The carriage rides through the countryside. You look out the window to see the fields of crystal berries and the Crystal Mountains in the distance. It's been almost a year since you returned to the Empire and you and Silver have been busy as bees. One assignment after the other. The Commander has barely given both of you any rest ever since you arrived. But this is the last of your assignments for now, just this and then a week of rest in the capital. You've been sent to the small town of Aqua Port at the western edge of the Empire near the Maaz river. The Order received a report that a witch has been captured by the local authorities. Your mission is to determine her guilt and if innocent find the real culprit and bring the Princess' Justice upon them.
As the carriage rides you think of easier times back in Canterlot….
Flashback to the italian thingy or shall we march straight to Aqua Port?
>>606379 He facehoofs. "Oh sorry, I forgot you didn't stay with us in the camp. Big Chin was how we called our instructor, because he had a chin the size of a boat. He always used to say we were the laziest paladins he had ever seen."
>>606393 The waiter gasps. "No, no pretty lady. That is pasta! Made of wheat and water and egg! Very yummy yum!" Silver nods. "Yeah it looks weird but it's really tasty." To prove it, he eats a bit and smiles.
>>606488 Auto-resolve: And Amber and Silver had a fun time exploring the alleys and bars of Canterlot, just two crystal ponies without a care in the world.
So different from now… You're back in the carriage and arriving at the small town of Aqua Port. Aqua Port was only founded a couple of years ago. Originally it was merely a port to arrive goods on the Maaz river but small businesses sprang around it, until it became a small town in full growth. As you look through the town from the carriage, you immediately notice how angry every pony seems to be. Arguing with each other, or walking around in a foul mood. "You see that?" asks Silver.
>>606958 Spooky, pony should be happy. The carriage rides in town. The crystal homes are already here, but not yet as decorated and refined as in the Capital. The carriage stops near the barracks and the guards stand at attention as you come out.
Note: as a paladin you're considered to have Military Renown 4 in the Crystal Empire. You may also spend 50 reputation on Favors. Look in chapter 4 of Core to see what you can do with that. You'll start the main adventure with 50 rep regardless of how much you spend in this adventure.
>>606969 "Oh, she came here about a month ago. She claimed she was doing research on the river. Little did we know she was up to all kinds of horrible schemes. It wasn't long before there were strange lights flying over the river. The crystal berry fields nearby rot in one night! "
>>606971 "She doesn't want to talk. We know she was alone, when we went to find her in her cave upstream she was alone."
Silver scratches his chin. "What made you suspect her?"
The mayor snorts "Somepony arrives all alone and goes to study in a cave away from town? Pretty suspicious. And we found the evidence when we came in. She had all kinds of strange arcane items and she fled when we told her to come with us! That's all the evidence I need. But we confiscated her belongings as well."
>>606973 "Right, Smite show these ponies what we found on her." The guard takes you and the mayor inside and opens a chest marked "EVIDENCE" Inside you find a leather bound book, a metal plate with a heart pierced by a sword ("Scary, isn't it?" adds the mayor), some potions without marking, a pony skull and various herbs
>>606999 >>607000 Note: during actual play I won't ask during an opponent 1's if you want to activate it as a critfail. If you want to or decide you want a minute to think, tell me with a quick post, because once I post description your chance has passed.
Success The mayor bows his head. "Very well, I'll take my leave." You see him leaving upstairs and closing the door. You and Silver are alone with the prisoner. She looks to the two of you. "You're paladins?"
>>607002 "We are paladins in Her Majesty's service. And you are accused of dabbling into witchcraft to terrorize the ponies of this town. We're here to take you back to stand trial for your crimes, but first I'd like to ask some questions."
>>607027 "Yes, but I assure you there's nothing bad in it. Just some notes on my research. The pony skull is part of my research. I'm investigating the ancient civilizations that lived near the Maaz river."
Protip: you may activate skill checks such as Sense Motive to detect a bluff, whenever you please. Not saying this here is a bluff, just saying it's your call when to use it or not.
>>607046 Silver looks back, he frowns clearly displeased at her answers.
