/q/ - Quest


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(Chapter 7: Summer/Fall Year 1)
First thread:

It is the final week of summer, and the Earthen Hoof Clan is busy with work for the start of the harvest season. The fields around the village are a golden sea of oats, wheat, and barley, and the village is finally beginning to look like a permanent home. Many wooden homes and halls now stand throughout the village, and the warriors' hall overlooking most of the town is now complete. Almost everypony has a place to stay that will protect them when winter comes.

The clan's current worry is getting ready for the harvest, which should soon begin. Building granaries to store the harvest, finishing tools, and praying for success occupies everypony's time, but Chief Thornshaker has called a meeting of the ring to discuss final preparations.

You are all in the clan hall. Chief Thornshaker and Thistleberry are sitting at the ring's table, though Thistleberry is snoozing quietly. Fruitcake, the lead baker of the clan, is here as well – she has brought a sampling of tarts and pies made from those strange apples found a few weeks ago.

"I've called you all to try these cakes," says Thornshaker. "Rock Jumper the warrior already tried one, so we're pretty sure they're safe."


I try one.


"Pretty sure? Well, I suppose if they aren't, I'll have to earn my keep. I shouldn't complain about how healthy the clan is, but there isn't much for a doctor to do without patients."
I'll take one of the tarts.
"Well, down the hatch."


"Bah, you're all worried for nothing!"
I take a cake and eat some.


"Sure, to we have some cider or something to wash them down with?" I try a cake.


"You're all nuts. How long has it been since he ate one?"


I cock an eye brow at you. "What's nuts about appreciating a gift from Brawn?"


I'll shrug.


"Exactly… well? What are you so afraid of?"


You slip a tart into your mouth. It's delightfully tangy, and it seems to pop and fizzle as you chew it.

The cakes are a mix of sour and sweet. There's just a hint of the biting sourness that comes with the tarts, and they don't fizzle at all.

"No, we didn't have enough extra apples for that," says Fruitcake. You can tell she's a little disappointed about that.

"Oh, about a day," says Thornshaker. "I suppose it wouldn't be protection if the apples were haunted, though…"


I eat a couple more.


"These are delicious. How about the trees themselves? Did they seem to spread too far beyond where we planted them?"


"Aw that's too bad." I say sympathetically. "I'm sure Brawn will bless our harvest even more next year and you'll have plenty extra." I say confidently. "and these cakes are wonderful, tell the bakers they have my compliments."


"Hey. Don't assume."

"Well I guess that's good enough."
I try one.


"They're still just saplings," says Thornshaker. "They don't seem much different from our other young trees, though they do seem to be growing a little faster than normal."

Fruitcake smiles and bows as she takes her dishes and leaves the clan hall.

As you all finish eating the pastries (or forgoing them), an elderly pony bursts into the clan hall, almost knocking poor Fruitcake down. It's Firewheel, the old mare who previously told Loam that his plan of setting up a tent near her would result in her quick demise. She's obviously agitated.

“I had a dream!” Firewheel yells. “A terrible and ominous dream! I almost died from fear last night…” She spits twice on her hoof before stomping on the ground – the traditional ward against ill omens.

“I dreamt that rats rained from the sky and ate up all of our harvest. We scurried around, and our warriors tried to drive them away, but the rats bit them. And those bitten started to waste away from hunger. No rain came, and our land baked in the sun, and our hungry clan blew away in the wind.

"It's a sign!" she says. "A sign that the ancestors are displeased with us! We've uprooted ourselves from the old country and started living in this strange land. We need to sacrifice to them to regain their favor."

Thornshaker keeps chewing on a tart before looking at all of you expectantly.


"Well, what would you have in mind to be an adequate sacrifice? An omen such as this deserves careful consideration."


"Sounds like a good idea to me. Always respect your elders."


"Absolutely delicious! A glorious gift indeed!"

"Indeed. Tell all the bakers they have mine as well!"

"A sacrifice? Well… what do we have that would make a suitable sacrifice?"


"So soon after the new crop? What if they're connected somehow?"


To be clear, because I don't know if this has been stated explicitly yet: "Sacrifices" usually means grain, fruit, or treasure. Only desperate or evil clans would sacrifice ponies, and all other clans would hate them for it.


I nod "Shall we go hunting for a sacrifice right away?"


"Ooh! I know! I know! We can dig up and sacrifice diamond dogs."


"Perhaps the ancestors might like the sacrifice of one of those calming herb bushes… They've still got a ways to grow, but offering one might be good."


"Yeah…that would probably work better than something we killed for the heck of it."


my ears twitch at that. "No. I think should check for treasure nearby."
"…!" I step back from you."It must be those funny plants that caused this vision! You shouldn't have brought them back at all!"


I'll stomp my hoof.
"That is preposterous and you know it."


"Is is really? That monster said it was his plant."


Thistleberry seems to have woken up from all of this commotion.

She chuckles and says softly, "Didn't I teach you children anything? Earthen Hoof ancestors like it when we sacrifice fruits and grain to them, but treasure will work as well."

"Yes, that's correct, Cauthon," Thistleberry says. "If we don't have the ancestors' favor, they won't protect us from bad luck."

Thornshaker nods. "It's possible. Maybe they don't like how we've planted these new trees in the same land as the ones we brought from the homeland, even if they are in separate fields."

Firewheel does the whole spitting and stomping maneuver when you mention Diamond Dogs.


"Preposterous?! She may very well be right! Name one good thing that's become of us since we brought that plant home!"

I frown and pout.
"I'm not a child… But you say we should sacrifice some grain? Do we have enough to spare?"


"That could work too."

"How about the rest of these cakes and tarts? I bet those oldies would love 'em."


"Not all that much has happened yet."

"They might. Or they might just get angrier."


"And I left it his plant. A few cuttings and they became my plant, to be used medicinally!"
"Those blue fruits. That's one."
"Then either we sacrifice a portion of our crops, perhaps a few of the blue fruits as well, and the ancestors will be pleased that we are using this land as they would have, and we will prosper from it."


"Yes, but didn't we just say that we had barely enough gain to fill our stores as it is? The ancestors can not demand that we starve."
I huff "That plant is nothing but trouble. It makes you feel weak and complacent. I say we get rid of it."


"And you'd rather I simply tie down a pony in pain, instead of soothing it while they're healed? The spirits of the healers I've learned from would have killed to have something like that for their problem patients."


"A real Earthen Hoof can handle a bit of pain."


Thistleberry speaks. "The ancestors always appreciate a gift of a treasure, though we would likely need to burn almost all of that herb to sacrifice it to them."

Thornshaker nods again. "The bakers have enough left that they were going to serve some at the start of the harvest. We could sacrifice the remainder, and the ancestors might be pleased. But if they are mad about planting those trees…"

Firewheel starts gesticulating wildly at the suggestion that "not much" has happened yet.

"What about my dream?! This clan stands at the edge of doom, I tell you!"

"We have more than enough to tide us over until harvest time. We could easily sacrifice enough just to find out what the ancestors want from us," Thornshaker says.


"So it may very well be that that will be our downfall then!"

"As do I!"

I huff.
"Pain only makes a pony stronger!"


"Only one way to know if they are made about us planting those trees, and even if they are I bet the taste will win them over."


"Oh, then we should do the sacrifice as soon as possible. "


"Then let's sacrifice grain!"


I'll frown at her.
"A real Earthen Hoof would do all he could to prevent his fellows from suffering."
"Perhaps half of the herb, then, and a treasure besides? I'm afraid my own options are rather limited."
"See what you say to that the next time your leg is broken and you can't walk, or are crippled because of a wound that this herb could have helped treat."


"Some bushes, some apples, a bit of treasure, and a single diamond dog. Sounds like a plan."


"We're not sacrificing a diamond dog! Are you mad!?"


"Well, except for the diamond dog part. Perhaps a mix of the old, and the new? To show our ancestors we respect their ways, but that we will flourish in the new land as well."


"Yeah, that sounds like a plan to me."


"No! just the gain will do."


"I'm rather calm."

"Sounds like a priestly thing to say."


"Maybe… maybe that does sound reasonable. Show Brawn that while we are remaining loyal to our roots, we are blazing our own path for Him in this new land…"
I scratch my chin.

"Maybe he's right, Gilded."


I flick my ears back. "We need a traditional sacrifice to please the ancestors. Grain and old apples only, perhaps some treasure if we find something good."


I soften up a bit "You really think that? What if its the new apples that are making the ancestors mad, we should stick with the old stuff we know they want."


"Of course I'm right."


"Not about the dog part, you're not."


My ears will flick back a moment as well, and…>>458942
I'll just harrumph softly to myself.
"Even a broken sundial is correct at night."


I shrug.

"It's right twice a day if you build a roof over it and put a candle next to it."


I continue scratching my chin, deep in thought.
"I can't say for sure that it is them that's making them mad… Maybe you are right though. Maybe for now we should just give them a sacrifice of our traditional crops."

"You shut up."


I roll my eyes "Cauthon please, this is not the time for flutter tales."


Thornshaker scrunches up his snout.

"So what's the decision?"


"A traditional sacrifice of grain and apples seems to be the consensus… though I can't help but that makes us look like we're trying to hide something from our ancestors."


"That's not scarey enough to be a fluttertale."

"A mix of the old and the new."


"No, but it's stupid and silly nonetheless."

"…Damn you Loam. You make a good argument…"
I turn to Gilded.
"Are you any more swayed by his arguments Gilded?"


"Well I say we throw some of the new stuff in there."


"A traditional sacrifice of grain and apples seems best to me."


"I am a rock. I do not move."


"You are, however, somewhat outnumbered. If Ziza sides with you on this matter, it is three-to-two in favor of a mixed sacrifice. If, however, this proves to be the wrong course of action… then I will accept the responsibility for it."


"Most of you seem to want to put something new in there. So what do you want to burn for them? Some of the pastries?"


"Some of the pastries and some of the apples."


I'll nod.


"Yeah. Or we could throw some apples on there, to show how useful they are."


"Then I shall side with you, my most trusted friend."
I turn back to everyone else.
"I say a traditional sacrifice."


I smile at you. "Thanks Ziza.. I really think that's the what we should do."


"Fine. The majority says a traditional sacrifice. I'll have the clan collect the bushels of oats and we'll get started immediately."

In a few hours, the clan has assembled a high pile of grain in a large ceremonial bronze bowl set before the small shrine to your ancestors that sits in the center of town.

"If you are all ready, we can start. We'll need a spirit-talker, however. Loam, you would be a fine choice to read the signs, but if you do not feel comfortable, then Cold Fortunes or Cauthon or one of the god-talkers and priests could do it."


"I am comfortable with talking to the dead."


"I think there were three votes for the mixture of old and new, and two for the regular sacrifice."


"The elders also get a vote, Cauthon."


"True, but before we begin, we might as well have a formal vote. It's easy enough to throw some cakes and apples on the pyre.

"Everypony on the ring who wants to only have a traditional grain sacrifice, say so now. Everypony who wants to include the apples and pastries, say so now."

Thornshaker doesn't vote until the returns are in.


"I will vote for the mixed sacrifice."


"I will side with Gilded and vote for a traditional sacrifice."


"I want to include the apples and pastries."


And then Gilded was for "traditional" and Fortunes was for "nouveau". So that leaves us with new-style ahead by one, yes?

Any voters I'm somehow missing?


Don't think so.


Doesn't look like it.


Looks like that's all.


