>>623699 >>623700 >>623701 Your current known possible objectives are to: Free Odyris from the fortress dungeons. Free Olivia from the fortress dungeons. Free the houseguards from the fortress dungeons. Defeat the mage defending the fortress. Stop any hostile ships from pursuing as you leave the island.
Obviously, there is more to it than this, but that's up to you guys to figure out. You'll be arriving at the village soon, which is located on the other side of the small island, about half an hour away from the fortress on hoof.
The captain has replaced the main sails with damaged sails with remarkable speed. These damaged sails have holes and slashes in them, as well as some stains of blood?
Speaking of blood, the crew seems to have splashed some of it on various parts of the ship. Under the warm sun it'll dry up in no time, making the ship look like it's seen battle recently. With this 'disguise' you'll be less likely to rouse suspicion by going to the island to 'repair' the 'damages'.
>>623706 >>623705 >>623703 >>623702 >>623704 Great lets get all of us together, say, below deck. "This is going to be dangerous, so we should take it slow, the first part of the plan must deal with the ships, Adrianos wanted to capture one. Thoughts?"
>>623709 >>623710 "That's the brilliant part. An attack on the port would draw defenders out of the keep – allowing for a safer capture of the prisons - preferably by air. I suspect you didn't have any intention of sneaking, did you, Mereghyl?"
>>623709 Niphon nods, having just arrived. "That might be an idea, but how do we go about that with all the crew around? There's bound to at least be one crewed ship ready to move out at a moment's notice in case of corsair activity."
>>623715 "Or the opposite – I can manage the helm of a ship, but I can't fly. How strong are you? Strong enough to airdrop in a small raiding party and capture the prisons? I saw you carrying Flavia, but one pony is much different in weight than a party of them."
>>623717 >>623716 "Don't forget about the magical defenses in the fortress. There's not much in the way of a garrison, but the mage is an issue."
Seeker speaks up. "I can help with the mage. I also have a suggestion if we're talking about a fortress. They're likely going to have some kind of way of communicating with other islands and the mainland. Probably messenger pigeons, maybe something else. Getting rid of their ways to communicate will give us time before they scramble a response force from a nearby island."
>>623715 "Could work.. once we're inside I'll need Chester with me, he'll handle the magical part of the locks and I'll take care of the mundane part." >>623718 >>623719 Nod. "Right, we'll need to learn what we can, and see what kind of disguise would get us inside. If there is a possibly one that lets Mereghyl in too that would be ideal for getting the prisoners out."
>>623722 "I will dispose of them when it is time."
>>623721 "I doubt that, but I will be here to get rid of their fleet once I know you are done with your part." Show you the vial of knockout poision. "I also picked this up in the capital. It might serve you well in there."
>>623718 >>623721 "Speaking of infiltrations… a fortress that big is probably well-stocked, but when they're not in a siege, it's likely they still get food from the neighboring town and traders. We might be able to spoil the food with poison – maybe soften up their defenses. And if that fortress has siege weaponry on it, we could use it to destroy some of the fleet out in the port."
>>623730 >>623729 >>623731 "These are all great plans. But let's first try to estimate the size of our opposition. We must also realize that the fort is half an hour walk from here. It would be safer if we could leave on Mereghyl rather than being exposed while making for the docks. Unless we cause a distraction in the village.
>>623733 "Wait – the Dromons here are supposed to protect the entire coast, right? What if we intercept some of their ravens or carrier birds and inform them of an attack up the coast? They're loose a huge chunk of their garrison. Each one of those dromons requires THIRTY ponies to properly sail."
>>623735 >>623733 >>623736 "Hmm, well we have a rough idea of what we need. So lets try to find a way in, as for the signal, maybe burning a cart of wood would be enough, or ask Chester to do a spell that you'd be able to see.. unless he can teleport that far.."
>>623755 >>623756 >>623757 >>623758 You disembark from the ship and step onto the small wooden dock connected to the village. You see a few smaller boats docked here as well, but nothing worth calling an actual ship.
A few of the ponies walking about are giving you looks as you head down the dock and into the village. The village is one of moderate size, with buildings placed seemingly at random around a small stream which flows out into the sea. You see a small temple dedicated to the five faiths, a tavern, a general store, an apothecary and a smithy. There's probably more to see further ahead.
>>623776 Non-paved roads, piles of pony waste lying on the side of said roads.
>>623777 It's very likely that some ponies living in this village also work in the fortress as servants and whatnot. It's the late afternoon right now, so they may be returning to the village soon enough.
>>623778 You approach a mare selling pottery. Amphorae are of course very popular in the empire as ways to store goods, liquids and food. She grins widely as you inspect her wares. "Oh… I mostly sell these to our farmers and plantation keepers. We don't get much traffic for trade through here, that goes to bigger towns and cities."
>>623791 A narrow selection, it seems. Being this far south, the most popular things you'll see grown here are fruits like melons, strawberries, olives and tomatoes as well as vegetables such as onions, cucumbers and peppers.
>>623792 "Oh that's so kind of you to say… I've wanted to move to Cantria for a while now and start a business there, but it's just so expensive. I don't think I'll ever be able to afford it."
>>623793 The tavern is smaller than the one you stayed at in Clopantinople, but it's still large enough to accommodate for plenty of ponies wanting to drink away their evening. As it stands, there aren't very many ponies around here at all. You guess many of the townsfolk started working the fields again now that the worst of the heat has passed.
>>623795 >>623800 The blacksmith's workshop is mostly set up outside. On one hand it doesn't seem like a bad choice given the warm climate, but on the other it leaves you to wonder if working outside on hot days isn't a little too much to handle. The smith is sharpening some older looking weaponry on a grinding stone. His furnace doesn't seem to be going at the moment. Perhaps you could lend him some dragon fire.
>>623796 As I said, the small temple doesn't look like much, but it does seem well maintained if anything.
Inside, there's benches set up in a circle around a rather beautiful altar. It appears to be shaped out of an oak tree's bark. In the four corners of the temple you spot a shrine dedicated to each of the elements. There's only two other ponies praying here at the moment, one who looks like a farmer, the other seems to be a barbarian judging by her glossy coat. There's a priest of the Mother sweeping the floor as well.
>>623797 That's ten silvers. Since you're not stressed, it doesn't do much. It is very tasty however, probably made on this very island like most things you'll find in this village.
"What's going on? Well, I guess you folks visiting the village is about the most exciting thing to have happened here in the last week. We've been trying to keep our heads low ever since the civil war started. And even now with those tales of corsairs raiding the coasts we have to be vigilant."
>>623798 "Ponies gotta eat all year. My sales are the same every month of the year, with the only variation being which type of fruit or vegetable I'm selling. Not that I'm complaining, makes my finances more predictable as long as we don't have a failed harvest."
>>623799 "Oh I don't think they'd like plebeians setting up shop there… It would be nice to get some extra sales from the sailors though."
>>624154 He stops and turns to you, raising an eyebrow as he sees his furnace lit up. "… Thank ya kindly. But please tell the lord that I can't follow up on his offer. I've got my own business here I can't just abandon."
>>624155 "I'm no expert on the laws of our theme, but as far as I know we're obliged to supply our lieges with a share of our food during times of war to support the armies. The civil war ended as far as I know, given how the ducal family was driven out of the province."
>>624156 "Please do, I don't want this place to be caught by surprise next. Damn Arabian scum…"
>>624157 He smiles gently. "I'm flattered you'd call our humble little chapel a church. Yes, I take care of the building and give sermons while I am not working on the fields. We're only a small community with little means to get outside help, so many of us fill in several roles."
