"- but where did the Crystal Heart come from exactly? There are many who claim it to be divine in nature, a gift to crystal ponykind from the being popularly referred to as 'The Goddess'. But if this were truly the case, why is it that only such a tiny part of the empire is protected by it? Not all are fortunate enough to live within its area of influence." - Excerpt from 'Brief History of the Crystal Empire, v3'
All of you have arrived in the village of Winterheim; a rather small village in the Northeastern part of the crystal empire. A small river runs down the hill the town was built on… but from what you can gather, this river will only increase in volume as summer rolls around and melts some of the ice higher up in the mountains surrounding it. For now however, it remains humble and small, providing the village little aside from a source of fresh water.
Like the river, Winterheim is humble and small. A former mining town until a few years ago, it has now shrunk considerably as the mines that supported it were abandoned years ago. Clear signs of battle can be seen all around you. Several buildings burned down… stains of blood on that wall… A shop sign lying discarded on the road reading 'Cassie's Shop', the lower part of the sign scorched by fire, making the lower part of the sign unreadable.
Well… the mayor is looking for ponies with battle and/or diplomatic experience. Some of the townsfolk seem to have gathered with her in the local inn for protection, in case another attack comes.
>>491977 The ponies in here seem somewhat distressed… an understandable reaction to what happened. The mayor is talking to a stallion near the bar. You easily recognize her as the pony wearing more expensive clothing.
>>491978 The barkeep swiftly hoofs you a mug of beer before moving on to the next customer. At least someone seems to be making profit out of this!
>>491980 It's pretty crowded in here, seems like most of the town is seeking shelter.
>>491989 Several ponies turn to look at you and point at a mare wearing nice clothing over at the bar. She's speaking to a stallion and looks somewhat tired.
>>491990 The beer is quite foamy and looks pretty good. You only see crystal ponies in here… oh wait no, there's a pegasus stallion standing over there as well. And a unicorn mare near the back! Even this far into the sticks, cultural enrichment cannot be stopped!
>>491992 Off to the lady! Cut in the middle of her speech! "Might we introduce ourselves, our name is Sonnet Gloury, paladin and herald of Her love." Look at the mayor for a second, as if expecting something.
>>492003 Very. The mayor doesn't seem to mind though. She seems quite happy even.
>>492004 "Good, good! Now, our humble little town was attacked yesterday by a band of brutes. They killed several of our guards, stole equipment from some of our shops and burned down what they couldn't take. They even kidnapped some ponies!"
>>492015 "They took my daughter!" She takes a deep breath and slows down a little. "Fletcher, Edelweiss, Cassie… I don't know how Winterheim could possibly survive without them. They're all craftsponies that help us stay afloat…"
>>492017 >>492016 She's too engrossed in talking to Sonnet to notice either of you.
>>492020 "One of my ponies stealthily followed them." She points at a pegasus in the crowd. "They entered one of the old mines further up the hill. I'm… guessing that's where they might have a camp or something. Or at least, that's what I hope. I don't know what they're trying to achieve in there, those veins are completely depleted."
>>492023 The mayor looks a little surprised. "Thank… you?"
>>492034 Nod strongly. "We can use all the ponies we can get." >>492035 "It is but a dead end for them! As the great strategists of our past tell us, book of Waxing, chapter first, there is no end like a dead end. It's clear the meaning of this!" Spout all that with a look of self-assurance on my face. >>492038 >>492040 "Fellow Lovers, we should make our way! Time is of the essence!"
>>492057 The three of you leave the warmth and safety of the inn behind and head outside again. It is snowing ever so slightly and there is a soft breeze blowing through the street. You exit the village and start walking uphill. Soon enough you start passing by some entrances. A1… B1… A2… B3… A3! That's the one! Like a gaping wound in the landscape, the entrance to the mine lies in front of you. You do not hear any noise or see any light coming from the inside, which doesn't really tell you anything.
>>492065 Paladinbutt is best butt. Tightly packed in those clothes… Mmmm~
>>492070 You enter the mine. It's less cold in here, as you are protected from the wind. You come across discarded pickaxes, lanterns, shovels and all kinds of old equipment as you follow the railroad deep into the belly of the world.
>>492072 It's not very effective… luckily for you, Gotti lights a torch and banishes the cold darkness through the power of fire.
>>492086 You turn a corner and come face to face with another long hallway, except this one is well-lit. Just up ahead, a mare and a stallion sit by a fire. The mare is kicking back and snoring loudly while the stallion is poking the fire with a stick with a bored expression on his face. He gasps as he spots you and quickly kicks the mare awake "Wake the fuck up! Intruders! I'll warn the boss, you hold them off!" And with that the stallion runs off deeper into the mines, leaving the confused mare behind.
"Hey what? Who the hell are you!? What are you doing on our turf!?"
>>492089 Smile at her. "Do not be alarmed. I came here to negotiate so everypony can be happy when this day ends. I wish you no harm, and if you will allow me, I would like to talk to your leader." Smooth Talker '1d10+2'
>>492095 "It is quite allright, Miss. No need to be alarmed. Oh, where are my manners, I do believe I should introduce ourselves first. These are my companions Gotti and Sonnet Glory, and I myself am Angelite."
>>492096 She takes a few steps back anyway. "I'm telling you to keep your distance!"
>>492097 "Yeah, that's real nice but-" You hear heavy hoofsteps coming from further in the cave. A pony covered in what seems like a impossibly heavy layer of armor is stomping your way. The mare perks up and runs over to said pony, standing besides it. "Keep your distance, ok!? This thing is can fuck you up without pause!"
>>492102 "I see. Still, you used some words I'd prefer would not surface again during the coming conversations. I am quite sure you do understand. I am merely trying to keep this as civil as possible."
>>492102 "Look, I am unarmed, my mace is safely sheated and at the first sight of trouble, of me setting even a single step forward, you could easily cut me down. There is really no danger for you. I'd be mad to try to get in your way."
>>492103 >>492104 "I'm just doing what I was told to, alright? Shut up! Shut up! Shut up!" She's very twitchy.
The stallion from earlier returns, a few other ponies at his side. One of them, a crystal stallion, steps forward. "Why are you here? Leave now, while we still let you. This operation is of no concern to any of you."
>>492105 "I'm afraid we cannot leave. You seem like an intelligent stallion, so I am sure you can listen to reason. I am merely a diplomat, and I can assure you I am here to represent the benefit of everypony involved." Smooth Talker '1d10+2'
>>492106 He glowers at all of you for a moment before turning around. "Kill them. Especially that idiot mare." In a flash, he disappears. Leaving the party facing down the group of ponies and golem on their own. The mare spits on the ground and bites down on her sword again. "Shoul'ev weft vhen you had de chance!"
>>492107 The group of ponies standing in front of the party draw their weapons and take a collective step forward menacingly. You are now facing 5 bandits (all crystal ponies) and a pony golem in the long mineshaft you are standing in. >Helaine After being conscripted by the mayor of Winterheim like the rest of the group, she sent you on your way as well, towards where the party went. A small climb uphill and a few near slip-ups later, you arrive at the correct mine entrance and advance inside. After a short walk, you notice light and noise coming from up ahead.
>>492109 >>492107 "A regretful turn of events. I implore you to reconsider. You do not want to do this. You could be so much more, so much better than simple ruffians!" Good Word on them. '1d10' And look at the mare. She knows I'm right.
>>492110 "There's six of us and three of you! You're toast, zebra!"
>>492111 They all share some uneasy glances with each other until finally the stallion who ran away earlier spits out the dagger he's wielding. "She's right, how come we always get to do the dirty work? The boss always keeps his hooves clean while we get to shovel shit!" Another stallion just shrugs. "Well, isn't that how it works? He's the boss after all…" The mare from earlier spits out her sword again as well. "Doesn't mean we have to do all the work while he gets to laze off!" "That's precious coming from you, miss nap-a-lot!" "I've got vitamin deficiency, you insensitive fuck, I need lots of rest so I don't fall over and die!" "Sounds like a load of crappy excuses to me." "Guys! We're losing sight of the important thing here! Why should we be content with just following? We're better than that!" "What, are you going to lead us instead?" "… I could!" "That's it, I'm done. Fuck all this." "Yeah, I want to go back to Crystopolis where it's nice and warm."
