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 No.755503[Last 50 Posts]

Last time, on Anno Castra…

A long discussion unfolded between our explorers and "Mendicant Rudolph," assuming that was his true name. The dissident priest who unleashed a startling manifesto about the bleak future facing Ironcastle was, after all the panic and unrest he caused, a rather unassuming figure, not particularly unusual, nor even memorable. He maintained that everything in his manifesto came to him in a startling vision, which also included the zero-day virus that he used to forcibly download the manifesto to every Magicomp in Ironcastle.

This was an impossible feat, according to the Lux Deorum, as Rudolph had no background in technology whatsoever. They completely discredited his story about receiving it all in a vision, divine or otherwise, and maintained that he had to be working with a group of fellow terrorists and malcontents who wished only to stir up chaos in Ironcastle. However, Rudolph proved that he had information he could not have possibly accessed otherwise: He knew that the party had spoken with Godspeed. Just as this seemed to lend credence to his story about visions, he uttered a still stranger thing… that events that had unfolded in Ironcastle were also unfolding in other Castles as well, from ancient historical events such as the rise of the Brotherhood of Flagellants, to the schism of the Charismatics from the Abbey, to the development of mutually intelligible languages across Castles, despite there being no methods of communication between them, and the massive distances that separated them.

Before they could question him further, the DLs furiously dismissed the party, and took them away, back to the baggage claim area of the Ramparts. Many more hours than they had perceived finally caught up with them, and they had to get a ride from Rockfall back to House Titanite.



The mingling aromas of high-quality teas and coffee awaken you from your slumber. You lay sprawled out in various positions in one of House Titanite's guest bedrooms, which could very easily double as entire apartments. There's three beds, and two vast couches, upon which you've been deposited and nearly smothered with blankets and pillows. Light pours in from between the parted curtains. Judging by the glow of the ceiling-panels, it's almost Mid-Cycle.

Outside, you can hear a lawnmower puttering along, drowning out classic dadrock on a stereo system.


Grutar continues snoring loudly for the time being, only waking up when he starts hearing more voices around him.


Zamrud wiggles his whiskers and lets out an unbecoming groan as he's awakened by the scents of teas and coffee, his eyes stung by the light of the morning cycle coming through the windows.

Laying on one of the three beds, sprawled out with his hands and legs across whoever was unfortunate to spend the evening with him, Zamrud rubs his head and slowly pulls himself up, looking down at his dirty suit he nary had time to get out of as he lets out at a loud yawn.

"AAAaaaah…. ah… morning already? By the gods, I must have been exhausted…" He says pulling himself up as he does a few stretches. "Is this Good's manor?"


The luxuriousness of the guest bedrooms leaves the huge, bulky griffon a little surprised, but it doesn't take him particularly long to settle in and sleep- he's not really awake enough to make the trek back to his own dwelling, as much as he'd prefer the familiarity.
"Mmm… as confused as I was the night before. At the least, I'm not quite so tired." he says, mostly to himself.

"I would imagine so– and, I don't think it's morning anymore. Quite the… spacious place. Such large dwellings confuse me."


Zamrud looks over to who he was sharing the bed with, reeling back in surprise a bit as he sees the slobbering old dog on the bed along side him. He reaches over to pat Grutar's shoulders, "Grutar…? Grutar, up and at them, old boy."

"Us nobles need the extra space or no home could hope to hold our egos." He lets out a small chuckle, taking a look around. "Welcome to the lap of luxury, my friend. We must have crashed here last night after dropping off Good. I can hardly believe how exhausted we were."


Qhapaq lets out a bit of a laugh, before shrugging. "You have never struck me as the type with an ego, at least. My home had more shared spaces, so it all feels rather empty for me in places such as this- even if having the extra room to stretch is quite nice."


Good immediately moved to draw the heavy blinds on his curtains so he wouldn't have to hear the mower outside before he promptly moved to lay back down in bed.

By the abbey let him sleep in a bit.


Billy breathes out a happy sigh. "I am quite thankful to be here tonight. It feels all the warmer here with you all."


Grutar's leg twitches a few times as he's being spoken to, but when suddenly touched he jolts awake with a abrupt snore. "Reporting for du- AH!" He shouts, trying to salute with his drill arm but bonking himself instead. "Wuh, is it mornin' already?" Grutar asks outloud while scratching his head with his good paw.


As you disentangle from your blankets and pillows, you hear the metallic twang of a familiar accent between the brief pauses of the stereo system as it switches tracks. La Senorita is outside, and her gun barrel has been switched out for a rather modular power tool poll. Currently, she has been outfitted with a weed whacker, and she follows behind Steel Unyielding as he rides across the spacious backyard in his lawnmower. She trims up anything he might have missed in his mowing. You see also that much of her armor plating has been removed, and her heavy treads have been switched out for lighter wheels so that she doesn't destroy the grass.


Good realized he wasn't getting any additional shut eye and begrudgingly sat up, looking around his room for a moment to see what exactly had happened after he got bustled into home.


power tool pole*


"Well, I learned long ago that humility has its advantages… and is far less obnoxious to interact with." He nods, looking around, "Yes, this is quite the change of pace from the Aya's bunker we came across. Quite comfortable, though."

As Good moves to draw the blinds on his curtains, Zamrud suppresses the urge to smirk as he raises from his slumber, "Yes, I'd say we earned a good rest after all we'd been through."

"At ease, soldier." Zamrud says, wincing as he bonks himself hard on the head. "And yes, so it would seem. The scent of coffee is quite enticing, care to partake?"

"Interesting… someone's made some modifications to Senorita. Did Rockfall already get a look at her?"
Deciding to investigate, Zamrud decides to leave the room and make for wherever the source of coffee and tea was coming from, followed by a trip out into the yard to see Senorita in her new hobby.


Billy squinting decides to get up and visit the robot carrying with him some frustration to put out, due to not being sympathetic to Senorita.


"Heeey, I know this song! My nephews really like this one!" Grutar says in reference to the music, but then points to La Senorita when he notices the change of treads. "Did she always have those or was I out for longer than I thought?"

"After how much I drank last night? You know I'm gonna need a cup of that mornin' brew." Grutar answers, taking the time to sniff the air and lead himself to the source.


"Mmm. I didn't know we could change quite so much about Senorita. It might be useful in the future, aside from such… recreational uses." the griffon says, nodding to himself. He'll waste little time in stepping outside- or, at least, wherever the food is.

"Mmm. Unfamiliar to me, but not a bad change of pace."


It looks like the butlers just deposited you all in this guest room and covered you with blankets and pillows. Perhaps it is curious that they did not take you to your own room, but then again, they may have assumed you'd want to bunk with all your pals.

You head down the high stairs, through the foyer, across the dining hall, and into the kitchen, where Lady Offbeaten Path sits doing an elaborate, 3-dimensional crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Several servants make coffee, tea and several brunch dishes by hand. Not a machine in sight.

You recall Godspeed's curious slip of the tongue regarding Good's mother, back at the bunker… but as this memory surfaces, Lady Path looks over her paper at you with a smile. "Well, it's about time I got to hail you. I'd begun to wonder if you'd sleep all Cycle long. Were the Dark Hours last Cycle that busy?"

As she speaks, the servants quickly dispatch several plates of bruncheon food to the dining hall for your consumption.


"A pleasure seeing you. Thank you for letting us all come for the cycle." Billy gives a smile coming in. "It was quite a busy time and had a lot of sudden and confusing circumstances."


"Yup! You wouldn't believe it either, felt like somethin' outta some sorta old spy flick! Makes me wonder what kinda job I'm about to get roped into next, don't have too weird jobs twice in a row, but you never know these days!" Grutar goes on, waiting until his platter is here to distract him.


"We needed time to discuss a few things, and I suppose we lost track of time. It is good to see you again, Miss Path."


"I still can't believe you had the energy to do so. We were all ready to drop dead asleep before we even left the carriage."

Zamrud looks on at Good's mother, remembering Godspeed's words well but the welcome, familiar face in the morning after an incredibly long, dreary day is too comforting a sight to dig into immediately.

Zamrud's nostrils catch scent of the coffee and the food, and sits himself down near the window to allow the servants to bring up a fresh cup of coffee and some buttered toast with jam and sausage.

"Don't tempt us, m'lady: I'm certain Good would readily take the offer to sleep in later." He says with a slight chuckle. "The journey home itself was grueling, and to make matters worse we had some issues with customs just as we were coming in. We were kept at the ramparts until zero hour, and by that point we had nothing left in the tank. Thank you kindly for your hospitality, Lady Path."


"Why do you think I take so many naps? Gotta have energy through the WHOLE day, so you gotta sleep a little bit each time!" Grutar says, despite almost being awake as often as he is asleep.


"And here I was thinking *we* were the master of 'cat-naps'." Zamrud says in reference to his being a Puros.


Good grunted, said hello to the others and moved to his own room to inspect it for anything amiss before he went back down to eat..


Upon entering your room, everything looks to be pretty neat and tidy; the servants have kept their promise of only doing the bare minimum of cleaning necessary so as not to disturb your privacy…

…but you can sense a strange presence lurking nearby… roll perception.

"The pleasure is all mine," Lady Path says. "But if you're exhausted, I'd caution you from going outside. Steel Unyielding has been up and at it since 0600 this morning, as always. If he sees an extra pair of hooves, or hands, he's likely to rope you into some work out in the yard or in his shed. Unless, of course, you'd want to add some technical skills to your repertoire whilst exploring the Outlands. As you probably saw, he and Rockfall have already recruited your charming robot."

>One option for this Cycle is to spend time training with Rockfall, La Senorita and Steel Unyielding for a specialization bonus in a chosen non-combat action, such as hacking, repair, tunnel digging, etc.

As always, the brunch is large, but quite varied for nobles. Wine, tea and coffee sit side by side with toast, jams, beans, omelets, flapjacks, and exotic fruits.


"Huh, so that is why Senorita was doing that," Billy mumbles to himself as he starts to eat from the provided brunch.

[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 1 = 1


"Well after I'm done eatin', I'm up to do some extra work. You fellas need any diggin' and I'm in!" Grutar says as he's half way through eating.

