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/q/ - Quest

ADVENTURE!
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File: 1552439379232.jpg (262.88 KB, 1371x857, 1552132879519.jpg)

 No.713499[Last 50 Posts]

Last time on TPW…

After entering the town of Gladiolus, the party accompanied the traveling performer troupe to the town's castle, where they secured a meeting with the Sage of the Marsh herself, an old mare by the name of Peat. Peat, upon hearing the news of what Lugh and his underlings had done, was furious, but not surprised, as this was only the latest in a series of crimes committed by druids.

Peat confided that she and the other sage had known for some time of an extremist faction within the druids, who resented the presence of foreigners on Albion, and of the destruction of the land that came as a result of icreasing idustrialization. Said industrializaton was a direct result of foreign businesses coming to Albion to set up shop, buy up land and resources that had once been wilderness and bountiful nature. Peat pledged to investigate these extremists and warn the other Sages of their activities, so that the other three Treasures of Albion could be kept safe.

 No.713500

>Sirocco
>Pippali
"Until this year, there was hardly a need to even acknowledge the issue," Peat continues. "The Druids did their work, and we Sages did ours. Only recently have there been any reports of violence by Druids against foreigners and their property. All these so-called 'extremists' ever did was grumble and mull over their grievances, so I at least never saw much point in trying to police their attitudes. I would imagine that there had to be some kind of inciting incident for them to go from griping and whining to actually acting on their views and terrorizing foreigners. Based on what they're so concerned about, perhaps some kind of environmental disaster?"

As Sirocco brings up where the Bell ought to go, Peat takes another drag on her cigarette, nearly burning it out. "…Here wouldn't be the best option. Ordinarily, the Bell is kept in a special vault in this castle. I may as well tell you, since it's clearly been compromised. The vault has physical and magical locking mechanisms that involve extensive knowledge of manipulating and releasing powerful Runes. It's also sturdy enough to withstand brute force attacks, and enchanted to prevent someone just teleporting in and out. That narrows down the list of potential thieves greatly, but that's still about 50 people. And, without knowing how they got in without alerting anyone, it's possible that they could just break into the Vault again and steal the Bell once more.

"We have another, backup hiding spot, one that I can't tell you about. If you were to find it, I can give my word that I will turn over all other duties to my assistants and spend as much time as needed guarding it personally. That's how severe this problem is."

>You can roll to gauge her intentions if she seems suspicious.


>Soft Talon

>Communion
"What do I care?" Peat asks bluntly. "Technological progress can't be stopped – especially that which provides convenience. He's got the right idea," she says, gesturing to Soft. "Let the people have what they want; you certainly won't be able to turn them away from it by warning about the danger to the environment. In the end, the people won't care, and there's a tidy profit to be made by bringing it in – not just to the investors, but to us, the Sages."

"As for these extremists, they need to be stopped. Doesn't matter by whom, foreigner or no. As I said, I'll write to the other Sages. Maybe word of the Bell getting stolen will actually knock some sense into them and get them to crack down on their people. In exchange, however, this information about the Bell is not to be let loose to the general public. We Sages will deal with this quietly. We have an image to think about, you know."

 No.713501

>>713500
"I understand. Especially with the potential for being, well… compromised, talking about this second location could defeat the purpose of it entirely. As far as the druids' hostility go… have you heard of any big events recently? We haven't been travelling long enough to hear about any environmental disasters… though, we did run into some quite far-displaced gobbeetles." the zebra notes, stroking his chin in thought.

 No.713502

>>713501
https://pastebin.com/XaEsRSrE one thousand curses upon me for forgetting my sheet again

 No.713503

>>713500
https://pastebin.com/9Cuj90K3

Sirocco raises an eyebrow at peat, and tilts her head for a moment. "Well, if it's that well hidden, and we don't even have any clues, then it might be hard to find, but I'll keep that in mind. If we find the bell, but not the hiding spot, we'll keep it safe until we can return to you at the end of our journey. For the time being, though, we'll just do our best to stop whatever those numbskull extremists are doing." The pegasus smiles, and gives Peat a reassuring wink.

>>713501
"Mhm, if you remember, those were moved there by presumably the same folks. I think Peat's dealing with figuring out who did it. I assume we'll see more like that along the way."

 No.713505

https://pastebin.com/nqiQZSRm

>>713500
Communion nods. "So it really is just about profit. The people don't matter, the environment doesn't matter, just whatever can line your pockets." She doesn't sound surprised. "A backup hiding spot seems pretty pointless too. If the first one was compromised, what's to keep it from getting swiped from under your nose a second time? Not that it matters, the rogue druids are probably having a heyday with the bell right now anyway." The part of her still in possession of the bell shifts ever-so-slightly. The part of her talking to the sage taps her hoof impatiently. "Is there any way to tell how many of these druids there are, or how powerful their faction is? Is it a knitting circle, or an army?"

 No.713506

>>713505
"I'm sorry, what? Technology is good, and she said she doesn't care because you can't change what the people want, and that money is something nice on top. Regardless, considering what they've done so far, it's got to be rather expansive."

 No.713507

>>713501
Peat puts out the cigarette and lights up another, earning a disapproving scowl from one of the guards. "The most severe of the incidents – at least, those I've heard of – occured five days ago, in Squill, one of the biggest cities in Albion and one that has attracted a good deal of merchants from across the world in recent years, especially with the introduction of magitech. Someone allegedly sabotaged one of the major magitech production factories, resulting in a equipment failure and structural collapse that wounded over a dozen workers. They haven't caught the perpetrator, but the investigation's still ongoing.

"That alone is bad enough, but I'm concerned what it portends for the future. The next major city along the Pilgrim's Way, a mountain town by the name of Eyebright, is getting its own start with magitech investors. The investors have stepped up mining expeditions in Eyebright's mountain caves for precious stones used in the production of magitech cores. If the druids were behind the sabotage in Squill, then Eyebright's mines are probably the next target. I'll pen a letter ahead to the authorities there.

>>713503
"You have my thanks, pilgrims. I assume that you'll still be continuing your journey through Albion? If you do, please be careful on your way. The road north, as I alluded to earlier, heads into the Valley of Hungry Spirits, which is full of monsters and – as the name might suggest – spirits. Our trappers do a fairly good job of keeping the monster populations in check, but every now and again there are outbreaks or incidents with poachers and thieves, as you saw with the gobbeetle incident. Last year, two pilgrims died in the Valley due to monster attacks. Please make sure to stock up on supplies before you go. Oh, and if you come across any Wild Magic, keep a clear path from it."

"Oh, and if you see or hear anything about these druids, you have my permission to do whatever's necessary to stop them! Violence, coercion, it doesn't matter to me. I have no more patience for these buffoons who bring shame upon the Druid caste and attack innocent travlers. If the other Sages get in your way, tell 'em I sent you."

>>713505
Peat twists her mouth as you rant, but at the end, it turns into a begrudging smirk. "You're a sassy one, aren't you? Unfortunately with extremists, there's no way to tell who believes what, or who's going to lie and say they believe one thing when in reality they believe another. But if they're feeling bold enough to commit these crimes against Albion and her guests from around the world, they probably have enough numbers to back up their claims. I'll give a summons to all Druids in my authority and question them myself. I can't guarantee I'll catch them, but I'll do my part to put a stop to them. Goodness knows that we Sages should have stopped this long ago, but hindsight is 20/20. But as I said, if you catch any of these bastards, make an example of them for the rest of their cowardly allies."

 No.713508

>>713507
"We could make our way there, as well- if we know about it being a possibility, we might as well try to stop it. Especially if the last incident was so bad it wounded 12." the stallion says, frowning a little. "It'd be good to keep people out of the mines until we find out if someone dangerous is about. Getting trapped in a cave-in could be devastating."

 No.713509

>>713507
"Of course, we'll be careful as always. A few monsters shouldn't be an issue for us." Sirocco smugly states, her wings puffing out a little as she sits on the floor. "If Eyebright's along the way, I'd be happy to check it out, and make sure they're doing alright. Though… I can't say I've heard of wild magic. What, exactly, is it?"

 No.713510

>>713508
I idly tap my chin."Would we end up hunting these druids down as time goes on, or at least ending up in more confrontations. Would there be a better way to stop the group from committing crimes?" I ask Pippali. "Just seems like a whole lot of trouble."

 No.713511

>>713506
Communion cocks an eyebrow at Siro. "Not everybody wants everything that technology brings. There's obviously a strong undercurrent of resistance, which indicates that the debate needs to be had." She shrugs. "It obviously doesn't matter to the ones making the profit. The golden rule, right? Whoever has the gold makes the rules."

>>713507
"Not that I sympathize with their methods. Attacking the innocent is disgusting. We must put an end to the violence before any debate about their position is possible. But if they really do have these kinds of numbers, that's a significant portion of your population that feels unhappy enough to rise up. You could be in a more precarious position than you realize." The goo-pony taps her chin. "Have these druids ever tried to reach out and contact you with demands, anything like that?"

 No.713512

>>713511
"The only undercurrent is by racist extremists. I think the majority doesn't mind the convenience of technology. Regardless, it's not who has the gold, but who is more wanted."

 No.713513

>>713510
"I think we need to get a good idea of where they are first, then we can become more active in hunting them."

 No.713514

>>713509
>>713508
"Indeed. Eyebright represents a key opportunity to catch at least some of these extremists. It's a four day journey from here to there by hoof. The next pilgrimage Station is at a monastery which serves as a midpoint between Gladiolus and Eyebright. Haggis told me about the defacing of the other Stations in her letter. The monks who live at the monastery should be able to tell you more about the Druids and whatever they've been up to."

>>713509
"Wild Magic is a phenomenon when Aether enters our world from the Sidhe and gets a bad attitude," Peat explains. "Aether is a form of magical energy, unpredictable and chaotic, hence the name Wild Magic. They tend to look like Breezies, but as far as I know there's no relation.

"Wild Magic might cause spacial distortions, mutate the environment, or they might possess a discarded suit of armor or skeleton and walk about causing trouble. Wild Magic is actually the basis for a lot of fairy-tales involving fairies or other supernatural entities that whisk away people into the wilderness or put curses on people they don't like. If you encounter some, they'll probably shake you down for offerings. Generally they'll bugger off if you give them a few coins or treats, but they can become very dangerous if you don't have the item they demand from you. That's when the trouble starts. So if possible, try to avoid them."

>>713510
>>713511
"No, they haven't," Peat answers with a frown. "Believe me, I wish they had. I'd prefer to broker a deal than have to worry about them lurking among us, but it seems they're confident enough to get right to the fighting instead of opting for diplomacy. Hell, if you run across any of them who are at least halfway sane, ask if they've got demands! The gods know I'd prefer to pay a ransom than see anyone else get hurt. But if they choose the path of violence, I will crush them without a second thought."

 No.713515

>>713511
>>713512
"Though, let's save this for another day. I'd hate to argue in front of Miss Peat."

>>713514
Sirocco nods along with Peat's explanation, and ruffles her feathers as she finishes speaking. "Sounds like a plan to me. I must say, though: wild magic seems quite… interesting. I'll have to read up on it a bit more sometime! Thank you for the advice, miss!"

 No.713516

>>713514
"Right. So, ask the monks, and see about finding more extremists at Eyebright. Hopefully, we can find one who's less zealous about Lugh, and get more than just a name out of them."

 No.713517

>>713514
Lacking anything to want to say in response to Peat I stand there and reach out with my talon to quickly pat them on the head and as quickly retract my talon back to my side.

 No.713518

>>713515
"Let's do. I don't mind having the debate but right now isn't the time or place for it," she assents.

>>713514
Communion nods. "I don't have a lot of experience with violence. I prefer to solve problems by talking, but it seems like these terrorists aren't going to be very talkative." She sighs. "If that changes, we will certainly try to get something useful out of them. In between murdering them in cold blood, of course."

>>713516
"Seems like a plan. Hope we can sniff them out. Shouldn't be too hard if they're as cuckoo as Lugh was." She shudders to remember the unpleasant look in the villain's eyes.

>>713517
Communion giggles to see Talon touch Peat.

 No.713519

>>713515
"Gods keep your path straight and clear!" Peat says. "I only wish you could've come to Albion at a more peaceful time."

>>713517
Peat squints at you with annoyance, and the guards approach to restrain you, but she waves them away. "Leave him, leave him, I assume this is some kind of cultural gesture."
She reaches out and pats you back, then goes back to puffing away at her cigarette with her previous annoyed grimace.

>>713518
Peat laughs at your frank description. "See to it that you're thorough, whatever course you choose to take. Thank you once more for bringing this to my attention, travelers, and I wish you the best of fortune on your pilgrimage."

>>713516
>>713515
>>713517
>>713518
With the discussion seeming to be all done (unless you had other matters to bring up with her), Peat then turns to the Troupe of Very Large Ponies. "Now that that's settled, I'll get your account of how you were attacked and kidnapped by Lugh for our records and investigation."

Eigh nods, then turns to your group. "We'll just be here a while, so you go on ahead and get your shopping in. You can go ahead and tell the shopkeep that you know us. He's a mountain of a crystal pony by the name of Whetstone. Friendly guy, just sensitive about the name."

"I can only imagine how he gets made fun of, with a name like that," Candelabrum says.

"Oh, they're brutal," Eigh says.

 No.713520

>>713519
I bow my head down a little in a mock bow to Peat as I go to take my leave to the shop. My wings give a little flap as I go, but I don't take flight, and I am soon out of sight.

 No.713521

>>713519
"Farewell, Peat." She nods to the guards as they escort the party out of the chamber, down several ornate halls, and out into the world. She follows along with the group as they collectively head to Whetstone's shop. She is quiet and seems lost in thought.

 No.713522

>>713519
"Blessings to you and yours, as well, ma'am! Perhaps someday, once this is all settled, I'll visit this place again. It's quite a beautiful kingdom, after all. Almost as beautiful as this building! It's got an air of elegance to it, and I'd say it extends to you~" Siro bows, and holds her wings out to her side. "Though, as my friends suggested, I think we should take our leave. I pray the rest of your day goes well, Miss Peat."

With a little twirl, Sirocco flaps on after Talon, and waits by the door for the rest of her companions. Once they're on their way, she'll whisper to Candelarum's in response to his remark. "Why would they make fun of him? It seems like a nice name for a crystal pony."

