The year is 296 UE. Seven years after Odyris Hippoi assumed the role of steward to Doux Arravani of Thema Agria. Seven years after Marcus Hippoi, Odyris' eldest son and heir, left for Thema Peneia. Six years after Marcus met Celye at the Peneian coastline. Five years after Nolin Hippoi, son of Prokopios Hippoi, followed his cousin there. Three years since Mereghyl the dragon met Neera the seapony in Bazos Bay. Two years since Flavia Hippoi and her twin sister formally joined the Church of the Mother.
But those were better times. Today is not a day of good memories. The last two months have not brought many good memories. Thema Agria, your home, is embroiled in a civil war. The doux and his heir are dead following a strange accident, leaving his crown to his eldest daughter who has proven to be inept at her new position as doux of Agria. A vassal house, house Styra, has risen up against their new liege on the grounds of their family claims to the Agrian crown. Supported by forces of the doux of Anadolus in their war, the rebels delivered a decisive victory over the loyalist forces and laid siege to the capital of Agria; the city of Cantria.
Following the fall of the capital and the subsequent death of the doux, the patriarch of house Styra has crowned himself the new doux of Thema Agria. Odyris Hippoi - steward to the late doux - was imprisoned and stripped of all his lands and titles by the new doux, rendering House Hippoi effectively homeless. Prokopios, Odyris' brother, has disappeared from the radar while his own family fled to the capital of the empire.
It's quiet in Hippoi's hold. What was left of its guards and servants have fled the keep after news of an approaching army reached the holding. There's not much time. They could arrive within a few hours if they force their march. Staying here would surely lead to… well, let's not think about that too much.
You must go. Leave the castle you've called home all your lives behind.
>>616276 Marcus and Nolin When you left Peneia, the latest news from Cantria seemed bad, but things deteriorated further into a full disaster. By the time you arrived at the shores of Nouplos, Cantria was under siege with Marcus' father stuck in the city. The doux was kind enough to let you hitch a ride on one of her sailing vessels, which dropped you off at Bazos bay, south of your family's holding. The commander of the ship told you he would wait no longer than four hours before he would leave again, not wanting to complicate Peneia into the matter.
Getting to your family holding doesn't take long even on hoof. After a half hour at a fast walking pace, you reach the castle's gates. They're closed… and you don't hear any activity inside.
Mereghyl Terrible news has reached your ears. The patriarch has been imprisoned by the pretender rebels. Cantria has fallen, the doux is dead. The war has been lost.
You're one of the few people left in Hippoi's hold. But even you must realize that defending it would be suicide. You must flee if you wish to survive.
Flavia Your father has been imprisoned! And they even took his title and lands! All the servants and guards are gone… the castle seems so empty and creepy right now. Who can blame them? There's an army headed this way to take possession of this place, if you stayed here they'd probably do nasty things to you. Your mother and siblings are very much on edge right now, they're packing whatever they can carry and are preparing to run away. Livia has ended her packing and is now praying on the ground. Despite everything she seems to be taking it fairly well compared to your other siblings.
>>616726 The main force won't be here for another few hours, judging by their movement. Even the vanguard is still at the very least an hour away.
That said, you spot a figure flying near the castle perimeters. Looks to be a gryphon.
>>616727 She turns to look up at you. For a moment she doesn't seem to register your words, but eventually she gets up and nods in agreement. "I… guess it is. We have to leave home behind. And… dad too, I guess."
>>616728 She is your bodyguard, so she always stays near unless ordered otherwise. She's flying along with the two of you, making sure to stay relatively close to the ground.
Also, as said in the second post, you're just about arriving at the closed castle gates, which doesn't seem to be manned.
>>616729 Take her by a hoof and lift her up, hugging her close, stroking her mane from behind, sighing slightly. Let a moment pass before giving way to the hug, stepping back and looking at her. "We can't carry much. Make sure you have only important things…"
>>616730 There are tunnels leading to the basements of the castle that go under the walls, but these entrances are hidden and sealed off. You know where they are, but busting through them would not only be hard, but also dangerous at the risk of collapsing said tunnels onto you.
Karabi suddenly dives down and lands. "Your drake is here. He's seen us."
>>616731 "Don't worry, I've packed light. I just hope they won't mess too much with our other stuff. I've hidden a few things away… You know, old toys and stuff with a lot of memories tied to them."
>>616732 It's a she, you can see. She dives down towards two other figures as she spots you and lands next to them.
As you get closer, you sort recognize the ponies on the ground. The colors, that mane, those clothes… That's Marcus! And Nolin too! They're right here at the gates!
>>616735 Well.. At least I got the dragon's attention. >>616736 "Actually we need to get you lot to the docks." I explain quickly and grab onto your claw. "Best take us inside Cousin, to the others so we can leave together… There are others right?"
>>616738 >>616737 Nod and take off as soon as I got the two of you. The gryphon can fly on her own. Get us inside. "They are all packing what they can. They are very disteressed. Everyone is. The coward guards and servants all left."
>>616737 >>616738 >>616739 Mereghyl picks the two lost sons up and flies them over the wall, putting them down in the courtyard of the castle. Karabi seems unimpressed and flies over as well.
The castle is very silent, seemingly abandoned by most of its souls.
>>616740 "We'll have to hope…" You take her out of your chambers and head down, rejoining your mother, sister and brother. They appear to be arguing about where to go and don't even notice the two of you entering.
>>616744 Niphon, the only brother around right now! With father gone, Anthe is technically the regent of the castle right now, but your mother and brother don't seem to be willing to follow her instructions.
Your brother Niphon seems to be agreeing with your suggestion. Your mother, however, argues for thema Pindos up North as she has family living there. Your sister Anthe on the other hoof seems set on going west towards thema Nouplos where the capital of the empire lies.
And then… Marcus, your cousin Nolin and a gryphon you've never seen before burst into the hall. Marcus has grown since you last saw him 7 years ago.
Like… a lot!
>>616745 >>616748 Both of you head to the great hall where the rest of your family has gathered to discuss where to go from here. Though it seems to have devolved into an argument rather than a simple discussion.
When the two of you step inside the room though, the room goes silent. Marcus sees his siblings, who were still mere foals when he left, now all young adults. They see two stallions who left as colts years before, now having returned to their homelands during dark times.
Marcus' mother is the first to move, forgetting the argument and running over to quickly hug her son whom she hasn't seen in years. "Marcus! Oh my sweet child, you came back!"
She has aged too since you both left of course, but the changes are more subtle than those of her children.
>>616749 To your hoarding room? There's a nice pile of stuff here the enemy could steal from you…
>>616753 Then you better get to rounding it all up. You've got a big ol' pile of junk lying here and not all that much time to collect it.
>>616754 >>616755 After a fairly long hug she does release her son, noticing Nolin and giving him a hug as well. "Oh Nolin, it's good to see you too. Look at how much you two have grown! If your fathers were here to see this…"
Niphon wanders over as well. While he was a smaller than average colt before you left, he's now grown into a young stallion who looks like he could physically overpower either of you if he wanted to. "Marcus… well, at least you care enough to show up now, but we're not staying here."
>>616756 "Its always a pleasure to see my favorite aunt." I hug her back. And then after she's done, I sigh and get serious. "We should get to the harbor and sail somewhere else, Have you decided where you want to go?"
>>616750 >>616755 Gasp as he bursts into the hall, and run up to him, ready to squeeze my big brother into a hug- Just to stop a moment short, and shuffle awkwardly on my hooves. "Brother…" I say in a low voice, looking at the ground.
>>616762 >>616761 Snap back to reality, whoops there goes gravity. "Brother, if I may… We should reach the sea. There's an army a thousands strong behind us, but once at seas any advantage they have will be gone. Travelling by land they could cut us off in any possible way."
>>616762 >>616763 Look at all of them. "Nipon and Flavia are right, we should head for the sea. I have a boat waiting there, once we're out on the sea and out near the coast. If we go over land, we'll be too vulnerable."
>>616762 I sigh and rub my forehead with a hoof. "That's not really one decision at all.." "But we need to travel with ponies we trust, so family is a huge plus there." >>616763 Nod in agreement. "As long as we can trust the ponies we're sailing with it is."
>>616773 >>616774 >>616775 Your mother snaps at Anthe. "Just listen to your brothers, Anthe. I don't like our situation either but we'll have to trust their judgment. We can't afford to wait around much longer."
Anthe begrudgingly picks up her bags and walks out the room to the courtyard.
It appears you are set to take your bags now and go.
>>616776 Anthe comes outside first, carrying some bags and looking somewhat displeased.
>>616778 >>616779 >>616780 >>616781 Then the time has come to leave your home - the castle that has been in the Hippoi family's possession for generations - behind. From Mereghyl's hatching to Flavia's cutie mark appearance, it all happened here inside this old fortress of stone. When the enemy comes, they will claim it as their own and render you all effectively homeless.
Marcus has suggested to use the ship he came in with to flee from Agria. The coast isn't that far away, but with all you're carrying it may take a while longer than it should.
I'd like an Athletics roll from all of you. '4d20'
>>616782 >>616784 >>616785 >>616786 >>616787 >>616788 Marcus, his mother, Nolin and Mereghyl are the slowest of the group, but as a whole you manage a quick enough pace to get to the shoreline within thirty minutes! As such you are ahead of any trouble that could have slowed you down.