"I don't know!"
"Lies!" Silver says suddenly. "Admit it, you did it and you're trying to deceive us with these heinous lies!" The mare stammers. "N-no, you have to believe me…" "You keep talking in circles. You know more than you let on. Admit it, you did it."
>>607049 "Y-yes, I-I know it looks that way b-but…" Silver slams against the bars. "You better tell us what you know quick before I lose my temper!" The mare looks scared as fuck now, she looks pleadingly towards you.
>>607062 "The Heartsworn. At least I think that's their name from their writings. Listen, a few years ago I was doing excavations near Agate. There I found skeletons of a pony clothed in armor, similar to that plate you're holding now. It seems that for a small time there was a settlement of them near Agate. I found a drawing of them in a boat on a river. This river was the closest nearby so I figured I might find more here. And I did."
>>607072 "I could show you…" Silver interjects. "Hold on, you're still not telling us something, why didn't you tell us this in the first place?"
"I…feared ponies wouldn't understand. The Heartsworn, there's some very disturbing things about them. For one, it seems they worshipped gods that I don't know. I feared ponies would think they were demons. I brought some small relics with me of those. But they never made lights appear or anything! They're harmless…"
>>607079 "It's back in the cave…Look whoever did this, it wasn't me I swear. I think somepony else is doing these things and making me a scapegoat…Look, these Heartsworn they might be the most important discovery we've made so far. I didn't know it back in Agate but I do know. They were Crystal Ponies!"
>>607460 You follow her past a small living space, things thrown everywhere. But the mare continues quickly, deeper into the dark cave. Here you see traces of digging until you reach a grand hall. In the middle is a lake. "This was once part of the river, it seems the entrance collapsed and formed a small lake. Look in the middle!"
>>607506 "I think it was part of a fleet that was here around 500 years ago." the mare continues. "The fleet must have been docked on the river and this boat got trapped when the cave collapsed." She starts climbing down. "Watch your step!"
>>609296 The ship is made of wood, the bow is exquisitely carved into a dragon head. The wood itself is covered with moss and weeds, but you can make out a heart pierced by a sword on it. You also see a sack near the ship and grab it.
>>609306 She scrunches. "I…I found some of those relics before in the cave…I put them away in my bag. The guards must have taken it as evidence. Please, take them with you, to prove I don't want them. I don't need them. I was merely studying the crystal ponies here."
>>609318 Silver looks to the mare. "You keep saying this is Crystal pony history. Anything special about it?" The mare looks uneasy. "W-well…I do have a theory…but I don't know why anypony would want to stop me…"
>>609320 She hoofs you the piece of paper. "Here, this is a map I found. It dates back to approximately 500 years ago."
The map is crude and the top part has been torn off. You see a crudely drawn outline of the western coast and the Maaz river, with a red line drawn, which you guess might be a travel route. Unfortunately the route seems to have continued on the missing top part. Furthermore you see two symbols you guess indicate some settlement. The square near the modern Aqua port and a settlement near modern Agate. There also some lines near the modern Crystal Capital but not the traditional symbol of the Palace and Heart. You also see a crude pony drawn near the bottom with stars around it, traditionally indicating a crystal pony.
>>609322 "Look at the map. The Crystal Pony, that doesn't make sense. 500 years ago, the Empire was locked away! And these crystal artifacts, that heart symbol. Don't you realize what it might mean?!?"
>>609324 Your brain is quite empty. Luckily your companion makes up for it. "You mean…there might have been crystal ponies while the Empire was away?" "YES, exactly that's what I believe. Survivors maybe or crystal ponies that were away far enough to not get wooshed away with the Empire. I think that ship belonged to them. Maybe they lived here a while..or maybe they came to check if the Empire came back. Whatever the truth, they must have come from the north. From Hyperborea…"
>>609326 "I don't know. Maybe nopony knows. Maybe they're dead already. I've heard the northern seas are horrible. And Griffons don't like ponies. 500 years ago they'd rather have killed and eaten a pony than talk to him."
