No.698082[Last 50 Posts]
Hermodur, Norvegicus, Rabi, Silver and Zunden have traveled to the cruel, unforgiving expanse known as the Shifting Sands with their companion Violet. On the way, they became allies with the monks of the Lunar Monastery after helping them solve a murder case. The culprit, a bat pony mare named Aurora d'Arbanville, has also joined the party on their travels.
Back in the Dominion, Hermodur has had visions of Ailuros' continued campaign. Against her normal wishes, the would-be princess has contracted a Fire Witch, members of a sect of Celestia that are known for their prophetic powers. Ailuros is using the Fire Witch's abilities to routinely check on Hermodur. Hermodur himself has also encountered a Fire Witch called Fever Ray, who suggested trying dragonfire to transmit messages out of the Echoes.
Meanwhile, Zunden encountered a crippled mare called Dawn, who was under the care of the monks, who was found by them under bizarre circumstances. She soon found that this was the same Dawn whose ruined journal they had found at the start of their travels, although she was unfortunately not able to say much to Zunden before passing out. However, her most grevious wounds have been healed, and she will recover in time, although it is unlikely she will be able to see well again.
The Shifting Sands have proven themselves as deadly and treacherous as their reputation. A vast expanse of crimson sand, the Sands are populated by all manner of monstrous creatures, such as the predatory Terreocti or the elusive but deadly Bone Shambler, and the few that live there have been driven to madness and desperation by the desert. To make things worse, the party have discovered that the desert itself is alive, comprised of millions and millions of tiny treasure-loving insects masquerading as grains of sand.
Not all is despair, however. The party have not only grown in number with the addition of Aurora, but also made the acquaintance of a pair of traveling merchants, Rosen and Gilder, from who they acquired clothes for their journey as well as a disparity of magical trinkets. After having claimed water supplies from a reaver camp nearby, the party stand poised to embark on a long and arduous stretch of their journey traversing a vast salt flat. Beyond lies the center of the desert where Violet has heard great treasures can be found in forgotten ruins, as well as the heart of the Shifting Sands: an immense spire known as the Hive.
Old thread: >>695148
After a meager dinner, you find yourselves falling asleep one by one. Violet seems oddly distant, speaking little for the remainder of the night. The overhang where you have camped is cold and uncomfortable, but you make do with what you have. Your sleep is restless and plagued with bad dreams.
You awake the next morning and waste no time in preparing for the journey ahead. For breakfast, Violet shares some delicious bread rolls she'd packed from the Moonlight Monastery. "The last good meal for a while," she comments glumly. After this, you get to work dismantling the tents and set off down the scarlet dune towards the salt pan below.
It doesn't take you long to get to the bottom of the dune. It only just now occurs to you how far you really have to go. What must have once been a lake is now a vast, neverending stretch of flat blinding white. There's not a sign of life as far as you can see; even the incessant drone of the Sands is quieter here, fading to a low murmur in the back of your head. The scent of the sea is in the air, and as you step out you feel the soft crunch of minerals under your feet. Aurora wordlessly expresses her reservations, hanging at the back of the group and only stepping out onto the salt after everyone else does. "…Well, no sense in dawdling," says Violet, trying to stay optimistic. "Everyone watch your step. Could be cracks in the ground."
>>698083>rested, +1 wound (5/3 > 5/4)
Feeling a little better since last night, Zunden Basks in the desert sun, poking ahead of her with her staff as she walks.
"I no longer zhink I will be optimiztic az long az we are crozzing ze dezert. It haz not done me any favorz thuz far,"
Zunden mutters to herself, adjusting her shawl.
>Bask: Healing Bonds
"I've never seen a stretch of desert quite like this," Hermodur comments. "It's… unsettling."
He stops using Mjolnir as a walking stick, not wanting to ruin the metal with excess salt.
I wake up in a haze after nightmare after nightmare kept me from getting any respectable amount of rest. I only remember bits and pieces of them. Specific items I can't put context to. A bloody dagger. A beak gnawing on flesh. Manic smiles. Even worse, the heavy feeling from last night only seems to weigh even more now that I've had time to think about everything.
I reach up and touch my face, wincing as the scabbed over gashes sting beneath my fingertips. I sigh, shake my head, and gather my things. As we travel, I remain completely quiet, both not feeling like saying anything and not knowing what to say.
My stomach turns as I look around at the endless expanse of nothing. Still, I clench my jaw and silently follow everyone else, only moving just barely before Aurora.
squinting as i peer out over the vast expanse of the salt flat, i try to shield my eyes with a wing.
"Quite the line of sight out here! At the very least we won't have to worry over an ambush.">>698084
"Then again, this hasn't exactly been your standard desert now, has it?"
"Between the cannibals, dunes of dead bugs and giant bloodthirsty insects we're quite lucky to have made it this far."
"You and me both," Aurora comments, gingerly treading the ground. "I never thought I'd say this but I miss the Dominion. At least not everything there was trying to kill me.">>698088
"Don't curse it," Aurora grumbles. "Don't you dare curse it.">>698084>>698086>>698087>>698088https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=s7pPFMb_Vkc
The next six days consist of nothing but endless walking. Violet periodically plants flags to mark the path you've taken, so you can find it on the way back. As you progress, the droning of the Sands gets quieter and quieter, fading away altogether by the second day, and all you can hear is the soft crunch of the salt underfoot. The landscape barely seems to change, and you use the Hive far off in the distance as your guiding marker, as well as Silver's compass. You eat and drink little and speak even less, Violet recommending you save your energy for the daily trek. Before long, you start to realize the sheer size of the Hive as you draw near, less of a spire and more like a mountain jutting out of the middle of the Sands.
You barely see any signs of life on your journey. On a few occasions, you find the remains of some unfortunate soul who lost his way out in the desert, or a stranded animal you don't recognize, usually Terreocti but also other strange insects with centipede-like bodies and long, grasping pincers. One memorable occasion has you come across what looks like a dead whale, but is actually the dried carcass of some sort of gigantic burrowing worm flopping out of a hole in the salt pan. Aurora remarks that there seems to be some shred of truth to the stories of sandworms in forgotten places.
Eventually, you reach the other side, deprived of a large portion of your food and water. You are even closer now to the Hive, and the droning sound has returned as you climb a dune and take in the nearby view. It looks now not like a mountain, but a towering volcano, made of some bizarre brown and black material. The winds in the area seem to sweep towards it.
Nearby, you can see a change of pace from the endless salt, rock and sand. Vast, sprawling stone ruins spread out and around the base of the Hive, remnants of some long forgotten civilization. Violet, whose spirits have been low for much of the journey so far, perks up at the sight of it. "So there is something worth exploring after all! Knew this wasn't for nothing."
"Hm… Where to first? There seem to be the remains of someone's tomb northways, but over there to the northeast it looks more like a ghost town. Either way, we should be wary. I doubt we'll encounter anyone friendly here of all places."
"Neizher of zhem will have food, mozt likely. If we're lucky perhapz ze tomb haz organz perzerved in honey, and we could fetch zhat out."
"Bezidez, it iz ze more likely choize if we wanted to avoid an encounter."
"We're here to raid ruins. Let us raid ruins," Hermodur says, gesturing to the tomb.
I keep my eyes to the ground, mostly lost in thought. When Violet asks where we should go first I briefly look up and mutter "Tomb." before glancing back to the ground. Knowing how everything has gone so far we'll probably be ambushed either way, so it doesn't even really matter.
struggling up the side of the dune, i take a moment to catch my breath.
"I..doubt we'll find anypony at all
out here, remote as it is."
"As you mentioned, if we're quick while we're here our supplies should hold until we're past the flats again. Tomb first, if we find something of note we'll see what comes of it."
Hermodur gives a concerned look to Norv. "You've been overly pensive for days. Did my story cause this?"
Violet looks at you incredulously and wrinkles her nose. "Gross. You really want to try two thousand year old organs?">>698093
"No one that doesn't want to kill us and steal our kidneys or something, at least," says Aurora. "I'm with you. Best stay away from anywhere that looks like it might be inhabited, after last time.">>698090>>698091>>698092>>698093
"Tomb raiding it is then," says Violet. "Let's go."
You keep moving north towards what Violet said looked like a tomb; however, it seems that she was mistaken, at least in part. It's no tomb, but a graveyard, judging from the sandstone monuments poking out of the ground every which way. Some of them have inscriptions on them, but it isn't an alphabet you can read. Aurora looks nervous, half-expecting skeletons to pop out at her at any moment, but not such thing happens.
"Hm… disappointing," Violet remarks. "Was expecting something more noteworthy." She starts looking around the graveyard for anything else of note. Aurora soon joins her, although she doesn't seem entirely convinced the graveyard is safe.>roll Perception
I glance up, only half catching that the question is directed at me at first. "Hm?" The words actually take a second to click in my head. "Oh, no, it's just… Well, it's a lot of things. Don't worry about it."
I wander around the graveyard, scanning the indecipherable script on the tombstones. The whole place is eerie, but somehow it makes me less uncomfortable than the flats. I look up and glance around the ancient cemetery.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Zunden snorts, letting out a hearty laugh,
"Ze honey, Violet. Honey never goez bad."
She continues to laugh for a short while, before stopping,
"Ooh I need zhat, haven't laughed for a while. Of courze I wouldn't, zhat's dizguzting."
Zunden looks around.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
After examining the tombstones only to run into the same indecipherable text, i let out a sigh of irritation.
"Please..don't tell me that these
are the ruins you mentioned.."
trying another stone, i roll my eyes after seeing more of the same markings, glancing up at our surroundings.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Hermodur rubs his chin in thought. "Why would they bury their dead here? Are the corpses even still there?"
Hermodur starts digging at one of the graves.[1d10] for digging because fuck perception!Roll #1 1 = 1
You just see the tops of more stone buildings, buried in the sand. Nothing really sticks out to you right now. You can't help but wonder who was buried here.>>698098
She looks rather sheepish. "…Well, I don't know how you carnivores work. Me personally, I find eating meat in general absolutely revolting."
"Is that true?" Aurora asks curiously. "About honey? That's pretty interesting.">>698099
"Might be," she muses. "Or at least part of them.">>698098>>698099
You notice two cylindrical structures jutting out of the sand further on into the graveyard, in an area that plateaus into a flat clearing. They look surprisingly similar to the cylinder Violet found washed ashore on the beach where you landed. Zunden would recall it is connected to Dawn.>>698100
"More likely this is one of those places that just appeared here from the outside," Violet comments. "It happens sometimes, like with that abandoned church we saw once. It's how Braildorn was founded, actually. The settlers here happened across a copied city, found it uninhabited, and made themselves at home."
You start digging into one of the graves, only to be greeted by withered pony bones and the funk of 40000 years scorching your nostrils, courtesy of what look like an endemic species of fungus growing within.>Hermodur takes 1 hit>>698097>>698098>>698099>>698100
Zunden and Silver point out the similarity between two cylindrical pillars nearby and the cylinder Violet has been carrying ever since the beach. Her eye lights up as she hears the news, and eagerly heads on down to the flat area. "Yes! What are the odds?"
Following her, you find that the two pillars are arranged in a particular geometric shape, surrounding a stone disk on the ground covered in runes. Both pillars present are in a traingle formation, as shown by the indent where the third should be, while in the spaces between the pillars are filled by three much smaller pillars, totalling five (six counting the one Violet has). All in all, they form a triangle within a hexagon.
Violet removes the cylinder from the cart and moves to place it in its slot, but hesitates. "…Should we really be doing this? I mean, we've come this far, but anything could happen once I put it in. What… What is this place?"
"Ah, so that
would be why you were insistent on carrying that cylinder, a key!"
"We've made quite the trip to see just what is out here, Violet. To leave without seeing it now
would be a tragedy!"
I resist making a comment about dying maybe being better for us in the long run, and instead just shrug. "If we turn around now then it wasn't everything -all of it
- for nothing? I say to hell with it. Roll the dice."
"It a valued commodity Abyzzinia, given all it needz after hundredz of yearz iz warming up, zinze it doez
"Yez, no point not trying it. It may unlock a zecret tomb, or end up being wayztonez. Exploration requirez experimentation."
"Ah, that makes se-" Hermodur begins to say as his nose is suddenly assaulted by the smell. He falls onto his back out of the grave and hacks and coughs.
"That wasn't worth it at all…" he mumbles as he finishes his wheezing and gets up.
Then, Hermodur watches silently as she prepares the cylinder. "Isn't that why we came here? To find out? And then benefit from it."
"…Fine. No sense in getting cold feet now, I guess," she says with a slightly nervous smile. Aurora stands way, way back, flying up and perching on a nearby tombstone like some overgrown raven.
Violet steels herself and plonks the cylinder down into the slot. Immediately, glowing blue lines spider out from the pillars towards the center of the disk. There is a sound like ice cracking, then the stone crumbles away, revealing a staircase beneath it that leads underground. Instead of leaving debris everywhere, the chunks of broken stone simply vanish as they fall, leaving the staircase completely open. There is a pregnant pause.
"…Well, that just happened…" Violet slowly digs around in the cart and starts lighting torches and passing them around, along with the poison resistant masks Black Pudding gave you. Since there aren't enough for everyone, she and Aurora make do with strips of cloth. "Just in case, you know? Might have to deal with traps down there. If this is what I think it is, we're in for a real treat." Aurora gives her a curious look, but doesn't press the matter, humming to herself in an effort to steady her nerves.
As you begin to descend the stairs, you notice even more tombs dug into the walls, with great stone coffins nestled within. Unlike the graves outside, these have inscriptions on them in the common tongue. They almost all read as follows:
"GRAVE OF A NAMELESS VANGUARD. RAISED HIS SWORD FOR THE GREAT DRAGON."
The exceptions are few and far between, the only differences being that they give a name for whoever is interred. Most of these seem vaguely Abyssinian: Azif, Talin, Phintias and Isran are among the names listed, although apart from this they all share the same epitaph.
Eventually, reach the bottom of the stairs, although what you find there disappoints Violet.
"Don't tell me we came all this way for nothing!"
Indeed, there is nothing but a circular stone room here, with a few more vanguard graves in the walls. There are a few curios strewn about here and there, such as brass goblets and clay urns, but nothing of real value. At the far end of the room is an alcove, within which sits a stone basin of some sort. Nearby is a small stone and a chisel. Violet starts taking what she can, occasionally cracking open a grave in desperation for anything of worth. Aurora starts looking around, checking for hidden passages or anything at all of particular note.
Zunden approaches the basin with interest, checking for ash in case it might have held a fire at some point, or discoloration of the stone from once holding a liquid.
[1d10] investigationRoll #1 7 = 7
"How terribly barren." i comment, my voice echoing off the stone walls.
trotting ahead, i take the time to examine the basin. "Hmm.."
"This seems suspicious. For all this effort to seal the chamber off, there simply has
to be more."Roll #1 1 = 1
"What is this place," Hermodur asks curiously. "Or at least, what did you expect it to be?"
He picks up the stone and chisel and observes it. Is there anything already carved into the stone? [1d10] for observationRoll #1 9 = 9
I step inside, disappointed in it just being a normal tomb. I don't know what I expected when Violet said- What was it again? Some kind of wizard or something? I'd half expected the bodies inside to come to life and attack us as soon as we walked in. Instead it seems pretty normal. Almost too normal compared to everything else we've seen in the desert so far.
I follow the party to the basin and look around, trying to figure out what they're looking for.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
The basin seems empty. The bottom has been repeatedly scratched with something, presumably the chisel. You notice that there are also some ominous dark stains both on the basin and the floor surrounding it.>>698113>>698116
You don't see anything worth observing.>>698114
"Well, according to that history book I got back in Ironbrook there was this old king of Abyssinia, Lucan, who became a notorious treasure hoarder. He was so greedy that people started calling him the Dragon," she explains. "He supposedly built this huge vault somewhere to store all his treasures, but no one ever manage to find it." She shrugs. "Doesn't look like much of a vault to me."
