You assemble in the tent once more, to be greeted by the grimacing faces of all the original ponies you met in the war tent for your first briefing.
Shield speaks, now with faint beard growing in. "Well, it seems like it has been an eternity since we last reconvened here, doesn't it? I'll just say it: our siege plans have been ineffective. Top military analysts have been researching the cause, and we believe it to be this: technology. The introduction of repeating firearms was almost twenty years ago now, but this is the first time we've had to face them on even hoofing. For some reason, every time we order ponies out of the trenches, the deathtoll is staggering. They can't leave their trenches, either, though. We're left with a standstill. Ideas?"
Golden Wing pipes up: "Sustained bombing. We need to step up our air raids, and impress every pegasus available into the service."
Waxing Spark suggests: "Our holy artificiers have been researching the haul from St. Szwall and we think we might be able to weaponize mustard against their trenches, if given leave."
Finally, there's a groan from behind you. "Enaugh athis!" It's Mama Anne. "You hoosiers got no idea whacher doin', dunchaknow. We gotta treat this like all heroes do – send in a small, elite team to take out their leadership. I just cain't understand why we haven't done it before now."
Executive A takes this as his cue: "We've been waiting for the advance team to finish planting logs. It should be done now."
"Well, there ya have it!"
"That being said, our log team is probably dead. Who should we send?"
Aira seems to be nodding her head like she knows what a log team is.
You awaken to the concerned faces of Irons and Vlad. The room is lit now, by the moonlight streaming in from above. There seems to be some sort of opening in the roof but you're not very focused in on it just yet. Both Vlad and Irons look pretty roughed up.
"We thought you were a goner."
"Yes, and if so this would have been in… how do you say it? Vain? Hm? You know, you should not stick out your neck so far for this stranger."
>>647286 "You know, the group that infiltrates the city ahead of time and leaves behind notes about how terrible things are. Then when you're fighting your way through, you collect those logs and you can hear about it. It's supposed to give context or something."
>>647287 Groan a little, then try to get up. "It's… it's gonna take more than some spooky things to get me… I think." Come on girl, on your legs. "As for sticking necks out, well, that altar came from the temple my mom was guarding, so bringing it back is part of family duties too. Sorta."
>>647290 "No, it's like, sometimes they'll do an interview with a local pony to get their thoughts on the coming catastrophe, and then, you know, when you read it you understand how bad it was and that gives you a moral justification for your attack."
>>647307 I'll nod, tell Irons and Vlad to keep an eye on Iga, since we don't need more nightmare beasts going after lost artifacts, and make my way over to Red, since he's closer. "That looks pretty bad, Red. There has to have been an easier way to get off of altar-carrying detail." Give a half-hearted grin.
He indicates the map. "So we want you to sneak in here. Try to find their leader, and neutralize him. Once the mercenary armies disband, we'll move in. That will give us access to the lower city. Good luck, we're all counting on you."
>>647320 "Probably not, but the only thing you're carrying from here on is yourself back to safety. And Cumin, too. It sounds like he's hurt something sensitive up there. And there were medical supplies in his quarters, so both of you could be patched up at least until we manage to get out." I'll frown a little. "So… how bad is it? Really?"
>>647327 "No, once you're past their front lines, you'll have to locate their leader, we don't know where he is."
>>647328 "They have some anti-air placements set up in the field, which are preventing our pegasi from getting any closer. If you could take those out, we could extract you directly after you remove their leader - and it would help speed up the air raid on the lower city. There should be three."
>>647325 "Grmm, just lost blood… a little dizzy. Featherweight up there definitely rebroke his leg trying to bail us out, but I don't think he'll want me helping him anyway. As for the monsters, I doubt they'll be back, in this room anyway."
He shrugs. "Lilly is anxious. She thinks the monster is almost here. The featherweight seems to think we're near the hydra. Sounds like we're caught between two devils, if you ask me."
>>647333 "That's all we have so far. The log team has already blazed this trail, but I doubt you'll run into anything from them until we get into the lower city. Remember, you have to stop the mercenary, the eye-patched pony, Vox."
>>647332 "Well, try to keep the rest of your blood inside, alright? I'd really prefer no one die down here. And why wouldn't he accept the help? You're not really in any shape to hurt anyone, you know." Frown a little more. "That hydra's going to be a nuisance, though. I was hoping we could lure it into the room over that way, since it's filled with these acid-spitting clams or something. If nothing else, that'd slow it down." I'll gently pat him on the shoulder. "But you need rest, and something to stop that bleeding. I doubt Cumin brought his medical supplies with him, so that might be tough to find. I doubt Vlad would offer his cape as bandage material." Frown a bit. "Anyway. You can take it easy. Assuming we've got to keep moving, you're off altar-dragging duty." Now to make my way up the stairs… "Oh, and one more thing. Try to keep Lilly from losing her head? She's had a rough day, and it's probably going to get worse before it gets better…" On to Cumin's collapsed form.
>>647341 "We weren't getting anywhere when the battle was on all fronts, so we thought to narrow it down to just these areas that way we could save money on the siege. They're still technically surrounded."
>>647339 >>647337 You can move out when Maeda is ready. In the mean time, Anne, Fly, and the other pony move out. You could also explore the war camp while you wait.
>>647343 "I don't think he trusts anyone but you."
He shrugs. "No offense, 'princess', but the rest of us - even that courier - we're all killers. All of us. You don't have the same feel about you. He spooks easy. To be honest, I'm pretty surprised a featherweight like that had the bluster to come help at all."
You head up to Cumin. He's crumpled up in a fetal position, clutching his re-broken leg. It has an improvised wooden splint, it seems to be a plank from one of his crates.
>>647353 War Camp This camp is quite the hodgepodge. There are three main areas: the Equestrian contingent, the heroes' quarter, which really looks more like a transplant of New Earth - more of the same you've been seeing - and a restricted executive area. It's so nice, they've rolled out red carpet to cover all their dirt!
Where do you want to explore?
>>647355 Fly shrugs. "I have my own motives as well."
>>647359 A Whinneapolis pony stops you on the way out with a smile and open arms. "Aren'cha just the cutest little thing, eh? I don' think we've made acquaintance, dunchaknow. I'm Mama Anne, and you must be the young inquisitor joining us."
>>647360 "Your ward seems to be wandering off. We can set off as soon as you're ready."
>>647361 Some bouncers stop you as you approach this area of tents. It's even cordoned off! "VIPs only."
>>647351 "That was incredibly foolish of you, Cumin." Sigh as I hunker down next leg. "Thank you. Now, you might want to bite down on this while I reset your leg." I'll hoof him my spear, and take a deep breath. "Okay. One… two…" '1d10' reset the leg. "Three."
>>647366 >>647368 With little further ado, you set out, leaving introductions for later - or never. The other ponies with you seem to know each other pretty well. Aira seems fairly nervous around them.
Battlefield This great field has a nopony's land in the middle. It's full of terrible opinions, like any land populated by nopony. Rather than doing fighting in the trenches, you're planning to sneak past it as best you can.
>>647372 Wince at the scream. I'm not trained for this, so I should be glad I didn't make it go the completely wrong direction. Make sure the bindings for the splint are tied securely. Since we're not under duress, I shouldn't have to roll for that. Hopefully. "That would have probably been the most likely outcome of that, yes. But you saved us." Wipe some of the sweat off his forehead. "Of course, it's a lot less heroic when you end up breaking a leg again." Give him a weak grin.
>>647390 "I'm sure if you hadn't been down a leg, you'd have done fine. None of us knew about the altar. If I had, I probably would have thrown my necklace in." I'll jangle it a little. "Not that I'm certain that would have stopped them, but maybe I wouldn't have… well, it gave you a chance to shine, right?" He's sweating a lot. That can't be good… If only I had a towel or something. I can at least get his crutch, though. "Still, you've really got to stay off that broken leg, Cumin. I'm no doctor, but even I know that breaking something twice in one day is bad for the bones." I'll look at him curiously for a second. "How'd you know we were in trouble, anyway? Weren't you half unconscious?"
