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File: 1638067597243.jpg (98.89 KB, 631x631, 5f386b24-636d9529.jpg)

 No.757843[Last 50 Posts]

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."

 No.757844

https://pastebin.com/RaZG8KLM

>>757843
Pryce is still, staring at the seal for long after it nearly closes back up. He makes no movement or sound, almost stuck in a trance, until Sir Estuary speaks to him, and even then it takes a moment for him to respond.
"…Right. We should," He says, voice sounding empty, though not moving from his spot.

 No.757845

>>757844
It seems you are not alone. Renee, River, Zjetya, and the children also remain more or less where they stood when they said their final farewells, either trying to busy themselves with the pets or the hellhounds, or simply staring off into space altogether.

The silence is at last broken by Spark, who has begun to cry audibly for Shorthorned, despite the brave face he put on for her at the very end. Vortigern, ever the caring mother, scoops little Spark off of Lockjaw's back. Lockjaw grunts with frustration, and Vortigern relents, carrying Spark at a low enough height that Lockjaw can sniff and grunt at the tiny baby drake to assuage his cries.

Estuary elbows you and nods his head toward the exit.

 No.757846

>>757845
KP looks up at everypony, concerned, though also feeling the mood himself.

Pryce's head turns as Spark cries out, feeling the sting of the audible remorse of being left behind. Estuary's elbow is enough to get Pryce to move after that, getting him to re-realize the world and the others around him.
"… Come on everypony, we got our share to do still."
Pryce speaks aloud to the group, turning to follow towards the exit with lingering heaviness in his steps.

 No.757847

>>757846
Gravity bends your stomachs and senses as you leave the chamber of Kerberos, the hounds silent at your departure, out of respect.

Upon leaving the darkened chamber, the Dragon of Mercury is found waiting, floating nearby. Eight spiraling stairways connect to the stone chamber, but after a moment, with a shuddering quake, the stairways start to combine, one step at a time.

"In a moment," the Dragon of Mercury begins, "A path straight back to your World shall be complete. You will understand that we must reset the randomization of God's Entombed following your departure. It is part of the protocols left behind by the ancient ones."

Estuary nods.

As you wait for the stairway to align, Renee's mouth opens and shuts in frustration many times. She looks like she's having trouble formulating her thoughts.

 No.757848

>>757847
Pryce looks up the staircase as it is slowly formed together, a little shocked that leaving will be a simple task.
"Oh… thank you."

KP looks up to Renee as she looks to be troubled.
>"Is everything alright?"
He asks her.

 No.757849

>>757848
"You all…" Renee begins. "What do you intend with Ecclesia? Will you join them, work alongside them, or disregard them altogether?"

"Well," Zjetya says. "I will remind you I'm at the rank of Evangelist among the Laity. Even if I'm not assigned to the front lines of the coming war, I don't think I'm going to be able to avoid involvement with it for much longer."

 No.757850

>>757849
"We don't have many allies on the surface. Any disagreements are minor outside of the bigger threat coming," Pryce comments, turning back to face the group.
"Rooster recommended joining the Vermillion Corps. It does sound like our best option all things considered, we're allied but not beholden. And at the very least, we can use it to fill in their interest with Ornifex instead of their other troops."

 No.757851

>>757850
"I was actually… thinking of joining Eccleisa, myself," Renee says.

"It is not a decision I come to lightly, one I toiled over many nights with Flow. I learned from Sir Freischutz that some of my friends, who I believed dead, have come to involve themselves with Ecclesia, and now must be standing at the ready against the Treibheanna."

"You… sure you want to do that?" Zjetya asks. "No guarantee you'd be able to see us again. As a healer, they'd want you close to the action, probably at some kind of forward camp…"

"I've considered well the risks. After all, have I not seen what atrocities demons and angels alike can engineer in our travels?"

At last, the grand staircase forms, and the others, one by one, gradually set hoof upon it.

 No.757852

>>757851
"I can't say whether you should join them or not, only that if you do so, that you stay safe. But, I would like us to stay as grouped together as possible," Pryce says. He looks forward to the staircase as it finally forms, stepping up to return back to the surface, with KP following behind.
"I know you can handle yourself, my concern would be over if they let you leave after all this."

 No.757853

>>757852
"I understand…" Renee says. "But with Flow gone, I fear the anticipation may drive me mad if I do not have a sufficient undertaking before me to occupy me body and mind… besides, I would be remiss if the world were not a peaceful place where a warrior like him could come back, rest his head and get some peaceful dreams."

"Well hey," Zjetya says. "We're gonna have to deal with the Eccleisan bureaucracy to get my assignment with you all extended and information on the Vermillion Corps. You could inquire about it there."

After what feels like an interminable climb back up, the stairway through that liminal dungeon at last deposits you in a hallway, a hallway you perceive upon a 2-D plane as if you were characters in a storybook. As you open a door at the end of the hall, your vision reverts to normal, and you are in the grand hall of Fantasia Palace once more, just as you were so many months ago when storming it alongside Blessings and River against the tyrant demon Orcus.

 No.757854

>>757853
"We have plenty to do to prepare for the Treibheanna, it's not like we'll be resting much while the others are—" Pryce stops, not finishing that line of thought, continuing on and brushing past it. "We're all working to make the world safe. But like Zjetya says, we have a lot to work with first today to plan what we do next."

Once they return back to the surface, Pryce feels a small bit of relief that they're back in a familiar and safe environment.
>"Feels like we were down there forever! Do you think we'll have to go through the puzzles again next time?"
KP chimes up once they enter the grand hall.

 No.757855

>>757854
"We should have told them our secret knock so they'd know it's us next time," Spitshine says.
"We have a secret knock?" Sugar asks.
Spitshine remains aloof and nods silently to KP as a silly girl tries to steal away their esoteric knowledge. Sugar just puffs out her cheeks at this idiocy.

As you step back outside, the glare of the late afternoon sunlight momentarily blinds you. Though it is nearly sunset, it brings with it no comfort or beauty, instead casting an ominous bloody shade over the fortress-city and the landscape beyond.

"Most of the other Choristers have advanced to the front far south of here," Zjetya says. "We should speak with Einmal ist Keinmal tomorrow, he should still be in Lilane overseeing support operations."

 No.757856

>>757855
KP snickers at Sugar's annoyed reaction, and runs a hoof over his muzzle to show his lips are sealed on the subject.

"Tomorrow? There's still time today we could stop by and talk," Pryce comments, looking out towards the setting sun, hooves already moving forward to return to the airship.

 No.757857

>>757856
"We could try," Zjetya says. "But I hear it's pretty difficult to catch Sir Einmal at this time of day, apparently he's something of a workaholic."

"I can't guarantee I won't fall asleep before we arrive," River says. Judging by the others' weary expressions, the trials of God's Entombed and the stress of saying what may have been your final farewells to everyone seem to have exhausted everyone.

"I'll be the copilot," Vortigern says. "Earl Volkama left me the user manual for the airship. And, with him and Wireframe gone into Tartarus, we're down to only Pryce knowing how to fly it. We should get everyone trained posthaste."

Spitshine yawns. "Wonder how Regina's taking Box leaving…"

 No.757858

>>757857
"I'm sure he can make time, we can just explain the situation," Pryce starts, then notices how worn the others are by their expression and comments. He stops, taking a breath to collect himself at realizing the rush he was pushing through.
"Or… let's just wait until the morning."


>"Yea, they only just met… We should check in on her before we fly off to wherever."

 No.757859

>>757858
Before you can head back to the airship, River reminds you that the others took the majority of your food and drink supplies into Tartarus with them. Dividing up some funds, your group splits up to go into town and purchase some supplies. Spitshine and Sugar stick with KP, River and Zjetya pair up, and Vortigern decides to take Spark and Volkama's trio of mage mice back to the airship – they in particular are truly despondent.

 No.757860

>>757859
Renee goes back with Vortigern.

 No.757861

>>757859
KP goes off with Spitshine and Sugar, debating both the balance of smart decisions and snacks.

"…How are you feeling about all this?"
Pryce asks Sir Estuary as they're left in their own group alone, not wanting to shop in silence and also seeing this is the first calm moment he's been in around the knight.

As they look around, Pryce still feels despondent over the whole ordeal and the atmosphere over the group. Then, an idea surfaces at the back of his mind. His mood looks to lift a slight bit, and he turns, with a new focus to find classic camp food.

 No.757862

>>757861
"I have little feeling on the matter," Estuary says. "I hardly knew any of them, save for what I gathered while hunting you down. The only exception was Sir Flow, who gained much power from my medallion, and to whom I entrusted one of my swords. For him, I am simply confident in his success."

As you try to purchase camping food, you find that options in general are quite limited, and prices high, with the current ration restrictions. In your discussion with the shopkeepers, you find that things have been fluctuating following Easy's agreement to a joint city governance treaty with the Ecclesians. Things are better than they were before, but belts are still tighter than people would like.

In the end, you manage to get whatever simple amenities you were after, and a few luxury sweets as well, but at the cost of all but a few coins of the airship's collective food budget.

 No.757863

>>757862
"…What about us up here?" Pryce follows up.

The limited supply and high prices wear on Pryce, but right now he is feeling that they need a moral boost. Getting some hay dogs, burgers, and the making for smores, he heads back to the airship.

 No.757864

>>757863
"I heard bits and pieces of rumors about the Treibheanna's gathering of allies, especially while in Vitral," Estuary says. "If what even half of what I heard was true… I doubt we're in for an easier time than those who went into Tartarus."

Estuary glances over the food that you've chosen. "If there is anything that seldom changes in any era, it's food. Nearly a millennium since the fall of Vadahara, and a continent away, and ponies are still putting hay and sauce upon bread."

As you get back to the airship, you find that the others are gathered as well, working together to put away all the gathered foodstuffs in the cabinets and barrels of the airship's larder.

 No.757865

>>757864
"Hmm…" Pryce hums in thought, seeing that either way things went, it'd be tough times ahead.

"It's good food, right? Don't need to change something working just fine." Pryce thinks a moment. "Have you really been around for a millennium?"


Pryce steps back onto the airship, seeing everypony put away the food they all shopped out for. KP as well doing his part.
"After we're done, I was thinking we could camp out tonight…" Pryce says to the group, putting his supplies out to add to his suggestion.

 No.757866

>>757865
"You lose count somewhere around the 700 range," Estuary jokes, deadpan as ever.

As you suggest a camping night, some of the others' exhaustion recedes, and the mood rises. "Now that's a throwback," River says. "Lucky that you managed to find marshmallows, too."

"Is that real chocolate!?" Sugar exclaims, nearly leaping.

"Get in line, young lady," Vortigern says. "That's got my name written all over it." She and Sugar stare each other down. How serious they are is unknown.

"We should establish a rationing policy of our own before a fight breaks out," Renee says.

 No.757867

>>757866
Pryce smiles as he can feel the mood lift in the ship.
"It took a bit of hunting and haggling, but it's all good quality," Pryce says as the girls jump at the sweets. "But first, we need to get a nice spot outside set up, and get a campfire going."
He says, putting the snacks back into the bag before anypony sneaks some off.
"Hmm, we'll need some tents too. I could conjure some up I think."

 No.757868

>>757867
With that newfound energy, the others go to retrieve bedrolls and pillows and blankets for the evening. Estuary, apparently something of a stranger to this, starts to slither outside. "I shall keep watch while you are out. Do not forget that demonkind are more active at night. The moon may be waning, but come moonrise, you and Vortigern need to join my efforts in watchkeeping."

 No.757869

>>757868
>"This is gonna be great! I can't remember the last time I went camping!"
KP says with excitement, going to get some pillows, as well as Lockjaw's bed to bring outside.

"I haven't forgotten, but there aren't many places we can do this nowadays. Need to take the opportunity when we have it, right?"
He answers Estuary.

As the others get their base supplies, Pryce steps outside, pulling off his bracelet and attempts to conjure some tents for the group.
>Hat Magic [Tents] [1d10]

Roll #1 9 = 9

 No.757870

>>757869
You procure some simple small tents for your group, and wrap up just as the others gather outside with their bedrolls and such. The pets seem a little energized now as join everyone walking some distance to the treeline southwest of where the airship is parked. The ladies split up to look for a suitable camping spot, and Vortigern, flying overhead, soon announces her discovery, of a cleared area devoid of grass and given some natural fortifications of rock.

You make your way over there with the others, and while they start to set up their tents, Zjetya and River gather some sticks and rocks to make a firepit.

 No.757871

>>757870
"Hope there's enough here…" Pryce mutters as he gathers the tents in his telekinesis, carrying them over to the spot Vortigern pointed out. He sets the tents out for everypony to take their own at set up. KP helps gather some sticks as well, while Pryce fetches a pan from the ship for the burgers, as well as gathering some more sturdy branches to skewer the dogs and marshmallows with.

"Looks pretty nice out tonight. Perfect for this."

 No.757872

>>757871
Indeed, the midyear is pleasantly warm, and the skies clear despite the ominous portents of earlier. Zjetya gets a small fire going, and the others, having completed their tents, sit around the firepit, not-so-patiently watching you to see when you'll get that grill going. Estuary is notably absent, assumedly having taken a position nearby to watch for demons.

 No.757874

>>757872
Pryce sets the pan over the fire, letting it heat it up as he gets the food out.
"Alright, who wants a burger and who wants a dog?" He asks the group, putting burgers down in the pan and skewering some dogs and propping them up over the fire.

"Sir Estuary! Which do you prefer?" Pryce calls out to the knight, knowing he can't be too far, and not wanting to leave him out of the meal.

 No.757875

>>757874
Vortigern, Spitshine, Sugar and Renee all raise their hooves when you say burger. River and Zjetya raise their hooves for a hot dog.

Lockjaw and the other carnivorous pets sniff the pan with disappointment as they realize you're cooking hay, not meat.

Estuary offers no response. You may have to surprise him.

 No.757876

>>757875
Pryce throws down six burgers, the four as requested, one for KP, and one for Estuary, figuring he'd like the classic grill food. Pryce skewers up three dogs, two for River and Zjetya and one for himself. He let's them cook, letting the smell fill the air, flipping and rotating after a few minutes. Then once they're reached that perfect sear he pulls them off, plating them up on buns and serving to each, leaving the condiments and toppings to each personal chef to attend to. KP covers his in ketchup and relish. And after those, Pryce takes some of the pet meat snacks and throws them into the pan to give them a little sear for Lockjaw and the other pets so they can partake in the campfire grilling too.

 No.757877

>>757876
The others offer you a great amount of gratitude, and get to dressing their meals with no small amount of condiments and sides. You see that Sugar and Spitshine bought diced onions, potato salad, and many kinds of sauces and greens, to the delight of the party.

Lockjaw, Spark and Pucchini nearly lose their minds as they see the meat getting grilled, running about and jumping on and off everything in sight with anticipation. Zjetya offers to watch the meat as you finish putting toppings on Estuary's burger, allowing you to go take it to the samurai yourself.

 No.757878

>>757877
Pryce chuckles as the pets get overexcited as they see their own treats getting grilled. He leaves the pan, and his hay dog, under Zjetya's watch as he dresses up a burger with all the fixings, reminiscent of a what a local town diner would serve, as he takes it over to Estuary.

"Can't keep watch on an empty stomach," He says as he comes up by the samurai, holding out the plate for him.

 No.757879

>>757878
Estuary is facing away from you as you approach, and all you see of him is his robe and conical hat. As you hold the plate close enough for him to take… the hat slides off of the sticks that it had been crudely propped upon.