The chisel seems to be used for carving inscriptions into something. Looking around, you see something carved into the ceiling of the room. Upon closer inspection, you can see that they spell out some kind of riddle:
"MY BODY IS RADIANCE AND COWARDICE. I LEAD TO RUIN AND GLORY. ALL COVET ME."
Hermodur reads the inscription and stares at it for a moment. He looks to the basin.
"It would seem this IS a vault," Hermodur announces to everyone. "This inscription would suggest there is a riddle here. I would guess that if we were to solve its meaning, we will find the way in."
He shows the inscription to everyone else.
Zunden brings a claw to her chin, scratching it,
"It zeemz like gold… but zhat'z too eazy, right? It'z zeemz too obviouz for it to juzt be gold."
"Is gold cowardice, though?"
Squinting as i read the ceiling inscription, i take a seat as i ponder the riddle.
"Hmm.. Radiance and Cowardice, Ruin and Glory.."
"Fire, perhaps? That would be radiance, and i would imagine fire can ward away the dark for those who are afraid of it.. But what of Glory?"
"You heard what Violet zaid, ze man Lucan waz greedy and hoarded hiz treazurez away like a coward. Don't zhink he'd call himzelf a coward in his grave, zhough."
I squint up at the riddle everyone else is looking at and tilt my head. H'm. Radiance, cowardice. Ruin, glory. Coveted by everyone. I scratch the back of my head, listening in as everyone tries to puzzle it out. I suppose gold would
almost make sense, but the cowardice part doesn't really fit. Fire would also make sense. Maybe even more sense.
"Do you guys think the chisel is important?"
"Along those lines, the sun perhaps?">>698396
"That's… actually a good point. Why is the chisel still here? Did someone really just chisel this then just drop it on the ground?"
"I ztill don't get cowardize."
Zunden says, frowning.
"What if it is something like the Sun? Like, what if it's not something physical we can just bring down? Maybe we'd have to carve it somewhere or something instead?"
"Well, day and night. The sun is always running away from the moon, right?"
"Gold could work. Not sure what else I'd go with, anyways.">>698398>>698400
"Maybe that, or not being able to look at the sun? Not for long, at least."
"Quite right! Though i still have my doubts over the sun as the key. How would the sealers use the sun when this tomb is underground?"
"That would also sorta make sense. Ruin because of droughts and famine, but glory because of abundance. Same reason everyone would covet sunlight-" My ears fold back and I glance away, suddenly realizing I'm probably the last person that should be giving input. "But maybe I'm just stretching it. Just a thought."
"Well anywayz, I don't zhink it'z ze zun, but atleazt I have an eazy way to tezt. It'z not like zheze zhingz have any weight, zo it won't zet off a prezzure plate."
Zunden says, casting her sun orb to rest in the basin.
Zunden does this thing
I rub the back of my neck, visibly sagging a little more. "Yeah. Thinking we were supposed to carve the answer somewhere with the chisel was pretty dumb. Sorry. I'll just, uh, let you guys do your thing."
"Quite alright, we are
trying to puzzle through this, any idea is better than giving up and leaving empty hooved after all."
"Actually, I wonder if the chisel is a clue. Or at least an aid in case we do not have what we need. As in, the answer can be gained by chiseling it out of something in this room."
Hermodur looks around the room for any gold that could be chiseled away and put into the basin. [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"Let'z do one zolution at a time, zhough."
Aurora does a double take. "Huh. Guess we're not stuck down here after all.">>698392>>698401
"I'm leaning towards gold as well," Violet says, "although it does seem too simple. Anyone with a brain could guess that, and he doesn't seem the type to let people into his vault easily.">>698394>>698396
Violet starts looking around, taking note of the scratches in the basin. "Looks like we are meant to carve something here. Can't make much sense of what's there already though. Get the feeling we'll only get one shot at this too, so we should be absolutely sure before locking in the answer.">>698404>>698405
Nothing happens, save for illuminating the area even more. You see what looks like an archway outlined on the solid stone wall behind the basin, presumably the door that will open once the puzzle is solved.>>698408
You don't spot anything else in the room, apart from the basin and the stone coffins sticking out of the walls.>>698391>>698392>>698394>>698396>>698401
"Maybe there's multiple answers?" Aurora suggests, pacing around the room. "Or maybe we have to put something in the basin? I don't know. I'm no good at puzzles." Violet starts jabbing at the wall impatiently, trying to brute force the riddle lock, but to no avail.
I perk up a bit. "Wait, what? I was right?"
"So, a carving, is it?"
"Sculptor i am not, i'll have to leave that for somepony else. At the very least we can narrow down the options to either Gold, the sun or fire, unless we've had a new idea."
Hermodur starts to double back to see if there's anywhere else there might be scratches on any surfaces. [1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"Just tried zun, or az cloze az I can get to replicating it."
Zunden pulls out her deck of tarot cards, harumphing,
"Perhapz I zhould invoke ze Arcane to zee if zhere'z anyzhing zhat would help our decizion."
"I'm sure there are more answers, but it seems like those are what come do mind." I look around the now brighter room, rolling the riddle over in my head as I do.
[1d10] (Fuck it. I'll actually roll for a hint.)>>698414
I deadpan. "I meant about carving something. But yeah, maybe that could help."Roll #1 1 = 1
"One shot? That's… troubling, but, alright.">>698414
"Maybe the Arcana would be a good thing to try. They seemed right before." the stallion notes, trying to look around the now brightened room.>Perception? [1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
"Seems like it." Violet shrugs.>>698412
"I'll do it," Violet offers. "Not that I have much experience, but I can give it a shot.">>698413
There are some chips in the wall at some intervals, but nothing that suggests a solution to the puzzle.>>698415
Nothing really comes to mind right now, but you get the feeling it's one of the three options presented to you.>>698416
Inspecting the room, you notice that apart from the scratches in the basin, there is a small, flat, circular indent in the center of it, as if something is meant to be placed there.
Rabi points out the indent to the rest of the group. "Hm. Looks coin-shaped to me," Violet comments. "Maybe the solution is that simple after all."
"Really? Well if everypony is alright with it we could try fitting a coin in. Maybe we truly are
"Huh. Well, lucky us, I suppose. Maybe we need to try that then."
"Zoundz fair, I'll zave the Tarot for anozher time."
Zunden zayz, holding open the bag of holding if anyone wanted to do the honors.
"Who has a coin?"
"Surely if one of us were to scrounge around in that bag of holding we could dig up one
I shrug, reach into the bag, dig around for a bit, pull out a coin, and carelessly slot it into the hole.
"I gave all my money to Rabi," Hermodur says indignantly.
Roll #1 8 = 8
"Hey we put it to good use."
You hear a small whoosh
as you put the coin in. Jerking your hand away, you narrowly avoid an ethereal blue spear that juts out of the basin.>>698419>>698420>>698421>>698422>>698424
A tense, silent moment passes as Norv's hand is almost impaled on a magical spear. "…That was close," Aurora mumbles after a moment. "Looks like we'll have to be extra careful."
Violet's hooves shake a little as she uses the chisel to carve the word 'gold' into the basin, stepping back quickly as soon as she finishes. The arch-shaped outline starts to glow cyan, arcane symbols and lines growing across the wall and basin alike, in the same fashion as the disk that blocked entrance to the tomb.
Then, the basin and archway alike vanish, opening up an entrance to a vast circular chamber filled with piles upon piles of gold. Shelves carved into the stone walls are lined with ornate artifacts of disparate appearance, many Abyssinian in fashion but many others looking like they were collected from all over the world. There are passages at regular intervals leading even deeper into the vault. Statues of Saddle Arabian soldiers bowing in sumbission can be seen positioned around the vault, armed with shields and spears.
Violet's eye lights up, grinning like a madwoman as she takes in the sight. "Oh my God. YES."
The center of the vault contains a very peculiar artifact separate from everything else: a very large egg, about half the size of a pony, with a smooth, glossy black surface. However, as you approach, a magical blue cage appears around it, blocking access. Aurora reaches out curiously, poking the cage only to hiss and jump backwards as it burns her. "Wow. He really didn't want anyone getting to this, did he."
I stumble backwards and freeze in place as the spear shoots from the basin. My heart leaps into my throat, and for a moment I just stare.
Just as I'm starting to calm down a little, though, I look up at the piles of gold. I can practically hear my heart in my ears, and my jaw hangs open, and small drops of thick drool drip from my floppy jowls. Everything that happened since I wound up here disappears from my mind as I greedily eye the riches inside.
I swallow and pick my jaw up from the ground, wiping the back of my hand across the side of my mouth. "Yeah. I can't really blame him, either."
"Are you SURE he wasn't a dragon?" Hermodur asks as he stares at the egg curiously.
Hermodur holds his hammer nervously and stares at the egg. "Everyone else collect what you can. I'll watch this…"
Stunned as the glint of gold suddenly shines under the miniature suns, i take a moment before shaking my head and entering the chamber.
"Oh my.. This is gold enough for several royal ransoms, a veritable mountain of wealth!"
giddily moving through the chamber, i take a moment to examine the artifacts scattered among the shelves.
"Presumably these are enchanted as well! What a find.. but what of that egg? You don't suppose there was more to his 'Dragon' title than they thought?"
"Now Zhiz feelz like ze plaze to invoke ze Arcana. Lezt not greed guide our actionz."
Zunden says, taking the Tarot Deck out and kneeling, shuffling the cards, setting the deck down.
"Only one card for guidanze, I do not zeek ze pazt, prezent, and future."
>Draw from the Arcana: Once Per Day action
"Woah… I'd expected treasure, but this is…" he shakes his head a little, before looking around the room.
"So… should we take stuff, or?">Spotting anything unusual [1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
"I mean it's what we came here for." I follow everyone into the room and start thinking about how much gold I can load into my pack for myself. "Do you think it's trapped?"
"Yeah, that's exactly my thinking. Who would put this much treasure out and not do that?"
"It's not exactly 'left out'. It's hard to find the tomb AND hidden within the tomb."
"Still, why stop at just two layers of defense…?" he mumbles ominously as he continues to stare at the egg.
"Unless of course they assumed nopony would figure out their riddle." i chime in
"Hrm… maybe. Let's just be careful though, yeah?"
"Of course, not to worry." i reply, waving off the concern with a wing while looking through the shelves.
"I'm certain we'll be just fine, Rabi."
You see Violet very cautiously reach down to one of the piles of gold, take on coin, then another, before starting to scoop it up in hooffuls. "Seems safe to me.">>698429
Looking around the room, you see an urn depicting the historic Battle For Canterlot about 300 years ago. Twilight Sparkle, the now-Alicorn Empress, is seen alongside the Five Saints standing firm in front of a black tsunami, presumably a symbolic representation of the Changelings.>>698430>>698431
"Couldn't have been," Aurora muses. "I've seen a dragon egg once before, and that definitely isn't one. That just looks… ominous.">>698430
While your attention is mostly on the black egg, you spot a ceremonial shield among the piles of treasure, with a polished silver trim and an embossing of a roaring lion at its center.>>698431
In one of the alcoves, you spot an old pony-shaped mannequin wearing a dress that seems to be made of a combination of embroidered cloth and steel plating. It looks like it was designed to battle with style.>>698432
You take a moment to crouch down and do a reading. This time, the cards bode ill, speaking of betrayal and an unseen enemy.>>698433
You spot a blue crystal on the ceiling, dangling from a small chandelier. It seems to be powering the cage around the black egg. There are also some strange shapes on the ceiling surrounding the chandelier, but you can't really make it out too well.>>698429>>698430>>698431>>698432>>698433
While Violet starts scooping up as much money as she can, Aurora starts exploring deeper into the vault, wandering into one of the passages. You all hear a soft click, then a whirr. Aurora yelps and scrambles back as buzzsaws come out of carefully concealed slots in the walls of the passage, moving back and forth at regular intervals. "That could have been worse," she breathes. "Watch your step around here. Hm… What's that at the end?" Without getting too close, she starts trying to make out the other end of the passage where the buzzsaws are spinning, but can't get a good look. "Some sort of weird statue at the end. C'mere."
Seeing Violet fill her bag with no problem I crouch down and start shoveling as much gold as I can carry into mine. I slow down but don't stop as I see the saw, and after I've managed all I can comfortably cary in my bag I walk over to Aurora. "What's that?"
"Well, that's a fine piece of equipment," Hermodur comments as he walks over to the shield, still keeping an eye on the egg.
He picks it up and observes it. "I wonder if it has any special qualities…"
[1d10] to understand the item if necessary… or useful… or possibleRoll #1 8 = 8
Spotting the dress hanging from the old mannequin, i approach cautiously noting the design and start to search for a way to remove it.
[1d10] Trap search
"Oh my! I didn't expect something like this
down here, it looks lovely!"Roll #1 9 = 9
Zunden shouts, before anyone continues, holding up a card depicting a saurian dead in the sand, ten swords pierced through their back,
"If ze trapz are not portent enough, zhiz iz ze Ten of Zwordz. Dizazter may zoon be upon uz if we are not careful. Not only doez zhiz card zhow defeat, but alzo betrayal. Anyone or anyzhing here may not be what it zeemz."
Zunden says, observing the egg,
"Zhat may not only be a trap, what if it iz to hatch?"
"Which is why I've been watching it," Hermodur says as he observes the shield.
Rabi blinks a couple of times and looks at the crystal, letting out a soft, curious hum. He squints a little harder at the shapes, trying to see what they could be.>Perception: [1d10]>>698444
"There's something above the egg. I don't like this…"Roll #1 10 = 10
"Hatch?" i ask, peeking out from behind the dress mannequin "Well i suppose we would have to take what we can and run. Given our record fighting horrendous monsters attacking a dragon
is a fair bit out of our league."
"Aurora zayz it'z no dragon. We've been zurrounded by inzectz in zhiz dezert, however…"
"So then shouldn't that just mean we leave? Like, really soon?"
"Obviously, we don't leave empty-handed."
"Ah.. an insect egg. Wonderful.."
"Well, with the magic cage surrounding it presumably keeping it dormant it feels slightly safer. We would simply have to avoid anything that could potentially release the spell."
The gold coins seem to be of a weightier alloy than what's used in the modern day, so you cannot carry much. Still, you find yourself slightly richer than before.>+250 bits
You go to see what Aurora's found. Through the grinding saws, you can see some sort of stone statue in the chamber on the other side. It looks like it depicts a horned snake-like creature, but you can't make out the details.>>698442
You examine the shield without touching it. You can sense some sort of magical energy emanating from its surface, especially around the lion's head, but it does not seem to be booby-trapped.>>698443
You examine it further. The cloth is a deep navy blue, contrasting nicely with the gleaming silver of the plating. Chainmail is deftly woven between the cloth and the steel plates, making for a sturdy, lightweight and, most importantly, fashionable set of armor.
As you examine it, however, you see that acquiring it will not be easy. As soon as you get too close, the mannequin's head jerks towards you stiffly, staring you down with its blank face. It does not move again, but it is clear now that it is animated in some fashion.>>698446
Looking closer, you can make out several long, curved shapes, followed by a large triangular one. It almost looks like enormous bones. Taking in the whole picture, you can see that they are bones. The skeleton of an enormous dragon is clinging upside down from the ceiling, almost like an overgrown gecko.>>698444
Violet stops mid-scoop, begrudgingly emptying out some of the coin she'd already looted. "You're probably right. I've got a bad feeling about that egg. Let's just get out of here and take what we can.">>698448
"Doesn't look like an insect egg to me," Aurora comments. "More like some overgrown bird laid it. Strange."