The galley from Peneia on which Marcus and Nolin came in with is still there, but they appear to be preparing to leave. There's a rowing boat you can use, but you'll need to do the rowing yourself, which will require a Strength roll.
Niphon takes one of the oars '1d20+4' The girls don't seem eager to row themselves and you need at least two rowers to get this thing going. Four if you want to be sure to be quick enough.
>>616793 You can't keep up with your cousins at all, so you stop rowing to prevent slowing down the boat. Looks like they can get you there fast enough without needing help, so no worries.
>>616794 You're dramatic, but not much help otherwise. Looks like your brothers have the rowing completely under control though, as you quickly reach the sailing ship.
>>616792 >>616791 Those are two strong rowers, enough to make up for the lack of extra help. The galley crew notice your approach you and lets down a rope ladder along the hull as you touch with the ship.
You all start climbing up the ladder one by one. The captain is waiting on you on the deck, holding a scroll under his wing.
"You've returned on time, my lords and ladies. We were preparing to set sail again."
He hoofs Marcus the sealed scroll he's holding.
"This came in with the latest batch of mail just now. It's addressed to you, lord Hippoi, sent from Clopantinople."
>>616801 By the tides is a saying often used by followers of Aqualia, which you are familiar with thanks to your time in Peneia. Clopantinople doesn't have as many followers of Aqualia, they are most prominent in Thema Saddlonica and Thema Peneia.
The new moon is in four days.
>>616800 >>616802 The captain clears his throat before you leave to grab your attention.
“I’m sorry my lords and ladies, but we’ve also just received orders from Peneios. We have to set sail for Thema Saddlonica immediately, the Peneian fleet is mobilizing there together with the Saddlonican fleet. Without the Agrian fleet we’ll be lower on ships than usual so the doux has ordered all her vessels to be deployed with great haste.”
The postmaster of the ship runs up to the captain and hoofs him another scroll of parchment. He excuses himself and begins to read.
“Hm. A message forwarded by the imperial maritime office… The threat level along the south coast of the empire has been raised from ‘mild concern’ to ‘deep concern’. More attacks from corsairs perhaps… that may explain the naval mobilization. In any case, the journey to Saddlonica should be about a week given the weather conditions. I’m afraid that once we get there you will need to disembark the ship. If it’s any consolation, our doux is headed to Saddlonica as well.”
>>616812 "Uh, because you're the regent now? They're going to try peeling us layer by layer like an onion."
"Makes sense, Saddlonica is probably the biggest hub for Aqualians in the empire."
"I think this letter is too vague to draw any conclusions. Whether or not this friend of yours wants to help or put a knife between your ribs is impossible to say to me. I'm not good with following your pony logic."
It's been a long day and it's decided to rest for a while to regain your bearings. The ship cruises on along the coast and eventually night falls. One by one you all head to sleep, even Mereghyl who has to awkwardly perch himself onto the stern of the ship while resting.
In the morrow, you are awoken by a bell being rung to signify the change of watch.
>>616827 >>616828 This is your life now. Comfort may not be as common as it used to be for you.
>>616829 The crew is changing shifts, so ponies are walking everywhere. You see the helmsmare rechecking the ship's heading up on the helm, an officer checking the oars for damage and the postmaster setting loose a few pigeons.
>>616831 >>616832 Anthe is sleeping in. Niphon seems bored already and is munching on some grapes. Your mother seems to be observing the helmsmare doing her work. Karabi has been awake for gods know how long already. She doesn't seem to sleep often at all and has taken over the crow's nest.
>>616834 No meat. There's some fish and a lot of seaweed, dried fruits and salted stuff. Not a great diet for your bowels, but you'll need to deal with it unless you want to go hunt.
>>616835 "Jus' fine. Not much need for calibrations, only got to follow the coastline visually and we'd be fine even at night. Jus' nice to have a proper heading in case visibility drops. You never know when Aqualia will drop a fogbank on us."
>>616836 He spits out a seed. "So are you, brother. I figured your beauty sleep would last at least as long as Anthe's."
>>616853 >>616854 Niphon blows his breath. "Mother and father don't get along anymore. You two were gone for years. Father was always busy and less home as time went by. Anthe is delusional. Flavia and Livia spend so much time praying I sometimes worry they've become detached from reality."
>>616855 She follows your every move. As you fly up, she tenses up. "Breakfast on bed?"
>>616880 Trot silently over, smiling just a bit, and sitting by the railing of the ship, covering my back in my coat as I look up at Marcus. "The first thing I wanted to say when I saw you at the castle was how much you have grown… But it really wasn't the time."
>>616889 "She…was actually quite a lovely pony. Seeing her in the sea like that….it was the first time I really started wondering about the gods." Pause for a second. "Do you believe there's a plan? Like all of this, our father being captured…that it's all jus part of big plan?"
>>616890 Blink in surprise at the question, looking quite unsure on how to answer that, trying to find the words over your face at first, and then into the vastness of the ocean. "I know there are plans. But wheter or not our father's fate is part of them… And if it was… I could never forgive myself."
>>616905 I chuckle. "I guess I gave myself away. But who I was thinking about was not a girl friend. It was a mare I met in Penneia, she's a priestess of Aquilia." Scratch my head. "But…come to think of it, it would be rather odd for her to go to Cloptantinople to meet me instead of just going to Saddleonica with the Doux…"
>>616915 "I don't like leaving her behind. But Mother needs somepony to be with her while we're gone. Anthe and Nipon would bring her more worries. And I want you to come with us. Livia is the only one I can think of…"
You've entered the busy waters around the great city of Clopantinople on the dawn of the fourth day. The journey took longer than anticipated after bad weather on the two previous days, but now things are calm again.
"Dromons in triangular formation heading 1-8-4! Unknown speed!"
Spotters in the crow's nest scour the waters for other ships as a dense fog lingers about the shore of Thema Nouplos. The captain has agreed to venture closer to the capital city than he was initially willing to. This way you can use one of the ship's rowboats to get to shore.
"Arabian dhow, heading 1-5-9. Speed is 3 knots!"
There's not much wind and the sea has calmed down, but navigating the fog is no child's play with this much traffic in shallow waters. You should probably ready yourselves in the rowboat that was lowered for you behind the ship.
>>617221 "R-Right." It's clear that she's not entirely comfortable with being separated like this. But still she tries to stay strong.
>>617220 Karabi ticks on your shoulder with a talon as you put on your outfit. "We will need to go to the shore fast. And have an eye in the sky to avoid any ghost ships colliding with your dinky boat."
>>617237 I walk up to her. "Mom, we'll be back before you know it." Turn to Livia and put a hoof on her chin. "Livia…I'm counting on you to get mom safely to Saddlonica. You'll be representing our family there. …And once this is over, I promise I'll make sure you and Flavia can visit Cloptantinople as long as you want."
You can see a source of light in the distance, hanging in the air… That must be the lighthouse of the capital's harbor! It's not very noticeable in this fog, but at least you have a vague idea of where the entrance to the port is.
"Dhow, heading 1-9-7. 5 knots! New heading on those Germane cogs at 2-5-4!"
>>617253 >>617254 Then it’s time to set out. All of you have gathered in the rowboat, allowing the crew to untie you from the ship and move towards the coast. Karabi and Mereghyl are on spotting duty so they must roll a Search or Notice check.
>>617258 >>617259 Excellent. Enough to keep track of ships that could potentially collide with the rowboat.
>>617257 You're on the rowboat itself, so while you try hard to spot, it's no use unless you're up higher.
The shouts of the spotters on the galley fade away in the mists as you pull away. "… ship …eading… four… ots…"
You're completely surrounded by the dense fog. All there is to hear is the flapping of wings above you and the splashing of water as you pull the oars back and forth. For a moment you think you hear singing coming from somewhere nearby.
You can still see the light from the lighthouse ahead of you. At least you're going the right way…
>>617264 The rowboat lights up suddenly. Looks like Flavia cast one of her light spells.
>>617266 Your horn sparks to life and begins to glow bright. Anthe groans and covers her eyes, muttering something about five more minutes. The immediate area around you lights up further, as it is still not fully day yet. Other naval traffic will surely be able to notice you now.
>>617268 >>617269 It takes a bit of effort, but eventually you begin to see buildings shrouded by the spooky mist as you enter the city through one of its canals. On both sides of you there are houses bordering the water, with bridges connecting both sides of the small canal.
For Mereghyl, all he sees are the rooftops of these buildings, with the canal snaking through them. This must be the outer city district where the average citizens make their homes… this district alone is already far bigger than any other city in the empire.
There's a small dock where you can disembark your rowboat and tie it down… from there there's stairs leading up to the street level.
>>617272 You get your boat lined up with the dock and jump off, followed by Niphon who immediately ties it to a wooden post. You hear hoofsteps coming from the street above, though it seems like the great city of Clopantinople has yet to fully awaken. "Damn fog…"
>>617282 Easier said than done in this era! It's early in the morning and the people living in this area don't waste money on luxuries like city maps.
>>617284 "Well… we have this boat don't we? And that inn we're supposed to go to to find your secret admirer."
>>617285 She is still flying circles above Marcus and the others, keeping an eye on the streets above them. You see some ponies going about their business, but not all that much activity yet. Some glance up at the two of you to check you out.
>>617286 I never said I wouldn't pay for it, geez. What about a sign then? >>617289 "I don't think we need to stop and bath just now to be honest." >>617290 "You say that as if they aren't also your family." I frown.