You don't even hear him drop down from the treeline; you barely manage to sense his presence rush up from above and behind. A sword-blade peeks out from the corner of your eye, in a position where it would be effortless to cut you down. As you are held up, a gooey hoof takes the plate from you. Estuary, clothed in a light robe, sheathes the sword and inspects the burger. "Pickles…"

He pauses for quite a while, then takes a bite, chewing it thoughtfully.

"…Excellent."

 No.757880

>>757879
Pryce tenses up a bit as the sword comes up into his view, the campfire vibe leaving him off-guard and forgetting how ruthless Sir Estuary is and can be.
"Glad you enjoy," Pryce says wit ha nervous chuckle as the samurai enjoys the burger. "You know, you can relax by the fire for a little bit. We'll be having smores soon."

 No.757881

>>757880
"Your training shall begin tomorrow, following the conclusion of all business with this Sir Einmal," Estuary says as if you had not invited him to the campfire. "Inform the others that they should be ready."

He leaps back into the trees, burger in tow. "Bring me one once you are ready to take over the watch for the night."

 No.757882

>>757881
"I'll be ready, and I'll let the others know as well," Pryce says to the statement, seeing that he's not going to budge from keeping watch.
"You got it, see you then." Pryce says as he hops back up into the trees, turning to head back to the camp and his dinner.

 No.757883

>>757882
When you get back, most of the others are still taking their time with their main courses. Your dog sits near the fire to keep it warm, covered with ketchup, mustard, relish, grilled onion, even jalapeno and cilantro.

Unsurprisingly, Vortigern and Sugar have already finished their burgers and dogs, and have moved onto making s'mores. Vortigern, holding her share of chocolate, quietly directs Spitshine to distract Sugar. He does, and Vortigern gives Sugar's s'more a decent portion of her chocolate. Sugar notices this, and splits the shared chocolate in two, and puts it back on Vortigern's s'more. Vortigern, eyes narrowing, splits that already-split chocolate in two, and puts it back onto Sugar's. Sugar does the same once s'more. The two stare each other down.

"Hey, what's the big idea?" Vortigern growls with mock offense. "Trying to out-generous me?"
"I just didn't want to hear you whine all night about not getting enough chocolate," Sugar retorts.
The two get to play-bickering. Spitshine, greatly intimidated, backs away.

 No.757884

>>757883
"Wow, really loaded it up, eh?" Pryce comments, seeing the dog Zjetya prepared for him. He sits dog, picking up his dog and taking a bite, enjoying the savory taste of a grilled treat.

>"We're gonna have to really stock up next time we pick up sweets."

KP comments to Spitshine, sitting by him and seeing his intimidation.

"If you keep splitting up the chocolate you won't have enough for seconds," Pryce jests at the competing generosity. He looks around the campfire as they're all in good moods, sitting back and enjoying the good vibes they have. Out of curisoity, while munching on his hay dog, Pryce takes a marshmallow from the bag and holds it in his fire hoof, wondering if it could roast from it.

 No.757885

>>757884
"Zjetya and I couldn't decide what you'd like best," River says. "So we threw a bit of everything on there."

"Oh, that's what we forgot!" Zjetya exclaims. She grabs the bowl of potato salad. "Want some?"

The marshmallow doesn't cook merely from you holding it, not until you consciously will the flames of your arm to cook it. A useful in-built safety measure, it seems.

While Sugar and Vortigern bicker, Renee sneaks away the chocolate and marshmallows, splitting them up among the others. She takes the plates and starts to clean them with a bit of water.

 No.757886

>>757885
"Good choice, though I'd enjoy anything you two would pick out," Pryce says in thanks. As Zjetya offers potato salad, he nods. "Sure, gotta have the full course." He says, sliding his plate over.

KP takes his marshmallow, piercing it with a stick and holding it over the campfire giddily, getting that perfect golden brown exterior.

As Pryce figures out the fine tuning of the flames for his foreleg, he smiles, not needing to worry about burning things, and then starts to ponder what utilities he could use this for. However, being lost in thought he forgets he is actually holding it, leading the marshmallow to start to burn and become a sticky mess over his hoof.
"Ah, aww…"

 No.757887

>>757886
Lockjaw comes over and, heedless of the fire, munches the burned marshmallow right off your hoof. Zjetya laughs as she serves you the potato salad. "Lockjaw had the right idea there. No such thing as an overcooked marshmallow."

As the others get their s'mores going, the elated mood from earlier calms, but doesn't sink down into the depression it was in before. Though the others are undoubtedly wondering what will become of your allies, for now at least, they are at ease, simply enjoying the company and atmosphere of a simple night under the stars.

Vortigern eventually stands, carrying a s'more. "I'm off to switch with Sir Estuary. Pryce, you'll be after me, alright?"

"I'll take the last watch," Renee offers.

 No.757888

>>757887
Pryce gives Lockjaw a pat as he snatches away the crispy marshmallow. "Guess so, good cleanup too."

Pryce finishes off his hay dog, and his serving of potato salad. Nice comfort food to finish off the night with. He takes another marshmallow, and focuses this time to get a nice golden crisp, getting just the little bit of extra char on the edges before dropping it on the chocolate and smushing it between the crackers, giving it a taste to see how a self-cooking works.

He nods towards Vortigern as she announces the watch shift.
"Got it."

 No.757889

>>757888
Absolutely delicious. The others, having cleaned up by now, lay upon their bedrolls near their tents. River, near the center, is teaching the others some basic astronomy, pointing out constellations and their lore.

Sir Estuary slithers back, silently eating his s'more.

 No.757890

>>757889
The new leg is proving to be plenty useful Pryce notes after finishing off his classic snack. As Estuary slithers back, Pryce looks over to him.
"Enjoying desert?"

 No.757891

>>757890
"I've not thought to have one of these in some hundreds of years," Estuary notes. "A rare treat. I suspect in the near future it will be even rarer. Ecclesia may have improved the lot of the people here, but if their forces in the south are pushed back north, times will get worse than the people believe possible."

The others grimace, but pretend not to hear Estuary, instead wanting to focus, if only for a while, on the stargazing.

 No.757892

>>757891
Pryce starts wit ha smile as Sir Estuary sounds to be enjoying the treat, though it falls as he continues and the mood drops a bit.
"Well, I'm sure that won't come to pass," Pryce says, keeping up hope. With the focus on the stars, Pryce looks to Estuary again.
"How'd the sky look back in your day? Must have some old stories from then, right?"

 No.757893

>>757892
"Same as it ever was," Estuary says. "But the people then called the constellations by other names. I did not have much of an eye for seeing shapes in the stars."

He listens awhile from afar as River names constellations. "… Sounds like some of the Vadaharan and Jibayini constellations seem to have survived under new names… other old ones have been revised in new shapes, or must share their space in the sky with new neighbors. Hmm. That was always the interest of the King."

 No.757894

>>757893
"Good that some things stick around," Pryce comments. "It was? As a King, I imagine he must've gotten a name or story up in the stars to."

 No.757895

>>757894
"He would have," Estuary says. "The Vadaharan kings were believed to be immortalized as a constellation, in a ceremony after their death. Because of his and the Queen's transformations into demons by Buiwong and his lackeys, such a ceremony never occurred."

 No.757896

>>757895
Pryce is silent a moment at the news.
"…We could still do that, couldn't we?"

 No.757897

>>757896
"Not the way it was intended, but… yes."

 No.757898

>>757897
"Better late than never, right? Once things are more settled around here, we can do that ceremony first thing," Pryce offers.

 No.757899

>>757898
"…Very well. I will need time to adapt the ceremony to our current circumstances, anyway."

The fire has dimmed, and the others seem to have gone to sleep already. Estuary rises and puts out the last of the fire, taking care to stir and extinguish the last few coals with a trowel and dirt. When it is done, he nods to you, and heads for his tent.

 No.757900

>>757899
"If you need any help, I am glad to do anything. I owe the King that."

Pryce nods back as Estuary extinguishes the fire and heads off the bed as the night comes to a close. In the moment of solitude, Pryce thinks back on this situation. How many nights of this would they have left, and the mood was down just from friends leaving. He shakes his head, pulling his mind from falling back into despairing thoughts, standing up and going to relieve Vortigern to take watch.

 No.757901

>>757900
When you approach Vortigern, sitting perched in a high tree overlooking the area, you see she is clutching a peculiar doll, soft and resembling some form of strange bear. She quickly tucks it away as you approach, and wordlessly heads off to bed. Some hours later, Renee approaches, and slithers up the tree like a snail to take your place as the watch.



The morning rays warm and illuminate your tent, waking you. Like yesterday, you wake up with your flame-arm gone, leaving only the stump at the shoulder. With simple force of will, your flame-arm sparks to life. Handy to know you won't burn down anything or give yourself carbon monoxide poisoning while asleep.

 No.757902

>>757901
"Night," Pryce says as Vortigern heads off to bed. As he keeps watch, he finds himself needing to constantly refocus on the task and not how the others are fairing. He keeps his Memory Pluck at his side, ready in case needed. Time seems to go forever until Renee comes up to take his place.
"Good night," He says to her, heading back to camp and his tent.



Pryce wakes in the morning, startled a moment at seeing only the stump remaining, before remembering and re-igniting it. Something that he'll need to get used to. He thinks a moment, and tries to will it back out, wondering if it is like a lighter, or only extinguishes when unconscious.
After his test, he stretches, and steps outside to take the tent down.

 No.757903

>>757902
The flame-arm vanishes, just as you wish it. This however greatly displeases Zjetya, who you nearly run into as you exit your tent. She looks disapprovingly at your stump, taking some flint from her belt. "Nope. Turn that back on or I'm igniting your coat."

You can see that the others have already broken down most of camp. Renee and River busy themselves with making a light breakfast on a small campfire.

 No.757904

>>757903
"Hey, hey, just testing how it works. It's a new limb afterall," Pryce says, flicking her flame leg back on as Zjetya threatens to make a replacement fire. "Good aspect to have to keep it from being a distraction."

Pryce takes down his tent, bundling it up nice and neatly, before joining the others by the fire for breakfast.

 No.757905

>>757904
Zjetya gives the flame-arm a tight hug, then leans back and squeezes the bicep. "Hey, the King captured your muscles pretty well there… not sure how, but he did."

River jealously squeezes your other arm, giving Zjetya a look. Zjetya blows her a kiss.

"We called ahead," Renee says, obviously disappointed she can't mess with Flow in a comparable fashion now. "We will be able to meet Sir Einmal early in the afternoon, so we should leave soon. The others are already getting the airship ready for departure."

 No.757906

>>757905
Pryce chuckles as Zjetya gives the flame leg a tight hug as it reappears. "I did leave a good imprint on the ember. He probably had a decent blueprint to work with," Pryce comments as both mares claim a limb each. He returns the hugs, spreading a wing over each for a good morning.

"Alright," He answers to Renee as she informs him. "This'll be good to teach some of flight controls as well, since it's a safe enough route there."

 No.757907

>>757906
"Yes, the skies should be clear enough with the morning sun," River says. "Observer and Volkama did leave notes on how the turrets work, just in case. Sir Estuary seemed most interested in those."

"Oh yeah, we had to promise him he'd get to shoot targets at Lilane to get him to wait," Zjetya says. "We wanted to let you sleep in a bit. A gunfire wake-up call didn't seem too appealing after you took a late-night watch."

After breakfast, you make for the airship, where you find the others inside. The kids sit at the couch, giving the pets their morning grooming, while Vortigern and Estuary study the operator's manual at the control-sphere.

 No.757908

>>757907
"Suppose he would be the best to run those," Pryce muses. "And thank you," He adds to them for sparing a canon alarm.

Pryce heads up to the airship with the others, setting the tent and camping supplies in one of the storage spaces. KP gives Lockjaw a nice brushing after cleaning the water in Hopper's tank.

"Alright, let's get a head on to Lilane. I'll fly us over, anypony who wants to learn can watch. Should be easy enough to show what it takes before doing any training flights."

 No.757909

>>757908
Lockjaw drops off some old scales with his brushing, as usual. Spitshine ponders them for a moment. "Say… what have you been doing with his old scales?"

Lockjaw rolls over, and Hopper, who was sitting nearby, shrieks and jumps away before he can be flattened. Lockjaw is heedless of the destruction he almost caused.

Estuary and Vortigern, carrying Spark on her shoulder, join you as you set the airship to take off. They watch in relative silence, only interrupting to ask brief questions on this or that step. Estuary makes notes on the levers and switches and the orders in which they must be adjusted.

 No.757910

>>757909
>"I've just been tossing them. Why?"
KP questions as he scoops up the discarded scales. When Lockjaw nearly flattens Hopper, KP gives the deviljho a light bop on the nose.
>"Lockjaw, look before you roll! We don't crush family."

Pryce goes through the take off steps slowly, ensuring they can be followed with ease. Starting up the ship, taking into the air, control and stability, all the usual. He flies over to Lilane, starting to wonder what the process for joining the Vermillion Corps will entail.
He glances up to Vortigern, seeing Spark on her shoulder.
"How's he holding up?"

 No.757911

>>757910
Lockjaw flails about, slapping KP with his tail hard enough to sting. It was playful, but a deviljho's idea of play is far different than most other creatures'. Hopper squirts him with the water staff. Perhaps it may pay to invest in training for Lockjaw… and maybe even make him KP's familar.

"I was thinking," Spitshine continues. "If Lockjaw's a shrunken version of a gigantic powerful monster, his scales should be worth something. Hey, maybe we could even make something out of 'em. Monster hides of all kinds are sought after for making into armor. His scales should have some utility. Either way, keep a stash of 'em."

Vortigern rubs the dragon's head. "Not all that well. He hardly ate last night or this morning. I must smell quite like Shorthorned after that hug, because he won't play with any of the pets or children, he just stays with me. I hope to get him in better spirits soon."

 No.757912

>>757911
KP sharply inhales as the tail slaps him, rubbing the sore spot as he huffs at the lizard.
>"The witches did seem to quick to get him small again when the magic was undid in Threecoin… Alright, I'll start keeping them."
He says, keeping the collected pile this time on hoof and notesto find a place to store them.
>"But he's not getting any more brushing until he learns to respect his surroundings!"
He says sternly, looking and directing it to Lockjaw to get his point to the deviljho.


"I hope so too. Don't think there'd be any dragon trainers around or easily accessible, and I know Flaming wouldn't like it if he was sad the whole time away."

 No.757913

>>757912
Lockjaw looks confused and sad as he is scolded, clearly not understanding the charge or the punishment.

"Oh, I can train him," Vortigern says. "Him and Lockjaw. I just don't want either of them to become more attached to me than their true masters."



Some hours pass in transit, until you hear a far-off chime signaling the coming of the first hour. Lilane, nestled in hills as it is, still retains some of the morning fog that was burned off elsewhere. You park in the usual place, on an open plateau, as the gatekeepers make ready to let you all in.

 No.757914

>>757913
KP hides the brush away to amplify his threat.

"Won't have any worries on that with Lockjaw, but I can see the concern with Spark. We should have gotten a photo, that could've helped maybe."


Pryce goes through the landing procedures as he did with take off, going slow and making sure it's easy to pick up, since it is one of the more important parts. Once the ship is landed and secure, Pryce makes ready to head into the camp to meet with Sir Einmal.
"Everypony stick together now. Don't want to get caught up in anything else they have going on, or disrupt any training or preparations they're going through."

 No.757915

>>757914
Lockjaw flops over, playing dead. He remains dead even as the others make ready to disembark back into the familiar town-turned-fortress.