>>609328 Silver shakes his head. "This is all interesting. But shouldn't we first find out what's causing all the trouble in town and then think about long lost crystal ponies? I think we should have a talk with those guards…."
>>612019 As you arrive, a large crowd has already gathered. With a poof of smoke, the pony appears out of nowhere. An older grey pony with a large moustache. The crystal ponies start clopping the ground. "Merci, merci, madames and monsieurs. Today vous are lucky for the Great ponnande de Prance will do magic tricks beyond belief."
>>612032 "Must have been uncomfortable! She was upside down the whole time!"
The mare is an earth pony. "And now, I shall have Bubble disappear and reappear! He holds a veil before her, and when he drops it, she's gone! Then you hear a whistle from a few meters behind you, there she is!
>>612046 "Amber, and it's lovely to have you here." He places a kiss on your hoof gallantly. "Now, Amber, I have here…" He dramatically shows a pack of cards. "And you may pick from this pack of cards any one card without me looking!" He turns around after handing you the cards
>>612092 "Indeed it is. Magic is the pride of Prance. You will never find any other people who are so…bred for magic. Our people as a whole are born mages. Under the benevolent rule of our King Jacques III and his dynasty, we have flourished."
>>612101 why did Silver want to ask him about Germaneigh again? i can't remember why that's a thing we need to ask about "How far away is Prance though? I mean maybe we shouldn't go too far from the empire just in case princess Cadance suddenly needs us…"
>>612119 A shadow comes across his face when you say Germaneigh. "No…we are not fighting Germaneigh for the present. Though those…monsters would deserve it! I tell you, miss Amber, do not be deceived by Germane propaganda, the germanes and their Kaiser are evil!"
>>612122 "Why, it is a long story. Once Germaneigh and Prance were a great empire. Those were great times for I tell you, the Emperor and his great troops were a force so grand, so strong as to rival the Equestrian armies and the Godess-Princesses of Equestria. When the Emperor died his empire was given to his two sons for they could never see eye to eye. But still we worked together, especially near the border, the mystical Lyonesse, the place where the first emperor lived was a place of coorperation and a true greatness. And then hundreds of years ago…" The mage gets angry "The Germanes foolishly invaded that land and killed the defenseless Prench! It was only through great sacrifice and our magic that we could beat back the bloodthirsty germanes and their diabolical machines! And we will never forget all those who sacrificed for our land! Lyonesse switched owner so many times, but rest assured, Lady Amber, one day we will break through the foul Germane lines and bring the Kaiser himself to Ponis to the guillotine!"
>>612127 He smiles friendly to you. "You have a good heart, Lady Amber, but if you knew the Germanes, you'd know their way of life is so…so alien, so low, they have fallen so far from what the Empire was all about. It would be a mercy to conquer them for we would bring them true civilization and peace. And, Lady Amber, the first time they killed Prench in Lyonesse was not the last. Every year there are stories of the Germanes attacking defenseless Prench towns and terrorising the citoyens." He shakes his head. "I lost one of my sisters to the Germanes. Perhaps they were one of us once, but the Kaiser has dragged them down a dark path. But one day, par la volonté des princesses, we shall be victors!"
>>612131 "These brutes claim to have loyalty to the Princesses as the physical Godesses of the Sun and Moon, but their actions prove them wrong! Our actions of vengeance are justified! Only through strength shall we defeat this plague!"
Silver coughs. "You know, I heard the Princesses condemned the violence on both sides, that the Prench have also done terrible things to the Ger-" The mage shouts "The Princesses are too benevolent and good to comprehend the depravity of the Germanes! We have to make hard decisions sometimes! If you were in a war like ours, you would not be saying such things!"
>>612136 "The Prench did not want this. We are a peaceful and noble ponyfalk, but when we are threatened, we defend ourselves. Remember that! Vive le Roi!. And now, miss Amber, mister Silver, I'm afraid I must be off." He nods and walks off.
