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File: 1714195322573.jpg (915.31 KB, 2048x1134, 310673615_5765840770103860….jpg)

 No.766596[Last 50 Posts]

After parting ways with their comrades descending into Tartarus, the remaining group of the Saviors met with Ecclesia to join into the Vermillion Corps, a mercenary faction that would give extra aid while they prepare for the oncoming forces of the Treibheanna. Their first mission is heading north to Ornifex to uphold the promise made to Zjetya to help her homeland with the Draconic Lords. Their official task for Ecclesia is to end the civil war, not mattering which side wins, leaving leverage of their aid to stick with the victor.

After a long journey, they reached their first destination of Vortigern's home village, where they met her husband, Grantz, and were filled in over time on the history of the land and the takeover enacted by the Dragon Lords. With unanimous agreement to aid the rebels against the dragons, their first step in fighting the war was to recruit Alloy, a descendant of Buiwong and sister of Mocha, to strip the draconic power given to knights that collected tributes from the lower villages.

With a grand success, they then joined a meeting of the villages, learning they were divided between the sides of the war as well, leading to a sneak attack against them in their sleep. Stopping the attacked, they discovered the dragons also had the aid of angels on their side, with the attacked under a heavy and inescapable mental alteration.

Now, they work to decide their next step. Lying low while they wait for the villages to decide who they stand with, and working on a defense against the angelic mind control to avoid losing themselves in the conflict.

 No.766597

>>766596
"That's precisely the issue," Vortigern says. "The uptick in war aggression and banditry has caused certain monsters to flee their usual roaming grounds for the nearby regions. It's akin to an out-of-season migration, and likewise risks disrupting the balance of the food chain. It's not dire at the moment, but we want to nip this problem in the bud before it gets worse."

At the mention of W&W, Spitshine and Sugar's ears perk up. In fact– so do the others. Vortigern, now recalling Regina's board games, smiles. "Sounds like you're already prepared for this task."

 No.766598

>>766597
"Ah, so we'll be keeping their numbers in check and corralling them if we can to keep things in order."

Pryce chuckles as everypony's ears perk up at the mention of the game.
"It seems so, yeah. I've set up a monster island for our games, so we've already been through this a few times in a sense," He explains, then looking over to the others. "Guess we'll see whose paid the most attention."

 No.766599

>>766598
Vortigern nods. "Always nice to see a hobby Rise to the level of practical skills."

Spitshine pokes Onion's arm. "I know we're supposed to stay out of harm's way but since we've been practicing with the game, can me and Sugar give the hunt a Tri?"

Onion shrugs. "I don't got any objections to it, if nobody else thinks of any. But we should get a move on. Sun's Breaking through the clouds."

"Yeah," Zjetya says. "Every hunter in the World knows the early bird gets the worm."

Sugar clutches her head as the existential horror overwhelms her.

 No.766600

>>766599
"If we're all together, it'll be fine. Besides, hitting the Wilds will be a good test for all the training we've done, both in-game and what Sir Estuary has taught us," Pryce adds.

"So, what kind of monsters should we be on the lookout for? And where should we start?" He asks Vortigern with everypony on board.

 No.766646

>>766600
"I suggest taking a two-pronged approach," Vortigern says. "There are a number of less dangerous monsters which one group can handle, but there are some bigger threats that I just can't allow KP, Sugar and Spitshine to fight, in good conscience. So perhaps they could take the first group with the assistance of Grantz and Onion, and you, River and Zjetya can handle the second category."

Zjetya's intimidated, in a rare turn, and Sugar and Spitshine are simply too thrilled about getting to fight to be disappointed that they can only fight the easy ones.

 No.766648

>>766646
Pryce nods in agreement.
"That sounds good, it'll be a good test of all their training."

>"What kind of monsters are around here? Is there any more like our pets?"

KP asks Vortigern curiously, holding onto Lockjaw while pointing out Pucchini and Catcher.


Seeing Zjetya intimidated, Pryce can't help but chuckle a little.
"Us three can handle anything, don't worry."

 No.766651

>>766648
Vortigern shakes her head. "Yours are a special case. You can hunt without fear of fighting a potential friend."

"Well, I am getting thrown right into the test so soon after my training…" Zjetya says.

"Just copy our answers and you'll be fine," River jokes.

"Pfft. That's why we're dating," Zjetya says.

"Pryce, your group will deal with a quarray eel that's moved into the cliffs north of here," Vortigern says. "Should you need any more supplies, you can get them freely from the village."

 No.766654

>>766651
>"Cool! This'll be a great way to fill out my bestiary!"

"Hey now, no cheating," Pryce mock scolds. "Heh, how about whoever gets the last hit gets a gold star."

"A quarray eel, good thing we can all fly," Pryce comments. "Got it. Think we're mostly set, but we should recheck our stocks."

 No.766655

>>766654
Vortigern nods. "With that, I think that covers our meeting. Zjetya, Pryce, Alloy, if you need more sleep following your rude awakening, don't hesitate to take it. We'll need everyone operating at top condition every day from now on."

"I… might take that offer," Alloy admits. To tell the truth, Zjetya looks like she could use the same.

 No.766657

>>766655
"I can only imagine. We'll be sure to be at 110% with what's coming."

Pryce looks to the others as it looks Alloy and Zjetya will be taking the offer of sleep.
"You guys can head back to the ship, I'll do a check on the supplies and see what we need."

 No.766660

>>766657
River gives you a light boop. "I'll handle the restocking. You go catch up on your sleep."

"Thanks," Zjetya says, brushing up against her as she heads for the ship. Alloy follows as well, giving each of the pets a scratch as he goes. The others break away to go get ready for their own hunts.

 No.766661

(Pardon my intrusion, had an question, is there a way to join these games? I was intrigued and wanted to join but there is no link or anything in Quest Talk.

 No.766663

>>766660
"I'll be fine, I got enough," Pryce says in response to the boop, before yawning a little to undercut that. "…Okay, maybe a little nap."

>"I'll help out with supplies! Could pick up some snacks for the monsters out there."

KP says, stepping up to bat to help out with River.



With duties split, Pryce heads back to the airship, inadvertantly following Zjetya back in her room.