 No.757960

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hb_-O-Qubxo

As you exit the airship, you see that Lilane's fortifications continue to grow by the day. Laity laborers work at the fortress town's walls, protected by armed guards, both looking weary from the constant vigilance against demonic attack. Scouts monitor the skies from atop their watchtowers.

Zjetya leads the way to the longhouse, buttoning up her armored jacket as she goes. You see a very tall and stately unicorn stallion guarding the longhouse doors. His mane, tail and beard are all a gray and black tangle, yet underneath his apparent raggedness is the serenity of a saintly ikon. He wears a robe that is marked with symbols of the old Union religion, yet it is of the same make and material as the modern Ecclesian armoed jacket.

 No.757961

>>757915
KP ignores the dead play, following the others up to the door of the airship. But, then he stops after Lockjaw commits hard to the bit, turning back to nudge the deviljho back over.
>"Come on, we don't leave anyjho behind."

>>757960
Seeing the massive bulwark of Lilane has a somewhat comforting feeling, seeing that some places will be safe from the demon threat to come.

Pryce follows Zjetya's lead as they go to the guardhouse. He looks to the ragged guard in front of the doors as they arrive.
"Hello, we're here to meet with Sir Einmal."

 No.757962

>>757961
Lockjaw gets back up, a bit reluctantly, his head low as he reflects on his wrongdoing (or so it might appear, beasts being mute).

The guard looks down at you all with an appraising gaze, his eyes bright gold and speckled with a bloody amber. As his eyes slide over, judging each member of your party in turn, the pets get very nervous; all except for Lockjaw slink away to hide in clothing, and Lockjaw lowers his head – not in submission, but as a beast confronted by a predator.

Just as the others, getting nervous themselves, get ready to say something to the silent guard, he steps aside, and gestures to the end of the hall.

Wordlessly, they leave the guard behind, and you eventually reach the end, where you see a somewhat corpulent pegasus with a rigid haircut standing over a desk, inspecting a wide variety of papyrus slips. The whole room is a mess of papyruswork.

"Guten morgen, everyone," the pegasus greets. "You must be Sir Pryce zhe Just, ja?"

 No.757963

>>757962
Pryce expected security to be high with the current situation, though even he feels the judging stare a bit, less nervous and more concerned if there's a lack of trust in Ecclesia. When they're finally let past, Pryce nods and enters.

"I am," He greets in return. "And you must be Sir Einmal. It's a pleasure to meet you, with how busy I've heard you been."

 No.757964

>>757963
Zjetya stands at attention and gives Sir Einmal the Ecclesian salute, but he merely smiles in response. "At ease, Evangelist," he says, almost before the salute is done. Zjetya looks a bit disarmed by his quick dismissal, but already Einmal is offering everyone hoofshakes, which the others accept. His grip is strong yet not overbearing.

"Ja, zo many zhings to take care of zhese days, und vith everyone else having all zhe fun on zhe front lines, zhey've gone und left zhe burden of zhe paperwork to me," Einmal says. "I hope zhat Crocodile did not give you too hard a time at zhe door."

"No more than a worthy guard should," Sir Estuary says.

"Gut, gut," Einmal continues. "You vill have to excuse him for not offering you any tea. He has taken a vow of silence until he has at last finished praying for the souls of all zhe deceased since zhe Rapture… und at zhe current state of affairs, I am afraid he may be silent forevermore."

Einmal sighs and clicks some of the papers together, stress plain upon his brow. "…Tea, anyone?"

 No.757965

>>757964
"Not much more than I expected," Pryce answers on Crocodile's greeting. "If we do our best, hopefully that won't be too much longer then."

At the offer of tea, Pryce nods to be polite.
"If you're offering."

 No.757966

>>757965
Einmal briefly steps from the room, flags down a nearby scribe and passes them a key. "Bitte, prepare some tea from mein personal reserve, und make some for yourself if you vish."

The scribe agrees and goes to another room to prepare the tea.

"Sir, while we wait," Zjetya says. "We had some things to ask you."

"Ach, zhe extension of your assignment?" Einmal asks. Zjetya nods. "Ja, Rooster left me a note. I've gotten a head start on zhe paperwork, I'll just need you to complete zhe rest."

He hands Zjetya a few sheets. Zjetya glances briefly at you and Renee, then makes her mark on the papyrus where indicated.

 No.757967

>>757966
Pryce has visible relief as Einmal already has the paperwork for Zjetya's extension prepared.
"I'd also like to talk about the Vermilion Corps. Rooster recommended it as a good way to work together."

 No.757968

>>757967
"Ach! I confess I'd hoped to hear zhat from you," Einmal says. He takes a seat, and gestures for the others to do the same. Sugar and Spitshine fetch some more seats from other nearby rooms.

"You may have heard already," Einmal says. "But I vill cover zhe basics just to ensure ve are on zhe same page. Zhe Vermillion Corps is a new branch of zhe Ecclesian mission to take back zhe Vorld for mortalkind. Created as a compromise for demon hunters who, for one reason or another, could not cooperate vith Ecclesian authority, yet also possessed skills und knowledge vhich ve did not vant to do vithout."

You find that your interactions with Freischutz are proving to be very helpful for deciphering Einmal's accent.

"As a member of zhe Vermillion Corps, you vill not take direct orders from Ecclesian personnel, but rather be issued missions vhich you can take or deny at your discretion. But, once you have taken a mission, you vill be expected to fulfill zhe mission's goals vithin reason, extenuating circumstances notwithstanding. Ve have come to accept zhat missions seldom go according to expectations or plan.

"You vill have a measure of support from Ecclesian resources und personnel, but Ecclesian soldiers vill have a higher priority zhan you for support requests, in exchange to zheir loyalty to our banner, you understand. A consistent record of excellence in zhe field may improve zhe support you can receive.

"Finally, if you vanted to do any travel, in zhis new vorld, zhe Vermillion Corps has you covered!" he chuckles. "Your missions may take you far beyond vhere our troops have moved, owing to your status as a mercenary."

He pauses to think. "I zhink zhat covers all but zhe finer details. Have you questions?"

 No.757969

>>757968
Pryce takes a seat, the enthusiasm sounding like they'll be there for a bit. The run down of the Vermillion Corps benefits almost sound like he's going through recruitment again, bringing up those fond memories of the past.

"Sounds all as expected from what Rooster mentioned," Pryce comments, thinking of what questions he'd have and should ask. "I should ask how support will be handled, as I imagine that'd be difficult with the lengths of travel you mention. And, a little more important matter, I heard there is work going on with Ornifex. I'll take that mission."

 No.757970

>>757969
The servant comes back with the requested tea, which Einmal thanks them for.

"Ja, zhere are small teams dedicated solely to getting requested support out to zhe Corps, vherever zhey may be. I should emphasize zhat you can request materials, but not reinforcements. Only your brothers-in-arms of zhe Corps can come to your aid, und only if zhey are villing. Evangelist Zjetya need not worry about zhat restriction owing to her assignment."

As you request to take on work in Ornifex, Einmal nods and begins to fish around in a folder for the relevant papers.

"If I may interject on that note?" Renee asks.

"Yes, Sister?" Einmal asks.

Renee gulps, and steadies herself with a breath. "What are the odds that I can make a request of my own deployment – if I join Ecclesia to take to the front lines as a war medic?"

 No.757971

>>757970
"Anywhere? Seems like a lot to ask for a delivery, even for support," Pryce comments, feeling that travel must be harder for others than them with their airship. "Is there a list of who is in the Corps? It would be helpful to know who we can call on if we ever need the help."
As Einmal mentions Zjetya's assignment again, Pryce looks to her.
"What is your assignment, if I may ask?" He asks out of curiosity.

When Renee speaks up for her own service, sits patiently, knowing a potential medic would be a much higher priority, and seeing how nervous she is about the matter.

 No.757972

>>757971
"Vell if ve are going to ask you to go somevhere und get something done, it vould not exactly do to leave you stranded und vithout any form of aid!" Einmal says. "Ve are vorking on getting formalized rank information, but it is not yet available. Besides, such information would become very quickly outdated. I vill not lie to you – many die, und many are recruited. As vith all Ecclesian branches, zhis is dangerous vork."

Zjetya pauses, fishing for a way to answer… "…I'll explain it once we're done here."

Einmal raises arches his eyebrow, but seems to respect Zjetya's reticence, and turns now to Renee. "I cannot promise zhat you vill be able to pick und choose your deployment, especially as a var medic," he begins. "But vith your history as a Unionist nun, und your direct experience at zhe very epicenter of zhe Rapture… vell, I doubt any of zhe leadership vould be strictly opposed to zhe possibility of some exceptions. If I may be so presumptuous – are zhere old friends you vish to meet again?"

"Yes," Renee answers. "I take it I am not the first to ask on these grounds."

"Ja, it is not an uncommon occurrence," Einmal says. "Just as many have joined to avenge zhe fallen, many others join to reunite with zhose who still live. But var is var, und a conflict as far-reaching as ours has many areas vhich are understaffed und overwhelmed. I can try, but I cannot promise. Is zhis acceptable to you?"

Renee grimaces. "…If I may have a moment to decide?"

"Certainly."

 No.757974

>>757972
"Right, should expect mercenary work especially to not be the safest of jobs to have. I'll just have to keep attention then," Pryce comments.

As Zjetya seems reluctant to answer, Pryce also is a little more intrigued, though he doesn't push further, assuming it to be of being around higher ranks of Ecclesia.

When Renee speaks of joining to reunite with old friends, Pryce thinks back to the days before the rapture, and all the others they travelled with that they never met again. Leather and Glass survived it all, so naturally others would have too. If there was a reason to join, this certainly is one that can't be faulted.

 No.757976

>>757974
"I take it mein sales pitch has vorked, zhen?" Einmal asks.

"Ja, I mean yes," Spitshine says. "Where do I sign?"

Einmal frowns. "I vill allow a colt to join und get himself killed."

"If you knew my experience–" Spitshine begins.

"Nein, I vill not accept your supposed resume," Einmal says.

"The colt can fight," Onion says. "But I'm just as against it as you, Sir Einmal. Spitshine, you ain't signin' up for nothin'. Not like you much like takin' and followin' orders, anyway."

"Onion, now you choose to speak–" Spitshine grumbles.

"But, I didn't hear nothin' about no upper age limits, did I?" Onion continues. "Einmal, how about it? Can a senior join?"

"Yes," Estuary says. "If there are upper age limits I am afraid that one such as I am excluded as well."

"Ach! One at a time!" Einmal protests. "Look, vhy don't you all take a moment und vork out among yourselves who vishes to join the Corps?"

 No.757983

>>757976
"I was already decided before coming here. With what's coming we can't afford to not work together," Pryce answers.

"I don't think that's the greatest idea," Pryce comments as Spitshine speaks up on joining. When the others start to question their own eligability, Pryce is taken aback.
"Is there a point to more of us signing up? We'll all be together anyways," He says in minor protest, concerned of more of their group tying up in Ecclesia.

 No.758059

>>757983
Estuary hits you with a stern glare. "Having multiple enlisted among us will ensure that, if one of the enlisted were to perish, the others would still be assured of the benefits and support the Vermillion Corps enjoys from Ecclesia proper."

As silence falls over your group at the grim thought, the scribe comes back and sets the tea down upon the desk. Einmal thanks them and begins to pour you all a cup.

"Vell, anyvay, mein answer has not changed, Spitshine," Einmal says. "I vill not permit anyone not of age to enlist in anything besides zhe Laity, per Ecclesian law. Zhose of you still interested in joining the Corps shall take these."

He hands out a sheaf of papyrus sheets. Estuary, Onion and River each take one, leaving Spitshine and Sugar to sit back, neither one having an interest in Laity work.

"Und for you," Einmal says to Renee, handing her a different papyrus. "For if you decide to join Ecclesia. Und if not, simply give it back to one of zhe scribes here unfiled. I understand you endured much at zhe time of zhe Rapture, so I shall not attempt to persuade you one way or zhe other."

Renee nods, looking over the papyrus.

 No.758060

>>758059
Pryce meets back Estuary's glare, knowing the point he made is for the safety of the group, but he refuses to accept it as a possibility.
"That won't be happening."

As Einmal hands out the sheets, Pryce takes one and starts to fill it out, not pushing the matter more as everypony else takes one as well.

>"You really wanted to sign up for this?"

KP asks Spitshine as the kids sit back and wait.

 No.758061

>>758060
Estuary's expression is hard and unreadable. "I said the same thing, once. And you disproved it."

He looks away, only to make his mark on the papyrus. Onion and River finish theirs as well… Eventually, after much deliberation, Renee turns in her papyrus as well, all filled out.

"Very gut, danke," Einmal says, apparently wishing to keep things short with the tension in the air. He begins to fill in his portion of the paperwork. "I must request you step outside for a time vhile I verify zhe mission data. Feel free to take zhe cups vith you, you have mein trust vith zhe porcelain."

Spitshine nods to KP as he and the others stand up. "I can fight just as good as any of you, and I'm not going to just let everyone else pull my weight, even if I'm young. Dad had me fighting for as long as I can remember."

 No.758062

>>758061
Pryce dwells on Estuary's response, but shakes it from his mind. A part says he needs to be realistic about the odds, but his conviction cannot accept that. He stayed on the surface to protect his new family, and to keep the demons from swarming the Seal to reach the others. He can't second guess or doubt himself now regardless.

After Einmal collects the papers, Pryce nods, taking his tea cup to finish it as he was too focused with the papers and thought to drink it. He holds it in his fire hoof to help warm it back a little.

>"Things will get tough, but I don't think they're denying your capability. This kinda stuff is a big commitment, and it's not like knighthood where you're trained for most things."

KP says, trying to support Spitshine's ability.
>"…Really?"
He asks as he brings up fighting for so long.

 No.758063

>>758062
You step out from Einmal's office, but he points you in the direction of a side-room that has been turned into a makeshift lounge so that you don't need to wither under Crocodile's appraising stare.

"I believe this will be my goodbye, then," Renee says, bluntly getting to it.
"It seems that we all have our own paths from here," Vortigern says. "I did not know you for long, but I was glad for your company."
"You as well," Renee says. She looks over to you, for out of the current group she has known you the longest.

>>758062
Spitshine grumbles a bit about the first part, but seems to take pride in the second, even as his slavedriver father takes focus in the conversation. "Yeah. I was quick and on the small side. So, he taught me to maximize that in my fighting, make what some people'd think of as a weakness into my strength."

 No.758064

>>758063
Pryce looks to Renee as she jumps immediately to the goodbyes, feeling torn over another friend leaving.
"It's not goodbye, we'll see each other again when this is over, and when the others come back," Pryce says, looking on a brighter side.


>"Oh yea, you did ambush us or something when we met first met you, right?"

KP mentions from Pryce's memories of that event.
>"Sneaking around is pretty good too, we'll probably need a lot of that if we find anymore places like Mariposa or that Birdcage."

 No.758065

>>758064
"Right…" Renee says, stirring her tea. Her head slumps lightly. "I am sorry, it must seem I am trying to run out the door now that Flow is gone…"
River shakes her head. "He is not gone, nor do we think of you as abandoning us."
"Yeah," Zjetya says. "It's like you said, friends of yours are on the front lines. We're going to Ornifex on a similar note."
She nods to Vortigern, who bows her head in both acknowledgment and gratitude.
"So do what you gotta do," Zjetya says. "But don't get yourself killed, or else you're really gonna be in deep shit with us."
"I'll miss that crass tone," Renee says.
"Oh don't worry," Onion laughs. "Joining a military, you'll hear plenty worse than what we say."
"Are you so sure? You're all hard to top in that regard," Renee says.
Vortigern snorts so hard she nearly spews tea all across the room.

