After having captured the bounty hunter Clawson, the party have continued onwards on their travels, reaching the fabled Swap Meet, a great gathering of drifters from all over the Echoes. They have spent some time there exploring and stocking their new ship for their future travels. However, all is not well. They have heard whispers of Skylord Lysander building a crew for his new ship, as well as premonitions from Zunden of disaster striking should they remain for too long. Thus, they have resolved to return to the Weeping City to explore it at a later date, after the more pressing issue of the Cuckoo's Egg is dealt with.257 posts and 2 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.
Zunden has seen fit to hire Black Pudding to cleanse their ship of the Oneiromancer's influence and hide it from prying eyes, which he has agreed to do. However, upon returning to the ship, they found themselves faced with another problem: a strange mare has arrived on their ship,carrying a horrific creature on her back, claiming to be part of their crew. Black Pudding has diagnosed it as a Squatterbloat, a lesser name-stealing demon that drains the memories of its host and those they have met. He will banish the demon, but it is a rite that will require participation from the others…
[1d10] [perception]Roll #1 6 = 6
Without much to do in this situation, Rabi ducks to brace himself.
Aegis couldnt much but watch the event unfold before her, seemingly calm despite what seems like iminnent doom approaching
[1d10] perceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Hitting the deck, i try to back up towards the stairs, hoping to make it below deck
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Roll #1 5 = 5
You reach out and focus, surging the ship forward and up, just in time as the two come together in a deafening crack, butting heads and shoving against each other like a pair of wrestlers, to the point where you can no longer tell which is which. Heading up higher, the air becomes a bit thinner, but it is a small price to pay for not getting pulverized by a pair of walking mountains. Aurora breathes a sight of relief; you only now realize that she's clinging to your arm. "Phew. That was so close. Thanks, Zunden! I don't know where we'd be without you!">>716394>>716396>>716397>>716398>>716390
With Zunden's now skillful piloting, you manage to get away from the colossi relatively unscathed.
The rest of the day passes by without further incident. No more giant turf wars halt your progress as you pass over the mountain range, and at around sundown, you touch down not too far off from Clawson's abandoned ship; you fly over it on the way there, and it seems to be nestled at the top of a cliff. You land in a clearing in the middle of the woods, nearly a gently bubbling stream. The sun is giving its last light, and night will soon fall. While it is about two hours by ship from here to where Clawson parked, it would be about half a day on foot - or in Clawson's case, on tail.>>716397
As the ship leaves the feuding giants, you think you see the shadow of some great eagle amidst all the bedlam. As the ship touches down in the clearing, you are almost certain you see the same shadow pass overhead.>>716395Back in your room, you spot the Balaur egg begin to twitch a little.
I breathe a sigh of relief as I feel the ship rise and stop shaking. "Well," I tell Violet. "That could've gone worse."
I meet up with everyone to head to the brig as the ship lands.
"Well, I zhink we zhould let Clawzon know what iz happening to him after dinner tonight, and let him go firzt zhing in ze morning. I wouldn't want to zubjicate him to making the trek back in ze dark."
Zunden suddenly turns her head to one of the walls, "Could zomeone elze make dinner actually? I- need to check on zomezhing."
She rushes over to her room.
Aegis eyes were quick to look up from her book on Earthen Strike and spot the shadow moving from her place in the Captain's Quarters, and once again she hopped up from her bed and made her way to the hall>>716402
''Zu-'' Aegis opened her mouth to speak, but cut herself off as she saw Zunden rushing past her>>716398>>716399
''I think I saw something outside the ship.'' She says, arriving at the brig
"Ehm… any idea what?" he asks, getting back to his hooves and shaking himself off.>>716402
"I could give it a go, sure."
''No, thats why I will go out and check''
With that, Aegis headed up the deck
Breathing a sigh of relief as we pull away, i head back below, nearly jumping out of the way as Zunden moves past, in a hurry.>>716402
"Goodness! Everything alright, Zunden?" i call back to you as you pass by.>>716403
"Again?" i ask, following you back up deck. "Hopefully whatever it is isn't nearly as dangerous, watching mountains fight is action enough.."
Violet doesn't respond at first; you see she's gripping the table for dear life, but relaxes when she sees you do so. "Phew. Feel like I lost a few years of my life after that," she grins. "I need a drink…">>716402
Violet nods. "I'll do what I can." Aurora seems to dread it already.