Thornshaker puts the remaining cakes and tarts on the pyre with some of the remaining apples and anoints them with the holy oil. He gives a torch to Loam and waits for him to begin.

Loam, go ahead and light the fire and roll, please. You'll get a small bonus from knowing "Commune."


Alright, and here we go. Good thing it's my talent, right? Right. '1d20+4'

Roll #1 16 + 4 = 20


Everyone sees the plume of smoke from the fire rise before it is caught by the wind and sent towards the area where the clan is building its granaries.

You enter a trance and find yourself with a particularly strong link to the clan's ancestor spirits.

You are in a bright green field of rolling hills and copses of apple trees. You see many of your beloved dead here. Your great uncle suns himself on a nearby rock before he sees you and rapidly tries to hide his face and dive behind the rock.

You see your dear departed mentor, "Fizz", however, and he trots over towards you. He looks good for somepony who has been in the grave for a few years now, and he's obviously happy to see you. He's munching on one of the tarts you burned, but he soon finishes it off before greeting you.

"Loam, my boy! Good to see you again. My, my, you're turning into a strapping young doctor. I bet all the fillies are clamoring to marry you, huh?

"Hahaha, I know, I know. I'm only kidding. Listen, we don't have much time. Tell your friends that we love the cakes and apples, they're absolutely delicious. Keep them coming!

Look, we sent that dream to that old nag because the clan really is in trouble. Rats, my boy. Rats. Vermin. Mice. Locusts. They're all a problem this far south. You've got to have protection against that sort of thing, and we can't do it for you – we don't have the strength since you all moved here. If it were the old country? Bah, no rat problem! We'd talk to Briar Weed, the god of vermin for you and tell him to keep the rats away from the grain, and he'd probably do it because he's a nice guy when he's not trying to starve you out of your home. But we don't have that sort of power when you're this far away from all our graves and old homes.

"I can't tell you how to solve that problem. There are a lot of ways, of course, and I'm sure you kids will come up with something.

"Oh and watch out with that funny herb. It's got its uses but it will rot your patients' brains if they use it all the time."

"So long, Loam. Watch out for rats! And just try talking to the nice mares. You don't need to worry about them getting grossed out by the dead corpses thing, I promise!"

You feel your connection to the spirit realm slipping away. You might be able to ask him another question before you completely return to the mortal world.


I wait for Loam to speak.


I'm gonna wait for Loam to finish.
I'm not interfering in a spiritual talk, hell no.


"I suppose us asking him wouldn't work? And I have too been talking to mares!"


"Eh, you know, you could try sacrificing to Briar Weed, but you don't know the right prayers and rituals. You'd probably muck it all up.

"And, yeah, you've talked to a few like that young thing back at the Blue Leaf village, but when I was your age…

You feel yourself slipping back into your body before your old teacher can launch into another story about his youthful exploits, thankfully.


I'll settle back into my own hooves.
"They liked the tarts and cakes. But Firewheel's vision was not wrong. There are rats coming. Lots of them. And if not them, then mice, or locusts."
I'll shake my head.
"There are a lot of solutions to that, they said, but Briar Weed has a plague on the way. It's happening all over the south. We need to prepare."


"I bet with Erumal's help we could redirect our share of the plague."


"Maybe… But we're too far south to call upon our ancestors to intercede on our behalf. We are too far from their resting places."


I nearly double back at you suggestion. "This is not a time for jokes."


"They did? So they aren't upset at us for the new crops?"
I frown at the mention of the plague.
"Bah. Pests. Vermin. Do we have anything that can repel them?"

"For the love of Brawn… Shut. Up! This is no time for your stupid jokes!"


"See, I told everyone we should have brought them with but but noooooo, 'Cauthon, that's a horrible idea!' 'Cauthon, how could you say such a thing?' I said we might need there help, and now here we are."

"Not a joke. It's just a matter of finding out what tribe we really, really hate enough to double starve them then hope the sacrifice works."


"On a more serious note. Do we have anyone that can tame animals to can help us, cats are a natural predatory to rats.. "


I'll shake my head.
"We don't know the right rituals, so we'd end up taking the brunt of it, probably. As it is, there's not much we can do at the moment. We might want to send a messenger to the Blue Leafs about the encroaching vermin, though."
"I can't really think of anything. It's not like we'd have enough cats to take on both the rats and the mice… and locusts would be an entirely different matter."


"Cauthon, please. We don't have any enemies here, I don't intend to let you make more for us with your hateful rituals."


"I know them. You have a good idea, though. We can win favor by sending messengers with the news."

"Just sayin'."


Thistleberry leans on Thornshaker as she speaks.

"In the old country, when we were worried about vermin, we would often build a granary with a staddle stone that had been blessed by a shaman so that it was imbued with cat spirits that would scare away pests. We would need to find the right sort of stone, though, and we would need to find a wild shaman who could do the task."

Thornshaker says, "We could try asking for Brawn's blessing. He commands the wild animals and so could command the predators of the forest to protect us from vermin."

"This could work as well. Erumal might be willing to send the vermin to another clan. But if the other clan found out, they would likely hate us.

"We could also just try building the granaries higher. Or we could try posting warriors near the granaries. We have few, though, and they would hate the work."


"The vision said that posting warriors wouldn't work anyway.." I close my eyes "What about.. higher granaries, put a fence around them, and ask for brawn to protect the crop?"


"If we find a shaman can we keep it? I'll feed it and walk it."


"I don't think guarding them would be enough. No telling what kind of germs those things would carry. Where would we find a shaman in these parts?"


"The blessed saddle stone or beseeching Brawn's aid would be preferred…"
I'll think a moment.
"Wasn't that child we picked up a while ago living in the wilds when we found her? Perhaps she has learned a bit of the shamanic magic?"
I'll just shake my head.


"Well there were bandits between us and the Blue Leafs, and some ponies have lived in this valley for generations now, so I'm sure there are shamans out in the woods somewhere," says Thornshaker.

"Nopony would like the smell, Cauthon. Wild shamans are disgusting creatures," Thornshaker laughs.

"Yes, we could ask Garden when she wanders back into the village. I'm not sure she's up to the task, though."



"That seems like the best idea for the time being. We should do that, and search for a shaman."


"Let's do the shaman plan."




"Yeah. We might want to dedicate a few prayers on the side too."


I'll nod.
"We should get started immediately, then."


Thornshaker thinks for a moment. "That could work, but Brawn is a god of work, not of animals, and while he may offer some protection, he might not protect us enough from this."

"We could organize a party to go search for one, but with the harvest coming soon, we need everypony who can labor in the fields to do so. So that leaves only the nobles and warriors, and we don't have very many warriors.

"I think that means that all of you would need to start the search."


"I wouldn't mind searching. It seems the less I am around, the happier the rest of the village is."


"I'm okay with that. I'm not much good in a field anyway."


"I'm fine with searching."


"I volunteer myself to search then."


I look defeated at his statement that Brawn can't help. "Alright, we can pray to whoever you believe would help.."
but brighten back up at the idea of a search party.
"I gladly volunteer to lead the search."


"Good. We'll see you off within the week, then."

Pausing here. I'll try to pick up later in the week. Maybe Wednesday, if Andy's not running Bats then. If you want to keep talking or faff around the town a bit, feel free to do so, but the updates won't be very regular and will probably cease in an hour or so.


I'll nod, and then go get ready.
"Thank you for agreeing with me about the sacrifice.?


I walk over to you.
"Hey, cheer up. Brawn inspires and grants strength in us so we can resolve our own conflicts!"
I smile at her.


"Yeah, I just don't know if he's going to be happy with us for going to other gods for help.."


"Well… It's not as if we're just running to another god to resolve our issues. We're trying to solve them ourselves, aren't we?"


I frown "I know the other god have merit too, and I should accept that we need their help, but its just hard to imagine that Brawn really isn't the best choice for most things.." kick the dirt a bit "Hey, wanna spar a bit?"


"You are welcome."


"It is rather troubling, yes… But, I'm sure that this will be an excellent opportunity for us to become even stronger, and make Brawn proud!"
I let out a boisterous laugh.
"And of course. I'm always willing to spar with you, Gilded."
I walk over to a more spacious area and take up a stance.


I follow you and smile. "Yeah, lets see if I've improved any since last time." '1d20+4' summon a hammer. "First to land three hits okay with you?"

Roll #1 10 + 4 = 14


It's a pretty nice hammer. +1 to your rolls with it.


"Works for me!"
I draw my warhammer, leaving the shield, and grin.
"I'll let you have the first strike."


I laugh a bit "Its not fun if you're not trying." '1d20+1' I try to land a hit past your sheild

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8


"And neither is it when you don't too!"
I dodge your strike and try to retaliate!
Also, no shield btw. Consider it a non-thing for a fair fight.

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6


right, I suppose that's a hit for me.
"Don't worry that was just a warm up." I smile and try again. '1d20+1'

Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10


I grunt as you land a blow on me.
"Seems as though you're more warmed up than I am!"
I attempt the same tactic, dodge and strike!

Roll #1 16 + 2 = 18


and that's a hit for you: 1 v 1 so far
"Seems like you're finally trying." '1d20+1' strike back, I can take the lead.

Roll #1 19 + 1 = 20


"Well consider me finally warmed up then!"
I let out another laugh, interrupted by your sudden display of physical prowess as you strike back as I scramble to try and defend myself and strike another blow against you.

Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5


…Aaand you basically smashed my face in.


I give you room to breath after that hit. "Don't get distracted now, it was finally getting good!" '1d20+1'

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11


I let out a cough, winded from the amazing hit you landed on me.
"It looks like it is!"
I breath harder and this time, attempt to parry your blow with my hammer and strike!

Roll #1 10 + 2 = 12


You match my speed and land you blow. I smirk "We're tied at 2 each, you're really a perfect partner for this." '1d20+1' final round, FIGHT

Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4


"As are you!"
I let out one last laugh and charge for the final round!

Roll #1 12 + 2 = 14


Your charge catches me on an unguarded side and your blow makes contact. I stand catching my breath a smile a mile wide as I do. "The match is yours Ziza. And what speed there at the end! "


I lean on my hammer and catch my breath, rubbing where you hit me before.
"Ah, but that was nothing compared to your previous hit! That was impressive, Gilded."
I return your mile wide smile with one of my own.


"Ha, well thanks. Still I shouldn't have used so much energy that early in the match." I touch your cheek "It seems a little red still. I guess I hit you harder than I thought."


I blush slightly from the touch
"Bah, it's just a bruise! I can take worse!"
I let out a boisterous laugh again and turn away, trying to stealthily spit out a small amount of blood.
"How are you holding up? I didn't strike at you too hard, did I?"


I laugh with you and ignore your spitting. "No, I'm fine. But you should pick the next activity."


"Next activity? Hm… how about… Ah! Got it! How about a hoof to hoof spar? First to pin the other wins?"


"alright." dismiss my hammer. "Lets go then."


I drop my hammer and shield on the ground.
"Let's go!"
I start and attempt to grapple you to the ground!

Roll #1 16 = 16


'1d20' I am good at grappling, totally.

Roll #1 13 = 13


Aaand that looks like a victory for me. I push you off balance and pin you to the ground. I laugh and get up, offering you a hoof.
"First to three?"


"Sure, I'll be ready this time." I smile accepting your hoof and taking a better stance.


'1d20' round two roll

Roll #1 10 = 10


"Then let's go!"
I attempt the same move again, grapple you then throw you off balance and pin you.

Roll #1 17 = 17


"Oof." I blush as the same trick worked twice. "You're good at this.." '1d20' round three roll.

