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At last, the final sight of the Tartarian Descent Team is engulfed by the interminable darkness.

The Great Seal rends the earth with a deafening quake, as it slides nearly shut, open only by a hairsbreadth. The Loyal Kerberos, ten thousand Umbral Hounds strong, holds one end of Shei's Black Thread in one of his mouths. He leers at it contemptuously, but holds it nonetheless as agreed.

Most of the others accompanying Sir Pryce cannot look anymore at the Great Seal, ready to direct their thoughts to anything other than the fates of their friends… and foes. Sir Estuary is the only one who seems composed. He looks to Pryce, and with a slight bow of his head, says, "Perhaps we should make for the surface, milord. We have no further business here."
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You rise and ascend and elevate and vibrate, higher in joy and frequency and wavelength waves, waves of the things all things, all love-quotients with responsible sustainable love element for existence great and small, rising up lines, axes, graphs, matrices? Even that a useful illusion, all paths, narrow but many, united in love, a universal song-language! Prosperity here on this earth and in the clouds! Numbers arising ascending into the infinite! Number-paths to the new heaven-age! Numbers, infinite! Numbers comprise the angels, 256 bit integer unsigned angels! Floating double angels! All booleans healed, all negatives absolute value truth! Love product and quotient, music is money math paid to Caesar, profits for prophets!The D##co##c L#r#s are here and free! They're here!!! they're here!!! accept them accept them accept them accept them

You feel something curling around your hoof… a string… soft, delicate, yet sturdy… the silk of a spider?


Pryce can't help but smile against his will. The infinite joy bounding about is infectious, how could you not have the biggest grin?
When Pryce feels the string touch his hoof, he reaches down and takes hold immediately. Anything to keep himself bound to the ground.
>Pull Down [1d10]

Roll #1 8 = 8


"For shame, Sir Pryce! You need to get your ass back in church if you're falling for this bullshit!" a voice scolds you as you grasp the thread.

The voice– instantly and unmistakably familiar. That of the old Spider himself.

Forces rocket you downward, through the dark clouds… yet somehow, once you're past the brief terror of falling, the sensation of being on the ground once more is a world more comfortable than that of floating. You're back in the dining-hall of the inn. The villager remains inert before you, and Zjetya and Buiwong– no, you double-take, and see Alloy… standing there, grimacing with concern.


A brief sense of panic shoots through Pryce as he hears Buiwong's voice, and contention of this being a saving grace.
He shuts his eyes again at the sudden falling, tensed until well after he feels the ground solid again below him. When he finally opens them and sees he's back in the inn. Again, he freezes momentarily at the sight of Buiwong, only loosening after he blinks and sees it is Alloy next to Zjetya.
"I'm… I'm back," He says, more to assure himself, taking a deep breath, shaken from the experience.


"What do you mean, back?" Zjetya asks. "…you went somewhere?"

By her tone, you sense no disbelief… only a growing sense of horror. Alloy says nothing, and by the look on his face, he knows already what happened.


"I… How long has it been since I connected the thread to the villager?" Pryce asks. Seeing Alloy's face, the remembering the voice, he feels not much has passed for the others.

He shakes his head again, looking to Zjetya.
"I saw… there was a lot of dread. And then, an overwhelming lift of… positivity. It was the feeling of angels, and I could see the thread I connected already high above. It… reminded me of the Rapture."


"Only a few minutes," Zjetya says. "You just told us you were going to try connecting to his mind… then you were as blank-faced as he was. We figured the damage was serious, and I had a bad feeling it was gonna get to you too."

Alloy nods. "I think I know what happened… he's become enraptured. The Draconic Lords… are more than just dragons. They're probably gods."


"It might have, but thankfully I had help to pull me out of it," Pryce looks to Alloy. "Thank you for that."

"Possibly. After this, it may be safe to say they're working with or have the power of angels. Which, with the demon tamers Ecclessia told us about here, makes this a messy situation."
Pryce looks back to the villager.
"And we don't have any tools to deal with the worst we've seen angels being capable of."


"Uh… I don't wanna take credit for what someone else did," Alloy mutters, clearly fearing how you might react.

"Well shit," Zjetya says. "Now what, then?"

As Grantz translates for his guards, they ponder the implications for the revolution.


