No.695148[Last 50 Posts]
Hermodur, Zunden, Rabi, Silver Song and Norvegicus have been exiled to the world known as the Echoes. Upon exploring their initial surroundings, they found an old diary belonging to someone called Dawn, and later met a fellow exile called Violet Moon, who had found a strange brick cylinder in a boat that had washed ashore nearby. Violet has so far been acting as their guide through the Echoes, and they are accompanying her on a quest to a far off desert called the Shifting Sands. According to Violet, an inscription she found in the tomb of an ancient king has led her to believe they will find something of great value in the center of the desert.
While staying in the small settlement of Ironbrook, the party ran into a notorious bandit gang called the Bloody Mummers, having gotten into a barfight with some of their members. This led to them taking a long path around so as to avoid the Mummers' attention, leading them into a treacherous stretch of swamp known as Durenwol. There they met the sorcerer Black Pudding, who had apparently had dealings with Violet in the past. Pudding promised to aid them in return for their service, asking them to bring him parts of a terrible beast called the Berrengaith.
The party agreed to this and ventured into the Rotten Wood, eventually coming across the beast. However, they soon found that there was more to it than they'd anticipated: the Berrengaith is host to a swamp spirit, which used to have dominion over Durenwol until it was overthrown by Pudding and trapped inside a monstrous boar. They were offered the choice of either slaying it now or gathering the required items to free it: a black lily from the Dreaming Spring, the eyes of a deer, and the skull of its former body, which is in the possession of Black Pudding. The party have not agreed to either choice yet, but as a sign of good faith the swamp spirit let them take the blood and teeth that Pudding had asked for; in return, they received a slew of items that will aid them on their journey. Upon returning to Violet, they also discovered that the loss of her eye was due to Pudding having taken it from her, after she tried to take the skull herself.
With their business in Durenwol finished, the party set off towards the Shifting Sands once more, eventually coming across a lakeside monastery dedicated to Luna, where they took shelter for the night. While there, they learned that the monastery were currently sheltering a severely injured pony who had been found drenched in seawater, despite being many miles inland. The party are there still, waiting out the night among the Luna worshippers.
Old thread: >>690313>>694918
She merely nods, looking grim as she mulls over her situation. "Guess I've just had bad luck with magic my whole life. Between that and the whole affair with Pudding, wouldn't surprise me if my whole family were cursed. There was always weird stuff happening when I was a kid. Family members getting involved in stuff I don't even want to know about. Story for another time though. Don't really feel like getting into all that now. It's… complicated.">>695141
She looks hesitant, but eventually nods. "I hate to say it, but there is a lot wrong with how things are done back home. I've heard all sorts of stories of people getting Banished for petty things. I don't know if an alicorn contender is the answer, but… the Dominion does need some change. If I ever get back home, I hope I don't recognize it.">>695142
Violet gives you a friendly smile as you return. "Nothing much. Just talking. We're lucky to have come across this place really. Zunden's gone off to look after a patient they have here.">>695143
You charge up your magic as you carefully peel back the bandages. Your stomach turns a little as you see the pony has suffered severe burns to the scalp and upper face. It's unlikely she'll be able to see again, if they recover.
"She was wandering the foothills further west," Sirius answers, touching his chin as he thinks. "Seemed to have been attacked by something recently, she was bleeding everywhere. I don't believe she had anything on her other than the clothes on her back. She was also completely soaked in salt water, like I said before. She kept trying to say something, but I couldn't make out what it was. She collapsed, I cast as best a healing spell as I could manage, and managed to transport her back here in the cart. That's all I know really."
As you try and think back, you remember the boat you and the rest of the group happened across on the first day. It contained a nearly ruined diary that Hermodur kept, and according to Violet, the brick cylinder the party are carrying. There was no sign of whoever was in the boat.
"I understand. I won't press anymore than you're good with, friend." he says, offering a reassuring smile "Thanks for telling us that much, though. Shame to hear about the… family curse.">>695155
"Well… let's see. What sort of business did your family run before you ended up here, again? And, how exactly did the whole… jealous noble thing go down? I'm not too familiar with high society."
"Ailuros will keep that which makes Equestria great. I would be sad if I didn't recognize it at all," Hermodur comments thoughtfully as he stares at the ceiling, laying on his back.
Zunden nods, listening to the story.
"Furzher wezt… zea water… I wonder if.."
Zunden says, having an epiphany,
"No, it can't be. What would be ze chanzez…"
She giggles, realizing what she said,
"What am I talking about? Chanze? It iz mozt likely Fate. I have an idea, I will attempt to heal her organz again, fetch zomething from my travel companionz, and return."
Zunden lays her claw on the belly of the mare again, casting her magic as she's excited about the prospect of a clue.
Mend [1d10+2]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
"Huh. Salad. Expected something with a little more… I don't know… Flavor I guess?" I sheepishly look away. "I, uh, never really had much variety. Kind of the reason I was wondering. Maybe 90% of my diet was stew meats, low-grade ground beef, beans, and rice, so yeah.">>695154
I nod, giving Violet an apologetic look. "Right. Well, I'm interested in hearing about it whenever you're comfortable." I cock an eyebrow, and give her a small smile. "Maybe over that drink, like I asked before." I chuckle. "Whenever we actually have the chance, that is."
"Our business, Dominion Rails, focused on the manufacturing of rail lines for construction projects and transportation equipment for Dominion contracts." i state matter of factly. "Our output was the highest in Levin, thanks in no small part to mine and my father, Brass Tacks's work, clearing out competitors in short order through strategic buyouts, among other things."
"And as for the suitor.. It was a power play to tie in another family business in exchange for my marrying their eldest."
"While he was
quite handsome and charming i adamantly refused to accept it, as being married off would fully prevent me from taking my father's place.">>695161
"No flavor? Oh you poor thing! Why you hardly needed dressing at all once taking a bite, the leaves and toppings being more than enough to excite the senses!"
"If we find the chance i'll have to make you one, you simply won't regret it!"
"Do not disparage the rustic quality of such mean meats," Hermodur says dramatically. "There is a deep satisfaction in eating something so simple and filling."
"Leaves?" Hermodur wretches. "I don't understand HOW one eats them."
"Ah, i appear to have forgotten i'm in the midst of carnivores, It all makes sense now."
"One wouldn't eat just any
leaves, you're likely to be struck with indigestion."
"I mean the 'leaves' of lettuce and spinach, both a fair way more palatable."
She shrugs. "Just a hunch I have. Don't know if it's a real thing.">>695157
"Well, there's no telling what we'll expect when we get home," she answers with a noncommittal shrug. "Er, if we get home. Remember, no guarantees.">>695160
You manage to close some of her more grievous wounds, but this amount of injury would take a tremendous amount of talent to heal overnight. She seems to be stable for now, but will require further care.
As you seem to have an epiphany, the healers look curious. "…Has something come to mind, madam?" Aurora asks. She is the youngest of the three, and appears to still be in training. It seems that Sirius and Procyon are brothers, and one or both are mentoring her.>>695161
"Sounds like a plan," she answers, returning the smile. "Once we get to Braildorn, maybe. You'd like it there, I think. It's the closest thing to a city here in the Echoes.">>695156>>695157>>695160>>695161>>695162
You suddenly hear the ringing of a great gong coming from further in the monastery, signalling that dinner is ready. >>695156>>695157>>695161>>695162
"You guys can go on ahead if you want," Violet says. "I'm not really hungry. I just need some rest and I'll be good for tomorrow."
"It's true that felids and diamond dogs are primarily carnivorous. But, I have been known to take a taste of the more delicate portions of the food pyramid as well. Indeed, my favorite food is not even a meat."
"However, I meant what I said in a quite literal sense. I actually cannot comprehend the process of eating a leaf. How does one… chew it?"
Hermodur rises as he puts Mjolnir back in its holder on his back. "What impeccable timing. All this talk of food was making me peckish."
Hermodur heads to the dining hall.
"Ah, the dinner bell! All this talk of food has left me quite famished."
brushing my dress off, i pop my head out the door and head towards the sound of the bell.>>695167
"Hmm, i'd imagine in quite the same way one would chew anything, really." I reply, raising an eyebrow
"Have you truly not eaten a salad before?"
"I have made attempts," Hermodur responds as if he's recounting a tale of an epic battle. "The vile weed was in my mouth. And… there it stayed. I could sink my teeth into it all I wished. Yet, it only served to puncture it and little else. Despite the holes, the salad remained whole in my mouth."
"Fruit is much easier to eat. It's like meat, you bite it into pieces and melts into your mouth."
"Huh. Well, I'd appreciate it. I'll have to take your word for it until then, I suppose.">>695163
"Oh, no, don't misunderstand me. I didn't hate it or anything. It's way better than nothing, and when I could save up enough to get a hold of some spices it was really good. It's just eating the same thing over and over… Well, it gets pretty old. Especially if it's just bland stew cuts." >>695166
I heave a quiet, wistful sigh. "Yeah. I have to say, I already kind of miss the city, so I'm sure it'll be nice." My ears flick as I hear the gong. "Speaking of food." I stand up and ease my rats out of my pockets. They stir in their sleep, and both squint their tiny, beady eyes open. "Here you go guys. Go ahead and get some rest." I slip them back into my cage, place my hand on it, and unsummon them. I look back over at Violet, giving her a quick nod. "Night, Vi," I say. "Sweet dreams." >>695169
"I've had cabbage before. That's kind of the same, right?" >>695168
"Yeah. Me too." I walk with them.
"Ah, mizz Aurora Borealis? At this time of year? At this time of day? In this part of the country? Localized entirely within your kitchen?
, ze Tarot guided my memory to ze fact zhat we, err, my traveling party, found a journal by ze zea where we originally woke up after being exziled. We came acrozz a journal and I have a premonition zhat it'z connected to ze mare."
Zunden's ears perk up at the sound of the bell, smiling,
"What good timing. I can procure ze journal at dinner. Will you zhree be coming along? Ze girl haz been ztabalized for now."
Zunden starts to head towards where the ringing of the bell came from.
"Hmm, I see. So, your father wanted to use you as a bargaining chip then, yeah? Seems like an awful waste, with all the other things you seem capable in. So, when you rejected the marriage, you were exiled? Or was there something more to it than that?">>695166
"Hrm… well, food does sound good. I imagine they'll have some meat for the two of you and Zunden." he suggests, hopping up on to all fours and heading for the gong.>>695167
"I, uh… you stuck it in your mouth, and chew it. Equines and other herbivores have flatter, wider teeth, made for plants." he explains
"YOU DO!?" Hermodur explodes, seemingly shocked at this realization. "All this time… I was convinced I was doing something wrong!">>695171
"Hmm, I've never been one to grow board of a food. I suppose it comes from repetition at an early age."
fixing you with an odd look for a moment, i recover and continue. "Indeed, shortly after my refusal i was accosted by guards, who made bold and terribly rude claims that I
had tried to kill
"I had vigorously my case known but they were having none of it, swiftly carting me off to my imprisonment and eventual banishment. Terribly rotten luck, really."
"..Well, not quite
so terrible. I did
meet a few friends here, and you as well, Rabi.."
They seem intrigued, but offer no comment.
"We'll be along later," Sirius answers. "We have some other duties to tend to first.">>695169>>695168>>695171>>695172>>695173
You adjourn to the dining room, which consists of two long wooden tables, built low to the ground with cushions on the floor in lieu of chairs. The walls are lined with elaborate tapestries depicting Luna and Celestia. One table is occupied by the monks who inhabit the place, and is lined with relatively meager food; bowls of fruit, rice, bread and other such modesties. They do not seem to be eating yet, listening to a speech being made by the pony at the foot of the table. He is a wizened old bat pony with a black coat, dressed in an elaborate robe and headdress patterned with blue and silver. There's no doubt that he's their high priest.
The other table is a stark contrast, having a large variety at your disposal: steaming fresh fish, aromatic roast meat, elaborately decorated salads, pastries both sweet and savory, piping hot soups and stews, and a plethora of other foods besides have been laid out for you. Great jugs of water and juice are there also, with plates, cutlery and wooden cups laid out for you. You are not the only ones here, however; at the table, you see who you assume are other adventurers:
There are a set of identical twin Felids with brown stripes and bright blue eyes. They make no attempt to acknowledge you as they converse quietly among themselves.
There is a single hooded unicorn at the far end of the table, who looks over and nods in your direction before tucking into a bowl of soup.
Finally, there is a middle-aged griffon with a cracked beak, wearing a resplendent suit of armor. He greets you with a toast, but his mouth is too full to be able to offer any coherent verbal greeting.
"Ha!" Hermodur laughs from the sidelines.
Rabi opens his mouth a little to show off the wide, flat teeth, before chuckling "I assure you, you were doing everything you could. I'd advise sticking to meat and fruit. Silver and I'll save you from all the evil, nasty leaves.~" he teases, before looking over to Silver and cocking his head to the side>>695176
"Huh… so, accused attempted murder? That makes a lot more sense than a badly-taken rejection." He says, before folding his ears back a bit and blushing "Well, I'm not sure if that's a compliment or not, but, thanks. You… and the group, of course, have been a pretty high point for me, too.">>695177
Rabi blinks at the discrepancy between the two tables, finding himself at a loss for words. "I… I expected some food, but, this is… woah. I-I don't think I've ever sat at a table like this." he comments, offering a bit of a shocked wave to the griffon.
"I mean I actaully-" I hook a finger into my mouth and lift my floppy jowl, pointing into my mouth. "Hahe 'latter teeh in te hack-" I let go of my mouth and clear my throat. "Have flatter teeth in the back, too. Not at all like a pony's, but it's probably easier to chew plants than it is for you, at least." >>695177
My jaw drops when I see the selection of food, and I can't help but tear up when all of the various smells mix in my nostrils. Right on cue my mouth begins to water and thick strands of drool cling to my coat.
My mouth snaps shut when I see the other adventurers, and I swallow hard. Instead of rushing over to the table like I'd planned on doing from the start, I shuffle my feet and slowly follow behind Hermodur and Silver.
"Hello again friendz!"
Zunden smiles as she returns to the party, sitting herself down and happily grabbing a a whole cooked fish and biting into roughly a third of it,
"How iz everyone?"
(before I noticed the other group.)
"Oh, hey, that's kind of like me… sorta."
"Oh my! Quite the selection."
making my way over to the table, i gather together a bowl of the salad and take a seat at the table.
"A proper salad like this would be an excellent primer into greenery.">>695179
"Oh you misunderstand! I've grown quite fond of your company, Rabi, it was just a slip of the tongue, really." i hurriedly assure you, gesturing to the seat next to me with my wing.
"There's a spot free here, if you'd take it..">>695181
"Quite well, Zunden, I had the chance to clean up in their baths, which i highly recommend, and a nice conversation with the others."
"What were you up to?"
Hermodur's gaze goes to each individual dining with them in turn. He stops at the unicorn with a suspicious glance. Then, he scoffs. "A mysterious hooded unicorn? I've spent enough time in taverns and travels to know how ominous that is. What's your story?" he asks the unicorn.
As he talks, he helps himself to some a modest amount of meat onto his plate along with a small piece of bread. He sits down and begins to eat as he awaits an answer.
He also searches the table for any watermelon. [1d10]>>695179
Hermodur merely grumbles in response.>>695180
"Is it only felids that suffer from this conundrum!?" Hermodur exclaims, sounding insulted.>>695181
"I trust your sun powers have been useful in this Lunar Temple?" Hermodur asks, amused by the dramatic irony of it.Roll #1 6 = 6
"Zhere is an injured mare in ze infirmary-"
Zunden says, midst eating,
"-and ze Tarot haz lead me to believe zhe iz ze owner of ze journal zat waz found at ze lighthouze! Do you happen to know who haz it on zhem right now?"
I give Zunden a small wave.
"Oh Hermodur, all this talk of salad and you won't even try some?" i ask, looking over at you from around my salad bowl.
"You really should try some, i suspect we won't see food as this for quite some time!"
"Ze Zun and Moon are zizterz, equal counterpartz. It iz togezher zey work in harmony, bozh in ze Tarot and many religionz. But ze gal waz quite hurt, I may be caring for her all night. It iz ze leazt I can do, given ze cultiztz letting uz ztay here.">>695186
Zunden smiles warmly at the diamond dog,
"Hello Norvegicuz, it'z nice to be under a roof, yez?"
"I'd… rather not…" Hermodur eyes the sadly with an oddly suspicious gaze as if it's going to surprise attack him.
"U-Uh, hey. Good, I suppose. Just a tad overwhelmed." he says, chuckling softly>>695183
"Oh! I see, yeah… and, sure." he says, quickly taking the seat next to her and smiling "Seems they have a bit of everything, huh? Was this something you're used to, or is this kind of meal unusual?">>695184>>695187
Rabi, mid-loading a plate with salad and fruit, joins in to say "Are you sure you don't want to try for round two?~"
"They're not cultists," Hermodur says oddly defensively.>>695190
"It's NOT funny," he grumbles once more.
"I do not mean ze word az a bad zhing. A cult iz juzt a zmall religiouz group, az far az I'm aware."
"This?" i reply, gesturing to the spread of food "This was quite common during formal events and the odd party, Though we were usually served something more modest on the day to day." i finish, covering my chewing with a wing.
"A lavish upbringing, certainly, but a lonely one. I only ever had my insufferable brother for company, before being dragged off to this world."
"It has a negative connotation," Hermodur states matter-of-factly.
I sit down on Silver's other side and try to reach over far enough to grab some of the roast. Figuring out that it's too far away and my short body can't reach it, I settle on some stew picked at random and a decent sized slab of bread.>>695188
"It's definitely been nice. Goodness, I'm not used to walking so much so it's nice to get a comfortable place to relax." I lick my lips and look down at the stew. "And eat.">>695187
"I wouldn't mind trying some.">>695191
I shrug. "I think it's kind of funny.">>695193
I sigh, and nod. "Yeah," I say. "I kind of know what that's like. Not really having anyone around."
"Of course, of course, grab some from the bowl there. Make sure to get as many different parts of the salad in a bite, you won't regret it." i enthusiastically reply.
"Ah, the journal? I believe Hermodur still has it, though it has
been a while."
"The wha-" Hermodur asks as his name is brought up. "Oh, right. This?" he produces the book from an inside pocket of his jacket. "It's mostly meaningless anyway. Here," he passes it to Zunden.>>695195
"Your sense of humor is sadistic."
"Well believe me, I am ze lazt to judge one'z beliefz. CAn you imagine a card reader doing zuch?"
Zunden says, letting out a bassy giggle.>>695197>>695198
"Ah! Zhere it iz, zhank you very much. I hope it providez inzight into ze mare."
Zunden says, drumming through the pages while eating.
"I mean… it's a little funny. Maybe just a bit." he says, snickering a little>>695193
"Ah… I see. Definitely nothing I'm used to. As far as my upbringing went, I had a couple siblings. They could be a little bratty, but we got along pretty well. Wasn't ever really quiet around our little place, that's for sure." he says, with a chuckle
"Bratty," Hermodur comments with a laugh. "I see. That's why you had to steal for them.">>695199
"In a sense, that IS the profession."
"H'mmmm…" I eye the salad, trying to discern its different parts. After a second I pick up a fork and reach over Silver's plate to stab at a few different vegitables and fork them into my mouth. I chew it for a little bit and my eyes squint as I take in the flavor. After a second, I swallow and let out a sharp exhale. "Not quite what I expected. Kind of weird. Uncooked vegetables are kind of bitter, huh? Every time I've had them they've been stewed with meat. Carrots and stuff when I can get a hold of them, usually.">>695198
I chuckle. "If you say so.">>695199
"What about a journal?"
"Yeah, I-" I get a little excited and start to talk about my family, but my eyes flit around the room at the other adventurers and monastery members. I clear my throat and ease back down onto the floor, letting my voice trail off as I contemplate my stew. I take a large spoonful of it and spoon it into my mouth.
Raising an eyebrow as you eat some of my salad, i run my fork through some salad, an apple slice and some cheese before taking a bite.
"Bitter if you only eat the leaves, perhaps. The trick is to take all
parts of the salad at once, like so. Everything works together to cancel out the bitter, see?"
"Yez Norvegicuz, zhere iz a injured mare in zhiz temple'z infirmary, and I had a premonition after conzulting ze Tarot zhat ze diary zhat we found at ze Lighthouze haz zomething to do wiz it."
Zunden says, head in the book. She squints,
"Lookz to be a bunch of numberz, odd. I wonder if ze zanctuary written about in ze journal would be zhiz very one?"
"Huh. Well, alright then. Didn't expect we'd actually find its owner if it was hers. Wonder how it got all the way out there."
Hermodur shudders just watching Norv eat the salad.>>695203
"I have to admit, I always just envisioned you being raised by rats," Hermodur comments. "It hadn't even occurred to me that you must have a family. If you don't want to talk about it, I understand.">>695204
"Then why have the bitter at all?" Hermodur objects dramatically.
Rabi snorts a little, and shakes his head "Nah. We didn't come from the best place, so it wasn't easy to get out of. Being brats didn't help, but…" he chuckles softly>>695203
"Hmm? Something up, Black?"
"Or ze real queztion. How did zhe get all ze way out here? Zey found her soaked in zea water.
Zunden whispers excitedly,
"It'z an interezting myztery! I'm actually quiet interezted in knowing what happened."
I snort and bust into laughter. "Raised by rats? And they'd, what, bring me little scraps of food and put them in my mouth while I was a baby?" I wipe a tear from my eye and catch my breath. "No, no. It's just-" I clear my throat and look around. My voice falls a little. "I guess I'm just not really comfortable talking around all of these people. I don't know. I guess if you're actually interested."
"Bitter in itself balances the taste, Hermodur! If the entire dish was sweet you would be overwhelmed with the taste. Much like life a bitter taste make the rest all the sweeter!" i dramatically reply, forking another load of salad.
"Nonsense!" Hermodur objects. "Just give me sweet in excess! And I will never bore of it.">>695211
"We can talk later if you prefer," Hermodur shrugs. "But, if it brings you comfort, you're not the only one with uncomfortable memories.">>695208
"I understand completely. If it weren't for Ailuros, I'd still be trapped in Abyssinia."
The griffon swallows. "Hello!" he booms. "Quite a group you have here! Good to have some company for dinner. Lovely place, this. Absolutely lovely." He takes another bite of roast meat.>>695181
You bite into the fish. It has a strong taste not unlike tuna, and has been steamed and seasoned to perfection. >>695183
You try the salad. You aren't familiar with most of its ingredients, but it has a very fresh, crispy taste much like the salad back home. It seems the chefs at this monastery know a thing or two.>>695184
You manage to scrounge some watermelon from a bowl of fruit. As for the rest, you find it quite tasty, although the meat isn't something you're familiar with. It has a slightly bitter aftertaste.
The unicorn finishes downing his soup. "Yeah nah, just passing through mate," he shrugs. "On the way to Braildorn with Gawain there." He nods in the direction of the armored griffon. "Plenty of odd jobs to be done up there, you know? Pretty much the place to be nowadays. You?">>695203
You try some of the stew. It is fairly thick and consists of mainly meat, leeks, carrots and potatoes, everything one could ask for in a healthy meal.>>695199
Most of the diary is ruined beyond legibility, having little more than a few smudges of ink here and there. You catch the word Sanctuary mentioned a few times, a word which Violet's also used on occasion, as well as the phrase "one" or "two of three". There's also a symbol doodled here and there, of a circle split into thirds. Almost like a graph.
Before Hermodur responds to the hooded unicorn, he closes his eyes and takes a bite of the watermelon. He takes a long deep breath as the watermelon merely rests in his mouth. He begins to slowly chew it. He lets the taste wash over him. His face is tranquil and pensive.
Finally, after a pause, he opens his eyes and looks to the hooded unicorn. "We are on an expedition of our own," Hermodur answers enigmatically. "We are fairly new here. Where is Braildorn?"
"Oh, but where are my manners? My name is Hermodur Aput. Now I know Gawain's but I still don't know yours?"
"I don't know. I guess I wouldn't really call it bad. Just kind of sad. And short.">>695214
I fall silent when the other group starts talking.
"Later, then," Hermodur says in an understanding tone.
"Ah, hello there, you two." i reply, offering a wave after finishing my bite of salad.
"I'm Silver Song, Pleasure to meet you both."
Zunden eats some tubers and root vegetables along with her meats, but mostly spends her time wracked trying to figure out the graph.
"Alaz, if only I waz a zcholar and not a healer. I zhould go back to healing the poor gal anyhow, if I want any zleep."
Zunden gets up early to make her way to the infirmary to continue healing, stumped at what the implications of the journal and mare mean.
"Yeah. Didn't expect to get so lucky after getting banished. I mean… I guess it's not like we can go any lower, right? Things have to go up now." he says with a chuckle
He folds his forelegs. "Pretty much all roads lead to it around here. You just keep heading northwards along the mountain range and past Mount Alken until you start seeing places that look like home. There's a whole city out there. Well, kind of."
"Name's Grapeshot," he answers in response to your question. "Used to be a hunter back home, so I figure there's money in it here as well. Dunno about you, but we'll probably be getting out of here before daylight. Got an appointment with someone out there." He shrugs, finishes his soup and excuses himself, stopping briefly to glance back at you all.>>695218
"The pleasure is mine, my good lady," Gawain answers with a grin.>>695219
You excuse yourself and return to the infirmary. You find it abandoned, as the three healers have presumably gone to dinner.>>695220
"Absolutely! We all have to make the most of our plight, I believe. My partner here and I are looking to make quite the fortune over in Braildorn.">>695215>>695216>>695218>>695219>>695220
After a brief chat, you all excuse yourselves and return to the room for the night, with the exception of Zunden who keeps slowly but surely healing the mare.
During the night, you see and hear a few things:
Zunden notices that Aurora is the only one of the three monks who returns to help with the patient. The other two are off performing other duties, according to her. She stays a while, but after about an hour leaves again to do something else.
Back in the dormitories, Violet wakes up somewhat late at night and quietly goes for a late night stroll, returning after about half an hour.
The two Felids are staying across the hall from you, but never once say a word to you or even acknowledge your presence, only speaking to each other. Gawain and Grapeshot are staying in separate rooms, further down from where the party are. You don't see much of the former, but the latter only retires to his room after everyone else has; the party see his silhouette moving past their room and into his.
At about midnight, someone runs down the dormitory hall.
The following morning, you are woken by the sound of the great gong. As you go to answer the summons, you find a group of monks in the hallway hastily mopping the floor and muttering among themselves, looking at you with suspicion. You get the feeling something's happened, a feeling when you arrive at the dining room. It is packed with several monks, including Delta, the high priest, Sirius, Procyon and Aurora. Gawain is there, as are the Felid twins, but Grapeshot is conspicuously absent. Also among the crowd is are two adventurer who you do not recognize, a scrawny brown-furred goat in leather gear and an earth pony mare wearing a red veil that covers her entire body, leaving only the eyes visible. The tables aren't set, so it is clear you've been summoned for a reason.
One of the monks speaks up. He appears to be the high priest's personal assistant. "We apologize for the disturbance, honored guests, but something terrible has happened. During the night, there… There was a murder in our halls. One of your own, Grapeshot, has been killed. We do not yet know who could have done it, or why, but until we find answers, I am afraid you may not leave our monastery."
That night, you have a vivid dream. You find yourself surrounded by all sorts of colors, forming vague, indiscernible shapes like an abstract painting. They whirl and dance around you, making your head spin, until they start to merge and coalesce into a familiar shape.
Ailuros Bastet stands in a cavern, staring into a roaring flame. She looks wan, like she has not slept well in a long time, but still she remains an inspiring presence. By her side is a unicorn mare in a red full body veil, leaving only the eyes visible. She seems to be transfixed by the flames, unblinking as she stares into the blinding light.
Looking around the cavern, you can see that it has been turned into a refuge of sorts. There are other tunnels leading to other adjacent chambers, lit up with torch sconces. The cavern itself has been made into a makeshift room containing sparse furniture. You notice that Ailuros' hoof is wrapped in a bloody bandage. Looking down at yourself, you see you are transparent, and seem to shift in and out of focus.
"Well?" Ailuros' voice sounds impatient and demanding, but she looks nervous. Her question is met with silence for a moment, then…
"I… I see a form, Your Majesty. It is the one who gave himself to you. Your lost herald." The veiled mare does not move from her gaze into the flame, as if in a trance.
"The lost herald seeks a new purpose, and has joined with four, and an itinerant fifth. The reader. The whisperer. The scorned scion, the penitent thief. The wayfarer. He is sworn to them, as he was sworn to you. …The five have traveled far, through copse and fen, and yet have so much more to come. They have met with the Litharge pellar, and will meet with him again. A choice is presented to them, one that may sow discord. Soon will come the seer, and then…"
"And then?" Ailuros urges.
"…Red. A sea of red. Secrets long buried. Old memories and shadows rising. Then… The fallen one… Chaos…"
Ailuros seems to lose her nerve. "Enough of this! Guards! Take her away!"
"As you wish, Your Majesty." Her trance seems to be broken, and she turns back to face Ailuros. "I apologize, but… the flames cannot be read like a book. Everyone interprets their dances differently. I only say what I saw. Others will doubtless say different." A pair of armed guards come readily, dutifully escorting the oracle away, leaving Ailuros alone with the crackling flames. She keeps staring into them, lost in thought, mouthing something under her breath. Then, with a frustrated cry, she snuffs out the flames with a burst of magic, storming out of the room.
Then her form shifts and distorts, as does the surrounding cavern, dissolving back into swirling colors. You wake to the sound of the great gong, a cold sweat on your brow.
Rabi looks taken aback at the mention of a murder, and lets out an uneasy whinny "W-Well, is there any way we could help? What do you know?" he asks.
Hermodur woke up and stared at the ceiling above him for a while. She was looking for him. Somehow, he never expected that would ever happen. It made him… uncomfortable. He didn't know why.
Silently, he sat up and contemplated what to do. He tried to think of some way to indicate to her that he knew she was looking for him. He didn't even know why. What would it help if she knew?
Finally, he resolved that the only way to make his dedication known was by committing some great act in her name. He would know what that act was when they time came. There was a choice coming? Good. That would be the time he needed.
With newfound resolve, he stood up and went to meet with everyone else.>>695221
"Well, I suppose I was right, in a sense," Hermodur commented in an amused tone. "The hooded unicorn WAS ominous."
Zunden, slightly sleep deprived, squinting as she eyes the crowd.
"Ze body, where iz it."
she says flatly, bereft of any joyfulness her more restful self has.
following the sound of the gong, i take a moment to slip my dress on before trotting out to the meeting hall. Upon hearing the news, however, i dutifully stifle a gasp with my wing.
"Oh my, a murder
? How tragic!"
"I don't suppose we
could be of any help, hmm? Doubtless your acolytes are spread thin as is, combing the grounds for evidence."
I amble into the room with everyone else, dragging my feet. I didn't expect them to have breakfast so early for some reason. My head is still foggy from waking up, and I haven't bothered to put on my suit jacket and instead just wear my tattered, stained white undershirt. It's more than halfway before I even realize that I've forgotten to grab my cage.
All of that changes when I see everyone sombrely hanging around the room and the table still unset. I swallow and look around, suddenly on edge. I feel my stomach sink when I hear about Grapeshot.
My knees feel week, and I stumble a bit. I speak, and my voice cracks. "Wait," I say. "You actually want to see the body? Why?"
"As it stands, we know very little. We found the body in a closet in the early hours of the morning, stabbed in the back. The murder therefore must have happened late last night, while we monks were going about our business. The exact time of death, however, is unclear. It seems that the body was moved at some point, as we found bloodstains in the hallway outside your rooms. That is all we know thus far.">>695375
"…Indeed." Neither he nor the high priest look amused. It occurs to you that you might be one of the prime suspects in this case, as you are the only one that you know of that refused to surrender their weapon.>>695376
"For now, we have left it undisturbed. However, once we have gathered enough evidence, we will transport it to the medical ward for an autopsy.">>695377
"Perhaps. We will see. First, we must determine everyone's position last night.">>695374>>695375>>695376>>695377>>695379
Looking around at the other guests, you see their reactions differing. Gawain looks thoroughly shaken at the news of his companion's demise, and the two Felids look both surprised and intrigued. Violet and the armored goat merely look confused, while the mare in the red veil's expression is impossible to discern. Hermodur recognizes that the oracle he saw in his dream was wearing the same garb, although this seems to be a different pony.
After talking among themselves for a while, the monks and the other guests begin to file out, eventually leaving only Delta, the high priest's assistant, and the apprentice healer Aurora. There are also a few other monks standing by the doors of the dining room. "I apologize for this inconvenience," the assistant says to you, "but everyone is a suspect in this case, so we must determine the facts first. The other guests will be questioned later, but as you arrived in a group, we must determine the facts first."
He nods to the monks by the doors, who bow slightly and close them on you, keeping you inside. The assistant sits down and takes out a quill and ink, jotting something down before looking back up at you. "My name is Sheratan," he says. "Please state your names for the record, and where you were last night."
Aurora speaks up. "If I may, I can vouch for her." She nods towards Zunden. "She was in the medical ward during the night, taking care of the patient we have. As far as I am aware, she didn't leave that place all night." Sheratan blinks and nods slightly, but makes no comment as he jots something down, looking at you all expectantly.
Rabi is the first to sit down with the assistant, and hurriedly says "My name's Rabi. I was in the sleeping areas with Hermodur and Norvegicus." he says, pointing the two of them out.
"I do not like to zee bodiez, but how are we to know how ze victim was killed unlezz you zee it for yourzelf. Hearzay iz dangerouz."
Zunden says in a low tone,
"Bezidez, I've zeen poizoningz, ztabbingz, you name it. Dezpite it being morbid, there may be cluez unto how ze individual perizhed.">>695381
"I am Zunden, reader of the cardz and healer of vagrantz and wandererz. Az Aurora zaid, I have been tending to ze mare in ze medical ward all night, and have gotten little rezt. I want to zee the body."
She replies, repeating her sentiment.
I clear my throat, but my voice still wavers. "My name is Norvegicus Black, and last night I was sleeping in my room with Rabi, Violet, and Hermodur."
"I should think that given our lack of bladed weapons we'd be excluded from this hunt, but formalities must be followed, i suppose." i reply with a huff, before continuing.
am Silver Song, daughter of Brass Tacks and heiress to Dominion rails. My companions and i had adjourned to the beds provided shortly after dinner and had remained as such until the morning."
"Hermodur Aput," he answers the question simply. "I was sleeping last night… dreaming…" he says, distracted.
Hermodur crosses the room to the veiled mare. "I've seen someone garbed like you before," he says to her. "Does that mean anything to you?"
"There are many ways to stab a victim, and many things which may be used to do so even within a monastery. There's no reason to count us out."
"Hmm, i suppose. Even then, accusations of murder levied against me
are clearly ill thought out and terribly
rude! How could an innocent mare such as myself commit such an atrocious act?"
"So you claim." He seems to be writing down everything you say remarkably quickly.>>695383
"You will be allowed to examine the body once this questioning is through with," Sheratan replies curtly. You notice him scribble an X after writing down your words.>>695384
He seems to struggle with spelling your name, but gets there in the end. He looks at you with scrutiny, but merely nods.>>695385
He nods slowly as he writes down your alibi. "It seems that everyone has the same story." It's hard to tell whether that means he's convinced you're all innocent or not.>>695386
He writes down your name, scribbles something out, then looks back up at you. "Delta says that you refused to surrender your weapon at the gates. That you are the only one that did so, out of your whole group. Why is that, Hermodur?">>695382>>695383>>695384>>695385>>695386
Violet joins in. "My name is Violet Moon. I was with the other four for most of the night."
Sheratan looks up. "Most?"
"I… went for a walk, late last night. I couldn't tell you what time it was, but I have trouble sleeping sometimes, so I figured I'd go for a stroll in the gardens."
Sheratan perks up. "I see. And did you see anything out of the ordinary while on your stroll, Violet?"
She thinks. "…Not really. …Actually, I did see someone walking around near the entrance to the monastery. I just assumed it was one of the monks though, your kind being nocturnal and all. I didn't see who it was though. I can't exactly see in the dark."
"Hm." Sheratan takes this into consideration. "There were indeed monks out and about last night. This is nothing out of the ordinary. What is out of the ordinary is to have someone out of bounds. We don't usually have someone patrolling that area, apart from the gate guard."