>>758064
"Yep," Spitshine says. "Seems so long ago now, huh? That was before your time too… technically."

 No.758066

>>758065
Pryce chuckles at Renee's comment, and Vortigern's reaction.
"We are a colorful bunch, just means we're hard to forget. And hey, after we finish in Ornifex we might see each other again when we check back in with Ecclesia."

>>758065
>"Yea, alright feels a little weird when I think back to those times, just makes them feel even more like ages ago."
KP comments.
>"You know, you could ask to join in with Sir Estuary's training, since I heard he was gonna give the big guy lessons. Could show off what you got"

 No.758067

>>758066
"I will be glad for a reunion," Renee says. "So you'd best stay alive, otherwise you'll be the ones in deep shit. Sir Gegenschein boasted of Ecclesia's power to resurrect the dead – I'll be sure to bring you back to give you a good beating!"
"Whoa, she's going even further than I am!" Zjetya laughs.
"We won't disappoint you," River says.
Renee nods to her. "We may have met as foes, but I was glad to see any of my countryponies survive the Rapture, regardless of their old lives. River, you are as fine a doctor as I have ever met. I have faith the others' health will be in good hooves."
River casts her eyes downward, blushing at the high praise. "Thank you… all who share a battlefield with you will be in good hooves, too."

A light knock comes at the doorway, and a scribe informs you that Einmal is ready to see you again.

>>758066
"Say, there's an idea," Spitshine says.
"I was going to suggest we attend even if we didn't have an interest in fighting," Sugar says. "I think your other self and the samurai are going to butt heads sooner or later. Someone should stand by just in case it turns into a second duel."

 No.758068

>>758067
"We'll have a grand party for it." Pryce says for the reunion. He smiles as the others give their partings, and Renee's compliment to River.

When they hear the knock, Pryce nods, tea finished.
"Let's finish these sign-ups then,"
He says, heading back to EInmal's office.

>>758067
>"I don't think they'd go that far… Well, maybe not as drastic as that one went."

 No.758069

>>758068
As Estuary rises, Renee taps his arm.
"Sir Estuary," she begins. "I knew you not for long, but I witnessed some of your duels – with both Pryce, and Flow. You are a powerful and caring soul… and to be direct, I think your grimly realistic outlook is not unwarranted."
Estuary lightly snorts with petty satisfaction.
"All I ask," Renee continues. "Is that you allow Sir Pryce's optimism – however naive it may seem to you – to inure your spirit against darkness. There is enough of it in the world without us brewing more in our hearts."
Estuary's smile fades, but he nods. "I will judge fairly."
"Thank you," Renee says. "I look forward to the day Flow and I may participate in your training ourselves."

Back at Einmal's office, a new array of papers is spread upon his desk. "I appreciate zhe patience. Let's get to zhe details.

"Zhe people of Ornifex are in zhe midst of a civil var. In short, an uprising of zhe tribes und poorest of zheir flying city-states against zhose of zheir vealthy aristocracy, und zhe priesthood of zhe dragons. It seems, based on latest reports, zhat zhey are at a stalemate.

"Zhe mission, in short, is to ascertain vhich of zhe two sides is more of an asset to Ecclesian aims – vhich is to say, peace und prosperity in zhis region – and tip ze scales against the other. A prolonged civil var hast no use for us. Strike decisively, und be sure zhey know who to zhank for the aid."

 No.758070

>>758069
"They're rising up against the priesthood?" Pryce questions. For a moment, the situation reminds him of the attack on Heartholme on the night of the Rapture.
He listens to the goal of the mission, thinking it over. He opens his mouth to speak, then shuts it, thinking again.
"So you want it ended, then. …How long has it been going on?" He asks Einmal, though also glances to Zjetya and Vortigern, since that it was their home as well.

 No.758071

>>758070
"Vhy don't I let zhe locals answer some of those questions," Einmal says.
Vortigern nods. "Some might say that it has been going on for nearly five years, although the dragon priesthood only officially declared it war two years ago. My own war began long before that."
"Your efforts earned you many titles," Einmal says. "Terrorist, serial killer, assassin, blasphemer… quite an impressive list."
"Thank you," Vortigern responds, somewhat flatly. "For awhile, the dragon priesthood blamed me as the start of all the evil, and soon I found myself credited for many crimes, battles and other lash-outs against the priesthood that I did not do. The insurrectionists played into it just as much as the priesthood, and I became an unwitting hero to them."
"Absolutely," Zjetya adds. "I can't tell you how many times I got a request to sing one of your epics, even if they didn't all agree as to what exactly you did."

 No.758072

>>758071
"That sounds horrible," Pryce comments as Vortigern explains her start in it, remembering the memories he saw before when Vortigern tested him. "They just used you as a scapegoat."
Pryce looks back to Einmal.
"Five years this has been going… This won't be something that can be easily or quickly resolved."

 No.758073

>>758072
"I had no qualms about using this false infamy to my own advantage," Vortigern dismisses. "Like Ecclesia, I am nothing if not practical."
Einmal chuckles. "Ach. Ja, I hope you shall understand, Ecclesia has heretofore been a neutral party, uninvolved in zhe conflict of Ornifex. Provoking zhe ire of zhe insurrectionists or zhe dragonic priesthood vithout sufficient reason to believe ve vould benefit vas not acceptable."
"No, I understand," Vortigern says. "You had your own people to think about, just as I did."
Zjetya remains quiet apart from a thoughtful grumble.
"So it goes," Einmal says. "A final detail, however. Ve have many conflicting reports about the role of demonkind in zhis conflict. It sounds like zhe insurrectionists have either recruited demon tamers into zheir ranks, or have zheir own home-grown methods of demon taming. Ve ask zhat you investigate zhese reports und, if possible, stamp out zhe practice among them."

 No.758074

>>758073
"Still, though. To push false blame onto you… That's not right."

When Zjetya grumbles, Pryce looks to her.
"Is something the matter?"

He turns back to Einmal as he adds the last detail of demon tamers. Pryce frowns, remembering the last encounter he had with one.
"I'd deal with that either way. Don't worry on that front," He assures. He then thinks a moment. "…One last question. Has anypony else taken or attempted to help this mission before? Or will we be the first of Ecclesia to aid?"

 No.758075

>>758074
"Such concerns are best forgotten in war," Vortigern grunts. Zjetya remains silent, shaking her head.
"You shall be zhe first," Einmal says. "Ecclesia ist spread thin as it is, und besides: I vanted to save zhis mission for groups who vere experienced, und I believe you shall agree zhat your group has seen its share of var und even diplomacy vith demonkind. I may send other members of zhe Corps your vay if you or I deem it necessary."

 No.758076

>>758075
"Alright. I think we should see the situation first before looking for reinforcements. A smaller group would make a better first impression I feel," Pryce comments. "That's all for now then, until we see Ornifex ourselves."

 No.758077

>>758076
"Very gut, I shall record you in zhe mission log," Einmal says, offering everyone another round of hoof-shakes. "You have our zhanks, und I hope to hear soon of your success."

He looks to Renee. "Sister, I appear to have made an error on your papyrus. It seems you vill not be an official member of Ecclesia until tomorrow at first light. Until zhen, ve have no authority to issue you orders or demand your attendance anyvere. Oh vell, I see no reason to vaste good papyrus redoing it."

Renee lightly snorts. "I see… well, none of us are immune to making such errors. Rest assured I shall report at first light as expected."

"Danke. Now zhen, you may leave your teacups on zhe tray zhere, everypony."

 No.758078

>>758077
Pryce shakes Einmal's hoof as they are finalized with the details.
"And thank you, for the opportunity."

Pryce sets his cup on the tray, standing as their business is over.
"Suppose we should start preparing and checking our supplies for the task ahead then."

 No.758079

>>758078
"There'll be time for that," Zjetya says, lowering her voice. "I promised I'd talk earlier. Let's head for the airship."

With that, she leads the way out, and towards the airship.

 No.758080

>>758079
Pryce nods, and follows Zjetya as she leads the group back to the airship.

Once they're past the Ecclesian gates, Pryce speaks up.
"Are you not happy with how they're handling this?"

 No.758081

>>758080
Zjetya does not respond until you are all securely within the airship, and gathered in its living room.
"It doesn't have anything to do with that," Zjetya says. "I might have mixed feelings about going home, but… well, earlier you asked about my assignment, and to be honest, I still kind of hoped that nobody would ask about that. But after everything that happened between you me and River from the leadup to Threecoins and afterward, it'd be pretty fucked of me to still keep secrets from everyone."

"What's this about an assignment?" River asks. "I thought that was just a part of record keeping about where Ecclesian soldiers come and go."

"In a sense," Zjetya says. "But let's back up. When you first left Lilane, nobody questioned why Rus Tea and I joined up with you. I'm glad it worked out that way, meant I didn't have to weigh whether to tell you the truth…"

The others tense slightly at the thought of being lied to.

"It was, well…" Zjetya says, pausing. "It was to keep an eye on you all, and report your behavior and activities."

 No.758082

>>758081
"Secrets? It's just an assignment, isn't it?" Pryce questions, wondering the implications here, or if there is more beyond it.

When she mentions nopony questioned why her and Rus joined the group, he thinks back, realizing they did join up pretty quickly, though the trouble Shei and him caused, and other feelings, did lend to him not thinking to deeply on it.

When Zjetya reveals she was tasked to keep watch and report on them, Pryce doesn't respond right away. His expression is a bit flat, contemplative.
"…Is that it?"
He asks in a casual way, not seeing it as a big deal.

 No.758083

>>758082
Zjetya seems taken aback by the general lack of reaction.
"You were assigned to spy on us, then," River says. "Or at least, that's what you feared you were confessing to."
"Right," Zjetya says. "You're all… taking this rather well."
Renee nods. "Had we not been on the cordial terms that we were with Ecclesia, it would have been more of a problem. As it stands, I confess I am disappointed we did not learn this sooner, but before we get to that, why don't you explain your side of things more?"
"Well… alright," Zjetya says. "As part of its aggressive recruitment policy, Ecclesia keeps tabs on all groups of demon hunters that it has failed to enlist in Ecclesia or the Vermillion Corps. It does this by enlisting more sociable members – like me and Rus – and ingratiating them among those independent hunters to make sure they don't actively work against Ecclesian aims."
River starts to frown. "And… what would you have done if we did?"
"Depends what you did and why," Zjetya says. "If I deemed it appropriate… I had standing permission to open fire. But that would have only been if you, like… started sacrificing civilians to demons, or something. Real ugly shit that even a friendly bunch like you all would kill people over."

 No.758084

>>758083
"I'm not surprised Ecclesia would do something like that," Pryce responds as Zjetya is shocked at them taking it well. "And, well… that is kinda what I heard changelings do, right?"

As she explains further what the details were and what could have happened, Pryce frowns at the thought of the her and Rus turning on the party, even though it wouldn't have happened.
"Yea, there's no worries there."

Then, he pauses.
"Wait… If your assignment was to keep watch when we weren't allied… How long did it get extended now that we're part of the Vermillion Corps?"
He asks with concern.

 No.758085

>>758084
"Way to stereotype," Zjetya deadpans, bopping you on the snoot.
"Starved for love, were we?" River continues. Zjetya nudges Lockjaw and orders her to sic River. Lockjaw snorts and bumps his chin against her leg, but nothing more beyond that.

As you ask the obvious follow-up, Zjetya sits back, folding her arms. "Well, that's part of my bigger point. See, technically Rus and I shouldn't have been given that assignment in the first place. Amy and Shorthorned should have, because they're technically Ecclesians themselves. However, I heard they got recruited by Ichimonji, who's notorious for hating and half-assing paperwork. And with how hectic the aftermath of the night in Circadia was, Ichimonji pushed off all that paperwork longer than she usually does.

"The result is that as far as anyone else in Ecclesia knew, Amy and Shorthorned weren't enlisted, and so your group had nobody to monitor and report on you. It was Sir Einmal who chose me and Rus to be your keepers. Now that most of you are in the VC, I'm technically out of a job – members of the VC can take on monitoring assignments. But, because Sir Einmal is one of the few Choristers who actually takes the time to do all that damn paperwork, and because he's the only Chorister who doesn't have his hooves full with war, he just rubber-stamped the paperwork, even though I should be on higher priority tasks. Come to think of it, Rooster or Sir Holy Hours probably saw this discrepancy when they got my exemption from the Tartarus Expedition. But they either didn't want to deal with Sir Einmal getting annoyed or wanted to respect our wishes."

"I'd wager the latter," River says. "The other Choristers seemed supportive of our abstinence."

Vortigern suppresses a laugh.

"But it sounds like Ecclesia's a labyrinth of bureaucracy," she continues. "And so soon after its very inception. I suppose old habits survive even the end of the world."

 No.758086

>>758085
"One that worked out well," Pryce chuckles as Zjetya boops him, returning the gesture.

As she goes on the explain the full situation and the lucky mishandling of paperwork that allowed their group to form as it has, Pryce feels some relief that the renewed extension would likely stick for quite some time.
"Rooster himself seemed supportive when I made the request, and they did honor my service to the Church the other day," Pryce says, commenting on the ceremony before they left for Threecoin. "We'll just have to do a good job with the Corp to add onto that respect so you won't have to go anywhere."
Pryce says to Zjetya with conviction.
"It'll have to do unless there's a way to get your out of the order."

 No.758087

>>758086
"That aside, I'm sorry I never told you all," Zjetya says. "Won't be any more secrets from here on out."
Renee tilts her head. "I had a feeling that Sir Einmal knew more than he should have, for one who never met any of us. It seems a recurring theme that our benefactors and malefactors are always a bit too well informed about our dealings."
"When dealing with gods, assassins and politicians, it comes with the territory," Estuary says. "Nonetheless, if that was all the confessing you had to do, it's time to begin training."
"Oh, and Pryce," Vortigern says. "Travel to Ornifex by airship should take us about a week. Our supplies should last us."

 No.758088

>>758087
"Like I said, I'm not surprised they went that route. At least we can trust our friends to be open," Pryce says on the matter as they all agree on how the other factions operate.

"Good, that's one less thing to worry about then," He responds to the update from Vortigern.

Then he turns to Estuary as he states training can start.
"We might need more distance from Lilane. They aren't too fond of fighting in their territory."

 No.758089

>>758088
"Right," River says. "Between your fight with Shei and Flow's magatsuhi overload, a third episode might get us all permanently exiled from this settlement."
"We'd have to find another place to crash," Zjetya says. "It's this and Fantasia that have been our little safe havens to hole up."
"There's Threecoins now," Vortigern suggests. "Especially now that the Witches are likely taking spouses from among the Ecclesians…" Suddenly, she gasps. "Oh dear… I believe a stop there may be warranted anyway. I do wonder how Regina is taking Box's absence."

Estuary folds his arms with a frown. "Romantic woes are secondary to our safety and health. I was told that this place would permit target practice."

"Pouting is unbecoming," Renee lightly scolds the samurai. "This is a Laity stronghold, a haven for non-combatant Ecclesians and their guards. Gunfire so close to their walls would only provoke alarm. Even the Spooks and Choristers practiced their fighting in the wilderness nearby. We should go get someone's permission before we begin the volleys."

"Very well," Estuary concedes. "But I was not 'pouting.'"

"You're doing it right now…" Renee counters.

Estuary grunts.