"O-Oh. That's a, uhm… that's a dragon skeleton." he says, trying to check around the room a little more. Maybe he can find something cool in here, or at least something to disable those buzzsaws with.>More looking: [1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Hmm.. it seems Zunden's warning was correct, this hoard is
"..However, it simply wouldn't do to leave behind such a lovely dress.">>698450
"Oh Hermodur~" i start in, offering a smile and gesturing towards the mannequin with a wing. "Do you think you could carry that mannequin stand there? I suspect the dress is a trap of some sort, but if we were to take the assembly with us
we may be able to disable the trap later."
Nodding, Zunden finally gets to looking around the room, looking to take a memento before everyone leaves.
"Take ze Bag of Holding if you do, anyzhing zhat'll weigh you down more zhan a few coinz or a pieze of jewerly zhould go in."Roll #1 3 = 3
"In a moment, I'm taking this first," Hermodur says as he PICKS UP THE SHIELD, DAMNIT!
"That doesn't sound like a particularly safe idea.">>698452
I'm not really sure what I could find that would actually interest me, but I decide to follow everyone else's lead and look around at the artifacts, or at least find something I'd have an excuse to take.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"Well, as i see it, the dress
is logically the subject of the trap, correct? if we just take the mannequin with us
we wouldn't technically trigger the trap."
"..provided the enchantment isn't on the mannequin as well, of course."
"The dress is trapped and you were asking me to take it?" Hermodur chimes in, sounding insulted.
"Please, i wouldn't risk your life and limb over taking the dress
, hermodur! I merely wanted you to take the whole mannequin, for later!"
"..Unless, of course, you're afraid of a mass of cloth and wire." i add, leaning in with a grin.
"If so, i suppose i
will have to risk my life in this desperate
struggle against window dressing furniture." i add, covering my eyes with a hoof.
You check some of the side rooms. There seems to be a side passage linking to the chamber beyond the buzzsaw hallway, but this one too seems to be rigged. Fortunately, you spot the pressure plate and move through into the chamber beyond.
This room seems to be filled with stone statues and effigies of varying types, depicting a variety of races, most of them sapient but others more monstrous. One in particular catches your eye, the one Aurora saw from the other side. it depicts a winged, two-legged snake-like creature with the head of a goat. Its wings, horns and limbs are all mismatched, like it is comprised of an amalgamation of different creatures.Oh finally, someone's here.
You hear a deep, elegant voice in your head all of a sudden, as if they were standing right next to you.Why, it's been so long, I can barely remember the last time I saw a friendly face. How would you like to make a deal, friend?>>698455
You take a look around, eventually finding a simple amulet among a pile of other assorted jewelry. The pendant is made of bronze, and is encrusted with a gleaming emerald. You can feel some sort of magical power coming from it.>>698456
You take the shield, finding yourself gaining sudden insight into its nature.
>Silvermane Kite Shield>shield
An enchanted kite shield from the island nation of Andraxis. When timed properly, it can provide even greater protection than a normal shield, shrugging off all but the most powerful of blows with ease.
>Bulwark: automatic instant, recharge 4; You negate all incoming physical damage. If the source is a ranged attack, you can reflect the projectile back at your attacker, dealing 1 less hit of damage than the original attack, minimum 1.>>698457
You don't manage to find any magical artifacts, but happen upon a goblet made of solid gold among the shelves of treasure. It looks extremely valuable.
Seeing Hermodur busy himself with a shield, i roll my eyes. "Well, i suppose it falls to me to find a method around this odd trap."
Approaching the mannequin, i wait for it to turn it's head before continuing, clearing my throat in the mean time.
"My, that's quite the lovely dress you have there, good.. er.. Mannequin." i lead in, keeping up a less than confident smile.
"But oh, it must be so
uncomfortable wearing such heavy mail and cloth in this place!" i continue, fanning my face with a wing.
"What say we make a trade? my current outfit, 'desert chic' i call it, makes for quite easy wearing in a stuffy old room as this. If you'd allow me, i can exchange that heavy dress for something a tad more comfortable!" i finish, watching the mannequin for a reaction.
[1d10+2] PersuasionRoll #1 9 + 2 = 11
Rabi looks around the area in confusion for a bit, before shaking it off- must be the some sort of magic. The stallion offers a shrug, and says "Well, is there anything around here you'd have that might fit me? I'm afraid all I've seen is some interesting bones, and this really, really neat statue."
Zunden looks at the amulet with suspicion, opting to brush the whole pile of jewelry into the Bag of Holding until they're in a safer place to identify, trying to make up for lost time given she started exploring the vault later than the rest.
[1d10] One more cursory glance through the treasures as she figures out where Rabi went.Roll #1 6 = 6
Hermodur nods with satisfaction as he appraises the shield. He puts his arm through the strap then tightens it on his forearm so that he can still hold Mjolnir with both hands, but also have the shield for protection.
He then looks for Silver to see if she still requires assistance. He does nothing for now.
I grin as I see the goblet. Better than any dumb enchanted weapon or armor. I grab it and stuff it as well as I can into my bag, slinging everything over my shoulder. Good to know the whole trip wasn't a complete waste of time and near-death experiences. Satisfied, I look around and decide to catch up with Rabi. "Find something else?"
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
You talk to the mannequin with as much charm as you can muster. Unfortunately, it does not seem much for conversation. It continues standing around absentmindedly.>>698464Nothing here but us statues!
The voice sounds flattered at your compliment. But really, you'll want to hear me out. I think I might have figured out a way to get out of this awful dimension. It won't be easy, and I imagine it'll take quite a while. But it can be done. …I think.Tell you what, friend. You bring me over to the rest of your little crew and then we'll talk. I'm the handsome devil right in front of you.
You can only assume he means the statue of the strange monster.>>698465
You take the whole lot. If nothing else, it'll be worth a fortune.
Most of the treasure that you can see consists of gold coins and gems of varying caliber. You can see Rabi has entered a chamber that seems to be full of statues, which Aurora had noticed before.>>698466
You strap on the shield, feeling better protected already. Silver seems to be trying to chat up the mannequin, to limited effect.>>698467>>698468
You take the goblet and follow Rabi, barely sidestepping a pressure plate on the ground. You join him in a room full of statues of various races, including monsters. He seems to be particularly interested in a statue depicting a snarling horned monster with a serpentine body. Rabi seems to be speaking to himself.
"Are you sure you want me to pick it up? Surely, if it is trapped, then the mannequin is as well."
I stare at Rabi for a second. Welp. I can't blame him for cracking a little. Just surprised it wasn't me first. I step up beside him and put my hand on his shoulder. Cocking my eyebrow, I ask, "You okay, buddy?"
After waiting for a few moments in anticipation, I scowl as the mannequin continues its vigil.
"Hmm.. it seems my usual charm falls on deaf ears."
"Hermodur, what do you suppose we do, then? I'd hate to be forced to leave behind such a lovely dress…" I ask, gesturing downtrodden towards the mass of cloth in the alcove.
"Have you tried taking it off?"
"Well no, though when I originally approached the mannequin it fixed me with such a menacing glance I hesitated in disturbing it."
"Admittedly frightening, but it IS just a mannequin. We have fought more threatening things. Just try and see what happens."
Figuring she's the one with the magical storage, Zunden tasks herself with collecting the mundane treasures for later sale,
"I don't like lingering in one room for too long, ezpecially wizh zhat egg. We zhould be moving on soon."
"Hmm, true. Alright then, I suppose it's too late to have cold hooves over it, now or never and all that..">>698469
Beginning my hesitant approach towards the mannequin, I reach out and touch the dress, intent on removing the outfit.
"W-Wait, really? How's that even work?" Rabi asks, before flicking his ears and turning around>>698471
"Norv!" He says, giving the Diamond Dog a pat on the shoulder "I'm completely fine. The statue here is speaking to me somehow… in retrospect, I shouldn't have talked aloud… b-but, apparently whatever's in here has been working on a way out of here, and just about has it."
"You know, for some reason you sound less crazy when you say the statue is talking to you." I glance over at the statue in question, looking it over. Somehow not the weirdest thing I've seen since we've been here. I freeze when I realize what he just said. "Wait, as in a way back home? Or a way out of the temple, like we've just been locked in?"
"A way back home. I've got no clue how it works."
You store a sizable chunk of money in the Bag, as well as a large assortment of gems. >+300 bits>>698477
You touch it. Nothing happens, and the mannequin doesn't flinch. Tentatively, you start undressing it, eventually removing the armored dress entirely, gaining insight into its magical nature in the process.
>Royal Battle Raiment>passive; -1 hit taken from Dark magic attacks>An armored dress made for a long-forgotten duchess who had a taste for battle and a distate for warlocks. Offers significant protection against dark magic.
Nothing else happens for now. The mannequin remains inert.>>698470>>698471>>698472>>698476>>698478
You feel a faint rumbling under your feet and the distant sound of whistling wind, but it soon passes. Aurora joins Rabi and Norv in the statue room, examining the central statue curiously, while Violet seems to be contemplating a strange jade eyeball she's found.
I swallow and shiver a little at the thought of going back home. "And, uh… You think we should listen to the voice coming from a statue that's been locked in a magical trapped tomb for who knows how long?"
"I… don't think so. We might want to just leave this be. Find a useful item, and skidaddle, yeah?" he says, before looking to Aurora "Hey, Aurora. We found an ominous statue offering a way home.">>698483
"Mmmmm… I don't know."
"Well there you have it," Hermodur says as Silver takes the dress. "It would seem the defense was entirely based on the would-be theif's fear."
Then, the rumbling happens for a moment. "Or at least I hope…" he mumbles ominously.
I stop and look around. That can't be good. "Yeah, we should probably leave. Now, probably."
Zunden shudders as the ground trembles,>>698485>>698477
"We have made our profit. Zure zhere are more treazurez, but I'd razher leave alive wizh zome loot zhen die in here wizh all of it."
"It depends on what our employer wants," Hermodur comments idly.
Cautious at first, I remove the armor and look the fabric over with a wide grin.
"Aha! It looks like my fear was getting the best of me after all, it all turned out quite alright!"
Eagerly slipping out of view in an alcove, I take the time to undress and try on the new armor.>>698485
"Hmm.. perhaps my fears weren't completely unfounded after all." I reply, sticking my head out of cover to look around in worry.
"You don't suppose that was from the exit, was it?"
>>698484Oh, fie. Look, even if I wanted to lie to you I couldn't. Really. Those blasted twins put a spell on me so I can only tell the truth. It's AWFUL. Please, just get me out of here. I'm sick of having to look at the same wall every day, and these other guys aren't exactly riveting conversationalists.
Aurora looks troubled. "That… smells fishy. We sh-" She's cut off as she struggles to keep her balance following the rumble. "What was that?"That was a couple of hundred thousand tiny sand bugs heading your way. If you don't hurry up, you'll either get eaten alive or be trapped down here forever. I imagine either way is less than ideal for you. You get me out of this room, and I can try to find a safer way out of here.>>698489
You put it on. It has a faint smell of dungeon, but it fits you like a glove.>>698488
"I wish you'd stop calling me that," Violet says.>>698484>>698485>>698486>>698487>>698489
"Yeah, we should probably leave soon," Violet mumbles as she slips the jade eye into her pocket for later. "Before something horrible happens. …On the other hand, whatever that was, it just passed over. I think we still have a bit of time." She does a quick head count then frowns. "Rabi, Norv, Aurora, where are you guys?"
Aurora dips out of the statue room and rejoins the rest of the group in the main chamber. >>698485>>698487>>698489
"Rabi found something weird. There's a statue back there that seems to be talking to him. Says it knows a way to get back home. I don't know if we should trust it." Violet furrows her brow. "Yeah, that doesn't sound good. Maybe we should just hear it out though? I dunno." She glances cautiously back the way you entered from, in case something happens.
Zunden looks to Aurora,
"If ze ztatue had ze ability to take zomeone back to Equeztria, how zhen did our friend ze Dragon die here and had hiz pozezzionz buried wizh him. Ze only zhingz in here are treazurez and trapz, and zhat caliber of treazure would mean ze Dragon would not even have been buried here."
Zunden says, flatly.
"You hired us. You're our employer. This is your mission you've assigned to us," Hermodur repeats the sentiment he's already made. "I'll take your orders," he adds dutifully.
Hermodur then walks the way Aurora came to see the statue she is referring to. "Aurora says you've found a statue, Rab-" Hermodur says as he rounds the corner, however, he quickly cuts off as he sees the statue in question.
He immediately draws Mjolnir and revs it up. He stares it down with a ferocious but terrified expression. "You fools!" he shouts at Norv and Rabi. "Do you have ANY idea what you're talking to!?"
>[1d10] for sharpenRoll #1 8 = 8
"Yes that rumbling was quite ominous, i would sooner escape than worry about a cave in."
"And this statue, you're saying it may know the way out of this horrid dimension?"
"Well at the very least we can afford to listen to it, provided it can make it's point before the chamber collapses."
"Does… is anyone else hearing this, by the way? It's not just me hearing the statue talk, right?">>698492
"W-What? N-No, I don't."
"It's a draconequus!" Hermodur shouts in equal parts anger and fear. "A chaotic false god! It is nothing but pure evil. Don't listen to its words. We should leave now!"
I take a step back as Hermodur draws his weapon. "Woah, woah, slow down. First off, I'm not talking to anything. The statue is in Rabi's head, not mine. Second, no matter what it is I don't really think you need to go straight to the smashing.">>698494
I shrug. "I haven't heard anything yet."
"Drak what?" I look back over at the statue and squint. "I mean I guess it kind of looks like a dragon? Maybe some kind of wyrm."
"There is literally nothing more dangerous in all of existence!" Hermodur says practically pleadingly.
"A… huh?" he says, cocking his head to the side "I haven't heard of something like that…">>698496
"N-No one else is hearing things? U-Uuhhhh, h-huh… I'm liking this even less."
"So far, no. You're sure this statue is talking, correct? Have you had some water recently? Dehydration can make you hear things that aren't there, after all." I ask, looking with concern.
"I know we need to conserve water but I'd prefer you having a drink over losing your mind, Rabi."
I nod, continuing to stare at the statue. "Right. Most dangerous creature ever. I think I'm going to turn around and leave now." At the end of my sentence I do just that, walking back toward the main room of the tomb.
"Is nobody paying attention to the false god and chaotic being of pure evil part?" Hermodur says, growing annoyed.>>698501
"At least someone has the right idea…"
"Currently we're paying attention to you yelling at a statue while poor Rabi is suffering from heat exhaustion. It seems the trip took more out of him then we thought.."
"He's not suffering from heat exhaustion. He's being preyed upon by an evil being!" Hermodur says, growing annoyed again.
"Really, has NO ONE hear heard of a draconequus before?"
"I-I don't think I'm suffering from heat exchaustion. I'm not shaking, am I?" he says, looking himself over in confusion.
"Again, I do not zhink it matterz. It haz already lied to uz, why give it any more benefit of ze doubt."
Zunden says from the other room.
"It is a possibility, hearing things is quite a worrying symptom. Do you feel light headed? Is your vision clear?" I continue, feeling your temple with a hoof.
"I don't know, I didn't talk to it," she answers rather defensively. "I'm just relaying what Rabi said."
"Er, that's not him up there, by the way," Violet adds, gesturing at the skeletal dragon on the ceiling. "Lucan was a Felid, I think. His tomb is somewhere out in the Barrens. I've been there. That's probably some sort of guard dog, if I had to guess. Although, it doesn't seem to be doing a very good job." She jingles the the many coins in her bags for emphasis.