 No.766664

>>766663
River ruffles KP's hair and throws in an ear scratch, then goes with Vortigern to do the supply check.

As you enter Zjetya's room, finding it an utter mess of unfolded clothes, half-open drawers and unsorted picture books, Zjetya scoffs. "Hey buddy, I think you got the wrong door. Your room is two down."

 No.766665

>>766664
Pryce stops at the scoff, taking a moment to process that he stepped into the wrong room.
"Huh? Oh, must be more tired than I thought," He responds, his eyes glancing around before he realizes, then averting his gaze to not pry.
"Sorry, but, uh… bit of a mess you have…"

 No.766666

>>766665
"You offering butler service?" Zjetya banters, unphased by the observation. "You'd look pretty dashing in Ecclesian dress uniform."

 No.766667

>>766666
"Seems like the fair thing to do here," Pryce counters, with how the stallions handled lunch services earlier. "Though we're a bit short on uniforms," He adds with a laugh.

 No.766668

>>766667
"Well offer it later," Zjetya counters. "It's naptime."

With that she turns and bucks with one leg, vaguely in your direction. The universal equine sign to get gone.

>timeskip available

 No.766670

>>766668
"Right, right. Night Zjetya," Pryce says with a yawn, leaving off to his own room for a nap before the monster hunts.
>Timeskip

 No.766671

>>766670
Hopper retires to his aquarium as you hit the hay.





About two hours later, you awaken, certainly feeling revived after your rude awakening, as is Hopper. You freshen up and leave the airship, where you see Zjetya, River, Grantz, Onion, KP, Spitshine, Sugar and the pets. Alloy has already gone on ahead to see to the POWs.

"Supplies are all topped up," River reports. "And I procured maps for our hunts."
"We'll meet back at the trailhead after each hunt is done," Grantz adds.

 No.766672

>>766671
Pryce wakes up feeling plenty rejuvenated, not just catching up on sleep but also resting after the mental connection with the villager. He gets ready, picks up Hopper, and heads out to meet the others.

Pryce nods at the report update.
"Good, so what's the spread look like?"

KP has his bestiary at the ready, all set to record info on the monsters.
>"Yea, who do we get to pick from!"

 No.766673

>>766672
River passes KP a map. "You're looking for bnahabra and jaggi. They're the ones most stirred up and mobile out of this region's monster population. They're pests and more than plentiful this time of year, so the village hunters always welcome extra help culling them."

She passes you the other map. "And Vortigern already assigned us the quarray eel. Between the three of us, we might have more trouble with the hike up than the eel itself. It's a rocky, rarely-used trail we'll have to take."

 No.766674

>>766673
>"All mobile and stuff… wonder if I should get a net."
KP mutters aloud, thinking about the monsters they'll be hunting.

"Right," Pryce says, looking over the map. "I don't think that'll be too much of a problem, all three of us can fly if it gets too rough."

 No.766676

>>766674
River looks over at Zjetya. "You seem to be lacking your cello-scythe."
"Musta left it in my other armor set," Zjetya says. "But maybe for today… Pryce, think you can make a special order for me?"

Assuming you assent, Zjetya describes a weapon for you to conjure for her… though the description superficially matches other swords you've seen before, more particulars emerge in the details. It seems to be of a kind very local to Yongning-si.

 No.766679

>>766676
"Of course, got to be prepared for your first test after all."
As Zjetya describes her sword of choice, Pryce focuses his magic onto making it to her order, pulling it from his bracelet once she's finished, adding his own element and adjustments as well.
>Conjure Weapon: Jikdo Sword (Fire, Single, Shield) [DC5] [1d10+1]

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11

 No.766680

>>766679
EMBLEM OF THE KING
Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive
Effect: Conjured Weapons get a second Weapon tag and are +1 by Default, or +2 on a critical success; Landing a critical success with that Conjured Weapon grants it another +1, this Effect does not Stack.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

 No.766715

>>766679
Zjetya takes the sword and steps back, performing a few practice swings in air and on the ground. River nods in admiration for the technique.

"Something tells me you're already a dab hoof at this," she says.
"Oh–" Zjetya stammers, a little embarrassed for the praise. "Yeah, I used to do some dancing, forever ago. Pryce and I sparred yesterday, so it must be coming back to me."

She sheathes the sword and adjusts her bags, as do the others, as they make ready to get on the hunt.

>roll navigation twice, take better

 No.766721

>>766715
"Keep it up an you'll be a knight yet," Pryce adds.

With everypony prepared, they set off for the hunt.
>Navigation [2d10]

Roll #1 7, 4 = 11

 No.766724

>>766721
Once your group arrives at the trailhead, Grantz and Onion take point, and lead their group down a smoother and more well-worn trail due west to begin their hunt. As for your group, it's a little difficult to be even sure where your trail is supposed to begin among the rocky northern hillside. Only after a bit of eliminating possibilities do you find a steep, grassy lead up the slope. Your wings are certainly going to get a workout today.

 No.766728

>>766724
Pryce bids good luck to the other group as they split up on their hunts.

Now on their hunt for the Quarray Eel, and the path to start it, Pryce leads on as he holds up the map so they don't get lost.
"If it moved into the cliffside, we should try to lure it out as much as we can. That way we can avoid getting caught in any rockslides or being knocked out of the sky," Pryce says, planning their method of attack.

 No.766732

>>766728
"Maybe we could set up bait, and a trap," River suggests.
"How big are these things exactly?" Zjetya asks. "And they don't eat equines, do they?"
"About the two of us stacked together is how tall they are," River says. "And it's not out of the question."
"Great…" Zjetya mutters.

 No.766735

>>766732
"A trap sounds good. Maybe we could set up a small avalanche ourselves to bury it."
Pryce thinks a moment on the threat these eels hold.
"I'll take it's attention when it comes to fighting, so you don't need to worry about what it might eat."

 No.766815

>>766735
You continue onwards, at times losing the trail, finding it again only with an aerial view and a good bit of detective work. The sun rises quicker than expected, owing to your late nap, but the heat and summer sunlight is a lesser misery than a lack of sleep, and so you persevere.

Some time later, you finish ascending a plateau, and see a good-sized cluster of steep sandstone hills wavering their way across the plateau. The trail keeps heading that way… the eel could be close.