 No.713523

>>713519
Pippali dips his head in a bow, and offers a friendly smile to Peat. "Thank you for hearing us. I hope the next time we visit, it's in a less dire circumstances… this is definitely a place worth visiting again, for sure." he remarks, before looking to the ToVLP

"Sounds good- we won't keep you waiting too long, at least." he says, offering a wave and heading off after the others to the shopkeeper mentioned."
>>713522
"Mmm, people just enjoy being mean-spirited,I guess."

 No.713524

>>713522
>>713523
"Crystal ponies tend to get named after different types of stones, metals, geological phenomenon, and so on, but there are obvious exceptions like me," Candelabrum says. "Crystal Ponies always get the worst of it on Albion. The more easily your name can be turned into a dumb rock pun, the more you'll hear of it from everyone who thinks he's halfway clever. I imagine this Whetstone guy gets asked if people can sharpen things against his scalp or something."

>>713523
>>713522
>>713520
>>713521
Once you're out of the castle, Suncatcher gives a stretch all over, shaking herself out, and the Branded stops to toss some of his coins to some nearby beggars.
"Nice enough lady, I should think," Candelabrum says. "Seemed authentic in her words about the Scourge, so I'm pretty sure she was telling us the truth."
"She still let the Bell get taken under her watch," Suncatcher says. "That warrants scrutiny at least. As for what she said about the environment and investors? It made my skin crawl, every word."
"Yes… I'd sure hate to see the land get bought up and harvested like she talked about," the Branded mentions. "Not that I'm siding with those terrorists, you understand."

After a little while, you make your way to the Rune shop that Eigh mentioned, the cottage with a roof shaped like a wizard's pointed cap.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nknDqFENQxk

Inside is a quiet scene. A fire stirs about in the hearth, and you note that the fire has a face and arms and is reading a book without burning it. A few other wizardly-looking ponies mill about the shop, which is tightly packed with shelves containing all kinds of bits and bobs and apparatuses.

At the counter sits a huge bearded crystal pony, gray in body and in hair, going through some old scrolls about the size of a buffalo as he puffs at a pipe. He looks up as you enter and nods his head in welcome.

 No.713525

>Posting the inventory here for the sake of time, but please do mention the discount and your relation to Eigh IC

As a reminder, you can only equip 1 Rune of each type at a time, but you can have multiple Runes active at the same time, as long as they are of different types. The types, again, are Object, Body, Element, Mind and Soul.
Item Prices (w/ Discount applied):
>Rations: Food for a week of travel, 5 Bits
>Soothing Powder: Removes the effects of any kind of burn, including those induced by chemicals and poisons. Has enough powder for 3 uses. 15 Bits
>Eye-Rune Dowsing Rod (Rune type: Mind): Allows you to search for hidden and/or invisible objects and substances in the area around you, in a radius of about 10 meters. Rolls at DC 5, but doesn't benefit from perception bonus. 40 Bits.
>Lightning-Rune Coil (Rune type: Element): Allows the use of Magic Bolt by a character that doesn't have it, and inherently has the Lightning Element. If the character already has Magic Bolt, they receive a +1 bonus and the use of the Lightning element. 60 Bits.
>Frog-Rune Boots (Rune type: Object): Allows one to leap moderate distances with ease, giving +1 to dodging and climbing, and any other roll that might plausibly benefit from being able to leap like a frog. 30 Bits.
>Fortress-Rune Tunic (Rune type: Body): Increases one's maximum Hits by 2. While wearing it, you don't need to roll to withstand harsh weather. 60 Bits.
>Ghost-Rune Salts (Rune type: Soul): Like other kinds of spirits, Aos Si have a peculiar aversion to certain substances, such as silver, salt, holy water and incense. This is a bag of blessed salt that wards off spirits, and if it is thrown directly at an Aos Si as a Ranged attack, those attacks will deal an additional 2 hits of damage. 1 bag contains 10 uses' worth of salt. 40 Bits.

 No.713526

>>713522
>Prior to leaving

Peat doesn't seem phased by the compliment, but you get the feeling, from the general smug look on her face, that she's used to hearing such things. "Thank you, thank you, have a good day. Now, I've work to tend to. Chop chop!"

 No.713527

>>713524
Sirocco hums in thought a bit at Candelabrum's words. "Hm, I mean, I suppose I can see that. I'm lucky enough to be named after a rarer weather phenomenon, so I've never had to deal with those puns. Except from Pippali, of course."

"Huh, I dunno, judging by the state of the wilds here, technology has a long, long way to go before it becomes an issue like that. I have confidence that these people will know when to stop."

Once they finally arrive at the shop, she gives the huge horse an innocently curious gaze, before waving. "Heya, you must be Whetstone, right? Eigh said we should tell you that we know him, and that he recommended this place when we saved his butt from some crazy druids in the forest."

 No.713528

>>713525
>>713524
Pippali dips his head in greeting, and tries his best to keep from bumping any shelves in the tightly-packed store. He clears his throat and smiles, before saying "Hey, Mister Whetstone. Eigh and his Troupe told us we should swing by here if we needed a place to buy some goods. Could I get… hmm. Three weeks of rations, two packets of the healing powder, and… maybe that Tunic?"

 No.713529

>>713525
"I am with them." I point a thumb to the group after going to the shop counter to look over the wares. Thinking of getting the dowsing rod and some soothing powders and rations.

 No.713530

>>713524
Walking in, Communion looks around, interested particularly by the living fire. She smiles at it. She walks to the counter and addresses the huge crystal pony.

>>713525
"We're friends with Eigh. He sent us on ahead to say hi, and maybe do some shopping!" She looks over the runes. "All these are so fancy." She picks up the Fortress-Rune Tunic and tries it on. It's a little big on her. "This could be useful." She also picks up the Soothing Powder. "This too. And I'd probably better get some rations. Maybe two weeks worth?"

>2 Rations 10 bits

>Soothing Powder 15 bits
>Fortress-Rune Tunic 60 bits

Communion hacks up 85 bits and spits them on the counter. The coins are slightly wet.

 No.713531

>>713525
>>713528
Siro spryly springs up onto Pippali's back, and peeks over his head at the goods. "And… I'll take the Lightning Rune thing, and three weeks of rations as well. Oh, and maybe a thing of soothing powder, some ghost rune salts, and the Fortress Tunic. I'll have to swap my amulet of strength out for the tunic, so would you like it? I'll gladly hand it over if you knock a few bits off the tunic." Siro wiggles her ears as she pulls off her amulet to show to Whetstone. [total of 190 currently]

[1d10] if I need a haggle roll or somethin

Roll #1 6 = 6

 No.713532

>>713527
"One can only hope the Sages will have the good sense to keep these investors in their place, what with those profits that Peat mentioned," the Branded says thoughtfully. "She seemed sensible, but I've seen also how money clouds one's judgment."

>>713530
The living flame peers over the edge of its book and returns your wave politely.

>>713527
>>713528
>>713529
>>713531
>>713530
"Oho!" Whetstone says. "That old trickster and showpony's in town once more?" he asks. "I'll have to go and see him and the family once I've closed up for the night and catch up."

He picks up a nearby staff and taps a pair of four-fingered gloves (probably for a diamond dog) that sit beside him on the counter. The gloves come to life and fly about the shop, picking out the items that you request and setting them on the counter one by one. The two gloves seem to have a bit of personality, as they bump into one another, poke at one another, and periodically get into rock-paper-scissors matches as they work. Once they're done, they float back down to the counter and lay there.

Whetstone examines the amulet from Sirocco and nods. "It appears to be worth 30 Bits. I'll knock that off your total."

Whetstone inspects his merchandise one last time for any damages or imperfections, then pushes them your way once he finds them satisfactory. "Here you are. Anything else I may help you with?"

Total costs for purchases:
>Pippali's: 105 Bits
>Soft Talon's: 105 Bits
>Communion's: 85 Bits
>Sirocco's: 160 Bits

 No.713533

>>713532
Pippali blinks, and gives a small whinny of satisfaction upon seeing the guantlets whiz about, clopping his hooves together once they finally cease their bit of show.

"Impressive! Is the staff something you made, or something you picked up along the way?"

 No.713534

>>713532
Sirocco watches the hands do their thing, a smile spreading across her face as they play around with each other. What a nice little shop. Once they've gotten all her things, sh forks over her rune and the money, before packing away her new toys. "Thank you, mister. Your friend's talking to Peat right now, but they should be done before long. Though, I'm not sure what you could help us with. Mmmmaybe a recommendation on a place to stay? We've been traveling for a while, and a bed would do us some good."

 No.713535

>>713532
Communion adjusts her new tunic. It's warm and comfy, and offers much better protection than her old robes. She "pockets" the other stuff inside her body.

She too is amused by the possessed gloves, and claps alongside Pippali when they've returned to lifelessness upon the counter. "Wow!" She takes an appreciative look around the shop once more. "This place sure has personality."

 No.713536

>>713532
All the items that I bought are unceremonially plopped down into my bag as I pocket my remaining amount of bits on my person. I stand straight with my gear on my shoulders wondering when and where to go.

 No.713537

>>713533
"Carved it myself, like the other things I sell here," Whetstone says. "I hail from the Land of the Hearth, where I learned my secrets from my teacher, by the name of Block."

>>713534
>>713533
>>713535
>>713536
"The inn up the road is the best one in town," Whestone explains as Sirocco asks for a recommendation. "30 Bits will get you dinner, a room and breakfast, but they're a little strict about vacating the rooms by seven in the morning."
"Not a bad price," the Branded comments.
"Indeed. Give their cabbage stew a miss, but you're a fool if you miss out on their grilled asparagus," Whetstone continues.
"Duly noted," Suncatcher says. "Thank you for your advice."

While they're there, the Branded picks up the Frog-rune boots, Suncatcher purchases two bags of the Ghost-rune salts, and Candelabrum snags a dowsing rod and extra rations. He then takes some bits of dried meat from the rations and tosses them to the kitten still on Communion's back.

 No.713538

>If/when you'd like to skip to morning, you may request to do so. Or you can RP the inn part, if you prefer. Your choice.

 No.713539

>>713537
>>713538
I don't mind skipping! Siro will just bully Pippali some, and maybe bug Communion a little, but I don't got much else planned.

 No.713540

>>713538
>>713539

Skipping sounds fine to me too.

 No.713541

>>713537
Pippali offers Suncatcher the rune, smiling a little bit and saying "Here. It'll keep you safer."

Other than that, I'm fine skipping! Pippali will counter-bully Sirocco

 No.713542

>>713537
I am fine with anything

 No.713543

>>713541
Suncatcher takes the rune from you with the aid of a nearby stick, having gone back to avoiding everyone with a radius of about one foot around her, as she did prior to the episode with Candelabrum. "Thanks!"

>>713539
>>713540
>>713541
>>713542
>since it seems like the majority is ready to skip…

After getting your shopping done, you head for the inn, a cozy two floor tavern with good food and company. Eigh and his troupe show up and perform a song and dance routine to provide for the evening's entertainment. Dinner is quite good, consisting of plenty of vegetable dishes and fish for the meat eaters. You then retire to your rooms to sleep until morning.

You awaken when the sunlight enters your windows, and you quickly get prepared to leave, in accordance with the inn's aforementioned strict 7 am leave time policy. You get together in the lobby, meeting for your complimentary breakfast, strawberry pancakes and hayggs and haycon.

Your allies seem to have slept well, but you notice that Candelabrum seems to have several bouts of bad luck. He nearly trips twice coming down the stairs to breakfast, his pancakes come out burnt on the inside… somehow… and when he tries to pour syrup on the pancakes, the lid on the syrup container slips off and syrup spills all over his hayggs, much to his horror. Suncatcher, sitting at a nearby table, looks at all this with a distinctly guilty expression. The Branded and the cat, meanwhile, only have slight laughs, schaudenfraude at Candelabrum's plight.

>You can RP the breakfast if you want, or if not, the road out of town is to the north as Eigh and Peat have said. Also, please deduct 30 bits from your inventories to cover the costs of the inn.

 No.713544

>>713543
The painted pegasus dances along with the troupe's songs, pulling her zebra friend along to waltz with her, until they get tired enough to retire to their rooms and pass out. Once they awaken and slink downstairs for some tasty food, Sirocco ends up nibbling at her pancakes as she watches Suncatcher and Candelabrum with interest. Maybe… that's the curse? You just get unlucky?

"Hey, Candelabrum, would you like to trade your food for mine? I don't mind syrup on everything, so it's ok! Though you… might want to have me spoon-feed you if you don't want more disaster. I think I can guess what that curse Suncatcher is supposed to have does."

 No.713545

>>713543
Communion watches Candelabrum's plight intensify. She offers him her unsyruped hayggs, and pats him on the back gently.

She pays the innkeeper and offers her thanks. "Everything was wonderful," she says kindly. She remakes the kitten bed in her malleable backflesh and looks to see if the rest of the travelers are ready to depart.

When they are, she skips out the door and into the bright morning. "What a beautiful day to be on the road!" she exclaims to everypony as they begin the walk out of town.

 No.713546

>>713543
Pippali has little trouble getting up early, and is likely one of the first up, though regardless allows himself to be dragged along by Sirocco. He polishes his meal off in record time, happily drizzling syrup over pretty much everything, so he's got little else to do but watch a Series of Unfortunate Events™ unfold for Candleabraum.
"Well, I suppose we know now. We'll do what we can to help, Candelabrum. Maybe… we should carry some of your gear?"

 No.713547

>>713543
I hover out of my room coming to the group to wave hi to them before slumping against the furniture in the room.

 No.713548

>>713547
>>713546
>>713544
>>713545
Candelabrum bucks up, politely raising a hoof to decline the offers of unsullied hayggs, and downs the lot of them, syrup and all. "A little extra sugar won't be enough to kill me! I'll just need to get in a few more fights to make up for it."

Suncatcher gulps, realizing the jig is up. Tugging at the front of her robe, she pulls it down, revealing a rune on her chest. This rune is stylized like a skull, one with a snakelike grin and corrosively cruel slit eyes. "…I should've said something earlier. Yes: anyone who touches me is beset by bad luck the next day. We only got close for a few seconds yesterday, so maybe this will be enough to satisfy it. But we should all be on the lookout. It won't just be Candelabrum who suffers it. He becomes a nexus of bad luck, and we'll all be liable to misfortune as long as we're around him."

"Oh joy!" Candelabrum barks. "Well, no matter. We'll just have to look at it as an extra bit of challenge, won't we?" He shakes his head at Pippali's offer. "I'll be fine, thank you. A bit of bad luck isn't enough to put me down."