>>617295 That may solve some of your problems though! "Alright then, we'll meet again at that lord's estate. Lord Omnidus was his name I think. Be a good girl while I'm away, will you Anthe?" "When you stop being an ass, Niphon."
>>617296 The stairs leading up from the dock end on a small bridge crossing the canal. More houses in this street here… but actual ponies as well! Those who are awake already seem to be leaving their homes to go work. Given the size of this city, getting to their workplaces may take a while on hoof…
>>617297 "No, all I was saying was that you probably have more need to go see them than I do."
>>617300 "But we do!" She trots up the stairs and looks around the street. "We need to get some directions here…"
>>617301 You approach a stallion carrying a ridiculous amount of small bags smelling of herbs. "The Basilica? Oh girl, you're in the wrong district for that. You'll need to follow the shoreline further west. It's built on a hill so normally you can spot it from a nice distance, but with this fog…"
>>617302 Your home is currently occupied by the enemy in thema Agria.
Your family fled here to this city and was given shelter by a local lord named Omnidus. He has an estate somewhere here, but you're not sure exactly where.
>>617307 This district of the city homes the majority of its population, which consists of mostly commoner citizens of the empire. As such there's mostly just simple housing here. Nothing too fancy, but still decently sized houses for the average citizen. There are some shops and stores here along the winding streets which snake their way through the district, but clearly this is not the main commercial district.
>>617316 Not all of them are opened yet, but you spot a few ones that have.
Otio's wineshop Chez Abelix: Menhir store Thur's Anvil The Empty Wine Cask Mosaics And You Trajan's bakery
There's also the local Forum where market stalls are being set up as per usual.
>>617312 You ask for directions to the nearest non-public thermae and get pointed in the right direction. It's only twenty minutes away from here on hoof, can't miss it! If you're lazy, you could just hop on one of the omnibusses going into that direction.
>>617349 There aren't many out and about yet, but it doesn't take long for one to stop at a nearby bus stop. These things are pretty much large carriages pulled by four ponies designed to fit as many ponies in it as possible. Anthe looks somewhat uncomfortable being surrounded by all the commoners already on the bus.
Karabi seems to keep to travel by flight.
>>617354 It's kind of hard to see where the center of this stone jungle even is with this fog! Roll Int for navigation.
>>617361 Your Int is 13, so that's a +1. >10 Houses… Houses… Houses… Different houses? Nope, they're the same. The fog made them look weird for a minute.
Does this sea of bricks ever end? Are you flying in circles or what? And what is with this fog? Can't the weather team get rid of it already?
>>617363 She's doing her best to avoid every form of body contact with the common folk on here. "It's… certainly a thing."
You arrive at the Thermea you were looking for. Unlike the other nearby thermea, this one is not free for the citizens of the city, meaning it’s less packed and also fancier. Anthe looks ecstatic to be leaving the bus for the bathhouse and quickly trots over to the entrance, paying the fee for her own entry which looks to be 15 silvers today. You wager that price increases during the busier seasons.
>>617369 You follow one of the streets winding its way through the jungle of housing. Eventually you do seem to be transitioning into a different district. Training fields, archery ranges, several hippodromes and even a large pool of sparkling blue water. Barracks, blacksmiths and manufactories… this is some kind of a military zone.
>>617371 >>617372 She stays in the air, if you want her to come down and join you, you can motion her over. If not, she'll just keep an eye on the entrances!
>>617376 You follow Anthe inside the marble building, the floor is cool to your hooves but the air inside immediately feels warmer. The first room you come across as you walk through the entrance way is a changing room. There are cubicles here where you can go and get changed in, as well as a whole bunch of chests with locks on them to safely store your belongings.
Anthe takes off her toga and tosses it into one of the open chests. "What should we do first, dear brother? A steam bath? A mud bath? A foam bath? A cold bath? A bath bath? Or should we go swim in one of the heated pools? Or get a massage?"
>>617377 You skirt past the military district and almost fly into a cloud billboard floating about in the mists.
It reads: Cloud District above
Please fly slowly
>>617379 It's just you and him left now, standing on the streets. "You know the way to that shrine you're so excited about?"
>>617410 "It's not just a shrine! It's the grand Basilica of the Mother! The seat of the Primarch! And if we don't hurry, we might miss morning mass!" Say all of this as I excitedly drag him along the foggy streets.
>>617410 Most major cities have cloud districts where pegasi and gryphons make their homes. You slowly ascend further until you almost bump into a pegasus stallion descending from the clouds above. He's wearing very fancy clothing and scoffs at you, speaking with a very pretentious sounding tone in his voice.
"Do you get to the Cloud District very often? Oh, what am I saying, of course you don't."
>>617415 You leave the atrium and move through the Tepidarium, a room where it's warm and wet serving as a way to prepare the body for the heat of the actual steam bath. There are very few ponies around at this hour as most only have the time for this kind of thing in the evening after their work hours.
There are several steam bath rooms, so you can just enter an empty one if you wish.
>>617416 "Shouldn't we just take one of the buses? It might be faster than just walking you know."
>>617460 You suddenly break free from the mist and see the sun resting on the horizon in all of its red glory. Above you, you see a large clouded area with buildings shaped out of the very clouds themselves. You see some cloud manufactories spewing out rainbow colored smoke, a cloudy hippodrome and even a cloudy amphitheatre!
This is the home of the capital's feathered residents, capable of moving around wherever it pleases. It can cast a large shadow on the city, an ability sometimes used on the hottest days of summer.
>>617463 "What are you… hmph." She scrunches up her muzzle and enters one of the steam baths.
>>617467 "Yeah, they're big carriages which tour the city free of charge. Clopantinople is so big, they're kind of necessary…"
You don't have to wait long for one to pass you by. Like Niphon said, these are pretty much long carriages pulled by a team of four ponies. It's very full already, this is rush hour! You'll need to squeeze in, so it won't be very comfortable, but it'll be a faster way of getting around at least.
>>617474 Even with the preparation, the wall of moist heat hits you hard at first. This must be one of the warmer steam baths here.
Anthe settles down on a bench with a content smile on her face. "Ah… finally…"
>>617476 He ruffles your mane. "Of course I will, sister. Now come on, hop on." He jumps onto the carriage and pushes some ponies back to make room for you.
>>617480 There might be a dragon or two here, but they're not the most social of creatures and even though they get along with ponies, they often can't keep up with their incessant chattering and prefer to stick to less busy areas. I'm sure you can relate.
>>617486 The carriage takes off, forcing you to grip onto Niphon to stay in place. Let's hope you don't get groped by some pervert on here. The ride will take a little while still…
>>617487 The amphitheater is empty and devoid of any action right now, but the hippodrome seems to be getting some action right now! A bunch of pegasi are racing along the track, while others observe. As they get close to the finish line, they tap one of the pegasi waiting on the sidelines who then takes over in the race. Must be some kind of special game. Judging by their clothing, they're part of the Imperial Institute of Weather Regulation.
>>617488 "Mmmm… Four days of pure torture… I can still picture the horror in my mind."
>>617491 She opens one eye to regard you. "What makes you say that? Aren't we going to stay here in Clopantinople where it's safe?"
>>617492 It's perfectly natural to want to grope butts though.
The carriage bus cruises through the district, eventually leaving it behind for a slightly less dense area where larger buildings are present. From the looks of it this is some kind of a administrative area with archives, libraries and courthouses.
And in the distance… as the fog begins to slowly dissipate, you see the Basilica perched on a hill. Even from here it looks impossibly large and obviously of great importance.
>>617493 Looks like these are weather ponies being tested or trained for speed. You only now notice there are other pegasi generating crosswinds for the racers to deal with. There are also cloudy obstacles on the course, some of them seemingly charged with lightning.
You hear someone clear their throat from behind you to catch your attention.
>>617495 It's a pegasus wearing the same attire as the racers. She has her front legs crossed and looks peeved. "Do you think that just because you're a dragon that you can do whatever you want?"
She points at some small clouds floating around you. "You messed up the entire flow!"
>>617496 "… Why? They're useless! They didn't even help us during the civil war!"
>>617497 The carriage pulls closer to the Basilica, allowing you to get a clearer view as more of the fog fades away.
The hill around the building itself is filled with plantlife, fountains, brooks, large torches and marble statues depicting various things ranging from mere ponies to big scary dragons. It's almost like a huge park. There are several large staircases snaking their way along the hillside all the way up to the Basilica, which appears to be split in several sections. One main section and four smaller (Relatively) sections around it. Each has its own domed roof.
>>617500 Her face goes red. "It isn't! But I'm building clouds for the hippodrome here and you just ruined that one! Aren't you going to apologize?"
>>617501 The carriage stops near the foot of the hill, the surrounding area of which is remarkably empty of buildings. It's right at the shoreline too, you can see the harbor and its massive lighthouse further ahead.
You pull your brother out of the bus as soon as you can get the doors open and rush outside. "Easy, easy. It's not going anywhere, sis."
It's fairly busy around here, you should beware not to lose your brother in the crowd!
>>617502 "Hmph. So what else have you planned then? How do you see us surviving?"
>>617504 1At least he's athletic enough to keep up with you. You start rushing up the stairs without so much as paying attention to the surroundings. You only barely avoid a few collisions with other ponies making their way up and down the stairs.
And more stairs…
And… more… stairs…
Finally… you near the top of the hill, very much exhausted.
Trajan's bakery it is. You open the heavy wooden door and hear the telltale ringing of a customer bell. An elderly stallion and mare are both standing behind the wooden counter, tending to some other customers. The air here is filled with the smell of freshly baked bread. Delicious.
