No.748857[Last 50 Posts]
>Iron King Ischyros, the Far-Seeking, sets down the First Report with a long and relieved sigh, though his brow is knit with worry. "To think, that a lead might be uncovered so early…"
>"Temper your optimism, sire," Mabin, his right-hand diamond dog, says, looking over the edge of his copy of the Report. "Our opponents are hardly the type to leave such a fortuitous opening for their foes unintentionally."
>"Regardless, it is a lead," the King replies. "And I wasn't crowned King before I'd scurried my way through my share of mousetraps. Tell the Magister to guard that young bird's life with her body, mind and soul."
>"What of his rescuers?" Mabin asks, extinguishing his cigarette butt.
>"Ah, yes. Have her compile a section on them with each report from now on."
>Sister Root enters the meeting-chamber, carrying a tray of coffee, sugar and Mabin's favorite cigarettes on her back.
Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…
The expedition team successfully recovered Green, a young and emotionally-scarred Vola, who hid in a mall security room on L-8 F-7 after surviving the Dreaded Ones' breach of Agatecastle. He was immediately classified by Magister Colonnade Reprise as a Priority 2 Person of Interest, which set him on the level of witnesses to crimes, high-level info brokers, and traitors, within Ironcastle's hierarchy of criminal investigation. His designation as such came about from the very fact that he witnessed Agatecastle's fall – which, according to prior mission intelligence, occurred thousands of years ago. Green, on the other hand, claimed it occurred only one year prior.
The Magister and Knight-Brother Mountain attempted to steal away Green into a separate decontamination room, but the expedition team intervened, insisting on their presence there to help keep Green calm after his traumas. The Magister and Knight-Brother agreed, and conducted the decontamination in the presence of Huitlapan, Conflagration, Firmgold and Cautaa. During the process, the Magister intensely questioned Green not on the fate of Agatecastle, but on a particular mural near his hideout, which depicted a beach, just on the verge of the Dark Hours, when the ceiling-panels turned a nostalgic shade of pink and orange. When Green answered that the mural made him think of his late father, the Magister immediately lost interest, and discharged Green into the medical ward for more mundane medical and nutritional treatment.
Meanwhile, Deadweight, Steadfast and Lost Hope called up Xu for assistance with surreptitiously examining the security footage that Green entrusted them with – and that the Magister had instructed them to turn into the Spymasters' Office without delay. They went to the western end of the FOB to study the data inside one of the Observers' Chambers. When one of the Observers nearly walked in on them, they created a distraction – by beaning Xu in the head with a water canteen.
>Lost Hope, Deadweight
Xu turns and looks at the two of you with confusion and annoyance – but it looks more like she's annoyed at all the shouting. "Can you, like, let me focus?" she asks as blood pours from her temples. She licks it up as it touches her lips, as if it were fruit juice.
The purple-robed Observer gawks and stammers for a few more moments, before nodding at you. He nearly trips over his hooves as he spins to make a dash for the Medical Ward to retrieve assistance for Xu's head injury.
"Y-you think so?" Huitlapan asks.
Cautaa just gives him a deadpan stare. "I… believe she may have been more interested in what the mural represented, hence her use of mind-scanning technologies on our poor Person of Interest."
"Oh," Huitlapan says with disappointment. "That reminds me… I wonder if he'll retain that designation – or if his security rating will increase."
"We must check in with him each time we come back," Cautaa says.
"It was a sunset, right? Probably it represented a sunset. It has to be treasure. What else would it be?"
Cautaa and Huitlapan tense up at the mention of that strange word, 'sunset.' It brings to mind Mendicant Rudolph, who was a relatively obscure priest of the Abbey before he mass-published a strange manifesto throughout all Ironcastle, bypassing countless Intranet security measures to forcibly download his screed to every Intranet-linked device in the Castle.
>Read it here: https://pastebin.com/1nKWRDdR
Almost within the hour, reports circulated of his arrest, and the Iron King sanctioned the Sage Stratum to send out a virus through the same illicit procedures that Rudolph used, a virus that erased each copy of the manifesto, and then itself. However, that did nothing to quell the imagination of what the Moon and the Sun might have been, and what they might have done in the Old World of the Time Long Forgotten.
"Keep your voice down," Cautaa whispers… "But, do you really think so? How do you know that's what a sunset looks like? I thought the Sun never turned off."
"It had to have," Huitlapan adds, in a small excited voice. "I heard they turned on the Moon while they refueled the Sun."
"Well they'd have to turn it off to set it, wouldn't they? Or maybe reset it."
I lean closer and lower my voice.
"Think they hid the control panel for it in here somewhere? Now that'd be a find."
"Whatever his case, that mural and his interpretation of those colors could revitalize this entire venture. We may even postpone this hive's destruction to find other relics. Our names could ring through Ironcastle's legacy for this find alone!"
"Wow they gave her the good stuff huh?"
Deadweight snickers inelegantly as Lost suddenly lightens the mood. "I hope it's not just her losing braincells."
While you apply first-aid to Xu's injury, she continues to study the programs she has running on the Observer's public-access terminal. At last, the copying completes, and she, with a shaky hoof, ejects both and hands the data chips back to Deadweight.
"Nothing fishy going on with the files," Xu says. "Pretty much just your standard video file format. Worst you can say is they used some old cameras, so the footage isn't all that clear."
Before she can say more, a bulky marm of a minotaur flings open the curtain to the yurt, dressed in the white robes of the medical ward. Badges adorning her shoulder identify her as decorated with high honors for accomplishments in the medical field.
"What," she asks, eyes drilling holes into your skulls. "Is my patient doing outside of her bed."
The purple-robed Observer narrows his eyes at you. "And what was she doing at this terminal?">>748862>>748863
"It's far from implausible," Cautaa concedes. "The first question out of the Magister's mouth was not about the breach of Agatecastle, but the meaning of this mural evoking the so-called 'sun-set.'"
"But then… why not be more upfront about it?" Huitlapan wonders aloud. "We are already bound to secrecy on pain of death. If there be hope of finding either of these legendary Lamps, wouldn't it be better to devote our focus to that?"
"If being afraid of dying was enough to stop anyone none of us would be here, would we? Whatever's happening, we ought to catch up with those two ladies and chat before bed."
I finish my plate and stand up.
"It would be more prudent to speak of this when we can profit from it, indeed Mister Conflagration is correct. We should include Miss Deadweight and Miss Hope on the conversation as well."
I get up with Conflagration, throw away my plate and contact >>748866
that we're out and finished eating.
Deadweight puts the data chips away stealthily. If she wasn't a trained warrior, she'd be shaking in her reinforced boots, but to the contrary, she keeps her cool. "We had a very close encounter with some electrical sprites that caused our Magicomps to be on the fritz; we just needed the terminals to diagnose the problem, and I didn't know anyone else who could do all that electrical wizardry than Xu, here," she says casually, gesturing to Xu as she says the last line. She continues, gesturing to Lost now, "And my friend here is such a klutz, dropped her canteen, so I tried to hacky sack it back to her but accidently beaned Xu instead. We got the magicomps working now, though, so we'll get out of your mane, and she can get back to bed."
>Persuasion please work I'm begging you
Roll #1 4 = 4
"Yeah… that happened," Xu says, basically melting into putty as the minotaur nurse picks her up, kneels and begins to examine her. The minotaur's broad, ripped legs serve as a makeshift examination table for the comparatively tiny kirin.
The minotaur begins to touch up the first aid that you performed, adding various poultices and solutions from her own medical kit. "…I'm going to have some paperwork for you to assign for drawing blood from a comrade," she growls.
"And I would be quite interested in learning more about this outbreak of electrical sprites," the Observer says. "Up until now, we haven't had any issues with them. Where did this outbreak begin?"
"Ah… s'alright, I got'em…" Xu slurs.
"So you captured them," the Observer says.
"I… I gottummmm…"
"Care to elaborate?" the Observer asks you, losing his patience with Xu.
Deadweight starts to get a call from Firmgold right as this all goes down.
"Oh, perfect, it looks like your Comp is working just fine now," the Observer says with blatant disbelief.
I try and start a voice chat.
"Hello? Is this thing on? Where did you two wander off to? The kid's fine, by the way. Have you eaten yet?"
Deadweight's brows visibly furrow when she hears her beaning Xu might be put on record. She tries hard to maintain a respectable reputation. "I think Xu's, uh, a little loopy from the meds. We encountered the electrical sprites while we were scouting the lower floors, L-8 F-7. I can brief you on the whole expedition.">>748873
"Yes, as I told you, we got the magicomps working now," she says back with just a touch of indignation in her voice, sending Conflagration to voice mail.
"I see…" the Observer says, clearly unconvinced but lacking a case for more. "It seems miss Xu and I both misunderstood the situation then. All the more reason to follow up with paperwork as to why an incapacitated soldier was out and about without proper medical supervision."
The minotaur marm stands up, hefting Xu about her shoulders as if she were a scarf. "Come on then, let's get this over with. I hope you didn't have any plans for the next hour.">>748874>>748869
You get no response.
"She left you on read?" Huitlapan asks.
"That's… not how that expression works," Cautaa sighs.
Deadweight rolls her eyes and sighs. "It was just supposed to be quick troubleshooting, wouldn't even notice she was gone."
In any case, we're free until they answer. Or perhaps the 'data' is being delivered."
I shrug, then yawn.
"After a nap then. I hope Lost didn't eat her. See you all later."
I trot off towards the barracks.
It is as Firmgold and Conflagration make their way toward the barracks, southeast from the mess hall, that you all spy one another, as the medical ward is south of the barracks, and Deadweight is bound for that with Lost Hope.
"Oh, there you two are!"
I trot over.
"Where did you two wander off to?"
Deadweight rolls her eyes when she sees her two colleagues. "Long story," she says to Conflagration. She then lags behind the Observer and the nurse and taps on her magicomp, sending to the group chat, "In a bind, go eat or smth."
I'll watch the group and then look at my magicomp. Message back
[Already ate, what about the the giving?]
"We just-you know what, nap time."
I start to trot off again.
Deadweight chuckles and says with a cool nod, "Alright, later."
Lost moved along in silence upset she had blanked for so long
Lost Hope and Deadweight get dragged off to file out some paperwork for the very frustrated minotaur marm, all the while getting their ears talked off about endangering a patient with ridiculous antics and japes while they should still be getting bedrest, and the dangerous of roughhousing, and so on and so forth…
About an hour later, while Conflagration is still asleep, they are at last released, though certainly feeling as though they'd just come away from a fight of their own. You all meet in the barracks, where Cautaa and Huitlapan are as well, having changed into some warm casual clothes as they socialize with other expedition members currently engaged in some necessary R&R.
I'm off-put by not getting a message'd response but will continue with [going to rest] and head to the barracks
When Deadweight is finally released from the clutches of her old enemy, paperwork, she heaves a heavy sigh. "Ugh, I'm so glad that's over.">>748888
Deadweight opens Concord, deletes her previous message, and sends to the group, "My bad guys, can explain when we're together, gonna go to the Spymaster's Office now."
Lost nodded "It is rather tedious but we didn't get in too much trouble."
She seemed to be content heading to sleep shortly, walking with Dead back to the barracks.
Deadweight sighs again. "Yeah, you're right, I was getting really worried there," she says with a chuckle.
While Lost Hope and Firmgold remain at the barracks to get their rest, Cautaa and Huitlapan, seeing Deadweight head out once more, decide to go along with her, to the northernmost cluster of buildings of the FOB, just south of the landing zone and the hangar.
The Spymaster's Office appears to have once been some manner of academy buildings, though most have now since been reduced to rubble. Those few buildings that remain standing consist of once central, three-story building, perhaps once a library, and two smaller buildings, one to the west and the other to the southeast.
Deadweight enters the central building, finding it still to be in quite some state of disrepair in comparison to everything else in the FOB – though perhaps spies find it aesthetic. At least the electricity is on.
Before her is a rounded desk, where several nondescript ponies tap away at the terminals. No matter how often you look at them, they are quite unremarkable in appearance, the details of their face and body vanishing from thought soon after you look away – though, perhaps, that's by design.
Deadweight walks up to the desk holding the data chip and saying, "My team was told by the Seneschal to turn in the footage we recovered from some security cams we found on L-8 F-7."
The stallion at the desk arches his eyebrows. "Security footage, you say? Oh, are you one of the people who found that survivor?"
Deadweight smirks, basking in the fame. "Yeah, that's me."
"Well, shit, I don't know how that happened, but it's great news!" the stallion says. The more that he talks, the more his details start to become clear, as if he were a distant thing seen through a camera in the process of getting its focus. However, he seems to be cognizant of this, as he rolls his chair backwards. "Err, I can't really talk too much about it now. Here, give me a moment so the fellas upstairs can verify this. Take a seat anywhere you can find an open chair – there's water and some other things in the fridge on the far wall."
He rises from his chair, and heads for a stairwell marked "Restricted" overhead.
After about half an hour or so, he comes back… or at least, you assume so – he just looks like a gray, vaguely pony-shaped outline like before.
"That's… that stuff's pretty unnerving, but it's legit. We'll get to analyzing it, so keep an eye on your inbox in case we need to ask your team any questions. I'll just need you to sign it in, and I can authorize a bonus payment for your team."
He taps away at a tablet computer, then passes it and a stylus for you. There's a prompt for you to leave some contact information as well.
"Alright," Deadweight says as she goes to raid the fridge, then after getting some adequate snacks, she finds someplace to sit, and she munches and taps away as she waits.
After about a half hour or so, the stallion comes back. When he speaks of a bonus, she says, "Nice," and signs the tablet.
He taps away at the screen some more, then nods. "The payment should clear any minute now. You may wish to message the rest of your team so they know it's not a spam message – weird how those crop up, even out here."
You soon receive a notification, alerting you to a reward of 500 Schillings having been deposited into your account.
Deadweight responds, "I know, right?" She checks her magicomp for the notification, then messages the group, "We scored a 500 Schilling bonus for that footage."
>Deadweight now has 640 Schillings
Cautaa looks at the number on his Comp, clearly wishing he could add a digit to that lineup. "You'd think nearly being eaten alive by lice would earn us a bit more."
"Let's be grateful we're getting any bonus whatsoever," Huitlapan says. "They could just as easily have confiscated it with no reward beyond our usual stipend.">Xu just sends frowny face emojis into the group chat. Seems she was left out of said bonus.
"Half full, half empty, it's 500 Schillings," is Deadweight's wisdom on the matter. She sees Xu's messages and silently taps on her magicomp, transferring 250 of her 500 Schilling bonus to Xu.
>Deadweight now has 390 Schillings and is an e-girl simp
Deadweight responds with a simple smiley face. 🙂
>>748904>"Bitch I am PAYING FOR THE NEXT THING YOU NEED TO BUY. No objections."
Huitlapan happens to be peering over at your comp as you type all of this. Cautaa is currently intensely balancing his bank accounts.
I send a 'thank you, remind me of any needed expenses'
Deadweight messages back, "Lol sounds good." When she notices Huitlapan snooping around, she pulls her magicomp towards her chest and says to him, "Hey, mind your own business.">>748906
Deadweight messages to Firmgold, "Np, don't worry about it."
Huitlapan blinks, realizing what's been done. "My apologies. When I saw miss Xu looking quite distressed over the monetary concerns, I saw you were addressing them, and thought it most kind – then she called you the 'b' word, and I thought things were amiss."
"The 'b' word?" Cautaa repeats, incredulous.
"B-bruh, I mean," Huitlapan says. "Isn't that used when something has gone wrong?"
"Are you from this century, or the previous one?" Cautaa asks in genuine disbelief.
Deadweight chuckles and assure Huitlapan, "Nah, it's all good. She was just surprised."
Last time, on The Castle of Silence…
After signing some paperwork acknowledging her responsibility for Xu's second injury when she should have been recovering in the medical ward, Deadweight turned in the copy of the security footage that Xu had surreptitiously made while she was out and about. For that, the Spymaster's Office awarded each member of the party 500 Schillings, to be spent as they saw fit. Deadweight then split hers with Xu, much to the latter's consternation.
As for the others, they retired early to bed, a wise move considering the damage their bodies had sustained as a result of the attack by the Glutton Lice, which had done such a number on them and their armorsuits. By the next Cycle's beginning, the repairs should be done.
If there is yet more to be done in this Cycle, there is still some hours before the FOB begins to lock up for the Dark Hours. Or, a skip can be made to the beginning of the next Cycle.
After breakfast and a shower I go out in search of my party.
Lost for her part decided to go hunting for somewhere she might be able to find some recreation in the place.
Deadweight invites herself to Lost Hope's escapade and follows her.
I shall be somewhere comfortable to rest that's outside these Barracks, checking my messages to see who among my old contacts have arrived.
>>749150>>749151>>749152>>749260>Last time, inside the Castle of Silence… (crtl-f tag)
After getting a good sleep through the Dark Hours, your alarms awaken you at promptly 0500 hours, as is standard for the expedition team. As you rise from your bunks in the Barracks, you notice that a few early risers are already studying their Magicomps with intrigue. The cause, you soon discover, is a message that it seems every member of the expedition, even beyond your team, has received.
>From: Magister Colonnade Reprise>Subject: All Souls' Meeting>Body:>Hail, brave souls. >As you may have heard, a certain team among your ranks discovered, in the past Cycle, a living soul in the graveyard that is Layer Eight of Agatecastle. This individual has agreed to provide us with what limited intel he can about the situation we face. Report by 0530 to Mission Command for the briefing and a chance to ask questions before your missions this Cycle.
It is ended by the Magister's public authentication key to certify its legitimacy.
Oh boy, time to go see Greene again. I bet he'll get a kick out of seeing and talking to so many strangers.
I get dressed and head off for the meeting.
Lost made her way out of the bed and looked at the message with a small sigh hoping the poor guy was OK if nothing else.
Deadweight's brows rise slightly in mild intrigue when she sees the message from the Magister. She gets her gear on and heads to Mission Command, flicking on her magicomp to pass the time once she gets there.
I'll be at this meeting with my group
Mission Command is connected to the same hollowed-out administrative building in which the Barracks has been constructed. As such, it's not much more than a brief walk through a guarded hallway to reach the Mission Command center. But even so, the Magister would have been wise to give far more advance notice of the meeting. By the time that you arrive, there's very nearly standing room only – and not even in the room designated for meetings. The vast central room used as a hub for Mission Command is packed with just about every member of the Agatecastle expedition – including personnel not normally expected to enter the Castle's depths, such as the Observers, and transport ship pilots. They're all trying to get into the meeting-chamber, and small pockets of chaos break out even among those highly-disciplined and elite few soldiers who comprise this mission's personnel.
Eventually, however, higher-ranked members of the expedition take charge of the situation, and organize an orderly procedure for entrance into the meeting chamber.https://youtu.be/LIX3VXdn2EQ
At the central podium stands Magister Colonnade Reprise, flanked by Knight-Brother Mountain. Standing at another podium nearby, flanked by three heavily-armored security team members, and behind a hardlight barrier, you see Green. He's already damp with sweat, his eyes darting about as whispers of rumors fill the meeting-chamber's air. All eyes are on him.
That is, until the Magister flicks on her microphone, and casts her peculiar spiral gaze about the room. In a wave, every one of the crowd falls silent. Even you, without even realizing it until aftterward, find yourselves compelled to hold your tongues by a wave of psychic pressure.
"Welcome, everyone," the Magister begins. "Would the members of the expedition who discovered this survivor please stand, if they are willing to endure a bit of applause?"
Cautaa and Huitlapan hesitantly look at one another, clearly feeling a bit overwhelmed at the thought."
I didn't realize I wasn't standing already, but yes I do stand and take a step forward.
Deadweight promptly and proudly stands at the invitation with a smug look on her face. She did have to endure electrical spirits and glutton lice.
I stand up and wave at Green, but do it silently.
Hope very clearly remains seated until someone else in the group stands
Light applause follows as you stand – but far less than one might expect for saving the life of a civilian from Dreaded One territory. Huitlapan looks relieved that the applause is very minor, but Cautaa looks perturbed – not out of a wounded pride, but out of the strange disconnect between what you accomplished and the reaction from your peers. You manage to look about you, and see that some members of the expedition team are focused more on Green, while others look at you with a bit of plain envy. Others still look suspicious of the whole ordeal, probably in no small part due to the obvious question this raises as to when Agatecastle fell.
"We will distribute a more complete dossier on this survivor's situation and what this means for our mission in the coming weeks," the Magister continues. "For now, this meeting shall focus on the immediate information that the survivor has requested to share with us, having heard that we intend to reach the bottom of Layer Eight and reclaim it to avenge Agatecastle's fall."
The Magister clicks her comp, and a screen descends behind her, and alights with a slide show presentation. The first image is a blurry photo of a hulking mountain of a silhouette, lit only by a cluster of haunting, searchlight-like eyes, varied in shape and phlegmatic in color.
Green clears his throat, seeing his cue. "H-hey everyone. I'm Green, but… well, it's… a pretty long story and I'm not even sure of all the details anymore. I– I'll get to the point. In my time hiding out, I've snuck through pretty much all of L-8 F-7, all the way down to L-8 F-3. By far, the biggest threat is the necromancer who's taken up residence on Layer Eight. Yeah, there's other Dreaded Ones who have claimed certain sections of Layer Eight for themselves, but they're peanuts in comparison to this guy. I've never encountered him myself, but I've come close enough to see him from a distance. I can't use magic, but even I, with my limited sixth sense, can tell: in terms of power and numbers, he's the one to watch out for. I can't even begin to express my gratitude that I'm up here and not down there… in exchange for you saving me, I thought the least I could start with is to share what I know.
"Let's start with the basics. His security seems to be tightest around L-8 F-4. I've seen his patrols and servants wandering around here and there on the other floors, but nothing compares to what's guarding F-4. It might be that he's got some kind of laboratory, or even his dwelling-place there, but I've never explored enough to be sure. Even I can't sneak around what he's got there.
"Between the hours of 0500 and 1100, I haven't seen any trace of his actual presence, anywhere – not even on the little spy drones and bots I set up to watch my back when I'm wandering around. I don't know why, or where he goes, but there's a pretty big window of time there when he seems inactive.
"Conversely, during the Dark Hours, I've seen him at least three times moving about on L-8 F-6, often accompanied by a few of his guards. He doesn't seem to stick to one place very much on F-6, but it's ALWAYS F-6. Maybe he's looking for something, if I had to guess.
"And, finally, you see this giant up on the screen? This is the only kind of Dreaded One that I've ever witnessed the necromancer retreat from. Everything else he's encountered has run away, or tried to, before getting… well, I don't even know if you could call it 'killing,' what he does to them…"
The Magister looks about the room so far. "Are there yet any questions for the survivor? If not, or once all are answered, I have a question for all of you."
"What's the necromancer look like?"
Lost made mental notes quietly and asked her internal ally some things. Is that the same thing we killed?
Getting less applause than she would've expected, Deadweight shrugs to herself as she sits back down. She listens intently to what Green has to say and waits to hear if anyone has any questions.
I'll sit down and raise a hoof to ask "Have you seen the One this necromancer is afraid of?"
"I've tried to take pictures of him before, but every time I do, it comes out blurry, and not a single image editing program I have can ever open the file," Green says. "Same goes with video. All I can tell you is that most of him is typically wrapped up in this intricate kind of robe – it's usually white, elaborate, folded quite meticulously. Sometimes there's lace, other times he's all covered in flower garlands, or weighed down with gold and gemstones. He must have quite a few of those outfits, but the robe is always the common element. As for the rest of him, he has a rounded skull for a head, and he floats – I couldn't tell you more than that, but… well, I guess he's probably not as tall as you're imagining.">>749274Oh please, Dhampir says. You wouldn't hear the end of it if I managed to eat something like that guy. No, you'll know when I manage to eat something as powerful as this little drumstick up on the stage is talking about.>>749276>>749275>>749274>>749273
"Yup," Green says, gesturing with a laser pointer at the presentation screen. "This is the type of Dreaded One who seems to be the only kind capable of not just standing against the necromancer, but driving him off, but I can't figure out why, myself. What I do know is that my spy drones have seen them most commonly on L-8 F-5… but they seem to fade in and out of the world as they please."
You suddenly recall having seen one of these grotesque, hair-ridden giants yourselves: When one attacked you on L-8 F-9, which Conflagration drove off with a well-aimed flame attack.
After your questions, a few members of the audience attempt to ask questions of Green, but they are largely of a personal nature, which the Magister quickly shuts down, promising more details in the dossier to come later. Those questions relating to the necromancer, Green is unable to answer for lack of knowledge: Namely, if he has any other known weaknesses, or if there have been any other confirmed locations in which he dwells often.
Finally, when the questions die down, the Magister smiles. "Now then, I have a question for you all. As our survivor here has said, the necromancer is undoubtedly the primary threat for our expedition as far as Layer Eight is concerned. I wish to gauge your feelings on a potential course of action, then. If you will pull up your Magicomps, you will find that I am sending you software with which you may vote and submit feedback anonymously to my question – and to further ones of this nature.
"Who among you here would wish to halt your separate explorations of Layer Eight, in favor of organizing a unified mission ASAP against the necromancer; or, who among you here wishes to continue your separate explorations, saving the necromancer until such time later that a confrontation is unavoidable?"
Cautaa perks up with interest, while Huitlapan sweats at the very thought of such a confrontation.
I send in my vote for the unified mission.
Deadweight recalls when they encountered such a Dreaded One. When they're presented with a poll, she hums to herself in contemplation. She eventually chooses to vote to continue their separate explorations. Perhaps they'll discover something that would aid them in dealing with the necromancer.
Lost pauses for a moment before looking to Dead and mulling it over. She decides to vote Unified out of a need for safety.
I respond with a Unified Approach to this enemy
Quiet murmurs fill the room as the explorers mull over the two options, neither of which sound considerably worse or better than the others – going up against the necromancer without full knowledge of what horrors fill Layer Eight's halls may prove disastrous, but at least provides the initiative over simply waiting until a confrontation is simply unavoidable. In time, the members cast their votes.. until at last they finish, and the Magister taps away at her Comp.
"The results are in," she says, and the screen changes to a diagram of two bars – one of which, slightly longer than the other. Option A is the narrow winner, coming in at about 51.3%. The two choices are written out in full at the bottom; and Option A is the unified mission to take down the Necromancer.
The Magister smiles. "A surprising result. Ah, but, I must remind you; this is only to gauge the general consensus among those of you who have bravely advanced onto the front lines. Our orders, for now, remain as they were, until such time that they have reason to change. For now, it is time to prepare for this Cycle's explorations. If you submitted requests for repairs or resupplies at the Armory, they should be ready in short order. Go and retrieve them, and make ready for your next dives. That is all; you are dismissed."
I perk up and look around for my team. I'm ready to head out and see what else there is to burn down below.