>>624158 Stare at him and raise a brow. I'm going to try and use the not-speaking-equestrian ruse, since we didn't come up with a fake name for our family. I'm sure my inquisitive look will urge him to talk though.
>>624159 "Hah! Can't say I know, last I heard the mainland was a disorganized mess. Seems like the navy is only doing marginally better. You know, I heard our allies to the west are converging their fleets without us. Meanwhile we're scurrying to defend our own coast with the whole theme going haywire. The Saddle-Arabians must be salivating right now while looking at us."
>>624160 "I think he's from the same house as our previous doux… but really it's so hard to keep up with politics sometimes and being isolated like this doesn't help. I don't know why this civil war was necessary in the first place, don't we have enough things to fear already that we have to add our own countryponies to the list? Pulling out the majority of the fortress garrison while corsairs are on the prowl? I don't like it one bit. It's a damn shame the late doux had to die such a sudden death."
>>624161 "Our flock here is not very large, but as a agricultural community we are very much devoted. Without the Mother's blessings, we would be nothing. Us farmer ponies realize that better than anypony else."
>>624162 He stares you down for a moment, then puts the sword he was holding on the ground. "If the lord thinks he can intimidate me into agreeing, he's woefully wrong. I'm not going anywhere. Period."
>>624164 "Oh there's a couple. Enough to supply everypony on the island with food. We can't really permit much surplus without trade coming through. It's wasted effort if it don't get eaten before it starts to rot."
>>624165 He seems a little confused. "Hm? I'm not certain I follow, sister. I know the temple is not quite as big as the ones you find in Cantria, but we hardly have the means to build such grand structures. Nor do we have any need to."
>>624166 "If you don't have anything more to offer, then please leave me be. I need to get these old things back into shape before the Saddle-Arabians decide to target us next."
>>624167 "I don't care much for interesting if it means the province is going to Tartarus. Sure hope those high folks in Cantria have some sort of grand plan to solve this before the whole dam just bursts."
>>624168 "Will you be here much longer? I need to go speak with the captain of my vessel to see how long we're going to be staying here, but if you're still available after, I'll be interested in a proportionate amount of stock."
>>624169 She perks her ears. "I'm wrapping up here in about an hour. It's getting late. If you're interested in buying though, I'll be more than happy to supply."
>>624170 He waves you off and picks the sword back up, getting back to work on the grinding stone.
>>624171 "Oh, rest assured everypony here is as devoted to the mother as you'll find them elsewhere. However, prayer alone does not show how devout one is. Working in the fields and plantations to survive shows just as much devotion. They are Her fruits we harvest after all."
>>624172 "A large fortress with a small garrison. To be terribly honest with you, if a raiding party arrives here I don't think they'll be able to muster the force to come out and save us. The navy is really our own defense at this point. Our smith is currently gathering what weaponry he can for the village militia."
>>624173 "It's a matter of numbers – I need to know how much we need logistically. Say, how regular are your shipments to the fort? We were planning on visiting to see the local fare, and it's a long ride up there. If you'd like, we can give you a ride up to the port in our vessel – you'd have to come back the long way when we're done, of course, since we're moving on soon."
>>624174 "Well, we always have some defense of our own to at least slow down any raids while help is on the way… A few of us are veterans of battle, but most of the townfolk have only ever used their pitchforks for farming purposes. That's why we've decided to spend some time making sure our equipment is up to par."
>>624175 "I ship to them every week. If you can shorten the trip I'd appreciate it, but with a full load it only takes me about an hour to get there on hoof. The way back only takes half that long."
>>624176 "There's really no need, we're all very close to the Mother and we know it. It's hard to ever forget when you spend the majority of your life completely surrounded by nature."
>>624177 He continues on sharpening the swords on the stone, stubbornly ignoring you.
>>624179 "On occasion. To, ahem, find some company for the night. The servants from the village who work at the fortress are usually not very receptive to their advances since they're of course not allowed to shirk their duties while at work."
>>624180 "Of course, there's not need to even ask me such a thing."
Marcus is drinking some wine whilst having a chat with the barkeep. It's not very busy in here yet.
>>624184 "I don't blame 'em, some of them find company in the arms of their brothers and sisters in arms, but after months of being stuck with the same ponies I imagine they sometimes want a different pair of hooves holding them for once."
>>624186 She whispers back. "To the Varangians, the elements are the high gods. They worship them waaaay differently than you guys do. With living sacrifices and stuff! I've see them hold huge parties where they sacrifice prisoners to honor the gods, I don't know about you but that's not my kind of party at all!"
>>624188 "Weekly, the fortress brings in shipments of food – and they're willing to hitch a ride with us up to the fortress. We buy off or hold in temporary custody the owner – and we can ride inside stealthily. Old Trojan trick."
>>624147 "I dunno.. if you looked the part I doubt they'd even know you're a villager until you said so.. But I should be going, it was lovely to talk with you Miss." I excuse myself to go the tavern to see what the others have learned?
>>624324 I wanna go around and get a feel for this town. See how its inhabitants behave, or if there is any outstanding problem with it, some wrong to right, some frown to turn upside down… So just start trotting around, with eyes wide open! >>624323 "Nuh-uh! I'm just going on a tour of town!"
>>624330 >>624328 "It's a matter of logistics. Even if you steal every coin in that fort, I doubt you'll get half the wealth we'd get from selling just one of those Dromons. If we can wipe out the garrison – sure, we can loot to our hearts' content, but there are limits as to what even a skilled burglar could carry out on a smash-and-grab mission."
>>624325 He doesn't seem to care, looks like your approach is not working.
>>624329 It appears that the largest concern of this village are the corsairs whom are threatening the southern coast of the empire. It dawns on you that assaulting the garrison on this island and destroying the fleet may have unfortunate consequences for a village like this. They would have to purely rely on their own militias to defend from any raids, and while you aren't an expert of military matters, it's clear even to you that these villagefolks would most likely not fare well against corsairs.
>>624337 >>624338 Corsair is really just another word for 'pirate' or 'raider'. Corsairs specifically refer to pirates who come from the east, from the caliphates or the Grevyian tribes. It sounds like the ones who have been very active around the southern shores of the empire are mostly Arabians, which is a rather peculiar 'coincidence'. Corsairs will hit ships and villages, looting their worth and taking prisoners for ransom money.
There's little doubt that the corsairs have some sort of base of operations on an island within striking distance of the empire. The most likely candidate for that seems to be the Skyrosian archipelago to the southeast of here. Skyros was once a Trotantine state like so many in the empire, but it was swallowed by Saddle-Arabia after a disastrous naval defeat which destroyed most of the Agrian, Peneian and Saddlonican fleets. Recently however, they rebelled against their Arabian overlords and attained independence.
>>624347 You notice there's a barbarian mare observing you from across the street with some interest. Judging by her clothing, she's a Varangian priestess. What catches your drake eyes the most is her coat, which is very glossy and gemlike. A fleshy gem? That can only taste delicious.
You can roll a knowledge check to see what you know about this particular religion.
Secondly, you also catch something large flying around in the distance from the corner of your eyes, near the fortress.
>>624352 The Varangian faith held by the viking ponies from the high north revolves around worship of the four elemental gods. Ignis, Aqualia, Terra and Aer are their gods, though with different names assigned to them. To be sure, they are seen as heathens by the church of the Mother, as their method of elemental worship involves living sacrifices and other gruesome practices.
All in all their religion is far from peaceful. Ignis is often seen as the main god of the pantheon, being seen as a god of war, fire and death. More interestingly to you, perhaps, is the fact that Ignis is often depicted as a dragon.