 No.766830

>>766815
Pryce leads on as they follow the trail through the growing heat of the day. When they reach the sandstone hills, Pryce gets his sword at the ready.
"We don't know how far this eel may be roaming. You two should take to the sky going forward, and I'll stick to the ground to be bait if it detects us first."

 No.766833

>>766830
The two nod and lift off, circling up above you like a pair of buzzards. Though, they probably didn't intend the grim image.

>roll searching

 No.766834

>>766833
Pryce proceeds forward as River and Zjetya take to the skies. Likely a good thing Zjetya chose not to have him conjure a scythe for a weapon or it would truly be a grim sight.

Pryce scans the hills as he follows the trail, looking for anything out of the ordinary, holes or tracks from burrowing and the such.
>Search [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4

 No.766837

>>766834
It's hard to tell what disturbances in the landscape come from monster, or the primal forces of storm and wind and earthquake. The trail here is a little more easy and worn, almost distractingly s–

You hear a scattering of rocks, and check the direction. Somewhere around the sandstone contours, small scree rolls down. You can't tell the source of it. But, that should be the proper direction…

 No.766839

>>766837
Pryce looks over at the sound. He signals up to Zjetya and River that it looks like they might be close. He then whistles out a tune, using his Songspinning to fade from sight as he approaches the sound.
>Limerick of Desert Mist [1d10]

LIMERICK OF DESERT MIST
Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell
Effect: Renders user near-invisible and Stealthed to all but those in your Range; Does not break when taking Actions.
Duration: 3 Turns
Recharge: 1 Turn

Roll #1 2 = 2

 No.766889

>>766839
You scale up one of the sandstone layers, and stand upon a squat bluff, where arches of stone stand all about in a natural corridor. Your eyes dart about, as you count a number of spots from which a foe could ambush–

[1d10+3]

Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5

 No.766890

>>766889
>>766839
You leap back even before you consciously process the clamor of clattering stones and bursting dust, narrowly avoiding the slam-shut jaws of a great, dark sandy eel. The monster marks you with its pus-yellow eyes, then darts back into the cave from which it sprung, the sounds echoing off the cold stones.

 No.766891

>>766889
>>766890
Pryce holds his sword in front of him after narrowly dodging the eel's surprise attack. He can barely process the size of it before it darts back into it's cave. He glances up to see if River and Zjetya are at the ready, and then his horn glows bright as he attempts to conjure an arsenal of small rockets, preparing for the next strike.
>Homing Magic (Rockets) [Flare] [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10

 No.766893

>>766891
The two descend but stay airborne, their eyes scanning for the next attack out of the sandstone arches. This twisting bluff no doubt holds many such caves the eel can use to catch prey of many kinds. With this in mind they stay above the arches, and you gather up six homing orbs to defend yourself.

Another attack… does not yet come.

 No.766895

>>766893
Pryce looks around the sandstone, keeping an ear out for where the next strike may come from. When none arises, he plans a moment. His horn lights, grabbing stones with telekinesis and throwing them forcefully at the ground a distance away to see if the sound and impact lures it out. Additionally, he signs another tune, enchanting himself in case it's plotting and surprises him again.
>Telekinesis [Scatter stones] [1d10]
>Hymn of the Cedar-Tree Shrine [Instant] [1d10]

>HYMN OF THE CEDAR-TREE SHRINE

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell; Instant
Effect: Target will take only 1 Hit of damage from every damage source each turn.
Duration: 2 Turns or 3 on Critical Success
Recharge: 3 Turns after Effect ends

Roll #1 4 = 4 / Roll #2 3 = 3

 No.766897

>>766895
From the other side of the canyon wall, stones rumble, and a heap of eroded dirt runoff bursts away, as the Quarray Eel comes out for another attack!

[1d10+3]

Roll #1 8 + 3 = 11

 No.766898

>Homing Magic: 6 shots

>>766897
Pryce turns as the Quarray Eel emerges again. He swings his sword to cut at the eel's jaw, and fires off two of his rocket to hopefully anger it enough to stay out.
>Slash [DC-1] [1d10]
>Homing Magics [Flare, Instant] [1d10] [1d10]
>Radiance [1d10]

>Flare [Fire]: Bright flashes and loud bangs disorient the target, adding one stack of Flare when hit. When a target reaches 4 stacks, they are stunned that turn.


>MEMORY-PLUCK

Attribute: Debuff
Tags: Single, Guarded (Reduces Critfail Damage by half)
Effect: Steals a Target's Skill upon hit, enabling you to use it while they can't; Normal success = 1 Use, Critical = 2 uses; Only one (1) Skill can be stolen at a time
Duration: Until used or Dispelled
Recharge: N/A

>RADIANCE

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

>SERPENTSKIN CLOAK

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive; Instant
Effect: While worn, the Cloak takes half of all damage and negative Effects on your behalf; As an Instant action, you can inflict all stored damage and negative Effects onto a Target to whom you can touch the hem of the cloak.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 6 = 6 / Roll #2 4 = 4 / Roll #3 6 = 6 / Roll #4 7 = 7

 No.766900

>>766898
The jaws of the beast close around you, but you slip out between its teeth like a snake, cutting and blasting your counterattack!

>Took 4 hits of damage, 4 hits stored in SC

>2 sparks generated

The quarray eel comes at you again for another bite!

[1d10+3]

Your special someponies fly northward, remaining low over the arches. It's hard to tell what they're after but they wouldn't leave you in a fight for no good reason.

Roll #1 1 + 3 = 4

 No.766902

>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 4 rockets
>2 Sparks

>>766900
Pryce jumps back as the Eel goes for another bite, not a fan of getting inside those jaws again. He sees Zjetya and River fly to the north, trusting they found something important. For now he can keep the eel distracted to let them be undisturbed. His horn glows bright hot, and flashes a wave of heat over the eel to weaken it.
>Smite [1d10+2]
>Radience [1d10]

>Smite: Recharge 3, spell; Open a gate to your chosen deity, summoning their power to raze your foes. Hits all enemies in a target area and marks them to be struck down. Next turn, all your attacks on any enemies marked by Smite will autocrit on success.