"Hmph," is all Deadweight says as the results are revealed. She turns to leave to ready herself for the day's duties.
>>749282>I message everyone that I'm going to get my armor and equipment, where it would be easy to meet them as well.
I head to the armory for my stuff.
Lost remained silent but seemed relieved that they chose unified.
You meet up with Huitlapan and Cautaa at the Armory and Supply Depot, a spacious and somewhat chaotic center, housed in the ruin of a warehouse, with many cordoned-off sections organized by department, with plenty of signage for where particular categories of resources might be acquired. After standing for a bit in the queue, each of you retrieves your Armorsuits, and armor up for the Cycle's business.
"A joint mission," Cautaa thinks aloud. "Interesting business. That's normally not in line with how we are trained to fight… we'll attract quite a bit of attention."
"No doubt why the vote was so divided," Huitlapan says. "I confess I voted against it."
"I voted in favor," Cautaa says. "It goes against my usual instinct, but getting Layer Eight secured will prove a worthwhile investment for my archaeological goals, I should think."
"Right…" Huitlapan admits. "Well, shall we continue our search of the mall on L-8 F-7, or did you want to press onward to F-6?"
"We nearly got extinguished by that little bone minion thing with the skulls. The necromancer would smoke any one team."
"I do believe we haven't fully mapped the level. Doing so would help tremendously in future endeavours."
Deadweight shrugs at Huitlapan's question. "Either. We didn't get to explore much of F-7, but Green was probably the biggest find that's down there."
"I suppose if nothing else there might be loot?"
"That's true. Let's go back to F-7, then."
"Undoubtedly," Huitlapan says. "All the more reason to stay far away."
"We can't avoid him forever if we expect to take the Castle back," Cautaa says. "Besides, a joint mission doesn't mean a frontal assault. It could easily be an assassination with minimized risk.">>749669>>749665>>749666>>749668
Cautaa and Huitlapan nod, check their equipment for a final time, then head with you to the elevator system, where you see many of the other teams who attended the meeting gathering.
Having decided to head back down to L-8 F-7 to conclude your investigation of the Commercial Floor, you punch in the elevator code, and the authorization for Layer Transfer from 9 to 8 comes back as approved. Thus, the elevator doors shut behind you, and you descend.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Seb0UWGwdd4
After a few hours' elevator ride, you emerge in the burned-out remains of Layer Eight's Commercial Floor, Floor 7. Things are as dark as ever in the decrepit ruin that is the Floor, but, your defeat of two groups of Dreaded Ones here seems to have left the air just a bit lighter than it was last Cycle. Cautaa and Huitlapan seem to be breathing easier than on the higher Floors.
"Wonderful! I am concerned about Mr. Green, but perhaps his situation will be too secure for any further questioning about the mural..">>749672
I keep alert from behind the group, but go back to making sure my map of this place hasn't changed.
"Mm," Deadweight hums with a nod.>>749672
"Alright, we went south last time; let's go west," Deadweight announces as she starts walking west.
"You think we should find that mural Green was getting grilled about?"
Lost tagged along casually. She knew where she wanted to be.
"Mister Conflagration, forgive me but I don't believe that will be necessary. For now I have enough pictures and video-capture of the mural in question. Our biggest objective down here should be to map out this level and clear it of as many threats as we can."
"I still say there's a secret door inside it."
Deadweight just rolls her eyes with a chuckle.
"Perhaps, however I must add that time spent looking for such a secret is time not on our objective. I'm sure the rest of our team would agree to caution and safety before secrets?"
Roll #1 8 = 8
[2d10] Climb, myself/Steadfast
Roll #1 2, 8 = 10
[1d10] Climbing Timing
Roll #1 10 = 10
You pick your way over the rubble westward, which proves quite the difficult trek. Many overlapping catwalks and stairwells have crumbled into blackened, burnt heaps as a result of the catastrophes and attacks that annihilated this floor… sharp, stabbing visions leap into your mind, dark reminders from the security footage that Green preserved…
After some struggle of helping one another to clamber over treacherous heaps of burnt and blasted rubble, you at last drop down from the heap onto the other side. It looks like you're in the middle of locations 7 and 9, judging by the burnt scraps of the directory that you found last Cycle. To the North, near location 7, you see a candy shop, a clothing store, and some demonstration kiosks for some kind of toy drone.
Over in location 9, you see a great deal of flooding. Much of the floor has crumbled, pock-marked by deep circular indentations that resemble small craters. Much of the glass in the ceiling overhead remains intact, so it does not seem that they were caused by some falling object from above. Pipes running underneath the mall have been ruptured by the craters, and so, the floor heading onward from here is utterly flooded.
Cautaa and Huitlapan are currently discussing something among themselves, and thus leave the direction of exploration up to you.
Against her better judgement, Lost moves to see if any candy survived.
Water, my ancient enemy. I join Lost on her trek to the candy shop.
Roll #1 5 = 5
Deadweight shrugs and follows them into the candy shop.
I make a note about the rubble's difficulty, then of flooding in location 9. Follow the group to the candy shop.
St4adfast keeps an ear out for sounds [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
It looks like the candy store has survived much of the initial damage and the chaos that followed during the attack on Agatecastle. Amid the broken glass, shattered tile and burn marks, you find some packages of gummies, candy alphabets, and small cinnamon buns that won't expire for the next few years… whether that makes them more or less appetizing is for you to decide.
Perhaps a more universally interesting feature is the cash register. It's locked up tight, but you surmise that it should probably be packed – not only would the cashier not have gotten a chance to store away the earnings in the safe for the end of the Cycle, some signage outside indicates they were having a sale during the Cycle of the attack. Speaking of safes – there's probably one in the manager's office, back behind the counter, but it's locked by a keypad, and probably some kind of alarm system as well if one opens it after hours.
Steadfast hears the distant sound of hoofsteps, even and steady, splishing about in the water further south.
I use my telekinesis to grab all the cinnamon buns before anyone else can.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
Lost helped herself to the snacks before taking a look at the register "Should we just smash it open?"
Deadweight holds up one of the candy packages and inspects it, squinting her eyes. She shortly shrugs and throws it in her bag along with a little of each kind that's easily accessible.>>749863
Unfortunately, she isn't quick enough to get one of the cinnamon buns. She grumbles quietly but says nothing.>>749864
"Maybe there's a key somewhere," she says, looking around the cash register.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I'm in the middle of switching apps when Steadfast bumps me and motions to the south.
"Yes, I'm sure we'll be going in that direction soon.">>749865
"Aside from the key, perhaps we should check to see what time the lock may open without alarm."
Before Lost Hope can unleash Dhampir to wreck open the cash register, Deadweight peeks under the counter, and finds a grimy, taped-up note written in barely-legible pen. It seems that the cash register uses a secret icon combination one must punch in to open it, rather than using a key. Should you choose to punch it in, you'll come into possession of 340 Schillings, in various denominations of silver coins – some more clean than others.
Huitlapan abstains from the candy looting, while Cautaa fetches himself an eclectic assortment of jawbreakers. He is quite cleanly, making sure to use the scooper and a plastic bag to gather it all up, rather than grab it wildly.
Lost let Deadweight get to work on the register as she went to go into the managers office.
I take a bag of gummy worms for Green, since he is a bird after all, then follow Lost Hope into the manager's office.
Steadfast nudges me again and points to the south, to which I listen for something. While doing this I message everyone through the magicomp>Steadfast heard something.
I message back.>Did he say what? Can he talk?
Perhaps I should attempt to listen in as well [1d10]>>749871>I should hope so, but a quiet disposition allows one to hear what others do not.Roll #1 10 = 10
You attempt to use the cash register's combination for the manager's office, but it holds fast.
"If we are unable to find a code lying about, I might be able to unlock it," Cautaa says, displaying his magicomp. An icon of an electrical sprite is displayed upon the screen. "Though I warn you, there's just the slightest chance I might trigger the alarm through my more forceful method."
"And what chance would that be?" Huitlapan asks with an arched eyebrow.
"…One in ten," Cautaa admits.
"Bingo," Deadweight says when she finds the code. She punches it in and opens the cash register. "Not bad," she says as she presents the loot to the rest of the party.
"I could try burning a hole through the wall instead of the door. I don't think the wall is alarmed."
"Eh those odds seem favorable enough."
Cautaa's eyes widen as Conflagration suggests a more direct approach of entering the manager's office. "Ah-ah! Well then. Just allow me a moment more before you set off the fire alarms, if you will."
Cautaa busies himself with collecting some hard candies of various types. Huitlapan bites his lip and turns about, trying to resist the sugary temptations as best that he can.>>749872>>749868>>749871
As you listen in to try to discern what's going on to the south, Firmgold notes that there are multiple sets of hooves moving through the water, making a good bit of noise as they do so. It sounds like there are no fewer than five sets of hooves, one of which is considerably larger than the others, with slower and heavier strides.
After pocketing the loot for herself, Deadweight says, "Hmm, I dunno if the risk is worth it. We don't even know if there's anything interesting in there. We can just explore more."
While he's working I go see what has these two worked up.
"Something wrong? Did you get the register open?"
I quickly start typing to message everyone again.>5 bodies, at least 1 heavier than the rest frm south. QUIET
Lost perked and moved to try and peek out of the windows to see if she spotted anything.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
"Huh? I'm right here-"
I check my magicomp then whisper.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
Deadweight looks down at her magicomp and quickly ducks behind the counter. She tries to get a glimpse of who it could be off the reflection of a glass shard nearby.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
I then move to the back of the store with Steadfast blocking me from view in an attempt to hide while the group decides to listen-in for their own belief.
You set aside your plans of breaking into the manager's office, and pile up near the remnants of the candy shop's doorway, trying to get a glimpse of the approaching sounds. Through some piles of glass, you can get a distorted glimpse of the group approaching: A group of four skeletal equines, plus one more. The first four are roughly the same size, apart from one which is about half a head shorter than the others, and who pushes a liberated shopping cart full of liberated goods. The plus-one, walking behind the others, is easily twice the size of the rest of their entourage, and carries a makeshift warhammer, made of a cluster of welded-together steel pipes, and a great bell upon the end. Each skeleton has some scraps of clothing and makeshift armor, but it's mostly for show, if anything.
The skeletons walk through the watery hallway, stopping here and there to glance in the ruined shops to get a glimpse at anything that might be worth taking. They don't seem to have noticed you yet.
>"They seem rational enough…" Huitlapan observes. "Might we not try to greet them amicably?"
I nod my head, fondly remembering my janitor friend. I still need to buy him that new mop.
Deadweight taps on her magicomp, "Should we? I dunno what we can gain from saying 'sup' to them."
"Alternatively, we can just stay here and hope they leave?"
I respond to the group chat>Are we willing to risk that chance?
Deadweight smirks when she reads Conflagration's message. "Tru," she messages back.
"I elect Conflagration as ambassador to the skeletons," Deadweight messages.
Roll #1 4 = 4
>>749894>Mr. Conflagration I don't believe that approach will work, but I shall sit myself and Steadfast within the Manager's office while you attempt this.
I'll break into the Manager's room if it's open.
I'll attempt to break into the manager's office with my lockbreaking kit. [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
I step out of the shop and wave at the skeletons.
"Hello! How's your shopping going. Find any good deals?"
Firmgold produces her lockpicking kit to try to bypass the keypad upon the manager's office, but quickly finds that the keypad is quite possibly the cheapest one that money can buy – an unfortunate casualty of how economically precarious mall shops are. The keypad practically falls apart in her hooves, allowing her entry into the manager's office. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uTB3hKhskI4
No sooner than the door shuts behind Steadfast that you hear the crunch of wet shopping cart wheels approaching the candy shop. The skeleton pushing the cart nearly careens into Conflagration as he steps out, and the four smaller skeletons have a small start. The larger one shoulders his warhammer, while the smaller ones, still surprised by your presence, back up a step, reaching for ramshackle weapons – bats lined with barbed wire, kitchen knives, and a pair of antique revolvers.
"Quick," Cautaa hisses. "Play the part, before he becomes one of them!"
Huitlapan and Cautaa scramble toward a closet near the manager's office door, where aprons, gloves and hair-nets hang up.>>749898
The manager's office is little more than a broom closet, with a computer terminal, printer, fax machine, telephone, and an ashtray that doesn't appear to have been emptied at any point in its miserable existence. There's some cabinets in the wall, and a dingy floor-mat in bad need of a vacuuming covering the floor.
Lost runs around and looks for any sort of mascot costume that might be around for her to wear.
I post Steadfast to the door and signal for me if outside comes to a fight, but schedule a message about what's in here to the group. Check the Terminal and telephone to see if they're still operational
Deadweight stifles a chuckle.>>749902
Deadweight stays hidden behind the counter, ready to jump in in case anything goes awry.
"Uhhh, they're fresh out of cinnamon buns, but there's still plenty of candy. Come on in!"
I step back into the candy shop and stand clear of the door, watching them worriedly.
Deadweight rolls her eyes at his claim that the store's fresh out of cinnamon buns.
[1d10] Rolling for the magic of friendshipRoll #1 10 = 10
The terminal and phone are both still operational; the terminal is locked by a password, but perhaps Cautaa may be able to assist with that. As for the phone, there's a bit of scratch paper taped to it. Scrawled across the paper are numbers: one for Maintenance, one for a Janitor, one for Security, and one for IT.>>749906>>749903>>749905
With mere seconds to spare, Lost Hope slides into a puffy, fluffy suit, one resembling an olde-tymey striped candyman outfit. But, the headpiece is positively torturous – resembling a large peppermint, it is stifling, and near-impossible to see out of, with two eyeholes that don't line up properly owing to the helmet of her Armorsuit. Should she take off the Armorsuit's helmet, she would assuredly fall prey to the dreadful heat and putrid stench of plastic, cheap fabric and body odor that the previous occupant left behind.
>Lost Hope must roll perception - 1 with every turn she's in it
The skeletons pause as Conflagration ushers them in, sharing a look of total confusion. Then, one by one, they slowly sheathe their weapons, and step inside, with the big guy ducking his head so he doesn't get caught on the doorframe.
They begin to peruse the candy shop's wares, still keeping a steady eye on the four "employees." The small one, parking the shopping cart against the doorframe, turns to Conflagration and starts to jaw away, asking some manner of question. Huitlapan and Cautaa subtly panic as they try to discern whatever it is the skeleton's on about, as they pretend to be busy with tidying up the shop.
Lost tried her best to be a good mascot as she waved and tried to stand still so she didn't run into anyone.
[1d10-1] PerceptionRoll #1 10 - 1 = 9
"I don't know when we'll get the next shipment in, sorry. Our supply chain's been a real mess recently. I can step into the back and ask if the manager if we still have a box of buns somewhere if you want?"
Deadweight, still hiding behind the counter, sighs in relief as she hears the skeletons sheathe their weapons.
[1d10] I used to wonder what friendship could beRoll #1 10 = 10
Curious, but I'll leave this stuff be until we're done with what's going on outside. I'll check the group chat to see if anyone's added anything since.
The small skeleton nods eagerly, hopes rising as Conflagration immediately divines, through the ancient magics of friendship and customer service, what it is that they want. Lost Hope's little routine as the mascot seems to convince the other skeletons that all is legit in the candy shop, and the other skeletons stop eyeing you so closely and go back to talking to one another in their unheard ghostly language, as they pick out the bags and boxes of whatever candies that they please.
Cautaa and Huitlapan, wide-eyed, can do nothing but watch as you handle the situation without issue.
But now, a greater challenge…
The three normal-sized skeletons start to line up at the cash register once they finish picking out their treats… but the register's just been looted.
Meanwhile, the big skeleton is trying, and failing, to operate the broken capsule machine in the corner, growing frustrated that it keeps eating his coins with no capsule dispensed.>>749914
Cautaa's got a livestream going – you can see what's going on in the candy shop proper through the camera on his comp, which he surreptitiously points at the skeletons. For a moment, he glances at it, and mouths, "I can't believe it's working!"
I head into the back and close the door before filling Firmgold and Steadfast in on the situation. After a minute I pull four cinnamon buns out of my pack and walk back into the store. With a smile, I float them over to the skeleton that had asked about them.
Deadweight notices the shadows of skeletons lining up at the cash register, so thinking on her hooves, she grabs a nearby apron, throws it on herself, and pops up from behind the counter. She flashes a smile and says, "Did you find everything you were looking for?" She then notices the big skeleton having trouble with the capsule machine and politely shouts to it, "Oh, that hunk of junk has been giving us a headache all day. I can give you a refund of whatever you put in there."
Lost rummages around and manages to locate a gumball and tries to sneak over to the capsule machine so she could make it look like it came out of the machine.
[1d10-2] PerceptionRoll #1 9 - 2 = 7
>Rolling for the magic of customer service the dice better not stop giving good rolls now
Roll #1 3 = 3
I continue to wait in the manager's office just in case there's a need for one, although I'm hoping otherwise.
The big skeleton looks skeptically at the gumball as it comes out of the capsule machine. They glance over at Deadweight and Lost Hope, then lean down and tap the glass of the capsule machine. It looks like they want a very specific prize: A red capsule with a figurine of a cool-looking knight pony with a flaming arm inside.>>749916>>749917>>749920
At last, the smaller pony gets in line for the register, with their cinnamon buns and gummy worms – but now they need to pay, as they fish about in their bags for Schillings. The emptiness of the register might break the kayfabe… and there's another problem. The register has a small scale next to it, as the candy appears to be sold by the pound around here. However, it looks broken, annihilated by a stray bullet during the fall of Agatecastle.
Huitlapan gulps and tries to check the prices to do it all manually…
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Deadweight glances at the scale and sighs lightheartedly. "You know what? On the house, it's… my birthday today." She then shuffles over to the big skelly-buddy and sees the prize he wants. She tries to tinker with the machine to open it up and get the prize for him.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
I walk over and try to use my telekinesis to help jostle the ball he wants out of the machine.
"Here you go, buddy. One day they'll get this machine fixed."
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Since it's either waiting to be called on or not, I'll search the cabinets. [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Lost shrugged and gave the machine a jolt with her side trying to knock the capsule down into the prize slot since it was apparently jammed.
[1d10-3] Perception bumpRoll #1 5 - 3 = 2
Lost Hope tries to nudge the capsule free, but really just succeeds at jamming the corner of the capsule machine's glass and metal box into her shoulder, giving herself a mighty sharp pain that then turns into a full-blown cramp.
The big skeleton nods their gratitude as Conflagration and Deadweight get the capsule and prize that they wanted. They open the capsule, remove the knight, and tuck it into a secure pocket in their armor. They also keep the capsule in a different pocket.
But Huitlapan panics. "Er… I'll need a price check on… er, pretty much everything! Is the manager busy?"
The skeletons in line look mildly annoyed at the holdup, but not nearly as badly as Huitlapan is panicking over.>>749924
You open up the cabinets; behind the first is a heavy safe, and behind the second is a smaller lockbox. In the third is an assortment of office supplies – a stapler and staples, tape, printer paper, so on and so forth… it might actually prove a better find than one might think. Considering how often the Observers and Mission Command get into disputes over scarce office resources, you could probably get some good cash for all of this if you find the right buyer.
Hope did her best to try and amble off back to the back area so she can take the mask off for a bit in privacy.
[1d10-4] PerceptionRoll #1 3 - 4 = -1
You turn at too wide an angle, owing to the near-complete sensory deprivation that the mascot's costume induces in you. Your massive mask catches on the corner of a broken display case, and you trip, and faceplant – finally, one of the signs advertising the sale falls atop you, pinning you to the ground in your misery.
I walk behind the counter and help with the math. I'm good at that.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
I find some free space in my bags to box all these office supplies up with, after Steadfast shakes them free of accumulated dust.
"Oof," Deadweight exclaims in empathy. She goes to lift the sign off Lost and help her up.
Conflagration does his best to ring up the purchases for the four skeletons, but he gets the distinct feeling, as he ballparks the price amounts, that he miiiight be just a bit under. But by the time that this sinks in, the five skeletons, chewing away at their purchases, are making their way for the door. Huitlapan and Cautaa just look relieved that they're going to be off.
Deadweight helps up Lost after her little tumble.>>750065
You score no less than 10 pounds' worth of assorted office supplies for the highest bidder.
"Owwww." she murmered as she slowly pulled the mask off and stood up rubbing her bruised ribs "Thanks Deadweight."
Deadweight chuckles. "No prob. I'm gonna check on Firmgold and Steadfast," she says as she goes to the manager's office.>>750065
"Find anything good?" Deadweight asks as she walks in.
The manager's going to chew me out for this for sure! Oh, well, as long as it isn't skeletons.>>750068>>750069
"See? I told you that'd work."
Deadweight chuckles. "You certainly have a way with skeletons."
I make sure to pad the sack against water as Deadweight walks in.>>750069
"Of course, Miss Deadweight!"
I pat the bag
"Office supplies, alongside a hidden safe and lockbox for when this store opens. I'm unsure of when the hive's waking cycle starts but perhaps we can attempt opening during agate's cycle to see. Oh, how goes Mister Conflagration's subtlety?"
Deadweight nods with a smirk. "Nice, it always seems like we're out of paper. We can stop by here again to see if they unlock. And hothead's like a skeleton whisperer or somethin', they just came in and 'bought' some candy," she says with a chuckle.
Lost groaned "Did we make any money from this?"
Between all five of the skeletons, you're coming away with 100 Schillings – most of that being due to the large one being the biggest spender, followed by the smallest one in second place.
"We'll be taking our raises now," Cautaa says, glancing over at the cash gained from both the purchases now and what you got from the cash register earlier.
"Even I haven't spent that much on candy, not even in the throes of my past addiction," Huitlapan says.
"They looked to be bandits or looters," Cautaa says. "Evidently, they had cash to burn and sweet teeth to sate."
As the conversation moves to the manager's office, Cautaa looks over at the locked terminal. "No luck with this, I take it? Perhaps I might test my new spiritual minion upon it, if none harbor any objections about the risks."
I chuckle and wave off the idea.
"Oh goodness! Well, if we're finished outside then I have some other news to relay to everyone before leaving again."
I'll join Deadweight outside the manager's office.
"Everyone, Mister Cautaa, the phone lines still seem to work from here."
"GO ahead, should be safe now."
"Oh, sure thing."
I'll oversee handing out the cash while the others work.
Deadweight rolls her eyes and give Cautaa and Huitlapan their cuts.
>Deadweight now has 390+(340-(340*0.3))+((100-(100*0.3))/4)=645
I will quietly
forgo any received amount of this 100 schillings.
"I'll take some as well, whatever you deem fair."
As you divide up the money and consider what to do next, Cautaa sits at the manager's chair and hooks his comp to the terminal. You see a pixelated image of a sprite upon his magicomp's screen, followed by many interfaces opening up, which he starts to studiously type at.
[1d10] Hacking attempt
Huitlapan looks over at the phone. "Hrm… I would test it by calling Mission Command, but I have no faith that they would accept the call, for fear that it may be a deceptive attack by the Dreaded Ones. Have you tried any of these numbers, Firmgold? Perhaps if Green survived, there may yet be more."
"Or you could just as easily alert a more intelligent malevolence of our location here," Cautaa counters.Roll #1 7 = 7
"I'll be honest in that I haven't tested it yet, cautious of course that in doing so I may have alerted electrical-aligned D-O's"
"Yeah, we don't need to make any calls. Good to know it's here, though."
"That's assuming the lines are even still functioning for one."
I'll keep watch by the front door of the store.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Huitlapan nods, and steps away. "Now, if you will excuse me, I need a bit of fresh air, undefiled by all of this ambient sugar."
He goes and joins Conflagration near the front door, pulling up a chair as he keeps watch over the destroyed mall. Neither of them notice anything of note at this moment.
Cautaa hums with delight as his electrical sprite brute-forces its way past the password screen, giving him access to the terminal's contents. "Let's see what we have… no intranet, but I can still pull up everything as it was last used. I can't imagine a mall manager would have access to anything that Mission Command would be interested in, but considering the discrepancy of when Agatecastle fell, between the intel and what we're seeing with our own eyes, perhaps my assumption is wrong. I'll poke about for things of interest, if you all wish to look over my shoulder and tell me what to click on."
"Anything that can get the vault open. Its probably linked to the terminal."
I nod at him and continue to keep watch.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I make sure Cautaa pauses so I can take pictures of the dates that are displayed on this terminal.
"Uh, click whatever," she says, not really understanding the terminal's user interface.
True to what he says, Cautaa really doesn't find much of note on the terminal, as its owner was but a mall manager. He sifts through emails, running cursory searches for any keywords of note, but turns up nothing. Unsorted junk files, to-do lists, budget spreadsheets, employee disciplinary files… etc, etc.
At one point, however, Cautaa rattles his tongue. "Oh?"
The vault pops open, apparently opened by Cautaa fiddling with the terminal. But that's not what catches his attention. "It's the manager's browsing history."
Huitlapan turns in horror from all the way out by the front door.
"No, no, not that," Cautaa says. "He or she seemed to have been intensely checking a delivery tracking number. If the last cached webpage is accurate, it looks like it arrived at the post office the very day that the attack began. A note from the vendor: the manager would have needed to sign for it there, owing to the nature of the contents. Hrm…"
He pulls up a map of the mall. "Oh! It appears it's not far from here. Shall we take a detour to see?"
As long as I have my terminal dates, yes.
Lost went down to raid the little safe as fast as she could.
I'm still by the front door so probably out of earshot.
"Huh, it's worth checking it out," Deadweight says.
Indeed, in line with Green's testimony, it seems that all the most recently updated files and emails on the terminal are all from about one year ago. Cautaa takes care not to modify anything, so as to preserve as much of the original contents as they were prior to youur access of it.>>750095>>750094>>750096>>750097
Inside the safe is a cool 1430 Schillings in various denominations of coin, along with a somewhat older-looking model of pistol, designed for hoof use. There are also two magazines, each containing ten rounds – the pistol itself is empty, most likely in cooperation with restrictions on the Commoner Stratum's possession of firearms. As a weapon, its utility is debatable, but it may be of more interest to collectors.
Cautaa disconnects from the computer, and takes care to shut it down. "I'll mark this location for Mission Command. If nothing else, the Observers will want to archive the terminal's contents."
He has a good stretch after sitting down. "I've made notes of the post office. Let's be off, then."
>roll navigation and respond for next time
"I wonder if we can find more candy at the post office."
[1d10] nagivationRoll #1 7 = 7
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"I believe I can get in touch with some interested buyers for that firearm."
I'll take the pistol and rounds for it, wrap the pistol and stuff that in one of my pouches.
You follow Cautaa's lead, and begin moving south from the candy shop, toward a vast central area, which for the most part is very badly flooded. Strange plants, none you've seen cultivated in Ironcastle, bloom forth from underneath the surface of the water, apparently needing no light from the non-functioning ceiling panels. Cautaa and Huitlapan take a wide berth around the plants, sticking to whatever damp, mold-slick tiles they can still find above the surface of the water. You manage to follow after them without getting your armorsuits too damp – a good thing, too, as your suits flash a warning in your visors, telling of unidentified contaminants in the water below you.