*******************************************

Once this episode is done, you pack up your things and head for the road out of town. Gladiolus, built on a plateau, overlooks the valley before you: There is a long and sprawling plain stretching a great distance ahead, and beyond that lies a dense wood, with thick trees that tower above the land. Mist clings about the valley, possessively curling around it and its inhabitants. The sounds of wildlife echo faintly as you approach the next leg of your journey. The presence of the forest, even from this distance, is quietly commanding.

>Paused

 No.713549

>>713545
Oh right. She makes sure to walk by the shrine where she stashed part of herself with the Bell for safekeeping. She reabsorbs it into her self and continues on.

 No.714821

Last time on TPW…

The party concluded their meeting with Peat, Sage of the Marsh, during which they learned some concerning news. Five days ago, a severe equipment failure at a magitech production factory in the city of Squill resulted in a structural collapse, which badly wounded over a dozen workers. Investigations found evidence that the equipment causing the accident had been sabotaged, and, in light of the general anti-foreigner sentiment in Albion, as well as the recent activity of rogue, extremist druids operating under the name of the Scourge, it was not hard to conclude that these druids were also behind this incident. Peat then raised concerns about a mountian town by the name of Eyebright, which was the next major city along the Pilgrim's Way. She believed that Eyebright's mining operations, which were in the process of excavating precious stones used in magitech production, would be another likely target for sabotage. She tasked the party to investigate.

With that out of the way, the party shopped for some Tunes, picking up several useful-looking ones from a store run by a crystal pony named Whetstone. Afterward, they retired for the night at a nearby inn, enjoying dinner, a show put on by Eigh and his family, and then breakfast the next morning, before they set out for the Valley of Hungry Spirits.

 No.714822

>All

Candelabrum bucks up, politely raising a hoof to decline the offers of unsullied hayggs, and downs the lot of them, syrup and all. "A little extra sugar won't be enough to kill me! I'll just need to get in a few more fights to make up for it."

Suncatcher gulps, realizing the jig is up. Tugging at the front of her robe, she pulls it down, revealing a rune on her chest. This rune is stylized like a skull, one with a snakelike grin and corrosively cruel slit eyes. "…I should've said something earlier. Yes: anyone who touches me is beset by bad luck the next day. We only got close for a few seconds yesterday, so maybe this will be enough to satisfy it. But we should all be on the lookout. It won't just be Candelabrum who suffers it. He becomes a nexus of bad luck, and we'll all be liable to misfortune as long as we're around him."

"Oh joy!" Candelabrum barks. "Well, no matter. We'll just have to look at it as an extra bit of challenge, won't we?" He shakes his head at Pippali's offer. "I'll be fine, thank you. A bit of bad luck isn't enough to put me down."

*******************************************

Once this episode is done, you pack up your things and head for the road out of town. Gladiolus, built on a plateau, overlooks the valley before you: There is a long and sprawling plain stretching a great distance ahead, and beyond that lies a dense wood, with thick trees that tower above the land. Mist clings about the valley, possessively curling around it and its inhabitants. The sounds of wildlife echo faintly as you approach the next leg of your journey. The presence of the forest, even from this distance, is quietly commanding.

 No.714823

>Tunes

wew lad, Runes*

 No.714824

>>714822
Communion gawps at the view. "Wowee," she breathes. Turning her head fully around to face the rest of the group, she exclaims, "Are you guys seeing this?? This," she gestures wildly, "is what being on the road is all about!!" She turns back around to the expansive valley below.

 No.714825

>>714821
>>714822
"Well, I imagine we can weather it all the same." Pippali suggests, trying to be hopeful. "We'll be more watchful in the future, though." he suggests, before giving Suncatcher a somewhat worried look. "Is that something we could help remove, by the way? That seems… unfortunate, to say the least." the stallion suggests.

======
>>714824
"Mhmm. Travel's always nice to do, if you ask me. I've only been on the road for a few years, but I've found it to be a very relaxing sort of thing to do."

 No.714826

>>714824
"Certainly is quite big, think anything interesting lives around these parts?" I ask. Wanting to something on impulse, Talon gathers spit in his mouth and drops it into the valley below, looking down to try and see if it hit anything.

 No.714827


 No.714828

>>714822
>>714823
https://pastebin.com/9Cuj90K3

>>714824

Sirocco takes a deep breath, puffing out her chest and her feathers as she drinks in the fresh air, and looks to the distant woods. Communion's enthusiasm is definitely refreshing. "Mhm, it is quite beautiful. Reminds me of home, in a way. Speaking of, how long have you been traveling, if I might ask?"

 No.714829

>>714824
Candelabrum and the Branded seem to share your enthusiasm, craning back their heads to observe the tops of the massive, ancient trees before them. Suncatcher, on the other hand, is clearly more apprehensive, protectively tightening her robe and moving toward the back of the group as wild beasts call out from afar.

"It's what I live for, this feeling," the Branded says in agreement. "Open air, far off from cities, amidst the quiet and the peace."

>>714825
Suncatcher grimaces. "I've tried shamans, witch doctors, witches, priests, even exorcists," she says. "But even in the best of results, all attempts to remove it have just resulted in what they call magic backlash – that's when you try to undo some kind of magic effect and it just doubles back onto you, like when you pull a rubber band too hard. Ended up getting me chased out of a few places."

>>714826
"We know the gobbeetles do at least," Candelabrum says. "This is their natural habitat. Oh, and that Wild Magic thing that Peat brought up! But if the calls are any indication, there's a big variety of beasties out there."

>>714828
>>714825
>>714824
>>714826
You proceed down into the valley, following the road winding down the plateau, which leads toward a massive metal gate, built into a wall molded of brick and covered with vines and moss. The wall in turn is built between two high hills, which block off the Valley from the outside world. Darkness settles in as you reach the treeline, as sunlight cannot pierce the thick canopy of leaves and branches overhead.

From here, there is a small dirt clearing, with three paths leading out beyond it:

To the right is a steep stone path, leading up a rocky cliffside that reaches up into the treeline, but it looks to be unstable, with loose rocks and steep slopes as far as you can see.

Directly ahead of you is a low, sloping and wide path that leads downward into the dense mists, where small bits of light dart about.

And on your left is an old dirt path, but one that has been overgrown with tangling bushes and viny, thorny plants. You hear the chittering of insects coming from that way, and it's hard to see very far down it.

Candelabrum looks around the area, rubbing his chin as he surveys the three options.

 No.714830

>>714829
Sirocco is mostly quiet through all of this. She flits about from time to time, cruising in circles around the party when she can, though once they reach the forest, she keeps her wings pinned to her side, and her body close to the party's.

"Hm… the left definitely has more beetles, and I'm not quite keen on more of those. The right seems easy for me, though you all might have a few issues. Perhaps the middle path, then?"

 No.714831

>>714830
"I don't trust misty paths after what happened the last time with that damn reptile and crystal. I feel we will be lost in there." I state my point against the middle path.

 No.714832

>>714829
>>714830
>>714831
"Yeah, the mists could present a problem. Candle, Suncatcher? Have either of you passed through here before, or know anyone that has?"

 No.714833

>>714824
https://pastebin.com/nqiQZSRm

>>714826
Communion nods her head vigorously. "I'm sure there's all kinds of cool wildlife that lives around here! Definitely some faeries and such from across the Sidhe. Maybe even some hermits!" She watches the griffon expectorate and giggles a bit. She follows his lead and squirts a bit of liquid from the end of her pseudo-hoof over the edge.
>>714828
Communion flows next to Sirocco as they travel. "Well, I've been travelling before, but I've only been on the Pilgrims Way for a few months. I was with another group for a little while, but we kinda… parted ways. I've been on my own for probably…" her gooey face takes on a thoughtful expression, "five weeks now?" She shrugs. "Long enough to get a couple stamps in, I guess! How about you? You seem so knowledgeable about life on the road!"

>>714829
As they enter the clearing, Communion takes a look at the options. She turns to the rest of the group. "I've got no ideas. Each one seems dangerous in its own right."
She perks up. "If you'd like, I could send a bit of myself down one of the paths to scout it out!"

 No.714834

>>714833
>>714830
>>714831
>>714832
"Sorry, I've never been out of the Land of Sands," Suncatcher says. "My life up til now has been pretty busy with my druidic obligations, so this is the first time I've gotten a chance to come this way."

Candelabrum frowns, scratching his chin. "I did come down this road once, when I was a wee colt, traveling with my father. Don't remember most of it though, bein' it's so long off now. I thought for certain, though, that there was a signpost around here that could help, but I don't see anything of the sort around us."

As Communion offers to scout out the paths, they nod. "Good idea, give it a whirl," Suncatcher says.

>Others can roll perception to see what the paths ahead hold, if desired.

 No.714835

>>714833
"Oh, I've been traveling for a few years now. Maybe when we've got some time to ourselves, I can sit down and tell you about what I'm doing. For now, though, perhaps… hrm. I'm not sure about scouting out each path. Wouldn't it be bad if your bits got hurt, or lost? I still vote for the misty path, since this one isn't enchanted."

 No.714836

>>714834
"A signpost? Perhaps it's been overgrown. After all, these paths do look a bit…" She nods towards in the direction of all three options. "Unkempt. I'll poke around in the bushes a bit."

With a little hum, and a flap of her wings, she gets to nosing through the nearby plants, looking for a sign of some sort.

[1d10] percep

Roll #1 6 = 6

 No.714837

>>714834
I look up across the three paths, attempting to see ahead into what dangers they might present for the party overall.

[1d10] Perception.

Roll #1 6 = 6

 No.714838

>>714834
[1d10+1] Perception

"Well, hrm… I guess we'll just need to take a look, then."

Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6

 No.714839

>>714835
Communion nods. "It's not without risk, but it's just myself I'd be putting in danger and not the whole group. Not even all of myself! Don't think I will get lost, though; I always have a pretty good sense of where I am in relation to myself! And if anything scary comes along, I can hide in places that nopony would ever think to look. I think it's less risky overall for the group."

>>714834
Communion smiles and nods to Suncatcher and Candelabrum. She seems to shrink in her tunic to about half-size, and three puddles of dark goo spread out from under her and form into small red liquid approximations of Communion. "Hmm," she ponders, and they all reform into just wet spots on the ground. These separate from the group and flow to their individual paths, sticking to the underbrush as much as possible to conceal themselves.

Communion, still wearing her oversize tunic, smiles encouragingly to the group.

With Party [1d10]
Left Path [1d10]
Mid Path [1d10]
Right Path [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3 / Roll #2 1 = 1 / Roll #3 6 = 6 / Roll #4 7 = 7

 No.714840

>>714836
You do find a signpost, but it is laying, partially buried, in a nearby bush, broken and scattered. A small indent in soft soil nearby indicates that it was recently, and likely deliberately uprooted, a sign that the druids have been at work. You dow, however, note three key placards amid the rubble of the destroyed signpost.

The first one reads "Falconer's Lookout," and it's got a falcon design. The second placard reads "Detour for the Pilgrim's Way," and below it is a warning, indicating that pilgrims unprepared for battle should avoid the left road, as many monsters make their habitats up there. The third placard reads "Frogpit Bog," and a postscript below that recommends it as a shorter road for pilgrims, but cautions about Wild Magic sightings in the mist.

 No.714841

>>714839
>>714837
>>714838
Unfortunately, Communion's first small copy isn't able to get very far down the leftmost road, as the brush near the bottom of the path is far too thick and tangled. However, the second one goes with Soft Talon toward the mist, and the third one with Pippali up the rocky path.

Soft Talon and the second Communion Copy see that in the midst ahead is a wide bridge, heading over a good amount of a thick bog below. It looks to be relatively safe, but now and again they can see facelike shapes wandering about in the midst.

Pippali and the third Communion Copy climb a little distance up the rocky path to the right, and are able to identify a narrow line of rock and dirt that looks stable enough to climb. Up there, they hear the sounds of birds cawing and chirping, big and booming sounds, indicating that there are some nests up there.

 No.714842

>>714840
You do, however*

 No.714843

>>714840
"Hm. So, looks like the right path is Faconer's Lookout, whatever that is. The middle is "Frogpit Bog?" It's the shortest path we've got, but it says there's wild magic there. Aaaand, the left path is a detour, BUT it says to avoid it if you're unprepared for battle, since there are a lot of monsters." Sirocco reads from her little placards, before moving them out from the brush, and into the center of the clearing. She didn't know how to fix it, but maybe other pilgrims could actually read it if they're not hidden.

"So… what do we do? A short, spooky, misty path that might be safe, or very dangerous, or a certainly dangerous, long path?"

 No.714844

>>714843
"The middle path over there has a bridge, a wide one I think. There was some faces around there I couldn't identify. Could be a number of things, and I am still wary of that path." I rub my head.

 No.714845

>>714841
Communion regathers all her parts back into herself, growing back to fullsize with the tunic fitting better. She fills in the rest of the group what she saw on the paths, which seemed to confirm the placards Sirocco found.

>>714843
"Well when you put it that way, seems like we should go the bog route, right? Shorter plus maybe not dangerous?"

 No.714846

>>714841
>>714843
"We might as well try for safety."

 No.714847

>>714845
"That's what I'm thinking. Though, Peat *did* say to avoid wild magic, so… agh, this is a tough choice. I remember her saying as long as we give whatever things we run into the offering they want, they should leave us be, so… Mmmmmm… I think we'll be fine."

 No.714848

>>714845
>>714843
>>714844
>>714846
>>714847
Upon hearing the arguments for the various routes, your companions nod, finding it satisfactory. "I'm with Sirocco," Suncatcher says. "With the bad-luck curse active today, a battle could turn ugly quick, especially for Candelabrum."
"Sounds fine to me," Candelabrum says, but makes a slightly disappointed grumble. "This forest looks so big we could be in it for days. I'm sure there'll be plenty of chances for battle later."

>roll perception 1 more time if ready to head in

 No.714849

>>714848
The pegasus nods along with Suncatcher's explanation. "Mhm, exactly. I'd hate to see anything bad befall you, Candelabrum, so, safe-ish path it is."

With another little flap, Siro hops along down the trail, parting some of the mist with her wings as she scoots forwards.

[1d10] percep

Roll #1 3 = 3

 No.714850

>>714848
Since the group seems to have consensus, Communion begins the trek toward the misty bridge with the rest of them.

Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 8 = 8

 No.714851

>>714848
With a mite bit of irritation, I follow the others into the mist. Hovering a bit above the ground with my wings.