>RADIANCE

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

>SERPENTSKIN CLOAK

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive; Instant
Effect: While worn, the Cloak takes half of all damage and negative Effects on your behalf; As an Instant action, you can inflict all stored damage and negative Effects onto a Target to whom you can touch the hem of the cloak.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6 / Roll #2 4 = 4

 No.766904

>>766902
The eel's bite comes just short of you, providing an ample opportunity to blast it with a great wave of fire! Scorched and snarling, the beast retreats as it has before, retracting backwards into its cavern with the alacrity of a piston pump.

With it gone, River waves your way, making no sound.

 No.766905

>>766904
With the eel retreating, Pryce looks River's way. He spreads his wings, taking flight to follow after her to not let hoofsteps alert it again. When he gets close he extends a thread so they can communicate silently.
[What did you find?]

>White Threads [Auto]


>WHITE THREADS

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell; Ranged; Automatic
Effect: Create a telepathic link with the Target.
Duration: Until Dispelled
Recharge: N/A

 No.766907

>>766905
Loose rocks, big ones, she thinks back. Lure it out and hold it still, and we can get it in one go.

Zjetya eyes up the rocks to try to figure out the best method of loosing them.

 No.766911

>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 4 rockets
>2 Sparks

>>766907
Pryce sends a thread to Zjetya as well to connect them all in thought.
>White Threads [Auto]
Got it. It seems to be rather slow when going for a bite, so I can keep it occupied a bit.

Pryce flies back to the cave nearest the rocks, landing down. He aims one of his rockets into it, and fires it down the cave to lure out the eel again whether by sound or irritation.
>Homing Magic (Rocket) [Flare, Instant] [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3

 No.766912

>>766911
The stones rumble, and the quarray eel shoots out from the cavern with a chugging roar, headbutting you in retaliation!

>take 2 hits of damage, store 1 in SC


As it rears back to take another bite of you, River and Zjetya position themselves for some rockwork. With how fast this thing can retreat, you'll need to distract or restrain it for this to work.

[1d10+3] bite attack

Roll #1 5 + 3 = 8

 No.766914

>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 3 rockets
>2 Sparks

>>766912
Pryce tumbles back from the headbutt. He rights himself onto his hooves, looking up at the eel as it goes for another lunge. He reaches into his cloak, pulling out his lexicon. He's not sure how eel hierarchy works, but he hopes the sight of a large one might give this one momentary pause. If that fails, he fires off the rest of his rockets, hoping they hit to disorient it enough.
>Lexicon of Moon's Dread [Larger Alpha Eel] [1d10]
>Homing Magic (Rocket) [Flare, Instant] [1d10] [1d10] [1d10]
>Radience [1d10]

>LEXICON OF THE MOON'S DREAD

Attribute: Debuff
Tags: Spell; Illusion
Effect: On success, Common Enemies are Incapacitated; Minibosses lose half their Actions; Bosses lose 1/3 their Actions; Superbosses lose 1 Action; Can Target up to 10 Enemies, but increase Recharge by 1 per Target.
Duration: Roll - 5 Turns
Recharge: X Turns, where X is the number of Targets

>>Flare [Fire]: Bright flashes and loud bangs disorient the target, adding one stack of Flare when hit. When a target reaches 4 stacks, they are stunned that turn.


>>RADIANCE

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 3 = 3 / Roll #2 6 = 6 / Roll #3 5 = 5 / Roll #4 9 = 9 / Roll #5 3 = 3

 No.766915

>>766914
The eel bites through your spell of darkness, clamping onto you, but with a shower of light and sparks, you break yourself free, albeit bruised and stumbling. As the eel squints and shudders from the blast, Zjetya and River start pushing at the rocks atop the ledge!

>take 2 hits, store 2


[2d10+3] DC 8

Roll #1 10, 8 + 3 = 21

 No.766916

>>766914
Great slabs of stone launch off from the ledge, plummeting down in a shower of dirt and rock shrapnel. You barely have time to roll away and hide under your cloak, as the rocks tumble down and collapse onto the neck of the eel, crushing bone and flesh in an instant. When the dust clears, it lies dead.

 No.766918

>SSC: 7 hits
>2 Sparks

>>766915
>>766916
Pryce coughs, standing once the avalanche stops and dusting himself off. He looks worse for wear, but nothing too bad.
Phew, glad there weren't more of those. I feel like a chew toy after that.
Pryce thinks through their connection.
Good job you two.

 No.766919

>>766918
>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7

 No.766920

>>766918
>>766919
Before you can even declare the hunt complete or set about your carves, instincts warn you again. You wheel about, spinning the cloak so as to catch the blade nearing your back–!

"Hmm."

Sir Estuary arches a brow, finding that you've caught his sword with no hope of retrieval – a far cry from when he got the drop on you at the cookout.

"Good job, indeed."

 No.766921

>>766920
Pryce glares at the sudden strike, magic gripping the hilt of his sword before he sees that it is Sir Estuary that got the drop on him.
"Sir Estuary!" He says in welcome surprise, lowering his cape and handing back the sword. "I didn't except to run into you out here, how did you recon go?"

 No.766922

>>766921
River and Zjetya leap with surprise at the shinobi's sudden return. Estuary takes no notice, simply sheathing his weapon. "Fruitful. But I am loathe to repeat myself. Let's quit this place posthaste. Have you dealt with the rest of your share of eels?"

"Thought there was just the one," Zjetya says.

"Vortigern only mentioned one," River confirms.

Estuary hums in thought. "Then she was unaware of the others… or her information was outdated. I have already dispatched the others, in any case. We can still leave."

He slinks into a shaded area in the canyon and sips from his water gourd. No doubt the sun and heat here are agonizing to his gooey form.

 No.766945

>>766922
"How did you hear about the eel epidemic?" Pryce asks as Sir Estuary questions their progress. When he then follows with saying he's cleared them all, Pryce is astonished.
"The others are working on some of the smaller monsters, we can make our way back to the trailhead to wait for them if they're not already done."
Seeing Sir Estuary head to the shade, Pryce removes his bracelet and conjures a parasol for the gooey knight, handing it to him.
"Here, this should help."

 No.766946

>>766945
"I did not. I saw many near old traders' roads and other trails," Estuary says, grunting his gratitude for the parasol.