>Will spend time to improve Tunnel Digging


Good closed his eyes and tried to rely on his other senses to try and find this other presence.

[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 4 = 4


Zamrud takes a long sip of his coffee, taking a look outside as he sees Steel and Senorita still going at it with the yawn work. "Ah, so it was Rockfall who had made modifications to Senorita. Good work on his part," he says, "I take it you've been introduced then? We found this Helping Hoof while in the Outlands and did our best to get her speaking a language we could understand. Still very much in need of repairs, but it is good to know she's in safe hooves with Rockfall. It was actually your son who named her, in fact."

He smiles, "After breakfast, I believe I will volunteer my services. It's the least I could do to repay your for the meal and the bed last night. Besides, I could use something to take my mind off things… there's quite a lot I needed to do upon my return from our mission, and some time to think on it with a little back-breaking hard labor might be good."


"Ah- that makes much sense, yes. I am glad it is so versatile- we will have to remember such things in the future."

While wishing he had a little bit of meat, the omelets, beans, pancakes, and fruit are more than capable of making up for it. "Technical skills could be good. I may come back and take them up on that offer, if they'd be willing."


At once, a prickling feeling sends the hairs upon the back of your neck into a frenzy, but it's too late!

"Titanite Style: Pulaski!!" Lazy Days shouts as she drops from the ceiling-fan. Dropping her hind-leg like a falling axe, she kicks you in the back as she falls, but she mostly just bounces off your armor. She flips in mid-air, and kicks you again.

In her forehoof you can see she's got a charger of some sort, obviously pilfered from your electronics.

"Yes, I suppose I am not surprised it was my little Good," Lady Path notes. "I will have to ask him about her curious accent and demeanor, too…"

She nods as Zamrud recounts the troubles you faced upon your arrival in Ironcastle. "But of course. There's no need to rush, so please, enjoy yourselves… I can only imagine how stressful it must have been to be apprehended by those Down-Lows no sooner than you got home. Oh, and I'll bet they didn't even compensate you for your time. You were still on the clock when you got back, weren't you? You didn't even get time to turn in your mission."


"Oh yeah! That! How do I turn it in again? Back in Zinccastle we had ways for folk like me to confirm our jobs bein' done face to face."


Good was just glad she didn't kick his head. For a kid she had a mean axe kick when she needed it. He promptly putt a hoof up to block her.

"Lazy what did I say about taking my things without asking?"


"Well, actually, my Lady… Good seemed to suggest you yourself were the one who showed him the concept of a 'saucy senorita', as I believe he put it." He clears his throat, "Ahem… something about putting him on the computer…?"

"So you know it was the Lux Deorum who kept us, then. I imagine word they had detained your son reached your ears rather quickly. Were you aware of the reason why they were questioning us?"

As she reminds him that they have yet to have time to turn in their mission, Zamrud's eyes open wide. "Ah. We met with a primos who was representing USB Delivery but we never officially signed off on our mission. Suppose I should get that out of the way and see we receive our payment," he says, looking at his Magicomp mission board to check off their delivery as successful.


"Mmm… perhaps they have compensated us for the time? It would be nice if they did… we should try to turn in for payment, yes. I think after that, we can take some time to relax, or find activities to keep ourselves busy for the cycle."


Billy grimaces at the mention of not having been able to turn in his mission. "I do hope it doesn't cause any penalizations. I am unsure with the bureaucracy of it." Billy looks outside after finishing his brunch. "Maybe going out will help take my mind off things and a bit a labor as well."


Talking at the speed of light, she scampers off with her prize before you can stop her. Apparently it's gamer time.

As you turn on your Magicomps, Zamrud goes ahead and reports your mission as completed on behalf of your group. After a little while, you all get a notification. You've been paid – but not the 1,000 Schillings initially listed with the job. Instead you've been given 1,250 Schillings, a not insignificant bonus. With your payment comes an attached note.

>"I procured a little something extra for your recovery of Crystal Hearts," the note reads. "I am more than aware that it is far less than what you deserve for uncovering this security breach. Keep this matter as quiet as you can while we investigate. Our deepest thanks."

It is signed by none other than Mabin… and a seal, reading L.D., attached with his public authentication key, identifies him as being a member of the Lux Deorum.

Lady Path's eyes widen. "What…? Oh, I knew those parental controls were too easy to get around. Hopefully he didn't see anything warranting a mind-wipe. I'll have to check his PC later."


Good sighed. His sister was a lost cause."

He trotted on down to catch that line about a Mind Wipe and he froze with a genuine fear on his face. the DL's had left him on edge about this.


"Ah- well, that makes payment easier, I suppose. While I didn't like being pulled away by those… DLs, as they are called, this lessens the sting."


Billy comes up next to his friend Good after noticing him freeze. "Will you be okay?" Sounding worried for him.


"A bonus?! Wooohoooooo!!" Grutar howls with excitement, the idea of such a bonus making his tail wag. "Can't wait to get some armor polish, new shot glasses, and some fresh work on ol' spitty!"


Zamrud perks his brow up at the sight of a 25% increase on their promised profits, smiling to himself as he does so. "Well now, seems you may have been on to something…" he says to Lady, noting the signed note from Mabin - the King's personal butler - attached to the notice. "He's one of them?" Zamrud asks aloud, shaking his head. "Well, will surprises never cease…" he says, hoping to get a chance to speak to him later on if they'd made any head way on the mystery they uncovered at the Fortress, and if it has any ties to this dragon leaking Crystal Hearts outside of the castle.

With their increased payment secured, Zamrud takes a victory sip from his coffee, taking a moment to chuckle at Lady Path's reactions. "Well, I should have known he got around to learning such things on his own time. It's fairly innocent all things considered, though, and Senorita's accent has become to endearing to reset."

Zamrud looks on as Good comes in, "Ah, speaking of which. We were just explaining where you got your inspiration for Senorita's namesake."

"Some armor polish definitely sounds appealing right now, with what our suits went through. I might see if I could work in a budget for modifications to the rifle the Aya gave me, as well."


"Hmm… some better gear wouldn't be a bad idea, that's for sure. I have little in the way of weapons to modify for myself, but… I'm sure there's a thing or two I can find."


"What kinda mods were you thinkin' on puttin' on there, Zam?" Grutar asks with curiosity. "I was thinkin' of gettin' ol spitty a once over, maybe we can find someone who works on the same stuff."


It's just after Good comes down that you hear the power tools finally powering down. After a minute more, the great glass doors to the backyard open, and in steps Steel Unyielding and Rockfall, while La Senorita stays upon the patio so as not to track grass into the kitchen – something that Steel and Rockfall don't seem particularly concerned about.

"Hey!" Rockfall greets. "I was startin' to get worried for you! How'd you guys sleep?"
"I hope it was good, because it's all hooves on deck out there," Steel says. "I've got some things in the shed you'd never believe people just threw away! Any of you handy with a soldering iron? 'Cause you will be by the time we're done."
"Give them time to finish their coffee at least, dear," Lady Path says.
"Coffee?" Steel asks as he plunders the fridge for an energy drink.


"A fast drinker is a fast worker is what they say!" Grutar says, chugging the rest of his coffee, coughing at the end of his last gulp before getting up to get ready for some intense yard work.


Good was still visibly frozen and legitimately looking for exit points now.

"Not sure."


"I do not know what a 'Soldering iron' is, actually. I was never much of one for… mechanical equipment, I suppose? There were others that did such things."


>Forgot to add
"And I slept well, thank you. I am rarely so exhausted- I apologize for collapsing as I did here, I didn't expect to be quite that tired."


"Well, no matter. We all shall work through whatever happens together!" Billy announces with a bit of energy. "Nothing can keep us all down."


"Well, regarding upgrades for my rifle, a scope and more stabilized stock seem like a good idea. I find myself most comfortable working with long-range, I might as well try to maximize those features."

Zamrud looks on at Rockfall as he asks them how they are, finishing up his cup of coffee as he nods to the engineer. "Better than we had in days, thank you for seeing us here. I know we called you at an incredibly unreasonable hour last night." He looks at Senorita, smirking. "What do you think of our newest recruit, fresh from the Outlands?"

As Steel says it's all hooves on deck, Zamrud puts down his coffee cup, carefully cleaning up his face with a napkin. "I've just finished my cup, so I'm more than ready to assist. Just point me where to go and what to do, my Lord."

As Good freezes up upon his father's entry, looking for exit points to get out of the back-breaking grueling yard work, Zamrud notices his plight and, having seen familiar experiences with the princes, tries to help out.
"Ahem… ah, Good, I think I left some gloves that'd be helpful in yard work up in the guest room. Could find them for me?"


"Yeah, sorry I had to toss you onto the back of the robot," Rockfall says. "But I think you would have squished the others if I put you on the palanquin."

"She's a strange one," Steel admits. "I helped myself to a look at some of her circuitry. I can't tell if it's advanced or primitive, but it's beyond even me. Rockfall's a bit younger, so maybe he can figure out what's going on under the hood. At the very least, I can repair her chassis and give her a few tools for the end of her barrel. Nothing as loud as a hedge-trimmer or a weed whacker, of course."

Amused that you're ready to work so soon after such a harsh Cycle, Lady Path relents. "It should go without saying, but as always, you are welcome to stay here as long or as briefly as you please. And if you need something purchased, go through me. I can have it delivered here faster than you can say Jack Rabbit."

"Whenever you're ready, gentlecolts," Steel says, sipping his drink as he heads back out to his toolshed with Rockfall.


Good gave him a weary smile, but then

Good took that moment to bolt to his room, locking it and starting to debate ways to escape, convinced he may be pursued by the DLs


"Nice! I'll just keep workin' on bein' up close and personal then, don't want them goin' near you next time either!"

"Well that armor polish is a good start! I need that for later, gotta make sure all them scuffs are taken out."

>Ready to work with Rockfall & Steel.


Billy simply paused there with the now absent Good. Feeling quite surprised at the sudden departure.

"I think I am ready." Billy scratches his chin as he follows with Grutar.


"I can't tell exactly how old she is, but she's certainly ancient: whenever she was built it was when the ruins in the Outlands weren't ruins. She mentioned a place called 'Canterlot' that I have never heard of."