>>492112 You trip over a rock and fall facefirst into a mound of dirt. That's going to leave a nice aftertaste.
>>492113 I nod, and stand aside. "Yes, you should definitely think things over. About where you are now and where you want your lives to be in the next few years. Just spare some time for yourselves. And remember, crime never pays in the long run. I'm delighted that this could end without violence."
>>492114 A group of ponies are arguing with each other up ahead.
>>492115 They all seem to nod in agreement. At least they can agree on that part. "I'm outta here. To hell with this." "Hey, wait on me!" The group idly walks past you, intent on leaving this place without causing any of you any more trouble. … The golem pony remains in place though, standing perfectly still and ready to stop you from advancing any further.
>>492120 >>492118 Approach them. "So I take it you are the ponies who I will rendezvous with. Anything I should know before we go about whatever it is we need to do." I watch my hoof looking if its clean while I talk.
>>492121 >>492122 I smile. "Ah, yes, every bit of help is much appreciated. My name is Angelite, and these are Gotti and Sonnet Glory. I managed to convince some of the ponies here not to resort to violence and give up their lives as criminals, but we've yet to get to their boss. I shall try and do my best to negotiate with said leader as well, alas, we have a slight problem at hoof, as this golem-" Point at the armory-pony. "-seems to be in the way of our progress, and I'm afraid it cannot be reasoned with."
>>492126 >>492125 You charge and slam into the steadfast monstrosity with fervor. While it doesn't move, you did manage to make a dent in it. … Come to think of it, it already has some dents in it. Strange. "Starting-battle-protocol-eliminate-intruders-protect-creator" It gets ready to charge at you.
>>492134 Walking sticks are very elegant and fancy and can even serve as a decent weapon in some cases. Against a golem however, it does not fare too well. The golem smashes into you again, sending you sprawling over the ground. You are helpless.
>>492135 In retaliation, you hit the golem with a strong slam of your own from behind. It stumbles for a moment before righting itself again.
>>492136 You try to launch your magic bolt at it but miss. Luckily for you, it's distracted by Gotti's strike so it doesn't charge for you.
>>492139 You bring down your heavy steel mace onto the heavily armored golem, creating the biggest dent into it yet! Oh right, maces are designed to counter armor! No wonder that was so effective!
>>492140 You can't quite muster the strength to get back up!
>>492141 You pull out a very old-timey grenade out of the hat. The fuse is already even lit on fire! You quickly lob the gunpowder charge at the golem and it erupts in a rather small explosion, dealing some damage to it.
Some small rocks and gravel fall from the ceiling of the cavern and bounces off the golem pony with loud clangs. Hmmm…
>>492143 You buck the walls and cause more gravel to fall down from the ceiling. A large rock comes loose as well and falls down onto the golem's head, tearing off a part of it. "Taking-big-hits-please-contact-maintenance" That caused some pain.
>>492144 Hey, you dispatched 5 ponies already, that's a nice contribution, isn't it? You decide to just rest for a while longer.
>>492145 You run up to the helpless Angelite and try your teleportation spell… '1d10'
>>492160 Lots of tracks in this hallway, hard tell which are who's. You also seem to recall him disappearing in a flash, not walking away. There's only one way to go though. Deeper into the mines. At least it's lit up this time! There's no random junk lying around either.
Finally, you spot two doors opposite of each other up ahead, one to the left, the other to the right. The cave continues on beyond them.
>>492183 Nope, just boring old sacks and barrels. Nothing shiny or anything.
>>492184 This appears to be a food larder! The sacks and barrels contain a variety of fresh food like crystal berries, bread, carrots, pastries and so on. There's also bottles of expensive wine and small kegs filled with beer and milk, but no cigars. Those do not belong in a food larder after all.
>>492186 Oh this is some fine, expensive wine right here. Look at those years! This is fantastic stuff!
>>492187 "What? I would love to, but I can't exactly open up the door you have the key to while I'm chained to a wall."
>>492193 Hard to do so when there's a locked door separating you from them. You manage to smash the lock though. As you open the door, you see a larger room beyond it. Several tables are set up with various tools lying on top of them. This looks like some kind of workshop. You also see an older crystal stallion chained to the wall with one of his legs, limiting his movement considerably. Aside from that, you see a younger unicorn mare with… a golem leg also chained to a wall. She's a bit shorter than average and appears to be a bit frail.
>>492194 The stallion grins. "That's good to hear, I knew Jubilee would send someone!"
>>492195 It sure is. You grab some of the stuff in here and stow it away in your bags.
>>492198 That's rather hard. They seem enchanted with some kind of spell that prevents them from being simply broken and the lock itself is rather complicated. The mare speaks up as she sees you struggle. "We've tried breaking these chains, but there's just no way."
>>492199 No matter how hard you try, it just doesn't seem possible with brute force unless you break the spell.
>>492205 The mare speaks up again. "Probably the guy in charge. They call him Knuth. We've been kept in here and forced to work ever since they kidnapped us, so I don't know where he hangs out." The stallion nods. "Yes, he must have the keys lying around somewhere."
>>492206 There definitely is a way to break spells such as these, yes. You lack the skills to do so, however.
>>492215 A wise idea, you smash the rock to which the chain is firmly attached. Gravel and small rocks fall from the ceiling all around you. … Though a few more of these hits and the chain might come loose! The stallion puts a hoof on your shoulder. "Whoa now, be careful young one."
>>492224 "It only seems to prevent the chain and lock to be smashed with brute force. If you could get rid of it, you wouldn't even need a key. Otherwise, getting that key seems like the only safe way to set us free. I'm sorry."
>>492226 >>492228 >>492231 The mare looks at the three of you. "Watch yourselves, one of my golems is roaming around here somewhere. I can't stop it without direct access so… be careful. It's very valuable."
>>492233 The stallion speaks up. "Oh definitely, there are more prisoners around here somewhere, but we don't know where. We don't even know why they took us here. These mines haven't been used in over a decade."
>>492234 Another good hit could be enough. But… it does hold some danger.
>>492232 I wince. "I do apologize, but I believe that golem was hijacked by the leader of this group, and has been used against us… we had no other way of bypassing it than forcefully deactivating it. I am terribly sorry."
>>492240 She bites her lower lip hard enough to draw some blood. "Those… assholes…" She sighs and shakes her head. "How bad is it?"
>>492243 Yes. The cave continues on outside the door.
>>492244 "For a long time these mines provided wealth for the town of Winterheim… until profits started to drop and our quotas became harder and harder to meet. They closed one by one due to the lack of resources. I do not understand "
>>492244 The stallion nods "For a long time these mines provided wealth for the town of Winterheim… until profits started to drop and our quotas became harder and harder to meet. They closed one by one due to the lack of resources. I do not understand what they are hoping to achieve here, nor do I know who they are."
>>492257 She stomps her two front hooves and snorts angrily… which doesn't really seem all that intimidating because of her smaller frame. The older stallion offers her an apologetic smile. "I'm sorry Cassie."
>>492262 You advance further into the cave on your own until you reach a larger, open cave with stalagmites and tites in it. There are torches all around, lighting up the place and you hear noise coming from up ahead. … The sound of pickaxes chipping away at rock.
>>492267 She grinds her teeth. "I used to have several, but all of them save for one were destroyed in that attack. Last I saw, my workshop in town was on fire while we were being dragged off, which means I probably lost all my materials, including my precious golem core crystals. Without those, I can't do a damned thing."
>>492269 Yes. Near the end of the cave you see a bunch of chained ponies picking away at the rock. They are being watched over by several ponies, including the stallion you saw earlier that teleported away.
>>492292 >>492293 >>492295 You head deeper into the caves, leaving Fletcher and Cassie behind in the workshop. Eventually you arrive in a much bigger and rougher cave filled with stalagmites and tites and dripping with water. Torches light up the path cleared by ponies all the way up to the back of the cave, where five chained up ponies are busy picking away at a wall. Four guards have formed a circle around them as they keep a close eye on them. Meanwhile, the stallion from earlier is looking through some papers stacked on a small wooden table.
>>492305 "Let me try talking first. It might work again."