Seeing most of the group adjourn to the statue room, Violet joins them, while Aurora stays behind.>>698492
Mjolnir powers up with a gout of flame, trembling ominously.>>698493
You join the rest of the group and observe the strange serpentine statue.>>698494Oh, did I forget to reach out? My bad. Just give me a moment…>>698492>>698493>>698494>>698496There we are.
A genteel voice snakes its way into your ears. Violet gasps and does a double take. Awfully sorry, it's been a few centuries or so since I had to use telepathy. Let's start with the basics, shall we? My name is Persolus. Formerly chaos incarnate, now reduced to a hunk of rock and unable to say anything but the truth. A far cry from my former glory. A pleasure.Now, is this everyone in your little party? Because I do indeed know a way to get out of this cesspit. It involves that egg over there. I'm sure you noticed it. If you want to go home, you'll listen to what I have to say. Shall I continue?
Violet seems too shocked to give a response.>>698495Well that's a bit harsh.
He sounds genuinely. Here I am trying to help you get home and you barge in threatening me and waving that thing around? Fie! Put that down before you hurt yourself.>>698497He's right, I am indeed a draconequus. At least that's what you lot call me. I'm THE Draconequus, as a matter of fact. A bit of a lonely existence, really.>>698503That… was my mistake. Sorry. I can assure you he's perfectly fine. Maybe a little scrawny, but otherwise in tip-top shape.
He sounds genuinely hurt*
"Death is a preferable alternative to living under a draconequus' rule," is all Hermodur has to say to Persolus.
"Oh! Oh my, so he was fine after all.. I see."
Blushing furiously, I back away from Rabi, clearing my throat to gather my thoughts.
"This method of yours involves the egg? It looked quite ominous, what would you have in mind?"
Zunden grimaces, staying out of the room. She shouts to the others,
"I zuppoze I'll wait outzide ze tomb zhen, zhat way I can attempt to dig you out onze ze zhing collapzez the exit on you."
(not leaving yet)
"I'm with Zunden," Hermodur says, going to stand with her. "Nothing good can come from this."
Rabi huffs a little at the mention of scrawny, but can't deny it. He looks to Silver with a nervous giggle.
"T-Thanks for the concern, though."
A chill runs down my spine as I hear the voice, and I freeze in place. Slowly, I turn back towards the statue. I gulp again. Great. Cosmic being. It doesn't help that I haven't even really decided if I want
to go back to begin with. Now we're caught chatting with a being of literal chaos. Still, I stop and listen.
he scoffs. What sort of petty conqueror do you take me for? I don't want to 'rule' anything! You assume a lot, my friend. Just because I WAS a rampaging god of mischief, doesn't mean I still AM. …Well, maybe a little. But I can't do any rampaging in this state. In fact, I don't want to leave this state at all. All I'm asking you to do for me personally right now, is break off my head. …It might kill me, come to think of it. But I can't stand this place. It's so desperately DULL! Do you… Do you have any idea what it's like to stare at the same stone wall for a good few hundred years? If breaking off my head kills me, then so be it. If it doesn't, then even better!>>698511Well, I can't lie, so here goes. You're going to have to find a way to disable the magic field protecting it. if I recall correctly there's a crystal creating the field dangling from that hideous chandelier. That'll let you get to the egg, but it'll also wake up the dragon up there. Here's the fun part. Break the egg and take the orb inside. It's called the Porpentine. You'll want to hold on to that. After that, you'll want to run for your lives, because if you don't get out of here lickety-split you're going to get caught between a rock and a hard place. By which I mean an angry skeleton dragon and a swarm of flesheating bugs. Not to mention the whole vault will probably start to sink. So be quick about it, won't you!>>698513Oh, poo. Fine, have it your way. At least the rest of your friends have a good head on their shoulders!
You join Zunden and Aurora. "What's going on in there?" the latter asks. "Sounds like everyone's talking to it now.">>698512
As you wait, Aurora absent-mindedly picks up a gold coin and starts flipping it to pass the time, interrupted by the return of Hermodur.>>698515Oh, don't give me that look, you,
Persolus says. Believe it or not, I'm actually quite thin-skinned. At least I would be if I weren't made of rock.
"You just recently did a reading for an impending betrayal," Hermodur comments in an annoyed tone as he follows Zunden. "If they do anything that thing wants, they are utter fools."
Zunden heads for the exit, not wanting to die in the temple.
"Pick zhem up and carry zhem zhen, I can do nothing exzept leave."
"Why do you think I could do more than you?"
Zunden flexes, smirking a little,
"I have not been keeping up wihz my abdominal exzerzizez"
I study the statue for a moment. Is everyone trapped here? Even magical beings like the forest spirit and this guy. I just wish there was a way to tell if he was lying about not being able to lie. Maybe we could help->>698517
Actually that's a good point. It should be pretty obvious that helping him out is a bad idea, but I can't help but feel sorry for him. My expression softens.
"I-" I sigh and turn around. "I think we should probably go." I turn and walk toward Zunden and Hermodur before anything can change my mind.
"So, break the egg, take the orb and bring your head with us? Reasonable enough, though-" interrupted by the others brushing past me, I look down the hall towards them in confusion
"We've a chance to be rid of this place and you're choosing to stay? This could very well be our only way out!"
"Don't trust the false god of chaos," Hermodur calls back to her as he leaves.
"L-Look, Silver. I know you want to get home. I didn't really want to when I got here, but… I think having a-" he pauses a little, and stammers out "f-friend like you on the other side, I'd be willing to do it. But, something feels wrong here. What if we're being tricked?"
Persolus grows increasingly frustrated. Oh for crying out loud, what will it take to convince you lot?! I'm. Trying. To. Help. You. There's NOTHING in it for me. I don't even want to go back to Equestria or the Dominion or whatever they're calling it nowadays. You mortals are so narrow-minded. Unbelievable. Just unbelievable. You know what? I don't even need your help. Go f-
As you leave, his words become increasingly fainter until they vanish from your mind altogether.>>698523Well, I hate to say it, but I don't have much of a choice. That last part is completely optional. I would very, very, VERY much appreciate it if you did, however. …I think you'd need your argumentative friend for that, though. No offense, but I don't think you'd be strong enough.>>698525For the umpteenth time, no tricks. Not anymore.>>698523>>698525What about you?
You can only assume he's asking Violet, who until now has remained silent. Won't you help me?
She takes a while to answer, but eventually shakes her head. "I… I don't know. I just don't know."Oh come on! That is such a cheap, copout answer!
You can almost see him rolling his eyes.>>698517>>698518>>698522
Aurora follows you outside. "Yeah, I think we're better off leaving it be. That's some evil magic at work."
"From what Ailuros has told me, 'magic' may not even be accurate. Its powers are… nearly godlike. I don't want anything to do with it. And, I pray to Ailuros that the others see the light."
Shifting my gaze between the statue and you, i offer a pained look in return.
"I..I want to believe him, but i can't do this alone. If everypony truly is set on leaving, i've no choice but to follow.">>698526
Dejected, i leave the chamber and follow the others out, head hung low as i trudge down the corridor.
I stop just before walking up to everyone else, realizing that Violet still hasn't joined us. Not listening to every part of me that's telling me to leave, I turn around and walk back toward the room with the statue. "Vi," I shout. "You coming with us?"
Rabi puts a foreleg around Silver and pulls her into a soft hug, before following alongside her out of the chamber.
"Godlike?" She looks extremely worried. "I didn't stick around long enough for it to get to me, but I had a bad vibe as soon as I saw it. What… what WAS that thing? ">>698528>>698530Pah. Fine. Have it your way. Hope you rot out there.
He blows a mental raspberry as you exit the vault.>>698529
You see Violet straggling behind, looking curiously at the crystal powering the field around the caged egg. You see she has a rock in her hoof. "I… Maybe we should do it. Not for him, but for ourselves…" She is speaking more to herself than to you, hesitating as she struggles with a difficult decision.Do it! Do it! Do it!
As you stand outside, you notice a sandswarm on the horizon heading your way. It is moving extremely quickly, growing larger and larger by the minute. "What's taking them so long?" Aurora frets.
Rabi turns to look at Violet on the way out, setting a hoof on her shoulder "Violet- you alright? You seem really… troubled, friend."
"If puzh comez to zhove, I zay we boot zome of ze rezidentz out of zheir tombz and take refuge in a coffin. I azzume zhoze zhingz are flezh-eating."
Zunden says, looking back at the entrance,
"Do you zhink we're being greedy? We need to zhelter ourzelfz, or elze we'll juzt end up rich zkeletonz."
"My, that's quite concerning.."
Watching the swarm approach, I look back to the tomb in worry.
"I don't suppose there's some method to take cover inside, is there?">>698688
"Hide inside the tombs?"
"Well.. I suppose if we've no other option.." I reply, shuddering at the thought.
"You can imagine how long ze zhingz have been dead, likely nozhing but bone left. It iz not zo grozz."
"Maybe something we could move in front of the entrance, just for now?"
"Mm, I suppose.. though hoofing bones out of a coffin to make room is still quite grizzly work.">>698691
"Was there something to move in the main chamber? We would need something wide enough to block the exit, so much as a gap open and we're likely to be consumed."
"Zhey are not complaining."
"Hrm… we could check. Failing that, maybe trying to retreat further into the tomb? Or, the coffin trick."
I feel my heart climb into my throat as I see Violet holding the rock in her hoof. "Vi, wait!" I call out. "You can't." I run up to her and not-so-subtly put myself between her and the egg. "Just think about it. You don't know what that'll do. It's probably hidden here for a reason. With-" I gesture to the statue. "What was he again? Some kind of literal embodiment of chaos? I know you're smarter than that."
Hermodur grumbles with growing concern as Norv and Violet don't arrive from the tomb.
"They can't be so foolish as to lusten to it, can they?" he asks aloud with near terror in his voice. Without regarding the others, he fast-walks back into the tomb.
Seeing Violet not come back out, you return to find her facing the egg, seemingly debating whether or not to follow Persolus' advice. Norv seems to be talking her out of it, though.Why, she seems to have had a change of heart. Getting all sorts of ideas in her head. …It's not my doing, by the way. I'm not controlling her, at all. Limiting my power and influence is a particularly nasty effect of my current predicament, so if I could, I would have enchanted you all to do my dark bidding by now. Alas, I cannot. I couldn't even speak until a decade or two ago, actually. Not that it does me much good when there's no one for company but old bonesy up there.>>698688>>698689
"That could work," Aurora says. "Good thinking. I was thinking we could just run for it and let the swarm do its thing. Either way, we should get moving." She looks uncomfortably out at the oncoming cloud of insects, which is getting larger and closer by the minute, the faint drone of the desert getting slightly louder as they approach.>>698695
She hesitates again, but eventually nods, dropping the rock. "Yeah. Sorry. Just a passing thought. Stupid. Let's get going.">>698687>>698695>>698766
As Violet turns away, resisting the temptation, Persolus grows disappointed. Aww. I thought we had a good thing going. Are you sure you won't at least take me with you? I would so treasure a change of scenery. …Oh, who am I kidding. You wouldn't do that for me. Why would anything nice ever happen. Hmph.
You hear the faint droning sound grow louder. "That's not good. Let's get moving before we get caught in a storm."Oh yes, by all means, leave me to rot. Not that I can rot. I thought you mortals were supposed to be a compassionate bunch. Do you know how desperately dull it is to stare at a stone wall for millennia? It's torture. But you don't care. You heartless bastards.
"Oh, just shut up already. Come on, we're wasting time. Where's the rest of the group? Topside?"
"I'm certain you haven't even gotten everything you deserve yet," Hermodur responds to Persolus before he turns to leave with Violet.
"I believe the current plan is to hunker down in here. But considering the company, I'd very much prefer to avoid that option."
I knit my brow and glance over my shoulder at the statue. He literally just told us that if he could then he'd mind control us, but something still screams at me that I should help him. Something reminding me that, in spite of everything I've seen so far, that everyone deserves a second chance.
I grit my teeth and ball my hands into fists, tightening my grip on my cage's handle. Something Hermodur said rings in my mind, just below everything else. Mercy is for the strong. If you can't back it up, then what separates mercy from cowardice or stupidity?
I turn around to Persolus. "I'll come back when I've sorted everything out. Once I can guarantee letting you out won't destroy everything, and figure out a way I can make sure you're telling the truth, then I promise you. I'll return to help you. Even if I have to come back alone. That's the best I can do and the best you're going to get from
pretty much anyone."
I turn and walk toward the group. "We need to find shelter. Some place we're not going to get trapped in."
"Where are we to flee to, zhen? I have alwayz known to weazher a ztorm, not try and outrun it."
"Given the speed of the swarm we really should make a decision quickly."
"I don't suppose those ruins could act as shelter until this swarm blows over? I very much doubt we could outrun one
of those bugs, much less a cloud
"Wasn't there a town to the-" I think for a second, holding my hand out in front of me and using my other hand to triangulate where we are. "I think it was east. Think that'd be safe enough to spend the storm in?"
"Yeah, but we're a little stuck. A big storm is rolling in, and we're trying to figure out a way to deal with it. I'm not thinking that braving it would be for the best, but barricading ourselves in here with that… thing, might not be the best either."
"Ze tombz are welcoming."
Zunden says in passing, testing the weight of one of the covers to the coffins.
>>698770Well that's just rude. What did I ever do to you? Here I am offering you a way out and you spit in my face. You hurt me, fuzzypants. You really do.>>698772Oh, you melt this old draconequus' heart. Blessings, blessings. Unfortunately, I can't guarantee we WILL meet again. But I hope we do. I like you already.>>698774
"That could work. I'm just worried we'll get sealed in that place somehow. Might be a safer option really.">>698773
"I think Silver has the right idea. We should try hiding out in that town instead.">>698775
"Good idea," says Violet. "If we move fast we should make it before that storm hits.">>698776
"I'm with Zunden on this one. We should try and hide in that abandoned town we passed."
"Well let'z move zhen, no point dizcuzzing when we're lozing time."
Zunden says, pulling up her shawl and leaving.
I give Persolus a quick, resolute nod and follow the party. "If we're going to go then we need to go quick. I can tell you now, I've seen swarms and infestations of insects." I shiver. "Including the flesh-eating kind, and I can tell you right now. You don't even want to get caught on the edge of one." I follow Zunden.
"Oh certainly, i would trust a relatively sturdy building over ancient tombs any day."
checking my belongings and glancing back at the oncoming storm, i pick up my pace and head back towards the town from earlier.
"Now, i would imagine being in a place so remote we're not likely to run into other travelers, but all the same we mustn't lower our guard. Anypony rough enough to survive out here is certainly rough enough to be a cause for concern."
"Yes, I'd rather not stay here," Hermodur comments as he looks back at the tomb.
He rushes toward the dilapidated town.>>698780
"I would strongly advise removing that encounter from your mind. Thinking about him is exactly what he wants. From what I've been told, even gods have difficulty dealing with such a creature."
"Right. No time like the present." he says, quickly following the others.>>698782
"How many times have you bumped into something like that?"
"I've never seen one in person. And I hope I never do again. I only know what Ailuros has told me."
"Well, glad we had the heads-up. It didn't feel
right, but I had no idea it'd be that bad."
"What he said earlier, about the way home.. Do you think he might have meant it? If he truly is as dangerous and powerful as he is, could he really create a way out of this place?"
"…Probably. I don't know what else that 'way out' would do, but… I'm sorry we had to choose that way."
"I haven't the slightest clue," Hermodur shrugs. "And, I assume he doesn't either. Not that it couldn't. But, it's a creature of chaos. You have to assume that whether and it can or even would do something changes from moment to moment."