The decor of the bakery is very homely and warm, with the one exception being the ornate, but somewhat rusted, broadsword that is being displayed on the wall behind the old couple.
>>617506 "I like freestyling when I'm building clouds! Not that I expect a layman to understand the intricate process behind cloud shaping." She seems rather arrogant. You could try reassembling the cloud with a DEX roll.
>>617512 Snort disapprovingly. "Since you did not take my offer of help, I can only suggest being more careful with how and where you pursue your art." Fly off. Lets see if there are any more interesting sights up here. If not I might just fly back down to the city proper.
>>617517 It's more like a stadium for fights! There's already quite a crowd seated and ready to watch some rumbling, but it doesn't look like there are any ongoing fights.
A pegasus mare with a red coat is standing on a pedestal with a speaking-trumpet mounted on it.
>>617518 "Let's." You head over towards the basilica itself, crossing a large plaza which you reckon is used as a meeting point for when the patriarch wishes to appear on the balcony of his personal chambers to speak to the followers of the Faiths who gather here.
Do you wish to immediately go for the main section or to scout out one of the smaller sections first?
>>617520 You and your brother head to the nearest subsection first. The large set of doors and the walls themselves (Which appear to made out of sandstone) are decorated with seashells and beautiful mosaics of seaponies, fish and general underwater sceneries.
You press on to the inside and are met with a truly unique sight of the atrium. The walls… they have water in them! Water behind glass, massive aquariums! There's sharks in them! And dolphins! Not only that, but the floor itself isn't solid, it's sandy like a beach from up north! You look up and notice the ceiling is a massive tank of water as well! You see fish in all the colors of the rainbow, in various shapes and sizes.
>>617523 But this is amazing! Think of the faith you'd need to build something like this, of the minds and hearts singing as one- But don't lose my composture. Hold my breath and steady my heart, rather, looking for the altar.
>>617525 This isn’t even the main portion of the building! This is the pronaos or the entryway. It alone is already bigger than the chapel back home!
The naos is further ahead, the central part of the building where the altar and whatnot is located. Interestingly enough, the door that leads that way is closed and has to be opened by hoof every time someone comes through. It’s strange they don’t just leave it open.
“This place is like the marine part of the zoo… I didn’t expect it to be like this, did you?”
>>617526 "I hope for his sake you are right. Though honestly, it's good that you're in charge now instead of me. I won't have to deal with Niphon's jealous whining as much now."
You press on and reach the door to the naos. The brass handles are cold to the touch as you pull at them, opening the heavy door with remarkable ease. Then, something unexpected happens. Something you’re not all that used to down here in the south of the empire.
Freezing cold. The air behind the door is freezing cold! Not only that, but the main room lying beyond the door is filled with ice! The walls are frosted, the ceiling has icicles hanging from it and there are statues displayed here shaped out of blocks of ice. Even the seats are made out of ice blocks, with pillows on top of them to make it bearable to sit on. You’ve never seen anything like this in your life.
In the middle of the room stands a beautiful translucent icy altar, intricately crafted with the finest tools out of blue ice.
>>617889 "Of course he's jealous! He knows I'm far more intelligent than he is and he can't stand that. At least I can acknowledge that he's physically fitter than I am, but he'd never admit that I'm smarter than he is. Before you got here I was the one in charge and all he did was criticize me!"
>>617890 There's currently no service being held here, no. There are ponies about though, but most of them are outsiders and visitors admiring the building like you are. There are a few priests of Aqualia that you can spot though, dressed in their telltale blue and cyan robes.
>>617894 He looks you over. "You're a priestess of the Mother, so normally I'd advice you to attend the morning and evening sermons held by the Primarch himself but… well you know he hasn't been doing very well and the last few days he's been unable to hold such sermons."
That's right, the Primarch's health has deteriorated the last few weeks from what you hear.
"Still, if you haven't seen the basilica I suggest you at least walk through the entire thing. It's a marvel of engineering, unrivaled in the entirety of the world. And it's all dedicated to the five faiths."
>>617896 "This basilica was built over two hundred years ago under the orders of empress Lavinia Dawnsworn and Primarch Odylon. The last temple that stood on this hill was destroyed in an earthquake less than a decade before that. The divine aura surrounding this hill is provided entirely naturally. This… coldness. It's not something we decided on. Or could decide on. It's Aqualia's will and thus it merely is."
>>617897 "No, but he's really quick to point out any mistakes somepony else makes. He's an ass. It's that simple."
>>617906 You leave the cold behind and head back outside through the other exit out of the building, heading up to the next section. It quickly becomes clear that this one is dedicated to Ignis, the fiery deity. On the edges of the building, four large fire pits with big roaring fires are on display. The outside walls are decorated with mosaics as well, just like the Aqualia section. These depict powerful fire elementals and violent volcanic eruptions.
The main entry doors are black, shaped out of obsidian. Beyond these doors lies the pronaos. It, too, has been themed according to its god. The walls around the room are covered in flames, which seems like quite the fire hazard to you. The flames are quite tall too, starting from between gaps in the floor and almost reach the ceiling. You try not to get too close, as you can feel the heat pressing down on your face. The floor is made out of some kind of black rock.
Niphon taps it with a hoof. “Basaltic rock. This stuff used to be volcanic lava if you can believe that.”
>>617909 You go further, into the naos. Once again the doors that lead there are made out of pure obsidian. But these ones are open, allowing you to immediately see what lies beyond. Lava pouring from the ceiling into four pits of lava in the ground, causing a lot of heat to be spread in the process. The altar here is made out of obsidian as well, colored as black as the night. The seats surrounding it seem to be shaped out of some type of other volcanic rock.
>>617910 Gasp, and immediately regret my action as hot air pours though my lungs. Cover my muzzle with a hoof and wince away, catching my breath, only to slowly move further a moment later, kneeling on the hard rock before the altar to pray.
>>617913 Recite my silent prayer, and bask in the warmth for just a few seconds more. Finally, stand up again, reaching for Niphon. "No magic. Only the power of Ignis." Give him a smile-filled gaze with my now red and dry eyes, as I take his hoof and head outside.
The next section is clearly one dedicated to Aer; the god of wind, lightning and the sky. The mosaics here depict mighty whirlwinds, pearly white clouds and vicious lightning storms. You head inside the pronaos and are confronted with an amazing sight. The ceiling is entirely covered by clouds. Indoor clouds! They seem to be swirling in a whirlwind pattern around a central point which illuminates the room. A ball of lightning seemingly captured in a large crystal container suspended from the ceiling beyond the clouds by a chain. You can hear the soft crackling of lightning even from down here. The air is charged with electricity… it feels like the prelude to a thunderstorm on a hot summer day.
>>617917 The entrance to the naos is a marble archway sculpted to look more cloudy.
The naos itself is less dramatic but by no means less impressive, with little white clouds floating about the room and a dome roof made entirely out of glass, allowing for a great view of the sky even when inside! A few larger clouds shaped into statues of birds and other flying creatures float around here as well.
The altar is made out of marble and surrounded by patches of cloud as well.
>>617918 Do you want to keep talking to Anthe or should I skip forward somewhat? It's entirely up to you.
>>617524 You fly forward and land near the red mare. She jumps down her pedestal and glides over to you. "What is your name, oh noble servant of Ignis?"
Judging by her accent, she's a foreigner. Possibly Equestrian.
>>617921 But Anthe does. So you are left alone for some time until she returns, all cleaned up again with her mane wrapped up in a towel. "Oh Marcus, this is fantastic. I missed being able to do this. We really need to live someplace where we have access to facilities like these."
>>617928 There's a glint of… something in her eyes as she hears your response. "The clamour of our bloodthirsty crowds reaches every corner of the Empire, but I'll pretend that your ignorance doesn't offend me. This is the Rosethorn! Where champions from all over see their chance to battle against beasts of all shapes and sizes. You can observe and bet on the fights… or participate in the fights yourself. Be warned though, the Rosethorn demands respect. Defile the Rosethorn, or offend me in any way, and I'll gut you open for all to see."
>>617929 You leave the cloudy area behind. "That was the first time I saw a temple dedicated to Aer… most of them are up in the skies."
The last subsection is the one dedicated to Terra, the god of minerals, stone and mountains. The mosaics on this building show golems of stone, mountain peaks and various types of gemstones. The doors leading inside are even decorated with gemstones!
Inside the pronaos, it looks as though you’ve entered a cave. But not just any cave, a cave with hundreds of gemstones stuck inside its walls and ceiling, glimmering in all the colors of the rainbow. Big stalagmites and stalagtites pierce through the floor and ceiling all around you and boulders of all shapes and sizes lie scattered around the room. It’s crazy to think that this is indeed a building and not some cave deep underground.
>>617931 You're a big dragon in a sky arena dedicated to fighting against dangerous beasts. Her thought process is quite clear here.
"If you dare. It is not for the faint of heart, I must warn you. The beasts that you will face are most dangerous."
>>617932 Further on lies the naos. Unlike the previous cavelike room, this looks more like a traditional marble temple with golden and silver statues decorated with gemstones. The altar is composed of all kinds of different metals, some of which you don’t even recognize. Are those special alloys? They must be!
>>617937 He nods. "Yes indeed. The smiths from up north don't just use furnaces and smelteries, but also dragons to temper their steel! It's a very difficult process, but draconian steel is the best material out there to make weapons out of. It cannot rust, it's extremely sturdy and it doesn't dull. Unfortunately, it's also very expensive."