>>492303 Walk up and clear my throat. "Dear ponies, please do not be alarmed. I am Angelite, a diplomat and negotiator sent here by the major, and we strive to resolve this conflict in a way that no harm befalls anypony involved. I would like you to hear me out." Smooth Talker. '1d10+2'
>>492312 "Correction, we hurt nopony. They have seen the error of their ways and heard the whispers of the Lover. They gave up crime, and so shall you, to unlock the fastest possible path to happiness and prosperity." The Good Word on the guards. '1d10'
>>492315 The stallion just facehoofs. "Just kill them. I have enough headaches already and don't need this moron adding to it." All four of the guards charge at you while the stallion moves over to the prisoners, who have stopped working to watch all of this unfold. "KEEP WORKING!" He stomps on a part of the chain and casts a lightening spell, shocking all the prisoners and making them scream in pain as the current is carried by the chains.
>>492375 "The Lover… pfah." He clearly doesn't think highly of her.
>>492378 >>492381 "A slaver? How typical, I am nothing of the sorts you little fools. I would have let these ponies go as soon as we got what we came here for. Unfortunately, I'm starting to believe it is not here. Not anymore, at least. "
>>492388 He frowns. "No, not at all. We conscripted these ponies for the greater good. But blind fools such as yourself wouldn't know anything about this."
>>492390 "No." He looks at the prisoners behind him, all of them still working hard. "I think it is time for me to leave. I have wasted enough time here." He takes out a silver key from a pocket and drops it in front of him. "Free them, so that you may feel good about yourself and carry on with your life, thinking so highly of yourself while blindly worshiping your wicked goddess."
>>492415 "You may have defeated my guards, but I am far stronger than they are. You will likely die and it will cost me energy I cannot waste on trivialities such as this. Let me pass and you can free these prisoners, reclaim their goods and leave this place unharmed."
>>492463 That's Fletcher talking to Angelite about the other prisoners. Anyway, you and the prisoners head back to the workshop as well. Everyone seems happy about being rescued like this. Who wouldn't be, after all?
>>492464 Cassie shrugs and starts rounding up some tools lying around. "Good riddance." Fletcher nods at this. "So be it. Now… I believe there ought to be stolen supplies lying around here somewhere."
>>492474 Well there is Cassie, but you know her already. Aside from that, there's only two other mares. Edelweiss, who you know to be the mayor's daughter, and Sunny Haze. You realize they probably took more stallions because they tend to be physically stronger.
>>492475 Fletcher nods and walks out of the workshop. "Indeed we should."
>>492476 "We will transport it back come tomorrow then. We'll need carts to tow it out of here again."
>>492517 >>492518 >>492519 You head back downhill, careful not to slip on any icy surfaces. Before soon, you reach town again. Edelweiss runs the last part of the trip and quickly heads inside the inn. Fletcher finds his workshop to be somewhat damaged by the fire, but still mostly intact. Cassie picks up a discarded and charred sign from the road reading 'Cassie's Shop' and looks at the pile of burned rubble in front of her with a grim expression on her face.
>>492521 >>492522 >>492523 She raises a brow and looks at the three of you. "Look, I'm not looking for a pity talk. Bad luck for me, that's all there is to it. No way in hell I'm staying in Winterheim… I moved here from Equestria because I wanted something fresh and new and look what it got me."
>>492538 "Why yes, Crystopolis. I am from there, you see, and me and my family could help you get work there. My only condition is that you use your knowledge for the good of ponykind and to help as many as you can.2
>>492560 "I build what my customers order me to. Be it a golem specifically designed to water flowers, a replacement limb for amputees or a unique sword for a mercenary… that's just my job. But I am honest about it. I always deliver quality work and pour my heart and soul into every piece I make."
>>492583 "Right. And hey… thanks. For doing this."
>>492584 You head back to the inn, everyone seems relieved and happy that the kidnapped ponies were all returned safely. The mayor mare is busy talking to her daughter near the bar, she seems much more shinier than before.
>>492592 She walks over to the rubble which used to be her workshop and starts poking around, looking for anything salvageable. Fletcher is assessing the damage done to his own workshop while the rest of the crystal ponies are presumably at the inn.
>>492598 The barkeep grins at you and hoofs you a mug of beer. "On the house, buddy."
>>492600 It's even more crowded than before! But the atmosphere is much more relaxed and happy as well. These ponies are relieved that everything worked out somewhat okay. Some of them turn to smile at you.
>>492621 He inhales deeply, then blows a few rings of smoke in the air above him. "Yes you did, stranger. It makes a pony like me wonder what you will do next… the mayor will no doubt invite you to settle here in Winterheim. You could live a fairly comfortable life here if you wished to do so. Everypony likes and knows of you already."
>>492633 "Hm. I see. A most honorable of mindsets." He chuckles. "The empire is a big place though, where will you go first? The capital? Brilliance? Fillygree? Ponestadt? Or something more to the east like Crystalport, Sunstone or Oreborg? Plenty of choice to be had."
>>492640 "Well then… if you happen to pass by Brilliance… I highly recommend you find and meet with a pony called Desert Gold."
>>492668 "No. Miss Gold is a geologist who works for the city of Brilliance. She is a busy mare, so getting her attention may not be easy. Tell her of what happened here in Winterheim. This was no ordinary bandit raid, after all."
>>492669 He chuckles. "Brilliance certainly is a prosperous mining site, yes."
>>492673 They are. You'll just have to butt in from the looks of it.
>>492682 The stallion gets up from his seat. "Knuth is just a single cog in the machine, nothing more. Don't be too focused on them." He bows his head slightly. "Goodbye stranger. Safe travels to you." He turns around and leaves.
The party remains inside the inn of Winterheim, surrounded by the townsfolk who appear to be far less distressed now that the kidnapped ponies have been returned to the village. Some remain nervous about the possibility of a repeat attack, but overall the atmosphere is much better than before. All of this thanks to the efforts of the party, for which the town is very grateful. The mayor is near the bar, speaking to her daughter Edelweiss still. The anonymous stallion has taken his leave. Fletcher has joined the crowd inside the inn. Cassie is nowhere in sight.
>>493086 He gives you a pleased nod. "Yes. And fortunately, it is rather limited. I will need to clean things up before I can get to work again, but that shouldn't prove to be too difficult. Shame Cassie can't say the same thing…"
>>493094 >>493095 "You'd have to ask her, but her shop was burned to a crisp along with her equipment. That leaves her with… essentially nothing. She's not the quitter type of pony though, so I'm sure she'll recover."
>>493103 "Last I saw, she was poking around the rubble that used to be her workshop for anything salvageable."
>>493104 "Oh I wouldn't worry too much about that… we always endure and move on. You have done us all a great service though, for which all of us are thankful. I'm sure you will be properly awarded too."
>>493109 Well, that's a big ol' pile of burnt rubble alright. Cassie is poking around the wreckage, occasionally floating items out of the ashes with her telekinesis and inspecting them, before either discarding them again or stowing them away in a bag.
>>493110 "That's very kind of you, but a pony still needs to eat, no? Evening's starting to fall as we speak, after all."
>>493116 "Hm?" She turns to look at you. "Yes, as is evident by this smoldering pile of wood. There's nothing left for me here, no reason to stay. Your friend already gave me an offer to work in Crystopolis somewhere, so I'd like to recover whatever I can before I leave."
>>493117 "If you say so, lass… but really, you ought to talk to the mayor about these kind of things. I'm sure she'd like a word… if you can pry her away from her daughter." He chuckles.
>>493125 "I see, so it seems you will be sticking with us for awhile huh? Who knows maybe there are far more opportunities out there in Crystopolis than here." I go around and help her out salvaging whatever parts that are salvageable. Anything I find? '1d10'
>>493146 I stand up on two legs and pound my chest with my hoof. "I really dont know about the others but I am a travelling bard. I go wherever there is someone to entertain! If someone is unhappy I will be there to make them smile." "And well of course I also need more bits and gold since pay is really not that secure outside of Equestria." I smile.
>>493157 "Well moving around is hard when you have a shop to tend to and so much equipment to carry." She looks around and snorts bitterly. "Not exactly an issue for me anymore though, is it?"
>>493167 She doesn't even notice you approach, being too busy talking to her daughter. "- I can't believe it! Why in the Goddesses name would they try to start up the mines again? That's a crazy task!" "Well… I don't know either, but it seemed like they were looking for something important. Maybe that was their only goal?"