He smiles, "But I'm happy to see she is easy to work with. I did my best with her language barrier and translation protocols, but hardware is not my forte. If you have anything to show me that might make it easier, I would appreciate the lesson: I imagine we'll be taking Senorita out into the field more frequently, she's actually quite an asset."

As he puts down his coffe-cup and does some stretches, he nods to Lady Path. "I'll take you up on that offer, but first I should say I need to earn my breakfast. Show me where you want me, gentlemen."
>Working with Rockfall and Steel to upgrade computer-knowledge or hardware repairs, whichever is available (prioritize former)

"Some heavier armor might be a good idea, as well. Not that yours isn't lacking for it but some modifications could make it even sturdier."


"Hmm? No need to apologize, I understand how it is- my size can be rather difficult to work around, at times."

"Hmm… I suppose some work couldn't hurt. Perhaps I'll pick up a thing or two as we work, as well."
>Ready to Work

>Buying: Knight's Armor (150), 20 Rations and Water Capsules (200), 2 Armor Patching Kits (50), 3 Medical Kits (75), 1 Weapon Repair Kit (25)= 500


"That'd be a good idea! I'll let you handle the cash for that one, just lemme know when you need the armor for the mods. Though it's pretty sturdy already, so you're gonna have to find some sturdier stuff."


Naturally, as Nobles, there are no shortage of escape routes built directly into your home. It would be no exaggeration to say that every room in your house (certainly the bedrooms) possesses a hidden tunnel or secret door for emergency evacuations.

Of course, your parents would know about all of those…

It's less of a toolshed, and more of a small warehouse that Steel has out back. Rockfall gets the doors, revealing table after table, bench after bench, wall after wall, of tools, fuels, oils, and work projects, kept orderly by what must be a superpowered feat.

However, there is quite a bit of mess – in the form of the great heaps of junk that Steel has. Each one, some heap of discarded magitech, has its own designated work area. Computers, work robots, stereos, all other kinds of hardware consigned to the trash.

Rockfall busies himself with passing out some safety glasses and gloves. Steel opts to avoid such equipment, while Rockfall has on a full suit of PPE, including a hard hat and blast shield.

"Alright, I don't have any commissions scheduled for today, so why don't you fellas pick your project and I'll show you how to fix it up?" Steel asks. "Choose your junk."


They would also know where he kept his things. He knew one place he could go, a place even the cleaning staff feared tred.

Lazy Days room.

He made a run for it.


Billy finding an interest in magic lately decides to reach forward for the discarded magitech in curiosity on what he will do with it.


"I do not believe I am one for fine magitech or electronics. Perhaps something less… complicated? I have little in the way of equipment to manage beyond armor- I hardly use weapons, and I have little reason to keep a rebreather on at all times, but ensuring my armor and clothing isn't in poor repair is likely important." the griffon says, carefully setting his mask in his saddlebag and pulling on the safety glasses and gloves. "


Zamrud looks across the small field of supplies as he's escorted to the warehouse out back. Looking at the massive pile of gear, Zamrud rubs his chin with an impressed expression. "Quite an impressive collection you have here…" he says, looking through it. "Hmm… do you happen to have any parts that could be fitted to a modular rifle?"

"On our mission, I received one as a gift from an Aya tribe we helped. It's completely bare bones right now, but I learned enough about it to know it has room for modifications. In addition to that, I could use a bit of work sharpening up my programming: would you happen to have computers running on particularly old or out-dated OS?"


"You wanna die?"

Only one person in this house would talk to you like that… Lazy Days.

She's sitting in her gamer chair, playing some Aurora. She doesn't use a mic, but even so, she's plainly carrying her team to yet another victory.

"What're you doing in my room?"

Steel nods. "We've got a little something for everything here. C'mon."

He picks his way through the junk heaps, and as he does, he rambles a bit about his hobby: repairing and reselling discarded technologies. The selling's done through a third party so that the Titanite name doesn't inflate the prices. Any cash he makes just goes into the charity fund; mostly he does it for the fun of it, only rarely keeping something for himself when he finds something he thinks looks cool.

From the junk heaps, he picks out an old brick of a PC, a security bot destroyed in a riot that followed a factory disaster in the Technicarum, and some run-down lawmowers (though nothing as large as his tractor of a mower out there).

With Rockfall's help, he carts the chosen junk heaps over to some open workbenches, while directing you to grab this or that tool so you can get started with the work…

>continue to post as you please, but the end is nigh


Billy attempts to follow the directions of Steel with his eyes alternating between the junk he has and his instructor.


"One shut up, you've never beaten me, two, I think I might be being watched by secret police."


Qhapaq hums a little to himself as he practices maitenance skills on whatever seems best- for the most part, the griffon sticks to clothing, armor, or saddlebags- that sort of thing. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't trust himself to handle tiny wires and sensitive electronics with his enormous talons.


As he explains his hobby to them, Zamrud comments, "That's quite impressive: not relying on your prestige to sell the product, and giving all profits to charity? A most worthy pursuit of your time, Lord Steel. I should like to pick myself up a similar hobby, but my studies and my time in the Outlands have yet to provide me with much free time."

He sets down to one of the workbenches, taking some of the scrap pieces out of the pile resembling rifle parts as well as a computer to get started in repairing and restoring them to their original glory, learning a few things in the process as he fixes up the items to sell later as well as seeing if there's anything he can keep for himself.

"I understand your healing factor is quite effective, but some heavier armor would go a long way as well. May as well not tax your regeneration and let armor take more hits, so that when you do need to heal, you can do so more quickly and efficiently."


"I was thinking much the same, actually, as there have been many somewhat close calls- among the things I ordered was stronger armor. I know how much it worries you that I… 'play lose', as you might say, with injury and damage due to my nature. Even if I didn't think the armor was a good idea, I'd do it to make you feel better."


"That sounds like a personal problem. What'd you do to get on their radar?"

Steel is a patient tutor and a knowledgeable one, in fact, and despite some early mistakes, you pick up on his lessons in mechanical aptitude. He seems particularly keen on helping Qhapaq. As a fellow absolute unit, it seems he knows all too well Qhapaq's struggle with fine repairs. During breaks for water and food, Lady Path comes by to help you order some supplies, while Steel sits back to tell you some of his favorite stories about his repair projects, and all the crazy things his servants come across while dumpster diving for repairable technology.

And as all of that unfolded in this warm scene deep in the security and warmth of Ironcastle…


Behold, Coppercastle.

A mountainous fortress, extending thousands of miles into the sky and into the earth. Dim radiance exudes from the metal and stone comprising its outer walls, offering it holy protection against the eternal darkness that envelops the whole of the earth – the Outlands, whose black hills overflow with the abominable Dreaded Ones, and who seek the Castles' destruction.

Coppercastle is one of the last nine Castles that remain in all the world, and is the final bulwark for the millions and millions of souls that inhabit it.

It is, as well, their home.

Some of them were born here, and others came to it, whether from another Castle, or even, as the rumors go, from elsewhere in the Outlands.

It has been just over two months since a member of Coppercastle's Abbey, a minotaur by the name of Mendicant Rudolph, disseminated an alarming manifesto about Coppercastle's future, broadcasting it to every intranet-linked device. In it, he claimed that at current projections of energy consumption, the Heart of Coppercastle would run out of what was once believed to be its limitless magical energy. Without that energy, Coppercastle's impenetrable holy light would fade, leaving it defenseless, and open to siege by the Dreaded Ones – spelling the complete and total overwhelming of all life within, with fates far worse than death in store.

Curiously, the manifesto concluded with a strange legend from the Time Long Forgotten, about an age long since past, an age when mortals lived outside of the Castles, protected by the light of two great Lamps, called "The Moon" and "The Sun." This strange turn offered a glimmer of hope to what was otherwise a warning of total collapse.

Within a few hours of the manifesto's publication, Mendicant Rudolph was arrested and brought in for questioning by direct order of the Copper Family, the royals who lead Coppercastle, and a further order came directing all subjects to erase Rudolph's "screed" and forget every one of its claims. But, it was far too late; fear was already spreading through the Castles. Authorities among the Sages and Nobles busied themselves with attempting to quell the worries before they could escalate into full-blown panic. It took a month of such efforts, but eventually, things quieted down.

Every Cycle brings its own problems, after all.



With a deafening GRRR-CHUNK of grinding metal, several sealed bulkhead doors open before them.

What awaits them, on the other end of those bulkheads, is a wave of frigid cold air, which rushes into the sealed chamber as if it were attacking the sealed doors behind them. Absolute, utter blackness is above, stretching all the way out to the farthest horizons. A faint, bitter glow clings to the rocky ground, like a sticky fog. The land beyond is lifeless as far as they can see, which isn't much considering the oppressive weight of the darkness upon. Intranet signals cut off on their magicomps, and the visors on their armorsuits start to adjust to the darkness, allowing them to see ever so slightly better with a pale neon glow.

A team of five.
Two Warriors.
Two Nobles.
And a Sage.

Commissioned by none other than the Copper King, Ozymandias the Liberator, to venture into the Outlands, following a horrendous streak of deaths among the Warrior Stratum.

But they were not there simply to pick up slack.

Their mission was the immediate apprehension of the saboteurs behind the deaths, and all their collaborators. Dead, or perhaps alive, in one piece or in many.

Every clue they had fought to uncover, led to Ironcastle, Zinccastle, and Goldcastle.

The leader of the group, a young Noble retainer to the King, double-checks his lightrifle, and slings it across his shoulder.

"Let's go, and stick close," he says, as he steps into the mist. "Separation could imperil your very life, but if you do find yourself alone, watch your magicomp, this close to the Castle you should be able to find your way back."


>See you next time


"Hmm… I must admit. I still can not say I'm used to such amenities- I am grateful for them all the same, it's just… well, unusual, for me."


"Can't say I have either. I am quite happy, but I promise myself to not get used to them." Billy adds in his own sentiment of agreement.


"I don't know. Maybe because I was showing disrespect to those who rule from the shadows. If I knew I would tell you Lazy!" He said clearly in a panic still.