He turns back to the lot of you. "I will not keep you waiting. I might have more questions in the future, but for now, I wish to know your relationship with the deceased. Did any of you know Grapeshot before coming here, and did you interact with him during your stay at our monastery?"
Violet answers first. "I can tell you now that I never met him in my life. I wasn't at dinner last night, I was in our room. I was exhausted from the trip here and got some rest instead."
"…So you were alone during dinner?"
"And no one else saw you during this time."
"That's right. I didn't leave the room."
Sheratan writes down the information with no further question, then looks back to you for answers. "As I said, I won't keep you long. Answer this and you are free to go, for now. If you can help with this investigation, it would be most appreciated."
"You zaid ztabbing."
Zunden says as she hears Hermodur being questioned,
"Iz very hard to ztab wizh a hammer. Don't be ztupid."
Zunden sits herself down and crosses her arms, waiting for the questioning to be over so she can get a look herself.
"Hermodur's weapon is special to him. Besides, what's he going to do? Stab someone with a blunt slap of metal?" he offers, before waiting for the rest to finish.
He looks to the others, before asking "So… where should we look, first?"
"As far as I'm aware we've no relation to Grapeshot, aside from the dinner meeting last night, and even then it was really only exchanging pleasantries." i casually reply.
"In any case we'll be sure to look for anything overtly suspicious, for the monastery's sake and ours."
I shake my head. "I'd never met him before last night. There really isn't any point at which I could even imagine crossing paths." I cock an eyebrow. "And I, uh… I'm not sure I'm qualified to help with a murder investigation."
In response, Hermodur merely extends one of his long and sharp claws.>>695388
"I'm sure all they see is a stranger living in a land of exiles.">>695389
"Because my hammer has sentimental value and I will not allow anyone else to handle it in any capacity," Hermodur responds curtly. "Not that my weapon is necessary or relevant to this murder. If it was me, I must have done it with my claws. In which case, why did I keep the hammer?"
"I only met the guy during dinner. You can ask the other guests," Hermodur continues in the same curt tone, not having any of his usual theatrical manner. "You can ask the other guests. I made a snarky comment about the ominous hooded unicorn and asked for his name."
"They do have a point," Delta chimes in. "It's doubtful his hammer was involved in the murder."
Sheratan blushes a little, but keeps writing. "It's my job to ask questions," he mumbles.>>695392>>695393>>695394
"I see." You see him cross out something again. You get the feeling he doesn't really know what he's doing.>>695390>>695391>>695392>>695393>>695394
Sheratan nods to the monks by the doors, who open them again. "You're free to go," he says to you. "We'll contact you if we have any further questions. We're not exactly equipped to deal with these situations ourselves, so any assistance would be very welcome." With a stiff little bow, the monks adjourn, going their separate ways and leaving you to explore the monastery for any hints towards the crime.
You can think of several places where you could check for evidence:
The obvious choice is to inspect the body itself, and/or the place it was found. Sheratan said it would be moved to the medical ward for an autopsy soon, but the closet it was found in could have something of worth.
Grapeshot was found not far from the dormitories, having presumably been the one who you heard run through the hall last night. You could try searching there, specifically in his room.
Violet mentioned having seen something in the garden. It might be difficult to find clues there, but it's a decent lead. The lakeside docks could be worth investigating as well.
You could also try questioning the other guests: Gawain, the Felids, the veiled mare and the goat in leather. Any of them could know more about Grapeshot.
Finally, although it has not been mentioned thus far, the prayer hall containing the Eye of Luna could have something worth investigating.
stepping out of the meeting hall, i turn to the others.
"I suppose we should start looking for evidence? Given my charming demeanor I've no doubt i could convince the other guests to tell what they know."
Zunden heads to the where the body was found, without any words to the others.
"Someone gets killed, blame the felid," Hermodur grumbles angrily. "Every time.">>695396
"You do that," Hermodur says in a distracted manner as he departs from the group.
Hermodur tries to find that veiled mare. [1d10] to find her room!Roll #1 10 = 10
I leave the meeting hall as well. "Well, I guess if we're actually doing this then that's a good place to start. I'm not sure I completely understand why they even care, though. It wasn't one of the monks that was killed, right? So shouldn't that make them less inclined to have a bunch of strangers and potential murderers around their monesrary instead of more?"
>>695395>>695397>heading to place of murder
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"I'm certain they'd rather find this killer than risk another death by inaction, or worse yet, a monk killed by an active murderer.">>695391
"Hermodur and zunden are far from cooperative, so i suppose it falls to us three to search the area ourselves."
"Norvegicus, would you be able to pick up a scent from that garden wanderer? As i recall diamond dogs have quite the nose for such things."
"Right. As nice as this place is, I'd rather we eventually get back on the road." he says, before offering a little shrug "Seems like this's your environment then, Silver. I'll follow your lead."
Furrowing my brow, i take on a serious look as i consider my options.
"With zunden off to check the body, i'll have you poke through Grapeshot's room. Perhaps the killer had a material motive, something Grapeshot had that had to be 'liberated' from his things."
"I'll be heading the same way, so make sure to report back with what you find, Rabi."
I shrug. "I can certainly try. I've used my sense of smell to find infestation concentrations before, so it's not like last time when I'd never even had any experience digging. I'd probably need something to compare the smell to, though."
"Right, It'd be best to start with his partner, Gawain. He seemed the sort to divulge what he knows, given his relations to the deceased."
with that i start making my way towards the rooms, on the hunt for Gawain.
"Hmm.. Violet did
mention being in the area, if you could find her scent you may be able to narrow down the options to what doesn't
smell like her, and follow from there."Roll #1 8 = 8
I blush a little at the thought of asking Violet to get her scent, but shake it away. "Right. I'll try that then." I head to the garden, drop my nose to the ground, and start sniffin' in an attempt to see if I can pick out any particular smells. Part of me wonders if I'll even be able to separate any specifically, since quite a few people likely come through here.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Rabi offers a mock-salute, and heads off for Grapeshot's room "Right. I'll see if his stuff's been disturbed, or messed with. If not, maybe we can start seeing who here might've had a vendetta."
You head back towards your dormitories and down the hall, where you can see a couple of monks talking among themselves near a closet. You assume this is where Grapeshot was found, but it seems he has been taken to the medical ward already. The closet is stained with blood on the inside, and contains bloodstained clothes and linens. It looks to you like it was disturbed rather suddenly, but the lack of any signs of a struggle apart from the blood suggests that the killer might have shoved the body in the closet as an attempt to hide it temporarily, and not where the actual murder took place. You also notice that while there is blood, there isn't much of it, at least not to the extent you'd expect from a stabbing.>>695398
You head back towards the dormitories, where you can smell incense burning. Following your nose, you head to the door it's coming from and knock gently. The veiled mare answers, staring at you with intense orange eyes. "Greetings," she says in a soft voice. "I suspect you are here about the murder case?" She steps aside. "I have nothing to hide. Please, come in.">>695399
Violet chimes in on the conversation. "It seems to me that they want their monastery to be a refuge, a place of zen and peace. A murder in their halls goes against what they stand for, so I imagine they feel it's their duty to get to the bottom of it.">>695405
You head back to the dormitories, but do not find Gawain anywhere. You keep searching for him around the area, eventually finding him at the lakeside docks, staring out at the water while munching on a pastry of some sort. He does a double take as you approach, turning to face you.
"Oh! Hello. Forgive me, I was just absorbed in thought. I remember you from dinner last night. I don't believe I know your name, madame. May I help you?">>695406
As you suspected, it is difficult to discern any specific scent in the gardens, due to how often people pass through here. The smell of dozens if not hundreds of people is particularly strong near the weapons shed, likely due to the amount of visitors that pass through this monastery.>>695407>>695408
"I'll come too," Violet offers. "I'll keep my eye peeled."
You head over to the dormitories, easily finding Grapeshot's room. You can see that there was definitely a struggle here, judging by how the mattress is askew and bloodstained. However, a first search reveals nothing of value, not even in Grapeshot's personal belongings, which consist largely of nondescript camping equipment. Violet seems stumped as well, having found nothing herself. "What do you think?" she asks. "Should we keep looking?"
"I wager it's worth another round of searching. This looks bloody, and rough. S-Something had to be left, right?" he suggests, a little unsettled by the scene "Maybe… hrm-" he trails off, trying to feel around for any sort of leftover, magic presence. Failing that, he'll try giving the room another sweep>(Magic) Search [1d10]
"I wonder if this Grapeshot was carrying something that'd mark him as a target. Something magic, maybe?"Roll #1 7 = 7
"You are certainly the most… unknown element in all of this," Hermodur responds to her as he steps into her room and looks around. "But, I'm not here about the murder. At least, not primarily."
"I've recently seen someone else dressed in garb very similar to yours. Does that mean anything to you?"
"Oh? My apologies, i had thought we had been properly introduced."
"I am Silver Song, daughter of Brass Tacks and heiress to Dominion Rails." i lead in, offering a bow with my wings partially extended in a sort of curtsy.
"I had hoped we'd meet under better circumstances but it seems reality had other plans. Do you have a moment for some questions over Grapeshot? It had looked like you two knew each other to a degree."
>>695409'Interesting, I'll have to check to see if there are any tracks nearby, or specks of blood that'll lead to where the actual murder took place.'
Zunden checks the floor out for any clues, cursing saurian curses under her breath as she remembers the monks mopping the floor earlier, hoping it wasn't here as well.
[1d10]'I need some sleep'Roll #1 7 = 7
I sigh. Yeah, that's what I thought. I swallow. Maybe it'll be a little better at the actual crime scene, but I really don't want to see it. I take a deep breath and head towards the scene with Zunden, trying to keep my sniffer trailed towards anything out of place.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
You keep searching the room, first trying to scry for any traces of magic, but fail to find anything. With that, you keep searching around the room for anything of value. Eventually, you find something: a small, scrunched up piece of paper at the bottom of Grapeshot's pack. As you unfold it, you find that it has two words written on it: "REMEMBER BELLATRIX". It looks like it's been in his pack for a while.
Violet sniffs the air for a moment. "Smell that?" You soon notice what she means: apart from the faint irony tang of blood, there is also an odd chemical smell. Perhaps a knockout agent of some kind was used.>>695411
You see that she's made herself at home, suggesting she's been at the temple a while. A nearby drawer has been set up with an array of censers and candles, and there is a small effigy depicting Celestia nearby. In an open closet, you can see an array of other red veils.
"Perhaps," she answers. "We Fire Witches are widespread in the Dominion. It is not uncommon for some to seek us out for answers in the flames. My sisters and I are gifted with prophetic knowledge by the Sun Princess, you see, although the future is never set in stone." She never once takes her eyes off you. "I doubt it is mere coincidence that we meet, Hermodur. You have a touch of destiny about you. As do your companions. I felt it the moment you entered this monastery."
She takes a seat on a nearby cushioned footstool. her eyes make you slightly uneasy. "So, what can I do for you? You want answers, I imagine.">>695412
"A pleasure, I'm sure. I am Sir Gawain of Andraxis. Although, the status of my knighthood now is dubious, I suppose."
"Ask away, my dear lady, although I must say, I didn't know Grapeshot very well. I met him a few days ago in the village of Shady Banks. He was looking for a bodyguard, you see, on his way to Braildorn. He struck me as an unsavory sort of character, but money is money. It's just hard to believe he was slain here of all places…">>695413
You look around. While the monks seem to have cleaned most of it, you notice some dirt around the closet and in the corners of the hallway, most likely from outside. Everywhere else seems relatively dirt-free, making its presence conspicuous.
You are soon joined by Norvegicus, covered in spiderwebs.>>695414
As you keep low to the ground, sniffing for clues, you stumble headlong into an old spiderweb. The spider scuttles in a panic over your body, then vanishes from view as only spiders can. You get the feeling it's going to come back to haunt you someday.
You go back inside and retrace your steps, eventually finding Zunden hard at work searching for clues. You can see a bloody closet nearby, presumably where Grapeshot was found.
I stumble backwards and land on my butt as soon as the spiderweb touches my face and let out a shrill shriek. Already on edge because of the murder, I feel like my heart is going to explode at the sudden start. I feel a little uneasy as I look around for it and see that it's gone.
By the time I find Zunden I've eased my breathing and I'm only as on edge as I was to begin with. I look up at Zunden, not realizing I still haven't completely wiped away the webs.
Out of the corner of my eye I see the bloody closet and feel sick to my stomach. I waver on my feet a little, but manage to stay standing. Trying to force my attention away, I focus specifically on Zunden. "Any luck in here?"
Oh, yeah. I smell that alright… and, take a look at this." he mentions, holding up the scrunched up piece of paper "Heard of anyone named Bellatrix? He seemed to want to remember that."
"Very true, quite the surprise somepony managed to target him here."
"Did he ever mention who he was seeking protection from? Did he recognize anyone here that could have been a threat?"
"A fire witch, hmm?" Hermodur nods. "That matches what I know. So, you can discern information from flames? Is there any way for you to transfer information through it?"
"And, on a possibly related note, do you know if there are any of your sisters in Equestria?"
As Hermodur, he looks around the room at the decorations. He lingers on the image of Celestia and squints his eyes for a moment before moving on.
Hermodur scans the room for anything that looks like it might not belong here. [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
"Ah, Norvegicuz, good morning to you."
Zunden says, her morning grumpiness momentary abated as she looks at the dog in the strange predicament, taking the end of her tunic and wiping the cobwebs off of him.
"Zhat iz ze queztion. I zhink I've got a lead, Atleazt. I azzume you don't want to come zee the body, zo why don't you come wizh me and follow where zhiz dirt leadz outzide."
she starts walking through the hallway, keeping an eye on the dirt,
"How about yourzelf? You clearly have been… looking in interzting plazez, conzidering ze cobwebz."
"Huh. Didn't expect you to know I wouldn't want to see the body. I guess I've been pretty transparent about how uneasy that sort of stuff makes me, but a lot of the time it kind of feels like nobody really pays attention."
I squinch my eyes shut as Zunden wipes the cobwebs away. When she pulls away my nose twitches and I sneeze. I turn and follow her. "I've been trying to pick up the murderer's scent, but there are just too many people passing through everywhere. Everything just keeps sort of mixing together into one big blah." I furrow my brow and look down at the dirt, following it along with you.
"Yeah, that could be a pretty big clue." I drop to the ground and sniff it in hopes of picking up the scent of whoever tracked it in.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"People like to lizten only about zhemzelvez. I've made my life liztening to ozherz and trying to help them along zheir pazhz."
"Well hopefully zhiz might be a bit more fruitful, conzidering zhey probably came zhiz way."
Your quite un-manly shriek gets the attention of a curmudgeonly old monk tending to some nearby flowers, who just shakes his head and grumbles indistinctly at you.
As you stand talking to Zunden later, you get a faint whiff of a chemical smell. Chloroform, maybe, or alcohol.>>695417
She looks at it and shakes her head. "Doesn't ring a bell, no. Might have to ask around. Sounds important, whoever she is.">>695418
"He never spoke about it, no. And I didn't pry either. As far as I was concerned, he was just my employer, and nothing more. Whatever happened in his past, however, he seemed very paranoid about it, to the point that he refused to share a room with me once we got here. Maybe he thought I
would be the one to murder him in my sleep. It turned out to be a mistake on his part, I suppose." He chuckles and shrugs. "I'm not sure what I'll do now, really. Probably just keep on moving towards Braildorn. It's safer there. At least, as safe as you can get here." He picks up a nearby stone and skims it across the surface of the lake.>>695419
"Information can be transferred, but only through dragonfire," she answers. "As it was done in the days of yore. If you are thinking of trying to access the outside world, then I would suggest seeking it out. Other flames are only there for us to interpret their meaning."
"There are many of us in Equestria, yes. As there are here in the Echoes. We keep to ourselves, mostly, but some, like myself, prefer to travel. There are always some in need of our services."
You keep looking around the room curiously. Apart from the Fire Witch's personal belongings, there does not seem to be anything out of place that you can see. You can feel her staring at your back.
"You seek answers about the events of last night," she states plainly. "You will not find them here. I was not involved. The only advice I can offer you is this, Hermodur Aput. I heard a female voice cry out in pain in the middle of the night. I sleep lightly, so I was roused by it. Perhaps it will serve you and yours in your investigation.">>695421
You manage to pick up a peculiar scent in the hall. Following your nose, you exit back into the garden and across to where the entrance is, leading you all the way back to the weapon shed.>>695420
You follow Norvegicus as he picks up a scent. The trail of dirt leads back into the garden, where it is impossible to distinguish from all the other dirt. However, Norv seems to have found something, as he leads you back to the shed containing all your weapons.
*lizten only to zhemzelvez
"Right. Let's return to Silver then. yeah?" he says, folding up the strip of paper and tucking it away, before heading to group up.
"Dragonfire? I should have thought of that sooner!" Hermodur hits himself lightly ont he head. "Thank you. You've been most helpful in more ways than one."
"One last question for you before I go. How do the monks of Luna feel about a worshiper of Celestia in their temple?"
Hm. Chloroform. I've used that before.
I drop to the ground, and my tail stiffens as I smell something strange. I continue sniffing the general area around the dirt as I follow the scent. I stand up just outside the weapons shed.
"Here," I say. "I was just here and couldn't smell anything, but I think having something to focus on helped. Something smells off." I try to open the door.
"Oh, and in case I need to find you later. What is your name?"
"Ah, so you were in separate rooms? Did you hear anything of note coming from his room last night? Given their mention of the state of the body there must have been some form of struggle at least.."
While Norv scopes out the weapon shack, Zunden checks for signs of tampering with the lock.
"Let'z zee if it waz an inzide job, or zomeone broke in."
"I think we should see if someone will let us in here. Do you think you know who could?"
You start looking around the monastery, eventually finding Silver by the lakeside talking to Gawain. He turns around as he hears you coming, holding up a claw in greeting. "Hello there! How goes the investigation?">>695427>>695429
She nods slightly at your gratitude, but offers no comment.
"They do not judge," she answers. "And why would they? Were the Sun and Moon not kin before ascending? We are of the same faith in the end. I will not stay for much longer, however. I feel I am beginning to outstay my welcome."
"My name is Fever Ray," she answers. "Farewell, herald. We will meet again.">>695428>>695431
You find that the lock has only been made to look closed, and the door is in fact completely open. Opening the door, you find all of your equipment still in place, except for one. Silver Song's dagger is missing. You search the shed several times, but there is no trace of it at all.>>695430
"I heard some footsteps in the hallway last night, but I didn't think much of it. About an hour or two later, I was woken up by someone crying out softly, but it didn't sound like a stallion to me. I went out into the hall just to make sure, and I knocked on his door, but he just told me to go away. …Come to think of it, his voice sounded a bit muffled… Hmm…"
"H'mmm…" I crouch down again and do more sniffing, hoping I can catch the weird scent again.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Hermodur glares at Fever Ray as she says her farewell. But, he decides to leave it for later.
Hermodur takes a walk to where the Eye of Luna is on display.
"Hmm.. So is seems we stand to narrow the search down, at least."
"That would be all, for now at least. Thank you for clearing this up, it's been a pleasure."
Zunden responds, closing her eyes and probably looking like she's doing something mystical, but in reality basking briefly in the sunlight and resting her weary eyes.
>Bask: Prowler's Snare
"Ah, hello again. It's going… well, I think? I hope? This isn't really my thing… we did find something of note though, Silver."
"Ah, so grapeshot did have something of notes after all!"
"Do tell, it may be important. "
You try to catch the scent again, but it's impossible to make it out among the dozens of other scents. It's like trying to find a hay straw in a haystack.>>695437
You leave the dormitories and keep walking towards the main prayer room, where the elaborate altar to Luna is kept. You see several monks sitting cross-legged in meditation, facing the Eye of Luna. You find yourself slightly captivated by it, despite yourself, with its rich hues of blue and silver glittering like a million stars.
Nearby, you can see Sheratan and Delta talking among themselves, presumably discussing the murder case. As you enter, they greet you. "Hello again," says Sheratan. "Have you found out anything about the situation?">>695438
"Any time, my lady. If you'll excuse me…" He takes his leave and heads off back inside, nodding politely towards Violet and Rabi.>>695439
You take a quick catnap, charging your new bracelet with the power of sunlight. It starts glowing subtly.
"Here we are… he wanted to remember someone named "Bellatrix."
"Bellatrix? My, that sounds familiar…"
Taking a moment, I try and recall what I know of the name.
"I believe it belonged to an old family line, though the specifics escape me."Roll #1 6 = 6
The name is familiar to you, being as well-connected as you are. The Viscountess Bellatrix of Arbanville was the victim of a much-publicized murder in Animus about 15 years ago. The exact details of it elude you, but it is a fairly well-known case in the public eye.
"Well, you certainly are good at this whole, detective thing. I don't remember names very well, to be honest…" he says, with a nervous chuckle
"H'm. Can't pick the smell back up again." I step out of the shed. "Looks like one of Silver's dagger thingies is missing, though, so this wasn't for nothing."
"Ah yes, the viscountess of the same name. As I recall she was the victim of a dreadful murder some fifteen years ago, in animus. Given the length of time since her death it's odd he wanted to remember her. Perhaps it was a note from the killer?"
"I zee… well, dezpite her blue-blooded nature, I don't zhink zhe'd be ztupid enough to uze her own weapon to murder when zhere'z plenty ozherz here zhat could be uzed for framing zomeone. Bezidez, what motive could zhe have?"
Zunden says, pondering with her eyes still closed.
"Well, she doesn't strike me as the type to just outright stab him either. I get the feeling-" I lick my lips, and my mouth suddenly feels a little dry. I clear my throat and continue. "I get the feeling that if she wanted to kill him she'd have just poisoned his food or something." Just the thought makes me uneasy.
"Hrm… oh, I don't like the sound of that. And, I'd wager not. This note'd been there for some time, so unless the killer put it there preemptively, that's pretty unlikely. Maybe this Bellatrx's around here, too, and he'd have a reason to want to avoid her?"
Zunden chortles, eyes opening to look at the dog,
"Hahaha yez, I zuppoze that would fit her moduz operandi. Cruel, but logical."
"So, wait. Does that mean we need to look for Silver's weapon? And whoever has it is an immediate suspect? It couldn't be that easy, right?"
"Zhey could have planted in in another'z room eazily enough, but it certainly iz a clue. If zhey were zloppy enough to dump the body in a clozet, it could be zhat easy."
"I had a chance to check it out, actually- Didn't find a murder weapon. It was definitely a struggle, though, and he had an old note stuffed in his pack, that had 'Remember Bellatrix' on it… apparently some Countess, or something. Banished more than 15 years ago."
"It doesn't seem as if its Fever Ray," Hermodur answers Sheratan. "Also, she said she heard a woman shout in the middle of the night."
"But, that's not why I'm here," he says as he leans his back on a nearby wall and crosses his arms. "I'm here for the inevitable show."
Hermodur scans the room to see if there is any indicator of a scuffle happening here recently. Anything out of place. Any blood stains poorly mopped up. Stuff like that. [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"It's certainly not out of the question that the viscountess was banished
and covered up rather than killed, as I can attest, but what would somepony like grapeshot have to worry about?"
"I've a feeling we're missing something important here.. We had better check with the others.">>695442
leaving the docks behind, i head back into the monastery on the lookout for the others.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 3 = 3
"Yeah. Maybe there's something one of the others's turned up that would… clear things up a little." he says, before shrugging "Maybe Grapeshot wasn't who he appeared to be."
"Anywayz, I digrezz. I've wanted to look at ze body for a while now. You can wait outzide, if you don't want to look ad ze cadaver."
Zunden says, making for the medical ward.
I follow Zunden back to the medical ward and wait outside. "Yeah. I think I'll do that."
You don't see anything out of the ordinary. The room looks much the same as it did when you arrived.
"Yes, Sister does seem like the least likely suspect," Sheratan answers. "We believe we may have already found the killer, though. Or at least, a prime suspect. Gawain is the only one that we know of to have ties to the victim. They arrived together a day before you did, after all. We're having him questioned right now."
"We still haven't interviewed everyone, though," Delta chimes in, rifling through a notebook. "We have spoken to your group, as well as many of our own acolytes. Not that any of us would dare to, but someone must have seen something. We have someone going to speak with Sister Ray, and Gawain will be undergoing questioning shortly. Which leaves Urquhart, as well as the twins Chantal and Zelda."
Delta looks puzzled at the second part of your statement, while Sheratan looks suspicious of you. "I… don't understand," Delta says. "What show? What are you talking about?" >>695648>>695650
As you head back through the gardens, you spot Zunden heading into what looks like the medical ward. Norvegicus is waiting outside patiently.>>695652>>695653
You follow Zunden towards the medical ward, standing outside on the monastery grounds as you wait for her to finish the examination. As you wait, you see Rabi and Silver approaching you.>>695651
You head towards the medical ward, where you find Sirius and Procyon examining what must be the body. Aurora is absent.
"Oh, hello again," says Procyon. He has a much deeper voice than his brother. "You're right on time. We were just performing an autopsy on the deceased. I hear you and your group are investigating the case right now." They move aside to let you have a look, revealing the corpse. It is a rather gruesome sight, but the first thing you notice is that there is only a singular stab wound in the back. More than that would require a more thorough examination.
"Hey, look- maybe Zunden's picked up something that might help tie all this together?" he suggests, gesturing to the lizard
I lean against the wall and smooth out my shirt. Maybe I'll take the chance to actually drop back by my room and grab my suit.
I look up and wave to Rabi and Silver. "You guys find anything?"
seeing the two by the medical ward, i quickly make my way over to the door, peeking inside but leaving the specifics to the saurian.>>695656
"Ah, Norvegicus, there you are."
"Sadly nothing yet, I spoke with Gawain who assured me he wasn't aware of the killing. The pair slept in different rooms you see, though he did
hear what sounded like a mare's voice."
"How was the tracking? any scent of the killer?"
Hermodur smiles. "There was a murder in an abbey. The only one with any ties to the victim was his own bodyguard. I don't deny that being a bodyguard doesn't excuse you from a crime. But, he IS a bodyguard. A professional. He wouldn't kill him in an abbey. Too messy. Too easily found out. I mean, we've seen how sloppily the body was hidden."
"Which is the second issue with this crime. The culprit - regardless of who it is - could have killed the guy virtually anywhere else and there'd be no repercussions. This world isn't exactly big on laws and rules. This is practically the one place in MILES that anyone would actually be in trouble for killing."
"So, why do it? Why kill him here? Obviously, because there is something here worth killing for. Any guesses what that would be?" Hermodur asks rhetorically with a smile.
"I picked up a weird scent, but lost it. Not before I found something, though." I clear my throat and look around to try and make sure nobody is listening before leaning in right next to Silver's ear. "The door to the weapon shed was unlocked and one of your knife things was gone."
"Yez yez, poizoning the probable cauze of deazh."
Zunden says, looking the body over slowly, first the stab for signs of the telltale ichor of the sleep poison, then checking the neck and hooves for signs of abrasion or piercings that may come from a struggle or biting.
*"Bloodlozz after being poizoned
"Really?" i respond in surprise "so.. this butcher
thought themselves clever using one of my
"Oooh i should hope they find this thug before i
do, else i'd be happy to demonstrate just how "clever" it was, stealing an artist's tools!" i add, pacing the halls in a huff.
"I found a name, but we're not sure what she'd have to do with this… but, he seemed really intent on remembering her."
I back back up. "It kind of sounds like you're being framed, honestly. I get the feeling you wouldn't be stupid enough to leave so many obvious tracks behind."
"Of course not! I'd never be so dull as to simply stuff the body into a supply closet
Remembering where we are, i manage to calm down.
"If i were
to commit such a ridiculous murder, which i, a mare of higher standing would never
do, I'd have carried the evidence off and left long before anypony would notice."
"And to leave my blades behind? Unthinkable, those shivs are masterfully crafted, they would never leave my side."
Rabi chuckles a little bit, before offering a smile "So, the killer was someone low-brow, then?"
You see Zunden and two other monks that were present at the initial announcement huddling over a bed, presumably where the body is.>>695658
They frown at the implication. "…No, no, it doesn't add up," Sheratan ponders, starting to pace around the altar. "If anyone had tried to take the Eye, there would be signs of a struggle. Not to mention how difficult it would be to hide something as large as it. And why return it, if that was what the theoretical fight was over."
Delta looks a little more positive, although similarly skeptical of your theory. "From what we know so far, there are three possibilities. One, the easy solution: Gawain did it by sneaking across the hall in the middle of the night and attacking him. The motive is anyone's guess. Two, someone else entirely snuck in from outside and did the deed. Or three, it was one of our own." They both look grim at the suggestion.
"Personally, I believe Gawain to be the culprit," Sheratan says. "But there are other solutions. Maybe your companions could have found something?">>695660>>695662
You notice some heavy bruising around the victim's throat and some blood on his hoof, despite there being no injury there, but are unable to glean much else upon first inspection.
Sirius starts examining the stab wound, while Procyon takes the lapis lazuli necklace he and the other healers wear and begins slowly passing it over the body. It glows slightly.
"Hm. That's interesting," Sirius muses. "Look here." He directs your attention to the stab wound, grabbing a pair of tweezers and opening the wound slightly. You can see that while it wounded him fairly heavily, the blade did not cut deep. "It seems unlikely this wound was what killed our friend here. It seems like his killer tried to stab him to death, but failed."
Procyon puts the lapis lazuli away. "I sense no signs of magical interference either, nor of any poison. Judging from the bruising around the throat, perhaps he was strangled to death. What do you think?" he asks you.>>695667
"Or an amateur," Violet chimes in. "At least that's what it looks like to me. Whoever the killer was, they don't seem to have much experience with it."
"From the sound of things and the state of the killing, i've no doubt about it." i firmly state.
"Perhaps i should see that body after all, one glance at the result and i could easily confirm it."
I stay outside the room, but listen in on the conversation. "Maybe the killer didn't even actually plan on killing him in the first place? If it's as sloppy as it seems like it is then maybe whoever was trying to steal the eye ended up getting in the way? If that happened then they would probably at least know not to keep the eye after." I sigh and lean against the wall again, closing my eyes. "Then again, yeah. The lack of a struggle does make it seem like it's probably premeditated."
My stomach sinks as I hear Sirius describing the body. Something makes me feel like this is almost worse than actually seeing it. Still, I manage a chuckle when I hear Violet. "Yeah, that seems to be the consensus so far."
"Obviously, if the would-be thief won the struggle, then you are correct; Luna's Eye would not be here. It was not ever returned because it was exactly where the winner of the fight wanted it to be. In other words, the murderer was defending Luna's Eye."
"You are right, though. There SHOULD be signs of a struggle here," Hermodur adds with a frown. "However, I couldn't help but notice that your own monks were very busy cleaning up the temple this morning. Why? Who ordered that? Why would they be cleaning up a potential crime scene? Everything in the entire abbey should have been left exactly where it was. Seems very suspicious."
"Maybe my companions HAVE found more information," Hermodur says with a shrug. "If you want to know, go ask them. I'm not much of an investigator. But, I HAVE done my fair share of hunting - many of whom were criminals. If there's one thing that holds shockingly true," Hermodur looks directly at Sheratan. "The criminal always returns to the scene of the crime."
"Given we found mizzing weaponz from ze zhack, and ze ztruggle apparently given after a failed ztabbing, I propoze ze killer waz not familiar wizh the ze weapon meant to murder the victim. After being ztabbed, zheir waz a brief ztruggle, and ze killer rezorted to choking ze victim to deazh, carrying or dragging zhem to ze clozet to hide zhem momentarily, likely becauze zhingz had not gone to plan."
Zunden says, rubbing her claws on her pointed chin,
"I only prezumed poizon becauze ze ztolen bladez are uzually coated in it. Ze real queztion iz whezher ze blood on ze victim'z hoovez iz hiz own, or ze murder'z."
"Definitely. It wasn't even close to clean, quick, or painless. The two struggled for a while."
"Hmm. I suppose then we could narrow the list down to those who aren't practiced fighters, which would eliminate most of the guests."
"Doing that would leave our options at 'one of the monks' or some outside attacker.."
"Doesn't that also narrow the list down to non ponies? I can't imagine strangling someone with hooves."
"So it could have been anyone. Most of the guests don't seem like fighters to me, apart from Gawain or the goat. Fat lot of progress we've made." She seems frustrated at the delay, clearly eager to get back on the road. "Well, at least we have that name you found. Bellatrix. Maybe one of the other guests would recognize it? Gawain seems fairly highborn, for one. And so do those two weird Felids, and the Fire Witch back there as well. They could recognize the name like Silver did. I'm thinking I might go and talk to the lot of them about it. Unless one of you wanted to do it?">>695671
"Because there was blood and dirt all over the floor in front of the guest rooms," Sheratan replies indignantly. "We can't have that. It's unsightly. We did our best to mitigate the damage caused by last night's incident while trying to preserve the scene of the crime as best we could."
"You would do best to watch your tongue," Sheratan snaps as you vaguely accuse him. Delta too looks slightly shocked. "I am the personal assistant to the high priest himself. I was by his Holiness' side all night, and He can attest to that himself. Now run along, outsider. You are outwearing your welcome in this sacred place.">>695672
"That seems likely," Sirius concurs. "It's fairly clear now that the murderer was no assassin."
"Blood? What blood?" Procyon looks a bit confused until you point out the smear of it on his hoof. "Well now, that's interesting. He couldn't have reached the spot on his back, which we've established was a rather shallow wound, so it must have come from somewhere else. Perhaps he managed to turn the knife on his attacker, in which case we are looking for someone concealing a wound. Or, a more likely option, he could have just touched his own bloodstain by accident.">>695675
"They could have used a rope or something," Violet suggests. "Strangling doesn't really rule anyone out if you ask me."
"I was just informing you why I'm here," Hermodur responds to Sheratin in a level tone, turning his gaze to Luna's Eye. "The criminal WILL be back. And, when he does come back, I will catch him."
"But, if it makes you feel better, I will hold my tongue until then."
Hermodur does not move.
I blush and look away. "Oh. Yeah. Right. I guess that's true." I sigh. Probably should have just kept my mouth shut to begin with.
"Well zhen, I zuggezt we ztrip everyone down. The wound haz to be frezh, if zhere iz one. Have zomeone ring the bell and we'll ztart ztripping people. Eazy enough."
Zunden says, passively.
"Yeah, maybe if we start asking around, we'll get a reaction from someone, at the least. Who first?"
"I suppose i could check in with the felids, certainly a better use of time than my loitering here.">>695673
"Rabi, would you accompany me to question those two? you still have the note, correct?"
with that, i head out in search of the felid pair, checking the dorms for any sign of them.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 3 = 3
Sheratan glowers at you, but stays silent.
"You are so certain the Eye was a part of the events that led to the murder," Delta comments. "Why is that? I don't believe there is any evidence linking the two. And I don't see why the murderer would come back here of all places…" She looks utterly perplexed by your stubbornness.>>695678
Violet seems not to hear you, thinking deeply about the case. "A rope… or a rag…" She looks at you for a moment. "I'm not sure if Rabi told you, but we smelled something odd in Grapeshot's room. A chemical sort of smell. Chloroform, maybe. Do you think you'd be able to trace the scent if you smelled it? It could lead us to something…">>695679
They look taken aback by your suggestion, exchanging a glance. "I… suppose that could work," Sirius answers. "It's not exactly something his Holiness would approve of, but these are rather extreme circumstances we find ourselves in."
"I'll go ask Sheratan about it," Procyon offers. Sirius nods. "I'll stay here and keep examining the body. There must be something we've missed." He gets to work doing exactly that, occasionally alternating to check on the comatose mare nearby. >>695681>>695682>>695680
You soon locate them, being in the room next to yours. As you politely knock on the door, they answer. The two Felid sisters are almost identical, with short brown and white fur, very dark markings around their faces and paws, and bright sky blue eyes. "Well hello," says one of them, as the other offers a polite little wave. You notice that they are distinguishable due to the latter's face being darker than the former's. "Trapped here as well, are you? I imagine they've sent you to talk about last night's events. Please, come in." They stand aside to let you in. "My name is Chantal, by the way, and this is my sister Zelda. She… does not speak, so I will be translating for her if need be."
"Of course, Miss Silver." he says, and begins to help track the two of them down>Search: [1d10]
"And, yeah. I've still got the note."Roll #1 6 = 6
My ears perk up as Violet mentions chloroform. "Actually yeah. I probably can. I smelled it too. Around where Grapeshot was found."