The egg continues to move for some time, and you hear tapping from the inside. Steadily, the egg begins to break away, and two reptilian heads poke out, jaws opening and shutting like a fish. The creature wiggles and squirms, straining to pull itself out of the egg, and rather unceremoniously splats onto the floor. It is about the size of a kitten, dark in coloration with several yellow stripes running down the length of its body. The claws, while not yet fully formed, are long, like some sort of monitor lizard, while the heads are shovel shaped with an upturned snout almost like a pig. The balaur makes a tiny hissing sound as it gets its bearings, tongues flitting in and out.>>716405
As you exit, a shadow passes over the ship. As you look up, you see what at first looks like a dragon fly overhead. Then, as an enormous pony sized feather floats down and lands in front of you, you realize. This isn't a dragon at all. A gigantic house sized eagle is stalking you.>>716401>>716406>>716404
Violet comes along. You find Clawson playing tic tac toe with himself out of sheer boredom, giving you a sidelong glance as you enter. "My favorite people," he drawls. "What was all that hoopla earlier today? Sounded like the end of the world."
''It seemed like a shadow of a large bird. Normally I would disregard it, but I think I saw the same shadow earlier today right after we left those Giants of stone behind>>716407
Picking up the feather, Aegis looks up at the shadow looming above ''Well this comfirms my suspicions. Silver'' She turns to the blue-haired mare, handing her the feather''Head back to the brig and tell everyone of this''
I cross my arms and quietly wait for someone else to take the lead.
>>716409>earlier that day
You are standing on the deck admiring the view as the world flies past below you. Your trusty ship soars above the mountains, rushing over dense green valleys, sparkling crystal rivers, and, occasionally, small villages. The greenery slowly gives way to drier, rockier lands, leading you into a rather desolate mountain range painted in shades of red, grey and brown. Despite the slight bleakness of the view, it has a certain beauty to it.
Kairon is by your side, a patch of greenish mist clinging effortlessly to the ship's bow, like some strange incorporeal figurehead. "It is quite beautiful, is it not,"
she comments, observing the scenery. "Not a point of view I saw often in my younger years. Whatever higher being crafted this strange prison world, they must have had good taste."
She observes as the ship flies past a crumbling castle built on top of a peak. It looks like it hasn't been inhabited in many years. "Say. Who do you suppose lived in yonder castle? Could have been anyone, really, but it looks like it has seen better days.">roll Perception
I lean on the railing and watch the scenery pass. When Kairon speaks I give her a brief glance before looking back out at the ruined castle. "Not really sure. This place apparently mirrors places from The Dom-" I glance at her again and clear my throat. "Equestria. It's possible nobody ever really lived there."
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
You see that the castle is half reclaimed, and is in dire need of renovations, but is otherwise in not too shabby of a condition. There is even a clear spot for landing the ship."Interesting. …If no one has ever lived there,"
Kairon suggests, "then there is no one to object to taking such a castle for yourself. Wouldn't you agree? Instead of subsisting in this miserable old bucket, it would behove you and your little friends to find an actual place to live. One befitting a queen!"
Half reclaimed by vines*
"Huh. Well, I guess you're not wrong. A nice, static spot could be alright. I'll probably mention it to the others some time." I shrug. "The whole adventurer lifestyle is usually sort of nomadic by nature, though. From what I understand at least. Either way I guess an actual defendable base would be better than relying on a magic ship."
>>716573"It would be wise,"
she presses. "From the sounds of it, you have made quite the enemy already. One that would be able to gather large forces. What will you do if battle is on your doorstep? It would be as simple as shooting this ship down and killing everyone inside. This is no true base, if it comes to that. …Plus. I miss living in a castle. Mine had the loveliest view of the gardens…"
She sighs a bit dramatically with nostalgia."Just food for thought, anyway. You will do as you please, of course. You always have. I suppose there is nothing I can do to stop it."
She still sounds a bit resentful, but also a bit smug; the sort of tone one uses when they are keeping a secret. Kairon keeps watching as the ship flies over a bend of the Broad River; it is so wide that even at the speed you are going, it takes a bit to get from one end to the other.