Grutar works on tinkering on his flamer further, humming loudly an old sing song tune as he just tweaked to make sure his ol' spitter just spits like it used to. The wasteland outside of the castle wasn't too kind to any of his equipment, even after some lighter repairs.


>Last time, on Anno Castra…

"Everyone has to start somewhere – I'm self-taught, and here I am," Steel says, clapping you both on the back.

Steel cleans off his hooves on his oil-stained apron, then crushes his energy drink can against the concrete floor. "You boys can have your run of the workshop if you want, I'm going to work out for a bit. Might sneak into the house too for a shower, too, before Path can blast me with the hose again."

He hangs up his apron on a clothing rack, then heads out into the backyard once more.

"Maybe you could have thought that through before you pissed them off," Lazy says, continuing to slaughter the opposing team.

"…Triple kill! Overkill! Extermination!" the announcer declares. Lazy spins her reticule about the screen in a frenzied pattern, her face absolutely blank.


"I really appreciate that good sir!" Billy gives off a bright smile.


"Just make sure to give me some space, boys! Don't know if this thing will POP on me, if it does it's gonna be loud!" Grutar warns as he starts to work on the gas canister piece of his weapon to help it conserve more of the fuel it uses.


"Mmm. Thank you for the aid, Steel. And, I hope you can dodge the Hose as effectively as you worked in your workshop. Good sneaking, Steel." the griffon says, smiling a little and bowing his head.

"Hmm… I would offer help, but I do not feel confident handling someone else's prized equipment. It seems as if it's seen much action, even before this."


"Oh yes because I'm the type to just go and upset people with no provocation. I swear your heads empty sometimes Lazy." He said annoyed by the curtness of her response.

"Getting real tempted to yank that wire out of your setup." He added.


While you work at your various personal projects around the workshop, Zamrud busies himself with tapping away at his Magicomp on some other business. Soon he excuses himself and steps away, evidently taking a call. You see that he's clearly stepping away from the mansion's many servants, keeping them out of earshot.

"Mrrrrrghghghgh!" Lazy growls, nearly spasming in her chair and just stopping short of an actual shriek as you threaten to unplug what's shaping up to be a 30-0 game for her. "Okay, sorry! But I'm focusing here, what am I gonna do about the Lux Deorum from here? Challenge them to a 1v1? This stuff's not my business!"

You hear something in the background… the subtle soft pulsing that every young pony with an overbearing parent learns to detect, no matter how far away… the approaching hoofsteps of that parent.

"Oh, Good? Lazy? Are you two playing nice up there?" Offbeaten Path calls from the stairwell.


Qhapaq eyes Zamrud a little, but says nothing- he trusts his friend, and understands that he might need the privacy. He'll work to keep any servants from straying too close to Zamrud while he works on… hardware repairs! Hopefully, he can learn to better maintain his armor, now that he'll have better equipment to use.


"How are things going on your end over here?" Billy pops up with the question reaching beyond his teeth.


Grutar seems a bit too absorbed into his tinkering to notice much, it requires a lot of concentration from this old dog.


"Well, it seems- I am trying to learn how to better repair armor. I would like to keep what I bought in good condition, and it seems pointless to repair weaponry- I don't use them."


Billy nods his head. "I don't think I have much myself in that regard. Though I think I should better change that soon."


"Mmm- if you travel often in the Outlands, maintenance is important. Between my talons and my natural mutation, I rarely had a reason to worry about repairs. It is good to have the knowledge, though."


"Indeed. The more one knows the better they are prepared for the future me thinks. Just depends on the situation." Adds in Billy.


Good began to genuinely eye the window and debate if he could make an escape out of it. He was fairly certain his mother was in on this conspiracy.

"I think Mom may know something but she may also be working with them." he said scooting closer to a self defenestration.


"Mhmm. I wish there were more things I could know- like, the source of my newfound, confusing dreams. I wish to pursue them, but… I do not wish to disappear."


"Why would you disappear from your dreams?" Billy looks quite confused.


"I… do not know. It is what the Brain of the tribe we visited told me would occur. Those that chase dreams of masked warriors tend to vanish."


"Sounds like her," Lazy says, queueing up for the next match. Several other players in the chat accuse her of hacking, to which she only responds with derisive streams of laughing emoticons.

"Conspiracy?" Path asks, her voice just beyond the door now. She respects Lazy's privacy by knocking but asserts her authority by promptly coming in anyway.

"Are you two winning?" Path asks. Lazy responds with just a grunt. "Young lady," Path says, and Lazy freezes, just as she did when Steel said the same two words to her some Cycles ago.

"We are, Mom…"

"Good," Path says. "Good!"

She beams at her own joke.

"Good, I never did hear about how your latest mission went. We made breakfast, so come out and eat before it gets cold, alright?"


Good slowly backed to the window and debated if crashing through it was the most viable plan right now as he seemed to be giving his mother a sideways glance, like he wasn't entirely sure he could trust her right now.


Path, either not noticing or choosing not to react, turns and leaves the room as if nothing were amiss, and shuts the door behind her.

"There's no way dad couldn't catch you if you jumped," Lazy says. "Then you'd really be screwed… assuming whatever paranoid delusion's running through your head has any credence."


"Is he under the window right now?" he said stood up on his hind legs to peek out "Besides I might be able to slow him down with my magic…" he mumbled as he sighed and rubbed his head.

"Could you for once be some kind of supportive. Watching you play I know you never play Support classes."


"Oh, wah wah, let me call you a wahmbulance. When you can finally parse anything above green for once in your miserable career, then you can talk all that poop," Lazy grunts. "Anyway, if you want to take that chance, it's either him or the concrete you hit."

Steel Unyielding is currently lifting some steel in the backyard. His weightlifting area is a good stretch away from the patio, so he might not be able to intercept you considering he's mid bench-press…

"Just use an escape route like a normal Noble," Lazy says. "The security system will log it, but it's not like the rest of us don't use them as shortcuts anyway."


"Sorry I have a taste for good games instead of whatever new game they jam out that you devour. Unlike you someone here has beaten the entire Stygian Spirits series." he said before pausing "Where is the nearest escape route?"


"Hmm… if it's all the same for you, I think I will go for a walk- I have much to think on. You can contact me with the MagiComp, yes? Zamrud can, as well- watch him for me." He asks, before starting starting amble off. He leaves his gear and work neatly piled out of the way, taking only a few things- his mask among them.


"No problem. Though I don't think I have many plans myself for the cycle." Billy scratches at his furry chin in thought.



Roll #1 100 = 100


"You used summons, it doesn't count," Lazy grunts. "Just take mine, it's in my closet."

Said "closet" is bigger than some – most – of the apartments lived in by the poorest Commoner families of the Warrens. It's walk-in, of course, and it's a multi-tiered clothing rack maze. All the clothing, naturally, is gamer themed. The designs are atrocious; it is impossible to tell which were designed in irony or sincerity.

The escape route awaits at the back – a mysterious keypad is the only visible indication that something might be there. Lazy has given you the code, but if you do, the security system will log it…

Somehow, you sense that your mother is directly downstairs… looking up.

Zamrud briefly stops you on your way out. He is sparse on the details, owing to how populous the Titanite manor is, but he confides in you that he's going to have someone look into the data provided to you by Apuchin, now that you have access to Ironcastle's superior computer systems. Bidding you all safe travels, he excuses himself from the manor and departs.

Heading upward, you decide to have a look around the rest of the Noblesse Layer, particularly the entire Floor dedicated to social venues. Each Floor of the Noblesse is so much vaster than anything above that the maps on your Magicomps have to download additional district data just to provide an intelligible idea of where you are.

Taking elevators and trolleys, you start to explore around the socialite Floor, that is, Floor 6. Its social venues, combined with its position below Floor 7 (the commercial Floor), makes it one of the most populated Floors of the Noblesse. Many Noble branch families and their retainers travel around here among the Floor's bizarre gallery of localities.


As you walk around, catching odd and sometimes outright contemptuous glares from the passing Nobles, you eventually see something quite peculiar. It's a pastiche of a gritty, grimy casino that one might see in the Warrens. "Pastiche" might be generous – it's a cruel parody, composed only by those who have never seen poverty anywhere except on their Intravision screens. The attendants are all dressed up, some are bulky bouncers, others untrustworthy dealers, even gambling addicts who hit up casino-goers for some spare coins (but not too much, just enough to sell the experience).


Correction: Change "Warrens" to "Comons"


Humming a bit Billy can't help but comment to himself. "Are we able to do anything here?'


"I like takin' in the sights! Even a sketchy casino has some flashy colors to it!" Grutar says as he looks about, paying no mind to the looks the group gets.


Good paused "I'll… eat first so she's not too suspicious." he said before stepping out "And Goldaire is worth the summon every time." he said walking by "You dex build pleb~." he added knowing it was gonna rile her up before moving to eat his breakfast before he made his escape.


Qhapaq nods a little, before softly patting Zamrud's head- something that, while Qhapaq seems to do it often, isn't a common gesture… who taught him this?

Regardless, he sets off to explore more of Ironcastle. The griffon is accustomed to the stares and glares of the populace- though he seems to get more of the latter than usual due to currently being in the Noblesse. The odd casino brings him pause, though. It's so painfully out of place, and so entirely fake. "Why would one seek to mimic such conditions? What a… curious place." He comments to himself. Still, he decides to check it out for himself- if only for a bit of amusement.


"HEX AND DEX IS THE MOST OPTIMAL DAMAG–" you shut the door before she can chew your ear off for blaspheming the dex build.

You hustle downstairs, finding Path sipping another round of coffee as she reads through some rather important-looking documents. Meals are sitting out still from when she and the servants cooked breakfast.

"I'm so glad you two get along with each other," Path says. "Well, tell me all about it. That's been your longest mission to date, hasn't it?"

You step inside the garish parody of a casino, and find that inside, the kayfabe is maintained. Seeing the Nobles, dressed in such alien high fashions it's hard to parse where their bodies end and clothing begins, contrasted with the relatively normal costumes of the attendants, you get the sense that this casino is equal parts gambling, money laundering, and amusement park for the Nobles.