>>493193 Edelweiss has noticed you waiting. "No Edelweiss, what could possibly so important that- What? Something wrong?" "Uh, I think somepony wants to speak with you, mom." The mayor turns around and notices you. "Oh! I'm sorry, I was just so engrossed with talking to my daughter I almost forgot!" She takes your hoof and shakes it. "I owe you an enormous debt, hero… we all do. Come tomorrow, I will gather what we can spare and give you your reward. You fully deserve it! Please, feel free to spend the night here in the inn for free."
>>493182 I sit next to her and give her a saddened look. "Hey, as long as you are standing on all four hooves there is still hope. There are far worse scenario's that a pony can be and those who keep their head up are able to get throug with it." I then offer a hoof. "Say why dont we go to the Inn so we can join the others and grab a drink or two. If not I can help you sort the rubble and look for anything that is salvageable.'
>>493204 "Yes, I could have lost a leg. Oh wait." She glances at her golem leg. "Nevermind that thought. Look, I appreciate that you want to help me but… I'll be fine. I just need to gather what I can and move on. I can't hold my drink anyway."
>>493209 She looks taken aback. "But… you helped us! We are honorbound to reward you for that!"
>>493212 Angelite is talking to the mayor, Helaine is talking to Cassie outside.
>>493216 I pat her back. "Alright, I believe in you. You stay out there Cassie, if you need anything just come by to the Inn." I smile and leave her as I make my way back to the Inn. Whats happening there?
>>493245 "Please, you have done our village a great service. We can't thank you enough for that."
>>493247 "I don't know, there's always that danger out here. We're far away from the capital and quite isolated… then, it's not like our village has much to offer either. I still don't understand why they came here in the first place."
>>493252 "Well they are assholes of the highest calibre. Reminds me of those who lives outside of Equestrian soil but no matter. At least it is safe now." I then fly a little and close my arms/hooves. "You got to request for more guards, in these times one can never be too safe, you know what I mean?"
Outside of the inn, on the snowy road to the village of Winterheim, two travelers move. Are they both here by chance? Or is there more to it? Do they know each other? Traveled with each other? Or are they two stranger arriving at the same time?
Whatever their reasonings may be, they can see the village closing in now. And they both see clear signs of battle. Charred rubble where buildings once stood, bloodstains on the streets and snow… no bodies though. It seems the battle is long over. Night is falling quickly and ponies are retreating back into their homes. One unicorn pony with a strange leg appears to be searching for something in a destroyed building. Up ahead, they see what must be an inn. There are a few shops as well, but all of them are closed and some of them have been damaged by what must have been fire.
What will these two souls do?
>>493262 "Dinner? Well… why not? Things have calmed down by now enough to relax again."
>>493266 The mayor nods. "Yes, that I will. The capital will hear of this post-haste. They'll surely send some extra guards to secure the town in response."
>>493296 Two ponies are exiting the inn right now. They must be headed to their homes.
>>493297 Edelweiss gets the hint and moves on to a different spot as her mother walks over to the innkeep and asks for a table for the two of you. You are assigned to a table in the corner of the inn, near the fireplace. "I recommend trying the crystal corn with berrysauce. It's very good."
>>493298 >Sir The mayor is a mare! Many ponies have left the inn for their own homes, so the commotion has died down considerably. It's nice and warm in here though, and there's still several ponies drinking.
>>493299 "Nope. A bunch of other guys already swooped in and solved the issue. The bandits captured me as well, so now that I'm rescued I get to pick up whatever I can salvage from my ruined workshop." You try and scavenge whatever intact tools and items you can find and hoof them to her. "I think that's about all I'll be able to save from this pile of junk. All of the valuable things were destroyed in the fire anyway." She hovers the bag of items onto her back and grunts. … You notice that this pony isn't exactly strong looking. She's somewhat thinner and shorter than the average pony. Aside from that, she isn't wearing armor on that weird looking leg… it's a golem leg!
>>493310 "Well one of them offered me work in the capital, so that's where I'm going. Start from scratch… again." She starts walking over to the inn.
>>493312 The two ponies look at each other for a moment, then back at you. "… Dragon? What dragon?" "Bandits attack this place, not a dragon!"
>>493314 "A Prench Chardonnay maybe? Or are you more of a red wine stallion? I have to admit, good wine isn't easy to come by out here, but they're not too bad."
>>493320 The ponies at the bar, Edelweiss included, turn to you. "Life out here? Harsh sometimes. Mostly peaceful though, or at least before those bandits came. Winters can be a real bother too at times."
>>493325 I shrug with a smile. "Well I suppose I cant challenge any of you guys and gals to a friendly game of cards I suppose. Well if you want to get the time passing by a bit and do some bets." I then reveal a set of cards from my hat. Magical entertainment '1d10+2'
>>493327 "They never really bothered us before now. Not since the mines closed anyway, we're too poor and insignificant to attract any real attention nowadays. It's already been taken care of though, a group of ponies swooped in and gave them a good whatfor! That'll teach them to prey on us!" The mare nods in agreement. "Yeah, they're real heroes! They saved me from being enslaved!"
>>493328 You walk back over to Edelweiss, who is talking with a bunch of other ponies including Helaine.
>>493332 "Heeeeeyyy, I like your style!" "Oh wow, look at that!" "Where did those even come from? Do you keep cards under your hat?" Edelweiss chuckles. "I guess some cards to pass the time couldn't hurt."
>>493336 "Thanks, I'll need it." You both enter the inn. Inside you see a group of ponies looking amazed at a pegasus with a pack of cards near the bar, a crystal mare and zebra stallion sharing a table somewhere in the back and various other crystal ponies enjoying the company of other ponies and alcohol. The unicorn mare looks around for a moment, before heading over to a crystal mare.
>>493342 I give them a sly grin before taking a seat and handling the cards to them. "Perhaps a game of Poker might be in effect. Those who lose gets to take a shot of the strongest drink what do you ponies say?" Also any of them stallions playing on the table?
>>493348 "Well they're sure not from around here! There's even one of them zebra folks with them!" The mare nods again. "Yeah, they must be adventurers or something, you don't get skills like those without having traveled a fair bit."
>>493350 Two mares, three stallions. Not counting Angelite, who is observing from a distance. "Sure!" "Heck yeah!" "Sounds like a fun time to me."
>>493352 "Of course!" The barkeep comes over. "Mayor. Sir. What would the two of you like to order?"
>>493355 Cassie approaches you with a bag strapped to her back. "Found some more stuff worth taking. Nothing too spectacular though. I'll have to start from scratch."
>>493356 She's standing at the bar, watching another group of ponies get excited about playing cards. The unicorn mare seems to know her.
>>493368 "Well this one sure isn't! Go see for yourself, he's in the inn with the others!"
>>493371 She shakes her head defiantly. "No matter how good my reputation is, I can't create anything without the tools and resources."
>>493373 "Poker!" "Yeah, that. No money, just drinking when you lose."
>>493374 "Sure do, lad. For you, I'll get out my finest." "I'll have what he's having." "Understood." He takes off again. "So… what brings a zebra all the way up North anyway? Winterheim doesn't get many tourists these days, as you can imagine."
>>493379 >>493388 You, Edelweiss and a stallion get quite lucky with your cards. The other three ponies get outmatched very quickly and drunk even quicker.
>>493383 Inside you see a bunch of crystal ponies playing cards, some of them are clearly drunk. The zebra that was mentioned is sitting at a table near the fireplace with a crystal mare. And finally, that unicorn pony with the strange leg is speaking to a crystal mare.
>>493386 You order a mug of ale and join the table. "Another stranger? Busy days…" "Come on Edelweiss, deal those cards already!" "Alright alright, calm down Sunny." You are dealt a pair of cards.
>>493387 "Are we mere stories to the zebrafolk down south? That's surprising to hear actually. Zebras aren't all that common up here but… I've met a few before."
>>493389 "No, I wont accept any money either. You've done me a service-… no two services already. If you ever need my skills to craft something, I'll be your mare."
>>493403 He looks pretty shady to you. Anything with stripes like those just spells trouble. Who knows what kind of foul zebra magic he practices when nobody is looking?
>>493407 "Good then. I'm leaving for Crystopolis tomorrow."
>>493569 After a [1d10]/10 dinner with the mayor, you ask the innkeep for a room. He gives you a key and directs you to a vacant one. It's… humble, but homely nonetheless. This town isn't exactly wealthy, after all.
