You are inside a huge wooden vehicle made of interconnected small carts. You're sitting in the third cart from the first, and although these were made to take two ponies in each cart, your huge body obliged you to occupy the whole cart and yes, you had to pay double for that…
Your destination is the city of Ajava, localized far away in the desert. You heard a lot about this particular place. Especially interesting were the rumors of the amazing doctors and exotic medicines not found anywhere else, aside from cheap knockoffs and terribly overpriced exports. Surely you'd find a cure for the Ill back home, or at least take a decent doctor with you…
The heat is strong, but it barely bothers you much…
You're inside a Cart being pulled across the Desert, in front of you is a big sweaty buffalo blocking the front view and to your right sits a light brown mare with a blonde mane done in a bunch. She's wearing a hard leather hat and you occasionally catch her glancing at you…
You're going to Ajava. A city in the desert that you heard is home to camels, saddle Arabians and Diamond dogs.
The city is popular for its rich history and culture, as well as the many myths surrounding it, but one particular thing that caught your interest was what you heard about the rather lenient law in that place. You are no criminal, but surely the people in this place will be not act as uneasy as ponies did around you and your questionable necromantic activities… Hopefully
"At this rate, we'll arrive by Nighttime. Let's pray that we don't run into any desert bandits or something eh?" The mare besides you speaks up
The Golden Scarab. Quite full for such a small place. You can spot ponies and camels sitting in tables and the counter, mingling, talking, drinking and generally just enjoying themselves.
"Excuse me miss!" a young colt passes by you, followed by a few others, some of them carrying bags. They gather in a corner of the pub and open their bags, showing they were full of candy and other goods, no doubt stolen from an unhappy merchant somewhere. But you know this is just a regular thing that happens all the time, it hardly bothers you, after all, you're not here for little thieves…
Who you really came here for is sitting on his own at a round table in a shady corner of the Golden Scarab. A saddle Arabian stallion with grey coat and dull black mane, his shifty brown eyes scanning the room, pretending he doesn't sees you.
You got the gem he wanted
Now it's time to get your reward…
Look to her.
"I think it would be more unfortunate for the bandits."
I'll bring out my notebook and write down about the travels so far. The double charge is going to be mentioned prominently.
Nerium makes her way over to the stallion, the gem tucked away safely in a small brown satchel hidden somewhere in her dancer outfit. She approaches him with her usual charming smile and luring looks. "You seem like a lonely stallion… Tell me, how much are you willing to pay for this 'jewel' of the sands?" She asks, hiding their transaction as she's sitting down at the table across from the stallion. She decides to reveal the satchel she has been hiding as well, showing him that she has obtained what he was asking for.
She gives you a puzzled look "Well I mean… There's no guards here, so I thought we'd be boned if like, 20 other dudes jumped out of the sand and robbed us and left us to die here in the desert… You think you could handle something like that tough guy?" She smiles and elbows you. Only to pull back "Err, sorry" She mutters
"Oh yeah, I'm Gold Dust by the way, but my buddies back home call me Dusty!">>650762
The mare selling the tickets had a point at least when she said it was only fair. Two ponies could be sitting where you are right now!
At least the sight was nice. Seeing the Desert passing by you is rather relaxing, it reminds you of one of those tour guide magazines you were given… Speaking of which, now it would be a good time to read it, it would help you pass the time
You faintly hear some bickering from a mare and a stallion behind you >>650763
He raises an eyebrow at you, but smirks as he sees what you brought for him "Ooh… Well how can I let an offer like this pass by? Especially for such a beautiful gem… I don't suppose you would like to make business somewhere more private?… Perhaps at my quarters?~" he plays along with you, slowly getting up, motioning you to follow him
There wasn't even as much of a line for tickets…
Pop open the magazines, something to drone out the squabbling behind me, keep the memories of this place as pure as possible.
She follows him, waiting to drop her act for when the door closes to leave them in private. "You have very strange tastes in jewelry." She says, pulling the gem out to show him that it's the real deal. "It wasn't as easy as I thought it was to get one of these… Now, the rest of my payment?" She dangles the gem in front of the stallion, teasing him until she sees her silver.
