No.714894[Last 50 Posts]
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.
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…
You are up in your room with Violet, avoiding Black Pudding while he is on the ship. While at first Violet was shaken by his appearance, she seems to have calmed down, and is resolute on confronting him. She feels braver while in your presence.>>714443
He nods. "Mrrrn. The last piece of confirmation. 'Tis a Squatterbloat, and a very starved one. Woe betide thee, drifter.">>714448
He nods. "In the coming days, thou shalt need as many allies as thou can scavenge, Reader. Thy path is a long and arduous one.">>714449
"She should be an empty husk by now, for all intents," says Black Pudding. "Better to die than to be left soulless and blank. She is remarkably strong to resist its influence so."
"Merely do as I say, wayfarer, and trust not any voice but mine when the rite commences.">>714443>>714448>>714449>The Scion
"…I'll also do what I can," Aurora pipes up. "Whoever you are," she says to the mare, "I feel like you were a good person, when we knew each other. Maybe even a friend. If Zunden and Rabi are willing to help you, then I am too." She keeps a stiff upper lip.
Clawson, who's been sitting by quietly this whole time, just shrugs. "Hard pass," he simply says. Aurora rolls her eyes, while Black Pudding raises an eyebrow.
"But what of the others? Violet Moon and the Rat-speaker. Three will hardly be enough to banish the Squatterbloat's grip, but if it is all we have, then we may begin the rite. Though, we fear for the life of this waif if three is all thou canst spare." He looks pointedly at Silver.
"I'll bring ze ozherz here, and I will let zhem know of ze zituation. Zhey will help, I know it." She says, to Black Pudding, letting him react before making her way down the hallway.>>714469>>714470
Zunden makes her way to Norvegicus and Violet's room, knocking on the door. "It iz Zunden, we will… need your help. Ze ztowaway iz likely not to have lied, and to remove ze creature from her, Black Pudding will need az many to help az pozzible." She pauses, still standing outside the door, "I underztand if you do not wizh to come Violet, but I have zpoken to Black Pudding and made zure he will not harm you in any way. Ztill, I know your reazonz for not wizhing to zee him, and I won't forze you to leave. Even juzt Norvegicuz will help."
Having left the equipment and notes in the main hall, I listen intently as Black pudding explains the situation, eying the mysterious stowaway warily.
"So.. you'd want us to potentially risk our lives in a ritual for the sake of this mare? As dire as this Squatterbloat sounds, i have to wonder what would happen to us should this backfire.."
"You'll help as well, dear?"
I sigh. "Why do I get the feeling this ain't gonna be fun?" I look Violet in the eye as I stand up, and hold out my hand. "Well, I guess that's our cue, then. You ready for this?"
''Thank you Aurora. After this is done, I hope we can share haikus with eachother again'' Aegis gave the mare a knowing nod before setting her sights on Black Pudding
''The other two will come, we can wait a moment longer for them''
"Got it. Though… any voice but yours? Should we expect some form of… interference?" he asks, a little concerned.>>715329
"Again, for what it's worth, sorry for the hostility."
"Yeah, I was planning to. I'm sorry to risk myself, and pressure you to risk yourself, Silver. We'll make it through fine, though." Rabi says, pulling the mare in close with ibe of his long, slender forelegs and kissing her forehead.
Black Pudding looks austere as ever. "We will await thy return," he says simply.>>714940>>714941
She stiffens up and hesitates as Zunden calls out, but takes a deep breath and gives a little nod, taking your hand and standing up. She looks determined.>>714896
After a moment of silence, Violet calls back. "We'll be right down," she calls, her voice wavering a little.>>714914
"Mistake not our words. It is not thine own lives that are on the line. Thou shalt not suffer, save perhaps for unpleasant memories. It is her very soul that is at risk. If the rite fails, she shall suffer a fate worse than death.">>715329
She does a double take as you mention her haikus, seemingly more convinced of your legitimacy. She gives you a wide eyed look and nods. "Yes. We will.">>715335
He gives the throbbing shadowy thing a long, pensive stare. "It will do whatever it can to prevent us from severing it from its host. Lies, illusions, fear, memories… Thou shalt see in due time how it deceives.">>715335>>715329>>714940>>714914>>714896
Norv and Violet descend the stairs to the brig. The latter locks eyes with Black Pudding, trembling as the large warlock stares her down. It is as if she is frozen in place.
"Violet Moon," he rasps, eyes narrowed in a bitter glare. "Our paths cross once again. Art thou contrite?"
She doesn't reply at first, clinging to Norv's arm like it's a lifeline, but eventually manages to find her voice. "W… what happened, happened," she answers. "I'm not sorry. And I'm not afraid of you."
"Thou art a frightened rabbit," he replies, looming over her. "A coward and a thief. Lie not to thineself. …Thy past sins will be overlooked, for now. We have more pressing matters to deal with."
He moves into the cell, standing behind the hapless mare, hovering an arm over the demon. "Six of us there art, then. When thou art ready to begin, step inside, and we shall commence the rite."
Glancing back at the mare, i look to you and nod.>>714895
"Ohh very well, i'll help, if only for your peace of mind." i relent, leaning into your embrace.>>715347
Following Rabi, i enter the cell, standing near the mysterious pony.
"Very well, i'm ready to continue."
Zunden gives a chafed look at Black Pudding as he calls out Violet, readying her staff and summoning a Servitor besides her.
"Right. If it iz by Fate zhat zhe haz zurvived zhiz long, zhen we are Fated to zucceed. Let uz get zhiz done wizh."
Aegis acknowledged him with a nod ''I understand. I would be skeptical in your place as well''>>715347
Aegis waited. seemingly not frightened or bothered at all by Black Pudding's words about her possible fate
I give her foreleg a gentle squeeze as she seems to freeze in place, trying to reassure her that it'll be alright. I get the feeling that it's her own strength that causes the outburst, and a small, warm feeling of pride blooms in my chest. I give her a small smirk.
I give the cell an uncomfortsble glare. "This is gonna be just as bad as that deal with the Cuckoo in the ship dream thing, ain't it?" Either way, I walk towards it, take a deep breath, and step inside.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Right. Then… I'll do my best." the stallion says, shaking it off and settling into the cell with Silver and the others.>>715354
"Thanks, Silver. I'd like to help where I can. I'll make it up to you, somehow." he says, kissing her snout.
>[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
[1d10] Black Pudding
Roll #1 5 = 5 / Roll #2 8 = 8 / Roll #3 6 = 6 / Roll #4 9 = 9
Roll #1 8 = 8
Though she seems too intimidated to keep lashing out at Black Pudding, she forces herself to smile back, stopping herself from trembling so much.>>715354>>715356>>715357>>715358>>715364
As you step inside, Black Pudding closes his eyes, producing a jagged stone knife. Zunden recognizes it as the one he used before. Aurora looks determined, while Violet looks uncharacteristically frightened.
"Seven are we that stand before thee, nameless accursed Squatterbloat," Black Pudding intones, hovering the knife over the creature. "We put our bodies, our minds, and our souls towards unbinding thee from this flesh and blood. Thou art compelled to release her, by way of Severance!"
He plunges the knife down into it. As soon as it makes contact, you all feel an overpowering sense of utter, nameless terror. The room is filled with eerie wordless singing and muttering whispers, seemingly with no source. The world seems to shrink, until the cell is all there is. Several smoking tendrils fly out from the Squatterbloat, writhing and lashing madly before trying to latch on to something. You all manage to avoid them, save for Rabi and Black Pudding. They latch on to their heads, and Black Pudding cries out, writhing and muttering in a tongue you don't recognize. The knife clatters to the ground.>>715364
It is a year ago. You find yourself on a desert road, bow in hand, facing an old wooden carriage. Inside is a mare, dead by an arrow to the heart. The stallion at her side clutches the body in grief, sobbing loudly.
You did this.
Aegis stood in place, looking back with eyes wide as the tendrils that came from her struck at all present. Her eyes focused on Black Pudding as he is struck
''Somepony take the knife!'' She shouted, her tone harsh and clear ''Keep plunging it until the demon bleeds out!''