"The more important thing is that there is no bribe great enough to let out such an evil. Doing so for your own gain would be the most despicable act imaginable."
>>698779>>698780>>698782Ta-ta! See you in your darkest nightmares. Guess I'll just have to practice my scary voice for the next century or so…>>698779>>698780>>698781>>698782>>698783
You reunite and promptly move back down towards the abandoned village. The buildings are all round, like igloos, and made of dark red stone. They have clearly not been used in many, many years, and it is difficult to find a place for all of you to hide. You eventually find one, however, in what looks to have been a town hall at some point. The sands have all but taken it, but the roof is still intact, and you find enough rubble lying about to seal the door shut.
As you huddle together, the storm starts to blow in, bringing with it a bitter wind that rages against the walls of your shelter. It seems to never end, and the building threatens to collapse more than once. The buzzing sound is almost deafening, persisting for hours and hours.
Eventually, the storm passes, and the buzzing dies down to a low roar. As you emerge, you find that it is now about late afternoon; more importantly, the entrance to the vault is completely sealed now, claimed by the Shifting Sands. All around, you can see the imprints of coins, trinkets and baubles carried away by the gold-seeking insects. "Least we managed to get some of it," Violet comments. "I reckon we should camp for the day, then start planning our expedition out of here. We got what we came for, after all. Unless you guys want to stick around a bit and explore more?"
keeping casually close to Rabi during the storm, i keep an ear out until the swarm clears, watching the scenery from the town hall door.
"Hmm.. I suppose we could
take a look around once camp was set up. Perhaps there was something the bugs missed in one of these buildings?"
I sit down against a wall and close my eyes, trying to drown out the sound of the buzzing with my thoughts. It was doomed from the start, as all I manage to do is remind myself how many times I've screwed up, how useless I am, and the mistakes I'm probably going to make later down the line. Everyone says they like having me around. That I've helped out a bunch, and I'm only getting stronger. I know that they know they'd be better off if I wasn't here. And I can still hear the damn buzzing.
My stomach sinks as I see the vault sealed. If we'd stayed inside then we'd probably still be in there too. I swallow and lick my lips. "Yeah, that's probably a good idea. Camping for the day I mean."
I glance over at where the vault was, hoping to see the key cylinder still slotted in with the other two.
"If you feel this was a lucrative enough venture, then there's no need to stay in this accursed place any longer. You ARE the employer, it's your decision," Hermodur reminds her as he loves to do.
"Not a terrible idea, yeah. Between the heat and the sa- err, bugs, a good chunk of it might not be worth much, but it's worth it."
"I zay zhiz bag iz eazily ze mozt uzeful zhing we've found zo far,"
Zunden says, patting her bag of holding,
"I would hate to have had to leave wizh my pack laden with gold.">>698792
"Zhiz, for the mozt part. We zhould divvy up our treasurez firzt and zhen it iz your job to dezide what to do wizh uz."
Zunden says, reaching into her bag and holding a fist full of jewelry,
"I have yet to count it'z worzh."
I cock my eyebrow and lash out a little more harsh than I probably intend. "Didn't she say that made her uncomfortable? So maybe stop pushing it? Did you think that maybe there's a reason
it bothers her?"
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
[1d10] loot diceRoll #1 3 = 3
moving from structure to structure, i duck my head inside to check for anything of note.
"Hmm.."Roll #1 4 = 4
Rabi will search, as well!>Shiiiet [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
[1d10] for loot>>698795
"It it bothers her, she shouldn't employ people."Roll #1 9 = 9
"That's what I'm thinking.">>698791
You can see that despite everything, the three brick cylinders are still jutting out of the sands. It will be easy to find this place if you return.>>698792>>698794
She rolls her eye. "Fine. We take what we can find here then leave tomorrow morning.">>698790>>698791>>698792>>698793>>698793
Now that the storm is passed, you start exploring the abandoned village proper, in search of anything the sands may not have taken.>>698796
You enter what looks to have been a marketplace, judging by the bare tentpoles and stone benches. Near one, tucked in some forgotten corner, you find a ring with a curious design across its surface, almost like interwoven leaves. A faint green light shines from within it, but you cannot glean what sort of magical abilities this artifact might have as of yet.>>698797>>698798>>698799
You manage to find a few coins, but nothing of particular interest.>+30 for Norv and Rabi, +45 for Silver>>698800
In what looks to have been a library, you find the remains of a magic scroll. The parchment is tattered and crumbles slightly at the touch, but the runes inscribed on it still burn fiercely. You are not sure what sort of enchantment it possesses, however.>>698790>>698791>>698792>>698793>>698793
The next morning, you start the long walk back. Because of Violet planting flags at regular intervals and the compass Silver purchased, you find it easy to traverse the unforgiving desert.
The journey lasts over a week. You eat little and drink even less, spacing your supplies out carefully for the journey. You meet few obstacles, save for a few stray Terreocti, but nothing you cannot deal with. The journey gives you plenty of time to reflect on your travels so far. It feels like a lifetime ago since you awoke on the black beach and met Violet. You have survived trials most would fall to, and yet you have persevered. For you, success has been a matter of persistence and concentration. You find that everything you do is a bit easier, more instinctive, and more satisfying. >You gain 1 Enlightenment Point
After a grueling journey through the sands, you find yourselves traversing a rocky pass at the border, eventually getting spat out into a dry grassy plain. You can see the sun going down, bathing the landscape in oranges and purples. For once, the breeze does not threaten to flay your skin, and the ubiquitous drone of the sands is no more. "Ugh. Finally," Aurora grumbles. "If I ever see sand again it'll be too soon."
Violet starts getting a camp ready. "So. Now that we're out of that awful place, we should discuss what happens next. I think we should make for Braildorn to unload our goods, but from there… Well, I don't know what comes next. Do any of you have ideas? Because I'm open to suggestions."
"I think we should check up on that patient we had back at the monastery at some point," Aurora suggests, looking pointedly at Zunden. "It's been a while. Maybe she's recovered by now. I'd like to know what happened to her, if she's in a good state to talk. Although, I'd have to sit it out. I shouldn't have to say it but I'm not exactly welcome there."
>>698801'This looks much safer than the trinket I currently wear… I've also yet to examine the artifact i found in the tomb. Best do it now that we're out of the gauntlet proper…'
Zunden says, examining the two magical items as they camp. She looks up from the jewelry as Aurora brings up the monastery, smiling and nodding,
"I'd like that, yez. I ztill have many queztionz az to how zhe ended up in zuch a ztate."
Upon finding the scroll, Hermodur stares at it pensively for a moment. He then proceeds to stuff it in his pocket. When he comes back to camp the next day, he shows it to everyone. Though, presumably, no one really has a way of knowing what it is.
Later on, as they start setting up camp, Hermodur comments on Violet's question. "I imagine once we are back in town, we have nothing tying us together anymore," he says in an aloof, but disappointed tone. "We were hired to escort you into the desert to recover treasure. We've accomplished that."
"I stare pensively off into the horizon as I make this realization. Alas, I am once again adrift, without meaning. I suppose I could occupy some extra time by finding out what this scroll does."
Hermodur reverts to his dramatic manner of speaking as he takes out the scroll and stares at it. "If Ailuros were here, I'm sure she'd understand what it does instantly," he sighs.
He pulls out the Dreaming Spring water and stares at it longingly. He knows it will do nothing but torture him. But, he must. He takes a sip from the bottle.
"Nozhing tying uz togezher? Not even ze fact zhat any one of uz would likely be at rizk of dying to briggandz or monzterz traveling alone? It may not be what everyone zhinkz i zuppoze, but what forze iz preventing uz from making zenze of zhiz foreign land az a group, razher zhan zplitting to go our zeperate wayz?"
finally escaping that sand trap, i collapse onto the grass, thankful for something besides dead bugs to lay on.
"Finally.. i may be able to get some proper sleep for once, free from those horrid bugs."
stretching luxuriously, i thoughtfully look out to the plains, watching the grass blow in the wind.
"Mm.. I'd imagine once we make it to Braildorn we could poke around for information on that portal ritual the guards used, for one. If we could recreate the magic with the blade we found, that might allow us a way out."
I remain silent for most of the journey, and end up little snappier than usual. I don't know if it's me getting tired of everything, or because of everything that's been weighting on my mind, but it seems like I've been a lot sadder and more irritable. I'm a little relieved when we make it out of the desert, and when I see the field of green I can't help but reach up and touch the scabbed over claw marks across my face.
I think back on everything that's happened so far. The world feels weird. Like it doesn't really exist around me. I can hear everyone talking to each other, but there's something about it that seems surreal. Almost disconnected.
I try to put it to the side and look over at Violet. "How far away is the Dreaming Spring?"
Rabi lets out a sigh of relief- he's used to deserts, but that was… a bit much.>>698807
"I'd say it can't get much worse than that so it's just getting better from here, but… I don't think I want to jinx it. Hopefully no more bugs though, right?" he says, with a bit of a chuckle. The mention of using the blade brings him a bit of pause, and he says "That might not be a bad idea. At the least, get a bit more information about how the whole thing works…">>698808
Rabi gives Norvegicus a pat on the shoulder, and a reassuring smile "Hey. Hopefully some of the less disturbed travel's given you time to settle things in your head. Feeling a little better now, at least?"
I give Rabi a small smile and nod. "Yeah," I lie. "A bit. I'll be fine."
"I mostly meant Violet," Hermodur shrugged. "But, without a common goal, its naught more than for safety's sake. Hardly a reason to live. Still, if you have need of me, I currently have no other reason to live.">>698807
"What blade?" Hermodur asks hopefully.>>698808
"That is actually something I'd very much like to find," Hermodur nods as he puts his own flask of Dreaming Spring water away.
"Oh yes, I'd imagine somepony
would have determined the steps for it by now, and a city like Braildorn would be the first place to check.">>698812
"Why, a guard's ritual blade, of course. A while ago me and Rabi had managed to steal the weapon from a group of bandits, i believe Aurora currently has it."
"You have one of those tokens, right? You could just use one to go there whenever you want. I'm sure the others wouldn't mind waiting a while.">>698805
"Well, you're not bound to anyone, you know. Not anymore at least. You can go and do whatever you want. Think for yourself. What do YOU want to do?" She looks at you quizzically with her remaining eye.>>698807>>698809
"Hm. A bit of a stretch, but yeah, we could do that. Although, there's only one wizard of real note in Braildorn last I checked, and he's…. well, he's not very competent. But he knows a fair bit. He might be able to help." In the background, Aurora tries unsuccessfully to rid her garbs of all the bugs. "Ugh. It gets EVERYWHERE. Never going to stop finding these things…">>698808
"Hm?" She thinks. "North from Braildorn, I think. At the foot of Mount Alken, near the Blasted Heath. Not easy to get to though. Why do you ask?"
Aurora takes a break from her fruitless task to show off the weapon. It is a silver longsword with a pointed guard and a patterned steel blade.
"Black Lilies. They're there, right? And two deer eyes. If the Dreaming Spring is north of Braildorn then that's the closest, right?" I swallow and look down. "And Braildorn is a pretty big city. Do you think they'd have some kind of library, or maybe some really knowledgeable mage?"
"Black Lilies. They're there, right? We need to get those. . ."*
"Good thinking, Silv." he says, giving her a friendly little bump.>>698816
"I'd imagine they'd have a library, yeah. Even if no books end up down here, plenty of knowledge likely does.">>698814
"Knowing something's better than nothing, right?"
"Hmm.. well, i suppose beggars can't be choosers."
"We'll see what he knows and move from there. Have to hold out hope that there's a way out, right?"
"I'd razher travel zhere while I have ze option to. Zhoze tokenz zound much more uzeful in ze caze of, zay, a zwarm of flezh-eating inzectz zurrounding me wizh nowhere left to run."
Zunden says passively, her attention still on the magical trinkets.
[1d10] IdentifyRoll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
"That's true," Hermodur says, perking up more. "We still have our business with Black Pudding. I pledged that I would assist the Lady of the Swamp!">>698814
Hermodur stares at Violet thoughtfully. He tries to think of something. Anything.
"All I want is to follow Ailuros," he says at last.>>698815>>698819
"An impressive find!" Hermodur praises Silver. "Surely, someone in here must have been a guard at one point. Someone must remember the magic. We just have to find them!"
I smile and perk up a little. "Yeah!" I say. "Exactly. You remembered! I thought you all either forgot or didn't care."
"Exactly! We would just need to find said guard and we may just have a way out of here."
She frowns. "There is a mage, but… is this about the swamp spirit again? You should forget about it. That's between it and the slimeball. None of our business.">>698818>>698819
"I guess." She shrugs. "To be honest, I'd rather trust Black Pudding than that hack, but if there's no other choice…">>698820
While you cannot discern the nature of the amulet, the ring proves quite useful, as it turns out. After testing it a little, you find that you can channel its magical energy to provide bursts of concentrated light around you.
>Channeler's Ring>A ring designed for magical warriors to focus in combat. Allows the user to concentrate their energy into erratic bursts.
>Flash: spell, recharge 3; Emit a burst of magical energy, attuned to an element of your choice. Affects enemies all around you, but does not deal damage unless on crit, instead debuffing them with the effects of your chosen element. >>698821
She rolls her eye. "I somehow doubt your Ailuros would want you to go out helping ancient swamp spirits. I'm telling you, that thing is no good."
"At the very least, we would be passing through the town on the way to the spring. Norvey could gather his lilies and I
can research the ritual without straying far from the group."
My shoulders sag as my spontaneously perky attitude dissipates. I swallow and glance to the ground. "Oh," I say. "Okay…" After a moment I look up and look around at everyone. Without thinking about it, I ask something that's been on my mind for a long time. One of the things that made me decide I wanted to leave the first town. One of the things that's nagged at me every turn of our adventure. "We- We're actually not heroes… are we?"
"Never claimed to be, I do not zhink."
Zunden says, putting the amulet back in the bag for now,
"I zhink ze clozezt word would be adventurerz? Explorerz? I do not know, people call me by many titlez, many of zhem even are accurate."
stifling a laugh with a wing, i shake my head. "O~hoho! Norvey please
! just about everypony
in this realm was sent her for being quite the opposite!"
"Thus far we've avoided ending what life we could, be it from coincidence or restraint, but i assure you mercy like that is a rarity here."
"Better than Black Pudding," Herodur comments with discontent in his tone as he uses the name.>>698826>>698827>>698828
"Heroism is less important than doing what is right," Hermodur says as he slowly lowers himself to sit down and starts doing some maintenance on Mjolnir. There's a lot of 'sand' in the parts, and he wants to get it out.
"What do you imagine a hero to be?"
"Now there's a plan. Could split up into groups, actually, now I think about it.">>698826
"'Drifters' is usually the term they use for our kind," Aurora comments as she whacks away at a tree stump with her sword, practicing her swings. "Apt, really."
Violet looks at you. "We are what we are," she answers earnestly." "If you want to make yourself a hero, then you strive for that, Norv. The way I see it, there's more freedom down here than ever before. You get to decide what sort of person you're going to be."
"That being said. If you want to go pursuing magical ingredients to free the Berrengaith then that's your choice. Last time I got involved with Black Pudding I lost an eye. Count me out.">>698829
"Rock and a hard place, big guy," she answers as she follows your lead, working hard to get all the grit and bugs out of her sword's telescopic handle. "One's a foul tempered overgrown mold and the other's an ancient being that'll probably wreak havoc if we help it. Like I said to Norv here, if you want to get involved, that's on you. I'm not having any part of it."