"It should be somewhere in Location 11," Cautaa says, referring to the tattered directory. "Considering those skeletons came from this direction, we might assume they would have encountered any Dreaded Ones in that area."
"They didn't look like they'd been injured," Huitlapan says. "Perhaps it's clear there?"
Deadweight goes, "Eugh," when she sees the unidentified contaminants warning flash across her visor.
"Yeah, I'd think so," she says in reply to Huitlapan.
"Keep your eyes peeled for trouble."
I summon up some burning homing magic.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
"I don't truly believe every minor
act of our target to be a target for something else. One can hope, of course."
As Conflagration conjures up three homing fireballs, you at last succeed in crossing about halfway through what remains of the mall's central area. Many paths spiral off from that central area, which in better times most likely served as some manner of connecting hub for all the branches of the mall. Almost all of those paths are now caved-in, badly burnt, and impenetrable, save for the path you just came down, leading northeast, one path to the north, and one path to the southwest, which is where Cautaa continues to head. "We should be coming within sight of it soon… oh, watch your step here…"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wiwh0cosVck
As Cautaa picks up a piece of loose rebar to clear away some shattered glass from your path, a jarring momentum takes and rattles about your heads. When your vision clears, you are faced with an entirely different view of the world – one from the outside. Each of you can see yourselves from without, as if you were a third party observer to your own bodies. You retain control over yourselves, yet your control is awkward and clumsy, owing to your vision being shunted out from your bodies.
Briefly, you manage to regain some semblance of direction, and realize that you're viewing yourselves from the southwest… but just as that becomes clear, you feel a sensation like falling forward – and your consciousness snaps back into your own bodies.
Cautaa and Huitlapan stumble to the ground, panting heavily as they examine their arms and legs, as if waking up from a nightmare. "An– an attack!" Cautaa gasps, slurring his words with a numb tongue.
"What kind of attack was that?"
I move to duck behind some debris and look around for anything that might be responsible.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Lost yelped and tried to jump into Stealth in response.
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 9 = 9
"What the—" Deadweight exclaims, briefly having an out-of-body experience. She stumbles when she feels her consciousness return to her body but quickly draws her claymore.>>750252
"That's what I wanna know!" she exclaims as she searches the darkness
[1d10]>Tactician, number 2Roll #1 9 = 9
"I refuse to believe that!"
[1d10] Spellbreaker, but still move to better footing with Steadfast.Roll #1 2 = 2
As quick as you can, you scramble behind whatever structures happen to be close by – overturned display tables, hunks of stairwells and escalators, towering heaps of burnt rubble and pipe. Cautaa and Huitlapan manage to crawl over, following your example.
Through a narrow gap in her cover, Deadweight peers to the southwest, to an open sort of plaza, just outside of what was once the mall's indoor space. In the middle of the plaza, there is a tall and ornate fountain, which seems to have impossibly escaped the destruction that raged across all that surrounds it. Floating above the cherubs and lions that hold up the fountain's top bowl, you see a kind of three-tiered pillar-shaped void, composed of three vaguely rounded gaps, with tapered ends at their top and bottom. It almost looks like three peas in a pod, only they are without color, or of form, and seem to be pulling in the color and clarity of the world about them, as water circles about a drain.
Cautaa peers over Deadweight's shoulder, and Huitlapan sticks close to Steadfast and Firmgold. Firmgold's spell hurtles toward the strange pillar, but as it does, it is thrown off course into a spiral shape, and is inhaled into the pillar's three great voids, vanishing within.
"A ravenous thing, that one," Huitlapan mutters. "And it's already seen us…"
"It's hungry? Let's see if it likes heartburn."
I send one of my burning homing magics hurtling its way.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Lost sent a message to the others asking if they had any idea what this thing was and if they did, how to hurt it.
It is a ravening void of three, floating and eating even my anti-magic belief. What are we to do, retreat?
Deadweight squints at the void, muttering under her breath, "Shit." She watches if Conflagration's magic affects it at all.
Just like the anti-magic orb, Conflagration's fireball vanishes within the gaping voids of the pillar, seemingly to no effect.>"We need to discern if this is a Dreaded One, or some form of anomalous occurrence, dumb and without consciousness," Cautaa says. "If it is the latter, we can take our time experimenting with how to get around it.">"I'm inclined to think it's not a Dreaded One," Huitlapan says. "I mean, this is the second time you've attacked it, with no reaction.">"Assume nothing," Cautaa retorts. "It may simply be patient, as all wise predators are."
Lost decided to probe inward despite this being a less than likely result for her to work. Do you have any idea Dhampir?
"Hmm," Deadweight hums. She finds a piece of rubble near her and tosses it not at the void, but next to it.
>Investigation, +2 bonus from Tactician
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
This time a try sending one fireball a little bit to the pillar's left and another much further to its left.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I wait to see what everyone else's idea does, as I'm out of options. Actually I look around to make sure we're not being surrounded
[2d10] Myself, Steadfast doing the sameRoll #1 7, 8 = 15
The both of you confirm that the area, for now, is clear – but you're left with just the faintest hint of a nagging at the back of your head… though, it's probably just a kind of base suspicion that being outside of a Castle's protective Light engenders in one's mind.>>750263Hrm… heheheh. Nope. Didn't respond to a request for comment, that one. Though, I wonder what it would have said if it was… might have asked me about you. What can I say as your introduction if something does, Reject?>>750265>>750264>>750266>>750263
The pillar sucks in the piece of rubble, and the closer of the two fireballs that Conflagration throws; the second one is pulled off-course at an angle from its original trajectory, but is still far and fast-moving enough that it manages to escape the pillar's pull, and land against a marble wall somewhere further away.>"Its gravitational pull isn't that strong, so long as you're not too close to it…" Cautaa types. "Perhaps we can walk about it?">"But then, what of that change in our view?" Huitlapan types. "And observe the fountain below it, how pristine and spotless it looks, how it is unmoved by that gravity. How can you explain that?">"I have no idea how we might examine that without getting closer…" Cautaa argues.
"That makes sense. Is there another way around?" Deadweight messages in the group chat.
"Maybe. I don't feel good about even just being in sight of it, though."
>>750270Dhampir gasps. You want me to take that risk!? What if it does!? And I think you need to be the one to show me some gratitude, considering I provide all your armaments. What would you do if you ran into battle and found yourself swinging nothing around but your delicate hooves?>>750268>>750269>>750272>>750270>"There could be some manner of maintenance worker access somewhere around here," Cautaa hazards. "But there's no guarantee those pathways aren't just as collapsed and ruined as most of the mainrroads about here, nor rife with their own dangers.">"If only we had some intranet relays up," Huitlapan types. "Green probably found some way of getting around safely on this floor, considering the stockpile he built up. I'd wager that, at the very least, he left himself some emergency escape routes that we might commandeer if we can only find them."
After Firmgold makes her suggestion, Cautaa and Huitlapan nod. "Oh, like hiding behind something?" Huitlapan asks. "Well, I'm sure we have enough strong folks to slide along a suitable barrier for us to hide behind."
"We could split up into smaller groups," Cautaa says. "Rather than hide behind a single structure. My sprite should be able to weakly animate objects with sufficient metal to aid in movement."
>>750270You can try it first if you want to.>>750269
[g[No clue.>>750272That gives me a good idea.>>750273
I grab a small piece of rubble with my telekinesis and float it slowly towards the pillar. I want to see how close I can get it before it starts getting pulled at and if there's a gradual increase in force or a sudden increase. Assuming my reach is even that long.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"Perhaps it would do well to have myself and your minions attempt this before anyone else. Of course if Mister Conflagration's attempt does not prove helpful to this idea then we are back to… well ideas."
Deadweight grumbles indistinctly, frustrated that this void thing's in the way. She starts looking around for another way to the post office.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
>>750275Fine, fine, I can tell when I'm not wanted around here! You can fight the next battle all by yourself, if you're– if you're so…!
Dhampir begins to choke up, and very quickly starts to sob. Hot tears involuntarily rush from the corners of your eyes.>>750277
You get the sense that, if there would be any way of getting around the void-pillar before you, it would be via the northern path – according to the map, it bends westward after a time. The most logical place for a detour would be somewhere around there.>>750275>>750274>>750276>>750277
As Conflagration begins to execute his plan, all is well at first – the chunk of concretet rubble proceeds onward without any interference from the void pillar… until it starts to reach the edge of his telekinetic reach. The bit of rubble starts to waver, and falter, as might happen when one's arm gets tired after carryin–https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EGhbf-2UAiY
As the rubble wavers, Conflagration sees the faintest edge of the void pillar, just over the rim of the concrete. Just that faintest hint of the void is enough to yank his sight out of his body, and as he beholds himself from without, from the perspective of the void, he can feel himself slipping further and further back toward it–
>Conflagration roll resistance vs. psychic damage
Deadweight studies the map of the floor on her magicomp.>>750275>>750276>>750277>>750278
She messages to the group, not looking away from her magicomp, "Let's try going north. There might be another way to get to the post office there."
I yelp in fear, or at least try to.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Her head jerks up. "Hothead, you good?" she asks in concern.
That very much got a surprise from her as she began to dab at her eyes wondering if he had really just done that.
Conflagration manages to pull himself back with a muted, somewhat low yelp, head ringing and eyes burning, the flesh around them sore and raw, as if many fingers had just been scrabbling about his lids for the treasures they hold within…
>Conflagration takes only 2 Psychic HP damage>Psychic HP is your (Max Hits x Max Wounds)/2
>"Well then…" Cautaa types. "Looks like we're going to want some cover, whether we're heading north or southwest now.">>750282Dhampir says nothing more.
I croak out a response.
"Nope. We're not going that way."
"Don't have to tell me twice," Deadweight comments. She looks for a safe way to get to the northern path."
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
>>750283Lost was extremely troubled by the defeaning silence in her brain.
She remained quiet as her internal focus was not conducive to communication.
It looks like the best path northward would be to snake around the collapsed ruins of the winding escalator and elevator systems that connected all the various levels of the shopping mall together in this central hub area.
As she looks about, Deadweight confirms that there are some spots that are totally without cover breaking line of sight between you and the tower of voids that injured you with that perspective-bending mental attack. Perhaps you traversed these earlier simply by luck of not being within the entity's focus. But now that it's spotted you, it's not hard to imagine you'll need some way of dealing with this lack of cover.
"A distraction, perhaps," Cautaa whispers, thinking aloud.
"Can it focus multiple directions?" Huitlapan asks. "Perhaps we split – if only for a moment?"
"Of course, we should turn back if this thing cannot be defeated or maneuvered around."
I make a description of what we encountered here and place an 'X' on it in my map.
"I don't like that idea. That void hits hard."
How big are the areas without cover? Can we pile rubble up and sneak past them?
Lost sent a message saying she needed to know the plan from her hiding spot,
The gaps in the cover range from being about ten to fifteen meters wide, and there are four in total – but not all perfectly aligned. Two gaps are to the northwest of you, and two to the northeast. Directly north of you lay tangling coils of melted metal, glass and concrete, from where the elevators, escalators and stairwells were concentrated when they fell. Some of it looks loose enough that one might be able to move those chunks with powerful telekinesis.
I try to move enough of the rubble to the closest northeast gap with my telekinesis.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"We could always try going north to see if there's another way to the post office," Deadweight says.
"Doubling back isn't the worst idea."
I'm too busy lifting to respond.
"I believe we would benefit more from that as well. I don't see a way around this thing without it noticing us."
With a rumbling and a whining of twisting metal, a chunk of concrete comes loose from the heap, and rolls toward the gap in cover to the northeast – but another churning follows, and a great heap follows, as an avalanche of debris and wreckage comes falling down after it, pelting you with bits of shrapnel and glass.
>All lose 2 Hits
More bothersome than that, however, is that the heap of debris that followed has given rise to an elevated section of the floor. If you were to walk at your full height over it, the tower of voids might be able to spot you – best to crouch down for now.
Cautaa and Huitlapan dust themselves off, but silently wait for your lead to cross.
"Sorry. Let's go back."
I crouch low and crawl back the way we came.
Deadweight nods and begins walking towards location 5.>>750481
"Come on, we're takin' a detour," Deadweight says to the constipated looking unicorn.>>750483>>750484
But then, there's a rumbling, and Deadweight's soon pelted by bits of shrapnel and glass. "Agh!" she yelps as she tries to take cover. Once the avalanche ceases, she grumbles, shaking and patting the debris off herself, then she begins crawling towards location 5.
.. I shouldn't be one to complain but we'll be slow as I try to… pull.. this nonsense from my suit."
I stay back to get some of the shrapnel out of myself before crawling so I don't cause further injury.>>750484
"-And as a matter of fact, Mister Conflagration, coming across an entity of this matter is nothing to be sorry over.I would rather applaud your forward thinking to attempt our ideas."
I rub my head.
"I disagree. I'm really sorry I met that thing."
Lost tails along, smarting at the pain
"Ah, of course.">>750485
I'll crawl, following Deadweight, to location 5
Huitlapan and Cautaa crawl after you, bearing the annoyances of glass, shrapnel and stale, standing water as you gradually make your way through the cover and make a detour northward, toward Location 5. The trek is long and arduous, and even though you do not fall within the sight of the void-tower along the way, there lingers a prickling feeling of being watched, needling away at the back of your skull, where spine meets amygdala…
But at last, you are able to stand – for you have reached the lowest border of Location 5. Cautaa and Huitlapan stand and dust themselves off, leaning against a near wall to catch their breath as tension leaves them.
Much of the area surrounding you appears to have once been dominated by clothing outlets of various kinds. Everything from small installations to large, multi-layered big box stores can be found here, some specializing in specific articles of clothing – haberdashery, suits, sports team jerseys – while others offer everything one might want in terms of high fashion.
Apart from the general ruin and destruction that has racked the rest of the mall, there doesn't seem to be any particular damage or curses lingering in this section of the mall.
Can I find any path leading to the post office?
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Deadweight glances at the fancy clothing. "Hmph, wonder how many Schillings that'd've cost," she wonders out loud. She walks towards location 6, keeping an eye out for any holes in the southern wall that could lead to location 11.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"I shouldn't, but we may find some buyers if we're to pick at the fancier clothing sets that, hopefully, will be found here! Oh, to be wandering this place without the idea of danger..">>750492
"There are markets, Miss Deadweight, archivists and revivalist-connoisseurs who I'm sure would delight in forgotten finery!"
Lost also gave a glance or two.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Deadweight, with less enthusiasm, says, "Guess so. We can come back when we're not carrying a bunch of office supplies."
As you seek for a way of circumventing the all-seeing void towers, your search takes you into one of the ruined shells of a big-box store. It is as you begin to pass through the scarf selection that Firmgold spies, upon the far western wall, a door labeled as MAINTENANCE ACCESS. It is more than likely that the Maintenance hallways woud connect to other spaces in the mall, quite possibly even as far south from you as the post office, if only one can navigate them – and find the keys for getting in in the first place.
Huitlapan and Cautaa find themselves distracted with sampling the wares of the perfume section, though they are focused far more on the (regrettably limited) cologne choices than the perfumes.
Lost decided to take a search to see if they had any dresses left or anything nice.
[1d10] LootingRoll #1 6 = 6
I shall collect a nice scarf.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
I will help everyone in finding something to suit them.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
I'll also notify everyone about the Maintenance Access while helping them find stuff.
Deadweight smirks. "Bingo." She looks around for where the keys might be; maybe they're in a backroom somewhere.
Roll #1 4 = 4
You find some classy eveningwear in a color that compliments your coat.>>750500>>750502
In the process, Firmgold also notices a set of horse-shoes whose colors and hint of glittery sparkle would go quite fetchingly with that dress.>>750501>>750502
Conflagration finds a scarf with a radical flame-print going up its length. However, Firmgold finds him a nice solid red one before a fashion disaster can strike.>>750504>>750502
As for Deadweight, Firmgold finds her… well, a fanny pack. More practical than fashionable, but at least it doesn't contrast too badly with her coat.>>750502
When you head over to where Huitlapan and Cautaa are sampling perfumes, practically dousing themselves in a stew of scents, they turn to you with two cologne bottles in hand.
"You must make an important decision," Cautaa says.
"Which of these shall we appropriate?" Huitlapan asks. "Purely for mission-critical purposes, of course."
Cautaa has chosen a more classy, sophisticated scent, like you might find at a ball or an important convention for Nobles. Huitlapan has chosen something far simpler, more rugged, like the kind a Commoner husband might save his paychecks up for, to surprise his wife on date nights.>>750505
You scour around, and eventually find an employee breakroom. There, tuning the antennae upon a blank-screened and lifeless television set, you find the smoking janitor whom Conflagration assisted back on L-8 F-9. He doesn't notice you yet.
Lost smiles and took a moment to put it into her backs quietly, taking the shoes from Firmgold before looking for something nice for Deadweight for a gift.
[1d10] Loot againRoll #1 1 = 1
"Uh, thanks," Deadweight says when Firmgold finds her a fanny pack. She examines it cursorily and hums a "not bad" sort of hum, then puts it on in front of her chest, out of the way of her saddlebags.
>Deadweight now has a fanny pack>>750501>>750506
When Deadweight finds the janitor in the breakroom, Deadweight shouts to the group, "Hey, hothead! Think I found your friend."
"Believe me, Miss Hope, these shoes would fit you wonderfully. They are a touch out of season but only the upper crust would bear such a thought.">>750501
"Mister Conflagration you can wear this over or under that.. well, scarf but I'm sure this rich red would suit your overall look as well. Thankfully we didn't need to worry about costs otherwise.">>750504
"Miss Deadweight I'm… well… I know this doesn't sound nice however
there aren't many who would dare to rip open one of these to go rooting around in it. I'm sure.">>750506
"I know I shouldn't say this- "
"I'm rather fond of the rugged colognes, they speak of a confidence that's rarely found in anything produced of the upper stratum. Perhaps you could sell the sophisticated bottle to someone who thinks much higher of themself.
With no intention to be malicious, I assure you."
Then stand back and hurriedly try to look for something that can benefit Deadweight
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Oh, thank you."
I put on the new scarf.>>750506
I still take the flame print one when no one is looking.
"Has anyone found a way forward yet?"
There, in a case that most certainly costs far more than it's worth, Lost Hope finds a pair of brilliant, striking, white-rimmed 3-D glasses, constructed of such a high grade of plastic that the military would surely find use for it.>>750509
Huitlapan nods, and tucks the cologne into a secure port in his armorsuit's pocket. Without hesitation, Cautaa snags himself another bottle of the stuff, while putting away the more sophisticated scent into a separate bag.
As for Deadweight, you find nearby – in a conveniently-located pile of "Go Backs" – a somewhat form-fitting one piece swimsuit… though as Deadweight might find out if she chooses to put it on, it will fit rather snugly about her.>>750510>>750509>>750508>>750507
As Deadweight calls out, the janitor turns about, a fresh cigarette hanging from his teeth. He soon loses interest, however, and goes back to his futile endeavor of trying tot fix this damn breakroom TV set.
I trot over to see what she found. When I see the janitor I wave.
"Hey, buddy! Long time no see!"
Lost happily trotted over and offered Dead a gift of the glasses.
"Oh, uh, thanks," Deadweight says, forcing a smile. She's not really into, uh, the "aesthetic," but she doesn't wanna hurt the crystal pony's feelings. She stashes it in her new fanny pack.
How can I even give this to someone during a mission to be stealthy?
I flag Deadweight down and whisper to her that, if she's not satisfied with the fanny pack, I've found something close to her size.
"Of course this doesn't mean we have to wear
anything we've discovered down here. It can always be sold, I do have contacts willing to buy whatever we find down here."
Deadweight blushes, seeing the swimsuit. She snatches it and furtively examines it, hiding it from the others behind her shoulders. After a moment, she mutters, "It's nice," and quickly stashes it in her saddlebags.
The Castle of Silence: The Magister's Report
Bound to an oath of secrecy on pain of death, you four were among those chosen by Iron King Ischyros, the Far-Seeking, light-blessed ruler of Ironcastle, to participate in an expedition into the heart of Agatecastle. Separated from Ironcastle by thousands of miles of inhospitable badlands, Agatecastle was once one of the many colossal shelters – the Castra – that stood against the eternal darkness of the Outlands. However, according to legend, and the expedition's official intel, Agatecastle fell to the Dreaded Ones thousands of years ago, and was now known as The Castle of Silence.
The expedition's task was to find out how and why, and then, to annihilate what remained of Agatecastle by activating The Sword of the Five Gods, a holy weapon located at the Castle's bottommost Layer, as per protocols.
You and the rest of the expedition team's members arrived but a few Cycles (Days) ago, and were briefed on their mission by the expedition leaders, Magister Colonnade Reprise and Knight-Brother Mountain. The expedition had built a forward operating base in Agatecastle's highest Layer, Layer Nine: The Observatory. Each squadron of the expedition team would work their way down through Layer Eight and onward, cooperating to find a way down into Layer Zero: The Heart, where the controls for the Sword of the Five Gods awaited. So far, scouts had reported that Layer Eight seemed to be in a state of flux and chaos, as disparate factions among the Dreaded Ones occupying the Layer fought over territory and power. The most prominent and dangerous of these was the Necromancer, whose servants of twisted flesh and bone controlled much of the Layer.
Your squadron acquired some allies, in the form of the Kirin hacker, Xu, and the Rodos healer, Huitlapan. During a fight with one of the Necromancer's zombies, Xu was badly injured, and retired to the FOB's medical bay. Her replacement was a Zawatil technomancer by the name of Cautaa.
Later, you discovered the impossible: A survivor of Agatecastle's fall, a young Vola by the name of Green.
Having holed up in a security room on L-8 F-7, he had footage of the very moment, one year ago,
when Dreaded Ones invaded and overtook Agatecastle. As you tried to take him back to the FOB for questioning, the remnants of a strange sigil,
placed upon the back of Green's head (apparently without his knowledge), activated, placing you under the effects of an illusion as Glutton Lice,
hiding in Green's feathers, began to eat you alive. You managed to slay them, and took Green back to the FOB for questioning.
During his questioning, the Magister took little interest in most of what Green said, instead questioning him about a strange mural near the food court in which he had been hiding. The mural was of a pink-and-orange sky. Ordinarily this heralded the advent of the Dark Hours,
a period between 1800 and 2100 hours, when the ceiling-panels in each Castle's Floors dimmed to signal that one should get to sleep soon. Some among your group speculated that the mural was not of the Dark Hours, but of a sunset
– bringing to mind the legends of "The Moon" and "The Sun," two mythological machines that supposedly gave light to the whole world in ancient times.
The next Cycle, the Magister called for a vote among all the expedition team's current members, as to how the team wanted to deal with the Necromancer, as recent reports made it apparent that he, she or it was the biggest threat. With a narrow lead, the majority voted in favor of organizing a team-wide takedown of the Necromancer. The expedition's administrative staff would have to take the feasibility of such an operation into consideration first, but the Magister assured them that their opinion would be considered.
With that, your team once more journeyed to L-8 F-7, which constituted Layer Eight's commercial floor, and which was where you encountered Green. You journeyed west through the burned shopping mall. After posing as candy shop employees to placate a group of skeleton raiders, you found evidence on the shop manager's computer that there was some kind of interesting delivery
waiting in the post office further to the southwest. However, the way was guarded by a Dreaded One – tentatively named the Void Tower
for its appearance – that could wound the mind with naught but line of sight. Thus, you headed into an overpriced clothing store to try to find a way around.
The skeleton janitor double-takes, apparently not recognizing you the first time around. He jaws away, chewing his unlit cigarette as he speaks with words you cannot hear. He seems friendly, though, as he offers you a hoof-bump.>>750513>>750514>>750515
As you scavenge for what articles of fashion you can find, you note that Huitlapan and Cautaa, their pockets no doubt stuffed with cologne, have acquired goods of their own. Huitlapan has on a puffy windbreaker, so puffy that he can hardly bend his arms. Cautaa has slipped a pair of prominent high-top shoes over his Armorsuit's own boots. How he intends to wear them when not donning armor, one can only imagine.
I return the hoofbump.
"Good to see you too. How's things?">>750558>>750515>>750513
"I've been thinking. This is going to sound dumb, but what if that thing out there can't see us? What if us seeing it is was triggers it?"
"I don't wanna spend more time figuring them out," Deadweight says bluntly. "See if Mr. Bones knows where the keys to the Maintenance Access are."
"Buddy, can we borrow the maintenance keys down here? We've got to get a package from the post office for the candy shop."
The janitor continues his inaudible ramble, apparently still able to hear you, though he cannot communicate back. He gestures to the TV, and from his body language, it's apparent that he's a bit annoyed with it not working. Possibly a recurring problem with this thing.>>750738>>750739
The janitor pauses as he considers your request, but then shakes his head. He gestures back to the Maintenance Access door behind him, talking and shaking his head repeatedly… obviously, you can't hear exactly what he's saying, but his body language suggests he's warning you of some kind of danger.
Lost pursed her lips and decided to take one last shot at finding something for herself.
She needed to forget upsetting Dhampir.
[1d10] LootingRoll #1 9 = 9
"Something bad that way, huh? We're sort of in a pickle because there's something bad the other way, too. Is it an environmental hazard or something we can beat up?"
I look around for Cautaa.
"Cautaa, can you fix my friend's TV?"
Deadweight tilts her head to the side, her eyes squinting as she tries to determine what the skeleton's trying to say. After a few more gestures, she gets the gist of what he's trying to say and groans in annoyance.
You find for yourself quite the lovely purse, marked with golden trim and little sparkling gemstones.Hell yeah, Dhampir says. That's going to look real nice with your colors, really bring out the sparkle in your eyes, too.>>750742>>750743
The janitor nods. It must be a bit of both.
As you discuss this, Cautaa comes over, having stuffed the oversized shoes into his bag. "Certainly," he says, tapping away at his Magicomp. He nods to the janitor, who steps aside and allows him to work. "Now, let's see…"
Cautaa plugs several connector cables from his Magicomp to the television set, sending in his electrical sprites to try to raise the CRT from the dead…
[1d10+2] electronic raise deadRoll #1 9 + 2 = 11
I watch to see if he can get it working.
Lost blinked in surprise at hearing him speak. Oh… you're back?
She quietly set her purse into her pack as she waited.
Deadweight sighs. "I guess we can go back and test your theory if the Maintenance Access is a no go.