>>493577 One of the mares and two of the stallions have good cards as well, but through careful bluffing and a large portion of luck, you manage to dominate most of the game, leaving the rest of the group drunk off their asses.
>>493578 >>493576 "Are they? Well I suppose even ponies have tendencies to do so, so it's not exactly surprising. Some of the more gullible folk used to believe that zebras capture ponies and eat them. Absolutely ridiculous."
>>493581 Your room is just as humble and simple. Just a bed, a small table and two chairs, a closet, a bowl with some water and a small chest are in here. The view is very nice though.
>>493584 You sit down naked at the window staring at the outside. The north really is something else… there's nothing that can quite match those majestic mountains towering along the horizon. It may be a harsh and cold place, but its beauty is unmatched. Night is falling quickly, the sun casting its last rays off of the snow covering the mountains.
>>493589 Let's say you did. Then, the drinks were free, so who is to blame you? As it turns out, the room is free too. Someone must have carried you here and laid you to rest after you collapsed.
>>493590 "Don't worry, most ponies know better than to think such thoughts. Us crystal ponies are by no means racist towards other equines."
>>493599 "Well… we have ties all the way back to the first ponies walking these lands. When the three pony tribes migrated to the south in the great Exodus we stayed up here and endured the cold. Eventually, our numbers grew big enough to form an empire of our own, much like Equestria. That said, our culture is the oldest of all and we take pride in our heritage."
>>493600 You idly gaze out at the landscape for a while longer. As you are about to turn to head to bed, you catch something moving far into the distance through the air. … It's definitely big, whatever it may be.
>>493601 There's only a few people left down here. You notice Gotti sitting at a table talking to a mare.
>>493606 No, it's simply too far away. It's… coat or whatever seems to be white though. Before soon it disappears behind a mountain. How odd.
>>493607 One of the mares and a stallion you rescued are sitting at the bar. They both look quite drunk.
>>493608 "You'll only see those crystal buildings in the capital, I'm afraid. It's tradition dating all the way back to when it was first founded. It has something to do with magic I believe… but you'll need to find someone more knowledgeable on the subject of magic to give you the details on it. It looks magnificent though, that much I can tell you."
>>493614 "Of course! That was back when I was barely an adult however. I think everypony should see Crystopolis at some point in their lifetimes. It's a sight you'll never forget. Edelweiss would love to go there as well, but the roads are far too dangerous for a long mare to travel. She'll just have to be patient."
>>493617 Not at all. It's just a bunch of straw! Itchy as hell, slightly damp and very uncomfortable to sleep in.
>>493618 They both look at you. "Heyyyyy! 's our hero!" "Come on, drink with us!" The mare hoofs you a half filled mug of beer. "Come on Sunny, give 'er more than that!" The stallion scoots over and pours part of his own beer into your mug.
>>493620 She perks up. "They are? You would… do that for us? We can provide payment, of course."
>>493624 You're a big mare, you can take some more alcohol, no problem at all. "Sssssooo… you gonna stay here in Winterheim now? We could use strong ponies like you." "Yeah, that'd keep those bandits away for sure!"
>>493625 Well it's uncomfortable as fuck. You probably wont have a good night's sleep tonight.
>>493626 "Oh my… she'll be ecstatic to hear about this! Thank you! Don't you worry, she may be young but I've raised her well. Maybe one day she'll be elected as mayor of Winterheim herself."
>>493629 Yeah… Those muscles are going to ache badly tomorrow. We'll skip there when everyone else is ready.
>>493630 "Being a mayor was easier than that, yes. But she's a good mare and I'm proud of how she's turning out. That's why I can't even express how grateful I am to all of you for bringing her back safely. If something were to happen to her… I'm not sure I'd survive."
>>493631 "Well crap." "I told you, Sunny… she's one of them paladins. They don't sit around! They go out there and do stuff!"
>>493633 See >>493579 The newcomer absolutely dominated the table. They're all drunk right now, some of them went back to their homes while some others are talking to Sonnet at the bar. The crystal stallion who won the game has gone to bed as well.
>>493635 You enjoy a nice, well-deserved slumber and dream of happier times. Your first action in the morning will receive a +1 bonus because of how shiny you are right now.
>>493636 Whelp thats fast I have hopes to play with them even longer but it looks like these guys doesnt get out more. Now I wonder who that newcomer is. Anyway go upstairs and see if I can find my quarters to get a shower then sleep. '1d10
>>493637 Well sorry princess, but not all ponies are as rich as mommy and daddy.
>>493641 We will skip to morning when everyone is ready.
>>493639 >>493640 There is no shower, just a bowl of cold water. Your 'bed' is made out of straw. Very itchy and slightly damp, making it a horrible place to sleep on. As such, you have an awful night with little to no rest.
>>493644 She's getting quite drunk and is loosening up considerably. "Yes, yes, you're right. I have all I could ever ask for right here, good food, good drink, a nice fire and… pleasant company." She smiles.
>>493645 "I'll drink to that." The stallion raises his mug. "To paladins!" "May they… uh… fight well and not die?" "Yeah!"
>>493657 The innkeep moves you to your room for the second time that night and lays you to rest in your bed. Your night is sufficiently comfortable. You may experience a mild headache in the morning, but nothing too serious.
>>493659 She blushes a bit. "That's very kind of you to say. I just do my best to make our lives comfortable out here in this frozen land."
>>493660 Woops. You're a polite lady, you don't complain.*
>>493661 This town is poor, so naturally things aren't too comfortable. Morning will be here when all are ready to skip.
>>493680 Pretty well, it seems. You've gotten her quite drunk and gave her a good dicking, falling asleep with her in your embrace in her bed.
… Morning comes. The blazing Sun rises. Life starts anew. All of you wake up in your respective rooms. Some wake in the company of a lovely mare, others sitting uncomfortably on a wooden chair. The shops have opened again and slowly but surely, the village comes back to life. Mares are chattering, stallions are working and children are playing. All is well again in Winterheim.
>>493696 >>493695 Eat my salad. "So where are you two going? If all of us are going in the same direction it might be a better idea of all of us stick together you know what I am saying? Travelling alone now is very dangerous specially with these bandits going around. Slavery and suffering, something I dont want to play with you know."
>>493697 "And I'm all the more informed about zebra culture~" She gets up as well. "But… I should go collect the reward for you and your friends. I'm sure they are eager to receive it. … I'll also need to inform my daughter that she will be leaving home for a little while."
>>493699 >>493702 I then try to swallow a mouthful of salad. "Sho datsh good. *gulp*, its decided then since all of us has this 'synergy', we could make a good team. Well add some good costumes and some comics along the way then we can make a travelling band ahahaha!!" "Well except you Angel… hmmm you really need a new dress. Something to please and distract the crowd so I can do magic more effectivly."
>>493701 "Hello there and good morning." I nod to him.
>>493709 "A most wise plan, I would be a fool to not take this opportunity. I also would like to tell you that the daughter of the mayor, Edelweiss would like to go to Crystopolis. I offered her our protection on the way"
>>493710 "I'm sure Crystopolis will have all kinds of fancy inns."
>>493723 I snicker at the dramatics "Very good, I'll do my share of protecting Ms. Edelweis when the time comes."
>>493724 "Well thats their problem not ours. If they are too stubborn then let them, you see how they met their faith. Too bad really but that is how they want it to end and cant be reasoned." I then glower a little. "Better them than those slaves if you ask me."
>>493726 I then drink some water before speaking. "I agree, it will be better to all parties. Perhaps its also a plus if everyone goes away with a smile after a confrontation, though I got to say that rarely happens but it is not bad to hope after all."
>>493728 >>493727 >>493723 >>493708 The mayor, flanked by her daughter who is carrying a bag, enters the inn. Looking around before spotting the group and walking over. "Heroes, I have gone around the village and collected your reward in cash money. Though it doesn't even begin to do justice as a reward for your deeds, I hope it will help you on your further travels nonetheless. Winterheim is forever in your debt, don't you forget that."
>>493730 She procures a bag of gold and sets it down on the table. Gotti's wealth level was raised to 3. Helaine's wealth level was raised to 4. Sonnet's wealth level remains at 4, but is close to reaching 5. Angelite decides to not accept any reward and remains at 5.
>>493731 She smiles at you. "Yes, that is very honorable of you. This simply means your friends will receive more. Now… Gotti offered to take my daughter along with you, as you will be travelling to Crystopolis next, correct?"
