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 No.659529[Last 50 Posts]

On the long caravan north you have time to reflect on the past couple of days.
You are nearing the end of your cadethood at the Paladin Academy of Equestria. All that remains is the dreaded Field Trials. You remember the words of Master Radiant Hope well - "You go now to face your greatest challenge, out in the field. I cannot direct you by hoof any more, but I will be there if you need to ask for guidance. How you complete your trials is up to you. So is the decision of returning home when you are done. All I can say is I hope to see you again."
Thinking back to her voice is calming. She is among the youngest to ever reach the rank of Master in the Paladin Order, known well for her stubborn desire to see the best in everyone. Perhaps that is why you all ended up united under her service and guidance.

The Field Trials are what separates a Cadet from a Paladin - you must go out into the world and prove your devotion to the paladin path. Help others and become renowned as a paragon of the virtues of the Sisters. Then, choose to leave it all behind and return to the academy, where you earn your title of Paladin at last. Many choose to never return, content with the freedom they gain outside the order's fortresses and dormitories. Many others do not survive their trials at all.
Your fate remains to be seen.

You are headed to the northern Crystal Empire, like many others. Equestria seeks a more firm alliance with these strange ponies and their Crystal Queen, and for this purpose has chosen to allow her teachings equal standing among the Paladin Order. Love and compassion form the basis of the Crystal Path, much like how valor and justice form the Sun Path, and vigilance and knowledge the Moon Path. However, those are not concerns of Cadets. You can think of your path once you are full Paladins. For now, you have other things on your mind.

Perhaps talking to your trialmates will help ease some tension.


Tighten my armor a bit as I walk.


I'm sitting in silent contemplation, going through the whole prayerbook in my own mind.
From time to time spare a glance towards Light, waiting to be acknowledged.


Glance back.
"Are you nervous?"


Rub hoof on hoof, to temper out the cold.
"It's gonna be hard, being out there again."


Give you a reassuring smile.
"You already won the greatest battle you ever needed to win."


"Not like we're alone, there isn't anything to worry about. " Smile at you both.


"The Light will prevail, I am sure."


I can't stop myself from practically bouncing in my seat, grinning from ear to ear. This is it! Adventure, danger, the chance to prove myself… It's actually happening!


"Faith in the Light."
Say in a very deep, dry voice, cutting myself out of the conversation.


Nod in agreement, glancing out the window at the road.


It is time for a bit more of silent meditation, I see.


The caravan continues north, and eventually you settle in for a short nap.

As you open your eyes, snow covers much of the land. The air bites sharply and lights dance in the darkening sky. You have left Equestria behind and are now on foreign soil. The caravan has stopped, and you can hear voices outside. The only one you can identify is that of the caravan driver, Paladin Grand Parade. There seems to be an argument, and the other speakers have heavy, unknown accents.
"Nu boots, oot wettem. Innespec ol arrevaales"


Flick my ears, trying to look what the trouble is about.


Reach for my weapon, not outright drawing it but standing on guard.


Step out and stand next to Grand Parade with a yawn.


Peek out into the night to see who he's talking to. Maybe some travelers need our help?


Strange ponies. They look like earth ponies in general terms, but their coats look strange.
It goes unnoticed
Grand looks a bit surprised that one of you came out here, but the two other ponies nod
"Gude. At list une of yu lisstins."
The two foreign ponies look you over
"Stronke fuur huurnpone"
"Carryvandreever, wha eis em aarmed?"
Grand winces a bit
"Standard regulations, all weapons are carried in person in transit in case of trouble."
"Wii sedde no wepon."
"Wii acksep apology weet fine fuur it firste offens"


Roll my eyes. Not criminals or highwayponies, but annoying. I'm sure Grand can handle them.


Borderguards. How unimportant. Relax a bit and kick back against my seat.


I frown at the two ponies then look at Grant. "Right, I'll leave this to you."
Stand to side stretching my legs while they talk.


Oh! New ponies!
Walk on over to say hello, smiling down at them like I have to for most ponies.
"Hello! I hope we're not causing too much trouble."


"Ees beeg dunki."
"Waas medde biliv unly pone wit ye"
Grand tries to explain equestria and the paladin order feature many kinds of creatures, but the guards are having none of it
After some further arguing, the border guards write down a list of notes, give it to Grand and expect a bag of coin in return.
Awfully unofficial for a border crossing transaction…


I revise my statement.
"Are we sure these aren't just highwayponies?"


Go to Grand's side, clearly sick of this, and sit down. "Can I?" ask, pointing at the note.


"Yea, this is kinda.. where is your outpost exactly?"


"Aren't there some papers we're supposed to fill out or something? We don't want to mess this up before we've begun…"


Grand tries to shush you
"No need, cadet. No need."
"Ees eskeeng kestions."
"Ees wes not ow ees was suppose be dahn."
"Ees why we esk to innespec"
"Feelawt niddied dockooment for yee"


Just snort and shrug, Grand knows best.


Narrow my eyes.
"Just make sure to give us your names so we can talk with your bosses."


"Oh. Well, all right then!"
I'm sure Grand knows what he's doing. I'll ask him to explain what this is all about when we're done here.


Scratch my head and just go back into the caravan. Grant seems to want us to go along with it.


Grand shoves the coins into their hooves and does a quick recount
"Donkey, unicorn, two earths.
Female, three males
Got it?"
"Ees was gude bisnis doing"
The two bow and head off
This was absolutely not an official encounter


"Why did we pay scammers again?"


"Those were no scammers. Just normal border guards."


What do I actually know about border crossing, I've never done it before!


"So Grand, what was that about again? I'm not really following why you were paying them, or who they were."


"Smugglers working in the border guard. The paperwork is official, and we avoid a lot of hassle involved with moving what the Empire would consider an armed unit of soldiers.
The fee is more than we'd pay for normal crossing, but less than we'd pay for the other special treatment needed. Thus, a bit of harmless deception to speed things along.
Master Concealed Means of the Moon Path teaches - when deception, cheating, or other unorthodox methods result in overall lest harm than the intended way, they are the only righteous option."


"All right… I suppose I understand now. It's basically a way of paying more to arrive at the same place sooner, right?"


"Paying less, and wasting less of anyone's time, while also causing less worry in the hearts of fewer ponies.
The only victim is honesty, which I find acceptable."


"I see… I still do not agree with this method."


"You might just end up hurting a lot of ponies if you think that way."


"Masters and Grand Masters have pondered these philosophies for generations. We will not find lasting answers out here in the tundra.
But keep this in mind, for it may shape your futures greatly.
Ready to keep going? We should reach the fortress monastery before sundown."


"Nothing holds us."


"Yes, let us go. It is what we bought, after all. An open path."


"Well, thank you very much, Grand. I appreciate your help with getting us here.
"Yep! Let's get to it!"


"I have deep respect for Master Radiant Hope. If my actions can aid her, then I will act without question."
"In you go then"
The rest of the trip is uneventful. The scenery slowly shifts from tundra to forest. You catch glimpses of wildlife and smaller settlements of strange ponies. Then, over the treetops, you see it in the far distance. The grand castle of the Crystal Capital. A towering, glimmering spire that seems to radiate soft light.
You can easily tell the thing is massive - you could see it while still among the woods, even though you know the capital sits nowhere near anything but snow and mountains.


Poke my head back out.
"How exactly are we gonna justify our presence now?"


"That is quite the impressive fortress… why did they need such a massive castle?"


"Vanity is my guess. Their entire people is made up of walking crystals who glow when happy.
Then, Canterlot is no smaller."
"That should be taken care of. Grand Master Valorous Victory has been here a good while, and has brought many cadets, paladins and masters along. Much like the Empire has sent many to train in our academy in Canterlot."


"I assume we will be briefed in there, then?"


This is Field Trials, Cadet. There is no briefing.
You need to go out there, find problems, and solve them. That's how it works."


"I assumed we would get pointed towards the general direction of one such problem."


"Anyone we should report to?"


"You go out and mingle with people.
And a word of caution - most people here won't like you. At all. So good luck.
Then, if you need guidance, ask the masters at our local fortress. You'll also be given a place to sleep there."
"Not really. You are free to speak with anyone at the fortress, but one of the trials of a paladin is to let go of direct guidance and learn to trust yourself."