"Zuppoze I will give one more inveztigation before I help wizh ze ztripping. Azzumedly zome folkz will mizvalue modezty az being more important zhan murder."
Zunden chuckles, giving one last inspection before heading to the main hall.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
"A pleasure to meet you two! I am Silver Song, and this is my assistant, Rabi" i reply in kind, nodding to the pair as i enter the room.>>695684
"And you are correct, we do indeed have a few questions prepared. with the killing happening along this very dorm, i simply must ask: did either of you hear or see anything of note last night? any sounds of a struggle?"
"Why else would a murder happen here? Can you think of anything else that would compel a pony to commit a murder in the least convenient place imaginable in this world? If there's something else, that would be useful for this investigation."
"And, the adage that the criminal returns to the scene of the crime is more than a cliche. It's logical. Often, some damning piece of evidence may have been left behind in a hurry. Or, whatever they were originally intending to do in that location was not completed. Or, they are merely making sure that the investigation is not leading in their direction. The list goes on. But, if any part of the crime happened here, they'll be back."
"Tell me, where did the trail of blood in the hall lead?"
"Anything that might've been or felt out of place. Strange noises, someone up and about late at night… that kind of thing."
"That's what I thought. It doesn't seems likely he was drugged given the apparent struggle, but there was an attempt at least. We should head back to the room and see i- Oh, what is it now?"
She is interrupted by the sound of the great gong you have heard, which beckons you to the dining room. A few nearby gardeners start heading there at once.>>695686
As you go over the body once again, you smell something you hadn't before around the neck. It smells vaguely like chemicals: the same smell Norvegicus had found hanging around the scene of the crime.
You hear the gong ring to summon you. Sirius beckons for you to follow as he exits the medical ward.>>695687>>695689
Their room is fairly threadbare, having only the bare essentials. They must have arrived after you did.
"We were woken up fairly late by the sound of someone running," Chantal answers as Zelda mimes some complex gestures. "Surely you heard it?" You had indeed heard the same thing, as did everyone else in the group.
Zelda gets her sister's attention and gestures a few more times. "She says she also heard a second person walking around before that," Chantal translates. "It sounded to her like a pony." This most likely refers to Violet's late night stroll, an hour or two before the incident. Unfortunately, unless they are hiding something, it seems they do not know much more than you about last night's events.
"How goes the investigation, by the way?" Chantal asks nonchalantly. "Have you found any leads? If you want my opinion, I'd say that griffon knight seems the most likely culprit." Zelda nods vigorously in agreement.
As you talk, you hear the gong ring, summoning you to the dining room.>>695688
"A grudge, maybe," Delta muses. "Revenge for something that happened in the past. That or plain psychopathy. It is rather unwise to commit a murder here of all places. Whoever did it clearly wasn't thinking straight."
"It led to the closet where the body was found," Sheratan answers. "Some of our acolytes discovered it early in the morning and alerted us to the situation."
The duo are interrupted by a monk coming up to Sheratan, bowing slightly before whispering something in his ear. Sheratan nods and whispers something back, upon which the monk leaves, heading towards the dining room. Not long after, you hear the gong sound, summoning you to it once again. Sheratan, Delta and the other praying monks head towards it without a second thought, leaving you behind momentarily.
I watch as everyone leaves, but decide to wait outside the room for my companions before heading there myself.
"Ah, It seems Sir Gawain is on everypony's mind as the culprit."
hearing the gong sound, i roll my eyes before heading to the dining room
"Please, what now
? I can hardly investigate with all these summons."
"In any case i spoke with him earlier, he mentioned grapeshot was a terribly paranoid pony, going so far as to refuse Gawain's offer to share a room. Can you believe it, a pony suspicious of their own bodyguard?"
"Psychopathy I could see. Though, attempting to hide the body demonstrates some level of mental awareness. However, I simply don't see a grudge as reason enough to commit this crime HERE of all places. The culprit could have simply waited until later. Unless there was some reason he HAD to do it now."
"But, where was the OTHER end of the trail of blood?"
Hermodur grumbles for a moment. If there would be a time for something to happen here, it would be during a meal. But, at the same time, at this point, something happening might be the lead they need. He shrugs and heads to the dining room.
Zunden's hairless brows raise, leaving the cadaver to seek out Norvegicus before regrouping.>>695691
"Ah Norvegicuz, I believe I've made a dizcovery. Would you be able to zniff out if zat chemical you zmelled early iz on the pawz, clawz, or hoovez of anyone at the gazhering? I believe that may allow for a lot lezz people have to ztrip naked."
Zunden asks as she fails to explain herself further, heading to the gathering point.
I follow Zunden. "If they didn't do a good job washing it away, then yeah. I've used chloroform a respectable amount in my line of work, so I know if you get it on you the smell sticks for a bit. It'd be weird going around smelling everyone's hands and feet, but I guess if that's what it takes."
"So… a lot pointing to Gawain. I don't want to think he did it, but… eh, he might've. Hard to te- Oh, what now?" he says, a little exasperated "Let's hope it's not another."
The last bit gives him pause, though "Wait… he did? Any reason why beyond paranoia?"
"Sir Gawain refused to pry, though from what he mentioned grapeshot was aware he was being hunted by somepony. Who exactly was something he took to the grave, it seems."
"Well, looks like they might've caught him… hmm. Think anyone else arrived last night?"
"Paranoid? Curious. It sounds like Grapeshot had something to hide, really." Zelda nods again. "Something from his past, perhaps. If only we knew him better. …Did you find anything else, by chance?">>695693
"It led from his room, down the hall, and into the closet." Sheratan seems rather irritated. "I thought we made that clear.">>695691>>695692>>695693>>695694>>695696
You head back into the dining room, where everyone has once again gathered in heed of the summons. The table has not been set, and it seems as if Sheratan is about to make an announcement. You observe the others you recognize among the group:
It seems every monk in the monastery is now present. They seem to be a very small, insular commune of about three dozen. The high priest looks austere as usual, while Sheratan looks determined but also nervous. Delta, who seems to be rather high up in the hierarchy, stands by his side, observing the crowd much as you do. The healers Sirius and Procyon look grim as ever, while their protege Aurora seems rather pale, intimidated at the prospect of the murderer being among them.
Gawain is once again eating something, this time munching on an apple. He looks suspiciously at the rest of the crowd, knowing full well that he is the prime suspect.
Fever Ray's expression is once again inscrutable. Her eyes linger on Hermodur for a moment before looking back at Sheratan.
Chantal seems curious to know what the matter is, while Zelda looks apprehensive of the whole affair.
Violet just looks irritated at the whole ordeal.
Finally, the goat in leather armor, who Hermodur knows is called Urquhart, seems rather weary. He seems to be in the same boat as Violet in wanting to get out of this place.
Sheratan clears his throat. "Honored guests and fellow acolytes of Luna. We have made advances in the case concerning the murder of Grapeshot. We believe the murderer to have been using a knife taken from our weapons storage. In the struggle, it is believed that he may have turned the knife on his attacker. Unless there was an unknown party involved in the murder, it is certain that someone here, right now, is the culprit. Therefore, we ask that you submit yourselves to an inspection, to check for knife wounds." The crowd mutter among themselves, but the consensus seems to be to agree to the inspection.
First, the monks inspect each other for hidden wounds in a very stiff, lengthy and uncomfortable process. Nothing of note is found, save for a long-faded surgical scar on Procyon's chest and a small, thin white scar on Aurora's side. Neither of these are recent
Next are the guests:
Sir Gawain is found to have quite a few scars, but no proper wounds. The same goes for Violet, who looks deeply uncomfortable at being made to undress. When questioned about her eye by Sheratan, she snaps at him and retreats into the crowd angrily.
Chantal and Fever Ray are all devoid of injuries. Zelda has some scarring on her neck, which would explain her muteness.
Urquhart has a few cuts on him, but he swears in a thick, nearly incomprehensible accent that he got them while fending off a stray Prowler.
With no conclusive evidence found, Sheratan apologizes for the distraction and dismisses you all. The crowd begins to slowly disperse, most looking none too happy about the situation.>>695695
During all this, you get a faint whiff of the same chemical smell. It seems to be coming from one of the monks, but you can't tell which.
Neither of these are recent wounds*
You are also made to undress, but predictably, no wounds are found, save for some light scars from your previous adventures.
I freeze as the smell wafts into my nostrils. Immediately I start to sniff the air and try to lock onto it.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"The healers," Hermodur speaks up, pointing to the medical monks. "Do they employ magic in their process?">>695694
"You helped them heal last night as well. Did anyone show up to be healed late into the evening?"
"Hmm… well, that's not helping. Either the information they got was false, someone sealed their wound overnight, or the attacker didn't get checked. Maybe… check with the healers or Zunden to see about late-night visitors? Or… hmm."
"Not one, zhoze zhere were attending to ze mare, but none zave I ztayed zhere ze entire night."
Zunden then pulls the cat close, speaking in a quiet but sharp tone,
"Ze monkz will not reveal if one of zhem are guilty. Alzo, zey have ze ability to heal zheir own woundz. Zey wouldn't have left ze patient alone wizh a ztranger who zhowed up zhat day if zomezhing wazn't up."
refusing to strip at first, i acquiesce when given the chance to strip behind a pillar, away from view of a particular saddle arabian.
returning to the party flustered but cleared, i chime in on the conversation.>>695705>>695704>>695703
"W-well what of the monk in charge of the weapon shed? if the shed was opened surely the monk in charge was an accomplice?"
My jowls pull back over my teeth, I drop low to the ground, and a deep growl resonates in my throat as my eyes dart around the room. "Hold on."
The smell is strong, but you cannot quite discern where it is coming from. You start getting some odd looks from the crowd as you sniff about. "Found something?" Violet half-whispers.>>695703
"We are gifted with healing magic derived from the power of the Eye," Sirius explains. "Much like your ally Zunden, we can cure all but the most grievous of wounds with the help of out catalysts, and detect and cure poisons and curses of all sorts." He pulls out the lapis lazuli amulet he is wearing to show you.>>695705
Aurora nods. "I alone was there to help with the patient we are currently housing, although not for long. I had other duties to attend to, as did my masters. As far as I know, you were alone for the majority of the night.">>695704>>695706
"I still think the name must have some sort of clue," Violet says, taking a seat. "Silver, are you sure you don't remember anything else about this Bellatrix lady?"
taking a moment, i try and remember anything i can think of of lady Bellatrix
"My, it's been a while, but i do recall reading something the paper dredged up.."
[1d10] recallRoll #1 2 = 2
I ignore the odd looks and sniff around more, trying to focus harder on the smell. I finally have a chance to not be useless. Can't fuck it up. "Yeah," I tell Violet. "I think I have."
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"Hiding suspicion only arouses suspicion," Hermodur responds. "Besides, I doubt they are all in on it. If they were, they wouldn't be going through with this charade. It's likely only one or two of them. Its more likely the healers healed the culprit without knowing what they had done.">>695708
"Well, if no one came to be healed last night, I suppose this was a dead end anyway," Hermodur responds, unconvinced.>>695706
"Seems a bit of a stretch. We don't even know if a monk was actively guarding it all night.">>695709>>695708
"What is this about someone named Bellatrix?" Hermodur asks loud enough for the others congregated in the room to hear.
Zunden stares at Aurora,
"What buiznezz did you have to attend to."
piercing gaze of 'spill the beans' [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
"Ah, you were away at the time when Rabi found the note
earlier." i respond, raising my voice slightly as well.
"She was the Viscountess of Arbanville who was murdered some 15 years ago in Animus. Dreadfully unfortunate case, that one, quite the public shock!"
"Yeah… the monks didn't get searched here. Maybe they did it out of sight, but…">>695708
"Yeah, actually, good idea. Silver, know anything about Bellatrix? What race, for starters? And, maybe if we ask around, someone'll react. No one outside our group's heard the name just yet, I think."
Rabi looks around, hoping to spot a wince, cringe, or otherwise sign of someone not expecting to hear the name.>Spot: [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Oh it's been far too long since i had heard the news, Rabi. It was
some fifteen years ago, after all, i was hardly more than a filly at the time!"
"Were i some sort of mage i could conjure up a newspaper or perform divination, but alas i am little more than a pegasus of proper upbringing."
"Interesting… but why would such a name come up here?"
has yet to be determined. According to Rabi that was all of note he could fine in Grapeshot's possessions, unfortunately."
"I have to talk to you guys when we get the chance. In private."
There was something quite sordid about Bellatrix's murder, but you can't remember what.>>695710
You still can't really tell where it's coming from. You think the source could be one of the three healers, but it seems likely they have to work with chemicals anyway, given their profession.>>695709>>695711>>695714>>695715
"Bellatrix?" Chantal chimes in. "Lady Bellatrix? Why, that name does ring a bell. An awful case. Well before your time," she says as an aside to Silver, "but I remember it well when it was publicized. And the murderer was never brought to justice either. The whole affair lingered in the papers for years and years. They even wrote a song about the poor lady D'Arbanville."
"I remember that!" Gawain pipes up. "The whole of Animus was abuzz about it. They hunted for the bastard Breezeblock for over a year, only to find he'd jumped through to the Echoes. A shocking display. Tore the poor lady's family apart. Why bring that up, good lady?" he asks Silver.
Sheratan rubs his chin at these news. "is this connected to Grapeshot?" he asks you both. "Do you know something we don't?">>695712
She looks uncomfortable, shrinking at your piercing slit-pupiled gaze. "J-Janitorial duties," she blurts. "And meditation. We must all pay our respects to the Moon Princess, especially now when the moon is full."
"We had found a note which mentions the viscountess by name in Grapeshot's possessions.">>695715
"Rabi, if you would, please show them the note from earlier."
Hermodur begins to put the pieces together. "This Breezeblock, he was the killer? What did he look like?"
My face drops to a disappointed frown as I can't even pick up a damn scent. I inwardly kick myself and stand back up, shaking my head. I try and bite back tears from my disappointment. "Or maybe not. I don't know. I still want to give you what I did manage to learn, though, however useless it ends up being."
[1d10] How good am I at hiding my self-loathing and not crying?Roll #1 9 = 9
"Huh… well, I guess it was really big, then." he says, before producing the note "Crumpled up, way down at the bottom of the pack he had. Seems he was pretty keen on keeping anyone else from knowing… say." he says, turning to Gawain "Breezeblock? Who were they? What'd they look like?"
"And ze janitorial work zhat left ze patient alone wiz a ztranger for an entire night?"
pressing further, and leaving it at the whims of a dice because the dice have been trustworthy tonight. [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Sheratan examines the note, showing to Delta and the high priest. "This is… profoundly disturbing, given the information shared by our guests. Thank you for showing this to us.">>695722>>695724
Gawain shakes his head. "I could not say, sir. I remember that being the killer's name, but I only ever heard about the case. All I could tell you is that he was… a pony of some description…" The gears start turning in his head as he seems to come to an epiphany. "Dear Gods. Could it be…?">>695723
You keep a stiff upper lip despite yourself. Violet seems to see through this, however, and gives you a comforting pat on the back. "Hey, it's okay. Something's better than nothing. What did you find?">>695725
She starts breathing slightly heavily, breaking eye contact. She then takes a deep breath and speaks.
"…Mopping," she mutters.>>695721>>695722>>695723>>695724>>695725
Aurora suddenly rushes out from the crowd, violently the monks aside with remarkable strength. Amidst the sudden clamor of voices, she flaps into the air, over your heads and bursts out through the doors, making a panicked escape. There is a brief stunned silence as the crowd try to comprehend what just happened, then a few more monks take wing, chasing after the fleeing culprit.
>To be concluded…
"Oh! So the killer plans to make an escape?"
weaving through the crowd, i spread my wings and fly off after the pursuers and suspect>bounce
"For her sake i hope my shiv was returned, else i'll happily
demonstrate with it the folly of blaming simple butchery on me
!"Roll #1 8 = 8
"Well there's your murderer," Hermodur comments sarcastically as she runs out the door. "Can we go now?"
I give Violet a small, appreciative smile. "Alright. Well, here's what I'm thinking. They used chloroform. It's a pretty distinct smell, and it's one that sticks to you, so I thought maybe I could sniff it out, and I caught it. It didn't surprise me who it pointed towards either, because who would actually be able to get chloroform so easily? A-"
I stumble backwards as Aurora darts past, just barely catching my footing. My jaw locks as I watch her dart through the doors. "…A healer. I didn't say anything before because I assumed a healer would be able to hit vital areas easier and wouldn't need to resort to choking them."
"Damned premonitionz. I zhought zo from ze ztart but I didn't want it to be her."
Zunden turns Aurora, huffing,
"I'm zorry dear."
Zunden raises her staff, the miniature sun following her turning black and shattering as shadowy tentacles burst up from the ground and grab at the fleeing mare.
>Prowler's Snare: spell, recharge 3; Conjure shadowy tentacles to bind a target in place, rendering them immobile for 1d3 turns. On a crit, this roll also gets a +1 bonus, but the effect cannot last more than 3 rounds. A Snared target may roll to break free of the spell, and doing so counts as an instant action if successful. Larger targets, as well as those tainted with dark magic, may be more resistant or outright immune to Snare.
[1d10+3] Bask, Spending my Sun
[1d3]Roll #1 4 + 3 = 7
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
Rabi nods a little bit, and offers a short shrug "The most I've come up with is that Bellatrix is here, whether hiding as a Monk or as a guest. Tho- Huh?" he says, looking over to the sound of the commotion. He grumbles a bit about a lack of tools for the job, and resorts to what he can do; He gets a running start and leaps for the mare, trying to snag at least some part of her, or to knock her off-balance. >Jump! (Grab?) [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
You manage to catch up to Aurora relatively easily as she flies out of the monastery and into the gardens. She has managed to outfly most of her other pursuers, but with your superior adventuring experience, you are able to keep up with her, being neck and neck.>>695842
"Yes, can we?" Violet asks, clearly sharing your sentiment. "We've got a lot to do. This has taken up enough of our time as is."
"…Well, I don't see why not," Sheratan answers, clearly still reeling from the sudden revelation. "I… I'd say you are owed a reward for your assistance, though, if you would have it."
Violet shrugs. "What do you think, big guy?" she asks you. "Should we stick around for a bit? Might be worth our while.">>695878
"Looks like that's what she tried to do," Violet muses, "by stabbing him in the back. It looks like she botched it though, and had to resort to what she had.">>695879
As you move to catch up with Aurora, you thump your staff on the ground, leaving a black, bubbling stain. You can see very faint red lights emanating from it. A plethora of black, ropy, squirming tentacles burst out of the stain and shoot into the air, bringing Aurora down to the ground and binding her. Your display of this dark magic causes a nervous murmur among the crowd of monks, who give you a wide berth and an apprehensive stare.>>695881
You run after her, but are unable to catch up to her or bring her down. She seems more nimble than she looks.>>695881>>695879>>695878>>695842>>695827
Aurora kicks and strains against the black tentacles binding her, trying to break free so she can make her escape.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Name. Also post sheets with your replies.
I rub the back of my head and sigh. "Yeah. I guess so." I watch as everyone chases her down, debating on if I should even bother following or not. After thinking it over for a moment I decide I at least want to stick around long enough to maybe find out why she did it.
"Honestly for whatever it's actually worth I think we should stay until after breakfast. I don't know about everyone else but all this running around and attempted detective-ing has me pretty hungry."
Seeing the bat brought down by the mass of tentacles, i land and approach the struggling mare.
the one who stole my blade, hmm?"
"As you're beyond able to escape you'd do well to hear my offer." i begin, leaning over her to stare her down, smiling smugly.
"Cease this foolish attempt at escape and i'll consider
leaving you at the mercy of the acolytes here. Keep up this fantasy and i'll be happy to show you how an artist
uses her tools."
[1d10+2] intimidation, DC-1 due to helplessRoll #1 5 + 2 = 7
"Ze tentaclez won't hold for long. I am not uzed to zhiz… dark magic. Let me make zure zhe cannot fly away zhiz time."
Zunden says, taking off her tunic to stick the oversized clothing over the petite mare, preventing her from flying away with it on.
[1d10] Pin down and clotheRoll #1 5 = 5
"Well, if we're going to be reward, I suppose we should do something worth rewarding," Hermodur says as he hefts his hammer over his shoulder and walks in the direction the chase went.
I freeze when I see Hermodur walking towards the mare. "Woah!" I yell, running after him. "Woah, woah, woah. Slow down. They already caught her and are talking to her. You don't plan on-" I gulp, continuing to follow by Hermodur's side. "You don't plan on hurting her when she's already caught, do you?"
"Depends on if she tries to run."
Rabi lands with a loud 'oof', rolling up and off of the ground and trying again to hold her down >[1d10] C'mon now, get down!Roll #1 2 = 2
Violet nods. "Job well done I suppose. I mean, not that I did much work compared to the rest of you. We should eat then hit the road, I think."
It looks to you like Aurora is surrendering.>>695885
Aurora looks up at you in panic, then wordlessly concedes, reaching into her tunic and dropping your blade in front of you.>>695886
Aurora breaks free of your conjured tentacles, which shrink into the ground and vanish. She manages to shrug off your attempt to capture her otherwise, but still surrenders to you.>>695887
You join the rest of the group outside, where she seems to be admitting defeat.>>695892
You try and grab her, but to no avail. However, as she breaks free of Zunden's grip, she finds herself backed against a wall surrounded by the party and the rest of the enclave, throwing down Silver's knife in submission.>>695884>>695885>>695886>>695887>>695892
"So what happens now?" she asks bitterly. "Are you going to kill me?"
Sheratan and the wizened old high priest exchange a long, meaningful look. "You murdered a guest in our own sanctum," the former intones. "Violated our sacred tenets of mercy, kinship and hospitality. Why?"
She glares at the crowd. "Breezeblock was a monster," she spits. "He kidnapped my mother. Forced my family to pay the ransom. Then murdered her in cold blood. He drove my father to suicide, pushed me onto the streets, forced me into exile, and never suffered a day in his life for it. I never forget a face. I knew who he was the moment he walked into this monastery. I'm glad he's dead, and I hope he rots. Do what you will with me. I am Aurora, daughter of Lady Bellatrix, heiress to the viscounty of Arbanville, and I have had my day."
Another murmur breaks out among the crowd. There seems to be uncertainty as to what to do from here. "The murdering of a murderer," Gawain muses. "There's no justice here, I say." Eventually, with no decision being reached, Sheratan looks to you.
"Drifters. What would you have us do with this criminal? This case is most disturbing. We have never heard of anything like this before. If you cannot decide, then we will."
Hermodur stares at Aurora thoughtfully with his arms crossed. After a moment he asks, "The note found on his body. Did you write it?"
"No!" I reflexively shout. I catch myself and clear my throat. "No, we're not going to kill you." Slowly, I look around at the rest of the group, and my ears fold back. "Are you? I mean it sounds like she had a good enough reason, I think."
Zunden turns to the group assembled,
"Ze girl'z done what zhe came here to do. It izn't like zhe planz to kill any ozherz."
Zunden squats down, looking to Aurora,
"Lizten dear, if you zet you make your whole life revenge, zhen your life endz az zoon az you take it. What now? What do you plan to do?"
Zunden asks, deciding to sit down infront of the mare and laying her staff down.
"No. No need to kill her, I think. What she did was awful, but… it's understandable, at least. Maybe she could do some sort of penance here?"
"Oho, so the daughter claims revenge for the murder of her mother? Quite a turn of events."
recovering my shiv and sliding it into my vest, i shrug.
"Were i in your position i'd likely do the same, 'eye for an eye' and all that, though really darling you should have hired a professional, that sloppy work of yours was bound to be discovered in short order."
Rabi offers a bit of a chuckle, despite the situation, at the comment about a 'professional'
I heave a sigh of relief as everyone seems to have decided against vigilante justice.
"What note?" She looks confused.>>695895
Most of them look about as clueless as you, looking to their spiritual leader for guidance.>>695896
Aurora looks at you listlessly, looking drained of her energy after her prior outburst. "I… I don't know. I've wanted to kill him for so long, but I never thought I'd be able to, let alone that he'd come to rest here of all places… What can I do now?" >>695897
Sheratan nods. "There must be some consequences, but the motive is clear as crystal. Hm…">>695898
She doesn't seem amused. "I had to do it myself," she simply answers.>>695894>>695895>>695896>>695897>>695898
The monks all huddle together to discuss something, mumbling urgently among themselves. After a while, they turn back towards Aurora.
"We have reached a decision," Sheratan intones. "As Luna was forgiven for her sins, so must we forgive. But there must be a punishment, for sin is sin, no matter the reason. From this day onwards, Aurora, you are banished from this sacred place. Complete a pilgrimage of penance, go forth into the world, and do not return until you have found forgiveness within yourself. Thus has his Holiness decreed."
Aurora's face turns to stone, but she nods stiffly and is escorted out by a pair of burly-looking monks. With this dealt with, their attention is turned back towards you and the other guests.
"Esteemed guests. We apologize for any distress this whole incident has caused you. Breakfast will be prepared soon, and with it, a presentation of the rewards for the honored drifters who so graciously helped us solve this case."
With that, the group begin to disband, leaving you to your own devices.
It is another hour or so before you are called to breakfast. Much like last night's dinner, the table set for you and the other guests is quite lavish, although less so than before. It consists of a large variety of fruits, boiled, scrambled or fried eggs, rashers of bacon, pancakes with a variety of toppings to choose from at your discretion, and a selection of breads and pastries. A disparity of different juices are available to drink from, as well as water and tea. The monks, as usual, are having very meager meals in comparison. Gawain is already there, feasting as usual, while Chantal and Zelda are picking at some bacon. Urquhart is digging into a large fruit that you don't recognize, while Fever Ray is, as usual, absent. Violet looks to you, then shrugs and takes a seat at the table, serving herself some pancakes.>>695896
At breakfast, you are approached by Sirius, who makes his way over to you from his table. He looks somewhat haggard. "If you have a moment before leaving," he says, "come meet us in the medical ward. There's been a development with the patient."
Hermodur eats his meal quietly. His has been in a disgruntled mood ever since he found out that she did not write the note. If not her, then who? Did the victim himself write it? Had she killed a repentant pony? The notion of it bothered him.
But, none of this was his concern. Perhaps, that was in and of itself why he was so bothered.
Before I go to breakfast I take the time to go back to my room, put my topcoat on, and grab my cage. After dropping by the dining hall with everyone else I find that, while I'm still hungry, my appetite isn't really there. "I, uh… If nobody minds, I think I need to go talk to Aurora before she leaves," I tell everyone in the party who is actually around me. "I need to ask her something." Hopefully there will still be food when I'm done.
"Hrm… from the sound of it, he had a feeling something like this was coming, then." he remarks, passing Aurora the note.
He nods in agreement with the monks, and shrugs "Honestly, I'm fine with helping out. We all have to do our fair share to help out. And… I'm especially glad you chose something nonviolent."
Rabi settles down at the table with a yawn, stretching out and gesturing for Silver to join him. He grabs a few things that looks good and loads them on to a plate, before humming a little "Urquhart, what's that fruit?"
finding the gate to the weapons shed unlocked, i slip in and return my shiv to its sheath, closing up the gate and making my way to the eating hall.
greeted by the spread, i nod in satisfaction.
"An excellent selection, perfect to officially start the day with.">>695904
taking a seat at the table next to Rabi, i pull some of the pancakes onto a plate, as well as a cup of hot tea.
"Now then, lets see if these monks can brew tea as well as they clean.."
"Aurora? Very well, not a problem. Do be careful though! I suspect breakfast won't last as long as you'd think, quite a few mouthes to feed."
Zunden looks to the way the misguided mare went, biting her lip nervously as she hopes she doesn't do anything drastic.
"Well I waz going to-">>695903
Zunden lets out a sigh of relief, seeing Norvegicus wants to visit her,
"Oh thank you Norvegiuz, I waz worried zhe might do zomething… draztic. Ze kind of draztic you don't walk away from. Pleaze, would you zo kind az to offer her to join uz in travel, atleazt for a zhort while? I'd like to read her fortune if zhe wizhez, az zhe iz at a great turning point in her life."
She smiles, turning to Sirius,
"Well zince that'z zorted, lead ze way. Any recovery?"
I swallow. "Yeah. I hadn't really thought about that. Still, I think this might be something I have to do.">>695907
I nod. "Alright. I suppose it can't hurt to offer."
I head off to look for her.
You excuse yourself and head towards the monks' living quarters. They are distinctly threadbare and frugal in their design, compared to the rather ornate halls of the rest of the monastery. You soon find Aurora's room as it is guarded by the two bat ponies who escorted her. They nod at you and let you enter. She already looks different from before, having cut her mane into a short, practical style. She looks almost androgynous to you. She acknowledges your presence as she looks up, but quickly returns to packing her bags full of clothes, camping equipment, and other essentials. "What do you want?" she asks bluntly as she keeps preparing for the journey.>>695904
"Eh?" The goat has an extremely thick, nearly incomprehensible accent. "Iunno, bet s'lekker." He reaches over and rolls you one of the fruits. It looks like a cucumber, only with a rough, segmented exterior like a pineapple. It is large enough that you could break it in two and scoop out the yellow flesh inside, like some sort of ice cream.>>695905
The pancakes are quite delicious, as is the tea. It has a pleasant lemony tang to it.>>695907
Sirius nods as he takes you to the medical ward.
You enter the ward to find Procyon tending to the mare, who is sitting up in bed. The entire top half of her head is bandaged due to the severe burns she suffered, only visible from the nose down. "As you can see," Sirius says, "she's finally come to, but she's still got a long way to go. She can barely speak as it is, and I don't think her eyes will ever recover fully."
"Etrigan?" the mare half-whispers. "Is that you? …No, you're someone else… My eyes…"
Rabi catches the rolling fruit and cracks it open. He scoops out some of the flesh, and gives it a taste… just to see. "How bad can it be, yeah?">>695905
"I imagine they do. That's like, a monk thing, right? Brewing Tea?"
Hermodur continues to eat quietly.
I look her over for a moment before finally clearing my throat. "Well," I say. "I wanted to check on you and see how you were doing. I mean you murdered a guy, but revenge isn't really the worst reason to-" I stop talking, realizing that maybe I should think a little longer about what I'm saying.
"I guess I'll start with my name. Norvegicus Black. Pest control. I learned your name earlier. Aurora, if I'm not mistaken. So, now we know each other, and… Well, I guess I just kind of wanted to talk."
"Hmm, i suppose, but there's more to tea than simply boiling leaves, Rabi. To nobility a certain degree of quality is needed for a refined palate."
"As for the tea here.. You're correct, it is
quite nice." i state after taking a sip.>>695909
"As for that fruit, would you be willing to share a piece? It looks quite exotic, i'd love to try a bite."
Zunden says, nodding to Sirius. She stands by a window, letting the morning sun warm the scales on her back as she speaks to the mare in the bed,
"Hello mizz. I don't know an Etrigan. My name iz Zunden, I'm a zaurian and we're in a medical ward right now. I'm going to zee if I can help reztore your eyezight, alright?"
Zunden says, kneeling down bed after she's basked in the sun long enough.
You try some of the fruit. The flesh is stringy like a pineapple, and tastes like it too, albeit more sour. It's not bad, all things considered. >>695911
You keep eating, keeping your thoughts to yourself. >>695912
"Talk? About what? There's not much to talk about. You'll go your way, and I'll go mine." She looks suspicious of you, although you now have her attention as she has stopped packing her bags and is standing up, looking down at you. You hadn't noticed before, but she is surprisingly tall, about a head taller than you are. >>695914
You absorb some energy from the sun for a while.
"No… This isn't right… What is this place? Where… Where's the pillar? What happened to the Sanctuary?" She reels a bit, and her speech slurs. Sirius rushes to prop her up in case she falls. "Careful," Procyon warns. "She's in a delicate state. Don't try anything too brash now."
My heart skips a little when I notice just how tall she is, but I stand my ground. "And, uh, what is 'your way'? What do you plan on doing after this?" I run my fingers through the fur on the top of my head, smoothing it a little.
"I guess I'll get the first thing out of the way. If you don't have anywhere else to go after the-" I clear my throat. "Well, the incident, then I want to extend an invitation to join us on behalf of my comrades."
"Juzt take a moment to relax. Breazh in, hold it."
Zunden says calmly, guiding the mare through some meditation techniques she learned from her elders,
"Breazh out. You're zomewhere zafe. Take a moment to clear your head and organize your zhoughtz."
If the mare is receptive to her calm voice, she continues to repeat the 'breazh in, breazh' out mantra until she calms down.
"Well, glad to hear it came out alright. I didn't know so much went into making tea. Did you ever learn that kind of stuff?" he asks, flicking his tail curiously.>>695915
"Huh… not too bad, actually. Sour Pineapple." he says between bites, before going on to the rest of the meal.
"Ah, unfortunately not, brewing the morning tea was something the servants would take care of, how they went about it wasn't of interest at the time."
"If i were so inclined, i could
pester Zunden to teach me, doubtless she had to have made proper tea at some point, she did
run an inn, after all." i reply, taking another sip.
"What about you? I don't suppose you
would be versed in food or drink preparation? Living a rugged life as you did you must have picked up some knowledge of cooking."
She shrugs. "Braildorn, I suppose. It's the only place to go around here."
At your proposal, she perks up, but then brushes it off. "I'm not a fighter or an adventurer. Why would you want me around? I'd just weigh you down.">>695917
She listens to your voice, slowing her breathing and calming down after a while. She tries to look around, fumbling with the bandages around her eyes, but accepts that she cannot see, at least for now. "…What is this place?" she repeats eventually, trying to gather her thoughts.
"The Moonlight Monastery," Sirius answers. "You're safe here. Try not to exert yourself. You're in a bad way."
"I… I can't stay here. I need to go…"
"You're in no shape to go anywhere," Sirius says seriously. "You can barely walk. Rest. Take some time to recover.">>695918
You finish the rest of the strange pineapple-cucumber fruit. Just half of it is enough to leave you quite full.
"'Food preparation' is a strong term for what you learn when living on the streets," Hermodur pipes up.
I chuckle. "Actually, yeah. That's exactly what I thought when they asked me to go with them. I'm an exterminator. Not some mercenary or something, so what use could I be, right?"
I tuck my free hand into one of my pockets and think for a moment. "Honestly, I guess can think of a few reasons. More hands -er, well, hooves I guess- is definitely a good thing. I know the main reason I decided to actually join them is because it beat being out here all alone. This place is scary, and I have a feeling even Braildorn won't be all that great if you're alone, so two or three friendly faces could be nice. I can't say for a couple of them, but I'll vouch for Violet, Rabi, and Zunden."
I pull my hand out of my pocket and rub the back of my head again. "Well, really it's your decision in the end. Either way, I'm pretty sure we're headed towards Braildorn too, so you could at least join us for the journey there."
"Yeah, some basic stuff. Nothing so glamourous though. Leaves in hot water did it for me, more or less. Most of what I know related to the desert, though. Different things like, where to find water, or how to prepare what vegetation there is. I'm not an amazing cook, but I make do.">>695920
"Huh…" he remarks, gently putting some of his plate back. He'd also ask the monks if he could take some of the fruit, or where to find some.
"There's some merit to learning cooking for rugged city life, we are
in a similar situation now, are we not?"
"If there's some secret to preparing that so called 'street meat' it could help us moving forward."
"Yez, what ze ztallion zaid. You're zertainly allowed to go when you're healed, but in zhiz condition you wouldn't make it very far. Do you mind if I touch your head briefly? I'm a healer, and I want to try to reztore your eyezight."
She begins channeling her light magic,
"Az I zaid I'm a zaurian, so it'z a claw. I don't want it to zpook you and make you zhink I'm zome zcary monzter or zomething."
She laughs, then (if given permission) places a claw between the mare's eyes and channels her mending magic, trying to restore the damaged eyes.
[1d10+2] Mend, Frozen light if she doesn't want to be touched.Roll #1 10 + 2 = 12
"Well, I don't have much to share in that regard. I personally mostly subsisted on watermelon. Any meat I ate was earned from whatever odd-job I could get.">>695923
"That sort of thing as well," Hermodur nods.