>>624353 They usually will use galleys to get around quickly, with raiding parties only containing a couple of ships. Corsair raids have been a thing for centuries now, with periods of varying activity and intensity. The last two weeks have seen a remarkable spike in activity.
>>624359 Well yes, but we are doing this after we take the tower! I'm sure brother Marcus will have no objection whatsoever! Tell Thalia how we are gonna walk there with freshly baked goods made 100% from bio products, get everypony around a big table and talk away their pirate problems! "It's a genius plan, no?"
>>624358 >>624360 "I think its possible.. but unreliable, we have no way to ensure they'd drink it all once, or that some guard wouldn't sample it hours before meal time because he wants to make sure he gets his share… And if they discovered it, the mage would certainly be on alert "
>>624372 I was just curious about the smith. Let's see if she gets intimidated easily though. Stand up and go across the street, where she is, and settle down beside her, without a word. Wrap my tail around myself, and make sure to display my claws properly. Get a good look of her gem coat too. Intimidate '1d20+12'
>>624371 >>624370 "Risk of putting them on alert, or missing the chance altogether because they ate at a different time than we expected.. is almost as bad as getting caught. I could make sure no one will recognize us, or we could try to bribe someone to make sure for us."
>>624378 She speaks up, talking in a language familiar to you. It's Draconic, a common language shared by drakes and dragons alike all over the world. It's quite possibly one of the most spread out languages in existence. "Did you come from the fortress?"
>>624379 "There's no way of telling whether or not they'll target this village! It doesn't look that valuable to me!"
They're still here, though the barbarian mare seems to have left by now.
>>624381 "If they have been coming this way when there was a fortress, imagine what they will do when there is not one! That will make a lot of smiles disappear forever!" >>624382 Interrupt them in a panic. "Marcus! We must stop!"
>>624390 She nods towards the fortress. "Those who await their death in the dungeons of that fortress. As Varangians, I've come here to request they die a honorable death in combat rather than face execution. So far my requests were denied."
You were discussing your plans in the local tavern of the village. Since most ponies are still at work there aren't many other patrons here, making it easy to get away from prying eyes and ears. Evening will fall soon and the villagers will begin returning to their village.
Anthe is still on the ship last you saw, hiding from the smell of pony waste lying out in the streets under the sun. Niphon and Seeker were together last you saw. Chester has of course disappeared from sight, though he likely isn't far away. Surprise is here with Flavia. Karabi and Sonja are with their partners.
>>624392 "Not a chance. Perhaps their battle brothers and sister will though. They fear for their kin dying outside of combat."
>>624958 >>624393 >>624387 Ah, we were still whispering in the corner. "..Maybe there is another way to approach this, if they are short staffed because of these pirate attacks, we could present ourselves as pirate hunters as a way in."
>>624962 >>624393 "I see pretty much no way that we get out our prisoners without seriously damaging the local garrison. It just won't happen. But the lives of these civilians will be better once legitimacy returns to the throne of Agria."
>>624980 "It's a pity that spyglasses are so expensive. We should try to nab one while we're inside. But I suspect the fort will not be cordoned off – we can have a walk around the outside. Might even just try to walk in the front gates – I have some pull with the military given my rank you know."
>>624984 "It all sounds like a recipe for death to come no matter how you look at it. It remains to be seen whether or not I can convince the mage to agree to my request or be confronted with a fleet of longships on her doorstep. Either way works for me."
>>625003 "Well… I guess there wouldn't be much point in abducting a simple salespony like me. Not like I have much of worth at all."
>>625004 You pass by Mereghyl talking to some sort of Varangian shaman.
The temple here is very simple looking, but clean. There's a priest here, sweeping the floor with a broom. Aside form the altar dedicated to the Mother, there are also four shrines dedicated to the elementals, one in each corner of the building.
>>625005 I suppose it doesn't matter then. I wish you like with the solving of your mystery. If it happens to involve a certain group of Varangians in trouble, I'm sure it would please the mighty Ignis.
>>625006 "A pirate hunter?" "We're just simple servants, not soldiers. We work to keep the fortress clean and its many mouths happily fed."
>>625008 "Glory to those who die in battle." She turns away from you and walks off.
>>625009 Aqualia's shrine has a little water fountain with a small pedestal serving as the foothold of a statuette depicting the goddess. Typical Trotantine art, shaped out of white marble and showing off her naked physical beauty. She's depicted as a beautiful seapony here.
>>625010 "Sure, I guess. The fortress actually belongs to house Arravani who built it here almost two centuries ago. Many members of the doux' family spent time here over the centuries, but ever since the civil war on the mainland it's been solely used as a military platform. Aside from the garrison, there are no guests there at this time. I'm sure the new doux will come down some time in the future, but right now he must be far to busy."
>>625011 I nod along with them. "So they have a wise a Arravani in charge here now? Must be pretty boring with no guests.. I suppose that makes its even harder on you, since they need less of your care and give you orders simply because they are bored?"
>>625012 You could try some fishfood. Followers of Aqualia will often look for beautiful seashells on the beach to leave them in shrines dedicated to Aqualia like these.
>>625013 You saw him pass by and head into the temple just now.
>>625014 They look at each other awkwardly as you mention the Arravanis. They must be aware that Olivia Arravani has been locked in the dungeons of the fortress. "Well… no. The pony in charge of the fortress' garrison right now is an appointed commander. She's not a member of house Arravani."
>>625022 With a few powerful flaps of her wings, she flies off to collect some nice seashells.
>>625023 "Eheheh… She doesn't fool around." "Yeah, she's actually pretty scary." "She's powerful enough to turn into a dragon, I think she'd eat anypony who makes her angry. And she has a short temper." The servants collectively gulp.
>>625027 You don't see any burn marks. "Well yes, sometimes she goes out on patrol in dragon form. She's snapped at us a few times too. Errr… her mood can shift pretty quickly, if you know what I mean."
>>625034 They shrug. "They don't tell us this stuff. We haven't heard anything about any guests arriving so unless there's a surprise visit I'd wager not. I hear things are still chaotic on the mainland."
>>625038 '1d20+8' sense motive on that. This counts as a session, so I can cold read one of these guys? If so.. Did he work for the old noble house? Does he have any addictions? What is his favorite drink?
>>625041 You think they genuinely are unaware as plebeians.
You can Cold read. Short sessions will not always count as full sessions, sometimes I'll consider two sessions to be part of the same session.
He has been working for house Arravani for years, just as he said. He's quite fond of alcohol, but it's not quite an addiction yet. The stress might make him develop one though. He loves Peneian red wine, but unfortunately for him it's very expensive.
As for the rest of you, evening is falling and thus the plebs return from their fields, farms and plantations after a day of hard work under the sweltering sun. Even the village's foals seem to have helped out for the day. Despite their work, they still seem energetic enough to spend their evening running around playing games. The tavern begins to fill up with ponies looking for some refreshments even as the temperature begins to slowly drop to more tolerable levels.
You should probably get something to eat. You could try the tavern or just eat some of the ship rations. As for sleeping, you'll need to stick to the ship or try and find someone in the village who has an actual bed to spare.
>>625045 I think that's enough for right here.. Joyfully smile at him. "Ah I should get going, perhaps I'll see you at the tavern after I secure a job at fort? We could celebrate over wine. I do hate to drink alone."
>>625639 This is flounder, as opposed to the seabass they gave you on the ship. You should be used to eating a lot of fish by now, it's quite popular. Even ponies eat it at times, though not very often.
