much that he starts to bark after each sneeze.



"So, you know about the things Godot's done? Personally, I'd never heard of him. We need to gossip later," she says like a typical teen mare.


"Does anyone have any way of recording or determining previous events? We could try to track if anyone stole then returned Thessaly's key."


"Buh…don't worry, I'm good," she reassures Torpedo, "just a lot of take in. Literally." She then tries to filter the smells this time as to not get overloaded.


Roll #1 6 = 6


"Who knows about the key? I don't think it was common knowledge for the crews."
Cloud asks as they question about the key's location.

"Hmm, do you know who used the key before I borrowed it?"
Cloud asks Hmm.


"I do not, no- maybe one amongst either of our crew could manage something like that?"



"You borrowed the key from Hmm? Why was it not in Thessaly's saddlebag?"


"Hmm is in my eye, she can't hold a key."
Cloud says as if that is obvious.



"You are a very confusing person."


Ehh, probably not a whole more than what the newspapers and tabloids have written about him. But, that's another topic for another day.

"Some talk of Gullveig's shop probably got around during the usual chit-chat that the crews do," Chiu says with a grumble. "I've seen various crewmates always catching up the others on what's going on, each time we reunite after splitting up…"

She means the nameless mooks catching up one another, not specific named NPCs.

"But, as for the key specifically, the only people who saw that are all those who went into Gullveig's shop, the day before you went into Mallea's manor," Chiu continues. "So, everyone who was trapped inside the manor during those three horrible days…"

You concentrate on the smell of blood, as it is the most relevant to the discussion at the moment… by how cold and old it is, it has to be, at least, five days old – in other words, definitely having been spilled before you arrived down here, in Cuauhtemoc.

True to what Mallea said, there's only one source of the blood. It doesn't smell like any blood you've picked up so far, and given that you've never smelled Gullveig's blood before now, that most likely indicates it's hers. It's concentrated most about the shop, having been spilled here and there in the frenzy of battle. It leads outside, then dwindles, the droplets getting further and further apart, suggesting that she was able to fly away.

Perhaps there's more to uncover…


Hmm does not respond.

"Right," Chiu says. "Hmm's always going on about how she knows everything. Why don't we just ask her?"


"This is old news Cutlass, try to keep up."

When Hmm doesn't respond, Cloud pauses a moment.
("Hmm, you alright?")
He whispers, being more considerate this time after Hmm's concern when she couldn't answer questions when they first arrived in Cuauhtemoc.


"Hmm…." Cerulean's tail gives a gentle swish as curiosity begins to take over more. She heads outside with her focus tunnel visioned on following the droplets and smell as far as she can. Figuring Gullveig might've still bled out during flight, she hopes her hunch is right.



Cutlass bites her lip with concern. Everything keeps pointing back to one person. Someone with a fancy weapon who was with them before they went into Mallea's manor, trusted enough that he would immediately raise any concern, and strong/fast enough to beat Gullveig before the fight could escalate.

She could still be wrong, of course. She's not even convinced this attack on Gullveig is even related. And, she's not entirely certain of one of the pieces of evidence.

"I'll be right back," Cutlass says in a steady tone as she turns to leave the room. "Ossie, come with me, please."

Cutlass goes to look for Puddin.


"Well, that narrows it down a lot- maybe we would only need to take the blood of a small number of the crew, then?"


You head back to the Hidden Dagger, and discreetly ask some of your mooks at the drydocks as to where they last saw Puddin' Tame. You discern that he's further up north along the coast, and was last seen taking some fishing equipment with him.

You head up along the shore beyond the abandoned port town… but don't see him just yet. Ossie tenses from within your shadow.

Apart from a general background radiation, which you determine to be the boundary ward that Mallea mentioned earlier, you do not sense any further magical residue anywhere. It seems that the fight did not persist for very long after Gullveig began to fly off… and you don't smell anything like a corpse or bone-dust anywhere around here.

Meanwhile, Torpedo paws about the shop, looking perturbed.

Cloud looks around in his crystal eye, but sees only a scattering of black feathers, where Hmm usually sits. Chiu looks at Cloud with confusion as neither he nor Hmm deliver any response.

"Yes," Mallea says. "Can I entrust you to gather up those who knew about the key?"


Cerulean gives a bit of a sigh. A bit upset her hunch was wrong, though relieved that at least she doesn't detect a corpse nearby. At the sight of Torpedo, Cerulean goes over to him.
"Hmm? What'cha find?"


Cloud looks at Chiu, equally confused.
"I… uh, don't see her."
Cloud says, looking around more, even turning in place as if Hmm would be hiding in the physical world around him.



"Godot! Schnitzel!" Cutlass calls out as she looks for Puddin.

[1d10] to find Puddin

Roll #1 3 = 3


"Perhaps we can all look together? Where else do you think they could be?" he asks, before flicking his ear and nodding to Mallea.
"It should not be too hard- I will be back shortly."


Torpedo paces about the room, trying to sniff at every surface that he can, but nothing seems to sate his anxiety. Whatever he's trying to find, he's having much trouble finding it.