"…Well, I can't deny help like that when backed into a corner."

Pryce thinks a moment, still concerned about the villager's status.
"He doesn't look to have that glass affliction we saw in Vitral, so they aren't as aggressive as that was, assuming they could do that same. That might change if there's a lot of demon hunters, meaning we might need to act quicker before things escalate," Pryce says, looking over the villager to check if there is any glass.
"If there are angels, I would think they'd be open to discussion, but after that vision, they might be claiming this as territory, which they might not be willing to cede."

"…We should plan to fight both dragons and angels, and be cautious of any offerings of help from anypony up there."


There's no glass anywhere on him.

Zjetya and Alloy nod. Grantz says some things to the innkeeper, who nods. Together with a few of Grantz's retinue, they collect the inert villager, and set about finding a place to keep him for the night.

"Well, after everything," Grantz says. "I think an early departure's worth considering again. What say you?"

Before you can consider the proposal, you notice a new weight in your pocket.

Inside, you find a single link of a black chain.


Pryce is about to agree, but before he can, he looks down as he feels something in his pocket. He reaches in, pulling out the black chain piece.
"Huh, what's this?"


It has an unmistakably familiar air about it… Zjetya checks her pockets as well, and finds one of her own.

Sensing that something's amiss, Alloy steps forward towards Grantz. "I can take us back to the village in a hurry," he offers.

Grantz nods. "Take ten to gather your things– and tidy up the room. Fortunately we won't be charged for damages."


Pryce looks at Zjetya as she also pulls out a piece of chain, concerned that they've found identical objects on their person (pony).
"Right, we'll clean up what we can," Pryce says as Grantz calls for a leave.

As Pryce heads back up to the room with Zjetya, he looks at the chain again.
"They didn't get into our room… Do you have any idea what these are?" He asks her.


Zjetya's expression is troubled, and she doesn't answer right away. Instead, she presents the chain to Hopper. He looks it over… and lets out a sad squeak.

"…I think something bad happened down in Tartarus," Zjetya says at last.


"…What?" Pryce says. "No, no that can't be it. We wouldn't get anything up here if something went wrong." He answers, turning to go get his things.
From his tone, he's rejecting the idea something wrong could have happened to the others.


"But they left the Great Seal open," Zjetya says. "Granted, Kerberos is guarding it… but with all the abilities and powers that our group has, I really don't think it's impossible we'd get some kind of notice… besides, Hopper… seems to agree."


Pryce shakes his head, stopping his packing.
"Exactly, they have a lot of abilities and powers. Nothing could get in their way… even in Tartarus."


Zjetya goes silent again, then sighs and packs her things in silence. She delays for a little bit, pretending to check over the room one more final time for lost items– and yet another time… but you can tell she's waiting for you to reconsider.


Pryce hasn't moved. Zjetya can see him looking down at the chain piece, standing like there's a weight over his shoulders.
"When I said we'll see each other again soon, I didn't mean like this…" She can hear him speak faintly.


Zjetya stands next to you with downcast eyes, saying nothing.


The silence lingers a few moments. Then, Pryce takes off his bracelet. Holding it and the chain, and in magician's fashion, Pryce taps the two together twice before they slip through each other and become interlinked on the third. He places it back on his hoof, and a wing around Zjetya.
"One of them had to send it. We'll need to finish faster to be at the Gate before they are," He says resolutely.
Though his words are strong, his wing holds tightly to her, needing a steady shoulder.


Zjetya nods, touching her cheek to yours, before the two of you walk out, carrying Hopper with you. You meet Grantz in the lobby, along with his guards, as well as Alloy. Grantz notices the grim atmosphere, but says nothing about it. When Alloy confirms that everyone's here, he opens a Dark Corridor for you.


Pryce wonders if River found a chain as well, wondering how she is fairing now with this news if she did.
When they all gathering in the lobby and Alloy opens a Corridor back, Pryce steps through with his first intent being finding River.


Though Grantz and his number are a little unnerved by the Dark Corridor, as before, your trip through is uneventful, and you end up just outside the airship in the village's wagon-yard, just as dawn breaks over the horizon.