>>647398 "I knew you were headed for that room when I heard you drain the floor below… Although, it took me a really long time to strap together the splint and stagger downstairs. Really, um… Marina… this is too dangerous. "
>>647399 "Well, yeah. There's a big undead hydra guarding the spot where we need to put an altar so we can cut its link to Lilly and the nightmare beast that's hunting her is dismissed or lost in the shadows somewhere. All of this before tomorrow night. Not to mention we had a run-in with some acid-spitting clams or something just a bit ago. I've got plans for them, though." Sigh. "If we had like, another fifty ponies, we might stand a decent chance. As it is, we have to improvise. Drowning it won't work, we've got nothing in our collective arsenal that would put a dent in a hydra, living or dead, and we're nearly out of time. So yeah, it's dangerous. Impossibly so." Smile weakly. "But, well, if I gave up now, that'd just be another black mark on us Lunites. And I can't bring a mare I consider… well, 'friend' might be too strong a word, but a positive acquaintance, just to ditch her at the end when things get hard." My smile will waver a bit. "I mean, I just kinda want to go home and cook. I don't want to have to worry about any of this. But I can't. If there's anything I can do, I have to at least try." Wipe my eyes quickly, and sniffle. "Anyway, the only way that hydra is going to be killed again is if we get smart about it. I figure those acid clams could at least slow it down a little, provided we lure it into the lower atrium, but the trick is finding a route. Don't suppose you've mapped one, in your time here?"
>>647413 "That would probably be ideal, but the idea of leaving it here to stomp around is… less so. Especially if that thing comes for Lilly anyway, and we have to beat a hasty retreat. Last thing we need is to be caught between a hydra and an elder demon." Frown a little and rub my chin. "But let's hear your idea. We get the altar squared away, hopefully not exploding into a horrible pitched battle, and we can take our time on the way out."
>>647414 "I think the hydra isn't being controlled by necromancy - there's a sort of blessing against it here inside the temple. Instead, I think its body is being animated by a parasitic fungus - Toxoplasma dementus. Colloquially known as 'gravemind', or 'brain rot'. It infects the brain and uses the body like a puppet. I took some spore samples - it's all around us in the air."
He pauses, and then continues, after your look of alarm, "Not in the concentrations high enough to infect - not here, anyway. I think the infestation must be somewhere deeper. If we could burn out the core, anything it was animated would be released. Ashes to ashes, meat to meat."
>>647419 "Well, the closest things we've got to torches are those lightning bottles of yours. And I doubt that'd be a good thing to carry around." Frown a bit. "We might be able to make some torches out of broken crate wood, and some cloth. Somepony's going to have to run up and fetch the rest of those medical supplies, at any rate. Lilly's kind of freaking out, though, so that means it's either me, Iga, Irons, or Vlad…" Frown a little. "I'll be back with the supplies in a little bit, I just need to grab Iga. She's weird, but at least I know she'll focus on the task at hoof." I'll pat Cumin on the head. "You, however, are to stay put until we get back. You and Red messed yourselves up pretty bad back there, so I want both of you to take it easy for a bit. And you stay off that leg!" With that, I'll head back down and try to pry Iga away from the altar and its loot. We've got supplies to fetch.
Having crossed the minefield, you have officially entered the camp of the enemy. Agents provocateur! Mama Anne, the Whinneapolis mare, waves you into a nearby abandoned supply tent and lays out the map in front of you.
"Alright, so here's where we're at. We're thinkin' the leader of the mercenaries is here, or here. If we can get rid of him, most of these mercenaries will just flat out abandon the field, dunchaknow. Just isn't nothing for them if there isn't a paycheck at the end, and I just don't understand it. Still, it's out best option. Only problem is, if we pop out at one, they'll for sure move if we guess wrong."
Cool Whip puts it together thoughtfully. "Unless we attack both locations at once. We could split into groups."
Anne nods. "It also means double the chances to run into those AA-placements and scrap 'em, ya know."
Fly, who has been making herself scarce, chuckles darkly. "Your daughter won't be here. She is, no doubt, where I plan to go. But to get into the city proper, the city must be sieged - and that cannot happen until the mercenaries are disbanded. We must deal with the eye-patched pony."
Maeda waves for your attention. "We don't have time for this fight. We have to deal with the machines and more importantly strike at Vox. You should dig ahead with Rhanna while I hold them here. Don't worry, I can handle them."
Maeda gives you a confident smile and nod.
>>648429 "You think you can handle that Rhanna? We're counting on you."
The ground composition here is smooth and dense, of clay composition. Easy for your diamond dog paws to rip through, though Selena can barely fit. You can hear the sounds of combat up above you. Based on the taste of the soil, salt content seems to increase directly ahead. The terrain to your right seems to have a higher concentration of rocks. You can also wait and listen to vibrations if you like (roll to hear over the sounds of combat).
>>649607 The cramped diamond dog tunnel is not your sort of place. It's barely big enough for you to wriggle through, and totally dark, to say nothing of the dog butt in your face. Something sharp - possibly rocks - are scraping your belly.
>>649613 ''I'm being careful. If I dig too fast the ground might collapse or something, and someone could land on top of us!'' >>649614 Perk up my ears and listen carefully as I keep carefully digging ahead '1d10' listening
>>649622 >>649621 Turn to Selena and whisper ''There's some heavy shooting foward and to the right…And also some to the left I think, they are artilery all around us'' Point up ''There's one pony ahead too. A guard. But I don't hear anyone else nearby…Wanna deal with him? We could get some info outta him''
>>649633 >>649631 13:12 You push on ahead. Suddenly and without warning, you burst out of the cover of ground into an opening. Selena gasps with relief as fresh air enters her lungs.
The Crater The land here is pocked with carbon residue, the remnants of a firebomb dropped by the attacking pegasi. Nearby you can see the charred remains of their harnesses and winged helmets: brave soldiers shot down by anti-air guns. The angle isn't very conducive to seeing, but by the loud sounds of cannon blasts, you must be near one of the placements.
>>649637 >>649639 Good idea Selena! While she distracts those two, I'll sneak behind in the turret and see what i can figure out about it. I might find something useful! Or just screw it up '1d10' appraise
"I am shooting them, I'm just saying, we have to prioritize! Shoot whatever is closest regardless of what religion it is! Besides, they're hardly believers if they're bombing us!"
He's quite distracted.
>>649640 Well… uh… it's pretty standard artillery. Load and shoot. Its simplistic design leaves no obvious weaknesses for wrecking it besides taking out the supports, but they could just prop it back up. Hmm… Maybe you could think of something else, or keep studying it.
>>649646 Perk my ears as I stay hidden, watching with a little smile at how Selena turned one of those dudes against the other. How does she do that?! I look around us to make sure there isn't no other ponies approaching
>>649666 >>649667 ''Oh…Oh geez I think I shouldn't have shot him… SOrry, I thought you wouldn't have gotten it'' Get away from the artillery wit Selena, ready to move out Also walk away without looking at the explosion to look badass!
>>649679 Cringe a bit ''I think this might be the place where Vox is…I mean I can hear at least six guards…And they're stepping really heavy too…Probally with some armor on…And I hear a weird machine sound too…'' ''This is risky miss Selena…''
Parade Plaza This central plaza is host to the primary entrance to Enkilj, although today it is sparsely populated and the great gates to Enkilj are closed. There are two small patrols of two ponies which might be snuck past. The ground here is composed of hard brick and cannot be burrowed. On the far side of the plaza is an artillery placement.
>>649780 Selena darts across the plaza unnoticed to the other side, but Rhanna is accosted by some mercs! She knew the risks, leave her behind and finish off this gun!
Manned by three ponies and placed inside a reinforced stone bunker, this looks like the hardest position yet to break. Could be trouble… Got a plan? If not, you could always try to sneak inside the back door.
>>649781 You're accosted by some villainous mercs!
0:20 - Don't attack just yet… You have to time it just right!
>>649807 Sharpen is a combat skill! Selena scoops you up.