 No.758090

>>758089
"Threecoins does sound like a better place. There's plenty of open territory to not worry about getting in anypony's way, or Regina could use that illusion magic of hers to make us an arena," Pryce suggests. When Vortigern brings up Regina's and Box's quick separation, he also feels for how she must be dealing. "Stopping by either way would be good."
He thinks a moment.
"There is also the payment of that armor order you two made," Pryce comments to River and Zjetya.

"I don't think they were expecting cannon target practice anyways," Pryce interjects on Sir Estuary's pouting.

 No.758091

>>758090
Estuary's grunts turn to grumbles. "Then if Sister Renee is to stay behind and enlist in the Ecclesian military at first light tomorrow, that would mean we should stay here and idle time away until we can depart for Threecoins."

"Is that such a bad thing?" Vortigern asks.

"Clan-Mother Vortigern," Estuary says. "I would think that you would have a similar view to mine on the training and discipline of this group."

"They may not have had as formal training as you and me," Vortigern says, "But their experience has made them warriors capable of overcoming great odds."

"Not against what I have heard tell that the Treibheanna can now boast," Estuary says. "There is no time to be dawdling or worrying over romance with all the maturity of colts and fillies. We have taken enough time away from training as it is."

Vortigern frowns, mulling over the truth of Estuary's words against her desire for you all to have a chance at relaxation…

 No.758092

>>758091
"We could always do lighter, non-cannon based training," Pryce suggests, seeing the back and forth. "Getting a read on where we're at would be a better start rather than jumping direct into training too, no?" He offers as a compromise.

 No.758093

>>758092
"Very well, but this day is young and I shall not see it wasted," Estuary says. "Have everyone meet me one mile north of Lilane in an hour."

With that, he slithers out, taking with him some papyrus and a quill pen.

Zjetya snorts. "We should find him a girlfriend."

"He is not wrong in his concerns," Vortigern says. "Only in his presentation do I think as old-fashioned a one such as him errs."

"Sure, but he needs to chill out too," Zjetya says. "We're not gonna get very many chances to do that from here on out…"

 No.758094

>>758093
"See you then," Pryce says as Estuary slithers out to prepare.

"He seemed to unwind a tad when we were camping last night. After our duel and seeing King Neo Advent again, he's probably still needing some time to move on," Pryce muses.

Pryce nods in agreement.
"Mmm, we'll just need to make the most of the time we can then."
With an hour before Estuary's training, Pryce fetches the book Fairy Castle gave him after the Unweaving session to read through.
"Good time as any to catch up on some other training."

 No.758095

>>758094
Much of the afternoon is spent, in some form or another, with training. You study Fairy Castle's grimoire, learning some of the theory behind the school of Spellweaving, but as with all things, the only true teacher is practice.

Renee secures permission for you all to take the airship to a makeshift training yard some distance north of Lilane, where Sir Estuary is both teacher and student. He teaches everyone many exercises for improving endurance and strength, but surprisingly makes little mention of combat. He keeps quiet as you teach him and the others in the operation of the airship, even when you run them through the operation of the ship's forward, starboard and port gatling guns.

You find that Volkama left behind detailed instructions on the manufacture of more bullets for the gatling guns. Although you have a modest supply as it is, your group quickly agrees not to use the ammo for target practice given the long journey beginning tomorrow.

Furthermore, you spend some time showing Spitshine how to conjure weapons. As he has no experience in conjuration, he isn't able to reproduce your methods, but he listens to the theory nonetheless. Sugar doesn't have natural ability for magic, and it seems she's more interested in the martial techniques Estuary shares.

Vortigern and KP are in charge of training the pets, and she leaves Hopper and Lockjaw to KP's instruction as she has her hooves full with the others. Lockjaw seems a little down still, and is more obedient to KP's orders, much to Hopper's satisfaction.

 No.758096

>>758095
Pryce takes in the teachings of Spellweaving, feeling like he has a better grasp on the topic. After the labyrinth before the Great Seal, it's a technique that'll be highly valuable.

The training focusing more on exercises rather than combat was a surprise, though a welcome one. Having a day without battle is good to let him body relax, and there's hasn't been much time either for general exercise as well.
He goes deep into detail when teaching the operation of the airship, both for extra caution as it's their home and to be extra sure of his own ability as well in flying it.

When the moment comes, Pryce follows on his offer to teach Spitshine conjuration, starting with the basic fundamentals and theory. He loans Spitshine his bracelet for the lesson to help him practice, having been a conduit of his own for so long it's more receptive to that style of magic. Most of his teachings here focus on memorizing the form of weapons, being able to produce the image in your mind to near perfect detail.


KP meanwhile focuses on the pets, reading through his grimoire on Beast-Mastery and practicing the bubble spell he learned. He's still a bit upset with Lockjaw, but the deviljho being more tame this time helps ease that off. He also spends a little time planning out tricks for shows as well with the three of them.

 No.758273

>>758095
[During the Savior's time camping at the unrealm city at the mouth of Tartarus Shei continues his work in the dead of everyone's sleep.]

Shei and Amy lay on a bed together, within the small realm of his cape. The furniture made up of the same velvety matter that makes up the walls, the floors, the ceiling, the material as the cape itself. She mimes sleeping, as he lays patiently beside Amy's resting body. Waiting for her to snore before gently leaving the bed.

Shei slips out from under her and carefully he saunders silently through the room before reaching his reach. Retrieving a chilled bottle of wine from its content Shei is now prepared to visit the Bodhidharma. His body still one with his spirit at the time phases into a spiritual essence and moves into his lantern.

>Astral Projection

[1d10] Entering Bodhidharma's abode inside the lantern

Roll #1 10 = 10

 No.758274

>>758273
The Bodhidharma's temple has been fortified since the last you entered. Spiritual guardians, wrought in the shapes of ogres and lean, needly rakshasa stand at eternal attention around its high walls, their flesh and armor of red standing out against the ethereal blue of the space. These newer guardians seem not to recognize you, or seem to not care, for they glare at you hungrily as you approach. The guardians of a higher stock, those resembling lions and oni, intervene with gestures and words of an ancient language, then direct you to the temple's inner grounds.

Outside, in the inner grounds' grassy patio, the Bodhidharma lounges, balanced as he often is, on a spear. "…I wouldn't count on it. You will get yourself destroyed all the faster relying on a backup plan."

 No.758275

>>758274
Shei is more curious than threatened by the Rakshasa, though the thought of immediately regretting a lack of care does go through his mind. He offers his thanks to the higher guardians that direct him to the temple.

Just as Shei-Sher arrives with a bottle of wine in his arms it seems Bodhidharma already has an answer prepared for him.

"But we haven't even talked about it" Shei complains "And here-" He offers the wine "I brought you a chilled bottle. I made it myself. The least you could do is humor me until you've had your fill of drink."

 No.758276

>>758275
"Oh, I don't even know what you were planning," the Bodhidharma laughs. "But knowing you, I decided to take a shot in the dark. I doubt I was off by much. Why have you come here?"

The bottle floats up, and he flicks away the cork, having a sip. "Hmm… mortals do love their poisons, don't they?"

 No.758277

>>758276
>"mortals do love their poisons, don't they?"
"It is a habit -yes" Shei sits crossed on the grassy lawn of the patio "I have to give credit, when credit is due. You hit close enough to the mark- I like to make plans from A to Z but that doesn't strike me as such a bad thing. Could very well be the makings of a wise man! Some would say." Shei playfully boasts

"However this isn't so much a plan, as much as me asking you for training."

 No.758278

>>758277
"Out with it, then. I can train you in what I know – so what do you seek to obtain?"

He passes the bottle back to you to share.

 No.758279

>>758096
The training takes up the majority of the day, with breaks for meals and the like, but the focus for the group is in learning, and the meals are not much longer than they need be, that they can all get back to their exercises.

Come nightfall, the group is beat, and they eat and bathe to rest for the morrow. The mood is somewhat somber at Renee's future departure, but since they have said their goodbyes already, they are prepared for it.

You spend the evening chastely running more W&W for Zjetya, River and Lockjaw. Through the night you discover that Zjetya has been furtively making drawings of the setting in her spare time. Entrana looks like a nice place.

——————————————

Come morning, you wake up in your quarters, finding that Lockjaw has not joined you in bed this time. Rather, he is curled up at the foot of KP's bed, still humbled by the earlier scolding yet still in a cuddly mood.

You smell breakfast… burned breakfast, and hear some light bickering.

 No.758280

>>758278
Shei takes the bottle and has a gulp of it before passing it back to Bodhidharma "Keh- you aren't much for the art of conversation are you- Alright then. Recall how you sent back the corruption set on you by that demon who possessed your core. I want you to train me in the same art, so I might be able to fight back Tartarus's corruption when it gains a foothold on my corpse- should I die prematurely. And not only me, I want you to train my band as well in the same art. I have been trained in the basics of working Qi, and I am possessor of Dhyana, you should be able to train me like any other angel if you'll have me as your student."

 No.758281

>>758280
"It was I who brought to the People the secrets of writing, not of speechcraft. You will have to seek elsewhere for a conversationalist."

He listens to your request, then has another sip. "Indeed, I was not far off. I fought off Demonic corruption, not that of Tartarus. If you perish and attempt to use my teachings for protection, you may fancy yourself wearing mighty armor, when in reality, you will only be clothed in corpse-wrappings. I will not teach you if it merely emboldens you to get yourself killed. I may teach you if you think Demonic possession and infection are more likely outcomes."

 No.758282

>>758279
The day's training reminds Pryce of his time back in the Church during his Knight training. While it is tiring, the old memories invigorate his spirit as he adjusts back to the habits.

A second night of goodbye's isn't the best of moods, but the forewarning of this one and the small distance helps soothe it, being more of a 'see you later' given how the looming Treibheanna threat will put them all back together possibly.

Unwinding with W&W helps relax after it all, some classic fun and a workout for the mind too. As he spots Zjetya making drawings for the game, Pryce keeps silent, deciding to comment the next night when he's not as exhausted.


>>758279
Pryce opens his eyes, first looking down at his shoulder assuming his leg burnt the bed. Remembering that it snuffs itself when he sleeps, he exhales in relief. Awake, he picks it up as the classic smell of burnt food, and the bickering gives a sour note to the start of the day. He climbs out of bed, re-igniting his leg as he heads towards the kitchen to see what's going on. For now, he lets KP sleep in a little bit, no need to wake him and Lockjaw with breakfast being delayed.

 No.758283

>>758282
As you enter the kitchen, you see the hapless Sir Estuary standing at the oven, a burnt meal before him. He and Vortigern are lightly bickering, but it does not seem to be so severe a conflict. Off to the side, Onion is busy salvaging what he can of the food and preparing more.

"Pryce," Estuary says in greeting.
"Oh, good morning," Vortigern says.
Sugar and Spitshine can be seen through the windows, giving their pets their morning walk.

It appears Renee, River and Zjetya are still asleep.

 No.758284

>>758283
"Morning," Pryce greets, seeing that Sir Estuary has taken the role of chef today. He looks between him and Vortigern. "Was there a mishap?"

He also notes the lack of River and Zjetya, odd since they're usually at the table before he gets there. W&W must've tired them out.

 No.758285

>>758284
Vortigern arches her brow at Estuary, and the samurai, though his stoic expression will not betray it, is obviously flustered.

"It appears," Estuary begins. "That one who sups only on water has little talent of the culinary arts."
"And?" Vortigern prods.
"That the crew's limited rations are not to be trifled with," Estuary continues.
"But, we appreciate the gesture," Onion says, giving Vortigern a look for being hard on the old samurai. "Now go wake up yer harem, boy, we got a long journey ahead."

 No.758286

>>758281
"Demonic Possessions and infections may very well be things we encounter in Tartarus. But that wasn't my intent. Although, there is another reason for me asking. You see- I have something of a mental impairment. Since my kindling I am being constantly wracked with the sounds of static, although it is far more than that. This static is like a fissure that roots into my very soul, making me non-singular in my mind and spirit. It is.. extremely bewildering -irritating to say the least, but most of all it is distracting to an agonizing degree. I presumed your methods were rooted in restraint and that might help me to control myself.

 No.758287

>>758285
Pryce smirks, finding it hard to not chuckle at Sir Estuary being unable to cook.
"We can return the favor for all the teaching you're giving us then," He says to lighten the mood.

"It's not a harem, we're a triad," Pryce corrects, a little flustered himself as Onion points him to wake the mares. He turns and goes to find the two of them.


KP now wakes up, a burnt smell can only go ignored for so long, even for a fire mage. He stretches and yawns, seeing Lockjaw curled up at the foot of his bed. He gives the little deviljho a nudge.
>"Must not be anything serious if you aren't up… Let's go see what it is."
He hops out of bed, scoops Hopper out of his aquarium gently, and heads on to find the smell.

 No.758288

>>758286
"I can proffer my aid in that matter, yes," the Bodhidharma says. "But know this: If you take heed of my methods, and against my warning, use them to foolhardy ends, others may throw away their lives trying to save you. If that should happen, and one I can still save would sacrifice themselves attempting to thwart your suicidal foolishness… I will save the one I still can. I agreed to the Pact of service and protection, but so did you – if you would not protect your own life as well, others should not die needlessly protecting yours."

He pauses, glaring at you sternly. "Am I clear?"

>>758287
KP enters the kitchen to see Onion serving some slightly-but-not-irredeemably burnt hayggs and haycon, and some rationed pieces of fruit and cups of cider. Estuary's embarrassed expression explains much despite his silence. Lockjaw and Hopper don't seem to mind much; Lockjaw will eat anything and Hopper always has a personal reserve of dried flies… morbidly prepared by Busta.

After knocking on River's door and waiting for a time, she exits… as does Zjetya. River hops lightly in surprise as she sees you.

"Ah… good morning!" River says.
"Don't worry," Zjetya says. "We were just, uh… writing."

Zjetya is illiterate in Equish.

 No.758289

>>758288
>"Heheh, guess you went to ofar in the other direction, huh?"
KP says in light jest as he reads the room, hopping up in his seat as Onion serves out the food.
>"Thank you!"
He also doesn't mind too much, he appreciates the effort.


Pryce is is slightly taken aback as River is surprised to see him.
"Good morning River, good morning Zjetya," Pryce greets, looking between the two at theirs. "Oh, River was giving you some lessons?"

 No.758290

>>758288
Shei-Sher holds his head to maintain eye contact with the Bodhidharma as he sits on the grassy lawn. Understanding that his friend is already proctoring him in the wisdom of his faults. And at Bodhidharma's statement, Shei feels shame.

"I understand. I have become a wild creature, and although I place such little value on my own life. I could never forgive myself for endangering my family. I'm sorry Bodhidharma, I will protect my life just as I should protect my comrades." Shei bows his head recognizing Bodhidharma as his teacher "Then- will you instruct the Malakhim as well?"

 No.758291

>>758289
"It appears I have much to learn," Estuary says, having recovered a bit from earlier. Your gratitude helps. "A warrior must never forget such truths."

>>758289
"She was givin' me somethin' alri–"
"That's enough out of you," River says. "Now come on–"
"If you insist!"
"Aaaaagh! Pryce, breakfast! Now!"

River practically runs out of the room to the table. Zjetya smirks. "Really though… I had a bad dream. Felt a bit… safer sleeping in River's room… after I woke up, I saw she was up reading, so I asked if I could spend the night. Didn't want to wake you."

>>758290
"Yes, but only if they will accept my instruction in the akashic arts of music. Youngsters today… hardly do they know what they do when they flail about on their newfangled magitech lutes and skin drums. Call them in here and I shall give them a real instruction in the arts."