You see a counter nearby where you can exchange, at a 1:3 ratio, your digital-only Schillings for proprietary RFID-tagged coins, marked just like the coins of old empires, to fit the casino theme. They're even being sprayed by someone in the back of the counter, just to give them a layer of grime, grit and stench for that true atmosphere.


Billy nods appreciating the atmosphere of the place at least since he believes he can't enjoy the games given by the casino itself with the extravagence of it.


"Why would they mimic these conditions? I wasn't aware nobility would like grime, even if blatantly an act. Perhaps we ought to leave, unless one of you feels inclined to play? I'm not a gambler, but perhaps there is someone of interest here."


"Oooh I hope they have Zinc Hold'em here!" Grutar says as he looks about for a potential gambling table he could give a try. He presses his luck with his life, why not with money too?


"Zinc Hold'em? I feel as if I've heard the name before… a card game, yes?" he asks, even as he begins to wander.


Good shrugged "I've only had 2 mother. My frame of reference is kind of limited." he said as he took his seat and began to eat quickly, not wanting to tip his hoof about how he was suspicious of her.

The wary stare nullified this point.


"Yup! One of my favorites to play with the lads back home, we would bet who can win in three rounds with the most gems. Winner got to pay off their tabs easier too!" Grutar explains with nostalgic excitement.


Grutar trades in 100 Schillings for 300 coins, and promptly finds a gambling table. Actors, dressed like the dapper gamblers of bygone eras, mingle with the trueborn Nobles, most likely to lose after coming just close enough to victory.

The dealer flips out the cards to the table.

>place a wager and roll for gamblin if so desired

"Oh really, I hadn't noticed," Path deadpans, staring at you over the rim of her mug. "So… what happened? What did you do? Did you make any friends out there?"


"I met some of the Aya. And the bandits. I find them to be… less than deserving of existence. The Aya were pleasant by comparison. I won a wrestling match with one of them and had a nice time. Aside from the mishap with the Sauna."


"A random thought, do you believe in a road a redemption for them?" Billy pops up.


"Time to see if I'm any good as I used to be!" Grutar says as he goes in and gambles at least 100 coins first to see how well he has been last time.



Roll #1 7 = 7


Qhapaq doesn't buy in, but he does try to look around for anyone either un-costumed, or particularly receptive to talking.


Looks like pretty much everyone here's in a costume, but one of the actors doesn't seem to be playing along – a griffon dressed up like a horrific genetic fusion of peacock and cockatiel, he seems less a griffon and more a bushel of feathers. He's vacantly staring at a slot machine like he's just done with life and everything in it.

Victory! Grutar wins back 200 coins for a net gain of 100.

"Such is what I have heard from others who have encountered the Mutants of the Outlands," Path agrees. She perks an eyebrow at the mention of a sauna. "Oh dear… well don't just leave it at that, what happened?"


Billy gives small claps as a small congratulation to Grutars winnings.


"I walked into the female section by mistake. And they rather rudely shoved me out. I was about to leave and they literally shoved me. It was quite unnecessary."


"Hmm… you seem a little, well… bothered. I've little interest in this vice, but perhaps you'd like to talk for a while? Get something off your mind."


"Alright!" Grutar shouts out, continuing on with his bet. Although he tries to play the best poker face he can by just distracting several of the others at the table with long winded yet quirky adventures from his old ventures.

>300 coin bet!


Roll #1 10 = 10


The dealer looks on with horror as you absolutely fleece a full table of five gamblers, netting a profit of 1000 coins, putting you at 1400 Coins total. The dealer's horror looks like it goes beyond "Oh hell, my boss isn't going to be happy about this," to "Am I going to wake up tomorrow?" levels.

The other gamblers depart from the table, their cushy, safety-rails-guarded fun having been spoiled by your tremendous turn of luck. The dealer quietly informs you that you probably should try to not have such an incredible turn of luck next time…

The griffon slowly leans forward and plants his forehead against the screen of the slot machine, and he looks like he's very quickly losing his grasp on his emotions.

"I don't… know how much longer I can keep doing this…" he says.

Path laughs. "Well, now you know. It was their loss, anyway."

She finishes her coffee, pours herself more, and studies her reflection for a bit before gently stabbing in a spoon overflowing with sugar… a dosage that reminds you of how Godspeed would take her coffee.

"And when you came back to Ironcastle after so long away… I'm sure that was a welcome thing, wasn't it?"



"Speak, then. Perhaps I can help- or, at least, help you release the pent-up emotions. A distracted mind is more dangerous than any weapon."


"Do you still plan on going?" Billy asks with a tilt of his head. Wondering about the if his friend would push his luck.


Grutar laughs heartily as he scoops up his coins, feeling proud of his luck as he counts each one. "I already feel lucky enough! But hey I may as well put three hundo aside and keep going a little longer."

Grutar says, looking around for a different table.

"Let's see how lucky I can be at the other tables, huh? I'll just tuck some of this stuff aside and see what this place has to offer!"

>More gambling, this time with 150 coins!


Roll #1 4 = 4


>Last time, on Anno Castra…

"Not unless you can find me some other line of work," the griffon sighs. "Every day it's a new rotten-smelling costume, a new dance routine, a new shtick they want me to memorize. I'm just some side-show to them… but I'm one of the lucky ones. Everyone else I know in the Commons isn't even making half of what I am here, and I can barely manage to afford an apartment… in exchange for everything else about myself."


This time finding a poker table proper, you promptly lose those 150 coins you handily won just now, but at least this loss affords you a little buffer from the casino's toughs making you play 52 pickup with your teeth…


"It was." was the terse response


Path blinks at you rapidly, then twirls her hoof in an obvious, "Okay, and?" gesture.


"Quite harsh the losses are. Do you have any goal for the casino?" Billy found himself entertained seeing Grutar at the tables.


"Things changed. Masks fell. The truth came out and I was not most pleased."


"Goals in casinos for me is just to have some fun! Now that I have more money I just keep trying a little bit longer for more money! Either way I walk away whenever I know I still got more."

Grutar finds this chance to show the wonders of gambling through doing small superstitious things to increase his luck like blowing on his dice or even cards for good luck.
>Gamble 150 credits again

Roll #1 10 = 10


Path tilts her head in interest. "Oh…? Perhaps you refer to the barbarians who dwell in the darkness beyond our walls. But you're being vague again. What 'truth' did you discover out there? If it's something I may know of, I would gladly share what I can of it."

On the bright side, if Grutar does end up losing his teeth to the bouncers, he'd be able to get a new set of solid gold. He cleans out the poker table just as he did for the Zinc Hold 'Em table, earning himself 900 coins in the process.

As the dealer nervously scoots the pile of coins to Grutar, you both vaguely get the sense that someone nearby has their eye on you…


"The things I found distasteful were the things I found upon my return to this castle. Secrets and those who deem themselves the arbiters of what info must be shared."


"Huh, are you speaking of money or luck that you have more of? Would be quite nice if we could keep track of our luck." Billy taps his chin in thought.


"Hmm… that does seem to be a very difficult situation to have to manage- there's truly no other jobs near here you could find that wouldn't require you to do this to yourself?" He asks, cocking his head to the side. "Jobs in castles are still an odd concept to me."


"Luck isn't somethin' you track much of, it's just somethin' you're given!" Grutar says, setting aside more of his earnings so he can go another round of pushing his luck.

>Gambling 150 coins again


Roll #1 2 = 2


"Hahahahaha," she suddenly laughs. "So you met the vanguard of Ironcastle's defenses against itself. That must have been a very awful thing to endure. I have run into them before. Rotten little buggers, cowards the lot of them. They can't and won't do anything without overwhelming numbers on their side. That's the secret to all their little tricks. If you want, I can arrange an appointment for a psychological, spiritual and medical exam to make sure they did not leave you with any lingering… inconveniences."

Balance is restored as Grutar becomes 150 coins poorer, but still you sense that presence looking on from afar… perhaps monitoring others is something that the Lux Deorum do not have a monopoly upon.

The griffon shakes his head. "Anything else I'd find around here would be a loose variation on this. Commoners like me can't find work doing much else in the Noblesse. So some of us go to the Technicarum's factories, the Aetherium's test chambers, or the Orchards' plantations, but there's always at least a hundred other people competing to get the same job as you, and if you get yourself hurt on the job, well that's your fault isn't it? Seems like everyone I knew up there went to work hiding some injury or something else to avoid getting let go."


"Do you think we might get robbed at this rate?" A worried tone enters Billy's hushed tone as he feels more people stare.


Good couldn't hide the wary glance "I also met Rudolph. He was interesting."


"Hm… life here is difficult- not because of the harsh conditions of the world, but the harsh conditions created by the Castle. There's no other talents you could work with? Or, perhaps a Noble that might help you?"


"Bah nonsense, they're just entertained by my wild strokes of luck!" Grutar exclaims as he goes on another roll. This time he does a small jig and makes a little shanty tune for good luck on his next roll.

>Gambling 150 again


Roll #1 10 = 10


With another 900 Coins and a third anxious dealer suddenly making his way for the break room with little to no excuse, the sense of being watched starts to turn into a growing sense of danger. If you don't cash out soon, Grutar may find himself missing more than just teeth… say, when did this casino get so many bouncers hanging around this part of the tables?

The griffon shrugs. "I'd need a certification, but even with certifications, your lot's not much better than other competitors in the field… and to get a certification in the first place, you need to be in the field at a certain level. And you can't get to that level without a certification!"

He slams his fist down onto his leg. A bouncer glances over, then looks elsewhere in disinterest.

As you suggest Noble patronage, the griffon shudders. "Well… maybe I could… but depending on who you get, you could be worse off than working in the private sector… I… I suppose public sector work's always an option… I hear the Lux Deorum are always hiring."

"What an opportunity!" Path exclaims. "What did the most famous priest in all the Castle have to say? Another conspiracy theory, I imagine? A call to insurrection?"


"Mainly that he was unaware how a Rudolph in every single castle managed to send a message at the exact same time. The exact same message."


"Hmm… I do know of a surprisingly nice Noble- an unusually large pony. Perhaps he could help you receive a certification?" he suggests, glancing to the bouncer for a few moments… and glancing back.