"So is this where we part ways?"


"It will be a challenge, but we'll prevail."


"I have my own tasks to do here, but you can find me at the fort on most days"
"Good attitude, cadet."

The caravan pulls over at the city gates
"Time for you to get off. Head to the castle, our fort is near there. Easy to spot from the equestrian flags"


"Thank you. May the light of the Sun be with you."
Get off the cart.


"May the Light be with you."
Once we finally left the instructor behind, I'll give Light a worried look.


Glance back.
"Is something the matter?"


"I'm worried. You should know why."


"Moon light your vigil"



"I trust in the good that is within your heart. You will do slendidly, I am sure."


Snort away at the cold and snow.
"We will see."


You are expected to go find your lodging at the Paladin Fortress Monastery by the Crystal Castle, but are free to explore until you wish to head there.


Duty first! We can find our problems to solve later!


I will be seeing that lodging only briefly. Or so I hope. Wouldn't be much point to readjusting into the world if we just ended up coddling into the warm womb of the paladin academy.
But the sooner I check up on it, the faster I can hit the streets.


Sure, I'll go find a bed first.


You collectively choose to get the last of your ordained duties out of the way and head for the rather impressively tall castle.
You pass through a busy market, a large open square and several residential areas on your way, getting some strange looks as you pass. Eventually, as you reach the castle, you notice that, indeed, the fortress monastery is easy enough to spot. The large equstrian banners aside, it is the only building that clashes with the local architecture.
Clearly retrofitted from an existing building, it has been reinforced with a very canterlot-styled marble façade and golden detailing, along with the familiarly foreboding heavy stone reinforcements. Frankly it's an eyesore in the otherwise lovely capital, but it gives you a sense of home.


If what they say is true, we won't be seeing it a lot at any rate.
Approach the gate!


The guards nod at you


"Interesting place to set up.."


Nod, glancing back at my comrades.
"Yes, all of us."


Just nod along.
"Very discreet place."


Give him a salute.
"Yes sir!"


"Within the capital, but not inside the castle. Those were our orders.
Grand Master Valorous Victory approved it, though he is stationed at the castle proper."
"There is no reason to hide the might of Equestria, even in these lands."
"Cadet lodging is towards the back. Storage is available at the armory, ask the Squires for keys to lockers."


"I'm more interested in troop distribution and a tactical map of the country, wouldn't want to step on anypony's calves."


"Thank you!"

"Shall we rest tonight and head out tomorrow, after getting any supplies we might need?"


Mumble a bit in protest.
"Supplies we have not earned yet."


"Supplies that we might need to save lives! And of course we shall return everything we did not use!"


"Thanks. We'll head there right away."
Shake my head. "Trouble doesn't rest. We should go out tonight even."


"Cadets are not actively tracked, ask their respective Masters or the local Paladins if you want info.
Most Paladins here are stationed according to the needs of the Grand Master and we all share a common goal: improving relations between the empires, or failing that, minimizing risks towards equestria.
Maps are available in the Moon Wing auditorium. It is on the left, as always."
"Provisions are available here, along with any information you may need. The kitchen serves all who need it.
Information can be obtained from the Moon Wing, Master Cloaked Clues leads most of the intelligence gathering work.
If you require additional training, protection or medical aid, they can be requisitioned at the Sun Wing. Master Brilliant Blessing is in charge of provisions and aid for the Order here.
The armory is available when it can be of aid, but you need separate permission for that.
We have two dozen Squires here to help in menial tasks if required.
If you wish to speak to the Crystal Path paladins, ask for them in the Castle."


"…We did manage to rest on the way here. You may be right."

"Thank you for the information sir. Do you think we could visit Master Cloaked right away?"


"I'd certainly be up for it."


"Knowing him, he only ever sleeps a few minutes at a time. You'd need to be amazingly sneaky to not find him waiting."


"We really don't know anything about this area, talking to Master Clues sounds like the best start."


"Let us head there then, shall we?"
To the Moon Wing!


"Moon wing on the left, towards the back."
Moon Wings, traditionally left of the entrance, are often built with smaller windows than Sun Wings. The corridors are narrower, the doors lighter, the lamps easier to blow out, and rumors exist of traps having been built into the walls and floors.
There are some nice tapestries here, and a plush carpet to keep the hooves warm. For a Moon Wing, this place is downright comfy.


"Is this supposed to be scary?" I comment at the poor lighting.


"I think it is just to honor the night sky, but I do not know for sure."


"Cadet Lights makes an admirable guess.
But the truth is, what is terrifying to one's foe, is secure to oneself. See but do not be seen, know but remain unknown.
You're here for information, yes?"
You never heard a single step, yet the voice is right behind you


Do not turn around, but speak formally, as if we were face to face. Do not even acknowledge his sneaking act, I bet he just wanted to get a reaction out of us.
"The darkness of one pony is the light of another. We are indeed here for information that may help us in our task."


"…Okay, that's a little scarier."
"But this is your town right? Tell us about it."


For a Master, he is very unassuming. The badges of office are among the few things that set him apart from rank and file paladins. Like with many Moon Path followers, it's entirely a guess as to how natural his dark blue mane and coat are. But his eyes seem friendly.
"What would you like to know first?"


"Maybe, how do you get ponies to open to you? We're already getting glares."


"We need to find ponies to help, but first, the ponies must let us help them."


"You help them.
Ponies have many troubles, and many of those they cannot solve on their own.
Be it bandits, monsters, civil disputes, social unease, disease, dishonest neighbors, you must go out and prove yourselves useful"
"If you find it hard to approach the locals, try solving a problem everyone knows about. There are many.
And if the language barrier is a problem, I can help with that. Translation Spells were developed for this very use.
Or, well, they were developed for ambassadors. Close enough."


"Do you have reports of unusual activities then? To get us pointed in the right direction."


"Alright.. What local politics? What's the crime like? I can't imagine its very high with the keep right here at least."


"How long does one of those spells last?"


"The capital is mostly free of notable crime, aside from the occasional burglar or arsonist. The problems here are mainly civil disputes and political issues, the latter of which you should not touch. We have paladins and masters for that.
Wander outside a bit, and you start seeing more common problems like bandits, raiders and monster lairs. Of particular note, there has been unconfirmed reports of highly dangerous things up in the mountain ranges, up to and including Windigoes. But those might be a bit above your, well, grade. There is also a bothersome matter of a strangely out of place group of Centaurs, but understandably Master Rusinante, being one himself, wanted to handle that on his own. Haven't heard back from him for a while though… Same with a few cadets, but then, I never expect all cadets to come back."
"Our primary political concern is to improve relations between equestria and the crystal empire. For this we have highly trained specialists, and you should not directly worry about interacting with the local political elements. Crime in the capital is low, mostly burglaries and occasional arson. I have not yet found any evidence of the supposed underground cult movements or prostitution rings, but I have had my hooves full even without chasing possibly overblown hearsay."
"A day or two at a time. They tend to fade with sleep, but consciously maintaining the spell on your own is possible. Our ambassadors also carry amulets that greatly lengthen the effects of such enchantments, but those are expensive, so you'll need to buy or make your own."


"We shall see about that in the case we need to leave the city."


I frown in thought.
"Hey, they send all the recruits here right? So.. we might need to go kind of far away from the city to actually get any easy problems?"


"Easy is a relative term… but yes, we might need to venture deeper into the Empire."


"Not everyone is sent here. We have other outposts, and many other forts well outside the crystal north."


Give the map a quick look.
"So Master Rusinante went this way, right?
And no more news of him since how long, you say?"


"Sounds like the Master might be in trouble, I agree."


"It's been a week now. He is a resilient old beast, but, perhaps he should be checked on. Just in case."


"Sounds like something to start out from."


"Okay. But one thing. What's a centaur like? We didn't have those back home.."


Nod along.
"Never seen one myself."


"I have only heard myths, so I would rather not be misinformed by superstitions either."


"Tall creatures, like our beloved princesses. But in place of their head is the body of a monster, not unlike a horned diamond dog.
They possess limited magic and are capable of speech."