Dodging the demon's flailing, i see it grip Rabi's head in the struggle.
rushing over to the Stallion, i try to pull him away from the creature's Grip!
"Rabi, no!"Roll #1 1 = 1
Zunden quickly hurries over to Black Pudding, grabbing the knife from the ground where Black Pudding is.
"W-we need to keep it up, I zhink!" Zunden says with a strong tonation despite the quiver in her voice, "I'm going to keep whatever Black Pudding ztarted going!"
She rushes towards the Squatterbloat, holding Black Pudding's dagger.
"Wizh ze power of zhoze ztill here, and by invoking ze powerz zhat be Fate, we Zever your bond wizh zhiz mare and zhoze around uz!"
Zunden clutches her locket as she stabs the demon.
>The Chariot: automatic instant, once per session; When invoked, this card fills you with determination from beyond. Your next roll, or that of one of your allies, counts as a critical success, no matter what the result. Further attempts to invoke the power of the Chariot will result in your next roll counting as a critical fail instead.
My stomach sinks and my knees quake as I'm overcome with dread. My eyes flit around from person to person as an intense feeling of anxiety overcomes me. I want to help Rabi, or even Pudding, but as it is my knees threaten to buckle beneath me. This isn't going to be like the fulcrum. This is going to be worse. So much worse.
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Rabi shakes his head, blinking a few times as if waking up from a dream. He looks down at the bow in his hooves for a few moments, before the sobbing snaps him out of his stupor. He shakes his head a little bit and seizes up, softly muttering to himself "No. No, no no no no.">[1d10]
"That couldn't have… I
couldn't have…"Roll #1 8 = 8
Roll #1 10 = 10 / Roll #2 10 = 10
Aurora makes for the knife, but seeing Zunden go for it, opts to hold the mare by the shoulders to keep her steady. Those of you who cling on see that Violet, Aurora, Norv and Zunden are the only ones who haven't been ensnared by it at this point.>>715380
Your head is pounding. You find yourself on the floor of a dojo, your eldest sister standing over you with a wooden practice sword in hand. Your body aches all over. You are only 6 years old.
"Again," a stern faced instructor commands. Before you can protest, Frozen Flow hauls you up on your feet, passing you your practice sword. She is bigger, older and stronger than you. It isn't fair that you should be made to train with the eldest. But it is necessary.
Flow has an odd look in her eye, almost as if confused by your weakness. "Why did you hesitate?" she asks in a biting tone. >>715381
Your brother is staring at you, eyes glazed in disbelief, stepping backwards in shock. He knows what you've done. What you've been doing all this time. "H-how many?" It's all he can think to ask. He has a look on his face like he's facing a complete monster. "Wh… Why?
I… I don't understand…">>715384
You plunge the knife into the demon, but nothing happens. It's like cutting through smoke. Several smaller tendrils spawn, making their way up your arm and trying to latch on to your head, but they seem repelled by your locket, stopping when they reach your shoulder and receding.>>715388>>715386
"Stay with me," Violet pleads, grabbing your good arm. "I'm here. I'm here." You manage to avoid getting grabbed, and so does she, though the sense of abject dread still gnaws at the back of your mind.>>715390
The world seems to distort around you for the briefest moment, like a chalk drawing smudged by a careless hand, but then it returns to normal. Enraged, the husband runs from the carriage with an animalistic wail, clumsily lunging at you with everything he has.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Complying, Aegis picked up the sword with her mouth
''I didnt… Hesitate, I swear… I swear'' She squinted as she looked up at the mare, shivering and trembling from the pain and fear
"Ztay cloze, Aurora. It will not take uz togezher!"
Zunden says, opening the locket and standing near Aurora, moving as a group over to BP and invoking Severence yet again to try to break the creature's influence over the goo,
"Ztill we ztand in oppozition, Zquatterbloat, we put all our will and ezzenze into breaking ze bond between you and zhoze here. You will releaze zhem az iz ze way of Zeverenze!"
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
The distortion causes him to drop his bow and grip his head, grinding his train of thought to a stop for a moment or two. He shakes his head and rubs the dampness from his eyes, before opening them again to see…
"H-Hey, no! I-It was an accident, I swear!" he shouts, gripping his bow and holding it out to block his swing.>[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
"This isn't… n-no, this isn't right!"
I swallow, but force a small, uncomfortable smile. "Yeah, nothing too bad is even happening, right?" I look back at everyone and grit my teeth. Taking another deep breath, I let go of Vi and run up to Silver, trying to pull her from whatever it is the thing is doing.
[1d10]avoidRoll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
"Why? What a complicated question, dear brother."
i ask, slowly stalking towards the sickly earth pony.
"Quashing the unwanted advances of my suitors, an extended interest in anatomy, a morbid curiosity, who's to say?"
Leaning into his muzzle, i flash a saccharine smile.
"The question we should both be asking, is what happens now? You know the truth. This can end in two ways: We part with not a breath of this leaving the room, or you could test the word of the sickly, forgotten child against the favored Heir."
"I hope you'll see the correct
Good Luck Charm for avoiding roll.
Those unaffected can see the Squatterbloat's tendrils snaking up the others' necks, extending to an impossible length, coiling and wrapping around their heads like some grotesque mummy. Rabi and Black Pudding, being the first to go, have the worst of it, their heads engulfed by a throbbing, pulsing mass of black smoke. Black Pudding's body loses its shape, melting into a shapeless pile of deep purple ichor. You can hear everything they say while under its grip.
"Varus nox," he burbles, like he's speaking underwater. "Ex haagus… ex haagus nox. En concas pravlaan mont… Injuc stelma… Alleras preben…" He lets out a quiet sob.>>715406
Frozen stands over you with practice sword in hoof, looking as stony as the instructor. She doesn't answer, instead looming over you in a combat stance and waiting for you to ready yourself before lashing out with no mercy.
A tendril snakes out, lashing out unexpectedly at your locket. The little piece of paper flutters to the ground.>roll to not get grabbed
Aurora keeps holding on, shaking the mare and trying to break the hold it has on her, while also trying to avoid getting grabbed herself.
Violet thinks fast, seeing Black Pudding as the worst affected. She grabs and pulls at the ensnaring tendrils, not thinking twice about helping her enemy.
You weren't fast enough. He barrels into you and beats you to the ground in a primal rage, punching you in the face until he can't anymore. You're dimly aware of the world around you, and you feel blood running down your face.>Rabi takes 2 wounds, helpless
Exhausted, the stallion rolls off of you and onto his back, his eyes glazed over, staring blankly up at the moon. There's nothing to say.>>715418
You pull Silver towards you with a powerful tug, and the Squatterbloat's grip is released.>>715419
He keeps backing up, almost stumbling over a chair, wheezing a little. "Insane… You're insane…" He looks around desperately for an exit, like a cornered rabbit faced by a starving wolf. He realizes how true your words are, at a loss for words. "I… I'll prove it!… I will!…" He doesn't seem to believe it himself.
He goes on to say something else, but you can't make out what. His voice is distorted, and the world blurred and smudged. Before you know it, you are back in the cell, Norv looming over you anxiously.>+2 to resist rolls from now on
You can see Black Pudding, Rabi, and the nameless mare all ensnared by the demonic thing. Zunden seems to be continuing the ritual as best she can, but is now seemingly vulnerable.Roll #1 7 + 4 = 11
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
/ Roll #3 1 = 1
/ Roll #4 2 = 2
/ Roll #5 4 = 4
Gripping the sword with her teeth, Aegis did her best to hold on against Flow's assault
Roll #1 1 = 1
I smile, only slightly relieved as I see I've pulled her out. "Pfew. I was afraid that wouldn't work. You alright?" I look around. "Actually, hold that thought." I stumble over to help Rabi.
[1d10]resistRoll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
Recognizing she's now in danger, Zunden commands the Servitor to strike the tendrils away from herself.
>If the Servitor fails, her roll targets herself, if it succeeds, she tries to guard Aurora.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
snapping back to the task at hand, i look wide eyed first at the mare, then Rabi and the others.
With Norv rushing to help rabi, i push forward to the source of the havoc, in an attempt to pry the thing off of the mysterious mare!