"No, you're right. These things are supposed to be rare, but clawson has one so I doubt there's anything stopping Lysander from getting ahold of another. He probably already has. I'll bring it up after we finish our business at the Sands." A wave of annoyance builds inside me, needling at the back of my mind at her tone. I know she's probably planning on betraying us somehow, but I hope she's smart enough to know that if Lysander gets what he wants there won't be a plane to rule.
"So," I say. "I did some searching arounf while you were-" I clear my throat and look away. "Indisposed." I glance back to Kairon. "Just like I promised. It turns out I might have a lead on how to get you your body back. Nothing concrete so I don't actually want to say anything yet, but I confirmed there is
She flows away from the bow and to your side, appearing in her usual vaguely pony shaped form. "Tell me more,"
she demands excitedly. "What sort of rite do we have to conduct? Will there be a sacrifice involved? I am not beneath grimmer forms of magic in order to achieve my goals, you know. Speak!"
"Like I said. I don't have details yet. Just a lead. But I am
making progress. Just gotta bare with me for a bit." I turn away from the scenery, face her, and lean against the railing. It's still a little surreal talking to a cloud of smoke, but I guess I can sort of look at where her eyes might be.
"So, gardens? I always wanted to try gardening. I imagine a castle garden was incredibly luxirious. Probably had a whole bunch of really rare flowers and stuff."
She deflates a little. "…I see. Well, keep me informed, won't you."
She shifts in an approximation of a nod. "It was beautiful, yes. I had trees and flowers from all over Equestria, and even from other, further lands. Mostly it was the servants who did the gardening, but I partook myself, sometimes. It was relaxing. A "hobby" of mine, I suppose."
She somehow looks wistful. "…If nothing else, I would very much like to see my home again. The hills… trees.. little rivers… it is all so clear in my mind, but words cannot describe Equestria's beauty. I suppose I shall find it very much changed, shan't I."
I hang my head and turn back to the scenery. "Yeah. I'm afraid so. It-" I tap my finger on the railing as I try to think of how to word my next sentence. "I guess you could say its developed a lot since then. I never really saw much of it outside of the city I lived in, but i highly doubt there are nearly as many sparkling rivers and rolling hills as you remember." I smile and chuckle. "But a gardener. Never would have pegged you for someone who found peace in nature. Looks like there is
more to you than just queen." My smile drops a bit and I avert my eyes, quickly adding, "Your grace."
>>716594"There is much we do not yet know about each other,"
she replies vaguely. You sense some small satisfaction at you calling her by her proper title of your own accord, but she does not voice it. "But yes, I imagine you are right. I suppose the expanse of civilization is inevitable. At least here everything is relatively untouched. For now."
She stares idly out at a set of distant snow capped mountains, jutting out like jagged teeth towards the sky. Past them is an even bigger mountain, a colossal landform that dwarfs them all, stretching up even past the cloud line. It is barely visible, a mere silhouette on the horizon. Kairon continues to gaze out at the landscape. Depending on how much longer we are here… it would be nice to even pick up painting again…"
She is talking more to herself than to you, staring dreamily out at the world rushing by. She seems lost in thought for now.
"For how much everything wants to kill you, this place really is beautiul when you're not between something's teeth." I quietly watch the landscape with her for a little bit, somehow not feeling tense at all. "Painting, huh?" I chuckle. "Next you're going to tell me you dabbled in music too." I fall silent for another few moments before continuing. "You'll paint again some day, your grace," I say, this time more casually. If I just replace where I'd say her name it's easy! "And hopefully this lowly mutt
-" I say it with a hint of sarcasm, but no actual animosity. "-is on your side and around to see it. I imagine you were pretty darn good, what with how long you had to practice."
>>716605"I play viol, actually. And I can sing. I am a mare of many talents!"
she says very un-humbly. "If we do make it through this, and return home with my body intact, I shall make a knight out of you. That is a queen's promise."
"Well, I appreciate the offer." I cock an eyebrow. You sing? Always liked listening to singers in the bars I went to. Used to hang around and grab a few drinks after games I used to go to. Think you still got the pipes for it?"
>>716609"Perhaps. But I have not done so in a long time. Not since my younger, lesser years as a princess. Truth be told, when one is a queen, there is precious little time for painting or gardening. It is all politicking, war planning, sometimes fighting… I did not mind the last one, mind you. There is something quite thrilling about leading an army into battle, and crushing your enemies outright…"
She smiles softly.