Niphon whispers to you. "Our family sword is made of draconian steel, remember? Father had it with him when he went to Cantria…"
>>617938 "Excellent. Nothing will please me more than to see you fight. Get down there in the arena and I will release your first foe. We shall start small for your sake."
>>617939 "Ooooh…" Realization dawns upon my eyes as Niphon reminds me. "Thanks, brother." Nod in respect at the priest who just answered me and walk slowly to the altar. Make this last prayer about Father.
>>617940 She's back on her pedestal. "Today, beast will fight beast in the Rosethorn. No mere champion, but a dragon is taking up the role of challenger against nature! Our lives are cheap, and fragile. Death is our assured fate, striking when least we expect it. The Rosethorn awakens us to the truth. Here we escape from our bonds, and choose the moment of death against the will of destiny.
It is time. Time to fight!"
You land in one corner of the arena. There's a gateway behind you but it's closed down. Across the battleground, there's a similar gateway. As Red Rose finishes her speech, it opens up. Out comes a giant eagle! Okay, that thing is really big to be called an eagle!
It's a fight! Roll initiative!
>>617941 You say a prayer to father, wishing for his well-being even during these trying times.
>>617943 You’ve seen the outer sections of the building, now it’s time for the main portion. The mosaics on this section depict animals and plants, scenes from nature both at day and at night with either the sun or moon guarding over it.
Now that you're facing the building this closely, you feel something well up inside you… it's odd, you're not sure why but for some reason you feel safe and at peace like never before for a brief moment. Then the feeling disappears again.
"Flavia? You alright?"
>>617944 It is counted as a Large creature, just like you. It's not as big as you are, but it's certainly bigger than a griffon. The eagle is far faster than you are and flies towards you, striking at you with its talons. '1d20+4'
Mind you that since you're flying, your error range increases by 2.
>>617961 "Oh, not from around these parts, are you? I understand, the outer city is too vast for outsiders to make much sense of it." He packs twelve sweet rolls into a brown bag for you. "Where are you looking to go? Inner city? Commercial district? Financial district?"
>>617960 You head inside the pronaos of the basilica proper. The roof here is made out of glass, like back in the temple to Aer. Sunlight is pouring inside onto the interior, which seems to be an indoor garden! You hear birds and crickets chirping all around you. A frog croaks from behind one of the bushes where a small pond of water lies. The somewhat humid air is rich with floral scents, filling up your nostrils as soon as you step inside. You can hardly see the walls of this place, that's how thick the plantlife is!
>>617974 It's like you're really out in the middle of nature on a beautiful summer day… There must be thousands of different species of plants here. Not to mention all the animals lurking about! This place is nothing short of magical, you can feel it in your bones. The Mother's influence is strong here.
>>617975 "House Omnidus… Yes I've heard of them. The lord has a villa in the city itself. It's in the inner city, near the imperial archives I believe." He puts the bag of sweetrolls on the counter. "That'll be 6 silvers please."
>>618023 Well, if this is the place… Then here I might actually be blessed by divine guidance as I pray! But I dare not pray beside the altar itself. Instead, I will kneel down on the grass here, and begin.
>>618024 It's pretty far from here, so you decide to take one of the carriage buses. The monotonous rows upon rows of houses soon make way for larger, more impressive buildings. Banks, mints, courthouses and other marble buildings whose purpose you're unsure of.
Then, at last, you reach the imperial archives. A colossal building spanning four times the area of the old castle you called home. According to the stallion, lord Omnidus has a villa here in this area. You could ask for further directions (Investigate roll) or just Search for it without help.
>>618025 She gives you a sour look. "Wouldn't you miss me? We've already been separated for so long."
>>618026 The altar is also not in this room, you're still in the pronaos!
You kneel down on a patch of grass off the path and begin to pray. It takes mere seconds before you feel yourself slip away from this world. Your vision fades and you black out for a minute. When you open your eyes, you're no longer where you were before. You recognize this place, it's where you found yourself on the day you were admitted as a priestess! Somewhere behind the trees, there's a babbling brook nearby that you can hear, just like last time.
>>618034 You follow the sounds of clattering water and soon find the stream hidden behind the trees. You begin to follow it downstream again and soon enough hear the sound of a lyre being played. Using the music as a point of reference, you quickly find the dryad you were looking for. She's once again propped up against a tree, playing on her golden lyre.
>>618035 "What about you, brother? You're older than I am, yet you don't even have a spouse yet! You're not into colts instead, are you?"
>>618044 She chortles. "A strong flank? Maybe you should marry one of those viking ponies then."
>>618045 You head on further towards the villa. It's fairly big, bigger than the villa your father owned back in Agria. It's also surrounded by a nicely maintained garden. This district is certainly more open than the outer city, where everything was packed together. At least you have some room to breathe here.
Two guardsponies stop you from entering the garden though.
>>618052 "My father has been kidnapped. My family is on the run. Without land, without power, without friends. And yet my mind still spins around the things you told me so many years ago, and how with the years, I though I'd grow to understand my role in this. But I am what they call a priestess now, and am no closer to any truth about saving the church."
>>618053 "Lord Rusttin?" They look at each other and shrug. "Very well, you may pass. Just go on and ring the bell at the door."
>>618054 >>617967 The bird is faster than you are this time, swiftly dodging your slow tail smack.
It uses the opportunity to claw at you again. Twice.
>>618055 "I have sensed your struggles, my child. But worry not, there is time left yet. And you are not alone. As it stands however, you will need to help your family recover from their misfortune. I cannot say how difficult the road ahead of you will be, but I believe that you will persevere in the end. And then, only then, will you be ready to fulfill your destiny."
>>618056 She looks a little disgusted. "I bet they smell awful too, I wouldn't want to be under any sheets with them."
>>618059 You walk through the garden all the way up to the front entrance to the villa and ring the bell hanging there.
A servant mare opens up the door. "… Yes? I don't recall the lord expecting anypony this early?"
>>618060 You fail to hit it the first time, your tail being too slow once again. But fourth time's the charm it seems, roll for damage.
>>618061 "Hmmmm… As long as he actually uses the spa to wash himself…"
>>618062 "Even I don't know all the answers, I'm afraid… But perhaps I can help." She holds out a hoof and amazingly enough, an object materializes out of nothing. It's a small wooden cube-like object.
>>618065 "You wish to speak to the lord? Very well I suppose." She steps aside. "Please follow me then."
>>618066 "I guess we should. I'd be rude not to, wouldn't it?"
>>618067 "This, Flavia, is my gift to you." She takes your hoof with her own and places the cube on it. As soon as it touches your skin, it glows slightly, runes appearing on its sides. "If you ever need guidance… and you are not surrounded by divine energies or even any form of nature. This will allow you to speak to me. It will be our link between worlds."
>>618069 She leads you down a hallway, past a few doors until finally coming to a halt at the end, where she politely knocks on the left-hoof door. "Lord Omnidus? There's a gentlepony who wishes to speak with you." "Let him in." The mare opens the door for you, bowing.
>>618070 "I will be honest, Flavia. There may be times where I will only be able to offer you little advice. But even then I may be able to tip fortune into your favor in subtle ways."
>>618071 "We just don't really get along. He thinks I'm 'spoiled'."
>>618074 "Beyond a place for meditation, the basilica will provide you no more insight as of now. You came to Clopantinople in the hopes of meeting a 'friend', I see. Risky, yes, but lucky for you the pony there is not one who is against you. He wishes to see your father freed, among other things. I imagine he may have some useful information for you and your family."
>>618075 My eyes will shine, and in joy I will almost jump up to hug Eurydice… Before stopping myself in my steps, realizing what I was about to do. And once again, bow down. "Thank you oh Eurydice, I am your humble servant."
>>618076 "I will watch your progress with great interest, Flavia Hippoi." And with that, your vision darkens again and you black out.
You come back in the indoor garden with a start. Looks like only a minute or so has passed. Not only that, but there's a small wooden cube lying in the grass in front of you. It looks very inconspicuous.
>>618077 "Hmmm, well we are patricians with noble blood in our veins. We deserve a high standard of living. You went to Peneia, they know this lesson better than anywhere else."
>>618079 The lord is sitting behind a marble desk, writing away on a scroll of parchment with a feather. He's fairly young, you wager he's around thirty years old. "I bid you a good afternoon, sir. Weirdly enough I don't recall anypony meaning to meet me at this hour, so I must ask you… who are you and what is your business with me?"
>>618092 Right. For the sake of speed I'll imagine that you find your way there by asking directions since you know the name of the lord.
The lord lives in a villa in the Inner City district. Apparently he's hosting a ball tonight which will see a few notable guests.
The guards at the gate to his domain do not let you pass, however.
>>618093 The naos is… quite different indeed. The floor is made up of a blue grey type of smooth stone while the ceiling has been built using a lighter type of sandstone. The ceiling also has a line of windows showing the outside built in it, which so happens to coincide exactly with the orbit of the Sun! At night, the Moon follows that exact same path, allowing anyone inside to view either the Sun or Moon while they are up in the sky.
There’s also a circular railway suspended to the ceiling, surrounding what appears to be a spherical representation of the known world. Two more spheres are suspended to the railway itself, representing the Sun and Moon respectively, circling around the world at a slow pace.
