>>629455 >>629458 OOC:For now Earth pony Guard light Green 24 Pegasus Guard cyan 24 Karabi 23 Marcus 21 Earth pony guard dark green 21 Pegasus guard green-blue 18 Earth pony guard lime 16 Mereghyl 16 Lady Commander 15 Niphon 13 Surprise 11 Pegasus guard dark blue 11 Pegasus guard blue 10
>>629459 "You're naught but a foolish child caught up in a dangerous game. I will make you bleed, little whelp." You'll be acting before her.
>>629460 The water does feel nice on your charred legs, as filthy as it may be.
You carry and support your uncle and Olivia back down the tunnel to the cave where you arrived with Praxia. She's still here, what luck! "So… that's an alarm going off. Exactly how doomed are we?" There's a faint roar coming from somewhere far above. Praxia flattens her ears.
>>629481 "…right.. I'll just leave this to you then." I start going into the fort. >>629467 "I'm going to catch up to Seeker. If you follow I can't promise I'll be able to watch over you." I say as I start walking off.
Your attack is very impressive, enough to kill a lesser creature in the most brutal way possible. However, the dragoness barely even reacts to the heavy pressure on her neck, acting as if you are a mosquito causing her some minor grief. You can feel just how tough her scales are even on your razor teeth.
>>629491 Sonja batters and bruises the pegasus guard who tried to stab her. At first the pegasus seems to be holding up fine, but as >>629492 Sonja continues her effort to ruin the guard's day, she finally gets through and slams into the mare with lethal force.
>>629484 You leave your uncle and the others behind and head back up, through the tunnel and into the dungeons, then after Seeker and the Varangian ponies. There's fighting going on in the halls of the keep, the Varangians using improvised and looted weapons to fight against guard ponies attempting to subdue their prisoners.
You see Seeker fighting a guard in single combat, easily dispatching the unicorn with a strong hoof buck to the face.
>>629495 >>629497 Niphon charges at the pegasus guard left unattended and swings at her with his warhammer. Through sheer agility, she manages to dodge his blow and even gets in a hit on his warhammer herself.
Surprise flies up to the top of the gatehouse, where she barely manages to dodge an attack from a pegasus guard running towards the lever controlling the gate.
>>629496 Your father is far too tired for all this, he's barely keeping awake right now. He doesn't even react to your statement.
Praxia nods. "I'll take them out of here soon… but I need a moment first. I can only give gills so many times a day to you earth walkers."
>>629499 Seeker turns to you, ready to bash your face before recognizing you. "There you are, come on! No time for these damn clowns!" She runs off, leaving the Varangian ponies to deal with the guards inside. Do you follow?
>>629508 "Just take the stairs, there should be two sets of them leading right up to the top of the gatehouse! I'll follow you as soon as this is under control!"
>>629505 You follow Seeker as she rushes past the chaotic battle going on in the hallways of the keep. These Varangians aren't joking around, even without proper weaponry they all seem to be fighting like complete fanatics.
>>629506 There's fighting going on everywhere! Those vikings are battling against local guard ponies with every object they can get their hooves on. Some of their coats begin to shine and sparkle brightly as they let their emotions run free and go completely berserk.
You see Nolin running after Seeker and join the chase down the bloody halls of the keep.
>>629513 >>629515 Lucky for you it's quite clear where you need to go to find a door to the outside. Seeker barrels into the heavy wooden door, smashing it open and clearing the way outside. There's sounds of battle on the courtyard and you see your friends and family fighting against guards while protecting the gate.
Above, you hear the clashing of two large angry dragons tangled into a fierce fight.
>>629557 Ignore that second thing, since that would imply I can't take that 5ft bonus step… Uuuuum. Guess if Karabi kills him at first, she Taunts the other one. And says that stuff to Seeker. Sense Motive '1d20+5'
>>629581 >>629580 You're too far away to shoot it this turn, but next turn you can begin shooting. This is a light ballista, capable of shooting large projectiles with incredible force and penetration.
Surprise also runs to one of the ballistas and is joined by Seeker.
Adrianos joins you at your ballista to help with shooting.
The earth pony guard steps towards Karabi and attacks her in a fit of rage. '2d20+4' '2d8'
>>629584 >>629585 >>629582 Seeker and Surprise work together to turn the large siege weapon around and aim it at the dragon mage. Apparently she has experience with these intimidating contraptions, as she quickly manages to line up a shot and hit the dragoness with a massive bolt.
Unfortunately it strikes in a spot where her scales aren't quite so vulnerable. Still, it must have hurt her at least somewhat.
Adrianos has experience with artillery pieces like the ballista as well. Supported by Nolin, he too fires off a bolt at the lady commander. Like Seeker, he doesn't manage to hit a weak spot in the scales, but manages to hit the beast nonetheless.
>>629589 Karabi hits the hilt of the mace the guard is holding, making him drop it to the floor and allowing her to quickly pick it up herself.
The huge dragoness seems to care very little about your threats. Mereghyl looks like he's in trouble despite the support from the ballistas on the walls.
>>630253 As proud as I am, it would get me killed here, I can't stand against this. "You are strong, dragoness, but are you fast?" I'm going to run this turn. Cover as much space as I can from the big gal where she can't catch up.
Sonja can spend 2 half actions on reloading the ballista she's on. Reloading it entirely, will take 6 more half actions. Alternatively, she can spend half a turn moving to a different ballista and half a turn preparing it for action for her next turn. Since she does not have the siege weapon proficiency, she'll fire with a -4 penalty to her attack roll.
>>630275 You turn back to her. "Your time is running out, whelp. You stand no chance at killing me, submi-"
Biting at her neck once again, you cut her monologue short as you finally manage to truly maim her. Your sharp teeth find their way through her scales, making the dragoness bleed magical essence. Her roar of agony is powerful enough to make the ground shake.