[1d10]

Roll #1 2 = 2

 No.714852

>>714848
>[1d10+1]
Pippali can't do much about the mist, so he'll settle for relying on his sharp senses.

Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7

 No.714853

>>714852
>>714851
>>714850
>>714850
Suncatcher lights up one of her torches, and floats it ahead of the party for light. The mist is unrelenting, keeping the light dampened. Still, you recall the path that you saw earlier upon inspecting it, allowing you to proceed onward. In short time, you reach an old, but sturdy and wide bridge, a vast thing with intricate designs carved into the railing, depicting folkloric dragons and swirling runes.

As the mist curls about you, fleeting faces appear and disappear infrequently, vanishing almost the moment that you look at them. The bridge continues onward, and sulfurous, humid fumes bubble up from the bog, popping and gurgling. The smell is like that of decomposing plant life, but you catch glimpses of animal bones sticking out of the mire here and there. Up ahead, further along the long bridge, you see a pair of robed figures, their forms murky and unclear, standing in the middle of the path. They are quite big and tall, vaguely humanoid, but you can't discern much about their appearance due to the mist.

 No.714854

>>714853
Communion stops with the rest of the group and gestures toward the robed figures. "Why are they just standing there?? We have to approach them. There's no way around it. Let's just use caution; maybe they are friendly." She doesn't seem particularly hopeful of that, however. She peers through the mist at the ominous pair.

Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1

 No.714855

>>714854
As you peer ahead, you hear a rustling in the trees above, and suddenly, something small and spiny plops into your body from above, skittering and clawing about. The kitten hisses at it, though you can't see what it is that has fallen into your body.

One of the figures ahead snorts, as if holding in a chortle.

 No.714856

>>714855
"Gah!" Communion wriggles about, involuntarily reacting. Her imagination runs wild as she tries to move her head around to see whatever abomination has assailed her. She then tries to trap whatever it is in an air bubble inside her body to keep it from crawling all over.

 No.714857

>>714853
Sirocco halts for a moment, scanning over the figures with her totally sharp eyes, before squinting slightly. Two figures guarding a bridge? They're totally going to ask for payment to cross. She clears her throat, and steps forwards. "Excuse me, who might you two be? We're just pilgrims, looking to pass though."

As she speaks she hears something plop into Communion, and she gives the pony a side-eyed glance to take a peek at what's going on.

 No.714858

>>714853
Hovering above the bridge lightly as we come closer to the figures, I give an awkward wave to the unknown clothed figures. In the end Talon just stares scratching their chin next to the group.

 No.714859

>>714853
>[1d10+1]
"Hrm… I don't know about that. Let's be careful, but hopefully we can figure out if they're peaceful or not before getting there."

Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5

 No.714860

>>714856
You crane your neck about and find that a small millipede has been dropped into your body, but you isolate it in an air pocket before it can do any sort of damage. The kitten on your back bats at it with its claws. Above you, on a tree branch, you see a small face in the midst, as well as a breezie-sized light. It snickers for a moment before it vanishes once more.

>>714857
>>714859
>>714858
>>714856
As they are called, the two robed figures float out. The two appear to be ramshackle collections of random bones from various creatures, held together by a faint magic aura. In the skulls, both of which are deer skulls, you see the glimmerings of breezie-sized lights. The skulls themselves bear ghastly paint, decorated with a crude caricature of lips, furred skin, eyelashes and other facial features. The two figures both carry crude staves of carved wood, each of which has a crystal at the top held in place with a vine.

They lean in, giving you a too-close-for-comfort glance at their skulls.

"If you could just spare a moment of your time," the first one begins, in an accented voice that sounds like the clicking of an insect with each syllable. "We just need a little something."
"An offering, you could think of it as," the second one says, in a similar voice.
"Just an offering," the first one says.
"A little something if you wouldn't mind."
"If it's not too much trouble."

 No.714861

>>714860
Communion blinks up at the visage, and it disappears. "It's just a playful spirit, probably nothing to be scared of."
She begins to rethink her assessment when she catches sight of the garishly decorated skeletons.

She looks questioningly to the rest of the group. "What kind of offerings do we give?" She fishes a few bits into her mouth, sticking them to her tongue and showing them to the ghouls. "Do you take coin?"

 No.714862

>>714860
I squint my own eyes at the skeletal figures. "We are quite busy, and this is too sudden. We don't even know your names." I tilt my head at them.

 No.714863

>>714860
Pippali remains cautious, but remembers what Peat and Sirocco mentioned and offers a bit of a shrug. "An offering? Couldn't hurt, I guess. Do you have something in mind?"

 No.714864

>>714860
Siro leans back just a bit, her wings slightly flared, as the creatures lean close. Spirits, just like Peat told them. Asking for offerings, too. "What do you wish for? I can't give you what you want if you don't tell me, I'm afraid."

>>714862
She softly bats at Soft, and shakes her head. "Just give them what they ask, and they should be sated. That's what Peat said."

 No.714865

>>714861
The Branded, Candelabrum and Suncatcher start to look through their bags. Meanwhile the two ghouls each take a single coin from those which are offered, and toss them into their eyeholes for safekeeping, where they rattle about with a jingle. "Thank you, kind traveler," the first one says.
"Thank you," the second one says.
"Yes, much obliged."
"You have our gratitude."
"We are in your debt."

Your allies grow tense at this strange repetition, unnerved by the odd duo. They fish about for a small amount of coin, seeing as the duo took yours.

>>714862
>>714863
>>714864
The two ghouls stare at both of you, their heads tilting until they are nearly horizontal.
"Oh… you know. Just something to keep the Filth at bay. Things that he likes are hard to come by these days," the first one says.
"He likes money," says the second.
"Soft hair."
"Fresh skin."
"And jellied bones."
"He's an awfully hungry creature, and some days, when it gets really quite bad, he comes out of his cave and raises a ruckus."
"So we try to keep him calm. Otherwise he'll come out and look for these things himself, and then people like you go missing forever."

The two ghouls stretch out their hands. "So we appreciate your contributions to keep him at bay."

"Good enough for me!" Suncatcher says, tossing some coins their way with her mane and tail standing on end.

 No.714866

>>714865
After the hit by Sirocco and the story from the two ghoulish characters, I sigh and offer the coin for passage and contribution to reach my party across the bridge.

 No.714867

>>714865
Communion gulps. "Well, I for one am fresh out of hair and skin." Her gelatinous legs are shaking a bit. "However, it appears I might have a case of jellied bones right about now!" She chuckles to try to ease the spooky atmosphere of the dark and misty bog.

In an aside to the others, she says, "I sure don't like the sound of this Filth character."

 No.714869

>>714865
Pippali hums a little, and cuts off the brush-like end of his braided mane, and passes it over. "If it helps keep this 'Filth' away, sure."

 No.714870

>>714865
Sirocco pulls out a couple bits, and pauses. She makes a face, like she's mulling over something, before putting the bits back in her pouch, and undoing her tail-bun. With a swift chop of her hoof, she neatly slices off her long tail, leaving only a few inches of hair to herself. She passes over the tail, and tucks her hair-ribbon away. "Is that sufficient? I imagine this fellow will be happier with more than just gold."

 No.714871

>>714867
"Must be some kind of swamp monster, something that keeps the rest of the swamp's creatures in line, if spirits like these are focused on appeasing it," Candelabrum whispers. "I've heard tell that Albion's still got its share of beasts wandering around from the old days, legendary creatures that no hunter could manage to kill, so they just imprisoned 'em wherever they could."

>>714866
>>714868
>>714870
>>714869
The two ghouls take your contributions, as well as some cash from the Branded, and a little sliver of Candelabrum's mane, stuffing them into the pockets on their ratty and bog-stained robes.
"Excellent!" the first cries, throwing up a hand in victory.
"Momentous!" echoes the second, mimicking the gesture.
"Very good!"
"Huzzah!"
"Er… we'll see," the first one says, his enthusiasm dwindling quickly. "Perhaps this shall be enough, but we can only hope."
"A hunter tried his luck against the Filth with a magic weapon last year, and the wound has never healed right, you see. Ever since, the Filth has had… extra cravings. Ravenousness is all he knows. We have had our hands full keeping him subdued, to mixed results."
"Let us not keep him waiting, then. Slán," the first ghoul says.

With that, the two float away, rising over the railing of the bridge. They depart deeper into the bog, cloaks fluttering about in the wind. Once they're gone, your allies relax slightly, but the talk of the ravenous beast has left them unnerved. Candelabrum steels himself with a snort. "Bastard better not want seconds of me hair. I keep it well taken care of. Hell, I should charge its weight in gold whenever someone wants some of me locks."

 No.714872

>>714871
>>714870
"Eh, I don't mind losing a bit of hair. I think it's a nice change of pace, anyways." the stallion says, before giving Sirocco a playful poke. "You look pretty nice, by the way. Short tail's not a bad look."

 No.714873

>>714871
>>714872
(Forgot the other part)

"The changing tastes are concerning, though. Let's hope that we don't run across it anytime soon."

 No.714874

>>714871
Communion breathes a sigh of relief after the ghouls are well and gone. "Whew! That wasn't so bad at all." She looks around. "Shall we continue onward?"

>>714870
>>714872

"I agree with Pippali! Very fetching." Communion coos over Siro's perfectly coiffed tail.

 No.714875

>>714873
"Don't jinx it, mother always tell me that invokes the trickster gods interference in travel. There is also some beforementioned bad luck." I exxagerate with a gesture of my talons.

 No.714876

>>714871
Sirocco watches the creatures leave, only letting out a sigh once they're out of sight. "Goodness, I hope that whatever creature they're talking about doesn't come crawling out of his hole. He sounds… nasty." She flutters her wings, and starts to trot back along the path, once everyone else does.

>>714872
Siro gives Pippali a curious look at the compliment. "Well, yes, that's why I don't keep my hair down. I like the look, and longer hair gets in my way a bunch. I've got to say, I'm sad you cut yours. The braid was really cute, and now you've got to do it again."

 No.714877

>>714874
"G-Goodness, please, it's nothing really. Not too different from how it normally is!" Siro waves away the compliments with a grin on her face, and some red in her cheeks.

 No.714878

>>714872
>>714873
>>714875
>>714876
You proceed onward across the lengthy bridge, now that the ghouls are gone. It's hard to tell, but it looks like the bog below you is getting deeper around these parts, evidenced by darker colors in its waters and less debris sticking out of the surface of the sludge. The bridge eventually takes you to a stone platform, a small island out in the midst of the swamp. It appears to be a small rest area for pilgrims, as there are benches and racks for drying wet clothes, as well as a myriad of statues of monks.

Beyond that, there is still more swamp to cross, as you can see. However, the next bridge leading onward through the swamp has been destroyed, broken off a short distance from the bridge's small staircase. There is evidence of charring around the edges of the broken parts, indicating that some kind of fire or perhaps an explosive was to blame for the destruction.

Curiously, however, there is a rowboat sitting at the rest area, not far from the broken bridge. It looks sturdy enough, no leaks or holes as far as you can tell, and is of good quality, well insulated with pitch. It's big enough to hold eight, and has a set of oars at either end for rowing.

"How convenient!" the Branded says with absolute sincerity and cheer.

 No.714879

>>714878
Communion skips over to the stone platform to check out the statues of monks, trying to see if she recognizes any of them.

 No.714880

>>714876
Pippali sticks his tongue out before saying "Please, it won't take that long. It was just the end, and you can help me re-braid it."

>>714878
"Huh… that is convenient Hopefully it's not too convenient, if you know what I mean."

 No.714881

>>714879
In curiosity I go up to communion and ask. " What do you see?" I say as I tilt my head.

 No.714882

>>714878
Siro takes a curious look around the platform, marveling at the fact that someone took the time to build all of this in an absolutely dreadful place. At the mention of a boat, she's inexplicably drawn towards it. Sure enough, there it is, nice and clean. "I mean, I'd call this entire rest area convenient, what with the drying racks and chairs and such. It might've just been left here since rebuilding something like that bridge is probably awful."

 No.714883

>>714881
>>714879
There are a mixture of Albionite and Equestrian monks on display here. Saint Cassiopeia of Equestria, known for gathering alms tirelessly for the poor, Sister Beloved of Albion, who could perform a wonder whereby she took ailments away from the sick by absorbing them into her own body, and Brother Volund of Albion, patron saint of laborers and the forgotten, to name just a few.

>>714880
"I try to look on the bright side," the Branded says. "Someone or something destroyed the bridge, but we've been left a boat to traverse the bog. You could see it as a trap, or as a boon."

>>714882
"You've got the right idea," the Branded says.
"Oh, I didn't consider that it might've been left by a repair crew," Suncatcher says. "Doesn't look like anyone else is around though… it should be alright to take it. Probably. I'll just leave a note just in case, heheheh."

 No.714884

>>714883
"Might not even be a repair crew that left it. Could simply be that whoever's in charge felt the best thing to do was put a boat here, rather than spend who knows how much rebuilding a whole bridge. Though, that'd mean we're the first pilgrims through here, or someone came back along this way. Considering we didn't see anypony, then… well, perhaps something happened to them. R-Regardless, let me at least look the boat over." The pegasus shakes the thoughts of what had happened to whoever'd left this out of her head, as she flaps above the bog and looks the boat over, even softly setting down inside, to test its floating capacity.

[1d10] perception/investigation to look over boat

Roll #1 9 = 9

 No.714885

>>714881
Communion turns her head to face Soft Talon. "It's a pretty eclectic mix. There are a lot of famous holy folk here." She points out one or two. "These ones are from Albion," she explains, "and these over here are Equestrian in origin. Nice to see that appreciation of piety transcends national borders, especially in these days." She grins at the griffon.

>>714883
Satisfied with her perusal of the statues, she slides over to the boat conversation. "It does seem a little too good to be true, doesn't it? But you know what they say, never look a gift boat in the mouth!"

She peers out over the ruined bridge. "How far do you think we'll have to take it?" She tries to peer through the mist and darkness beyond.

Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10

 No.714886

>>714884
It holds up fairly well, and there appear to be no defects, leaks or deficiencies, even after a few tests.
"You're right," Suncatcher says. "I'm probably just overthinking things. The way those ghouls were talking gave me the creeps."

 No.714887

>>714885
Candelabrum snorts. "Never heard THAT variant of the saying before…"

Much like the previous bridge, this one extends out into the mire a great distance, beyond what you can see even when straining your eyes. Clearly, you will have to be in the boat for quite a while if you hope to get across that way. The kitten on your back climbs up to your ear and gives a loud meow, evidently hungry.