>>649806 You lift Rhanna and roost on a nearby wall. A pony approaches Vox and the camera pans in closer.
Punished "Venom" Vox
Revolver Pegasus (Revolver Pegasus)
"Boss, we're under attack. There's a paladin fighting several of our soldiers in the square, we've seen hit and run attacks by spies in several places. There are tunnels under the camp, and two of our gun placements have taken out. What are you orders?"
"Hmm… Take some of the guard, reinforce the third gun. We need to keep the bombers back."
>>647424 More than a month ago A few minutes ago you left to go fetch more medical supplies and gear from Cumin's room, the Solar Study. Since then, you've returned and helped patch Cumin up a bit more. Lilly has had a little time to calm down too, but she still seems impatient given the ominous warning previously received.
Regardless, it seems unlikely you'll be able to find the place where the altar goes - or this so called gravemind fungus - without Cumin's help. Not in time, anyway.
>>650386 "If we want to find out where things are supposed to go in time. But he really shouldn't be on his leg." >>650387 Well, hopefully he'll be leaving after we're done, so he won't need the blankets after this. There are plenty in Autumnsreach, right?
>>650389 >>650390 Well, it's time to make an executive decision. Him and Red aren't really in the condition to move, which cuts down on the number of ponies who can haul the altar. However, we'll need Cumin to lead us deeper. Perhaps he and Red could support each other? Six legs are better than three, right? Scrunch a bit and think really hard. >>650391 "What if Cumin and Red support each other as we move on, and Iga can help drag the altar as long as we're not in a fight? Lilly and I can take the front and light the way with torches."
>>650392 >>650391 >>650393 Irons clears his throat. "Actually, I've come up with a solution for that. I used one side of the crate and some of the cloth you came down with to make a palette for the altar. It should be easier to move, and you don't even need to touch it anymore. I think Vlad and I can handle it. Not to mention, I doubt Iga can safely touch it, even on accident."
He raises an uncertain eyebrow at the Neighponese pony.
Red shakes his head though. "No offense intended, yer 'highness', but I'm about twice his size. He's pretty small fer a stallion. I'd have an easier time carrying him than leaning against him in this state."
Cumin gives an embarrassed nod of affirmation. "Um… would you mind if I… lean on you instead?"
>>650394 Tap a hoof to my chin for a second. "Well, we don't have time to argue, so it'll have to do. Though he looks light enough even I could carry him. Irons, if you can rig it up, then please do so."
>>650398 "Already a step ahead a'ya yer highness."
Cumin weakly leans up against you. Your earlier assessment is probably right: you're a pretty strong mare and he's nearly as light as a pegasus. Without further ado, he points to the door on the far right past the center altar.
"According to my notes, that door leads to the Slipway, a drain hallway. It's not the traditional parade route, but it should be shorter…"
Slipway This grand hallway is easily fifteen feet wide, but only ten feet tall. Most of the room is made up a slightly lowered segment on the left. The lowered brickwork glints with faint hints of liquid, as a slow trickle drains from 'pipes' near the top. The hall is slanted downward.
Cumin points out carvings on the wall as you descend. "These are examples of Pre-Nightmare architecture, suggesting this temple is predated the sister's conflict, though during the war, all temples were mobilized. These images here indicate a traditional monthly festival on the full moon."
In any case, your torches do provide some light, and there's nowhere to go but down…
You continue down the slope slowly, to avoid any slips. Cumin coughs loudly when you reach a landing below.
This landing is characterized by a number of carbonized marks on the floor, hints of extremely hot flame once covering it.
"Air's getting thicker… probably nearing the gravemind. I don't like it here… the mazes above were one thing, but I doubt I'd last a day past the scorch."
There is another slipway headed down, and two doors on this landing. Neither is labeled, but both are airlocks.
>>650404 The torches were mostly to deal with those spores, anyway. "Well, the torches should help clear the air a little, right? That said, you might want to put a piece of cloth over your snout, so you don't breathe anything in…" I'll think a second. "We all should, really. Do we have any spare cloths, Irons?"
>>650405 "The Slipway will head down to the great flow chamber. These doors… one of them probably leads to the pump station for this level. I know the grand library must be near here, it's what I came to find, but I've never located it."
>>650406 "Not much but it's something. Tear off a piece."
Cumin looks a little troubled but doesn't say anything.
>>650408 >>650409 >>650410 Cumin coughs through his mask. "The gravemind core could be anywhere, too. Meanwhile, the hydra surely waits in the flow chamber. Its large size is the most comfortable for one of its size."
>>650411 "Well, if that gravemind is in the place where the altar goes, then we can kill two birds with one stone, so to speak. Torch it, and place the altar back where it belongs." Right, let's open up the airlock on the left.
>>650415 I'll go rigid for a second in surprise, but thankfully no one is really paying attention. I guess he's feeling jealous or something. "Then that means we're not the first ones here. So we might actually be going in the right direction, since the traps were probably triggered when Lilly's mom came down here and took the altar in the first place."
>>650423 "I… I should be fine." Ugh. "I guess the cloth mask wasn't as effective as I thought it'd be…" I'll rub my throat. "And please, could you and Red cut it out with the 'highness' stuff? I'm just Marina, same as I ever was."
>>650429 Jeez. It's like they're all against me on this one. Is getting romanced really so important right now? "I don't even know what this is supposed to be, beyond the donkey thinking his vassal has a big butt. Cumin? Anybody?"
>>650436 If this thing is responsible for reanimating the hydra, killing it might also take care of that problem as well. "Let's get rid of this thing. Maybe it's what brought the hydra back, and killing it will kill that too."
>>650443 You can't really whisper that next to someone who's carrying you. I'll pat him on the head. "I know you did, but I just thought ponies could stand to be reminded." >>650444 "Hopefully, after this is over, you'll be blessed with a few nights of dreamless sleep."
>>650450 "Probably the last group had a run-in with the gravemind? But this means any maps are probably burnt as well…" I'll look over to the shut door. "Judging by how thick the air is with spores, it's probably behind those doors there."
Vlad nods and shoots up to the vaulted roof of the once-great library. Then you see it.
Gravemind Core This huge fungal growth covers the entirety of the room, which is well over 3,000 square feet (280 sq meters). It sprawls across the ceiling. With a mighty shake, almost a roar, an avalanche a spores shake free from the ceiling!
Cumin collapses, and stands up jerkily, as though his joints feel no pain!
Vlad suddenly falls out of the air, but jerks up as though he had felt nothing from the fall!
>>650451 You feel the spores overtaking you… it is a bad pain!
Gravemind Fungal Core Vlad Cumin Marina
Lilly Belle [▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓] Iga [▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓] Dixie Red [▓▓▓▓▓▓░░░░░] Many Irons [▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓]
>>651573 You slip, but realizing how important this moment is, you push yourself just a little harder to stay standing!
2 mooks do show up, though, and some hit you!
You see something on your peripheral vision… but you don't have time to get a good look because you're busy staying up!
Mooks: 6 Distance: 2
>>651574 Rhanna runs over and helps you up as her action! Vox clonks Selena with his instrument. Ugh, it's heavy!
"Who are you fighting for, assassins? The colonial powers that want to rape this land until there is nothing worth a bit left? Some misguided religious zealot? Do you think for yourselves, or are you just mindless pawns?"
No mooks joined the battle… Maeda is holding the line!
Hapless Mook is inspired by Vox and promoted to Mook!
>>651587 Both mooks hit and the hero glancingly hits you!
"You're fighting to enslave another land to Celestia's yawning empire! This is an army of liberation! Besides - the history book will be written by the winner. The dead pony has nothing to fear from books!"
Your air support has thinned out considerably, but you're expecting more support next turn. Should you flag for healing or fire support?
2 mooks arrived!
Hapless Mooks: 4 Misguided Hero: 1 Distance: 1
>>651590 He burns, but keeps standing! Acid off cooldown.
"You remind me of myself when I was young… assassinating warlords mindlessly for some cause I had no say in… I wonder when you'll grow up."