"And they.. Do they live in cities like ponies?"


"In their own lands, yes.
Here, I was asked not to investigate. Rusinante was very firm about that. So as rare as it is for me to admit this, I do not know."


"We will find out soon enough then, I suppose."


"Let's hope they are friendly enough not to attack us at first sight."


"But they are.. normal, right? Reasonable beings?"


"If one of the Masters is one, I can hope those are both true."


"Some are."


"Eh, I'm sure you're right. It will be fine, lets just go look around for him."


"He was last seen headed towards the mountain ranges due east. The same place we had reports of mysterious raiders that seemed to vanish into thin air when pursued."


"I assume the two might be connected."


"What are these bandits like?"


"Conflicting accounts from scared locals, but we can rule out ponies.
Most likely either our centaur warband, or possibly a diamond dog warren."


"Good." mutter to myself.
"Supplies then. How long will this trip be?"


"A day's march at most if you know the terrain. You may need to camp out in one of the villages if you take it slow though."


"We better get some warm clothes, I assume."


"We could go right away, if you aren't worried about traveling at night."


"I am not. We rested enough during the journey."


"Moon light your way then.
Leave unnecessary equipment here for safe keeping."


"Good idea." Trot toward the back where the cadet lodging is supposed to be.


Get equipped and ready to leave.


I think we should just get whatever we need for the road trip. And that spell to speak the language.


Cadet lodging is indeed barebones.
Small bunks and trunks, clearly meant to work on a first come first served basis.
There are a couple of Squires, most likely former failed Cadets, making the beds.
"Will you be staying long?"


"Well, sort of. Is there a place we can store our personal items, or get gear?"


"We shall see about that."


"To actually answer your question, unlike what my two friends did, no. We are leaving soon."


"You can store small items here. Large gear should go in the armory"
"Very well. More fresh beds for the others then.
Where you off to?"


"Just a short mission to check up on Master Rusinante. We will need supplies for the day-long trip and any unforeseen consequences."


"Can you show us?"


"And probably some warm overcoats."


"Armory is down the hall, here is the key"
"Cold weather gear is in the orange trunk"


Just check that stuff off for me. It's all pretty mundane.


Well, let's try to grab a warm cape for the road then. And those torches/food/rope/etc supplies.


Just in case we caught overnight, bring camping stuff like a tent and blankets in edition to the cold weather gear.


You load up on appropriate gear and leave behind what you don't need right now. You can retrieve it later when you return.
All set up, do you want to head out into the cold night?


We would get to solve the problem and help those in trouble sooner.



The night air gets very biting up north. You wrap up tighter as you step outside, the sharp air slashing at your nostrils.
The lights of the castle shine around you, making it almost seem like daylight, yet the sky is dark with few stars to be seen.
This will be a long walk…


Better start then.
"Stick together, we wouldn't want to get lost in the dark and snow."


"I won't get lost." Keep up with everyone, and glance over at my timberwolf to see how its doing in this weather.


A bit creaky and losing leaves, but not exactly hurting.
According to your maps, there should be a smaller village on the way to the mountains if you need to make a stop, or look for ponies to help.
Heading out of the city gates, you catch a few bemused looks from locals, probably sneering at you for needing so much cold weather gear.

Past the gates, the wind picks up. Snow billows gently around you and lights dance in the sky. The howling wind and crunching snow aside, the world around you is silent. Now, for the first time ever, you are truly alone.


Smile as I step into the wilderness.
"Just like old times."


Look at the sky as we walk.
"Despite the conditions, it is rather peaceful…"


"The sky doesn't care much for equine moods, I've learnt."


"Its a lot more vast than we heard." I smile at the horizon.


"It seems that the rumors were true, the pegasi do not control the weather here."


There is something very strange about this feeling of beauty and dread mixing in your guts. Perhaps the Masters were right to send you here after all. These are the first real steps you take towards paladinhood…

Time flies as you contemplate this, and before you know it the lights of the city behind you are replaces with the torches of the village in front of you.
Almost there now.


Keep pressing on!


From Canterlot to Crystal Cove, it's a rambler's life for me.
Drag on, a tiny smile on my lips.


"Do you see a signpost yet?" Keep walking on the path.


"It must be the village from the map, right?"


The name looks like it's probably something like Crystalvale. Kristillwaal. Something to that effect. They seem to have strange extra letters in half their words.
Sounds like minor commotion, which is odd at this hour.


A commotion?


"Uh." Advance at a steady pace. Let's not cause more alarm than we already have.


Looks like a crystal pony soldier is trying to calm down an angry crowd


Approach carefully, trying to get a grasp of what's the source of the problem


Just sideline the show for now. We got ourselves those translation spells, no? Listen.


The translation spell holds strong, making it easy to figure out the gist of the situation.
This soldier is here looking for an earlier patrol gone missing, and the townsfolk are insisting he help find their missing friends first.


Step forth, and project my voice forth.
"We can help with that."


Let him do the talking.


Yea, one pony taking the lead on this should be enough. Follow Storm.


"And who are you?"


"Leon Cider, Paladin Cadet." Stand tall and proud.


"Paladins. Warriors of Faith from the land of Equestria, here to help the Crystal Empire and its inhabitants.
We can help you find the missing villagers, so that the honorable soldier can be free to look for his own comrade."


"Paladin cadets, here to provide help."


The soldier looks displeased "Equestrians are not needed, you-"
The townsfolk cut him off
"Well it's better than this useless complainer"
"Maybe not all equestrians are that bad"
"At least it'd be something."
"They even speak without an accent! That's so nice. Very respectful."


"So.. you'll let us help you then?"


"Then! Just tell you where the missing ponies were last time anypony saw them."


"Just tell us what you know."


The soldier rolls his eyes and stays quiet.
The townsfolk nod
"At least you'd be useful that way."
"Not many equestrians bother."
"They went towards the mountains"
"To look for others who had gone missing"
"Monster bandits took them!"
"They disappear without a trace!"
"Somewhere in the foothills!"


"Others went missing? How long has this been going on for?"


"How many ponies are we looking for?"


"Until further notice, try not to send any more rescue teams, they might end up getting lost as well. We will look into it."


"Twenty three"
"Well, we'll expect results"


"We will do our best."


"….If we don't come back would you mind telling the other Paladins where we went?"


"Good. Follow the footpath, not the main road. Try heading for the old mine"


I will head towards the guard, greeting him from afar and moving slowly.
"Heya. Mind a word?"


"The old mine?"
"It would make sense for bandits to hide out there."


"Okay.. I'll start heading that way." Trot toward the old mine.


"What do you need, equestrian?"
"Be careful of avalanches!"


'1d10' look for anyone following us.

Roll #1 9 = 9


"So this was the risk they were talking about."


Start talking in a very pragmatic tone of voice.
"It's clear there's something dangerous up those mountains,and there's a high chance both your friends and those townsfolks are there.
We could use your help."


"I wonder if those ponies actually knew anything or were just wandering blindly into a trap.."


"They were probably naive townsfolk trying to help, only making matters worse."


Evidence of disturbed snow.
Marks of a struggle
Crystal mane hairs
Bits of fur
Paw marks
"I'm not some common mercenary for you to recruit, southlander. What makes you think you can find my comrades better than I?"


"I'm only trying to find lost ponies here. There is nothing for me to gain out of this but the happiness of your people."


"Paw marks… the dog warren?"


Pick up a bit of the hair.
"This isn't good.. and pawprints? Wolves? Diamond Dogs?"
'1d10' identify the tracks?

Roll #1 2 = 2


Hard to tell.
Small dog? Big wolf? Draconequus?
"Hrm… fine. Lead on then."


"Whatever it is, it is trouble. And if we want to hope the ponies are alive, we might want to hurry."




You had just found traces of strange paw marks and signs of a struggle. A trail that may lead you towards some lost townsfolk, but not necessarily any closer to the missing Master, Rusinante.


"All right, stay behind me. We don't know what we're going to find here, but it might not be friendly."
Ready to set off following the trail.


Yep, ready to go.


Lets follow that trail.


You take off following the trail, with the local guard in tow.
As expected, you soon reach the foothills. Now all that remains is to locate the old mines.