She gives her wings several powerful flaps and begins to claw at you frantically. '1d20+14' '4d10+3'
Roll #1 10 + 14 = 24 / Roll #2 2, 1, 6, 8 + 3 = 20
You attempt to fire a bolt at the dragoness with this untouched ballista, but something goes wrong. The bolt jams itself into the wood of the ballista itself, causing it to tear itself apart. Thick splinters of wood fly everywhere, the force sending you sprawled on the ground.
>>630295 Before she can fire her torrent of magical death, however, Mereghyl doubles down the pressure on her neck. The fire, with nowhere to go, begins to further pressurize her neck area. The dragoness glares at you first, a look which switches to to one of fear as something goes horribly wrong. The fire blasts out of her neck wounds, ripping them completely open in the most agonizing way conceivable. The commander does not even have the chance to roar in pain as her entire neck area rips itself apart under the pressure. Mereghyl quickly lets go of her neck as the dragoness drops down to the ground with a terrifying crash.
With a blown open throat, there's no doubt she has been slain. By her own fire.
>>630296 Breathe heavily and scoff, letting out some smoke. I really need to get these wounds treated… I am not sure if anyone even hears this, but. "Your Commander is dead. Surrender or perish in flames, just as she did."
>>630300 I can spend an AD to reroll failed checks. >>630298 >>630301 Scoot over, as fast as my legs let me, pulling my stash of medical and ritual supplies out in a hurry. "Stay still as a stone, Mereghyl! You fought as bravely as any hero in any story ever would!"
>>630306 Start fixing the very large wounds and burn marks. Good thing I have the supplies to treat dragons. >>630308 He's not at 0 yet, so no need to stabilize. I will Mend instead. '1d20+10' with 2 ad to boost '2d4' And here's the '2d6' recovered wounds.
Roll #1 11 + 10 = 21 / Roll #2 2, 4 = 6 / Roll #3 4, 1 = 5
>>630309 Niphon stays behind to guard Flavia and the captured guards. As you push through one of the doors, you see a Varangian finishing off one of the guards by knocking him unconscious with a bowl of fruit.
Her coat is somehow shining and sparkling brightly, her eyes looking very crazed.
Seeker whispers. "A berserker. Don't provoke her, she can't be thinking straight right now."
>>630310 You break out your heavy equipment and begin on working to treat Mereghyl's wounds. Treatment will end next turn. Since you have the Bandage feat, you'll be able to Mend another time today.
>>630311 Niphon comes closer, looking worried. The expression reminds you of the times back when he was just a small colt. "Mereghyl… you look awful. I was worried you wouldn't make it there."
>>630313 Niphon shakes his head. "The dromon is outside these walls. With their commander dead… maybe the sailors will be willing to concede defeat. They sure seem to be panicked by the sounds of it."
He's right, you hear a lot of shouting coming from the port right outside the closed gates.
>>630316 >>630317 Flavia manages to alleviate some of the pain Mereghyl is in. He'll have to take it easy for a while and avoid strenuous activities, especially any more fighting. "Thanks Mereghyl. That dragoness is dead only thanks to you. We're almost homefree with father now…"
>>630328 "If brother can pull off what he plans, there will be no pursuing ships." >>630329 >>630330 A character may only be targeted by one mend check per day. >>630330 "I don't know… Too many to count!"
>>630331 Between you and Flavia's efforts, you manage to properly treat the majority of Mereghyl's most serious wounds. That'll speed up the mending process greatly.
>>630332 And a GM has the powers to shit all over the rules. Consider this a small reward.
You reckon there were somewhere between 15 and 20 of them.
>>630328 >>630332 "The messenger birds are dead, there's only one dromon left. If we can rout those sailors and take it… we can use it to get out of here. As long as we have enough ponies for the oars."
>>630324 You sneakily drop down from the wall onto the other side. The sailors seem to be panicking somewhat, some of them hiding away while their superior officer tries to restore order.
>>630341 Marcus >>630341 "How many of you are left? We still need to get the heck out of this place," Seeker asks.
"We are föurteen daughters and söns öf Varangia!"
>>630346 >>631015 >>631014 Not realizing you're there, you slash at the officer with your poisoned sword. He yelps, but falls over unconscious before he can call for help. You could quickly stuff him in one of these empty barrels on the dock, or leave him here and leave the crew to panic.
>>630347 "Let's hope he hasn't gone away by now. I'm not sure if I trust him all that much, but he got us this far at least."
>>631021 "I'm going to check those buildings over near the wall. Looks like a smithy." He trots off quickly.
>>631022 With some effort, you toss the body of the officer into an empty barrel and disguise yourself as him without anyone noticing.
>>631023 Surprise tagged along with you, she's a winghorse.
Seeker nods. "Yes, but we shouldn't stick around for too long either. We need to get to safer waters quickly." She looks at the Varangian. "Go round up your brothers and sisters and bring them outside, just in case those sailors start another fight."
>>631024 The same as last time, you're with Niphon and Mereghyl outside the keep, next to the corpse of the lady commander.
>>631025 Where's Nolin when I need him? Anyway, there's one place I really want to check out. The mages tower. "Surprise, could you please fly to Pommes ship and ask her to come back into the harbor. Not immediately, she should give us a little time to make sure the sailors outside won't bother us." How many people can fly on Mereghyl?
>>631031 "But the longship is in need of repairs. It will need towing either way. I'm thinking we should just take the dromon and tow Pommes ship with it. If we don't take the Dromon, the sailors might use it to chase us."
>>631029 >>631030 >>631031 You notice a portion of the sailors have already fled the keep to go hide. The remaining crew don't seem eager to storm a castle and fight a dragon inside, so they drop their weapons and leg it as well as soon as you give them the word to surrender.
>>631036 "Hmmm. We can take a look at the Longship once we scoured the keep and chased off the sailors. If it's in an acceptable state, taking the longship might indeed be the better option. If it needs towing, we might as well take the dromon. Now we should find the mages tower while we have the time."
>>631046 "Nope! I don't think he's a fan of ponies fighting!"