 No.714888

>>714885
"That is all quite nice, thank you for informing me." I give a wide smile as I go and land on top of the boat from my little hover.

 No.714889

>>714883
>>714885
"Hard to say, really. Maybe we'll find signs of a little dock if we go far enough? They have to be heading somewhere, if they've got it set up so nice."

 No.714890

>>714887
"Dang, looks like it's gonna be pretty far. We'll just have to hope the best for the boat, I guess."

Communion lifts an eyebrow at the kitten. "Why not eat the millipede?" She opens the air bubble around the wiggly bug, hoping it's calmed down by now.

 No.714891

>>714886
"Hmm… everything looks good. Should we just, go ahead and row on? I don't see why we shouldn't, honestly." Siro asks, as she trots in place in her not-leaky boat. "In any case, who wants to row?"

 No.714892

>>714891
"I guess we don't really have much of an option." Communion flows into the boat in one smooth motion. "Let's set sail!" she cackles.

 No.714893

>>714891
>>714888
>>714889
>>714890
The millipede wriggles about, and the kitten observes it for a moment, as if giving serious intellectual consideration to Communion's proposal. Then, in a single loud crunch, it bites into the millipede, devouring it in a few short bites. The kitten grows a little in size as it does.

When it's clear that the boat is the real deal, Suncatcher leaves behind a note explaining that they took it, and your allies hop in, with Suncatcher sitting at the far end to avoid close contact with anyone. As Sirocco calls for someone to row, Candelabrum stretches out his arms, giving them a roll. "Sure, I'll get the oars."

Now ready for the next leg of the journey, the party climbs into the boat, finding there to be enough space for them all and their supplies. Candelabrum unties the boat, shoving off into the swampy water with an oar, and begins to row, steering out into the mists beyond. A chill settles into the party's skin, the instinctual feeling that monsters are about in this swamp teeming with life.

It's an odd sensation mixed with the swamp's humidity, one that keeps them alert. Monster's cries echo in the distance, ringing high and wide, making you feel like a very small thing indeed in this ancient, vast world.

>Paused

 No.715270

Last time on TPW…

The pilgrims entered the Valley of Hungry Spirits, a colossal forest hidden deep within the recesses of the nearby mountains, where ancient trees stretched high into the sky, devouring sunlight and shrouding the land below in shadows. They reached a crossroads, and so were faced with a choice of which path to take. The party opted for the middle path, a low, mist-choked road heading deeper into the valley. Heeding Sage Peat's warning about the presence of Wild Magic in that area, they kept their wits about them as they headed into the mist.

Along the road, they spotted two ghoulish figures in the mist, who seemed to be caretakers for a creature by the name of "The Filth." A powerful beast of the swamp, its continual hunger and a magical wound in its side made it an extremely ornery thing, so the caretakers needed to collect odd donations of money, hair, flesh and bone in order to feed and appease it. The party gave them some money and hair, and the two departed without incident, giving the party their thanks.

Much later into their travel, they came across a rest station, a small stone island in the midst of the vast swamp. The bridge to the next area had been destroyed, and the remains showed signs that it had been either burned or blown apart some time ago. A boat was docked nearby, so after an initial investigation, the party decided to take the boat further into the swamp.

 No.715271

>Everyone
The millipede wriggles about, and the kitten observes it for a moment, as if giving serious intellectual consideration to Communion's proposal. Then, in a single loud crunch, it bites into the millipede, devouring it in a few short bites. The kitten grows a little in size as it does.

When it's clear that the boat is the real deal, Suncatcher leaves behind a note explaining that they took it, and your allies hop in, with Suncatcher sitting at the far end to avoid close contact with anyone. As Sirocco calls for someone to row, Candelabrum stretches out his arms, giving them a roll. "Sure, I'll get the oars."

Now ready for the next leg of the journey, the party climbs into the boat, finding there to be enough space for them all and their supplies. Candelabrum unties the boat, shoving off into the swampy water with an oar, and begins to row, steering out into the mists beyond. A chill settles into the party's skin, the instinctual feeling that monsters are about in this swamp teeming with life.

It's an odd sensation mixed with the swamp's humidity, one that keeps them alert. Monster's cries echo in the distance, ringing high and wide, making you feel like a very small thing indeed in this ancient, vast world.

 No.715272

>>715271
"This place is giving me shivers the longer that we stay here. I do hope we can get out as soon as we can." I say to myself as I crack my neck sitting down inside the boat.

 No.715273

>>715272
"Oooh, I wouldn't count on it," Suncatcher says, going over her stack of notes, which you see has gotten even bigger since the last time that she's pulled it out. She flips through multiple pages at a rapid pace, her eyes darting across each line. "According to most historical testimonies about the pilgrimage, this leg of the journey can last as long as seven days. The fastest that anyone's gotten through it is two. At our current rate –"
"Ach, you're not gonna find real life in some old books and calculations," Candelabrum says as he rows. "Get yer head out that stack of papers and enjoy the scenery and the company!"
The Branded simply chuckles, while Suncatcher pouts. She then turns to you. "Fine then… you know, I don't think we ever got an opportunity to sit down and talk much. Every day we've been chasing after one thing or another or investigating this or that. I don't think I ever got to know what you're on the pilgrimage for."

 No.715274

>>715273
"A couple days? Not quite ideal, but I'm sure we'll manage." Sirocco gives a tired sigh, before leaning against Pippali while he rows. She gives Suncatcher a nice smile. "Oh, yknow, I'm just traveling all over, trying to learn as much as I can. Sooner or later I'll return home, and consolidate it all with the many others like me, who've all set out on similar journeys."

 No.715275

>>715274
>>715273
I slump to the floor of the boat. "A few days aren't so bad, but I wonder what there is to look at during that while. Do you know of any games we can play along the way, or any songs. I would like to hear one of those." I ask the group.

 No.715276

>>715273

Communion looks a bit shaky on board the boat, and sinks low into herself, pooling in the bottom as the vessel cuts through the murky water. She perks up with interest at Suncatcher's recitation of facts, and seems disappointed when Candelabrum cuts her off.

At her question, Communion shapes up a bit. "Well, as for me, I fell in love with St. Orore's tale when I first heard it. When I ended up in the Church, my friend the Speaker would always tell us stories of the alicorns and their wards, monks and saints, and the adventures that they faced. It just sounded like so much fun!" She squeals a little. "And it really has been!.. Aside from, you know, the rogue druids, and the monsters, and the danger, and the killing…" She trails off, looking thoughtful.

She quiets down and looks interested to hear the others talk as she sinks back into semi-puddled form.

 No.715277

>>715271
Pippali is happy to help row the boat as well!


>>715274
>>715275
Pippali taps the mare's head a few times as she leans on him, before wrapping her in a light hug. He focuses on rowing, though.
"Don't let it be that sheep and wolf game. She's too good at that one. Go for… chess." he suggests, sticking his tongue out at the pegasus.

 No.715278

>>715275
Communion smiles at Soft. "I know a few songs! Although…" she squints out into the darkness of the fen, looking worried. "Not sure if this is the time for one. Could be anything out there. Could be that Filth is out there. Don't want to make too much of a racket, lest we attract unwanted attention." She taps her hoof to her chin. "Perhaps a game? I spy, with my little eye…" she looks back and forth among the pilgrims. "Something that is… striped!"

 No.715279

>>715277
"What is this chess you speak of, and I haven't heard of this sheep and wolf game before. I haven't played any games before. So forgive my ignorance of them." I tilt my head curiously.

 No.715280

>>715274
"You sound like an encyclopedia," Suncatcher says with sincerity, her curiosity growing as she makes a note in her growing pile of papers. "Who are those others? Family, friends, a clan maybe?"
The Branded gives Suncatcher an uncomfortable look as she takes notes on the party.

>>715275
"Well, if you get bored, you could have a turn on these!" Candelabrum says as he continues to row.
"I'm sure we'll run into new sights and creatures in time," the Branded says. "We're just taking this boat for the length of the bridge."

>>715276
Suncatcher makes a note of that as well. "Unfortunately, I've never had much encounter with the Equestrian sun cult," she says as she jots down tiny scrawls of text upon her notes. "How much would you say it differs from the Albionite druidic orders?"

>>715277
>>715274
>>715275
The Branded clicks his tongue. "And I was this close to picking up a chess set from Whetstone's shop back in town, too."
Suncatcher digs a pack of cards out of her bag. "I've got this. Would that be good enough for in-ride entertainment?"
Candelabrum rolls his eyes as he rows away at the oars. "I guess I'll stick to playing 'I Spy' back here…"

>>715276
The cat paws at your aqueous form, making a right mess as he splatters bits of red all over the boat, making it look like the scene of some grisly murder. William chortles. "Looks like he doesn't share your trepidation for bloodshed, does he?"

 No.715281

>>715280
"Hand me an oar then. Mother always did tell me that work is good for the soul." I hold out my talons in candelabrums direction waiting for him to hand one over to start rowing.

 No.715282

>>715277

>>715279
"Huh… you haven't? Well, uhm… they're board games. Sirocco really likes playing them, so I imagine she could tell you better. What sort of games did you play back home?"

>>715280
"I could give it a shot, sURE."

 No.715283

>>715282
I idly tap my chin. "Well, you see. I didn't have a particular name for my game. I made sport of catching rats and other pests around the area. I found it quite fun and rewarding when I did get one of those buggers in my claws." A smile graces his beak as he finishes.

 No.715284

>>715280
"I… guess you could call it a clan! It feels like, if you've ever been to one, a monastery, but instead of religion, we focus on knowledge. Sorting it, learning it, keeping it all amassed for whoever should want it. As for the others, they're just… folks like me. Some are friends, some aren't. But, in a way, we're all rivals, looking to find new things. Things that no one's seen before, so we can be the first to record it." The pegasus puffs up with a bit of pride as she rambles at Suncatcher, before Pippali's, and Communion's, comments distract her.

>>715277
"H-Hey, no fair! Maybe if you'd actually teach me about the rules of other games, I'd actually be decent at them." She pouts, puffing her cheeks out as she fails to hide a grin.

>>715278
"A-And that's not very fair. Is it… Pippali? Or, me?" She spreads one of her wings and examines it for stripes, before looking back at Communion and sticking out her tongue. "Don't worry too much, though. We'll be fine, so long as we stay close!"

 No.715285

>>715280
"There's a lot of surface differences. The emphasis is much more on communion," she titters a bit at the coincidence, "than the druids. A druid can live her whole life in the wilderness, speaking with nopony except the Aos Si she appeases with offerings and rituals. A goal of the Celestians is to spread the word of the Sisters to all the land. However, at their roots, I believe that all forms of worship have a commonality, the relationship of everypony and their higher power. It's just the form of the relationship that changes." She smiles as she waxes philosophical.

She giggles at the cat's antics. "Silly kitty." The droplets of red pony-matter run back together. If anypony were to look closely, they each have a little Communion-face on them as they coalesce into her body. "You've been awful quiet for a while. Feeling better now?" She addresses William playfully.

>>715284
Communion looks back and forth between the two striped members of the pilgrimage. "It's whichever one you WEREN'T thinking of," she slyly grins. She looks reassured by the pegasus's confidence.

 No.715286

>>715284
>>715278

Pippali pokes one of the mare's cheeks, before shrugging a little bit. He looks to Communion, and hums a little, before asking "Well… does it have black stripes, or white stripes?"

 No.715287

>>715285
The pegasus sticks her tongue out at the slime, and chuckles. "Cheeeater~"

 No.715288

>>715284
"Oh…" Suncatcher says with awe. "What an incredible goal. It's like a form of archaeology, isn't it? I heard about something quite like that in Albion's own history. They were a group called the Scribes. See, before there were the four Lands that we have in Albion now, there were four clans of ponies, called the Tuatha. There are records that suggest the Tuatha themselves were descended from an even older civilization that migrated to Albion after their own country fell to some unknown ruin. The Scribes were in search of answers as to why, so they set off on missions around the world, in search of this ancestral nation, from the so-called 'Age of Myth.' I wanted to join them once, but they turned me down for lack of experience."

>>715285
The cat goes on a little frenzy trying to slap all the coalescing droplets as they gather together back into your own body. His eyes are wide and his tail flails about with interest.
"Mmm, yes. You'll forgive me if I go silent now and then. I don't intend to reveal myself yet, and having you talking to a voice in the air is prime material for getting the others suspicious of you."

>>715285
Suncatcher chuckles as she watches the cat play with your droplets, but pays attention to you all the while. "I see. What a stark difference. I've never thought of converting people as being important to religion. Seemed to be a lot of hullabaloo trying to get everyone to agree on what to believe and how to dress and how to think and all that. People are bound to disagree with fanciful ideas on gods and spirits no matter how much you explain things to them, aren't they?"

>>715281
>>715282
>>715285
>>715287
Candelabrum passes the oars over to Soft Talon, and then exchanges seats with him so as to make rowing easier. Suncatcher then floats over the deck of cards to Pippali. "What're we playing, then?"

As Soft Talon rows, you hear a distant, yet resounding creaking in the trees around you, like how a ship's timbers might creak under the pressure of the high seas and winds. A warm air passes through the mist-cloaked swamps, swelling past you in a hot current. The air then turns, blowing the other way, but not enough to slow your trip. As it does, a small galaxy of bright lights, vaguely breezie shaped, manifest in the mists about your boat, watching you with interest. They perch upon the mist like birds gathering on branches, watching the trip go on. "Are these the Wild Magic Peat mentioned?" Candelabrum asks.

"Ach, nae, don't mind us, keep on goin'," one of the glowing sprites says.

"Ah…"

 No.715289

>>715288
"Hm… that does sound similar, but that was more for… well, an answer. We've got no central questions, we just look. It's quite free, and in a weird way, it feels nice not having something like that looming over my every action." She leans back a little, taking a second to just… relax. "Do you still wish to join the scribes? Is that what this is all for?"

She waits patiently for an answer, but she instead ends up springing up from her seat as the lights pop up everywhere. She hovers in the air, watching them with wide eyes. After a few moments of staring, she gently flaps over, and tries to poke one of them.

 No.715290

>>715287
>>715286
Communion just grins and winks in return.