[1d10+2] ResistRoll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 4 + 2 = 6
Rabi screams as the stallion slams his hooves into his face, trying to shield himself as best he can manage. By the time the stallion lets off, Rabi's vision is clouded and his ears are ringing dimly. He tries to shake it off and get to all fours, his legs wobbling weakly.
"I-I'm sorry… I-I'd never meant for it to end like this.>[1d10+2] Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
You barely manage to block a strike. She is ten times the swordsman you'll ever be, a painter who only uses red. Before you know it, you are tasting blood again. Flow covers her mouth in slight regret and helps you back up. "I'm sure you can patch that up with your magic," she says, in lieu of an apology. "It's what you're best at, isn't it?"
You suddenly find yourself back in the cell. Silver and Zunden are still in one piece, but everyone else is under attack from the thing on your neck.>>715437
You are overwhelmed by the smell of mold and rotten food as you cower in the pantry. Twelve keeps stalking about your home. "I've been more than generous, mutt. Now pay up. Ya had plenty of time!" You watch through the crack in the door as he pauses in front of the cellar, jiggling the handle with telekinesis.>>715438
Your Servitor protects you, immune as it is to the Squatterbloat's attacks, but you are not fast enough to guard Aurora. The tendrils wrap around her face as she goes limp, sobbing uncontrollably. "M-mum!!">>715439
You avoid the writhing tendrils that have spread to almost every corner of the cell. They have an iron grip on Rabi, and as you watch, Aurora, Norv and Violet are grabbed too. The latter lets out a gasp of terror, starting to shake.>>715444
The world seems to flicker again. You get back up, only to be met by a cluster of roaming horses in guards' uniforms. One of them stops you from leaving the area while the others investigate the scene. The husband raises an accusing hoof, pointing at you wordlessly. You suddenly feel all eyes on you.
Zunden rips away at the tentacles an Aurora, cutting at them as they start to take get a hold on her.
Servitor will help Zunden if she fails her dodge, help Aurora if Zunden succeeded her dodge but failed the help, or help BP if both succeeded.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
"Zunden! Are we all that's left?!"
In a panic, i try to Weave through the tendrils, reaching the downed Rabi in an attempt to pull him free.
"I knew this was a mistake!"
[1d10+2] resistRoll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 8 + 2 = 10
My stomach churns both at the smell of mold, and the idea of twelve going down into my cellar. With the rats. I should warn him. Should just face the fact that I didn't pull in as much work as I thought I would, but there's no way he'll actually understand. I hold my breath and dig my claws into the wood of the door. If I don't take responsibility- I try as hard as I can, but my legs won't budge. My vision blurs as tears fill my eyes. I can just let him, can't I? Whatever happens- whatever happens isn't my fault. He's the one invading my home.
Aegis watched the scene unfolding before her, eyes wide in disbelief, losing her composure for a moment as the tears stream down her pale face, and her brows furl into an angry scowl
''You think that memory gives you power over me?'' Her voice cracks as she grits her teeth, and raises a hoof to her neck, pulling at the thing on her neck ''All you did was remind me, fuel the fire. You are not worthy of taking my place''
"Hold fazt! Black Pudding did not warn us of zhiz, but we cannot give up now! Pull ze ozherz free and we muzt help ze warlock free onze done zo he can finizh ze ritual!"
Zunden shouts exasperatedly, swinging the knife at the tentacles around Aurora
[1d10+2]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
Your lungs are filled with the smell of acrid smoke. Your bow is still glowing like embers from the shot you fired, shrieks of agony and terror echoing across the moonlit desert. The stage coach begins to crumble and collapse on itself, and one by one, the screams begin to stop.
Rabi drops his bow and drops to the floor, his legs failing him as the reality sinks in. He hadn't expected the driver to be armed this time. He hadn't meant to fire off a shot so panickedly. He shakily gets back to all fours, shuffling over to the carriage and beginning to look through the wreckage.
"N-No… come on, I had to have missed someone. E-Even the driver, just… anyone? A-Anything?">[1d10+2]Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
The Servitor keeps the demon at bay as you pull Aurora away from the tentacles. Her face wet with tears, she looks around in confusion before springing to action, trying to help Norv.
You pull and heave as you try to free Rabi, loosening its grip somewhat, but not enough just yet.>>715457
You stand by and watch as he forces the door open. "I've got ya now, mutt…" He pauses in confusion as he sees one rat, then another, and another. There is a brief, almost comical pause as he takes in the scene, then he set upon by hundreds and hundreds of gnawing teeth, scrabbling claws, and piercing shrieks. He yells inarticulately and falls to the floor, the swarm overwhelming him, ripping and tearing at his flesh and burrowing under his clothes.>>715458
You feel its grip weaken as you set your mind against it, rejecting its hold on you and your companions. It is stubborn, however, and, while weakened, it is still in control.>everyone gets +1 to aid and resist rolls>>715467
You run over to it, picking through whatever's left. The flames ward you off from being able to pick through much, but what you do see makes your stomach roil. The occupants of the carriage are barely recognizable any more, burned almost to cinders by the magical flames. Several of them seem to have been killed by the smoke, rather than the fire, burning after the fact. The stench of burning flesh makes you gag. The only one left is the driver at the front, staring blankly in a state of shock, covered in dust and horrific burns. Shaking, his gaze turns to you, looking through you, eyes glazed over.Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
I feel a lump in my throat as the wave of rats engulfs him, and burst out of the pantry. "No!" I shout, grabbing my suit coat on the way. "No, this wasn't supposed to happen!" I brush at the rats with my coat, but not too hard for fear of hurting them. "This is your fault!" I shout. "A couple more days. You couldn't wait just a couple more days to collect. It isn't my fault!" I keep brushing and swatting at the rats but I can tell its already too late. Just looking at his- good goddesses, his eye. I feel like I'm going to be sick.
Zunden grits her teeth and swaps to her staff, using it to physically pry away at the tentacles holding the goo warlock as her Servitor helps.
[1d10+1] Servitor Help (Priority order: Zunden, then BP, then any other captive party member)Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
/ Roll #2 6 + 2 = 8
/ Roll #3 2 + 1 = 3
Aegis's expression returns to its usual self as she calms down, seemingly confident this is already won
She raises her eyes to the situation, and her eyes turn to Aurora and Norv
after a moment, her shield glows, and she began casting a spell she still remembered, although in a much weaker form. How could she forget? It was muscle memory at this point
She aimed it at Norv, not trying to hurt him, but hoping the snowball would snap him out
'2d10' magic bolt, iceRoll #1 2, 6 = 8
Regretting my lack of shivs from the bustle of the day, i continue to try and rip Rabi free!
[1d10+1] Assist, Rabi
[1d10+3] resistRoll #1 2 + 1 = 3
/ Roll #2 10 + 3 = 13
Rabi's eyes settle on the driver, his legs shaking a little as he continues to try and come to grips with what happened. After a few moments, he manages to collect himself enough to drop a canteen, and a pack of food at the stallion's feet.
"G-Gotta… I gotta talk to someone. I-I'm sorry, I… I need to go.">[1d10+2]Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9
You have to suppress an urge to vomit as you see what they've done to him. He's only barely alive at this point, the rats having torn him to shreds. His eye has been annihilated, and his limbs and body are littered with misshapen holes where the rats bored in, even leaving bits of exposed bone here and there. Strips of flesh hang loosely from his face, his breathing shallow and uneven. There is a knock on the door from what are presumably the local guards. Twelve flails about, his remaining eye glazed and unfocused, trying to form words.
You suddenly find yourself back in the cell. The situation seems pretty grim from what you can see, though Black Pudding is back in action, looking frighteningly angry.>>715471
You pry loose the snaking tendrils, releasing Black Pudding from its grip. At first he does not move; then, his form begins to twitch, and he rears up to his full, formidable height, melding himself into a menacing snakelike form. His face is a mask of determination and rage. He looks to you briefly and nods in thanks before reaching for his own staff.>>715472
It seems to work. The tendrils retreat, and Norv comes to.>>715473
You fail to free Rabi once again.>>715474
He offers you no response save for a blank stare. You can still feel his eyes on you as you leave the area, heading towards the nearest town, about half a mile away.>>715473>>715472>>715471>>715470
Black Pudding, looking outright furious, takes up his staff, moving over to the scrap of paper that fell out of Zunden's locket. With a scowl, he begins to thump the staff over it, the sound echoing much louder than it should, resonating like a war drum. Smoke begins to fill the room as he chants in an ancient tongue, continuing to repeat the same action. The Squatterbloat writhes as if in pain. "Thou art compelled to leave this place! We seven put our hearts and minds and souls towards thy banishment! Return to whence thou cam'st!"