I continue to map out our current location while Steadfast keeps his ear out for extra sounds and movement [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
>>750746Dhampir clears his throat. Hrm! Ooh. Sorry, that was a bit louder than expected. I never left, sweetheart! Just 'cause it's roomy in your head doesn't mean there's any prime real estate for me to escape to. I thought we were on the same page earlier – I was pulling your leg with my crocodile tears. Guess my tone wasn't clear?>>750748
You check around the fashion boutique, but it looks like you and your group have taken pretty much everything of value that remained in the shop. At least, as your check verifies, there are no hostiles in the area.>>750745>>750746>>750747>>750748
Cautaa gasps and steps back as a few sparks escape the back of the TV set. He unscrews the panel on the back and peeks inside. "Hrm… looks like some wires got fried. I guess you've had blackouts here and there?"
The janitor nods, and Cautaa clicks his tongue. "I might have guessed. The good news is the damage isn't too bad. My sprites should be able to address this…"
Cautaa spends a bit of time carefully directing his sprites to repair the wiring in the back of the TV. Occasionally he makes requests for tools and materials from the janitor, until at last Cautaa nods, screws the panel back in, and disconnects his cables. The janitor clicks the remote, and the TV turns on.
Cautaa sighs and rolls his neck. "That's the best I can do, though I admit it's a temporary fix. You'll want to take it to a repair shop in, I'd say, about three months."
The janitor nods, reaching for a wallet.
"If you wish to offer recompense for my work, I ask instead that you entrust us with the maintenance access keys," Cautaa says. "We have the training, skills and equipment necessary to deal with the hazards you were kind enough to mention."
The janitor pauses… then at last begrudgingly unhooks the keys from his belt, and holds them out for you.
"My thanks, sir," Cautaa says.
She frowned as she began to walk over to Deadweight. I thought I genuinely hurt you." she said with sadness in her tone
She then showed off her purse to Deadweight with a smile.
"Good work, Cautaa. And stay safe buddy."
I hoofbump the janitor skeleton again. With that done I clear a bit of space around me and summon up some burning homing magic to get ready for the danger we're about to face.
[1d10] Homing magicRoll #1 2 = 2
Hearing the jingle of keys and begrudging, I pipe up with
"Perhaps there is a place nearby that can copy keys? I believe we may lessen our janitorial accomplice's worry if they were to have their keys back."
"Hey, good goin'!" Deadweight says to Cautaa, lightly punching him with her hoof as he walks by her. "Let's check out that Maintenance Access. Can't be that bad.">>750750
"Ooh, nice find!" Deadweight says to Lost with a smirk.
She beamed back at the larger mare and leaned into her a bit without thinking.
"Oh—" Deadweight mutters as Lost leans into her. She's not really sure what to do, so she just stands there, blushing.
You immediately explode. The blast is brief, and small enough that the others are merely awash in a wave of hot air. Huitlapan immediately runs to your side to treat your burns.
Cautaa winces after the hit, but tries to laugh it off as he not-too-discreetly tries to roll his shoulder out after that punch.>>750750Dhampir scoffs. It'd take a lot more than that to wound me. Go on, do your worst. Although I admit, if you keep cozying up to that mare, you might just give me diabetes.>>750750>>750751>>750752>>750753
The janitor tilts his head, and taps one of his back hooves against the ground thoughtfully, mulling over his options. It'd probably break some kind of company policy for you to make a copy of the keys… but after giving it some thought, he gestures for you to follow him out of the break room.
Assuming you follow him, he stops at the edge of the fashion boutique's grounds, pointing outward and up a set of half-crumbling stairs. There, toward the end of the rows of outlet shops, you see a locksmith.
"Truly, no need was unmet here," Huitlapan says. "Though, the stairs look a bit treacherous. Care to risk them?"Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
"Owwwwww. I knew I'd had it too good for too long. Thanks, Huit."
I pat out any small fires remaining.
"This suit's pretty nifty."
"I believe I have less desirable options.
I attempt to brave the stairs [1d10]
Steadfast remains behind to catch me in case I fall.Roll #1 3 = 3
Caught in her mental arguement she didn't realize she was leaning into Dead more and basically resting a head on her shoulder.
Perhaps subconscious, perhaps it was intentional. Oh please! you eat far worse things than sugar you big orange booger
"I'm burn off a lot of fat. I bet they'll hold me."
Up I go.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"Yo, hothead! I know you've been through a lot, but you don't have to blow up on us," Deadweight says with a chuckle. It wasn't that funny, though.>>750759
Deadweight blushes even more. When the group goes to find a locksmith, Deadweight nudges Lost lightly and says, more gently than she usually talks, "Hey, looks like we're goin' now.">>750756>>750758>>750760
When Deadweight sees the stairs, she shrugs and just flies up there. Showoff.
Lost promptly flumped on the floor as Dead moved, leaving her confused and a bit upset.
As Firmgold and Conflagration try to ascend the stairwell to the second level, they hear, and feel, a sudden rumbling from beneath, and the damaged stairs give out from beneath them, causing them to tumble back down to the ground – or in Firmgold's case, into Steadfast's arms.
>Conflagration 2/5>Firmgold 2/5
As Cautaa and Huitlapan try to help the two up, Deadweight finds herself able to enter the locksmith's shop with ease. Fortunately, power still runs through this section of the mall, and she can see that, although the shop has some of the fire damage that the other shops have, it's relatively intact. In the back, there's an automated kiosk for simple key requests… but it's a bit pricey, running about 30 Schillings per key.
I pick myself up and move off a safe distance.
"Good things happen in threes, right?"
I try to summon burning homing magic again.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Lost made her way to the stairs and looked up as she pondered on the situation and decided to take a crack at climbing up them.
[1d10] Up we goRoll #1 10 = 10
Deadweight finds the kiosk, and seeing how much it costs, she just says, "Eh," and puts in the 30 Schillings.
>Deadweight now has 463 Schillings
>Deadweight also has 3-D glasses and a swimsuit from the clothing store
"Goodness, thank you Steadfast."
I get back onto my own hooves and look up at the stairs, then call out to everyone that made it up there.
"Perhaps we shall wait down here!"
Lost Hope leaps up what remains of the stairwell, and joins Deadweight just in time to witness her fall prey to the overpriced machine. After about a five minute wait, the kiosk deposits a copy of the maintenance access door key.>>750764
You explode again, crumpling into a smoldering heap on the ground.
"Wh-what is wrong with your magic?" Huitlapan murmurs as he prepares medical assistance once more.
[1d10+2] HealRoll #1 8 + 2 = 10
I whimper and roll around to try and extinguish the flames until Huitlapan comes over to help me. My voice is pained and tired.
"Everything has it's price, even if you don't know it. I'm supposed to die here."
I put in what we've experienced into the map and then keep an eye out with Steadfast
[[2d10]] Myself, SteadfastRoll #1 10, 10 = 20
Perhaps in an attempt to spite her guest, Lost looked to Deadweight "Hey Dead… have you ever kissed anybody else?"
Deadweight spaces out as she waits for the copy to be made, so Lost's question catches her completely off guard. "Oh! Uhh," she mutters, blushing as her eyes dart around. "Y—yes…" she finally answers, her mouth scrunched up, "…Why do you ask?"
Huitlapan scrunches his mouth, then pats your cheek twice – just hard enough to be bracing, not painful. "Come on, enough with all that rot. Up you go, we've a Castrum to explore.">>750770
Despite two explosions in recent time, nothing comes to attack you. You can save those two 10's and invoke them at your discretion.>>750771>>750772
"Are you having trouble up there?" Cautaa says in the Concord voice channel for discretion's sake. "Is the kiosk not functional?"
"Well whats it like? I've never done it before.">>750773
>It is, seems it takes a few minutes though.
I perk up.
"It's not fate or anything. Some powerful people are angry at me. Religious stuff."
I look over my armor to check for damage while waiting on the others and the key.
I continue to wait, but take a look at some of the stores around here.
You find among the shops nearby – a hobby shop, a smoking shop, a knick-knacks shop, a spa, and a frozen yogurt shop, all in various states of disrepair and damage. Cautaa might be able to repair any kiosks or technology inside with his electrical sprites, but he's got his eyes on the locksmith's shop, his expression one of concern as Deadweight and Lost Hope take an unusual amount of time to come back with this key.>>750775
Thankfully, as your Armorsuit was customized to deal with your particular… condition… it's nothing that it wasn't withstand.
"Oh, my," Huitlapan says. "I didn't know. If you are at liberty to share, might you be willing to say more? I must confess I am intrigued – ah, solely that I might protect you as your ally, I mean."
"Oh, uh, nope, it's working just fine," Deadweight says into her magicomp.>>750774
Deadweigth blushes even more. "Oh, well, uh…" she begins to say, but the kiosk suddenly spits out the copy. "Oh, uh, looks like it's done," she says, taking the duplicate, "We better get back to the others." She briskly walks out of there, escaping the awkwardness.>>750773>>750775>>750776
"Here's the copy," she says, holding the duplicate key up after gliding down from the top of the stairs.
"There was an accident when I was investigating on an artifact brought back to Ironcastle. I saw a-had a mental trauma. Said some stuff I shouldn't have. Sorry, but I try not to think about it. It makes the delusions work."
I give my head a hard shake.
"It's also the reason I blow up sometimes."
I perk up.
"Good work! You hold onto it. My magic's acting up."
Lost got even more annoyed "I want an answer dang it." she said following after her.
As Deadweight walks out of the locksmith's shop, Lost's assertiveness startles her. "Ah! Well, uh, it's a really personal question. I don't even know why I told you that I kissed someone before," Deadweight says.>>750777>>750780
Deadweight nods and is about to put the key in her saddlebags, but decides to put it in her new fanny pack. Neat thing.
"I see…" Huitlapan says. "Please do not apologize, for it was I who should not have pried… though, if there may yet be ways I can offer my assistance, do not hesitate to ask.">>750779>>750780>>750781
With the key acquired, Cautaa and Huitlapan keep their eyes peeled as you head back into the fashion store and to the break room. The janitor waits by the Maintenance Access door, clearly awaiting his keys.
"Well it's still rude to not answer the question." she said huffing at her with a stamp of her hoof.
Deadweight chuckles at Lost's indignation. "Well, I'm sure you'll find out for yourself soon enough. You're a cute girl, even with that monster thing inside you," she says before gliding down the stairs to meet with the others.
"Keep on doing what you do and keeping me healthy. On an unrelated note: How religious are you? On a scale from one to ten?"
I wave hello to the janitor when we see him again.
"Thanks for letting us borrow those. You're a gem."
Deadweight hands the skeleton the original key back.
And that made her clam up and look away as she suddenly very much lost interest in talking to anyone.
She just hopped down and made her way off to a separate corner and waited there silently.
"I think that quantifying religious zeal – even the term 'religion' itself – defeats the purpose," Huitlapan replies. "I confess all that the Abbey teaches, and have taken Regn as my patron.">>750788>>750787>>750786
The janitor nods, then waves to each of you, and wheels off his tool-cart to parts unknown, presumably to try to fix other parts of this dilapidated, decaying Layer.
Cautaa turns and notes Lost Hope pouting in the corner. "Uhm… will you be joining us, now that we have acquired our own key?"
I pat Huitlapan on the back.
"Then let's not talk about my…my past. I'll keep setting things on fire before they hurt us and you put me out when I blow up.">>750788
"What's wrong? Indigestion?"
"C'mon, Lost, we better get a move on," Deadweight says, motioning with her foreleg for her to follow them.
She just moved in silence. Pouting was not a very accurate term for her right now. More hurt by a certain line.
she moved to just try and fade into the shadows.
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 6 = 6
"Eat something that looked at you funny? Aww, don't be like that.">>750789
I take a few deep breath, mentally center myself, then release the breath and try to summon burning homing magic."Fire."
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"No, you're right there, do you want Dhampir to eat you?" she snapped back at him.
"You might get heartburn. Oh, stop moping and come on. We've got ancient evils to cleanse."
I prance off after the others.
Huitlapan nods, bumping his shoulder against yours in a show of camaraderie. "Agreed. I hope you will know that, despite our differing views, I shall not treat you differently than any other patient.">>750793
You produce two orbs.>>750791>>750790>>750792
You insert the key, and enter the maintenance corridors.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6y3y2GchjYE
Despite the janitor's warning, the maintenance access halls – at least, in your immediate area – don't seem to be that dangerous. For one, they seem to have been spared from the fires that ravaged the shops outside. You don't smell any burns nor harsh chemicals. It is, however, chilly – until your Armorsuits subtly adjust their internal temperatures to compensate.
You stand at a T-shaped intersection; one path extends before you, Westward. Two other paths, one North and one South, extend to either side.
"Let's see…" Cautaa begins. "The obvious choice would be South, no? Still, the directory we found didn't map out these halls."
"At least if we're lost, the Automapper app should record our steps," Huitlapan adds.
"If he goes down I'm leaving him there." she remarked flatly
"I'm really glad to hear that."
I keep my eyes open for dangers.
"Don't be like that. We've still got to get rich selling your miracle brainworm cure, remember?"Roll #1 4 = 4
Deadweight frowns when Lost ignores her. She looks to the side for a second, thinking about something. She then walks up to Lost, blushes, and kisses her on the lips. When she pulls her head back, she says to her, "That was why you were asking, right? Now you know." She smirks.
And cue poor Lost breaking stealth and sitting there in stunned silence.
Deadweight turns slightly, facing the maintenance access, but still looking at Lost. "Come on, let's go," she says with a smile.
"Goodness, which direction were we going in again? I believe I'll follow along until have my bearings- these uniform hallways aren't the best on navigation."
The poor girl was far too dazed to react for now.
Lost being stuck in her stupor was very much unable to really contribute to this conversation.
Deadweight rolls her eyes with an impatient sigh, hovers with a flap of her wings, and takes Lost's foreleg to drag her towards the maintenance access.
Once Deadweight's in the maintenance access, she replies, "Yeah, let's go south."
>Last time, on The Castle of Silence…>>751067>>751066>>751064>>750798
As you look about your immediate area, Conflagration notices, on the right wall of the West junction of the T-intersection, a directory for these maintenance halls. You also note that, much like in the labyrinthine tunnels of a doctor's office, there are directions in placards along the walls.
The directory shows, with a helpful "You Are Here" star, that you are currently at the door for the mall's Pony Jean Catalog franchise store. To the West lie the Maintenance Supply rooms, and Maintenance Staff Bathrooms, as well as an Emergency Exit. To the North, the corridor bends to the East, and then leads to Maintenance Access for the shops East of your position – the locksmith and such.
To the South lies an L-shaped junction, with one branch heading further South, the other East. If one heads East from that L-shaped junction, they'll reach backdoor access for the shops south of your position – a camping goods store, and a sporting goods store. If one heads South from that junction, they will reach Roof Access and Basement Access ladders.
Cautaa frowns as he beholds the map. "No direct path to the Post Office?"
"No," Huitlapan adds. "But it will bring us close. See here."
He points at the very bottom of the map. Greyed out, you see a cluster of other shops, including the Post Office, and an Elevator to L-8 F-6. The shops surround a small fountain plaza – the Void Tower must be somewhere northeast of this plaza.
"We'll have to cut across the plaza from either the camping or sporting goods stores to reach the Post Office," Huitlapan says. "Preferences, comrades?"
"C-camping would probably have more useful things…" she mumbled.
"The camping store sounds like a hot idea."
"Indeed it would, I'm sure there may yet be some unused beddings and dried foods which have taste to them. I'm curious as to Agatecastle's take on preserved foods, everything about this hive is… unique after all. Ah, I mean castle!"
"Thank you, anonymous voice."
I then try to find out where this mysterious individual is with my ears. [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Ah! Miss Deadweight! I didn't see you up there- I do apologize!"
"If I might ask," Cautaa hazards. "I notice you've called it a Hive many times before now. Is that the terminology where you are from in Ironcastle?">>751070>>751071>>751072>>751073
Cautaa and Huitlapan nod their agreement, then form up as you begin to move South.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
I talk while percepting, Steadfast has a better tick on this while clunking around in his armor
"You may indeed ask, Mister Cautaa. It's a rather… homely… slang
if you will, about the lower levels' of a castle. Well, my corner is what Azats call it, the upper strata don't all use one word. In fact I've heard the terms Pyra, Mids- both from pyramid of course, Spire, Lockes, all to describe Ironcastle alone. It may be upper strata nonsense, of course."
[1d10-1] Perception while talking
[1d10] Steadfast's earsRoll #1 9 - 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
Deadweight squints at Firmgold. You can't tell if she's confused or offended.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[1d10] Dazed and PerceivedRoll #1 8 = 8
Cautaa tilts his head. "I'm sorry, Azats? I am not familiar with the term.">>751078>>751079>>751082>>751081
As the conversation winds on, with the tanky Steadfast taking point for safety, your honed danger-senses sound a warning, and you reach forward on instinct to halt Steadfast before he can head any further. And a good thing, too – there's something peculiar about the floor here in the South-bound corridor. The floor subtly shimmers and ripples, like the surface of a body of water, barely disturbed by a slight breeze, or the path of a fish beneath the surface. You cannot see through the floor, for what might be causing it. The effect seems also to apply to the bottom corners of the walls to either side. It covers the floor in a more-or-less uniform fashion for about fifteen meters ahead of you, further south.
Lost paused for a moment and took a small piece of nearby debris and tossed it at the floor seeing what would happen.
[1d10] TestRoll #1 9 = 9
Deadweight squints at the floor inquisitively.
The empty container lands with a soft plop
upon the floor, floating for a time, until some of the "floor" washes into the container's mouth, and it then sinks into the floor. But, as Cautaa opens his mouth to make a suggestion, a force unseen launches the container back out, beaning him in the forehead. He steps back, flabbergasted, holding the container in his hands. Blinking for a moment, he examines it – the container is dry and empty, still.
"Well maybe the fliers can carry us to a spot where the floor isn't slime?"
"I apologize Mister Cautaa but I must interject- "
Quickly turn to the shimmering stuff and say "It's difficult to believe magic persists in this hallway, how would maintenance use this corridor otherwise?"
And then go back to talking about Azats "Another word for merchant nobility, at least on my level that is. We're unable to support the hiv- castle
on a grand scale, but we are the most free when compared to the upper strata."Roll #1 8 = 8
"Step back, everyone. I've got a bright idea."
I launch one of my homing magic orbs at the rippling floor.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Deadweight's eyes widen as well. "Huh.">>751088
"Yeah, I can carry people easy—">>751090
"Wait, what're you—"
Of course, I also step forward so that if the fireball gets flung back out I'll be the one hit.
The fireball hurtles through the floor, spreading ripples in every which direction – and a moment later, a figure splashes out from it – a mermare. She has a fish's body for her lower half, and a kelp-like gown covering her from the shoulders to the waist, and a mane that covers her eyes in their entirety. Her flank is slightly burnt, and she issues a vicious hiss through her prominent fangs.
Huitlapan raises a hand, clearly about to issue an apology, but the mermare doesn't wait to hear it, and instead reaches toward the floor, which starts to churn and bubble, as if boiling or storming. Sensing something malevolent coming, Firmgold blasts it with a bolt of anti-magic, and the floor turns back to normal, solid space.
The mermare gasps, then reaches into her gown, drawing forth what seems to be some sort of long dark cord, about the length of a whip.
"Oh! I'm so sorry, I didn't know anyone was in there. I didn't hurt you too badly, did I?"
[1d10] Charming apologyRoll #1 4 = 4
"Damn it, Conflagration!" Deadweight exclaims. In a split second, she tries to determine if they can run past the mermare or not.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Lost also stepped forward "Sorry mam, we were just trying to see if this was the work of a foe or not.
[1d10] ApologizeRoll #1 8 = 8
"Miss- I wouldn't wish to infuriate you further but for about twenty minutes this domain is ours. I implore you to allow us passage until then."
[1d10+2] Word of Power to make her miss a potential whip attack
Steadfast activates Counter just in case.Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9
In a deep and hissing tongue, the mermare shouts back something in reply, though you've no means of understanding her words. It's plain to see that she's not happy, though, as she brandishes the whip boldly, despite being so vastly outnumbered. Perhaps she's just that spitting mad, or perhaps she truly thinks that she has the upper hoof in this situation. Her body language clearly suggests that she doesn't intend to let you pass after an offense like that.
"I think verbal negotiations are off the table," Huitlapan says with a grimace. "Perhaps a tithe of some kind might placate her?"
Cautaa searches his pockets. "What might she care for, do you think?"
"Maybe money? Or a song?"
"I could try exploding again."
Deadweight tries to thinks on her hooves.
"No! No more explosions," Deadweight pleads.Roll #1 4 = 4
"Perhaps we shouldn't wait to feel the lash of this mare? Steadfast?"
Steadfast uses Slam on it! [1d10+2]Roll #1 10 + 2 = 12
As you deliberate your options, Steadfast charges forth, and strikes the monstrous mermare, launching her back down the hall, until she punches her hoof down into the floor to stop her momentum. You can see her punch and the subsequent drag drove a deep groove into the concrete, indicating a monstrous strength hides in her mare-shaped frame. But you can see her struggling to regain her breath after that attack, and through her thick hair, a single black eye focuses on Steadfast, as if weighing her options…
She then touches the ground with her other hoof, and it starts to take on the texture of water. She flings herself in, tail wriggling as she swims down below the surface!
[1d10] attempt to flee; on success, the DC to do anything against her this turn increases by 2Roll #1 2 = 2
Lost sighed and decided to move in and try to keep her from moving with a slash as she form a pair of claws out of her ally.
>Symbiosis Evolved to give Dual weapon tag
[1d10+2] RuptureRoll #1 10 + 2 = 12
I feel bad about starting this. I'm going to sit this fight out.
Steadfast goes to grapple with the wet mare and remove it from further inciting a problem to us!
"I wouldn't do that miss! We really
must cross this way and I do apologize that our encounter isn't the best but I insist first that we come to an understanding!" Plead my case [1d10]Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
Deadweight tries to think harder. She could've sworn she knew *something* about mermares.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Steadfast manages to yank her back out of the floor, and she retaliates with a whip strike, only for Lost Hope to counter with a slash onto her arm. She drops the whip – but it seems, out of shock.
>Mermare's turn wasted due to preemptive Word of Power
As you can see, even Lost's powerful strike hardly made much of a cut into her flesh. A strike like that would have severed the limb of most weak Dreaded Ones, but this one – although it will require binding and dressing – is hardly below the surface.
The mermare hisses and spits orders in her unintelligible language, even as she hangs there. Cautaa and Huitlapan look on in grim fascination, but say nothing.>>751108
You recall something from your many months of training. Your education as a Warrior confirmed the existence of Mutant tribes who wander the Outland (considered by some to be a taboo topic), as well as a still worse truth – that of Mutants who are more Dreaded Ones than living souls, after millennia of living exposed to the outer darkness of the Diskos.
They are referred to by some as "Shikkaku" – "Living failures."
Some, such as the mermare, take on forms approximating that of living souls, but are assuredly not like you and yours. Official procedure is to treat them as one would a Dreaded One, and much drilling is done to ensure that a Warrior will not succumb to recognizing himself in his eternal enemy.
Deadweight hits her forehead with her hoof; she can't believe she forgot something like that.>>751105>>751106>>751107
"This one's a goner. If we can't defeat it, we should retreat."
"What do you mean? She looks weird, but is she sick?"
Lost was more pensive as she looked inward 'Hey Dhampir… if I were able to get you into her… do you think you could help translate and let her know we don't want to hurt her if we can avoid it?'
Steadfast attempts to keep the grapple going [1d10+1]>>751110
"Perhaps we should relocate her to a place large enough for us to travel and for her… pool to keep itself in?"Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3
"She's a Shikkaku, basically a Dreaded One. It's complicated, but with how it was able to tank Lost's hit, our odds don't look so good.">>751113
"We could try," Deadweight replies.
"Then give me some room to work with. I managed to scorch her on accident. Want to bet I can do more on purpose?"
I hop back up and assume a battle position.
Deadweight furrows her brows. "Alright. If things head south, we have
to go though. No brute forcing this one."
The mermare folds her arms as she dangles there. Somehow, despite being upside-down, her gown and hair remain as they are, modestly covering both body and eyes.Mystery roll
"A living failure," Huitlapan translates on behalf of Deadweight. "A Mutant who has lost their humanity. Although they may wear our forms, all the Abbey considers them Dreaded Ones. We'd be ordered to kill her…"
Cautaa bites his lip, eyebrows furrowed. "…Drop her back in."
Huitlapan turns to him. "You must be joking."
"I see little point in fighting her, with power like hers," Cautaa says. "If she can shrug off an attack like Lost's, who knows what she might do if she can lay hooves on any of us."
"You're positive that's your reasoning?" Huitlapan asks.
"What are you implying?" Cautaa snaps.
"I mean no offense, but when dealing with a Shikkaku, you know that's what's on everyone's minds – lingering humanity."Roll #1 6 + 3 = 9
Lost moved quick trying to get the claw near the open wound as she wanted to get Dhampir into this being.
[1d10] if necessaryRoll #1 9 = 9
Steadfast continues to try holding onto the mermare [1d10+1]>>751118
"Indeed, but if on the strange chance we're to go with storming these levels with a larger force, then how would we
explain the presence of this mermare's pool still being here?"Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
"Whatever we're going to do, I can't help with Steadfast holding onto her unless no one minds Steadfast getting scorched too."
"I also don't think it'd be smart to fight it, human or not."
"I must object! Steadfast is my ward and I'll not choose immolation for him at the hooves of an ally. Mister Conflagration you saw as well as I that this… I'm sorry dear you must have a name, Shikka. Miss Shikka was well able to make a smaller pool to dive into before Steadfast pulled her out. We can't be sure that you'll have a target once Mister Steadfast lets go."
The mermare shrieks as Lost's claw mutates, becoming a dark red tendril that touches her open wound. But she pauses as it makes contact, her mouth hanging open as the connection is made. At last the tendril shrinks back, and the mermare lets her arms slack, hanging limp. Cautaa and Huitlapan step back, unsure of what this might mean.
Lost Hope hears something through her inner voice…Bahahaha! I knew she was bluffing from the start. Those Shikkaku ain't shit. She's got the message. Just tell the people around her to stay still for a few seconds, unless they want to have to scoop up their armor in a cup. Sounds like she was cooking up an escape plan that she needs to undo as a show of good faith.Dhampir pauses. You're not really going through with this, are you?
"Then if we're letting her go let's let her go and move on."
Deadweight freezes, seeing Lost's claw suddenly seize the mermare.
I keep an ear out for anything in the distance after that shriek [1d10]>>751125
"Letting Shikka go here would be adverse to our progress returning, should we have to come this path again. We should let her go somewhere else."Roll #1 5 = 5
>>751127>>751126>>751125>>751124 Might as well show that you and other dreaded ones with brains aren't that bad… Think you can teach her to speak like us too?
She looked to the others.
"Don't move… I think we may have calmed her down."
Deadweight slowly nods to Lost.
"She does look like she cooled down a little."