The seats surrounding the altar are crafted out of simple wood and treebark, while the altar itself is crafted out of a material known as ironbark, a rare natural substance known for its strength and sturdiness.
Several statues crafted from the same material stand in the room, depicting dryads, ents, breezies and so on…
>>618094 "Of course. I believe she is up in the solar with my wife. My servant can show you the way."
>>618137 >>618138 She looks sort of embarrassed. Anthe quickly pushes her out of the way and walks inside. "Well cousin, you don't know what you missed out on. The baths were divine, it's a shame you missed it."
>>618138 >>618139 >>618140 "Actually I just got here, the way here was pretty long, I don't think I have to tell you that thou, since you came the same way. All these crowds feels almost like home by now."
>>618153 Well then, you get to the right place after asking around about the whereabouts of lord Omnidus' villa. Niphon deals with the guards on duty and the two of you arrive to find the front door open already. Anthe, Marcus, Nolin and Marcus' silent griffon friend have seemingly just arrived here.
"… More ponies?" says the female servant, exasperated.
>>618179 "Oh no, this is Lord Omnidus's estate, my family is around here thou, I know my mother is up in the Solar and we were about to go see her.. And as long as you're talking about it, Flavia, I'd love take a moment to see the Batista with you while we're in town, its been too long since I've been to proper church."
>>618169 Anthe rolls her eyes. "Don't be so loud, Flavia."
>>618173 She may suffer a nervous breakdown soon, but she still leads you to where you want to go. The solar is located in the eastern wing of the villa. It's a room where there's less noise from the servants doing their work, often used to entertain guests or simply relax and enjoy the sun.
Lady Orytha Hippoi sits here with another mare, nursing a glass of wine while enjoying the warm rays of the sun casting down on them. As she hears the sound of your hooves entering the room, she cranes her neck to look behind the couch she's relaxing on. Her eyes widen, first in disbelief, then in happiness. In a show of remarkable agility and a remarkable lack of etiquette, she jumps over the couch entirely and practically flies into an embrace with Nolin. "Nolin, you've finally made it here! Oh it's been so long, just look how much you've grown! I can't believe my eyes!"
>>618206 "I hoped you'd come here… I wasn't entirely sure you'd pull the same stunt your father did or not, going in hiding like that. You wouldn't believe the hassle I have to go through just to send a letter to him." She shakes her head and snorts some air. "You've missed out on seeing your sister though. She left for Thema Kalimare just yesterday!"
>>618214 "Did she now? I'm sure she'll send word soon as she's safe. And don't worry, if dad doesn't reply to your letters I'll go track him down for you." I grin at her with truly happy eyes. "And what about you? How are you holding up?"
>>618229 "Oh. Well I suppose that's to be expected. Poor Marcus must be under a lot of pressure to solve this whole mess for his father. Being banished like this from our own homes can't have been easy for them either. You are looking after them, aren't you?"
>>618238 "Well, I'm sure you'll be of much more use with him than here. Sadly, I'm getting older myself, Nolin. I'm still in good shape, but I don't think I'm suitable for whatever kind of plan you're undertaking.."
Evening falls and the sun drops down the horizon, cooling the city after an average day of springtime. With the exception of Nolin, you're all getting a bit hungry now. You should probably think about eating something before you head to bed for the night.
Luckily, you've been drawn to a district where you'll find plenty of food if the need arises. The Merchant's District lies connected to the massive harbor of Clopantinople and is filled with warehouses, stores and taverns. It's also one of the busiest parts of the city, with traffic coming in and out of the city constantly. You'll find many sailors, merchants, military folk and simple travelers here, the majority of them coming from all over the empire or even from outside the empire. Indeed, you're running into just about every species imaginable as you walk the streets.
You're not here for sightseeing of course, you're here because you've tracked down the inn you were looking for to this part of the city. You soon spot the facade of the building ahead of you. A large sign confirms that this is indeed the Oily Olive inn. Looks pretty average from here.
>>618388 The Oily Olive inn looks like any other inn in the Merchant district of the great city of Clopantinople. Busy, rowdy and with a scent of wine in the air. These kinds of places are frequently used by the many sailors, merchants and other travellers passing by the capital. The innkeep is an older earth pony mare busying herself with cleaning up mugs from the counter. It's fairly busy in here, with patrons talking in languages you can't understand all around you!
>>618392 They look like simple sailors enjoying some R&R to you. The wine is flowing quite freely in here, you should probably not anger any of them in their drunken state.
>>618394 >The innkeep is an older earth pony mare "Five meals? Our vegetarian options are either the salad, the stew or the pasta. Either way that'll be 3 silvers." She takes one of the keys hanging on the wall and puts it on the counter. "Should I bring the meals to your room, sir?"
>>618416 She presses herself quietly against the door and grasps the handle with a talon. "This could be all kinds of terrible."
With a twist of the handle and a swift push, it swings open. The inside of the room behind it looks entirely normal, like your average inn room for a moderate price. Four beds, some windows with a view on the street and a table with some chairs.
There’s an earth pony stallion awaiting you in the room, though he doesn’t look very… healthy. At all. There’s bags under his eyes, his mane is a frazzled mess and his eyes themselves are bloodshot. He looks like he’s quite ill indeed as he sits behind the table, regarding you.
He clears his throat with some effort and speaks up. “The family Hippoi, I presume?”
>>618427 "Marcus… you're Odyris' eldest son. My name is Victus-" He coughs quite nastily. "My apologies for the secrecy. And that I'm not able to meet you in good health. It's nothing contagious, don't worry."
>>618427 You don't actually think he's that old, his current state of health just makes him look very withered.
You regard the stallion and attempt to figure him out.
You realize that this pony is a Concord. The Concords are a group of the Empire's finest ponies who operate under direct orders of the Empress and her council. They're agents of her will, being above the law and free to act as they see fit. Their primary purpose is to safeguard the empire from both outside and inside threats and to preserve stability for the sake of the imperial family. The authority they are given means they are able to operate completely independently from each other. Concords have no other authority than the empress and the council and rarely work together, unless their missions coincide.
He's nobility, but not from an important family. He climbed the ranks of the military without the help of his family's status.
>>618432 "Somepony gave me a nasty dose of poison on a business trip of mine. This is the result even after days of treatment. I wouldn't recommend Peneia as a holiday destination anymore." He wipes the sweat off his brow with a piece of cloth. "Now, I should probably elaborate on my position here. Like I said, my name is Victus. I'm a Concord, I'm sure you're familiar with the organization, yes?"
As for you, Flavia, you feel something light land on top of your head. None of the others seem to have noticed, all of them facing away from you to regard the stallion.
>>618439 "I'm not actually on active duty right now, I'm supposed to be spending this time recovering my health. That being said, I would like to ask you a few questions if that's okay with you. About Odyris Hippoi who has been accused of conspiring to murder the late doux of Agria and his heir."
>>618444 "Does your father and family have any outstanding feuds with other families? Does he have any particularly tenacious enemies?" As far as any of you know, your house has no feuds with anyone.
>>618448 "Lord Odyris Hippoi has been accused of these things not only by the new doux of Agria, but also by my fellow Concord: lady Cassicia. She was assigned to investigate the case back when it first developed. At first she ruled the death of the late doux and his son to be an accident, but she recently came forward with more intel, implicating lord Hippoi in the matter."
>>618060 >>618063 You hit the eagle once with your tail, knocking it about and causing it to lose control for a moment. When it recovers, it's flying below you and charging in for another good clawing, aimed at your belly. '2d20+4'
>>618451 You move a hoof to reach for whatever landed on your head and feel something soft and fuzzy. It moves forward under the pressure of your hoof and comes into view as it lands on your nose instead. It's a miniscule, slender looking pony with buglike wings. A breezy! Not a common sight here in the south, as they tend to hide themselves north of here, deep in nature.
>>619293 Gasp, but don't jump back as not to startle it! Instead, bring my hoof forward, as if forming a cup, and help the tiny creature onto it by bowing my head downwards. Wordlessly, look it over in awe.
>>619293 "Hmm and no one would doubt the word of the Doux and a Concord of course.. Any proof we could find would be suspect as fake under such circumstances" I shake my head "But that doesn't sound like the uncle I knew.."
>>619308 >>619312 "Yet lady Cassicia insists that her investigation was sound." He sinks further back in his chair. "But listen… what I am about to tell you is something very troubling. Something that, if true, would cause quite a stir. I believe that lady Cassicia, a fellow Concord, has gone dark. I believe… I believe that she's corrupt. Unbeknownst to her, I've also been investigating what I could. Of course, since I'm not really in service right now I haven't been able to operate on quite the same level as she has. I don't really have proof just yet, and you may think these are the words of a delirious pony whose brain has been mellowed by poison… It's why I've been reluctant to approach the empress about this matter. There are other… things on her mind right now than my ravings about a corrupt agent she puts her full trust in. Since you and your family have lost so much because of this, I figured you would be some of the few willing to listen to what I have to say."
>>619309 It jumps off of your nose and lands silently on your hoof. It's so light! You see it's wearing a set of miniature saddlebags.
It's eying you curiously, tilting its head from side to side.