"Take the knife!" he commands whoever's listening. "Stab the thing over the rune on yonder scrap!">>715474
Suddenly, the world seems to warp around you, if only for a moment. Is this real? It feels so odd all of a sudden, like a dream, or a nightmare.>roll to break free of the memories
Seeing Black Pudding finally getting up, along with the rest of the group, Aegis stood still, waiting for it to be over. All she had to do now is close her eyes and maintain her focus
The next hour or two is a blur. Rabi stops in at his makeshift home on the edge of town, and wordlessly wraps his younger siblings up in a hug.
"Be safe. I… I have to go, now. You know where my stash is." he mumbles, before stepping out, and heading for town.
He shakes his head a little bit as he steps back out into the sun, feeling an odd sense of… vertigo? deja vu? Something… something is off.>[1d10+2]Roll #1 6 + 2 = 8
I drop to my knees as the memory fades away. I knew was bad, but I'd forgotten just how bad it was. I weakly look around at everyone else. So many of us were caught. My eyes fall on Violet and I scramble over to her on my hands and knees, trying to help her.
[1d10+3]Roll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 10 + 3 = 13
hearing the mage's urging, i jump for the knife, ready to strike the rune!
[1d10+3] ResistRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 1 + 3 = 4
Zunden and her Servitor protect Silver as she stabs at the demon, making sure she's in interrupted
[1d10+1] Servitor Help (Priority order: Silver, then Zunden)Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11
/ Roll #2 4 + 2 = 6
/ Roll #3 1 + 1 = 2
"Where are you going?" the youngest asks, wide eyed. "Can I come?" says the middle one. Only the eldest seems to understand the implication.
You look at the world with eyes anew. You aren't in the desert at all. You're back in the Echoes, on the ship with everyone else. The Squatterbloat seems to be faltering now.>>715478
Violet snaps out of it, looking terrified for a second and jumping away from you, covering her eye; then she comes to, and pauses before swinging out at the tentacles all around the cell with her kukri.>>715479>>715480>>715478>>715477>>715476
The eye shaped rune on the scrap of paper glows blinding white as Silver stabs at the tentacles over it. A horrific, noxious stench of sulfur and rotting meat fills the air. A strong wind starts howling, and the tentacles spread to every wall and every corner of the cell in a desperate attempt, no longer trying to trap you in your minds but physically assaulting anyone nearby. Black Pudding keeps chanting, holding steady and swiping at the tentacles with his staff. "Tartaric fiend, begone from this vessel! The power of Severance compels you! The power of Severance compels you! The power of Severance compels you!"
[1d10+2] Attacking everyoneRoll #1 1 + 2 = 3
dagger gripped in my muzzle, i bring the blade down once again as it lashes aggressively around me!
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Looking down at herself, Aegis mutters ''The power of Severance compels you, the power… Of Severance compels you'' She parrots BP in his attempts, unphazed by the violent lashing tendrils around her
I manage to tear my eyes away from Violet quick enough to see the thing lashing out. I try to scramble to my feet and away from the lashing tendrils.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Zunden guards Aurora from the flailing tentacles, standing stalwart as BP finishes his exorcism.
Rabi squeezes his eyes shot to shield himself from the sun, and when he opens them…
The Saddle Arabian would almost shout for joy when he found himself back on the boat, his eyes are immediately drawn to the monster. He grips his bow and hisses, before trying to take a shot at it.>Magic Bow: [1d10+2] (Fire)Roll #1 7 + 2 = 9
You plunge the dagger deep into the creature, pinning it to the wooden floor through the scrap of paper. It contorts and bulges hideously, the eerie wordless singing reaching a fever pitch, screeching and shrieking like a newborn.>>715486
You fire a shot at the spreading tendrils. The fire douses almost as soon as the shot lands, but the damage is done.>>715482>>715483>>715484>>715485>>715486
There is a sound like sizzling meat, and the tentacles keep spreading. The room goes black, and then darker still. You hear a faint snap
, like a breaking bone.
Your vision returns. Aegis Glaze finds herself slumped on the floor, free at last from the Squatterbloat's grip. You are all thoroughly exhausted; Aurora is curled up in a corner with her head bowed, while Violet is blinking and looking around in confusion. Black Pudding, however, is staring angrily down at a tiny, wriggling black worm on the floor, which is writhing haphazardly trying to get its bearings. "It is done," he states, his voice shaking. "Crush it underhoof if it is thine desire. It will trouble thee no longer."
He looks to Aegis. "We know thy face. …Thine impertinence is not forgotten. …But it is forgiven." Aurora blinks as she too recognizes Aegis, rushing over to her and giving her a rather strong hug, but quickly pulls away. "…Are you alright? It's… It's over now. I think."
Aegis slowly got up to her hooves, her eyes were red and puffy,clear sign that she has been crying. However she maintained her usual demeanor as she looked up to Black Pudding, nodding solemly at his words before turning to Aurora and weakly returning the hug ''I apologize for all the trouble I caused, Aurora… To everyone''
She turns back to BP ''And to you as well, Master Black Pudding. I never once intended to offend you, but I acknowledge that I have spoken things that would be better left unsaid. Please understand, I have just arrived in this realm and was desperate for a way out''
"Please," says Violet warmly, looking relieved it's over. "The important thing is that you're safe now. You're one of us now. We look after our kind. No matter what." She pats you on the shoulder and gives you a reassuring smile. "As far as burdens go," she jokes, "I've seen far worse."
Black Pudding regards you sternly. "It is understandable," he answers, sounding a bit hoarser than usual. "Thou art inquisitive, and headstrong. It is only natural to wish to seize any opportunity to return home. Dwell not on it. Thou art not an enemy to us."
Aurora looks you up and down with genuine concern. "Are you sure you're alright? Anything I can do to help? I could heal you if you need it."
With a final nod to BP, Aegis tries to gently pull away from Aurora's grip before she begins wiping the dried tears on her face ''I will be fine, I only need a glass of water, and to sit down for a moment, thank you, both of you. I will not forget this debt''
"Don't call it a debt," says Violet calmly. "Any of us would have done the same for each other. No one gets left behind. Not if I can help it." She straightens up a little, moving back towards Norv with a happy smile.
"Thou art in no debt to us," says Black Pudding. "This is part of the bargain we struck with the Reader. She will be the one indebted." He gives Zunden a sidelong glance.
''I understand'' Aegis replies weakly, moving towards the kitchen to freshen up
''Am I still looking like a mess?'' She questions Aurora
I return Violet's smile with a less sure smile of my own and wipe my eyes with the back of my hand. "Yep," I say. "Definitely worse than the fulcrum." I close my eyes and take a deep breath. >>715491
"Well, at least that's taken care of now. Ms.Glaze." I rub the back of my head and glance away. "I, uh… don't remember your first name, but that's probably not because of the demon. Sorry."
I give Silver a quick sidelong glance, but try to hide it. I'm sure she just took a vested interest in science that her family disagreed with becsuse she was supposed to do assassin things, right? I mean surely she didn't enjoy
the killing. It was just something impersonal she had do do, like my job. Only- I swallow. Only with ponies. Right?
Zunden nods and holds up her marked claw in recognition, a gesture mostly intended to only have meaning for Black Pudding, given she wears the glove over the mark of Union.
"Nor enemiez wizh Violet Moon, I truzt. Let uz do away wizh zquabblez, it waz not a azpect of our bargin." She looks at the shaken individuals around her, "Zhough neizher waz zhiz demon. I would zhink it'd prove a rare reagent for Carnifex to claim, would it not? Perhapz it could be uzed az payment your aid."
