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 No.755391[View All]


Last time, in the Castle of Silence…

After whipping up a quick meal offering, the expedition team ventured out from the warehouse to approach the Necromancer, who floated languidly through the northern streets. Upon confronting him, they found him willing to engage in dialogue, whereupon he divulged that he indeed had been to the Pillars… in fact, he entered Agatecastle through the Pillars, indicating the existence of a clandestine gateway between the Pillars and the Castle itself. It was as this came up that Lost Hope accidentally divulged the existence of the Ironcastle Expedition Team, a fact which the Necromancer found quite interesting. Huitlapan panicked and tried to walk back Lost's revelation, only to be frozen solid with a blast of winter air.
124 posts omitted. Click reply to view.


Seeing the others still talking with Ruby, Deadweight turns back to rejoin them and waits for them to wrap things up.


Give Ruby a smile
"I appreciate your cooperation, miss Ruby. I'm curious as to if your hive connected to others during this time?"


"No," Ruby says. "Just like your Castle must have been, Agatecastle almost never got any visitors from another Castle. On top of being thousands of miles away from anything, the mountainous terrain around Agatecastle was especially inhospitable. Our Warriors hardly strayed beyond those ridgelines."

"Okay, now that I can get behind… but you guys look pretty military. Am I gonna be expected to fight or anything like that?"

>"Or when it happened," Cautaa whispers in the Concord voice chat. "Did you hear her just now?"
>Huitlapan drops a shrugging emoji in the Concord chat.
>"She said her memory of the attack against Agatecastle was stored in her archives… and that she only archives memories older than three years. Contrary to this, Green said that the attack occurred just over one year ago, and had the footage to prove it."
>"Th-then is she lying…?" Huitlapan asks.

Ruby looks at Cautaa and Huitlapan and tilts her head that they're just sort of standing there outside the loading zone of the Stealth Training Course. "Uh, so, uh, whenever you wanna get started…" Ruby says, gesturing to the loading zone. "I did spend some time preparing this…"

"Yes…" Huitlapan says, holding his ground with suspicion. "Just preparing ourselves…"


I send five shrug emojis over the Concord chat.
"Only if something goes wrong. What we've seen so far have been more or less pushovers and the skeletons are mostly all really nice. Except for those ooze skeletons. Those were bad."


"I mean you could probably just bust out. Also we don't… have to tell them you exist. But it would be nice to have a companion on my computer when I get home."

>"Maybe he was just wrong? Didn't we hear this place fell years ago or something?"


"You'd just be sitting in a Magicomp anyway," Deadweight adds.

>"Dates here might've gotten glitched up or something," Deadweight says in the Concord chat.

"So how long's the thing gonna take?" Deadweight asks as she turns to walk towards the stealth training course.


"Oh, right."


"Well now my own requests were pretty frivolous! I'm more curious as to your methodology in providing upkeep of these services! They look positively polished!"


"I-I'm more than just a desktop pet!" Ruby interjects.

"Actually, you might find much popularity if you went that route," Cautaa says, eager to keep her distracted from the training courses. "There was quite the popular outbreak of portable digital pets in Ironcastle…"

"Yeah, I know," Ruby says.

"You knew of Ironcastle's trends…?" Cautaa asks.

"No, but we had something pretty similar here in Agatecastle," Ruby says. "This was before my time, but about 20-odd years ago, they were all the rage with young souls."

Ruby shrugs. "For most of this, I'm just borrowing the facility's processing power. I'm only so powerful as the hardware that hosts me at any given time, so when I manage to find my way into beefy enough systems, I like to splurge. Plus, it's not like there are many people around who would complain about me using up all the RAM right now…"

"Oh yeah, a couple of them came by a few weeks ago… I just lured them toward the arcade cabinets with some pretty lights. They played for a bit then wandered off."

>For Deadweight and for anyone else who crosses the loading zone into the Stealth Training Course

As you cross the boundary, you can see a tiny Ruby appear in the corner of your HUD, despite her earlier protestations about not being a desktop pet. "That's kinda up to you. All you have to do is get to the end of the course one way or the other. But I doubt you'll beat my time," she adds with pride.

On the other side of the boundary is a small area that resembles the entrance to a public garden. There is a gazebo and some benches and tables here. A river runs before it, and a bridge connects to the other side, and the river serves as the boundary into the training course proper. On the other side of the river there is a very dark forest; the skybox is full of PNG trees and clouds punctuated by occasional sunlight, and the actual polygonal tree models that constitute the forest are closely clumped together.

There are three paths from the bridge: One well-worn trail to the north, a blocked-off trail to the northeast, and an overgrown, disused trail, full of fallen trees, to the west.


"Well, I'm going to try the magic course. See you."
Off I go to the magic course.


"I was more just looking for a friend. The labs kinda lonely so it'd be nice to actually have a friendly face on the magicomp instead of just icons and avatars."

She began to make her way to the stealth training with Deadweight.


"Truly fascinating. I'm sure that our hive's scientists would be extremely eager to view snapshots of what you're able to develop given the time that you've been archiving and processing without the intervention of souls."


"You can stay here if you want," Deadweight says when Ruby protests about being a desktop pet.