>>619315 You hit it, but it manages to dodge the full blow of the fire quite handily. Rolling again to see if it catches fire though '1d20+3'
>>619319 He shakes his head. "I can only guess what would drive somepony to betray their country and empress… Perhaps I am wrong, perhaps the poison has made me paranoid, seeing things where there aren't any. I suppose it's a more comfortable explanation, one most ponies would be inclined to fall back on if I told them about this. The Concords have existed for over 200 years. In that time, there hasn't been a single occasion where one of us was charged for treason. Dishonorable discharges, yes… just never something… of this… scope." The stallion starts into a coughing fit. It takes a minute for him to recompose himself, covering his mouth with a piece of cloth. You see there's some blood on it as he removes it again. "Now… her stories don't quite add up. It's subtle, but there's inconsistencies in her reports… not only that but she falls back on her words as well from time to time."
>>619323 He takes out a piece of parchment. "Officially, Doux Arravani and his son died during a fire in an inn they were staying at while on the road. Further investigations by lady Cassicia showed that the fire was caused by a pile of manure which was stored in a barn next to the inn. It somehow exploded… possibly because of the fumes that had been building up. At first she theorized that this was caused by the warm weather. Then she changed the story to a lantern being the source of ignition. And only then she theorized that the fire could have been purposefully started. Only… there were no lanterns in that barn at all. And the weather on that day was not particularly sunny or hot. So perhaps she was right that this was murder… but why did she bring out these initial nonsensical theories at first? To cover up for somepony?"
>>619321 It flares its wings out and babbles something in a language you don't understand.
>>619324 You snap your large jaws at the eagles, missing once. You manage to catch it the second time though. Roll for damage.
>>619329 "I don't have the strength to solve this mess… not yet anyway. The reason why I wanted you to come is because I know you're invested enough in this matter that you wish to see it solved. I want you to get me some proof of my suspicions. She must have done this for some reason or the other… like… money perhaps? Or perhaps it was blackmail. Or perhaps something more sinister. Or a combination of these things." He coughs again and clears his throat. "Lady Cassicia is attending a ball tonight while she on leave, here in Clopantinople. It's hosted by lord Omnidus who lives in a villa located in the inner city district. If you could get in there and somehow approach her close enough to search her belongings for any clues that could help me see the bigger picture…"
>>619331 "Falsifying reports to cover up personal failure is every bit as treasonous. We are supposed to be some of the empire's finest, there is no room for these kind of transgressions. It puts everypony living here at risk."
>>619337 It's starting to really get worn down… you think it might just drop dead from the sky soon.
>>619341 >>619342 "I understand that much. I can only guess what would happen if you were to get caught. But surely you must also see that I just can't do it myself. Not only am I severely weakened, but she already knows who I am. But you… you could just lie your way in. Make her think you're low nobility… or foreigners, something she can't check for truth on the spot. Charm her, get her drunk, just find some way to distract her attention away from her belongings so you can get access to them."
>>619338 Niphon glances at you and frowns as he sees your predicament. "Flavia? Who's that?"
Victus looks over as well, his attention attracted by you now. He says something to the breezy none of you understand, to which it responds in kind. The stallion then looks at you. "Don't mind Nio. He doesn't mean you any harm, Sister. He's merely curious, that's all."
>>619370 In a rare display of wisdom, they've let you take the word so as not to drown the room in voices. "Thank you. I hope this will end up helping us both, even if that means one of our own is corrupt."
>>619371 Perhaps you should claim your reward as well.
A couple of pegasi fly down to clean up the arena as you leave.
>>619372 "It's a language unique to breezies living on this continent. He actually can understand Imperial, as you may have noticed."
>>619395 You've gained… 220 silvers 55 XP 5 Reputation
"Not bad… for a beginner. The Rosethorn may suit you better than I thought." She watches the sun in the sky. "Now go, the next fight will begin shortly. If you ever feel like fighting in the Rosethorn again, you'll just have to follow the sound of cheering. We never settle for one location, in a few days we will move on with the arena to the next city."
>>619398 It's a very tiny pony with slender long legs and large bug wings. It's wearing a set of miniature saddlebags on its back.
Looking into your bags, you see the cube's runes are lighting up. It's glowing softly. This may be important.
>>619412 It takes a bit of looking around, but you manage to find the Oily Olive inn. Doesn't look like a particularly remarkable place. Just another beer temple for ponies to drink away their worries.
>>619428 One of them shakily approaches you. "C-Can I take your o-order sir?"
>>619429 He shakes his head weakly. "No, she doesn't know him. Concords usually work alone."
>>619430 "I have sensed something. A chaotic presence not far from where you are. In the very temple you were in earlier today." She walks to a small pond on the edge of the grove and dips a hoof in it. "And I know who and what it is. One of Discord's spirits. This spirit… it will be your test. Your first major test. I need you to go there and neutralize it as a threat."
>>619435 Eurydice looks back at you and smiles. "It is good to hear you are indeed as brave as I thought. The spirit in question has manifested into pony form. It has been posing as a member of the Church of Aer for some time now, trying to plant seeds of chaos where it can. However… it has been severely weakened. Its powers are waning and it's beginning to fall. Like holy warriors and priests, us spirits are susceptible to the same threat of losing faith. It's this loss of faith that weakened this spirit enough that you will be able to take it on. You cannot kill it, only banish it to a different realm. Perhaps… you could even hasten and ensure its fall instead."
>>619488 Take a deep breath and say all of this at once, in a rush. "Ireceivedadivinecubefromadryadandnowshewantsmetofindaspiritofdiscordwho'shidinginthebasilicaanditmightflysoIneedyourhelptogetitbeforeitcandoanymoredamagetothechurch!"
>>619657 >>619658 You land near the grand basilica of Clopantinople. Perched on a hill, this colossus of a building overlooks most of the city as well as the sea ahead. You notice the building is divided in sections, each having their own theme and distinct style. Now that night has fallen it's far less busy here on the hill, though there are still ponies about here and there that you can see.
At first Flavia doesn't feel much out of the ordinary, but a sudden jolt in her spine tells her all she needs to know. There's something near which isn't quite natural.
She can roll a Search or Notice check to see where exactly it's emanating from. Or just piece what Eurydice told her together.
>>619659 Anthe starts. "Marcus, I'd love to come along. You'll need a lady's touch if you're going to pretend to be somepony else. This is Clopantinople after all."
Niphon shakes his head. "I'll pass. I think I'll go to the thermae instead to relax. This isn't my kind of thing. I don't feel like skulking around like some weasel."
>>619660 That would be wise. And probably have the best liar take point as well. You're both fairly filthy liars.
>>619665 It's definitely coming from in there. There's a couple of ponies still here in the pronaos of Aer, but none of them catch your attention. These are just pegasi coming down from the Cloud district to say some evening prayers.
>>619668 >The ceiling is entirely covered by clouds. Indoor clouds! They seem to be swirling in a whirlwind pattern around a central point which illuminates the room. A ball of lightning seemingly captured in a large crystal container suspended from the ceiling beyond the clouds by a chain. You can hear the soft crackling of lightning even from down here. The air is charged with electricity… it feels like the prelude to a thunderstorm on a hot summer day. The walls are brick with mosaics on them.
>>619669 You might be able to fit inside, but it's not exactly a building you want to mess around in and damage something.
>>619671 >>619672 "Are you thick, Marcus? You're going to pretend to be part of the imperial family when there's an agent of the empress herself we're hunting?" House Lavinia is the family who united the empire three centuries ago. They've ruled as the imperial family ever since.
Today you stand guard in the Dawnsworn park in Clopantinople. Named after the empress who built the Basilica of the Holy Omnipotence of Mother Nature centuries ago, this park is located in the biggest district of the city. The Outer City District or the Common District is home to hundreds of thousands of plebeians. This district alone is larger and more densely populated than any other city in the empire. During the day, this park sees thousands of visitors seeking peace and rest, away from the bustling city surrounding it. You've been standing guard here for several hours now, but thankfully your shift will be over in less than an hour, at which point you'll need to close the gates leading inside.
Make sure no filthy hobos are stinking the place up! That's your glorious duty!
>>619674 >>619676 >>619677 Being a bunch of smart ponoes, you reckon that pretending to be from a lower house somewhere far away from here might be a better idea. Like Thema Peneia! There are a few lower houses there you could pretend to come from. House Komomene, for one. Marcus met the matriarch from there a few years back, she was very fond of masks. Alternatively, you could pretend to be from house Kastati, another Peneian house, this one without any land under their banner.
You could of course also pretend to be from another land such as Prance or Germaney and make up the names yourself.
>>619675 None of them seem suspicious, these are pilgrims and priests, surely they're not here seeking trouble?
>>619678 You leave the pronaos and enter the naos of Aer's section. Like before, it's filled with small white clouds floating about, as well as various statues made from cloud. The glass ceiling shows the beginning of a starry night sky.
You look around the hall for your quarry and notice there's only one other pony here, a pegasus mare dressed as a high priestess of Aer. Except… she's no mere pony. There's something… different about her which you can't quite place. She looks normal enough…
You see her ears perking up as she turns her head to look at you. For several seconds, it's a staredown. Then she rolls up one of her sleeves, revealing a small solar 'clock' attached to her front leg. Not exactly useful if the sun isn't even out.
“Hmmm, that can't be right! Am I in the wrong scene again or… Oh! How silly of me, I forgot to account for daylight savings!”
>>619679 I have one of those sundials as well, must come with the outfit. Start walking sideways, in a circle around her, slowly letting my hooves echo one after the other on the stone floor. "So many words, so little meaning to them."
>>619679 Even vagrants need beliefs to soothe their troubled minds. Yet so few of them ever recieve a blessing or even the sign from the deity of their worship, unlike the priests and paladins who use the power of the divine.