"Funny, I thoughtyou were going to stomp em down with your bzre hooves."
"I am Vabbi."
'The People of Ajava' is written over the cover. You open at the index and you can see it tells info about the locals of the city, very interesting!
The magazine focus mainly on the camels, the saddle Arabians and the diamond dogs. Which one will you take a look at? >>650766
You can see the shine in his eyes as he sees the gem
"Now now, you were not paid to question my tastes missy, but speaking of pay, I suppose you deserve this…" he pulls out a fat bag of silver pieces, shaking it in front of you and filling your ears with that pleasant sound of metal scraping metal
"You did a good job… Though I don't suppose you'd want to share what you did with the poor fool eh? Did you poisoned his drink and threw the body in a dump? Hhhah!" he guffaws, handing you the bag>>650767
She giggles as well "Who? Me? Naaaah. These hooves are meant for delicate and accurate writing only" She brags with a confident smile
"Nice to meet ya Vabbi!… Soooo Uh… What brings you to Ajava? You looking for ingredients for your next brew eh? eh?…" She laughs awkwardly
"That… Was a little joke, a little joke"
The Saddle Arabians. I've run into and chatted with a few others like the Camels and Diamond Dogs, but it's been hard for me to get the Saddle Arabians to open up.
"I'm just looking for some peace and quiet for my research, but I can cook a very good stew."
"Oh a lady never tells her secrets after sending her on one job." She jokingly replies. She takes the bag of silver pieces after trading it to the stallion. "But I know a use for the gem… but it would cost you quite a heavy purse full of silver, far heavier than what you just gave me." She finishes, peeking into the purse to take a piece of silver and inspecting it.
>Persuasion: More silver for info.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
THE SADDLE ARABIANS Taller than average ponies and adapted to the life in the harsh desert, at first regular ponies that traveled to the faraway deserts long long ago, they were resented by the camels, natives of the Sands. But as Time went on, both races started to become more and more accepting of each other. A treaty signed by Princess Ivoria and the Sultan Altoah VII over 200 years ago oficialized the inclusion of ponies in the culture of the camels, making one single Kingdom.
Saddle Arabians are usually more collected and not as friendly as ponies, but they are known to be kind to outsiders,especially the wealthy ones… >>650770
"Oh, that's… That's good to hear, yep… Uh, though I doubt you'll find peace and quiet in this place… I heard stuff is pretty lively in the desert… Must be because the heat makes everyone so hot blooded all the time huh?" She fans herself with a hoof for a few seconds before taking a cheap plastic bottle of water and taking a long swig "So, what kinda research anyways?" She offers you the half empty bottle >>650771
It's legit silver, he's a honest payer at least
"A use for the gem? Pfah! You think I don't know about its magical properties? You didn't really think I would pay you this much already for an ugly uncut gem like this did you?" he pokes it with his hoof…
"Hmm, perhaps if I spent more time with them, they'd have opened up. Or at least if I had worn more suitable clothing to their tastes."
Read on about the Camels.
"In my homeland it is always very hot. I can handle a little heat."
Wave my hoof.
"Oh, very boring medical stuff, I doubt a girl like you'd be interested."
"Oh I don't doubt your knowledge on the gem, but have you seen how it is made?" She puts the purse full of silvers away.
THE CAMELS Natives and the first known race to live in the desert. They seem easygoing at first, but are very proud of their culture and way of life, which made it difficult for the ponies to live among them at first.
Even though all three races live in seemingly peace, the camels are usually the most discriminating and prejudicial…
Similar to donkeys, camels are surprisingly tough and have close to nonexistent magic potential, rendering them impervious to almost any kind of known spell…
The next article is about camel culture and history, followed up by the Diamond dogs >>650774
"Oh, I am! I like, have a friend who is totally into medicine and stuff. She's gonna love hearing about you when I get back! Hold on let me get my notes" She takes off her hat, revealing her horn, and in a moment a magical glow shines around it as she levitates a pen and a notepad from her bag under the seats, looking at you eagerly >>650775
He stops smiling
"Made huh? Interesting… How did YOU get knowledge of that?" he sits back and pulls out a thick cigar from his bag, lighting it up with a metal lighter.