"…I'll think about it," she says before returning to her packing. She doesn't look very enthused, but you get the feeling she'll consider the possibility.>>695923
You see Delta passing by, and ask her about the fruit. "Hm? Oh, those are called ceriman. They grow in some bushes, I think. Those were donated by a traveler, we don't pick them ourselves. Probably from some foreign part of the Echoes. You're welcome to take as many as you like. We really owe you for your help today.">>695925
She hesitates, then nods. While she flinches in pain at your touch, she lets you try and heal her. You close your eyes and focus all of your energy into healing her, and soon enough, your entire body is glowing yellow slightly, illuminating the ward. Once the glow subsides, the mare lifts her bandages slightly and cautiously hops off the bed, looking around the room. Even with all of your effort, it was not enough to fully restore her eyesight, as you can see from the pale blue, milky look they have. Still, it appears as if she can see slightly, as she looks around the room and then at each of you in turn. Sirius and Procyon seem awestruck at your display of power.
"It… It's all blurred," she slurs. "All shapes… But… I can see… Something… Thank… you…" Before she can say anything else, she begins to collapse. Sirius and Procyon rush to her side, helping her back into bed, where she relapses into unconsciousness.
"That was incredible," Sirius murmurs. "I knew you were a miracle worker, but never have I seen anyone heal like that before. Thank you, Zunden. You've done more for her than we ever could."
"Oh, by the way," Procyon adds. "Before you came, she said her name was Dawn when I asked her. So at least we have something on her identity."
I nod. "Right. That's all I ask. I did want to talk to you about something else, but I kind of don't want to miss breakfast." I stand there for a second before giving a small, awkward wave. "I guess I'll catch you before we leave then."
"Ah, good. Fruit is a worthy reward for travelers bent on heading toward the desert," Hermodur says thankfully to Delta. "Verily, know that your kind reward will not go to waste."
Zunden tucks the pony into her bed, her scales darkening slightly under her eyes as she blushes at the compliments,
"It'z a zhame I couldn't fully reztore her eyezight, but I'm no elder. I'm juzt an zympazhizer to zhoze who wander ze land. If I can help zomeone along zheir pazh, I'm happy to help."
She sets the diary on a bedside table, a faint smile on her face,
"I'm glad zhe'll be alright. I'm upzet I can't ztay here and hear her ztory, but I azzume my friendz will want to be leaving zoon. I hope I crozz pazhz wizh her again. You folk too."
She says, looking down at the two ponies,
"I'm glad zhat even in ztrange landz, zhere are zhoze who provide hozpitality. May the fatez zmile on you warmly."
Rabi takes three, and makes note of where they grow. "Please, don't mention it. I know how awful something like that can be, so I'm just glad we got it resolved. Hopefully, that's the last of your troubles like that."
"Oh yes, when killing is so common outside it's important to preserve some
semblance of peaceful society in the chaos."
She just gives you a cold stare and goes back to her business.
You find the breakfast to be just as delicious as dinner the night before. If nothing else, the monks certainly know how to cook.>>695930
"Well, the high priest has other rewards in mind, from what Sheratan was saying. You'll see. These are just an extra.">>695931
"A little kindness goes a long way in these parts," Sirius answers. "It's the only thing we have to separate us from common thugs."
"I imagine you'll be back sooner than you think," Procyon adds. "Hopefully, Dawn here will be in better shape next time you meet."
At your farewell, the two remaining healers put their hooves together and bow. "Fire walk with you," they say in unison.>>695932
You tuck three of the ceriman away for later consumption.>item acquired: ripe ceriman x3>>695929>>695930>>695932>>695931>>695933
You finish your breakfast and prepare to leave. Violet urges you to hurry in doing so. "We should be at the border to the Sands by nightfall if we move fast," she advises.
After getting everything ready, retrieving your weapons and preparing to leave, you find the high priest, Sheratan, Delta and a few other monks waiting for you at the exit. Sheratan clears his throat.
"Ahem. For your aid in helping us solve this affair and for assisting in curing the patient in our ward, we grant you these. May they serve you well in your travels."
You are presented with a small pouch of a silver, silky material. You recognize this as a Bag of Holding, a rare magical item that can store a potentially unlimited amount of items inside. Inside, you find a large amount of coin. In addition, each of you in turn is presented with a small lapis lazuli gem, perfectly smooth like a skipping stone and glittering in the sunlight. "These tokens of kinship, carved from the Eye of Luna, mark you as allies to our monastery," says Delta. "Invoke their power, no matter where you are, and you will find yourselves back here. Use them wisely, however. They are extremely fragile, and once you use their power, they will be lost forever."
>item acquired: Lunar Kinship Token x6>automatic; Teleport to the Moonlight Monastery and back to your location. Only works on one person at a time. Breaks upon being expended.
>item acquired: Bag of Holding, currently empty
Zunden wraps the lapis lazuli in twine multiple times, forming a loop so she can put it over her neck alongside many other jewels. She looks at the others, and takes the bag of holding as well if no one else takes it.
"Thank you for your hozpitality, again."
"Our thanks, to all of you. Despite the unfortunate circumstances it's been a pleasure to be here." i reply earnestly, offering a winged curtsy after gathering my things.
I smile and nod to Sheratan. "Thank you," I say. "Just glad to help out. I'm honestly sort of happy it didn't turn out-" I clear my throat. "Well, worse than it did. I didn't want to hurt anyone if I didn't have to, so…" I trail off and stay to the back a little to let someone else take our rewards.
I glance over at Violet. "So maybe you already explained it, but what do we have to expect from the Sands, anyway? Is it just, like, a big desert or something?"
Rabi looks over the glittering stone more than anything else, and tucks it away gingerly. "I'll take good care of it, thanks. I'm just happy we could help."
"Thank you," Hermodur says out of politeness at being given the gifts. Moreso than out of actually being thankful.
"Lets get going," he says gruffly as he turns and heads back down the road.
After everyone has already gone I step up to grab my gem.
"Thank YOU," Delta says with a formal bow, "for all your assistance. You have been an invaluable ally to us."
"Only…" She exchanges an uneasy glance with Sheratan. "Do be careful with that bracelet of yours. Dark magic is nothing to be trifled with. It is a disease, and if you expose yourself enough to it you will find yourself infected. All I ask is that you stay safe.">>696091>>696093
"Farewell. You and your companions are always welcome here. May we meet again someday.">>696092
"I've only heard of it from other drifters," she answers, "but it's not going to be easy. First off, it's big. Real big. We might be there a while, so before we enter we should prepare with plenty of food and water. Especially water. Then there's the Terreocti. Insect creatures that live out there in the desert. Don't know too much about them. There's also the possibility of bandits, or rival treasure hunters. Plus, it's full of ruins, so we might have to deal with an undead or three. And, of course, as always, Prowlers. There's probably more, but that's all I know.">>696090>>696091>>696092>>696093>>696094
Claiming your rewards, you bid farewell to the monks, as well as the other guests, and leave the Monastery behind you, traveling on a westbound path towards some distant hills. You notice the grass becoming more sparse and the climate getting gradually warmer and drier as you travel. Eventually, you reach a battered old signpost with a fork in the path leading northwards to Braildorn, but Violet leads you on the other path, closer to the rocky hills.
As the day goes on, the path begins to fade and eventually disappear, forcing you to travel into the wilderness proper. The plantlife begins to grow rare, and you find yourselves craving water more often. You can see that you are close now to the Shifting Sands, just past the rocky hill chain you saw earlier. From a vantage point, Violet claims to see two differing routes to approach the entrance into the desert from:
At the foot of the mountain chain, you can see an old fort still standing. It seems to still be in good condition, but this could mean it is inhabited, perhaps by someone hostile to you.
The other option is to bypass the fort and avoid unwanted attention by taking a gap in the mountains, going through what looks like a mountain-sized dragon skeleton. It is an impressive sight, but such a carcass would surely attract creatures of some sort.
Before you can reach a decision, however, you hear sudden movement from nearby. Motioning to be silent, Violet points at a trampled shrub back the way you came. "Something's following," she mouths as she starts to search the area, sword at the ready.
Hopping off the cart, i keep low to try and hide my position, drawing my shivs in preparation.
[1d10] stealthRoll #1 8 = 8
I cock an eyebrow at the mention of the Terrocti. "Insects? I can only assume giant insects. Do you know what they look like? What kind of insects they might have similarities to?" My face pales a little at the mention of bandits and undead, but I don't say anything about them.
I seriously consider both paths. Potentially inhabited fort means people. Possibly mean people. Possibly mean bandit people. On the other, viscous creatures are just as unreasonable, but probably easier to deal with. I gulp, considering actually having to murder a bandit. "I think maybe we should-"
I freeze as Violet motions for me to be silent. My grip on my cage tightens as I turn around. "Something? Like a bad something?" Slowly, I set my cage on the ground, drop to one knee, and place a hand on the top of it.
Hermodur silently waits for the others to make a decision. He does not care either way. So, when he hears the sound, he immediately draws his hammer and looks around.
[1d10] to spot whatever is following usRoll #1 7 = 7
As her companions look about silently, Zunden charges her magic in the sun.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
"We'll swing by if we ever get the chance to, thanks."
"Something following?" he asks, nervously reaching for his bow as he looks around.>Spot: [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
You find some nearby bushes to hide behind as the party take a look around.>>696098
"No clue what they're like, to be honest. I guess we'll find out soon enough."
You stand ready to summon in case of combat. You can feel a few rats inside sniffing about.>>696099>>696101
You spot some sudden movement in the undergrowth, and point it out to the rest of the party.>>696100
You take a moment to rest, channeling the sun's radiance to charge your magical spells.>>696097>>696098>>696099>>696100>>696101
As Rabi and Hermodur alert the rest of you to some sudden movement, Violet takes initiative by creeping towards it. She extends the handle on her sword and gives whatever it is a good whack.
Surprised, Violet tentatively reaches down and helps up the intruder: an annoyed-looking Aurora, rubbing the back of her head and grimacing.
"Wh… What? Why are you here?"
Aurora takes a moment to answer, as she looks a little dizzy from the blow, but eventually points at Norvegicus. "He said I could come along, but I wasn't sure if the rest of you would approve, so I just followed from a distance. …Can I come? I don't know what you're planning, but I don't really have anywhere else to go…"
"I mean…" he blinks once or twice, before looking to the others, as they reveal, of all people… Aurora! "I mean… what's everyone else think?"
"Ah, zhere you are!"
Zunden says, her tone warm and welcoming for the young pariah,
"I zay you are welcome to come along and find yourzelf. It'z been a long day for you zhough, do you need a hug?"
Zunden says earnestly, arms outstretched slightly, not grinning but a soft smile on her face.>>696098
"Zhank you for pazzing my invitation again, Norvegicuz. I'd hate for her to travel alone."
I relax when I see Aurora and stand up. My mouth splits into a broad grin and my stubby tail furiously wags back and forth. I actually managed to convince her! "Hey! You actually came! I thought that when we didn't see you when we left that you went out on your own. I was a little worried." I keep my smile as I look around at the rest of the party. "Is it alright with you guys?">>696104
My excitement wains a little when Zunden shifts credit to herself, but I'm still happy enough that Aurora joined us not to be annoyed. I nod. "Yeah, of course."
"Fantastic," Hermodur grumbles as he puts Mjolnir back on his back. "Just when I thought we would put the moon-lovers behind us… Well, I'm not holding my tongue anymore," he says, pointing to Aurora.
"We're not in your temple any longer. I have no reason to respect you. I think everyone in that temple is delusional and pathetic. To actually worship a goddess who CHOSE to abandon her people and leave them to rot and suffer… What kind of person must you be? Where would your life go so wrong that you would think Luna would be worthy of any modicum of respect - let alone WORSHIP. What has she done? Anything she DID do has been wiped away by her obvious distaste for all of us."
"If you're going to follow us, be prepared to know that I have no respect for Luna or anyone who worships her."
Hermodur rants, clearly bottling it all in for too long.
"A hug!?" Hermodur practically spits in surprise and disdain, like a petulant child. "What does the murderer get a hug for!?"
poking my head out of the brush, i raise an eyebrow.
"Oh? So you've decided to join us?"
"Ordinarily i'd be offended that nopony deemed it necessary to mention this to me, but given your situation and status i suppose you could travel with us."
"After all, it would be nice to add a touch more nobility to the group, rough as they are."
"What, did you want a hug too? I don't complain when you kill."
My jaw drops at Hermodur's little tirade. I work my mouth for a moment, but nothing comes out. "You- You-" My lips pull back into a snarl and I reflexively bark, "You mewling hypocrite!"
Hermodur lifts up a finger as if he's about to make a point. However, his finger then goes to his lip in thought. He thinks for a moment.
"Have I killed anyone since we got here?" he asks, genuinely unsure.
"Excuse me, how am I a hypocrite?" Hermodur responds angrily.
"Well, that's more or less the whole party, so, welcome aboard!">>696106
Rabi trails off, and watches Hermodur's outburst with disdain
I growl and drop my cage, taking a step towards Hermodur. "Remind me again, just how many people did you smite in the name of your little cult? You can't even figure out if you've killed anyone. THAT'S how inconsequential it is to you, but someone has a legitimate reason -a reason I feel like you might not even be able to understand- and they don't deserve even a little respect? THAT'S how you're a hypocrite." I jab my finger at him and take another step forward. "How would you feel if I just sat here insulting you and talking about how backwards and broken you must be for turning to -gods be damned, I can't even remember her name- whatever you worship. But I haven't. None of us have, because we have at least an ounce of respect."
I hook my thumb at Silver. "Even silver, who at the beginning I expected to lord herself over all of us, has held herself with some dignity, but you? Every. Single. Time someone- especially a worshiper of a different goddess- comes up you throw all respect out the window."
My heart is racing and I feel lightheaded, but I continue staring the at least three-heads-taller cat down.
She looks perplexed by your offer, but shakes her head. "I'm fine, thanks. Just a little sore from the trip. Never really had to travel that far." She certainly doesn't look fine to you; she's obviously had some trouble making it through the wilderness, having several minor scratches on her from stray branches, as well as having her short mane all messy and littered with dirt and cobwebs. She seems suddenly aware of this, and tries unsuccessfully to clean it all off. All in all, she looks rather miserable.>>696105
"I'd already snuck out by the time you were having the big talk from Sheratan," she says. "I was pondering which way to go when I saw you all heading out the main gate, so I just followed behind." She shrugs.>>696106
Aurora gives you a sullen stare. "…I don't care. Save it for the others, cat. I'm not much of an adherent, to be honest. I'll try not to get in your way if my existence offends you so much." Violet says nothing, but gives you the sort of look that could wilt a flower.>>696108
"Well, if you can afford another mouth to feed. And, er, I'm not exactly much of a noble. I've been out on the streets since I was 6.">>696113>>696112>>696114
"I'll take that as my cue, I suppose," she says. "Oh well. It was worth a try." She grabs her bags and starts backing away. Violet says nothing during this encounter, brooding silently on the sidelines.
I spin towards Aurora and hold my hand out. "Wait! No!" I shout. "This guy is a rude, whiny, violent windbag, but obviously the rest of us want you to join. At least until we get somewhere safe."
Zunden's brows furrow, obviously distressed about the gal leaving,
Zunden says, stopping to look at the dog and cat barking and hissing, then back to the mare,
"Atleazt, may I read your fortune before you go on your way? You are turning over a new leaf, I'd be happy to offer zome guidanze."
"Her name," Hermodur says slowly and angrily. "Is Ailuros. Ailuros Bastet. Soon, her name will be as famous as Luna or Celestia. And far more loved."
"And, yes, I would kill for her. Because she is worth it. And…" Hermodur pauses for a moment as if this is a realization to himself as well. "I suppose I would kill for this group. Ailuros help me, I have no idea why, but I suppose you're worth it. But, I don't kill for myself. I'm not worth it."
"But, SHE," Hermodur points accusingly at Aurora. "Killed a stallion for revenge. Her own self-interest. I don't deny that the stallion she killed had done horrible things. But, the evidence also shows that he was repentant. He had a note on him to remind himself of the one he killed. She didn't bother to even learn that much. She just killed him anyway."
"There is no relation between what I do and what she did. I am the messenger of a god! I do not stoop to petty revenge.">>696115
"Where do you think YOU'RE going?" Hermodur point at Aurora as she starts backing away. "No one said you could leave. If you came here to be with us, then you're with us now. My judgements don't change that."
"Though, I must ask. Did anyone tell you of the note found on the body?"
stepping out of the bushes, i wander back over to the cart.
"Well, i suppose it is
your choice, after all. I doubt our.. overzealous friend means you true harm, though it's understandable if you find him a tad overbearing."
"Then again, with the time as it is i suspect the way back could turn treacherous. At the very least it would be safer with us, for a time."
"No, no no no. Please, ignore him. I think the rest of us would be fine having you, Aurora.">>696119
"Agreed. Even if you don't stay, traveling alone is rough."
I ball my hands into fists, but back down a little. I'd already considered that maybe he was repentant, but I didn't think about the fact that it might be relevant to our conversation. "So someone who's done horrible things but feels bad doesn't deserve justice?" The question comes out less like an accusation and more like a genuine question. "And the number of lives affected by the person's life you're taking doesn't matter if it's for a righteous cause? Nor the number of lives taken overall? That's irrelevant?"
Hermodur stares at Norv for a moment, then shrugs. "I'm not a god. I'm just a messenger. All I can tell you is that Ailuros can be forgiving. But, she can also be practical."
"The point here is that she took it upon herself to pass judgement. Without even finding all the facts, no less."
"…I don't see how it'd hurt. Sure.">>696118
"I don't remember needing your permission," she replies coldly. "And no, I don't know anything about a note, and I don't care to find out.">>696116>>696117>>696118>>696119>>696120
"Looks like majority rules," she says, giving Hermodur a pointed look. "Sorry, throw rug. Looks like you'll have to put up with me existing for a while." Violet suppresses a giggle at the name. "I… don't know much about survival or anything. Not much good in a fight either. I'll just try and stay out of the way, I guess."
>Aurora has joined the party
"Anyway," Violet says, "we're losing the light standing around bickering like this. We need to make a choice of where to go. Either through the fort down there, or through the mountain pass. Personally I'd go with the former. If there are bandits there, there's probably more of us than there are of them." She looks at you all for a decision.
"I'd much prefer stone walls over bones at our backs. At the very least it will keep prowlers at bay until the morning."
"And on the off-chance we're not alone, i'm certain we'll find some way or other of dealing with it."
I study Hermodur for a moment before finally letting out a long sigh. "Yeah. Wasting time. Sorry." I shake my head, turn around, and roughly grab the handle to my cage.
I look up at Violet. "Well, I was thinking the pass, but if you think the fort is a better bet I trust your instincts more than mine." I chuckle. "At this point it probably looks like we're putting together a small militia, so you're probably right. I guess I'm with you, then."
"And as for the newest member of the group, i'm sure we'll be willing to teach some of the basics, given the time. Once we find somewhere safe i suppose i can begin a spot of training, if you're willing to learn the intricacies of combat."
"Ignorance is forgivable. Willful ignorance is deplorable," Hermodur responds coldly to Aurora.>>696125
Hermodur stares at Norv thoughtfully for a while as the conversation ends.
After a moment, he speaks. "I find our rivalry - for lack of a better word - to be… comfortable. I know, it's a strange thought. But, I thought I'd share it."
"Fort sounds good. Silver and I can scout ahead, if needbe, or otherwise we can go together." he offers>>696126
"Yeah. I'm certain we can teach you a thing or two, Aurora. I'm plenty good at survival, and I'm not a bad archer. Silver here's a wiz with her blades."
I ease a little and let out another sigh. "Could you just… I don't know. Ease a little? Sometimes it feels like you intentionally make things harder on us, y'know? I get that you're a little-" I clear my throat, searching for a good word. "Boisterous, but that doesn't mean you have to verbally attack 90% of the people we meet. Especially if they didn't do anything to directly warrant it."
"Quite, though i will say it's important we find her a weapon she can use for herself, training with my shivs would hardly be useful if i'm the one to use them."
"I think I handled the last two days rather well…" Hermodur responds, sounding as if his pride is hurt a bit.
Zunden nods and smiles to to Aurora,
"Welcome, zhen. Ze next time we ztop to rezt I'll invoke the arcana."
Zunden turns to Violet,
"Ze fort zoundz fine, I'd razher our guide be going where zhey are more confident."
"We still have that blade, right? The ceremony one."
"Hmm.. I believe so, you should still have it, unless you left it behind, that is."
"I'd appreciate that," Aurora says with a rare smile. "Thanks.">>696127
"So is being a pompous, arrogant arse," she answers. "Let's just agree to keep out of each other's way.">>696124>>696125>>696128>>696132
"Fort it is then," says Violet. "Let's not waste time."
With your new ally in tow, you keep moving forward towards the fort. It bears no banners of allegiance, being made mainly of old, cracked stone. Nestled into the surrounding rocks, this fort contains several towers within its walls, with an open courtyard connecting them all. It is fairly small, by what you can tell. There is a back gate made of solid wood, beyond which presumably lies a path leading into the desert. The front gate, a wooden portcullis, is firmly closed.
As you approach, you see ghostly forms materialize atop the fort walls. They are of skeletal saurian archers, aiming down at you. "Halt, drifters!" A high, quavering voice rings out from within. They sound very old, and possibly a bit unhinged. "Seek you passage to the desert beyond?"
Zunden, seeing as she shares a race with the sets of bones, steps forward,
she says simply, nodding her head.
I snicker as Aurora bites back. I could get used to that.
I stumble backwards as I hear the archers, and almost fall over when I see them. I open my mouth to answer but think better of it. Someone else probably has a better response than me. Maybe Violet knows what to expect?
"Fort?" Hermodur suddenly pipes up. He was so strongly certain that everyone would pick the other way, he hadn't even paid attention. He smiles. "Well, this should be good."
"No banner or indicator of affiliation. Clearly bandits. Be ready," he says as they approach.
"Of course… I have been wrong in the past…" Hermodur mutters in confusion as he looks at the ghostly figures.
"Oh my, quite the surprise."
stepping forward, i gesture to the group with a wing.
"Indeed we do, watchers!" i reply, raising my voice to the specters along the walls.
"We seek shelter for the night before moving on to the sands ahead. May we enter?"
"Oh come now," Hermodur responds to Aurora with a smile. "You shouldn't hate yourself so much."
Hermodur snorts. "I admire your optimism."
"They seem coherent enough, despite their appearance. Perhaps we could reason a way inside."
"All the better than marching through a skeleton."
"No problem. We'll see what we can find, if the sword doesn't suit." he says, before following along after Violet
He's about to let out a sigh of relief, when the group of Saurian archers materialize, causing him to nearly jump out of his skin "W-Well, w-what else would it be?" he mumbles to himself, before shaking his head "Yeah! We're just passing through."
There is a moment of silence, then with a loud creaking sound, the portcullis opens. An ancient, decrepit saurian shuffles into view, leaning on a walking stick and wearing what looks like a tattered, dilapidated military uniform. She has a sort of frill around her neck, which is currently lying flat. She has a glazed, unfocused look in her eye. "There's nothing but death out there in the red waste," she croaks. "The gate says so. Turn back, unless you can prove your strength to survive. …General's orders."
The archers on top turn into wisps of blue aether, rematerializing on the ground in front of you, now holding a variety of weapons: sword and shield, axe, spear, hammer, crossbow, daggers and what looks like a magic staff. "Seven of them, and seven of us," Violet muses.
Aurora looks confused. "…We're not here to fight. We just want to pass through."
"If you cannot fight, then you are unworthy! Unworthy! Unworthy!" The saurian's frill flares up. "The sand-beasts will devour you whole! The gate has spoken!"
Aurora takes a step back. "M-maybe we should go the other way?"
Rabi lets out a short sigh, and looks to the others "So… should we? I think we can take them."
Zunden casts forth a few orbs to her companions.
[1d10+2] Frozen Healing Bonds: Aurora, Violet, Zunden.>>696144
"Could I azk why you're ordered to refuze uz entry?"Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
"Well now, this was unexpected! I had hoped things would be settled peaceably, but if you insist.."
ducking back, i try and get out of sight before the situation boils over.
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 10 = 10
I sigh and drop to one knee, gently laying my hand on top of my cage. Closing my eyes, I channel energy into it to try and summon 2 rats.
[1d10] DC+1Roll #1 8 = 8
Hermodur smirks. "This shouldn't take long."
He lifts Mjolnir over his head. "Surely, the blessings of Ailuros will be enough to prove our worth!"
As Hermodur flicks the ignition on his hammer, he looks to the skeleton with a magic staff. "You're mine," he says.
>Hunters's Eye on the skeleton with the magic staff>Sharpen [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"If we go one on one," Violet shrugs, "it should be pretty easy.">>696146
"General's orders," she mumbles. "General's orders…"
You conjure a few orbs for your teammates to heal with, as well as one for yourself.>>696147
As you see the old saurian getting agitated, you dip into one of the nearby watchtowers and hide there in case things go south.>>696148
Two large brown rats appear in the cage, looking curious at the outside world.>>696149
The skeleton stares blankly as you try to ignite Mjolnir, but to no avail.>>696145>>696146>>696147>>696148>>696149
At the sight of Zunden's healing magic, the crooked old saurian grows irate and whacks her with her walking stick, frill aquiver. It smarts, even through Zunden's protective scales, but doesn't leave any lasting damage. "No! No! That's cheating! You can't! Traitor! Harridan!"
As she works herself into a frenzy, the skeletons spring to life, starting to attack without impunity.
The crossbowman and the mage focus on Rabi, firing both spectral bolts and magical missiles at him.
The axe-wielding one and the hammer-wielding one go for Hermodur.
The warrior with the sword and shield lurches towards Norvegicus, swinging at him with an overhead chop.
The spearman takes aim and hurls his weapon at Zunden.
Finally, the one with the double daggers lunges at Aurora.
Violet runs and hides, sneaking around to strike at the right moment, while Aurora freezes in place at the sudden outbreak of combat. The old saurian backs away, screeching incoherent insults at the party, Zunden in particular.Roll #1 4, 8 = 12
/ Roll #2 4, 3 = 7
/ Roll #3 8 = 8
/ Roll #4 9 = 9
/ Roll #5 4, 5 = 9
keeping low, i move towards the duel-wielding skeleton, applying a coating of blue oil to a shiv before slicing at the exposed undead!
[1d10] Sleep serumRoll #1 3 = 3
Hermodur blocks the attacks going for him as he continues to try to ignite his hammer with a disgruntled expression.
>Sharpen [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
I click my tongue and shout "Attack!" To my rats. I grab at my dagger, but flinch at the incoming blade.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 1 + 1 = 2
Rabi yelps a little as the mage launches a bolt of magic at him, and responds by nocking, and firing the Splinterwood Arrow "Might as well try this on for size…">Elemental Ammo: Radiant (Blind, Bonus Damage vs Undead)>Magic Bow: [1d10+2]Roll #1 8 + 2 = 10
The arrow ricochets, towards the crossbowman!>Ricochet [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
And again, towards the dagger-wielding one!>Ricochet (2) [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"I did not zee in any rulez written anywhere."
Zunden says chucking as she starts casting spells. She holds her amulet, summoning inky inky black tentacles to hold the double-daggered skeleton.
[1d10] prowler's snareRoll #1 3 = 3
You attack the spectral skeleton, but it spins around and blocks your attack easily. It calls out to its fellow skeletons with a creaking, hissing sort of sound.>>696152
It roars to life momentarily, then sputters out and dies on you. Even with it powered down, however, it is a formidable weapon, as you swing at the encroaching skeletons. The hammer wielding one falls into bones momentarily, then puts itself back together, taking a moment to pat its head back into place.>>696153
You try to avoid the incoming blow, like Violet taught you, but are not fast enough and get a nasty shoulder injury. Your rats rush out to defend you on your command, but are cut down by its blade, taking heavy injuries.>Norvegicus takes 3 hits>both rats take 5 hits, helpless>>696157
"Deceiver! Deceiver!" the saurian howls from the sidelines. "False prophet!"
You call on the power of the bracelet Black Pudding gave you, but nothing happens. You stagger slightly from the impact of the spear from your attacker. It dissipates on impact, but leaves a wound.>Zunden takes 3 hits>>696154>>696155>>696156
You manage to leap out of the way and avoid the crossbow bolts, but fail to avoid the incoming magic missile. It leaves a scorching, smarting mark on your chest.>Rabi takes 3 hits
Drawing the Splinterwood Arrow, it glows brightly as it soars through the air, piercing straight through the spellcasting skeleton and making it dissipate in a cloud of blue smoke. You feel a sudden magical connection with the arrow, finding yourself able to subtly manipulate its trajectory. You change it to bounce off a wall and towards the crossbow-wielding one, destroying it also in a flash of blue and white. You bounce it again towards the dagger skeleton, but lose your control over it, and it goes wide and clatters to the ground. >>696151>>696152>>696153>>696154>5 skeletons remaining
Having drawn its attention, the dual wielding skeleton stabs at Silver.
The hammer and axe skeletons attack Hermodur again.
The spearman conjures another spear and hurls it at Zunden again.
The sword and shield one rushes to aid its fallen companions, moving towards Rabi.
You see the old saurian close her eyes as the skeletons fall, mumbling an incantation. The blue ethereal mist begins to coalesce as she attempts to resummon one.
Aurora manages to get away, following Silver's example and hiding in one of the watchtowers.
Violet seems to be focusing on striking at one of the skeletons hounding Hermodur, waiting for an opportunity.
>pausingRoll #1 2, 2 = 4
/ Roll #2 2, 2 = 4
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
/ Roll #4 9 = 9
Posting in advance.
Sharpen! [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I shriek in agony and stumble back, barely managing to catch myself.The sound of my squealing rats dropping to the ground turns my stomach and I drop to my knee again, glancing around at them. "Come on, guys, you can do it. Get back up." They weakly struggle to stand.
I take a deep breath and lay my hand on my cage, attempting to summon two more rats.
[1d10] DC+1Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 8 + 1 = 9
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
Ducking out of the way of the skeleton's stabbing, i draw both shivs across it's bony frame in return!
"You think you can hit me with that wild flailing? Please
[1d10] MeleeRoll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 8 = 8
Rabi blinks a couple times as he watches the arrow do its job.He eventually shakes his head a little to get back into the action, and fires a bolt of fire at the skeleton swinging at Silver>Magic Bolt (Fire): [1d10+1] [1d10+1]Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 5 + 1 = 6
"You are very rude."
Zunden grumbles from the where she is, then turing to the spearman to bonk him on the head, his spear glancing off of her thick scales.
[1d10] bonkRoll #1 9 = 9
Your hammer whirrs and trembles as the flame in its core ignites, illuminating the area and casting an orange glow on you. Reacting to the incoming undead warriors, you knock them both flying with a single wide swipe, breaking them to pieces where they land.>>696235
Both of your rats manage to recover, but they look significantly worse for wear.>>696236
The skeleton manages to get a nasty hit in on you, but you counter with a flurry of consecutive attacks, scattering its bones.>Silver takes 3 hits>>696237
You try to conjure a fireball, but you lose your concentration. It seethes and combusts violently, scorching you badly. You find yourself dazed and stunned from the misfired spell.>Rabi takes 5 hits, helpless>>696238
The spear rings true, but bounces right off your protective hide. In response, you give it a punitive thwack on the skull, decapitating it. It starts wandering around aimlessly as it tries to find its head.>>696234>>696235>>696236>>696237>>696238
The mad saurian creates a ring of blue light with a wave of her gnarled old claw, out of which floats another spectral saurian skeleton, once again holding a staff.
>3 skeletons remaining
The sword and board skeleton swings at Rabi with a ghostly hiss.
The now headless spear-wielding skeleton swings clumsily at Zunden.
The freshly conjured skeleton mage summons a fireball and casts it at Hermodur.
The saurian tries to resummon the double dagger skeleton.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 10 - 1 = 9
/ Roll #3 9 = 9
/ Roll #4 3 = 3
Rabi's knocked on to his rear from the force of the mis-casted spell's explosion, but shakes it off with remarkable speed. He hops back to all fours with a quick roll and nocks another arrow, weaving it with a bit of anti-wizardry magic, and firing it at the Saurian>Magic Bow: [1d10+2]>Silence: On hit, prevents the target from spellcasting for 2 turnsRoll #1 2 + 2 = 4
Scattering the bones of the undead assailant, i try and get out of sight to plan my next move
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 3 = 3
(forgot, used Arabian Agility)
"At last," Hermodur says with a smile as he turns to skeletal mage. "Your time has come."
He leaps at the mage, swining the hammer back over his head. The rocket activates on the swing forward, driving the hammer straight down on the top of the skeleton's head. When all you have is a hammer, nail your enemy into the ground.
[1d10+3] [1d10+3]>DC-1, take the larger rollRoll #1 10 + 3 = 13
/ Roll #2 4 + 3 = 7
I make an attempt to summon a swarm of rats.
[1d10] Animal Swarm
I look up at the saurian casting the spell and grit my teeth, silently wishing I had some kind of ranged attack. Without glancing at my summoned rats I point at the skeleton mage. "Attack!"
The rats both let out an annoyed chitter and take an uneasy step forward before darting at the skeleton.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7
/ Roll #3 8 + 1 = 9
"How iz it zhat you're more accurate wizhout your head."
Zunden frowns, bursting her sun to heal herself before she falls prone. She grasps her corrupted charm and sets tentacles out to grasp the necromantic saurian.
>spending stored heal
[1d10+1] Prowler's SnareRoll #1 5 + 1 = 6
You quickly steady yourself and nock a magic-preventing arrow, but you are unable to fire in time as you are forced to fend off the incoming skeleton warrior. You dodge its swing and counter by using your bow as a melee weapon, bashing its brittle bones in. It is weakened, but not down yet.>>696241
The summoner spots you trying to make your getaway. "Kill her! Kill them all! They are unworthy of the Sands!" she raves. The skeletons turn their attention towards you now.>>696243
You start charging towards the mage, taking the full brunt of the fireball head on. It scorches and singes your fur, but you keep charging, leaping into the air and pummeling the skeleton into the ground with a single almighty blow. There is nothing left as you lift your hammer but a smoldering crater. The old saurian looks thunderstruck by your display.>>696244
You try to get more rats to appear, but they seem reluctant to come out.
Your rats move to obey your command, but by the time Hermodur is done there is not much left of the skeleton to attack.>>696245>>696246
You take a powerful blow from the skeleton, but shrug it off easily as you heal yourself. Extending your left arm, you stagger slightly as ropy black tentacles burst out from the bracelet. They feel cold and clammy against your skin. The tentacles extend out to grasp the mad summoner, wrapping around her arms, legs and mouth, bringing her to the ground. You feel you will not be able to hold the spell for long.>>696240>>696241>>696243>>696244>>696245>2 skeletons remaining
The spear-wielding skeleton heeds its master's instructions, ignoring Zunden in favor of hurling a spear at Silver.
The sword and shield skeleton keeps swinging at Rabi.
The summoner struggles to break free of her bonds.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 - 1 = 4
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
/ Roll #3 1 = 1
I blankly stare down at my cage when, again, nothing comes out. Without looking up I command my rats again. "Spear one next!"
They hesitate, and seem to tremble for a moment, but follow my order.
I lift my hand in the air and slam my fist hard on the top of my cage, wincing as a sharp pain shoots through my wound. I make another attempt to summon a swarm.
[1d10] Rat swarmRoll #1 3 + 1 = 4
/ Roll #2 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
ducking as the spear whizzes by, i quickly apply a coating of crimson from my toxins kit, before galloping towards the summoner, lunging forward with the shiv!
? How dare you!"
[1d10] RuptureRoll #1 7 = 7
Charm arm busy with tentacles, Zunden pauses to charge her magic.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
Hermodur grins and holds the hammer horizontally. He points the rocket end behind him and lifts a leg up. "Don't question the worthiness of the messenger to a god!"
He lets the rocket roar; the force of it causes him to spin around wildly. As he spins, the flames heat up the hammer, causing it to glow. He picks up speed and quickly swipes through all three remaining skeletons.
>Hot Irons on 3 targets [1d10+2]Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11
Rabi ducks out of the way of another swing, and seeing as the shield wielder doesn't seem to be much of a problem, takes a shot at the one badgering Silver >Magic Bow: [1d10+1]Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4
One of your rats gets batted away, while the other manages to gnaw through the ethereal bones, striking again and again, gradually weakening the skellington.