Roll #1 6 = 6


"You're just having a bit of trouble is all! C'mon Gilded!"
I 'accidentally' lose my footing as I go in to do the same move again.

Roll #1 6 = 6


evenly matched.. perhaps we are both tumbling now.. roll to end up on top '1d20'

Roll #1 7 = 7


Tumbling dooooown
I again 'accidentally' roll in such a way that you land on top

Roll #1 6 = 6


I smile victoriously as I pin you down "Ha, I'm catching up already."


I laugh again.
"Looks like you are. Looks like things are shaping up for a comeback!"
I grin.
"Another round?"


"Of course!" I let you back up, maybe pulling you a little hard so that you bump against me.


And maybe I accidentally come up a bit to fast so that I bump against you.
I take a few steps back and take up a stance.
"I'll let you take the offense this time. Now come at me!"


I smirk "Ready or not.." '1d20'

Roll #1 12 = 12


And I attempt to deflect!

Roll #1 19 = 19


and your superior balance wins out, you're able to use my lunge to flip me and easily land your third pin, a bit harder than the others. I close my eyes on impact and then smile at you, breathing a little heavier. "You win"


I take a few deep breaths myself, pinning you for a few moments longer before getting up and offering you a hoof.
"Maybe next time I should teach you how to fight with your hooves. Still, it was fun!"
I let out yet another laugh.


I join in laughter. "Yes, it really is fun. How did you get so good at that without me noticing?" I lean in a bit "Haven't picked up another sparring partner have you?"


"Of course not! Nobody is as good as you!"
I laugh again.
"I suppose it was all luck of the draw. Maybe your hooves were a bit wet or something."


"Something funny happen?"



I smile confidently, a hint of relief perhaps. "Yeah, probably just sweat from the hammer match."
I blink "Oh, just getting a little practice in."



"Why does something funny need to happen to laugh? Laugh because you enjoy life!"
I let out another laugh.

"More than likely! You're an excellent fighter Gilded, easily the best I know!"


"Life isn't always funny."


"You're the best fighter I know as well, I'm proud to have you fight at my side Ziza, and.. I'm really glad you were chosen for the Circle with me." I look into you eyes when I say that last part.
"Perhaps not, but you can find joy in your heart, and that joy can lead to laughter." I demonstrate with a hearty laugh.


"Ah, but again, you don't need something funny to laugh! Laughter can come from anywhere, even from the joy of simply living!"
I let out another hearty laugh.

'And I'm proud to have you at my side Gilded. And there isn't anyone I'd rather be with in the Circle than you."


I smile even more at that. "Thanks for standing up for me back there."


"It really is no problem at all!"
I laugh and pull you into a hug, patting your back.
"Why wouldn't I ever trust in my be- most trusted friend?"


I hug you back "I don't know.. the others just don't understand, they separate from tradition too much."


"Entirely too true…"
I reluctantly let go of you.
"I can only hope we don't stray far enough as to incur the wrath of Brawn…"
I sigh.


I sigh as well, "Well, Brawn will be happy if we find a reliable shaman to help us this winter." I point my hoof toward the sky, leaving enough room for you do a similar motion next to me. "I bet together we'll track one down in no time. Right Ziza?"


I strike a similar pose next to you, letting out another boisterous laugh.
"Of course! No task is too great for us to overcome! Together, we're unstoppable!"


I smile and try to match your laughter. "Let that shaman just try and hide from us!"


File: 1375668534830.jpeg (399.18 KB, 2144x1337, 387259__safe_fluttershy_a….jpeg) ImgOps Google

Thanks to the efforts of Restful Loam, the clan has obtained an explanation from the ancestors for an ominous dream that they sent to the old mare, Firewheel: The valley will be visited by a plague of vermin soon, and so the Earthen Hoof Clan must prepare for the worst.

While the clan could try to beseech Boulder,* the god of nature and animals, or even Briar Weed, the god of vermin, the clan has decided upon a solution used in the old country – find a shaman to imbue a staddle stone with cat spirits, which will chase away the vermin.

First, however, the clan will need to find a shaman, and Chief Thornshaker has given this task to the rest of the Ring. You all stand now outside of the clan hall. Thornshaker is here with Rock Jumper, one of the warriors.

"On our patrols around our lands, we have seen some evidence of a shaman living to the east – odd markings on rocks, newly-built cairns and what look like small shrines to the spirits of the river and the hills. It is possible that the farmers who live further to the east might know more," says Rock Jumper.

* – Errata: Originally I wrote that Brawn "commands the wild animals" in >>458992. Thornshaker misspoke, as all of your characters are sure to know. He meant Boulder.


"Eastward it is then." I smile.


"Well, then let's go huntin'"


I triumphantly strike a pose pointing eastward.


"Yeah!" I copy your pose, perhaps holding it a little too long and tilting slightly before setting my hooves back down.


"Another Shaman of Boulder, I can't wait to meet her."


You can't tell me what to do.


"We might be in for a strong dust storm, you should pack some strong clothes. I can feel the wind picking up some dirt and a bunch of rocks have already started to fall on me."


"You sure?"


I shrug, flexing subtly at the same time "A little wind is not a problem for me. I won't get blown over."


The path east from the village roughly follows the course of the river, which lies maybe a mile south. On days like today, with clear weather and a bright sun, you can catch glimpses of it winding its way to the east, fed by the melting snow in the mountains to the west.

Those mountains' foothills make the western end of your clan's territory somewhat more foreboding than your farmers would like – rocky hills and scrub land provide little soil for crops, after all. But to the east is the land that drove your clan to settle here: Fresh and green low rolling hills and long fertile stretches of plains lying along the riverbank is heaven for any Earth Pony clan – especially to one so devoted to the plow.

A short march from the village is one of the tiny groups of farmhouses that is home to small numbers of farm families. Earthen Hoof clans are divided by occupation, but within the broad group of farmers is a stratified system of organization. Thanes sit at the top of the social order, farming large tracts of the clan's land and keeping much of it to sell at the market. Below them sit the cottars, who have smaller homesteads. Cottars farm only vegetables on their own land, but they work in the thanes' fields year-round. In some other, more warlike clans, particularly those that once were subservient to the Pegasi, it is common to have a third class of thralls – mares and stallions who are the property of the clan and who perform physical labor for it. Thankfully, the Earthen Hoofs have never practiced such an un-Earthlike custom.

Out here, away from the Earthen Hoof village, these small hamlets are usually only home to maybe six families each – two thane families and then assorted cottars who work the land, too. This particular hamlet, consisting of nothing more than four small cottages sitting on a hill, is named "Greenhill." Brawn's ponies are often the unimaginative and no-nonsense sort.

You could stop here if you wish, or you can continue on towards the outskirts of your territory and the wilderness. Or you could go looking for another hamlet or something.


"Should we stop here and ask if these ponies know where we might find a shaman?"


"I guess. Don't think they'd know much though."


"Nah, it seems to have calmed down. But I'm certain the wind was angry for a moment. Maybe it was my imagination."

"Nothing could stop you when you set your mind to it, huh? I bet you could take on an army by yourself."

"We could just ask for directions. We just started, don't want to get lost, as fun as that can be."


"Directions to where? I doubt we could just walk up and ask 'hey, could you point us in the direction of the nearest smelly hobo?'"


"Sounds like a good idea."


"Of course I could. With Brawn at my back I can do anything, just leave it too me!" I chuckle a bit.
I nod "Anyone who lives at a place called Greenhill is sensible enough to trust, lets go."


As you near the hamlet, you can see that there are some foals playing in what could be called the "town square" if one were extraordinarily generous. It is likely that the adults are out working in the fields today, or perhaps they are back at the village working on the granaries.


check around for the temple '1d20'

Roll #1 17 = 17


"Maybe someone here saw one while they were away. Nothing big for them, but it could help us."

I'll go up to them.
"Excuse me, um hi, sorry to jump in while your playing, but could you tell us where your parents are?"


Ask around, see if any of the local population knows anything about any nearby shaman or strange ponies.

Roll #1 18 = 18


How do the kids look?

Roll #1 2 = 2


I raise an eyebrow at him.
"Fortunes… why are you looking at the children like that?"


This group of small houses is far too small to have a temple. There is, however, a small shrine to Brawn and Heart Petal on one side of the square. Before it are offerings of flowers and some dried fruit. Common offerings to Heart Petal if one is seeking to have a child.

They're all several years younger than you, but none is intimidated by the sight of members of the clan nobility.

One, a little yellow filly, speaks up. "They're all out in the fields. Except for papa, he went back to village to get the cart fixed."

Surprisingly well-fed, if a little dusty and ignorant. One young wears a simple iron medallion in the shape of a plow – a common charm for the protection of Brawn.


The little yellow one speaks again.

"Papa says we should stay away from the river because there's some strange kinda pony who lives down there. He said that he might drag us off to sell us to the fish spirits if we try to talk to him!"


"When the plague comes, they'll catch it easy."


Stand there a moment and say a small prayer for these ponies.


"Thanks! But where is the village you were talking about?"


"Oh? Sounds like a lead to me."
Let's go find her papa.


"Can you give me directions to the river?"

I frown, and stay silent for a few moments in contemplation, and go join >>464350 in her prayer.


"Do you foals know where we can find a babbling, mud-smeared pony in the woods?"


You say your prayer to your gods. You don't know if they heard it, but you follow caring deities, so who knows?

She said he was back in the village getting his cart fixed. It would only be a few hours' walk back to the village.

The filly gives you a look of mild incredulity – How could somepony not know where the freaking river is? – before pointing to the south.

"Well… Turdblossom here tends to stutter a lot!" the yellow one laughs.

"Shut up! Th-that's n-not my n-name!" yells a smaller grey colt. He shoves the yellow one and they quickly go back to wrestling in the dirt.


I make a mental note of finding a pony I can call Turdblossom.

"None of you ever find crazy ponies while exploring in the woods?"


smile at Ziza and go back to the others. "These are good ponies. We shouldn't bother them too much."


"So, head to the river and take our chances, or ask for directions in the village, but risk taking longer and getting nothing?"


"We have a lead to a pony down south by the river, Cauthon."

"We could split up."


"I say we ask for directions."


"It's a very loose lead. What should we do while split up? Look for clues?"


You'll need to roll to get any better info out of these guys.


I give them an inquisitive stare.

Roll #1 4 = 4


And ask the right one
There are five here: The yellow filly, who is probably the oldest. The young colt "Turdblossom." And two identical light-brown fillies who are currently giggling a lot at the two wrestling.

They keep wrestling.


"Ye. One group goes to the village to search for more clues, one group stays here to investigate more and check out the river."


"Lets go to the river, we can split up: on group go upstream, the other downstream: If anyone finds something, make a call like a wolf, if anyone is in trouble make a call like sparrow. We come back toward Greenhill if it gets too late." I say.


"Turtle Blossom, have you seen an crazy ponies by the river?'

Roll #1 1 = 1


"So who goes where? I don't mind being out in the woods, so I can go help find the shaman, if that's what you want."


The older yellow one pins him to the ground. Little Turdblossom starts to cry before scrambling out from underneath his tormenter and galloping to the south.


I shrug.
"How about you, hotshot?"

Roll #1 9 = 9


I approach the yellow filly.
"Can you tell me anything else about the pony by the river?"

"Erm… aren't we going to the village and the river, not following the river down in either direction?"

Roll #1 14 = 14


"Wolf if we find something, sparrow if we are in trouble, got it. If we have a question for anyone else should we scream in pain and terror?"