>>493734 >>493735 Edelweiss grins while her mother nods. "Please do take good care of her, she… I couldn't bear seeing her get hurt. She's not a good fighter-" "Mother, please." The mayor frowns. "You aren't fit for battle, Edelweiss. Don't be difficult about this."
>>493737 "Which my daughter hasn't. Her talents lie in administration, not battle." Edelweiss scrunches.
>>493738 >>493739 "Good… that's a relief if there ever was one. Now… which road will you follow to get there? The Amber Road is not too far from here, which snakes its way through all major towns in the western part of the empire. Or… you could go through the Nether instead." Clarification: the Nether is a network of connected old mineshafts deep underground.
>>493742 "Well… they are a lot safer ever since all diamond dog packs were banished from the realm when too many ponies started disappearing down there. If they are caught trespassing… they usually receive the death penalty. Harsh treatment, but it keeps them away and the Nether much safer."
>>493743 >>493746 >>493747 "I see. Well the Amber road is well-traveled by trade caravans. Be careful though, this doesn't make it necessarily safer. You'll also be more exposed to the weather, so please take care not to get caught in a horrible blizzard…"
>>493745 That zebra you saw yesterday is talking to the same mare as before. Their surrounded by a few other ponies though. The unicorn mare with the strange leg is sitting at a table on her own.
>>493757 >>493758 "When do we leave!? I just want to get out of this town as soon as possible!" The mayor frowns slightly at hearing that and speaks up. "What will you do once you get there? I'd like to see my daughter back some day, of course." She chuckles and glances at Gotti.
>>493770 That zebra you saw yesterday is talking to the same mare as before. Their surrounded by a few other ponies though. The unicorn mare with the strange leg is sitting at a table on her own. Breakfast consists of various pastries and baked goods, as well as salads consisting of both vegetables and fruits.
>>493769 "Oh I just can't wait! I'm ready already! I'll… wait for you outside, alright?" She trots off and leaves for the outside.
>>493771 "Hm, very well then. Now, I need to get to work and organize the village after what happened the last few days. Good travels to you, heroes. I'm sure we'll meet again some day." She turns and leaves the inn.
>>493789 I then point a hoof at Edelweis "Oh also, we got to protect that little pony from anyone since she is a VIP of our group, plus we Gotti promised to the mayor to keep her daughter safe, so you know the drill. Two eyes open and all."
The party, with the exception of Angelite, has accepted their rewards from the mayor for aiding the town and saving her daughter from the clutches of a group of bandits. They find themselves alone in the inn, having finished breakfast already. Edelweiss has informed them that she will be waiting on them outside. The mayor has taken her leave as well.
>>494519 You leave the inn without paying for your meal, which is fine because it was free anyway! It's a relatively clear day outside. Only a few clouds up in the sky and a slight breeze blowing through the small street. Things are certainly busier than yesterday. Several of the shops have opened up again, including Fletcher's workshop. Edelweiss is standing near the edge of the village looking over a map. Cassie seems to have acquired a small cart to transport her last belongings in and is in the process of hooking herself up to it.
>>494521 You remember playing cards against one of them last evening, the pegasus mare seen here >>494520
>>494527 "Ah, the capital? A lovely place really. " at your second comment I pause "Are you looking for more companions? Your group seems quite large already." >>494528 "Good day, I believe you were playing cards last night? I am Gallant Striker."
>>494525 She nods but doesn't look up from her map. "Yes… the Amber road is south of here, so we'll need to walk through the wilderness for the first part of the trip. From there we'll encounter a fork in the road, one way leading to Brilliance, the other to Ponestadt. Crystopolis lies south of both these towns. We'll need to decide which path to take."
>>494527 "That depends, are you going through the Nether? It'd be safer to travel together in that case. And before you leave… I think I'll need that letter of recommendation from you."
>>494528 Being able to carry her bags in a cart certainly helps. It's a lot less weight on her shoulders.
>>494531 >>494530 I nod at Sonnet's speech with mild approval. "Well, If its your safety you fear, then I shall accompany you at least to the capital." >>494533 "I am doing well. The light has followed me on this journey so far."
>>494534 "They are the same. The Amber road connects towns with other towns and is used as a trade route. You wont find villages like Winterheim hooked up to it. I guess the only difference there is is that Brilliance is a very large town while Ponestadt is smaller. Still a lot bigger than Winterheim though!" She snickers a bit.
>>494535 Sure, you can just give it to her then. "Well it's colder and more exposed to the weather, for one. And more dangerous alone in my opinion."
>>494537 "I heard it's a very wealthy city, with lots of gem mines and stuff!"
>>494540 "The pleasure is mine I'm certain Angelite." >>494543 "Should be safe enough to go by there." >>494539 "The light is what blesses my path, allows me to see clearly, both where my hooves walk and where my weapon lands."
>>494547 I frown a bit at first before giving him a sultry smile. "Ah I see, so the light shows the way huh? Lets hope that light wont get in the way and blind you as you strike." "Anyway you are much welcome."
>>494561 I lean next to Cassie and give her a serious stare. "If you want a decent stallion, it is a 'no no' to snore next to them if you want them to stick with you. Well unless if you are gunning for a diamond dog that is."
>>494562 >>494563 >>494564 The party gets moving in a group, leaving the village of Winterheim behind them and following the small dirt path south. As the village disappears from sight behind the pine trees, things get very quiet. The only thing to be heard are the hooftsteps from the party in the snow and the occasional creaking from one of Cassie's cart's wheels. This far up north, the snow covers just about everything. Even the road is hard to see and follow at times.
>>494565 "A diamond dog?" She looks disgusted at the very idea. "They're not even allowed in the Empire. They weren't even all that welcome back in Equestria."
>>494568 Oh yeah, you got this. The road is easy too follow, you just need to pay attention to the rocks marking it! And that pony lying on the ground covered under a light layer of snow just off the road!
>>494570 Edelweiss smiles at the tune. "Oh, you're a bard? That's so great!"
>>494573 >Cassie "Trust me, they are really uncouth creatures, never satisfied at anything nor will throw a bone at you even if you've done your best. You dont want to get into their business." I frown a bit. >Edelweis. "Why yes I am, I am sort of a bard extraordanaire but not yet fully pledge. Adequate is the right word I might say but I am a good singer and a talented magician, already proven my works from several cities to which I am proud off." I smile before looking at the road.
"H… hey. thats someone isnt it?" I look at the pony lying on the ground and approach it.
>>494581 Aside from her armor, she's wearing a pendant with a crystal attached to it. You figure it must be some kind of magical catalyst, indicating that this mare was a magic user of sorts. Inside her saddlebags, you find a bottle of beer, a dagger, a piece of charcoal, a small gem fragment and a folded up piece of paper with some writing on it.
>>494582 See above. She has some light bruises and minor wounds on her body, but nothing seemingly lethal. Judging by her pupils, you can tell that this mare died to some sort of poison.
>>494586 Just hers. The snow covered them slightly as well. You can only assume that this mare was attempting to reach Winterheim before she died. You've only been on the road for little over an hour, so she got quite close. Edelweiss looks a little sad too at the sight. "That poor pony…"
>>494587 Cassie unhooks herself from her cart and walks over. "Poison? Damn, sure wish I had a medical golem right now. Maybe I could have determined what kind of poison."
>>494590 It's a letter written with ink that must have been directed at this mare. It reads:
I've told you time and time again to be patient about this matter. We can't afford any mistakes here or we're fucked, understood? Now, I'm going to head over to Brilliance to get some better equipment to deal with this little problem of ours, so you're going to have to hold the fort down in Pinewood cove. If you can't find your way back there, don't worry, I've drawn a simple map on the backside of this letter. Make sure nopony leaves or enters that place. Kill them if need be, I don't give a damn. And for God's sake, be patient for once. You'll just get your ass killed if you head in deeper on your own. - S.
>>494591 "Carry her where? Winterheim is over an hour away? Brilliance is still real far off as well."
>>494594 I scratch my head. "It is the proper form, we cant leave her body to rot on the side of the street you know." I frown. "If not we can bury her here but I really dont like the idea of leaving her here. I mean… you know." I scrucnh.
>>494596 "Pine wood cove?" I look at Edelwies and Cassie if they've heard of it.