"Hmm, well.. one could easily imagine a hero as the classic knight in shining armor, fighting for justice and defending the weak from evil.. though by that metric we
would be the ones a hero would fight against."
I let out a quiet, cold chuckle. "Yeah," I say, not bothering to look up. "Sorry. It was a stupid thought. For some reason in my head I just always equated adventurers with heroes. I don't know, I just thought we'd be helping people more or something. I just-" I turn around and a small shiver runs through my body as I fight back crying again.
I manage to push it down, swallowing everything. With cold, idle detachment I say, "I don't know. You're probably right, Vi. I'm just an idealistic idiot. Probably shouldn't have brought it up. Sorry."
Without saying anything else I move to help set up camp.
"I don't see how fighting for justice would entail fighting us," Hermodur says without a tinge of irony in his voice.>>698832
"When you were arrested, what you expected was an opportunity to help people?" Hermodur asks, looking to Norv incredulously.
"No, we aren't. I'm sorry. That doesn't mean we can't do some good, though.">>698832
"You're not an idiot, Norv. I don't think it'd hurt for us to try and help people out a little more often."
"Really? Were we not acting against the law in the first place, being banished here as the result?"
I don't bother looking over my shoulder as I answer. "I didn't. I thought It'd be the end of my life. That I'd come here and basically end up killed within the first day." I pause and look up at the sky. "But then I found you guys, and you invited me to join you. You basically saved that first prowler. Violet helped us find our bearings, full well knowing we could be a bunch of serial killers and rapists. I just thought that maybe if I took the chance -if I became an adventurer- then I could maybe help this damned, blighted world be a little better, y'know? Like I said. Idealistic idiocy." I scratch the back of my head and let out a small chuckle. "For some reason I didn't think it was so idealistic back then, though. Not sure why that is."
"Law and justice are not always the same," Hermodur says in a sour tone.>>698836
Hermodur smiles as he listens to Norv and continues to perform maintenance on Mjolnir. "I know you probably don't want to hear it," he says, also not looking at Norv.
"But, you sound like me. You see so much bad around you, and it eats you up inside. You want to change the world. You want to make it better. You want to take the idiots who spend their days sinning and wallowing in their own avarice and beat some sense into them. If you had it your way, someone worth listening to would come along and beat them all into shape. Show them a better way."
"It's NOT idealistic," Hermodur says with sudden, pointed anger in her tone, turning his head toward Norv. He stares at him meaningfully for a moment. "'Idealism' is a term used by fools who are unable to accept their own weakness. They blame the world for all that is wrong with it instead of blaming themselves for being unable to change it. Do not be like them. You are on the right path. If you're doomed to be called idealistic, so be it. One day, you will stand tall above those weak-minded sinners and show them the glory of what you can achieve!"
>>698837>in her tone>too much time playing female characters
I freeze in place. That's right. Most of them aren't heroes. Maybe even none of them are, but the entire time, at every corner they've been there supporting me trying to be better. I close my eyes and take a deep breath. When I open them again to look over at Hermodur the world around me is blurry, and a tear falls from the corner of my eye. I give him a small smile and a quick, resolute nod. With as firm a tone as I can muster through my quivering voice, I say, "I want to. I want to get stronger. To be the hero. To help people that are too weak to help themselves. To help people like I am now, and like I've always been. It seems like everything is trying to pull me away from it, but I don't-" I swallow. "I don't want to give up on that goal."
"If that's what it means to you to be a hero, then so be it. Be a hero. What you want to do is certainly a worthy goal. It's also what Ailuros and myself wish to accomplish."
"On my first day in this world, I stood on a hill and looked down on the land. I could see the glorious world Ailuros could create in this place. The beautiful order and peace she could create. I pray that one day once she has conquered Equestria and beyond, she will come for me here and will can bring that same order to these sinners."
"If such a day comes, you would do well to join her. She would be delighted to have such a devoted agent in her top ranks."
She frowns. "That's just harsh. Who said you were an idiot? If more people had your mindview this place wouldn't be the dregheap it is. Chin up, Norv. You're a good person. Don't beat yourself up like that. Like I said: You decide who you're going to be."
"Also, there's a spider on your shoulder."
The spider from the web you blundered into back at the monastery comes back to torment you as it clambers up your neck in a sudden panic.
I chuckle and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. "I'm not joining your damn cult. But that doesn't mean I can't work alongside you if we share the same goal. Gods in heaven, it seems like all I do is cry. I don't know how you all are strong enough to handle this stuff." >>698841
"Yeah. Maybe. I just… It just feels like it's not a goal I'm actually supposed to reach, y'know? Like every time I think I have a chance to do good, or every time I try to solve a conflict without killing everything goes- wait, what?"
A chill runs down my spine as I feel the spider's legs tickle my neck. I scream, hop back, and reflexively move to swat it away.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
You manage to swipe it off you. It lands at your feet with an audible plop
and scurries into the undergrowth. Violet snickers with amusement.
"Hey, maybe you should try and catch it. Heard those big ones can make for decent pets. Or just feed it to Zunden's cube." She shrugs.
"Anyway. All I'm saying is you shouldn't beat yourself up so much. You're probably one of the few good people in this bitch of a world. Live up to that. Lead by example, even if no one else will. …I'm sorry, I'm not good at motivational talk, am I."
I wander over to the brush where the spider ran and crouched down, looking around for it. I'd never actually thought about keeping anything but a mammal as a pet before, but something tells me I couldn't get a huge spider to listen as easily as rats.
>[1d10]Trying to find the spider to get a better look at it.
I sigh. "Well," I say. "I wouldn't really call myself good
. I've done bad things, just like the rest of us. But even if I'm not good, I still want to do
good, y'know?" I rub my neck. After everyone's encouraging words I thought I'd feel good as new. I do feel a little better, and definitely more motivated, but there's something gnawing at the back of my mind. An emptiness I can't really figure out. Something telling me I'm not good enough. Not strong enough. Telling me that I'm only trying to play pretend.
"No," I assure Violet. "You've helped me as much as anyone. It's nice being told that I'm not being completely stupid and naive, especially since I'm starting to question it myself."Roll #1 3 = 3
"It's not naive to want to do good," she answers. "The big guy is right. Nothing wrong with dreaming a little."
Aurora joins the conversation, taking a break from practicing her swordplay. "I think you should focus more on helping yourself, not others. This place will eat you alive. Sometimes literally."
I crouch down on my stomach and try to get a better look, trying for just a bit longer to search out the spider as I continue the conversation. [1d10]
"That's what everyone seems to think, but that really bothers me. People always looking out for number one seems to me like how you get people like those bandit cannibals. Hell, even they seem to be able to work together, even if it's for a depraved, disgusting purpose."
I sit up and look back at Aurora. "But I'll tell you something. The calmest, safest places I've seen so far? The monastery and that first settlement I keep forgetting the name of. They're both places people are working together to protect. Especially
the monastery. No matter what the motivation was, the way they took in travelers like that without even a second thought, sheltered us, and even fed us from their own stocks? That's the kind of place I want to help make this world, my own weak, sniveling well-being be damned."
I crouch back down in the brush. "It actually kind of bothers me a little that a former member of the monastery doesn't agree. Maybe I have them pegged wrong."Roll #1 10 = 10
You manage to catch the spider before it gets away, finding it futilely trying to hide under a rock. It flips over and curls up, clearly pretending to be dead. Violet cheers quietly.>>698962
"Their own kindness is killing them," she replies distantly. "Everyone goes there because they know they'll get free food and shelter. I've seen some people stay for weeks, even months at a time, leeching off of the monastery's resources, taking advantage of them, and there's nothing the monks can do about it because it goes against their code. I… I don't mean to sound ungrateful. They did so much for me when I needed help. It's a great service they're providing. But they're an outlier, and just about everyone takes advantage of them because of it. I don't know how much longer they can last before some bandit scum gang comes knocking on their door and demanding constant resources from them. That's no way to live. You give someone a hoof, they'll want the whole leg eventually."
I look over the spider, wracking my brain for any info I can glean from just looking at it. If it's the same spider I ran into before then I know it's some kind of orb weaver, but that gives me a huge variety of possibilities to work with.
I set my cage down and dig around in my bag for my quill. Carefully I lift one of its legs to try and get a better look at its pedipalps in hopes of at least getting an idea of its gender. My mouth lifts into a small smile as I try to coax it. The other arthropods I've seen so far have been at least semi-intelligent. Maybe this one is the same?
"Come on, buddy," I whisper. "You're not fooling anyone. It's okay. I don't want to hurt you."
My smile falls as I glance over my shoulder at Aurora. "So you're telling me out of all the people there, they couldn't defend themselves from bandits? Well, maybe say that is the case. That's where adventurers -where heroes
- come in. I've heard stories. It's what they're supposed to do. Still, even without them if enough people did work together to protect their own common interest what can a ragtag group of bandits do? People like that- Well, I have a feeling people like that will always exist. But I also believe with every fiber of my being that they aren't the majority. That, as selfish and greedy as everyone can be, they don't want
to do evil. That they don't want to pillage and murder. To constantly live in fear of being killed on a raid. I truly believe that if someone stoops to that level that they see it as the only option." I shrug. "So we show them there's another option. We make
another option. This place is a waking hell, but it can be better. I've seen it."
I blush and quickly glance back at the spider when I realize that I just dumped a monologue about something I barely even know about. "That's how it looks to me, anyway."
It remains tightly curled up; however, judging by the pedipalps, you can guess it's a male. You also get a much closer look at it; it is a large specimen, almost the size of your hand, with a deep purple coloration with red banded legs. It has a body more akin to that of a tarantula, sans the sensory hairs.
"I'm not talking about small bandit groups, although they could be a problem. It's the big gangs that worry me. Bloody Mummers. Tiger Clan. Even Two Heavens could get a chokehold on them. The monks are pushovers. They don't even carry weapons, apart from whatever guests bring with them. Any of them come knocking on their door, it's game over. I've tried getting them to have some sort of defence, but the High Priest won't allow it.
"But maybe you're right. Maybe someone would come to their defence if they get taken over. Unlikely as it is, it could be, I suppose. ….I guess I'd do my part if that happened. I owe them a lot. If it weren't for the monastery I'd probably rotting in a pauper's grave somewhere." She shrugs. "Part of me wants you to be right. But I don't think it'd happen."
"That's a pretty one," Violet comments as she sees the spider. "I think that's one of those fighting spiders. They raise them for sport over in Braildorn, I think. Completely docile, unless they see another of their species. Then they fight to the death. …I feel like that should be symbolic of something."
"Oh, man. That's actually pretty neat. I really need to pick up some kind of book about the known creatures of this world when we get to Braildorn. I have a lot of general information to work with, but I'm not used to not recognizing something like a spider at a glance." I crouch down and open the door to my cage. I feel like since it's about as big as some of my rats it probably won't be able to get out. "Feeding you could be a problem, but I think I might take you with me." I gently ease it into the cage and lightly run the back of my finger along the side of its abdomen. "You're a handsome boy, aren't you?" I shut the cage and stand back up.
"That's what I'm saying, Aurora. Do you really want to live in a world where you would have been left for dead? Where people are too selfish to care? This isn't Equestria. It doesn't have to take its worst parts, while forgetting about its best."
I sit down on the cage and lean back. "Still, I know I'm a hypocrite for saying so but the monks not wanting to defend themselves would obviously cause problems. There have obviously been a lot of folks sent here, and judging by the fact that places like the Monastery even exist tells me they can't all be bad. Folks like all of you." I sigh again and look up at the sky. "I don't know. Maybe I'm not right, and if I hadn't met the monks or you guys I'm not even sure I'd feel this way, but I did, and I do." I look back towards Aurora and Violet. "Anyway. Enough about that. Don't really think it's going anywhere from here."
I reach into my pack and dig around a bit before finding what I was looking for. A wide grin spreads across my face as I reveal the pack of cards Rosen and Glider tossed me what feels like a lifetime ago. "You guys wanna play some cards while we rest tonight?"
"I mean, we have that bestiary. I think Zunden's holding on to it. I've seen those before though, so I'm just telling you, you'll want to train it, because those things are worth a lot of money. They absolutely do not stop - ever - once they get a whiff of their opponent. They will chase each other for miles and miles. I don't know how they haven't gone extinct, really." She chuckles. "At least give him a name, why don't you." The spoder seems to tense up as you touch it, but as you close the cage you see it unfurl and start wandering around in confusion before poofing out of existence.
Aurora doesn't respond, pensively mulling over your words. You seem to have given her some food for thought. Violet perks up as you pull out the deck of cards. "Sure, I'll play. Got something in particular in mind?"
"Miles? That's actually a little bit unsettling. Was already planning on training him a bit, though. At least as much as I can manage. I don't really have any experience with spiders outside of, y'know. 'Getting rid' of them. As far as the bestiary, it only seems to update under certain conditions. It's useful in certain circumstances, but it doesn't really help me identify something as soon as I run into it."
I flick the top of the cards open and let the deck slide into my hand, removing the two jokers and slipping them back into the box. I flip through them really quick to make sure there aren't any too rough dings in any of the cards, do a quick one handed cut, and an in-hand bridge shuffle to get a feel for them.
I cock my eyebrow and give Violet a sly smirk. "I was thinking low stakes no-limit hold'em. 100 bit buy in with 1-2 bit blinds. After all we grabbed in the tombs I think that might be pocket change for all of us." I clear my throat. "Or, if you want a more casual, non-gambling game we could play some rummy something. It's whatever you guys are comfortable with."
"Maybe I'm exaggerating actually, but point is, they're angry little beasties. I don't think he'd need much training, just plenty of TLC. I mean, as far as you can pet a spider. …I don't know anything about spiders. Don't mind me."
The card deck seems to be in relatively good condition. A couple of them are a bit dogeared, but nothing too bad. It's a perfectly serviceable deck.
Violet thinks for a minute, then pulls out her now-heavy coinpurse. "Sounds good. I've got plenty to go around now, so why not." Aurora watches curiously as Violet flattens some of the tall grass to create a playing space before counting out a large pile of coins and putting it in the middle.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"Well, I'd be lying if I said I wasn't excited to see how it goes." I give the deck another few shuffles before dealing the first hand of the game.
Roll #1 10 = 10
The game only lasts six hands, and after seeing the flop I fold the first couple, making it seem like Violet is winning. I keep a straight face through the next couple of hands, managing to win what I lost back and just a little bit more. On the fifth hand I manage to win off a pair of sixes and a pair of nines. The sixth and final hand is tense. I can sense how confident Violet is in her cards, but I realize how that'll be what does her in.
Ace and king of spades. She raises. I re-raise and she hesitates. She calls and we go to flop. Five of spades. King of hearts. Eight of spades. My heart skips, and I sit back a bit. "Bet," I say, pushing thirty bits into the pot. "Thirty." She called and I flipped the turn. King of diamonds. I look up at her, take the rest of my bits, and put them into the pot. "All in." She calls and I flip the river. Two of spades. I see her face change as she sees it. However subtle, the confidence is gone. I lay my cards down and so does she.
"Flush," I say. She only has three of a kind. Finally I let my face change and give her a huge, shit-eating grin. "Good game," I say, leaning over to slide the pot over to me. "Maybe play again some time. Could be fun to get everyone in on it, actually."
She sucks her teeth in frustration as you beat her fair and square. "Damn. You're good at this. Good game." In her confidence she'd put plenty in, leaving her coinpurse aching. "Hadn't played in forever, to be fair. I'm kind of rusty. But whatever. A loss is a loss." Aurora looks smug.>+200 bits
"I'd be down for that, actually. Not tonight though. I'm getting tired. Be interested to see if the others are as bad as me." She laughs dryly, although you can tell she's a bit sour over the loss.