The gates have been opened. Nolin strolls through and talks to one of the Varangians.
>>631047 Seeker ascends first. The spiral staircase winds around for a while, when you bump into a couple of servants using the tower as a hiding place. They start to panic as they see you. "Mercy! We're unarmed!" "We yield! We yield!"
>>631048 "Öhöhö! Yöu are the öne whö bröke us free! Söme öf yöur cömpaniöns are inside. Is the harbör clear?"
>>631055 You follow Seeker up. Karabi cackles as she passes by the scared servants.
Eventually, you reach the top, where a heavy steel door is blocking your way. It looks like it's enchanted. Seeker looks displeased. "This is going to be a bitch to ope-" She yelps in surprise as a grinning cathead suddenly pokes through the door. "Damn cat!"
>>631067 Chester doesn't say anything, but disappears behind the door again. A minute or so later the heavy door swings open, revealing the mage’s personal lair. The room is bigger than one would expect, possibly enlarged by some sort of magical spell. Judging by the decor, the mage used it as her personal study. And judging by the large pile of orbs lying in the middle of the room, this is where she kept her hoard as well.
Actually… you recognize those blue orbs! They look like the ones Ionela Lugosi used to store memories in!
>>631081 Karabi gives you an incredulous look. "I can't carry all of those, Hippoi."
He turns upside down. "I can disable it, but it is built into the roof of the tower itself. Taking it would involve taking the tower, which would be… difficult."
>>631082 >>631083 Try as you might, you don't seem to be able to find anything that looks like it could be powering that shield. You find a whole lot of unconscious and wounded guards in the halls of the keep though. Looks like the Varangians had their fun in here as well.
>>631084 >>631080 The Varangians are shouting at each other in their own language as they inspect the longship. "We dön't have enöugh pönies tö crew the galley!" >1d28 You don't see anyone on the cog ship at all. It's completely abandoned! Where did they go, you wonder. There doesn't seem to have been any fighting on here or anything…
>>631085 "Hmmm, you're right. We'll have to get some of those servants…." Take a look out the window. Do I see Pommes ship? "Karabi, could you go down and get some of those servants up here to carry all this."
Look at Chester. "Right, too bad. Disable it then. Anything else interesting here?"
>>631086 You're convinced there's no one on here. Surprise opens up her piehole and shouts. "Helloooooooo? Anypony heeeeere? Where are yooooou?"
On cue, one of the wooden walls next to you slides open, revealing a hidden compartment. Well, this is a smuggler ship after all! Pomme steps out, wielding several swords in her telekinetic grip. "Bonjour mes amis. Everyzing okay?"
>>631088 You hop onto the longship. There's not much of a belowdecks here. It looks like it's clear.
The Varangians shrug and leave for the dromon.
>>631089 Pomme's ship is there, in the harbor where you left it. You don't see anyone on deck though from up here. Karabi slinks off to talk to the servants.
Chester keeps grinning at you. "That depends… on what you find interesting…?"
>>631090 You search the walls for hidden rooms, finally having some luck. The entrance was indeed hidden by a shrouding spell! There's a stairwell leading up behind one of the walls, right by one of the keep's towers.
>>631097 You quickly ascend the stairs, bumping into a group of servants near the top. They look very nervous as Karabi, Marcus' gryphon bodyguard, addresses them. "Up up little ponies, we need your help to carry magic balls."
>>631098 You already did just now! Once again, you find nothing out of the ordinary. Sure, there are oars and whatnot present here, but I doubt you're specifically looking for those.
>>631102 "I did not mean to scare, mademoiselle. I assume ze battle has been won?"
>>631103 Karabi returns with the servants in tow. "Scoop up the magical balls or I will have an early dinner!"
>>631107 The rest of the crew comes out of the secret room as well. And your sister Anthe too! "Ve shall prepare ze ship to flee then." She shouts some orders at her crew, who spring into action and head abovedecks.
You see the merchant pony from the village lying unconscious inside the secret compartment as well.
>>631108 Looks like they were hiding in a secret compartment! The crew starts to prepare the ship for leave.
>>631109 The servant ponies begin to collect all the memory orbs. Those things are a real pain to carry around…
>>631109 >>631114 You find: - A pouch filled with 200 silver pieces - An ornate scholar's sword, made from Draconian steel. Very fancy! - A large chest with an enchanted lock. No doubt holding something special. Opening it won't be easy though.
Nolin is currently in the harbor of the fortress. The sailors have routed. The Varangians (16 of them) are preparing the dromon for departure. They do not have the numbers to use the ship at maximum capacity, however. Marcus, Adrianos, Karabi and Sonja are in the mage tower with Seeker and Chester. The castle servants are moving orbs downstairs as ordered by Marcus. Flavia and Surprise are on Pomme de Mare's ship, which never left during the battle as they chose to hide instead. Praxia is more than likely still down in the dungeons with your two rescued prisoners. Mereghyl is on the courtyard of the castle, watching over two of the captured guards.
>>631122 Tower loot: - A pouch filled with 200 silver pieces - An ornate scholar's sword, made from Draconian steel. Very fancy! - A large chest with an enchanted lock. No doubt holding something special. Opening it won't be easy though. - 421 strange blue orbs
>>631437 You try to relax and stay still, but for some reason your mind can't stop thinking about fire. You feel a strong desire to surround yourself in it. To dip into a pool of molten magma and let the searing heat cover you whole.
>>631439 You feel eyes burning into the back of your head and turn to see the Varangian seer you met in the village yesterday. She's certainly arrived here quickly. "You are wounded."
>>631440 >>631442 >>631444 "We can pitch in ourselves, how many Varangians are there left?" You head down to the dungeons. It's still dank and dark in here, but at least it's a welcome change from the heat.
Seeker leads you down into a large pipe running under the dungeons. This must have been an old stormdrain of sorts.
>>631446 The pipe doesn't allow for much freedom of movement, but luckily you don't have to go all that far before reaching the end. It's a sort of natural cavern underground, with a deep pool of water in the middle.