You make your way eastward, while villagers who rose early this morning call with surprise to their companions at the sight of Grantz. Soon the village is awoken, and Vortigern flies out to meet you at the village square to give Grantz a hug. Behind her trails River, as well as Sugar, Spitshine and Onion, who come up to greet you… and you can tell from a glance that they know.


As they reach the village and the others run out to greet them, Pryce goes forward to take River in close, to share the same support as with Zjetya.

KP is more somber and not as enthusiastic, with the air heavy as it is. Pryce lowers down Hopper, who KP takes in a hug


Though Hopper isn't normally one for hugs, for KP, he endures it. Vortigern and Grantz go off to the village meeting-hall, leaving you and your companions some space.

Spitshine clicks his tongue. "If people could just stop splitting off on their own…"

"Wasn't it necessary?" Sugar asks. "For us to achieve peace, we needed to fight on multiple fronts…"

"I mean, Estuary," Spitshine clarifies. "I wanna know if he got one of these too. We should make something out of them. Mainly so I don't misplace mine."


"Sir Estuary was a part of our group. He may have only joined up before we split, but he was still one of us. I can only wonder how he's doing aside from now though."

Pryce looks down at the chain now added to his bracelet.
"We could bind them to what's important to each of us, so we'll always have them by our side," Pryce suggests as a idea.


The others look at their chain links, contemplating what to hang them from.

"Well," River says. "Before that, let's not catch cold out here."

She leads the way into the meeting-hall of the village. You note that it's a smaller, less decorated version of the building in which the representatives of the tribal leadership held their meetings. More importantly, perhaps, it's warm inside. River finds you an empty room, and you sit down.

"So, how'd it all go?" River asks.


The warmth of the meeting-hall is welcome, though most of it comes from being with the others now in this moment.
"It went fairly well… at first. We got a good glimpse of the others tribes, and the ones that are against us, and then…" Pryce details to the others what they learned from the meetings and the details Grantz and Vortigern gave them on the tribal politics and falling out with the loyalist tribes, and then the attempted attack that came just moments ago. "…The pony we caught though was completely out if it. And when I checked his mental state, I found the influence of angels."


River and Onion start jotting down notes on all the politicking as you recap the situation.

"Angels?" River repeats. "You think Metatron may be involved?"
"Maybe," Zjetya asks. "Though I don't think anyone's spotted him or his forces in a long time. Last we saw them was way down southwest in Vitral."
Onion nods. "Not impossible for them to have already stirred up trouble here, though."


"It's hard to say if he's involved. From the vision I saw the angels were speaking as saviors, I didn't get the same impression as the ones in Vitral who were fighting the demons. It could be a separate group, though if Ecclesia heard of the growing number of demon tamers here, I wouldn't be surprised if Metatron or others moved here as well," Pryce surmises.

"Either way, we'll need to move with extra caution now. I don't know what they did to that villager, or how, but we don't have any means now to counter it. We should also assume that glass condition could be at play as well, and we don't have the Ember anymore to reverse that either."


River's eyes suddenly shoot wide-open. "Zjetya! The horn– the Caller Conch with Sarajinae's voice… do you think it could be related?"

Zjetya turns pale as she thinks it over. "Well… thinking back to how it took us out of things when we tried it… it doesn't sound terribly different to what happened to that villager. And, if these angels really are tied up with the Draconic Lords, and Sarajinae's up where they live… it's possible."


"You think it could have been a horn that did that?"
Pryce thinks back to their test of the horn they took.
"Zjetya, what was Sarajinae's personality like? Did she fight, or lead anything? Did she have any magic or talent in riling ponies up?"


"Mmm… maybe," Zjetya says. "We only heard it for a second before we stopped, but its effect was strong. That guy may have been exposed to… but, wait, that shit was loud! We'd have definitely heard it if he'd been subject to it."

"Maybe it wasn't the conch," River says. "But, whatever phenomenon enchanted the conch to give it the power that Sarajinae's voice… has…"

Zjetya leans back in horror. "She… do you think… it's possible we could've… just missed her?"


Seeing Zjetya's horror at the thought, Pryce puts a comforting wing around her.
"I'm sure nothing's happened to her. If they're using her voice for this kind of power, then they'll be keeping her safe to keep using it."