"I guess if that's your thing. I'm tryin'a pick up an instrunment, myself. I sound like a pissed donkey when I sing, though." I clam up. "Was that speciest? I feel like that might have been a little speciest. Anyway, point is I can't sing to save my life last time I even thought about trying. But yeah. Sounds like it'd be pretty busy ruling an entire kingdom. And stressful."
>>716621"It is a burden,"
she admits. "But the prosperity of the kingdom is its own reward. Even if many do not see it that way. The small minded serfs. Even if many of them do die, the land will be all the stronger for it. There is no success without great struggle. Hardship is the only way to push a kingdom into a new age. My current predicament is a… setback… but I must see my campaign through to the end. Whatever it takes. As far as I know, I am the only alicorn remaining, apart from… well, whatever pretender my wretched nieces have left on the throne. Midnight, was it? I have every confidence that I could destroy her in seconds, had I still my old strength."
"Oh, I believe that if it took both of your neices ganging up on you to do what they did. Gotta admit, I'm not sure how much worse off being reset to some feudal empire would be for that place. 'Least then they'd have someone that cares about the kingdom as a whole instead of just about lining their pockets. Things are way different back there, though. If ruling a kingdom when you know how everything works is a burdan I can only imagine ruling one is when you've never even heard the word 'locomotive'." I shoot her a quick glance. "What about here?"
>>716631"What's a locomotive?"
she asks innocently."What ABOUT here? It is a transient place. Charming in its own way, but only a temporary home for me. I must secure a way out, no matter the cost."
"A big metal thing that doesn't rely on physical power to run it. Sort of like a huge wagon, I guess." My eyes shift back over the edge. "Yeah, I guess that's what I thought you'd say." I take a step back and brush my suit off. "Well, I gotta go do a couple things before we take care of the snake." I smile and give a little bow. "It was nice talking with you for a little bit, your grace. Genuinely."
>>716637"Fascinating. And it is not powered by magic? The wonders of future technology. Was that what the giant metal contraption outside the market was?""I… appreciate your company,"
she replies begrudgingly. "'Tis good to have someone to talk to, other than that chattering ape Mercutio."
She continues to watch the landscape, and as you leave, you hear the erstwhile queen humming a soft, nameless melody.
You leave Kairon to her thoughts and head downstairs into the brig. Clawson seems to have gotten a rubber ball from somewhere, and is bouncing it aimlessly on the wall of his cell, catching it easily every time. He gives you a side glance, not stopping his boredom relief routine. "The cold blooded killer himself," he snarks. "What do I owe the pleasure?"
I grab a nearby footstool, set it on the floor in front of the cage, and sit down. For a long moment I don't say anything at all. Just lace my fingers together, rest my arms on my lap, and stare. Finally I sigh, close my eyes, and shake my head. "I'm probably not going to kill you. Not right now at least. But I guess you know that already. Trust me, though. I want to. More than I've wanted to kill anyone I've ever met, I think. I can't really put my finger on why, though. It couldn't be because you tried to kidnap Violet. There was a changeling- I think I told you about him- that tried that. He's dead now, but I don't think I really wanted
him dead. It can't be that you tried to swindle us. I know you would have doublecrossed us in a heartbeat, but I've been doublecrossed before, and I didn't wish this much ill will toward him."
I rub my eyes with my thumb and forefinger. "I think it's because I'm confused. Part of me is telling me one thing That I want to get to know you. To see the good in you, and accept that you're only doing what you're doing because it's a job. The other half is screaming at me that you're just an evil, manipulative shit sack that, if we don't dump, will keep stinking the place up and probably eventually kill us." I nervously tap my foot. "I'm not used to that, and it makes me angry."
He only half listens to you, the ball bouncing on the wall occasionally interrupting your train of thought. As you quiet down a bit, he stops bouncing for a minute to look over to you. "Okay buddy. Good for you," he says condescendingly. "You done? I've got important business to take care of. As you can see…" He tosses the ball at you, bouncing it off the cell bars with a loud rattle. "…I'm a busy guy. Hehe. So is your little spiel going anywhere, or are you just here to annoy me?"
My tapping foot speeds up and my hands squeeze tighter around one another. I have to actively close my eyes, take a deep breath, and calm myself. I should have just stayed above deck with Kairon. "Like I said. I wanted," I say. "To talk to you a little. To figure out why you're so keen on working with a dragon that won't stop until his actions destroy the whole dimension and The Dominion. To find out what, to you, actually makes it worth it."