Praxia is still here, seems like she decided to wait before leaving. You see your father slumped against her, looking very weakened and weary. He seems to be barely conscious. You quickly recognize the mare lying on the ground next to him as Olivia Arravani. It's been many years since you last saw her, but you remember her colors well enough. She's wearing a blindfold over her eyes, which is not a great sign of good health.
Praxia raises a brow. "You survived the dragon's wrath, I am surprised. Is it gone?"
>>631433 From the sound of it, Pomme's crew is just about done preparing their ship for leave. The captain herself has dragged the unconscious merchant onto the pier, leaving her with her wares.
>>631449 "well.. the Dromon can't follow us if we take it with us. So there's that to consider." Kneel down next to Praxia. "Yes. The dragon is gone, and the guards. I'll carry one of them, we should go to the ships now."
>>631504 You follow Niphon to the dromon. Marcus is here, as are your father and lady Arravani. They don't look to be in critical condition, but you should get them to lie down somewhere more comfortable than the wooden floor.
This ship must have a cabin for officers to rest in, that might be a good place to let them rest during the journey.
>>631506 Niphon picks up your father onto his back while Surprise grabs Olivia with surprising ease. They bring them to the main cabin of the ship, where a few hammocks are hanging off the walls. This'll have to do as a temporary clinic.
>>631500 Pomme clears her throat and looks at you expectantly.
>>631507 Turn to Niphon and Surprise. "Anypony else is hurt that I should know about? What of the guards we fought?" Meanwhile assert their conditions with a medicine check. Who's hurt the most and how badly? '1d20+10'
>>631508 "You promised payment upon arrival to the island, monsieur."
>>631509 Surprise raises a hoof. "Nolin's hurt! I saw he had burns! You already took care of Mereghyl so I guess that's fine?"
Your father seems to mostly be in need of rest. After removing Olivia's blindfold, you establish that her eyes are indeed gone. At least they had the decency to properly treat the wounds, so they didn't fester. You will need to keep her drugged for a while though, to ward off the pain while her wounds heal.
>>631511 "Of course not. Zis was not ze first siege we had to live through." She surrounds the bag with her magic and floats it over to herself. "You vill take zis vessel along to Saddlonica? It is not very subtle."
>>631512 He's fallen asleep. You're sure he'll be more lucid by tomorrow.
As you're working on your patients, Nolin comes into the cabin as well looking for a bed.
>>631513 You stumble into the same cabin Flavia is using for her other two patients. There are two more free beds here.
>>631514 >>631515 "A nice mare pushing me into bed? This is actually just what I was looking for." I chuckle and poke your nose. "Don't worry, I'm done moving for the day.. Tell Anthe she has to do all the work now."
>>631516 I'm sure you could have counted yourself, but fine. Niphon clears his throat. "I propose you lend us some of your crew on this ship, captain. We'll attach a line to your ship and pull her along. That'll be the fastest way of doing it."
>>631518 >>631517 Flavia applies some salve to Nolin's burns to help heal the skin. She then wraps a layer of bandages around the leg. It should heal up entirely given some time.
>>631520 "As long as it gets us safely to Saddlonica, I can agree to your plan messieurs. You vill get your extra crew." Pomme leaves for her ship again to give out the necessary orders.
Less than an hour later, your dromon is pulling away from the island of Anafi with Pomme's ship in tow. The Varangians and Pomme's crew are working together to keep the ship going despite the language barrier between the two groups.
Saddlonica is quite a journey away. You will have to hope the tides and weather are on your side.
>>632072 I'm probably spending my time, reading, thinking bout what to do in Saddlonica. Making sure Mereghyl gets the help he needs. Waiting for either dad or olivia to wake up. I'll need lodgings in Saddlonica for both of them…or shall I send them to Nolins family in Cloptantinople?
>>632073 Your father appears to be mentally sound, but physically he's really not up to par yet. He's lucid again though, so that's good.
It's hard to judge in the case of Olivia since you've continued to administer drugs to keep her from having to deal with the pain from her wounds.
>>632074 You can catch either of them awake at times even though they sleep a lot.
>>632075 Chester has already worked on removing the enchantment from the lock, leaving the core part to be dealt with.
This is your field of expertise though. It's a hard lock to crack, but you reckon you're capable of opening it with the tools you have. The crew is sort of very busy keeping the ships running, since you are no doubt going to be chased down. You'll need to roll impress to get one to fall for your dexterous trickery.
You'll also need to roll a prestidigitation roll to get started on that lock, of course. Your Dex penalty has been removed now thanks to Flavia's continued medical treatment.
>>632077 You sit down and take out your wooden runic cube, setting it down in front of you and starting your prayer to Eurydice.
When your prayer is done and you open your eyes again, you're no longer on the ship. Once again you find yourself in the Eurydice's beautiful domain. The dryad is, like always, propped up against her beloved oak tree., playing soft tunes on her golden lyre with her eyes closed and a serene smile on her face.
>>632078 You get word from Flavia that he's awoken from his long slumber on the second day of your journey, so you drop what you're doing and head over to the cabin where he and Olivia were placed.
You open the door and see him sitting upright in his bed, leaning against the wooden wall behind him. He turns his head slowly towards you as he hears the door open, a ghost of a smile appearing on his face as he sees it's you. "Marcus…"
Flavia isn't here right now, she went off to go meditate for a moment to give you some privacy.
>>632079 You manage to attract the attention of one of the Prench crew. You know she wouldn't be able to understand a word of what you're saying even if she tried, but that's not about to stop you.
She leans onto the chest with her forelegs, propping up her head with her hooves as she gives you a sweet smile every time you look up from your work on the lock.
The lock clicks once. Roll another Prestidigitation check.
>>632081 He reaches out with a hoof, weakly grasping your shoulder. "My son… you have no idea how glad I am to see you again. It has been so… so very long…" He coughs a few times. Flavia has told you his throat isn't doing so well after being exposed to the cold dampness for so long.