At your more forceful command, you manage to summon several smaller rats to fight by your side.>>696249
You manage to avoid the incoming spear, delivering a forceful stab to the crazed old lizard. She lets out a muffled grunt of pain as you stab her in the side. Such a blow is sure to be fatal to someone of her age.>>696250
You bask in what little sunlight is left, your staff glowing yellow. As you do so, the spell breaks, and the summoner is released from your grasp, the tentacles retreating into the amulet. You feel slightly queasy from the effort, and sense something slightly wrong with you, but the feeling passes.>>696251
You spin to win, propelled by the force of the hammer. The sheer force of your hammer shatters both skeletons with ease, sending them clattering to the ground and dissipating into blue mist. As the last of them falls, you stand triumphant on the battlefield.>>696252
You manage to fend off the skeleton warrior easily, giving him a good kick. Before you can finish either of them off, however, Hermodur proves his strength yet again as he cleaves through them both.>>696248>>696249>>696250>>696251>>696252
With all her minions down, and with a terrible stab wound at her side, the old saurian struggles to get away from you, clutching her side and breathing heavily. "You… You will find nothing… but dust… and blood…" She looks mortally wounded by Silver's blow, only barely clinging to life.
Zunden clutches at her stomach, but walks over to the saurian, leaning on the healing power of the sun to heal her enemy and help with her the feel of unease.
"Zhere, we have beat your challenge. But it doez not mean you have to die today."
[1d10+2] Healing Bonds: Zunden (frozen), necromancer, and anyone else (if someone responds to my need for a sun in the cy later, to them)Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
with a moment's concentration, the healing light above me bursts, sealing my minor cuts.>Using cold light orb
shaking the remaining poison off my shivs, i sheath the blades and approach the wounded saurian, looking smug.
"Oh? dust and blood you say?"
"Well if fighting you
was any indication i'm sure we'll be just fine.">>696254
"Really now, healing the one who was planning on killing us? How can you be sure she won't simply attack us again?"
"We outnumber her."
"And I believe zey zimply are trying to keep uz from hurting ourzelvez by going out into ze dangerouz dezert."
>>696253>Cold Light Orb
Rabi lets out a sigh of relief as the orb knits his cuts and scrapes closed, before rolling his shoulders out. He gives Hermodur a bit of a thankful nod, as well.>>696254>>696256
"I'm fine with leaving them alive. No need to kill them, so long as they let us past."
"Haha! Take that!" he says proudly as he looks to the Saurian before he realizes the Saurian is injured. He frowns and kneels on one kneel. The kneeling is more out of dizziness than respect. He leans on the handle of Mjolnir for support.
"If its naught but dust and blood, what do we have to be worthy for?" he asks in a combination of genuine curiosity and annoyance.>>696255
"She wasn't planning to kill us, she was testing us. Really, I'm rather surprised you attacked her."
A chill runs down my spine as the saurian speaks, and I make it a point not to look up. I open up my cage and click my tongue. My heart sinks as I watch them limp quietly squeaking into the cage with their backs arched. I lightly drop my hand on top of it, unsummoning them. My heart thuds in my chest and countless thoughts race through my mind. Without saying anything I drop to the ground and close my eyes, trying not to hyperventilate. >>696255
"You'd rather just let her bleed out and die?" I make an attempt not to sound accusatory, but I'm fairly certain I failed completely. >>696254
Both my breathing and heartrate ease a little as I activate the frozen light, healing myself.
"Not trying to… Did you really
not notice her screaming about killing us? What part of 'kill them all' sounds like a good natured test?" i respond, gesturing to the saurian with a wing.>>696259
"Oh my, i try and keep everypony alive and suddenly i'm
with a muted 'hmph', i turn away from the offending pair.
"While I'd rather avoid killing someone… she /did/ sort of start it."
"I'm glad somepony
can see reason here! Really now, the nerve of those two, accusing me of being 'excessive'.."
"You heard her screaming for our deaths, right, Rabi?"
"Again, zhe'z not going to kill all of uz after nearly dying. What'z got you zo zet on killing her?"
She hisses in protest as you heal her, but is unable to do anything to stop you. Her breathing begins to slow as her wound heals. She looks the exact opposite of grateful right now. "Shrew," she spits. "If you only knew what you possess, you would run screaming.">>696255
She merely scowls and mumbles what you assume are an assortment of profane curses.>>696255>>696257>>696259
You heal your wounds with Zunden's magic, the pain subsiding rapidly and your injuries closing and fading away.>>696258
She glares up at you. "To you, it is nothing. You cannot know the truth of the Sands. You would never understand. General's orders…">>696254>>696255>>696257>>696258>>696259
The saurian struggles back up, leaning on her walking stick. "Go, then," she snarls. "Dash yourselves to shreds in the Sands and rid us of your ignorance." With some effort, she starts pulling a nearby chain, which slowly opens a gate at the far end of the courtyard which seems to lead into a dark rocky passage. Once this is done, she hobbles away into a nearby watchtower, grumbling under her breath and slamming the rickety wooden door behind her.
"…Well, that was certainly something." Aurora pokes her head out of her hiding spot and joins you. "You guys are something else when it comes to a scrap. Sorry I wasn't much help. I'm not much of a fighter."
"I was about to spear some of those strolling bones," Violet adds as she rejoins the group, "but you guys had it all covered. 'Specially you, big guy." She nods and smiles approvingly at Hermodur.
"Well, now what?" she asks. "I'm pretty sure that old bag is going to stay out of our way, so maybe we should camp here. Or do you want to head into the Sands now?"
I close my eyes again, sigh, and nod. "Yeah… I know. Sorry."
>>696254>>696264>forgot to add
You heal yourself, but the vague feeling of sickness lingers faintly.
Rabi stoops down to pick his arrow up, before making a bit of a face "I feel a little funny, to be honest. Maybe we should head a little ways away and make camp?"
thing i'm set on is clearing up these accusations that i attacked her out of turn! Am i really
one that can hear here?! She was clearly
trying to kill us, screaming about killing us and all!">>696264
Irate at the state of things, i forcefully sigh in irritation.
"Lets just find a spot to camp. I've had enough of this mockery for tonight."
"If we couldn't survive something this pathetic, then we certainly wouldn't survive the desert. The logic seems sound and good-natured to me.">>696264
"If there's nothing for us, then there's no reason to be tested," Hermodur responds, growing annoyed. He simply grumbles as she leaves without a response.
"Thank you," he nods with a smile to Violet. "I fear it has been a bit of a struggle for me ever sine I arrived here. My hammer has been rather… uncooperative," he says as he stands up and puts Mjolnir on his back.
"The desert is cold enough at night," Hermodur responds. "It should be restful enough. Unless you are not comfortable with the cold."
"She was trying to kill us poorly. That's an important distinction."
I look up at Aurora and let out a small, mirthless chuckle. "Yeah. I hear you there. No problem." After taking another deep breath, I grunt as I pull myself back to my feet. After I pick my cage back up I walk closer to the rest of the party.>>696267
"Yeah. I think I like the sound of taking a breather. I think need a chance to clear my head anyway.">>696268
I clench my teeth. "Look," I say. "I understand. I just-" I look away and shudder. "I just don't like it. It just seems like there should always be another way, y'know? Like it shouldn't always come down to murder."
"I agree with the dog," Hermodur says as he points to Norv. "Why bother killing someone who is of no threat to you?"
"Oooh enough of this." i reply, waving the two of you off with a wing
"She's alive, as are we, and i'll not be hounded for justification for trying to end the fight quickly. Now can we please
move on? We've a decision to make, moving onward or setting up camp."
"Zhe alzo clearly wanted to die. Zhe'z ill."
Zunden says, looking behind her solemnly as they move,
"I'm not one to kill zhoze not right of mind if we can avoid it. But let uz avoid making a deal of it. Zhe iz no longer an izzue.">>696264
Zunden looks at the corrupt bracelet on her arm, staring at it with contemplation. After some moments of thinking, she leaves it on, following the rest of the party.
I tilt my head. "Well. That actually kind of surprises me. Thanks, though.">>696273
I stare at you for a moment, but quietly nod.>>696274
I look over at Zunden to listen, but my gaze drifts to the bracelet bracelet. My eyes linger for just a moment longer than they probably should before I glance away. "Yeah. Right. Sorry."
"Maybe just get some distance from this place and gauge it from here? If it's a desert, we might want to set down for the night at the tip of it to plan things out- if we feel ready, we can push on. I'm more than capable of making my way through the desert, but not everyone'll be as capable of bearing it naturally."
"Heh," Hermodur cracks a smile. "'Hounded,'" he chuckles as he looks at Norv.
I actually manage to crack a small smile, and chuckle a bit. "Wonder if that was intentional."
You retrieve the Splinterwood Arrow and tuck it away safely.>>696274>>696275>>696276
Something about the bracelet disturbs you somewhat, though you don't quite know why.>>696277>>696268>>696269>>696274>>696271
"I say we camp here," Aurora chimes in. "I don't fancy getting eaten by sand monsters in my sleep."
Violet shrugs. "Well, I'm going to go scout out what's ahead. See what we're up against. If that old coot stays out of the way, we might even be able to use this as a base for a while. Anyone want to join me?" Without waiting for an answer, she lights a torch and starts moving into the open tunnel, squinting as a hot wind blows through it into the fort.
Zunden nods, turning to Aurora,
"Would you like to have a reading, now zhat we're out of harm'z way for the time being?"
"It might be for the best if I go with you- just to see what we're dealing with. Want to come along, Silver?" he asks, offering her a hoof.
"Oh very well, if you insist." i reply, collecting myself before following along with the pair.
"I'd assume we'll be looking over quite a bit of sand, though i doubt there'll be more than that from this vantage."
"That's a fantastic idea," Hermodur says as he follows Violet.
"I think I'm going to hang out here for now."
She nods as she starts setting up her tent, although she doesn't seem to be very good at it. "Sure. Can't hurt, I suppose. Do your thing.">>696282>>696283>>696284
You move through the rocky tunnel, following Violet onward. You notice that the stones are a deep, vibrant shade of red, as is the earth beneath you. Streaks of mineral line the walls and ceiling, and a hot, dusty breeze whistles through the tunnel constantly. As you emerge to the other side, you finally see the Shifting Sands.
Violet said before that to call the Sands a desert would be to call a lake a puddle, and seeing it now for yourselves, you realize how true that rings. The area ahead is vast beyond imagining, a neverending sea of blood-red dunes, rocky outcrops, and the occasional remains of a stone structure. All the while, you can hear a faint buzzing sort of sound. The Sands seem to stretch infinitely no matter where you look. Violet looks slightly dismayed at the monumental task that is before you. "…Well now. Maybe we should leave exploration to tomorrow, hm?"
She is about to say something else to try and lighten the mood, but trails off as she notices a large carved stone jutting out of the sand dunes near the tunnel exit. Approaching it, she brushes off the dust covering its flat surface, revealing a message, faded with time to be barely legible:
TH S I TI G SA S
DEA H SW MS WI IN ITS ROC Y WALL
W ERE ALL A E ONE, O E WILL ULES LL
BE OW TH DE D, THE LIV NG STRIVE
WITH MINDLE S WIL TO S V IVE
"'With mindless will to survive?' That's not ominous at all." She immediately pulls out her journal and starts sketching the warning stone, writing down the message. "I wonder who left this here."
"Suit yourself." Violet leaves with most of the others, leaving you, Zunden, and Aurora to set up camp.
Zunden smiles, helping Auora pitch her tent first.
"We'll do zo on your own time, let'z get a proper camp zet up firzt."
"Probably, yeah. We might be able to spot a decent route through it, or somewhere good to head towards first, like an old building.">>696286
"…Wew, that's a big one. It might be best to explore tomorrow, yea- oh, hello. What's this?" he asks, leaning in to try and read it.
"I can't make out the first line, but it says something like…
Death swims within its rocky wall.
where all are one, one will… something.
Below the dead, the living strive.
With mindless will to survive."
He looks back up to Violet, and winces a bit "Yeah, I don't like the sound of that at all."
I move to help her set up the tent. Something I feel like I actually should be decent at after helping out with it so many times so far. As I help her I keep wanting to talk, but lose my nerve. After a little bit I finally manage to ask, "Would you mind if I asked you a couple of, uh-" My mouth feels dry and I reflexively swallow. "A couple of personal questions that have been on my mind?"
As Hermodur walks out of the tunnel and sees the Shifting Sands, a smile creeps across his face. "Huh, nostalgia," he mutters out loud. "Not what I expected to feel here.>>696289
"You were born in Abyssinia, yes? Does this bring back memories for you as well?"
"Death swims within its rocky walls…" Hermodur reads slowly, squinting to perhaps see it better. "We are all gone? One will… something?"
"Below the dead, the living strive… With mindless will to survive. Hmm… Probably a useful warning at some point."
That would be for the best, i'd rather not run afoul of some nightlife we're ill-equipped to see.>>696289
"'below the dead, the living strive'… Perhaps it's hinting at some sort of undead? We did
just fight a company of ghosts after all."
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
after eying the inscription for a time, i turn to look into the dunes.
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
You help her set up the tent. She doesn't say much, but silently observes how you do it and helps where she can. After a minute or so, it's ready to go. Her tent seems rather poorly compared to the proper ones the rest of the party have, much smaller and flimsier, but it should do. "Thanks, I guess," she says, rubbing the back of her head. "Like I said, I'm a bit out of my element here."
With the tent done, Aurora starts rummaging around for some kindling to start a fire, eventually finding some old, unused furniture in one of the nearby watchtowers. She jumps as insults come echoing out from the old saurian's perch, but manages to get a merry blaze going nonetheless with her own fire starting kit. She seems more comfortable doing this instead of setting up tents.>>696288
"So," she says, with the camp set up. "What was that about a reading?">>696290
She looks through you. You get the feeling she knows what you're going to ask about. "…Well, I don't have much of a choice. It's not like I can go anywhere else. Shoot.">>696289
"First line looks like it says "The Shifting Sands," she observes. "At least that's what I assume it says.">>696291
Looking out at the blood-red desert, you recall the words of the oracle that Ailuros consulted in your vision. "A sea of red, and then the fallen one. Chaos.">>696292
"But that doesn't make any sense," she muses, thinking out loud. "If it's talking about undead, why would the living strive below the dead? I don't get it. I suppose we'll find the answer soon enough.">>696293>>696294
You don't see anything out of the ordinary. There are no life forms in sight that you can see, only neverending sand.
"Come on, let's head back," says Violet, motioning for you to follow. "Before something horrible shows up."
"Right. Hopefully Zunden set up camp while we were gone, i'd love
to get some sleep after all this traveling!"
"Yeah, plenty. I should be fine here, at least physically. It's a different place, but a desert's a desert." >>696292
"Yeah, maybe. But, mindless living? Maybe… some kind of insect? I dunno. But, definitely undead. Maybe they're in the stone walls…" he says, stepping over a little>>696295
"Right, Shifting Sands. Don't know ow I missed that… well, any clue what might be around here, Violet? Heard anything?"
I let out an uncomfortable chuckle. "That makes it sound like I've trapped you." I roll it around in my head for a minute. "What did it feel like to… Well, to kill someone? I've never done it, and I'm pretty sure I don't want to." I sit down beside her in front of the fire and set my cage beside me. "I'm honestly kind of afraid that if the time comes that I need to that I won't even be able to do it. Is it different knowing that they're 'bad'? Do you think that makes it easier?" I stare at the fire for a second before continuing. "Before I came here I hurt someone. He was a bad man, and I've been told that it's only even tangentially my fault, but I still can't help but feel like there was something I could have done to prevent it, y'know? Like, the guy's face is basically gone now and I
did that to him. Just that is hard to live with sometimes, so it's hard for me to imagine… well. You know."
I clear my throat and cross my legs, folding my hands in my lap. "Sorry. This probably isn't even something you want to talk about."
"Yeah, I get the sense that there's something happening beneath the dunes," Hermmodur comments apprehensively. "Should be a dangerous trek."
He then proceeds to follow Violet back to camp.>>696297
"When I was young, my father constantly reminded me to never underestimate the desert."
"Yez yez, you're at a turning point, zo I wanted to offer you zomething zat might help your future zeem lezz… unztable. Know zhat I do not claim to zee the future. Inztead, I uze ze cardz to help interpret your pazt, prezent, and what ze future may hold, to help wizh any dezizionz you may be ztruggling wizh."
Zunden sits crosslegged by the fire and urges Aurora join her, pulling out the tarot cards and shuffling them. Once she's seated and done talking to Norv, Zunden begins.
the first card Zunden reveals is face up, showing a warrior saurian bandaged and laying in a cot, his sword lying next to him and three others placed in a row on a stand.
"Ah, zhat makez zenze. Your pazt iz reprezented az four of zwordz. Zhiz card iz one zymbolizing rezt and contemplation. Zhiz waz mozt likely your time in ze moneztary. How haz your time zpent in the moneztary zhaped the prezent, and pozzibly future? I wonder…"
Zunden says, tapping her deck again and revealing the second card. A cloaked saurian faces away from the card in a night time scene, looking out at the water of an oasis with eight cups stacked in front of him.
"Eight of cupz. Your prezent featurez disilluzionment, walking away, or leaving zhingz behind. Perhapz you feel dizappointment now zhat one of your biggezt drivez haz been zuddenly uprooted. Zhrough abandoning whatever it iz, you may feel you have lozt a part of yourzelf az well. But zheze feelingz you may already know. What doez the future hold, ze zhingz you do not know…"
Zunden's claws hover over the final card, hesitating before flipping it over. The card's main feature is a saurian dressed in white, face hidden behind a masked turban. He walks away from a blacksmith, clutching six swords under his cloak. A last sword is left behind in the sand, dropped by the rogue as he slinks away.
Zunden bites her tongue, pausing again before continuing,
"Ze final card. What the fatez may have in ztore for you on your current pazh, if you do not try to rezizt it. The Zeven of zwordz. Zhiz card zpeakz of dezeption, trickery. You might feel prezzured to be dizhonezt in order to achieve your ambitionz, hoping that liez may go unnotized. Az ze card zhowz, zhough, zhiz may be a difficult tazk."
She looks into the mare's eyes,
"Whatever zheze cardz mean to you, you do not have to zhare. I'm only a conduit to ze forzez of fate - a reader, not a weaver. Ze cardz can be… difficult to interpret at pointz. If you have any more queztionz of the nature of ze cardz or anyzhing really, I'm more zhan happy to be a confidant at any point."
"Well, Saddle Arabians are built for the desert. But, you're right. There's a lot that could happen, and a lot there… add to the fact that there's likely some form of magic here, and we've got something nasty."
"Well, there are bug monsters out here. Terreocti, they're called. I've heard they're dangerous but I've never actually seen one. I can only imagine we will eventually. It's probably referring to them.">>696298
You note that there are significant spaces in between some of the letters on the warning stone. On closer inspection, it reads more like this:
TH S I TI G SA S
DEA H SW MS WI IN ITS ROC Y WALL
W ERE ALL A E ONE, O E WILL ULES LL
BE OW TH DE D, THE LIV NG STRIVE
WITH MINDLE S WIL TO S V IVE>>696296>>696297>>696300
As you return to the campsite, you find that only Aurora's tent has been set up so far, although a fire has been started to provide warmth. Violet is hard at work setting up the others, but it's slow work on her own.>>696299
She is hesitant to answer you, occupying herself by stoking the flames. She answers eventually, choosing her words deliberately.
"I never really planned any of it out. I mean, I did. But I didn't really. It all went wrong after I didn't get him where I meant to. I… I've dealt with bodies before, through my medical training, so I knew what I meant to do, but it didn't kill him like it was supposed to. I froze, then he attacked me. I tried to knock him out with the rag but that didn't work, so then I just tried choking him. …I never said anything to him. I don't think he knew who I was, but he probably knew why I was doing it. When I was done, it was like… It was like he was never really there. He was just an object. Then I panicked, of course, I just felt so sick, and numb… I never thought I'd get the chance to actually kill him. I never thought I'd see that face again. But as soon as I saw him walk into the temple, I knew what I was going to have to do." She takes a deep breath. "That's probably not the answer you're looking for, is it. …I didn't feel anything. There was nothing there at all." She stares into the fire for a while.>>696301
She listens politely as you do her reading. It's difficult to tell what she's thinking. She is silent as you finish, then asks a question. "I… don't really understand that last one. Everything else lines up well enough, but I don't feel like that card really describes me. I'm not a liar or a robber. I mean, I've had to pilfer before, to get by back on Animus, but I was never really good at it. Stealing's what got me kicked down here in the first place. I'm a doctor, not a thief. It's just not in me." She shrugs. "But what do I know. Fate has spoken, I suppose."
"That makes… a lot of sense, actually. So they probably live under the sand. We'll want to make sure to check the sand for any unnatural pits or shifts.
Upon returning to the camp, he quickly goes to help set the camp up. The Saddle Arabian settles on in to the fire, and takes a chance to stretch out.
"Did you traverse the desert much?" Hermodur responds curiously. "Or, did you stick more to the towns?"
Returning to the sight of a merry fire burning, i gather my camping gear and start to set up my tent.
"Now that we're safely behind walls we may yet get some proper sleep tonight!"
Hermodur goes about setting up tents.
"No, you're fine. That does help me a little. Thank you. I think… Well, I think I have a lot to think about."
"No, and I do not zhink you are eizher."
Zunden says, responding to Aurora's denial of being a bad person, rubbing the wrist of her braceleted arm reflexively,
"Liez are complex zhingz. You don't have to be a zhief or bad perzon to lie. Often zey are zaid wizh good intentionz, or even zaid wizhout knowing it'z a lie. Alternatively, we could interpret ze card az a rogue zhat you may meet zome day, zhat you will find to be dizhonezt."
Zunden takes one of Aurora's hoofs with her claw,
"It iz foolizh to zay 'I am fated for zhiz to occur'. Fate can be rezizted, changed. Ze cardz only prezent one pozzible future given ze pazh you are currently on. You are ze mazter of your own fate."
You get to work setting up the other tents. Violet smiles gratefully as you get them all done in record time. "Hey, you guys are getting pretty good at this. Won't even need my help soon," she remarks with a grin.>>696306
You set up your own tent. You're starting to find it quite easy, despite your lack of previous experience.>>696304>>696306>>696307
"See anything interesting out there?" Aurora asks. "Or just sand?">>696308
"The way you guys seem to be heading," she comments, "you'll probably have to fight someone eventually. I know I had to a few times, before I found the monastery. It's just how life is here."
The conversation is interrupted by Violet. "Hey Norv, you up for some more sparring? Feel like we were getting somewhere last time.">>696309
"I see. So it just represents the concept of dishonesty in my life at some point, not that I'm the dishonest one."
As you reach out to her, she reflexively pulls away, but accepts your grasp somewhat reluctantly. She nods in understanding. "But what if that's wrong? What if there is only one future? The moon acolytes believe in manifest destiny, but even though I did their rituals and said their prayers, I don't think I believe in it. Or Luna, for that matter. Mercy, kinship, compassion - those are things I think everyone should strive for, not just the most devout….Hey, what's that on your arm?"
She is looking down at your left arm, where the black magic bracelet is dangling. You see that there is a small black spot on it, around where your veins are. Rubbing it proves it is not just a speck of dirt; the spot is part of you, and is inside your body. It is the same hue as the black tentacles of a Prowler.
"hmm, looks to be mostly sand and stone, quite a lot of it in fact."
"Hopefully we have enough water for the trip, i doubt we'll find any sort of oasis out there."
I sigh and lower my voice a little. "Yeah. I guess you're right. This place isn't really like home. At this rate I'm probably going to get myself killed."
I push down my reeling emotions, look up at Violet, and smile. "Yeah, sure," I say. "I could probably do with more practice anyway." I stand up, brush my suit off, and walk over to her. "I don't think I'll summon any rats this time."
"We also saw a warning," Hermodur answers Aurora. "Something about the living being beneath the dead. It was incomprehensible. Certainly sounds as if there is some dark magic out there. So, we should certainly be careful and ready for anything.">>696311
"There will always be water in a desert," Hermodur interjects. "It may not exist in great amounts, but it will be there. And, water always follows the same routes. Meaning, it will gather in one location. Thus, an oasis is created. It WOULD be a simple matter of looking for the most downhill location. But, with the constant shifting of the dunes, its difficult to tell where true downhilll is."
Zunden chuckles a bit,
"I do not zhink ze matterz of fate are az black and white az zey might zeem. Everyone haz a zet journey zey muzt go on, Az reprezented by ze Major Arcana."
Zunden says, picking out the cards in question and aranging them from The Fool to The World, in order,
"Everyone walkz zhiz pazh, and for ze mozt part? It iz concrete. All creaturez are born az Ze Fool, and no creature ever journiez pazt knowing more zhan Ze World. However,"
Zunden says, revealing the rest of her cards,
"Ze minor arcana are ze ztepz inbetween ze unchangable - ze every day occurenzez we have the capability to change. Az wizh ze choice to zhow mercy to ze zaurian back zhere, we have free will. We can take comfort zhat our entire lifez are not beyond our control."
"In fact, you zhinking you do not believe zome of ze tenantz of your moon prinzezz, but inztead realizing zhat being a good perzon izn't an excluzive club? Zhat iz you controlling your own Fate."
Zunden sighs, looking at her arm with an hard-to-decipher expression.
"Ze err… tendrilz I uzed to prevent you from fleeing earlier, and ze necromanzer beyond zhat gate.. Ze are magic prozcribed zhiz brazlet ze mage Black Pudding gave me. I believe it'z zlowly hurting my body, but I cannot deny it'z uzefullnezz in protecting my friendz and keeping bozh zidez from harm."
She takes the bracelet off for a moment, holding it up next to the fire,
"I've been told to be careful wizh zhiz artifact, zhat ze zhadowz are corrupting and dangerouz. But I alzo know ze light of ze zun will keep ze zhadowz at bay. For now, I zhink ze good I can do for ozherz wizh it iz greater zhan…"
Zunden gazes at the dark blotch,
"Whatever dizcomfort it may give me."
"Sand, and a really, really creepy message. Gave us a good warning, though. Watch the ground for insects, and… undead, somewhere. We're going to want to be as vigilant as possible, friends."
He chuckles a little, and smiles "I'm a big boy now, Violet!"
"Huzzah," says Aurora without the slightest trace of enthusiasm.>>696312
"Great!" Violet walks over to the wagon and digs through it, eventually pulling out the two wooden practice swords and passing you one. "Alright then, let's see how much you remember from last time."
She moves into a low defensive stance, pointing her sword close to the ground and putting one leg forward, watching you closely. "Don't be shy. Hit me."
Although you can't see her, you can feel Aurora watching the two of you curiously.>>696311>>696313
"He's right, you know," Violet adds. "There has to be some way for whatever lives out there to get a water supply. It can't be all sand. Plus, if there are ruins, then people must have lived there at one point. Meaning there must be someplace they got their water from. Still, Silver's right. We should stock up on as much water as we can, and drink only when necessary.">>696314
She doesn't really seem quite sure what to make of your philosophy, but seems satisfied with you affirming her mastery over her own fate. She looks troubled at the black spot, despite your reassurance. "…Please be careful, Zunden," she says when you are done speaking. "You've probably heard this already, but dark magic like that isn't something to be trifled with. I just… I don't want any of you getting hurt. I know you're a better healer than I am, so if anything should happen to you, we're all going to be in for it. So please, try not to rely on that thing. It's already started getting a hold of you." She looks genuinely concerned for your well-being.>>696315
"Insects and undead," she parrots. "Well, I'm not much good against either, but I'll do what I can, I guess. Really should learn how to swing a sword…"
I take the wooden sword and twirl it a little, trying to remember what I learned last time. I glance over my shoulder at Aurora. "Yeah, that's what I'm trying to do at least."
I look back at Violet, turn sideways, and crouch a little. Part of me is legitimately afraid of hurting her. The other part realizes that chances are I couldn't if I tried.
I circle her for a moment, watching for any kind of lapse in her guard. After a quarter circle I step inward and swing the sword at her shoulder.
[1d10-1]Roll #1 6 - 1 = 5
You watch her carefully, then bring the sword downwards. You almost get a hit on her, but she manages to block it with an uppercut swing. She then goes for a mid-range blow on your torso, but you manage to block it. She seems taken aback, but then smiles. "Hey, that's not bad at all. You're starting to get the hang of it." She takes a few steps back and brings her sword up to point forward at about head height. "Don't disappoint me. I know you can do it!"
My tail wags and I smile at the encouragement. Maybe I actually am getting better and it's just hard to tell because of all the stuff that's been going on. "Thanks." I adjust the sword some, trying to get the handle to fit a little more comfortably in my hand.
I take a couple of steps back and slowly circle her a little more. "So I was thinking. Do you think I should start keeping a couple of rats summoned just in case? So I'm not spending the first half of any fight just trying to get something out? That way maybe I can actually participate next time instead of just standing back while everyone else does all the work."
I aim a quick lunge at Violet's chest.
[1d10-1]Roll #1 6 - 1 = 5
You seem to catch her off guard with the sudden strike, but she manages to counter it in time with a horizontal swipe, parrying your sword. She follows up with a few diagonal blows. You're not quite sure how, but on pure instinct you manage to counter them. You go for an overhead chop, but she bats it away. "Getting there, getting there," she smirks as she resets her defensive stance, this time raising it above her head.
"I think that's a great idea. That way you have at least one rat ready to go. You should consider doing one before bed tonight. We're probably going to run into a lot of trouble out there in the Sands."
My heart races as I, by some miracle, counter her attacks. I take a step back to catch my breath. "I'll probably do that then. I'm feel like I'm garbage. Like I'm neglecting them. Like earlier? I actually got kind of upset at them for getting hurt, and with myself for not being able to summon more. Upset. Not concerned. That worries me. It's not something I'd have ever expected to happen before."
I roll my shoulder around a little and give Violet a chance to realize I'm stepping back in. After watching her for a second I step in close and attempt a heavy overhead blow.
[1d10-1]Roll #1 2 - 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 10 - 1 = 9
"Don't worry about it," she reassures you. "We all screw up sometimes. And magic isn't something you can ever really control. I met a guy once who was a master of the mystic arts. Must have been like 400 years old, although he didn't look a day over 150. He told me the first step to knowing magic was to understand that you know nothing. I don't know why but that stuck with me. …But yeah, you shouldn't be getting upset at the little critters. They're trying their best. Only so much a rodent can do in a fight, really."
She sees your blow coming a mile away, bringing her own sword down and knocking yours out of your hand. She follows up with a somewhat painful jab to the chest. She almost knocks you flat on your butt. "Quit trying to hit me and hit me," she taunts, picking up your sword and handing it back to you.
>>696322>forgot to add
She resumes the same sword-up-high position as before, seemingly opting to give you a second chance against this particular stance.
I let out an audible "oof" and rub my chest. I can still feel the dull throb as I take the sword back. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. Don't just act like I'm going to try to hit her. Actually do it.
I open my eyes again, adjust the sword, and turn back to face her. This time instead of watching her sword I lock my eyes on her, trying to pick out a good spot to attack.
Maybe the problem is that I keep hesitating. Keep telegraphing exactly when and where I'm going to strike. I tighten my grip on the handle, swing overhead, feint, and dart in right up against her. I attempt to, as she moves to block my sword, draw my dagger and stop it a few inches away from her throat. Don't try. Do. Don't try. Do. It's okay to fight dirty. My heart slams against my chest and I can feel my body tremble.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Your split-second plan goes into motion. You swing overhead again, but feint and disengage just as she goes to parry. You sidestep her swing and maneuver behind her in one quick move. She wheels around to face you, swinging her sword in a spinning motion. Her move is slow and somewhat clumsy. She wasn't expecting you to feint. You easily avoid her swipe and unsheathe the dagger, pressing up against her, stopping just short of actually cutting her throat. She breathes heavily in a panic, freezing in place, staring at you with her single eye.
"…Looks like you're getting the hang of it now," she breathes eventually, pushing away from you. "Almost thought you'd lost your marbles for a moment there. Heh. Won't lie, you scared me a little there." Aurora says nothing, but you are aware of her quietly watching the two of you from the sidelines.
I feel a little dizzy after actually managing to pull it off. A faint blush spreads across my cheeks, and as I start to talk my voice catches in my throat. "Hah, yeah," I say. "Split second decision. Wasn't sure it'd actually work. Mainly because I didn't expect to-" my voice cracks and I have to clear my throat. "Didn't expect to get close enough to you."
I slowly reach down and slip the dagger back into it's sheath, stumble toward the fire on trembling legs, and drop back down next to Aurora. "That rush was, uh… It was something. I think I need a break, though." I look up at Violet and knit my brow. "You alright?"
Aurora moves over to make room for you. "Hm? Yeah, I'm fine," Violet answers, readjusting her eyepatch. "Need a drink myself, really. We'll make a fighter out of you yet. You have potential. You should try moves like that more often." She winks and smiles at you before vanishing into her tent, where you can see her rummaging about in her bags. Aurora remains silent, but takes a loaf of bread out of her bag, splits it in two and offers you the other half.
My concerned frown shifts into a smile as Violet compliments me. "Thanks. I might." My heartrate calms a little and my head slowly clears as the rush dies down. I look over at Aurora as she breaks her bread and take the proffered half. "Thanks." I tear off a piece and pop it into my mouth, chewing thoughtfully as I watch the flames.
You eat your meager dinner in silence. Violet comes out of her tent, then takes her swordspear and goes into the fort itself to check for valuables worth claiming. You suddenly notice that Aurora is looking at you again, bread in hoof.
"You like her, don't you."
It's not a question. She is waiting expectantly for an answer, the faint trace of a smile on her face. "Am I wrong?"
I inhale sharply, caught off guard by the sudden accusation. Unfortunately, I hadn't swallowed my bread first and break out in a fit of coughing. Before even catching my breath, I put my hand up. "What? I don't- We don't even- I'm-" I gulp, swallowing both the bread in my throat and my words. "Yes." I shake my head. "I mean no. You're not wrong. I guess I kind of do. Is it that obvious?"
"Painfully." She keeps the smirk on her face as she takes another bite of bread. "I mean, I only met you today, but it's pretty obvious." She looks over her shoulder to confirm Violet isn't around. "Does… does she know?"
I clear my throat again and let out one last small cough. "No. At least I don't think so. Maybe? We haven't even been traveling together for that
long, so I haven't really brought it up." I sigh and tear off another piece of bread and pop it in my mouth. This time I make sure to take a second to properly chew and swallow it before continuing.
"I don't know. Kind of a 'priorities' situation, I guess. If I brought it up now and made things awkward for this whole big journey then that'd just make the whole 'trying not to die' thing that much worse, you know? Because then not only would I have to worry about avoiding people and creatures that want to kill me, but avoiding uncomfortable situations too. Figure it's better to save it until we're settled down somewhere. I think Braildorn is probably my best bet, but I'm not even sure about then." I scratch the back of my head. "I've kind of had a lot on my mind lately. Since coming here, I mean. Seems like the others are in their element, but I feel like it's uncomfortably clear just how out of place I am."
"Well, you're going to have to tell her sometime, right?" She takes a swig of water. "If I were you, I'd get it over with, before… Well, before anything bad happens. From the sounds of it the Sands are going to be hard on everyone, especially us. …Well, maybe you less so. You seem pretty good with a sword. Maybe Braildorn is your best bet." She falls silent for a while, but this time the silence is more comfortable than before. "Say, what do you think you'd do? If you found a way out of this place, I mean. What sort of life would you try and lead back home?"
"I guess that's a good point. Sooner would probably be better than later." I sigh and rub the back of my head. "I'm not entirely sure. On one hand, I'd like to think I'd go back to my old life. Pick up some jobs. Print off some nice new business cards, or maybe even pick up some adventuring jobs after what I've learned here so far." I laugh and shake my head. "I guess now I do have at least a little experience, which is more than I could say when I first joined up with everyone. But if I did get back home I'd be worried about being caught and sent back here like someone breaking out of prison. There's also the matter of the guy I mentioned earlier. If he found out I was back, which he probably would if I ended up going back to any major cities, then I wouldn't be surprised if he sent people after me himself. In that case maybe it's actually safer for me here." I sigh and shake my head. "I know I wouldn't blame him for holding a bit of a grudge.