>>651589 You pick off a mook! A mook hits you, and so does Vox. You drink your potion as an instant automatic action to save your own life.
Reminder that you can APPRAISE AS AN INSTANT ACTION.
>>651591 Oh geez Let's try to get away from these guys before I die Also I tottaly knew that, I was just waiting to see when you were going to remember that I could do that! '1d10' appraise Vox '1d10' get away and hide!
>>651592 2 hapless mooks arrive as you cut one down! One hapless mook hits you, while the misguided hero slashes at you glancingly.
"You've been bought by a seller of flesh - that corporate pony that cares only for profits!"
Golden Wing herself zooms by with lightning speed and drops an explosive payload. You only have a split second to roll for cover when it blows!
A huge hit! 3 mooks and the hero were killed in the blast!
But it looks like Golden Wing was hit by the remaining artillery… she's going down! No time to go try to recover her, though. You have a job to finish. You can stay here indefinitely to hold the line or group up with the others to finish Vox.
Hapless Mooks: 2
>>651594 "Venom" Vox is too much of an enigma for your doggy brain, it would seem.
You perform a perfect dodge and force a miss from all of the brave warriors - ducking and weaving between their legs!
>>651593 >>651595 You die rolls away into the void, and suddenly your acid tube seems more pressurized and coats all of the warriors in acid!
Vox pops Heroic Fortitude.
"My face…! It burns! Look at the monster you've made me on the outside… but I am already a demon within."
You smash aside another mook as another turns up. Two hit you…
You can't keep this up much longer, but for now… YOU'RE ALLIIIIIVE!
[Haunting Sins of the Father playing]
>>651607 >>651609 Selena fails to make a potion. Vox's heroic fortitude ends and he takes a knee to rest.
Rhanna tries to evade in a hole, but the two warriors catch her and bash her head in. The world slowly fades to darkness as she loses consciousness. It begins to rain, blood and tears washed away in the growing overcast above. Vox had…
>>651612 You ditch both mooks. You don't think they'll stay ditched for long.
You meet back up with Selena and Rhanna. Rhanna is unconscious, and Selena badly blooded. All this pain, reminds you of what you are. You'll live, and become all you need to be.
You charge onto the battlefield just in time to see this unfold:
>>651613 Vox, on a knee, looks up at you, your pistol in his face. He can't suppress a hacking cough, blood escaping his lips. There's no time to think. No more time for monologues.
He jolts with sudden reflex, but you pull the trigger. The bullet seems to hang for a moment in the air between you as rain falls. A single drop seems to land on top of your payload as it exits the gun - hissing as water and heat meld in an instant.
Vox moved – he stood up, just in time to catch the bullet in the middle of the chest. For a moment he stops, shudders, and croaks:
"Selena… Once you walk up those steps… there's no turning back."
His hooves give out, and he collapses into a puddle in the rain. His troops stand down… and straighten, to salute their fallen Boss.
The dreamlike haze must have made you lose track of time. By the time you can snap yourself out of it, the enemy is already dispersing, away from the city. No leader to command them, they're breaking away.
Vox's warchest lay undisturbed in the corner of the isolated ruins.
>>651617 >>651616 >>651615 With the fighting stopped, Selena has a moment to tend to Rhanna and bring her back to consciousness. Regardless, it won't be until tomorrow you can assault Enkilj proper, as your troops won't be able to move in at top speed since all three artillery weren't taken out ahead of time. Still, you eliminated enough artillery for Maeda to have air support during her mission just now, if she cares to share that information.
Take your time to finish unfinished business or faff, and then return to camp when you're ready to move on.
>>651618 >>651617 ''Mom…Just five more minutes…'' Shake my head and groggily open my eyes ''Hmn…Oww my head…Ugh…Miss Selena? Oh shoot Vox! Where is he! Imma get him don't worry, where i-Oh…'' My eyes set on The corpse of what was oncea great leader ''…We…WE won?''
>>651619 Based on her trajectory, probably the other side of camp, near the tower Rhanna and Selena supposedly took out. Actually, it might be a good idea to swap stories on what went down on each of your separate adventures, now that you think of it.
>>651622 I knew that, I was just making sure you were paying attention to your own desciptions! >>651624 ''Woohoo…ow…Finally. I was getting tired of all this war stuff. This ain't for me'' >>651625 ''Oh hey Maeda. Me and Selena wiped the floor with Vox's stupid face and his goons. A total piece of cake!''
>>651645 >>651641 By the time you finish picking through the loot and find Golden Wing's crash site, she's already being carried off by stretcher. She doesn't look like she's in much shape to talk at length, but she waves you over much to the protest of her team of clerics.
"Well, the job's half done Inquisitor. I hope this steel trap of a city is worth it."
>>651655 >>651654 You head back and return to your tents. Here's where we would make jokes about a glistening muscle-covered mare stripping off her armor in a shared tent, or a gorgeous magician pulling off her cloak – but you're both covered in bruises and feeling very unsexy.
>>651803 You've been sorer. After all, there was a time when you had it on the regular from Face.
>>651804 She gives a surprised look. "The city, of course. The siege has moved inward. There's a breach of the main streets, but the cultists have dug in quite heavily. They must know their struggle is hopeless now that their main defense is broken, I wonder why they still fight?"
>>651806 >>651807 "Hm… maybe. But they're still ponies. And not all of them are crazed, some of the lower ranking ones are just misguided or have nowhere else to go. That's why I've always preferred to just hunt monsters or try non-lethal means."
>>651818 ''Nooot really…No matter how good you are at magic, brewing or shooting, you will miss from time to time…And Magic is the worst case of this. You never know if your spell is going to do exactly what you want, or if it's gonna blow up in your face…''
>>651819 The camp is divided into sectors. >The Adventurers' Tents This area is populated by a rough bazaar for trading and haphazardly thrown together lean-tos and tents of all shapes, sizes, and colors. It's barely populated right now, though. This seems like your best bet for acquiring shady goods and meeting new friends. >Administrative Sector The busiest of the three. You went here for the war council before, and it has bouncers. No doubt DLC is somewhere within with his executives and "his ponies" - the secretaries and clerks that handle his business. This area seems ideal for spying if you want to learn more about the movements of both sides before moving out. >The Inquisitorial Camp Partially populated - though mostly by the clerics and support staff that help the inquisitorial ponoes like Maeda do their work. It is further subdivided into boroughs related to their respective offices. They do have an office of requisitions. The many scholars and monks here seem to make it a prime location for identifying artifacts or learning about magic.
>>651822 There's barely anyone here - and of the prime ponies you met the other day at the war camp, only Fly is here. She's in her tent, stretched out on a cot below a lean-to which shields her surprisingly well from the sun. She seems to be fiddling with dice between her claws. She greets you as you pass by: "You made it out. Of course, I foresaw this."
Of course, if you aren't here to see Fly, there are a couple of peddlers trying to sell goods, but none of the good stuff is out right now - it's mostly greys and whites. Maybe when the adventurers come back to rest for the night.
>>651823 You wander after Selena. Fly - the creepy griffoness 'vampire' is here, as well as a few peddlers. Although the goods the old goat needed were a little too rare to be found in a place like this.
>>651825 The blueprints, right? You suspect the best place to learn more about those designs is with the clerics and scholars of the inquisitorial camp. Alternatively, Old Ram MacMeal might be able to help.
>>651826 "Nor I. All part of the show. Or perhaps not."
She gives you another of those unnerving grins - it's always hard to tell if she is joking.
>>651829 "Predictably. It was a profitable engagement, regardless."
She gesticulates at the cache of dice she has collected.
>>651828 The Inquisitorial Camp is somewhat more busy than the one you came from, ponies scurrying to and fro between tents, mostly delivering papers. They seem to be organized after a fashion - it's just difficult to pick up on. >Pick one at random! >Try to guess the right way (Roll WIS) >Ask for help (Roll CHA)
>>651831 "Cost is given by the percentage chance of the maximum side landing plus the number of sides times five."
That's… math. You thought you escaped this when you closed your shop! Accounting is the worst.