>>632082 She stops only a few seconds after your arrival. "Flavia. You've returned to me in good health. I presume you were successful."
Hm. On one hand, I'd like to talk to the heads of house, but they're probably being mushy right now. I'll talk to Sonja instead.
"We did it. A hoofhull of soldiers conquered a fortress, and doing so, have thrown the Theme into chaos. Maybe not yet, but soon, things will begin to shift. The pretender is no longer secure on the throne."
Her schadenfreude is shortlived as the lock immediately clicks twice on the next try, opening up the mechanism. She looks surprised and stops leaning on the chest. "Oh la la, you were just pretending to mess up huh?~"
>>632088 He keeps smiling a closes his eyes for a moment. "I am very… very proud of you, son." He pauses for a moment, then opens his eyes again to the best of his abilities and looks at you. "Yet I'm left to wonder just how… you pulled this off. I never thought I'd see daylight again as soon as they put me in that dungeon…"
>>632091 She scoffs. "You ponies and your pretenders and usurpers and claimants and whatever other words you come up with. Leave the throne to the strongest of the herd I say. And let those too weak to defend their title perish. A blind pony is no fitting leader."
>>632092 Smile. "It's a long story, Father. Once we heard where you were, we knew we had to do everything we could to rescue you. We received help from Nolin and Adrianos in Cloptantinople and made our way to the island as fast as we could. Our family is far from defeated. We'll get back what we lost and more."
>>632092 "Someday someone will find a better way. There is no doubt that a government is strongest when vested in a single, powerful leader. But with your system, the champion is constantly fending off blood sport and usually dies before any real experience is accrued. The subjects don't know who to follow. Too much uncertainty. Too much chaos. With our system, yes, sometimes you end up with weak rulers. However…"
Draw my weapon and rest it casually on the deck. "He has people to be his weapons and his eyes. Strength in battle is good, but intelligence, strategy, wisdom? They are musts."
>>632093 You open up the heavy chest, the hinges creaking as you swing the top.
Inside there are a lot of papers with scribbles and calculations drawn onto them you can't really make sense of as a layman. More interestingly though, there's also a large red and yellow colored egg in here, locked in a glass case to protect it. You've never seen anything quite like it.
You also find a small bag with something heavy inside, as well as two spell scrolls like the one that was found before.
>>632094 She remains quiet for a moment. "Blinding has become one of the most used punishments of your home. Perhaps you've come here to ask for my thoughts on that?"
>>632095 "But… how could you have known where I was locked up?"
>>632096 "I still can't see sense in this arrangement. Your empress, for example, why is it always the youngest daughter? The young should follow the old, not the other way around."
>>632098 She leans in to look as well. Inside the bag is a large cut gem which looks to be a diamond. It's huge if it really is diamond!
The Prench mare leans in to look. "Mon dieu…"
>>632099 She nods. "Everywhere is different, your empire is chaotic. Too complicated and convoluted."
>>632100 You're surprised to see her shaking her head. "Your plight is not yet done, Flavia. Nor are you ready for what is to come.
The shadows have stirred in the last few days. They move nearly unseen even to me. I cannot expect you to hunt those even I cannot see. But they cannot stay hidden forever, sooner or later they will rear their ugly heads for all to see. I will need you then more than ever."
>>632101 He nods slowly. "They made it clear that we were accused as such." He looks over to where Olivia is resting. "I did no such thing, nor do I believe did she."
>>632102 "The empire wasn't built in a day – it was the result of many cultures being brought together and united. Reform would have to come from the top. But what we've done already is a step in the right direction."
>>632103 He sighs. "A series of unfortunate events that did not seem to end. I've never witness such bad luck and… well… admittedly the doux was at fault as well. If she had been… wiser with her decisions, perhaps we wouldn't be in this situation right now.
But alas, there is no use lamenting it now."
>>632104 "If you say so. It is your country, you understand it better than I ever will."
>>632105 "Not just your family, but your entire homeland. I have been suspecting Discord for some time, but as of late I've begun to doubt his involvement. It does not seem to fit his… unusual style. Though of course, that still does not exclude him."
>>632108 "Like I said, they still move unseen to me. I have heard whispers about something sinister going on beneath the seas, but those are not my domain. I can't expect you to be able to investigate such a thing."
>>632109 "How can I not? How can anyone not feel like an outsider in cities like Clopantinople? They are too big. Too many cultures. Too much chaos."
>>632110 Roll for Search if you want to find Chester. Marcus is in the cabin with the rescued captives. Seeker is right here on deck.
>>632111 He grunts and rights himself. "What do you need to know, exactly?"
>>632117 "She was not a competent ruler, is what I was trying to say… She had no idea what she was doing, but worse yet ignored most of the advice her council gave her. She angered a lot of the Agrian lords and ladies with her antics… I mean at one point she tried to-" He sighs and rubs his temples with his hooves. "… She tried to 'nationalize' church property all over the province, because she figured she could use church funds to finance her war."
>>632118 Seeker takes the glass case out of the mare's hooves. "This right here is a phoenix egg. You know what a phoenix is, don't you? Only the most majestic kind of bird?"
>>632119 "It never felt that way, I'm glad to be away from it now."
>>632120 "Praxia? I'm not sure who you're referring to."
>>632129 Okay okay, Let me recap >everything is happy dandy and Dad goes to Doux 1, son still alive also daughters >then Doux 1 +son dies mysteriously >Civil war doesn't start? >Eldest Daughter Doux gets the throne and fucks up >Civil war starts now >Daughter Doux Dies >Dad and Blind Doux get accused of the murder?
>>632830 "I've never hatched a phoenix egg before… but I know my avians well. I can monitor it for you to see when it'll hatch. Just give me a few days to look up some information. Hardy as they might be, they can also take a long time to actually hatch if not treated properly."
>>632832 For the first time you met her, Seeker seems positively giddy.