"Could they really all have moved in so quickly that the scouts would only notice one?" Zjetya wonders.

River gasps. "Yes… if they were being summoned."

Estuary nods. "It is possible, though I've yet to catch the culprit."

>timeskip to reunion available

 No.766947

>>766946
"Summoned… Do you think they'd be affiliate with the Dragons? Summoning monsters down here would break up the tribes more. It could be retaliation for us taking out the tributes," Pryce surmises as they head back towards the trailhead.
>Good to timeskip

 No.766949

>>766947
Estuary leaves you to your speculation. Perhaps the weather combined with his long trip has left him irritable.

You manage to get back to the trailhead with little trouble, being that you can fly and Estuary can slither. Mercifully there is a shade tree where he can wait. Some time passes and the other group returns. Spitshine perks up when he sees Estuary, and he points a hoof at the samurai, pantomiming a gun. "Bangbangbang!" Estuary says nothing but pantomimes slashing at all three shots, cutting the imaginary bullets with an imaginary sword.

"Made it back alive I see," Grantz says.
"As did you," Zjetya observes.
"Your hunt go as good as ours?" Onion asks.

 No.766950

>>766949
>"Hey our group is all back together!"
KP cheers as they see Sir Estuary on their return.

"Had a few scrapes, but it went well, and it turned out Sir Estuary was on the same hunt as us. How well did your hunt fare, the training paid off I assume?"
Pryce asks, looking over at the kids.

 No.766951

>>766950
They're all a little scuffed up from the fight, but without any major injuries. Spitshine thinks back to the hunt, and you sense he wants to say something, but stage fright holds him back.

"It was…" Sugar hazards. "A little unnerving killing something the first time. But, we got them all so as to help the village."

"Y-yeah," Spitshine agrees. "That's about how it went."

Lockjaw walks alongside KP, without his saddle– KP hitched it to his bag so as to give his trusty steed a break after a hard day's work. Lockjaw looks a little banged up too, but satisfied with his hunt. He comes up and bumps his head to your leg in greeting.

River gives everyone a little healing, while Zjetya leads the way back to the village.

 No.766952

>>766951
Pryce sees how both of them are shaken from the hunt.
"It takes a toll, when you reach step of battle. If either of you want to talk about it, I'll always be available," Pryce says to them both, realizing this might have had a bigger impact on them.

>"I got some good entries for my bestiary too!"

KP chimes in, also scuffed up.
Pryce gives Lockjaw a pat and a scritch under the chin as he bumps his leg.
"I bet it was good exercise for you too, wasn't it?"

As they head back to the village, Pryce speaks up to Sir Estuary again.
"We've made some progress here too while you were on recon. Should we report first, or would you like to go first?"

 No.766953

>>766952
Spitshine and Sugar nod. They will probably take you up on that later.

You take another meeting room in the village council chamber. Estuary chills out a little in the cool building. "Give your report first," he says. "Yours is likely to be the shorter of the the reports we will discuss today – and will probably have more good news than mine."

A little worry passes through the group at the sound of that.

 No.766954

>>766953
Pryce has a slight frown at Sir Estuary's comment, though he was expecting that the recon wouldn't have much good news coming from the enemies capital.
"Well, we do have good news. We've already made some progress against the Dragons, and have the gears in motion with the tribes…" Pryce goes on to explain what's happened while Sir Estuary was gone. He covers the recruitment of Alloy and the dispatchment of the Dracoknight tributes, the meeting they had with all the tribes, and the confrontation they had with the midnight attack and the vision he saw in the assailant's mind.
"…And that's pretty much it. We were on that hunt while we wait for the tribes to vote, so it's a matter of waiting now." He ends, leaving the floor to Sir Estuary.

 No.766955

>>766954
Estuary silently contemplates your information as the others add in their own little anecdotes and details.

"Then, to mine…" he begins.

Yongning-si lies high to the northwest up the great mountain of Ornifex. The further uphill one goes, the greater the presence of dracoknights among the villages. Grantz confirms that the northwesterners are generally more loyalist the closer they are to the capital, although there is some little presence of discontent fomenting among them. Not enough to be a reliable asset however.

Estuary continues. The capital itself remains prosperous, undamaged and unaffected by the supply shortages to the south and southeast. One would be inclined to think that no demons have even gotten near the capital at all. The locals, generally well-off apart from the local slave underclass, are of the mind that this attests to the true divinity of the draconic lords. The lords are not seen, but an eternal cloud hovers beyond and above the capital, and a bridge of light connects it to the peak of the mountain where the mortals live. Their dignitaries cross the bridge daily to bring decrees to the people, and bring back tributes to the lords. None save for this royal priesthood are permitted near the bridge, and there is even an entire district guarding the bridge. The mightiest dracoknights guard the capital day and night. Wanted posters depicting Grantz and Vortigern are hung in many places, offering a bounty reward for their capture– alive only.

More on the dracoknights: for their service they are frequently awarded with live concerts performed by special priests. These are all acappella, and they seem to be the only reward of the knights. The knights do not have a salary, for nobody in the capital charges them for material goods or services. The knights universally enjoy these serenades, raising no protest against the lack of material reward.

"However…" Estuary says. "It does seem that one particular priestess is the most popular performer, weaving the most intricate songs… even I was nearly spellbound, and had to retreat lest I stay for the whole thing. I never caught her face. She wears a veiled headdress at all times. But… I nearly mistook her for someone else."

Zjetya lets out a shuddering, horrified chuckle. Estuary watches her in silence.

 No.766956

>>766955
"Sounds like they formed their own utopia up there, at least for those in charge," Pryce says, displeasured at hearing they've basically isolated away from the world and left these lower villages to fend for themselves.

"Alive only? That's, concerning…" Pryce comments on the wanted posters.

Pryce glances over at Zjetya as Sir Estuary talks of one familiar looking priestess.
"That supports my one concern after that attack. The priestesses must have some form of mind control with their songs then, especially if they play for all the knights," Pryce surmises. "Sir Estuary, did you see any signs of angels when you were up there?"

 No.766957

>>766956
Estuary shakes his head. "No, nor did I sense them spiritually. However, their presence could have been masked under the spiritual weight I sensed coming from the eternal clouds. The magically inclined here will suffer from the mighty energy that radiates from that area. Those clouds certainly hide something of great power. It's possible angels could be hidden somewhere there, but they take no active role in the capital if so.