>>625640 They continue on making their way to the village.
You run into Seeker and Niphon about ten minutes later, seems like they went scouting too. They don't recognize you, of course, not paying any heed to a random passerby.
>>625641 Doesn't look like it. Seems like some of the fortress servants have arrived back in the village though, a few of them heading straight for the tavern.
You carefully look some of the servants over, none of them seem bothered though they do look fairly tired. You're about to give up when you make eyecontact with a pony you recognize. That mare used to live in your family's home! Back then she was just the child of one of your maids, but it appears that over the years she picked up the same profession as her mother. It seems she recognizes you too as she looks surprised at first, then a little worried. Excusing herself to her colleagues, she quickly leaves the tavern.
>>625657 "Right. Seeker and I did some scouting already. We found a thing or two, but there are some… errr… complications."
>>625658 A common salad for the noble pony. You're filled on food until tomorrow.
>>625661 Neither of them look amused by your implications. They're definitely not the biggest jokesters in the empire, that's for sure. "Is that supposed to be funny? Look, we actually may have found a secret escape route that leads in and out of the fortress. The problem is that most of it is flooded right now. We can't really say for sure how long this tunnel is, but it does seem to lead straight to the fortress."
>>625665 She's walking away from the tavern at a brisk pace. No telling what she'll do now. House Hippoi has been officially banished from Agria after all, your presence here is punishable by death.
>>625664 If nothing goes wrong during the following days. You see Marcus coming towards the ship as well.
>>625666 Mereghyl is here, watching the crew eat their dinners.
>>625686 She groans and buries her face in her hooves. "It's just awful, there's poo on the streets and everything. How do these ponies live like such animals?"
>>625687 They continue on their way as you head further towards the fort as well.
The fort itself is quite big, being surrounded by a tall set of walls to defend against land attacks. You see there's heavy weaponry present on the walls themselves. Scorpio's, arbalests and even small catapults. No doubt these are used to deadly effectiveness when launching flaming projectiles at any ships attacking the fort.
The harbor is connected to the fortress and you spot four dromons docked there. Bearing in mind that one dromon requires a crew of thirty to be at optimal performance, there must be at least 120 sailors present here right now.
>>625693 That's dreadful. We should totally give her guidance and love, once we catch her. But in the meanwhile, I'm gonna go and look around town. You know, if we are scouting the fort I just had an idea. Where is Marcus right now?
There's certainly ponies on the wall, that much you can make out. You also notice a faint glow around the fortress… as you come closer and closer you realize that this must be some kind of a magical forcefield, the one Victus was talking about! It's colored a soft pink and can only be faintly observed.
>>625695 He's gone belowdecks of the ship after leaving the tavern.
>>625696 "W-What? I'm just a maid! I work at the Anafi fortress!"
>>625712 "Okay, listen, I'll look into this matter personally – but I don't want you spreading stories around and panicking civilians. If you're right, it could throw the town into chaos just knowing about him being present. Do you think you could come back with me – calmly – and point him out if you see him? If you can't do it calmly, then it's best I handle it myself."
>>625719 "You're going to walk an hour to the fortress and an hour back and HOPE that he's still here all out of distrust of the Imperial guard? This coming from somepony who flees guards who are just trying to protect the people? And for some reason you don't want me to arrest this 'criminal' that will cause 'chaos'? What's your ulterior motive here? I can tell you're not being honest with me."
>>625723 "I spotted some heavy ranged weaponry on the walls which they no doubt use against ships and in case of aerial attacks on the fortress. If we could get on there, perhaps we could help you take down this dragon with heavy bolts and the like."
>>625721 "I… if they catch him, he'll get executed. I don't want that to happen either. But he can't stay here and cause trouble for our village!" She looks around and lowers her voice. "Look… I'm not supposed to be telling this to anypony, but his father is locked up inside the fortress dungeons. It can't be a coincidence that he's here in our little village, I need to warn the garrison in case he's planning some kind of an assault to rescue his father."
>>625724 He looks alarmed. "A ship attacked? When did that happen? And where? You've docked at the village then?"
>>625725 "It is protected by a powerful magical bubble, as you predicted."
>>625727 Seeker pipes in. "Even as a dragon, she still has those arcane energies stored in her. I could do a lot of damage with my anti-mage battle techniques."
>>625728 "Please, remember who you're talking to." He purrs.
>>625729 He lets out a string of curses and quickly flies up. "Stay put!"
A couple of minutes later you see two other pegasus guards fly through the barrier overhead, heading towards the village. The pegasus guard from before lands in front of you again. "We're sending over some people to establish where this attack happened so we can scramble some ships to maybe chase down the perpetrators. Perhaps you could join them if this lead of yours is solid."
>>625739 "We just need to make sure we won't get chased down by a flamethrower or a dragon!"
>>625740 Niphon speaks up. "It's a blessing the garrison is so understaffed at the moment. We're very lucky in that regard. In actual fact, I may have another plan which I need your help with. But first we need to get everypony together to see what they came up with."
>>625741 He comes back a few minutes later and steps outside the field. "Follow me. I'm taking you straight to the harbor."
>>626166 "Anthe. Just my luck. And don't be so impatient Mereghyl, one thing at a time. I'll be back in a moment." He heads off onto the ship as well. Seeker stays outside.
>>626167 "These are fast response ships. As soon as they can get confirmation on where these corsairs were encountered, they'll move out. If you don't want to come that's your loss, but I figured this would be your kind of territory as a pirate hunter."
>>626168 Niphon arrives at the scene as well. "Sorry to interrupt your tea party, brother. Seeker and I found out some stuff while scouting that you should know about."
>>626170 Rub the back of my head. "Ah. I understand, I would normally love to but I have a prior engagement, which was what drew me here in the first place.. If I go running off tonight I'll lose her for sure.." I sigh and give him a small smile. "Hey, give those bastards hell for me alright?" And then turn to leave.
>>626171 "Maybe we should go outside and gather everypony for some planning."
>>626172 She's glaring at the Prench ponies. She doesn't seem to be a big fan of them.
>>626169 You find Adrianos and Sonja talking to a mare in a nice servant uniform. You recognize her, she used to live in the servant quarters of your home! You recall her being the child of one of your servants.
>>626173 "Like I said, your loss. Thanks for the tip though. If it checks out, we'll be on those corsair bastards like flies on honey."
>>626183 She lifts her hoof in surprise and looks back at you. Surprise waves a hoof at her cheerfully. "Y-You're here too? I knew this wasn't some kind of a misunderstanding!" She lowers her voice, careful not to speak too loudly. "You shouldn't be here! I know what you're here for but you're just going to cause us all trouble!"
Niphon and Marcus arrive here too.
>>626184 You head after Niphon, who in turn follows Flavia. Anthe seems to not care at all and stay behind, happy to be left alone.
Flavia approaches the servant mare and addresses her. She seems even more startled now.
>>626185 Yes, they're all going back to the village itself.
>>626187 "I don't know, I haven't heard from her since that whole civil war mess started. And don't you try to change the subject, you should leave! Leave before they figure out you're here and you get arrested." Her mother fled like the rest of the servants after the war was lost.
>>626184 Karabi lands next to you holding a small bag. "I went fishing for you." She looks at the scene ahead. "What is this? A situation?"