>>612138 "I know…but what can we do? They are both followers of the Church of the Princesses, and even the Princesses cannot stop them… I wonder…you know Amber, one day, I hope we can find out what's happening there…"
>>612940 I don't think I should… so far away! I'll just write her a letter about that whole thing we discovered later. "Silver! Maybe we should split up and go spend some time with our families, what do you think? They probably miss us a lot!"
>>612976 "Let's hope so." You go to the quiet simple home of your parents in the suburbs of the Capital. Dad should be on guard duty but you can smell a crystal berry cake your mom is making from a mile away.
>>613090 >>613088 Silver holds his own. "Yes, we're paladins of Princess Cadance. That means we support each other and help each other!" Mom jumps in. "Let it go, Sparkle." Sparkle scrunches. "Yes, mom."
>>613101 "Fine, I'll send her a letter. If I send it now, it should be there by tonight….uh…can I sleep here tonight?" Your sis giggles. Mom smiles. "Of course, Silver! You're more than welcome here! Just be careful, we don't want any accidents!"
>>617593 >>617601 Okay! You swing through the fire and cut of part of Sombras fiery mane! He looks bald for just a second before the fire returns. But the shame will never go away! +1 to you and Silvers rolls next turn
You slam your hammer down on his head one last time and the shade of Sombra slowly seeps back in the water howling.
You and Silver sink through your knees. This combat asked a lot of you, you feel pain in places you didn't even know you had. You feel so tired. You can't keep your eyes open…the world starts fading… You see the water, it changes again to the island far in the frozen land. You see yourself fighting Sombra there..but you're not alone, you see Soil, Mabel, Silver and a few other ponies you don't know… Together you defeat the shadow of Sombra and the Crystal Heart rises above the island…
It looks so happy…maybe if you rest your head in the water, you'll be there….
A voice! You slowly look to your right and vaguely see a shining pink pony approaching you. Her horn touches your mane and you quickly feel fully rejuvenated!
You jump up to see Cadance restoring Silver as well.
>>617702 Lower my head slightly. "Princess I… don't feel like I performed well enough. We were lucky to be able to wear it down with raw physical power! I just think I need to train more and develop my divine powers for these kind of foes!"
>>617714 Silver stands next to you. "Yes, we are still can't channel the mystical powers…" He lowers his ears.
Cadance steps to you. "You can't learn to channel my power by training, it can only come through sacrifice, courage and hardship. This is why all paladins must go on a sacred Crusade before becoming a true paladin lord. What you saw in the pool will be your quest, during it Fate and Love will guide you both to hone your skills and become closer to divine power. What did you see?"
>>617722 "A possible one…" She swirls her hoof in the water looking deep into it for a few moments. "Paladins often see Sombra in here because he represents the evil that always threatens our lands. But it might not be Sombra you'll face on that island. Come…let us go back to the court, you're certainly hungry…"
>>617764 The Princess nods. "Yes, that would be the first thing to do. But there is more." She nods to a breastplate at the edge of the table. On closer inspection its the old breastplate that was found in the cave. "My historians have researched it and we believe, as you reported, that it belongs to a lost group of Crystal Ponies. I believe your vision shows they still exist and make their home on an island far too the Frozen North." She looks at both of you. "And it will be your duty to find them again. To bring them under the light of the Crystal Heart once more…"
>>617808 Cadance clears her throat. "Now, there's a few things you should know. The past week we have done some investigation, determining the possible location of the crystal ponies. We think we have a lead."
>>617832 She nods. "It's the land of the Griffons. Enormous, but most Griffons live south, the north is sparsely populated. We've received intel that there are stories about Crystal Ponies living north. Our contact told us to seek help in Neverspring." She points to a town on the edge of the Frozen Coast. "We were thinking about sending an ambassador, but since it's your quest, you'll be perfect."
>>617841 "I'm not sure. You'll have to be careful, Amber and Silver. And not just of whatever evil lurks there. Those ponies have been seperated from the empire from centuries. Some might not welcome you…"
>>617846 "You'll go with my blessing. You'll be representing the Empire to these new ponies. If you can convince them to resume relations with the Empire or even send emissaries here, you'll both have done a great service to the Empire."