I shrug. "I don't know. Chances are I'd be able to take work that pulls in a little more money than I was making from my little pest control business, so that would be kind of nice." I chuckle. "I'd like to say I'd stop gambling and turn over a new leaf, but that's probably a lie. With the direction I'm afraid I'm headed now, though…"
I take the last couple bites of my bread and fall silent as I watch the crackle of the fire. After a moment, I laugh. "Well, I guess you heard Zunden. We're in control of our own destiny, right? Nothing is set in stone, so maybe I'm worrying more than I need to be."
She listens politely. "Well, I guess we have that in common as well then," she muses. "There's not much left for me up above. I mean, no one would really believe me if I went around claiming I was the heiress to an entire fiefdom. And besides, the noble life doesn't really suit me anyway. I was in and out of orphanages most of the time, and usually found myself out on the streets anyway. I wouldn't have the slightest clue where to start rebuilding. Truth be told, if I had the choice to go back, I wouldn't take it. Why bother? It's all the same crap really. As above, so below, as they say."
"Besides, I kind of like it here. It's not much to look at, and it could be a lot better, but it's home. Folks here tend to respect each other. Whatever we did to get thrown down here doesn't really matter. We're all equal nothings here, I suppose." She finishes her bread. "Not that there haven't been a few attempts at forming some sort of society. It tends to happen that if you were well-connected on the outside, you'll be able to have some sort of sway here. So the rich and powerful stay as rich and powerful as possible even in exile. Like that Grosvenor lady that runs Braildorn. Heard some pretty nasty rumors about her, but her name was enough to get her some leverage over there. And yet mine doesn't mean anything without proof, so I'm pretty much a nobody. Ironic, really. …At least I think that's what irony is."
She shrugs. "Don't mind me, I'm just rambling. Just have a lot to think about is all. Reckon I should get rested, huh. Tomorrow's going to be a slog and a half." She gets up and starts heading towards her shabby little tent, but turns back before heading inside. "Oh, and thanks again for letting me tag along," she says gratefully. "If it weren't for you I'd probably have gotten ripped by a Prowler by now. …Well, g'night." With that, she vanishes into her tent, leaving you to your thoughts.
I give my hand a quick, dismissive wave. "No need to apologize. Sounds like we're sort of in the same boat. Besides, it's been really nice talking to you." I rub the back of my head and chuckle. "Doubt there are many folks that would actually just sit there and listen to me whine, so I appreciate it."
I wave to her as she walks away. "Night." I look back to the fire and lie down, propping my head up on my elbow. Wouldn't want to go back, huh? Somehow I hadn't even considered that until now. I sigh and close my eyes, losing myself in my thoughts.
Hey, who do I talk to so that I can join these quests?
Join this chatroom if you want to know more about quests. I'm running this game tonight, but it's full unfortunately.
The rest of the night is relatively uneventful. Violet takes a look around the fort, foraging some extra materials for the journey: more food rations and water from a nearby well, as well as 50 bits and an iron shortsword that seems to be in serviceable condition. She gives it to Aurora so she can defend herself if need be. Violet also takes some nearby branches and spends the rest of the evening making them into makeshift flags by tying strips of cloth to them, to mark the way on your trek.
As night falls proper, you find yourselves needing to keep as warm as possible; a cold and bitter wind blows in from the desert that chills you to the bone. The old crone can be heard wandering around at night, mumbling to herself and milling about the fort.
After an uncomfortable rest, you wake the next morning somewhat later than usual. After a dull breakfast, you pack up your campsite and move through the nearby tunnel into the Shifting Sands. You have already journeyed far to come here, but from the looks of things, you have a long way to go still.>>696314>>696465
The Shifting Sands seem to have no end to them. There is almost nothing but scarlet sand as far as the eye can see, with only the occasional rock structure or ailing shrub. You are also aware of a very faint droning sound in the back of your head.
In the immediate area, you see a nearby stone with a warning engraved on it, presumably to deter outsiders from going any farther. The message is badly eroded, but still somewhat legible.
TH S I TI G SA S
DEA H SW MS WI IN ITS ROC Y WALL
W ERE ALL A E ONE, O E WILL ULES LL
BE OW TH DE D, THE LIV NG STRIVE
WITH MINDLE S WIL TO S V IVE>>696314>>696465>>696315>>696313>>696311
Your companions prepare themselves for the long, hard slog. Violet plants the first of her flags at the entrance and extends her weapon out into its spear form to use as a hiking stick. Aurora, meanwhile, takes a scarf she had packed and wraps it around her mane as well as her nose and mouth, to keep most of the sand out. "I'm pretty sure this'll help," she says to no one in particular.
Violet points out a few landmarks nearby that you could head towards:
There seems to be the remains of an old watchtower half-buried in the sands nearby. There might be resources worth scavenging.
You can see what looks like a cluster of cacti nearby, although they look different to any cacti you've ever seen. Violet knows a way to get water from them.
Finally, there seem to be some tracks like those of a caravan leading off towards some distant rock formations. Whoever owns it might be friendly.
As they enter the desert, Hermodur takes mjolnir off his back and uses it as a walking stick much like Violet does with her spear.
He looks around at the surroundings and spots the cacti. "Cacti," he says simply. "A good landmark and a good source of water. Let's go there."
I blame mlpg.
making my way back into the arid waste, i squint to block a gust of wind-kicked sand.
"Hmm, how are we doing for water, anyway? If we're low it'd be best to refill from the cacti."
"Even if we're not, we drink and refill anyway."
"Mm, true. I had heard that drinking what water you had at the start would give the best odds of survival, though given our supply wagon i'd say we're fairing better than most desert-dwellers."
Zunden takes a deep breath of the arid air, feeling a deep nostalgia sprung from her childhood in the desert. She lets out a sigh, her eyes seemingly closed as she follows the group.
"It haz been a long time zince I've felt zand beneath my toez..">>696537>>696539
"Yez, I've waterzkinz to fill. We zhould vizit ze cacti, zhen ze caravan trackz before ze trackz are lozt in ze zand. Ze watchtower won't fade away any time zoon."
Rabi sleeps about as well as someone can. Unsurprisingly, the desert winds hardly faze him- he's plenty used to life in the desert.>>696539
"Good thinking. Water might be pretty sparse once we get going.">>696540
"Definitely, yeah. If anyone's got some spare waterskins, this would be the place to fill them.">>696538>>696537
(really makes you think)
A chill creeps down my spine as I glance over at the engraved stone, and can't help but gulp. I'm sure it's nothing.
My eyes light up as I watch Aurora wrap her scarf around her face brilliant. Following her example I remove my suit jacket and wrap it around my face, tying the sleeves around the back of my head. It's a little harder to breathe than I expected, and I feel like I look extra silly, but I'm sure it'll help.>>696539
"Wait, we're not low on water already, are we?" My voice is muffled by my shirt. I mean-" I let out an uneasy chuckle. "It's not really going to take so long getting through the desert that we'll have to worry about dehydration, r-right?">>696543>>696542
My shoulders sag. "Yeah. Maybe it would be better. Just to be safe."
"Well, Violet did
mention this desert was vast.."
"Though i'm sure it's nothing to worry about, between the cart's supplies and my scouting i'm sure we'll have the water for the journey."
Violet frowns and helps you adjust your makeshift bandanna, folding it into a more comfortable shape. "Here, try this."
"Well, we're probably going to be here quite a while," she says in response to your question to Silver. "If we use it sparingly, water shouldn't be a problem."
"I have some to go around if we're running low," Aurora offers, fidgeting absent-mindedly with her wrappings. >>696537>>696539>>696542>>696543>>696544
"Looks like it's unanimous then," Violet comments. "Never hurts to have more water supplies."
You move over to the cluster of plants, only to be met with disappointment. Almost all of them have already been drained of their precious water. Violet frowns, but harvests what she can from a tiny cactus. It's not much more than an extra glass. "Feh. Better than nothing. Let's g-"
She cuts herself off, suddenly perking up and having a look around. She seems to have noticed something you haven't. Aurora takes the hint and starts having a look around, looking a bit confused.
Zunden turns her head to the sands, opening her eyes fully.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
blocking the sun with a wing, i take a look around as well.
"Hmm? Something the matter?"Roll #1 6 = 6
Hermodur grips his hammer tightly and listens for anything approaching him.
[1d10] to be readyRoll #1 2 = 2
I squeeze my eyes shut as Violet adjusts my shirt, almost instantly making it easier for me to breathe and lighter on my head. "Heh. Yeah. Thanks."
The hairs on my neck prickle as Violet drops her sentence. That's never a good sign. I swing my head around, trying to spot whatever it is everyone is looking for.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Rabi blinks when he sees the two of them looking around, and takes a look himselfRoll #1 5 = 5
You notice a tiny trickle of sand running down one of the dunes. Something must have disturbed it to cause such a slight shift in the environment. You point this out to the rest of the group, putting them on guard.>>696548>>696549>>696550>>696551
You don't notice anything out of the ordinary.>>696547>>696548>>696549>>696550>>696551
Zunden alerts you all to a subtle shift in one of the dunes. As she does so, there is a sudden explosion of sand as a pair of hideous insectoids burst from the dunes. They can be best described as giant thorned mantids, although the resemblance is only superficial. They are bipedal creatures with mirrored eyes and a pair of primary arms ending in grasping claws. From their backs sprout four long appendages ending in sharp spikes. One of them has several large, leathery sacs hanging from its abdomen.
They move extremely quickly, darting out of their hiding place and rushing to attack you all. The one with the sacs tries to stab Zunden with its spiked limbs, then scuttles away and swipes at Norvegicus.
[1d10+3] vs Zunden
[1d10+2] vs Norv
The second sand beast attacks in a similar manner, first pouncing to impale Hermodur then swinging its claws at Rabi.
"Terreocti!" Violet cries in warning, striking to attack the one focusing on Norvegicus.
Aurora hangs back and tries to find a hiding spot.Roll #1 6 + 3 = 9
/ Roll #2 9 + 2 = 11
/ Roll #3 5 + 3 = 8
/ Roll #4 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #5 8 = 8
"Ze zandz are my domain, I zee you, creaturez!"
Zunden says, holding her staff to the glowing orb next to her.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
diving out of the way of the attacking insects, i try and get out of sight along one of the nearby dunes.
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 3 = 3
The speed of the creature takes Hermodur by surprise. He is hit, but takes the time to light his hammer.
Now, the creature is in his sight and he won't lose it.
>Hunter's Eye on the one who attacked himRoll #1 2 = 2
"Starting off with a bang, I guess. Everyone, look out!" he shouts, ducking out of the way and firing a blue, pulsing bolt of energy from his bow. It splits in to two, and they veer towards the Terreocti.>Magic Bow: [1d20+2] (+1 from Seeker Bolt)>>Split: two targetsRoll #1 1 + 2 = 3
I scream as the mantis thing attacks me, making a probably vain attempt to jump out of the way.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
You are in your element here in the desert. You take in the searing heat and channel it into your staff. It starts glowing brightly. As you focus on this, you take a heavy blow that pierces your natural armor, leaving you bleeding. >Zunden takes 3 hits>>696554
You fail to find anywhere to hide from the beasts. Aurora seems to be struggling as well, and warily draws the sword Violet gave her.>>696555
You watch the Terreoctus closely as you try to ignite Mjolnir. Before you can do so, however, the incoming monster stabs you in the shoulder, ripping through your fragile clothes. The attack leaves you injured, but not down yet.>Hermodur takes 3 hits>>696556
They manage to dodge both of your shots. As one tries to swipe at you, you manage to stumble backwards just in time, avoiding the swipe. It tears at your clothes, but you are otherwise unharmed for now.>>696557
You try to get out of the way, but are not fast enough to dodge the monster's sharp claws. It rakes you across the face and torso, leaving several deep, painful wounds. The blow knocks you square off your feet, knocking you into the sands.>Norv takes 7 hits, helpless at 0/3>>696553>>696554>>696555>>696556>>696557
Violet manages to get a firm blow in on the one attacking Hermodur and Rabi, making it bleed purple ichor. Its attention redirected, it scuttles over and swipes at her before lunging at Hermodur again.
The one attacking Zunden and Norv changes its focus to Silver, clawing at her then jabbing fiercely at Zunden with its barbed stingers.
Aurora's necklace starts to glow as she rushes over to Norvegicus, casting a spell that fills him with energy. "Up, you. You're not allowed to die yet.">BolsterRoll #1 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #2 10 + 3 = 13
/ Roll #3 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #4 5 + 3 = 8
Forgot to add, Violet keeps up the offensive as she takes another jab at the sand beast.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Rabi cusses to himself, and tries to lob a fire bolt at the creature wounded by Violet in an attempt to wear it down.>Magic Bolt (Fire): [1d10+2] [1d10+2] Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #2 5 + 2 = 7
I howl in pain, dropping my cage into the sand as I fall to the ground. My hand shoots to my face, reflexively moving to wipe any blood from my face before it gets in my eyes. My entire body furiously trembles, and I almost freeze in place from fear.
Before I can give up, something screams at me to move. Something I'd never felt before, yelling at me that if I stop, if I hesitate here, then I'll probably die. Gathering all the strength I can muster, I attempt to pull myself to my feet.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
with the creature barreling down on me, i use my wings to get airborne, in an attempt to avoid it's sharp claws!>bounce
[1d10] DodgeRoll #1 7 = 7
"Ailuros! I know your blessing still works! So, please… Work with me!" Hermodur pleads to his hammer through the pain.
>Sharpen [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Zunden closes her eyes again, sending out healing magic to herself and her allies.
Healing Bonds, Spending my sun for a heal and +1
[1d10+3] Zunden (frozen), Norvegicus, HermodurRoll #1 7 + 3 = 10
You manage to wound the creature with one of your arrows. It seems to shrug off the arrow fairly easily.>>696561
You clench your fists, willing yourself not to give in. Through both Aurora's enchantment and your own determination, you grit your teeth and get back up.>>696562
You only just manage to avoid its claws, flitting out of the way of its attack.>>696563
You keep trying to get your hammer to work, but to no avail. The Terreoctus deals a lethal blow, knocking you off your feet.>Hermodur takes 8 hits, helpless at 0/3>>696564
You make a last ditch effort to heal your allies, conjuring an orb for yourself as well. The Terreoctus lashes out at you, but you manage to heal yourself in time to take it on the chin, leaving you with minor but noticeable injuries.>Norvegicus is healed, now at 5/4>Hermodur is healed, now at 5/4>Zunden is healed, now at 3/5>>696560>>696561>>696562>>696563>>696564
Violet tries to stab the Terreoctus, but it lunges at her and knocks her to the ground, savagely clawing at her. She cries out in pain as she struggles to get back up.
The Terreoctus focusing Violet does not let its prey escape, clawing at her repeatedly.
The other Terreoctus keeps attacking, now stabbing at Silver and clawing at Aurora.
Aurora herself clumsily tries to fend off the creature, swinging wildly with her sword.
[1d10-1]Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 9 + 2 = 11
/ Roll #3 7 + 2 = 9
/ Roll #4 9 + 3 = 12
/ Roll #5 6 + 2 = 8
/ Roll #6 7 - 1 = 6
Rabi hisses a little bit, and loads the Splinterwood arrow, before charging it with a dark, purplish magic.>(Aimed at Violet's Terreoctus) Splinterwood Arrow (Dark): [1d10+2] Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5
keeping aloft with my wings, i apply a coating of clear fluid to my shivs before diving into the attacking mantid, aiming for what passes for it's eyes.
[1d10] BlindRoll #1 9 = 9
I see the Terroctus lunge at Violet, and instead of sticking to the back and summoning a rat like I'd normally do, my body almost seems to move on its own. Unsheathing my dagger, I charge at the Terreoctus attacking Violet.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Hermodur grunts in pain and anger and falls to one knee before he is healed and gets back up. "Thank you," he nods to Zunden.
"I swear, I'll repay that favor soon!" he shouts as he shakes his hammer violently, trying to get it to start.
>Sharpen [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Keep working on ztaying alive. Zhat's all I azk.">>696565
Zunden takes her staff and strikes it against the the Terreoctus attacking Silver, heeding Aurora's warning about dark magic.
"Ztay off her, beazt!"
[1d10] thonkRoll #1 9 = 9
Hermodur smiles. "Clearly, the best way to stay alive is to keep YOU alive."
You miss your shot, only succeeding in drawing its attention.>>696567
You manage to stab the creature in one of its reflective eyes. It makes a hideous hissing sound and flails wildly in your direction, leaving you with deep cuts from its claws and knocking you out of the air in the process.>Silver takes 6 hits, helpless>>696568
Something comes over you, and you run at the Terreoctus, sinking your dagger deep into the cracks between its chitinous plates. It hisses and chitters, confused by the sudden pain, leaking purple ooze everywhere. While you struck a mortal blow to it, can see that you were too late, and Violet has been left severely injured by the attack.>>696569
Your hammer finally comes to life in your hands, roaring with flame.>>696570
You hit it square in the antennae with your staff. It flinches from the blow, lashing out in your general direction fruitlessly.>>696566>>696567>>696568>>696569>>696570
Violet struggles to get back up. She looks badly hurt, propping herself up with her spear and clutching her side, staggering away from the fight. Aurora takes a blow to the chest, flinching from the sudden pain, but manages to hit the Terreoctus nonetheless.
The Terreoctus that was attacking Violet now turns to Norvegicus, rearing up to its full height and letting out a rattling hiss. It is almost three times taller than the Dog, looming over him menacingly before lashing out in a flurry of blows.
The other Terreoctus has been momentarily blinded by Silver, writhing about madly trying to make sense of its surroundings. It should be an easy target, but its many limbs are sure to be a problem.>+2 hits when targeting this enemy>characters in melee range take 1 hit per round when close to itRoll #1 2 + 3 = 5
/ Roll #2 7 + 2 = 9
sliding down the dune a ways, i try and push myself back onto my hooves!
[1d10] recoverRoll #1 3 = 3
Zunden's body sways as she take in the environment of the desert again, channeling healing magic once again. >Bask: Healing Bonds
"Congratulations, insect," Hermodur says with a condescending smirk as Mjolnir finally starts up. He slowly walks toward it as it focuses its attention on Norv. "Despite your place in the world, you have proven to be worthy of being crushed by Mjolnir!"
With shocking speed for a hammer so large, he lifts Mjolnir over his head, then the rocket head forces it to swing back down onto the Terreoctus.
[1d10+3] [1d10+3]>DC-1, take the larger rollRoll #1 1 + 3 = 4
/ Roll #2 8 + 3 = 11
I gulp, realizing that maybe charging onto the front lines was a mistake. If I run now then it might refocus on Violet. My head spins, and my knees feel week, but I decide I can't back down now. Trying to remember back to my training with Violet I make an attempt to backstep away from the attack.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"Ah, come on, hit something!" he says to himself, before trying to line up a shot at the blind and flailing one.>Magic Bow: [1d10+1]Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11
You fail to get back up, still smarting from the attack.>>696574
You charge yourself up with the power of the sun once more.>>696575
You bring the hammer down, crushing the Terreoctus in a single powerful blow. It twitches slightly, then is still.>>696576>>696577
You try to get out of the way, dodging its stingers but failing to avoid its swiping claws. It sweeps you off your feet and knocks you down, but you manage to get back up, winded from the attack. You watch as Hermodur finishes what you started.>Norv takes 4 hits>>696578
You shoot it right in the chest, bringing it down momentarily. It seems to be on its last legs.>>696573>>696574>>696575>>696576>>696578
As Hermodur kills one, the remaining Terreoctus keeps panicking, still blinded by Silver's attack. Aurora casts a healing spell on Norv, seeing him injured. "Hope I still remember how to do this right…"
[1d10] HealRoll #1 7 = 7
Hermodur pauses and grimaces at the pathetic beast in a panic. "Do we care to let it live?"
Having difficulty finding purchase in the soft sand, i try to stand once again!
[1d10] RecoverRoll #1 4 = 4
I wince from the pain as I scramble to my cage. Now that the thing is down I can try and summon one of my rats. I close my eyes and expend my sun Zunden gave me to try and bolster my magic. I make an attempt to calm myself, set my hand on my cage, and channel magic into it.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
"If it really is some sort of insect it may bring more of it's hive!" i shout from the bottom of the dune.
"Unless you fancy our odds against more of them you'll end it post-haste!"
"A valid point and all the reason I need, I say as I lift my hammer to deliver the killing blow to this vile beast!"
[1d10+3] [1d10+3]>DC-1, take the higher rollRoll #1 9 + 3 = 12
/ Roll #2 8 + 3 = 11
Zunden turns sends forth three more orbs to her allies.
[1d10+2] Healing Bonds: Silver, Norv (frozen), Rabi (Frozen)Roll #1 9 + 2 = 11
"Kill it. It's mindless, and won't live long in this condition." he says, stooping over to pick up his arrow and let out a sigh of relief.>>696581
"S-Silver, no!" he shouts, dropping the arrow and running over to help the mare up>Recovery: [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
I frantically look around at everyone relaxing before finally noticing the blinded, panicking Tereoctus. I'm still on edge, but my breathing eases. "O-oh. Is it over?" My eyes widen as I start looking around again. "Violet!"
You fail to get back up, still exhausted from the attack.>>696582
You summon a particularly large, muscular rat out of the cage. Through a combination of the healing magic from Zunden's orb and the healing spell Aurora cast, you feel better than ever.>Norv is healed, now at 5/5>>696584
You crush the remaining insect like, well, an insect.>>696585
You heal Silver with your magic, and conjure orbs of sunlight for your other allies.>Silver is healed, now at 5/5>>696586
You rush over to help her, only to find her injuries healing thanks to Zunden's magic. She looks fine now.>>696587
You spot her sitting down on the side of a dune, groaning. She has some pretty severe wounds and looks clammy and pale. "I'm… fine. Just… Give me a moment…" With some effort, she props herself up with the spear, leaning against it and giving you a half-hearted smile. "That was quite a display," she grunts as she uses Zunden's sun to heal herself. "Where was that all this time?" She still looks pretty bad, but Zunden's healing orb seems to have patched up the worst of it.>>696580>>696581>>696582>>696584>>696585
Violet hobbles over to rejoin the group, wincing from her injuries. "Well, we know now not to underestimate these bugs. Who knows how many of them are out here. Stay on your guard, and let's keep moving." Aurora gives one of the remains a disdainful kick before nodding, looking somewhat worriedly at Violet before pulling herself together.
"So, what next?" Aurora asks. "Should we follow the tracks back there or head to that watchtower?"
"I'm Quite alright, Rabi! though i do appreciate the concern" i mention as you run over to help.>>696589
"Wretched creatures, i doubt they'll be the last we see of them."
brushing the sand off my dress with my wings, i rejoin the group, looking towards the watchtower.
"Knowing how easily those things can travel under the sand, we'd be better suited traveling on solid ground. That watchtower should be a good deal safer, i'd imagine."
"Again, ze trackz of ze caravan will not perzizt forever. I do zhink we zhould check it out firzt."
Zunden checks over the wounds of her friends, making sure everyone is okay.
"Yez, ze dezert iz a dangerouz plaze. Ze monzterz may be new to me, but ze rizk iz ze zame. Let uz hope zey do not have dezert tatzlewurmz.">>696590
"We are in a dezert. We cannot avoid zand forever."
With a huff and a wince of pain, Hermodur puts Mjolnir away. He then walks over to where Violet is.
"Agreed," he nods with approval to Norv. "That was both brave and skillful. Plus, if you hadn't done it, we may have lost our entire reason for being here.">>696591>>696590
"We can't avoid sand, but we CAN avoid deep sand. They came out of a dune. And, THAT," he points to the tower in the distance. "That is not built on sand. There is solid ground beneath it. At the very least, it means less of them. It's also the best landmark we have for miles. And, that's important before the mirages start kicking in."
Hermodur speaks with a purpose, but there is also desperation and worry evident in his voice.
I rub the back of my head. "Heh. Thanks. It just sorta happened. I just wish I'd been able to get there faster." I study her for a moment before continuing. "I'm just-" I swallow. "I'm just glad you're alright. You sure you're going to be okay?"
I bend down and pick my cage up, surprised by the heft of the large rat. Dang. Maybe I don't even need to summon another one right now. Absently, I respond about the giant insects. "I expected them to be big, but they were huge. The desert is filled with sediment, I think. Crushed up, a lot of sediment works really well as a desiccant insecticide. Sadly I don't think that's really practical in this case."
I squint my eyes and look around at everyone else. "Yeah. Solid ground sounds nice." I gulp. "We can't really guarantee the caravan is friendly, either. That thought kind of has me a little on edge."
"Alaz, I juzt zhought zhey could be traderz or at ze very leazt company. If everyone iz bent on ze tower…"
"Sorry, haha. I guess I just got a little too wrapped up in all of it. Glad you're okay, though.">>696589>>696591
"Violet, you don't look so hot. Need a bit of help?" he asks, scratching at the back of his neck. "Though, I agree with Zunden, honestly. We might be passing up a lot of good stuff if we don't at least check for that caravan. Maybe just have Silver fly overhead a little to try and spot it in the distance, and see if the distance is worth travelling?">>696593
"What exactly was that rat fed?" he asks in disbelief.
"Do we really want to lose track of the hoofprints amidst open sands, at risk of more of those
things?" i ask, pointing a wing at the insect corpses.
"At the very least that tower will let me have a proper takeoff point to scout around."
"Hrm… not a bad idea, actually. That'd give us a high vantage point, too."
"…Solid ground? In a desert?" Violet asks incredulously.>>696591
"Tatzelwurms?" Aurora asks. "You mean like giant burrowing worms? I thought they were extinct.">>696592
"I suppose you're right," says Violet. "Might be worth our trouble." Aurora nods in assent.>>696593
"I was thinking the same thing," Aurora chimes in. "For all we know they could be cannibals. Or bandits. Or cultists. Or cannibal bandit cultists…">>696595
"Now there's an idea. She could go scout it out and meet us back at the watchtower.">>696596
"How about it?" says Violet. "Think you're up for some sightseeing? Since you have wings, you could go see what's happening with that caravan, and the rest of us go to the watchtower, then you meet us there. It's only over there."
"Mm, i suppose i should look around. It has
been quite a while since i last had the chance to fly.."
"Very well, i shall see you all shortly."
nodding to the rest of the party, i extend my wings and kick off from the dune, sending sand flying on the takeoff.>bounce
Once airborne i circle above the area, searching for signs of the caravan, as well as nearby landmarks.
[1d10] observeRoll #1 6 = 6
"I don't mean to be against you," Hermodur says apologetically. "Desert travel just has me… really on edge. I don't like it.">>696593
"I think you found your role in combat," Hermodur muses. "Not a front line fighter, but you hit where its most important. It suits you and your… thoughtfulness.">>696599
"I wouldn't fly for too long out here," Hermodur shouts as she bounces into the air. "Fatigue aside, you're exposing yourself to the elements AND the view of any potential threats.">>696598
"For the record, no one in Ailuros' organization was a cannibal," Hermodur comments as he begins to walk toward the tower.
I chuckle. "Well, some of them are just born big." I look down at it. "And, uh, sometimes the summoning magic has kind of a weird affect. Not totally sure what's up with that.>>696598
I furiously nod at Aurora. "Out here? Around somewhere like this? They'd [I]have[/I] to be someone scary, right? Bandit cannibal cultists seem entirely within the realm of possibility.">>696600
"And you weren't bandits either… Right?"
"Be careful, Silver! Don't spend too long looking around!" he shouts after her, before rolling his shoulders a little>>696598
"Eh, I don't know about extinct. They're probably still out there, just not where they can be seen. That, or no one lives to talk about it." he explains, following after Hermodur.>>696593
"Yeah, friend. You did a dang fine job, and exactly when it needed to be done."
The lizard smiles, rubbing the back of her neck,
"Meanwhile I feel the mozt comfortable zince we got here. It iz a matter wizh familiarity, I zuppoze. No worriez.">>696598
"Zhey're a big part of ze mythz of my tribe. Every few yearz we'd have zomeone who'd claim to zee one, or zomeone go mizzing and all we could find were pitz."
Zunden says, shrugging,
"Who knowz if zhey live here."
"I'll be fine up here!" i shout back, raising my voice over the wind. "I'm more concerned for you
! Who knows if more bugs are on the way?"
Hermodur spends an ominously long time before answering.
"Right," he says at last.>>696603
"Familiarity is precisely the source of my discomfort," Hermodur grumbles in response as he continues to walk with a purpose.
"Well, I guess we'll bug them right back! Don't worry!" he shouts, offering a bit of a smile
I blush at all of the praise. If I hadn't done it someone else would have, but it's still kind of nice to make a difference. "Still not as cool as you guys are. Maybe I'll get there though.">>696605
My face blanches a little, and I swallow. "R-right."
You fly up higher to get a view of the surrounding landscape. From this vantage point, you realize something: the entirety of the Shifting Sands are surrounded by a wall of rock formations, with the fort you passed through being built into these formations. It is as if the Sands are contained entirely by this barrier.
Further out, you can see nothing but desert; however, in the very faint horizon, you can see what looks like a huge rock spire, presumably right in the center of the desert where you are headed. This is so far away that it is only barely visible on the horizon. It should take you at least a week to reach it at this point.
In the more immediate area, you can see the caravan whose tracks you spotted. Although you cannot make out the details, you can see that the caravan is a proper moving wagon, not a cart like Violet's but a proper shelter. The occupants appear to be saurians, although you cannot see them very well from where you are. You can also hear what sounds like music coming from them. You could go and greet them, or you could rendezvous with the party.
You also notice something worrying: a sandstorm seems to be building on the horizon, a large cloud of red that seems to reach from ground to sky. If you and your allies do not find shelter by the end of the day, you will almost certainly get swept up in it.>>696600
"That's reassuring," Aurora remarks. "At least that can get crossed off the list.">>696601
The rat stares back at you, looking thoroughly unimpressed as it awaits further instructions.
"Let's just hope we don't meet any then," she answers. "Not that I think they exist, mind you.">>696602
She frowns. "That wouldn't make sense. If no one lives to talk about them, how do we know they exist?">>696603
"Interesting. I remember hearing legends of Saint Twilight having slain a tatzlwurm, but who knows the truth behind that.">>696600>>696601>>696602>>696603
You arrive at the watchtower fairly quickly. It seems fairly run-down, half swallowed by the sands and sticking out at an awkward angle. It definitely hasn't been used in quite some time; you can see several upturned tables, empty bookshelves, and other such furniture in various states of disrepair. "Might be something worth keeping in here," Violet muses as she starts looking for valuables.>roll to search for loot
satisfied with my search and worriedly glancing at the approaching storm, i start heading back towards the tower, intent on relaying the news.
I open my cage and click my tongue. "In," I command. The huge rat waddles into the cage and I pick it up. I'll probably need to let it back out before I can summon anything else, but something about feeling its weight comforts me.>>696608
Something tells me that anything here has probably been long since looted, but I follow Violet in and start looking around anyway.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"I understand how it seems," Hermodur says, not looking at Norv to talk to him. Instead, he continues to stare at the tower as if he's afraid it will disappear. "But, when people are unwilling to listen to reason, you have to sometimes take well timed drastic steps. Everything is for the ultimate good. It is not chaos without reason.">>696608
"It's certainly at least worth checking for supplies. Plus, we can get a better view of where to go next from here."
Hermodur looks for stairs or some other way to climb the tower.
[1d10] for any loot he may notice along the wayRoll #1 9 = 9
Zunden shrugs to Aurora, moving into the tower with not much else to add.
Zunden looks under the overturned tables, seeing if anything was trapped underneath.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Hmm… good question. Maybe people used to get away from it, but stopped." he says, shrugging. "I'm not the brightest, I guess."
Upon reaching the watchtower, he gives it a bit of a shrug "Well… about what I expected. Let's take a look, shall we?">Spot: [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
You reunite with the party, who seem intent on scouring the watchtower for valuables. "What's the news?" Aurora asks as Violet takes a breather, still injured from the skirmish.>>696610>>696613
You don't manage to find much of anything.>>696611
You don't manage to find anything, but you do notice something odd. In the sand covering the floor of the tower, you see the imprints of what look like coins, as if they had been lying there but then something simply spirited them away.
While the staircase leading up has long since rotted away, you manage to climb up using your hands and feet. You can get quite a good view of the surrounding landscape. While you cannot see the caravan, you can see what behind you, from where you came, the rocky hills stretch all around the perimeter of the Sands, like a makeshift wall. More worryingly, however, there is a sandstorm brewing on the horizon. It seems to be slowly moving in your direction.>>696612
There is nothing beneath the tables the imprint of a dagger in the sand. It is as if the dagger had simply vanished.
Taking a moment to catch my breath, i hurriedly relay the news.
"Sandstorm! A quite large cloud is less than a day out from here, we'd need to find shelter to hide until it clears."
"As for shelter, well, we could either stay here in the tower or
if we move quickly we could reach the caravan from earlier. It would seem they've taken cover as well, camping quite close."
caught sight of a spire of sorts a ways out, about a week's time. Given the location i believe it may be the spot of those ruins we were after. Where else would you build in sand than stone, after all?"
I shrug off not finding anything interesting. Oh well. Hope for the best, plan for the worst or whatever. I look up at Silver.>>696781
Huh. Somehow I actually forgot about the fact we were even looking for ruins in the first place. "Was it a pretty big camp or something? Normal tents don't really sound like they'd hold up that well in a sandstorm."
Hermodur stares at the sandstorm for a moment while with a confused expression. At first, he isn't sure what he's looking at. The size and color of it throws him off. Eventually, he realizes the danger heading towards them.
Hermodur quickly heads down to warn the others.>>696781>>696782>>696783
As he heads down, Silver delivers the news first. "Its on its way. Even if we were to make it to the caravan, there's no guarantee they are friendly. They most likely aren't - considering that they live out here of all places. And, we don't want to get caught in a fight in the middle of a sandstorm against an opponent who knows the land."
"We should be safe enough here."
Aurora and Violet both look concerned. "As if we didn't have enough to worry about with the killer bugs," the former grumbles.>>696782>>696783
After patting around to see if the dagger is invisible, you dig straight into the sand where the imprint is. It's just an imprint, nothing more. An oddly perfect imprint, but an imprint nonetheless.>>696781>>696782>>696784>>696785
At the news Silver brings, Aurora speaks her mind. "I'm with Hermodur. We should stay put. There's no guarantee that whoever's in that caravan is friendly. Could be out to murder us for all we know."
Violet shakes her head. "This is hardly a good place for shelter. It's falling apart as it is. I say we take a chance and go see what the caravan's about. At the very least, there's seven of us, so we should be able to put up a decent fight. What do you all think?"
Both mares turn to you for a decision.
"I zhink we shouldn't azzume ze worzt. Let uz meet ze travelerz up ahead."
Zunden says, standing by the door.
"Like Violet zaid, we have ze majority. We can afford to be a bit more truzting."
"Oh yes, it looked quite lively, a true wagon's worth of travelers. They looked well prepared for the storm, if anything.">>696786
"Mm, i suppose you're right, the least they could do would be to cover our staying there in the trying times of a sandstorm, right?"
I look around at the building. "Honestly as much as I hate the idea of a fight, I'm with Vi. I don't want
to fight, and I'm honestly hoping more than anything that we don't have to, but this place already looks pretty sandy, so that doesn't really give me much confidence on it holing up in a storm, y'know?"
"You want to run. In a desert. While we don't have a viable source of water. To a group of probably deadly people. Who are prepared for the storm. And we aren't," says slowly in an annoyed tone.
"You don't need a great deal of shelter from a sandstorm. We don't even need to be INSIDE the tower. We can just hunker down on the other side of it and be fine."
I blame MLPG again.
"You make it zound like ze zand iz azid. You zimply need a large boulder or rock and make zure your faze iz covered wizh clozh. We even have zhoze mazkz made by Black Pudding."
"The sand isn't the problem. The lack of visibility is the problem. While fighting a group of people used to it."
"You're right. The sand is not a problem. That's why I want to stay here."
"Given how hostile the sand is without
roaming bandits one would assume the practice isn't as wide spread as you'd think. They seemed friendly enough, from what i saw. A merchant caravan at best, for sure."
"A merchant caravan would imply that they had someone to trade with. Either they aren't, or they are openly in business with hostile groups. I can't imagine who else would live out here."