>>494599 Cassie just shrugs. "Lots of caves around here in all these mountains." Edelweiss scratches her head with a hoof. "Uh… I think that cave used to be used to bury miners in whom couldn't afford a grave. It's near the lake south of here."
>>494600 Edelweiss walks over. "More bandits? Is there a name for this pony?"
>>494602 You start digging a hole in the middle of a clearing, just off the road and out of reach of any tree roots. The ground is hard, but your willpower is harder. Before soon, you have a sufficiently large grave to lay the mare to rest in.
>>494621 >>494623 >>494620 I just stare on as they do their job. "I recommend we stick to the plan and continue on after we bury her. We have no time to stand idly here, not with the weather and the uncertainty of this road has been made clear."
>>494630 "But… what if they attack Winterheim again?"
>>494629 The group gets moving again, intent on meeting the Amber road down south. The mood has dampened a little after the last encounter, but the journey continues. Another hour passes as the party finally comes across the Amber road. A paced road marked with rocks marking the sides, covered in only a thin layer of snow. Up ahead, you see a lake and a fork in the road.
>>494632 >>494634 >>494631 I put a hoof on my head and snicker a bit. "Oh my, just one thing leads to another. You see this is not we have talked about. We stick together to the road and thats it. We are not here to go and rouse any trouble you see, specially not if we got someone like her involved." I point at Edelweis.
"As Gallant Striker has said, who-ever, or 'whatever' poisoned her will not be reasonable. I dont like this idea of us going snooping around someone's business, its not our fight."
>>494635 "Who shall, didnt we drive those slavers off?"
>>494639 "Not your fight." Stand up and embrace my gauntlets. "It is our duty to protect and serve. And if none of you will help because of the dangers, we will not hold it against you. But fear not, for Her Love will see you!"
>>494640 "We dont know! Besides this is not what the agreement has been said. The agreemend is that we stick to the road and thats it, not hunting bandits or such." I scrunched.
>>494641 "Greater good my ass, we are here to stick to the road and you and the others go and try to be heroes again. I've no plan to travel from the fringes of Equestria and suddenly die here because of recklessness."
>>494642 I just grit my teeth seeing this fanaticism in front of me. "I hope her love can save you once you are choking on a… Bah." I just raise a hoof in dismissal.
>>494644 "There, see. That is a better idea you know."
>>494659 The group moves towards the lake and before soon reaches the lodge. It's rather small, but cozy enough. Cassie unhooks herself from her cart. "There's lots of these alongside the roads up north. They're not as comfortable as inns and often not in use, but it sure as heck beats sleeping outside." Edelweiss opens up the door of the lodge and heads inside. There's a lovely view on the lake from here, a fireplace, some bedrolls, a few cupboards and a table with some chairs.
>>494662 Edelweiss starts a fire and puts some logs on. "Well, nopony seems to be using it right now, so I think we're pretty safe here." It certainly was. The lake is partially frozen over and provides a nice contrast to all the mountains and trees surrounding it. That water must be painfully cold.
>>494663 Nobody must have been here today at least. Aside from that, it's hard to judge just how long ago someone was here.
>>494666 >>494668 >>494667 "So that makes two to two." I crossed my hoof. "I will come with you if Gotti and Gallant Striker sits this down but if both of them volunteer to accompany you two then I will stay here and guard Cassie and Edelweis. Agreed?"
>>494679 You lead the party outside and head south. After a bit of looking and poking around, you pinpoint the entrance of the cave about fifteen minutes from the lodge. You briefly wonder why the now dead mare didn't just go to the lodge herself instead of going to Winterheim, but dismiss the thought quickly.
There's a small camp next to the entrance of the cave. Seems completely deserted. The campfire is long gone.
>>494677 I scrunched as I furrow my brows. "They are fools to go. This is not part of the plan you know." Take out some bread and cheese from my hat to eat. "Dont worry I can protect myself and you two to an extent. I am a bit of survivor you know." I smiled with confidence.
>>494683 Edelweiss shakes her head. "I'm glad they're investigating it. Can't be too careful after what happened to us before." Cassie yawns and rests her head on the floor. "If it prevents other workshops burning down like mine, it's good they're going in there, yeah."
>>494685 You slip on a bit of ice on the ground and fall face-first into a pile of snow in a very unladylike manner.
>>494687 You're too distracted by Angelite's very ungraceful fall right now.
>>494688 None are outside. You can't spot any recent tracks either.
>>494704 A very cavernous area, typical for caves! There's icicles of all sizes on the ceiling, better not make those fall down.
>>494705 You head in deeper… Carefully… Step by step… The passage narrows as you advance… And… Well it's a torch on the wall. Nothing more. Further ahead, you see another torch. No sign of life other than that… yet.
>>494713 >>494714 >>494712 You follow the shaft deeper into the mountain. You seem to be going downwards slowly as well. Eventually, the cave grows bigger again, and you find yourself standing on a overpass. Below you, there's a bunch of stuff. Several benches lined up in rows in front of what looks like an altar. Behind the altar stands a… shrine? You're not sure what kind of shrine. It's shaped like a black bell. There's blood on the altar though and a few bones as well. You see a robed pony sitting on a chair near a table located in the corner of this 'room'. He or she is hunched over some kind of old tome, too busy reading to even notice you standing on the overpass.
You can either jump down into the room, or continue along the overpass and find a different way down.
>>494716 "Pretty far. We still have to pass by Brilliance first! The Amber route connects all the major towns to each other, you see. It's useful to transport gems and whatnot on!"
>>494729 Cassie lifts up her head to look at you. "I passed through Brilliance a few years back, it seemed like a nice city to me." Edelweiss nods. "It's one of the richest and most prosperous cities in the north. There's massive gem mines providing tons of gems every day! From what I hear, it's not as big as the capital, but they still have their own terraforming crystal that can change the weather!"
>>494736 You advance on the overpass until it eventually, ends, leading into another cave that pierces deeper into the mountain. However, there is a wooden construct here that can be used to walk down to the ground level.
>>494737 "Yup! The capital has the crystal heart which does all kinds of stuff aside from changing the climate! Brilliance just has a powerful crystal enchanted with weather altering spells. I hear it makes the climate almost as temperate as Equestria! … I don't know about underground areas though."
>>494742 Clear my throat. "Excuse me for bothering you, good sir, and I apologize for interrupting your work, but I'd like to take some of your time. I am Angelite, a diplomat from the Crystal Capital. Would you be so kind as to introduce yourself and explain what this cave operation is about?" Smooth Talker '1d10+2'
>>494745 "They're extremely expensive though, only a few towns in the North can afford one! Brilliance is one of those few, thanks to how successful its mines are."
>>494746 He perks up and turns around, looking you over. He's an older crystal stallion, his mane starting to show streaks of grey. "You, heretic, are intruding on these sacred grounds blessed by Grogar Himself. You do not belong here and should leave at once before we unleash the undead on you."
>>494752 I close my arms together. "Hmmm…. thats a hurdle. But learning this information is very very valuable. I mean if someone from the badlands or even south of macintosh hills are able to learn about this new magic then.. then perhaps they can grow crops in a more bountiful way. No more raiding or exploiting the little folks you know what I mean." I Scrucnhed.
>>494756 He snarls at you. "Little fool! Your impudence shall cost you dearly!" He powers up a spell. "Your blood will flow freely upon the altar during tonight's sermon. You shall make for a fine sacrifice to Grogar!" The room goes completely dark, even the candles and torched seem to lose a lot of their light. You hear some kind of… rattling sound coming from all around you. Everyone roll.
>>494761 She shrugs. "I guess. To my knowledge the alicorns haven't showed any interest in them though."
>>494763 You're seemingly safe on top of the overpass. From up here, you see several pony skeletons clawing their way out of the ground, fueled with black magic.
>>494765 You too see the skeletons even in this unnatural darkness surrounding you. One of them brandishes a sword and charges at you, but you easily dodge it. The skeleton's momentum causes it to fall and break back to pieces… then immediately assembles itself again and rises back to its hooves.
>>494766 A boney arrow strikes you very painfully into your shoulder. You have no idea what's going on and you're helpless.
>>494769 The arrow has lodged itself quite deeply, making it hurt like hell. While you're writhing in pain, another arrow strikes you in the leg. You're still helpless and even more hurt now.