"Ah, wonderful! Can we expect a peaceful relocation? I'm sure there's plenty of space further along this maintenance path, no offense intended to this serene corridor."
>>751128Can you learn another language in one sitting? Dhampir asks. Alright, let them know they should be good to move now. Drop her into the floor and let's go.>>751125>>751127>>751128>>751129
Cautaa and Huitlapan tense as the mermare raises one of her arms again… but she rotates it in a small circle, making the universal gesture for "Hurry up, would you?"
"D-don't get an attitude with us!" Huitlapan exclaims, suddenly aghast. "We were just discussing your fate."
I look at Steadfast and nod for him to lower her and step back.
>Addendum>>751134It's not like I'm one of those universal connector cables you guys use. My bond with you is something different, something not so easily replicable. I spoke with her, but that's about it. But, I can still interpret for her, even from afar.>>751133
The Shikkaku flops into the floor, then rights herself, glancing back up at you for a moment… before sinking back down.
"Somehow I don't think we've seen the last of her," Cautaa ominously notes.
"Wishful thinking?" Huitlapan jokes.
"Oh, I knew you wanted to go there," Cautaa retorts. "It was written all over your face."
She sighed Well it's something I guess.
"Alright, let's keep moving," Deadweight says with a motion of her hoof. She proceeds down the corridor.
I scatter some pebbles across the ground she sunk into to make sure it is solid. If it is I continue forward.
"I really hope the post office is in this direction."
You cross through the corridor with no issue, for the mermare doesn't come back. At the end of the way, you come across an eastward bend, where you see two doors. The closer one of the two is labeled as being for a camping goods retail store. You unlock it, and after a quick check to confirm the area's clear, open it.
Before you lie the vast ruins of a three-story camping outlet store. Easily, the biggest shop that you've seen in this mall. Unfortunately, such an immense size has not spared it from being ransacked. Unlike with the fashion boutique, it seems likely that the breach's survivors must have flocked here for want of supplies. Barricades of torn sleeping bags and makeshift fortresses of shelves would suggest some tried to hole up here, to disastrous results.
"Tch," Cautaa says with a grimace. "We must not be far now. The Post Office should be across the plaza just outside."
Can I spot anything that might be hiding in these fortresses?
[1d10] SpotRoll #1 10 = 10
Deadweight gives Cautaa a firm nod. She walks towards the plaza.
>Perception roll cause why not
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Lost for her part just moved silently and kept a keen eye out.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Long-dried bloodstains, fragments of annihilated bones, bullet casings, broken weapons, and scraps of long-rotted, hastily-grabbed foodstuffs are all that you find.
"Bullets?" Huitlapan observes, looking over your shoulder. "Must've been procured from this shop. A terrible choice, really… the muzzle flash might have scared them, but the sound would only attract three more for each one you killed."
"We could probably sell the guns to the FOB," Cautaa says with a shrug. "The parts are still good, despite the situation.">>751506>>751507
As you approach the camping shop's besieged automatic front doors (knocked off their frame, along with much of the entryway altogether), you can see the plaza. A tall white fountain stands in the center, and floating above it, the Void Tower, prompting you to duck behind the wall before it can afflict you. Deep grooves have been scored in the flagstones, and ancient scorch marks and gashes mar the building facades and fountainhead.
From around the corner, you can see that the post office is across the way, alongside a few other stores too destroyed to identify. Down the road is an Elevator Station, providing access to L-8 F-6. No other Dreaded Ones seem to be around…
But, as you squint, you see that part of the floor, just outside the camping store's entrance, is shimmering and rippling like the surface of water.
"That's not a bad idea. Let's grab a few."
I start gathering up broken weaponry.
"Any chance we can make the guns less noisy if there are any that aren't broken? That thing in the plaza can absorb magic but maybe it can't absorb projectiles."
Cautaa gestures about the three-tiered store as you pick up what remains of two hunting rifles and the poor scraps of a revolver, and about 30 casings. "With the right materials, we could probably fashion a makeshift suppressor, but even then, it wouldn't completely nullify all the sound. I'll help you look, if you like."
"Damn, it's like that thing's guarding the place," Deadweight says when she ducks from the Void Tower's view. She then notices the shimmering floor. "Looks like we got company, too."
>Strategist I forgot what the skill's name is, 2
I'll facehoof while searching for a working gun and some method of keeping it quiet. Instead, I'll look for the snazziest fishing pole I can and any sort of bait. Does bait come in cans?
[1d10] searchingRoll #1 2 = 2
Deadweight tries to find a way to the post office that avoids the Void Tower.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Drifting toward the hunting section on the first floor, you and Cautaa scrounge together some cans of bait, a high-quality fishing pole and box of tackle, and a few other odds and ends here and there from the semi-recognizable rubble and trash scattered about the shop. Cautaa begins to get to work on making a suppressor out of a compressed air can and some thick foam, while you pick over what remans of the gun rack… there's not much, but you do find a working-condition hunting rifle, and a box containing 100 rounds of ammo.>>751513>>751511
There seems to be no path to the Post Office that falls outside of the Void Tower's sight. To make matters worse, there's only one chunk of rubble laying nearby that would be large enough to conceal you if you were to pick it up as you travel.
As you take stock of the plaza, ripples spread through the shimmering section of the floor. The mermare pokes the tip of her head out, looks at you, then sinks back down.
I carefully take the hunting rifle and ammo, and I'm especially careful to put the box of ammo inside my fireproof pouch.
"I'm going to give the rifle to one of the ladies. I've got bigger fish to fry."
I'll walk back to the front of the store but try to keep in cover.>>751513
"Do you know how to use a gun? Cautaa's working on a way to keep it quiet. I think maybe that thing in the plaza can't absorb projectiles like it can absorb magic."
Lost tailed close to Dead for now, keeping her own eyes out as she was quite focused on that and nothing else.
[1d10] PeepersRoll #1 1 = 1
Deadweight stares back at the mermare with narrowed eyes, then she looks back at the big chunk of rubble. She sighs an annoyed sigh.>>751516
"Course I do," Deadweight replies, "I don't wanna attract any Dreaded Ones with 'em, though. Do you think you could lift that hunk of rubble here, though? We could taje turns carrying it to the post office."
I float you over the gun and ammo.
"I could try to do that, but we have to deal with our fishy friend first.">>751515
Will I be able to fish in that puddle without getting my mind sucked out by the Void Tower?
"I do apologize everyone, I'm not the most suited for this portion for our exploration down here."
Deadweight grabs the gun and ammo as she says, "Just leave it alone. It's not bothering us."
Deadweight chuckles. "No worries. Just don't fall down a hole or anything."
Eventually, Cautaa comes over with a jury-rigged suppressor for the rifle, which he passes to Deadweight.
"Bothersome cur," Huitlapan says. "Say, I've an idea. If a few can keep an eye out for scavengers and the like, might not we fashion cover for ourselves out of sleeping bags or the like?">>751517
You get nothing but an eyeful of the back of Deadweight's head… before realizing that your focus has drifted beyond your control, seduced by the sight before you.>>751519
The solid-floor puddle is indeed close enough for you to fling the hook into it with a well-aimed cast. Cautaa looks between you and the puddle a few times, before tilting his head. "What's your plan?" he asks.
'Of course Miss Deadweight."
"I'm going to bother it if it bothers us. In the meantime I want to try Huitlapan's idea."
I'll float over several sleeping bags. After shaking them out I put on over me so that I'm entirely covered.
"Okay, if I scream or don't get back down in a few seconds someone pull me down."
After double checking that none of my body is visible I'll stand up so that I'm in line of sight of the Void Tower. I can't see it so maybe, just maybe, it can't see me.
"Oh, duh," Deadweight says, rolling her eyes, "Yeah, let's just use the sleeping bags as cover." She stows the gun and ammo away and returns to the store to grab some sleeping bags.
She chuckles. "Sure thing."
>>751523 Sure thats where here eyes were looking >.>
She shook her head and moved along with them.
"Some safe spaces to sleep wouldn't be a bad idea at all."
"I am curious as to what this cover will do, Mister Huitlapan."
"Wouldn't it be better to… sleep in them?"
Roll #1 8 = 8
Unsure of what to do, I keep my ears on a swivel and gaze about the store. [1d10]
Steadfast does much of the same while covering my rear [1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
"No, no," Deadweight says to Lost. "We're thinking that that thing," Deadweight points to the Void Tower, "Does its thing when it's able to see us, so we're gonna try to use the sleeping bags as cover so it won't see us."
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
After Conflagration puts on the sleeping bag and steps out in view of the Void Tower, Huitlapan and Cautaa brace themselves, ready to jump out if need be for assistance. However, unlike before, when even a mere glance of the thing induced the most unpleasant out-of-body experience possible, Conflagration feels just fine. Nothing peculiar happens to him at all.
Only, as you look on, you can see some sort of black simmering or sizzling upon the outermost fibres of the sleeping bag, akin to some sort of burning, for the sizzling appears to be eating away at the bag's exterior.
"Hah! I knew it! Of course, now I can't see where I'm going. Any ideas, anyone?"
"First, get down! It's, like, burning through the sleeping bag. Looks like we can just book it to the post office while covering ourselves with sleeping bags. Get a new one, first, though."
"This is my suggestion, but perhaps you can backtrack to us so we can measure the damage on these bags you're wearing. As much to that idea, we can also agree on a plan of where to go and measure for step-counting."
"Your bag is like… burning or melting or something."
Deadweight grabs a couple sleeping bags for herself.>>751539
"I see you. I think all we need is a couple layers of sleeping bags and a straight line to jump in," Deadweight says as she puts on the sleeping bags, clearly eager to get a move on.
I duck back down and pull off the sleeping bag.
Deadweight nods as she points to the burnt exterior of Conflagration's sleeping bag.
"Should we just run for it with our own covers?"
In the two sleeping bags, Deadweight gets her bearings, pointing herself towards the post office. She then zips herself in the outer layer, then the inner layer, and starts bounding for the post office.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"As long as we know where we're going, it's definitely a possibility. I will note this down if we're successful."
I'll help everyone with packing on sleeping bag armor for the jaunt
I will sit atop Steadfast's armor and cover us both with the sleeping bags, he'll make a run for the post office.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Roll #1 9 = 9
Lost bolts last to help any stragglers who fall behind.
[1d10] HurryRoll #1 5 = 5
[2d10] Cautaa, Huitlapan
Roll #1 5, 2 = 7
Time to suit up. I put on a new sleeping bag and bounce after the others.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Huitlapan and Cautaa come back with sleeping bags of their own, quickly stretching as you spread out and make ready to run for the post office.
"Three, two…" Huitlapan counts down. "Go!"
At his signal, you make a break for it, scattering around the fountain in a mad dash for the other side. However, as one might ahve guessed, sprinting while wearing a sleeping bag proves a blind and dangerous task. Firmgold and Steadfast skid to the other side, nearly crashing into the front doors, but Cautaa carries his bag too low, and steps upon the front end of it. He tripes, and Lost, Huitlapan and Conflagration trip and fall with him in a chain reaction. Lost, Cautaa and Conflagration manage to slip themselves into the sleeping bags as emergency cover, but Deadweight's gets caught on an upturned chunk of flagstone, and is torn right from her.
At once, you see her body freeze up, all muscles twisted and tensed in a dreadfully uncomfortable posture. But she can feel none of it – no, she feels only a sense of being yanked, then dragged, dragged out of her own body, dragged into a vortex, black tendrils pulling at the corners of her vision. Her body starts to float upward into the sky, eyes blank and white…
Lost managed to work her head out of the sleeping bag and went completely wide eyed as she made something akin to a shriek of fear and anger as she was ready to slash at the beast.
I'll grab her with my TK and continue my covered dash to the post office door.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
No one can hear it, but Deadweight tries to say, "Shit!" as she feels herself being puller out of her own body.
I jump off Steadfast's back and shout to the void
"How dare you try and take our companion!"
[1d10] Spellbreaker!Roll #1 6 = 6
>Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…>>751552>>751553>>751554>>751555
Conflagration strains to pull Deadweight free, blood rushing and heart pounding as he feels the Void Tower's dark influence spreading once more to his mind's fringes, staining it as they fight for Deadweight's existence. The struggle breaks when Firmgold blasts the Void Tower with antimagic, snapping off its grip. Deadweight's mind plummets back into her own body, rattled and nauseous. At this range, even a moment in the Void Tower's presence is far deadlier than from afar.
>Deadweight has lost 2 Wounds and 16 Psychic HP
Before you can bolt toward the Post Office, Lost Hope slumps over, mid-roar. Just as Deadweight was, she too starts to rise in mid-air, body cramping and twisting every which way like clay molded by unseen hands, her mind, and vision, vacating her form like a ghostly visage…
But as she rises, a rippling appears in the floor below the Void Tower, and a dark whip flicks out to strike at it…
Cautaa and Huitlapan, still retaining the cover of their sleeping bags, fling nearby debris at the Void Tower to try and stop it.
[2d10]Roll #1 3 + 3 = 6
/ Roll #2 1, 2 = 3
Deadweight's not even able to get her bearings before she sees Lost Hope, too, fall prey to the Void Tower. "No, Lost!" she yells as she, still dazed, stumbles and dives forward get Lost out of the Void Tower's sight.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I saved that crazy mare once. She she wants to run at the tower again that's on here. I'll run for cover in the post office.
Lost remained frozen before going limp as her body stopped responding as the strange tower worked to control her, her mind her only respite as she tried to get away from it.
But she could not move.
I'm of no help here anymore so I'll urge Steadfast to hightail it to the POst Office
As the whip strikes the Void Tower from below, its grip weakens, just enough for Deadweight to snatch Lost Hope out of its grasp. Cautaa and Huitlapan, getting caught up in their sleeping bags again, nearly fall prey as well, but Deadweight, barreling down from the fountain with the force of a quarterback, smacks into them and half-shoves, half-drags them into the post office.
At last, all of you dive past the walls of the post office's entranceway, taking cover behind overturned desks and heaps of undelivered mail. Cautaa and Huitlapan are silent with embarrassment (and a lack of wind).
In a shard of shattered glass laying on the ground, you can see a dark aura surrounding the Void Tower… but it remains where it floats, unable to force you out of hiding.
"I still say shooting that thing is a good idea."
I dust myself off and look around the post office while staying clear of any line of sight of that void tower.
[1d10] spotRoll #1 8 = 8
Lost laid there for a bit trying to process what was happening right now as she slowly managed to get herself back onto her hooves, lazily clinging to Dead as she did so.
I shuffle out of the Sleeping Bag armor with Steadfast and examine its damage.>>751846
"With the right equipment, we may be able to disable it's offending influence for certain excursions. Otherwise we'll have to hazard another trip through here if we wish to return to a safer level."
Deadweight pants, sprawled on the ground. Once she manages to catch her breath, she gets up, still a little shaky from her out of body experience. She finds the crystal pony clinging to her again, and with and eye roll she helps her up then proceeds to enter the post office.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
The sleeping bags are all about half-burnt through from the sprint. Cautaa and Huitlapan's have several more mundane tears from their slips and falls rather than just the Void Tower's malevolent gaze.
Even when abandoned and laying in disrepair, something about this post office evokes an atmosphere of social dread, like only a bureaucratic labyrinth can.
The front room of the Post Office is a series of desks, computer terminals, PO boxes, and the like. Behind the front desk are rows and rows of sorting boxes, once organized by some arcane formulae lost to time. Much of it is destroyed, but it appears that little looting took place here. It appears that most of the computers here are intact… but if you attempt to turn them on, they refuse. The lights were on in the camping goods store, so it must be an issue with the breaker, not the regional generator.>>751849
Cautaa taps you on the shoulder, then he and Huitlapan bow their heads. "We managed to screw up big time, twice in under a minute," Cautaa says. "Thank you for the save.">>751847
It's not just laziness, you realize… your body feels like your muscles are made of pudding, and your mind, paste.
>Lost Hope has lost 2 wounds and 10 Psychic HP.
Lost shuddered and slowly removed herself from Deadweight as she moved down to sit and compose herself. You okay Dhampir?
Deadweight shrugs to herself when it looks like Lost just wants to sit where she is.>>751850
Deadweight's mildly surprised when she finds someone tapping on her shoulder, and when Cautaa and Huitlapan express their gratitude, she smirks and says, "It's what teammates do. You guys better just have my back if something happens to me."
"Someone remind me why we came here. Tell me it was important."
"I believe we're going to a lower level by way of the maintenance tunnels. This was an attempt to bypass a different void… entity.">>751850
I'll toss the Sleeping bag to the side and then carefully loot this place [1d10] while Steadfast stands guard and keeps his ears open [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
"We're here to pick up an important delivery that the manager of that candy shop obsessively checked on," Cautaa says. "I have the tracking number saved so that we can look it up in the Post Office's systems. It appears it was delivered the day Agatecastle fell."
"When we were at the candy store, we found out a package got delivered here the day of the attack. Looked pretty important," Deadweight tells Conflagration as she looks around.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
>>751851GodDAMMIT! If you ever screw up like that again, I'm taking over, you understand!? I thought you were tougher than that! You could've gotten us both killed!>>751852
"You can depend on it," Huitlapan says.>>751856>>751854>>751853>>751851
You comb through the post office, and find the circuit breaker near the back, which you turn on to reawaken the computer systems. The passwords are all on little sticky notes which were, in spite of the adhesive, taped to the respective monitors. You comb through the system, finding that, per safety regulations, some of the mail was inspected on a seemingly random basis.
Using this, Firmgold identifies some noteworthy packages, which you find in the mail room. Inside is a set of silverware, probably worth about 300 Schillings if sold. Another package contains a set of designer shawls, probably worth 200.
Cautaa eventually pipes up. "I've found the package that the manager was obsessing over. It's stored at the back of the mail room, second shelf from the top."
I'll pocket the silverware and shawls if no one shows any interest on them.
"Wonderful! I do hope there is a way through here as well."
"Any clue what's in it?"
I go to the back room and telekenetically pull it off the shelf.
Deadweight winks at Huitlapan words of goodwill.>>751857>>751859
Deadweight follows Conflagration to the back of the mail room to see what the package could be.
Lost winced and then stomped her hoof.You are not! I am not becoming like that mermaid. Not… not when I have others I still need to protect.
>>751861Then take better care of us… she certainly did.>>751860>>751859>>751858>>751861
Conflagration retrieves the proper package, finding it surprisingly heavy, and marked with several FRAGILE – HANDLE WITH CARE stickers. It feels oddly cold, even in comparison to the room's chilly temperature.
Cautaa's expression is calm, but suddenly, a vein bulges in his forehead, and his normally grey face turns a shade of red. "It appears… the package was inspected. 'Tis… an antique earthenware statue… we almost got killed… over… a… fffffffffffffff–"
"Are you sure?" Huitlapan asks.
As you finish opening the package… you see that it is not a statue at all, but rather, some kind of peculiar, and extremely high-end, incubation pod. A translucent container rests in a heavy metal holding unit. And, inside, housed in some kind of thick gel, there is a spotted egg about the size of your head. A biometric scanner at the base indicates that the egg's vitals are good… whatever that means.
Cautaa double-takes at the computer monitor. "Wait… did they mislabel it? Impossible… unless…"
"An egg? This is weird."
Do I have any idea what kind of egg it is?
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"What the—" Deadweight exclaims, not expecting an egg in the package. "What would a guy selling candy have to do with… this thing?"
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
She ignored him as her focus turned to the egg and she decided to inspect the pod for… any kind of info that might help.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
After pocketing the valuables, I wordlessly inspect the package over someone's shoulder and then make sure our maps reflect the danger that we encountered.
[1d10] InspectRoll #1 5 = 5
The incubation pod doesn't identify the egg, nor provide much information other than that it's healthy.
"It strikes me as unbelievably absurd that they'd truly mislabel something like this," Huitlapan says.
"I agree," Cautaa says. "It seems to me that this was deliberate. If Agatecastle's laws were anything like Ironcastle's, this was probably done to get around regulations on the sale of living creatures. Not that I have much to go on, but it seems that the candy shop manager was involved in shady dealings. A middlepony, perhaps."
"With the aid of others, at least one of which worked at the post office, to hide it in plain sight…?" Huitlapan adds. "Hrm… well, what kind of egg would be so valuable that it'd be worth all this trouble?">>751864>>751865
In your years of education and training, you've only heard of one such kind of being whose eggs could possibly survive a year-long incubation period. It is less a species, and more a mysterious and rare class of being, of which little is known: A Guardian. None know from where the eggs appear, or how, for none are ever lain when under surveillance. They are said to hatch only when in the presence of one the creature inside deems worthy.
Lost paused and very slowly approached the pod, running her hoof along it "Do you think we should open it?" she asked softly as she stared at it in awe "The pod not the egg."
"We may find out when we return to the landing level.">>751868
"I don't believe that would be useful down here, Miss Hope."
"Huh, alright," Deadweight says to Cautaa. She then says to Huitlapan, "I think it's a Guardian. Not much is known about them, but supposedly a Guardian egg only hatches when it's with someone it 'deems worthy.'">>751868
"Hm, I dunno," Deadweight says as she takes a closer look at the egg.
"We should maybe wait until we solve the Void Tower problem. Someone that isn't going to catch on fire inside the next few hours hold onto this."
"I probably won't," Deadweight jests as she takes the package from Conflagration.
"That's fair… I'll hold onto it if nobody minds."
"Oh, sure," Deadweight says before giving the package to Lost.
"If that's the case, small wonder that the manager was so obsessively checking for its arrival," Cautaa says. "He could have made enough money for his children to not work a day in their lives, even after his co-conspirators took their cut."
"I wonder what the expedition team would pay…" Huitlapan ponders.
"Less than what they'll pay us for accomplishing our main objective," Cautaaa says. "We still have the Void Tower to deal with."
"Unless you all want to try to find another way to sneak around," Huitlapan says.
Lost took the pod and very gently placed it in her pacl "I think not telling them would be best. There is something fishy going on.
"Damn, that's right, that thing's still in the way…" Deadweight curses, staring at the ground intensely.
"Everything about this does seem… weird," Deadweight comments.
"I still say someone shoots it."
"Well! We have our package, where do we go from here?"
"Don't suppose this place has explosives anywhere?"
"No!" Deadweight says, almost offended by the suggestion.>>751880
"There was an elevator in the plaza. We just need to figure out how to not get zapped by the Void Tower."
"The tower, dummy. Not the egg."
"Oh," Deadweight says. "Still a dumb idea. Can't get a good shot without getting in it's field of view, and even if you did, it's like the thing's indestructible."
"Field of view…?" Huitlapan ponders. "Ah! Just before Deadweight rescued us, I noticed that the Shikkaku struck at the Void Tower with her whip, which aided in breaking Lost free of its grasp. Might we…"
"Are you about to suggest giving her a gun minutes after questioning my call to let her go?" Cautaa snorts. "Now who's the unbelievable one?"
"So aim with a mirror. Aren't warriors supposed to be good with weapons? I'm pretty sure no one has physically hit it yet."
"Better the foe we know and can talk to than the pillar of death."
"You can't aim with a mirror!" Deadweight says, who's starting to get a little miffed.>>751885
"Wait, really? Huh…" Deadweight says, "I mean, I don't think we have any better ideas."
"Of course I can't. I'm not a warrior."
"I don't believe we should trouble that mermaid anymore than is, or was, necessary. There is nothing that either of us can benefit off one another. Of course we are skilled enough to get this far, perhaps we can return so I may peddle these found wares while everyone- "
I motion to the group
"Finds another individual just as skilled to test this void tower for weaknesses."
"Ugh!" Deadweight exclaims with an eye roll, exasperated.
"If you wanna hit him, I won't stop you."
"Hrm," Cautaa says as you bounce around ideas. "Well, I'll have a look around, see if we can find an alternate route somewhere. Perhaps there may be maintenance halls like the one we traversed earlier."
"And if I can be of assistance, you have but to ask," Huitlapan offers.
Lost pursed her lips and decided to look for any other packages that might have something useful. Like a big bomb.
[1d10] Looting in bad tasteRoll #1 2 = 2
"If there is, wish we found it before dancing across the plaza," Deadweight says to Cautaa before looking for one nevertheless.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
I'll arrange a few pieces of glass so I can see a reflection of the Void Tower while hiding next to the doorway. If I can manage to get that far I'll start lobbing bits of rubble far up into the air then out over the Void Tower before letting go. Sort of like a reverse claw game.
[1d10] Showing Deadweight UpRoll #1 5 = 5
I will look around for another, hidden, maintenance access within the post office. Unless it's a detached deal there should at least be one in case of fire.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 10 = 10
[1d10] Looting in slightly less bad taste.Roll #1 2 = 2
>>751894Oh, I forget what morbid tastes you have. You know, I think I'll let you stay at the steering wheel for a little longer, Dhampir says.
Perhaps for the best, you find no suspicious or rapidly-expanding packages.>>751896
As you toss the rubble, you note that the Void Tower's dark aura concentrates around the part of it that the thrown bit of rubble comes closest to hitting, at the cost of the rest of the dark aura dwindling. Perhaps, with a well-timed shot, it may be stunned.>>751894>>751895>>751896>>751897
Deadweight initially only finds a maintenance access door, but it's surrounded by rubble from a section of ceiling that collapsed, but Firmgold, searching a few rooms westward, discovers a Fire Escape door.
"I should hope the alarms aren't active, or else we may attract company if we were to take this," Huitlapan warns.
"Hey, everyone. I'm pretty sure hitting that thing will at least stun it."
Now that I sort of have it zoned in I'll lift the biggest thing I can and try to drop it on the void tower.
Roll #1 8 = 8
Lost huffed and decided to at least loot for valuables while the other worked. Maybe she would find something nice for the egg. Or money.
[1d10] LootingRoll #1 7 = 7
Deadweight groans, seeing the maintenance door blocked by all the rubble. She goes to find the unicorn to help her clear it.>>751900
And she finds him just in time to see him try to play catch with the Void Tower. Instead of saying anything, she watches what happens.
"Mister Cautaa, would you be able to use your specialty on such a door? Specifically if your skillset allows conversing with the electronics of the fire escape door."
Checking back on the mail registry system, you find one labeled as, and I quote, "Uh…"
It appears the sender is known only by the letter K.
You retrieve it.
A small cardboard package.>>751903>>751904
Cautaa nods. "It will be a bit tricky without a universal port to connect to, but my sprites should still be able to have a go at it."
He goes to the fire door, and gets to work.>>751900
In a flash, all at once, like a book slamming shut on an unfortunately-positioned dogeared page…
The Void Tower vanishes entirely under the weight of the slab of rubble that Conflagration just dropped on it.
"Hey, the tower's dead. You can all come out now."
Deadweight looks through the mirror, then gingerly takes a peek around the corner to look for the Void Tower, but she finds no such thing. She stands there with her mouth agape.