>>715288
"Well, converting people and telling them what to think and how to worship and all that is pretty much the same thing. I always thought it was all a little stuffy. Part of why I decided to come on the Pilgrimage. It's a lot more free on the road." She stretches up as if to emphasize her autonomy. "I guess I'm 'converted' to the Sun, but I still hold a lot of the core beliefs I learned from my first master, Aria Solana." Communions eyes mist up a bit as she mentions the name. "She was the wisest pony I've ever met. She always told me that, if you're very very quiet, you can hear a tiny voice speaking to you, and when you're unsure about what to do, you just have to listen to that voice."
A half-smile creeps across her gooey features. "I always try to hear it but I can never seem to be quiet enough."


She starts at the sudden change in the air. As all the tiny lights come on, she looks nervous. "Don't go throwing any bugs at us, now, hear?" At their suggestion that they keep going, Communion turns to the party. "Should we..? It's not as though we have much choice, but this feels ominous."

 No.715291

>>715288
"Hrm… I don't really know, actually. Got a particular preference in game?" the zebra asks, settling his heavy hooves down on the boat and humming a little. He flicks his ears as Candleabraum calls out, and takes a look at whatever's started perching around them. Since they seem nice enough, he offers a wave.

 No.715292

>>715288

"These creatures do seem quite interesting, but not unusual to what we have already seen so far.

>>715291
"Do you think these creatures might know of any games or songs?" I call out to pippali as I row.

 No.715293

>>715292
"Hrm… maybe. I'm sure they could play I Spy, at least."

 No.715294

>>715289
"Well, yes and no," Suncatcher says. She hefts up the giant stack of notes. "I went on the pilgrimage so that I could get my curse removed with the help of the wish, but I started taking notes on everyhing I could so that I could prove to them that I was worthy of joining them. The fact that my druidic duties kept me from ever leaving the Land of Sands made getting experience in exploration very difficult. If I couldn't prove I was well-traveled, I decided to make up for it by proving I was twice as observant as any globetrotting explorer."

>>715290
"I'LL SPEAK UP FROM NOW ON, THEN!" William says, belting out in a loud voice right by your ear.

Suncatcher, having not heard a word of what he said, makes a note of that. "Interesting… my own master was a far cry from yours, then. Stubble the Elder, or so they call him. He had the subtlety of an earthquake, and had more of a penchant for making divinations out of animal bones instead of looking for insight. I didn't think the two religions would be open to such syncretism. Did you ever get in trouble for heterodoxy in the Celestian cult?"

>>715291
>>715292
>>715289
You indeed recognize the small breezie-shaped lights as Wild Magic, per Sage Peat's description, and the one that Sirocco touches falls over backward, tumbling down the slope of the mist harmlessly, coming to a halt at the bottom. As Pippali and Soft Talon ask for suggestions, the Branded raises his hoof to offer one, but the air around you gets drowned out with a loud cry of overlapping voices. Some of the Wild Magic call out their own. A few want to see Tailxas Texas Hold 'Em, others request Gin Rummy, and one loud high voice is very insistent on seeing some 52 Pickup. However, it sounds like the majority want to see a game of Go Fish.

>If interested, you can roll for the card game's results. Otherwise, if you're ready to move to the next scene, you may

 No.715295

The mare giggles at the little light's tumble, before scooping it up in her hooves and placing it back on the mists's crest. Satisfied with their friendliness, she flaps back to the boat, and takes a seat on the edge, trying her best not to blow the cards everywhere with her wings. She does her best to shut out the noise, but honestly, it does start to grate a bit. "Just play something, you goofs!" She calls to her friends.

 No.715296

>>715294
>roll a 1d10 or something like that, yeah?
"Well… no reason not to go for the crowd favorites, right? Let's go for Go Fish. Lucky me, at least- I don't think I've heard of 'Tailxas Hold 'Em'."

 No.715297

>>715296
>[1d10]

Roll #1 9 = 9

 No.715298

>>715294
Communion shows no sign that she has heard William, but swats at him carelessly while still looking at Suncatcher. She chuckles at her description of Stubble. "We-ll, they weren't always very happy with my… interpretations of the lessons. Now that you mention it," she looks off into the distance, thoughtfully tapping her chin with a pseudohoof, "they all DID seem pretty supportive of my leaving for the Pilgrimage. Hmm."

She leans over to where a card game is forming up. "Oh! I think I know how to play Go Fish!" She excitedly shores up her form.

Gone Fishin [1d10]

Roll #1 1 = 1

 No.715299

As Pippali deals out the cards for a round of Go Fish, your allies form up in a little circle around the boat, or at least as best as they can without tipping it over, and join in.

[1d10] Sun
[1d10] Candle
[1d10] Brand

Roll #1 9 = 9 / Roll #2 6 = 6 / Roll #3 6 = 6

 No.715300

>>715299
"This "Go Fish" doesn't seem very entertaining from over here. I don't know why anyone would want to watch it." I say from my rowing spot with my head tilted.

 No.715301

[1d2] Rolling for a tie breaker between Pippali and Suncatcher. 1 = P, 2 = S.
[1d2] and for Candle and Brand; 1 = C, 2 = B.

Roll #1 1 = 1 / Roll #2 1 = 1

 No.715302

>>715298
Suncatcher looks at you funny as you swat the air beside you. William snickers, tumbling away with the breeze only to come right back to you.
Candelabrum shakes his head with understanding and resignation. "Mmm, don't I know that. It's always… enlightening to see when people are excited to see you leave. Had more than my share of that when I headed out!"
"Can't imagine why," Suncatcher snarks.

>>715295
>>715296
>>715298
>>715300
>>715301
>>715299
The game begins, and as the round progresses, the Wild Magic sit on the mist in the background, hooting and hollering with each twist and turn of fortune as if they were watching a contact sport instead of a card game. It comes down to a close match between Pippali and Suncatcher, but in the end he is victorious, with Candelabrum and Brand coming in as runners-up. Communion, sadly, gets probably the worst possible hand that one can draw in Go Fish, and ends up doing little more than drawing cards all game. A portion of the Wild Magic cheer, and there is some exchanging of small breezie-sized coins and other trinkets, the spoils of gambling.

*****************************

While all this business with the card game goes on, you become aware of a distant light in the mist, at last. At last, you see the other end of the broken bridge, connected to a big island in the swamp, one larger than the rest stop you arrived at earlier. In the middle of this island is a large, dark oak, one that is covered with a number of flat, long rune-etched talismans. Atop its bare branches sit a constellation of Wild Magic lights, their bodies illuminating the dark swamp in the shape of leaves and flowers, filling the dead and empty tree-branches with a bouquet of light. At the base of the tree are a collection of monk's statues, gathered in prayer, but they seem to be generic representations of worshippers rather than specific saints. Before the tree is a large signpost, though you'd need to get closer to read it.

From the space beyond the island, there are four massive tree roots, each of them more than big enough for a group to talk upon, albeit with some difficulty, as they are rough and gnarled. The roots extend into the mists beyond the island. Two lead to the east and west, while the other two lead to the northwest and northeast. You see no other bridges out above the waters, and it seems that these are to serve as bridges. There is a small dock on the island, wih a spot to tether the boat and bring it up to dry.

 No.715303

>>715302
"You know, now that I think about it, the cat we have in our group hasn't been named this whole time and I find that a bit strange. So, therefore, I believe we shall name this one Franklin the Third if there aren't any problems with that." I reach over and pat the cat.

 No.715304

>>715302
Siro is probably among the first to notice, as she's not as engrossed in the card game as the players are. She cheerfully bounces into the air, and calls out: "Look, land! Or… an island! Still, that's something!" Before flapping on over, and doing a quick fly-around, checking out the signpost as she does. She gently sets herself by the docks, and waits for the boat to approach so she can tie it to the pier.

While she waits, she looks at each of the roots, and to the light show above. It definitely is a beautiful sight. Though, with four ways to go… goodness, this could take more than a little while.

 No.715305

>>715302
"Well, that went pretty well." the stallion remarks, leaning up and stretching his back out before looking the little creatures over. He hadn't really expected such an… excitable audience, really.

>>715304
"Alright! Good eyes, Siro." he chirps, before getting to all fours and stretching out like a cat. "See anything else?"

 No.715306

>>715303
Communion nods at Soft Talon as he names the cat. "Franklin the Third, eh? What happened to the first two?" There is a lilt of playfulness about her words, but also acceptance. "A good name, regardless." She gives the cat a stroke down the length of its spine with one slender psuedohoof.

>>715302
"Drat! Never had good luck with cards," she ruefully discloses.

As they approach the other end of the bridge, she perks up in interest. "How beautiful!" Her eyes sparkle with the myriad lights which expose the natural beauty of the swamp. As the boat pulls into the dock, she splashes out of the boat and onto dry land in one fluid motion, bringing Franklin III with her to prevent any watery mishaps. She sets him down gently on the dock and turns to wait for the rest of the group to disembark.

"Should we try to return the boat for the other pilgrims?" She looks worried. "I wouldn't want to be the reason anypony couldn't continue their pilgrimage…"

 No.715307

>>715303
>>715306
As you name the cat, it cranes upward with its neck to push into your hand for extra patting.
"Well, it's… a unique name," the Branded says. "I think it befits him. It's sturdy, but dualistic: a hard and soft sound, befitting his multiple natures."

>>715305
"Looks like people with an itch for gambling will bet on anything, huh?" Suncatcher laughs. "Well played, good game."

>>715304
>>715306
>>715305
>>715303
The signboard has a very large canvas of paper upon it. At the top, scrawled in loopy writing, is a message: "PILGRIMS!!! Good job making it this far, but the real challenge starts now! Pick your road carefully. Hope you're prepared for what lies at its end…"

This message is signed by "Peeled Husk." Below that are a number of other bits of graffitti, signed by other pilgrims. You see the following names: Vulpecula, Caelum, Lacerta and Eridanus, to name just a few. Among the names are complaints about the journey being long or hard, tidbits of advice about staying dry and healthy while traveling, and weird quotes and quips, which you can only assume to be eoteric inside jokes, much like the mementos one might find in a high school yearbook.

 No.715308

>>715307
>Forgot to add
There is an assortmet of charcoal pencils at the bottom of the signboard for those who wish to leave their own messages for posterity.

 No.715309

>>715306
"Way back where I lived there weren't any household animals such as dogs or cats. So I named some of those pests I caught. Though they didn't realize their short lifespan so I stopped after the second Franklin." I tell communion

>>715307
I go up to the canvas paper with a charcoal pencil in talon and write in small lettering "Franklin the Third was here."

 No.715310

>>715309
"Ah. Fitting that you named this one after a pest, then," she jokes lightly, giving the cat a look of mock disapproval before giving way to a snicker.

>>715307
Communion reads the board. She smiles and picks up a pencil to inscribe her name. She does so, then thoughtfully, she draws a chalice shape after. She beams at the rest of the group.

She glances to the generic statues, but quickly loses interest and moves on to the tree. She tries to recognize any of the runes affixed to the gigantic oak.

Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7

 No.715311

>>715307
Sirocco rubs her chin as she looks over the entire thing, taking in all the writing as she examines the post. She just crouches down to leave a small doodle of her cutie mark in the margin, before standing back up and hopping into the air. The pegasus perches on the zebra's back, and looks over the four paths. "Soooo… does anyone here have a love of a particular cardinal direction? Because, quite frankly, other than that, we've got nothing to go on."

 No.715312

>>715311
>>715307
Pippali flicks at the mare with his tail when she perches on his back, and bends down to put his signature, in a surprisingly beautiful script. Satisfied, he looks back up and around to the others, before shrugging a little. "I'd say flip a coin, but… hrm. No real preference from me."

 No.715313

>>715310
I chuckle from your joke. "That is quite a nice drawing you did there," I say with a smile leaning on my talon.

 No.715314

>>715310
Pippali snickers a little bit, and gives the goopony a pat on the… 'back'? That's probably right.

 No.715315

>>715309
As you relay this story to Communion, Suncatcher and Candelabrum look on in a morbid interest, but Franklin's eyes simply gleam, as if daring you to try to repeat the fate of the first to Franklins on it.

>>715310
These are charms that are said to drive off lesser malevolent spirits, such as wandering wraiths and angry ghosts, which in the grand scheme of things are akin to beasts, being mindless, vicious and vengeful all around. However, they have no effect on stronger malevolent spirits, nor do they drive off conscious, intelligent spirits that bear no particular ill-will against anyone. You note they smell strongly of Blessed Powder, a compound made of blessed salt, holy water and the Barrier Herb, which grows in climates such as these and is said to soothe angry spirits. Perhaps you could concoct a bit of your own if you were to find enough of this herb, or maybe even a stronger blend. Considering its prevalence here, it's easy enough to surmise that such spirits are around.

>>715311
>>715312
>>715311
>>715310
>>715309
The others join in to add their own signatures. Suncatcher's is neat and miniscule, while the Branded's is an elaborate, looping cursive. Candelabrum's is blocky and efficient.
"This mist doesn't help much, either," the Branded says. His wings twitch faintly, but remain firm and dead at his sides. "Perhaps a bit of scouting is in order. Or we might be able to barter with the locals for intelligence," he says with a gesture up at the Wild Magic sprites in the massive oak tree.

>Pause, continue talking. Make actions and rolls for next time, and they will be responded to with next session's OP and recap.

 No.715316

>>715315
Sirocco looks back up at all the little sprites overhead, and grins. They were silly little fellows, but she did enjoy them. Knowing how that card game went, she doubted she'd get any real info from them, but this is bound to be fun, at least! "Alright, I'll go prod em a bit, and see what they can tell me!" She gives a little twirl as she hops into the air, and flaps on up to the lights.

She waves, and offers a warm smile to the group, before asking: "Pardon me, but would you folks happen to know what's down these paths? My friends and I are a bit clueless, so any help would be much appreciated."

[1d10] something if I need it idk

Roll #1 3 = 3

 No.715317

>>715313
Communion continues beaming. "Thanks! If I had a cutie mark, that would probably be it." She pulls her catalyst out from within herself and shows it off. "As it is, all I have is this silver goblet."

>>715314
Communion grins at the zebra as she shores up her body so as not to be too sticky or too wet to the touch.

>>715315
She gazes at the charms for a minute, before turning to the rest of the group. "This is a safe place, for the most part," she explains. "So we can surmise that these wild magic sprites aren't outright malevolent. Are you?" she turns up towards the multitude of twinkling lights.

She looks like she has an idea. "What if I split up again, and sent each one off to the four directions?"

She glances up to William. "Or you could make yourself useful for once," she mutters under her breath.