"Mind control…" Zjetya repeats. "Did… you get a sense for whether the priests were affected by the mind control as well?"

Estuary shakes his head. "Only the Dracoknights seemed affected. The priests and priestesses carried on their business with no influence to their free will, near as I could tell."

"I see…" Zjetya says. "Sorry, I…"

She rises and darts from the room to the exit of the chamber. River goes after her with a look of concern.

"What about the changelings?" Sugar asks. "Zjetya was saying they'd all moved to the capital."

"I believe I already mentioned the slave underclass," Estuary notes.

 No.766958

>>766957
"How much do you mean by 'suffer'?" Pryce asks, remembering his experience during the Blood Moon before.
"If there was no sign of them, that's good for now. If they are involved in some way, it sounds like they won't show themselves or won't be a concern unless we go directly into the clouds."

When Zjetya darts from the room, Pryce looks to her, to Sir Estuary, then back to the door.
"Excuse me a moment," Pryce says, following after Zjetya to check on her. With that last comment on the changelings made as he steps out, he knows Zjetya will need a lot of support with what's happened to her home.

 No.766959

>>766958
Zjetya walks about in a stunned silence in front of the council hall. River waits nearby. When Zjetya at last completes this meandering circuit, she stops and blinks.

"Sarajinae… huh. Pfft… always did say… she'd be a lot more popular than me…"

"Then that really was her voice in the conch," River says. "Her song being the most coveted of those performed by the priesthood. Since the commander tried to use it in battle, that must mean it would compel the dracoknights to fight until total victory… or perhaps even death."

"…and she's working for them… of her own free will," Zjetya mutters.

"M-maybe Estuary was mistaken? Surely they can't all be…"

Zjetya stares at the ground for some time, her face blank. She draws her jikdo, and studies it. "But if she really is… I have to…"

"Enough!" River snaps. "You'll have to confront her, but that's all… you remember, surely. I, in my free will, worked for higher powers time and again. The people I now call my friends confronted me and stopped me. Now, I work for good. We will do the same here."

Zjetya startles from River's words, but it seems to calm her down some.

 No.766960

>>766959
"River's right," Pryce says, now that Zjetya's calmed. "All we can take from Sir Estuary is no outside force is influencing her. She could be going along with this to survive under the conditions the dragons have her in, or simply following authority."
Pryce looks down at Zjetya's jikdo for a moment.
"We've seen and faced a lot of different characters in our travels, when have we ever needed to go down that route?"

 No.766961

>>766960
"Yeah…" Zjetya says, sheathing it. "Sorry… it just all got to me at once. I won't do anything crazy. Least not until I see things for myself."

River bumps shoulders with Zjetya, and with a wing guides her back toward the council hall, where you find the others discussing the reports in further detail. Grantz seems to have taken over, and he and Estuary debate battle plans. Estuary, though not usually talkative, seems to have quite the interest in this subject. When Zjetya comes back in, Onion pushes a cup of tea toward her, which she accepts with gratitude.

 No.766962

>>766961
"It's alright, it is a lot to take in," Pryce says, giving Zjetya a comforting wing.

As they renter the hall, Pryce sits down to get caught up on the report and plans.
"One of the key plans we'll need is dealing with those songs," Pryce adds when there's a moment to interject. "We'll need a way to keep us from hearing anything, though it will make communication between ourselves harder. If can find a way to silence the priests too, that'll be extra security to keep them from supporting the dracoknights."

 No.766965

>>766962
"Just kill them," Estuary and Grantz say in unison.

"Out of the question," River retorts before Zjetya can keel over. "Just as they wish to take you alive, we have someone we wish to keep alive as well."

Grantz scoffs. "They intend to publicly execute us."

"And we intend to interrogate our hostage," River says. "You will not envy them their fate."

Grantz chuckles. "Hmm… well-said. Alive only for the enemy too, then."

Estuary grumbles, but stows his protests as Vortigern enters the council hall. Zjetya sighs with relief as the others stop to catch up Vortigern on the situation.

 No.766966

>>766965
Nombre

 No.766967

>>766965
>>766966
"We've already spared the first group of dracoknights we faced, it'll be better in the long run to not just cut down all who oppose us either. Besides, our true enemy is the dragons, all others can be considered hostages" Pryce adds.

After Vortigern enters, Pryce brings up another matter.
"Putting aside dealing with the priest songs for a moment. Sir Estuary, you mentioned you saw a lot more eels on your way to meet us. It seems we have a bigger epidemic on our hooves than expected."

 No.766968

>>766967
"I'm hoping you took care of them," Vortigern says.
Estuary nods. "Your scouts only noticed the one?"
"Indeed," Vortigern says. "I did not consider unnatural forces, as quarray eels aren't foreign to this area. But, as River probably already knows…"
"Summoning of monsters is among the powers of those who cut covenant with the gods," River affirms. "So, it may be advance parties of the dracoknights or other loyalists trying to subtly undercut us."
Vortigern sighs and slams back the rest of her coffee. "Then it's possible that even the nearest villages have loyalist sympathies…"
"The answer to my challenge is due soon," Grantz says. "If our neighbors have any funny ideas, I'll dissuade them soon."
"Good," Estuary says. "Now, if we could return to the question of the dracoknights and the priests…"
Onion scratches his chin. "So the priests' songs support the knights' power… can we get the two groups split up somehow?"

 No.766969

>>766968
"It could be an extension of the demon tamers that Ecclesia told us about… Speaking of, did you see any sign of tamers up there Sir Estuary?"

"It might be hard to split them up, I wouldn't be surprised if some knights were dedicated to protecting the priests above all else," Pryce says, thinking of how to deal with them. Pryce taps his hoof on the table, trying to come up with a plan. He looks down at the black chain link jingling off his bracelet with each tap, his mind drifting to Shei.
"…What if we played our own songs, to drown out theirs?"