>>619680 You do. It's the same panther mask you were given a year or two ago.
Anthe cocks her head. "Komomomeme?"
>>619682 “Sorry, but we can't play right now! Bye! Tell Eurydice I said hi though!”
She spreads her wings and takes off, flying backwards. She kicks one of the ceiling windows open with one of her hind legs and flies through it in one swift motion.
>>619683 Your friend Sonja is also patrolling this park, no doubt slightly less enthused about the boring shift so far.
You hear some rustling in a nearby bush, right off the road…
>>619685 Your inner monologue is interrupted as you see a pony flying backwards out of the building Flavia was just in at high speed. With a few wild corkscrews, she flees past you, dumping her clothing onto your face before you can react.
She speeds away from the hill, now flying upside down. "No fair! Two on one is cheating!"
>>619694 Exactly! You have the actor props and Trotantine theater loves using masks! You can also roll to give others a disguise. The result of your roll is also the DC someone needs to beat with a notice check if you do something suspicious.
>>619695 Shout over the wind howling past us. "You know why I'm here, spirit. You know it's because finally your eyes opened to the truth." >>619696 Pat Mereghyl on the back. "Please, let me try just talking to it."
>>619704 Mereghyl u so best. "Land us there!" And once we finally make landfall, I will jump down the Drake.
Time to step forth, towards the spirit. Stare her in the eyes and be very quiet for a very long moment. Then, let the words flow out pure and unfiltered, straight from the bottom of my heart. "Everything seems so chaotic, to a young mind. Afraid and unclear on the mechanics of the world, we spin around in wonder, unable to place a name on what happens around us. But in all of this there is a guiding light." Draw my sickle sword, and point it upwards, lighting it in the Glow of Nature. "The same light you glimpsed at, the same light which now torments you."
Let those words sink deep. Do I have to roll something?
>>619705 >>619706 "Alright, alright… I guess you should take point then, since you know so much about this family and all. You should probably make sure lord Omnidus knows what we're doing there though. The guards won't let us in if we don't tell them we're Hippoi's."
>>619709 Thinking some unicorn is playing a trick on you, you attempt to take down the umbrella out of the telekinetic grip. Unfortunately, this is not actually the case. This thing has been awoken by magic and turned into an animated object with a will of its own, but without an actual weapon to take from it.
It flies away down the path you came from, so you follow it as quick as you can. After less than a minute you run into what seems to be a hostile confrontation between a white pegasus mare and a dragon accompanied by a unicorn mare dressed in priestess robes who seems vaguely familiar to you.
The animated umbrella comes to rest next to the pegasus mare.
She giggles. "You're good with words, I can see why Eurydice made you her champion!" A flying purple umbrella lands on the ground next to her. She picks it up and leans on it, regarding you for a moment. "I'm surprised she sent you after me so quickly though! I thought she'd at least wait a little while longer until you'd get a bit stronger! What did she tell you about me? Tell me! Tell me! I'm curious!"
>>619719 >>619720 >>619721 "Enough! Once I settle this dispute, I will be taking this mare in for creating a dangerous hazard with that umbrella. I want names for the paperwork. Are the three of you carrying identification papers?"
>>619720 >>619722 "Palatino, this is a delicate moment. I'm acting on behalf of our Mother's powers and you are in the presence of, an albeit weavering, spirit of chaos. I'm afraid apprehending or killing a spirit is not possible. Let this be in the jurisdiction of mares of Faith."
Then, to the spirit. "This brave face you put up, Eurydice saw through it. And if she did, so did your ex-patron."
You head to the villa of lord Omnidus. It's evening now, the stars are out already and the ball has started in the estate. The guards from before are still here, they let you through without the masks.
>>619734 Put a hoof on her shoulder. "Does it take kindly to betrayal, even that which is only in the deepest recesses of your mind? You have awoken to the realization. You saw the world for the ordered beauty of causality Mother intended it to be. And everyone knows." Smile.
>>619738 "What in Grogar's name are you talking about?" She looks over the scene. "Where's this spirit of Discord? Surely you must be joking."
>>619735 A nanny goat has arrived to the scene. She looks barbarian, probably a Hircurian.
>>619739 "Oh no… no no no, I don't like the words coming out of your mouth now." She taps her hooves together nervously, looking at nature surrounding her. "Why don't we… why don't we play a game, huh? If I win, you go away!"
A nanny goat has arrived to the scene. She looks barbarian, probably a Hircurian.
The ball has started! There are dozens of ponies here, most of them obviously patricians like you. A pair of servants welcome you to the villa. "The ball is taking place in the grand hall, my lords and lady. We don't expect many more guests to arrive now."
>>619741 "It still won't deny the truth." Take a few steps back, looking at the goat. "Do you know who you are serving? How it won't lead you to any sort of prize in the eyes of your higher lord?" Impress. I'm assuming he has no appearance bonus. '1d20+17'
You enter the great hall where the ball is being held. There are thirty or forty guests here you reckon. You don't recognize any faces aside from the lord, his wife and your aunt. A few ponies give you second looks because of your mask.
Nio points at a mare talking to a stallion dressed in a guard captain uniform. The mare is wearing a nice purple toga. She looks to be in her early thirties. The stallion must be in his late twenties.
>>619747 "Why do all you Hippoi's have such silver tongues! Gah!" She grabs her umbrella more tightly. "If your friend Eurydice is soooo powerful, let's see if you're worthy of being called her champion or if this is just hot air! No more games, it's party time!"
The umbrella pops open. Launching a torrent of streamers and confetti around it.
DRAMATIC SCENE ACTIVATED
EVERYONE ROLL INITIATIVE
>>619748 Concords aren't spies. Nio seems to be pointing Marcus in the right direction.
>>619767 Your sister gasps. You're pretty sure it's genuine one too. "Is that Anadolian silk? It looks exquisite, so it must be! There's nothing that can rival Anadolian tailorship." She doesn't even need to act like she's impressed!
The mare raises an eyebrow. "You're right, it is. I'm sorry, but who are you…?"
>>619769 You get an additional +4 modifier because of the busy scenery, noise and distraction. '1d20+15'
>>619770 Your first attack misses, but the second time you try and bite her you actually get a hit in! "OW! You big bully! Do I really need to bring out my party tools?"
She swings her umbrella around. "Get cursed!" You have all been put under the Black Cat effect, this raises your Error range by 2.
She also raised her own Threat and Error ranges by 4 each!
"Now! Witness the power of lord Discord!" She slams the umbrella into the ground, rocking the earth with enormous force and sending streamers flying all around her. When the streamers have fallen '1d4+1' copies of the spirit, stand spread around the area.
>>619771 Look up from the dress. "Oh excuse me, where are my manners? My name is Dalmatius Komene. And this is my charming sister. We were simply admiring the capitals fashion. It is somewhat of a family tradition."
>>619777 You're just another guest to her as long as you observe. Blending is not about hiding, it's about blending in. Her notice check beat your blend check so if you do something suspicious she'll be alerted.
>>619775 Komomene. That's the name. Roll Bluff for believability!
"Well, this toga isn't from the capital. Like your sister noticed, it's Anadolian craftsponyship. I am lady Cassicia, imperial Concord at your service." She gestures to the stallion with her. "This is captain Curtos, commander of the inner city guard."
The captain, bows his head as a sign of respect. "It's a pleasure."
>>620108 >>620109 She nods. "I think I've passed through your lands before on occasion. Peneia is a nice place, probably one of the safest places in the empire… as long as you don't stick your nose in places it has no business in." She gives you a look you can't quite interpret. "You must be acquainted to the lord if you're here. Business?"
>>620110 You attack the 'spirit' next to Sonja and… it pops out of existence! It was a mirror image!
The remaining two spirits giggle out loud.
They both rush away towards the foliage and turn around as they're backed against a tree. "It's time for my special surpriiiiise!" She takes a bottle filled with brown liquid (chocolate milk?) and throws it in the middle of your group… '1d20+6' '3d6'
>>620111 >can't quite interpret Or can I? Sense Motive '1d20+9' "Of a sort. Our house is small so it is important to keep in close contact with friends and allies. And to take the opportunity to make new ones."
The bottle slips out of her hoof as she attempts to throw it, falling down on the grass next to her and shattering as it explodes. Her attack only served to hurt herself this time. The mirror image that was left is goners, while the spirit herself was hurt by the blast.
>>620117 "Ships and air transports. We move quick and need to be able to deploy in any corner of the world. Traveling in itself can be dangerous, more so than our actual missions in certain parts, but it's part of the job."
>>620148 >>620149 You flip around Mereghyl and draw your sword as you leap at the spirit and slam it down on her. Being of opposing alignments, the contact has a spectacularly explosive result, sending the spirit flying into the tree behind her. She slams into the wood and falls to the ground, eyes glowing dark purple and gasping for breath. Her puffy mane deflates somewhat, becoming slightly less wild looking.
>>620155 A purple stream of raw chaotic energy exits through her mouth, her lit up eyes slowly dimming back to normal as the very essence of entropy leaves her earthly body. The energy dissipates into nothingness as it hits the ground, being absorbed harmlessly by nature. The spirit has fallen, her beliefs in the lord of chaos ultimately destroyed by her own defeat against nature’s powers. Her purple umbrella spontaneously combusts into blue flames and poofs out of existence.
“This… can’t be… Ooooh, I feel dizzy. Like I’ve been on the merry-go-round for way too long…”