>>651832 You recognize symbols similar to the ones from the monastery where they had all those artifacts headed down a side street toward a series of tents set up directly adjacent to one another with no space in between. That seems like a good place to start.
>>651835 "Yes, or three sides would be 48. The least expensive are the four and five sided dice at 45 each."
>>651834 You wander into the tent. There are a number of strange objects out on the tables here, being appraised: you don't think touching them would be wise. At the end of the room, there is a large glowing portal - it is a effervescent purple, and guarded by a tall pony in black robes.
There are a few curator ponoes here looking over the artifacts laid out on the table.
>>651908 "Ah, 'another'. The ritual at the volcano was to revive it. It failed, however, but it was unnecessary. It would have prevented this… war, however."
She gestures vaguely at the tents around her.
"There is a rumor, which I have traced back to a friend of yours, that they plan to incite some ritual to end the world. I see no reason to take it as anything more than regulatory fanatical holy war-isms."
>>651911 "Oh, I should have guessed. But how weird of you to call it a war. For those idiots at the management, this is just a business venture. When did adventure turn into such a grind? I tell you Fly, I'm glad I got out when I did. My poor daughters, I hope they get out of this soon and settle down."
>>651839 Hug the blueprints close to me "I ain't leaving those here overnight, they're mine!" give the curator a mean look before turning to the portal pony "Uh, thanks mister! At least somepony here knows the importance of my efforts!"
>>651916 Shrug. "So much pain, just for some money. Stupid. You've just confirmed why I should get Aira and Aria out of here. And if I were you, Fly, I'd get out as well. There's nothing good to be gained here."
>>651917 "No wonder you couldn't read this. It's in Q, which is a sort of code used by the cultists of Enkilj. This diagram seems… quite complex. A blending of magic and machine. Still, I can translate the writing - then you can help me decipher the rest of it."
>>651918 "It will remain worth my while until it becomes colonialized. Then, I will depart for more fertile lands. Dice are interest."
>>651920 "Perhaps. Although the very concept of Q has been known to give headaches to the uninitiated."
She gives faintly beneath her hood, which conceals the rest of her face.
The blueprints seem to be a design for a next-generation form of propulsion that would allow your ship to travel without reliance on the wind, magic, or on-board rowing. If it works, this may be the most valuable blueprint in the world. Moreover, this kind of design might be useful in your 'rocket to the moon'. It relies on an on-board power source that you're going to call an engine. It will require more deciphering to figure out which components to use and where, but this is a good start.
>>651921 Fly raises a brow. "I carry my family with me. Perhaps when I begin to wane in power I will steal a good specimen of egg and raise it."
>>651922 Scratch my head ''I'm sure I'd have no problem learning it…Now this is strange…Why would Vox be keeping the blueprints of a propulsor device like this? You think he was planing to create some sort of weaponized ship or something?''
The stallion acts casual. "Yeah, I'm hanging back to recover anyway. Doc says I should stay off the wing for at least another day."
>>652807 "Almost all research in Equestria is funded by the Church. Who else has the scribes, the libraries, or the funding? There are some universities that have opened, sure, but most of them exist to teach theology and are full of clerics."
>>652808 Glare a little ''…So how does the church gets its funding? and the libraries?…shouldn't there be a research team working out of the church and getting their own funding?…Honestly I'm not sure how to feel about this…''
>>652809 "The Celestial Church funds itself through tithes and also through banking, although its influence in banking has faltered since the rise of the MSL. There is not much money in researching purely for the sake of research, I am afraid. Who would pay to have a catalog of useless cursed items and then lock them away? Anyone else would surely want to use them for evil. That much can be said for them, at least, although I disagree with certain other issues of morality. In short, if the Church didn't do it, there would likely be very few researchers or archives at all."
>>652810 She sighs and flattens her ears. "Allrighhhht. See ya later."
>>652836 "A sort of outland. Home to many strange beasts and demons. Tirek, and his people knew how to make holes into this realm, although in time he was banished to it and languishes there still. It is a realm with no Gods or masters, only chaos, although Tirekians will claim that their master rules there. By tradition, there were ponies who warded the gates to this realm, but Luna did away with them in ancient times and replaced them with a monstrous beast she tamed. This was before the events of the Long Night."
>>652835 "If nothing else, it's funding the war efforts."
You both receive your blessings in turn. The power of Celestia compels you!
>>652839 "Fret not, for Celestia has just this morning signed a bull that states that any who die in battle or executed as prisoner will surely receive salvation! All sins related to the sacking of Enkilj shall be forgiven. However, I will say a prayer for her, if it puts you at ease."
>>652847 "Yes, although as I learned earlier, we're already running a bit behind. We should get going. What happened to Rhanna?"
>>652846 "Tartarus has a physical correspondence with our world. They are to say in a more scientific way, geosynchronous. Tartarus is, however, much smaller than our world. Are you catching my meaning?"
>>653936 There are so many tents! Pick one at random, or read the signs? It's not as if you know where she went in the first place… Then again, you could ask around, too, or try something else.
>>653937 "Well, it's as simple as that. The Ecclesiarchy isn't very happy about it, but I can facilitate their transportation much faster than any ship or pegasus. There are very few ponies capable of casting this sort of spell."
>>653941 "Er, the opposite. I create magical gateways. But no, not right now. I have obligations here."
>>653942 This is a very large series of tents in which there is a long central table laid out with a number of artifacts being examined by clerical curators. Rhanna is speaking to a tall, dark, and mysterious pony. By which I mean a unicorn whose face is obscured by his or her large black robe. It doesn't look like a priest, anyway.
>>653961 >>653962 "No. She died many years ago, with her father and mother. The Equestrian government found them, after they retired. He was hanged for his crimes and the rest of his family quietly 'disappeared'. There is no Lembrança anymore."
>>653975 >>653976 You cross the cracked and scarred battlefield. For a land populated not twenty four hours ago by raucous battle, it seems eerily quiet and empty here. Blood still stains the ground wherever you walk. Most of the bodies have been cleared, but industrious black birds are still hard at work on what remains.
These enormous gates are made of some dense, dark wood and belted several times in thick iron. Fortuitously, they have been pried open and a small camp has formed around them on each side. The final command post before the front, courier ponies are relaying information back and forth to tents here, no doubt ferrying orders to and fro. This is no doubt the last safe haven before you risk a stray bullet, arrow, or dart.
>>653980 >>653981 "Many lives were lost to get us to the gates - that's why Vox had to be killed… the gates themselves were probably surrendered so that they could fall back to a more defensible position once we had their walls. Now they use the city itself as a series of chokepoints, so that a handful of fanatics can stand against an army. Without their mercenaries, their numbers are few enough."
Lower City The lower city is built entirely into the side of a series of ever-increasing tiers, each made of large stone bricks. Not unlike pueblo architecture, the walls themselves are alive with housing - many of which seem to be hosting battles rather than parties. The war parties formed by the attacking army already seem to be about four levels up - but there are seven tiers to the lower city. Beyond that, there is a terrible black cloud – about eighty feet in the air. You are immediately suspicious of any attempts to fly through it, visibility being only one of your concerns. Some of the couriers are returning to the fight, still dug in on the fourth level, and others are headed down a flight of stairs - apparently there is more to the city below the ground. There are signs all about, but they are in some foreign tongue.
Aira points urgently at the stairs down. "That says 'slave pits'!"
>>653990 It's like a page from a diary. It even has a title and name. Weird.
Inside Enkilj - Gerald Gust Barely made it here alive, but here it is… and it's real! Enkilj. This is where that thing "lives"… where they took my baby girl. From what I saw from my hot air balloon, it looks like most of the city is in ruins. There are still fights going on, army trying to take the upper levels, last holdouts attempting ambushes… I'm rambling. Scared, I guess. But maybe if I find this… 'demon' I keep reading about… I'll find Caroline too.
This larger boulevard still has hints of lights from far above. There are a number of buildings built into the walls - they don't look residential, and all of them are boarded up. At the far end of the street, there is a huge set of double doors, which are locked with an enormous hulking lock.