'1d10' look around the old mines for recent activity?

Roll #1 2 = 2


Advance forward, standing tall with shield at the ready. If there's anyone waiting in ambush, I'm going to make a very big target for them to focus on.
"Mister guard, would you know how to find these mines?"


The entrance is boarded shut. It doesn't even seem possible to enter normally.
"The entrance is right here, but the mine has been decommissioned for years. No way anyone enters through here."


"Yea… they must have another way.. Maybe a tunnel?"
Circle around looking for loose dirt.


"Strange though, isn't it?
That ponies would keep disappearing near them for years now."


"Yet the tracks lead here… perhaps there is an old side entrance around?"
Walk along the walls, looking for any sign of another entrance. '1d10'
"That would make sense."

Roll #1 8 = 8


Despite how north you are, the soil is not frozen. The magic of the crystal empire somehow keeps the worst of the cold at bay.
An expert digger could easily pierce through.
"The mines are not safe, which is why they are sealed. I do not know what you think to find here, mole ponies?"
You find more remains of hair and cloth scraps, leading to a hole dug into the side of the hill behind a bunch of loose debris.
This could be it.


"Or something simpler. Bandits."


"Maybe not ponies.. Are there any diamond dogs around?"


"The hell is a diamond dog? Like that stick wolf but made of diamonds?"
"I'll believe it when I see it"


"More like ponies that don't want to be found. I've found something here, looks like an entrance. I'm going in; wait for me to tell if it's clear or not."
"Wouldn't expect it in this cold, but you never know."


"No, they are diggers. Large from paws. Stand upright. Dumb and not very talkative."


"Never seen one. Is this yet another equestrian blight upon the world?"
"… go ahead"


"Says the pony of Crystal."
Head into the hole shield-first, lance at the ready.


This is not a mine shaft. It is unreinforced, hand dug. Rough and ugly. And smells.


Shake my head and crawl down after the jenny.


"Clear so far! Whatever made this, it definitely wasn't ponies; no reinforcements, no sign of tools being used to dig it… it's either diamond dogs, or some kind of wild animal."


There is no sign of life yet, but it is terribly dark down here.
You must either stumble in the dark, or risk being spotted by bringing some light.


"Shall I cast some light upon our way?"
I'm not one to skulk in the dark unless necessary.


"Yea, light up this dreary mine."


Put my mask on and go inside after the others.
"We shall not fear what lurks in the dark."


Your light floods the tunnel, showing exactly what a mess it is.
This seems to only be an access tunnel though, leading into a broken wall that reveals a more orderly mineshaft.
You can also hear some noises further down. You have been seen.


"I will protect you."
Take up position at the front of the group, ready to block whatever is coming at us.


Draw my shield!
"Come forth, creatures of darkness."

Roll #1 5 = 5


"There is definitely someone down here." Try to get closer to the mine shaft.


You can hear a patrol or something headed towards the tunnel you entered from.
Listening carefully, you can tell it's not a very well organized patrol to say the least. Sounds more like some kind of wild things looking for something to fight than serious scouts.


Take up tacticool positions then!


"They sound eager to meet us." Turn towards the sounds and wait here.


"Come forth and face us, whoever you are!"
Level my lance and prepare to charge.


Three lightly armored diamond dogs charge into the tunnel. Their gear is crude, and their eyes are wild.

ENEMY - Tier 3
Dog A 5/5
Dog B 5/5
Dog C 5/5

Leon 5/5
Thicket 3/3
Jean 6/5
Storm 10/6



Roll #1 7 = 7


Single out Dog A as my opponent.
"I will not falter, you curs!"
Charge forward with lance leveled at the mutt.
Joust on Dog A, attack Dog A '1d10'

Roll #1 1 = 1


'1d10+1' Rustbite on dog C, (on hit its skill tier will be lower for one turn)
'1d10' Timberwolf attacks Dog B

Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4 / Roll #2 2 = 2


With a mighty roar, you invoke the divine powers to bring forth your truer self, a shining paragon of righteousness.
Tier 5
You clash with the charging dog, but neither side can gain much ground as your vanguard skills keep him at bay.
The ferocity of the patrol catches you off guard, but Jean is there to keep you from getting mangled in the assault.

ENEMY - Tier 3
Dog A 5/5
Dog B 5/5
Dog C 5/5

Leon 5/5
Thicket 3/3
Jean 6/5
Storm 10/6 - tier 5


"You know, I didn't think I'd see your kind so far north."

'1d10+1' rustbite on Dog C again.
'1d10' timber wolf bites at B.

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5 / Roll #2 1 = 1


"For the Sun's Glory!"
Call forth the Sun's radiance to pierce this dog's defences!
'1d10' Leap of Faith on Dog A

Roll #1 8 = 8



Roll #1 7 = 7


You pull back your weapon and prepare to take a few hits
The dog avoids your attack and counters with a heavy fist to the top of your head
"Ponies not shiny?"
The other dog elbow drops Thicket, splintering some of his sticks.
You leap at the frontmost dog, slamming it into the tunnel wall.

ENEMY - Tier 3
Dog A 3/5
Dog B 5/5
Dog C 5/5

Leon 4/5
Thicket HELPLESS/2
Jean 6/5
Storm 10/6 - tier 5


Dog A!
Pummel it! SLAM!

Roll #1 2 = 2


"No.. Not shiny." I reply.
'1d10' Thicket gets up.
'1d10+1' keep trying to rustbite B

Roll #1 10 = 10 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11


Pin Dog A to the wall with my lance.
'1d10' normal attack

Roll #1 6 = 6


You just barely miss your attack and get a heavy punch as compensation.
You'll pay it back later…
Thicket grabs onto the diamond dog's leg, pulling itself up and causing the dog to stumble into your attack, which rusts the haphazard armor into solid chunks of movement-imparing garbage as it crashes onto the floor.
You pierce the dog's side, but to little effect beyond a pained yelp.

ENEMY - Tier 3
Dog A 2/5
Dog B HELPLESS/4 Tier 2
Dog C 5/5

Leon 4/5
Thicket 3/2
Jean 6/5
Storm 6/6 - tier 5


T-t-time to punch it!

Roll #1 3 = 3


'1d10' cleave on A and C
'1d10 thicket attacks C.

Roll #1 9 = 9


'1d10' now with a second roll

Roll #1 4 = 4


define "it"


"Hah! These dogs are formidable opponents!"
Duck under Leon's swing, then hit Dog A hard enough to rattle his armor!
'1d10' normal attack

Roll #1 2 = 2


The deck!
Dog A.

Roll #1 3 = 3


Despite being an ascended being, you are not invincible. That's going to leave a bruise…
The only armor that rattles here is yours.
You remain standing, but not much more.
Thicket has trouble holding a dog down, but your cleave fells one of the two, leaving only the wounded third one standing.

ENEMY - Tier 3
Dog B HELPLESS/4 Tier 2
Dog C 1/5

Leon 4/5
Thicket 3/2
Jean 2/5
Storm 3/6 - tier 5



Roll #1 2 = 2


go for Dog C with the rustbite '1d10+1'

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7


Your combined efforts, with Leon's rust and Storm's retaliating blow bring the last of the patrol down.
They are all helpless now.
What do you plan to do?

ENEMY - Tier 3

Leon 4/5
Thicket 2/2
Jean 2/5


First of all I plan on standing up.

Roll #1 10 = 10


Use my considerable bulk to hold them down so my compatriots can do whatever they plan on doing to them.


Stand over the dogs.
"So. You mentioned you saw shiny ponies. Where are they?"


Nobody even saw you fall down.
"…dullpony must also have dull head"
"All ponies shiny here."


"Did you capture ponies from the nearby village?"


"I believe he asked where they were. I'd answer him if I were you."
Press down on the dog's chest meaningfully.


"Oh, and you have creative insults too. Are there shiny ponies in the mine?"


"Of course they are."
"Shiny pony mine shiny rocks. Sense makes."
"We take ponies where we find ponies"
"Ponies are for taking"


"Where are they now?"


"How many Dogs are here?"


"In mine"
"Mining rocks"
"Sniny rocks"
"All of us"
"Except hunters"
"And scouts"


"All of you? How big is your clan?"