 No.758292

>>758291
>"Always good to prepare a little bit in everything. No show can run with a one trick pony afterall."
KP responds with his own sagely sounding advice from his family, taking a bit bite of hayggs.


Pryce blinks from the exchange, lost as River sprints out to get breakfast. He turns to Zjetya as she explains.
"I'm glad she was there for you. Though, I wouldn't have minded, I'm always open for either of you if you need me," He says assuredly. "What was it, if I may ask?

 No.758293

>>758291
Shei picks himself up from his seat on the grass, with some more pluck in his attitude he says "Cripes- We're open to suggestions but not a new sound. Dare suppose we could take you on for a few lessons. I'll gather the boys."

And with that Shei takes his leave of the lantern later convening with his Malakhim to update them on his request to be trained by the Bodhidharma and reconvening at the Bodhidharma's abode that night to begin their first lesson.

[mini session end]

 No.758294

>>758293
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hn_iAxcdV0I

The Bodhidharma subjects you and the Malakhim to grueling and old-fashioned training in the ancient ways of music and mediation, whose secrets sustained him against the treachery of the false angel Miracle.

 No.758295

>>758292
"Us… getting taken out by the ancient dragons before we can even get close to Ornifex," Zjetya says. "Every place that has withstood collapse in the wake of the demonic invasion did so for a reason. And if the insurrectionists are using demons like Sir Einmal said… I wonder if there will be much of them left by the time we get there."

Renee calls in Sugar and Spitshine, and everyone sits down for breakfast. After it's finished, Renee attempts to get started on the dishes, but Vortigern stops her.

"Relax, Sister," Vortigern says. "I heard you up all night packing and making ready for your departure. Be at ease, we'll take care of this."

"…Thanks," Renee says. You see her small collection of worldly possessions are bound up by the door in a saddlebag.

 No.758296

>>758295
Pryce puts a wings around Zjetya.
"Nothings going to take us out like that. We're going to help, not to conquer or attack like demons," He says confidently. "If needed, we can walk to avoid any unneeded attention if they do have dragons guarding."

Pryce walks with her to the breakfast table, taking a seat between Zjetya and River.

"Good luck, Renee," Pryce says to follow the call on her to relax. "Whoever ends up being by your side on the field will be lucky to have your skills."

 No.758297

>>758296
Zjetya does not reply, but leans into your hug.

Renee nods at your praise. "You as well," she says. "I shall call when I can, so keep your conches handy."

>>758296
https://youtu.be/Qr7tfAuaGfs

The others clean up while Renee reluctantly obeys their wishes for her to take it easy before her departure. Once at last the meal is done and the airship tidy, the sun is risen, and Renee is due for her departure. She meets you all out on the grass, and the final goodbyes are brief, though she does not leave without issuing everyone – even the pets – a hug farewell. When at last she turns to leave, Lockjaw innocently tries to follow her, and only after a bit of commanding from KP does he seem to understand that Renee is leaving by herself. The deviljho's head hangs, and his mood drops.

Vortigern gestures for you all to step back onto the airship before you can dwell overmuch on this latest separation from your party. "Let's be off, then. It's three days to Threecoins, then four more to Ornifex. Let's go while we have enough sunlight to travel in safety."

 No.758298

>>758297
"I shall."

>>758297
Pryce and KP do their share of helping with cleanup, KP doing a little extra to help make sure Renee's last bits with them that morning are calm.
The goodbyes have a better tone with the rising sun, having a more hopeful atmosphere to it.

Pryce turns as Vortigern makes the call to depart.
"We have a lot of flying ahead of us. Anypony want to try taking the wheel this time?"
He offers, using the suggestion to put the practice to the test to keep spirits up.

 No.758299

[3d100]

Roll #1 77, 22, 54 = 153

 No.758300

>>758298
"Dibs," Spitshine says.
Sugar snorts. "Can your hooves even reach the pedals?"
"This thing's got auto-fly, I'll be fine."

The others hop aboard, and the airship takes off – with Vortigern getting the first flight.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=59aiUbCT7LY

Your travel to Threecoins is generally safe, though not without incident. From time and again, you come across old wreckages, caravans, mostly. Some are months old, others weeks old, though none are overly recent. Though some seem to have been the victims of demonic attack, others show signs of having been hit by mortal weaponry… arrows and explosives, not the gunpowder or magitech employed by Ecclesia.

You note that there are rather few demons in sight on your travels, even fewer than what you saw on your first travel there. Only twice are you assailed by demons, and both times, gunfire bursts from the gatling guns are enough to chase them off before a true aerial battle can take place. Perhaps the Treibheanna have taken all worth taking in this region…

At last, on the dawn of the third day, you see the high walls of Threecoins looming on the horizon.

 No.758301

>>758300
"We can adjust the seat as needed," Pryce chuckles as the kids jump to dibs.

As they fly towards Threecoin, Pryce notes the sights, abandoned wreckage showing nothing in the long stretch between fortifications. At least it appears no greater force aside the Treibheanna would be doing it. The few skirmishes help keep him alert, and thankful they were only skirmishes.
In the lulls he reads the book on Unweaving, figuring it'd be best to grasp the concept before they reach Threecoins to be safe, as well as doing a little planning to W&W.
KP practices his beast taming, and trying out his bubble spell on all kinds of substances to get the most use out of it.


When the walls finally come into view, Pryce looks out towards the city on the horizon.
"Threecoins, straight ahead! Should be only a little bit more now," He announces. "Wonder how they're holding up."

 No.758302

>>758301
Lockjaw remains in a funk through all of KP's attempted Beastmaster training. Though his kind is a nomadic species, it seems he was still fond of those he only knew a short while.

As the airship approaches the city, signals from the Witches below direct you to park at a more cleared out area in the northeastern quadrant of the city, far from the dilapidated western and southern quadrants on the other side of the great river. The space is near the southern end of the northeastern quadrant, amid spaces for caravans and boats making the river their port.

 No.758303

>>758302
KP frowns as Lockjaw seems to not be into the training during the travel, and starts to feel a tad guilty over how he was acting the day before they took off.
As Threecoins comes into view, KP picks Lockjaw up to see out the window.
>"Cheer up little guy, look! This is where we first met, remember?"

When they land, signaled down to a clear area, the entrance makes Pryce feel better off seeing they are handling things well still.
"Guess they're setting up for expectant travelers now. That's a good sign."

 No.758304

>>758303
Lockjaw perks up a little at seeing the city of witches again, and makes his way outside with the others, a little energy returned to his steps.

As you exit the Silver Stream, making your way to the main streets, you see that the population density seems to have dropped. However, contra to this, there seem to be quite a few Ecclesians about, mingling with the Witches. Morale is quite high among them.

"Regina's castle is to the northeast," Vortigern says. "Let's head there first, then come back here to see if we can't restock on supplies."
"Wonder if Ecclesia's gotten to them first…" River muses.

 No.758469

>>758304
Pryce looks around the city, seeing the place not too crowded and spirits high. It's a good sign to see.

"We shouldn't have to worry about that, the witches were more keen on bartering than anything else. That might've slowed any Ecclesian trade," He comments as they make their way to Regina's.

 No.758470

>>758469
River gets ready to conjure a Dark Corridor to the Library of the Sacrosanct, but Zjetya stops her.
"Regina's probably not in the best of moods at the moment," she says. "We'd better announce ourselves first."
"A fair point," River concedes.
"That Fairy Castle should know," Onion suggests. "Pryce, her abode was somewhere 'round these parts, wannit?"

 No.758471

>>758470
"Also good to be polite too, checking in first before walking in."

Pryce nods to Onion. "Yea, her hut is down this way," He says, leading the way for the group down to Fairy Castle's.

 No.758512

>>758471
You pass by the Public Gardens as you head northwest through the city streets, back into the business district. Along the way, you see more of Threecoins' sudden change in population – a plethora of male Ecclesians mingling with the Witches, or at least those who remain.

In time, you come to Fairy Castle's humble stone-and-thatch hut, at the end of the street, marked by her extensive gardens in the front yard. When you knock, she opens the door, and you can see Prickly Pear sitting near the back, her eyes shut in a meditative expression.

"Well well," Fairy Castle says, not bothering to lower her voice for Prickly Pear's meditations. Prickly grimaces, but keeps her eyes shut. "If it isn't the matchmakers. Come to work your magic again on my sisters?"

"I take it the negotiations with Ecclesia worked out just fine," Onion says.

"Swimmingly," Fairy says. "You know how long it's been since these Witches have met a stallion who wasn't trying to stake or burn them?"

"One might think a devout and militaristic nation would not be so quick to embrace literal Witches," River says.

Fairy Castle just laughs. "You've much to learn of religion and magic if that comes as a surprise. Come in, come in, sit anywhere."

 No.758513

>>758512
"It's good to see things worked out well. Seeing ponies get along not because they're preparing for battle is a good sight nowadays," Pryce comments on the topic.

"On that, how is Regina doing? We wanted to check in since we're passing by," He says, getting a seat for RIver and Zjetya before taking one himself.

 No.758516

>>758513
There aren't any seats in the spartan hut, just warm, hard-packed earth. The others all sit wherever there is open space. You see that Fairy Castle has not yet fully recovered from the Kindling, the old Shekinah leaning more on her staff with more stilted movements.

"Exhausted," Fairy says. "Only a few days ago you lot came in like a damn whirlwind and practically upended this Coven. Bringing the Queen-Mother back from the brink of despair… introducing her to a good and charming monsterpony… your resolve to stop the Witches of Gehenna… it's been almost too much for the girl. I had to comfort her the night that Box fellow went into Tartarus. And, when Ecclesians arrived with negotiations in mind, it was I who had to keep her focused through the talks."

 No.758517

>>758516
Pryce frowns hearing how much Regina has gone through.
"Oh, guess we should come back later then to give her some space to recover from all that. …What did the negotiations cover, if I may ask?"

 No.758518

>>758517
"It might do her some good to see you," Fairy says. "Then again… a reminder of Box may not be helpful. I'll leave it to your judgment."

Turning to the question of negotiations, she continues. "What you have no doubt seen on the city streets is the fruit of the negotiations. The Chorister Metalweave proposed an alliance between Ecclesia and the Coven, as an alternative to the Coven's earlier reliance on the White Dance, the Dove Incense and the strange gods they summoned.

"So far, it seems to be working well. Those Witches who desired companionship have found themselves good company. Those who desired a change of scenery as well have been able to move according to Ecclesian operations. Regina fully accepted the departure of those who wished to leave after hearing her confession of the Replica and Replicant plan.

"That Metalweave seemed a reasonable fellow, despite his leanings. Despite scouring his drafted proposals for many hours, Regina and I found little to haggle over, besides the theological concession. The gods summoned by the Dove Incense saved our lives time and again from the Treibheanna's demons, so they were hard to part with. Regina has a mind to propose their induction into the Ecclesian pantheon."

"But…" River says. "What if those gods are connected to the Treibheanna?"

"I find it unlikely, given they drove off Treibheannan demons," Fairy says. "But it is not impossible… they seemed old, near-forgotten gods… in a position where even mortals can bargain with them."

 No.758519

>>758518
"Hmm, maybe familiar faces would help. We can at least tell her they got to the Great Seal ok," Pryce surmises.

"That's good, seems everypony is happy with the agreement. Inducting the gods sounds like a good avenue to take, I don't think Ecclesia would turn down something that has proven to work against demons."

 No.758520

>>758519
Zjetya folds her arms, frowning as she tries to ponder over something.

"We shall see how well the treaty proceeds," Fairy says. "Ecclesia would do well to remember that Witches are not to be trifled with. If they should mistreat the sisters of our Coven…"

"I doubt that will be a concern," River says. "Even one such as I, an enemy of the old Church, can say that much. The Ecclesian leadership is composed of the most pragmatic of the survivors of the old order – assassins, schemers and warlords. Any misconduct on the part of its lower rank-and-file will doubtlessly be met by swift and brutal judgment, and, I imagine, recompense. They would not be so foolish as to endanger a treaty with powerful allies given the current conditions."

"For their sake, I hope you are right," Fairy says. "Or else Regina will have another annihilated civilization to her credit."

 No.758521

>>758520
"Do you think we should wait?" Pryce asks Zjetya, seeing her ponder on something.

"I don't think there's anything to worry about with the lower ranks, it should be fine," He adds. "She's annihilated civilizations?" He questions after Fairy's warning.

 No.758522

>>758521
"It's not that," Zjetya says. "I just wonder how Chorister Metalweave got here before us. It took us three days by airship, and Ecclesia doesn't exactly have a lot of those lying around."

"Yours is the only airship we have seen," Fairy adds. "And we did not observe how Metalweave came or went."

>>758521
Fairy nods. "The Country of Red Thunder, or what remained of it. It was guilty of state-sanctioned sectarian persecution, then in its twilight years, the abominable practice of slavery. When the Witches of Gehenna betrayed Regina into slavery as their sacrifice, it was all perfectly legal, and Regina had none but her illusion magic to save her. When the demons invaded our world, and we fled northwest, Regina annihilated what remained of that corrupt and decadent country without hesitation. Given their previous attempts to do the same to us – not one of our Coven even thought of stopping her."

The others shiver, but seem like they're not about to critique her actions.

 No.758523

>>758522
"They do have some ways of getting around, there's was the one who first took the dove incense. Figure they'd use their quickest method of travel to get to negotiations with the details they gave us for Orniflex's situation."

"…I can't really blame or say I'd do otherwise in a situation like that. But, I do know we can make sure that sort of stuff doesn't happen again."

 No.758524

>>758523
Onion and Spitshine look particularly disquieted. Fairy's expression is grim, but she sighs, and nods. "Now then, that dreary history aside, why don't I get you some–"

"Pssst…" Prickly Pear hisses. Fairy Castle ignores her. "Psst… psst!"
"What!?" Fairy snaps at her apprentice.
"I wanna say hi to everybody!"
"Then do it, hembra," Fairy says. "Witches do not ask permission."
Prickly grumbles, but leaps out of her meditative posture. "Hey everyone! Did you all come here to train too?"
"Ah, yes," Fairy says. "I'd nearly forgotten in the onslaught of all the recent events. How have you fared with my teachings?"

 No.758525

>>758524
"Hi Prickly," Pryce says, waving as she finishes her meditation.
"I've been reading through the book you gave me, and with practice I think I've gotten a good handle on Unweaving."

>"I've gotten pretty good with my new staff too!"

KP chimes in.

 No.758526

>>758525
Lockjaw runs up and gives Prickly a friendly headbutt. She returns the gesture, easily bowling over the friendly deviljho, then produces some meat snacks for him, which he gratefully enjoys.
"Good," Fairy says. "If you are not in a rush, perhaps we can while away the day with further instruction. There is more to metamagic than simply Unweaving."

 No.758527

>>758526
"We're not in too big of a rush, we did stop by to resupply after all, in addition to checking on Regina," Pryce answers. "There is? What else is there?" He asks, curiosity piqued.

 No.758528

>>758527
"Weaving, of course," Prickly Pear says. "Now that you know how to take apart a spell, you must know also how to repair it. And not just in the way it was when you Unwove it, but in any shape you desire, even bound up with another spell. It will take a day of instruction to impart this to you."

Onion scratches his head. "This is all a bit over my head, Pryce. I can take the others who won't be attending the lesson around town if you want to stay here and learn."

 No.758529

>>758528
"Undoing a spell and remaking it to use myself? That… sounds amazing!"
His growing excitement is halting a moment as Onion speaks up to take leave.
"Oh, yea, sure. You guys can get the supplies. I'll catch back up after the lessons."