>>494770 You jump down but the pony manages to dodge you at the last moment. He hisses at you and conjures an ethereal dagger. "More bodies to sacrifice, the altar will be drenched tonight. This pleases Grogar!"
>>494771 You swipe at one of the skeletons with your cane, making it stumble slightly.
>>494768 I laugh before scrucnhing. "Why am I not surprised? They dont show any interest outside of their borders, all those so called alicorns care about is their nobility, their students and whats not. They care little about the suffering of others." "Caring little about the suffering of others, heh… that is one thing they might have unintentionally taught me" I smile as I looked outside the window to survey the area. '1d10'
>>494777 "You don't sound like you're a big fan of your princesses…"
Cassie shrugs at this. "Can't say I'm too hot on them either. I don't dislike them or anything, but I don't particularly care for their governing either."
Nothing catches your eye. Everything seems peaceful.
>>494778 It pains you too much. You're bleeding… you're muscles are protesting too much to stand up!
>>494779 You quickly charge in before the old pony has a chance to continue, slamming into him at full force. He gets thrown backwards by the impact and his dagger disappears into thin air. "I will relish on making you squeal like a piglet while I cut you up!"
>>494782 Thankfully for him, your healing spell removes the arrows and closes the wounds. He now has the strength to stand up again.
>>494784 You've got this in the bag, these skeletons aren't as tough as living ponies! Just stand together and you can overcome this small obstacle!
>>494788 >>494788 Continue my watch as Iook outside the window. I wonder what those fools have got themselves into.
"I've grown up outside of Equestria's borders. I really am not accustomed to… all this peace. Out there you will not only contend with your neighbors, but you also have to contend with petty thieves, warlords, bandits, thugs, not to mention dragons and the bad weather. To be honest, this place is more peaceful than where I come from."
>>494789 You charge your armored hooves with religious fury and smash the old necromancer's gut while he's down. He starts coughing up blood and gurgles as he chokes on it.
>>494791 With a few ladylike strokes of your cane, you manage to keep them from harming you.
>>494792 This is it. Finally your time has come to show this evil pony your righteous fury. You charge in and… another arrow hits you in the leg. You fall and tumble to the ground, in great pain again.
>>494793 Before you can charge in, a skeleton jumps in the way and takes the hit for its master.
>>494796 Cassie gets up. "Don't let all this peaceful scenery lull you into a false sense of security. The North can be a real harsh place."
>>494800 I look at Cassie. "What do you mean by that? Well I know that there are those bandits going around capturing ponies but it is not that bad considering the south beyond the borders are patrolled by dragons, wyverns and foul creatures who prey on anything that are vulnerable."
>>496632 "Oh there's dragons up here too. You see crystal ponies-" She nods at Edelweiss. "-like their gems just as much as dragons do. Add that to the fact that they're very shiny looking themselves most of the time and… you've got yourself a tasty looking target for a dragon." Edelweiss appears a bit embarrassed and looks away.
>>496633 I look at Edelweis. "Well come to think of it. a crystal pony's appearance is enough to entice a dragon to either keep them as part of their hoard or well.. as you say perhaps a tasty meal." I gulp.
Edelweiss nods. "Dragons are one of our biggest natural enemies. Just like diamond dogs and changelings-" Cassie perks up, interrupting Edelweiss' speech and fixing the window with a stare. "… I just saw something outside." She points a hoof. "A shadow just moved into that bush. Somepony is out there."
>>496636 She gets up with an annoyed expression and floats up her sword to her side. "Of course I'm sure, a shadow moved right there from behind that tree into that bush. This better not be bandits again…" You don't see anything out of the ordinary. You're looking out of the south window, which looks out over the lake and its surroundings. There's plenty of trees and bushes surrounding the lake, which would make for decent cover. Edelweiss gets up and looks out as well. "I-I don't see anything!"
>>496638 "Alright… my telekinesis still packs a pretty solid punch, so when you're in trouble, just shout and I'll try to help." Cassie lays low on the floor, sword and horn at the ready to deter any intruders. Edelweiss just backs into a corner.
>>496640 You open the door and step outside. Everything seems normal out here… You advance and circle around the lodge to the bushes where Cassie saw movement. After a bit of searching and walking around in said bushes, you still find nothing. That is, until you are seized in a tight grip from behind by someone and a dagger gets held to your throat as he disarms your crossbow and lets it fall to the snowy ground with a soft thud. "Make one sound and you're dead, understood?"
>>496644 "You're a traveler, you must have some coin on you." He ignores your questions, obviously not interested in enlightening you. "With a nice hat like that, you must have some- ARGH!" He releases you and you fall over in the snow. You hear him cursing and limping away behind you as Cassie speaks up from somewhere. "You alright, Helaine? I sliced his leg! Hey, you get back here!" You hear the clashing of steel behind you… better get up quickly.
>>496646 That was Cassie speaking up. You try to get back to your hooves but slip on the slippery frozen snow and get a mouthful of it. You continue to hear the sound of fighting, but can't see it with your face buried into the snow!
>>496648 You finally get up and spit out the snow from your mouth. Cassie is using her telekinesis to fight off your earlier assailant. A stallion wearing some type of leathery armor. The armor is black as the night with the exception of the underside and the chest, which are white. His face is concealed behind a black mask and a hood pulled over his head as well. You see he is bleeding at his leg, a trail of blood leading to him on top of the snowy ground.
>>496650 You miss spectacularly. Your bolt scorches a large rock behind the two instead. Looks like Cassie is managing to get the upper hand though. Her telekinesis seems decently powerful in combat! Suddenly, Cassie freezes up completely and falls over without so much as making a sound. The stallion quickly gets back onto his hooves and looks around in a panicked manner. "What the heck?"
>>496652 You run over, grab a mallet from your magical hat of wonders and fling it at the thief, hitting him in the face. He lets out a cry of pain and falls over, nursing his muzzle.
As you try to approach Cassie, an arrow strikes right in front of you into the ground, forcing you to stop. "Hail, traveler." A pony, more specifically a unicorn, jumps down from a nearby tree and lands between you and the stallion who is still down on the ground. Judging by her voice and body shape, this unicorn is a mare. She's wearing the exact same outfit as the stallion and has a drawn bow floating besides her, pointing at you. "Do not worry for your friend. She is paralyzed, but only for a short time."
>>496654 Cassie's eyes are wide open. She still seems aware of her surroundings, just unable to move at all. "I saw my associate in a tight spot and had to step in so she or you wouldn't end him." She briefly glances back at him, then back at you. "He is still inexperienced, which is why your friend managed to get the drop on him. I was shadowing him without he himself knowing so, to ensure he would not perish."
>>496659 Oh no no no! "She's been poisoned by a paralyzed dart! There are thieves outside so get behind me!" I then stick next to both Cassie and Edelweis with my crossbow and catalyst at the ready if the assailants sprang up on the door. With that I try to catch my breath. One more moment before I can teleport all three of us out of here. '1d10'
>>496660 You are hyperventilating too much! Those two wretched rogues are no doubt ready to charge in here and cut your throats and there's nothing you can do to stop it! Edelweiss cowers behind you. Cassie is starting to stir slightly.
>>496672 You swing your big, throbbing mace around in a wide arc, but the skeleton dodges by jumping back slightly.
>>496674 Your inspiring words are drowned in the sounds of battle. Nobody hears you, princess!
>>496675 What a grand idea! You smash the copper bell hanging from a pendant around his neck with your hooves, destroying it. All the skeletons fall apart onto the ground with the sound of bones clattering about. "Damn you meddling kids!"
>>496676 You look around, checking the spot where they were standing earlier but… you don't see them. The bloodstained snow is gone too… even the tracks in the snow are gone!
>>496694 "With them not being here, I think it is better to barricade here than to run out in the open. If things get to the worse, I can teleport you three out of here and back into the woods. We then make our way back to town if that happen so you two can stay safe. Got it?"
>>496720 "Alright we stay put until the other arrives. Cassie please rest for now, we dont know if that poison will have an after effect." I then look outside to take guard. "Well… if the others arrive that is." '1d10'
>>496737 This seems like some kind of a cultist sermon room. There's a few old tomes lying around, as well as a lot of bones…
>>496738 It's a black bell stained with blood. Your armored hooves smash it to pieces without much trouble, but some kind of force lashes out at you as you do so, throwing you against a wall. The necromancer starts struggling furiously.