>>626188 "You always were a smart girl, you know why we are here. And you know why we cannot turn back on our steps." Move closer, getting eye to eye with her but putting at least a meter of distance between us, so as not to invade her personal space. "What would you do in my horseshoes, Artephia? How far would you go to save your family? You see the robes I'm wearing. I'm a mare of the church. I've sworn fidelty to things greater than ponies- And yet here I am, where all my prayers led me. To help my family. If even Divine Will wants us here, how could we, nothing more than ponies, not answer the call? The bonds of faith are strong. The bonds of blood, almost as strong. Look at us, and do not fear. Do not see in the lot of us the change and destruction you might be afraid of. Rather, see in us the weeping face of a child reuniting with his parents. For the sake of family, and for the sake of spirit, be quiet." '1d20+18'
>>626193 >>626194 "I am not helping you on this doomed venture. Because lady Alirva will skin me alive if she finds out. After burning you all to a crisp. Look… I-I can't stop you and I don't want you all to get killed, so I'm begging you, don't do this. Turn back and leave for your own sakes."
Niphon speaks up. "You're acting like we have a choice. I refuse to sit by and watch while my father gets executed. He's your liege, don't you have any sense of loyalty or are you just a damn coward?"
>>626196 "If I were to go to the guards with this, you'd get arrested and executed. I don't want that because you were always good to me, but I'm not helping you free a traitor who helped kill our doux, plunged our country into civil war and caused many of the people I knew to die. Just… go away and leave me alone. I don't want to be associated with you."
>>626197 Are you sure you want to do this out in the open? There might be ponies watching from a distance. "Well I'm not."
>>626198 No, she's aware of you all being here. You'll need to roll initiative first.
>>626208 The captain has welcomed the guards on her ship. You can hear them converse. "Ah, yes messieurs. Ve vere brutally attacked by Arabian corsairs yesterday, somevhere around…" She points at a map lying on the ground. "Here, zis area. Two galleys and a dhow chased us down. Ze wind vas not favorable for us and zey caught up. But zey seemed to be in a hurry because zey quickly took what zey could and left vith a eastern heading."
>>626210 She's walking through the village, possibly to her home?
>>626222 They shake hooves with the captain and quickly fly off again.
>>626223 "Seeker found out that there's a whole network of ancient tunnels under the island. I reckon those were once used as secret escape passages in the event of a siege. There's a problem though, it's flooded with seawater. Don't know for sure how deep it goes or if it even connects to the fortress. Seems like a good guess though. Seeker knows there's potions that allow for waterbreathing for a while, so maybe we could buy some at the apothecary in town. Might still be a risky bet though, we could get stuck and die in there."
>>626224 You see the two pegasi guards take off from the dock and fly back to the castle.
Mereghyl, Seeker, Surprise and Flavia are indeed here at the docks.
>>626225 "That might work! We just can't slip up and make them think we're spies or something!"
>>626226 "Hmmmm. That's interesting. Adrianos has found us a way into the fort by means of a food supplier. But these tunnels could help in case we need a way out. That reminds me, I should call a friend." Take that shell Praxia has given me and blow it.
>>626247 You arrive at the fortress after climbing some hills. You see the faint outline of a bubble around it, which must be where the shield spell starts. The fortress is surrounded by big walls with artillery pieces mounted on top of them. The harbor is surrounded by a wall as well, but separated from the fortress by another wall and a gate.
The path you're on leads straight to a gate in the wall, which is closed down. This is probably a sensitive period for the garrison.
There seems to be a lot of activity going on, especially in the harbor.
>>626248 You stare at Karabi's butt for a little too long. She glares back at you.
They seem to be talking about kidnapping foals or something.
>>626249 Adrianos wanted to go tomorrow afternoon. "We don't even have a plan yet Marcus. We need to bring everypony together and assign roles or this is going to be a fucking disaster."
>>626250 Well, no use worrying too much. Take note of the number of artillery pieces, of the size of the bubble and where it ends, and of how tall the walls are. Then, off I go, all the way to the gate.
You move in on the gate but the bubble is in your way, ending right in front of it.
You hear a shout coming from up on the wall. "Pony at the gate!" Moments later a pegasus guard lands in front of the gate, but still behind the bubble. "Another visitor? What is your business here, sister?"
>>626531 "… ten silvers to buy my loyalty. You're kidding. What happened to your family? You used to be so much more, liked and respected by your subjects. I am not going to aid in your suicide mission and put my brother at risk in the process. Not for your father. Your sister told me I should feel bad for you because you're just trying to help your father, but I'm just trying to protect my brother from this recklessness."
>>626532 One of the waitresses saunters over. "What can I get you, sir?"
>>626533 "10 silver for giving me the opportunity to talk to you. I'll give more depending on what you tell me. If you don't want to help me, you may keep it and I'll be on my way. All I want is information, nopony has to know you were involved and if something happens just stay out of it and nopony will bother you or your brother."
>>626534 "Peneian red? That will be quite expensive sir, but if you say so. I will go get a bottle from our special stock."
>>626535 "Just… can't you see how helping somepony free a murderer isn't exactly something I can do? Your father may have been good to us, but he's still a traitor who caused everypony grief. Don't you care about that at all?"
>>626536 "He is not a murderer and I have clear evidence to prove so. And I will do so in time. But in the meantime I cannot allow him to be killed unjustly." Since I don't have definitive evidence this is a Bluff I guess '1d20+13'
>>626536 "Ah, once you've tried it.. there's just nothing like it, well worth the price." Pretty sure I can cover that anyway. "Besides, I want to show my friends here a nice time while I'm in town." I nod to the ponies at the table.
>>626547 "Something with the fort perhaps? Something fun, maybe a bit scandalous? You know, a good story to drink too." Pour the glass while I explain. "You can talk about your bosses if you want, I won't be around to tell them tomorrow after all, not that i'd do that to a friend."
>>626548 She rolls her eyes. "The post office is on the north side of the courtyard, right against the wall."
>>626549 "Uuuuh… well we only got one boss left now and that's the commander, lady Alirva. She's in control of everything, I think she's a control freak or sumthing." "She's really really overbearing. An' paranoid about her stuff getting stolen too…"
>>626550 "Really? Tell me about her then, she ever look fondly at one of the guards, sing scaley songs about the moon, crawl around in sewers to hide her lockets?" Nudge the glass into the middle of them so the one who wants to share can take it.
>>626551 "Tunnels? Yes, but they're completely flooded, nopony ever goes down there because it's a deathtrap to swim into one."
>>626552 "Noooo, she's cold as ice. Never a fond look or a nice word." "She keeps all her personal stuff in the tower she lives in. The way up there is barricaded so only somepony with wings can fly up." They both grab the glass.
>>626558 "I can walk through it without an issue. And no, nothing like that at all. It's impossible to get through that shield for those who don't work there, that's all I know. There is some really powerful magic at work in that fortress."
>>626559 "Hurt us if we're lucky. But it's easy to avoid getting to that point… just follow her rules and don't get in her way. She's not a sadist or anything…"
>>627059 "Doesn't that make you kinda mad? She spends all that energy protecting her books.. She already has all those soldiers there to help her out. And selfishly doesn't bother to think of you, the ones everyone counts on to do their chores. You could all die if this keeps up."
The moon is out and the sky has been covered by a blanket of darkness and stars as the night well and truly approaches. You've all come together for a meeting to discuss your findings and put together a plan to tackle this dungeon break.
The captain has joined you as well, observing as Niphon steps forward first. "I think we should go with the plan Adrianos proposed and go in by ship under the guise of wanting to do some trading."
>>627077 I nod. "I think so too. It would be the best way to get near the fort, hopefully inside the fort if we play our cards right. My only real concern is that we'll be right in the middle of the harbour armed force. How will we prevent them from attacking our ship and thus our escape if it would come to that?"