 No.758530

>>758529
You remain with Fairy Castle, while the others decide to handle resupply operations. A long day follows of instruction, study and practice, and occasionally enduring Fairy's very discriminatory gender norms.

Come evening, Fairy Castle, already still recovering from her work as the Shekinah of Wacachan, yawns, cutting off the words of wisdom she had been imparting. She squints through one of the hut's windows at the setting sunlight, and grunts. "Mmmph. I will take that as a sign that 'tis time to end the lesson. Well then, colt, have you any confidence you took any knowledge from what I shared?"

 No.758531

>>758530
While the lesson for this day isn't as physical as Sir Estuary's training, it is almost as exhausting on the mental front as Pryce puts his all into the new school of magic, and a little more as well to challenge Fairy's gender norm comments.

Pryce sits down as Fairy Castle ends the lesson, taking a deep breath and exhaling in relief.
"I am more than confident, I know I will have this mastered by the next time we meet."

 No.758533

>>758531
"Good, see to it that you do," Fairy says, lightly tapping the top of your horn with her staff. "I have not taught a male before, and I do so only because of what you have done for Regina and this Coven. I will not have any student of mine sully my name through a lack of skill and wit. Go forth and make this magic your own."

"What she's saying is that you don't gotta go home, but you can't stay here," Prickly Pear adds.

"Not unless you're going to help with chores," Fairy says.

 No.758534

>>758533
Pryce winces as his horn is tapped, nodding after at her words.
"I'll make you proud."

He stands up, looking out the window to gauge the time by the sun.
"I can help some before I meet back with the others. It's the least I can do for teaching me all this."

 No.758535

>>758534
Prickly enlists you for a time in the gardens out front, and after some weeding and harvesting of edible fruits, the others come back. Some signs of sweat and fatigue suggest that, following the resupply run, Estuary snuck in a training session.

"Lessons go well?" River asks.
"He's a quick learner," Prickly says with a nod, before heading inside. "Sit in the shade, I'll get you all some water."

 No.758536

>>758535
Pryce looks up from the gardening as the others return, looking like they've been through a deal themselves.
"Great, can't wait to try it out more," He answers River. "Guessing you all did some training yourselves?"

 No.758537

>>758536
"Yes, it's every day," Zjetya says.
"Were it not for the impending sundown, I would have you join as well," Estuary says. "Come on, we should be getting to the most defensible place in this city before dark."
"That will be the Library," Fairy says. She gestures to the streets, and you can see that many witches and their newfound companions are taking broomsticks to the northeast. "Regina has opened its many doors to all the city's remaining inhabitants for nighttime shelter, since we can no longer rely on the Dove Incense to summon the gods for protection. To their credit, the males of the Ecclesian Congregation are stalwart defenders, the few times we have been attacked."
Prickly Pear comes back with the waters, and the others make their rest quick at the thought of taking shelter in a safe place for the night.
"I know we've had our problems with angels," Zjetya says. "But, being away from their presence in Lilane's reminding me how dangerous most of the world is now."

 No.758538

>>758537
"Can't imagine a safer place here, after our own run through it," Pryce comments as they're all given water. "Glad they're doing their part, sounds like things are going smoothly enough here."

"It is dangerous out here, but places like this show ponies are working together against it. We always have that hope," Pryce says in good spirits.

 No.758539

>>758538
"If we're going to be sleeping over at Regina's anyway," River says. "I got to see enough of the Library on our first trip that I could take us somewhere respectably far enough from her castle. Let's retrieve whatever necessities are back aboard the Stream and find a place there for the night."
"Maybe we can catch Regina on the way in," Onion says. "Gauge whether she's up for an impromptu visit."

 No.758540

>>758539
"Looked like things all worked out then. I imagine she might be out and about while everypony is coming in anyways, be a good time to catch her," Pryce comments.

"Alright, let's grab what we need off the ship and head over to the Library," He says, up and ready. "Hmm, maybe I should ask her for some tips on W&W…" He thinks aloud.

 No.758541

>>758540
Prickly and Fairy lock up their shop, preparing to depart for the Library by broomstick. Meanwhile, your group gathers a few necessities – bedding, pet food, some W&W supplies and snacks – and lines up to enter the Dark Corridor. River looks hesitant about conjuring it, given the episode she suffered at the edge of Tartarus… but she sticks out her hoof, and the Dark Corridor appears at her command. She and the others are quick to proceed through, all the same.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nrTqz_-21Cg

The Corridor deposits everyone at the edge of the lake atop the Library of the Sacrosanct. From here you can see Regina's mushroom castle beyond the wisteria forest. Regina, in her usual gargantuan form, listlessly lies outside it, looking for all the world like a dejected cat, her tail swishing about in a lifeless stupor.

 No.758542

>>758541
After they gather their supplies, Pryce stands beside River seeing her hesitance on conjuring a Corridor, ready to aid her after what happened in the labyrinth. Thankfully it goes fine.

He looks around as they step out beside the lake at the Library. Regina being easy to spot takes out the questions of if they'd be able to find her or not. Pryce leads on for the group to go greet her first before they find a spot to settle.

"Hello Regina," Pryce greets as they approach. "Is everything going alright?"

 No.758543

>>758542
Regina frowns as she looks down at you, and bats you aside, though with little force or energy. "Curse you for introducing me to so great a gentlecolt and then letting him march off into the utter darkness… were I not a Queen-Mother, I would have followed him."

 No.758544

>>758543
Pryce steps back as Regina bats him aside, frowning at how depressed she seems.
"He fared very well on the way to the Seal, better than most, if that helps any," Pryce says, trying to look at a brighter side and how well Box would fare.

 No.758545

>>758544
"Yes, he demonstrated his many defensive and subversive skills for my amusement on our date," Regina says. "But until he is back, knowing he will be near Vizsla and Mudi… I don't even want to think about it."

Lockjaw boldly trots forward and throws himself onto Regina's plentiful fluff. Regina absently scratches him with a small claw.

 No.758546

>>758545
Pryce thinks a bit, feeling that mentioning the expedition or Vizsla and Mudi more might only further sour her mood.
"…Would you like to join us for some W&W? We were going to play some before bed."

 No.758547

>>758546
"I don't want to QM. There's only so much you can do that before you get burned out," Regina protests.
"Pryce is actually pretty good at it," Zjetya says. "We'll just make him do it."
Regina's ears twitch a little in interest. "Oh… okay."

 No.758548

>>758547
"Yea, I've been doing a campaign where they're exploring a mysterious island. You can join in for that, or I can start a new one if you'd like," He offers, seeing Regina having some slight interest.

 No.758551

>>758548
Regina's ears twitch even more at the thought of a mystery. "Okay… now you've talked me into it. Let's go inside, I have a special room just for these sorts of things."

 No.758552

>>758551
"Lead the way," Pryce says, following after Regina.
"Wonder if we should set up a room for games on the ship," He comments to the others, the idea sounding like a good one.

 No.758553

>>758552
For a few hours that night, you and your now much smaller group of friends and allies are not trapped in a dying world infested by insatiable demons, but on a small and sunny island. There, the worst that might happen to someone is a bad scrap with a monster, treated by a week or so of recovery relaxing near the sand and waves. Regina, having made a very small Breezie who favors the Dual Blades, gradually improves in mood by the end of the night. She permits you all to stay in her mushroom castle, for it has many rooms.

 No.758554

>>758553
A relaxing game is the best end to the day, the party exploring the high peaks on the far side of the island. Seeing Regina's mood lighten up as well makes it all the better, Pryce mentally noting down to do this again when they next pass through Threecoin.
Once the night ticks by and it's time for bed, and they're granted a stay in the castle, Pryce thanks Regina for the hospitality, picking out a smaller room to be modest.

 No.758616

>>758554
…a small pair of hands slapping your face– a spritz of water shocks you, thereafter. Your body is numb, and prickles stab every bit of skin, into the muscle, as you are jostled awake.

The room is pitch-dark, and only the light magical glow of Hopper's staff provides some tiny illumination. He squeaks, but softly, as he tries to rouse you to waking.

 No.758617

>>758616
Pryce's eyes snap open from the tiny slaps and water spritz, mild panic setting in as his mind jumps back to the ordeals they first faced at the Library. When he sees it is only Hopper, he calms slightly, taking a breath as he wipes his face off.
"What is it Hopper? Is something wrong?" He asks, knowing Hopper would have some reason to be waking him.

 No.758618

>>758617
Hopper's squeaking is fearful, and hushed, yet urgent. He makes no gestures, and in general seems tensed to flee in a hurry, in any direction.

Deep, starless midnight weighs upon the room.

 No.758619

>>758618
Pryce scoops up Hopper if his good hoof, igniting his other foreleg as he gets out of bed and steps out into the hall to ease Hopper.
"It's okay little guy, nothing's going to happen."

 No.758620

>>758619
Hopper backs up against your arm, holding his staff aloft for protection.

Guided by the light of your flame-arm, you walk towards the nearest wall, and follow it east toward the door to the hall… which… should be… somewhere around here…

Further and further you walk… yet you reach nothing.

 No.758621

>>758620
Pryce pauses when he can't find the door, keeping a calm head and not giving into panic.
"Might just be a lingering illusion or something…"
His horn lights, focusing on the wall as he attempts to Unweave any magic that might be on it.
>Unweave [Wall] [1d10]

Roll #1 9 = 9

 No.758622

>>758621
Nothing comes of your spell.

It is at this time that a peculiar vertigo makes itself known in your mind– and the feeling seems to stretch backward into your memories just as much as it does the present, as if you had been feeling this since waking, but only now sensed it. And the vertigo is like that you might drift away in any direction, without warning, heedless of any obstacle or gravity… and that, beyond the dark… there would be some titan of the shadows to greet y–

Hopper suddenly screeches, retreating up your arm in a panic so fierce that he drops his staff, and something floods upon you!

 No.758623

>>758622
Pryce holds his hoof on the wall, trying to keep steady and grounded as this vertigo overwhelms his mind. Hopper's screech startles him, combined with the sudden impact his horn instinctively lights to grab whatever the thing is in his telekinesis to hold it at bay.
>Telekinesis [Grab] [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7

 No.758624

>>758623
"…ce… Pr– Pryce, stop!"

With a shuddering gasp, one reality breaks into another.

You lay in the room you had picked last night. Your blankets and clothing are drenched with now-frigid sweat, though you yourself feel as though you were burned. You hold Estuary in your telekinetic grasp, and Zjetya and Vortigern stand behind him, frozen in shock.

>>758623
In his own room, KP lays delirious and inert, barely managing to keep his eyes half-open through a bad fever, his nightmares bleeding into reality, and vice versa. River kneels at his side, providing treatment. Onion and the other kids hold the pets at bay outside the door.

 No.758625

>>758624
Pryce holds still, body tense as his surroundings have changed again. He looks at the force that flooded him, seeing Estuary. Still, it takes him a moment for realization to set in, before releasing the goo pony.
"Wh… What's going on?" He asks through shaky breathes as the burning sensation starts to set in.

>>758624
KP mumbles now and then as the nightmares and fever take their toll on him, lacking the strength to speak more through the treatment.

 No.758626

>>758625
Vortigern pushes into the room, urging you to lay back down. "You and KP have come down with strange fevers. River is treating KP right now. I found him collapsed in the hall early this morning. You seem to be doing better than him, but River is still having a hard time with his ailment."

"We looked for Regina, but she's nowhere to be found," Zjetya says. "I'm gonna go deeper into the Library, and get more healers if I can't find her. I just had to see that you were okay."

Despite your fever, you notice Hopper sitting nearby. He looks as fearful as he was in the dream, shivering and disturbed.

 No.758627

>>758626
"What?" Pryce mutters, at first wanting to go check on KP himself, but as Vortigern comes in to urge him to rest, Pryce sits back on the bed. Or, collapses back, feeling the fatigue of the panicked wake-up come over him, as well as his foreleg extinguishing.
"A fever… Are you sure? I woke up… and everything was dark, like a void," He explains, confused. "I'm fine… I'm fine," He says to Zjetya, though they're just words.

He looks to Hopper, seeing him as he was in the dream.
"Is Hopper alright? He's not sick too, is he?"

 No.758628

>>758627
"I am not a veterinarian, but he seems fine, healthy anyway," Vortigern says. "I used some healing magic on him just to be sure. Something has him agitated– nobody can get near him."

"Go back to sleep, though it may be hard," Estuary commands. He takes the sweaty blanket off and replaces it with a fresh one. "But call us if you should have any need."

 No.758687

>>758628
"He's just worried," Pryce responds to Hopper's diagnosis. "I'll be okay little guy," He says to Hopper.

He lays down, pulling up the fresh blanket.
"If I need… but I'll be fine after some rest," He says to Sir Estuary. "And, I'm sorry for grabbing you."

 No.758688

>>758687
"Apologize only for your shoddy technique," Estuary says. "I could have easily escaped that grab."

Vortigern shoulders him aside and gives him a scolding glance for kicking you while you're down. Estuary rolls his eyes and departs, while Vortigern leaves you with a glass of water.

>Timeskip available

 No.758689

>>758688
"We'll try it again when I'm better," Pryce responds with a tired chuckle.
"Thank you," He says to Vortigern for the water, taking a sip and laying back down to try and get some rest after that nightmare.
>Good to Skip

 No.758690

>>758689
Time and space melt by, as you drift in a humid stew of nightmares. Yet time and again, some current always draws you back, back to that darkness… where you recall, time and again, the presence of something awaiting, as it has been waiting… though for you or for another, never can you tell, for all it takes is the sweltering wetness of that something's hungering gaze, projected more from odorous tongue than eye, for your every sense to rebel and thrash, shaking you back into the blinding, ignorant light…

You open your eyes to sunlight, coming in through the window, along with a breeze, but despite the light you feel rather cold.

>>758689
KP, in fact, is downright frigid. He wakes, at last freed from fever and ache, and sees River holding his ice staff. She uses it to puff out very measured gusts of cold air, apparently to counteract the heat of fever. Yet now that he is healthier, she might as well be freezing the poor colt.

Lockjaw, wrapped up tight in a blanket, is laying near KP, snoozing.

 No.758691

>>758690
Pryce opens his eyes, feeling tired still as those nightmares hang over his head. Shivering, he pulls the blanket in tight around himself, the change from freezing from burning not much of a welcome one. From his cocoon, he looks around the room to check for Hopper to see how his watchful frog is fairing.

>>758690
KP's teeth chatter, pulling in his blanket before he opens his eyes slowly as he feels the gusts of air.
>"C-C-Can you turn up th-th-the heat?"
He mutters to River, seeing her by the bedside.

 No.758692

>>758691
Hopper lays at your shoulder. Though he looks tired, he appears more calm now. Upon hearing your stirring, he faces you, squeaking inquisitively.

>>758691
River nearly drops the staff with shock as KP speaks, then hurries to his side to examine him. "My word… a full recovery…? Regina was right! How do you feel? Can you move everything? Use magic?"

 No.758693

>>758692
"Good to see you're doing well," Pryce says with a smile as Hopper looks better. "Think I still need more though, feel like I was stuck in a freezer."

>>758692
>"Wh-What happened?"
KP asks as River checks him over.
>"I'm c-c-cold, and, uh… I th-th-think so…"
He lights his horn to try lifting up the staff to check his magic.