Zunden goes to pick up the paper charm from the floor, placing it between back in the locket, "It zertainly doez zeem Fate waz on our zide, zhough. What an improbable night.">>715489
Zunden gives a faint smile to Aegis, recognizing her again,
"Ah, how ztrange it iz to zee you for who you are again. Memoriez have returned, however zparze zhey are. I am glad you are zafe zhough, Aegiz Glaze. I mozt zertainly prefer you az you are now zhan if you had been taken by ze Zquatterbloat."
panting from exhaustion, i drop the knife before taking a seat on the wooden floor of the brig.
"So.. it's over, then. lovely." i manage to get out between pulls of air.
''Aegis Glaze'' She replies swiftly ''As I am your subordinate, you do not have to worry about formalities, call me simply Aegis, or whatever else you like, Mister Norvegicus'' >>715495
''I appreciate your words, Miss Zunden. You and Aurora have made me feel welcome, and your willingness to go through this ordeal honors me'' She bowed her head
Rabi slumps back on to his haunches with a huff, beforr taking a few moments to catch his breath and rub his eyes. He re-opens them and looks over Aegis, before blinking a couple of times and offering a soft smile. "Glad you're alright, at least. None of that curse stuff stuck, did it?">>715496
Rabi gets to his hooves shakily and trots over to Silver, before pulling her into a soft hug. "That was… a bit more taxing than I thought, but… at least it's over. I-I hope it was more pleasant for you than it was for me."
I let out a soft chuckle. "You're a member of the group now. That's hardly being my subordinate. Alright, though, Aegis. You can just call me Norv if you want. Most folks do."
Seeing you back to normal, i tearily push myself into your hug, nearly bowling us both over.
"Rabi, you're okay!"
"Ohh i don't know whether i should kiss you or slap you! You've gone and placed yourself into danger again, first the beast, now this. What will i ever do with you?"
Aurora follows you upstairs. "A little," she says. "You've still got red on you." She gets you a glass of water, as you requested before. "…If… If you ever want to talk about it, I'm here. About what just happened, I mean. If you don't want to, I won't pry.">>715494
"Hey," she says quietly. "It's alright. It's over now." She leans into you a little for comfort, looking shaken herself despite putting on her happy face.
She notices your glance at Silver, giving you a wordless meaningful look. You feel like the same thing is running through your heads; Silver isn't who you thought she was at all.>>715495
Black Pudding gives Violet a hard glare, and she returns it with wordless defiance, setting her jaw. "Thy transgression shall not be forgotten," he says coldly to her.
"I'm not asking for forgiveness," she answers, her voice shaking a little. "I just… I just want to move on. It's in the past. Isn't it?"
Black Pudding considers this. "…I suppose it is. Let us put this behind us, for now." Violet nods, staring at him with dislike. Both seem willing to get on with their lives, rather than dwell on it.
He considers your suggestion. "We had hoped to be able to trap it in its natural form, not in this weakened state. But it shall have to suffice." He produces a glass jar, scooping up the floundering, snapping thing and sealing it away for later.
"Now. There is a more pressing matter at hand. Show us the stain, Reader, and I will cleanse it.">>715496
Violet nods. "Seems that way. Fingers crossed, if I had any." You notice she gives you an odd look for a moment.>>715498
"The Squatterbloat has been severed from its host," he explains, examining the worm-like creature in the glass jar. "It is utterly powerless now."
"A-Ack!" the stallion shouts as he's bowled over.
"B-Both? I'd be fine getting slapped for that, honestly." he mumbles, resting his head atop hers and closing his eyes. "Did it get to you, too? I didn't grt a chance to see.">>715501
"Good. Maybe just smash the thing and be done with it, then? I don't like the idea of something like that hanging around."
''If that's what you'd like, very well then, Mister Norv… No, I mean Norv''>>715501
''There isnt much to talk about this subject. I would rather we learn from this experience and ultimately leave it behind''
She eagerly empties the glass ''What I would like to know is how are you feeling, Aurora. I saw you sobbing during that ordeal. The demon has gotten to you hasnt it?''
"Goodness yes! It was as if i was in the family manor, speaking with my brother again, quite eerie.."
"It's all past us now, at least. Aegis has her life back and we're none the worse for wear.." i add, resting my head against your neck.
Zunden nods, seemingly satisfied with the result, "Will we need ze ozherz for zhiz az well? I'd prefer if zhey'd be able to recover after zhat, but if not I'll let zhem know."
Zunden says, guiding him to the spot if that isn't the case.
I give her a small, approving nod. "Good. Now if that's it I think I'm going to go relax a bit after- well, after that
"You wanna join me, Vi? Or you still have some stuff to do here?"
He shakes his head. "This is an opportunity we cannot pass up. A Squatterbloat is one of the rarest finds of all. It would be folly not to take the opportunity to acquire newfound knowledge.">>715503
You feel much better after refreshing yourself with a glass of water.
"It… it showed me things I try not to dwell on. Bad memories. You know how it goes. I'm guessing it did the same for you.">>715505
"On the contrary. We require privacy. It will take some time. Merely leave us to the task, and we shall see it done."
As he follows you into the cargo hold, he stiffens, looking confused by whatever he's experiencing. "…Interesting. Very interesting." He observes the black, smoking stain on the floor. "Ah, so. This is the center of it all… This will take longer than we had anticipated. Leave us to our work. We shall notify thee when the deed is done."
"…Yeah. I'll come with you." She looks bothered by something, following you out.
''As you wish''>>715507
''Yes it did. Again I apologize you had to go through those memories for my sake. Now lets not dwell on this subject for any longer. I still wanted to do one more thing at the Swap Meet before the Demon had its grasp on me, do you think there is still time?''
Zunden nods. "I will dizconnect myzelf from ze Zanctuary zhen. I would prezume zhere could be zome zort of backlazh if I waz ztill connected to ze zhip during it."
Zunden begins to walk out of the room, turning around, "I will be making a meal for zhoze aboard, zhen. If I am not done by time you are finizhed, zhen I will be down ze hallway and ze zecond door to ze right."
I wait until we're back in our room, plop down on the bed, and sigh. "I could be wrong, but I get the feeling we're thinking about the same thing."
Aurora doesn't seem to hear you at first. "Hm? Oh. Yeah, sure. Seems a bit late to be going to the Meet, but who knows really. Might be a bit different going there after dark. What do you want to do?">>715510
Black Pudding nods sagely. "It will be a matter of hours. Until then, I ask that I am not disturbed. This process is very delicate." You see a rare expression on his face, almost of hesitation, perhaps even fear. He turns away from you hastily to face the stain, clutching his staff tightly.>>715511
She sits on the bed next to you, undoing her braid. "I always thought there was more to her than just some city mare," she says with a concerned frown. "But… Well, she's not what we thought, is she. I… I don't know what to do. I mean, part of me hopes she's changed since, but… I'm worried about her. About Rabi too. He didn't hear what… what we heard. …What are we going to do?"
The Crystal mare turns to Rabi, dirty with some stains of blood''No, it doesnt seem like it. But I cannot tell for sure. If anything the demon could have succesfully taken over and the real Aegis ceased to exist'' She says without a hint of emotion in her voice
''If you want to be sure you should ask Black Pudding''
"Mhmm. I might need to go… think about things, for a bit. But, no worse for it." he says, gently nuzzling against Silver's snout.
"…Say, you had something planned today, didn't you? I hope this all didn't throw it off.">>715507
"Mmm… you're not going to go… throwing that on anyone, are you?">>715509
"Yeah, I'm sure there is. I was going to go grab a bow before we left. Or, the supplies to make one, at least."
''Its something simple this time. I want to buy some products for my mane and coat. I want to clean this blood off of me and I'm afraid just water and soap wont be enough, so I figured it would be best to buy whatever I will need while there is a chance. Would you like to come with me?''>>715514
''I see. Either way I will make haste, and avoid any further encounters with the eldritch''
"Of course not," he answers, sounding slightly irritated. "It is too valuable to waste like thus."
She starts. "Mane products? That's… mundane. I thought you'd be after something else. I'll come with you, sure. Don't really have anything better to do."