He nods at you to continue
Look at her suspiciously.
"Hmmm, I know a very good medicine that warms up the flanks on a cold night."
"Excuse me, I couldn't help but overhear that both of you are familiar with medicines and doctors. Mind if I ask a few questions while we travel?"
"A wandering shaman… Their kind can create these gems by simply using the earth beneath them… The one I know is a client of mine so I cannot give you anymore information about them. But if you want to know where to seek their kind, that is where it will cost you." She lined the bait, hoping he will take it.
"Cold nights? In Ajava, come on man, that's like… Like, trying to swing with a rope in a forest full of vines!… Oh but hey, I'm with the notepad out already so tell me more!">>650778
"Hmn? Oh hey, if you want to talk medicine, you talk with my buddy Vabbi here!" She pats the zebra stallion in the shoulder
"I don't know crap about that stuff, but he can help">>650779
He squints at you. You can see he's interested, but he's being careful.
"I could just find a bunch of shamans in some forest somewhere couldn't I?" he takes a drag of his cigar before blowing some smoke in your face.
"Not quite as easy as that. Seeking them requires that you solve their map hidden within a tale. It also requests you traverse dangerous land in order to obtain a gem… yet it will take much more to convince them to make one. You want the map? You will have to pay for it. Either way, I'm walking out of here with at least one purse full of silver to keep me going." She says, barely batting an eye at the smoke being blown in her face.
"My homeland has been experiencing a series of plagues. I've been lucky and have only been able to find out through letters, but I've been looking for medicines to send back, or doctors who will volunteer to visit them.">>650781
"I'd appreciate if you lete know of this friend of yours who is into medicine."
"It is hard to know what medicines, if I do not know the disease.">>650781
"There is more than just weather cold."
"I'm aware, but I've only been able to learn of their illnesses and the effects of medicines I send through letters. It strikes people of all ages, weakening them slowly. I am still sending all I can find, but I know some of the medicine can take its time to deal with the fevers and aches."
"Hmnn…" he closes his eyes in thought
"Very well, I'll buy the map our of you." he says, pulling our his personal money bag, which was made of quality black leather and adorned with an even blacker onyx, it was probably worth more than the money inside of it
"But." he holds the bag away from your grasp
"You will have to tell me how did you convinced the deer to make a gem for you">>650783
"Oh, she's just a student, sorry I can't really be of help… But I know a lot about digging and archeology stuff, I'm actually here to study the place for a school project!">>650784
She squints for a bit, giving you a confused look before Perking up "Oh, you mean like the illness cold, it makes sense since you do medicine stuff! Haha, sorry I didn't get it at first, I forgot you zebra peeps aren't really so good speaking common pony language." She starts making notes "So… You got some sort of recipe for a concoction to heal the common cold… Got it… I mean, most ponies get over that with some orange juice and rest, but I can imagine you guys get some kind of nasty, stronger cold since you live in the forests and like, have no vaccination system or drugstores or anything… Yeah"
"Uh, yes.You get some alcohol, and some honey.">>650785
"And what are the conditions like in your country?"
"Simple… It was love. They are easily blinded by such a concept of having someone have both their mind and heart taken by them. It wouldn't be hard to hire another like me where they reside." She says, reaching out for the leather bag before she would give him the information any further.
"Even a few questions might help. I can't just wait for the plague to end by doing nothing.">>650787
"Worsening. It was bright and vibrant like the people, but the plague has colored everything a lifeless gray. They have plenty of supplies and water, but it is there spirits that may break first."
"Alcohol… Honey… Got it. Dang, I didn't knew zebras liked to drink too!" She says as the pen moves at a fast pace to make notes
"So, what you do with the stuff?">>650788
He gives you a long stare
"so I'll just have to hire an… Entertainer like you huh? I thought those shamans were smarter than that. But what can you expect from a bunch of-" he coughs
"anyways… Now that we got business out of the way… I need you to tell me if you know anything about this…" he tosses you a weird earring. It was made of silver and had a large gemstone on it.