She does a slight double take at being called Vi, giving you an odd look, but doesn't bring it up.>>696787>>696788>>696789
"Yeah, I guess Violet's right," Aurora nods. "This place will probably collapse come the storm. It's already on an angle. I'm ready to go if you are.">>696790
"What makes you so sure they're going to try and hurt us?" Violet asks. "Could be treasure hunters, like us. Come on, don't be a sook. There's probably more of us than there are of them, and we're armed to the teeth besides. For the most part."
"Very well," Hermodur says, wiping his forehead of sweat. "I have made my case. If I have swayed no one, then so be it. We will make due with the decision we have made."
"Again, we are not all cluelezz when it comez to the dezert. I'll tell you what. You be worried for
me. Zhen if zhingz go poorly, you're ready to deal wizh zhem."
"Zhen let'z move before the ztorm reachez uz."
Zunden says, taking her staff to get up and head for the outside again.
I suddenly feel really stupid for wrapping my shirt around my face and uncomfortably adjust it.>>696796
"Well, I'm ready as soon as everyone else is." Still, the shade was a nice break from the sun. I adjust my makeshift mask again, this time from actual discomfort.
Zunden chuckles, watching Norv,
"Zhat wazn't a bad idea, wrap it tight enough zo zhat you only have a zlit for your eyez. Ze zun iz not zo blinding zhat way."
"Ready as well, Violet. Do let me know if you'll be needing more reconnaissance, I feel i should do what i can in this terrible place, for what it's worth."
My tail wags as I grin behind my mask. "Thanks! That's what I was thinking. Keep the sand out of my face and the sun out of my eyes." I pant for a second and fan some air into it. "Still, maybe a suit jacket wasn't the best choice. Probably should have tried to use this filthy thing." I gesture to my formerly white, now pale brown and pink undershirt. "Still, it's working out so far."
"Let uz hope we find zome traderz zhen, and get you zome lighter cloth. I've been meaning to change into zome dezert attire az well."
"I have a really good feeling about this," Aurora pipes up as the rest of the party set off.>>696798>>696797>>696799>>696801
You set off from the abandoned watchtower and head towards the caravan tracks. It is difficult to follow them as they have mostly dispersed by now, but with Silver flying ahead, you manage to locate it easily as you travel over the dunes. It is almost an hour before you reach it; while Zunden and Rabi are mostly unphased, and Violet, Aurora and Norv are dealing well enough, Silver and Hermodur are being cooked alive in the sweltering heat of the desert. The sand periodically blows up and gets in your eyes as well, despite your best efforts, infiltrating your clothes and getting absolutely everywhere.
You eventually reach the caravan. It is large, spacious and painted a loud green hue, making it stick out like a sore thumb. The names "ROSEN AND GILDER" are painted across the side rather sloppily. It seems to be pulled by an automaton of some sort, a golem made of metal and wood in the shape of a horse. It is standing completely still while two saurians are hard at work, apparently trying to fix their caravan which seems to be stuck in a rut with a broken wheel.
One of the saurians is straining to lift the wheel with loud, audible grunts, while the other is trying somewhat fruitlessly to replace one of the wooden wheels. "Come on mate!" the saurian tending to the wheel encourages his friend as he tries to lift it up so the broken wheel can be removed. "Push! Push like you're being paid for it!" They don't seem to have noticed you approaching, focused as they are on fixing their caravan.
"Oh great," Violet grumbles as she sees the name on the caravan. "It's these two."
Zunden looks to Violet,
"Ah, zhat impliez you've met zhem before, meaning zhey are not hoztile. Zhey are traderz, no?"
While we walk I lift my cage and peek into it to check on the unusually sized rodent. If I keep him out then I'll probably have to give him some of my water soon. Poor guy is probably cooking in there.
I cock my eyebrow and glance over at Violet as we draw near. "You know them? Does that mean we don't have anything to worry about, then?"
Hermodur looks over the situation and only has one question.
"Where's the shelter?"
fanning myself with a wing, i take a look at the cart before turning to violet.
"Can we really trust these two for protection from the storm?">>696807
I avoid looking at hermodur, idly kicking the sand with a hoof in embarrassment.
"Oh, oh my, well, it certainly looked more secure from the air.."
"Perhaps i lept to the wrong conclusions."
Hermodur merely lets out a long sigh through a disgruntled expression.
The ROUS stares back, mouth slightly agape as it audibly pants like a dog.>>696805>>696806
She nods. "Merchants. A mixed blessing if you ask me. I've met these guys before. They'll probably try and drain every last bit of coin from us." She clutches her bags defensively.>>696807
"Maybe we could hitch a ride," Aurora suggests. "Although, it doesn't look like they'll be moving any time soon…">>696808
Violet looks at you reassuringly. "I'm sure it'll be okay. It's sturdy enough, apart from the bad wheel.">>696805>>696806>>696807>>696808
As you start talking among yourselves, the saurians suddenly notice you're there and drop what they're doing to greet you.
One is remarkably small and pudgy, about a head shorter than Norv. He has several spines along his neck and chin forming a sort of beard. He is wearing typical desert robes and pointed shoes.
The other is very tall and lanky, with a long neck and a similar frill to the mad old crone you met at the border. He wears a simple white tunic with a curved dagger on his belt. The nearby lute suggests he was the one playing the music Silver could faintly hear before.
"G'day!" the short one says cheerily, as the other hangs back and folds his arms, digging into a nearby pack to snack on an apple. The latter picks up a nearby hiking stick and walks towards you. He seems to have a bit of a limp. "I hope you're not mirages. If you don't mind lending a hand, we could really use some help getting this thing back on track. Hit a snag and now it won't budge…"
Violet eyeballs them suspiciously, keeping quiet. Aurora looks to you all for a decision.
"Lez to weigh uz down. Alwayz good to travel light."
Zunden says, followed by a short laugh. She looks to the other saurians,
"Juzt figementz of your imagination, zadly."
She says grinning,
"Zhough more zhan happy to help."
As they ask for assistance, Hermodur silently steps forward. He hands Mjolnir to Norv. Hermodur looks Norv in the eyes with a serious expression. "Don't. Let. It. Go."
He crouches down behind the cart and tries to lift it. [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
I smile and step forward and hold out my hand to greet the two. Them not being hostile is all I needed to hear. "I'll help where I can," I say. "I'm not particularly strong, but just point." I nod to the taller one. "Norvegicus Black. I'd guess you're Rosin?" I glance down at the shorter one, caught off guard by just how short he is, even compared to me. "And I suppose that would make you Glider?">>696812
My jaw drops as Hermodur hands his hammer to ME. I take it in my free hand heave from the weight, almost immediately dropping it. After a second I adjust to its weight and manage to keep it up.
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
"I assure you we're as real before you as the sun overhead." i reply, stepping forward "I am Silver Song, pleasure to meet you two."
"Quite fortunate we found somepony out here who won't try to immediately attack us, as those insects from earlier demonstrated, vile things."
As he sees you moving to help, the short little saurian shuffles over, and the tall one moves to try and lift the caravan alongside you. "Ah, cheers!"
It takes some effort, but between the two of you, you manage to lift the caravan for long enough for the short one to replace the wheel. The tall one is much stronger than he looks. "Let's see here… Righty tighty, lefty loosy… Ah, there we go!" As you both put it back down, the new caravan wheel clicks into place. The tall one smiles gratefully and nods. "Hey, hanks for the help. Couldn't have lifted it without another pair of arms.">>696813
The short one eagerly steps forward, shaking your hand. "Good to meet you mate. I'm Rosen, and my talkative friend over there is Gilder." Gilder smiles and nods from his spot at the caravan.>>696814
You barely manage to handle the tremendous weight of the hammer, but manage to prop it up by leaning it on your shoulder. Rosen eyes the hammer curiously, admiring the design of it.>>696815
Rosen eyeballs your dress and knives for a moment before looking back to you. "The pleasure's ours, believe you me. Didn't expect to find anyone out here. Rosen and Gilder, at your service." "How's it going," Gilder grunts from behind him.
"You mean the Terreocti? Nasty things, aren't they. If you stay exposed like that, you'll get swarmed by them in a matter of hours. Lucky you found us, otherwise you'd be nothing but bones soon. Word of advice, they hate the cold, so you won't find them anywhere come nightfall.">>696811>>696812>>696813>>696814>>696815
"So," Rosen says as Gilder starts poking around the caravan interior, "where are youse headed? Need a lift? Least we could do for your help."
"We need to get to the center of the Sands," says Violet, still wary of the merchants. "Would you be heading that way, or have a map, or anything?"
Rosen does a bit of a double take? "Map? … You haven't been here before, have ya? Whole desert changes layout all the time. Like it has a mind of its own. 'S part of what makes it so dangerous, apart from, you know, the sandstorms, the Terreocti, the cannibals…"
"Cannibals?" Aurora parrots nervously.
"Oh yeah, there's wandering groups of 'em. Spent too long baking in the sun and went crazy I guess. Lucky you ran into us and not them."
"Anyways, we can't take you all the way to the center, but there's a canyon north of here. …No wait, northeast. Should take you closer. Normally it'd take youse a couple of days on foot, but with our caravan, should be there by tomorrow morning."
Gilder pokes his head out of the caravan. "Also, we've also got a bunch of goods for sale if you're interested. You won't be able to find any of this out there. The desert seems to swallow trinkets up whole, so if you want the real good stuff, you'd have to come see us."
"See what I mean?" Violet says to you under her breath. "Always looking for a profit."
"Well? What do you say?" Rosen asks.
"Not a problem," Hermodur grunts in response to the merchant's thanks. Hermodur has never trusted merchants. And, he definitely doesn't trust them.
He returns to Norv and relieves him of the burden of Mjolnir. "Thank you," he says with a nod.
My face flushes at the mention of cannibals. "And, uh… How likely are we to run into the cannibals?"
I clear my throat. "Anyway. It couldn't hurt to take a look at what you have at the very least. Should probably wait until we're clear of the storm, though." >>696816
I heave the hammer towards Hermodur, handing it back to him, and give him a small nod. "Yeah. Sure. No problem." After the takes it back I lightly rub my aching shoulder where it was balanced.
"Oh pleaze Violet, are zhere traderz zhat don't look to make a profit?"
"What doez goodz and trinketz entail? I've been meaning to change into zomething more appropriate for ze dezert, and I do love baublez."
"That would be lovely, thank you! This heat is truly dreadful, and i've neglected to dress for the occasion. A chance to cool off and a ride closer to the center would be very helpful."
"Fairly likely, I'd reckon. If you spot a bunch of people just wandering around with nothing to their name, you'll want to steer clear. You'll probably see 'em at some point." >>696819
"We've got all sorts," Gilder says. "Clothes, tools, food, artifacts, you name it. Only thing we don't really do much is weapons and armor. We leave those to the experts. Come take a look!">>696820
"Alright then. We can wait inside till the storm passes. Come take a gander!"
You step up into the caravan and head through the flaps. While it looked like a fairly normal wagon on the outside, the inside is much, much larger and sturdier. It is not a wagon at all, but a full blown shop in its own right, a cozy little wooden building with shelves upon shelves of supplies and assorted knick-knacks. There appear to be living quarters on the second floor, while behind the main counter you can see a door leading to what looks like a humble little kitchen. Rosen eagerly shuffles to stand behind the counter, while Gilder lazily saunters up the top of the stairs with his lute in tow, plucking away at it idly. "Take your time, take your time," Rosen encourages you. "We've got plenty of it to kill 'till the storm blows over. I'm sure you'll find something you need!"https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HTuSEQiyJV4
>Your inventory: https://pastebin.com/zYnsg4Mk
>Rosen and Gilder's inventory: https://pastebin.com/qNkjAyPP
Now that the subject of buying things comes up, Hermodur realizes he never got his money back.
"I recall that I game my money to someone," he says, looking around at the party. "They went on a shopping spree before we left. Would you mind using some of it on me?"
"I have some money stockpiled if you really want something," Violet offers.
"We buy as well as sell, mate," Rosen pipes up. "If you've got any curios of your own you don't need, we'd be happy to take them off you." Both saurians eye Mjolnir greedily.
My eyes gleam as I look around at everything, finding several things I'm interested in. I quietly hum to myself, doing some quick math in my head.
"Well, they're not my blend, but I'd definitely be interested in some of these treats. And I like this coin. Need some new clothes too. Preferably something light for the desert, but honestly-" I look down at my filthy shirt and torn trousers. "Honestly I just kind of want to wear something that hasn't been torn to shreds by monsters. And last, it'd definitely be nice to have some trapping tools again. I couldn't bring any of my tools or poisons or anything with me, so it's been a little rough. How much would that come out to?"
"I just need enough for some desert garb, thank you," Hermodur says to Violet.
"The only thing I have to trade is this suit," Hermodur responds to the merchants. "And…" he looks down at its ripped and stained conditions. "As you can see, it is in a sorry state."
"I zhink I will be wanting zomething lezz zcale-tight. Ze leazher and ze chainmail iz not fit for zhiz zand."
Zunden says, looking through the clothing.>Something like pic related, but off-white/gold trimmed.
"Yez, like zhiz. It remindz me of what my elderz wore."
Entering the caravan proper, i look about in surprise, taking it all in.
"Oh my! You've quite the selection here."
At the mention of clothes i peek around the shop for their selection, looking through their stock.
"I believe it's time for a change of wardrobe, especially
for this weather."
"Let's see, I'll be needing something light and airy, fashionable yet resistant to heat.. and claws, of course.."
"Ooh, this looks interesting!"
rooting through a pile of clothes, i come upon a half-dress and vest of light cloth and a sheer material, presumably a form of silk, with a veil and covering for the head. Even without wearing it the design already implies a breathable material.
"It looks lovely, but how much will this cost?" i ask, turning to Rosen."
"Hm…" Rosen and Gilder quickly get to work gathering what you asked for and laying it all out. "One bag of treats, trick coin, new set of clothes, trapping tools… That's 90 bits all in all." The clothes consist of a simple off-white tunic, a belt, grey leggings and a proper headwrap.>>696825
"Yeah, it's not really a good look, is it," Gilder mumbles. "Hm… Here, try these maybe." He picks out an outfit for you: padded knee-length leggings, hand and footwraps, a brown sleeveless tunic, and a scarf long enough to wrap around your face and head. It also includes a sheath for your hammer, if you want to store it on your back. "35 bits, thanks." Violet forks it over in your stead. "Ta!">>696826
You pick out a new set of clothing for yourself: a heavy robe, long, baggy leggings, a shawl to go over your head and neck, and a chest-length bandanna to protect your nose and mouth. The clothes fit you snugly. "That'll be 30 bits.">>696827
You rifle through their wardrobe, picking out a combination for yourself that's both fashionable, comfortable and protective against the elements. "Looks good on you," Aurora comments.
Rosen and Gilder huddle together to converse for a moment. "45 bits," Gilder answers eventually. Rosen nods vigorously. "The material's expensive, you see. Can't find it in many places here in the Echoes, unlike up on the surface."
"Thank you both," Hermodur says with a nod to Violet and Gilber. "Now, if you'll excuse me, I'd like to find a private place to change."
Hermodur finds a room where he can change into his new clothes.
I pull my suit jacket off my face and let out a relieved sigh. The sun was out of my face and eyes, but wow I was hot. I think for a minute at the 90 bits. H'm. I cock an eyebrow and lean on the counter. Violet did say they'd try to squeeze every last coin from us, so maybe- "Alright," I say. "90 bits is fine, but how about 135? Tell me-" I flash Rosin a sly half-smile. "We have some time to spare, I think. Do either of you play cards?"
"Make it 100 bitz, ze Bestiary intriguez me. I've been wondering what I can and cannot cook."
Zunden says, the book and clothing in her claws.
"Forty Five bits, you say? Given the nature of the material i suppose that's a fair trade."
with the exchange of gold, i hold onto the outfit to change into later, opting to take another pass around the shop, eying the sling.
"Hmm.. this would
be helpful if i need to keep away from a fight.."
taking a closer look at 'blister', i also slide the bit payment for the sling as well, tucking the weapon into my vest and the ammo pouch onto my belt.
"Just upstairs and to the left," Gilder directs you. Following his instructions, you make your way into a slightly grubby bathroom, where you change into your new clothes. You find them quite well-fitting, and easy to move around in. As you come back down, Violet nods in approval of the new you.>>696830
They exchange a glance. Rosen digs around under the counter before stepping aside, offering for you to take a seat on a nearby stool. "I do. Dice as well. You know Liar's Dice mate?">>696831
With Rosen occupied "negotiating" with Norv, Gilder steps up to deal with the transaction. "Right you are. Anything else we could interest you in? Any oddities worth selling?" He takes a furtive glance at your extensive jewellery collection.>-100 bits>>696832
"Careful with that," Gilder warns as he takes your payment. "Those Blister pods burn something awful. Now, was there anything else? Anything to sell?">-30 bits
"Hmm, its not as… opulent as I would prefer. The messenger of a god should present himself better. But, it is functional. And, my old clothes were certainly not befitting the high quality my goddess expects from me, anyway."
I walk over to the stool, set my cage down, rub my hands together, and smile. "As a matter of fact I do." I lean on the counter, making myself comfortable. "So here's what I had in mind. I win, I pay half price for the wares I said I wanted. You win, I pay 135. 50% more than you were asking. How's that sound?"
Zunden glances at her prowler's bracelet. 'Best not make sure it doesn't end up with someone who'll use them for destruction'
She thinks to herself, looking into her bag.
"Would you be interezted in fruitz from ze Zleeper Orchard? Zheir alchemical propertiez are well known apparently."
"Sadly I've yet to come across much in the way of items to sell, but i'm sure i'll have something when we meet next."
"For now though.."
picking my way through the store, i take a seat near the two gamblers, look in in curiosity.
"So, how would one go about play this game, anyway? I'm afraid i didn't have the chance to gamble prior to my banishment."
"No room for opulence here, friend," Gilder comments. "You're in the Shifting Sands now. You think the bugs will care if you look spiffy or not?">>696836
"45? For all this good stuff?" He seems hesitant, weighing his options. he beckons for Gilder, who crouches down. They whisper to each other for a while, then Rosen turns back to you. "Alright, you're on." From the counter, he pulls out two wooden cups filled with five six-sided dice and passes one to you. He shakes his cup and plonks it down on the table, peeking at his results. "Hm. …Tell you what, you're the guest. You go first.">>696837
"Sure, why not. Odds are someone will need them." He examines the giant fruits, tapping his chin and poking at them idly. "Hm. How's 24 bits for the lot sound?"
"The game's quite simple really," Gilder commentates over their game. "Each rolls their cup of dice without the other seeing, then bids on how many of each number they think there is total. So three 3s, two 4s, six 6s, etcetera. Each bid has to be higher than the last. When you think the other's bid is false, you call liar, and the dice are revealed. If the bid is true, you lose, if not you win."
I take the cup, shake it, and clack it against the table. "How polite." I tilt my cup and glance under it. "H'mmmm… alright. Three threes." I glance over at Silver and smile. "Couldn't have explained it better myself. Maybe I'll have to pick up some cards or dice so we can play a bit. It's quite fun."
"Fair enough for me, It'z lezz weight I have to carry."
Zunden says, handing them over.
Hermodur laughs as they begin to play. "Old habits die hard, I suppose."
I look away and try to hide my light blush. "Yeah," I say, clearing my throat. "I suppose they do."
Rosen thinks for a moment, considering his own hand. "Hrm. Four threes."
"Might see about picking some cards up for you next time around," Gilder comments.>>696841
"Pleasure doing business with you," Gilder says with a thin-lipped smile.>+24 bits
Without lifting my cup again I stare Rosen right in his eyes. "Four fives."
Eye contact remains unbroken. He smirks slightly. "SIX fives."
I cock an eyebrow and lean back, staring rosen down. Luckily I realize I'm on a stool just before I fall off. After wobbling, I catch my balance and lean forward again. "Four sixes."
He keeps his best poker face, looking down again and back at you. It takes a while for him to answer. "Five sixes."
I swallow. Was that a bluff? Slowly I lean forward and tilt my cup, glancing at my dice again. I look back up at him. "Liar."
He nods. "Alright then." He lifts his cup, revealing two fives, one six, one three and one one.
I smile and lift my cup. Two fives, a six, a one, and a two. "Close, but not quite."
He scowls and curses. Gilder smirks as he sees the results. "Overplayed your hand, friend."
"Ah, fine, you win. 45 bits it is." He begrudgingly pushes over the goods, grumbling under his breath.
I smile and nod. "Almost had me there, buddy." I pull out 50 bits, drop them on the counter, and wink. "Thanks for the stuff, and thanks for the game."
He grunts slightly at the tip. "Yeah yeah. Whatever." As you put away your new loot, you overhear Gilder scoffing.
"Five sixes. What were you thinking?"
"Oh piss off."
"Hey, these seem pretty useful." the saddle arabian says, giving the water eaters a curious once over. "Maybe not here, but… I don't want to see what lurks underwater here unless I really have to. I can't really swim too well, anyways." He says, with a short chuckle.
"That raven, too. Rocky?" he says, stroking his chin. "I've got some bits, and a bit of stuff to trade, too. Two sleeper fruits, and… This? That fair?" He asks, pulling out his gem.
"Good choice," says Gilder as he hands you the bag of Water Eaters and the small black bird-shaped statuette. "I'm not much of a swimmer either. Don't even want to know what sort of monsters they have down there.">-80 bits
As Gilder counts out your coin, Rosen contemplates what you've got for offer, taking the gem and holding it up to the light. "Hm. That's not half bad. Not a perfect sample, but still." He puts it back down on the counter next to the two large fruits. "Give ya 60 for the lot. What do you say?"
>Your inventory: https://pastebin.com/zYnsg4Mk
>Rosen and Gilder's inventory: https://pastebin.com/qNkjAyPP
You continue to browse the saurian merchants' store. Seeing you start to change up your outfits for the coming trek, Violet and Aurora follow suit, donning a hooded cloak and a shawl respectively. Time passes, and you eventually feel the room start to rattle and shake, a fierce wind beginning to howl and batter the windows and doors. "There's the sandstorm," says Gilder, leaning on the upstairs balcony casually. "Might want to sit tight. Could be here a while, unless you fancy braving it. I wouldn't."
"So what brings you guys out here anyway?" Rosen asks, digging out a tobacco pipe from under the counter. "Don't ever see anyone out here apart from the usual crazies, and some hairy guy that pops in like once a month. You treasure hunters or what?"
"If you never see anyone out here, then what are YOU doing here?"
"Travelling, what else?" he offers, before stroking his chin a little>>696938
"If I had to imagine, probably passing to a different town, or looking for anything left behind from… less fortunate travelers." he suggests
"If Violet callz herzelf a treazure hunter, zhen zure, zhat'z what we are. Me perzonally? I dunno, I read ze Tarot and can cook a bit."
"Oh, us?" i start, picking through more of the clothes as i continue my chatter.
"Why we're simply trying to pick our way to the desert center, that spire looked to be quite the landmark, i had wondered if something of worth might still be there, remote as it is."
pulling the cleanest cloak i could find from the lot, i pass it over to Rosen.
"How much would this be worth? The fabric here would be excellent for keeping the sun and sand at bay."
"Scavenging," says Rosen after puffing on his pipe a bit. "Although we're going to be turning back soon. Turns out there's not much here. The desert swallows up just about everything. At least it feels that way.">>696944
"That's fair enough. Just that most blokes don't come out here without reason. Not exactly a tourist area, this.">>696951
"Useful skills, those. If you're interested in cooking, we have this set of tools we managed to scrounge. They're haunted by the previous owner though, and he's a complete arse about his cooking. Tell you what. You can have 'em for cheap if you want.">>696954
He examines it. "Hm. 12 bits for it, I think. Oi Gilder, these are 12 bits, yeah?"
"Yeah, 12 bits then.">>696938>>696944>>696951>>696954
"If you're gonna be traveling all the way to the center and back, you might wanna consider getting yourselves a guide," Rosen ponders as he puffs away on his pipe. "I can almost guarantee you'll get lost without one."
"I was thinking the same thing," says Violet, adjusting her new cloak. "Do you know of any settlements?"
"Nah, not as far as we've seen. Just reavers, madmen and cannibals out here. Maybe you could talk some sense into one of 'em."
"Or you could get this off us," Gilder offers, holding up the Compass of Want. It is a wooden, gold-trimmed device with ornate carvings along its surface. The needle spins wildly as he opens it. "Never points north. Instead it points to whatever you want it to point. Never get lost again! What do you say?"
"Also," Rosen chimes in, "you might want to consider this. "He holds up the map to the Sanctuary, but keeps it tightly furled. "If you're going to be drifting as a group, you'll need a Sanctuary if you can get one. Not many people can. We got lucky with this one. Only ever seen a handful of others. It's a house, but it can move around. How useful is that, eh? So what do you think?"
"From what we've seen, between the desert and the bugs, it's more than likely that most anything of value's been dragged under."
Rabi hums a little, and looks to the rest of the group "I'd be willing to pool some money together for the group of us. The compass could be pretty useful, provided we stay focused."
Hermodur shrugs to the party as he sits down in a chair, still holding Mjolnir tight. "Spend money on whatever you want."
"Twelve bits, then? Very well."
nodding, i slide over the coinage, adding the cloak and my new outfit to Zunden's bag for later.>>696971
"Hmm, if the desert is as bleak as they say that compass would
be quite useful.."
"Cheap iz a concept, I need the prize (price) in bitz">>696971
"Eh, I zuppoze you could buy it. Ze zanctuary zoundz more uzeful."
"Better to have it and not need it, anyways. I've still got one of the fruit to trade."
"Very true, though i suspect we won't have enough for both.">>696853
"..Unless our resident gambler wins us one of them."
I shudder. "Yeah, I somehow hadn't thought about that. If the things on land are as bad as they are, I can only imagine what's in the water.">>696935>>696969
I find a back corner, slip my filthy shirt and torn trousers off, and pull on my new robe. After changing I take my seat back on the stool. I let out a quiet snort as I hear Rosen and Glider trying to sell even more of their stuff. Man, Violet wasn't kidding. Still. "Yeah, a lot of this stuff does sound surprisingly useful. Where'd you pick up all this enchanted stuff, anyway? Just buy it off of treasure hunters like us?" Norvegicus Black. Treasure hunter. That doesn't sound so bad anymore.
I can't suppress a smug smirk and cock an eyebrow. "Come on, he didn't have to accept my game in the first place, did he? Best not to get greedy." As I speak, however, my finger twitches.
Gilder nods. "Seems like it's literal too. Everything that gets dropped or thrown away just vanishes. It's so weird. You can see the markings where stuff disappeared everywhere. Word of advice, hold on to your stuff, otherwise it'll get lost. Guaranteed.">>696974
"Ta!" The squat little lizard eagerly counts out your coin as you store away your new outfit.>-12 bits>>696975
The duo exchange words in hushed voices before turning back to you. "40. They're good quality, and almost everything you make with 'em turns out good, unless you really screw it up. …Could go lower though," he shrugs.>>696978
"Oh, here and there," Rosen answers with a handwave. "Some of it we trade for, others we just collect from less friendly places. Blows the mind how much junk you can find just lying about in the middle of nowhere. You should try it sometime!">>696971>>696973>>696974>>696975>>696978
"They seem expensive," Violet muses, looking wary of pulling the trigger on the purchase. "The Sanctuary might be worth it, but I feel we'd be better off taking our chances with a guide, if we can find one. Money doesn't grow on trees. I've been working for years saving up what I have."
"Well, sorry, but we need to maintain a business somehow," Gilder answers. "If we just gave away this stuff we'd be homeless in a week."
"So," Aurora asks, "how much for them then?"
"100 for the compass and 125 for the map," Gilder answers. "Or, if you buy both together, we could part with 'em for 200. Sign of good faith. You did help us out with the wheel and all."
Aurora contemplates the idea, while Violet looks to you. "Your money, your call." The duo hold the items eagerly, waiting for your decision.
Hermodur silently watches the deliberations as he lounges back in his chair.
"Well, I've got 24, provided they still want the last of thr fruit. I'd be fine going for one or the other if we don't have the money to buy both."
"Ze houze meanz we can take our time to find a guide wizhout worrying about wild zhingz or weazher hindering uz."
Zunden says, shrugging,
"Bezidez, a compazz izn't a map. Even if it directz uz to a location, it won't lead uz around zinkholez like a guide would."
I rub the back of my neck. "As useful as they sound, 200 is kind of a lot. I personally don't even have that much left, and I'd kind of like to save a little back. We probably would be better off trying to find a guide, but-" I tap my finger and sigh. "I don't know how likely it'd be for us to even find someone." I look up at Rosen. "You said 'some hairy guy' drops by once a month? When does he drop by, and do you think maybe he'd know his way around?"
"Yes but the map isn't the house, there's no guarantee the structure wasn't taken or had wandered off by now."
, by comparison, should point towards the center, presumably if the user keeps their focus."
"We could purchaze ze compazz and zeek out ze Zanctuary."
Zunden says, shrugging
Rosen looks a mite offended that you're not interested in anything in their stock, apart from their clothes. "Can't find anything you like? Well you could try looking a little harder…">>696982
"We can take those off your hands if you don't need 'em," Gilder offers. "Er, hooves I mean.">>696983
"That's true," says Violet. "Maybe we should just get the map and pass on the compass?">>696984
"Dunno where he comes from," Rosen shrugs. "He just sort of… appears. Don't even know his name. Doesn't talk much, just takes a look around, buys one or two things then walks off. Seems like he lives here, so you could try finding him, but he could be anywhere. Honestly, you're better off buying the compass mate."
Aurora frowns. "I thought you were just passing through here. How do you know he comes here once a month?"
"Hm? Oh, we get around. We have a circuit we usually do around the Echoes.">>696985
"I don't think they can go anywhere," Violet muses. "Not on their own at least. They need someone controlling them. That's how Black Pudding does it at least, and I'm pretty sure these two do as well."
"Black Pudding?" Gilder parrots. "You know that creep?"
Her expression sours. "We've met."
"Oh, I'm interested in many things," Hermodur responds bluntly. "But, it's not my place to purchase them. I'm just the muscle," he says in an oddly proud tone.
"Ooh, that could work! Why we'd save quite a bit if we gave that a try.">>696987
"Very well then, We'll take that compass, if you're happy to part with it. If anything it will be more than suitable for traversing the desert."
"Well, if he lives here then he should know the desert, right? So if we did buy the compass we could use it to find him, ask him to be our guide, and if he agrees then we wouldn't need the map. Unless I'm missing something. Did he seem-" I clear my throat. "Well… aggressive to you two?"
"Sure." he says, handing the two fruit over
"We can take ze compazz."
Zunden says, agreeing with Silver.
They both look a bit weirded out by that statement, but think it best not to push it.>>696989>>696992
"Rightyo!" As you pass him the money, Rosen almost snatches it off of you, eagerly starting to count it all out. "Gilder, we're rich!" His companion just rolls his eyes and hands over the compass. "Take care of it. It's one of a kind, it is.">-100 bits>>696990
"Sounds like a good plan," Aurora comments.
"Not really aggressive, no. Just kind of a grump. Big, mean-looking minotaur. You might run into him, if he's still alive.">>696991
"Ta!" Rosen struggles to carry the two large fruits, but manages somehow as he adds them to the stock and makes a note of it.>+24 bits>>696988>>696989>>696990>>696991>>696992
The sandstorm doesn't pass for another hour or so. During this time, Rosen and Gilder make themselves scarce, doing a tally of their new stock and coin, and periodically asking if there's anything else you want. After the sandstorm blows over, they exit the store and head to the front of their Sanctuary, where you can see it is pulled by a wooden horse-shaped automaton that they call Horse. "Never been good with names," Gilder shrugs. Instructing you to hold tight, he proceeds to get the caravan moving by activating the golem, and with a sudden rattling and shaking, you set off towards the distant rock formations closer to the center of the Shifting Sands.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ypvsPO2K9mI
The journey takes up most of the day. The saurians leave you be for the majority of the trip, as you are guests now, not just customers. They sit at the front of the caravan, with Rosen at the reins and Gilder riding shotgun, occasionally plucking away on his lute. You pause for lunch at about noon, consisting of mostly rations as well as instant bread loaves courtesy of your hosts. They are a bit bland, but quite filling.
It is late afternoon by the time you reach the outskirts of the rocky area you spotted. You can see now that it gives way to a yawning blood-red canyon that goes on for miles and miles, a gaping scar in the earth running northwards towards the center. While it has been in the back of your mind for the majority of your journey so far, the droning sound you first heard upon entering the Shifting Sands has gotten slightly louder, and shows no signs of stopping.
"This is about as far as we can take ya," Rosen grunts. "We'd better start heading back towards civilization ourselves. At least the Terreocti won't get you here. No sand for them to hide in."
"Thanks for the lift," says Violet as she hops off the caravan and surveys the area, Aurora following soon after. "You saved us a lot of time."
"Least we could do," says Gilder with a smile. "Good luck out there. This place is pretty rough." Rosen waits for you to exit before starting to turn the caravan around. "Alright, see ya around! Thanks for the business! Tell your friends about us!"
I heave my new gear over my shoulder and wave. "Thanks for the lift. I'll be sure to mention you. I know how well word of mouth spreads business." I look around at at the landscape, suddenly feeling incredibly small.
"Of course, of course, we'll be sure to keep you in mind!"
pulling the cloak from Zunden's bag, i secure the cover over my old vest, before turning to the group.
"Well then, i suppose we follow through this canyon, then use our new compass, correct?"
I nod, not taking my eyes off the canyon. "Looks like."
"Well, I must admit, I was very wrong about following the caravan," Hermodur says as he exits the transportation. "Verily, our expedition feels much clearer now."
"We even have a suitable landmark to follow for a while at least," he says, gesturing to the canyon conveniently trailing in the direction they are going.
I quickly swing back around, hoping to catch Rosen and Glider before they leave. "Oh! I almost forgot! Do one of you have a deck of cards I can buy?"
Zunden turns to the traders,
"Zhank you for houzing uz zhrough ze ztorm. Pay or Pazhz crozz again."
Zunden says, adding in, "It'z in your bezt interezt az traderz I zuppoze" with a chuckle.
"Thanks, you two. Safe travels!" He shouts with a wave.>>696995
"Yeah, let's give the compass a shot. Who should hold it?">>696997
"Yeah. It was absolutely worth it, in my opinion."
"Ah, so my choice was correct after all!"
"Not to worry, Hermodur, I won't hold your doubt of me against you, this time." i reply, stifling a laugh with a wing.>>697000
"Well, we've time aplenty to find the proper navigator, traveling through this canyon as is."
"I'll give it a try, just to see if it works, of course.">>696993
taking ahold of the compass with my hoof, i open the case and try to focus on the goal ahead.
"Alright..compass. Show me the direction of the desert center, towards that rock spire."
"Huh?" They stop dead in their tracks, then Gilder goes into the caravan and starts digging around before tossing you a deck of cards. "On the house!" he calls.>>696999
"I have a feeling we'll meet again soon. And we'll make another fine trade, of course!">>697004
The compass needle spins violently before finding its bearings, pointing directly northwest, across to the other side of the canyon.>>696995>>696997>>696999>>697000
"Bye now! Stay safe out there!" With one last wave goodbye, they turn around and start trundling off the way they came, the faint sound of lute music fading away into the distance.
"Well now," Violet ponders as she surveys the area, "where to? Silver, you're the one with the compass, so it's up to you. We either try and locate this hermit they mentioned, or we cut to the chase and get moving towards the spire." She seems to zone out for a moment, then shakes her head and concentrates with a frown. "Ugh, that buzzing…"
She takes a moment to collect herself and points out a few routes you could take to advance through the canyon, no matter what you choose as your next objective.
There is a crack in the canyon walls that seems to lead into a cave system and downwards to the bottom, at the end of which appears to be a faint patch of green. This would take longer, but could potentially lead to finding an oasis of some sort.
The more direct path would be to stick to the canyon's edge and take a higher trail, leading towards a visible outcrop from which smoke is trailing. This is a potentially risky option, as the smoke could signal anything.
Hermodur waits to see what decision people make.
"Hmm.. I suppose with the compass we won't exactly need
a guide, provided we stay on task."
following the needle, i look further down the canyon length. "I suppose we should head further in, but which way? Towards that camp or into the caves?"
"..In any case, i'll need but a moment to change, this dress is still quite stuffy, even out of the sun."
grabbing my new outfit from the bag, i slip behind an outcropping to change clothes.
"Perzonally, while an oaziz zoundz nize, zhere iz ze chanze zhat ze fire could be ze camp of ze guide."