Flavia is currently in some sort of a trance. Marcus is talking to his daddy. Surprise, Karabi, Sonja, Niphon, Anthe and the captain are around though. Chester should be around here somewhere as well, if you can find him with a Search check.
The Prench sailor mare picks up the scrolls lying in the chest. "What do you suppose these do? They look like spell scrolls, like the ones the Prench mages back home make."
>>632836 "It's not much to look at, but we need to rest somewhere don't we?"
The captain agrees to levitate the two of you to her own cog ship, which is being towed behind the dromon by a thick rope. No wonder you couldn't find Chester if he was on a different ship entirely! You head to the hold, where you hear soft purring coming from one of the crew's hammocks.
>>632838 She giggles. "Isn't that what cats always strive for?"
You walk over to the hammock, but find it empty. You look up as you realize the purring is coming from above you now and see Chester grinning down at you as he rests on a wooden support beam. "Hello Nolin…"
>>632840 The scrolls are whisked out of your hooves, floating up towards him as they unfurl themselves. "These are inscribed with… a time stop spell… and a reverse gravity spell. Our old dragon friend was quite industrious."
>>632841 She shakes his head. "No, but it was a strong spark that set the card house alight."
>>634748 >>634748 He nods. "These are designed to be able to be used even when you are untrained at magic. Or… in a mage's case… when they are too exhausted to tap into their magical reserves to cast a spell of their own."
>>634752 He floats down, moving through the wooden support beam as if it isn't even there. "Their power and… potency depends on the mage who crafted them. The more experience they have, the better the scrolls work."
>>634753 "I don't know yet Marcus, I don't know…" You see he's starting to falter again.
>>634774 "So you should know better than to play the real thing like a novice. Cousin, you have to have a plan in mind and motion. If nothing else, a goal. Petteia has more than one win condition, but if you don't know which you're looking for…"
>>634783 "I intend to see the Doux returned to her rightful place on the throne and our house to rise accordingly for our loyalty. This is our opportunity to gain a place of prominence, rather than remaining a small house in the backwater of Agria."
>>634790 "I'll take you up on that offer." When we're drinking… "There'll be many ponies in Saddlonica. I'll have to talk with the Doux, but perhaps you could go around and see if there are any other potential allies around?"
Things are very busy today in Saddlonica, as the two fleets are gearing up to move out of the city limits to face the corsairs head on. Your sister and the Doux of Saddlonica are hoping to crush the corsair fleet and turn the tide against piracy with a swift and merciless series of assaults. Rumor has it that the pirates have assembled a proper fleet as well, no doubt aided by the Saddle-Arabians.
In any case, you doubt your sister will let you take part in the actual fighting. She's been pushing you to travel to Agria instead so that you may meet your future bride and leave an early impression.
You will get the chance to spend money before the prudence tax right now, unless you wish to simply stash it instead.
After some days of less than comfortable travel, Saddlonica city finally edges into view. During your journey, you were lucky enough not to encounter any corsairs or other Agrian dromons. Odyris Hippoi has gotten somewhat better, but is still too weak to properly function. Mereghyl, too, is too weakened to be able to do much until he has healed up entirely. Olivia Arravani is faring somewhat better, but is still receiving daily dosages of drugs which continue send her to sleep for the majority of the time. The times she is awake, her senses and mind are far too dulled to form any coherent dialogue.
Saddlonica city stands out thanks to its blue and white painted houses. Almost every roof you see is painted in blue, while the white walls reflect sunlight as if they are mirrors. More notably though, is the vast amount of ships present here. There are many dozens of dromons laying both in the massive port of the city and in the natural harbour in which Saddlonica was built as well. Many of these fly the colours of House Pontus, the ruling family of Saddlonica, though you also see many Peneian flags belonging to House Toxias. Seems like the captain of the ship that helped you get to Clopantinople wasn’t kidding when he said the fleets were rallying. This is a serious naval force, containing two of some of the empire’s biggest fleets.
As you are still flying under Agrian colours, no one seems to pay much heed to you as you enter the city port and manoeuvre around looking for a spot. When you eventually dock, the captain heads off to register at the port authority while her crew secure the two ships.
>>634801 Yet it would please your sister so much! You could go to the harbor and find a ship headed for Agria.
Not that you're obliged to do anything. If you don't feel like paying heed to your sister's desires, you could just spend the day doing what you want yourself. This city has plenty of possible activities. Roll Investigate if you want to find out what's what in Saddlonica today.
>>634808 Seems like you don't really have that much of a clue.
There's the markets of course, if you feel like spending some money. There may be some games going on in the amphitheater or the hippodrome as well. You also recall Hypatia mentioning that Violia, one of your little sisters, is on her way to Saddlonica, but you don't know when she'll arrive.
>>634810 You do have some precious loot on board, including a phoenix egg, three spell scrolls, a crate filled with memory orbs and some other stuff the others claimed.
>>634812 Do you want to roll for Haggle or just quick sell and buy? There are of course places to buy and sell equipment here in the port itself.
>>634814 You haven't seen Violia for some time now, as she doesn't live in Peneios anymore.
The docks are very crowded, as you could have predicted. Sailors are busying themselves with prepping their ships for the coming campaign. Port authority will know about ships coming and going, so that would be your best bet.
>>634815 Seeker identified it as such. She's taking care of it for now, since they are very hard to hatch.
Pomme is going to port authority to pay the docking taxes.
>>634820 Port authority is actually located in a coastal fort on the edge of the docks. There are multiple desks here, all of which are busy tending to somepony already. Do you wait in line or just cut in?
>>634823 That's a vague question. You can keep it on the ship if you want, unless you want to move it around to somewhere?
Right now the biggest buzz around town is the impending anti-piracy campaign that will be launched by Peneia and Saddlonica. Roll Investigate if you want to find out other happenings around the empire.
>>634846 She either just called you a jackass or wants to eat ice cream with you.