 No.758694

>>758693
KP is able to lift the staff just fine, and River nods, performing a few more checks. As she does, Lockjaw wakes up, and upon seeing KP awake and well, nearly tackles the colt, his tail slapping the bed giddily. River nudges him back. "Zjetya! Bring that soup up!"
"Already!?" Zjetya shouts from afar. "Damnit, it's not ready– shit!"
You can hear some ingredients dropping to the floor, followed by Zjetya scooping them up and blowing them off.

>>758693
Shortly after the commotion from Zjetya, Vortigern sticks her head in. "Well well, look who decided to wake up. You might have guessed, but KP is doing better, and so you are as a result. Looks like Regina's treatment worked."

 No.758695

>>758694
KP laughs as Lockjaw tackles him over and they bounce on the bed.
>"Soup? How late is it?"
He asks curiously.

>>758694
"I'm feeling a bit better. What did Regina do?" Pryce asks.

 No.758696

>>758695
"Morning, three days after our arrival in Threecoins," River says. "It is not the usual breakfast, but it will be good for you."

Zjetya comes in with a bowl of hearty-looking soup and a serving tray, then gives KP a good hug. River does as well, then steps out of the room. "I'm going to check on Pryce. Bring KP up to speed, alright?"
"Hey, I'm no academic, I don't really get it myself…" Zjetya complains, then turns to KP. "So, I guess what happened is…"

>>758695
"The night we arrived, demons infiltrated the lower levels of the Library," Vortigern says. "They were attempting to enact some kind of elaborate ritual, before they were caught by the Eccleisans. Two Ecclesians died, and many others were injured, but the demons were slain. Though the ritual was thwarted, all the Replica and Replicant witches suffered fevers and the flu, and I would guess that KP's origin as a magical construct caused him to succumb as well – infecting you through your sympathetic connection. Regina was the one who treated him, and indirectly, you, using the magical reagants she used to construct the Replicas and Replicants in the first place."

River enters, and smiles with relief to see you healthy. She comes in for a hug, which combined with the two KP just got, warms you back up to comfortable levels.

 No.758697

>>758696
>"Three days?!"
KP says with some concern. When Zjetya comes in with the soup, he calms down, not wanting to spill it. He returns both hugs heartily after hearing it's been three days.

>"I'm glad everypony is okay now,"

KP comments after the explaination.
>"Where's Regina now?"

>>758696
Pryce first is concerned, then feels a mixture of guilt that he couldn't help fend off the demons.
"I'll have to thank her when I see her next. …A ritual to make all the witches sick, was that their intention or was it going to be far worse if not stopped?"

As River pops into the room and comes over for a hug, Pryce returns it, though with only the only hoof, still bundled up and the other not materialized.

 No.758699

>>758697
"Asleep," Zjetya says. "She'll probably be cat-napping for a good while, she was up pretty late treating the afflicted."

>>758697
Soon, Estuary comes in with another bowl of soup, and a shot glass of fly soup for Hopper. It seems Estuary is much more competent at making a liquid-based meal, for both soups look delicious. Hopper eagerly tucks in, his mood rapidly improving.

"They don't quite know the demons's ultimate aim; the sickness seemed to be a side-effect caused by the release of malignant aether from the ritual's disruption. My bet is that it would have been much, much worse. In any case, Regina and her assistants are exhausted."

 No.758700

>>758699
>"Gotta do something nice for her after helping with this."
KP says, pondering.
>"Wonder if there's any good giftshops in town."

He takes a spoon of the soup Zjetya brought, giving it a taste.

>>758699
"Thank you," Pryce says in thanks as Estuary brings in soup for him and Hopper, taking a spoonful of it now that he's feeling warmer.

"Given it was demons, fevers seem the best outcome then. Though I would think they wouldn't try going for a ritual approach, and just attack when everypony was sleeping if they wanted to be stealthy," He muses, concerned in thinking over the demon's goal.

 No.758701

>>758700
Mmm… soup.

"We'll check in with her tonight, after she's had a chance to sleep," River says. "I have heard that Sir Einmal has lifted Metalweave's prohibition against the White Dance, and it will be performed nightly again."
"How can Ecclesia get anything done with such an organizational structure…?" Vortigern wonders. "Snap judgments, disunified leadership, and an insatiable appetite for control…"
"Zjetya was telling me about it back in Lilane," River says. "Seems nobody truly knows… hence Gegenschein's not-so-secret plans for a revived monarchy, taking a page from Mariposan Alicorn worship."

 No.758702

>>758701
The soup is a great dish after such an illness, already helping KP feel better than before.
>"This is great! What'd ya put in it Zjetya?"

>>758701
"I don't like that something like this had to happen to allow proven methods to be used, but at least Ecclesia seems to acknowledge mistakes," Pryce comments on the situation. He takes a few more spoonfuls.
"I know some of their order was from the old Church, but it seems like nopony among their ranks has experience running anything more than an order, or if any do they're getting undermined. …The former Emperor is part of their rank, though I guess they want to shed off most of the old ways."

 No.758703

>>758702
"Vortigern will have to give you the recipe…" Zjetya admits. "She just kinda left me in charge of the stove after she got it all set up."

Onion enters, carrying a nice juicy cut of meat. Lockjaw nearly topples the bed as he leaps off to grab the cut. Onion quickly sets the plate down and zips back, checking his hand to ensure he still has all his fingers.

"Make sure that lizard a yours in't sick, now," Onion says. "Li'l fella spent all that time sleeping next to you, tryin' to cool you off with his cold hide. He was hard to console when you wouldn't wake up."

>>758702
"That's hardly the half of it," River scoffs. "I do hope Renee won't find herself a victim of their mismanagement. Zjetya might very well have a promising future as a statesmare for all that she was explaining to me of their foolishness. Ruled by 12 members of equal political authority, chosen from three factions that historically manipulated and schemed against one another… how do they resolve stalemates in vote? Why is martial strength a prerequisite for political rule? If it weren't for Laciela and Yareakh being chosen as their first queens I would applaud their removal of the kritarchy in favor of monarchy."

Vortigern clears her throat. "That's enough of a crash course in theory," she says. "Pryce, eat and get some more sleep. I'll wake you when Regina is ready to receive visitors herself. If you are well enough for it, we should leave tomorrow."

 No.758704

>>758703
>"Well you did a good job keeping watch on it. The temperature is perfect."
KP says with a smile. He then holds his soup steady as Lockjaw quickly scrambles for the meat and shakes the bed in the process. He looks down at the little deviljho as Onion informs what a stalwart guardian he was.
>"He really did that?"
KP says, hearttouched.
>"He doesn't look like he's sick, but I'll ask River to check on him."

>>758703
"Renee has a good head on her shoulders, and being a medic she'll probably be able to speak against any poor management on her part and get through them."

Pryce nods to Vortigern.
"I'm fine, feeling better now. One night of sleep was enough, really," He says, not wanting to causing too much worry with everypony working on keeping him and KP well.

 No.758705

>>758704
After a bit longer chit-chatting with you both, your guests depart, allowing Pryce and KP time to stretch and bathe after being incapacitated for so long. KP in particular feels rather energetic – perhaps a bonus of Regina's treatment.

 No.758712

>>758705
After cleaning up and moving out of bed for the first time after three days, KP gives Lockjaw a big hug for watching over him.
>"I'm sorry for how I acted the other day, I know you didn't mean to hit me with your tail You're a good deviljho. Now, let's go find some paper and crayons."
He says, apologizing and having a new goal.

>>758705
Pryce after cleaning up finds it a little bit harder to adjust. Unaware it's been three days in bed and without a leg, he finds himself almost off balance when he reignites it. He takes a bit longer to do some stretches and some basic exercise to get back into a proper form.

 No.758718

>>758712
KP and Pryce eventually meet up while KP is in the process of finding some art supplies in one of Regina's many rooms. Your allies, save for Hopper and Lockjaw, are nowhere to be seen in all this Castle.

 No.758730

>>758718
Pryce comes across KP as he's shuffling through boxes to look for art supplies, smiling as he sees his younger self up and full of energy after the illness.
"Good to see you're doing alright."
KP hops up from the box, looking back.
>"Yup! I feel great!"
"What are looking for?"
>"Stuff to make a thank you card for Regina! It's the least I can do for all her help."
"Yea, everypony really came through for us."
>"Hmm, I should make everypony a card then. Three days of care is a lot."
"Th-Three days?!"
>"Yea, didn't they mention that?"
"That would explain the off feeling… Here, let me help you with those cards."
Together they finish the hunt for the art supplies, then they go look for the others.

 No.758734

>>758730
After gathering your supplies, you head outside, where you can see, as visible as ever, Regina's giant form, lounging by the lakeside. A short jaunt later, you see that she lies half-asleep by the waters, smiling contentedly as all your allies, save for Vortigern, walk across her back and shoulders, evidently providing a keen massage. Zjetya looks up, then signals for the others to clear out. From the treeline, Vortigern suddenly dive-bombs down, and strikes Regina's back with a careful blow. The satisfying crrrrrikt! of popping vertebrae is the reward. The others climb back up to resume their work.

 No.758742

>>758734
Pryce and KP head outside, pets in tow, when they can't find sign of the others in the Castle. Seeing Regina in the distance, KP takes lead first to go say thanks. But once they see the others, they pause at the sight of the party giving Regina a massage. Pryce winces as Vortigern dive bombs down, despite the effectiveness of it.
>"Wow! That looks like fun!"
KP exclaims.

 No.758754

>>758742
Regina opens one eye. "You two can be next, if you wish."
"Hey," Zjetya snaps admonishingly. "Not 'til we're done with you. You don't just spend that many days saving lives and not get rewarded."
"Pryce, your special somepony is holding me hostage," Regina complains with a yawn."

 No.758761

File: 1642481766412.png (4.58 MB, 720x1280, KP Regina Card.png)

>>758754
"Hardly sounds like a complaint," Pryce says with a chuckle. "But on that, thank you for all you did."
>"Yea! Here, I made you this!"
KP says, pulling out the card he made.
>"Thanks a bunch!"

 No.758767

>>758761
Regina's eyes widen as she sees the tiny card, and she even tears up a little. She holds it gently in her paws, and a sealing spell comes over it to defend it from time and the elements.
"The gratitude is all mine," Regina says, then pats KP on the head.

 No.758774

>>758767
KP smiles as he sees Regina likes it.
>"I'm glad you were there, can't imagine what would've happened otherwise."
"Doubly so. Those fever dreams alone still leave me uneasy."

KP looks up at the others going about the massage.
>"How long have you guys been going at that?"

 No.758776

>>758774
"About half an hour," River says.
"And a bit longer would be nice," Regina says. "I did save the Pryces' lives."
Zjetya scoffs. "Now who's holding who hostage?"

After the jokes, Regina leans in toward Pryce. "Tell me… what did you see during those dreams?"

 No.758782

>>758776
KP laughs at the turnaround of feeling.
>"Can I help?"

"Not much, but they were always the same. Just a void of darkness, an overwhelming sense of vertigo, and a feeling that something was watching me, like it was expected something to be there."

 No.758787

>>758782
River flies down, and picks up KP to have him join.

Regina nods to Pryce. "You wouldn't be the only one," she whispers. "The Replicas and Replicants who could remember their dreams all told me similar things. KP was easily the worst case I dealt with… I'd be surprised if he remembered anything, but if he did, it'd be that."

 No.758790

>>758787
KP treads around on Regina's back as he's lifted up, seeing if it's as soft as it looked.

("Do you think it meant something? Maybe part of whatever ritual the demons were trying?") He whispers back.
He then looks up towards the others.
"Hey, KP, how did you feel during those days. Remember anything?"
KP pauses mid-hop, thinking a moment.
>"Huh, I'm not sure…"
He ponders, trying to see if he can remember anything from the three days when he was sick.

 No.758794

>>758790
KP could sink into the fluffier parts if he's not careful. Box would do well to come back alive. But as he thinks back to those dreadful days of fever, he can remember nothing, being absolutely floored by the sickness.

"We haven't yet decrypted the ritual mysteries," Regina says. "But I think those nightmares were a shadow of the real intent. No rite that elaborate would have been necessary for summoning. It looked more like an attempted resurrection. It could not have been, for only mortals are capable of that, but something similar, perhaps."

 No.758801

>>758794
>"Nope! Can't remember a thing."
KP answers back, going back to moving through the sea of fluff, hopping through the higher parts.

"Not summoning or resurrection… Do you think they were trying to create something? Maybe some sort of advanced conjuration, or alchemy?" Pryce suggests. "It affected the Replicants and KP, so it could be something similar possibly."

 No.758804

>>758801
Regina's eyes suddenly shoot open wider than you've ever seen them. "Pryce… what was KP's origin?"

 No.758809

>>758804
"A mage named Calque cast a spell on me back when we were in Mariposa, creating KP. I don't know the specifics of the spell, but there is a connection so anything that happens to him happens to me."

 No.758816

>>758809
"But why that shape? Why younger, and not a direct clone?"

 No.758820

>>758816
"He used the spell to attempt to use KP as a hostage. We found out later he used the spell on himself too, also making a child form of himself, so it might just be how the spell works. His clone was trying to go save and marry Sugar while the original Calque was old, so maybe it's to make a younger body of the target for whatever reason."

 No.758821

>>758820
>>758816
"He also shared all my memories up to when he was made, so maybe it's just based off the memories of the target."

 No.758823

>>758821
>>758820
"Born from a spell of memory– of course! Just as the Replicas and Replicants!" Regina exclaims. "Their ritual must have been trying to make its victims remember something, false or no. A more permanent kind of mass hallucination. With its disruption came an assault on memory, bringing those born from memory to what may have been the brink of death, had they not been healed."

 No.758824

>>758823
"But, what would be the point of making all of them remember something, real or not? And why target the witches for that too?" Pryce wonders.
"Those dreams, it did feel like whatever… thing, was there, it was waiting for something. Do you think they're trying to find somepony in specific? Making them remember whatever this was to go seek it out?"

 No.758825

>>758824
"Belief affects reality," Regina says.
"And one is not dead until they are forgotten," Estuary adds. "Perhaps it was a resurrection, of a sort."
"And that was why the Ecclesians didn't want us to perform the White Dance further," Regina says as the dots connect. "For even if we knew little of its origin, those forgotten gods invoked by it revived, all the same."

 No.758826

>>758825
"Feels like it'd be easier to target normal villages or ponies than a city of witches," Pryce comments. "Either way, at least there was nothing too concrete in those dreams, so whatever they wanted back or wanted to make won't be coming around."

 No.758827

>>758826
"There aren't exactly a lot of those just lying around anymore," Regina says. "They would be hard pressed to find mortals who have not yet fallen under the rule of demons, or demon hunters, or other powerful despots. And besides… if you're going to mind-harvest someone, you might as well mind-harvest someone with power."

With a yawn, she rolls to one side, and all those who were on her back hurriedly run over to the upright side.

"Give us a little warning before you do that," Vortigern says.
"Oh, my apologies," Regina says, batting at Vortigern with a paw. "But you must not have had many cats growing up – we are capricious after all."
"No, my pets were all bears," Vortigern admits. She starts to look forlorn at the thought. "If you find that all is well here tonight, then…"
"I understand," Regina says. "You've a mission to do. Please, do not let me keep you overlong. With the White Dance reinstated we will be well-defended come nightfall."

 No.758842

>>758827
"I suppose that's true…" Pryce admits.

KP runs along to avoid being thrown off or rolled over, hopping up after Regina settles.
>"Do it again! That was fun!"

"I am feeling well enough to travel, any further rest can be done on the ship," Pryce says on the front of their mission. "Contact us if anything else happens, or if anything else comes from that attempted ritual. We'll always be open to help if you need it."


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