"See? It's like goin' out into those wastelands. Take some risks and get some high rewards! Say, wanna get a drink after I cash this out? It'll be on me!" Grutar offers now that he has won so much, taking the signal as a way to get his credits and a drink to go.


"I sure do appreciate your generosity. I am quite impressed myself by your gains. Honestly if it was I, I would have a problem of hoarding it." Billy gave a smile.


Path has no reaction for a moment… she does nothing but blink, her hoof slowly turning her drink about. "Is that what happened, now…? How could the would-be saboteur not know of collaboration of that level?"

The griffon suddenly looks nervous as a prospect presents itself – equal parts the comfort of misery, and suspicion of Nobility from all his previous burns. "Wh-what…? H-hey, wait, you can't be serious… what would I even do for him? This better not be like the last freelance job I took…"

Grutar goes to cash out his coins, and gets himself 967 Schillings as a result, a profit of 867 after his initial buy-in of 100 Schillings. Qhapaq and his despondent companion notice Grutar and Billy over by the door while a bouncer keeps a wary eye on them. Maybe a few spirits could help raise the griffon's spirits.


Billy gives a big wave towards his friends. "Did you all have fun?" he calls out.


Grutar gives a wave of his own over to the others. "Hey! I was about to grab drinks, you fellas want some too?!"


"I have thoughts but I am not keen to share them. I have no proof and could very easily be wrong. Or some who I wish not to hear it might do that. I don't want a mind wipe in my future…" he trailed with a wary look.


"I am… not sure. He is a man of many hobbies and talents- I imagine he could find something far more respectable than this for you."


"The mind wipe might be the safer option," Path says. "If the Lux Deorum left you with any of their trademark antihazards, getting it out would require significant work. Depending on how vicious their handler ended up feeling by the end of your meeting with them, removing the antihazard could be like removing a pronged arrow from a wound…"

As the griffon looks over and sees Billy and Grutar about to collect Qhapaq, he hems and haws, fearful of this unknown Noble… then gulps and hurriedly scribbles down his contact info on the back of a tear-stained napkin, and entrusts it to Qhapaq. "Alright, alright… alright. I– I'll give it a try."

As soon as he says that, he looks like he wants to snatch the napkin back, but he clenches his hand and holds it back. He must have been burned by shady people offering ways out before…


"Who is that over there?" Billy poses the question seeing the griffon.


Qhapaq hums, and after a moment, lifts his mask up. "I know I am… a stranger. An Outlander. But, I wish to help. Thank you for trusting me."

"Someone who needed help."


"If they did they did it quickly and in such a way none of us noticed. Either way I would not care for losing myself."


Billy blinks at that. "Huh, alright. Did they manage to get help?"


"They need help? With what, some gamblin' advice or somethin'?" Grutar asks curiously.



"You do not understand what an antihazard is," Path says. "Just as a piece of antivirus software captures and quarantines computer viruses, antihazards capture and quarantine infohazards – information designated by the antihazard's creator as hazardous to know.

"Thoughts quickly forgotten, mind going blank, emptying itself just before rounding the corner of a thought and reaching an unpleasant conclusion, connecting dots obvious to anyone with a clear head… And, just as any program can learn from inputs and improve itself with that input, antihazards can adapt and strengthen themselves based on how their subject reacts to their mind being forcibly steered away from that infohazard. A labyrinth folding into ever-more-complex forms with each time you reach its center…

"To wipe a part of your mind in block format, a one-and-done operation to excise the antihazard… or, to let it remain riding around in your mind, in your flesh and bone, growing stronger every time it evacuates you away from a line of thought, towards a sweet and harmless untruth alternative, rewarding you with that sweet serotonin nectar, a dopamine overdose that melts your brain's pleasure center into mush… which one really constitutes 'losing yourself'?"

The griffon gives a start as Qhapaq confesses to being an Outlander, scooting away a bit as well… but he blinks, frowns, and shakes his head. "S-sorry, that… I shouldn't have done that. Never thought I'd ever meet one of you guys… let alone get some career advice from you. L-look, if this turns out alright, I won't forget it. Drinks will be on me… or whatever you guys want, really."

He glances at his magicomp and winces. "Hey, I really need to go. Break will be over in a minute, and if I'm not clocking in the moment it's up, my time-off-task will start to rack up. Th-thanks… I mean it."


"Right. I will get them in contact with you, as soon as I can." He says, replacing his mask. "And, do not worry- most are wary of my kind. I don't hold it against them."


"Mmm, no. Life help. How was gambling?"


"It was pretty fun seeing Grutar win. Though I didn't have any confidence myself with it all." Billy shrugs.


"Neither is ideal. But I cannot say I have had any difficulty thinking. And you seem to have no difficulty guessing whats on my mind too curiously enough."



"Ah! I'm glad you won, Grutar."


"It was great, made over 900 schillings tonight!" Grutar gloats.


"Oh please, with how much you take after me, it'd be concerning if I couldn't," she retorts. "And the point of any competently-built antihazard is that you will not notice your difficulty of thought. The Lux Deorum would be able to write one of that level without a doubt."

The griffon waves goodbye, and scoots off, rushing back to the break room, leaving you with a whole lot of money and a whole evening to spend it however you wish. You were let into this shady casino without too much trouble, but Noble bars and eateries might be another matter altogether…


"And what if you're wrong and their playing on your own level of paranoia?" he asked as he pondered it "And this goes beyond guessing to saying things I was only thinking in another room."


"Got any plans for the time we are here?" Billy asks out loud.


"Find a place to drink and maybe go shoppin' for some fancy new gear upgrades. That's what I usually do with a big payout." Grutar replies


"That's why I suggested a checkup," Path says. "A precaution can't hurt, can it?"

She then blinks at your other accusation. "Hmm…? What are you talking about?"


"I have my armor, so I believe I'm fine on gear. But, I could see some upgrades being useful. I ought to get in touch with Good's father, though- perhaps over the Magi-Comp?"


Upgrades from shops owned by the Noblesse would be a great deal more powerful (and more expensive) than that on other Layers, you realize. But, getting into them without being Nobility would be another matter. You do have your Noblesse access authorizations from the King, but with neither Good nor Zamrud around to attest to your character (in the eyes of the Nobles) by virtue of being seen around them, it may be difficult…


"Why not take a look then, you never know if we find something that could help us all. I'm willin' to use what I got to invest!" Grutar says, feeling that whether he was noble or not he would still try to shop around them.


"Hmm… sure, why not? If we can get in the door, at least." the griffon suggests, sending the contact information and a quick message to Steel.


"You spoke of a conspiracy before when you entered the room when me and Lazy had been speaking. Neither of us had used that word."


"Ohohohohoho!" Path laughs, reeling. "A Noble speaking of conspiracies? Oh please, stop the newsfeeds, this is truly novel development. Do not let your sister's hobbies and your father's earnest physicality deceive you, my son. We are Nobility, my son. In the time it takes a Commoner to choke down their gruel, we plot and thwart assassinations, poison and treat water supplies, and falsify terrorist incidents as we sip our coffee. I don't know why I used that word. Maybe I just hoped you'd take an interest in some current events. But if you really have more fun in the Outlands, that is your destiny to pick. Do you fear I am some sort of mind reader?"


"Given your reputation has spread outside the castle that is not surprising. But I seem to recall you originally belonged to the Sages. not the noble houses." he responded as he turned to her.

"So you while the stereotype does exist it is not without precident for me to worry about them. But you were something of an outsider to them as I recall. Or perhaps that was a lie I have been told for a good deal much like other things apparently if Rudolph is to be believed."


Deciding to go bar-hopping for a bit, you ride the trolley down some streets, until you stop at one that the intercom's announcer notes for having its share of popular eateries and bars. A peek into some of them reveals that you'd hardly be able to get water, let alone some quality drinks, on your paychecks and Grutar's winnings…

Until at last, coming upon an alleyway, you spy a joint that's rather out of the way.


For a Noble's establishment, it's surprisingly despondent. There are few guests, and the earth pony barkeep has numerous bandages upon his face, doubtless from shaving accidents. He looks a bit surprised to see more entering this place; the people already there must be regular barflies. They look like practitioners of law.

"Woah! H-hey, how's your Cycle going, folks?" the barkeep asks, tidying up a bit.

Path seems truly offended, on both counts. "I am a Noble," she says sternly. "What Stratum I was born into is a matter of the past, not of now. I can't believe you; are you saying you do not trust me?"

You hear Lazy very quietly try to open the fridge, desperate to not be noticed as she walks in at the most awkward time possible.


"It is going quite swell! A pleasure to meet you." Billy gave a wave as he walked in.


"Goin' great! I hit the jackpot today! Get me two shots of whiskey and whatever else these fellas want!" Grutar says, feeling both generous and thirsty.


"When there is a literal secret police who you seem to have a very intimate knowledge of, and have openly mentioned mind wiping me to my companions when I was not in the room, I feel it is best to trust only those whose lives I have saved and who have saved mine in turn."

The young noble was letting his anger at the politics and conspiracies start to show "And you have made a life of flouting orders and scorning castes when it suits you but now you're getting effected by my words mother. You can understand my confusion at your offense." he said stampping his hoof on the table


"It is going… well. I must admit I'm not much of a drinker, though. I just came here for the company."


Instantly, her offense evaporates, and she smirks. "…You wouldn't be a Noble if you did trust me. Very good. I am glad it only took a short glance at Ironcastle's home-grown darkness for you to begin questioning everything and everyone. But don't worry; the Lux Deorum are merely the shallows in comparison to what else I have begun to trail."

She finishes her drink. "I know I just said you shouldn't trust me, but you can take what I said about infohazards and antihazards to the bank – all of which we own. Haha, I love being a Noble! Erhm, pardon the digression. You and I both want the truth. It would be very inconvenient to have a mind parasite ride along to deter that. The sooner you kill it, the less you will lose. Just friendly advice."

"Is he gonna get mind-wiped?" Lazy asks.

"That is entirely his decision," Path says.

"Dang, that's crazy," Lazy says, snacking on a granola bar.