Last time, on the Castle of Silence…
After navigating through the Maintenance Access routes of L-8 F-7's sprawling mall, they entered the camping goods store, a final stop before their confrontation with the Void Tower in the mall's plaza. After running past it, they entered the Post Office, where they found some minor supplies, as well as a very peculiar package: An intact incubator, containing a rather large egg. Only one known type of creature could have laid an egg that would still be healthy after an incubation period of a year or more: A Guardian, whose mysterious eggs did not hatch based on time, but rather, on their proximity to a living being worthy of raising them… or so the folk wisdom held. In truth, little was known about these very rare creatures. Whatever the case, Lost Hope decided to take it.
Outside, Conflagration achieved victory over the Void Tower, by uncovering its central weakness: Being squished by heavy enough material.
After getting over her incredulity, Deadweight messages Cautaa, "Don't have to excavate the maintenance door anymore, hothead took care of the Void Tower."
"Oh my, I hope this doesn't create problems on the upper level.">>752200
"Really, Miss Deadweight, I'm sure we'll have enough matter to investigate the maintenance halls. I for one would prefer the near-safe emptiness to finding more of those void eyes."
Deadweight listens to Firmgold, shrugs with a nod, and messages to Cautaa, "Scratch that, keep digging."
Lost for her part was focused on the egg.
Cautaa blinks in disbelief, then, perhaps just for curiosity's sake, perhaps because he was almost finished, he takes another moment to disable the door's alarm, and nudges it an inch open. After checking if the coast is clear, he pushes it further, revealing an evacuation hallway. Upon the wall is a first-aid station. With a satisfied nod, Cautaa opens it up, and retrieves three medical kits, which he passes to the both of you.>>751906
Huitlapan apprehensively steps out into the plaza, and cautiously peers at the slab of stone under which you squished the Void Tower. "Dead as can be… hullo, what's this?"
He reaches for a nearby stick of rebar, and pokes underneath the slab for a moment… out roll a trio of night-black, diamond-shaped gems, with a dark purple gleam. Huitlapan gasps and retreats a step, covering his eyes… but nothing happens. The gemstones lay there, completely inert. Huitlapan, gathering his courage once more, tries to poke them with the rebar, to no effect.>>752203
It floats there in the incubator's gel. It is nearly spherical, except for its slightly elongated end, and is so smooth and without fault that you might almost mistake it for a stone.You wanna omelette?
I walk over and examine the stone from the same distance as Huitlapan.
"Call me crazy, but I don't think I'm going to touch those. Not with my hooves or my magic. Want to bet we can find some tongs in the camping store? They should have a section for grilling, right?"
"Oh, nice," Deadweight says when she takes the medical kit and uses it on herself.
Huitlapan nods. "Oh, I can do you one better. I am surprised nobody thought to loot those coolers we passed by earlier."
He proceeds back into the camping store, then comes back after a minute or so, with some trash-picker tools, a box of trash bags, and a rolling cooler. He grabs the three gemstones with the trash picker, rolls them up tight in the trash bag (double-bagging for safety and dampening noise), then puts it into the cooler.
He stops to think. "Perchance we should take a second if we should come across any cold drinks?">>752208https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c7JrVrGwGNE
The morphine tablets in particular make the damage the Void Tower inflicted simply melt away. You are restored to full.
"Not a bad idea, but make it a different color just in case."
I scrounge up a piece of charcoal or a marker and write a warning on the lid.
CURSED GEMS DO NOT OPEN
Deadweight sighs in relief when she feels the morphology tablets kick in. She asks the group, "Alright, now that we've found out what was at the post office, what's the plan now? Head to the elevator or explore a bit more?"
"I'm for exploring more of this level to make sure it's picked before others come here. Perhaps we should find a way to bargain with those… merponies to keep them from accosting us again."
It should be noted that the CURSED GEMS cooler is a blue. Huitlapan nods, heads back in, and comes out with another rolling cooler, this one a prominent red.
"So there's no chance of confusion," he explains. >>752212>>752211>>752214>>752213
Cautaa and Huitlapan cast glances about the burnt mall.
"I am personally in favor of moving down," Cautaa says. "I don't know how much could still remain here of worth."
"To push back, it is clear that the fires spared some of the mall," Huitlapan says. "This little plaza attests to that. And, there was still that curious behavior I observed from the… from Shikka, I believe we named her. It seemed she struck the Void Tower to assist Lost, did she not? Perhaps…"
Cautaa scoffs. "Now it seems I'm not the only one imagining she retains a Soul, then?"
Huitlapan puffs out his cheeks. "I am just agreeing that treating with any sapient life would be a good strategy.">>752213
You get the vague sense that the egg might feel the same way.
"I am fine with whatever choice the group makes to be fair."
"Let's go see what the others are up to.">>752216>>752214>>752208
I wander back into the store.
"What's the story? Are we not going to go back and drop off our finds?"
"I don't feel good about hangin' around those things," Deadweight says when the group talks about the Shikkaku. "Yeah, unless there's something in particular we wanna look at here, I'm down to move down, too," she says, echoing Cautaa's thoughts.
"Soul or no, Mister Cautaa, the Shikka are knowledgeable enough to bargain with us. However long or short this treaty between us few will last, we should ensure there's little reason to return as enemies in the future. Or would you rather watch as a fellow hiver is pulled into that magical water and never seen again?"
Cautaa ponders the arguments made. "Hrm… right," Cautaa says. "It would
be more prudent to see that matter resolved before too long, lest she assist the Dreaded One next time… She was here not too long ago. Perhaps we might find her easily?"
"I believe I saw lures and fishing rods in the camping store," Huitlapan adds. "Shall I retrieve some?"
"I would rather not fight considering we have a truce but if we need to. So be it."
"I still have mine. Are we looking for a conversation or a fish fry?"
"I believe we should prepare for both, as our previous agreement is coming to a close.">>752221
"Yes, Mister Huitlapan. I would trouble us to also find food as a better conversation retainer."
I will go look for extra food if we're looking for stuff
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 4 = 4
"Still got a bad feeling about this," Deadweight says as an aside.
Roll #1 1 = 1
[1d10] fishingRoll #1 7 = 7
I grab the drink cooler, return to where I remember the puddle being, cast my line, and crack open a cold one.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
"Nonsense, Miss Deadweight. This is progress in lowering the numberless hostiles within the hiv-castle
, by however many we can! I apologize that it goes against what benefits us, but any lesser evil must be tolerated for now."
"Feels like we're just putting ourselves in unnecessary danger," Deadweight says, fishing rod in hoof.
"Miss Deadweight, we all chose to come here. I applaud your resolve at leading us this far, but danger is exactly what we're here for.. unfortunately
I'll watch the rippling floor with Deadweight
While Huitlapan goes to retrieve some more fishing rods and bait, you peek into the camping store again, and find some packets of hay jerky. They won't go bad for another 10 years.>>752222>>752223>>752224>>752225
Huitlapan comes back with a set of fishing rods, line and lures. Also, he's stocked the red cooler with some drinks that he found in the refrigerators in the store. A bit of shoplifting, but it fits the occasion.
Conflagration then tracks down the peculiar floor-puddle not far from the fountain. Making seats of the destroyed floor-stones, you sit down, cast your lines, and wait…
You reel in…
Deadweight gets an old tin can, which she reels back so fast that it dinks off her helmet.
Lost Hope and Conflagration are pulled to their hooves, and are nearly yanked into the puddle, but pull back, and yank a large shape onto the ground. You see Shikka there, holding onto both fishing lines. She seems to be trying to pull the lures off of the ends of the lines, and nearly succeeded in getting Lost's off.
Once she sees she's on the surface again, she releases the lines, and holds her hooves up in a show of peace.
Lost approached "So do you want me to try and translate again or should we try something else?" She said with a look to the others."
I'll be the first to show some goodwill in this and offer Shikka the hay jerky.
"Oh right, we need to establish a way to connect.">>752234
"I would wish to trouble you for this, yes Miss Hope."
"This was your idea, not mine."
"We found the elevator! We should just keep going down, or at least *not* try to find something that's way stronger and way meaner than us," Deadweight grumbles idly as she fishes.>>752233
"Oh!" Deadweight exclaims when she feels a tug on her line. She reels it in, perhaps too enthusiastically. She reels in a tin can with so much gusto that it hits her helmet. "Ow! Damn it."
"Oh!" she exclaims again, seeing the Shikkaku there and not trying to kill them.
Shikka takes the hay jerky and makes quick work of it, champing away with her teeth, which are all pointed. Her wound from earlier is already in the process of healing up, which gives Cautaa and Huitlapan pause.
While she sits there, she tries to sneak one of the lures off the end of Lost's fishing rod. She has a bag at her side, full of them.
"Then after this is over, I will oblige you in this. Thank you for obliging me so far."
Lost approached and allowed Dhampir to emerge to connect the two again, slipping him into the wound.
"So what do you want to say?"
Deadweight smirks. "Sure thing."
I'll continue to sip my cold one.
I clear my throat
"I wish for us to continue our non-aggression, and extend it to whoever else travels this level. We will warn others of you, and hope you do not ensnare our compatriots. This agreement will keep us all alive in the future."
I nod this as a message and add "Thank you miss Hope."
She did her best to give Dhampir the cliffnotes version of the request so he could give it to her.
Shikka shudders as you connect her and Dhampir again, nearly dropping her jerky.>>752245>>752244>>752243>>752242>for the sake of convenience, assume this conversation is on auto-translateAlright, I'll agree to that. Just as long as they leave me something to fish,
She picks up her jerky and finishes it off, talking with a full mouth. Dhampir, and by extension Lost, translate her deep gurgling and guttural tongue.So, who are these 'whoever elses' you mentioned? Where are you all from? What are your names? Whatcha doing here? What are those outfits you have going on? Who taught you to fish? You got any more lures?
Lost did her best to answer each question to the best of her ability though she did censor some info so as not to give her confidential info.
Curious, Deadweight asks Lost, "What's the thing saying? Seems like it's doing a lot of, uh, talking."
I mull over how to respond, then begin with
"I'm sure we'll not touch your… waters, miss shikka. Truly it's safe passage through this level we seek. I speak mainly for those of us who come in similar garb. This "
I pull on my suit
"Is an armor for us, it's how we identify each other when we come in many different races. Perhaps it would be simple to call us Castle Born, as we're here to search this unfortunate abandonment for clues as to why. I wouldn't trouble you for knowledge as I'm sure this is inconvenient already. I wasn't aware about fishing, myself, but I'm sure more can be given if our agreement is reached?"
>>752250>Ignore this post>>752248
Deadweight's surprised by Shikka's questions. That it would have any questions in the first place is surprising to her.
"We're from a place a lot like this, but far away and not falling apart."
Shikka nods as she takes in all this information. So, you are all connected. I saw some others like you going on ahead. A few went by themselves, while others were in small groups. And there was a few others… but I didn't get a good glimpse of them. All I could do was sense them. They were sneakier than even some of the residents of this place.
She shrugs as Firmgold brings up knowledge. I don't know all the details, all I know is that most of the wild ones are trying to find ways deeper inside, and are fighting over territory. Usual stuff, you know.
"Hold on, are you saying that the bottom levels of this castle haven't been penetrated by your kind?"
"Is there anything ahead you might deem to be a threat even you would want to avoid? Or anything in general you might find that would help keep us safe."
"Wait a sec, how long have you been here? Do you know about when ponies like us used to live here?"
I close my eyes and nod to the merpony.
"Indeed. So I believe we may reach an agreement in no aggression against each other? I understand that your livelihood within these magical waters must be maintained, so I wish to impress the notion that.. perhaps entering your waters by intent or not, we aren't invading your territory. Truly if I were to… what's the word? Swim? if I were to swim these magic ripples it is more my desire to reach the other shore at no cause of insult to your sovereignty."
I'll look over at those with fishing rods and try to whisper
"Cut the lures
Here, Dhampir pauses, struggling to come up with the proper translations.This is just my rough estimation, but probably no more than two Turnings ago. She's not so familiar with our notions of linear time.
As to your second question, the answer is easier.No. My guess is that a lot of 'em used to be here, huh?
"That's… one way of putting it," Cautaa says.>>752255At least, not by any like me. Perhaps some of the wild ones have, but I'm not strong enough to get past them… Nor do I really intend to. The deepest I've been is the Fifth Layer. The fishing's fine up here.>>752260>>752259>>752258>>752256>>752255
Shikka shrugs in response to Lost's question. I guess, the giant wild ones. They're a right vindictive bunch, and they'll pursue you a real long time.
Cautaa raises an eyebrow. "Interesting that you chose them… let me be specific. We seek the one called the Necromancer. He raises skeletons. What is your evaluation of him?"Oh, him. He's fine. Yeah, come to think of it, I guess I have seen ponies with him, and others. Not wearing getups like yours, though.
"Fine…?" Huitlapan asks.I haven't had any issues with him, in any case. Not that I know anyone who has. Not that I know anyone.
At Shikka's reply, Deadweight lightly nods, humming a somber affirmative, "Hmm."
"You must be lonely huh?"
"What's the ratio of wild ones to ones like you, you think?">>752264>>752265>>752266>>752263
I'll tap out a message to the others.>if the castle fell recently and green survived on this level what are the odds people are still alive at the heart barricaded there?
Deadweight taps a message in reply, "I wouldn't bet on it."
>>752266>>752265Yeah… it's hard to find fishing friends.>>752267
Shikka takes a good while to answer this one as she crunches the numbers.387,000 to 1. Around that area.>>752267>>752265>>752266>"We could certainly hope," Huitlapan says. "Layers Two through Zero possess progressively tighter security and armaments. and longer-lasting supplies than any of the Layers above them. If any place could hold out, it would be those.">"But still… whatever force attacked Agatecaslte also seemed to have disabled or suppressed the Light of its Heart. If that force pressed on with the attack, surely it would breach material defenses as well, couldn't it?"
Shikka collects the cut lures and drops them into her bag.So, you got any more questions?
I'll nod to Shikka while I watch my feed.>>752267>[I would believe high, unless we're beaten to the core by whoever passed us already.]
"So you're the only one that's not wild?"
"Well… I am around if you wanna hang out and talk sometime." She said smiling at the mermare.
Deadweight shrugs. "I guess that's it."
>>752273>>752272The only one I've met.>>752274I might take you up on that now and then, when I'm not foraging. Oh, I'll bring you some of my catches, how about that?>>752272>>752273>>752274>>752275If that's that, then I guess I'll head out. Still need to get my meal prep on for supper.
Waving farewell, she leaps back into the rippling puddle of matter before you.
Cautaa and Huitlapan look baffled at the turn that conversation took.
"What a pleasant turnaround," Huitlapan says. "Considering how violent of a start our relations got off to."
"Let's hope she stays out of danger," Cautaa says. "Still, her dismissal of the Necromancer leaves me with more questions than before…"
"Sounds fun. Can kinda relate what with the whole having something really nasty being a part of me." She said.
"That went… better than I expected," Deadweight admits. "Alright, elevator time?"
"Well this has been very interesting and all, but I really think we should go back up top to drop off our finds."
"It might be something of a relationship where neither antagonizes one another."
"Well! Whatever the case, I do hope our non-aggression extends to everyone else coming through this level. I'll make a note of it to pass for the Command level as well."
And I'll update my own map of this area with sidenotes of what we encountered with Shikka
"Sounds good. Our bags are about to burst."
>>752277IYep, I sure know what that's like. It's a tough life!>>752278>>752279>>752280>>752281
Cautaa and Huitlapan nod. "I'm starving after all that fishing," Huitlapan says. "Let's stop for a spot of lunch once we're up."
"I'll get started on setting this elevator's security clearance to expedite the trip up," Cautaa says. "Come along and keep an eye out for trouble, please."
Roll #1 1 = 1
I shall ride on Steadfast's back and keep an eye out as we go to the elevator.
[1d10] SteadfastRoll #1 5 = 5
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
Deadweight nods at Huitlapan's suggestion to get lunch. She follows Cautaa to the elevator, keeping an eye out like he asked.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Last time, in the Castle of Silence…
Our explorers had an extended interview and negotiation with Shikka, one of the so-called "Living Failures" who had lost her Soul, and became more like a Dreaded One than a mortal. Shikka easily agreed to a peace treaty with the expeditionary force, and proved to be more friendly than the initial encounter would suggest. She also seemed none too concerned about the Necromancer lurking on the Floors below, and was more afraid of the giants who roamed this Layer.
Once the discussion concluded, the party decided to head back up to get some supper, now that they had mostly cleared out this Floor. >>752606>>752605>>752603
All is well as you ascend the elevator once more, with Cautaa's security configurations allowing you to ride all the way from L-8 F-7 to the transition level between Layers Eight and Nine.
When you emerge from the elevator, this time on the southern end of the FOB, you head north, and see that there's quite a hubbub in the camp. Many personnel dart about between various stations, and lots of equipment is being moved on rolling carts and forklifts and the like. Those of you who are more technically proficient recognize some of the tech as repeaters for radio communications. Large groups of guards accompany them, and they seem to be bound for the eastern elevator, which you took earlier in the Cycle.
"That doesn't exactly look like spring cleaning to me," Huitlapan notes. "Any of you know what's going on?"
I'll search for anything posted in the Layer feed about this. While I ride Steadfast through the commotion
Also! I contact my supplier and let them know I have things to sell.
"No idea. Must be something serious, though. Looks like they're moving communications down to Layer Eight."
Lost pursed her lips a bit "Is that a good thing?"
"Well, we risk Dreaded Ones messing with our communications by moving them down there…"
As you open the FOB's news feed, you see a pinned announcement, outlining a strategy proposed by Knight-Brother Mountain for the mass securing of Floors. According to the announcement, L-8 F-9 has been mostly cleared, thanks to the methodical process by which the Floor has been divided and searched by the expedition teams. Since certain Dreaded Ones are known to intercept and be drawn toward electrical signals and the other energies surrounding Castle technology, Knight-Brother Mountain intends to set up decoy relays around Floors with an estimated cleared ratio of 80%, designed to broadcast phony intelligence and lure remaining Dreaded Ones into traps. Any technologies used for this decoy process will be locked out of frequencies accessible by your radios or Magicomps, ensuring operational security.
The comments on the announcement are divided on the proposal, with a slight bent toward the negative.
"I can see why they'd be so apprehensive," Cautaa admits. "But I suppose that if the approach is aggressive and thorough enough…"
"We should warn Shikka about this," Huitlapan adds in a whisper. "She's two Floors down, but it wouldn't do to leave her to discover this plan the hard way.">>752609>>752611>>752612
Firmgold's supplier then messages her back that he's ready for business. His contact will meet you in the FOB's commissary.
"Huh," Deadweight says as she reads the announcement on her Magicomp.
"I agree on a warning. She's the only halfway decent one we met."
"We're going back down there? Ugh, alright," Deadweight says, rolling her eyes.
"Think she'll warn any of the others? Treason might get us in hot water."
"I did promise to warn the top levels about our agreement.">>752614
"Wonderful! I'll see about meeting my supplier, what is everyone else doing?"
"Hrm, I didn't think of that…" Huitlapan admits. "But, she did say that she was quite lonely. I don't imagine she'll have anyone to warn. Shikkaku are not nearly as common as Dreaded Ones."
"Assuming she was telling the truth," Cautaa grimly adds. "She's going to encounter other Castle forces sooner or later… perhaps it's best to impel her to leave this Castle while she can."
Huitlapan shakes his head at Deadweight. "Only once we're in the neighborhood. Let's eat and recover our strength before getting back to it."
>If you have any business of selling, purchasing, etc., you can do so now as you wish. Or if you wish to lounge or speak with other characters, you can do so as well. Consider this free time in a safe location.
I'll go and sell those three stones Huitiplan and I took from the dead tower and make sure he and Cautaa get their cut.
Lost debated trying to find someone who could help her hatch her secret egg. Perhaps she could contact Ms. Path.
"Sounds like a plan." Deadweight says as she saunters to the cafeteria.
I can sell those for you if you wish. Or perhaps you can use my supplier.>>752620
I will attempt a macro action and
barter with this guy about my fashionable scarves, the office supplies, and the poncy cologne only soft hooves care about.
[1d10+2] Bartering because I want to sell these things for my own profit.Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8
Welcome to bartertown.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
When you sit down at the commissary, an unassuming, and forgettable-looking pony sits nearby, producing a deck of cards. Part of the design on the card backs, Firmgold recognizes as a secret sign used by her supplier to denote middleponies.
"Care for a round or two?" he asks.
Over the course of the "game," you and the middlepony go back and forth on your winnings, until you have a spate of "good luck," and end up winning just the amount of money that the middlepony appraises your sold goods at, during your whispered negotiations.
Conflagration ends up with 900 for the peculiar black gemstones that he and Huitlapan recovered – 300 per gemstone. Out of this, Cautaa and Huitlapan recieve 135 each, leaving Conflagration with a profit of 630 Schillings.
After some hard bargaining, Firmgold receives 150 for the scarves, 75 for the office supplies, and 100 for the cologne. After some consideration, Cautaa and Huitlapan elect to let you take the profits on this transaction.
"By the way," the middlepony adds. "With progress on Layer Eight going smoothly, expect an update to the catalog soon. For now, I can still take your requests on our current product listings."
Lost nodded and departed for now looking for someone who might be able to get a message out to Ironcastle for her.
Upon our concluded business, I'll leave the commissary and let my team know I'll visit Colonnade about our merpony agreement.
"I had no idea I was this good at cards."
I'll pocket my winnings. As of right now there's not really anything I want to buy with them.
After this I'll grab lunch and maybe a nap.
Deadweight takes a look at her own loot. She takes out the 3-D glasses Lost gave to her and puts them on for a second, then takes them off and puts them back in her fanny pack. She's gonna have to try on that swimsuit in private later.
Looks like this Cycle's all about the carbs. Ravioli, tortellini, linguine, all kinds of pasta and other very popular carbs are on the menu for lunch.>>752628
After contacting one of the Magister's secretaries, you set up a meeting with her in short order. As it turns out, there's a new structure at the FOB, made at the Magister's request – a cafe, as a more calming alternative to both the rec center and the commissary for the mental well-being and relaxation of the expeditionary teams.
When you arrive there, Magister Colonnade is sitting on a cushion at her table, stirring a cup of tea as she reads a tablet. She wears blue-tinted glasses that conceal her spiral eyes.>>752627>>752630
You head over to the FOB's liaison office, where many off-duty expedition members are gathered, reading communications from back home at Ironcastle. Some have hoof-written letters, while others have data chips. The mood here is calm, but longing, as the expedition team think of those back at home.
Navigating the office, you eventually find a room full of booths where you can compose a message in private to your contacts back at home. Papyrus and pens are available, as well as recording equipment for composing video and auditory messages.
Lost took a video stall far from the others and began to compose a message "Hello Mrs. Path. I found something quite interesting and I want to show you." she said as she showed the egg off "And any info you could give to help… open it, would be appreciated."
I'll walk up and wait to draw her attention. When I do I'll nod with "Magister Colonnade, I apologize for the timing but this is a sensitive matter."
Deadweight digs into a bag of gummies from the candy shop as she supervises Lost.
Time for some shuteye.
Colonnade nods in turn, and stands. "Let's get a bit out of earshot, then," she says, leading the way out to the cafe's outer seating area, away from the other cafe patrons. "No need to apologize; never hesitate to report something of note. What's the matter, then?">>752632>>752634
Once Firmgold's all finished with the message, the recording setup dispenses a data chip for you to hand in to a liaison office worker, along with the shipping address.>>752635
You have a dream of going on a fishing trip back in Ironcastle. Warm sands, cool, crisp winds, and all the sips you can drink.
"Who's Path?" the ever curious Deadweight asks as she pops another gummy in her mouth.
She handed it to them and nodded.>>752637
"An ally I have known since I was a foal. She's always been nice to me. I like her. Kinda like a mother figure."
"Huh," she says as she chews, "Tell her about your adventures?"
"Most of the time yeah."
"That's cute," she says with a glad chuckle.
>>752643Oh do you not count?>>752642
She nodded and smiled back at her, beaming a bit.
I'll probably have to share what's on my magicomp with the Magister for this.
"Upon layer eight, floor seven, we encountered a shikkaku with no individual designation. They took the brunt of all our best attacks and still managed to heal itself over the course of our extended meet. It is capable of turning the floors into magical water whereupon it breaks into our reality if necessary. I've, well I'm not going to be ashamed to say this, but I negotiated an agreement of non-aggression with it. There are perhaps some delicacies that we traded, and something called Lures, but I must impress to you the importance of maintaining this non-aggression with the creature. I'm unsure of its full capabilities but it is diligent enough to maintain non-combat."
The Magister sips her tea as she thinks on this matter. "I see… the more militant members of the expedition may prove to take issue with this arrangement, but I will see to it that this nonaggression agreement you've negotiated stays intact – so long as the Shikkaku adheres to its end of the deal. Make no mistake, this was certainly a wise move… but be sure you do not fall for any trick a Shikkaku – whether this one or another – may try to pull on you. They've been taken by the darkness, and may wish for you to join them."
She smiles after another sip, and taps away at her comp. "I must say, between the survivor, and this deal, your group is making quite a name for itself. While other teams focus on making headway into deeper Floors, your thoroughness is to be commended.">>752646>>752644>>752642>>752635
Each of you receives an alert that you've received a Minor Commendation – an official honor of praise for exemplary conduct in the field of service.
Cautaa and Huitlapan, who had decided to stay in the commissary to carb up, spam your Concord channel with celebratory emojis.
"Oh… Should we go check on um… whats her name… that girl we hit with the canteen."
Deadweight gets an alert on her Magicomp and checks it. "Oh, sweet, a Commendation!" she says excitedly. >>752650
"Oh, no, don't remind me," Deadweight says with an awkward chuckle, holding her forehead in her hoof. "Yeah, Xu. Sure, let's see how she's doin'."
"Of course Magister, and thank you for your support in this matter."
Since that's all, I'll leave the Magister and go to the Commissary so I can order 4 more ration capsules to my supply. I'll take a nap and be ready to dive later.
You head back into the infirmary, where you see that Xu is reading a book on programming. Hidden within the book's covers is a manga about a magical sphinx.
She looks up as you enter, and you can hear a small bell. One has been fastened to her identification wristband. "Sup, hoes?" she asks.
"Good to see you recovered from the concussion. And the other injuries,"
"Yeah, the ones you inflicted!" Xu retorts, sticking out her tongue. "Now they got this bell on me so they can hear whenever I try to escape."
"I only hit you once." she grumbled before hitting the bell in an act of playful spite.
"Sup," Deadweight says back with a nod of her head.>>752656
"That's hilarious," she says before she, too, hits the bell.
"I'm set to be released next Cycle," Xu says, lightly bonking the both of you with her book. "So try to stay alive until then, okay?"
"Easy peasy," Deadweight says, "Look forward to havin' you tag along with us again."