The clerk shakes his head. "No more ships are slated to come in from Peneia today or tomorrow. There is a supply convoy coming in the day after tomorrow, but that's Peneian business that port authority doesn't concern itself with."
Perhaps she's coming over land instead?
>>634847 Word on the street is that the condition of the Primarch is deteriorating. The head of church has been struggling with declining health for a while now, but from the sounds of it, he could pass away any day now.
The Doux of Peneia is in the city overseeing the campaign against the corsairs right now. Her husband the prince is present as well. From what you hear, she had some of her siblings travel to this city too.
There's rumors about tensions building between Saddlonica and Peneia too, despite their current cooperation. It seems both themes have their sights set on the Skyrosian archipelago to the far east of here, which only recently proclaimed independence after centuries of Saddle-Arabian rule. In its current state, it has become a juicy target for conquest.
Also reported were a string of alleged attacks on lone ships along the southern coast of Trotantium. Corsairs were first suspected to be behind these attacks, but witnesses claim that they were carried out by seaponies.
>>634859 The Saddlonican palace is, like so many buildings, located near the shore of the city. It has been clearly themed around Aqualia, with fountains, statues and mosaics dedicated to the sea goddess all over the place.
More interestingly is that it has a strange water garden surrounding it, with wooden bridges set up as the only way to traverse it while remaining dry. The garden is walled off of course, you'll need to get past the gates first. There are guard patrols everywhere. Security must have been tightened with Hypatia Toxias' visit.
>>634870 >>634873 Saddlonica is famously extremely dedicated to Aqualia rather than the Mother. Some Aqualian heresies even spawned in this very city, which refuted the Mother as the highest deity in favor of Aqualia.
That being said, the Mother remains respected in most corners of the empire, even here. The guard narrows her eyes at you. "Your name, sister. I asked for it."
>>634872 The clerk apologizes for not being able to be of more help as you set off.
You return back to the palace to consider your options. Looks like there's a holdup at the gates though. A few ponies seem to be struggling to be let inside. As you get closer, you recognize Marcus Hippoi as one of them. He's one of your sister's former wards!
>>634875 >>634876 News from Agria is rather sketchy, as the province remains torn following the civil war. The new doux seems to be restructuring many things, as Agria is suffering from massive financial debts. Even the navy and army have seen budget cuts now, as the Agrian government struggles to stay afloat.
That being said, they are still managing for now, but clearly it will take time to get things back in order.
You've arrived in Saddlonica city, capital of Thema Saddlonica and seat of House Pontus. For the past two weeks Peneia and Saddlonica have been amassing their fleets, supported by the imperial fleet, to launch a campaign against the marauding corsairs who terrorize the south coast of the empire.
Odyris Hippoi remains in recovery, as does your friend Mereghyl. Olivia Arravani has yet to sober up from her diet of drugs, but thanks to Flavia's good care her wounds have been healing well. The dromon you stole from the island of Anafi has docked and a landing party has gone forth to the local palace of the Saddlonican Doux to ask for temporary asylum in the province.
Marcus, Karabi and Flavia are at the palace, trying to get inside. Andronicus has just arrived at the palace gates as well. Adrianos and Sonja were collecting information and thinking about going to the palace to attend court.
>>634900 Do you want to join your cousins in trying to get to court?
>>636794 >>636793 >>636795 Andronicus leads the way past the gates into the water gardens surrounding the palace. To get to the palace, you must cross several arched bridges which connect small islands with one another. The garden is for the largest part flooded, with riverplants and all types of fish thriving in this very comfortable environment. The island have some greenery on them as well, some of it familiar, others more exotic. Each island seems to have a different theme to it, making it almost look like a miniature version of the different continents of the known world.
The palace has stylish white walls, decorated with various mosaics themed around the sea and Aqualia. The roof is colored a deep blue, similar to the majority of the buildings of this city. Security seems pretty tight, with both Saddlonican and Peneian guards doing their patrols.
It would probably be polite to meet with your host first.
>>636801 >>636804 >>636802 With Andronicus leading you, the guards leave you alone. You recognize some of the Peneian guards from your time in Peneia. They seem to be the only friendly faces around here, tension is in the air.
You encounter the lord in the halls of his palace. Looks like he's heard of your arrival. Accompanied by a host of guards, he strides towards you. He's a rather handsome stallion in his early thirties, probably a few years older than Hypatia. He's clothed in the colors of his House, blue and black. His expression seems rather stern and serious.
"So these are my visitors coming from the east, more Agrian outcasts."
>>636808 "As you should, your sister has assured me that they should be welcome here."
>>636807 >>636809 "Your conflict with the Doux of Agria is of no concern to me." One of his guards hoofs him a piece of parchment, which he opens up and reads. "You arrived in port with a ship we were told was stolen by corsairs during one of their raids on the Agrian coast. Very curious."
>>636811 >>636813 He doesn't look impressed at all. "I strongly suggest you modify your new ship so that future confusions like these won't happen again. By this time tomorrow, that ship will be on the kill list of the Saddlonican fleet."
>>636812 "I believe she is in the courtyard, meeting with some officials."
>>636841 "That makes sense, my friend. What do you suggest? A paintjob? The flags will need to change. And the name too."
>>636842 "That's not really news… unless… have Marcus and Nolin finally found their way here?"
>>636843 She nods - looking at least somewhat relieved about her husband's well-being - but then frowns and bops you on the head with a hoof. "You made me worried sick with your antics though. Don't think all this excuses you!"
>>636847 >>636849 "Just try not to makes us worry so much next time!" She looks at Flavia. "I think your sister would love to see you as soon as she can, sweetie. She's probably in the chapel of the palace."
>>636850 "Well that's one thing less to worry about? Are they around? I'd like to speak with them in person at least."
>>636852 "Forgery would be the permanent solution. Stealing works fine as long as it's temporary. Any suggestions on which origin we can use? I don't mean to meddle with your business but I don't think keeping it Agrian is a good idea."