"How many paws you need to count all of you dogs, except the hunters and the scouts?"


"Uh-huh," I respond, quirking an eyebrow. "Well, I'm not exactly a pony, am I? And as it turns out, we want those ponies you've been taking back."


"Go count if you so smart in head"
"Give tip: more than can count on paws"
"One quarter as many as there are us"
"We all got four paws, dummy."
"oooooh. I gets it. Clever."
"You ugly pony."
"And we keep ponies. Ponies useful."


I groan. "Fine. How are you keeping the ponies from getting away?"


Grab the others and mutter under my breath.

"…I can't count. How much is that?"


"I don't recall saying you had a choice in the matter."
"Uh… I think either four or twelve, depending on if they mean digits or just paws. But it's diamond dogs, so there's no guarantee they're right either way."
Tilt my head quizzically.
"…You can't?"


"Well I can count one two three but-
Those are three, and one in four of three is- zero? One?"


"Either way it doesn't sound like an army, we can probably go on with just our group."


"And the occasional example"
"Is talking time over now?"
"Can we get back to fighting?"


"Let's take the kidnapped ponies home first of all."


"Right, what do we do with these dogs?"


"…When we get back, I can sit down and help you with that if you'd like. For now, let's focus on getting those ponies home."
"You do realize you're not going to win, right?"
"I'd suggest tying them up, but I'm not sure we brought enough rope for that."


"Fighting isn't always about winning"
"It's proving yourself. To yourself, and others"
"Is it not more noble to die fighting than to surrender without a fight?"


"…Okay, when did Diamond Dogs get philosophical?"


"Very little nobility in fighting.
It's much more noble to do good by your people."



"Maybe escort them up to the surface, let the guard deal with it?"


"We do what we do for our kind"
"Ponies mine shiny rocks, we trade shiny rocks"
"We survive, and we fight to survive"


"…wait Trade? No one even knew you were down here. Who could you possibly be trading with?"


"At the same time, we are here to save those of our kind. So bear us no ill for what we are about to do."
Time to leave them here, tied up and muzzled down.


"Not ponies"
"Not all world is ponies"
"Ponies dumb. Good for mining rocks, but dumb."
"Could be worse. Could be hard stone floor."
"Wind from door though…"
"Builds character it does."


"Hmm, I see. Be good puppies and stay." pat the dog on the head and start walking down them mine.


"Considering how good you are at digging, you'd be able to mine much better than ponies."
If we're moving on, I'll lead the way again.


You head down deeper into the mine proper. The sounds of tools hacking away at the stone echo around you, and you can see some light deeper down.


Stop short of the light and try to see how many are just ahead.


You can see the tunnel open up into a large mined out room with a good dozen chained up crystal ponies and maybe half a dozen guards


"This fight will be harder-fought. Are you all prepared?"


"Lets go. I can't stand to look at those enslaved ponies a second longer."


Nod along.
That's half the remaining dogs.


"Right then. FORWARD!"
Charge in and attack the biggest dog in the room, declaring my joust on him too. '1d10'

Roll #1 6 = 6




Y'all horses were in a mine 'n shit


I suppose it is time to slay the dogs and free the ponies.


Time to fight!


I'm just gonna try to cleave 3 dogs

Roll #1 8 = 8


Your first charge catches the dogs by surprise, a cleave sending the nearest three tumbling into the mine pit.
A few shocked crystal ponies look up at you.


"Worry not, you shall be freed!"
Leap of Faith at one of the Dogs!

Roll #1 1 = 1


You make a brave leap off the ledge, and land squarely on your face amidst the ponies and dogs.
Everyone seems largely confused.


"Don't move." I circle around to the ponies sword raised at the dogs.
"Do one you have the keys?"


Stand up.
"I suppose this is your cue to surrender, dogs."


The dogs share confused glances
"What these?"
"Yes, that much is clear, but… what's going on here?"
"Oooh. Should probably tell chief then."


"Where is he then?"


"No one is going anywhere. Give us the keys to these chains."


"Silly pony."
The dog tries to put a shackle on you as well '1d10'
"In throne room"
"…thought he went out to talk to hunters?"
"…thought he back by now."
"could be. Him quiet for big dog."

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Back off."
'1d10+1' Rustbite the dumb dog.
'1d10' Thicket jumps in with a bite as well.

Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3 / Roll #2 3 = 3


Turns out you aren't the first pony he has wrangled.
After a short struggle you are now wearing a chained collar, and the dog is sitting on Thicket.


This is going downhill fast.
Try to Blast the dog off of him!

Roll #1 2 = 2


"Little help here?"


Another dog grabs you from behind, and attempts to collar you. Break loose!

Roll #1 2 = 2


Well, if the Light won't help me, maybe the Darkness will.
Lifestream the dog to weaken him and shake him off!

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6


With an unearthly roar you slam a hoof into the dog's chest, pushing him back.
As he stands back up, he meekly touches the patch of grey, dying fur where you touched him. The others nearby have also fallen silent at the sight of this.
"…what power is this?"
"get the chief! get the chief!"


Snarl at him.
"Take off the coral from my friend, RIGHT now! Or you will know more of it!"


"We are leaving here with all the ponies."
'1d10' Try punching the dog, really hard.

Roll #1 7 = 7


Leon smashes the poorly made collar and you stand firm.
The dogs seem to be hesitating.
Two of them rush off to presumably get their chief.
Most of the ponies are just staring in awe.


Glance at him, closing next to my companion in a defensive stance.
"You dogs better start undoing those other chains too."


"Keys. Now." I Demand of the dogs, though maybe I can just break them..


"Chief has keys"
"Not something we need every day"
Breaking the chains seemed remarkably easy. It must be more the psychological effect of enslavement that keeps the ponies here.


"He better get here fast then."


Chase down the ones trying to get away!
Leap of Faith '1d10'

Roll #1 7 = 7


Go around breaking all the chains then, ignore the dogs and talk to the ponies.
"Right, does everyone feel okay? Can you run?"


Guard him while he does so.


You manage to pin the runners down before they reach the chief.
"We need to talk to chief! Him know this magic! That the reason he talk to hunters!"
The ponies seem tired and overworked. Poorly fed.
"Who are you?"
"You don't look like guards."
"You aren't even crystal ponies!"


"We are Paladin cadets, here to help."
Glance at the dogs.
"One of you can go. And be quick about it."


One of the dogs stumbles back up and flees into a nearby tunnel.


"Hence why I stopped you! We don't want you talking to your chief yet."
One of the advantages of being big is that I'm heavy, especially when armored. Sit on them to keep them in place.


The slave ponies seem curious
"What is a… paladin?"
"Oh! Are you Equestrians?"


"We only let one of them go. We will deal with the chief if need be."

"Indeed. Equestrian Paladins. Protectors of other ponies.


"So like guards then?"


"Well yes, and not full paladins yet. But here to help."


"Still, I don't want them trying to pull anything before we get these ponies out of here."
"There's more to it than that, but yes, a fair enough comparison."


The ponies listen intently
"…and how is it you came to help, and not guards?"


"Maybe you should ask him that," I motion towards the crystal guard who accompanied us. "He might be able to explain why the guard didn't come to help."


"The guards do have to protect the town as well. They did what they could. They helped us find you."


"He didn't believe there was anything down here. But lets get you back to the surface before anything happens."
Start guiding them toward the way we came.


As you begin herding the now-freed ponies towards the entrance, you hear a loud, bellowing voice behind you.
Looks like the chief is here at last.
Nearly twice as tall as any of the others, with bulk to match. Old scars cover his body, and he is wrapped in furs and trophies.
Still, under all the stuff you can see large patches of dead grey fur, and a blind eye. Damage very much like the mark left by Flickering a moment ago.


Turn around.
"They are not yours. You cannot own ponies.
Let them go or suffer the consequences."


Move to block him from reaching any of the ponies.
"Back to their homes and families where they belong. Why don't you do the same?"


"…Start running. Take a right up there, you'll pass some tied up dogs, you might have to dig a little get out." I tell the ponies and stand to cover them


"NEED ponies! Ponies HELP. With help, we SURVIVE."
"WHAT!? Ponies GOOD helpers! NEED ponies! MY ponies!"
The lifedrained dog nudges at his chief
"Chief. That pony who left mark!"
The chief casts his eye squarely on you
"This true?"