After a refreshing nap I wake up and go get some counterattack circuitry installed in my armorsuit.
"I mean we almost got killed by a big tower thing… but then we also tried to imitate a candy shop staff… it was a thing."
The element it uses will be fire.
Xu blinks slowly at Deadweight and Lost, then shakes her head. "No… yeah, that doesn't sound surprising. Save some fun for me, alright?"
When all is done, you reconvene at about 1430 hours, having all had a chance to refresh, rejuvenate and be cleansed by the Abbey's agents of any possible physical, mental or spiritual maladies inflicted by exposure to the Dreaded Ones.
You then proceed down the FOB's eastern elevator, which travels downward through the Floors, until at last you reach your brief stop at L-8 F-7. Stopping briefly, you devise a message for Shikka about the Knight-Brother's aggressive radio-bait tactics. Ironically, to ensure she'll find it, Cautaa offers some of the jerky from his rations so that she'll seek out the smell.
After hiding the message under some rubble so that another Dreaded One doesn't find it first, you step back into the elevator, and proceed further down into L-8 F-6.
When at last the elevator stops, it is 1530. Cautaa and Huitlapan ready themselves as the doors at last slide open…https://youtu.be/-4cyiyju9rg
In contrast to the Floors you've explored thus far, you're greeted with an orderly streetway, for the most part. The buildings that line the streets bear some amount of damage, and old and dried bloodstains are here and there, but this Floor seems to have fared better than the others, for some yet unknown reason.
The street upon which you've been deposited heads east and west; soon to the west, there is a road leading north.
Lost quickly scanned the area for any buildings of note.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Deadweight takes a look at their surroundings. She shrugs and starts walking west.
I'll make notes about our initial view of this place, and then proceed after the group.
I'll summon some burning homing magic while keeping up with the others.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
In contrast to the drab offices and skyscrapers of Floors 9 and 8, and the endless pastel-hued shops of Floor 7's sprawling malls, the buildings around this area are of a more spartan and industrial look – warehouses and supply depots. It is not long after getting her bearings that Deadweight, being a Warrior, recognizes buildings of this type as belonging to the supply wing of a given Castle's Ramparts. All manner of weapons, armor, and other necessary exploratory supplies would flow through here as Warriors and other sanctioned personnel headed in and out of the Outlands.
However, her concentration is broken when Conflagration, charging up his power, explodes. The heat radius lightly stings, but doesn't wound, Firmgold, Steadfast and Lost Hope.
As Conflagration drops to the ground, burning, you hear a rattling in the distance. A pair of skeletons approach from the West, one dressed in armor, the other wearing… unusual-looking robes. There's something off, but at this distance, you can't tell what. You can, however, see two other skeletons sitting around a fire in a barrel further up the Western end of the street.
I roll back and forth until I manage to put myself out.
When she hears the explosion, she groans, "Ugh, hothead!" She turns her head back and says, "You're not getting one of my medkits this time." She notices the skeletons approaching from the West, and she squints to try to see what their deal is.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
"Mister Huitlapan, please administer healing!"
I'll move to one flank of Conflagration as Steadfast moves to the other.
Lost blinked as she watched Conflag explode "Oh… are you okay?"
Huitlapan manages to pull his eyes from the approaching skeletons, and moves to Conflagration's side. "Right. Please, hold him still…"
As the skeletons approach, Deadweight notices that the "robes" of the one skeleton aren't of the quality or design produced by the Abbey, nor do they look like they'd be even of the various mage's guilds that Agatecastle most likely had prior to its fall. No, they seem to be hoof-stitched, homemade, and patchy. Perhaps a "street mage," as they are termed in Ironcastle?"
In any case, the robed skeleton produces a medical kit and holds it out for you to take while Huitlapan works. Cautaa steps back in surprise.
"Th-thank you?" he asks.
>PauseRoll #1 8 + 2 = 10
I stop thrashing while Huitlapan fixes me up.
"Wow, these guys seem to get friendlier the further down we go…" Deadweight says
Hope raised s a brow "Always nice to find more nice skeletons"
I'll step forward to the street mage (skeleton)
"Oh- thank you so
much, but I wouldn't wish to impose such a resource from you."
Last time, in the Castle of Silence…
Our explorers headed back into the FOB briefly, where they learned that Knight-Brother Mountain intended to push more aggressively into partially-cleared Floors, deploying decoy radio technology to lure the remaining Dreaded Ones into traps. Although security measures would be in place to ensure opsec, many on other expedition teams were vocal of their concerns about the safety of this plan…
Meanwhile, after selling off unneeded plunder and resting and eating, you headed back down, taking the Eastern elevator from the FOB, so that you could warn Shikka of the Knight-Brother's zeal. Firmgold had already let Magister Reprise know of your deal with Shikka, but it never hurt to make sure.
Then, you descended to L-8 F-6. The elevator deposited you in the midst of a supply depot, with warehouses, storehouses and countless logistical buildings packed all around in this block. Once there, Conflagration exploded, as he tended to do. This attracted the attention of a nearby group of skeletons, two of whom – a street mage, and a knight, by the looks of their garb – ran over to try to help.>>753092>>753093>>753094>>753095
The street mage looks to Firmgold, then backs up a bit, obviously more than a bit self-conscious of his (or her) being undead; likely they've assumed that to be the reason.
"Up you go then, just a bit of pyrotechnics!" Huitlapan says, pulling Conflagration up to his hooves once the treatment is done.
"Now, who are you?" Cautaa asks the skeletons.
Although the street mage acts a bit demure, the armored one clatters his teeth boldly, gesturing with both dignity and grace, befitting a knight – or perhaps a Warrior, as they might have been. Still, you cannot ascertain their meaning.
The street mage eventually raises their hoof, gesturing for you to come over to their camp near the burning barrel over to the West.
>>753096I'll make a note about encountering skeletons at the elevator entrance, and that these ones still act according to their un-skeleton ways.
I'll then follow these guys to their camp.
Lost pondered for a moment, and then trotted off after the group as they seemed nice enough.
"Uh, sure…" Deadweight says as the street mage skeleton motions for them to go to their little camp.
Over around the burning oil barrel, you see a few more skeletons. One, another equine, who carries a crossbow, and wears the leathers of a hunter. A second, a primatos, who wears a martial artist's gi, and has on a set of brass knuckles. The third, a zawatil like Cautaa, who has on street mage's robes as well, but mixes them with the laboratory coat of a doctor, and the iconography of the Abbey's healers. They carry a mendicant's staff.
The street mage and the knight jaw something to the healer, who nods, and produces vials from a pouch at their side. They mix various contents of the vials into a set of cups. An astral vapor rises from the cups, the color of swamp fog, and they smell quite bitter. Once they are done, the knight gestures for you to drink from the cups.
Cautaa and Huitlapan look quite suspicious of the cups, and just by their expression you can tell they're trying to think of a way out of this, when another voice speaks.
"It's quite alright, that wasn't poison or zombie powder, or anything."
The speaker, sitting just beyond the fire atop an overturned trolley, is a lagomos, wearing the armorsuit of a Warrior. The banner on the chestplate identifies them as a member of Ironcastle, but you cannot see their face through their tinted visor.
"Oh hey… someone with organs… maybe."
"Of course, please excuse my rude hesitation."
I'll hold my breath and take one of the cups, swallowing down the entire thing in what I hope is
[1d10] DON'T CHOKERoll #1 1 = 1
"Oh yeah? And who're you?" Deadweight asks, not taking the cup.
Can I tell what is in these cups?
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
She popped her helmet and tried to down it as well, figuring Dhampir could filter out anything bad.
[1d10] Chug-a-LugRoll #1 3 = 3
"Hiya," the lagomos says. You can now tell that their voice is male. His visor clears, revealing his face, and he waves. "I'm Mogao. I was hoppin' around here on my lonesome, 'til I met these folks. Like you, I couldn't get a word of what they were sayin' til I had some of that brew what they just served up for ya."
"I don't recall seeing you on the roll sheet for our expedition," Huitlapan says with suspicion.
"I certainly hope you didn't," Mogao says. "My mission's a mite bit different than yours."
"Go on…?" Cautaa probes.
"Can't," Mogao responds. "Top secret.">>753107
It's a highly magical brew, and like all foods made from magic, it's bound to taste quite vile. You can detect traces of herbs used to prepare the dead for burial, as well as mental stimulants. Nothing toxic, despite the awful taste.>>753105>>753108
The two of you attempt, and fail, to down the brew in one go, but you quickly learn the trouble of trying to make food from magic, and very nearly spit the whole thing back up.
The healer skeleton jaws a bit, and in the midst of their clacking, you can hear intelligible words."…about that, it's never easy to make it taste anything other than deathly,"
he says."You think they'll need another batch?"
the primatos asks.
"Huh… are we dead now? Because I can understand skeleton."
Down the hatch!
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
"Really?" Deadweight says as Mogao tells her the brew lets them understand the skeleton's tongue. When Lost confirms this, Deadweight goes, "Huh," grabs a cup, and downs it.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
You gulp it down as if it were pure water. Conflagration might want to get his tongue examined for burns, because the bitter taste doesn't even phase him. "Hoy there,"
the ranger says. "Now these two are undaunted by anything, aren't they?"
Lost did her best to finish the rest of hers.
[1d10] DrinkRoll #1 2 = 2
I've not tasted anything for years! This is good because I tend to burn my food.
"Not by anything, nope."
"Goodness! Ugh, my apologies for this unsightful act."
I'll wipe my mouth
"I'm Firmgold, pleased to meet you mister Mogao."
I'll also pipe in to the skeletons.
"I don't wish to butt-in, however how long will this concoction last?"
Deadweight smirks and puffs her chest. "No sir, this is a Chevalier you're talkin' to." She then says to Mogao, "Huh, you weren't kidding." She nods to him, then says, "My name's Deadweight. Still suspicious of you, though. Top secret, my flank."
"Yeah?" Mogao says. "That's smart, I appreciate that.">>753117>>753116>>753114>>753115
It's no use; Lost Hope can't manage to keep the brew down.
The healer skeleton looks to Firmgold. "From what you managed to drink, 'til the end of this Cycle. For those who managed to drink it all, it should remain in your system for about a week.""Let's have our introductions, then, sirs and madams!"
the knight skelepony says. "I am Gaston.""Varo,"
the healer says."Call me Zonshii"
the ranger adds."Tekh, pleased to meet you,"
the primatos says."I'm Alas,"
the street mage says."And we are the Knights of the Gravepyre!"
Gaston declares. "We don't have any open spots at the moment, but we do have a waiting list if you want to join."
"I will have to pass," Huitlapan says. "My loyalty is pledged to another."
"And I as well," Cautaa says.
I hold back a joke about Lost finally finding something she can't stomach, but that's only because I'm more interested in the talking skeletons.
"You're all much more self aware than I'd thought undead would be. Did a necromancer rise you, or is this some kind of byproduct of how the city fell?"
"It is a pleasure to meet you all, though I do wish to extend a word of warning that others beyond myself and the group I'm with may not hold to peaceful means. For this, I apologize, and I must apologize again that I regretfully decline your invitation."
I turn to Mogao
"Excuse me, how much of this level have you explored?"
Deadweight flicks her brow at Mogao. She knows. He knows she knows. She knows he knows she knows. Y'know?
"Yeah, thanks but no thanks," Deadweight says to Gaston.
Lost is going to force this down her throat if she pukes.
[1d10] Drink dammitRoll #1 9 = 9
>>753123>>753124>>753122"We serve the Necromancer, yes,"
Gaston answers. "It is he who founded our order, and for him do we quest. If you would like, you can sign up to get updates from his listserv about events he'll be holding in the near future."
Cautaa narrows his eyes, then types into the Concord chat.>"Events? A listserv? He sounds more like he's discussing a game.">>753123
Mogao smiles. "Oh, yeah. I haven't really been mapping this place out, sorry."
"Oh, but surely, your automapper would have some data," Huitlapan says.
"I disabled that," Mogao says. "Even if it's slight, I'd rather not have anything that tracks me. But, I do have a pretty good mental picture of this area, thanks to their little 'quest,'" he adds, gesturing to the skeletons.
Mogao leaps down, then turns to the West. "Over that way, the supply depots continue for at least three blocks. A few security bots are still operational, despite all that happened, so watch yourselves."
He faces to the North. "Up this road, you'll eventually hit the VR training arenas. The systems are still online. I'm not the toughest one around, but even I got some good experience out of the routines they put you through."
He looks to the East. "Down this way is where they had a lot of the logistical operations running. Not much excitement down there, I'm afraid.">>753125
At last, you manage to choke down the last of it.
Tek raises a bony eyebrow. It's now that you realize that all the skeletons have bony eyebrows. They seem to have been a cosmetic addition."You… didn't have to do that. Like, at all. We can make more, you know."
"It…" she panted "Was a matter of pride."
"Events? What can you tell me about the necromancer? He sounds like an interesting sort of…uh…whatever he is?"
For the Skeletons, I'll glance at their hooves and arms before asking
"Ehrm, Might I ask how you- forgive me as I'm normally connected to our hive."
I'll show my magicomp and continue with "Where would one access such a network? I don't believe there's a known frequency we can tap into."
Then after that, turn back to Mogao.
"I don't wish to be considered rude in asking this, but do you… take rest in the Hive's Landing?"
Deadweight raises her eyebrow at the skeleton's mention of a listserv. She glances at her magicomp to see Cautaa's message then says, "Uh, sure," and gives the skeleton one of her throwaway emails.>>753122>>753123>>753127>>753129
When Mogao gives the lay of the land, Deadweight says to the party, "Sounds like we could check out what's East. Might be able to get a better idea of what happened to this castle.">>753129
Deadweight chuckles. "I respect it."
>>753130"He seeks to restore this noble Castle and conquer it from the grasp of our universal enemy,"
Gaston says. "Those of us souls with some amount of sapience left, he commissions to boldly venture forth, and reclaim what may be of use to him in this end. Should you find his mission agreeable, I am certain you and he could work something out.">>753131"You can plug it in for a wired connection at a few places around here,"
Alas says. "The closest place would be in the logistical offices just east of here.">>753131
"I enjoy camping just about anywhere," Mogao says. "It's really liberating once you're no longer dependent on all the amenities of civilization for comfort. What about you?">>753129>>753132>>753131>>753130
Cautaa and Huiltapan also hand over their premade throwaway email addresses, with Varo writes down in a notebook. "If you need to get some wi-fi, the logistics office is pretty close, as Alas said. You guys wanna come?""Yeah, I gotta update my sheet anyway,"
"And by 'universal enemy,' you mean…?" Deadweight asks Gaston.
"You're saying the necromancer isn't a dreaded one?"
Lost just went along for the ride at this point
Catching Gaston's drift, Deadweight says, "Ahh, huh," and lets Conflagration ask the question that was on her mind.
To Mogao, I force a chuckle
"I do miss the amenities of my old quarters, and of properly lit hallways. Our mission must take us further south, yourself?"
I use Word of Power on this guy to find out where he's going [1d10+2]I also forgot to turn on my audio recorder, I'll do that now.
I then turn to the skeletons and ask
"I'm unsure of how long we'll have to luxury of meeting each other again, would you perhaps have any method of replicating this concoction for us to use on others of your quest? I have some of our own currency if coin should be exchanged for more of the convenience."Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3
Mogao pauses for a moment, just looking at you. He smiles, leaning a bit forward, and you can see he has sanpaku eyes. "…Sorry, but, as I said, it's top secret. Let's keep the talk to what we've found of the Castle, why don't we.">>753142
Varo takes a moment to discuss this with the others, then nods. "Sure, I can give you the recipe. Say, 50 Schillings for it?">>753138>>753139>>753140>>753142"He is most certainly not,"
Gaston answers with confidence. "They flee from his magnanimous presence, or else, are obliterated.""Though, to tell the truth,"
Tekh adds. "We're really not sure where he's from, nor what race he is.""He doesn't seem to much care about any of that,"
Zonshii adds. "I've never heard him discuss it."
When the skeletons talk about the necromancer, Deadweight says, "Huh, interesting."
To Mogao I pause, and then open my mouth again.
"It is a simple request, mister mogao, one that I'm quite sure was taken in an uncouth manner. I apologize, but I do wish to know if our… travels will cross at lower levels or not. That is all."
To the skeletons after, I will quietly produce 50 schillings.
"SO does he not like fleshy bodies or do you guys just skeletonize fast?"
"What's he shaped like?"
>>753149>>753146"I'd say he looks like a soccer ball, with a big robe underneath,"
Tekh says. "But that's with his helmet and everything else on. I haven't seen him without it.""He's got on a lot of jewelry and other accessories,"
Alas adds. "And never goes anywhere without his staff.">>753147"So long as you guys keep working with the folks a the FOB, I'm sure we'll see each other again,
Mogao says. "Once I've got some more interesting conversational topics, I'll be in touch."
Alas writes down the recipe, then hands it over to you. Although the ingredients are unconventional for drinking, it's likely that the FOB will have them, and that the medical team should be able to brew it.>>753148"Acutally, I asked about that,"
Zonshii says. "Apparently, it's easier to raise us en masse as skeletons, and easier to repair. But, that's not his main reason. I tried to press him about the main reason, but he just sort of laughed me off. He tends to do that now and then."
"Can you tell us anything about how the Castle fell?"
Deadweight puts a hoof to her chin and furrows her brows, but after a moment, she just groans, "Ugh," and says, "I don't get what this necromancer's deal is. Whatever, let's just go to the logistics office. Maybe we'll find something there."
"Of course mister mogao."
I'll thank the skeletons.
"Well, thank you all for your hospitality but we must be going again."
"I unno. Maybe he gets turned on by bones."
Gaston says. "It was an ordinary enough Cycle, when it seemed that they had flooded in, all at once. The violence was most fierce on this Layer, and the fastest. They washed over us from everywhere, it seemed, even from above, despite the entrance and exit to the Castle being on Floor 5.""Not one of us remembers how we died,"
Tekh says. "Apparently, this is common; the trauma of the death obliviates the memory, leaving wayward spirits to try to piece together the narrative from others."We who are lucid are relatively rare, actually,"
Alas continues. "Most of us don't seem to realize that the Castle has fallen to begin with. They continue on with their unlives, their minds simply weaving the destruction into their worldview as if nothing were amiss. The Necromancer never lets them out of a few protected areas, for their own safety."
At Lost's suggestion, Zonshiii shrugs. "Could be. There's weirder out there.">>753152>>753153>>753154>>753157
Mogao and the Knights of the Gravepyres accompany you as you head east through the streets of L-8 F-6, and Gaston eventually directs you to stop at a certain building. He swipes a keycard to open it, and inside, you can see an office complex. Past the entrance lobby, you find rows of cubicles, with a functioning computer at each one. "These should all have working ethernet cables, last I checked,"
Varo says. He and the other skeletons gather around one computer, and log in. "Passwords and all that are in the second drawer from the bottom,"
Zonshii adds. "They're in the employee booklet."
While others are plundering the computers I'll poke around in the drawers and cubicles and see what interesting things I can find.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"You ever consider he might have killed you and raised the bodies. Not saying he has or accusing him or anything just… well part of ya has to wonder about it."
"Nice, thanks," Deadweight says to the skeletons. She grabs the employee booklet, gets on a computer, and logs in.
>Investigate/hacking like the hacker known as 4Chan
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I will watch the others as they plunder computers and horde office supplies
Your treasure-sense leads you away from the cubicles, into one of the few rooms in the office complex, a private room with a large desk. It is there that you find a crimson-red stapler, with a full set of staples, right on the desk. Your treasure-senses know without a doubt that this is valuable.>>753162"Without evidence in favor of that, it's just speculation,"
Gaston says as a dismissal.>>753160>>753162>>753163>>753164
Once Deadweight boots up the PC (which was outdated even a year ago), she pulls up the Castle's logistics records from the most recent missions. Records of personnel and resources being issued abound. Most of the missions are fairly routine for what you'd find issued to Warriors of any Castles; securing commonly used roads in the Outlands, placing traps in strategic areas to deal with problem Dreaded Ones, mining resources such as fuels and minerals that cannot be obtained in the Castle itself…
Deadweight then stops, however, and scrolls back up and down across the records page, when she notices something off about some of the "Routine Patrol" entries. On a few of these entries, the records show that the groups assigned were being issued equipment far heavier than one might expect for a patrol route. Additionally, those missions seem to consistently show reports of that heavy equipment being damaged or lost. Although those missions were distributed over a large group of Warriors, and issued by a large group of commanding officers, there's an unmistakable pattern there, particularly with regards to their locations… each one of those missions took place in a region some distance north of Agatecastle, referred to as "The Pillars."
This is exactly what I was looking for. I pocket it in my fireproof sack.
Deadweight furrows her brows at the screen as she scrolls through the page. "Looks like something was going down in some place called 'The Pillars,' north of this Castle. Maybe they stirred up a hornets' nest."
"Miss Deadweight, please send me a copy of these records if you can."
"Mm? Oh, sure," Deadweight says. She transfers the records related to The Pillars to her magicomp and sends a copy to Firmgold.
"Fair enough I guess. Just something to consider I guess. Not like I know many necromancers."
She glanced at the screen
"Hey you boney guys know what the Pillars are?"
"Thank you Miss Deadweight."
I'll put these in an archive folder and look to make sure we're still with the skele-crew
"Sure thing," Deadweight says with a casual salute.
Last time, in the Castle of Silence…
Our explorers became acquainted with the Knights of the Gravepyres, a group of skeletal adventurers – Gaston, Tekh, Alas, Zonshii and Varo – who explored Agastecastle in service of their master, the Necromancer. They were lucid enough to know that they were undead, unlike the rest of the undead the party had encountered thus far, who, owing to the trauma of their deaths, did not know that Agatecastle had even fallen.
Accompanying the Knights was, apparently, another member of the expedition – an Ironcastle lagomos by the name of Mogao. He wasn't on the expedition's roster, because, in his words, he had some sort of top-secret mission to tend to. He was reticent on the details, and seemed cognizant of Firmgold's attempt to goad him into spilling more. At least, he had a decent idea of this Floor's layout. >>753168>>753667>>753668>>753670
The Knights turn away briefly from their computer to turn your way."In truth, not much,"
Gaston confesses. "Not one of us had clearance to leave Agatecastle while we were alive, so we only had the stories that the Warriors brought back for news of what lay outside the Castle. But of that place, the Pillars, they were mostly silent. Even those who knew its name did not have much to share of it."
"Peculiar," Huitlapan notes. "You would think a location with regular patrols would be a subject of conversation, right?"
As Deadweight pulls up and transfers the records to Firmgold, you find them somewhat sparse. Official Ironcastle policy is to keep as detailed records of significant locations in the Outlands as can safely be done. However, apart from the physical description of the place – an array of hills and cave systems, each distinguished by the existence of a sky-grazing pillar protruding from the hills – there isn't much recorded on the place. Wildlife sightings, Dreaded One sightings, climate, noteworthy hazards, other significance; only barebones information is recorded there, and little of it useful.
"That sounds ominous. Good thing we're staying inside where it's safe."
As Deadweight studies the reports more closely, she groans and says, "Ugh, there's barely anything here! What gives?"
"Perhaps intentional sabotage, unless they were moving black market wares. I wonder what became of the knights who ventured to these pillars."
"Someone deleted the data? I mean it's not that odd to think that someone might try to hide any info they don't want known."
"Hey, do any of you know a mural of a beach with lots of pinks and oranges in it? It's on floor seven of level eight."
Deadweight checks to see if any sabotage had in fact taken place by checking for any recent activity.
Roll #1 1 = 1
"Oh yeah," Tekh says. "I've passed by that a few times. Never really thought much of it. Why's that?">>753675>>753676>>753677>>753678
Cautaa ponders this. "Black Market dealings… yes, that sounds likely. Combined with the patterns of heavy equipment being issued, and then being lost, it would seem that this 'lost equipment' ended up on the Black Market sometime later."
"I wonder…" Huitlapan says. "But don't you think it's odd that it would always happen at this location? One would think that Black Market dealers would vary things up to avoid setting an identifiable pattern."
"You think there may be something at the Pillars that caused those equipment losses?" Cautaa asks.>>753682
You end up summoning this little animated paperclip… thing.
It asks you frequently if you need any assistance with anything.
"Perhaps they had some kind of backdoor into the castle from the Pillars?"
"Indeed! Perhaps this was all part of a heist!"
As the party ponders what it could mean, Deadweight experiences some technical difficulties. "Damn it, go away!" she yells at the computer, her veins popping as she furiously clicks the poor inanimate mouse.
Roll #1 5 = 5
"Dunno. Seems pretty."
>>753688"It's not bad. Always makes me nostalgic, so… I try not to dwell on it that much,"
Tekh continues. "I'd rather not dwell too much on what I lost from my life.">>753688>>753686>>753684>>753685
"Heist– wait!' Huitlapan suddenly squeaks. "What if that's not far off?"
"What do you mean?" Cautaa asks.
"There is still the mystery of why the Dreaded Ones were able to attack Agatecastle.," Huitlapan continues. "The Light Undefiled that once emanated from Agatecastle's Heart should have incinerated every Dreaded that so much as wandered within five miles of the Castle. And yet, here we are, investigating its collapse. How far away are the Pillars?"
The little paperclip abomination chimes in, apparently registering your voices. >"The entrance to the Pillars is approximately 15.3 miles from Agatecastle," it types.
"So, you're thinking the Pillars hold what we might be looking for?" Mogao chimes in. "Oh-ho… perhaps an investigation is in order, then?"
"An investigation into what, might I ask?"
"That's not exactly a short march away, we'd be pretty open in unfamiliar territory out there."
"Oh, so now
you're helpful," Deadweight says to the computer, throwing a hoof in the air. When Mogao suggests they investigate, she turns her attention to him. "And why're you
"Wait, didn't they used to keep the sun on a pillar? Could these be connected?"
Mogao smiles. "What? Why the suspicion? You wound me. Just like you, I want to discover how Agatecastle fell, so that we can prevent the same from happening to Ironcastle. Anything that leads us closer to that goal is of interest to all of us, that's all."
He gestures to Conflagration. "And, one of the many variants of the myths of the Moon and Sun does attest that the Sun was held aloft on a Pillar. Whether atop a mountain, embedded in the great roof above us like a lightbulb, or propped on pillars, the Moon and Sun were always considered to be 'above' the world."
Interested by the conversation, Varo comes over to your screen. "Was this… somewhat northward of Agatecastle?"
"That's what the geographical notes say," Cautaa says."Well… it's just that the Necromancer came from that way,"
Varo adds. "It's probably not a stretch to imagine he at least passed by what you're talking about."
Deadweight squints her eyes at Mogao, saying, "I guess."
"Interesting, thank you Mister varo."
I should have kept my audio recorder on during this, but I'll try to jot down everything I heard from all parties here while this convo is fresh in my mind.