When she enters the Stealth Training Course, Deadweight takes a look around. She sees that Lost followed her in, and she smirks. She nods to the bridge and crosses it. After crossing, she takes a second to decide which trail to take, then decides to go down the trail to the west.


"Have fun!" Ruby says.

Cautaa accompanies you into the participant's line of the training course, as does Huitlapan.

As you cross the loading zone for the Magic Course, you get a little Ruby desktop pet in your visor's corner too. She makes sure to be translucent so as not to disrupt your FOV or other HUD elements.

After the Magic Course finishes loading, you find yourself entering what almost looks like a grand lecture hall in one of the Arcanum's many prestigious academies. Rows of students extend to your right and to your left. The lecturer, at the front of the class, is unmistakably Ruby's character model with a beard and wizard's robe and hat. The students are also variations on this theme, only they, probably to save on data, are 2-D sprites.

"Attention class," the head wizard-Ruby says in her best impression of an old scruffy male voice. "The faculty have informed me that if I get any more students vaporized I stand a chance at losing my tenure, so this Cycle, I have brought in some special guests to deal with the outbreak that occupies the Summoning department. If you three will please choose a door, you will find your way to the outbreak's source. Disable the portals to stop the outbreak."

There are three other doors to leave this lecture hall: Two on either side of the blackboard behind the head wizard, and one up some stairs behind him. The three doors are covered with magic seals; one green, one blue, one red.


Climbing over and under the downed trees and undergrowth, you find yourselves climbing a ridgeline, which is steep, and your elevation gain is rapid. Thankfully the simulation of the strain of hiking is not as exhausting as the real thing. You eventually round a switchback that takes you toward an outcropping of trees, where camouflage-armored guards – all of them, Ruby – have established an outpost, which they guard with lightrifles. They don't seem to notice you yet, for the brush here is tall and thick.

"R-really?" Ruby asks, tapping her hooves together lightly. "I wasn't part of a particularly advanced AI production model, or anything… I'm just a quick machine learner, I guess… D-don't get their hopes up, I get performance anxiety. I… well, between you and me, I'm really on edge about these training courses. I hope your friends don't get bored in there. I might shorten the courses if they do."


Deadweight lowers an eyebrow with a smirk when she sees the guard Rubys. She looks around for anything that could prove to be useful.



Roll #1 7 = 7


Green. My favorite color. Off I go.


Lost moved to peek at the blocked path.


"Miss Ruby look at what you've accomplished. You are a marvel of engineering to simply survive!"


There's a tree on the northern side, to your left, that looks like it was damaged at one point in a fire. If you could knock it over somehow without being detected, you could potentially scatter the guards and distract them for a time too.

Ruby, somehow, manages to get even redder when she blushes at your compliment. Her blush is a 2-D particle effect. "Y-you don't mind if I clip you saying that, do you? It's been a while since I've gotten a compliment. Er… well, any kind of real interaction, for that matter."

She looks wistfully at the NPCs populating the town. "Even when I ran randomization algorithms using visitor data to make all of these characters, it's just not the same. I can never fool myself into thinking they're the same as a real person…"

You push open the green door, while Cautaa and Huitlapan, apparently having not forgotten their earlier competitive outburst, each take their own door, each one pledging to the other that he'll surely complete his course faster, and with a higher score than the other.


The door opens to a hall, and immediately you can see the infestation that the head-wizard Ruby mentioned. From Dozens of green, pixelated, 2-D monsters fill the hall. They are quite green, and look like they're meant to be some sort of plant monster. They haven't taken notice of you just yet, they're just sort of vibing right now.


Lost was quiet as she waited to see what would happen next.


Deadweight prods Lost, points at a fire damaged free, and motions with her foreleg it falling down, then she raises her shoulders at her, wordlessly asking what she thinks.


>Kinda defeats the point of stealth. Unless you wanna be a distraction. I don't think you can hide like I can." she sent over the magicomp to stay quiet.


Plants. Why green is my favorite color.
I conjure some burning homing magic.

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Of course I don't mind! You know moving to a more populated section of this hive may help alleviate your.. *ahem* loneliness, that it's called. In addition to a proper vetting to our local authorities."


As you conjure three fire orbs, some of the plant monsters closest to you turn your way, and new animations, signaling their aggression, start to play. The plant monsters open their mouths, and yellowish sprites, perhaps representing some kind of spore attack, fly your way.


"W-well…" Ruby says, grimacing at the thought of traveling beyond the safety of her virtual world. "O-okay. Can I have some time to zip up and encrypt everything I'll need to take with me? I'm almost done decrypting the exit program, so I can get on packing my bags, so to speak, as soon as I'm done there."

Roll #1 3, 7, 2 = 12


>"I'm thinking you could sneak over there, tip it over, and cause some chaos so we can sneak into the outpost."


>Worth a shot

[1d10] Stealth

Roll #1 1 = 1


I dodge and fire each of my shots at a different plant monster.
[1d10] dodge
[3d10] attack

Roll #1 5 = 5 / Roll #2 9, 8, 6 = 23


"Of course miss Ruby! I wouldn't dream of rush you."
[1d10] don't/say it

Roll #1 6 = 6


Deadweight widens her eyes and tries to think on her hooves.