"What are you, a psychologist now?" he sneers. "Look, I don't even like Lysander. He's just the guy that hired me. Long as I get my due, we're both happy. I couldn't give less of a shit about his long term plans. World gets destroyed, none of my damn business. Hell, it might even be kinda fun before the end. That enough of an answer for ya, killer?" He eyeballs you from the back of the cell lazily.
I just want a reason to not hate you. Why is that so much to ask? My leg starts bouncing again. "Yeah. I was afraid of that. Money and integrity isn't worth much when there's no world to spend it in, though." I fall silent again and study the floor. After a few long moments I finally say, "What do you know about the army Lysander is building?"
"You don't have to not hate me, killer. That's not how this works. I know how y'all think. You wanna be better than everyone else. You wanna be merciful. To show the pureness in your heart. You wanna prove you're better than scumbags like me."
"Lemme tell you how this is gonna go down:"
"Sooner or later, one of y'all is gonna throw me outta here. I walk free, I come up with a new plan - admittedly a less reckless one - then I see what happens. If you beat me you beat me, if not I get away again and keep hounding y'all to kingdom come." He grins widely, his fangs unfurling and dripping venom. "This ain't gonna end till I'm dead, or all y'all are. I've seen it plenty of times before, and I ain't dead yet. Get my drift, drifter?"
"I know plenty about Lysander and his machinations. Ain't tellin' y'all a goddamn thing, 'less you can offer me somethin' worthwhile in return. So you'd better pull some real good shit out your ass, killer." He waits expectantly to hear your offer.
The longer I stay down here with him the more I want to wipe that smug smile off his face. He's not only right, but that's the exact reason I can't stand him. We let him go and he just comes up with a better plan to come at us. We let him go again, he comes back again. There's no place here with a prison that would have an actual reason to lock him up, and even if there were Lysander would just use his influence to break him out. At the same time every fiber of my being is telling me I can't kill him and we can't just keep him locked up on the ship.
I study his face, growing angrier by the second. As many times as Vi, Silver, and the others have said they admire me, it feels like with every new challenge I wish I was more like them. If I was then I could just run up to my room, grab a balur blood canister, and gas him with it until he spilled whatever little information he had on Lysander.
The moment the thought pops into my head I feel queasy. I couldn't do that. In a fight, probably, but not while he's just sitting there like a caged animal, and not repeatedly.
I stand up, gently pick up the stool, and set it back down next to the doorway. I stop at the door and, without looking back at him, calmly say, "I'll be back later. We've decided what we're going to do with you."
"Course you have," he replies. "You're gonna let me stroll on outta here. Probably even back to my ship, assuming some two bit scrapper hasn't jacked it by now. Cause you're honorable. Cause it's the right thing to do. You're such good people. Maybe you'll get a cookie for it or something."
Before you leave, he calls out. "How many?" he simply asks.
Knowing he's leading me into something, I still can't keep myself from asking, "How many what?"
"How many've you killed?" He folds his arms expectantly.
"I think you already know the answer to that." I turn back to the doorway and leave.
He smirks. "You know, wannabe tough guys like you really piss me off. You go around making yourself out to be a big man, acting like a stone cold killer. You think you're some kind of hero, don't ya. Think you're gonna beat the bad guys, get the girl, save the day. If you're so tough, why don't you just kill me right here and now? I'm here. I'm helpless. And if you don't I'm gonna come back and hound you. And your girl. So why don't you do it? Eh, killer?"
"Gonna save you the trouble of answerin'. You think you can fool people, but I see through you. You're a coward. And a fraud. Hidin' behind a mask so people will think you're so much meaner than you really are." He points an accusing finger at you; you notice he's missing his pinky. "Bigger than you! Bigger than you have tried to kill me! And they were real men at that! But I always win. I always have, and I always will."
"So listen closely, mutt. When I'm outta here, I'm gonna be back. And there won't be a second chance for you then. I see you again, I'm sendin' your pathetic soul straight to hell." He rears up and narrows his slitted yellow eyes, and without warning he gleeks venom at you with a sharp, catlike hiss. It soars over your head and splats against the wall behind you. "Till then. Killer."
My snout curls into a snarl and I walk out without answering. Maybe you'll be my first, Clawson. If it comes down to that.