"Well if you guys wanna risk it, I guess we can go out."
"That sounds like it would be a bit of a walk. I don't think the head honcho will like us going outside without mentioning anything, either."
When Varo mentions that the Nectomancer might be familiar with The Pillars, Deadweight asks him, "Is the Necromancer…the talkative type?"
You take down a detailed record of the conversation.>>753699"He can be, if you catch him in the proper mood,"
Varo answers. "But if he's not, you'd question if he could ever talk. Guy's super charismatic, except when he's not in the mood to talk.>>753695>>753697>>753698>>753699
"It's risky, but one of the armored skiffs could probably take us there," Cautaa says. "The noise made might make some trouble along the way, however…"
"I suppose we could go ourselves, or trust the expedition's leaders to send some in our stead once we've reported this," Huitlapan adds.
"Doubt they'd want to change gears," Mogao adds. "But a testimony from an eyewitness like the Necromancer could easily change their tune…"
"Then it's settled! We take a witness' compilation from the Necromancer just before arresting him."
I get up and stretch
"Without any insult directed to such an individual of course. I'm going to believe someone who's been in solitude and freedom as long as this Necromancer
has will bear no resistance when hearing what some teams may have done to his… guards."
"Yes, the necromancer sounds like the sort of being that enjoys strangers popping over for a visit and interrogation."
"Hm," Deadweight hums at Varo's answer.>>753701
"You say that like it's gonna be a walk in the park!"
"I can't tell if that's sarcasm or not."
"Mister Conflagration, I'm sure someone with a network of sentient
undead would have an idea of who's who by now.">>753703
"Oh but just imagine that it is, we've come away from far worse already."
"Yes, I'm quite in agreement."
Deadweight takes a moment before admitting, "You're not wrong."
"And if I haven't forgotten, our purpose is still to head to the heart of this Castle. In every likely sense, we'll end up speaking with him, or her, along with their champions at every chance they give."
"I mean, yeah, but I dunno if they'll be the cooperative. I guess we'll see."
Last time, in the Castle of Silence…
The exploration team learned more about the Pillars, and discussed their possible significance. At first glance, it seemed that the Pillars were the site of a Black Market operation, wherein excessive equipment would be issued to missions heading to that location, the missions would then "lose" that equipment there, and said equipment would then enter Black Market trading circles once RFID and other identifying mechanisms were removed or destroyed. However, the fact that it kept happening at a single location presented an issue for this hypothesis. Surely someone would have noticed a pattern, and investigated, after more than a few occurrences. While speculating on alternate explanations, two hypotheses emerged.
First, there was still the mystery of how Dreaded Ones were able to attack Agatecastle without being immediately destroyed by the protective Light that once radiated from the Castle's Heart. Second, there was the legend of the Moon and Sun, a story of two mythical lamps, whose Light was powerful enough to illuminate the entire World, during the Time Long Forgotten. In one version of the legend, these twin lamps were propped up on sky-scraping pillars, thus allowing them to warm the entirety of the Diskos. This legend matched the description of the Pillars, as this location was a series of caves and hills, noted for the towering pillars that pierced each one.
As they discussed this, Varo pointed out that the Necromancer who had taken up residence in Agatecastle's Eighth Layer was likely knowledgeable about the Pillars, as he had passed through them on his way into Agatecastle.>>753701>>753702>>753703>>753704"Wait, arrest!?"
Varo gasps. "What'd he do wrong?""I too wish to know what charge you would levy against our noble lord,"
Gaston snorts."No… it probably doesn't matter."
Tekh says. "You catch him in a good mood and he'd probably go along with it."
I'm standing by and waiting to see if we'll have to burn these skeletons after all.
I look over and respond to the skeleton crew
"This is in relation to his part during the last few moments of this hive's life. My apologies but the high command of this expedition deems your lord to be far too dangerous by account of where he stands upon our arrival. The same happend when we met Gr- hm, have you four met any of this castle's former… eh, living kin?"
"Huh, well I guess we might as well talk to the guy, then."
"I forget. Is necromancy actually illegal?"
"In Ironcastle, at least, necromancy is permitted within certain heavy regulations," Huitlapan says to Lost's question. "All manners of desecration of the dead is obviously out of the question, but certain methods and practices used in burial rites and the quelling of restless ghosts did originate in necromancy… hence, mage's guilds, even ones overseen by the Abbey, permit a slim few spells to be used."
"Perhaps Agatecastle found itself in a similar situation," Cautaa says. >>754040>>754037>>754038>>754039
The skeletons look troubled about the thought of the Necromancer being arrested, but none make any moves to actively stop you."Just… bear in mind how you'll approach him,"
Zonshii says. "Sure, he might play along if he's in a good humor. A bad one though, and you could all be bone dust before you pass over the welcome mat."
When Firmgold asks about seeing any other living souls, Gaston nods. "Aye, we did spy a blur, now and then, that seemed like it had a bit more meat on its bones than us. Wearing a hoodie, I believe it had wings… and it always took care to make itself scarce the moment I laid eyes on it."
"You might be talking about mister Green," Cautaa says. "It certainly fits his description.""Well, in any case, we never approached to inquire,"
Gaston continues. "Going up to strange, fast-moving objects in a place like this is a surefire way to be killed a second time.""Yeah, we're not really high level enough to go chasing down enemies,"
"High level…?" Huitlapan hazards.
It is at this point that, on the monitor of the computer the skeleton knights were using, you can see they have some pen-and-paper character sheets pulled up.
I squint at the character sheet.
"You're still using that edition? Well, I guess getting the newer ones would be hard considering the state of things."
Lost snorted at the sight of the computer "Skelenerds." she said with a few laughs "But honestly you're skeletons, can't you just be put back together after getting knocked to bits?"
When Zonshii describes how the Necromancer is if you get on his bad side, Deadweight says, "That sounds more like the Necromancer I had in my head."
I'm curious to learn more so I'll stay quiet
Alas nods. "Even so, we really didn't agree with the direction the developers wanted to take with their big update two years ago, so we've been sticking with this edition for now."
"Are you people… a LARPing group!?" Huitlapan gasps."N-not quite!"
Alas protests. "We can still fight, but we did start off with PVC pipe and cardboard equipment, I will admit.""My mom's an enchanter, so our stuff was legit even back then!"
Varo adds."Wanna make a character?"
"Y–" Huitlapan begins, before catching himself. "Hrmph. My thanks, but I have other duties to attend to.">>754043>>754045"That is one advantage we hold,"
Gaston admits. "But we feel pain, and suffering, and fear, just the same as you. It's not something we'd like to rely upon."
"Doesn't that entirely defeat the point of using undead, I wonder?" Cautaa asks."Yes,"
Gaston says. "But it is how the Necromancer raised us, so we accept it."
"You are quite loyal," Huitlapan says."Of course,"
Tekh says. "Without him, we'd just be… well, I don't think anyone really knows what happens when you die. Not the Abbey, that's for sure.">>754044>>754043>>754042>>754045
Mogao laughs. "Well, well, we really seem to be getting somewhere now. Even I didn't know all that about this Necromancer guy. But, I wonder, what's his name?""He prefers we just stick to his title,"
Alas says. "And so, we do."
"Temperamental, violent, and a bit introverted?" Mogao repeats. "Sounds like a Noble to me.""We'll take that as a form of praise,"
"But you don't have nerves… or flesh… how can you feel any sense of touch…"
"Normally, but like Huitlapan said, we're a bit busy."
I listen while the keep talking.
"Hey, have any of you ever disobeyed the Necromancer? Know anyone that has?"
When Alas mentions cardboard and PVC, Deadweight breaks into laughter. "Oh my gosh, what dweebs!" she manages to say before being pulled back into her fit of laughter, collapsing and tearing up under the weight of the hilarity.
"Also… I wouldn't mind making a character."
"Does your lord, enjoy this part of your patrols?"
>>754047"You won't get very far in your knowledge of spiritual matters with a dualistic view like that,"
Gaston says. "I make no claim to know how, or why, the Necromancer sorted it out this way, but the soul can feel, just as the body can. Joy, sadness, ennui, fury… these things are not merely the firing of synapses.">>754049>>754050>>754048
Varo rattles his bones in frustration. "W-we are part of a healthy and thriving community of dedicated players and storytellers, we are not dweebs. See? Even your friend wants to get in on this!""Yeah,"
Zonshii chimes in. "Don't be the one chump who gets left out 'cause you're too cool for fun."
Alas prints up the character sheets, and hands the filled ones to the skeletons, now that they have been updated. Then he prints up some blank ones for you all. Huitlapan takes it but acts like he didn't, immediately pocketing it into his bag.>>754048
Gaston nods. "Aye, even among our number, there are those who, upon learning the truth of their deaths and subsequent raising as undead, decided to strike out on their own, unwilling to follow the Necromancer. He wished them well, and let them go, but gave no effort to retain or bring them back. We haven't heard from them, and can only pray for the best.""Those who have stayed tend to be pretty obedient to him,"
Varo says. "It's kind of an all-or-nothing thing.">>754051"Well… come to think of it, I don't think I've ever seen him participate,"
Alas says. "But I'm almost certain he's aware of it. We don't really play it up around him, but he always seems to know more than he lets on… every now and then, he'll talk a lot about some strange topic."
"Anything to do with Agatecastle's fall?" Cautaa asks."Not exactly,"
Varo says. "But stuff from before then. Stuff from the Old World, too. Even from the Time Long Forgotten."
"Interesting, I'm sure your lord can speak this, well, dead language, forgive me. Does his words come out as from the hive's- castle's dialect or is he understandable only with this draught we've consumed?"
Lost snagged a pencil and some dice she spotted on a nearby table and began to roll. She had no idea what to do but she heard this was what one did for this.
I stick a sheet into my bag too.
Deadweight catches her breath and wipes the tears from her eyes. "Oh yeah, I'm just too cool for fun," she says, but then she's given one of the blank character sheets, and she can't help but look over it to see what the big deal is.
[1d6]MunchkinnessRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
/ Roll #3 1 = 1
/ Roll #4 4 = 4
/ Roll #5 6 = 6
>>754053"This is probably the first time he'll have spoken with a living being,"
Alas says. "Or… well, at least, to our knowledge. I really have no clue, to be honest. But, we can provide you some more just in case."
Varo sets out some herbal vials and small pots from his bag, as well as some empty ones, into which he puts some small amount of the herbs needed to make his brew."That's really all I can spare for the moment,"
Varo continues. "Hopefully your leaders will take it as a show of good will, you think?">>754054>>754055>>754057>>754056
The Knights of the Gravepyre shudder and gasp at the unfortunate stat spread that Lost Hope got. "You know, this would be frowned upon by some GMs, but since you're new, we can bend the rules a little,"
Varo says. "You wanna… reroll those?""Just might end up rerolling soon anyway if you get got,"
After perusing the sheet, Deadweight shrugs to herself and puts it down on the desk. "Anyway, I guess we'll go see the Necromancer and try to get some info out of him. Think we'll put the whole 'arresting and or vanquishing him' thing on hold till we get something useful out of him first."
"Thank you very much, and I should hope so. Truly if our common enemy are the shadowy hunger then I should hope the high command and your lord can find and understanding with each other. Did you mention that your lord walked to the Pillars?"
I try and summon some burning homing magic again.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
She nodded and tried to reroll the stats to something less awful. and her creativity as well
[1d6] CreativityRoll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
The Knights collectively shrug."We can say it's… uh… min-maxed,
When they see you charge up your magic, Cautaa reflexively flinches, and Huitlapan is already pulling up his healing programs, but all goes well, and you make six fire orbs.>>754060"More than likely,"
Tekh says. "He came down from the parts northward. Unless he took a big detour – which isn't like him – he would have had to pass through the Pillars. It sounds like a pretty big place, too, so it's a safe bet, I'd say. Whether he stopped to explore a lot is another story.">>754060>>754059>>754061>>754062
The Knights nod, packing up their stuff."We should be making camp soon ourselves,"
Gaston says. "A burning trash barrel is hardly lodging fit for noble knights.""I only stopped there on Mogao's recommendation, though,"
Zonshii says, slightly miffed. "He said he felt like something was co–"
"Yeah, I had a bad fall earlier, needed to rest my leg since the pain kept coming back," Mogao interrupts, smiling sheepishly as if it were just all part of where that conversation was going.
Zonshii pauses, but doesn't call him on this."Hopefully we'll cross paths again,"
Varo says. "You folks are cool."
"Likewise," Cautaa says.
"My sincerest thanks for all the information," Huitlapan adds.
"They're better than they were." she huffed softly.
When they leave I'll message everyone +Did they say the necromancer came from outside the castle?+
"Keep safe.">>754065+That's what I heard+
Deadweight, too, widens her eyes at Conflagration casting his magic in a confined space with valuable equipment, but thankfully he doesn't blow up this time.>>754063
Deadweight narrows her eyes at Mogao as he interrupts. To Varo, she simply says, "For sure.">>754065
Deadweight looks at her magicomp and messages back, "Yeah, apparently the Necromancer came from north of this Castle."
"I don't think it'd hurt to drop in on the guy now if he's in a good mood, but sure," Deadweight messages back.
"I suppose you're right, just antsy to get further down," Deadweight messages back.
Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…
Our explorers discussed the Pillars with Mogao and the Knights of the Gravepyre. As it turned out, the Necromancer had passed through that region prior to his entry into Agatecastle, and could very well now something about it, and its possible relation to the fall of Agatecastle.
As valuable of a resource as he might be, the trouble was that the Necromancer was just as likely to turn them into bone dust as he was to spill the beans, depending on what kind of mood he was in. However, this mercurial spellcaster remained their central objective for Layer Eight, and whether it was their group or another, eventually, the expedition would cross his path sooner or later…
The Knights, it turned out, started off as a LARPing group, and proudly remained so to this very Cycle, even despite their advanced training and superior equipment, both bestowed by the Necromancer. After they updated their character sheets (and help Lost roll a min-maxed one of her own) they left for parts elsewhere, as did Mogao.
Now, off to explore L-8 F-6!
I put down my magicomp.
"Yes, though perhaps we're coming to the point where there will be less restriction on our movements if this Necromancer has managed to attain order."
Cautaa and Huitlapan sit backwards on a pair of swivel chairs as they read the messages in the Concord chat.
>+Necromancy concerns itself with the raising and banishing of dead biological matter, and spirits,+ Cautaa begins. +Unlike other magical disciplines, necromancy is quite limited, owing to its development by a handful of determined mages bidding for greater and greater heights of power. As such, its potential for syncretism with other schools is limited.
>+It is not out of the question that the Necromancer could instantaneously attain all the knowledge that his subjects have gained… but that would require complex scrying mechanisms. Depending on how many subjects he has raised, remote viewing on all of them would require an enormous amount of power and resources… not to mention that it risks information overload.
>+It sounds like he's raised quite a number of subjects, judging by what the Knights told us. No mortal could handle absorbing all of that knowledge. He would have to have ascended to some higher form… this would necessarily entail losing his personality. However, from what they said, he seems to have an overabundance of personality.
>+So that was just a long-winded way of saying we shouldn't worry about him knowing about us ahead of time?+
>+Don't put it so dismissively. But yes.+
"Did that Mango guy rub anyone else the wrong way? And you're both sure this necromancer's only a mortal like us?"
"He sure rubbed me some way," Deadweight says, before immediately blushing and scrunching her face, "I mean—not like that! Ugh…." She hides her face behind her hoof in embarrassment.
Lost seemed quite pensive about the whole situation.
Once her embarrassment lowers to a manageable level, Deadweight mumble, "Alright, let's just go tell command about the translator drink things.">>754527
Deadweight chuckles. "I'll tell you about it when you're older."
I look back to the chat and think for awhile.
"Perhaps if this is all the level has, we can proceed further down. I would like to make sure our maps are current for when we decide to turn them in, however it may be trivial enough to mark this level as occupied by neutral forces."
"I'd bet he retains some vestiges of his mortal soul, at the very least," Cautaa says. "Tainted as it might be from dark arts, a mortal's personality springs forth from their soul. Discarding it in search of power means discarding what made you a personal being. And if he flips moods on a schilling, he's probably still, at least somewhat, one of us."
When topics change to Mogao, Huitlapan nods. "Hiding something, and all but explicit about the fact that he's hiding something. I imagine that he enjoyed raising suspicion among us and the Knights. If he's not on the roster, I have no reason to believe he's from or allied with Ironcastle."
"Well… don't get too far ahead of yourself," Cautaa says. "There's still a way that his story could add up.">>754529>>754528>>754526>>754525>>754523
"There's still the VR training areas, and the guarded warehouses," Huitlapan says. "But, if you are all willing to press onward, I am ready to move on as well."
"Same here," Cautaa adds.
"Oh, like when I pushed you forward when we were fighting those undead abominations at the elevator. Gotcha. By the way, what are the odds the necromancer sicks, I don't know, a dozen of those on us when we turn up to arrest him? That one nearly got us.">>754529
"If the level's neutral we ought to explore as much as we can. There's salvage to be had and things to learn."
"I thought personality sprung from the brain."
"The body serves as an intermediary," Huitlapan adds. "But the body is, itself, an expression of the soul within material, as per the Abbey's teachings. This is quite the controversial tenet, however, so please, be sure to make up your own mind on the matter."
"Oh, right, yeah, we might as well see what those're about," Deadweight says when Huitlapan brings up the unexplored sections of this level.
"Indeed, mister Conflagration. I would warn that we're taking from the Necromancer's minions.">>754530
"Whatever the choice, I won't stray from our group."
Without saying much, Deadweight starts walking out and towards the warehouses.
"No, he's right. That theory also helps explain things like mutations. Outside and inside reflecting each other and all that.">>754530>>754536
Off to the warehouses.
I shall follow Deadweight to the warehouses as I continue to update our maps.
"That's precisely what some find so troubling," Huitlapan says. "Heretics and schismatics see it as an implicit spiritual condemnation of those afflicted by Mutations, and thus, present their schisms as a more accepting alternative to mainstream Abbeas. Even with in the Abbey, those with a mind for reform often gravitate towards that as evidence for their case. I myself wouldn't be quick to condemn someone who couldn't accept this teaching."
You leave the office complex, and head west, back the way you came. You in time come across the campsite of the Knights; they've broken it down and extinguished the trash barrel fire, and have moved on since.
Recalling Mogao's directions, you head further west up the road, until at last, you espy a gated compound. Through a barbed wire fence, lined by guard towers, you can see a number of warehouses lined in neat rows. They do not seem to be damaged very much, except by natural decay and lack of maintenance. Wheeled guard robots move along automated routes near the buildings' perimeters.
At the southern end of the compound, you can see a gate terminal, with nobody inside the kiosk. Both the door to the kiosk and the gate itself are shut.
"Cautaa, do you think you can make the robots think we are allowed inside?"
"Could also check over there if the robos are too complicated," Deadweight says, gesturing to the gate terminal.
Take a picture of the place before we do anything to it.
"I believe we should try to access through the kiosk first."
Lost scanned for any kind of trap or ambush.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
"It's risky," Cautaa says. "But possible. It looks like the guard bots don't group up often. Once we've got the gate open, help me sneak up on one, and I'll see what my electrical sprites can manage."
Huitlapan tries the handle on the kiosk door, only to find it locked. HIs eyes glimmer once he sees that the kiosk doesn't have a card reader, but rather, a more standard lock. He withdraws a lockpicking kit from his armorsuit's compartment, and gets to work.
[1d10] Lockpicking attempt
From here, Lost can't see any traps or anything like that. Then again, the warehouse doors are all shut, and are laid out in very orderly fashion, preventing much perspective.Roll #1 10 = 10
Huitlapan chitters with surprise when the door clicks open. He nearly drops his kit with shock, but manages to put it all away. "After you!" he declares.
The kiosk is rather small. A monitor at the desk shows security camera footage, while a panel near the wall operates gate controls. It appears that there are four gates around the compound's perimeter. While the south gate can be operated by this kiosk, it looks like you need an override key to activate any of the other three gates.
Cautaa looks out the kiosk's back window to see if there are any guards approaching. Seeing none, he tests the button for the south gate's controls, and the gates slide open.
"The first lock you've tried, and you're already a dab hand," Cautaa says. "How frightening. Be sure to use your quick-learning prowess for good, now."
Huitlapan chuckles and mutters something about flattery.
Are there any signs around warning against open flames or smoking?
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
Each building, including the kiosk, has a placard warning you of flammable and explosive chemicals inside. Smoking is prohibited outside of designated employee break areas.
I extinguish any homing magics I might have floating around. I also pry the placard off the kiosk and attach it to my armorsuit.
"Nice, Huitlapan!" Deadweight says. When the gate opens, she walks out to scope it out.
>Helping Cautaa sneak up on a bot
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I will keep behind everyone here and add notes about the infiltration
On second thought, I'll keep my prancing little fire balls until we actually have to go inside somewhere that looks explosive.
Lost let her mouth open a bit before she decided to let the others do the job as she watches the rear.
Sticking close to one another, you slip into the compound. As you near the closest of the warehouses, Deadweight sees the rear treads of one of the guard bots rounding the corner, and she grabs Cautaa by the arm, pulling him along despite his slower speed. As the bot patrols the northern face of the warehouse, you all peer around the corner, sticking to the warehouse's western wall.
Cautaa, crouching low, slips forward, and prepares his electrical sprites…
[1d10+2] Electrical SpritesRoll #1 1 + 2 = 3
Deadweight looks around for any place they could hide, just in case, y'know.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
I try to spot any containers that look especially explosive.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I keep close to Steadfast so he can stay as my shield, keeping our ears peeled for any noise besides the treads.
[2d10] Myself, SteadfastRoll #1 1, 10 = 11
Lost moves to evade.
[1d10] DodgeRoll #1 10 = 10
Cautaa surreptitiously unscrews the back panel on the guard bot, and sends his sprites into its exposed machinery. A few sparks and flashes later, the bot pauses, its lights dissipating as it shuts down.
"Simple work," Cautaa says. "Now, let's see…"
He kneels upon the treads to get in close while he fiddles with the machinery… when, with a jolt, the guard bot lights back up. Its chassis spins about to face you, and Cautaa gasps with surprise, wrapping his legs about the chassis so that he doesn't get caught and sucked down into the treads and crushed.
Lost Hope, having sensed danger at the last possible second, leaps about the side of the bot, parallel with its turn, and gets on the other side of it before it can even look at her.
"IN-TRU-DER, IN-TRU-DER," the bot intones, as it raises its two arms towards you…
[1d10+1] Cleave vs. Deadweight, Conflagration, Huitlapan
[1d10+1] Cleave vs. Firmgold, Steadfast>>754557
Through one of the windows in the warehouse's northern face, you can see a shelf full of red-colored canisters. By the law of the red barrel, that must be just what you need right now.Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 1 + 1 = 2
Lost immediately turned and moved to attack the robot.
[1d10+2] Rupture.Roll #1 10 + 2 = 12
Deadweight widens her eyes. Looks like they're gonna have to take it down manually.
[1d10+2]Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
I move to dodge the attack as I pull my sword free.
Steadfast uses Slam on the thing!
[1d10+2] SteadfastRoll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8
I hit the dirt and send one of my firepones at the robot's metal face.
[1d10] crit fire homing magicRoll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 9 = 9
Steadfast darts to the bot's side, and smashes down onto its arms, crushing them down into a pinch point. From within the arms, you can hear gears grinding, pipes popping, and wires waging war as fuses fire from within. Then, Conflagration's firepony blasts off part of the robot's dome, revealing its circuit board. Lost Hope leaps in from behind, and Cautaa dives away just in time to avoid being crushed as Lost slams her augmented limbs down onto the 'bot's head, crushing it flat.
The 'bot slumps over as it's destroyed.
"Come!" Huitlapan says, running over to pick up Cautaa as the latter retrieves his sprites. "The others might have picked up on that sound."
"But where?" Cautaa asks. "There could be alarm systems inside!"
"If that's all these bots can muster I think we've got this actually."
Lost nodded "I agree, lets make tracks."
I climb onto Steadfast's back.
"Who has this spire's frequency? Wouldn't such a breach broadcast to all warriors on this level?"
"Huh, that was easy," Deadweight comments. "Screw it, let's go in," she says before making a dash for the warehouse.
Wincing, Cautaa grabs the handle for the nearest door, expecting an alarm to go off. However, none does, and Huitlapan quickly leads the way in, taking you around the corner. He snags open the first door he sees, which opens into a meeting-room, marked by a long table with many swivel chairs set up around it.
After a few moments to catch their breath, Cautaa and Huitlapan relax, as it seems you're not being pursued.
Huitlapan looks over at Conflagration. "Perhaps you might be right. That one did fall rather quickly."
"I'd chalk that up in part to a fluke," Cautaa says. "Sir Steadfast must have caused its weapons systems to misfire from that strike. However… chances are, they've been on automated patrol routes for an entire year, or more, without any maintenance besides whatever limited self-diagnostics they can perform. A place like this probably didn't have the budget for an automated repair station."
"So, if necessary, we could stand to fight a few?" Huitlapan asks.
"Assuming whatever weaponry they still have isn't too powerful, yes," Cautaa says.
I plop down in a chair and slowly spin around.
"What did we find out was stored here? If it isn't anything much these might only be mall cop bots. Rubber bullets won't do much to our suits."
Lost took a seat and decided to see any anything remotely valuable had been left here.
[1d10] bored lootingRoll #1 2 = 2
I'll direct Steadfast to walk around the room while I look at anything that could give a clue as to what building we're in.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
Deadweight, too, looks around, wandering out of the meeting room if there isn't anything that interests her in there.
>Look look see see
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
I'm keeping myself carefully in place to reduce the risk of explosion.
While the others poke about in the meeting room, you find an assortment of papers in the desks, records of company emails, printouts of this or that transaction, and so on and so forth. Each sheet is marked with the company's brand – Albert's Accoutrements.
"Accou… hrm?" Huitlapan asks.
"Accoutrements," Cautaa says. "They manufacture and distribute all sorts of odds and ends for missions, both within and without the Castles. You'll find no weapons here, nor armor, but just about everything else. Ropes, ladders, hooks, compasses, and so forth."
"Possibly some explosives as well, then," Huitlapan adds. "Judging by those canisters we passed by earlier. Gas or other chemicals, I'm assuming."
"I'll see if my sprites have any more luck with the computer systems here," Conflagration says. "We should be able to find a manifest for easy pickings."
"Ropes, bombs, and even lamp oil? They've got everything."
"They could also be lacquers and turpenoids for curing. I don't think a miscellaneous store would have the public permits to operate explosives greater than perhaps… fireworks?"
"And it seems like it's all ours, my friend," Huitlapan affirms.
"As long as you have enough space to carry it," adds Cautaa.
"I wonder if they have any rations left over we can snag."
Deadweight looks through the Albert's Accoutreme