"I'm not much for card games," Aurora comments, "but I guess I'd give it a go if everyone else will. Wouldn't want to be left out."
Zunden's eyebrow rises slightly as Violet mentions her eye again, turning to her.
"You know, I've been meaning to zay- I could help wizh ze, err… mizzing eye, you know."
Zunden says, holding one of her healing orbs in her claw,
"I wanted to azk zhough, I've met zhoze who refuzed my offer to heal mizzing hoovez and hornz. Eizher it'z got memoriez attached to zhem, or zhey juzt zhink it makez zhem look intimidating."
She sits down, crossing her legs,
"I've heard your ztory, zo I've hezitated azking. I ztill wanted to put ze offer out, zhough."
Man. Always forget how good a game like that feels, even with low stakes. I chuckle and shrug as I load my bits into my bag. "I have a lot of experience. Like a wise gambler once said. 'You gotta know when to hold 'em. Know when to fold'em. Know when to walk away, and know when to run."
I give her a quick wink and pick my pack up just high enough to drag it over beside me. Starting to think I really should make use of Zunden's bag. My pack is getting kind of heavy with all the money I've picked up. Not such a terrible drawback to have, honestly.
"Nah, I understand not tonight. Just some time." I cock an eyebrow and glance over at Aurora. "Well, if you want I can give you a few pointers some time. Not often I'm the one that's in a position to give advice."
After a meager dinner, Violet pulls out her journal and starts making a list. "So, sounds like we have our goals set out then. Get to Braildorn, sell off some of the stuff we got, talk to the wizard there about that sword of yours - what was his name again? - and see about getting to the Dreaming Spring as well. I'm not having any part of it though. In fact I'll probably lay low once we get there. Got some errands to run. We should also check up on Zunden's patient back that the monastery at some point, maybe.
"Did I miss anything? I find it helps to have a list of goals, so if there's anything else you'd like to do now's the time.">>698982
She takes a while to consider your offer, debating whether to accept or not. "…You really think you could pull it off? I get the feeling it wouldn't be an easy fix. ….I guess I trust you to try, at least. Never really crossed my mind to get someone to restore it, but you're welcome to give it a go." She tentatively removes her eyepatch and closes her eye. "Just be careful. If you mess up my other eye we're through.">>698983
"I'm sure you do. Never was any good at it to be honest." She shrugs. "Gotta be good at something I guess."
"Sure, I'd appreciate that," Aurora answers. "I've seen others play, so I know the gist of the game, but I don't think I've ever done it myself.">>698985
"That'd work. We might have to split the party if some of you are going to the Spring while others stay behind."
"Give me one moment to channel my energy, I do want to be az careful az pozzible."
Zunden says, channeling some sunlight energy.>Bask: Mend
"I'd be fine with that. We should be safer anyways, so no reason not to split up a little right?" >>698986https://pastebin.com/UWSrQmgK
"Hey, give Zunden some faith. She's good at what she does, yeah?"
"It iz her face, zhe haz every right to be concerned. My magic iz not ze type to injure when it goez awry, but I do not want to cauze any dizcomfort."
"Sounds good to me," Hermodur says as he finishes his dinner.
"So I guess that means it'd be me and Hermodur going to the spring.">>698987
"Were you going to go with them or come with us?"
"We might as well go with them into town first. We have to resupply anyway."
"Quite right, and given their
task we've been given the short straw, extensive research away from a pleasant hot springs trip." I reply, fanning my face with a wing in mock drama.
"I suppose sacrifices must be made as some
point, grave as they are! At the very least i'll be in good company, correct?"
"I meant after. Just kind of want to know what we're doing ahead of time."
"At the very least, you will. Truly, you are making an incredible sacrifice." he says, laying his hoof on her shoulder supportively.">>698989
"F-Fair enough. You just seem good at what you do."
You focus for a moment and channel the warmth from the healing orb.>>698988
"I'm not saying she isn't," she responds calmly. "She's kept everyone alive so far, hasn't she? I'm just saying it's just a delicate process that could go awry.">>698990>>698991>>698993>>698988
"Okay, so Hermodur and Norv would go north, while the rest stay in Braildorn. What about you, Aurora?"
She thinks. "I'm undecided," she answers. "I guess it depends on how many in each group."
Violet nods and looks back to Zunden. "What about you? Where will you go?"
"I am done with wizh zhoze two creaturez of zhadow. While ze zwamp zhing may not have alwayz been evil, zhey have zince been conzumed by darknezz. I'd razher let zhem bicker to eternity."
Zunden turns to Violet, sending out a soft light towards her.
"I would keep the eyepatch on, for ze time being. Ze new tizzue will be ezpecially zenzative to light for the next few dayz."
[1d10+3] Mend the EyeRoll #1 8 + 3 = 11
"I mean, you know what I want to do. I'm just glad I'm not doing it alone."
"Myself and Rabi will be heading into town to research the guard's sword; The mage Violet mentioned may have an idea as to how we can perform the ritual to reverse the banishment process."
"Meanwhile Norvey is off to the spring to gather the lilies he needs for freeing the spirit from the mire."
"My point being that that seems like a day's worth of research at best. Then, you can come with us."
"At least we can figure out more about it. Maybe, if we can, I can start working on it myself. I'm not much of a talented mage, but I've got some aptitude."
"Hmm.. that would depend on how quickly Norvey wanted to visit the springs. If everypony was willing to help then that would work out quite nicely."
"If he's in quite the hurry we could simply divide and conquer as the plan called for."
"I'm not really in that big of a hurry. Can't say I want to pass up the chance to relax a little in the city "most like home", and I didn't expect anyone to go along with me to begin with, so I can wait a bit."
"Understandable. I'm staying out of it as well. It's only going to lead to bad news."
She doesn't move a muscle as you begin to cast the mending spell, regenerating her eye slowly but surely, focusing entirely on the spell, shutting out any outside interference. When you are finished, you find that the spell did not quite work as intended; instead of her natural purple eye color, her new eye is a deep emerald hue. She flinches and blinks a few times, adjusting to her new eye, looking up at the night sky, lost for words. "…Wow. This is weird. I forgot what depth perception was like." She laughs and keeps looking around, then flinches as she looks into the fire, quickly covering her eye up with the patch again. "Thank you, Zunden. I'll never forget this.">>698998>>699000
"In that case, I'm going with them," says Aurora. "They might need someone that can patch them up.">>698997>>698998>>698999>>699000>>699002
"Then it's decided. After we get settled, Norv, Hermodur and Aurora can go on their excursion, while the rest of you see about dealing with that mage. Now let's get to bed. It's a few days march from here to Braildorn, so we'll want to get up early."
You wake the next morning and have a hearty breakfast before heading out towards Braildorn, aided by Silver's compass. It isn't long before you find a proper dirt and cobble road cutting through the wilderness.
The next day is rather uneventful. Walking, walking and more walking. You don't meet anyone out on the roads, apart from the occasional wandering creature. That night, you see Prowlers stalking about nearby, but they make no attempt to attack you.
The following day is much the same; however, you make note of your dwindling food supplies, having only just enough to reach Braildorn by tomorrow. Violet manages to scrounge some fruits and nuts, but it's not much.
At about lunchtime, you come across a river cutting across a woodland area, with a bridge allowing for safe passage. However, the path is blocked by a group of four mean-looking Diamond Dogs carrying weapons and wearing black tunics. One of them puts his hand out, blocking your path. "Can't cross here without paying the toll," he sneers.
Violet looks indignant. "What's this place coming. to. Says who?"
"Skylord Lysander. He owns these parts. He hired us to guard it from drifters like you lot. Now pay up. 50 bits a head."
"50 bits?! That's outrageous!" She looks to you indignantly. "You think we should find another way across or what?"
You find yourself in a grim, dimly lit room. The view from the nearby barred window shows you a starry night, with a cold and bitter wind blowing through. You seem to be in a castle, presumably claimed by Ailuros' continued conquest, although you do not know which or where.
Your attention is drawn to a roughly hewn stone table, with a map of the Dominion unfurled. It seems to be a strategic map, judging from the stone icons depicting different figures placed across it. Ailuros herself sits at the head of this table, looking elegant yet troubled. She is not alone; you see several figures sitting with her, most of which you recognize from your time spent with her:
At her left side is Sir Hanuman Mergen, a salty old knight of a donkey. A renowned war veteran in Equestria, you know him to have become increasingly disillusioned with the state of affairs in his homeland and thus has pledged himself to Ailuros, not out of faith in her divinity but faith that her rule will be the best thing for the kingdom. He is clad in red and black finery that indicates his new allegiances.
On her right is a rather unwelcome sight: a tall griffon with a face like a barn owl, proudly clutching a sleek black spear. Minerva, as you know her, was a constant annoyance to you, a loud-mouthed firebrand who often clashed with you in hopes to gain Ailuros' attention. In your absence, her position would suggest she has replaced you as Ailuros' right hand and personal bodyguard and enforcer.
Next to Minerva sits Lord Anansi Bluetongue, a saurian with a face not unlike that of a skink. Similar to Sir Hanuman, Lord Bluetongue was a well-connected noble who has, unknown to most of the Equestrian elite, pledged allegiance to Ailuros, believing her victory to be inevitable. As Ailuros' spymaster, his connections have led to him forming a network of spies, both willing and unknowing of his true nature, which has led to many calling him 'The Spider'. You have always found him to be a rather unsavory character, but he has proven himself useful thus far.
Finally, across from Lord Bluetongue sits the Fire Witch who you have seen already, although you do not know her name yet. She is dressed in a beautiful scarlet robe and is now wearing a mask of some sort made of interlinked pieces of wood. Her mane is bright red and flows freely down her back, while her eyes are a fiery orange.
The five of them seem to be discussing their next plan of action, although having joined their meeting midway some of the context is lost to you. Many of the names thrown around mean little to you.
"-and winter is almost upon us, Your Grace." Hanuman sounds a little older and more gruff since last you heard him. "Taking the Western March now would lead to disaster. We would get frozen in place and starve."
"Then what would you have me do, general? Sit here and wait?" She sounds impatient. "We've been holed up here for far too long as it is. We need to move or we'll freeze no matter what. …What about Harridan Hill? Could we take that?"
He shakes his head firmly. "Too heavily guarded. You would survive, sure, but the garrison there would crush what's left of us."
"If I may, Your Grace." Anansi speaks up, looking up from rifling through a series of parchments. "My little birds tell me Harridan Hill is not completely unimpregnable. There may be an architectural flaw, you see, oft overlooked. If what I am reading is true, it could allow you discreet access to the fort. If it pleases you, I could try and glean more information on it…?"
"You don't have to ask me for that, spider," she snaps. "Do your job. Investigate. If there is a weakness, I need to know more about it. Where it is, when it's available, how many know about it, everything." She turns back to Hanuman as Anansi nods sagely and starts penning a letter. "What do you know about Harridan Hill, general? Work with me here."
"…Well, it's fiercely protected. Owned by the Barrows… no, wait, the Sable family." Anansi nods in confirmation without looking up. "And the Sables are deep in agriculture and military investment," he continues, "so it might not be easy fighting them over their resources. They have the numerical advantage over us, for one. Maybe we could negotiate with them?"
"A trade, or a surrender? Both are doubtful if what you say is true. They will be hard to crack."
"Send me!" Minerva butts in. "I will form a team and infiltrate the castle for you, my lady. Their numbers will mean nothing if we take them by surprise!"
Ailuros mulls this over. "That could work. I'll keep that in mind. …Now, what are our other options?"
Hanuman hesitates before pointing out an island in the middle of a lake. "Sun's Eye. It's uninhabited, so it could make for a good base of operations for the time being-"
"General!" she barks. "I need progress. We've been stagnating long enough as it is. If we camp at every sightseeing opportunity, we'll all be dead come winter. We need to move south. Fast. If the Western March is out of the question, then the only option I see is dealing with the garrison at Harridan Hill."
"Might I suggest an infiltration mission, Your Grace, rather than overt bloodshed?" Anansi finishes his letter and clasps his clawed hands diplomatically. "If one, maybe more, of our agents could sneak in unawares, they could sabotage Harridan Hill from the inside."
Ailuros thinks, then nods slightly. "There's an idea. I'll need a bit of time to think about our next course of action. Dismissed."
Almost robotically, her inner circle start filing out one by one, bidding Ailuros farewell - all except the Fire Witch, who stays behind. Ailuros gives her a quizzical look. "Something on your mind, Kamui?"
"Yes, Your Grace." She has a deep, smooth voice. "It is about the other adherents of my old faith. I have been speaking with them of late, and they say the flames have… have told of disaster in your future. Disaster that can be averted."
Ailuros looks worried. "And what have the flames told you?"
"I see nothing but snow in them, Your Grace."
There is an uncomfortable silence, then Kamui speaks again. "They also believe that the only way to avert certain disaster is to… to have another sacrifice.It is an ancient ritual to set alight one of powerful blood as an offering, but this wouldn't be one to the goddesses, but to you, the one true goddess."
Ailuros looks outraged, bristling with indignance at the suggestion. "No! Absolutely not! How dare you suggest such a thing. That is heresy."
"Your Grace, I-"
"ENOUGH." Ailuros' body courses with magical energy as she rears herself up to her full height, towering over the Fire Witch. "That is digusting. I will have no burnings. Tell your sisters to pray harder."
"…Yes, Your Grace."
Another pregnant pause.
"Do you have something else to say, Kamui?"
"…There is someone here. I can feel them. Someone is spying…"
Confused, Ailuros follows Kamui's gaze as the two of them stare right through you to the wall behind.
All of a sudden, you jolt awake, finding yourself back on your uncomfortable bedroll. The moon hangs over you portentously. it is some time before you can go back to sleep, your mind racing with all the information you just received.
Rabi goes to speak up, but thinks better of it- he looks to Silver to see if she's got a better way with words.
They could sense him! It's all Hermodur can think about, both in his sleep and in his wakeful hours in the night. They could sense him. If he could find a way to communicate with them, then he might be able to help them. Or they might be able to help him. Or both.
Any sort of communication with his beloved goddess would make him ecstatic.>>699005
Hermodur simply crosses his arms and frowns at the highwaymen. He has other things on his mind.
"Now Violet, lets not be too quick to give up." i chastise the newly-bi-ocular mare, moving around her to approach the four dogs.
"Let me see what i can do."
Making my way over to the guards, i clear my throat to get their attention.
"'Drifters'? Why, you haven't received the news?" I ask, covering my muzzle with a wing in feigned surprise.
"Doubtless it was your distance from the messengers, out here on this remote bridge!"
"We were sent ahead as Envoys for Ironwood; There was talk of expanding Lysander's territory to the village, and we were tasked with making the trek to a meeting in Braildorn."
"It's of the upmost importance we reach the city as soon as possible, to move forward with the deal, and i'm sure The Skylord would hate to be delayed due to his own guards, correct?" I ask, raising an eyebrow.
[1d10+2] PersuasionRoll #1 7 + 2 = 9
Zunden again raises an eyebrow at the different colored eye, but sighs in relief that it went okay.
"I'm glad I could help, Violet, I conzider it my plaze in ze world to help ozherz. Keep in mind zhat iz not ze zame eye zhat waz lozt earlier, I couldn't reztore zomething that wazn't zhere."
Zunden says, offering a silver piece of jewelry to use as a mirror.>>699005
Zuden lets Violet work her charm, but whispers to Violet in the meantime,
"It iz not like we are hurting on ze gold at ze moment."
I back up a little, standing behind everyone else in case things start to go south. Probably better to let the others do the talking.