"Poor kid."
That's off in the direction they said their dad was, right?"


"Do you think that would be better?"
I laugh "Sure thing Cauthon."


The yellow one's dad went westward, back to the village.

The rest are in the fields, which are scattered around, but most are to the north and east. The south is a bit hillier and has more trees. There's only one small field to the south, and it doesn't look like anypony is working out there.

"Huh? Nah, like I said. Papa said we shouldn't go down there, so we don't. Well Turtle there does, but I don't know what he does down there. Probably cries a lot."

"Papa said he knew ponies like that back in the old place. He said they're stinky and they have bad manners."

You know that it's relatively common for individual clan members – particularly farmers out here near the wilderness – to make deals with shamans, but it's usually frowned upon by the rest of the clan. Shaman deals can harm the whole clan, after all.


"That's the direction of the river…"
I scrunch up before perking up,
"Wait! He's running towards the shaman!"
I try to chase after him!

Roll #1 2 = 2


"I'll get him!"


Roll #1 7 = 7


"Awww bad soil…"
I give chase!

Roll #1 15 = 15


'1d20' help chase

Roll #1 19 = 19


You rush forward only to stumble on an odd-looking rock. Ouch!

You rush to the south, but lose track of Turtle as he disappears into the southern field of tall wheat.

You both rush into the field and easily track Turtle to the riverbank. He's sitting down underneath a tall willow tree, staring at the water.


"I was mocking you, but okay."

I chase after him.

Roll #1 14 = 14


You also reach the riverbank easily.



"By the name of… gah!"
I try to get up again and chase after them!

Roll #1 12 = 12


"Hey there. You okay, kid?"



Roll #1 19 = 19


"Hey slow down a moment." I say catching up to him.


"You two are really fast."


"Saves your life."


"Eat every drop of your stew and you might get as fast as me Coiled." I smile at you.


Scratched onto the western side of the willow tree is a symbol you recognize from your days first learning about the Horned One from the goats. It's the goat symbol for Vodya, the god of the river. Beneath it is a small pile of stones smoothed by the river. This is a typical shrine to Vodya.

Like Erumal, Vodya is worshiped by ponies (well, sacrificed to, because few clans have temples to him or hold him as a patron). Ponies long ago adopted much of the goat pantheon into their own, probably thanks to goats living within pony lands without causing much trouble.

This might be a sign that the shaman lives near here, but it could also simply mean that one of the locals is particularly worried about floods.

Turtle sits by the riverbank, sniffling to himself. He looks up at you quickly, startled.

"W-what? W-why d-did you f-follow m-me?"


"Why'd you come down here, little one?"


"Do you know where a shaman is?" I ask gently, rolling for gentleness. '1d20'

Roll #1 19 = 19


"There is a shrine to Vodya here. The shaman comes around here often enough, I think."
I pick out a smooth river stone and add it to the shrine.


"You could get lost if you run off by yourself."
"I should know. You're too young to go off like this."

"Should we offer a prayer, to be polite?"


"Do you know his prayers?"


"You think those stones are totems?"

"You probably shouldn't run off in the middle of the day like that."


Soothed by your gentle tone, he stops sniffling so much.

"I just like c-coming d-down here. It's p-peaceful."

"I d-don't k-know ab-ab-about any 'shamaman." B-but I've seen a w-weird g-goat a few t-times. He g-gave m-me some b-berries once."

"He live d-down the r-river. Th-that way." He points further east and across the river to where a thick copse of trees lies at the bottom of a rocky hill.


"No, they are a shrine. That's what I just said."

"A goat you say? Excellent. Come along, everyone, but be polite. Vodya worshipers are generally jaded and abrasive. There is no fun in their lives, but they do favor the color green. Their prays are typically common words pronounced with a buzz."
I start walking down the rover in the direction indicated.


I pat the kid on the head. "There, that's all we wanted to know, go ahead and play now. Your friends are waiting." I point toward his village.


"Not really, just thought you might know something because you added a stone."

"I can make sure he gets home, then I'll come back to everyone."


"Thank you, little one."

I follow him.

"That would be much appreciated."


I blink at you "You sure you want to go alone?"


"No, I meant…"
Shake my head and follow him.


"It's just to the village. If any of their parents come by, I can let them know you're here so they don't get to surprised if we come back late."


"Th-they aren't m-my friends. Th-they're a b-bunch of m-mud eaters."

He stands up, ready to face the little bastards again when you take him back.


"Alright.. but be careful.."
"Ah, I'm sure they aren't so bad."


"I'll pound them with you if they make you cry again, how does that sound?"

"Watch your steps on your way over there. I'll be worrying more about you"


"Wh-what I n-need is a w-way to p-pound them."

He sulks a bit. Despite the Brawn medallion, he's a pretty scrawny little colt. He can't be older than seven or eight years old, but he's about as tall as a colt maybe two years younger than he is.

You can see why the yellow one back at the hamlet is able to pick on him. That and the stuttering can't help him out too much.


he doesn't need meditation, he needs to work hard to build his muscles. I'm sure he'll figure it out, onto the hut.


"You need to work out to get strong. Let's do hoof-ups while we head back."

Try to impress him with how many I can do with one hoof. [1d20]

Roll #1 6 = 6


Three is not a very impressive number. Turtle frowns and resumes sulking.


Walk him back a bit.
"The important part is not giving up. Watch how many I do this time with both hooves!"


Now you try.

Roll #1 3 = 3


He walks faster to get away from you.
"W-what a w-weirdo."


Just grumble and try to keep up.


Paused until tomorrow.


File: 1375751685589.png (92.43 KB, 423x378, 130777__UNOPT__artist-bris….png) ImgOps Google

After leaving the village to find a wild shaman who can make the blessed staddle stone your clan needs to fend off the coming plague of vermin, you all arrived at one of the clan's outlying hamlets – just a group of a few farmsteads populated by two thane households and a few cottars.

While the hamlet's adults were out in the fields or back in the village, you were able to speak to the resident foals, who informed you that there may be a goat shaman living across the river and further to the east.

You are all back in the hamlet, having returned the youngest foal, Turtle, to his tormentors. He goes into one of the larger houses – really just a large hut with a thatched roof – and shuts the rickety wooden door.

Restful Loam –
Pointed in this direction by passing warriors on patrol, you have arrived at the hamlet, as well. It's a small collection of four houses sitting on top of a hill. To the south is the river that flows down from the mountains to the far west, marking the southern border of your clan's effective territory. To the east is more Earthen Hoof land – flat plains and rolling hills populated by your clan's largest groups of farmers.


Good to know that we're expanding. Though I suppose they'd be about as pleased to see me as anyone else…
But, I'm looking for a shaman. Let's get asking around for such a pony. One more in tune with the earth than the others. '1d20'

Roll #1 19 = 19


I thought I was walking down the river?


Wait, I thought we were by the river? The foal walked back Turtle to the other foals.


A yellow filly, clearly the leader of the small group of children playing in the hamlet's center, tells you the same thing she told the others.

"Papa thinks there's some weirdo living down by the river. We sent those other noble-looking types down there – they were asking about the same thing."

Okay, you're still by the river. Turtle walked back on his own.

Turtle told you that there's a strange goat who lives across the river, and you've seen signs that a goat shaman might be around.

The river here is shallow, but the current is strong. Crossing here would be possible, but it might be best to try for a better crossing point further downstream.


Probably a good idea. Let's go find one then.


I keep on walking.


"Thank you."
And I'll head down the river until I catch up with the others.


No river will stop me!
I wade on through.

Roll #1 12 = 12


'1d20' see if I can find a fallen tree.

Roll #1 15 = 15


You trot further to the west. As you head in this direction, the woods get a little thicker, but you know from looking around while on top of the hamlet's hill that the woods on this side of the river soon give way to wide open plains.

It's just a short gallop, from the hill down to the riverbank and you soon see your friends.

You wade into the river, picking the shallowest part you can find. As you push your way towards the center of the river, you find that you've drifted maybe another hundred feet downriver. You can still stand here, but the water is at your withers, and the force from the current is very strong here.

Roll again to get to the other side.

Following Cauthon further downriver, you do find, in the thicker copse of trees, a large log. While it's covered in lichen, it doesn't appear to be rotten, and it might be possible to turn this into a makeshift bridge at some point further downriver when the river narrows significantly.


You follow Cauthon, too, and you see the same he sees.


Take that log with us. '1d20'
"Hey, look at this!"

Roll #1 3 = 3



Roll #1 15 = 15


"Yep, it's a log all right."


"Looks strong, strong enough to cross the river with."


You pull on the log with all your might, but it won't budge.

If only somepony really strong were here…

You brave the puny water's puny efforts to push you further, and you soon make it to the other side, though you had to swim the last twenty feet or so.

That it is. You can tell from your learnings.


"Sorry for taking so long."
I'll help tug the log. '1d20'

Roll #1 18 = 18


"Probably. Better make sure, though."
I kick it.

I am a smart pony.

Roll #1 20 = 20


b-but I am somepony really strong! '1d20'

Roll #1 6 = 6


I laugh triumphantly when I reach the other side.
"Ha! You thought you could best me water?! Nopony bests Ziza!"
I try to triumphantly flex.

Roll #1 20 = 20


You push hard, but the log won't move at all. Maybe it's just the way you're pushing it, you know?

Remembering what you've learned about the principles of leverage, you look around for something long and strong to wedge beneath the log to get it rolling. While Striker is busy throwing her strength into pushing the fallen tree at its exposed roots, you find a long, flat stone perfect for acting as a lever. You wedge it beneath the log and begin to push. The log gradually lifts off the ground…

Not seeing Loam's efforts, you rear back and prepare to buck the tree with all your might. Using your strong Earth Pony glutes, you strike the log as hard as you can.

Were the log lodged firmly in the earth, you'd probably have simply uprooted it and sent it on a gentle roll. Instead, you struck just as Loam dislodged the log from its place, and you send the log flying. It soon crashes back down to the earth, but it begins rolling downhill, totally uncontrolled.

Fortunately for you all, it takes a sharp left turn right as the river begins to narrow, and its great momentum allows it to leap the gap over the river before falling back down and forming a natural bridge.

You could probably chalk that one up to the log spirits, or maybe Vodya decided to smile upon your group's efforts to cross his river.

You flex your muscles and the river seems to stop moving quite so quickly. You hear a few frogs ribbit happily on the shoreline. What's more, you hear some rustling and turn around to see a small pony-like figure dart off into the woods.

You're a few hundred feet from your friends on the other side of the river.


"Hm? Hey! Come back here!"
I attempt to chase after the pony like figure!

Roll #1 19 = 19


"Well. Problem solved, I suppose."
I'll give a wan smile at Striker.
"Brain's a muscle too, Striker. It needs exercise, just like all the others."


I look totally shocked at this but let a jolly laugh out. "Not Bad! you guys only got it because I loosened it first, yea. Not bad thou, You are stronger than you look!"


"Uh…sure. Let's just get across…"


"Alright! Don't worry, you're fine. I'll lead the charge. I can swim just fine, if it breaks." I give you a pat on the back.
and you two.
and go across that bridge.


"Let's. I doubt Ziza will wait long for any of us."


"I don't think he knows that word."


"Patience is neither of their strong points. But they're good ponies."


You wheel around and gallop hard at the figure disappearing into the treeline. The water sparkles off your coat and shimmers off of every straining muscle as you leap on top of the hooded figure.

You immediately begin to regret this act, as the smell from the figure begins to assault your nose.