"You could have asked for help, instead of abducting them."
"It was me. And I shall do it again, or worse, if you persist on enslaving ponies."


"You not horn pony. Not even tall pony, horns or no… How you use their power?"


"Whose power? Who is it exactly that attacked you?"


"Tall pony! With horns! Talk to four-leg-hunters, they seek it too. Said they help me find and kill."
He uses his hands to mime horns, or possibly antlers.


"I see. Why did this creature attack you then?"


"Then maybe you should have asked first. It's not hard to work out a system that benefits everyone."


The chief sits down.
His guards seem to disapprove, but an angry look shuts them up before they even say anything.
"Long trek north. Need new grounds to make tunnels. Need new food to hunt. Tall ponies attack us, not want us there.
We fight, we lose. We flee. We find caves here, we settle. But need ponies to help dig. Ground hard, rocky. Slow to move alone.

"Never thought of that. Guard-ponies attack us when see us. Others run away. Very frustrating."
The last of the captives finally flees, and the crystal guard signals an all clear. Mission complete on that part.


"Well, maybe now we can change that. Get a system in place where ponies can come help you dig, maybe keep a portion of the gems unearthed, and go home to their families at the end of the day."


"You could offer the ponies gems in exchange of their help. You could have thought of that.
As for the matter of those tall ponies, I am sure we can investigate that."


"Chief you can't-"
Ponies. I offer deal. You tell me about this… evil magic. And you help me make deal with ponies, so they help us dig, and make home.
In exchange, I let you go. And no more raids, so long as deal keeps.


"You will let us go, no more raids, and you will pay compensation for the enslaved ponies. We will help you strike a deal with the nearby town, but you will need to be peaceful. No attacks, no slavery. Otherwise you shall perish."


"Their lives compensation enough. Not all as lucky.
We not pay in gems. But can trade information.


"If you refuse to pay you might bring the fate that has befallen you to the dogs that look up to you to protect them. You would not fail them, would you?"
Point at the dog with the withered fur.


"…Will buy information then. Know you anything of tall horn ponies, or four leg hunters - look like dogs, but with legs like ponies"


Oh. How did I not realize just yet.
"Do you mean centaurs?"


"Oh, we know the centaurs! Or at least, we know of them… I'm not entirely sure on the tall horn ponies though. Most ponies only have the one horn, and it's not exactly tall…"


"Tall ponies like ponies. But tall, like dogs. Long legs. Big horns.
So you call hunters Centaurs. I meet them. They hunting tall pony too. Not say why. But me show them way north. Think they go that way. Can show you too


"We will send word to the town that you might want to trade with them then, but remember. If you use any more violence, you will bring the wrath of ponykind to your people, and you will not be lucky enough to get away from it this time."


"Centaurs and ponies aren't the same.. tribe. You see, we don't know that much about them."


"If deal goes well… the violence stops."
"Centaurs say something of one of them being with you… paladins. Is this true?"


"It is. He went missing, however. We do need to find out what happened with him."


"If he trying to find other centaurs, go north, past mountain. There they went to find tall pony"


"So I see."


"Long legs, big horns… Huh. Sounds familiar for some reason, but I can't place why…"
"Indeed. We'll let the ponies know and try to help set up a deal. Glad we could settle this matter civilly."


"Oh. Thanks for that, we've been wondering where he is.. He's strong thou."


"I will await one week for word from the ponies. If we make deal, we live in peace. If not, we take what we need, burn the rest.
Good to make deal with you. You ever kill tall horn pony, tell me. We drink together.


"I am glad there was no blood shed today. I hope we can keep it that way."
I suppose we can leave now.


"…Hopefully you don't actually burn down any ponies, that would make drinking together really awkward."
Time to leave the mine.


The three dogs from earlier are returning inside, still discussing about the nature of freedom, largely ignoring you.
The guard is outside trying to keep the freed slaves contained.


"You were waiting for us? I expected you to go straight to town."
I say in surprise and step forward to the group. "Did we forget someone?"


"No, paladins. I just wanted to make sure you… made it back ok.
…Thank you. I should not have doubted you."


"The dogs might want to make a deal. In exchange for working ponies. They might not abide to the rules, however."
"Ask for some more guards to fortify your positions for the next week in case you need to kill them, just in case."


"It's alright. I understand how difficult it can be to trust somepony you barely know. At least you gave us the chance to prove ourselves."
"Now, to get all these ponies home…"


Smile at him. "Thank you for that, it was close down there, lots of those dogs.." Then frown "Actually the dogs aren't dead they.."
"Yea, they want try to hire ponies instead of enslaving them now. Its in your hooves, just be careful.."


"For having taken so many ponies, they actually seemed kind of harmless. Not completely, of course, but… their bark was worse than their bite."


"I still do not trust them."


I sigh shaking my head, and patting my timberwolf.
"Its not our job to negotiate deals, its up to the crystal ponies now."


"Very well. I will go make preparations.
Come along folks, time to go home."

You should report back to the fortress.



You return to the fortress monastery, and none could blame you for being a little giddy.
You have earned the tentative trust of an entire village, and made a potential peace with a diamond dog pack. Those are no small feats.
You also learned of some mysterious new beings the dogs called tall horn ponies, who may be tied to the disappearance of Master Rusinante.


We should probably rest then head north to unravel this mystery.


I wish the dogs had been more clear about that detail.
"I guess we should just wander into the moon hall again?"


"If we need information, yes. We can also inform him of what happened. Unless he knows already."


"How would he?"


"Its a little rude not to report back, even if he might have heard somehow."


"Let us go then."


You head tot he Moon Wing, and soon feel eyes upon you in the dark


"We have returned."




Keep walking until he find it fit to show up.


Cloaked Clues slips in from the shadows
"Morning, cadets."


"Good day, Clues."
"We may have a lead on Master Rusinante."


"Master Clues."


"Good day. We have news."


"Speak then. I eagerly await the news."


"We spoke to diamond dogs, who were ponynapping because they needed help with their mine, we told them to work out a way to hire ponies instead, but they told us that Horned Ponies might be behind it. The way they explained it was strange, a top like a diamond dog and a body of a pony, but two long horns. I believe that was it."


"Your description matches a centaur.
This bring some new light to information we had from earlier. Good work.
Now to just tie these loose strings together…"
He is momentarily lost in thought, mumbling under his breath and connecting invisible threads with his hoof.
"…sorry, was that all?"


"We might have a lead on Master Rusinante."


"They mentioned looking for the power of death.."


Cough awkwardly a bit at that.


Power of death?
A connection? yes…
It makes more sense now."
He pulls out an antler from under his cloak. It is oddly gnarled, and has strange talismans hanging from it
"Rusinante had some of these. The talismans are necromantic in nature."


"…Hmm, maybe they took him because he knew about necromancy?" I suggest staring at the odd thing.


"What are they made out of, exactly?"


"All I know is it came from a creature in the northern woods. Rusinante thought his centaur kin went to hunt them"


"So these 'horned ponies' are the source… Do you think they might be some kind of deer or elk that live up here? But why would they use necromancy?"


"We suspect so, yes. Possibly reindeer.
And we know a name. 'Ghost of the North'"


"Ghost of the North? What's that a title?"


"Ghost of the North… is that a person or some cult following?"


"Little is known. This is one reason I did not oppose to Rusinante leaving. We need more information.
A group of necromancers is a frightening idea."


"Even to a group of trained paladins?"


"Necromancy is just another form of decay, a part of nature. Still, I am a little concerned about the dogs and the ponies, if they don't work something out, then a lot of crystal ponies would get hurt."


"Even to the entire order."
"You can speak to the Sun Paladins if you would like to send some guards to keep the peace. Sunpathers do love that kind of work."


"Where are the Sun Paladins?"


"Sun Path wing, opposite of here"


"…their… power and magic, it can't be that bad, can it?"


"Depends. A large group of necromancers has been known to require the intervention of a Grand Master to halt."