But not any gemstone… You know this gem, you've seen it before… It's a very deep dark blue color with light blue lights dancing inside it…
It's the same gem from that necklace you found that day! >>650789
She frowns, putting her hat back on
"Sorry to hear what's happening to your family… But hey, cheer up. This place got awesome doctors! I'm sure you'll find a good one in no time! Speaking of which, I can see it from here!"
Indeed, looking forward would show a building poking out of the Sands in the horizon… The city was in sight!
"Thank you for your kindness. Hopefully someone in that city knows the cure for what is ailing my homeland."
"First of all, you mix those two, then you add 2 spoons of sugar and a bit of lemon juice.
Then warm it up!"
"…Quite little actually. But now I'm even further interested… I found similar jewelry that was left behind in a bandit raid… They took something irreplaceable from me. If you're looking for me to kill whoever owned this piece of jewelry, I'll do it for free." She says coldly, pulling out the necklace around her neck with the same gemstone as the earing.
"If you have any other such remedies, would you mind if I write them down?"
"I'm afraid I have no idea how to write…"
"I can take care of that. In my travels, I've had to learn many languages."
"I know that most people request an interview with the Sultan. Usually if you make it worth his time, he'll lend you some gold or send one of his servants to help. But yeah… He's a camel so… Yeaaa… ">>650792
She nods and writes intently" This is amazing… I have to test it out when we get to the city!">>650793
"That so huh?… Look, I found this earring yesterday in the pub downstairs under a table where some shady folks were sitting at, one of them must have forgotten it and I really didn't like the way they were looking at me. I don't want you to kill anyone… Yet… Just see if you can get me some Intel of these weird peeps will ya? I'll save up something nice for you if you do that for me" he smirks and blows another puff of smoke >>650795>>650794
"Um Helloooo, cute mare holding the notepad? Anyone?" Gold Dust chimes up
"But you're not sick…?"
"Oh I won't kill them yet… When I get my chance I'll make them suffer a slow painful death… But I need to make sure it's them." She puts away the satchel, writing down a map for the stallion as she promised. "Do you have anything else you can give me? What they looked like, their race, their weapons."
"I must do what I can for my people, apologies. But if the Sultan can send doctors, I will do what I can to earn that privilege."
She raises a hoof to protest, but it's silent
"Uhh… Damn you're right… What am I going to do with this now?" She pouts, staring at her notes >>650799
"as far as I saw, ponies, all of them… Though there were two shorter than most. They were all wearing a black robe. A very generic thing to be honest… Maybe necromancers? I don't know, but those robes were concealing something for sure." he puts off his cigar "Any more questions?" >>650800
"Well you can either do two things… Give him a small fortune… Ooorr be someone really influential… And no offense but I doubt you fit in either of the two…"
The sun is setting, providing some relief from the heat. The city comes even closer as you speak, from here you can see more tall constructions rising above the sand…
"Keep it, for when you get ill."
"I'll do anything I can for my homeland. Even if I must gather all the riches and gold in the world."
"That will be all. If you need me, then you know who to contact." She says, leaving the room to head down into the pub. When she reaches the pub, she begins scanning the room for the possible black robed figures.
"fiiine, when I get sick, I'll think of ya!" She playfully jabs you in the shoulder"
"Also we're almost there so Uh… I don't have anywhere in particular I HAVE to go so… Would you mind if I tagged along for a little bit?" She gives you a big smile >>650803
"Woah dude, I'm right there with ya… Just don't go doing anything crazy… I mean, have you read the mags? Those camel dudes are douchebags!">Timeskip okay? >>650804
At first you don't find anyone that meets the standards… But a quick word with the all seeing, all knowing barkeep gives you a good clue that he always sees some ponies in black robes meeting up at the gates whenever a caravan arrives… >Timeskip okay?
"If they can help my people, it doesn't matter what they are."