"Hey, alright!" the barkeep says to Grutar. "You got it pal, coming right up. Oh and not everything here's alcoholic, we also have coffee and juice and things like that."
One of the regulars, a stern sort wearing a prominent cravat, casts a castigating glare at the barkeep. "Perhaps that is why this place is always on the verge of going under."
"Gah!" the barkeep winces. "I'm sorry, sir, I thought by expanding, we'd get an edge over the competition!"
"Do one thing and do it right," the stern lawyer says. "Spread yourself too thin, and you will always lose your balance."
"Y-yes sir…" the barkeep sighs.
The other two guests, a blue-suited lawyer and his diminutive assistant, are busy eating sushi.



"So what happens when I get mind wiped? are those memories simply gone forever?"


"Coffee? Yes- some coffee would do, I think. It's not so late in the day that caffeine would be a bad idea."


"Haven't tried much of coffee. May I give it a try?" Billy raises his hand.


Grutar takes a seat at the bar and taps the table with his paws a few times in excitement. "You sell those fish n' rice pucks? I'll take a few of those too!"


Zamrud, dressed up in his finest civvies, enters the bar with a casual glance, rubbing his temples as he tries to fight back the headache. The last few days were a mix of resting and keeping quite busy as he chased various leads into the data he'd found while on their last mission, as well as trying to think of the mystery surrounding Rudolph and the other castles. But for now, work was soon to be upon them again, and it was time to check int to see how the team is doing.

"Gentlemen," Zamrud says with a small wave as he approaches the bar. "Haven't been getting up to too much fun without me, have you?"


>Last time, on Anno Castra…


While the others stayed behind at the House Titanite estate, you got in touch with some of your Family's more clandestine resources for assistance with decompiling the mysterious OS that Apuchin allowed you to take from the bunker. They pointed you in the direction of a figure named Key Keeper, gave you an address (pointing to an otherwise nondescript facade in the Noblesse) and a time to meet him.

Upon arriving at the noted facade, to all outside appearances an office building amid a sea of office buildings, you entered quite a strange space… clear-cut, near-white and grey all within, it could not have been more bland and featureless. A receptionist directed you to the tenth floor, near identical to the first, and directions to a terminus of the labyrinth of empty cubicles, where you entered a small corner office. There, you met with Key Keeper, a unicorn who rode about in a wheelchair.

His words were terse and few, and he seemed to be under much stress. You felt somehow compelled to keep your words to him as concise as possible. By the end of your meeting, he agreed to have the data chip analyzed from end to end, and a report delivered to you ASAP. Your body involuntarily breathed a heavy sigh of relief once your meeting ended and you were allowed to leave. It was like your body had been soaking up his stress through some kind of osmosis…

Once you were freed, you sent a message to the others, who informed you of their brief visit to a casino, and then to a coffee shop on Floor 6 of the Noblesse. Luckily, it was only a brief trolley ride from the facade you just left.

"It is comparable to clearing up memory on a computer," Path says. "Through psycho-chemical intervention, the space that the memories and other mental hangers-on occupied is 'marked' as being available within the brain, even though the memories are still there. All incoming stimuli received after that point are then routed to that so-called free space to overwrite that which was previously there. As you can imagine, if you have ever tried to salvage overwritten files, it is not an exact science yet, and often old memories may linger on after their supposed deletion. Any competent mind-wiper would run multiple passes over the designated areas."

"Alright, pals, comin' right up!" the barkeep says, quickly hopping to the grounds and fish under the withering stare of the cravat-wearing practitioner. The cravat must be something of a boss to the poor, harried barkeep…

The barkeep proceeds to make an elaborate show of his preparation of the drinks. Very minimal machinery is implemented, and he takes the utmost care to prepare the coffee by hoof, even heating the water personally in a small pot over a stove. The sushi is given a similarly personable and low-tech preparation.

For two coffees and a plate of sushi, the cost comes out to 30 Schillings.


"Ah! Zamrud." the griffon says, working his way over to the Puros and doing the traditional greeting; patting Zamrud's head. Where he learned to begin doing this is… uncertain. It definitely seems intimidating to most, though there's no menace in his body language when he does it.

"Not much. I have hopefully helped a citizen find a better life here. We went to a casino. I do not like casinos."

Qhapaq tilts his head to the side and stares at the sushi, before taking his coffee. "Thank you, bartender."


"Much appreciated good sir!" Billy gingerly holds up his drink to take small sips to not burn his tongue.


Zamrud looks up to Qhapaq as he pats his head, unfamiliar with the fairly unusual greeting as his tail whips about in surprise. His ears do not flatten though, merely flickering in response as the talon leaves his fluffy head. "…good to see you as well, Qhapaq." As you mention having gone to a casino, Zamrud gives a shake of his whiskers. "I find myself in agreement. I'll admit I find a certain… 'flair' to it. A sense of danger and mystique with the roll of the dice, it's fun to watch in the movies. But in reality I must admit it's unbecoming. Who's idea was that?" Zamrud asks sarcastically as he looks over in Grutar's direction with a smirk.

He turns to the bar-keeper, "Excuse me, sir. A shot of milk, if you wouldn't mind."


"Right away, sir!" the barkeep declares, as he makes a dash for the mini-fridge for milk, after which he begins an elaborate show of pouring the milk and decorating it with cherries and shots of cream and cinnamon dust. By the time it arrives before you it has an edible illustration of a festival tree upon its surface.


Grutar pays for the drinks and sushi, taking time to enjoy each of his meal and a drink one bite and sip at a time.


Will it alter myself in anyway? Change me or how I think?"


"We were looking for somewhere to go. I had hoped to find interesting people in there, but most were… uncaring Nobles."


"There are many possible side-effects to mind wiping," Path says. "It is not an exact science, as I said. But of course, I would not take you to anyone who would not take proper care to mitigate those side effects."

Lazy continues to munch her granola bar, frozen in fascination for what she's hearing.

The purple-dressed mare accompanying the two practitioners of law has gotten up and has started to mess with the bar's jukebox. "Ave!" she says to the one in blue. "Let me borrow some schillings, they've got some good stuff here."
"Hey, what happened to all your pocket money? Remember, we haven't had a case in two Turnings," the blue-suited lawyer says.
"We'll be fine, it'll just be a song… or two," the mare in purple insists, putting on a song.



"This is quite nice." Billy quietly says as he lightly sways his head side to side to the music.


"No rush." Zamrud nods to the barkeep as dashes for the fridge, looking on with intrigue as he adds on so much extra flair to the drink with the cherries, cream, and cinnamon. As he looks at the festive tree designed on top, he looks down, charmed with its appearance. "My goodness, it's almost criminal to drink this. I never would have thought of presenting something like milk so nicely." He says, smiling as he licks his lips and readies to take a sip of the sweetened milk.

"Ah, say no more." Zamrud says with a grumble. "Believe me when I say I know how those are. Did not give you all any trouble, I should hope?"

As the jukebox starts to play, Zamrud's ears perk up, the smooth jazz speaking to his very soul as he turns his head towards the musical machine. He smiles, feeling much like the star of one of his favored noir detective films as the smooth music fills the air. He nods towards the mare who made the selection, raising his drink in appreciation.


"Yeh, drinks are good and so are these fish disks! I gotta remember this place for next time we come back from a mission." Grutar says before tapping on the table to the beat.


"No trouble, correct. Uncaring, but too uncaring to bother talking with us."

Qhapaq sips his coffee quietly, and gives the purple-dressed mare a curious stare. "I wonder what they mean by a case?" he asks, mostly to himself.


The barkeep laughs a bit shyly, a rare trait for someone as tall and bulky as him. "Little art like that has always been my passion, sir… say, pal, I gotta ask, have I run into you somewhere before? Or are you on Prancecast or something?"

"We're the Fated Souls Law Office!" the mare in purple says, overhearing Qhapaq's question. With practiced dexterity, she slides a business card down to your end of the bar, advertising their services.
"Need I remind you, Fate, that I have declined your offer of employment three times now," the one in the cravat interjects. He passes you his own business card, advertising the services of Square Stature, attorney at law. "And you are not even a lawyer."
"I still help," Fate defends herself.


Good closed his eyes for a moment and pondered quietly "Allow me time to make notes of everything so I may not lose any information. If that is permissible." he said frowning "I am not exactly keen on your words. I would rather my brain melt and remain myself than lose who I am. As someone who may bear the burdens of others, I choose to keep my own as heavy as any others, and I do not wish to forget that fact."


"I really appreciate the sentiment. I am looking forward to the next time." Billy nods his head.

"Hello Fate, I am Billy!." Billy waves over to the nearby group.


Path narrows her eyes, then sighs. "Of course, my son. I will not force your will, as I said… hrmph. Enough of this. You should enjoy your Cycles off now. Even we Nobles must take days to 'chillax' as the youth say. I believe your friends have gone off now, why not catch up with them?"


"Hey, lawyers! My nephew is one of those, I think. They gave him a big wooden hammer and he's allowed to shout at people in the court! Family's real good at shoutin'." Grutar says with a hearty laugh to follow.


Good shook his head "Set the wipe as soon as you are able. I shall make notes then get in touch. I have no desire to let this situation linger any longer than I should."


"I… Lawyer? I'm afraid I have little experience in the way of matters here. What do the… two of you? Three of you?" do?" the griffon asks, cocking his head to the side and staring at the cards. The large griffon- currently unmasked, though still holding his mask in his free hand- speaks a tad quieter than normal.


"Hrmph." Zamrud says, taking another slow sip of his milk. "Better than the alternative, but still, I feel I should apologize. I know how nobles are. Was it worth the visit, then?"

"A Prancecast?" Zamrud repeats as the large, hulking pony asks. "No, I'm afraid you may be mistaking me for someone else. I don't believe we've met before, do you happen to work close to the noble layer?"

Zamrud picks up the business card as she slides it down, inspecting it carefully before the finely dressed stallion slides his over instead, taking a look at both cards, nodding at the cravat pony in particular. "Well, you never know when a good lawyer can come in handy, do you? Funnily enough, I feel we came awfully close to needing someone in your professions not all that long ago. Rather shady dealing in a mix-up of a delivery we were making, though they seem to have overlooked it in the end. How's your clientele?"