There are three boarded buildings built into each of the walls on either side of you, so six in total. Behind you is the leviathan set of stairs back up.
>>653999 You arrive unchallenged at the gates. They are at least as large as those defending the main entrance, if not as tall. If anything, their stocky nature makes them more fortified, and because there is no way to burrow around them, they seem insurmountable without a very skilled lockpick or a key.
>>654000 The lock is an incredible marvel of magitech. It seems to shift in shape constantly, rotating with some sort of 'teeth' within – don't stick your paw in. You imagine it would chew up any regular lockpick, and maybe the rogue too. Your keen eye spots another diary page, though…
Big Key - Gerald Gust What did they expect? You keep a giant door to an area that has high traffic, you're going to need more than one key to the place. In the end, commerce is the death of security. I rummaged around in one of the businesses outside - can't read the sign, don't care to now - and found a key to the door that had been left behind in the rush. I'll keep it with me, but I'm starting to suspect there might be more than one spare in case I need a new one later.
>>654002 >>654003 They're definitely not houses - they're clearly some sort of businesses of some kind. They even have signs!
Left: Koaklak Monatonaru - As best you can tell, it's some sort of gambling hall. Bazalazraz Tuitli - Looks like a hunter's pub… or trophy hall? Maybe just a bounty hunting organization. Itzwanitz Bizlitzatrizniz - This place reeks of alcohol. That much is clear.
Right: Ishiwantu Nachtl - This seems to be some sort of crafting place. Waniwani Wanga - You'd recognize the smell of magic anywhere, and it's dense all over this place. Il Tth - Looks like a restaurant of sorts? Or at least a communal eatery?
>>654005 >>654006 It's all boarded up. With Aira and Rhanna's help, you pry off the boards from the main doors.
Ishiwantu Nachtl The building is naturally dark already, but the boards over the only windows aren't helping. There seem to be long rows of tables - with shackles at their feet, wrought into the floors. Most of the tables are toppled, various crafts spillt out across the floor. Broken pottery and whittled crafts abound. Near one of the windows there is an overturned cozychair - punctured in several places by arrows - that looks quite different than the rest of the decor by virtue of not looking like it will cause serious ass pain by sitting on it for several hours. There's also a big counter in the back that's poorly lit. The walls are also dotted with little niches that you would need to light up to examine.
>>654009 The counter itself is stocked with a hardened blob of clay, a big stack of sticks, and a big bolt of linen cloth. Behind it, you spot another diary laying on a chair.
What Happened to the Ponies? - Gerald Gust I've had a look at these… slaves, here in Enkilj. Seen a few, when I was looking for Caroline. They seem like they're in a trance… lost. I've seen the scratchings they leave on the walls in a tongue I can read - poison, dream juice… it's unclear. I think it's some sort of drug to keep them docile. I got in alone with a couple - tried to set them free. They turned on me, growling - cornered me! I had a gun, but I choked… Out of nowhere, we heard a baby's cry. They turned, and I winged it away. That baby… Caroline, I know you're still out there.
This place immediately gives you the creeps. The air is dense with smoke and incense, and there are stone support beams about once every three feet giving low visibility with columns blocking your view of the entire room. The room is plagued by masks hanging from the walls that seem ready to come alive at any moment, and the room is faintly lit by a still-boiling cauldron in the center. It reeks of rotten flesh. As if this were not to deter the locals, there are large feather pillows scattered around the room, pocked with hookah pipes. A lounge of two kinds, it would seem. Besides the various features of this room, there is a singular door in the back, to a room with no light at all.
>>654021 You rip down the boards to the 'hunter place'.
The unusual thing that strikes you about this building immediately is that unlike the others, it is not only broken up into smaller rooms, but it also has carpeting. Upon closer examination, the entire building is carpeted in the hides of animals. The first room which you are in, features a large mirror encrusted with skulls and vertebre, which makes you feel uneasy. You feel rather small in the scheme of the imposingly large mirror. There are doors to your left and right, both bearing forward.
>>654020 Where should you start? The hookah pipes? The cauldron? The strange masks?
>>654025 This room is carpeted like the previous one. The centerpiece here is a large, fearsome bear - standing on its hind legs. It is dressed up in iron barding, special armor for a mount. The way it doesn't move signals to you that it is a taxodermed beast. There are two doors here: left, and ahead.
>>654026 The mask clatters to the ground, motionless!
>>654030 This is a large room - a sort of lounge. It is lengthy and extends far to the back, where the room is lit by a great fireplace. The room is dotted with large, comfortable stuffed chairs, and the walls lined with stuffed animal heads. There is a great red carpet unavoidably along the middle of the room unless you clamber over the chairs like the classic 'floor is lava' game.
At the far end of the room, near the fireplace, there are two final doors: one to the left, and one to the right.
>>654045 "Hey, while I was… getting to cover, I checked out the back room. It looks like there was a key here, but it was taken. I found another one of those diary pages, though. Here."
The Beast Awakens - Gerald Gust I don't claim to be a magician by any means, but I tinker with the odd object here and there and sometimes I can get it to work. I fiddled with one of these crystal orbs longer than I should have, but I finally got something out of it other than just mist. I saw them - they've got the slaves on the move. Clearing out the warrens down there, where they're keeping them, in the deepest pits. I wondered why at first, but then I heard the rumbling – well, the orb can't transmit that sound. Or the feeling. Or the smell… I need to find Caroline soon.
"If only Rhanna had been with us, this would've gone smoother!"
>>654046 It seems already weakened by its hunger, so it isn't at maximum health. The greatest tactical weakness it has is that it can be distracted if you have any meat food on you.
The lion tackles toward you in an attempt to finish you, but misses!
The unusual thing that strikes you about this building immediately is that unlike the others, it is not only broken up into smaller rooms, but it also has carpeting. Upon closer examination, the entire building is carpeted in the hides of animals. The first room which you are in, features a large mirror encrusted with skulls and vertebre, which makes you feel uneasy. You feel rather small in the scheme of the imposingly large mirror. There are doors to your left and right, both bearing forward.
>>654052 This room is carpeted like the previous one. The centerpiece here is a large, ornate drinking table which is itself built with real animal legs for, well, legs. There are two doors here: right, and ahead.
>>654056 This is a large room - a sort of lounge. It is lengthy and extends far to the back, where the room is lit by a great fireplace. The room is dotted with large, comfortable stuffed chairs, and the walls lined with stuffed animal heads. There was a great red carpet along the middle of the room, but it has collapsed inward into a pit where Rhanna is fighting a captive lion. She has narrowly won, bleeding badly.
At the far end of the room, near the fireplace, there are two final doors: one to the left, and one to the right.
>>654058 With a last, decisive shot, you finish the lion. It collapses with one last defiant roar.
>>654059 >>654060 "Hey… Sorry I Uh… Got into trouble…" I look down like a child caught after breaking a plate Also drink that Potion "But hey, I beat it!" >>654061 I-I knee that! I just knew I didn't need it!
Blood and Numbers - Gerald Gust As far as I can tell, the demon that they have down here, that they make all the sacrifices to… it has something to do with math. It tells them things, like an oracle, but it speaks in a different tongue. An entire language evolved around it - their upper class write in it and speak in it while the lower class use a more vulgar tongue more similar to what we speak. The language is called Q, and it seems to revolve around the number five. Is there something more to this mystery? What purpose do the sacrifices serve? Why do they worship it? Does it even matter?
>>654079 You check the back room on the right. This room is something of a small armory - or was. The racks are now barren, no doubt being used in the fight above. Not even a single weapon remains, although there is a big keg of gunpowder.
Aira tries the other door while you're looking in there. "This door is jammed! I don't think we're getting it open from this side without some overwhelming force, and I left my battering ram back in New Earth."
>>654087 Finally, you return to the door and stick in the key. It takes some timing to match it with the spin of the lock, but finally it clicks into place and slowly turns, opening the huge bolts inside the door.
After much rumbling and sliding, the door suddenly pops open a couple of inches, freed from the alignment of the bolts.