Nerium finally knows where to start her search. She makes her way out of the pub after tipping the barkeep enough to buy himself a meal. She now makes her way to the gates.>Ready
It doesn't take much for the carts to arrive at the gates of Ajava. A good look at the gate shows it was made entirely of bricks and it had a few holes lined up a few feet above, at first they look like Windows, but from this close, one could see the pointy bolt and a glimpse of a batista lurking inside…
"Told ya these guys weren't friendly…" Gold mutters
You all leave the carts and are given your things without any problems before being told to form a line before two guards blocking the gates, two tall Diamond dogs with black fur and long, curved swords were standing besides each other. They had pointy short ears and rather sharp fangs…
The first one in line, an earth mare carrying an oversized bag of goods change some words with the guards, one of them orders her to drop the bag for inspection. After the procedure is done and they are sure it's clean, they let her pass…
This whole process takes a good while but eventually it is finally your turn
"State your business here" one of the guard aggressively speaks up, his accent combined with his raspy voice makes it rather difficult to understand him, and the many bolts pointed at you would easily make anyone at least uneasy… >>650808
You made a barkeep very happy today
The trip to the gate is uneventful, and as you spot the huge gate from the distance, you can see that you arrived at the right time, because a caravan just arrived and no doubt, you see three figures standing near the entry, whispering among themselves… >PAUSE
Early in the night, the caravan carts have finally made it to the gates of the great desert city of Ajava, bringing along the zebra Vabbi, the Buffalo Baio and their newest acquaintance, Gold Dust, the archeology student.
Together, they disembarked the carts, were handed their belongings and waited in a line before the heavily guarded gates. when it is finally their turn, one of the dog guards glares among them, not happy with what he's seeing
''You are not natives…And I never seen you before…What is your name and business here in Ajava?''
Gold Dust walks past Baio and Vabby, taking off her hat and magically pulling a set of documents from her bag ''Gold Dust, student from Manehattan Academy of History. I'm here in a study trip''
A quick look at the papers made his expression ease up very slightly. He nods and hands her documents back ''Very well. Welcome to Ajava, don't cause trouble''
She smiles and glances back at the buffalo and zebra, giving them a smile before walking in
''And how about you two?…'' The dog asks in a stern tone
Meanwhile not far from there. Nerium the traveling 'entertainer' had just received her next job from her previous client. Making her way to the city gates with a jiggling bag of silver strapped to her side, she spots what seems to be her target: A small group of equines covered in black hoods, exchanging a few words as they huddle in a corner near the gate entry, almost unnoticeable among the few ponies and camels that wandered about, avoiding said group.
The gates were open and Nerium could see all kinds of folks coming inside, carrying their things. No doubt a caravan just arrived…
"I'm Vabbi, I'm here for research. Medical research."
"I am here to seek the aid of Doctors for my homeland."
Nerium attempts to remain close enough to eavesdrop on the strange cloaked group, yet still remain inconspicuous to them.
He squints his eyes at you
''You don't look much like a medic of any kind for me, stranger…'' The other guard besides himis also staring at you, gripping his spear with both hands…>>651662
''Your name, stranger. And what is the name of this homeland? I never seen your kind around here before…''
''I will also have to check on your belongings, since you don't seem to have a writ or documents. hand your bags to my comrade. if you are clean, then you can pass.''>>651663
they were standing near a tent with an old mare selling sweets. that should be an opportunity to listen in if you pretend to buy something…
"It's alternative healing. You know, brews, potions, herbs!"
She makes her way over to the shop, browsing the sweets with a smile. While she put on the facade of being a normal shopper, she listens in closely on the hooded gang.
"Tipo Baio is my name. My homeland is Terra de Santa Cruz, far to the East from here, across the sea."
I hand my bags over.
Those sweets actually do look very appetizing…
the aged mare smiles sweetly at you ''What will you be having sweetheart? All these that you see here were homemade with the help of my grandaughter…You know you remind me of her, though yor mane is much prettier… She decided to cut her short, now I kept telling her that a lady like her shouldn't be going around looking like that but she's such a rebel you know?''
Her small talk almost distracts you from the conversation of the small group. Now that you were closer, you could notice that one of them was a mare, the other, a short stallion, and lastly, a taller one. though the robe still covered their features sans their muzzles.