>roll perception, DC 8

As you look around in the real world, you no longer see the feathers laying there in the world of the Eye of Wisdom, until at last you complete your circle, and see the black feathers laying in a heap once more. There's something else, laying there in the middle of the feathers…

"Shh!" a voice from further ahead hisses. Perched on a cluster of rock some five meters above you, you see Puddin, with a raggedy makeshift blanket underneath him as he sits over the waters, fishing pole in hand and tackle box at his side. "I haven't caught anything yet and you're not gonna make it any easier like that! What's the problem, Cap!?"

"We're missing Puddin' Tame, Paraiba, Schnitzel, Zerk, and, well…" Mallea pauses. "Vice-Captain Plague. Suppose we can cross him off the list. I do believe Cutlass went off in search of Godot, or someone. See if you can coordinate your efforts with her. If I finish before you're back, I'll fetch Paraiba to help me bring over Zerk… but in his paralyzed state I doubt he's the attacker or the informant."



Cutlass's gaze follows the fishing line to the ocean, then looks back to Puddin. "Are there really fish in these waters worth catching?" She asks more quietly so as to not scare the fish. She shrugs, not waiting for an answer.

"I was just looking for Godot and Schnitzel. Specifically Schnitzel. I had a project for him and wanted to see how it was going. I was told they were out somewhere, and to my embarrassment, I didn't think to ask where until I was already out here."

"It's just as well," Cutlass shrugs. "I had business with you anyway."

Cutlass climbs up onto the rocks to join him. "Naza isn't helping you with this?" she asks conversationally.

>Whisper in your Ear (Aura) (+2 from BP): When Cutlass speaks, her aura is hidden in her words, causing people to be more open to what she has to say, regardless of their current mood or preconceptions of her.

>[1d10+2] DC-1

Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3


Cloud is left confused with no sign of Hmm anywhere, he always figured she'd be right there in his eye always. When he comes back to the heap of feathers, spotting something inside, he attempts to step closer, unsure of how to check what is in there.
"Hmm, is that you?"


"Hrm… alright. We can try to split the number of people we need to look for up, maybe. Hopefully I find one or two on my way to find Cutlass." the griffon says, heading off after the unicorn.


Cerulean has a bit of a concerned look for Torpedo, and feeling worried he might work himself up even more, Cerulean does her best to look around a bit more. She tries to keep her search close to where Torpedo has been pawing at the most.


Roll #1 1 = 1


Puddin' shrugs. "I picked this up on the surface, but it looks like whatever fish are all the way down here prefer other kinds of bait. Haven't gotten much so far. And if Naza could have it his way he'd be diving into the waters to grab the fish for me. Only reason he's not here is I frickin' ordered him to have a day off. Idiot let himself be completely broken as a slave…"

He grunts. "Schntizel and Godot are going to be more southward, last I checked. That's why I went north. So, what's your deal, oatmeal?"

As you step forward in the real world, you get closer to the heap of feathers in the gem as well… and see, at its center, is a printed photograph – or at least, the scraps of one. It's torn to pieces, and there are small claw marks in the heap of feathers. These marks, and the torn-up photograph, are stained with red blood.

Alder heads back to the Hidden Dagger, where the mooks working at the drydocks inform him of where Cutlass went not long ago. He follows their directions for a time, until at last he spies Puddin sitting upon a rock with Cutlass, trying but failing to catch some fish.

Whatever it is that has Torpedo on edge, you can't quite seem to find it… but perhaps that's the very thing that's bothering Torpedo? It's hard to tell, given in what a disarray the shop's been left.


Cloud freezes, going pale as he sees the claw marks and blood inside the gem-world.
"Hmm?! Hmm!"
Cloud says in a panic, from the impossibility of something else having been in there, Hmm being attacked, and the blood. He reaches forward out of instinct to get the photograph pieces, and although he can't touch them he tries his best to get a look over what it is of.
>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3



Cutlass shrugs. "It's tragic, but if he was caught early in his life, it's not like he could have ever known better."

She lets out a sigh. "I could say I can empathize with him, but that feels melodramatic."

"Anyway, I've been thinking about ways to improve myself in combat. And, I can't help but think that my weapons are in need of improvement. It's one avenue I've been thinking about, getting nicer knives. Then, I recalled a conversation you and I had about your own knife. If I remember correctly, it was rather nice. Or, am I misremembering?"

>Whisper in your Ear (Aura) (+2 from BP): When Cutlass speaks, her aura is hidden in her words, causing people to be more open to what she has to say, regardless of their current mood or preconceptions of her.

>[1d10+2] DC-1

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6


"Ah- there you are, Cutlass. Mallea wanted to see if we could get a few of the crew members together to check blood. We need to get together… Puddin', Pariaba, Schnitzel, and Zerk- do you think you could help?"


Cerulean gives a bit of an annoyed huff as she's clearly frustrated by all this.
"Jeez! I can't makes or tails of any of these scents around here!" Perhaps a bit of gut feeling, or perhaps in a fit of needing to vent, Cerulean gives the floor a very hard smack with her tail.

>tail Slam in the odd chance something might be in/under the floorboards


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