I lean back and sigh. "I don't know. I already knew she was a little more-" I pause and clear my throat. "[i]intense[i/] than she was letting on, but that was something else entirely. She's been with us this long and hasn't been anything but a friend, and a pretty damn helpful one at that. Do you think maybe we should just forget about it?"
"Mmh.. as much as i'd like to reveal the surprise, our time table has been pushed forward, i'm afraid. We need to work fast if we're to halt whatever Lysander is planning."
"For now, i'll have to ready my mixing room, Black pudding and his associate were able to part with equipment for a proper lab, it should be ample tools to make some more effective poison down the line."
"Besides, we'll have plenty of time for it once we've begun travel towards the desert.">>715512
Taking a moment more with Rabi, i reluctantly get back up and make my way towards the bundled lab equipment, beginning the process of moving it further into the ship, away from the bunks. "Time to see just what i'm working with.."
"I don't think that's something you can just forget. …I mean, it's in the past, I guess? She's different now, sure. But… we all got faced with some horrific memories, but… she didn't seem affected at all. That… that's terrifying."
Aegis turned back to face Aurora ''It is important to keep a good appearance and health both in the inside and the outside. I disagree that maintainig good looks is mundane. To keep the morale and self-esteem high is a skill as important as many'' She reassured, leaning a bit close to the Bat
"Ztay zafe, warlock." Zunden says, looking worried for Black Pudding.
Zunden heads to the kitchen, seeing the two mares there.
"Ah, Aurora and Aegiz. I didn't get to azk, are you alright Aurora? I tried to keep ze tentaclez off you but ze beat me for a brief moment of time. I'm zorry.">>715515
She turns to the crystal pony, apparently having caught the last bit of the conversation,
"Ah, you know, I did manage to pick up a couple curiouz objectz zhat may help wizh zhat need." She fumbles in her bag of holding, pulling out a tin of green speckled soap.
"Apparently, it can take ze zcent of whatever ze uzer wizhez. You're free to uze it if you'd like, juzt perhapz not ze whole bar."
"Oh, a poison lab? That sounds… kind of interesting, actually. Could I sit in and watch sometime?" he asks, hopping up and following after her "I'd offer now, but I think I'm going to go have a seat and mull some stuff over.">>715516
"Cool. I guess there's no harm in keeping it, then."
Aegis eyed the item, drawn by curiosity ''A neat item, with a deceptively great potential. I appreciate the offer, Miss Zunden, but I would not be able to use this simply to exude a specific smell. I will find a simple common soap to do that''
"Of course, dear! Just be sure to be careful around the equipment, some reactions may have unexpected results, we wouldn't want to make you sick!"
I fall silent for a moment. That's a good point. "I hadn't even thought about that. Just what she said. I guess that is pretty messed up. You don't think the demon just sent us back to the last major memory before we came here, do you? Amd that just happened to be horrific for most of us? I was back there, hiding in my pantry before Twelve-" I shake my head. "Before what happened happened. I don't know. Maybe I'm just making excuses."
You examine the equipment you got from Carnifex. It consists of a variety of tools; a burner, an alembic, a mortar and pestle, bottles and vials, a distillery stand, a crucible, and a firestarter, among others. The notes consist of dense, academic treatises on various flora and fauna in the Echoes, and how their vital components can be used in the crafting of potions. There are also instructions on proper alchemy, detailing how to potentially create a homunculus.
You find that your own poisons now have a much more vibrant hue to them, and different consistencies than before. They seem much more potent than before. Whatever Carnifex did to them, they appear much more effective.>+1 to Rupture, Blind and Sleep Serum - permanently!
She blinks in surprise as you lean in a bit, unsure of what you're doing. "I… I suppose you're right. I've never really been much for fashion or makeup or anything like that, but first impressions are important.">>715522
"Hey, Zunden. I'll… I'll be alright. Thanks for asking." She smiles at you. "It just showed me something I'd rather not think about, is all. How about you? Are you okay? It didn't get you, did it?"
''You are correct'' She pulls away and nods ''It is important that you make yourself seem important, desirable and reliable, not just for your sake, but to inspire others around you as well. This is what I always have been told''
With that Aegis starts making her way out of the ship
''If you'd like, I could help you in this matter as well''
"I hope so. Otherwise… well, either way. I don't know if we should talk to her about it, or what. …Anyway. Are you okay? I think we all went to a pretty dark place, didn't we. Do you need anything?"
"Goodness.." i mutter "These notes are far more thorough than i thought.."
claiming an empty room, i take the time to set up the equipment and sort the notes into my bookcase, for further study.
She looks wide eyed as she follows you out. "Are… are you saying I'm not attractive?…"
The Meet looks rather different at night. The stalls seem to be huddled closer together, and the tunnel is illuminated by a combination of candles, lanterns, flames and mystical floating lights. It is essentially a large, densely packed night market, though the crowd seems a bit thinner during the night. Food stalls are much more common at this hour, selling all sorts of exotic dishes for dinner. You see all manner of clothes, tools, books, souvenirs and artifacts being offered on every corner. >DC to navigate the Meet lowered by 2 during the night market
"Fair enough, ze tinz do zay ze can zmell like anyzhing
zhough. I do not know how effective zhat can be, but enchantmentz can be more uzeful zhan you might zhink. What if you willed it to zmell like ze oppozite of blood, whatever zhat zmell iz?" She chuckles.>>715528
"It didn't, ze charm I put in my locket protected my until ze Zervitor could take over. Ztill, I'm zorry I hadn't zhought to uze ze Zervitor zooner."
I slide over to the edge of the bed and hang my legs over it, folding my hands in my lap. "I'm sure I'll be fine," I say. "It's not like I was the one torn apart by a horde of rats, and it wasn't my fault. It's just-" I trail off, not looking up at her. "I think maybe I forgot just how bad it was. I thought I hadn't. The thought still pops up in my mind, so I'd assumed that I'd always remember, but if that thing triggered an actual memory and didn't warp anything… Well, it was worse than I remembered."
"Alright! I'll come check it out in just a little bit." the stallion says, heading off towards his and Silver's room.
One there, the stallion settles on the bed, eyes closed. He takes a few minutes to think over the whole encounter, before deciding to do a little bit of Astral Projection. It's been long enough anyways, right?>I don't kneed to roll for this, yeah?
You go about your business setting up the room. It looks kind of like a drug lab by the time you're done putting everything up. It's a little messy, but there is method to it. Organized chaos.
"I-it's fine. Really. I'm fine." She forces another smile. "…Thanks. For everything, I mean. We couldn't have done any of this without you, you know."
''The opposite, I'm saying that I could help bring out the beauty that lies within you. You are already a very charming mare, Aurora, but beauty is not all about looks, it is also about attitude''
Enjoying the fact that the meet is much more manageable during the night, Aegis carefully weaved through the people and shops, looking for somewhere selling self-care products>>715533
''I'm sure the smell produced would be based on what you perceive as the opposite of blood. What blood means to you and how you would describe its smell. Then it would revert those to make your desired scent''
Roll #1 10 = 10
She frowns. "It wasn't your fault, you know. From what you've told me, that creep had it coming anyway. And hey, he's still alive, right? And he's back in the Dominion, and you're here. With me! So he can't hurt you. …I'm not helping much, am I. Sorry. You know I'm not good at this." She looks uncomfortable.
Zunden laughs heartily, "I've heard zhat far too much from you Aurora, haven't I told you in ze pazt to ztop zaying zhingz like zhat?"
She looks about the kitchen, now restocked. She crosses her arms, "I don't want anyzhing fanzy, but I zhink a warm meal might help after you all were zubject to zhoze vizionz. Would you want to make zome tomato zoup wizh me?"
You settle in your room and focus, departing your physical form for a time. You are still not fully accustomed to the sight of your own sleeping body.
Something is wrong. You get the feeling you are being watched.
There is someone else here. Downstairs, in the cargo hold. You can see him through the walls. A dark, shadowy figure, cloaked in black, hunched over, browbeaten.
He can see you too, though he doesn't have a face. An orb of pure black rests in his hands. He clutches it it to his chest, as if protecting a child. He doesn't say anything. He just stares at you, in your ghostly form.