"Ooooh hee hee hee hee," the goat cackles as you pin him to the ground, "I see I've made a new boyfriend~" He farts a happy fart and cackles some more.

The goat is probably the shaman you're looking for. He fits the type – his coat is matted with all types of mud and other matter, sticks and assorted foliage are woven into his hair and beard, and he bears that typical look of the crazed loner living in the woods.

You all cross the bridge. It's a little wobbly, but it holds up. You can see Ziza galloping into the woods from here.


Run after him!


I'll sigh and go after him.


"See? Off he goes."

I trot after the other two.


Oh sweet Brawn why did I-
I let off of him and try to restrain my gag reflex and defend myself from the assault from the atrociously nauseating smell.

Roll #1 3 = 3


You arrive at the riverbank where Ziza is. Your friend is gagging and retching while a disgusting-looking goat rolls around on the ground and laughs maniacally.

You manage to stifle your body's desire to vomit up your breakfast, but you can't stop coughing and wheezing. He really does smell awful.


I go up and punch the goat '1d20'
"What did you do to Ziza!"

Roll #1 11 = 11


"Oh please, don't let us interrupt your special moment."


You punch him right in the flank. He cackles even louder.

"I didn't do anything! I think he likes me~"


I'll look at him for a moment, chuckling slightly.
"I take it you are the wild shaman?"


"What?!" smack him. "Hey, stand up, we have something important to ask you!"


I continue hacking and wheezing.
"That was- how are you even- AGH!-"
"NO! No I don't! Now stop that incessant cackling!"


"Wild shaman?!"

He scratches his head for a moment with his hoof.

"Oh, that's right! I am! Hee hee hee."

"Heeeey! Cut that out!"
He stands and starts chanting in a strange tongue.

He sticks his tongue out at you and continues chanting.

Roll #1 17 + 4 = 21


"I'd like to officially extend a request to perform the rite of plague protection on the saddle stone of our clan."


I summon a lightning hammer. '1d20+3'
"Stop that odd chanting, or this will get really bad for you."

Roll #1 18 + 3 = 21


I get up, frowning upon noticing his chanting and try to interrupt it.
"What are you chanting?!"

Roll #1 16 = 16


"Guys, I think you've antagonized the dirty hermit enough."


'Stop! You're both being incredibly rude to someone we need help from!"


"I'm trying to protect you! Ziza was on the ground when we got here! " I scowl at you.




I perk up at her mention of me, and a small blush forms on my cheeks and I cough.
"Erm… Gilded, I was on the ground because of this… filthy goat's odor. I pinned him to the ground and he started… letting off gas. The smell was overwhelming."


"He was on the ground because the shaman probably defended himself. Though, judging by the retching noises he was making, he probably…"
I'll just gesture to emphasize.
"See? No reason at all to be so hostile."



Your skin and coat begins to itch terribly. You have the almost uncontrollable urge to scratch.

The lightning hammer you summon from the clouds appears in your hooves with a huge thunderclap. It does seem like an awfully good back scratcher…

"Oh, just a bit of the ol' summon-ems for the flea spirits. They're a cantankerous bunch, you know, but they're great for using on bullies!" He laughs some more.

"Hmm… 'officially'…. 'request'…. hmmm yes. I like the sound of that!

"Ooh, but plague protection is going to cost you, especially depending on the plague. What sort of payment are we talking here?"

He looks you up and down and munches a bit on your clothing.

"Hmm, yes, yes. An earth pony clan from the north, and nobles, no less!

"I want the works! You gotta give me hospitality and a banquet, and a full feast, and lots of pretty dresses like that one, and uh lots of gold, and OF COURSE a seat on your lead council thingy, and I get to come and go as I please…" he goes on like this for a while.


"I've got a rather peculiar plant that you might like. Sparingly, of course! It's a great aid to relaxing."


my face turns a bit red as he lists of demands.
mom always told me not to itch.. resist.. '1d20'

Roll #1 18 = 18


"That's ridiculous! We can't give you all that!"


"Yeah…we just started growing quite a crop!"


You manage to avoid scratching, and you only fidget in place a bit. You still realllly want to scratch, though.

"A relaxing plant, huh? Well that might work, in lieu of SOME of my demands."

He nibbles some more on Loam's clothing, deep in thought.

"No? Well then I guess you'll just have to do without your PRECIOUS WHATEVER IT IS!" He glares at you for a moment before crossing his eyes and sticking his tongue out.

"Hey, wait a minute… Come on back to my home and we can talk details about this. I might have a job you can do."

He hops off into the woods, beckoning you all to follow.


I follow him.


follow along.


I'll go after him as well.





The party follows him further into the woods. His shack isn't very far from the shoreline, in fact, but it is carefully concealed among the trees, under piles of leaves and branches. Were you not looking for it, you might mistake it for a mound of rotting wood amongst the forest's undergrowth.

The goat leads you into his home. Inside are all the trappings of a wild shaman: Various herbs and mushrooms hang from the ceiling in bunches, ready to be cooked into a magical brew. Strange symbols are carved into the walls and painted on every surface. A bed of various rags and leaves sits in the corner – the shack's only real furniture.

"Meetings first," the goat says. "It's the proper way of doing things! My name is Babka. Who are you and what is your clan? The little colt never told me much, and his father usually kept quiet, too."


I'll nod to the Goat.
"I am Restful Loam, of the Earthen Hoof clan. It is a pleasure to make your acquaintance, Babka Wildshaman."


I stand uneasely, keeping my hammer close.
"Gilded Striker, of the Earthen Hoof clan.. I suppose I owe you an apology for earlier, but it did appear suspicious.."


"I am Cauthon, and we are from the Earthen Hoof clan. It is an honor to see a goat again, even if you worship the nature spirits."


"And I am Cold Fortrunes, of the same."


"Ziza. Of the Earthen Hoof clan."


"Mm. Earthen Hoof… Never heard of it. Badgerfaces? Heard of them. Trust Rocks? Heard of them. Blue Leafs, Firewhistles, Wheat Manes? Definitely heard of them – they used to bother me around here all the time.

"But I've never heard of the Earthen Hooves. So you're both new here AND you're not famous.

"But that's okay. I don't like those haughty types anyways. And the Wheat Manes are SOOO haughty. Might as well be unicorns, if you ask me."

He searches through a pile of bottles and books and herbs before tugging out a ball that appears to be made out of old cloth. He shows it to all of you.

"This is a spirit sack, and it's like a home for spirits I need. I'll tell you what – if you go out into the woods and use the bag to catch some of the spirits I need for my rituals, I'll consider blessing your whosawhatsit."


"What sort of spirits? Air spirits? Rock spirits? Spirit spirits?"


I'll eye the sack a little uncertainly.
"If that's what's necessary."
I'll nod at Cauthon's question.
"True, we'll need to know what sort of spirits we're chasing, else we might bring you the wrong ones."


"Catching things. now that's something I can understand, we just put a cat in the bag then?"


"It can't be that simple."


"Catching… spirits? Whosawhatsit?…"
I raise an eyebrow at the peculiar goat.


"Why not?"


"It… could be. You never know."


"Clay spirits. They live on a nearby hill further south in the forest."

"Absolutely necessary!"

"That's right. You just open the bag up and the spirits will fly right in. It's like a little holiday for them – they love it."

"No, it's not. First you have to coax the little buggers out."

He digs through his pile again before finding a glass tube filled with sand.

"Now we can do this the easy way or the smart way.

"Easy way: I give you this spirit dust. It's my own special recipe – good stuff! And it makes the little spirits of the forest show themselves when you scatter it. Makes them go crazy or something.

"Smart way: I teach one of you how to summon them out of the ground. It'll take a little more time, but if you get hungry and eat the dust, it won't be as disastrous."

He stares at you for a moment.

Roll #1 15 = 15


I slowly back away?…

Roll #1 15 = 15


You hear him fart again.


You thankfully manage to avoid any trace of the goat's present for you


I look a little more uneasy, but wait for our own spiritualists to chime in.


"How do we catch the spirits, oh wisest of goats? Roll the ball in the clay?"


So, obviously, the main candidate to learn from him is Fortunes. Garden would also be good, but she's not active right now.


I start laughing.


He tugs on a ribbon on the ball and it opens up. There's a small sparkling of magical energy when he does this.

"Just do it when the spirits have shown themselves, and they'll pile right into the bag."


probably, yea. if he's willing to step forward and put up with fart goat for that long


"Fascinating. How hard is it to call them up yourself?"

I scrunch.


"The smart way would likely be better, though the easy way will save time… A pity I can't speak with nature spirits as easily as I can the dead."


"Thanks. How do we close it?"


"Not very! You just need to be in tune with the natural world and know the right chant. Sometimes they'll speak to you and want a little something in return for helping you. The spirit bag should be enough to get them into the bag, though. They really like the bag, usually."

He digs through his pile and finds a gnarled staff covered in feathers, which are themselves covered with mud.

"If you like, I can show you now. Shouldn't take more than a few minutes."

He simply closes all of the sides and wraps the ribbon around the mass of rags.

"You don't need to get it totally right. The spirits don't take up much space."

He flips the bag to you.


"Yeah, that might be useful in the future."


I catch it.
"Easy peasy. We'll get you those clay spirits if my friends can bring them out."


I stand back to give them room.


I stand back as well.


Babka takes everyone outside.

"I'll show you how to summon a plant spirit. They're usually pretty easy to get BUT THEY NEVER HAVE ANYTHING IMPORTANT TO SAY!"

He screams that last bit and lets the words echo through the woods. His eyes dart back and forth as if he's waiting for someone to respond. His eyes cross again and he sticks out his tongue. He draws a large circle in the dirt before drawing some symbols in the middle of it. He stands inside the circle

The goat stretches a bit before assuming a standing posture, holding the staff in front of him. He bangs the staff on the ground a few times.

"Arise, spirit! Spirit, arise! Arise, spirit! Spirit, arise!"

He then begins chanting in a strange language. It's not pony, but it's not goatish, either. You make note of the words.

Several greenish lights appear in front of all of you, swirling around. They coalesce around Babka, and he speaks to them in whispers before they depart back into the forest.

"There, that's how you do the plants."

He makes sure that you know the ritual to summon plant spirits before teaching you the ritual for the clay spirits. It's largely the same ceremony, though the symbols inscribed in the circle are different, and the chant uses different gibberish. You're probably ready to summon some spirits.

So this is how I'm going to handle spirits – you roll to contact the spirits by performing the ritual. You can't contact spirits that you don't know the rituals for. Dealing with the spirits once summoned is a whole different matter. And if you want to summon spirits but are not a shaman, another roll will be necessary to make sure you're in the right mindset.


File: 1378690927741.png (128.21 KB, 548x612, 1370845837465.png) ImgOps Google

When last we left our brave Earthen Hoofs, you had met Babka, the gassy goat shaman who lives in the woods to the southwest of your clan's territory. He has agreed, it seems, to make the blessed staddle stone your clan needs if you gather some clay spirits for him. He has taught Cold Fortunes how to perform the rituals that will summon clay and plant spirits, but he has also given you spirit dust that can do the trick, as well as a spirit bag to use to collect the spirits.

Babka shoos you all outside of his hut. He points towards the south.

"There are some large clay hills in that direction. Can't miss them. Should be chock full of spirits.

"Isn't too dangerous around here. Watch out for bears and wolves, but they'll leave you alone if you leave them alone and you don't smell too tasty.

"Sometimes your fellow pony clans farther south or west like to come up here and have arguments about which of them owns the woods or the river or what have you. They don't cause much trouble, though.