>>627081 "Here is some food for though. What if we offered the Varagian Seer the chance she has been begging for? Let her people out of the cells, and use that as a diversion for slipping away while the main corp of guards is engaged with them."
>>627083 "As far as I understand the Varangian seer is unwilling to participate in any illegal actions. Besides I was hoping we could take the Varangians with us."
>>627084 "There is a possibility. What if somepony showed up so incredible that she will distract all the sailors, for a little while we're in the fort. You could sail out, they'll be too enamored to pay attention to you until it's too late. While we're in the fort and see you're getting away, we strike and close the gate seperating the harbour. Their first priority will be to breach the fort again, not sail after you. We can agree on a signal when it's safe to approach the harbor again."
>>627088 "She's coming as we speak. I expect her tomorrow, sometime. You'll know how she could do it when you see her."
>>627089 "No, if we can close the gate to the harbour, the sailor ponies will be locked out from us. But I have not found a way to escape with 20 or so Varangians unseen. If we could somehow sneakily set them free before any hostilities happen it would be a major help, but I'm not sure how we could get close to the dungeons pretending to be merchants."
>>627089 "If they leave us no choice… really we just need to be sure that they can't overtake us while we're fleeing. And no offense to the captain, but this ship is about as agile as a brick. And not really designed to carry a large amount of passengers."
>>627090 "We can't," comments Seeker. "I think those tunnels I found will be a better access point. We just need to get our hooves on some waterbreathing potions to get through them. We'll try to stay hidden for as long as possible, free those Varangians and get the armed, then make a break for it to the harbor and steal that leftover ship."
>>627092 "And I thought I was the only one who was drinking this night." I groan in annoyance. But.. if you want to go from their harbor.. we'd just want to isolate a couple guards from the harbor, knock them out and steal their uniforms, and hopefully just walk in to the dungeon.. Bring Chester to get us past any magic walls.." >>627093 "The tunnels might be better for sneaking sure. Where exactly are the entrances for those?"
>>627120 Instantly, my gaze is caught by her face. "Eurydice. We are about to move forth and rescue our father but…" Look again at the stars above, tearful. "It seems there might be no way to do this without hurting many, many ponies."
>>627121 "Where did you even get to befriend a seapony?"
"It might make me hungry. … For fish."
>>627122 She seems unimpressed by your glare, as if she can do better.
>>627123 She's sitting by the pond again, looking at the reflection of the nightsky.
"It troubles you greatly, does it not? Death is a part of nature, yet it remains one of the hardest aspects of life to accept."
She turns her head to look at you.
"I understand your concerns, Flavia. The Mother will not look down on you for taking another life, such is the way conflict between her creations work. Such is the way she intended it to work. Life is sacred and should be respected, but in order to fully appreciate its wonder, we must also accept the presence of death."
She looks back down at the pond of water.
"I am no more immortal than you are, Flavia. I do not age, but I can be taken by Death like anybody else."
>>627124 "In Peneia Niphon. I'll tell you about it after we've established our plan." Look at Chester. "Try to contain yourself please. She's a decent seamare."
Clear my throat. "So, let's summarize what we have so far, Niphon, Seeker, Chester and Praxia, the seapony, will infiltrate the castle through the tunnels. I'm not sure Praxia will follow you further than that, but after that you infiltrate the dungeons and free the Varangians, our father and the Doux. If possible you arm them. And try to knock out guards, avoid killing unless necessary. Meanwhile the rest of us will go on the ship to pose as merchants in the harbor, hopefully we'll be able to go inside the inner wall that way.
Now, once the fighting starts then what? Some of us should man the catapults to take care of the dragoness mage together with Mereghyl…"
>>627126 "War is a terrible thing, that is undeniable. But just like everything else, it is as the Mother intends it to be. Yet how far are you willing to go to protect those who you hold dear?" Eurydice shakes her head. "Matters of politics have always been foreign to me."
>>627127 Niphon nods. "Seeker and I both know how to operate artillery. I think Adrianos does too. We could get onto the walls with Mereghyl's aid and then take down the dragon mage with his further help."
>>627128 "Then if fighting breaks out, Seekers first job should be to get outside as fast as possible. Mereghyl will bring you near the siege equipment and engage the mage, meanwhile we on the bottom with the help of the Varangians will deal with the guards. Hopefully once the dragon falls they'll surrender."
>>627132 "Another thing, if Praxia will help the tunnel, we need another distraction. We could use one of the siege weapons to fire shots near the sailors. This would give Pomme some cover to leave the harbor as fast as possible, we can leave with the remaining dromor and meet up at sea."
Look at Karabi. "Yes, the messenger birds. I was thinking Niphon or Karabi could go with Chester under the cover of night to poison them. We know where they are."
>>627145 "You're merely there to open the shield for Nolin as he poisons the birds, you won't need to fight."
Turn to the captain. "Yes, leave as soon as you see fit, preferably after we're in the inner wall since your departure will probably cause some suspicion but I'm pretty sure there will be more confusion at first rather than them actively stopping you. I'm merely saying what the course is if it turns out you do need some cover."
>>627167 "We have discussed that part already. Praxia, Chester, Seeker and Nolin will go with her through the tunnels. If she can allow them to breathe underwater that will save us some underwater breathing potions to buy. As for the non-killing I can't promise that."
>>627185 "Zat would put us above ze capacity of zis ship. It would be a very uncomfortable journey monsieur. Food may become un issue until we reach a safe port. And ze cost… vell, I assume you can count yourself."
>>627191 "They are the everypony! Like that scared maid we ran into! Or the Vagirians. Or the many farmers forced into giving food to the castle. They are just sons and daughters and fathers and mothers to ponies that will never see them again! Those on top, they are the traitors!"
>>627194 "They serve our enemies. They'll kill dad and not even think twice about killing you if they saw you. We'll do our very best not to kill anypony, but we have to face the possibility that it might happen."
>>627191 "Perhaps ve could work something out…" She smirks.
>>627194 Karabi speaks up for once. "That is the reality of war, girl. There is no point running away from it, it will catch up to you eventually."
>>627193 Niphon shakes his head. "We'll need enough ponies to crew it ourselves, outrun an angry dragon, fight off about 30 sailors and get out before the fortress artillery lights us up like a shining star in the night."
>>627195 "This is not what you are suggesting, and we both know it! You had the audacity, the bravery, to complain that a plan which did not put our family on the line and did not kill any innocent was not good enough, because we'd not be able to sack and raid the only defense this town has against pirates! Listen to yourself! What happened to you while you were gone?"
>>627197 Sense Motive. '1d20+13' How evil is that grin?
>>627198 Grab you closer and whisper. "If we don't have that ship, we'll have to pay back Pomme some other way. Look at her. Do you think what she'll ask of us is gonna be any better than the plan we have now?"
>>627718 Normally I'd let you play this out real time, but we don't really have the time for that anymore. Ghost Basics doesn't really come into play because I'm essentially cutting this objective from the adventure.
That being said, you manage to infiltrate the fortress with Chester's help and poison the messenger birds. The fortress will be on alert because of this, but they have no way of sending out cries for reinforcements.
>>627719 I told you she's arriving around 3 PM already. The next scene takes place the next day. Nothing is stopping you from waiting on her to start the scene.
Nolin, together with Chester, Seeker and Praxia and others if they want to join, will enter the fortress through the underwater tunnels. There they'll go to the dungeons and free the Doux and her guard. They'll try to arm themselves and go towards the top.