"But should we see that they are dangerous like that, we can stop them with the help of the Crystal ponies, I am sure!"


"Right. I'll go over there." Start walking to the sun wing.
"Well, any group that's big enough can be a threat.."


"And they seem to be intent on using their powers without restraints."


"Perhaps we can even keep that from ever happening.
A blade in the dark can save blood in the light."
"Such is their way.
The Sun path fights all out, as much as we avoid the need to fight face to face."
The sun wing is very different.
Massive windows bathe the shining polished surfaces in light, almost blinding you. Everything is tall, wide, grand. Very impressive and bold to look at. Several guards are standing at attention.


I take time to admire each section of the walk, this is a little flashy for me, but I can still appreciate it.


"I don't suppose they'd listen to reason."


Many elaborate murals line the walls, along with weapon and armor stands, banners and inspiring quotes.
"Rarely if ever. But you may try.
Speaking and understanding your enemies to death is more a Crystal path thing."


Very positive, like its accentuating light.. Keep looking around for ponies that look important.
"Now.. who am I supposed to talk to here.."


"I would rather try that than just try and kill them outright. What would be the difference between me and them otherwise?"


One of the paladins, a pegasus stallion, walks up.
"Hey buddy. You look lost. Need help?"
"One's goals define many things. One's means less so."


"Nevertheless, I should always keep the option in mind of me lest I forget I am a paladin of righteousness, not an executioner. Talking worked even with the dogs, after all."


"Yea, I'm new here. I was wondering where the Master of the Sun Paladins is?"


"Every paladin must pick their path eventually. Dwell on it."
"End of the hallway, behind the big gold doors. Master Aspiring Ascension"


"Ah, of course. Thanks Paladin."
I nod to him and go to the end of the hall.


"I already have, a lot in fact."


"Tell him Pixydust sent ya!"
The great golden doors are indeed… great.
And well guarded. No less than ten guards stand by there.
"Care to share?"


"I thought a lot if my… innate powers are worthy of a paladin after all. Sometimes they scare me."


"Ehem, Cadet Leon here. I'd like to speak with Master Aspiring Ascension."


"All powers are worthy, so long as the cause that wields them is just."
"On what business, Cadet?"


"I have important news regarding the situation in a village south of here."


"Very well."
The guards move aside and let you pass.
The interior of the room is as extravagant as the exterior. Statues hold the armor and weapons of the Master Paladin, who himself is standing by a window, basking in the light of the sun.


Go to him and Salute with respect.
"Excuse me Sir. Cadet Leon here, I would like to inform you about a situation in a village just south of here."


"Speak, cadet."


"The ponies there were being abducted by diamond dogs to work in a mine, a few of my fellow cadets and I rescued them, and encouraged the locals and the diamond dogs to work out a proper deal for ponies to work for them, but I am personally concerned that the diamond dogs will become violent toward the crystal ponies. I would like to request some form of security be sent to them."


"…thank you."


You'll make a good paladin yet, kid.
How many guards do you think we'll need?"


"The dogs aren't all that strong, so probably just.. four? I'm not really a tactics manager sir."


"That was a test, son.
Four makes for two pairs of two, so I'll send eight.
Never guard your post alone!"


"I'll remember that Sir!"
I reply right away, feeling a little anxious.


"Any day, Cadet."
"Good attitude.
Had a thought about your path yet, son?"


"My path.. Well.. Actually. I'm not sure yet."
I admit my eyes going around the room and its light filled decor.


"Well don't you fret. Often a path finds the paladin rather than the paladin finding a path.
You know where to find me if you need advice."


"Thank you sir."
"I should go meet back with my fellow cadets."
Turn to go.


Say my goodbyes then… head to the quartermaster.


"Go with the light."
Brilliant Blessings is organizing some lockers
"Yes, Cadet?"


"Good day. I am just here to ask, what kinds of provisions would we need for a trip to far up north?"


Go look for Flickering Light.


There he is, with the provisions master
"Cold weather, camping, survival. Light food, the cold keeps it well anyway. Portable shelter is a must, you don't look experienced in forest survival."


"So, I gather you want to keep looking into this." I smile slightly.


Smile back.
"Of course. Our duty has only begun. This will be a true test of our faith and persistence."

"I see. Mayhaps you have some books upon the topic, though?"


"Library is on the third floor"


"Books on winter survival? It couldn't hurt to look.. but I don't think we should wait too long to look into that lead.."


"What is your mission, anyway?"


"Thank you… well, why we get our provisions, and on the way beside campfires, I am sure I could find the time to read some of it."


"Looking into one of the Masters who hasn't reported back lately. I"m sure he's fine.."


"Ah, after Master Rusinante are you?
Well, best of luck. Others have gone and not returned"


"We have heard. They might be in trouble, so perhaps we can help."


"Others? How many?"


"Finding him, or what he was searching for, would lift a great burden of mystery off us."
"Two teams before you. Five paladins total."


"We shall do what we can, rest assured."


"It must be harder than it sounds.."
"Maybe we should gather everyone and go right away."





We were preparing to do stuff


Time to meet up with those other cadets!


We were


Do you wish for a mission briefing regarding the situation or are you good to move out?



Just a quick brief


I most definitely do.


Master Cloaked Clues slips out of the shadows
"So, off to seek out Master Rusinante then.
Good luck. As a reminder, here's what we know.
Rusinante left to seek out a group of Centaurs, whose presence here in the north is unexpected. Our only real lead is that they seem to be on the trail of a group of deer, reindeer most likely. What little we know of this group, there is a good chance they are necromancers. Their goals are unknown, as are their relations to the Centaurs, or Rusinante. He refused to comment on it before he left.
So now you are to seek him out in the northern mountains and bring him home safely, or at least confirm what his goal is."
He sighs and rubs his brow
"I feel scatterbrained. It annoys me, it really does. Hasn't been this bad since we lost Supreme Grand Master Rex… I don't expect you to know, it was before your time."


"Do you think that might not be a coincidence?"


"If anything I'd imagine it's because Rusinante and I both knew Rex so well. To see Rusinante also vanish into the frozen wastes awakens bad memories. I am entrusted with gathering and passing information, yet I was not able to gleam enough information from either of them to aid them. Not then, not now. What little I did know did nopony any good."


"Let's have some faith in a stallion who has achieved the rank of Master.
His intentions and skills must be true. Master Rusinante is not done for yet."


"Yet we could not set out as we do now without you."


"I don't doubt him. I merely wish I could aid him. Whatever he seeks out there, it can't be worse than what cost us Rex."
"I may not be perfect, but I am far from useless. That much I know.
I merely worry I may forget something if I can't keep a level head. And that could end badly."


Nod understandingly.
"Reclusive deer and centaurs can't be the easiest to deal with. Time consuming I bet."


"You still have time to recall anything while we prepare our journey and provisions."


"I also don't have scouts to spare. Out resources are very limited out here."
"The best I can do at present is give you a breakdown of the magic runes found on the antler recovered from Rusinante's collections. Unless you want to hear an old shadow talk about academy history."


"Would the latter help?"


"No, the breakdown would be great help…"


"Where as we have all the time in the world." Smile at him. "I wouldn't mind hearing whatever you would like say."


"Unlikely. Had this been a personal vendetta or a political mess like it was with Rex, I would know by now."
"While the majority of the talismans are necromantic in nature, one stands out. This one, with the little crystals, like a wind chime.
This is very uncommon. Shamanistic weather magic uses something similar, but the materials and structure remind me more of ancient Unicornia than anything else."
"I should not share all the details with cadets, let alone cadets who have not chosen the moon path, but you should be told at least the basics.
Supreme Grand Master Rex Tremendae was the head of the Paladin Order for over twenty years, having risen from the Sun Path ranks. You've probably seen some of his statues and heard some quotes attributed to him. He is also the one to thank for the now iconic Wings of Light spell, much to the ire of the Mage Academy.
Ten years ago his was succeeded by a fellow Sun Pather Glorious Incandescence, the current Supreme. While the reasons for his departure are shrouded in mystery both genuine and intentional, it is no secret he went to settle a score with some long time rival or political foe in the far north and never returned. Though many believe there is more to it than that.
…some know there was more."