"They had a day and some between seeing us and attempting that attack. It's possible they could have controlled the ponies from afar and sent them after us so we wouldn't here or be able to interfere," He suggests on how it could have been done, He then thinks a moment.
"We should look into sound blocking for when we go up the mountain, on the chance it could be done quieter than the horn."


"I'm starting to worry something hasn't happened to her…" Zjetya says. "What if… she's willingly working with them?"

River taps her hoof in thought. "I think that Pryce and I would notice a look-alike of our significant other running around. It's still too early to blame her for what happened to the villager, and we don't even have enough clues to say one way or the other. For now, we should focus on what we can do rather than what may or may not be true."

The others nod in agreement.

"Yeah, guess you're right…" Zjetya mutters.


"River's right, we can't make assumptions. We'll put a stop to the dragons and angels, get Sarajinae out of there, and then worry about anything else after."

"That said, after today they're surely aware of us now, and they know at the very least of the Dark Corridor and Alloy's ability to take away power. They'll be on high alert, so getting up there is going to be a bigger challenge now. Getting out will too, since we saw in Vitral how the angel magic can interfere with the Corridor. We may have to make a move sooner than we thought."


Zjetya nods again, a bit lifeless despite the reassurance. It looks like the very thought of Sarajinae's involvement has taken out all her energy.

"Well, with that," River says. "I say we take counsel from our rebel leaders."


Pryce frowns with concern seeing Zjetya drained in such a way. He isn't sure how to help further in this situation more than he can, only to pray that Sarajinae isn't willingly active in this stunt.

Pryce nods in agreement with River.
"Yea, let's organize and figure out our next step."


You leave the small side-room and enter the main meeting hall where Vortigern and Grantz went. Inside, you see that this hall is modeled like the main meeting room of the village council hall, although less ornate and more decorated with local symbols and styles. At first, Vortigern is there by herself at the lead chair, but Grantz soon enters from a side-door, carrying a tray atop which are a couple of bowls and cups. He's even wearing an apron. Zjetya, despite her dour mood, can't help but smirk at the sight. Grantz catches this, but he's too proud to be embarrassed for his role in upholding the matriarchy. "Coffee or tea?" he asks.

Your entourage give their orders, and then Zjetya nudges you. "That's a lot of drinks he's gonna have to make. Go help him."

River chuckles, and so does Spitshine, until Sugar prods him. Onion, though lacking a lady of his own, gets into the spirit and heads for the stairs up.


Pryce is prepared to wait as they enter the hall, seeing only Vortigern at the table. That is until Grantz enters, and Zjetya prods for him to help.
"Right, back in a jiff," He agrees, heading over to help Grantz with serving drinks for their crew.


You and the lads go into the side room, where you find a small kitchenette with a number of provisions for long meetings. There are even extra aprons. It's a bit of a struggle to get one to fit Spitshine, but with some clever modifications by Alloy, you manage to get him fitted out. You then make some drinks and warm some biscuits and honey from storage, and bring them out to where the ladies are sat, discussing the developments in the war. When you walk in, they chuckle and compliment you, which leaves Spitshine, Alloy and Onion with a glow of confidence.

They give you a minute to pass things out, and then another for you to sit and enjoy your own drink and breakfast. By now, the food and the service have clearly raised Zjetya's spirits from their earlier dread.

"Pryce, Alloy," Vortigern says. "As I told the others, things have quieted somewhat here. Which is good– after the attack this morning, I've decided your group needs to lay low for a time. I don't mind if the loyalists think they've scared us into backing down. Let them think that and get overconfident for all I care. It's preferable to an attack actually landing on you."

Grantz looks discontent with the decision, but raises no objections. "We won't be on vacation by any means," Grantz says. "I'm sure we'll find some more local tasks for you to do in the meantime."


Pryce serves out breakfast with a smile, the easier of the chores they've done about so far. And seeing Zjetya's spirits raise also makes it worthwhile.

After Vortigern gives them her summary after they all sit to partake in breakfast too, Pryce nods in agreement though is left with questions.
"If you think it's best, then I agree. But how long should we lay low? We should be preparing to move quickly, shouldn't we?" He follows, wondering what their strategy going forward will be.