"In the meantime, I'll get started on your ghost rock."

He makes a show of turning over various stones, looking for the right shape of rock, you guess. He makes soft cat noises while doing so.


I lean over to Gilded.
"Is… is this all really necessary?"


Off to the clay hills, then…


"You got it."


"We will return, oh noble goat."
I set off in the direction of the hills.


It's like she's in a different place entirely.

You start off to the south. Everyone roll.



Roll #1 2 = 2



Roll #1 12 = 12



Roll #1 7 = 7



Roll #1 3 = 3



You come upon a clearing in the woods – a small meadow surrounding three deep red mounds. There are many markings drawn on the the surrounding trees, as well as what appear to be minor shrines – probably set up by Babka.

It's eerily quiet here, except for the sound of a thrush happily chirping in a nearby tree. Wind rustles the leaves at the tops of the trees, but otherwise the meadow is motionless.

Fortunes, you can start the ritual whenever you are ready.


"So… do you have a handle on this, Fortunes?"


"What a nice place."


I'll nod.
"Very quiet."
I'll look around while Fortunes does his ritual.
"Too quiet."


"Pretty sure. Just keep an eye out, will you?"

I take out the bag and set it on the ground before drawing the circle around myself and filling it with the symbols he showed me. Then I start banging the staff against the ground and chanting.

"Arise, spirit! Spirit, arise! Arise, spirit! Spirit, arise!"


Roll #1 8 = 8


"Too quiet? I can fix that."

I start jumping up and down and shouting.
Rolling for how loud I can be.

Roll #1 14 = 14


"That… wasn't what I meant…"
Just shake my head as he makes a ruckus.


I bop him on the nose.
"Just because it's quiet doesn't mean you need to make noise!"


"Someone please shut him up before I freeze his mouth shut."


Roll again.


"Well you should have said so!"


Roll #1 6 = 6


Tiny lights filter out of the ground – ruddy brown orbs that get lazily rise towards the sun. Soon, though, they begin to animate, dancing back and forth and jittering wildly.

A sharp hissing sound fills the meadow. It seems the spirits are restless. Before you know it, one is hovering near Cauthon…

A light hovers in front of your face before flying at one of your ears. Yow! It bit you! And it looks like its friends are coming to join in the feast!


Trickster magic save me! I try to trick them into the bag!

Roll #1 17 = 17


"Uh… Fortunes? Is this where we stuff them in the bag?…"
I slowly start backing away from them.


"I think so. Babka said they seemed to like it."

I hold the bag up and start trying to coax them into it.

Roll #1 1 = 1


"They're just spirits, Ziza. All we need do is put them in the bag."
Shoo spirits into the bag. '1d20'

Roll #1 16 = 16


I snap back to reality "Oh, is it supposed to do that?"


Cauthon had the bag

You open the bag, and just as Babka said, the spirits really like it. They immediately stop biting you and begin to pile into the bag…

…before Cold Fortunes produces his own non-spirit bag and stamps wildly on the clay earth to attract the spirits. They surge over the poor shaman, biting mercilessly.

You are now helpless.

You run around waving at the few spirits who chose to not bite Cauthon or Fortunes. They meander their way into the bag like fat bumblebees.



Get up!

Roll #1 13 = 13


I smack my face.
This is going to take a while…


How many of the spirits are now in the bag?


Maybe half.


I blink "Are you okay Fortunes?"


Well, fat bumblebees or not, they'll bumble their way into that spirit bag of Cauthon's. Let's shoo the ones attacking Fortunes. '1d20'

Roll #1 3 = 3


"You're not done yet! Hurry up and get the rest of the spirits in the bag Cauthon!"


I try to get the rest of them into the bag.

Roll #1 13 = 13




I frown "Oh, well.. let me know if you want me to 'encourage' those spirits for you.. with my hammer."


You shoo a small number into the bag, but they're still pretty interested in Fortunes.

You remember Babka did say something about talking to the spirits.


I thought it was only talking to grass spirits and that he only taught it to one PC?


I walk over and try to shoo the spirits away.

Roll #1 11 = 11


I try to talk the spirits into the bag.

Roll #1 19 = 19



Roll #1 8 = 8


Well yeah you'd probably have trouble doing it. But he taught Fortunes how to talk to plant and clay spirits

The remaining spirits on the edges of the hill just sleepily fall into the ground.

They don't seem so much to speak back at you as just giggle at your plight. You do eventually make out a few whispers, though.

"Toooooo much noise! Toooooo much noise! Be quiet, noisy ones!"

Picking up a small clump of clay, you throw it into the spirit bag. The remaining spirits disappear into the bag, giggling the whole time.


I'll try and heal a bit of the spirit bites that Fortunes has been suffering.

Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8


I guess I'll just '1d20' try to push the spirits away from fortunes.

Roll #1 18 = 18


You brush a few of the lazier spirits off of fortunes. They fall to the ground and disappear into the earth.

Fortunately for Fortunes, spirit bites don't seem to be too dangerous. You make a few whelts disappear, but they still itch and smart.

Everyone please roll again.


I close the bag tight.
"And that, fillies and colts, is why you never interrupt a Erumalite's plans, unless being interrupted is part of his plan in which case your should."



Roll #1 17 = 17



Roll #1 9 = 9


I'm assuming I can get up now.

Roll #1 8 = 8



Roll #1 2 = 2



Roll #1 4 = 4



The meadow remains still. A small giggling and bubbling sound resonates from the spirit bag, but otherwise the whole meadow is silent.

You hear the crack of a twig snapping on the forest floor. It sounds like it's coming from the… west or south.

Something inside of you tells you that you're being watched from the meadow's edges.


"We should return to Babka with the spirits. The saddlestone should be almost finished, don't you think?"


"Oh? We have company, everypony. Wash your hooves and put on your best saddles."





"Hm? Company? I don't hear anything… What'd you hear?"


I'll look around for a moment.
"Where? Is this another of your tricks, Cauthon?"


You feel the eyes more intensely now and hear more rustling.


"South or west, I can't tell. It might be a trick, I won't tell you."


"Then why waste our time now?"


I'll frown at Cauthon.
"This had better not be one of your pranks…"
I'll be ready to draw my sword if something hostile comes at us.


I look out in those directions and try to pay attention to what I hear and see.

Roll #1 4 = 4


I draw my knife.
"Come out and say hello!"


'1d20+4' summon a hammer. "Who ever it is, I'll protect you."

Roll #1 14 + 4 = 18


"With a big strong stallion protecting me I have no reason to fear."
I swoon and flutter my eyelashes.


I frown.
"She is most definitely not a stallion!"


An enormous firey hammer materializes in your hooves. +2 to rolls with it.

"Ah, I see you brought a trickster with you. Bad idea. Tricksters are for entertainment – not for raids."

The voice is cool and even, and the pony who produced it emerges from the woods to the southwest. With him are four other ponies – all earth ponies, all holding spears. All seem to be covered in soot or dirt – you can't tell which.

"Oh, that's no way to behave when you're trespassing."

The lead pony grins and gestures at the surrounding forest.

"Let me explain. This is Firewhistle territory. All lands west of the mountain are ours. All lands south of the Firetail river are ours. So you are in our forest, strangers, likely preparing to raid our settlements. We will not let you.

"Come peacefully back to our Ring and we will let them pass judgment on you. Resist, and we will kill most of you and enthrall the rest."


"You would know, I am sure."

"But we are on the north side of the Firetail river. How did you four get over here?"

Roll #1 13 = 13


I smirk at this.
"What do you mean 'enthrall' ?" I look at them suspiciously.


I snort.
"We're not trespassing. Calm yourselves."


"We are not here to raid. Our ancestors warned us of a coming plague, so we seek to prepare ourselves for that. You should look to your own farms and ponies before worrying about ours."


"Raid? Us? Clearly you haven't seen what happened the last time we met another clan…"


The leader eyes you suspiciously. He looks around in an attempt to get his bearings.

He turns to one of his kinsponies. "Did we, uh, did we cross the river?" The other pony just shrugs.

"Irrelevant. All lands west of the mountains are still ours, and…" he points at the mountains in the sky to the east before trailing off.

"You will be our prisoners. According to our clan's traditions, prisoners will work for the clan until we decide to release them.

"You look strong. You'd make a good thrall."

"You're on our lands. That's trespassing. They have laws in whatever land you come from, yes?"

"So you're spreading plagues, too? I'll add that to the list of crimes."

"And which clan did you meet?" he snorts. "Did the Wheat Manes lie to you and say that this was their land?"


You remember that Sunflower back in the Blue Leaf village told you that she studied Nightstar's ways with some "Firewhistles" years ago.


"You are deliberately mishearing me."
I'll frown at him.
"We should not fight here, where the spirits dwell, lest the wrath of Brawn, Boulder, and Nightstar all come down on us all."


Ah yes.
"By the way, do you recall the Blue Leaf mare, Sunflower? She spoke of your clan well."


"All the lands west of the mountains are yours? Please, we all know the world is round, and that means all the world is technically east of the mountains. There is no such thing as west."

Roll #1 1 = 1


I give an annoyed glare and then put on a fake smile. "We are not here to harm you, we are simply scouting the area. There's no need to lie to these ponies, particularly not silly lies about spirits. Should we arrange an official meeting with your clan leaders later this month?"


"Yes. We do. And I'm sure that wherever you hail from you too have civility?"
I snort again
"Why, all this meeting is doing is convincing me that you are the raiders! Nothing more than a group of common bandits, looking for travelers to mob and rob like the petty thieves you are!"


"Ziza, be at peace. We can still settle this without coming to blows, if we both keep calm heads."


"Yeah, I'd rather not get into a fight here."


He laughs heartily. "Round world? You've been listening to unicorn lies, trespasser. And we don't like those who consort with unicorns."

The Firewhistle party holds their spears a little more aggressively.

The leader hardly listens to you, but one of the other stallions in the group speaks up.

"Sir, I studied with Sunflower. She came here from the Blue Leaf clan, and we all know that they keep their word…"

The leader seems to soften up a bit, considering what the other one said.

"Why should our Ring meet with you? Who are you? Where are you from? You have offered no explanation so far, so you must be bandits, no?"

Your rant doesn't help leader's thinking. He glares at you.

"The Firewhistle Clan is no group of thieves! Watch your tongue, or you won't have one when you're working in our fields!"

The Firewhistles are clearly on edge. One false move here could set them all off.


I'll clear my throat.
"My apologies, we've been terribly rude. We've not even offered a proper introduction. I am Restful Loam, of the Earthen Hoof clan."


I sigh and step forward. "Let me explain then. We're scouts from the Earthen Hoof Clan. We recently settled in this valley, and didn't know it was your territory." I add with a scoff " Apparently Wheat Manes are untrustworthy."


"Please, ignore him. He's just a little boastful. I'm Cold Fortunes, also of Earthen Hoof. We're just here to talk a bit with the spirits, then we'll be on our way."


I laugh.
"Calm down you nervous fool. We mean no harm. We're from the Earthen Hoof clan. I'm Ziza the Strong."


"I'm Cauthon the Trickster, from the earthen Hooves."


I'll put a hoof to my face for a moment.
Note to self, don't rely on Ziza for diplomacy.


He looks like he's ready to charge you, but he calms himself with a huff and a loud whinny.

"Earthen Hooves…"
The leader turns to the pony who spoke about Sunflower and the Blue Leafs. They whisper quietly to one another before the leader turns to speak once more.