The grand promenade which hosted the grand gate you just opened gives way in short order to a split in the path, to circle around an enormous pit, itself the home of many stone structures. From here, you can gaze down on a city of the enslaved, although it seems eerily empty. At the far end of the pit, there is a great gate emitting a bright red light. To get there, you'll either need to circle around the pit - a much longer trip that involves passing past more boarded up buildings like the ones you just encountered - or cut through the slave camp below, braving whatever terrible encounters no doubt populate its depths.
Selena leads the party down a primary set of stairs to a wicker gate at a fortified stone wall. The slave city itself has bamboo crossbars across the top of it to prevent pegasus slaves from simply floating away, although with weapons it wouldn't be particularly hard to break through. On the other hand, the gate itself may not even be locked.
>>654139 >>654137 >>654136 About a third of the way around the circuit, you are suddenly surprised when a pair of cultist ponies busts out of a boarded up shop, clearly laying in wait for you! They each have with them two slave ponies.
Maeda isn't surprised and gets to act on the first turn.
>>654140 >>654141 save your insults for the meta sylt! >>654140 I don't know if it will make much of a difference but I will stay in the middle anyways >>654144 ''It's these guys again…You think you can fight Aria or Aira?''
>>654174 You suspect fanatical cultists are low on the 'likely to surrender' list, but you could try to knock him out cold by bludgeoning him over the head if you get the finishing blow as opposed to your comrades.
You proceed deeper. You come to a section where the path has collapsed - leaving an uneven slope down to the bamboo bars below. There is a way around, however: it looks like pedestrians have been filtering through what appears to be some sort of construction shop. You could also ferry over by pegasus wings, although you would make an appetizing target for any ranged warriors laying in wait…
>>654199 >>654198 >>654197 In the foyer of this building is a large dogoid statue encrusted with gemstones. It seems to have been carved out of the sheer rock of the ground and is posed as though it is holding up the roof. At its feet is another Gust diary. The shop extends deeper with another door to the back, or you can return to the path through the other shop door on the opposite side past the statue.
>>654202 The Demon's Operation - Gerald Gust The insane cultists here are blinded by some sort of promises in their own tongue, but it's clear that this 'religion' of theirs is no more than a front for an insane foray into the forbidden machinations of a beast. They carve out the ground with their slaves and twist the ores into incredible devices under its watchful eye… I've heard them whispering about the Demon's Lair… I think it is just beyond those glowing stairs. Why is it getting so hot down here?
>>654203 You're too distracted by its awesome pecs!
>>654204 So pretty…those amazing, hard…GEMS uuhh, let's focus back on the mission at hand >>654205 ''Yeah…I'm worried about Aira…'' '1d10' let's make Selena a gadget for brewing some sweet sweet potions
>>654204 Oh, so this is basically yogg-saron. Got it. >>654205 >>654206 Dramatically close the diary. "It does not indeed. This opens up a whole new series of problems. If there is indeed a beast down here, it might corrupt the adventurers."
>>654216 ''Here, look. see the joints? the knees and shoulders and the middle of the arms?…Oh oh, maybe it changes something around the room?'' >>654217 I'll still be careful then Search around the general area around us for levers, buttons, any mechanism
>>654219 Nothing obvious stands out in the room. Perhaps in the back room somewhere.
>>654220 "It just creeps me out. I think we should move on and try to get to that door. Who knows if Aria is still okay? It looks like they already moved the slaves, and based on that diary I think they were being taken down to the demon itself…"
Aira breaks the silence as Rhanna looks over the statue more closely.
"So, mom, you said you used to work with that 'Abilio'… so he was on that pirate fleet, right? You never really told us many stories about that time. What made you leave?"
The memory of '84 comes to mind. The great divergence. Abilio retired two years after the Neighpon incident: enough time to settle the fleet, but the transition wasn't a smooth one. When he left, the fleet split into so many different directions with different captains taking each ship. The fleet, in its past form, was done. Light Heart to the south seas with her Sirocco, Chip took a new ship the fleet had acquired, a sort of ice breaker, into the north. He said it was to be closer to his homeland, but everypony knew he lusted for the gemstones of Crystalport. Flowing and Tela each took their own ships to unknown destinations, although the former probably went back to Neighpon. Tela… she must have ended up with Emrille somehow - it might be work asking that story of her someday.
Is Aira old enough to know about how the pirate days ended?
>>654684 What a time to bring that up…but with all these ponies here, it's only natural she has questions.
Take a few moments to answer. "Yes." I say finally. "Abilio was the Commodore at the time. He was a friend of your grandmother and that's how I came to work on his fleet. To tell you the truth, he wasn't really a pirate at all. Just a mage trying to make the best of things. I never saw him do any evil things. He surely didn't deserve what happened to him…"
>>654706 "She said Abilio died and his family disappeared. Now I'm pretty sure he would be able to fake his own death, but still it's not fair. He wasn't pirate, he didn't go around murdering ponies. He just did his job. He helped out his friends. When he left with his family, we all missed him dearly…"
>>654714 "Hmmm, well both you and Aria were very young at the time. When Abilio left, the time came for a new Commodore. But there were many who wanted to be Commodore who nopony else wanted to follow and there were others who didn't want to lead but others wanted to follow. In just a short few weeks, the whole fleet broke up. Each captain and their crew sailing off where they wanted to go." Wanna continue, but I don't remember what ship the lab was on, I don't think it was the Sirocco?
>>654724 >>654723 >>654722 With the disappearance of Emrille and the retiring of Abilio + Cloudy, the Darklantern fell to Rusty Wrench's command. Light Heart took the Sirocco, September took the Seaworthy, Tela the Hourglass. There were two ships acquired in the intervening years by the fleet - names now unimportant. One was an icebreaker that Chip took to the north, and the other was a trusty carrack named Yamato that Flowing Tree took to his own ends.
>>654720 "You know, before that I worked on a lab on one of the ships with Aloë, she was a cow. A very talented one! I liked her a lot. She was smart and she was always game for a good talk. When the ships started dispersing I was faced with the decision of staying on the Darklantern with her, or going with Light Heart on her ship. It was hard but your father going with Light Heart tipped made me go on the Sirocco… I wonder what happened to Aloë…"
>>654738 "Well apparently those cows there are smart enough to not just take care of themselves but to thrive! I'm telling you, don't be too snarky, because Aloë was a lot better in Alchemy than most ponies I've met!"
>>654742 The warmth of sun tickles your face. You stretch restlessly in your cot until eventually, there is too much impetus to wake. Opening one eye, you can see the bed is empty save for yourself and Aria, curled up against your stomach. She's so affectionate, you can hardly imagine she'll ever go through a rebellious phase. Normally they sleep in their own beds, but there has been extra space in yours lately. Face has been avoiding you, it seems like. You don't want to jump to conclusions: he is a spy, after all. It's just… weird. He keeps saying he's busy with work. You wouldn't want to doubt him, but the bed is empty another night…
>>654747 Yawn sleepily and nuzzle the sleeping Aria. Look around, ever since the Darklantern left, I don't really have a lab to work with anymore, no need to get up early. But it makes me feel so useless on the ship… at least I'm not useless here with Aria and Aira. Take a look towards Aira's bed, is she sleeping soundly?
>>654748 She's sprawled out across their twin bed, mouth open and asleep. The mighty winds above filtered through the many sails of the Sirocco dispense a gentle, cool breeze into your room - now that you're out of the sunspot.
>>654752 She kicks sleepily as you lift her, but she stops as you deposit her back on her own bed. Aria developed the habit of transferring to your own due to Aira's unfortunate bedwetting period, but at long last, she seems to be over it. They're almost four now.
>>654757 Between Germaney and Prance, there is a new land rising. It is a place for traders - in the lowlands drained of their water by great pumps, and protected by huge levees. Now your ship is docked at Witherloo, which was once on a swampy island, but is now a port of the mainland.