Meanwhile I and the rest will arrive by boat, pretending to be merchants. We'll try to get as close as possible and attack them by surprise when Nolin and his crew come up. If we're attacked, Mereghyl will fly Seeker, Adrianos and Niphon up the wall to the siege weapons to attack her, while the rest of us fight the guard off."
You rest up on the ship for the night until morning dawns and you're awoken by the early sunrays. Marcus knows Praxia will still be away for a few hours. Nolin and Chester have infiltrated the fortress at night after a visit to the village apothecary and poisoned their messenger birds, they're sure to be distraught about that.
You did promise the salesmare you'd go to the fortress today, but didn't specify a time. You should probably go get her and make sure her goods are loaded onto the boat. It's unlikely that she'll be pleased with what is to happen, but those are worries for later.
>>627757 Very well. A few hours into the afternoon, the salesmare has moved her goods onto the ship. She seems to be one of the richer villagers, probably 'controlling' several fields and plantations.
You hear some splashing from besides the boat, before seeing Praxia flip out of the water and into the air, shapeshifting her form into that of a landpony before landing down on the deck of the ship, much to the amazement of the crew who drop down on their knees. "Marcus, you called me right as I was taking a bath."
>>627758 "I hope you're right, but they're probably going to buy less this week anyway." She starts loading her goods onto the ship with the help of the crew over the course of some time until a fishlike friend of Marcus shows up. The crew drop to their knees and start shouting something in Prench.
>>627761 She seems to have shifted her form into that of a landpony. As you remember, some followers of Aqualia are masters of disguises. You've never seen a seapony like this before though, they tend to be really reclusive.
You hear Niphon mutter to himself. "I can't believe it…" Seeker seems unimpressed and drinks from her flagon.
Sonja pokes you in the side. "What is that pony creature? Witchraft?"
>>627762 "What's the machination of yours which I'll risk my life for today?"
>>627769 You see a pang of fear in her eyes when you mention the dragon, but otherwise she hides her reaction fairly well. "I don't like dragonfire very much. I'll be staying away from it, I'm sorry to say."
>>627770 "Hmmmm." She doesn't seem convinced, but doesn't dwell on it further.
>>627771 Marcus wants to use her as a distraction already.
>>627773 "I can do that for you, Marcus. And maybe not get eaten by whatever lurks in those flooded tunnels. Nothing else? I'd like to get into the water again as soon as possible, the sun is just really vicious today."
>>627774 Anthe walks up to the seapony as well. "And I'm Anthe, I'm sure Marcus told you a lot of nice things about me."
"My name is Praxia. Now you'll need to excuse me while I go back to the water before the sun cooks me alive. I'll see you at the tunnels later." She jumps overboard and flops into the water with a loud splash.
You finally undock from the pier and sail off towards the fortress. The 'repairs' to the ship are done, making it look as good as new. In any case, the trip to the fortress is quite short and soon enough you begin your approach on its harbor.
… There's a dragon speeding towards your ship from the fortress though.
>>627792 The dragon stops just short of your ship, flapping its powerful wings to stay in place.
The resulting wind is battering the sails of the ship. Judging by the shapes of the dragon, this is in fact a dragoness. She speaks in a powerful booming voice, shuddering the wooden planks on which you stand on. "Who goes there? Who approaches my fortress so recklessly without the proper flag signals?"
>>627799 A plume of smoke flies around you, dropping itself onto a nearby boulder and materializing into a large grinning cat. "Missing me?"
>>627800 You arrive at the beachfront, hearing a loud booming voice coming from somewhere at sea. Praxia is waiting in her earth pony form in the shadow of a boulder, standing up as you approach. "I trust none of you are claustrophobic. I've taken a look at the tunnels and they are quite dark and narrow."
>>627803 "The next time you come here you will use the proper signaling methods. If I see you again and you fail to follow these simple instructions, I will torch your ship to nothing but ashes before it has the chance to even sink." With a particularly powerful flap of her wings which sends some of the rigging flying, she speeds back off towards the fortress.
Pomme straightens her mane. "… Merde. Zis is vhy I hate Trotantine military harbors."
>>627806 The seapony stares at you for a moment, as if she senses something in you. "That'll be appreciated. Let's hope it doesn't attract anything lurking in the shadows down there though."
She waves a hoof at you, causing something to happen to your body. You feel your anatomy changing and realize she's given you a set of gills. Seeker gets the same treatment, to which she grumbles something you can't hear.
>>627804 He goes transparent. "Let me worry about the field."
>>627808 She waves her hoof at you, somehow triggering something deep inside you. You feel the flesh of your neck shift and change around. To your surprise, and maybe some horror too, you've grown a set of gills!
The crew shakily put everything back in place, sailing on as the ship approaches the harbor.
A pegasus guard flies through the bubble shield surrounding the fortress and harbor. "Ahoy! Dock one is free, the lady commander has allowed you access through the bubble shield!" "Dock one, understood!" Pomme shouts back, taking her ship through the now very visible magic bubble. It feels a little odd as you pass through it, but there's no resistance whatsoever!
>>627813 Your anatomy hasn't changes aside from the gills which are now present on your neck. It feels pretty strange… good thing you still have your normal way of breathing!
You see the entrance to the tunnels, a pit between a few boulders with a drop which ends in a pool of water.
>>627814 You can jump into the pit and try! Praxia goes first, doing a flip into the air while shapeshifting back to her seapony form and dropping down into the pool below the earth.
>>627816 "Oui monsieur." She and her crew carefully maneuver the ship into the docks themselves. You see two other ships here, a dromon which appears to be ready for action and curiously another ship which is stranded on the shore. It looks like a galley, but smaller and sleeker. That must be one of those Varangian longships you've heard about before!
The walls of the fortress look intimidating from here, towering high above you with artillery pieces looming over them.
>>627817 You jump into the pool of water below. It's quite cool here in the shade, a nice refreshment from the heat outside. The water is very dark and somewhat murky, navigating this would be very hard without help from a creature who is used to dark seas.
Seeker jumps in after you.
>>627818 Chester dissipates into thin air before you can wonder any further.
You jump into the pool after the others. The water is nice and cool, but also very dark and murky.
>>627824 Close one. You almost lose track of Praxia at one point, but Seeker pushes you along her path. Eventually you're faced with a pink barrier blocking the way further ahead.
>>627825 "It's stranded! What good is it being over there!"
"Maybe it's damaged, so they put it there for repairs." Niphon says.
>>627826 Like a fish in the water, you're a natural at this. Have you considered pursuing a career of being a fish? No? Well, you too almost hit the magical barrier blocking the way forward. At least it gives off a bit more light…
Flavia lights her horn, immediately illuminating the room around you. You're in another underground cavern. Interestingly, there's a large stone duct sticking out of one of the walls. Perhaps this was once used as a sewer system for the fortress?
>>627842 "Don't you have all those people to rescue? I can stay here if something goes wrong, because I'm not willing to get eaten by a dragon."
>>627843 You disembark. The salesmare starts moving her goods onto the pier as well.
The harbor has several piers as well as a couple of buildings which probably are there for the sailors to use. A wall prevents you from escaping this place from land, the only exits are the gate leading to the fortress and the sea.
You see there's a couple of sailors on the dromon right now, probably to keep it ready for action at all times.
>>627844 "About the gills, they stay there for hours. By tomorrow they'll be gone completely though." It appears to be big enough to walk through just fine, but you'll need to mind your head.
>>627846 No Varangians. Aside from the ones you know are in the dungeons.
>>627847 "I'm wishing you luck, I understand that's a popular thing to do among land ponies."