"Zhough I'm partial to any which way."
"Hrm… the cave system might be a safer path. It'd be cooler, since cave systems tend to be cooler. But… hrm. I wonder what the smoke could be."
"I suppose we could ask the compass about that guide." i chime in, out of view
"If the needle points to the smoke we may have our answer."
"You could zimply dezire ze mozt dangerouz pazh, and take ze ozher one."
"Fair enough. Lets see just what is ahead, then."
keeping an eye on the compass as i change, i focus on the two paths, searching for the most dangerous route.
I catch the deck and grin. "Thanks!" I call back. I turn to Violet. "Yeah. The buzzing is making me uncomfortable.">>697009>>697008
I wipe my forehead. "I'm kind of on the cave side of things. This sun is starting to get to me. If we're not specifically looking for the Minotaur then the smoke has me a little on edge. Especially now that they confirmed there actually are cannibals and crazies out here.">>697010
I blink. "Actually yeah. That makes sense.">>697011
"Didn't they say the compass couldn't find general ideas like that?"
"Can zimply look for ze clozezt zentient creaturez zhat'd want to kill uz."
You take cover out of sight and change into your swanky new outfit. The difference is almost immediately noticeable, as you feel much cooler even in the hot sun.>>697012
As you try and will the compass to point towards the less dangerous route, it begins to simply spin out of control. It doesn't seem to work when applied to concepts, only specific things or people.>>697006>>697008>>697009>>697013
"Yeah, I think we should take the caves as well," Aurora pipes up. "Whatever's causing that smoke probably won't be friendly to us, even if it is that hermit they mentioned."
Violet nods. "Let's take the route down then. Might be best if we avoid unwanted attention."
You head towards the nearby fissure, pushing through the uncomfortably narrow opening into the cave system. A colony of four-winged bats scatter and screech as you push through, flapping past you deeper into the caverns. It is difficult to see, the light from Zunden's orbs only letting you see a few dozen feet in front of you. From what you can see, the caverns run all through the canyon interior like rocky veins. The floor is littered with fungi, dung and what look like gnawed bones. There are also ashes littered on the ground, suggesting something lit a fire here at some point. From somewhere in the caves, you can hear something heavy dragging itself through the tunnels, although what you cannot imagine. Aurora looks nervous, gripping her silver sword tightly, while Violet strains to see in the gloom.>roll Perception
Zunden keeps her eyes open, taking advantage of the sun's warmth as she uses it for light.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
I jump back from the cave as the bats scatter out. Looking into the cave, I'm suddenly second guessing my decision.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
sweeping out from behind the outcropping, i move in a slow circle to show off the new gear.
"How do i look? a much better fit for the heat of the desert, for sure."
Following the group into the cave system, i keep an eye out for whatever was making that noise.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
"Hmm, should have figured the cooler way would attract more dangerous life," Hermodur comments as he grips his weapon, ready for a fight.
[1d10] for perceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
"Huh. Guess we need to have something concrete for this to work." the stallion notes, stroking his snout a little in thought.
The saddle arabian looks around the dark caverns slowly, and tries to recall the message he'd read. "Didn't it say there were dead below, or something?">[1d10]>>697018
"Hey, looks pretty good, Silver! At least, in my opinion."Roll #1 6 = 6
"Why thank you, Rabi! It's quite Rustic, i feel like a proper traveler with this on."
You bathe in the warmth from your conjured suns, using it to empower your magic.>>697018
"Hey, that's not bad," Aurora says. "Red looks good on you.">>697019>>697020
You see something moving through one of the tunnels above you, but you can't make out what it is. You can also hear the droning sound getting slightly louder.>>697016>>697017>>697018
Something huge and immensely heavy suddenly drops down on you, crushing you to the floor. Silver only just manages to get out of the way, but is still injured and stunned by the sudden attack.>Silver takes 4 hits>Zunden and Norv take 5 hits, helpless>>697016>>697017>>697018>>697019>>697020
The monstrous thing menacing you comes into full view in the light of your orbs. It is little more than a shambling mound of assorted bones of various creatures: a skull here, a rib there. It even has parts of a Terreoctus exoskeleton in some parts. It has no discernible shape, little more than an animated pile of remains. The strangest aspect of this monster is that it seems to be animated by the crimson sand itself: tiny red particles flit about the various joints like flies, the constant buzz louder than before. The bones that litter the floor begin to get swarmed by the animated sand, moving towards it and joining the amalgamate.
The shambler extends several bones to form a huge claw, swiping at Rabi and Hermodur fiercely.
Violet sticks to the shadows and extends her spear, while Aurora seems to freeze in place at the sight of the monster.Roll #1 5 + 3 = 8
I scream in pain as I fall to the ground, and continue screaming in fear as I get a good look at just what knocked me away. I try to scoot backwards to give myself enough room to stand up.
[1d10] RecoverRoll #1 1 = 1
crashing into the cavern wall as i stagger away from the attack, i try to recover my senses and leap out of the way of the swiping claw!
[1d10] DodgeRoll #1 5 = 5
"Yes…" Hermodur says as he looks at the creature with a combination of shock and awe. "It would seem that both you and the warning were unexpectedly accurate."
"Foul beast of unknown darkness, take your demonic depravity elsewhere! There is no room for your ilk in the perfect world of Ailuros!"
Hermodur shouts dramatically as he holds Mjolnir over his head, revving it up.
>Sharpen [1d10]>Hunter's Eye on sand monsterRoll #1 5 = 5
Zunden nearly falls, thankful for her thick reptilian scales for keeping her on her feet. She casts out orbs of light to aid herself and her allies.
(Spending my sun for heal and +1)
[1d10+3] Healing Bonds: Zunden (frozen), Silver, NorvegicusRoll #1 1 + 3 = 4
"Functional and elegant? You really do have an eye for fashion!" he says with a chuckle, which is quickly cut off with a shout as the Shambler drops down on the party>>697022
"Guys, no!" he shouts, quickly pulling an arrow out of his pack. He imbues it with light, before firing it at the monster>Magic Bow [1d10+2]>Light Arrow>>697025
"I think I would've rather been wrong, but… Yeah. At least we were lucky enough to duck it!"Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
You try to get back up, but the living bone pile extends a wickedly sharp spike and lunges out at you. You only barely manage to roll to avoid being stabbed in the heart, but you almost black out as it pierces your shoulderblade instead.>Norv takes 1 wound>>697024
The shambler smacks you out of the air with its swipe, sending you plummeting painfully to the ground.>Silver takes 3 hits, helpless>>697025
You watch the shambler carefully as you try to get Mjolnir to work. It roars to life for a moment, but then sputters and dies on you. In your haste to get it working, you fail to avoid getting swiped at by the giant claw. It rakes you across the torso, tearing your new clothes and leaving deep cuts on your chest. It almost knocks you off your feet, but you manage to steady yourself by planting Mjolnir into the ground.>>697026
You try to summon more orbs of light, only for your staff to flare violently and snuff out.>>697027
Your light arrow pings harmlessly off of one of its many bone platings. The blow sweeps you off your feet, but you manage to recover easily and back away to put more range between you and it.>>697023>>697024>>697025>>697026>>697027
The shambler configures itself into a tower-like formation, retracting its claw and revealing several sharp bone spikes. With deadly force, they start launching out of the creature in quick succession.
Violet is almost poised to strike, while Aurora gets a grip and clumsily tries to stab the shambler.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #2 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #3 1 + 2 = 3
/ Roll #4 5 = 5
Zunden tries to summon a sun again, not wanting to get uncomfortably close to an ally to charge her magic.
[1d10] Mend Self (Orb)Roll #1 5 = 5
sent rolling across the rock flooring, i try to get back onto my hooves amid the hail of bone shards!
[1d10] recoverRoll #1 4 = 4
Hermodur grunts angrily as he looks around at the situation. "Ailuros, please hear me! Grant me the power to repel this foul beast!"
>Sharpen [1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
My mind clouds over and I weakly push my hands beneath myself. I try to swallow, but my throat feels too dry. Trying to bring my thoughts back into focus, I attempt to push myself off the ground.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Rabi winces a little as the shot plinks off, and shrugs it off before trying to focus "Gah. Maybe a bit of pure magic'll do the trick…"
>Magic Bolt: [1d10+2] [1d10+2] (Fire)Roll #1 2 + 2 = 4
/ Roll #2 2 + 2 = 4
Your staff glows for a moment, then fades again.You dodge most of the incoming spikes, and your scales protect you from the rest.>>697030
You try to get up, but are not fast enough to dodge the incoming bone spikes. They rain down on you in a volley of blows, leaving serious wounds and causing heavy bleeding. Many lodge themselves in your skin.>Silver takes 2 wounds>>697031
You manage to light your hammer, lifting it up dramatically as it bursts into flame. The shambler seems to take this as a challenge as it sprouts several menacing limbs and moves to face you.>>697032
You shrug off the injuries and pull yourself up, defiantly facing the amalgamate. It buzzes angrily as it sees you get up.>>697033
You try to fire another arrow off, but are interrupted by its own barrage of bones, which force you to dive away instead of attacking it head on.>>697029>>697030>>697031>>697032>>697033
Seeing Hermodur and Norvegicus challenging it, the shambler swipes at them with many small arms.
Violet goes to stab it, piercing through the many layers of bone and swinging away at it. This leaves its core exposed, a swirling mass of what looks like more red sand. Seeing this seems to bring her to a sudden realization, but she shrugs it off. "There! Go for the heart!"
Aurora's attack bounces off harmlessly. Panicking, she casts an energizing spell on Silver instead. "Come on, get up. …Maybe we should run?" >Silver is BolsteredRoll #1 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8
"I-i suppose we could consider the option."
gritting my teeth, i take the chance to get back onto my hooves, careful to avoid digging the bone shards further into me.
[1d10] RecoverRoll #1 6 = 6
Hermodur grins as the creature approaches him menacingly. "Depraved abomination, you are nothing before the might of Ailuros Bastet! My will remains unshaken! Taste her might!"
Hermodur reaches into his pocket to retrieve the mini-sun. He tosses it into the air then grips Mjolnir with both hands. On his backswing, Mjolnir strikes the sun and activates it to heal himself. Then, the rocket roars and slams itself into the bulk of the beast.
>activating sun to heal myself (instant, automatic)
[1d10+4] [1d10+3]>DC-1, take the higher rollRoll #1 1 + 4 = 5
/ Roll #2 5 + 3 = 8
I jog over to my rat cage, crouch down, and open the door. Pointing to the skeleton creature, I click my tongue. "Attack!" I shout to the rat of curious dimensions. It lumbers out of the cage, angrily chattering its teeth. I don't know if it's normal, or if the heat has gotten to it, but it seems particularly angry. It darts at the shambler.
My heart races as I stare the creature down, and it takes everything I have not to run. My stomach sinks as it attacks me, and I scurry to dodge it.
[1d10+1] DC-1 Rat attack
[1d10] dodgeRoll #1 1 + 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
"I think we can handle it! At least, this one!" he says, trying for another arrow>Bow: [1d10+1]Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11
Empowered by Aurora's magic, you pull yourself back up, weakened but still able to fight somewhat.>>697036
Zunden's healing magic saves you once again, giving you the strength to power through the shambler's attack and ram the hammer into the creature, splintering its coating of bone to reveal the core of whirling sand.>Hermodur is healed but takes 2 hits, at 3/5 still>>697037
The ROUS scampers to attack the shambler, but is swatted aside like a common fly with a powerful blow. It seems badly injured, breathing heavily as it struggles to right itself.>Minion takes 5 hits, helpless at 0/1
The shambler follows up by swinging at you wildly with its many arms, knocking you flat on your back with the sudden assault. Your injuries are starting to catch up with you.>Norv takes 8 hits, helpless at 0/2>>697038
You resort to emergency tactics and empower yourself with radiant sun magic from Hermodur's orb just as it goes out. Your staff comes back to life, for now.>>697039
You fire an arrow into its exposed core, piercing it through to the other side. The constant buzzing and droning becomes almost unbearable. The shambler falters and collapses for a moment, weakened by the blow.>>697035>>697036>>697037>>697038>>697039
As Rabi's arrow pierces its heart, the shambler rests idle as it recovers from the powerful blow. "Now's our chance!" Violet calls as she and Aurora take the opportunity to start attacking it with everything they have.>+1 to attacks against it this turn
"Quickly now, while we have the chance!"
drawing both of my shivs, i power through the pain to strike at the creature's heart!
[1d10+1] MeleeRoll #1 8 + 1 = 9
/ Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3
Hermodur smiles widely as he sees his chance to attack. "Well done, Rabi!"
Hermodur leaps forward, allowing the rocket of the hammer to slam into the core of the Shambler. "Go back to death!"
[1d10+4] [1d10+4]>DC-1, take the larger rollRoll #1 8 + 4 = 12
/ Roll #2 8 + 4 = 12
(If I can, spending my heal on Norv)
Rabi tries to follow up with another arrow imbued with light, hoping the opening he made will be good enough to get a solid shot in!>Magic Bow (Light Element): [1d10+3]>>697042
"Trying my best! Let's see how it likes your hammer now!"Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5
(been waiting for Tome for over half an hour)
Zunden casts more orbs towards her allies and herself,
[1d10+2] Healing Bonds: Zunden (Frozen), Silver (Frozen), Norv (Frozen if he gets up, otherwise normal. Don't feel like waiting for him all night.)Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
I lie on the ground in a daze, only vaguely aware of the world around me. I close my eyes and groan, clutching at my wound. Weakly I try to pull myself back up.
I hear my rat quietly squeaking near me and my heart aches. If he can get back to the cage I'll unsummon him, but he has to make it back. His legs tremble as he tries to stand.
[1d10+1]-1DCRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 7 + 1 = 8
One of your blades glances off the surrounding bones, but the other carves into the cluster of swirling sand, harrying it with repeated blows and wearing it down steadily.>>697042
Mjolnir trembles and roars in your hands as you leap up and bring the rocket-propelled hammer down with all your might, splintering the bones and pounding the shambler's core into oblivion.>>697043
In your haste to finish it off, you mistime your arrow and it bounces off of the surrounding bones.>>697044
You summon more healing orbs for yourself and for Silver, following up by channeling your magic at the prone Dog.>>697047
You fail to get back up, only worsening your injuries by struggling. However, you find the energy to recover through Zunden's healing magic, which mends the most grievous of your wounds so you can find the strength to stand.>Norv takes 1 wound and is healed, recovered at 5/2>>697041>>697042>>697043>>697044>>697047
While severely damaged by your collective attacks, the shambler changes shape once more with a portentous rattle of its many bones, forming into a four-legged shape with a torso and long arms with ribcages for claws. The sand that animates it whirls and buzzes like a million angry bees, the trunk of the torso condensing its bones to protect its vulnerable core. Where the head should be is a plethora of teeth and sharp bones, ready to be spewed out at a moment's notice. The newly reconfigured shambler pounds the ground like an ape, the cavern quaking ominously.
"What the hell is this thing?" Violet whispers, freezing in place at the sight of the monstrosity. Aurora starts backing away. "I think we just pissed it off!"
The shambler swipes its long claws at the party, targeting Zunden and Rabi with one swipe and Hermodur and Silver with the other.
[1d10+3]Roll #1 1 + 3 = 4
/ Roll #2 8 + 3 = 11
Hermodur looks around as the cavern quakes. "This cave won't be able to handle our fight for much longer. But, I refuse to allow this thing to survive this encounter. Everyone run to the entrance. I'll lure it to us."
Hermodur turns to flee the tunnel. He dodges the attack as he runs out of its range. [1d10]
(If dodging is instant, then also this:)
Once he is out of its range, he turns back around to look at the Shambler. The front of Mjolnir opens up to reveal a ball of magical energy pulsing inside. He swings his hammer likes a golf club and launches the magical ball explosively at the Shambler.
[1d10+3] [1d10+3]>DC-1, ranged, take the higher rollRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 2 + 3 = 5
/ Roll #3 5 + 3 = 8
Rabi stamps his hoof a little, and starts moving back out of the tunnel. He stops to lob a bolt of flame at the monster, in hopes that it'll weaken some of the condensed armor around its core>Magic Bolt: [1d10+2] [1d10+2] (Fire Element)Roll #1 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #2 7 + 2 = 9
Reeling from the loss of blood and the shards of bone, i immediately burst the fresh orb to try and breath easier, nodding gratefully towards Zunden, before stepping back as the creature reforms.>>697161
"R-right. Perhaps we'll fare better in the open, fighting this horrid creature."
>Frozen light active
leaping towards the exit, i try and slip past the creature while Hermodur gets its attention!
[1d10+1] dodge+ (orb)Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8
Zunden's resolve returns as her spell finally goes off, turning to the bone creature,
"Her goez nozhing."
She strikes out with her staff, slapping at the torso.
[1d10] playing xylophoneRoll #1 5 = 5
The shambler simply bats you away before you can react, knocking you forcefully to the ground in one powerful blow. Your head feels light.>Hermodur takes 6 hits, helpless>>697162
You easily avoid its slow swings and counter with a well-aimed shot to the chest, weakening its protective coating of bones. You follow up with a fireball, which bursts in a brilliant display, illuminating the cavern in orange. It flinches from the impact, but keeps powering through it.>>697163
The shambler slams you to the ground with its swipe, but you crush the orb in your hoof to heal your fresh wounds, giving you the strength to get back up again. You manage to dart behind it while it isn't focused on you, avoiding its swings.>>697164
Your staff simply bounces off the bone monster like it's nothing.>>697161>>697162>>697163>>697164
The shambler spreads out its long arms to anchor itself to the floor, the hole where the neck should be opening wide as it spews out a volley of bones. Aurora starts making her way back through the tunnel, while Violet starts trying to get into position for an attack.
[1d10+2] RabiRoll #1 9 + 2 = 11
/ Roll #2 3 + 2 = 5
/ Roll #3 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #4 8 + 2 = 10
Seeing as she's about to go down, Zunden just hits the skeletal mass with her staff again.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"I assume it fears the light," Hermodur says as he struggles to his feet. "My intention is to fight it at the entrance so if the cave DOES collapse, we can escape quickly. And potentially dig the tunnel back out."
[1d10] to get upRoll #1 7 = 7
crushed by the shambler's claw, the healing provides no respite as the wind is knocked out of me. dragging myself back to my hooves, i try to dodge further up the tunnel, evading what bone shards i can!
"Just need to.. get to the surface!"Roll #1 9 = 9
Rabi tries to duck out of the way of the bone shard barrage, trying to make it to better ground "M-Maybe this was a bad idea.">Dodge: [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
I groan, staying flat on the ground at first. For a moment I lie in a daze, blind to the world around me. My giant rat frantically squeals in my cage next to me, and I manage to lift my hand up just enough to rest it on the side, channeling barely enough energy into it to unsummon the poor rodent.>>697165
Slowly I pull myself to my feet, holding my hand in my head. From the hazy chaos of the battlefield it doesn't look like anyone else is doing much better than me. I move to pull my dagger out, trying to will myself to attack with everyone else, but my body freezes as I stare the abomination down. Flashes of the previous deadly attacks shoot through my mind, and all I can think about is my head rolling around on the floor after getting too close.
"Norvegicus!" i call out from further up the tunnel "We're falling back, hop to it!"
"Need a helping hoof, friend? We can't wait any longer!"
I stare on in horror at first, barely even twitching. Leaving. Everyone is running. My knees feel like they're going to give, but I manage to push myself just hard enough to snatch my trap and bolt up the tunnel.
You manage to knock a femur loose, but not much else. It retaliates with a a barrage of spikes that tear through your new outfit and even pierce your tough scales, knocking you flat on your back. The world seems to spin around you.>Zunden takes 5 hits, helpless>>697167
You prop yourself up with Mjolnir and face the monster defiantly, sidestepping the hail of projectiles aimed at you.>>697168
You try to avoid the incoming shards, but are not fast enough to avoid the blast of bone shards, knocking you out of the air and sending you spiraling to the cave floor.>Silver takes 5 hits, helpless>Silver is at Death's Door>>697169
You run as fast as your legs can carry you, avoiding the rain of weaponized bone as it scatters behind you. You finish with a quick roll to the side, drawing your bow and nocking an arrow, ready to keep fighting.>>697170
You try to steady yourself in the midst of battle, but your head spins and you find yourself unable to think straight. You are vaguely aware of Violet shouting something at you. "Norv! Hang in there!">>697166>>697167>>697168>>697170>>697169
The shambler pounds the ground again, but this time digs into the rock and dirt with as much strength as it can muster, grabbing an enormous boulder and hurling it at you all.
[1d10+1] Norv, Rabi, Hermodur
Violet decides to abort her attempt at crippling it again, instead making a bolt for the tunnel. "We can't win this one! Let's get out of here!" Aurora is all to happy to oblige, but not before casting an energizing spell on Zunden.>Zunden is BolsteredRoll #1 8 + 1 = 9
Zunden climbs up,
"Make sure everyone iz accounted for! Leave no one behind!"
Hermodur grabs Silver and runs. [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
My flickering hope was scattered as i felt myself impaled further with more bones, attempts to stand are met with pained gasps as i collapse again.
"R-rabi.." i manage to mutter, my consciousness fading fast.
My eyes widen as I hear Violet's voice, and I clench my teeth. My lungs sting as I push myself harder, and the world around me blurs as tears fill my eyes. Even through the adrenaline and healing I can feel vague aches threatening to shut my body down.
I scream as the boulder flies towards me, and in spite of the inferno raging in my lungs I try to run faster to dodge it.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Rabi manages to duck out of the way and turns to fire off one last shot before running. His grip slackens a little when he sees Silver goes limp, and he lets out a shout of anger. With Hermodur snatching her up before he can, he lets out an angered whinny and fires a bolt of golden energy at the Shambler before running after the others>Using Frozen Light for heal/+1>Magic Bow: [1d10+3] (+1 from Frozen Light, +1 from Light Element)Roll #1 9 + 3 = 12
You manage to struggle back up, courtesy of Aurora's magic, and get yourself to safety in the tunnel.>>697176
You manage to grab Silver and hoist her in a fireman's lift, running to the tunnel. As the shambler hurls the boulder, it slams against the cave walls with a deafening crack, pummeling you with falling debris and almost knocking you down again.>Hermodur takes 4 hits>>697177
As you pass out, you feel someone or something grab you, then you know no more.>>697178
As instinct takes over, you try to outrun the incoming boulder, but are not quite fast enough. Luckily, it wedges in the mouth of the tunnel, sparing you from being crushed, but you still find yourself pelted with falling rocks, almost burying you under the rubble.>Norv takes 4 hits>>697179
You manage to heal yourself with the orb as you get to safety, your open wounds almost immediately closing. You fire a powerful shot straight at the shambler's chest, splintering its protective surface and exposing the sandy core. Curiously, you notice that it doesn't seem to fear the light as undead usually do.>>697175>>697176>>697177>>697178>>697179
You manage to escape the bone amalgamate by the skin of your teeth, taking a moment to catch your breath as you find yourselves back at the top of the canyon. Aurora slumps to the ground against a nearby rock to catch her breath, while Violet has a distant, glazed look in her eye as she props herself against her spear. There is a brief moment of silence as you reflect on your encounter. Zunden feels the bestiary she purchased earlier tremble slightly.
Looking around, you can still see the plume of smoke on the horizon, as well as a narrow, winding path to the bottom of the canyon, riddled with holes leading to the cave system within. You also see that the sun is starting to get low and the giant moon is on the horizon, bringing with it a cold and bitter wind that chills you to your very soul.
Zunden takes a headcount, making sure everyone made it out safely,
"Good, everyone made it out. I'm glad you're all zafe."
She takes the bestiary from her bag and opens it, flipping to (what was previously) the first blank page of it.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
Hermodur puts down Silver carefully. "Heal her," he says flatly to Zunden. He quickly turns to face the tunnel. He stares at the darkness within, gripping Mjolnir, waiting to see if it followed them.
After exiting the cave I keep running, not stopping until I'm nearly fifty feet away from the rest of the party. Once I'm sure nothing is going to attack me, I let my cage tumble to the ground, drop to my hands, and let out a weak sob.
"I will, all of you. Don't make demandz."
Hermodur doesn't respond. He just keeps watching the tunnel, Mjolnir tightly gripped in his hands.
Rabi watches it cautiously as the shambler backs off for now, slinging his bow over his shoulder and scanning the group. He goes for Silver first, and grips at her shoulder tightly. "S-Silver, hold on. Please.">>697184
He flicks his ear a little when he hears the Diamond Dog collapse, and after following over to where he collapsed, gently tries to help him over to Zunden "It's gone now, friend. We should be safe, for now."
You take a moment to read as you charge your magic with what little light there is left.
>BONE SHAMBLER>Terrible constructs found exclusively in the Shifting Sands, animated by [a portion here is left blank]. Little more than a jumble of bones, they can rearrange their bodies at will to suit their needs, and are immensely strong. Their vulnerable cores are often protected, but can be exposed with enough damage to the Shambler's center.
[Another large portion is missing here.]
>Resistant: Physical, Fire
You can still hear the faint buzzing sound coming from inside. A wisp of sand starts pouring out from the tunnel, then retreats.
As you lie in the dirt for a while, you feel someone walk up behind you, stopping in front of you. Looking down at you with a mixture of sternness and pity, Violet extends her hoof to you to help you up. "Come on. Up. This is no place to die."
It seems to be gone, for now.
With a heavy sigh, Aurora surveys the landscape. "…Maybe we could find somewhere to set up? It's only going to get colder, I imagine."
Zunden sends out three more healing orbs to the party,
"Ze beaztiary haz writen about the bone fiend, zhough it iz not complete. I agree wizh ze zentiment zhat we zhould camp for now."
[1d10+2] Healing Bonds: Norv, Silver, Hermodur (frozen)Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3
"And darker," Hermodur muses as he watches something skirt just outside of the light.>>697188>>697185>>697184>>697177
"We're not using this tunnel, correct?"
"I am barely able to control my magic az it iz. I haven't zlept much in ze pazt two dayz.">>697191
I swallow hard and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. My breathing is slowly evening back out, but my lungs and joints still burn. I sniffle, weakly pull myself to my feet, and activate my healing sun in hopes that it'll take some of the pain away.
"Yeah," I say, picking up my cage. "Yeah, you're right. Sorry."
"Good idea. I can help scout ahead, and start a fire if we need it." he responds, albeit a little distracted. He looks between Silver and Norvegicus, and tries to calm down a little.>>697193
"Think you'll be alright resting here for a while? I'm the only one in a good condition to scout for a better place, so as much as I'd prefer to stick by all of you… I should find somewhere safer than this."
Your staff fizzles out violently, sending out sparks that almost blind you.>>697193
As you heal yourself, Violet's expression softens, and she gives you a slightly awkward hug. "Hey. It's alright. You did what you could. The important thing is we're all still alive, right? Just got to keep on moving. …I'm not very good at this, am I. Sorry.">>697191
Aurora looks where you're looking. "You saw it too, right? That sand… it was powering the monster. It's as if the sand itself came to life, not the bones."She furrows her brow as she looks anxiously out at the neverending expanse of sand all around you.>>697177
You feel yourself starting to come to. The first thing you see is Aurora looking down at you with a concerned expression, that quickly turns to relief. Your ears are still ringing, although this clears up quickly, but you see her call something to the rest of the group before turning back to you and helping you get up, casting a healing spell. "Wow. You really look like crap. Can you stand?">>697194
As you help out Norvegicus, you see Aurora help her back up as she comes to.>>697190>>697191>>697193>>697194
"She's awake," Aurora calls as Silver starts to regain consciousness. She starts casting a spell as she helps her back up. "We really shouldn't stick around. That… thing… might come back." Violet silently nods in agreement. "Where to from here?"
Forgot to roll
[1d10+2] MendRoll #1 10 + 2 = 12
"Well, if we're all in agreement…" Hermodur says as he opens the front of Mjolnir. He launches an explosive magic blast at the wall of the tunnel near the entrance.
[1d10+3] [1d10+3]>ranged, DC-1, take larger roll to cave in tunnelRoll #1 6 + 3 = 9
/ Roll #2 2 + 3 = 5
I snort and let out a small chuckle, returning the hug. "No, you're fine." I close my eyes as the healing magic pulses through my body, healing a large part of the pain.
I sigh and stumble over to where the party is grouped up. Continuing on sounds daunting, but I definitely don't want to stick around here longer than I have to. I look up at Violet. "How about you? Were you hurt?"
coming to in a pool of blood, i weakly glance up at Aurora before nodding.
"I-" i start, before being interrupted by a string of violent coughing.
"I Suppose i could walk.. Did we make it out of the cave?"
Rabi turns around when he hears Aurora call out, and hurries over to her side.>>697199
"Y-Yeah, we did. I can carry you, if you aren't feeling well enough to go on your own."
"O-oh, you'd do that for me?"
"I'd hate to inconvenience you, Rabi, but-"
in an attempt to move towards you, i stumble, barely catching myself before i fell over.
"..I would appreciate it.." i finish, blushing at the loss of balance.
"Wherever iz fine, I juzt need rezt. Juzt gotta heal you all before zhat,"
Zunden says wearily, drained mentally from multiple days of little sleep.
"As for where we should go, ordinarily i would suggest the smoke plume. I'm beginning to suspect descending into the canyon at this point is ill advised."
Rabi settles down on to his stomach to give Silver an easier time getting on to his back, and offers a smile "No trouble at all, Silver. ">>697195>>697202>>697203
"Maybe… somewhere a little ways above this whole mess, but not quite into the canyon, yet? At the least we could find somewhere that covers us from wind."
The ground quakes slightly as your blast causes the tunnel entrance to collapse in on itself. "That'll do it," Violet remarks. "Good thinking.">>697198
She gives you a slight pat on the back. "I'm fine," she answers. "Worry about yourself. You look like a dog's breakfast. …That came out wrong.">>697199
Her spell heals the worst of your wounds, giving you the strength to be able to move.
"No, we're dead. This is hell.">>697202
"I think we all need a rest after today," Violet remarks.>>697203
"Yeah, I don't think we should risk any more close shaves," says Aurora. "We've gotten beaten up today enough as is. Maybe we should just camp here and call it a night?">>697204
"Hm. I'll see what I can find," says Violet. "Give me a few minutes.">>697197>>697198>>697199>>697200>>697202
Violet leaves for a few minutes to go scouting, returning looking more optimistic than before. "Good news. There's a small cave just down the way. Doesn't look like there's anything in it either. No tunnels, nothing. Just a hole in the wall. Kind of cramped, but we could make do."
"There's also a downward slope further on that leads to a clearing. Could camp there as well. There'd be more room at the very least, although we'd be exposed if anything tries to ambush us."
"What do you think? Both options seem fairly viable if you ask me."
"The cave, preferably."
Zunden says, holding her sun close for comfort.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
"The reason we lost was because we were cramped in that tunnel. I have every confidence we could win in a fight against that thing in an open area," Hermodur comments.
gingerly laying across your back, i breath a sigh of relief, having the chance to recover.
"Thank you, Rabi..">>697205
"The cave, please. In our state, the last
place we'd want to be is in the open."
I don't know if it's the stress or if I legitimately find what Violet said funny but I crack up laughing. I only laugh harder at Aurora's comment, struggling to catch my breath at first. "We're in another dimension
, being punished. It kind of is hell." After a bit I calm down and catch my breath some, surprisingly feeling a little better.
I sigh and plop down on top my cage, still smiling. "Godesses help me, I'm beginning to think we'd all have been better off if I'd just stayed back in- blast, I don't even remember the damn shithole's name. Whatever that first town was.">>697208
"Yeah, a lot of good a cave did us five minutes ago, huh?" I sigh and rub the back of my head. That was a little harsher than I meant it. "Still, it does sound like it's probably our best option. Trade places taking watch at the entrance so we can all rest at some point. If there isn't anything inside then that sounds way better than being ambushed by cannibals or giant killbugs in the middle of the night and not having a good spot to defend."
"Cave sounds good. I think we can deal with a little less elbow room than normal, so long as it's safer.">>697208
Rabi gives the pegasus mare a soft nuzzle and a warm smile, before saying "It's not a problem, really. I-I should be the one apologizing, anyways. I really whiffed some shots."
Hermodur smiles. "Why is it that the dog is the only one who ever agrees with me?"
"Mm, perhaps. Though it was
quite dark without the lights Zunden cast, even a seasoned archer like you would struggle without sight!" i reply, laughing briefly before wincing from the effort, opting to smile instead.
I bury my face in my hands. "Probably because I'm just as insane and don't realize it."
"I think you mean, 'sane'," Hermodur grumbles.
"Maybe," Violet shrugs. "I'd rather not fight that thing again though. The less scraps we get into, the better.">>697209
"Ironbrook? Yeah, that place was a bit of a dump, wasn't it."
"It sucks," Aurora agrees. "Went there once. Never again."
"Well, it's not that
bad," Violet shrugs. "It's not Braildorn, but it beats camping in the middle of nowhere.">>697206>>697207>>697208>>697209>>697210
Aurora agrees with the majority. "Anything could get us if we're out in the open. I'd rather be packed like a sardine."
"Alright then, let's get a move on." Violet pulls her clothes about her closely for warmth and leads you onwards to the cave.
It doesn't take long to get there, but you can see that calling it a hole in the wall was overselling it. There's barely enough room for most of you to stand, and the tallest among you have to bend slightly to fit. You manage to make do, however, as the cave is just spacious enough to fit your tents and the campfire. "Better than nothing," Aurora grumbles quietly.
"So," she says once everything's sorted, offering around a bag of trail mix. "What's the plan for tomorrow?"
"Continue on," answers Violet's question simply. "I'll take the first watch tonight, of course."
"Yeah, continue on, patch ourselves up if we still need it. Might be best to take a day off to make sure everyone's good to travel. This desert seems unforgiving, unsurprisingly."
"I'll dezide what I'm doing tommorow, tommorow."
Zunden says, trying (and failing) again to cast her spell, collapsing on the ground.
[1+2=3] what i rolled before i deleted it out of anger
"I'd assume we'll continue on through the canyon. Certainly a better option than doubling back through another of those caverns." i reply, shivering at the thought.
From my laying position in front of the campfire, i stare into the campfire in thought, chewing bites of trail mix.
"It feels as if we've bitten off more than we could chew, traveling here. These monsters
we keep running into are a much tougher fight than the bandits and drunkards we fought before."
"Were we truly prepared for this?"
"Yeah. Not much we can do but continue." I take some of the trail mix and chew for a second. "I still like the idea of finding the minotaur. He wasn't hostile to Glider and Rosen, so maybe he'd be up for helping. The longer I'm here the more I think we need a guide." >>697220
"Yeah, really is starting to feel like that, huh?"
"What else would we do?" Hermodur asks as if the suggestion is more bizarre than stupid.
"I suppose hovering near the edge of death earlier put things in perspective, that we're still quite capable of being killed if we're not cautious.">>697223
"Fair enough. We have this mission of ours ahead of us, no way around but through, it seems."
"We'll blunder our way through this, I imagine. We'll eventually stumble into something good, right?" he offers with a bit of a chuckle
You try to cast another healing spell, but your staff just fizzles anticlimactically with a faint pftweeee
sound. This seems to be a temporary malfunction, however, as with a sudden burst of light it conjures a trio of healing orbs that float silently over to your companions, providing light and much-needed warmth to the tiny cave. "Oh, thanks," Aurora says with a grateful smile. "It is getting a bit chilly.">>697220
"Wouldn't mind some time off," Aurora mumbles.>>697221
"We could do that," Violet comments. "Would help to have someone that actually knows what they're doing. I'm a bit out of my element here myself.">>697220
"Maybe we should just turn back," says Violet. "Starting to think it was a mistake coming here. We're really not ready for this, at all. Maybe if we go to Braildorn and stock up on supplies or something… But that's a way off, isn't it. Hm.">>697216>>697218>>697220>>697221
"Yeah, I suppose there's no other option now," says Aurora. "Whatever's at the center, it'd better be worth it. …Why are we here anyway? I'm just following because I don't have anywhere else to go, but I have no idea what your mission actually is, now that I think about it.
"You're the employer," Hermodur says to Violet. "Whatever you feel is best is best.">>697226
"One rarely finds glory when they are looking for it," Hermodur nods.
I throw my head back and groan. "I don't know. I don't really want to turn around. It wouldn't feel right. I'm already