She examines her new eye in the makeshift mirror. "Huh. Green. Wonder if I can get a wizard to change that back…" >>699012
"Well yeah," she whispers back, "but I don't want to give any to these goons. Never even heard of this Lysander guy.">>699011
"Ironbrook? That's quite a while away. Near the coast, isn't it?" The group exchange a look and huddle together and discuss something in hushed tones before turning back to you.>>699009>>699010>>699011>>699012>>699013
"Our mistake," the lead Dog says with a sheepish grin. "Must've missed the memo. Sorry about the holdup. Go on through."
"I can't believe that worked," Aurora remarks as soon as you're out of earshot. "Those guys must've really been dense. Good work, Silver." Violet stays silent, contemplating the encounter.
You continue along the road, passing through the woodlands and continuing on your way. The rest of the day passes with no further incident. In the late afternoon, you arrive at what seems to be a lake at first glance, but on closer inspection turns out to be a truly enormous river, spanning as far as the eye can see, splitting the land in two. Built on the river's shore is what must be the beating heart of the Echoes, the sprawling town of Braildorn.
Most of it is built of wood, with the exception of thick stone walls that run across its perimeter. What immediately strikes you is the unique design of the place; while a portion of it reaches out to land, the majority of Braildorn is built on the lake itself, propped up by sturdy wooden structures. Many of the buildings have distinctive red conical roofs, and at several intervals, spiraling towers can be seen jutting out amidst the skyline. One detail that catches your attention is what looks like a floating house tethered to one such spire, suspended by a huge hot air balloon. The smell of fresh fish can be felt on the wind even from afar.
"Well, there it is. Braildorn. Haven't seen it in a while. Wonder what's changed," Violet remarks. She stops for a minute to admire the view before continuing on, reaching one of the main gates. As you go down, you notice a few farmsteads in the distance, as well as guard outposts at several intervals. The guards around here seem to wear a more alborate variant the same black uniforms as the Dogs you encountered, with the addition of some armor.
You are greeted at the gates by one such guard, a beige earth pony with a droopy eyelid. He looks up from reading a book and surveys the lot of you. "Gudday, drifters. What brings you to Braildorn? First time visit?"
"Not my first time. I know the drill." Violet steps up. "Violet Moon. Here to trade some wares. And run some errands." The guard nods and jots it down in a nearby ledger. "And what about the rest of you? Name and business, please."
"Zunden. Here also to trade zome itemz and have ozherz appraized."
Zunden says to the bookkeeper
"Norvegicus Black. Wanted to trade some stuff and buy some stuff."
"Hermodur," is all he says with his arms crossed. His size, weapon, and stance should tell the story.
Thanking the guards as we pass, i continue down the path with a spring in my step, stifling a laugh once out of earshot.
"Ohoho, you're too kind, Aurora. Even out here a mare of refinement can charm her way anywhere." i reply, chest puffed up with confidence.
Approaching this new guard, i bow with a flourish of a wing.
"Good day sir guard. I am Silver Song, here to see the local wizard. I've a few questions i was meaning to ask, hopeful he may have some answers."
Rabi offers a thankful headbob, and follows along with the others.>>699018
"Well, that was some fancy wordplay, Silver. Good job!" he says, grinning a little
"Rabi. Here to see the wizard, as well. Nothing too serious."
"Oh it was nothing, really, but thank you." i reply, blushing lightly.
"To be honest, i wasn't quite sure it would work, but i'm glad we made it all the same."
He frowns. "Huh. Wouldn't 'ave pinged you for the merchant type." He jots you down anyway.>>699017
"Hermodur what?" He just stares at you cluelessly for a moment before shrugging and writing you down as 'sightseer'. He doesn't seem to care much.>>699018>>699020
"Hm? Oh, you mean Fumblemore. I wouldn't go there if I was you. He's been more… explosive than usual lately. Gods know what he does up there." He writes you both down in the book.>>699015>>699016>>699017>>699018>>699019
"And what about you then ma'am?" He turns to Aurora.
"Aurora. Just Aurora. Here on personal business." The guard nods and puts her name down as 'Aurora Justaurora.'
"Alright then. Lemme just get the gate open…" He vanishes through a door behind him, and you hear him fumbling with several locks and bars before the large wooden gate swings open. "Alright, in you go. Don't go causing trouble, y'hear?" With that, he closes the gates behind you, leaving you to explore Braildorn.
You can see that the city is thriving with activity, feeling more like a city back home than anything else you've encountered so far. Citizens of various shapes and sizes bustle through the narrow wooden streets, while further in from where you are you can see a thriving marketplace. The smell of fish is strong in Braildorn; it seems to be a prime export given the location of the town. Violet informs you you are currently in Braildorn's market district, one of the more affluent parts of town. You can see that without proper guidance, it will be easy to get lost in Braildorn. "Perhaps we could find some sort of map somwhere around here," Aurora suggests, taking in the sight of the thriving town.
"Well, first things first, we should sort out accommodation," says Violet, "unless you fancy squatting in the Downs with the other bums. I'm not too familiar with this part of town, so we might have to look for an inn or anything really that can get us directions. See if we can rent some rooms, and all that. Also, figure out how to get to your wizard. Unless you want to try and unload all these goods first? Up to you."
"Hmm.. Finding a place to stay would be a good start, if only to base our trips around."
"Though where to begin? should we ask around, or trot along for a time?"
"Wow, nice place," Hermodur comments as he looks around. His tone is a combination of impressed and surprised.
"Oh, I see," he says as things click. "Security is so tight because we're in a literal jail. And this place is nice. Right," he says almost forlornly.>>699018
"Well, I believe I will accompany you to this wizard to have my scroll appraised."
"Finding a place to stay, and maybe a good map or set of directions would be my suggestions."
"As you'd like, Hermodur, though given the guard's statement i'm concerned he may be less helpful than we thought.."
"..Do you think Rabi would be able to read it? As i understand He has some knowledge in the arcane, perhaps that may be enough to discern the contents."
"I think I want to get someone to appraise some of this stuff. Also want to find someone who might be able to get me a new poison sprayer. There have been a couple situations where I wish I still had my old one." I glance over at Violet. "Know where I might find something like that? Or where I could find someone to maybe make one?"
"'Explosive' sounds perfectly acceptable for a wizard to me.">>699026
"Well, are you able to make anything of this scroll?" Hermodur asks as he pulls the scroll out of a pocket and hands it to Rabi.
"Many yearz of my life I offered homez to thievez and bumz, I am not above zhem if zhat'z an izzue."
Zunden says, shrugging,
"Knowing my patronz, I might even meet zomeone I houzed back in Equeztria."
"Yeah, I can make an attempt." he says, looking the scroll over.>Inspect: [1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
"I don't think it'd take everyone to find a place to stay, so it couldn't hurt to split up now, right?">>699030
"I think it was supposed to be a joke, but yeah. I know what it's like too." I knit my brow and stare at the ground, lost in thought for a moment. "Actually, I think I might want to stop by there before we leave."
[1d10] what are the oddsRoll #1 2 = 2
"Correct, though i'd much rather have my belongings secured before
wandering the streets than risking the potential pickpocket."
"If You're not as concerned then feel free to explore; If we get lost we could always check back here." i finish, gesturing to the market around us with a hoof."
"Actually, I guess that makes sense. We probably should find a place to begin with, then."
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Doing my best to remember which way is back to the markets, i set off in search for an Inn.
"Do remember to meet back here if you find something, everypony!"
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 6 = 6
What Silver said. That, and we'll all pick the same place regardless of where we go."
"Can't hurt to look around, I guess," she shrugs. She begins to do just that, examining the many buildings but never straying far from the party. Aurora follows suit, trailing idly behind her.>>699025
"…Right. That's exactly why," the guard says before hobbling off, giving you a funny look.>>699028
"Hmm… I think there's a craftsman somewhere in this district. Or maybe it was the Grey Gardens district." She touches her chin trying to think. "I can't remember, sorry. You'd have to ask one of the locals.">>699030>>699033
"Yeah, maybe," Violet shrugs. "I just hope you don't meet them in the Downs, else they wouldn't even be able to catch a break here of all places.">>699031
You examine the magical scroll, the runes on it glowing in response to your innate magical attunement. After some probing, you manage to discern that this is in fact a scroll that allows for a one-time use of the Haste spell.>Haste: recharge 4 after effect ends, spell; For the next two turns, you and all allies can use a second normal action, excluding Haste.>>699035>>699036
You split off from the party and go further into Braildorn, towards the market district. It is jam-packed with the town's denizens at this hour, moving from tent to colorful tent looking to buy, sell and trade all manner of goods, ranging from food to magical curios to arms and armor, and even live animals, most of which look alien to you. You think you spot Rosen and Gilder among the crowd, but they move too quickly to be sure.
Eventually, you push past the market square and move more towards the properly established shops, where more specialized goods are sold. Among these, you spot three options for accommodation:
The first is a rickety old flophouse built rather like a castle watchtower, only out of wood. They don't seem to serve food, but offer cheap, and probably uncomfortable, boarding.
The second is a humble little inn offering food and drink, as well as boarding. While a step up in quality from the flophouse, it seems to you that you would only be able to stay for a limited time.
The third is a more lavish boarding house, offering food and drink along with accommodation, promising what amount to apartments for sale. However, this seems more designed for long term or even permanent residence, and would dig deep into your pockets.
The flophouse you come across goes by the name of Crippled Hubert's, while the inn has an elaborate sign naming it the Old Familiar, with a black cat carved above its doorway. The boarding house boasts no name.
>>699038>Bask: Healing Bonds
Zunden bites a lip, thinking about what Violet says,
"Zhat iz… very true. I don't want to zettle down like I did when I came to Equeztria. I can do more zhan help ze zame people day after day."
She scratches her cheek with one of her claws,
"Perhapz I'll find zhat mage inztead."
"Oh, good," Hermodur says as he takes the scroll back from Rabi. "Now, I don't have to get a wizard to look at it."
"So, I suppose I'll go take a look at this inn," he says as he wanders toward it.
"Looks like it's a Scroll of Haste. It does exactly what you think it'd do. Like any scroll, it's one-time only, so use it carefully. Anywho, time to make for an inn, yeah?"
"Hmm.. Given we won't be here for long and we've money to spare i say we should check with this 'Old Familiar', Right?"
I rub the back of my neck as I consider my options. "Well, I think the boarding house is our of the question. I'd like to actually be comfortable now that we're not camping out, too, so yeah. I'd say that's our best choice."
"Sounds like a good idea, yeah."
"Sounds like a plan," says Violet. "Think I've been to this one before. Decent place." Aurora just shrugs and follows along.
As you make your way towards the inn, you hear what sounds like a distant explosion coming from the floating house you saw before. The ground rumbles for a moment, but it passes as quickly as it came. No one seems perturbed by this sudden event, Violet included.
You approach the Old Familiar. It is a large, respectable-looking inn, two stories high and made primarily of hardwood, with a chimney and a red tiled roof. You can hear lively music and the idle chatter and laughter of patrons from inside. "Oh, by the way," Violet says before entering. "It should go without saying, but these places can get a little rough. So try not to draw attention, hide your moneybags and don't cause a ruckus. Oh, and don't stare."https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FnCSjTPcWn0
The interior is bustling with activity, even this early in the evening. It is large and spacious, decorated with tasteful still life paintings and suits of armor. A merry blaze crackles in a nearby fireplace, with a fat black cat curled up fast asleep nearby despite the noise. You can see several groups of patrons drinking and merrymaking all around, with attendants flitting back and forth like bees. One corner is set up for a live band, piano and all; a fancy-looking Diamond Dog is playing acoustic guitar to an audience currently. A set of rickety stairs leads to the rooms above, as well as a balcony area where a few barflies are watching the performance from. Overall, the difference between the Old Familiar and the glum, nameless inn you stayed at in Ironbrook is night and day.
As you enter, one of the staff almost bumps into you, a harrowed-looking mare with her hair in a bun carrying a huge platter of seafood. "Oh! Sorry! I'll be with you in a minute!" You watch as she delivers the platter to an eager table of griffons and bustles back over to you, wiping her hooves absent-mindedly on her apron, smiling sheepishly. "Sorry about that. What can I get for you?"
meant to quote >>699040
as well in that reply>>699040
"Well, if everyone's going then I might as well go say hi," Violet shrugs. "Haven't seen him in a while."
Zunden stuffs the bag of holding into the front of her robe, heeding Violet's advice.
"I have zeen plenty
of roughhouzing, it won't be anyzhing new to me."
"Quite alright, not to worry." i reply, waving off her concern.
"I am Silver Song, pleasure to meet you. My companions and I were hoping to book a room or two for our stay, no more than a few days at most." i finish, gesturing with a wing to the assembled group.
Hermodur simply nods as he is gestured to, then surveys the room to see if there's anyone who might be more of a threat than the others.
[1d10] for perceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
"How many rooms do you have to spare? We could probably bunch up in a couple, if you can't spare more rooms."
I step back as the mare almost bumps me, trying to steer clear of everyone by staying behind the party. I swallow and look around the inn. I did want to ask about where a couple of things were, but she looks busy so maybe I'll hold off.
You take a look around at the clientele. They are an eclectic group, most of them looking surprisingly savory for convicts. There are a group of Breezies in an alcove all clustering around one glass of red wine, while in another a bat pony, a minotaur and a Diamond Dog are arguing over a poker game. Near the fireplace, a pony couple, clearly drunk, have started dancing clumsily to the music, much to the cat's chagrin. On the top balcony, a trio of snootish-looking unicorns are discussing something over champagne flutes, and at the far end of the bar is a lone elderly saurian smoking a pipe and reading a book. Overall, it doesn't seem like anyone's looking for trouble.>>699048>>699049>>699050>>699051>>699052
"Rooms? Certainly. Just a moment." She sees another staff member going past, an adolescent hippogriff, and she gets his attention and says something to him indistinctly. The hippogriff nods and seems to take over her duties tending the tables. The barmaid leads you over to the bar, and starts going through a notebook. "Hm… Yes, we have a double room available for you all. Number 9, upstairs. For all of you, it'd be… Hm… 105 bits a night. Will that work?"
You agree to the price.
"Excellent!" She collects your payment and takes down your names one by one, then leads you upstairs to Room 9, unlocking it with a skeleton key.
The room is quite large, clearly meant for adventuring groups such as yourselves. It has 3 beds, large enough to fit two of you, as well as a couch that can expand to form a makeshift bed. It is decorated with blue and white china on the dressers, as well as a painting depicting a severe-looking Felid noblewoman. At the foot of each bed is a large trunk to store your belongings.
Once she's finished showing you around, the barmaid, whose name is Chardonnay, hands you a small brass key to the room. "Now then, is there anything else I can do for you? Food, drink?"
I speak up. "I was going to go out for a bit. I was wondering, do you know if there's a craftsman somewhere around here?"
"Who is that?" Hermodur asks the barmaid, pointing to the portrait of the Felid.
on thing, if you wouldn't mind."
"You see, I've plans to meet with Fumblemore, the wizard presumably causing the explosions from earlier, and i'd love some directions to reach his tower. Having Arrived recently I'm afraid i'd be woefully lost past the Inn's door here."
"Yez, I zhink I'd like to offload zome itemz found on our travelz zo zhat I can get zome more bitz to zpend here."
Zunden says, pulling down her bandana and speaking in a low tone, not wishing to announce any sort of wealth to the tavern,
"Iz zhere a jeweler or pawn zhat you'd recommend to get ze mozt bitz for my treazurez? Ze more I can make, ze more I can zpend here of courze."
Zunden winks, offering a sly grin.
"Oh, yeah, I guess that'd be something I'd need, too."
"Yeah, we wanted to do a bit of research. Is he nearby? Does he take visitors?"