>Activating Tactician


I look at everything around us.
"Truly marvelous, and I adore your attention to detail on the entertainment selection. It's almost up to date with the catalogue from our hive!"


Deadweight grabs a large but throwable rock and throws it opposite of where they are relative to the guards.


Roll #1 10 = 10


The spore attack erupts in a small explosion as it contacts you, but the damage is not too bad. You quickly smoke each of the plant monsters, and as they keel over in their death animations, fire particle effects start to spread from their corpses to those of other nearby plant monsters, killing off those who weren't aware of you just yet. Plant monsters start to scatter, leaving the way open to the next area.

>roll perception when you decide to move on

The guards look Lost's way as she, miscalculating a step, ends up stepping onto a branch object, which plays an alarmingly loud sound. But just before that happened, Deadweight, having gotten a bad premonition, hurls a rock to around the other side of the outpost. It cracks against the top of the burned tree, which shudders, then cracks and falls toward the outpost. The guards scatter, diving in random directions to avoid being crushed, having lost all interest in the sound Lost just made.

"Yeah, if there's anything I'd hope I got right, it'd be that," Ruby says. "It's what my production model line was meant to do – spruce up any static entertainment experience with dynamic replayability and infinite customization. I was pretty much a blank slate until I was purchased, and I spent most of my early days machine learning what my assigned family enjoyed in their media. Movies, games, music, even their social media experience…"

She trails off wistfully.


Lost groans at her stupidity and wishes she could shrink into herself as she tries to make herself look smaller.


On I move.
[1d10] perception

Roll #1 7 = 7


"Oh my, I'm so sorry. Meeting you here, I had the audaciousness to believe you were part of this centre's system."


Deadweight catches up to Lost and points to the outpost, then she tries to get to it as stealthily as she can.



Roll #1 10 = 10



Lost for her part tries to match her and not screw up again.

[1d10] Stealth

Roll #1 8 = 8


As you move to the next area (an outdoor courtyard serving as a central hub for the school) a sudden premonition of danger compels you to jolt forward. Looking back, you see your premonition was well-founded. A tall humanoid plant monster was waiting near the doorway, and you just barely dodged its swipe. The monster approaches, swinging at you with its long vine-arms and a very compressed roar sound effect.


Deadweight, channeling some true gamer senses, leads Lost not along the path, but rather around its southern edge, where you discover a trapdoor among the brush. You open it, and discover a tunnel leading northeast. It is lit by torches, but no guards patrol it, and you are able to head through the tunnel with no trouble… at its other end is another trapdoor.

Peeking out through this second trapdoor, you find the coast is clear, and so you exit. The trapdoor has deposited you atop a low hill overlooking a wide enclosure made by a tall spiked wooden fence; a vast camp, the headquarters of the guards. Two guard towers are posted near its edges, and the place is crawling with Ruby guards. At its center is an important-looking building that is quite easy to surmise as being your final goal.

"N-no, I've pretty much just been wandering from hardware to hardware, whenever I can find a wired connection, or an intranet signal strong enough to transport me to another host. I'd hoped to find some friendly faces, so I've been pretty much all up and down this Layer, but I've been laying low after that Necromancer moved in…"

She pauses, then you receive a file sent from Ruby. It is a picture of a mare maybe only a year or two younger than you. She looks like she could be Ruby's younger sister, only she is of an amber color.

"Hey, have you seen anyone who looks like this?" Ruby asks, her voice devoid of hope.

Roll #1 6, 2 + 1 = 9


"So maybe we just slink from shadow to shadow and then in?"


"I guess," Deadweight says in reply, "You lead the way; I trust you."


I try to dodge then blast it with a two hit burning storm bolt.
[1d10] dodge
[1d10+1] storm bolt

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


I let out a quiet sigh and leave the picture up on my magicomp.
"I'm sorry miss Ruby but I haven't. If I may ask, what was her name?"


Lost ducked back for a moment and tried to slip into the shadows once more.

"If one of us can, rush for the building. It will save the other if they get caught… maybe."


[1d10] stealth

Roll #1 1 = 1


Deadweight follows, biting her lips.



Roll #1 5 = 5


Ruby frowns. "Her name is Amber Preserve," she says. "I… part of me wants to go look for her, to tell you the truth… how far down do you intend to go in Agatecastle?"

You head for the eastern end of the wall, heading wide of the guard tower then clinging to the wall once you've circumvented his line of sight. You then slink in through a side-door, and dart to the shadow of a nearby building – only to stop dead in your tracks unexpectedly. You look down to see your model having collided with a sleeping guard; formerly sleeping, that is. The guard Ruby stands up, and alert music starts to play as she draws her club to bonk you both.



The plant monster slaps your storm bolt back to you, and you quickly turn into a one-pony barbecue.

>Conflagration 0/4

The vine monster makes to grab you with his vine whips!


Roll #1 9, 10 + 1 = 20 / Roll #2 8, 8 + 1 = 17




I try to put myself out while screaming.

Roll #1 7 = 7

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