>>636860 "Why not?" The Prench are a notoriously proud people. "I could work with Prench. I could work with most things, truthfully. A benefit of the job I do."
>>636861 You explain to your mother where to find your stolen ship and head for the chapel.
The chapel of this palace is of course dedicated to Aqualia and it shows. The mosaic floor is actually flooded with a few centimeters of water, covering the various mosaic artworks depicted beneath your hooves. Several fountains sprout out of seapony statues standing in the water, with a large one in the middle.
Flavia is here, dressed in blue like other Aqualian priests. She's kneeling in front of an altar dedicated to the water goddess, drenching her clothing in the process.
>>636864 I chuckle. "I'm sure you could, and as could I, but last I checked my cousins don't even speak a word of Prench. We'd have to do all their talking, and neither of us wants the burden of trying to do Anthe's talking for her. What else do you think could work? "
>>636868 "I could make it Saddlonican for you. Or any of your imperial coastal provinces, in truth." She shows you a chest and opens it up, revealing dozens of different flags all folded up. Some you recognize, others are completely foreign to you.
>>636869 >>636871 She gasps as she sees Flavia and wraps her wet hooves around her as well. "Sister! Y-You're back! I missed you so much!"
>>636872 "Come, let's go find them." She gets up from her seat and walks off to find the Hippois. "I was just writing about you by the way."
>>636875 Time to tickle her too- If only Brother wasn't here. Stop making a mess of this and squeeze Livia, calming down. "So did I sister! I never ever want to be away from you again! There is so much I have to tell you about these last few days!"
>>636891 "Just give it a year or two. Everything will work out fine, you'll see." The two of you track down the Hippoi family in the palace chapel, enjoying a reunion between the twins of the family. They really do look strikingly similar.
>>636892 >>636893 She cuts you both off, looking very excited and happy. "Dad's here!?"
>>636902 She clears her throat, standing on the edge of the dry part of the chapel.
>>636897 >>636898 "Oh that's so great-!" Livia stops herself and quickly bows as she notices someone clearing their throat behind you. As you turn to look you see Andronicus and a mare Marcus recognizes as Hypatia standing at the entrance of the chapel.
>>636899 "Maxine Million." She lets it roll off her tongue a few times. "What a strange name. It will do."
>>636905 Her belly has grown noticeably since you last saw her. Seems like her potential future heir is doing well!
She smiles cheekily at you. Now that you think about it, she's really a polar opposite to her ally lord Pontus. "Marcus, you almost gave me the slip. It's good to see you're alive and well, losing my wards at this age would reflect poorly on my reputation."
>>636906 You bow alongside Livia, making yourself wetter than you already were. "Don't bow too hard or you'll be stuck like that." The doux chuckles.
>>636908 "We have paint. We can arrange the changes, but if we want to play it safe we'll want to insert the ship's 'new' files into the Saddlonican port authority's records. It's more believable when they see this ship has supposedly done business here before."
>>636910 Livia flattens her ears, but the doux's chuckle only intensifies. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't be such a tease. But please girls, don't wear out your backs bowing to me." Livia quickly straightens herself back up as well, looking mildly bashful.
>>636914 "I don't know my friend, security is very tight with all these ships. It makes me nervous to be frank with you."
>>636915 "You'd be partially to blame as well, little brother. Perhaps you should have trained Marcus to fight better. Hah!"
>>636918 "Given how they're all alive, I'm inclined to agree."
>>636920 >>636922 "Excellent. That's very good to hear. I feel like I may have missed a thing or two of this whole narrative though. I expected you here weeks ago alongside your mother and sister. What occurred?"
>>636921 They're meeting with Andronicus and his sister the doux of Peneia who used to be Marcus' mentor.
The party already had a short audience with lord Pontus, the Doux of Saddlonica. He was very curt about it, but you can track him down for an audience if you want.
>>636923 "Of course. You can count on me as always."
>>636935 >>636936 "I… don't know what to say really." She chuckles halfheartedly. "That must have been an extraordinarily dangerous move to make. But if you managed to actually retrieve lord Arravani's last direct heir… that could have major consequences. As far as the empire is concerned, she's a traitor and a kinslayer."
>>636938 As mentioned before, the Peneian Doux and her husband the prince came here to oversee the rallying of the fleets for their campaign against the corsairs.
She doesn't seem to register what you're saying right now though. Seems like Marcus caught her completely off-guard.
>>636940 "Do you know the one thing the Prench love above all, my friend?"
>>636944 >>636945 "I'm not saying I believe everything I hear, especially if you believe they are innocent. But if you're right about this and she was falsely accused and you can prove as much, she would be the actual rightful ruler of Agria instead of her cousin. That's… how succession wars are started."
>>636946 "That too, but Prance is famous for its salads. Salads are holy to us and I know the Trotantines like them too. Do you think you could treat me to a nice salad bar?"
>>636951 She clears her throat. "Marcus… look… I've been setting up a betrothal between my little brother here and the current heir to Agria. You'll have to understand that I want the old alliance between Peneia and Agria to live on."
>>636953 "It depends to which degree her innocence can be proven. Several new families rose to power during the Agrian crisis when they were of the lowest rank before. The Agrian council is has been mostly replaced with loyalists to the new doux.
Agria has been torn apart by war already, I don't think there's currently a lot of will to start another crisis. The empress may intervene… or not. She may prefer keeping the peace over adding fuel to old fires."
>>636959 "Of course, as long as the forgery can wait until later today."
>>636961 "The empress will no doubt deem the option which brings the greatest stability to be the wisest. Agria is a frontier province, it can't be weakened for too long lest the barbarians see the opportunity to invade."
>>636962 She looks behind her and slowly closes the doors to the chapel, before continuing. "Are you absolutely certain they are innocent of their alleged crimes?"
>>636965 "I know my father is innocent and he assures me the accusations are false for Olivia as well. This goes further than we think, I've met a Concord while I was gone, who believes some Concords helped frame my father and Olivia."