>>627848 "No, but do not mess around with them. And don't poke them with sticks, that's about the last thing you want to get stuck in there…" The pipe stinks a little, but it's stable at least. Eventually you come across two grates, one in front of you and one above you. There seems to be a hallway above you, dimly lit up by some torch fire.
>>627850 It's abandoned. Maybe Niphon was right about it being damaged.
You hear Niphon clear his throat. "We should probably make our way inside the fortress."
>>627851 Chester pops up right in front of you, smiling wide. "Hello Flavia…"
>>627852 "I've taken the liberty of disenchanting that lock already so you can… pick it." This one is a very basic lock, with only a single challenge. You doubt the ones on the cells will be this easy…
>>627854 >>627857 You head towards the gate leading to the fortress, which is thankfully wide open. The lack of garrison really shows, for such a big place there are certainly not a lot of people walking about. The main keep inside the walls has several towers sticking out of it, some of which also have artillery mounted on them. One of these towers must be used by the mage according to that maid… perhaps you could find her working here somewhere?
Adrianos spots the opening mechanism on the wall inside. There seems to be a second lever on top of the wall as well.
>>627855 >>627856 The grate which is above you, not below you swings open and you peek your head through it.
Signs of water exposure line the rocky walls of this corridor with only a few torch sconces having been applied to them. It’s fairly dark in here despite the flickering flames, and cold as well. Maybe not a bad place to be in on a particularly hot day, but it’s still far from pleasant. These are definitely the dungeons. There are multiple holding cells here that you can see, all of them locked behind thick wooden and iron doors. Getting these open is impossible without the right equipment, as you can see the intricate padlocks are enchanted.
>>627859 It's really hard to tell from outside… you don't see the dragon anywhere either, perhaps she shapeshifted again.
>>627860 As a matter of fact, there is. They seemed to have no problem with you crossing the courtyard, but as you try to enter the keep a guard hurries over to stop you. "The keep is not accessible to non-personnel! Commander's orders! There is an ongoing investigation here!"
>>627861 You pull yourself up into the corridor. There are six doors here, three on each side of the walls. They all have enchanted padlocks on them.
"Which one will I disenchant first?"
No window to look through or anything… there's no way of telling what's behind these cell doors, what awful cells!
>>627888 This particular holding cell is fairly small, meant for only a few people. There’s only one person in here though, your uncle Odyris Hippoi. He seems malnourished and weakened, but still fairly alert to the fact that you opened his cell door.
>>627890 He looks weak. Frail. Different than the last time you saw him… like he's aged ten years in several weeks of time. "Fla-Flavia? What are you… doing here?" He stands up but stumbles slightly, nearly falling onto his side.
>>627889 "Well, at least they learned you some useful skills in wineland."
>>627893 He smiles coyly and floats over to the cell next to this one. "Here." He moves a paw over the padlock, removing the enchantment.
>>627894 "You're… here on your own volition? How did you… Flavia this is very dangerous. You should risk your life for me…" There's bags under his eyes, he's going to need to do some recovering once he's out of this…
>>627895 "Some patricians carry swords. Just as important to be able to deal with those."
>>627906 A flash of dragon fire fills the corridor, streaming out of pipes attached to the ceiling. You only barely avoid getting toasted entirely, but still get some nasty burns on one of your legs. Your DEX is reduced by 4 until the end of the adventure or until the proper treatment is applied.
Your uncle seems shocked. "Nolin!"
Seeker peeks into the corridor. "Yeah yeah, enough of this teary reunion crap. Nolin, those Varangians your brother spoke off are in the first cell. I'll try to break the door open on the other cell, but it might trigger an alarm."
>>627905 You kind of get cut short as the corridor fills with roaring flames and heat and seeing your cousin leap into the cell.
>>627904 "By your side while keeping a close eye on me no doubt."
>>627908 Your father pulls you closer. "Hush Flavia… It was just some flash fire…"
>>627909 "I don't know, isn't that what they taught you?"
>>627910 For the record, that last AD you used I didn't count because it was after the fact. You still have it. She pulls you up. "We'll see about that. Now go get that last lock open, we can worry about your leg later."
>>627913 Seeker pats you on the head. "Of course not, clearly not the real deal. The heat was all wrong."
>>627914 "Well, if we get dad back that's one step in the right direction. Then what?"
>>627915 >>627916 That lock is broken, you'll need to force it open but that might trigger an alarm. You can use this result to free the Varangians though if you want, because it's enough for that lock.
>>627922 I rub my head. "Look could you not ask a million questions? I kind of got badly burned trying to save you. Just stand over there a moment. And if any of you can fight, please be ready." I point toward the end of the hall we came in at.
>>627922 The lock is smashed, but the force triggered an alarm. You hear bells ringing from here to the fortress above.
"Well I guess that was inevitable."
>>627925 Seeker points at you. "Door's open, now get your doux." She draws her sword. "We need to get out of these dungeons and up top to help the others! MOVE IT! You too, barbarians! We're going to get you some fighting sticks!" The Varangians pour out of the cell and run after Seeker.
>>627923 You're interrupted by the sounds of bells ringing all over the place. Niphon curses. "Here we go…"
You see Surprise kicking loose the lever on the wall, making the gate come crashing down with a loud metallic sound. "Oops! Hee hee!"
Karabi licks her beak. "Marcus, our first real battle together. If we survive with wounds, we can mix our blood to celebrate."
>>627926 They have weapons? How odd. Since she's shouting orders with a sword she must be fine. Go help my uncle and my cousin get to the tunnel. "I hope it doesn't cause too much trouble for the others.. Lets get back to the tunnel."
>>627927 She doesn't let wait for her very long. She soon appears from behind the keep in full dragon form, looking thoroughly pissed. "Guards, deal with these interlopers and open that gate! Sailors at the ready! They will not leave this place alive. I will take care of this measly flying worm myself!"
She speeds towards you, roll initiative.
>>627933 Roll initiative for yourself and Karabi. "Marcus, there's a second lever on top of the wall, we need to either wreck it or guard it from anypony getting to it!"
>>627934 You should help your uncle walk and get him to safety somewhere. Perhaps with Praxia if she's still down there?
>>627930 You burst into the cell and see Olivia Arravani lying unconscious on a bedroll. She's not looking much better than your father, but in her case her eyes are covered by a blindfold as well. Blindfolds signify only one thing in this sort of context…
You'll need to carry her to safety somewhere… perhaps with Praxia?
You're standing near the gate of the wall surrounding the main keep, below which lay the dungeons. As the alarm was triggered, Surprise flicked the switch behind you to cause the two gates to fall shut, locking out the sailors for now. You'll need to make sure those gates stay closed by preventing the guards from operating the two gate switches (Both marked on the map as red boxes. One next to the gate, the other on top of the gatehouse.)
Several guards have rushed over to your location. There are three pegasi and three earth pony guards in front of you. You also see another guard land on the gatehouse above you. No doubt there are other guards on the wall making their way over here, so you'll want to put a couple of people up there to prevent them from flicking the switch.
There are artillery pieces on the wall which are operable. You doubt Mereghyl will be able to kill the lady commander on his own, so you may want to give him some support if possible. Seeker is not here yet, unfortunately.
As for Mereghyl, the lady commander has landed on one of the keep's towers in dragon form. She looks extraordinarily angry.
Order Of Combat coming next post along with the battle map.
>>629455 "Ehem, right. ..Lets hope the water is good for burns.." Escort them both to the water passage, carrying the blinded mare on my back and letting my uncle lean on my shoulder, or flavia's if she's strong enough for that.