''Is that them?'' the short one asks, looking at the line of folks going through the gate
''No! I told you four times how we'll know when it's them!'' The taller stallion turns to him ''They'll have a silver earring with a blue gem in their left ear. now get it memorized: siver, blue gem, left ear!'' He baps the short stallion before the mare speaks up
''Don't you want to speak up a little louder? I don't think everyone could hear you…''
He grumbles, glancing at you and the old lady, realizing the small scene he was causing.
''Jeez, sorry…It's my first job outside…'' The short stallion mutters, rubbing his head>>651667
''Terra de Santa Cruz eh?…Grast, what you found?'' He looks at his partner, who started rummaging and sniffing through your bags. After a brief minute he looks up and gives a thumbs up.
The guard in front of you nods ''You're clean. Welcome to Ajava. But don't expect any special treatment just because you're an outsider…Now Take your things and move''>>651665
He maintains his glare at you while his comrade takes your saddlebags.
He doesn't seem bothered as he pulls out a staff, books and other miscelaneous…But when he pulls out a clean pony skull, the guard stares at it with an unbelieving look before turning to you, raising his spear to your neck ''Care to explain that, stranger?…''
''I also found some meat here…'' His partner sniffs the bag ''Its…it's pony meat!!!''
You hear some murmurs on from the others behind you in the line, and a glance up shows that all the balistas are pointed at you…
"It's part of my research!"
I say calmly.
"Look, if you get injured, I can just slam that pony meat inside the wound and heal you! Or if you lose your skull!" Make a ramming movement with my hooves.
While her attention was focused more on the group, as an entertainer she had the wonderful ability to multitask conversations as well. "Well I'm sure your grandaughter is still just as sweet as all these delicious looking candies you made. Tell me, what is she like?" She hoped to get the old mare rambling, give herself a chance to remain near the group. She still picked out a few candies, in the case she needed to make a quick purchase to leave.
I sigh and simply carry on.
He leans back with an expression of disgust. there's some audible disapproval from behind you
''He's telling the truth! They do it like that in the zebra forests he's from!'' you hear Gold shout near the gates. the guard turns to her briefly before focusing back on you, shaking his head
''If I see you causing trouble in the city, stranger, you will be the one needing that skull, am I clear? now get your stripped rear off my face, other honest folks are trying to get in''
The other guard throws the bag back to you>>651671
You pick up some coconut candy pellets.
''Daw, you are such a dear, honey. But if you want to know more, my grandauhter had just became a mare recently. Poor girl works as a cook for the guards by the day and comes back home so very late in the night…Lately she havent even had time to help me at the kitchen…'' She somberly looks over the sweets you picked as she wraps them in a bag for you>>651672
you follow along. the inside of the city gates is quite crowded, and all this bustling activity sure feels invigorating!
To your left and right you see the ponies and camels and even the occasional diamond dog passing through, there are also all sorts of shops around you, decorations, souvenirs, local food, books and scrolls! You're sure you could get some good info if you ask around…
"hey, that's valuable."
Go in grumbling. "I bet it's because I'm a zebra"
A book shop would be good. There'd be all sorts of news going through there.
Nerium nods along to the old mare's tale. Although her attention is still on the cloaked group.
You meet up with Gold and Baio on the other side, You see the crowded inside of the city at what seems to be near the rush hour. Lots of shopping and trading going on. It feels a it overwhelming but also exciting!
''Hey, don't worry about it, these guys were just doing their job, sure some of the peeps here might be a bit racist, but just because you talk with spirits that doesn't automatically classifies you as a 'evil' right?'' she pats you in the back as you two Follow Baio to a book stand>>651675
the newspapers here are really expensive…you could buy a meal for yourself back at home for the same amount!
At least the papers were in your hands, and you notice at the first page a rather interesting article about an amazing discovery of how sandworm blood does wonders to the fur. complete with a picture of a pretty camel posing.
there are probally more useful articles inside…>>651676
they don't whisper much…They are aware of your nearby and you feel you might not get anything more from them…>You got candy
Open it up. Anything can help right now.
"Oooh… This one looks good too." She says, moving over to a new selection of candy. "I just don't know what would act as a really good birthday candy… My friend has always been a picky eater." She jokes to the old mare.