It's as if he wants something from you.
I chuckle, smile, and lean my head on her. "No, you're probably right. Chances are I'll never even see him again. How about you? You doing alright?"
"Oh. Well… thanks. I don't really… like my looks very much, but… if you think you can help, then why not." She looks apprehensive, but also a little excited at the idea.>>715539
You manage to find a very odd looking stall with a variety of pleasant fragrances. The shelves are lined with blocks of multicolored materials in vibrant whites, blues, pinks, reds and greens. Closer inspection reveals that they are soaps, but unlike any you've ever seen before. There are creams, shampoos, and even bath bombs available. The mare at the counter looks bored as she weighs a huge block of what looks like honey scented soap, but perks up as you enter, bustling over to you. "Hi there! Looking for something in particular?">assume they have whatever you're after
"Sorry. But it's true though!"
"Oh. I was about to head out with Aegis, sorry. She wants to go pick up some things. Maybe one of the others would want to help though?"
Rabi shakes his head and lets out a soft sigh, trying to push the sight of his own unconscious body out of the way. It doesn't take him long to get the feeling that, for once, he's not alone.
The stallion floats his way down, further into the ship, looking for the source of the 'watching' sensation. Upon finding the bizarre, cloaked figure, the stallion comes to a stop and instinctively reaches for his bow- even if it's not really there.
"Who… who're you?"
"Oh of courze, I won't keep you zhen."
She waves a claw, letting Aurora head out as she starts pulling out ingredients for soup and sandwiches.
"Yeah. I'll be fine. Just… it showed me something from… from one of my travels. It was… it was pretty terrifying. I don't really want to talk about it. Sorry. I'm just glad it's over."
"Yeah. I'll be fine. Just… it showed me something from… from one of my travels. It was… it was pretty terrifying. I don't really want to talk about it. Sorry. I'm just glad it's over."
''What do you not like about your looks?'' Aegis asks, straight to the point as she looks over the stall, turning her eyes to the mare
''Shampoo, soaps, oils for my coat… I also would like something for hooficulture and a mane brush''
Having finished setting up the lab, i make my way to the kitchen, to check on Zunden.
"Thanks. If you're still busy when we get back, I'll lend you a hoof, okay?"
As you start preparing, Silver enters the kitchen.>>715551
You find Zunden hard at work preparing dinner for the evening. Looks like tomato soup.
"Don't worry, I understand completely. Best not to force yourself to relive stuff like that. On that note, I guess we're headed back to the sands after this. That's gonna be weird."
There is a long, deafening silence as the hooded figure stares at you, unmoving. The world seems to dim around it.Curiosity.You See that whichdoes not exist.What do you seek?Knowledge?Power?Freedom?Or somethingtrulyinteresting?
Entering the kitchen, i look over Zunden's shoulder to see what she's cooking.>>715548
"Ooh, looks lovely so far! would i be able to help?"
She seems a bit taken aback by your forwardness, struggling to find an answer. "…..Ears, really. They're too… too big. I don't like them. Not that it matters. I've never really had to rely on my looks."
"We have plenty of all of them! Take your pick!" The mare shows you around the stall, pointing out a variety of different care products that might suit your interests. Most of what they sell here is magical in nature, derived from materials only found in the Echoes. The magical formulae in each product, as the vendor explains, guarantees a completely clean coat and a fresh scent every time. You can pick from the following scents:>Honey>Roses>Berries>Nuts>Mint>Vanilla>Lime
Each kit costs 20 bits, while a hoof care kit and a manebrush would cost 15 and 5 respectively.
Rabi stays locked in place, with a bit of a deer-in-the-headlights look at the figure. After a few moments, he finally asks "Something… interesting? What?"
"Yeah. I'm just hoping this goes well, really. Not that anything ever does, haha. But, you know. If we can just get the egg and hide it, that'll be one less thing to worry about. Right? …And uh, I'm not really sure what we're going to do about Discord, either. Part of me thinks he might not even be there when we get back. Which would be a whole other can of worms. I dunno. Maybe I worry too much. Do you think so?"
''They are a bit long. The biggest I've seen in a pony for sure'' She comments, glancing back at Aurora and looking up at her ears ''But that is not necessarily a bad trait. It could even be your most attractive feature… Why dont you like them?''
Aegis asks, balancing her attention between Aurora and the mare as she picked out her products
In the end she took the mint scent kit and the hoof care and brush as well
''Two more things. A toothbrush, and something for saurians, do you have that? I want to gift a friend of mine''
"Oh, if you wanted, zure zhing. Were you going to make your err…" She checks outside the hallways real quick, confirming Rabi isn't out there, "zhing for Rabi? I waz juzt making zoup for everyone elze if you were."
"Yeah, that'd be trouble. A couple months ago I would have said yeah, you probably do, but after everything we've been through? It'd probably be silly not to worry." I pick my sax up from beside the bed and play with the keys without actually blowing in it. "Seems like it's one thing after another. Even when it seems like we'll get a chance to relax, like back in Braildorn, something always pops up. If I were smarter I'd be paranoid too."
"Not quite yet, i'm holding hope for that starlit dinner, once we've cleared the weeping city's gloomy skies."
"Well, that and the ritual business has really put a damper on the mood, less than ideal as you could imagine."
>>715557https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X6twHZCfGtQRebirth.It is inevitable.The egg you seek.That you and your companions seek.It will hatch.Open the doorto a new world.The old onethe current onewill face deathbeyond death.Annihilation.
It seems to grow closer to you. You suddenly realize you are standing in pitch blackness. It is only you and what can only be the Oneiromancer.Annihilation.It cannot be stopped.Do not contain it.
"Gee, thanks," she says, blushing a little and looking away. "They… well, they draw attention, don't they. Ah, never mind. Stupid to dwell on it anyway. Forget I said anything."
"Sure, we have things for two-legged folk." She shows you a little tub of scale wax and claw clippers. Both together cost 10 bits, and the toothbrush 2.
She looks at the sax curiously. "Why'd you buy that, anyway? You really going to learn? That'd be… something. Haha."
She dwells on your words. "…It's never going to stop, is it," she says a little glumly. "Not until someone dies. I… I did this, didn't I," she muses. "Lysander. I never should have left him. I… Gods, I created a monster…" She holds her head in her hands hopelessly.
"Az I heard. Ze majority of you all zounded quite diztrezzed while ze demon had you, everyone waz talking outloud az if zhey were really in zheir vizionz. I figured zome warm zoup might help."
She gestures to some bread and cheese out, "And zomezhing I picked up in ze Dominion, apparently many like zhiz 'grilled cheeze' zandwich. If you wanted to help, you could azzemble zome of zhoze."
Rabi attempts to take a few steps back, trying to summon up the magic to blast the oneiromancer (which, I don't think I can do either).
"I'm not going to take it lying down, at the least. I've still got plenty in the old world I care enough about."
"Well, I'm gonna try at least. Not many things I'm good at so I ain't getting my hopes up, but I think it'd be neat."
I quickly set the sax down and put an arm around her. "Hey, hey, none of that now. It ain't your fault. What were you supposed to do? Stick around and freeze to death? The creep is obsessed- and I mean obsessed
with you. You didn't ask for that. You don't control his actions. I feel like with his attitude where he is is where he woulda ended up anyway."
"Really, oh my. I'd imagine it must have been quite traumatic for the others, something warm should be helpful indeed."
stepping up to the counter, i grab a knife and begin slicing for sandwiches, careful not to cut too thick. "I shouldn't pry, but i do wonder what the others were going through.."
"I waz zlightly curiouz about ze zame zhing, but mozt of zhem zeemed like zenzitive zubjectz. You zeemed razher calm zhough." Zunden says, preparing the soup.
Aegis turned to Aurora, staring at her in silence for a second ''I'm sorry''
She picks out the bits needed for payment, looking away to the other mare
''I'll take them both'' She says, looking at her bag and noting it was pratically empty at this point
You try to step away, but the Oneiromancer seems to be all there is. Despite being incorporeal, you feel a deathly chill. Your magic fails you.Family.A fleeting concept.You have a loathsome attachment.Seer.