The crew is partially at ease. The mild waters inside the locks of the port are not prone to emergency calls to stations, but it is a risk to come to Witherloo. This is one heart of a new movement of traders - and merchants are far from friendly to pirates. Light Heart is away on engagement - some sort of diplomatic play, no doubt. She hopes to leverage her tongue against these traders, but it is still an uncomfortable situation.
>>654761 She'll be sure to screw them…in the contracts. She always does. No Face? Go look over the leaning of the ship. Why, why is he avoiding me…I think back on the last couple of weeks. I doubt it's anything I did…No wait, maybe I'm just imagining things, he's probably very busy… Shake my head. I should get something to eat for me and the twins.
>>654769 Nothing seems to come to mind immediately as the cause, in any case. You head down to the hold of the ship, which also hosts the larder. The quartermaster down here is a mousy little brown mare who wears a yellow cap and outfit. "Here for some experiment ingredients, Springleaf?"
>>654785 You remember waking the twins and eating breakfast, but that's not so important to the story… It wasn't until the evening, when you were turning some dishes back in to the quartermaster, that you got a response. You dropped off your dishes, and as you were trotting away, she called after you:
>>654791 Light Heart is still out on the town… You can probably get somepony trustworthy to watch the foals, but you don't suspect Face would've given out the name of the location if it was somewhere he shouldn't be contacted at.
>>654792 Yeah, I wonder why he told that one mare he would be staying in a hotel and which hotel. I'll get somepony to watch the foals. And pack some bags. Get my lucky hat, and my nice red cape. Time to go.
>>654835 >>654795 The Great Detective may be the oldest hotel in Witherloo, but it's hardly the nicest place you've seen. It's aged, and vines run up its sides. The grounds do not have the flourishing gardens that other hotels boast: instead it is squarely on a large rock outcrop, two feet above street level. The sinking nature of the swampy ground that Witherloo is built on necessitated a strong support in the distant past. The structure itself isn't much to look at: a dull brick red, and besides the vines there is little adornment. There is no facade and the windows look dated - glass slumping in the frames. The structure is three levels tall, and found in the old main street of Witherloo, far from the commercial action of the port which now dominates the city.
A little bell sounds off as you open the door, drawing the attention of an elderly mare at the counter. "Looking for a room dearie?"
She dons a pair of thick glasses and fusses over a book. "No one under that name, first or last. Are you sure they've arrived yet? We only have twelve rooms, though, and only five are occupied tonight."
>>654839 "We did have a stallion with a black cape like that come in yesterday for a two-night stay, but his name is under Mr. Roger. Funny enough, there is a note here to give a key to any mares who come by asking for entry to his room. He's up on the third floor, room 3C. Be careful on the stairs, dear – the light is just awful in there. I've been trying to get the husband to put in a window but he's so stubborn, you know how they are."
>>654841 The stairwell lives up to its promises, it's pitch black! By keeping a hoof on the rail, you work your way up - albeit slowly - to the third floor. The landing ends here - no roof access via stairs. The third floor is quiet - isolated even among the relatively easygoing mainstreet. Moreover, you're guessing only one room on this floor is occupied: no reason for other ponies to want to haul their luggage up two flights of pitch black stairs to get up here. The hall is basically nondescript brick, periodically broken with spruce log doors. The third, at the end, is carved in elegant but worn lettering: 3C
>>654845 Fiddle a bit with my hooves. Trot quietly away to the stairs again. In my mind I'm practicing exactly what I'll say. That I'm sick of his behaviour and that he can either be a father or I'm leaving. Yes…that sounds good right? Take a deep breath and trot back to the room. Put in the key and open the door…
>>654846 The room looks little changed for hosting its occupant: nothing but regular furniture and an added telescope at the window. The lack of a bag in the room suggests he either brought nothing with him, or it's in the attached washroom.
Face is on the bed, sitting bolt upright with his eyes closed. He seems intently focused on something. His coat looks faintly damp, as if having recently washed or sweating. He is faintly shaking. Even now, he wears the black cape that you were gifted by Fly. It was something of a collaboration of yours: layering upon it disguise spells to make it more useful for his spy work. It seems he never goes anywhere without it lately.
As you swing open the door, it creeks, and Face opens an eye. The iris is dilated initially, but after a moment it focuses on you, and he drops the awkward posture, rising. "Selena…" he starts. After a pause he rises from the bed. "I'm glad you came. We need to talk."
>>654850 "No… I just need some water." He gestures vaguely at the washroom. He flinches for a moment. "Ah, but not enough time."
He gazes into your eyes unsteadily, and then, just for a moment, he becomes firm. His eyes show that glimmer of playful, happy-go-lucky determination that he always had in the old days. "Please, take good care of them."
He draws you into a kiss - not a deep one filled with passion, love and forgiveness. A transient kiss: a fleeting moment of connection. The kiss feels like air, but tastes bilious in nature.
He staggers toward the washroom and slaps the door closed. You can hear the splashing of water inside.
>>654851 I'm flabberghasted for a moment. Oh no, it's not gonna be that easy. Look around, anything I can move in front of that washroom door? I'm not gonna let him go until he tells me what's going on!
>>654855 "Lean to the door. I know what's going on! A shady hotel room, telling the receptionist she can let in any mare! How many mares did you fuck in here? 4? 10? And now you've made up some excuse to leave me for some skank! I can't believe I believed you for a moment."
>>654861 You open the door. The washroom is not particularly adorned, boasting only a few features. Directly ahead, there is a stone cistern on a table - normally filled with water, it has been spilled out across the floor. In the middle of the room, Fly's black cape now lay crumpled, abandoned with an envelope on top. In the corner, there is a chamberpot which is configured with a removable bottom and a dumbwaiter (about one square foot wide, surely too small for anypony to fit).
>>654865 The dumbwaiter seems to have a metal frame and wiring. The platform is also gone, though, and you are intimately familiar with Face's 'size', so you're confident there's no way he escaped down the shaft. The table has metal legs, and upon closer examination, the ceiling of the chamber is painted tin - a weak layer of metal that separates the room from, presumably, the deadspace between this floor and the roof.
>>654866 Feel that metal. I bet there's something secret secret around here. Of course, why else would he be in this ugly hotel… try to find some opening with my hooves. '1d10' Using acid to burn that place open might be too much though.
>>654873 Ready my hooves to smash that window. But then stop, calm down and get back on my four hooves. ….He planned this…that realization is setting in. What would I even do if I found him on the roof? Grab that letter, open it, I wonder what lies he wrote on it.
>>654874 The ink lettering is so damaged by the water that it's barely legible, and much is permanently lost. Surely that rash action of jerking up the cape won't haunt you for the next decade and a half. Surely. Ha ha ha.
You cringe and shake yourself out of it. You don't want to remember this story anymore all of a sudden. And it has nothing to do with the fact that the letter contained his destination which was too flooded to read, or the his profession of love and promise to write.
Selena – I'm writing this now because I seem to b▓ losing myself. There are so many things░░ that I would like to say, but there ▓▓▓░░ hardly time for. Maybe in another ▓▓▓▓▓▓░ ▓ut for now, there are some things ▓░▓▓▓▓ ▓▓░ a more fundamental level. I hav▓░░░░░ ▓▓▓rets, but I suspect you do as wel▓▓░░░ ▓▓▓▓ng a father, I never took it ser▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓▓h was unfair to you and the gir▓▓▓░░░ ▓▓▓░▓ had a sort of morbid wild cur▓▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓░▓▓serve more though, life isn'▓░▓░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓░▓░want to be honest though s▓░▓▓▓▓▓ ▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓ngs to say. I am sick░▓░▓▓▓▓░ ▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓ was unfaithful but░▓▓▓░░░░░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓ could I? I regret ▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓ut you and the gir▓▓▓░▓░▓▓▓l░ ▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓re is too mu▓▓░▓▓░▓▓▓░▓▓░ ▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓ do not w▓▓▓░▓▓▓░▓▓▓░░░ ▓▓▓░▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓w░▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓░▓▓▓e░▓▓░l▓▓▓ ▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓░▓░▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓░▓▓░▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓░▓░▓▓░ ▓▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓▓░▓▓▓▓▓