"That would be the judge," Square says. "I believe I may have brought a case before your nephew in my time. Although, this rank amateur does just as much shouting as he does," he adds with an accusatory point at Ave.

In response to Qhapaq's question, Ave and Square and Fate all attempt to explain the roles and functions of defense attorneys and prosecutors and the Castle's legal system in general, often clashing and contradicting one another with passion. Lots of jargon flies about.

"Not before getting hired here, sir," the barkeep says. "Warrior Stratum, former detective. Ah! Not that I was implying I'd seen you as part of an investigation or anything. Hahaha. But from tending bar and investigating homicides, I guess I've met a lot of different people."

"We're both Nobles, but Square and I have taken cases from people of every Stratum," the blue-suited Ave says. "We believe in justice for all, regardless of one's station in life."

"Indeed," Square says with contempt. "Crime and injustice permeate every Floor of every Layer of this Castle… and yet, in all my years I have not once seen a Noble prosecuted as viciously as Commoners and even Warriors. Such corruption is how Rich Duds here lost his position as detective."


Path pats your hoof. "Very well, Good. Be assured that I will not permit you to be treated by anyone less than Ironcastle's finest."

She gets up and begins to tinker with one of her tablets.


"Quite a change of careers there. Did you retire from your detective work or simply needed a break?"

"Hmmm…" Zamrud contemplates deeply in thought as Square and Fate explain their professions in extremely interesting detail. Zamrud was aware of court proceedings - one of the many subjects he was raised to learn up on - but never had he heard two ponies speak with such passion about the subject.

"…by any chance," he asks once there's a break in their explanation, "Do you happen to know if any attorneys are currently assigned to a case concerning one… 'Mendicant Rudolph'?" He speaks the last name in somewhat hushed terms, knowing it to be a touchy subject.


"Sounds like a pretty rough profession. Do you do your job well?" Billy asks in response to the explanation by the fate group.


"Auch the judge! That's what it was, never been to court too often to remember." He says, though when Ave is pointed at he just laughs and slaps his knee. "Then that just means his opinion probably be more important to hear out! Keep it up amateur lad!"


He nodded and stepped off to make intricate notes about everything that had happened between now and when he got back to the castle, sending a message to Zamrud asking what he was up to.

>What are you up to Zamrud? Nothing illicit I hope.


Qhapaq looks more overwhelmed than anything else- he tries to pay as much attention as he is, but he's not even the best with attention to begin with, though. The clashing and contradictions don't help either.


Zamrud's ears perk up as he feels his Concord ringing a notification, taking a look at his magicomp to see the incoming message from Good. He types out a response

>Me? Never. Been a productive but uneventful few days on my end, Good. Just met the others at a bar. They went to a casino. Hopefully I did not miss anything 'illicit'.

He smirks.
>And you?


Ave shudders at the mention of the name. Square shakes his head and keeps a low voice. "With the Down-Lows involved, only ambulance-chasing sensationalist Prancecast hacks have expressed an interest in taking the case, and of course, only to increase their viewership. No serious lawyer wants to come anywhere near that case… and so you can imagine that Ave here has floated the notion more than once."

"It is everyone's right as Ironcastle citizens to receive their due justice," Ave says. "Even a case as scandalous as that one. Regardless of what he actually did, he's going to be charged with basically everything the prosecution can find in the book, and then some… and you gotta admit, it would put our little law office on the radar… of course, getting in contact with the guy is the real trouble."

"I haven't lost a single trial," Ave says proudly.
"Sometimes it seems like all the forces of fate in the world conspire in your favor," Square says. "Regardless, winning is not what we seek, but truth, and when dealing with the law in Ironcastle, truth is often dismissed altogether in favor of the politics of inter-Stratum conflict. No Noble would ever be able to live down being found guilty of misconduct to a Commoner. And so, they seldom are. We have gotten our own share of danger as a result of fighting to find the truth even in those cases."

As you talk with Ave and Square, Fate ducks behind the counter and pesters Rich until he agrees to show her some of the tricks of the barkeeping trade. You overhear some talk that suggests that it was Square who got Rich this job; apparently, Square owns this bar and reluctantly put it in Rich's care.


>My mother believes we may need mind wipes. The secret police we encountered believes we may have had mental worms placed in us that will destroy our faculties over time.


Going down to just two people explaining it makes the situation a little less overwhelming. "I… see. Things are very complicated in the Castles, it seems. I am glad I do not often have to deal with such things as 'legal matters'."


"Does that mean Nobles committing misconduct against each other is easier?" Billy rubs at his chin.


>She believes the Secret Police we encountered may have planted mind worms*

Correction of previous statement


Zamrud blinks as he reads this response, trying to discern if it is simply the royal scribe's paranoia or sense of humor shining through… or if it is a legitimate concern.
>Is that a real concern or was she joking? I'm unfamiliar with Down-Low practices I'd believe the former

Zamrud smiles as Ave proclaims the right of all citizens of Ironcastle the right to due process. "I'm glad to see you take that stance, sir. I ask because I actually had the opportunity to meet with him after that unfortunate delivery snafu I mentioned. I don't think he's being well taken care of. Who's to say if that's just or not, but at the least I feel he is owed more than he's given as a basic right. I am not certain I could arrange such a meeting again easily, but if I could, would you mind if I passed him your information, then?"

Zamrud lowers his head at Rich as he takes on another sip of his coffee. "I am sorry to hear about your precinct. I do not know how much pull my family has in the Warrior strata, otherwise I would be tempted to see what could be done about your wrongful termination."


"Probably easier than a drill breakin' through rock I imagine! Lads down below have tussles but we settle our differences easier than those with their heads stuck in the clouds. No offense to rich folk, just sayin' it must be easier to them!"


>From her tone it was very much legitimate concern. I would contact her soon if you wish to be certain. And catalogue any info you wish to hold onto in case.


"In a relative sense," Ave says to Billy. "Most inter-Noble conflicts seldom reach the courthouse, no matter what the nature of their conflict may be. Those that do are fraught with their own perils. Square and I have gotten used to having to look back over our shoulders and wear armor to and from our offices while dealing with a case where one Noble takes another to court."

"Believe me," Square says. "I have appreciated the earnestness and sincerity present in every case I have taken where the defendant and plaintiff have both been of any Stratum other than the Nobility."

"That's very kind of ya pal, but believe me, Square and I aren't giving up without a fight on that front," Rich says. "And even if we lose, he's hooked me up with a promising career here! But if you know a way to get more people into having coffee with their sushi, now that kinda help I'd take! Hahaha."

Both Ave and Square give you more business cards when Zamrud brings up giving their information to Mendicant Rudolph. The two lawyers stare one another down.
"I thought you said you didn't want to take the case," Ave says.
"I didn't want you to take the case," Square says. "What cases I take are my business."
The two immediately get to arguing about who's poaching whose high-profile client. Meanwhile, Fate and Rich, blissfully disconnected from the lawyers' rivalry, roll sushi together.


Billy gives a small clap, "Sounds like you have quite many great tales. I haven't involved myself in court so far, only been out and about."


"Interesting, to say the least. Cutthroat world, yes." he remarks, stroking his beak a little.

"Hmm… what is the phrase? Like Fireworks. They do seem rather competitive. Why not work together?"


"What the most thrillin' case you've had? I could tell you my most thrillin' moment but it shows off well enough!" Grutar says as he lifts up his drill arm to show to Ave as he laughs.


"Well, all the same, if there is anything a semi-distinguished nobleman can do for the cause," he says as he readies a Concord friend-request to Rich. "Let me know. Though I'd be remiss to see your skills behind the counter leave, this is quite good." He says as he takes another sip of the milk, cream frothing around his whiskers.

Zamrud looks on with interest as the two lawyers duel with their business cards, to which Zamrud holds up his paws, "Sadly, I am not the client and do not feel so obligated to decide on his behalf. I will take both your cards to him and see if he has any preferences. He's a bit of an odd one, though."

Zamrud nods. "That seems agreeable. You two clearly have professional history, perhaps you could cooperate on this case?"

>I see. Well then, in which case, if you wouldn't mind putting me in contact with her I think I would like to have my head examined then. Feel it is a good idea to keep it to those we can trust. I'll write down anything of importance to remind myself later should the worse occur.
He says, making a mental note to jot down everything he's done regarding the mysterious historic OS from the bunker.


>You may wish to do the same for the others.

With that he sent the feline his Mother's concord contact info.

>Where are you by the way?


Rich accepts the friend request. "Yeah, I'll be in touch! Appreciate it pal," he says as he tops off your drink.


Another song comes on as you suggest that the bickering lawyers work together to come to the Mendicant's aid. "Yeah!" Fate says, the idea clearly catching her attention. "You guys can tag team it, switching out whenever one gets tired!"
"Despite all the months you've worked with Ave as his aid," Square says. "You seem to have not learned how trials work."
"What?" Fate gasps. "I'm like 90% of the reason he's won every case!"
"Hey, I think I can take credit for a good 60… no, 70% of the work!" Ave protests.

While the rather eccentric legal trio get back to arguing, you notice an email notification from Mabin. Its subject line requests your presence in his meeting chamber to discuss a certain mission.

>"Given the nature of the circumstances, it would be best to speak in-person regarding it," Mabin writes. "I will await you next Cycle at 0800 where we last met."


Grutar takes awhile to figure out how to open up mail once again on his magicomp before "Blasted thing, how do these things work again?"


"Hmm. A new mission? This could be good, I think- I have been stationary too long."


>Indeed. I shall inform them
>As to where we are, we're at a bar in the noble district, down an alleyway.

"Well, perhaps you can all work it out once you've had a chance to meet with Rudolph. I will see if I can arrange one more audience with him, provided his jailers are merciful enough for at least that."

Zamrud looks down as the three start their spirited and heated debate once again, noticing the alert coming in from Mabin. Taking a look at it and finishing it, Zamrud lets out a quite groan, before moving over to Grutar and looking over his shoulder, pointing out the directions to use the magicomp. "Just click that symbol there…" he says as he starts out the process of explaining it.

He takes another look at the message before looking to the others, presuming they may have acquired a similar message. "I assume we're all available for that time?"

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