"Until the results of the meeting come in, to put it briefly," Vortigern says.
"Oh, yeah," Zjetya says. "Forgot to translate that part earlier. The fealty agreements, right?"
Grantz nods. "I've called upon the other tribes to make a final decision about whose side they'll take. Many wanted to delay siding with either the rebellion or the loyalists, hoping that the war will stall out before they have to act. They have til week's end to cast their lot, or we will cast it for them."
Vortigern nods. "On a related note… Pryce, Alloy, you're the best suited to answer this. We've traveled together long enough that I hope we can discuss all things openly and honestly."
This prelude sets your allies ill at ease, and they look about the room…
"I want to know," Vortigern continues. "If Alloy's divine power of mental influence will be a suitable bulwark against that very same power which the draconic lords and their angels wield."
Alloy tenses, and shivers. He avoids your gaze… but… don't spiders have eight eyes…?

You feel eyes upon you…


"So we don't know who's entirely on our side yet then," Pryce says as they give the reason for waiting.

When Vortigern lays out the question of how defended they are from the angels, Pryce is silent, thinking it over a moment. The pressure of Alloy avoiding his gaze and the eyes make him review this carefully.
"I… cannot say for certain. When I connected to that pony's mind, there was an overwhelming positivity, but I could only think of the Rapture from what I saw. And with Alloy's power, I still see and hear Buiwong. I don't know how much these impacted me in that moment, but it still took effort to escape that vision. The best I can say is with our knowledge of it now, we could resist it for a moment, and it'll take all of our effort to reject it in that moment to avoid ending up like that villager."


Vortigern nods then looks to Alloy. When he realizes that you're taking this in stride, he clears his throat. "I'd have to test it… but assuming they're similar enough powers, it should work in theory. I may have to increase the strength of my influence to fully repel the other one. Now, I wouldn't be strong enough to fend off a draconic lord directly, but I don't think the villager we fought got hypnotized by them personally. More likely, by one of their servants, using a weaker version of the same general power. Them, I could probably keep at bay, in case they tried to influence us directly… and without leaving any permanent damage."

"How do you feel about testing it on prisoners?" Vortigern asks.

"Excuse me!?" Alloy snaps.

"The prisoners of war we have here show signs like that which the captured villager shows," Vortigern says. "You may be able to help them return to a general sanity, if your power can reduce the influence of the draconic lords on them."

"I guess…" Alloy mutters. "Still… testing on POWs…?"

"You can say no," Vortigern says. "But if you're concerned for the ethics of it, understand that our foes have already cast the die further than any of us could. And you'd be doing it to heal, not to compel them to fight, as the lords have."

Alloy, troubled, does not answer right away.


The mention of permanent damage leaves Pryce with some worry on what they're dealing with, but he does trust that Alloy wouldn't do anything with malicious intent or damage on purpose.
When Vortigern suggests testing his power and training on the prisoners, Pryce also is thrown off guard. It feels wrong when they've already been through enough. But, after the glass condition they saw in Vitral, their options of dealing with angelic afflictions is limited, if not null entirely. And then his mind lingers to the question of Sarajinae, if she could also be affected by the draconic lords and angels in this way to be working for them.

"…If it is to heal, that is our best bet," Pryce says as a suggestion. "We don't know if the dragon lords or the angels intended to reverse this at some point, of if they even can. The last time we could undo one of their effects took an artifact, and we don't have anything close to that anymore. But, the decision is up to you Alloy. I don't want to push you if you're not comfortable with it."


Hearing you vouch for him with trust changes something in Alloy. A weight lifts from his shoulders… and from yours as well, as the pressure of the eyes goes away– you realize that, from the start, it came from inside your own mind.

Alloy nods to Vortigern. "Okay… I'll try it."

"Good," Vortigern says. "I'll allot you some of my circle of wise women to help."

She looks over to the rest of your group. "While you lay low, the village could use help with curtailing the region's monster population. With the uprising, we haven't been able to spare the fighters to keep numbers balanced."

River looks intrigued. "You need someone to play monster hunter for you?"

Sugar looks at the camera.

"Uhh, yes," Vortigern says, with the demeanor of one who realizes she has missed a joke but doesn't want to admit it.


Pryce feels a sense of hope after Alloy decides to test it, that they could stand equal to the angels if this goes well.

"Almost sounds like our game of Witches and Wargs," Pryce comments at the job offer.
"How bad could the population be? I don't remember seeing too many on our last two trips," He asks.

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