"Yes, our scouts saw you arrive in the pass several seasons ago. They said you headed near the mountains. That is our territory, Earthen Hoof ponies. I suggest you tell your leaders that you are living on Firewhistle land, and we do not allow trespassers and squatters."

The leader holds his hoof up in a signal to the rest of his party.

"We will let you return to your village as a sign of mercy. Tell your leaders what happened. Expect our lawspeaker soon."

The squad prepares to head back into the forest.


"Thank you for your consideration."
I'll nod.
"And I was not making light of that plague. There is a terrible one coming, so make certain that your stores and fields are warded."


Watch them leave.


One of the ponies – the one who spoke of Sunflower – nods, but he says nothing.


"Have a fun trip."
I wave goodbye and start walking back to the river.


I frown.
"Did you just say that we settled on your land?"


"Not now, Ziza."


"Leave it be for now, Ziza. It will be sorted out soon enough."
I'll make a small cutting motion across my throat.


"I'm worried too, but fighting them here and now is too dangerous with so many weaker ponies among us.. and a child too.. "


"Yes. The Firewhistle clan has lived in this pass for generations. We claimed the territory along the Firetail river for ourselves before your clan came out of the North – before you were born or your parents were born. You settle on land our ancestors fought for and pried out of Griffin talons. You do not get to just come along and take it for nothing."


"Honorable Firewhistle, this matter will be settled by our respective lawspeakers. Let us depart from this place in peace, so that we do not disgrace ourselves with unnecessary violence."


"Flowery words, Earthen Hoof, but at least respectful ones. We will send our envoy soon, I am sure."


I frown, and let out an annoyed snort.

"We'll discuss this more when you send your envoy. But you do not threaten the Earthen Hoof clan, do I make myself clear?"


"I'll threaten what I like, Mud Clan!"

The squad leader is visibly angry again.


I'll nod again.
I'll groan.
"Ziza, please."


"If you don't quit now, big shoes, we'll have a war on our hooves."


I try to disguise myself as Ziza. Let's make this disguise an obvious mockery.

Roll #1 11 + 1 = 12


I stare intently at the leader, gently patting my hammer. "I'm sure I heard you saying you were just leaving? Have a nice trip…"


I take a deep breath-

And release it, taking a few more to calm myself.

"Yes… you were just leaving?"


"I am not scared of you, little filly."

You pull out your makeup chalk and whiten up your face's coat. A cloak strapped to each of your forelegs, appropriately bunched up and bulging, simulates the muscles.

You do a brief clowny impression of your kinspony, first falling over yourself and then engaging in comical business with a small rock you pretend to be too weak to lift.

The opposing party nervously laughs. They're obviously too on edge to fully appreciate your physical comedy, but they seem to have loosened up their grips on their spears, at least.

"Fine, Earthen Hoofs. We are leaving. Go now from this side of the river, and do not come back here unless invited."

The squad disappears into the woods to the south.


I'll exhale in relief and sink slightly.
"Thank the gods. Now can we please just go back to Babka and get that saddlestone?"


were they pegasi?
I snort annoyed and start to walk back to the wild shaman's place
"I thought they'd never leave."


No, earth ponies.

You do know, however, that the earth clans that were under the control of the Pegasi back home tended to adopt some Pegasi practices – notably the tradition of taking thralls. Few Earth Pony clans do that unless they were once levies for the warrior Pegasi.


I'll keep my antics going.


I wait until they are gone then buck the nearest tree as hard as I can. '1d20'
"Those… those… GRAAH."
I let out a few heavy breaths as I try to channel the remainder of my anger out.

Roll #1 15 = 15



"Please stop."


"We should be glad they did without spilling blood. We are not equipped to fight a raiding party."
I'll shake my head.
"And you, Ziza! Knowing when and when not to pick a fight is something even the youngest warrior is taught!"


It's a pretty decent impression, though certainly not one of your best.

You slam your hind legs into a big elm tree. A thin crack forms where you struck it, and one of its dead limbs shears off and falls to the forest floor with a crash.


I answer with as feminine a voice I can.


'1d20-2' reaction roll/s]

Roll #1 19 - 2 = 17


"I know that, and that's why I said we were just scouts, who didn't know about their claims. I'm not stupid.."


I chuckle a bit, its actually kind of funny. "Come on, this isn't the time for games."


I snort again.
"And even the youngest warrior is also taught about defending the honor of his clan."


I'll just shake my head again.
"Still, threatening them after they'd started calming down certainly didn't make the situation any better. Brawn doesn't protect fools."
I'll glance briefly at Ziza for the last part.


You all make your way back to the river and Babka's house. Babka is waiting for you, perched on top of his shack.

"Where have you been? You didn't try eating the spirits, did you? They don't taste like anything, if you want to know."


"There is a difference between defending the clan's honor and settling things peaceably. Your insults to the Firewhistles have sullied our honor in their eyes, as it makes us look like a bunch of brutes."
"There was a small argument with some Firewhistle Clan ponies."


"We caught your ghosts. That's all that matters."


"For my brain's sake."

"You too. The last thing we need is to anger more spirits."


"Firewhistle? They haven't been near this section of the river in… at least a year, I'd say. I've talked to them plenty. They're all sticks in the mud. Too much law and order and the god of the dead and such from them. So boring."

He munches on a bundle of leaves absentmindedly.

"The Wheat Manes aren't any better. They think they're just the bees knees, if you know what I mean, which I don't."

"Good, good. I've got the stone here. It's just full to the brim with hungry cat spirits. Don't ask me how I got them into the rock. It took some coaxing, but they're in there."

He jumps off of his roof and nudges two rocks – one roughly a hemisphere and the other a short cylinder – towards you.

"Now if I could just have that spirit bag, you can take this and be on your way."


I pat you on the back "Maybe we should have just beat them up, all that talk of taking thralls unnerved me, dirty Pegasi talk that stuff. No earth ponies should be doing that."


"Yeah, we got that impression. Now we have to put up with their speaker telling us how much we suck."


I'll nod.
"Cauthon, if you'd be so kind?"
I'll try and lift the cylinder one. It shouldn't be too heavy, right? '1d20'

Roll #1 20 = 20


I nod and look a little tired. "Yep, I can carry those just give him the bags and lets go home.."
I say in the general direction of whoever has the bag now, and carry the stones on my back.


"My advice: Give into 'em. Tell 'em you'll do whatever they want. And then just don't do it. Or do a crappy job. That's how you get 'em to stop botherin' you."

Whoa there… someone's been getting stronger from all that practice with the sword! You lift the stone easily.

He takes the bag from Cauthon. You can now head back to the village, if you wish. Or you can wander off into the mountains, never to return. You know, it's up to you.


"Many thanks. At least someone here is amicable…"

"We shouldn't start a war this close to a plague…"


"Lemme guess, that's what you do? It's a bit harder when a whole clan does that."


Perhaps. Still, feels nice to be a bit less… undependable.
"Thank you for your work, Babka."


"Well, we certainly can't make any alliances with them, when their speaker comes, we'll just tell them how to redraw their map."
"Thanks for your help."


I laugh.
"Oh, we'll tell them how to redraw their map alright!"


"Mmhmm mmhmm" he nods his head.

"Hey but don't worry about that stone. I did good work on that one because I like you!"

He smiles and nods. "Don't mention it. Just let me into the village sometime. I promise not to make too much of a mess."


"Yeah, sure. Come sample some herb sometime."

"Not with the hammer."


"I'm sure that can be arranged."
"But not the medicinal ones. Those… might not agree with you."
And let's start heading back to our hold.


"..right, we'll see what we can do about setting up something for visitors of the shamanistic sort.."


##go home


You all trek back to the village toting the blessed staddle stone. The villagers are overjoyed to see the new treasure, and the carpenters immediately place it underneath the largest of the granaries. Foals duck underneath the building to try to put their ears up against the stone – some say they can hear cats purring.

Chief Thornshaker is pleased with the results (though not excited by the prospect of a smelly goat shaman soon visiting the village for hospitality), but he is worried by your story about the Firewhistles.

"They claim an absurd amount of land. Nopony was using this land when we arrived. Nopony defended this land from our claim. To come to us after we have sown our fields and just as we are about to harvest them – they have no claim!" He's obviously upset, but he doesn't appear to be worried.

"They won't fight us over a stretch of land so far from their homes, I'm sure."

Paused. If you want to interact with the village or something, I'll stick around for a bit.


"So long as we don't insult them too terribly."


"They take thralls out of anyone on 'their land' please make sure everyone going that way is warned of this and goes properly armed.."


Your clan's first harvest in this new land has been a frantic time – a headlong rush to get the year's final crop in before the coming winter covers the fields in ice. Everypony – including the clan's nobles – have helped somehow, whether by hauling grain, mending carts, praying for blessings from Brawn and Heartpetal, or organizing the work.

It has been an exhausting effort, but the harvest is almost completed, and the attention of the Earthen Hoof ring now turns to making plans for the coming winter.

Chief Thornshaker has called the ring to a meeting in the clan hall. Bits of treasure and relics still line the great room's walls, but it doesn't have quite the luster it did a few months ago: time spent dusting ancient trophies and polishing armor is time taken from harvest work, after all.

"The way I see it," Thornshaker says, "we've got two big problems: First, the Firewhistles are going to send that envoy sometime in the next year, and we need to convince them to leave us alone. Second, we should probably plan for a feast at the start of winter."


"If we turned the feast into a festival we could recruit traveling warriors and convince them to join our clan. That would help solve the Firewheel problem. In fact, we can invite our neighbors, too."


I'll nod.
"A festival celebrating our first harvest, and welcoming the Firewhistle lawspeaker, might earn us some good will in the eyes of the neighboring clans. Inviting the Blue Leaves wouldn't be a bad idea."


"The firewhistles are making outrageous claims, we just have to call the brutes out on this." I say with a bit of irritation.

"A feast shouldn't be a real problem, we can just hold one as always."


"That's…actually not a bad idea."


"You sound surprised by that."
I look a little bit hurt.


"I'm never surprised by what comes out of your muzzle."


"No, a feast shouldn't require a great deal, but perhaps we should make this special. The end of the harvest is the most important part of the year, and a new harvest in a new land should be celebrated in the right way!"

"I agree, though – they are making claims that are completely ridiculous. But they are strong. And we have to respect that."

Thornshaker rubs his chin. "Yes… that does sound like a good idea."


"That's… actually a rather brilliant idea. I'm surprised."

"Bah. They're weak willed fools. We don't need to respect them."


"Should we begin drafting the invitations and asking for volunteers for passing along the messages?"
I'll tap the table lightly.
"We need to at least pretend. We can't afford a blood feud this early in our hold's life."


"Actually, how come they never came to us before? Why would they even want to get rid of us?"


I shake my head "I'll let the law speaking ponies handle the firewhistle guest, just keep the pony away from me."

"For making the feast special, what would you suggest? More food than normal? An offering to ancestors?"


"I suppose…"

"Because they're imbeciles. They make outrageous claims and the only thing to back it up is their idiocy."


"Thank you. We can even host contests to entertain ourselves and the visitors."


I snort.
"Probably because they don't have nearly as much land as they claim."


"Well, if we do go with Cauthon's idea of a festival, we'd need activities. Tests of strength, that sort of thing."


"Well, why don't we invite ourselves over then? It'd be like some of those animals that puff themselves up to be scarier than they really are, and If they aren't as big as they say they are, they'd probably play nice and have a festival with us too."


I smile a bit at that.
"You mean like an arena challenge?"