"I see. Also, it is intersting what you say about the rune. Is there anything in the northern folklore associated with it? Maybe the Windigos?"
Everyone knows those Hearth's Warming stories


"Windigoes are associated with strife, and to a lesser degree, with weather. There is no direct connection between them and necromancy, which inherently creates obedient automatons, which in turn cannot fuel strife as they are mindless.
But the observation is astute. Pegasi are incapable of weather manipulation by normal means up here. Perhaps the weather magic talisman has some ties to it, as the harsh weather is said to be caused by windigoes."


"It could be a work-around. Harsh weather could create strife, which in turn would draw the Windigoes who would create more harsh weather."


"So you expect to meet windigoes? Do you think that's what Rusinante went to seek?"


"He would not have traveled alone, had he expected windingoes. It'd be easier to diffuse the strife on the ground than take on the beasts.
They might be just a consequence."


Close my eyes soaking in the story and information.
"That is good to know, Thank you Master Clues. And if its some form of corrupt shamanism.." I shake my head. "We won't know for sure until we see it. "


"In all likelyhood Rusinante is just out there to find the centaur band, possibly for questioning, possibly for reinforcements. Centaurs are rare things in Equestria so I know very little of their customs, and Rusinante was never one to share."


"What do you know about their customs? Are they easily offended or can we just walk up to them like a pony..?"


"I think it's what the reindeer might seek."


"Physically imposing but not outright warlike. Curiously suspicious of magic despite potential natural talent. Customs largely unknown, but a general friendly yet stern manner should serve well."
"Hm… an interesting thought. The implications of which are… far reaching."


"Alright, sounds easy enough."
"I think we should probably get going now, yea?"



"I will leave you to mull over this."


"Return with all due haste once your mission is over. If there is something greater behind all this, Canterlot must know."
Ready to leave?



"Yes Sir."
yep good to go.


On your way out you notice a couple of paladins messing around, a large pegasus giving a unicorn mare a piggyback flight. A more stern paladin might tell them to cut it out.


How old are those guys? What is this, kindergarten?


Just snort.


Well for one they both outrank you.


"I'm gonna take a wild guess and say they are paladins of the Crystal path…"


"It would explain a lot."


At first I salute them, but then I smile and walk slowly.
"Everyone needs a little stress relief. Being a paladin up here can't be easy."


As you pass by, a streak of magic strikes a tree near you, exploding it to splinters.
The pair lands and knocks hooves in congratulations.
"You're finally getting a hang of aerial aiming, Star."
"You're finally flying steadily. it helps a lot."


"So this is a combat practice, I assume."


So it's like that one level of sonic 2!
"What happens if there are enemy flyers?"


Just be quiet and let the others get in trouble for questioning their superiors.


"Unorthodox, but yes."
"Teamwork on a whole new level"
"So long as Pixy here can keep them in the frontal arc it is easy to hit them even in flight."


"I see. It seems rather dangerous, however."


Try to keep walking past them.


"No progress is made without risks"
They aren't in your way, just excited to talk.
They ignore you as you leave


They should focus on their training!
I will keep going until I can just barely see the other two, then stop to wait.


Are we ready to leave the city?
Do you care to travel the road ahead or shall we just roll for the eventfulness?


I think we should roll




Roll #1 3 = 3


Everyone roll then



Roll #1 8 = 8



Roll #1 6 = 6


The only thing notable on your trip is a group of foragers discussing weird sightings up north.


Do they care to share?


What are these rumors?


This could be important, stop to talk to them?


"Lovely weather today, isn't it? Aside from being a bit chilly, but it always seems to be chilly up here."


"Fancy group, aren't you?"


"Equestrian, yes, I wouldn't call myself fancy thou."


"That's right. Paladin cadets."


"Gotta admit, we must look pretty fancy in armor."


"Long way from your fort aren't you"
"What're ye up here for?"


"Looking into odd events, helping ponies in need. Do you know much about the paladins?"


"Trying to get to the bottom of some weird things happening up north."


"Something about you being proper honest folk. Defenders of the weak, all that."
"Others say you're just a bunch of spies though."
"Y' mean like the winds having changed?"


"Among other things, yes."


"Well, I'm not sure how that rumor got started. Everyone seems to recognize us as Equestrians as soon as they see us. From what I understand, spies are supposed to blend in."
"Still, I'm certain our actions will show our valor far better than words would." I can't help but grin happily at the thought.


Nod in approval. "Yes, that's what we aim for. Can you tell us when the winds changed? What's odd about them?"


"The winds. They're too cold. Too angry. It ain't natural no more. There is something out there stirring them."


"Really? Where did this unnatural wind come from?" I ask with real concern


"Stirring them? How?"


"The winds feel sharp. Guided."
"They are blowing from the forests near the mountain."


"That is where we must head then."


"Thank you very much ponies, we'll look into it."


"Well, that's no good. Thanks for the directions! Now we just need to find whoever is behind the winds and make him stop!"


"Well, best of luck"
"We'll be waiting."


..Is that the same forest we were already going too?


It's near the mountains you were going to


"Its even on our way, barely a detour." Start towards that forest with a confident stride.


"Adventure Ho!" I giggle, picking up the pace to try and get ahead of Leon.


From here, it doesn't take long to reach the foothills of the mountains. The slightly elevated terrain gives you your first good look over the north, and it is breathtaking.
It, or the piercing wind cutting your noses.
It is here master Rusinante was last seen, and it is not far from here the strange winds were said to come from.


I give her a raised eye brow.

"So.. where would you go if you wanted to find some friendly shaman folk.." I comment moving toward the forest keeping an eye out for worn trails. '1d10'

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Pretty sure this is the place. Good a place as any to start looking for clues."
Blink back innocently, making sure I'm just marginally in the lead of the group.
"Friendly shamans? I thought they all liked living away from everypony else and got grumpy if you found them."


There are many paths leading into the woods, and a trail leading upwards into the mountains.
The mountain path shows no obvious tracks, so odds are nobody has climbed it recently.


"Looks like the mountain pass is nearly abandoned.. Must be this cold.."
Pick a wide path leading in to the woods.
I roll my eyes.
"You know I was talking about the centaurs and reindeer we're looking for right? That.. reef was something between necromancy and shamanism."


"Well, if somepony is causing this cold, then they probably don't want to be disturbed. That means that they'd want to be somplace not a lot of ponies are going. Right?"
"Oh, them! I thought you meant- nevermind. I still don't think either group qualifies as friendly. The centaurs might be on our side, but I think they'll be kinda grumpy when we find them."


"Master Clue said they were a friendly race didn't he? Or am I already confused.. So many new things.."





Innawoods was the next goal


Then innawoods we go!


Off we go



The dense evergreens have kept the ground free of snow to some degree, making tracking harder than it would normally be. Just staring at your own hooves won't help here.


Can we follow the wind?


Check the branches too.

Roll #1 1 = 1


Some snow falls on your face
The thick forest makes it a little hard, but perhaps if you climb a tree?

Climbing a tree: Tier 3, MIN5


Thankfully, I don't wear heavy plate, so I should be able to do that!

Roll #1 3 = 3


Help the nerd climb.



Roll #1 6 = 6


It takes two, but you get the earthie up the tree.
From up there, you can see a bit better, and feel the sharp wind from the north.
You can also spot what looks like a clearing caused by a fight, but you'd need to look harder to see anything more.


"Thanks for the lift…"
Take the sights in!
"Sharp wind from the north… but before we head further north, there is a clearing, probably a fight. We should check it out."


"Good job, can you see anything else up there?"


"Is there smoke coming from the clearing? Someone could be waiting in ambush."


"We'll just have to approach carefully."

"Give me a second!"
Look harder, anything else immediately catching my eyes?

Roll #1 9 = 9


You can see a group of folks in the clearing. Gryphons and pegasi.
Also, several deer closing in on them.
There are also traces of magic in the air, and gazing further into the distance, you can see great bonfires to the north.


"Bonfires to the north, so there must be people there… but a group of Gryphons and pegasi seem like they are about to be ambushed by deer!"
Hop off the tree.
"We should get there and prevent a bloodshed if we can!"


"An ambush?"
"Lead the way."

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