 No.716100

>>715315
"It was just a rat and an ant. The ant mysteriously just disappeared from the box one day or it probably just climbed out of it. The Rat I put in a bigger box with some basic necessities but other rats got into the box and attacked it for a reason that I still can't fathom to today." I just shrug reminiscing about my past pets.

 No.716101

Last time on TPW…

Taking the boat out onto the swamp water, the party ventured forth, continuing their pilgrimage through the Valley of Hungry Spirits. According to Suncatcher's research, an average trek through the Valley might take as many as seven days in total, but this would likely vary depending on whether the weather and wildlife would hinder or help their journey. To pass the time, the party played a game of Go Fish, while a collection of Wild Magic spirits looked on as the audience (complete with bets on who would win).

Eventually, the party reached another island, which was a small patch of land dominated by a single colossal tree, covered with talismans and blessed charms which acted as a kind of repellant against lesser malevolent spirits. The charms, it seemed, had no effect on the Wild Magic, which indicated that either they were too powerful for the charms' effect (unlikely) or not malevolent.

>>715317
"Malevolent? Us?" one of the sprites responds.
"No, no no!" says another.
"We would never mess with pilgrims," chimes in a third.
"Not even by directing them off the road for a good laugh!" says a forth.
"C'mon, that's crazy," emphasizes the fifth.
"Perish the thought!" concludes the sixth.

>>715316
The Wild Magic sprites chuckle a little at their teasing of Communion, but reel in their mirth.
"Each of these paths lead to a part of the Serpent Tribe's lands," one says.
"To the west, you'll find their hunting grounds," the second adds. "To the east, their graves. Northwest, you'll find their village, and northeast, the Palace of Scales."
"They have gone to war with the tribes of Albion many times across the centuries, and have nearly been driven out time and again, but none of the Tuatha have ever been able to completely vanquish them. They're living under a treaty now, but every hatchling and warrior in the lands still remembers their ancestors' vendetta."
"You should be careful, pilgrims. The moment their people sniff you out, they'll want to know what brings you here."

 No.716102

>>716100
Suncatcher and Candelabrum look on in sadness as they hear these tragedies unfold. "Oh dear," Suncatcher says. "What were their names?"
"I can't imagine why an ant would want to leave, you've seemed good with animals so far," Candelabrum says.

 No.716103

>>716102
"They were Franklin and Franklin the 2nd. I guess the ant must have returned to its colony of other ants. I also never considered myself an animal person before." Talon idly taps their chin in thought.

 No.716104

>>716103
"And so Franklin the Third here has inherited the title," Candelabrum surmises, looking over at Franklin as he sits upon Communion's back. The cat looks back at you with big eyes, attentively listening to your story. He studies you with newfound curiosity.
"I'm sure Franklin the First must have spoken highly of you," Suncatcher says with sincerity.

 No.716105

>>716104
"The ant didn't speak to me, and the rat was quite cross with me catching it. I think I got a disease from it biting me a couple times, either that or it was the flowers I tried to eat that made me sick, but I was quite fond with them the times that they were with me." I smile fond of the memory.

 No.716106

>>716100
>>716101
Communion laughs good naturedly with the sprites as they complete each other's thoughts, but appears a bit troubled by the implication that they might be misleading the group. She looks unsure of exactly how to respond and so continues awkwardly chuckling for a second before falling off to listen to their actual directions.

Nodding, she appears to try to commit these directions to memory. Turning to the group, she says, "Well, what do you guys think? Seems like maybe we should try to avoid too much contact with this Serpent Tribe lest we find ourselves on the wrong end of a pointy stick. You think there's any way to get around the village without encountering them?"

>>716100
>>716102
>>716103
>>716105

The goo pony listens attentively to Soft Talon's story, stroking Franklin with a gooey pseudopod. At the mention of an earlier Franklin biting the griffon, she coos into the feline's ear. "You wouldn't bite Mr Talon, now would you? No, you're a good kitty." She grins as she dispenses more pats. "You never know, he might just bite you back."

 No.716107

>>716105
Suncatcher scratcher her chin awkwardly. "…I suppose that's what matters in the end, isn't it? They made your life brighter, and that's for the best."

>>716106
>>716105
Franklin III meows loudly in Soft Talon's direction.
"It sounds like the cat's taken an interest in our companion here," William says to Communion. "Those stories of his precedessors have only made him more interesting in the cat's eyes."
Franklin III leaps from Communion's back onto Soft Talon's, pawing at the soft fur and feathers between his wings to try to get comfortable.

>>716106
>>716105
While all that goes on, Suncatcher ponders the dilemma before you. "By their description, it sounds like we're pretty deep into the Serpent Tribe's territory already. Unless we're willing to really get back in the boat and sail all the way around their lands, we might have to just deal with them."
Candelabrum rolls out his shoulders. "I'd rather not have to get back in there and row again! Come now, if they've made their territory right in the midst of the Pilgrim's Way, they have to have a bit of tolerance for travelers, don't they?"
"They're awfully territorial," a Wild Magic sprite says.
"Especially to rude guests," says another.

 No.716108

>>716107
Talon smile softly at the cat and stays still for the cat to nest between his wings as to not disturb it. He gives off a little happy chirp.

 No.716109

>>716107
Communion smiles as Franklin finds a new friend and a new home. It's a bit of a sad smile, truth be told. She reforms the goo on her back into a normal pony shape and turns back to the rest of the group.

"Hmm. Suncatcher is right, it's not likely we can completely avoid them. However, if we are to encounter them, let's try not to be rude guests!" She beams brightly. "We should bring them gifts." Her gooey features take on a thoughtful expression. "I don't think these guys will like hair as much as the last ones."

 No.716110

>>716109
I reach over and try to pull the goo pony communion closer noticing their sad smile. I try to include them in the little group of me and Franklin the 3rd.

 No.716111

>>716109
>>716108
Franklin III rolls onto his own back, squirming about as he gets comfortable, giving a satisfied purr at the softness of the feathers and fur. William, noticing Communion's sadness, clears his throat loudly. Franklin III looks over at Communion, and as Soft Talon brings them closer, Franklin III taps her with his tail, as if to say that he hasn't forgotten her – or more accurately, still considers her his subject, as befitting the nature of cats.

>>716109
>>716108
"Gifts?" the Branded asks thoughtfully. "A sound idea in theory, but what kind of gifts would snakes like?"
"Is food a safe bet, you think?" Suncatcher says. "Nobody can have a bad mood when you come in offering food."

 No.716112

>>716110

Communion feels a tugging from behind, notices Soft and Franklin. The sadness drops off her face to be replaced with a joyful expression as she wraps them both in an impossibly big, slightly damp hug.

>>716111
Communion rolls her eyes at William. "You're not nearly as snuggly as Franklin, though. Are you even corporeal??" She pokes a prodding goo-hoof (goove?) at the tiny pegasus's chest. Still, she seems to be successfully cheered up.

She turns to Suncatcher, the branded and Candelabrum. "Well, we have food, and we have money, and we have someone who can craft runes for them. Between all these things we can certainly come up with something." Pauses a moment to think. "If someone needs healing, I can offer that too, I suppose. Or maybe they're interested in a song?"

 No.716113

>>716111
>>716101
>>716109
"I guess we'll have to see when we get there. Maybe hair won't work, but I imagine they'll have some odd one or two we could satisfy."

 No.716115

>>716101
>>716106
Siro listens to the sprites, and takes note of the directions of each of the paths. None of them really sounded like the way forwards, though… "So, which way sounds best? I imagine treading through a graveyard would be seen as awfully rude, and would earn us a rather sound beating, though there are likely less living things to be found. The palace sounds like the worst possible place to go, with either the village or the hunting grounds close behind."

She hums, and tosses her two preferred choices around her head for a bit. "The village definitely has more folk in it, but the hunting grounds might have more ferocious ones. I'm honestly a bit intrigued by these "serpent tribe" fellows, so if we can make a good impression, going through town sounds very nice. But, if they're mean… maybe it's best to go through the grounds and avoid them as best we can?"

 No.716116

>>716112
Your hoof makes contact, becoming quite hot as it passes through his flames, though they do not burn you. William is surprisingly soft upon being touched, but he floats back, puffing himself up and making his chest square and solid.

>>716115
>>716113
>>716112
>>716114
After listening to the party's suggestions, Candelabrum raises his hoof. "I'm in agreement with Sirocco on this. The palace and the burial grounds are definitely off limits, but I'm a little inclined to suggest the village. If they see us in their hunting grounds, wouldn't they think we might be trying to take their prey? We might be able to find someone to talk to in the village, like an elder or someone else we could make a deal with in exchange for safe passage."

 No.716117

>>716116
"Honestly, I'm less concerned with them thinking we're stealing prey, and more concerned with the folks that're hunting being less concerned with negotiating. I'll follow everyone else's judgement, though."

 No.716118

>>716112
I pat the goo pony on the head and then look at them curiously hearing them wondering if they were talking to me and stare at them awaiting a for them to continue.

 No.716119

>>716116
>>716115
"Hmm… let's go for the village, then. We can try and approach as peacefully as possible, and if they look like they're not having it we can back off and find another way. Might be harder to do that in the hunting grounds."

 No.716120

>>716116
"Oooh, soft." She pats the wisp on his tiny head with a tiny part of her pseudohoof. To the rest of the party, she probably looks insane. Maybe she is.

>>716118
Turning to Soft Talon, she realizes what she's just said. "Oooh, Soft," she repeats, trying to cover up her outburst, "which way do YOU think we should go??…"

Listening to the rest of the party, Communion offers up her two cents. "The village sure seems like the least threatening way to approach the tribe. Let's make sure they know we're not some wandering raiding party, or any more of those pesky druids… maybe send someone first as a scout?" Her eyes widen as she seems to realize just who that scout might end up being. "Or, maybe it will be okay if you guys just keep your weapons stowed."

The ever-thoughtful gooey pony taps her chin. "This is all assuming that the Wild Magic sprites are telling the truth. They did mention they might mislead pilgrims from time to time."

 No.716121

>>716120
"Hm? Nono, they said they'd never do that, remember? And surely they never would, riiight?" She casts a glance at the sprites, and flicks an ear. "But, yes, village sounds fine."

 No.716122

>>716120
You see Suncatcher adjust her glasses and give you a very scrutinizing look as, from her perspective, you just poke at the open air. "Are you feeling alright, Communion?"

>>716117
>>716118
>>716119
>>716120
"The village it is, then," Candelabrum concludes. Upon hearing Communion bring up the suggestion of a scout, he raises his halberd. "I can go. If they're going to react negatively to anyone, it'd be the guy holding a cursed halberd, I reckon. Anyone else fancy to go with me?"

>>716121
>>716120
"Wouldn't even dream of it!" one of the sprites says, his voice dripping with performed sincerity.

 No.716123

>>716120
I tap my chin idly thinking for just a moment scrunching up my face. "I am unsure, preferably a way that is convenient to choose." he ends up shrugging.

 No.716124

>>716122
"Should me and Pippali go? We've got no weapons to speak of, so that might be a good idea. Though… I don't remember what your cursed halberd is… cursed with. What was it, again?"

 No.716125

>>716122
"I'd be more than happy to go. I'm not much of a talker, but I can try to be as friendly as possible."

 No.716126

>>716123
"Hmm." She doesn't say anything else, just nods thoughtfully.

>>716122
Communion smiles at Suncatcher reassuringly. "Sometimes I just talk. Mouth starts going and I just go go go."

Turning to Candelabrum, "I can't see why we would send the person who is the MOST threatening… Seems counter to our purposes, neh?"

>>716124
>>716125
"I also have no weapon to speak of…" She looks reluctant. "I volunteer myself."

 No.716127

>>716126
"I trust your judgement communion, where should we head out that you think is best for us all?" I ask poking them a bit for their attention.

 No.716128

>>716124
Candelabrum thinks for a few seconds. You can almost hear the gears turning in his head. "Ah! I never ended up sharing that, did I? There's a spirit of war that has been sealed inside this weapon. Maintaining it is a tricky thing. If I don't get into a fight with it every now and again, it becomes restless, and might even lash out against me and anyone else around me. But, if I use it in a battle, and start to get overwhelmed or take too much damage, it'll start to, er… how should I say it? It'll try to 'help' me by taking control, moving and striking for me. The effects, so I've been told, are permanent. I'm not the first one in my family to try – and fail – to break the curse upon it."

>>716124
>>716125
>>716126
>>716127
"Yeah, your reasoning doesn't work out too well," Suncatcher says to Candelabrum. "Shouldn't you remain behind?"
"…I just wanted to see the snake people," he confesses. "They sound so interesting!"
"You can stay and help guard the rear," Suncatcher says. "The rest of you can go on ahead. We've got it covered back here."

 No.716129

>>716128
"Goodness, you and Suncatcher would make quite the pair, no? Cursed and unable to fix it. Hopefully we'll find something to help you both." She gives a somewhat cheery smile, before nodding to Suncatcher.

"Sounds fine to me. Suppose we'll come back to grab you if everything goes well. If it doesn't go well… actually, we'll still come back and grab you, just with plenty of snake people on our tails, or lack thereof." She chuckles as she gives her short tail a shake.

 No.716130

>>716129
"Certainly we do have a lot of interesting ponies in our group, would make an interesting tale to talk about later for my next travels." Talon lightly chuckles to himself.

 No.716131

>>716128
"Oh, that's… hmm. We'll try to make sure that never comes to pass, then."

>>716129
"A little cheerier than I'd say it, but yeah- hopefully, we can find a way to find a way to fix both of your curses."

>>716130
"A colorful little group, to say the least."

 No.716132

>>716127
"Seems like we're headed to the village…"

>>716128
Communion looks Candelabrum over as he speaks. "Violence begets violence, eh? Sounds familiar," her voice is flatly ironic. "I'm sorry that your life is stained with blood." Now she's genuinely compassionate.

>>716130
"I imagine this journey will make quite the story!"

 No.716133

>>716128 >>716129 >>716130 >>716131

Communion looks at the rest of the group. "So… Northwest, supposedly to the village then? No point tarrying any longer than we have to!"

 No.716134

>>716132
"Let us have a feast when it is all over!" I exaggerate doing a fist bump into the air with my claw. "Though I am getting peckish right now." I pat my belly.

 No.716135

>>716134
"Oh! I might be able to help with that," she says. She reaches a gooey hoof backwards over her back and produces her silver chalice, filled with the red goo that makes up her being. It glistens in the light of the multitude of sprites. She hands it over to Soft Talon proudly. "This is one of my talents. Go on, drink it!"