"Ziza, every clan we've spoken to has said that the Firewhistles are strong. They have lived in this valley for generations.

"And, more than that, they supposedly were hoofsoldiers for the Rainstriker Pegasi in the homeland. If that is true, then they undoubtedly keep a large number of warriors… well-trained warriors."

"Visiting the Firewhistles may be a good idea, but visiting them when they said that they would visit us might be seen as aggressive.

"But a warrior's clan like that might respect such a bold move. I can't really say."


"Exactly! Tests of strength, apple bucking, fruit picking, and story telling will showcase stallions and help our mares find husbands, too!"


I'll nod.
"Something like that. Other things can be log tossing, pulling a plow the fastest, hoofraces. And the finishing event will be a small tournament."
"We could at least send them a message about the festival. They can bring a hooffull of their ponies to participate in the games, and they can see what we Earthen Hooves are made of."


"You're awfully eager to marry the clan off."


"I don't think that sending somepony is a good idea, they said they would make thralls out of anypony else from our clan that came near on their land."


"There's a certain degree of sense to it. Political marriage can cement alliances, and make sure we don't end up inbreeding ourselves to weakness."


"What would be the prize at the end?"


"Hah! Perhaps being bested by a show of strength will send them home with their tails between their le-"

"…Husbands? Are you suggesting that we mate with such a simple minded, idiotic clan as them?"


"After making sure we don't starve, our most important job as members of the Ring is to make sure that the clan keeps going, shaman. Remember that."

"That's a good point. But would they attack even a messenger under a flag of peace? I hope not, though I have heard that some clans that were once bonded to the Pegasi are ruthless and cold-hearted."


"Well, I could deliver the message. They might have some respect for one who follows Nightstar."
"That is a question. Do we have anything worth enough to be a prize? That armor we found, perhaps? Maybe some of those herbs…"
"More like we'd be taking them into our clan, and making them stronger for it."


I grin a bit at the talk of a festival. "I could speak to the crafts ponies about making some kind of prize."


"At the same time it just puts us at risk of being absorbed right into them though. We're not really in a position to bargain that now."


"New blood is always good for a clan."


"Why would we invite the Firewhistles? They aren't even that close to us."


"That really depends on whether their stallions or mares meet our standards. It might be a bit of an insult, but we're not just going to marry all of our eligible to one clan."


I frown deeply "And what if they take you as a hostage to make us fold in negotiations?"
"I do not know, but I do not trust them."


"We'd invite them, along with their lawspeaker, then they will be under the flag of peace, and the unspoken laws of hospitality. They won't be able to misbehave."
I'll smile a little.
"I would not be missed. My books have everything I know, and my tools are all there as well."


"I thought that the festival idea was to help assuage our… petty dispute with the Firewhistles?"


"The more there are, the better the festival will be."

"I'll be with Restful Loam. They won't even think about it if we're together. I promise."


"Loam.. we may not always see eye to eye.. but you should not put yourself in needless danger. That doesn't help anyone."
Shake my head "They already tried it when we met them for the first time. If you two go, then what stops them from actually doing it."


"My idea was to make us friends that would help us tell the Firewhitsle lawspeaker what he can go do with a diamond dog bitch."

"Not if they don't like us."

I roll my eyes.
"Truest me, you can always misbehave."


"This is hardly needless. And if they do come, with a small number of their best, and we beat them soundly in our tournament and the games, then they will be forced to respect us."
"Only if you're a follower of the Trickster, Cauthon. With the other clans we'll have invited, any misbehavior on their part would lower them in the eyes of their neighbors."


"Unless they have a Trickster too. Trickster shadow wars are great fun, but we shouldn't get involve in any until we've been here…"
I scratch at the floor a few times with my hoof.
"…Three years and five seasons."


I raise an eyebrow.
"Why such a specific time?"


"Inviting the blue leaves is a good idea." I nod.
Sigh "Loam, if you must do this.. at least let me come watch your flank. "


"That's oddly specific."
"If you can keep your temper. After all, we're only going to deliver a message, and then we come back."


"We can go and invite the other clans first, and then go over there almost at the end. They'd look bad if they tried something and the other clans knew we were going over there."


I look a bit confused.
I nod "I will hold my tongue as much as pony-possible."


"Snot pacific at all."

I chuckle.
"Watching his flank? Maybe we don't need any contests after all!"

"Secret reasons."


Thornshaker takes a moment to adjust the yoke on his neck.

"We can send out messengers to the other pony clans in the area. The Blue Leaves, certainly, but also the Wheat Manes to the south. There are a few others who are close enough that they may come."

Thornshaker laughs a long, rolling belly laugh.


smile at you.
"Right then, I think we are all agreed on sending messengers to other clans first?"


I'll nod.
"That works."
I'll chuckle.
"I don't think I'm the one she's really paying attention to, Cauthon."
"I'm in agreement."


"We should invite everyone, but watch the ones we have trouble with. Oh, and pamper the ones we owe favors to so that we can pay our favors off."


"Yup. that way we can ask them to bring some more things for the festival too."


"Well it's certainly not Ziza or me."


frown at that comment.


"You're right, it's certainly not you."


I scratch my head at his comment.
"Hm? What about paying attention to who?"


"Why are you two talking about this? We should focus on the feast and festival, not gossip."


"Fortunately, we left most of those we owed favors to behind in the old country. And our Tree Shaker enemies are reportedly many miles away to the northwest. We have a pretty clean slate here, though we should make better friends of the Blue Leafs."


"You brought it up. But, we should be focusing on business."
I'll nod.
"There's one in particular I'd like to invite. Sunflower, their resident Nightstar follower."


narrow my eyes suspiciously ".. aren't you the one who brought it up?"


"Don't be ridiculous."

"Excellent. Yes, we should definitely invite the Blue Leafs. They even have a lucky name."


"The Blue Leafs were a pleasant clan. I would be fine with inviting them."


Nod affirmatively "Yea, the blue leaves should be first, then other close by clans."


"Should we invite specific ponies, or just let them choose?"


"Well, there could be the general invitation, with private invitations if you wanted any specific pony to come along."


"Loam has a good idea."


"Okay, we'll send out messengers to the Blue Leafs and others soon.

"Now what about the Firewhistles?"


"I would suggest a message being sent, if only out of courtesy. And it would give them a chance to see that, though their lawspeaker will find us wronged with their accusation, we can be gracious."


"Invite their lawspeaker, their clan leader's significant other, and their thralls."


"Its risky to approach them, we should use caution if we choose that path."


"We could ask the other clans if they've dealt with the Firewhistles too. We don't have to make our own trails if someone else already made them."

"It would be a proper invitation, right? We'd have to look the part so they wouldn't think we're just any pony that got lost."


"That's a good idea."


I look very frustrated when you mention thralls.


"Right. We'd be coming up to them in a peaceful manner, dressed appropriately. It's usually very impolite to harm a messenger."
I'll think a moment.
"We'd probably have more to worry from bandits than we will the Firewhistles."


"And so who, exactly, is going on this little peace-raid?"


"Ooh! Me! Me!"


I scratch my head.
"I'm still confused as to why we want to do it in the first place."


"I was considering it. What knowledge I have is already recorded, and another can easily fill my place as a doctor."


"I don't want to do it. But I will go to protect those that wish to attempt it."
stare at you.


"We can have a harvest festival, have fun with the other clans, and look nice and strong in front of their lawpony and his friends if they come."

"No one is going to fill your place as doctor 'cause we'll bring you back, okay?"


"Can we invite the minotaur?"


"So it's your idea then?


"Of course."


I laugh at that. "I don't so."


"No, I don't think that would be smart."
"Say the Firewhistles come to our festival, and not just their lawspeaker. They bring a few of their best. Let's say our clan beats them in the games. They would be forced to have at least some respect for us, wouldn't they? And with the other clans there, we can't be accused of it being a set-up."


*don't think so



"So you're only going there to deliver a message? Why do we not just send a messenger to do it? Why do you need to go yourself?"


"The Firewhistles might have more respect for a follower of Nightstar. Since Sunflower of the Blue Leaf clan went there to learn about Nightstar, they probably have a shrine, which means that Nightstar will not enjoy the senseless death of a follower."
I'll rub my chin.
"That's no guarantee, of course, but it's better than sending someone else who wouldn't have that small amount of protection. And I am the only follower of Nightstar in our clan."


"You are also a ring member and would make a valuable captive."


"I would rather we simply send a messenger, but there is value in sending a member of the Ring.

"But it would be unwise to send a leader to a potential enemy without some measure of protection."

"If you wish to take up this mission, I don't think we'll be able to stop you. But let somepony else go with you if they wish."

He looks at the rest of you.

"Who else is going? Keep in mind that the last time you all met with the Firewhistles, they interpreted it as a raiding party. It might be best to send only a few. And perhaps the warriors would be best to stay at home…"


"I'll go. If anything happens and we have to run, Boulder will help us make it through a forest without getting pricked by a thorn or tearing a piece of clothing."


"I can go too."


"It would reflect badly on them if they attacked me when I come to them in peace."
I'll nod.


"Who says that you didn't end up getting abducted on the road by bandits? You aren't thinking sly enough, Loam."


"Then I'd need a trickster by my side to think sly for me."


"I would volunteer, but it appears that I am excluded…"

"And you believe those fools care? They were threatening to destroy us for settling in on 'their' land. Land that they hold no right to."


"I will go to protect Loam"


Put a hoof on your shoulder "Don't worry, I'll bring him back."


"Well, if everypony else is going, Ziza, what harm is there in sending another? But be on your best behavior."


"A rattlesnake? Act out the only way they know, and then react to what we do. If we had cowed away, they might have just sent their warriors and taken everyone. Since we stood up to them, they might be sizing us up and we have to make ourselves known that we can't be scared away."


"Smart pony."

"You should stay here."


"But they will abide by the practices of hospitality, or they'll just be a big group of brutes that the other clans won't trade with."
I'll shake my head.
"We can't risk the entire ring. We need some to stay here and help prepare for the festival. If just one of us is a fat target, then all of us would be something they wouldn't be able to resist."


I sigh.
"That assumes that they're being entirely honest in telling us they're just sending their lawspeaker, and he won't be accompanied by ponies who wish to create a hard time for our clan."

"…And sending an lowly guarded member of the Ring will do the exact opposite of that."


"Why? Would you rather select a warrior on your own for protection?"


"Thornshaker was right about us not bringing warriors."


"He also said you need some measure of protection."


"We'd stop at the other clans first and tell them our plans. If they did anything like trying to take us, the other clans would get mad and it could cause them more problems than just ruining one festival."


paused for now. We'll pick up tomorrow~


"Loam is a good fighter, I'm sure."


I shake my head "This is not a smart plan." I turn to walk out.
"Let me know if you decide you want to survive the journey, I'll be at the temple."


"While I've gotten better, I'm not quite as talented as Striker or Ziza."
I'll nod.
I'll watch her go.


"If you want to take her, that's your choice."


"It's not a matter of wanting, Cauthon. I just can't put the rest of the ring in danger if this turns out to be a bad idea. I don't want that on my shoulders."


"So take warriors that aren't ring members."


"And how many of them do you know have a firmer grip on their tempers?"


"I don't know any of them."


"And neither do I."
I'll frown a little.
"There's the flaw in that plan."


"Welp, good luck."
I clap you on the back leaving a Kick Me sign and leave.

I'm done for the night.


"I'll probably need it."
And then I'll brush off the kick-me sign.
Thanks for sticking around.

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