 No.766970

>>766969
Onion takes a second to ponder tactics.
River clicks her tongue. "Wait… I think the summoning might be more of a psychological attack. By using monsters endemic to this area, the attack is two-fold: increased inconvenience, and increased paranoia about loyalism among your neighbors."
"…and I was just about to fall for it," Vortigern mutters. "That could very well be the case… but we're still going to have to dedicate resources to investigating. They're up one, whatever the truth of the matter."
Zjetya nods to your suggestion. "That's something we both can do."
Grantz nods. "And combined with Alloy's power of mental influence, that's at least three who can protect us from the priest caste's songs. Hmm… but, even if we're shielded, the two forces combined would overwhelm us… to say nothing of our allies who are outside earshot."

Onion pounds his fist into his other hand in realization. "We gotta catch 'em between a rock and a hard place."

 No.766971

>>766970
"We'll be on a split front too if they keep it up as well, since I doubt they'll stop when we make our move," Pryce adds on the monster topic.

"Maybe… we could make our own version of the horns their commanders used? We could give everypony on our side one to nullify out other songs then," Pryce suggests for an idea.
He looks to Onion as he looks to come to an idea. "What do you mean? Surround them with a pincer formation?"

 No.766972

>>766971
Zjetya gasps at your idea. "Ecclesia has made a lot of money producing caller conches… we could commission them for a batch. Then it's just a question of what the conches will play when sounded."

>>766971
"They wanna force us to make a hard choice," Onion explains. "Push forward and leave our flanks undefended against monster attacks, or shore up the flanks at the cost of manpower for the front lines. I say we flip it right back on 'em. Force the dracoknights to make a hard choice about what to protect."

"Interesting.." Vortigern mutters. "I think you have some potential targets in mind."

"Yessum," Onion says. "They'll have to choose between protecting the priests… or protecting the draconic lords."

A wave of unease passes through the party at this suggestion…

 No.766973

>>766972
"Could Ecclesia get conches to us in time?" He asks, thinking over what to play. "I guess something loud or catchy enough to drown out whatever the priests would sing. Know any songs that'd fit that?"


"Yea, pressure the knights on their loyalty. Split them between the leaders and the public faces, that is a good plan," Pryce says in agreement with Onion's suggestion. "We would have to make sure the priests are distant from the cloud though to make sure they can't retreat back to the dragons. Hmm… maybe during one of their concerts?"

 No.766974

>>766973
"Hmm…" Zjetya mutters. "Yes… but if their songs have any sort of enchantment or curse or anything, it could still take effect over a merely mundane noise."

Vortigern, blinking in sudden thought, quickly rises and leaves the chamber. Grantz goes to refill her coffee for when she comes back.

>>766973
Estuary nods. "Not every dracoknight attends every concert. Though they happen very often, the dracoknights seem restricted to a strict attendance schedule so that their other duties have enough manpower at all times."

"So if we mess with that schedule, we can control who is where and when," Onion notes.

Estuary produces a sheaf of papyrus. "I copied the concert schedules down here. I perused their archives and found that the monthly playbill is rigorously consistent."

River looks it over. "Musicals… orchestra… even flytings… you know, I recognize a few of these. What if… we infiltrated one?"

 No.766975

>>766974
"I don't suppose Ecclesia knows any anti-Songspinning verses then?"
Pryce glances over as Vortigern quickly leaves, wondering what she just thought of.

"Yea, we could almost set up exactly which knights we'd face, maybe even the priests too."
Pryce looks over the sheet as well, giving a scan of what shows they have.
"Crashed a performance? It'd be the perfect way to sneak in close for sure," Pryce agrees. "A musical would be a sure bet, with how much those use for extras."

 No.766976

>>766975
You recognize some names among the catalogue, while others are foreign to you. A wide variety of media and genres are represented here… despite the demonstrated xenophobia of the culture imposed by the draconic lords.

A little time passes. Estuary, River, Zjetya and Onion bounce around ideas, but there are still too many unknowns for a concrete plan to come together just yet. Estuary confesses that security was robust up there. Even the old shinobi could not infiltrate all the secrets he wished to peruse, hence why he is back so early. With the conversation in a bit of a lull, the pets stretch out to nap after their hunt, and their owners are likewise drowsy.

Perhaps respecting that, the next messenger to come to you is quiet and subtle. You barely notice in time that a spider has crawled onto the table. It trots on over to Zjetya, raising a leg to tap her hoof with urgency. River intervenes before Zjetya can get startled, and signals for the three of you to head out and follow this arachnid messenger.

 No.766977

>>766976
Pryce is impressed by the wide selection, wondering if they picked up some of these recently or from a time ago. He ends up getting a little side tracked in the discussion of infiltration, wondering which they'd be a good fit in.

Pryce glances down at the spider as River signals them. He wonders if its from Alloy, but then assumes otherwise. Pryce nods, and leads the three of them out to follow this spider's web.

 No.766978

>>766977
You follow River, who, guided by the spider, takes you to another district a little to the northwest. This is the prison camp area, where you dropped off this village's share of the captive dracoknights. It's a walled area with armed guards, and River takes you straight to the front gate. The guards call for you to stop. River, suddenly realizing that "a spider told me to come here" would probably sound like a strange justification to enter a restricted zone, pauses to think… but a few moments later, Vortigern approaches the gate from the inside of the camp. She hovers over to the front gate and says something to the guards. They nod and let you all through.

Inside, you see the captives each with their own covered cells within a shaded central area. The cells are sparse but not overly cruel, having supplies of water, a cot, and the aforementioned protection from excess sunlight. You see other guarded areas such as the latrine and the medicine yurt. Near that yurt, Alloy sits in the shade, looking about as worn out as you were after the hunt. He waves as you approach, and River hands over his messenger spider.

"Just to confirm," Alloy begins. "Pryce, can you repeat everything you saw when you connected your mind to that villager who had attacked us?"

 No.767012

>>766978
Pryce looks around as they pass through the prison camp, glad to see the captive knights treated humanely (ponily?). Once they see Alloy, Pryce is relieved that the spider was from him and not somepony else.
"Right. When I connected, I first felt an immense pressure and anxiety, which turned into an overwhelming joy and gratitude as I saw my thread and countless ponies rise up into the sky towards a sea of clouds and light. It had a constant forced feeling that this was good, and that I should accept it," Pryce recalls, telling Alloy what he saw and felt. "Did you find something out with that villager?"