 No.716136

>>716135
I take the chalice into my talon and lift it up to my beak to drink, as it goes down a tart cherry taste hits my tongue going down my tongue leaving Talon licking his beak as he finishes his drink of communion.

 No.716137

>>716129
Suncatcher turns a shade red, noticable even through her orange coat. She says nothing, even though you can practically see a hundred stammering rebuttals puffing up in her cheeks.

>>716131
"Hopefully so," Candelabrum says. "Sirocco's not far off. Like Suncatcher, the stallions of my family who have taken on this task have tried every possible option for breaking the curse, but all have been dead ends. I have been sent out on the Pilgrim's Way, hoping that the miracle that comes to all pilgrims on its completion will be enough. Not everyone believes that the miracle is real, but I myself have seen it with my own eyes, when I completed it with my own father once before."

>>716132
"Yep, that's the way of it. I've seen it happen – the moment the weapon starts to take control of its wielder, the moment the wielder realizes that they've lost control of their own bodies. It's not a fate I'd wish on even the worst of the world's evil."

>>716129
>>716130
>>716131
>>716132
With that, you head up the northwestern path, which is a great, wide tree root, gnarled and old, that connects to the stone island. The root is wide enough for you to follow along side by side without fear of falling off the edge. The long root crawls through the mist-dense swamp, running parallel to the water for some time, until it starts to elevate, rising steadily up into the treeline, though at a reasonable incline. The road winds along the many trees, which as you proceed, start to get densely packed and intertwined. Vines and branches droop down from above, and from being so closely built together, start to form a sturdy canopy. The path continues, until you can no longer see the waters below you through the thick canopy, which looks stable enough to walk on.

You head past a few more loops around the thick and ancient trees, when you hear a high and small voice call out from the murk ahead.

"Haaaaaalt!"

Ahead of you, you see one very small snake, blocking the path ahead. He appears to be unarmed, but wears a rather tribal garb, consisting of old snakeskins that have been treated like leather to become armor.

"No visitors may pass without tribute! State your name and business, foreigners, or suffer the price of death for intruding upon these lands!" he cries out, slithering up to you with his chest puffed out. In the mist beyond, you see more snakes just like him, very small fellows, all.

 No.716138

>>716137
Sirocco does her best to stifle a little giggle at Suncatcher's reaction. It's exactly what she expected.

Once they head off along the path, they don't need to worry about walking side by side, since Siro keeps to the air, flitting to and fro around the party, oftentimes swooping off the root to prod at the water, or tug at some vines, just to keep herself busy.

Once she hears that tiny, almost inaudible noise, though, her ear flicks, and her head swivels 'round and 'round as she looks for the source. When her eyes finally lock with the snake, she leans down, keeping a nice distance, and stares. She stares for a good while before grinning, and standing tall. "Well now, *I* am Swirling Sirocco, and I, as well as my friends, are here to progress down the pilgrim's path. What kind of tribute are you looking for?" She puffs out her own chest, and slightly flares her wings as she speaks, a grin still on her face.

 No.716139

>>716136
Communion takes the chalice back and grins expectantly at Soft. "Well?? How was I?"

>>716137
Communion notices Suncatcher blushing and begins to laugh. "Aaaah, SOMEBODY has a CRUSH~!" She prances a circle around Suncatcher, sing-songing "Sun and Candel, sittin in a tree!" She gets a little too excited and almost dances right off the edge of the giant root, which sobers her up real quick. "Speaking of trees," she mutters.

>>716137
As they approach, Communion doesn't even see the tiny snake guard until he begins to squeak- er, speak. She looks down and stifles a giggle. It wouldn't do to be rude to their hosts.

"We are mere pilgrims seeking passage through the great Serpent Tribe's land. Pray tell, could we offer a tribute to your ..leader?"

 No.716140

>>716139
Sirocco gives Communion a little bop on the head (not that it works super well on a goo pony).
"Hush, you, don't tease anyone."

 No.716141

>>716139
I go to communion and give their slime body a lick. "Pretty good if I do say so myself."

>>716137
Unable to quite hear them correctly Talon leans to them cupping their ear to try hearing them better.

 No.716142

>>716138
>>716137
"Come now, Sirocco. Don't tease them too much." he says, chuckling a little bit and turning to look back at the road. Just in time to hear… snakes!

He blinks in surprise and leans in a little to take a closer look at the snake. "I'm Pippali, and I'm here as a pilgrim. What kind of tribute would please you and yours?"

 No.716143

>>716139
>>716138
>Before leaving
"You will not wake up tomorrow morning," Suncatcher mutters, narrowing her eyes with plain embarrassment. Candelabrum, on the other hand, rocks back and forth on the ends of his hooves, smiling faintly but not disturbed by the talk.

>>716139
>>716138
>>716142
>>716141
"The most valuable item in your possession!" the lead guard cries out. "Or, if you have any in your possession, medicine of all kinds! And if there is a doctor among you, they shall come with us!"

The other snakes behind him hiss their assent to these demands.

 No.716144

>>716143
"Sounds like some of them are hurt or sick?" Talon shrugs to the group. "I don't like the attitude or things being taken away from me." Talon grumbles.

 No.716145

>>716143
"A doctor? Uhm, I'm not… actually, would you mind if I asked why you need a doctor, and these supplies? If you need help, I'd be happy to assist, my friend." Sirocco cocks her head as she asks her question, not handing over the supplies just yet.

 No.716146

>>716143
>>716140
Communion rubs her head playfully as though she was actually hurt. "I'm hurt," she teases.

>>716141
Communion continues to beam at him. "Hope it helps!"

>>716143
She winks at Suncatcher before they depart, a mischievous gleam in her eye as she looks to Candelabrum knowingly.

To the snake: "I'm a doctor," Communion offers helpfully. "Well, a healer, really," she rubs the back of her gooey head, suddenly embarrassed. Sudden concern in her eyes, she asks "Why? Is someone hurt?"

 No.716147

>>716143
Pippali shares a soft smile with Candelabraum, but doesn't say anything else. At the mention of healers, he perks up a bit and gestures to Communion. "As a matter of fact, we've got one here."

>>716146
"Hey, looks like your guess was right!"

 No.716148

>>716146
"It does my lovely goo pony, I do look forward to tasting you again in the future." Talon cheerfully says licking his beak.

 No.716149

>>716144
>>716147
>>716146
>>716145
The lead guard looks hesitant to explain further, then a few snakes come forward, hissing whispered talk into his ear-holes. After a few moments of deliberation, the lead guard approaches once again.

"Our god is dying," the lead guard explains. "Last year, our guardian god, the great serpent that the outside world calls The Filth, was badly wounded by a poacher seeking nothing except his own glory, seeking to make a name for himself by slaying an ancient beast. The wound will not close, no matter what we try. Our god is in such pain that the spirits that are at his command have fallen into disarray, and are rampaging elsewhere in the swamp, attacking anyone that crosses their path. We have tried everything we can, but nothing eases his pain. We have even tried contacting the monastery deeper in the Valley, thinking the ponies there might have some medicine, but they are no match for the rampaging spirits, and refuse to put themselves in undue danger for our god's sake."

 No.716150

>>716149
Sirocco keeps her ears held high, and swiveled towards the snake. The Filth? Hm. "See, we came across some spirits earlier who asked for tribute to keep this god appeased, and claimed that he would go hurting innocent folk if he didn't get what he wanted. I do want to believe you, but can you assure us that they weren't telling the truth?"

 No.716151

>>716149
Talon humms to himself in thought thinking a bit. "I am unsure if they are just making sacrifices to their god, aren't gods supposed to be all-powerful and invincible?" Talon ask no one in particular curiously.

 No.716152

>>716149
Communion's fluid expression goes from amused disdain to shocked understanding to compassion as the lead guard speaks. She turns to the others to seek their opinions.

"So… the Filth that we heard about, the dangerous monster, or god, or whatever, it's in pain. We have a moral obligation to ease suffering, neh? The whole point of the Pilgrimage is to walk in St. Orore's footsteps." She grows in conviction as she speaks. "I for one have no doubts that we must help this being, if we're able. At any risk to our own persons."

Without waiting for anypony to respond, she turns back to the serpents. "I am uncertain that my ability is enough to heal your God, if he is indeed as mighty as you say. I am but a humble servant of the Sisterhood, and of all the creatures of Albion. Big and small." She curtsies, her mass gooshing out around the center and rebounding as she moves. "But if you can guarantee safe passage through this land for my friends and I, I swear to do everything in my power to heal your God Filth."

 No.716153

>>716149
>>716150
>>716152
"As long as this guardian isn't something bad, I don't see a problem with it. We haven't heard much good about this 'Filth', though.

 No.716154

>>716153
>>716150
The lead guard sighs, wincing at the use of the term 'Filth' – seems they're not fond of it. "No… you have heard correctly. Our god is still rapt with fury over what happened; this, combined with the pain from the wound, has driven him mad at times, and he has gone on rampages until he has drained enough energy to pass out. Pilgrims and monster hunters from the outside world have indeed died as a result of these. That, I presume, is why the ponies from the monastery refuse to stick their necks out for us."

>>716151
"Your gods may be nothing but light and spirit, but not ours," the lead guard hisses with pride. "Our god is real and tangible, a serpent just like us."

>>716152
The guards' expressions light up with hope as you indicate that you will help. "We will send some of our warriors to help your passage, and so long as our people know you have pledged to help us, you will not be harmed, questioned or harassed by our people while you are in our land. Is this acceptable to you? Do you swear to it? If so, our village is beyond this point, and you will be welcome here."

 No.716155

>>716154
>>716149

Sirocco doesn't really feel too bad. Not like they've given her another name to call it by. She gives Communion a nod as she steps forwards, and offers her help. "If you're sure, I'll be happy to tag along. At the least, helping him will help travelers along the way, and regardless of that, or any kind of reservations I may have, I am profoundly interested in this creature. I'll admit that I'd love to see it in person."

 No.716156

>>716154
"What do you think Franklin the 3rd? Should we help this group and this god?" I nudge the cat between my wings for an answer on whether to go or not.

 No.716157

>>716154
Communion's head nods as she solemnly looks over the snake people. "Thank you. And yes, I have sworn to do so. I am gifted with the ability to heal and ease suffering, and this is how I serve my God." She sneaks a glance at William, then back to the snakes.
"Does your God not have a name? We seek not to degrade, but to understand."

>>716155
"I admit, your expertise will be greatly appreciated. We should inquire back with the others… We'll want someone who can row the boat, as well." She has a determined look in her eye, and her form is much more defined than it usually is.

 No.716158

>>716154
"Do you… have something else we can call him, other than that? I'd rather not make him upset."

>>716152
>>716157
"We'll be with you the whole time. You're a good spirit, Communion."

 No.716159

>>716156
Franklin tilts his head your way and starts to nibble on some loose feathers in your head. It's not painful, but he's clearly hungry."

>>716155
>>716157
>>716156
>>716158
"Forgive me, I nearly forgot that. Frankly, I wasn't expecting to get this far – I'd always heard the worst stories about ponies and the other equine races of the world. Our god's true name is Raiodh. Do not speak it lightly, or without reverence."

He slithers off to the side, as do the rest of the guards, opening a path before you, which leads to a curtain of vines, beyond which you can see a good deal of warm, dim light, that of torches. "Our village is this way. You can stop here and eat, if you desire, but we should make haste onto our destination."

 No.716160

>>716159
>>716157

"Does anyone have grub for Franklin the 3rd? Would he like the drink and such Communion?"
I ask curiously.

 No.716161

>>716157
The pegasus gives Communion a warm smile, and softly flutters her wings at the praise. Someone actually recognizes that she's useful!

>>716159
She wrestles her smile back down to a grin, before turning back to the snakes, with their much more serious matter. "Well, Soft, they said we could stop and eat, but if we have food, it might be better to eat along the way, considering…" She glances at their new friends' small size. "Well, the portions might be a bit small."

 No.716162

>>716161
>>716159
Communion smiles warmly at the snake. "I can imagine that many who come by are… less than reverent, about many things."
At the last of his speech, she pauses. "Where exactly is the destination?" she inquires.

>>716160
The goo-pony eyes Franklin III warily. "I don't think I'm comfortable with starting that precedent. He's a predator, neh? Perhaps he can catch his own food." She is half smiling with an eyebrow cocked playfully.

>>716161
Communion smiles graciously back at the pegasus. Eyeing the snakes, she nods knowingly at the portion size comment, in a way that still implies respect.

 No.716163

>>716162
"Don't you remember communion on how we met Franklin the 3rd, we found him eating a soul. What if he eats mine and I become an undead zombie? Oooooo~" I make a little spooky noise exaggerating my point.

 No.716164

>>716159
"Uhm, noted. I'll make sure to be careful how I use it." he says, before shaking his head a little. "No need to eat, really. The sooner the better, right?"

 No.716165

>>716163
Communion does not smile. "I don't think you'd turn into a zombie. I think you'd probably just die and be dead. And that would be a shame." She meets the gaze of the cat, a playful grin on her face but a serious glint in her eyes. "We'll need to watch that one, for sure. Last time I fed him, he got noticeably bigger. I don't think it's the flesh he's feeding on."

 No.716166

>>716164
>>716162
>>716161
>>716160
"Our destination lies at the forest's heart, some distance beyond the village. If we leave today, we will reach it by tomorrow at noon," the guard says.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=M06yl1wupn8

The guards head beyond the curtain of vines, entering the village onward. As the curtain parts, you see a village, built within the trees, sturdily held atop the canopy of tangling vines and branches that you saw yourself rising up into earlier. Roots are interwoven into the thick bed of the village, indicating that there are yet more trees, growing out of other trees, and stretching higher up into the skyline. Hollows have been carved into many of the trees, consituting burrow-shaped buildings and homes similar to those you might see in the outside world, but still with a uniquely snakelike feel.

There are serpents of many sizes stationed about the village, some quite small like these guards, others dwarfing you at nine feet in height. The larger ones have more pronounced upper bodies, comparable to a minotaur's in width, though without arms. They eye you suspiciously as you stand outside the village's boundary, but seeing the guards near you, they do not stop or harass you.

>Paused

 No.716167

>>716165
"Yeah you are right communion, I should take responsibility for him, do we have any food on us." I pull some of my own rations out of my own bag and show it to Franklin so they can feed. "Here you go Mr." I cheerfully proclaimed.



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