 No.767013

>>767012
Alloy nods. "That's more or less what all the captive dracoknights I checked experienced. All of them had variations on that theme anyway. I kept hearing these strange songs… I've played flute for many years, so I jotted down the notes. The words were consistent, but I didn't know the language. It seemed like it had some kind of narrative structure, so I asked… my grandfather."

Alloy pauses a little to gauge your reaction to the words. "He… said he'd help me write a counter-melody, something that could even counteract the original song's hypnotic effects, but…"

Zjetya's astounded. "Perfect! That's what we were just trying to figure out. So what's the but…?

She looks at River, who frowns like she already knows.

"Grandfather wants… Pryce to be the one to ask for his help," Alloy confesses. "Uh, with… to… to quote the god himself… 'pretty please with a sugarcube on top.'"

"Huh," Zjetya grunts.

"That's… no that's him alright," River says.

 No.767024

>>767013
Pryce frowns at hearing Alloy asked Buiwong about the language, already displeased at what could come next.
His displeasure is earned when he hears the Buiwong can write a counter to the song, and wants him specifically to ask for it.

Pryce says nothing initially, but it is pretty visible this is something that he dislikes immensely, and he's not too good at hiding it. Pryce takes a deep breath in thought, and his eyes glance to Zjetya for a moment.
"…How can I talk to him." Pryce asks Alloy flatly.

 No.767026

>>767024
"I can let you into his office," Alloy says, the apology plain in his tone. River and Zjetya are similarly unamused. Vortigern gives you a look of very mild beseeching. She's all business, this one. She will need it for the war to be won.

 No.767028

>>767026
Pryce sighs, feeling bad at Alloy's apologetic tone.
"Alright, open the way. I wouldn't want to keep him waiting too long," He says with light sarcasm, in a way to lighten the mood back up.

 No.767032

>>767028
>>767028
Alloy produces a dark corridor for you, and you enter.

Upon arriving on the far side of it, you find yourself in a classy, if small, office. An ornate rug covers the floor, and a dark fire perpetually burns in the fireplace. Small ornaments of a golden minotaur and a silver griffon stand guard upon the mahogany desk in the middle of the room. Bookshelves line the walls. No matter how many times you look at the shelves, you cannot count all the entries they contain. The books and scrolls resting there change each time your eyes pass over them.

The elaborate velvet chair behind the mahogany desk sits empty for a little while… until, between the crackles of the fire, you hear tiny steps upon the rug.

From behind you, a small spider walks out of the Dark Corridor into the office. It's the messenger spider who called you all to the prison. The spider spins a web and hoists itself onto the desk. When at last it crawls into the center of it, the spider turns to face you.

"Welcome," Buiwong, spider god of fables, says. "Can I get you any tea? Scone maybe? Sit, sir, sit."

A chair manifests behind you for you to recline in.

 No.767033

>>767032
Pryce looks around the ornate room. The vibe of it both contrasting with and yet fitting Buiwong perfectly in his mind. He has to admit that effort is being made to keep up appearances at least.
When the spider enters and greets him, Pryce shakes his head.
"No, I'm good," He says, also electing not to sit. "So, you've dealt with these songs before then, I take it?"

 No.767035

>>767033
"Bzzt," the old Spider says. "Not these ones. I'm improvising as I go, same as it ever was. But it wasn't too hard to crack their secrets when they're narrative in nature. Got it all written out for you. You'll just have to read 'em off the page to be defended against the priests' hypnotic powers. 'Course you'll still have to keep the dracoknights from skewering you like shwarma. I can't do all the work for you!"

 No.767036

>>767035
Pryce is a little offput at the winging-it nature of Buiwong's method.
"Just read it off the page, and all it'll do is counter the priests' songs?" He asks, wary of anything extra being put in. "And no other strings attached outside of me asking for your help?"

 No.767037

>>767036
"Mm-hmm," Buiwong says. "There would have been, but since you're working with my beloved grandson, I decided to leave out my usual surprises. I do ask though, just a little favor between old friends, that you help the kid lighten up. He's all high strung out on his first big adventure. But that ain't how a web catches its prey. Gotta be loose and limber, otherwise it'll get torn apart by hardships. Capeesh?"

 No.767038

>>767037
Pryce is a bit taken aback by the request to help out Alloy, still not fully adjusted to the concept of Buiwong having a caring family.
"Yeah, I can do that," Pryce says, knowing he hasn't been too great of a help on that front at times so far. "A musical might do some good for that."

 No.767039

>>767038
"Alright then… didn't you say you weren't gonna keep me waiting? Let's hear it already! The magic words!"

 No.767041

>>767039
Pryce gives Buiwong a flat stare.
"Can you help us counter the songs… pretty please with a sugarcube on top," He says as if he's reading off a script.

 No.767042

>>767041
"Pfffffftahahahahahahha!!!" Buiwong cackles, rolling over on the table. "Wow, I didn't think I'd actually get this far. Thought you'd call my bluff. Hey, whoa whoa whoa, don't go and reach for the swatter now. Since you were a good sport and all, I'll give them scrolls a little extra power to help you out in the middle of battle."

He wiggles his spider arms, and a number of scrolls manifest above him. Strings appear too, wrapping them all up neat and tidy for easy carrying. You sense a little extra boon fall upon the scrolls, endowing them with strength.

 No.767045

>>767042
Pryce stifles a grumble, momentarily considering conjuring a swatter as Buiwong breaks into a laughing fit. Pryce lifts the scrolls in his magic, looking at the spider.
"You're lucky there's a lot riding on these to somepony important," He comments at falling for the bluff. "…But, thank you for your help." He says sincerely.

 No.767047

>>767045
"Hey," Buiwong says, quickly losing all humor in his voice. "I'm entrusting you with these for a reason. Don't you go and let my grandson die. Same goes for my former servants… in fact I'll even extend that to all the rest of your allies. I'm a god of your homeland, no matter where we are. Within you lives the hopes of that homeland. Don't let any of that go to waste. Now… scram."

The spider vanishes.

 No.767048

>>767047
"I don't plan on letting anypony die," Pryce says, feeling the gravity of the voice. With scrolls in telekinesis, he takes leave of the office, heading back to the others.


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