You are floating further and further from shore.
You are drifting out to sea.
Into the darker.
And beyond are things
blind and writhing and terrible.
You cannot prevent it.
You are meat
You are atoms.
And the atoms are not caring
if you are existing.
"S-So, what. Just destroying everything with that egg's better than at least trying to prevent whatever 'it' is?" he asks, mulling over severing the connection now. It's worth learning a little more, at least.
"And, I mean… maybe family is fleeting, or irrational. I don't really care, though. It's the only thing that's ever really mattered to me."
>>715675Soon family is dying.Soon family is rotting.Seer.Know this second thing.
You hear the crashing of waves. You find yourself standing above a midnight ocean, cold and dark and unforgiving. The Oneiromancer is there, grey feathery wings spread wide. The black form in his hands has taken on the familiar shape of an egg.The Egg is the holeat the center of everything.I have seen it begin to stir.Soon it will hatch.Soon it will grow.Soon it will fly.And you are not escaping.There is no reasonto prolong it.You will accomplish nothing.Because you cannot accomplish anything.Because the universe will forget youjust as the universe has been forgotten.
Rabi tries to push the chilling sensation out of his head, wanting to be ready to sever the projection at a moment's notice. "So… if all of this is pointless, and we don't matter… what are you doing here, anyways? What's the point of this?" he asks.
You are in a tower made of obsidian, torch in hoof. You climb up a winding black stairway to reach the top, where he stands, but no matter how many steps you climb, you cannot reach it.Seconds agoflesh and bone are coming to meand asking if I am a god.And I am telling them I am not.Seconds agoyou are coming to meand asking who I am.
There is a long silence.I am searchingfor a black Rook.Three others have been potential.None were strong enough.Seer.Find me a black Rook.One among you that will understandthe Truth of the world.
"I'm not keen on finding you anything other than the door, honestly. Why would you even bother asking that?" he asks, eventually giving up on the staircase and letting out a soft breath of exhaustion. Continuing to walk wasn't the best idea for that long, really.
>>715692Do thisand I will reveal to youthe secret you yearn.The path to returnto the land you came from.
He extends one hand, pointing a long, glossy black finger due northeast. You follow his gaze, finding yourself flying over land and sea, to a far distant landmass in the Echoes, far beyond anywhere you or the rest of your friends have been before.So you may indulge yoursentimental perversions.Seer.This is a show of faith.Here you may return homewith your belovedin due time.Do you wishto See more?To learn more?
Rabi hesitates for a few moments, taking a chance to consider his offer. His eyes hang on the distant landmass for some time, before he finally lets out a soft sigh.
"I… no. I want to go back- or, at least, talk to my siblings again. But, I won't betray what my friends and I are working towards here for that. They're as much family as the ones back in the Dominion. I'll see them again, or talk to them again… but, I won't take your help, or your deals to get there."
He tears his eyes from the horizon, and the landmass, before looking towards the Oneiromancer and huffing. "Y-You're wasting your time. I'll see and learn everything I need to in my own time."
>>715698Time is not important.
You find yourself back in your dormitory, back in your body; only, the Oneiromancer is there, standing in the doorway.Seer.Know this final thing.You are not chosen.For greatness or for ruin.There is no one to choose you.
Slowly, he turns his great, hooded head, looking away, towards the cargo hold.The pellar is here.We will not meet again.The universe will forget you.And I will remember you.But not because you matter.Because the beginning is moments ago.And the end is moments away.
He slowly raises the dripping black orb. It snakes out as a tendril, twisting itself into a certain shape: a symbol depicting two interlinked eyes. This is the symbol Black Pudding invoked to banish the demon earlier.There is no time to forgetbefore all is forgotten.GoodbyeSeer.
Then, he is gone, leaving only a cold and bitter chill through your body, and an equally cold memory.
Rabi awakens with a start when they return to the dormitory, scrabbling to his hooves and breathing heavily. It takes him a few moments to realize he's back in his own body, which brings him nothing but discomfort. He looks to the Oneiromancer in the doorway, trying to find the right words to respond with.
"I'm not chosen, no. There's no one to choose us but… ourselves. We're all we've got out here." he says, regardless of whether or not the figure remained around to hear his response. He shakily walks out of his room and towards the cargo hold in search of Black Pudding.
Rabi stops long enough to grab his bow and rifle, slinging both of them over his shoulder before continuing.
You find the warlock in the cargo hold commencing preparations for removing the Oneiromancer's influence, tracing a circle of chalk around the smoking, bubbling black stain on the floor. He seems deeply disturbed by something, and doesn't even hear you come in.
"Hey. Black Pudding." the stallion calls out, cautiously stepping into the room. "I know you're busy, and all, but I need some answers."
As you approach, you hear him mumbling something, but he stops once you make your presence known. "Nrrrrgh. Has the Reader not made it clear that we are not to be disturbed?" he growls. "This rite will not be easy to conduct. What seekest thee of us?"
"I guess I was a little too jumbled to remember that, honestly. What's with that symbol you used on the demon? The interlocked eyes, I think it was?" he asks, before shifting his weight a little bit.
"Someone showed it to me just a bit ago, when I took a break to project."
"It was the Dream-walker, was it not." He seems to know what's going on here, giving you a hard glare from under the wide brim of his hat. "Heed not whatever he spoke to thee. Else it drive thee to ruin."
"We explained the rune's meaning to the Reader earlier. The rune's meaning is separation from the whole. A cutting of the strings. It is often known as Division, Finality, or Severance. It may be used for as many purposes as the mind can imagine, but only an extremely powerful or talented runesmith may truly invoke the idea of Severance to whatever they may will." He looks down at the ground. "It so happens we shall have to invoke it here once again, in order to expel the Dreamwalker's presence. The symbol does not belong to him, just as the very concept of Severance does not belong to any one individual."
"Yeah, it was. The Oneiromancer, I think." he says, before making a bit of a face. "No need to worry. He just prematurely ended my projection after I rejected his offer. Seems like he's still looking for his 'rooks', apparently."
He listens to the description of the rune and nods a little bit, chewing on his lip before responding with "Alright, makes enough sense. He didn't seem keen on you being around, for what it's worth."
He loosens his posture and leans a little, before taking a look at the chalk circle. "There's not any way I could… help with this, could I? I didn't like the feeling of him crawling around like that."
"He knows his influence over thee and thine is at an end," he explains. "I have no doubt he will make this difficult for us."
At your offer, he shakes his head. "This is something that must be dealt with alone. Thou art of no use to me in this. Sleep with the doors closed, and fear not thy dreams this evening. They will not be pleasant ones, but they are only dreams."
"Mmm. Will you be heading back t your swamp after this, then?" he asks, giving Black Pudding the space he needs to finish working out the chalk symbols. "And, I'll stay out of your hair for now, then. It'll be nice to keep his presence… away."
He makes for the door, his ears perking up at the mention of dreams. "I'll… I'll remember that, yeah. Just dreams."
He shakes his head. "Carnifex and I will return to Braildorn. I have questions. Questions that need answering. From there, we shall go our separate ways, and I shall return to Durenwol. Now, I must return to my work. For thine sake, remember." He turns away from you and start muttering again, slowly starting to draw the Severance rune in the circle.
She leans into you, but your words don't seem to help much. "…I… I just feel so awful about it… all the time… I know you think it's not my fault, but… I…" She seems to be trying to find the right words.
"E-ever since he started showing up, and… and hunting us… And knowing he could be around any corner in this place… I-I try to hide it… for everyone's sake, but…" She looks up at you with a haunting expression. "I always feel like I have this…. this shadow
hanging over me… I'm always looking over my shoulder, wherever we are, thinking he's going to come after me, or h-hurt you… Everything bad that's ever happened to you… it's been because of me. And I don't know how much longer I can bear that. I… I have to set things right
. And I don't know how…"
"I can't be much clearer, so I'll say this. The reason I'm here ain't you. It's Twelve. And honestly sometimes I think about thanking him, because if I never came here I'd still be a half-starved nobody back in The Domain. Did I tell you how much I couldn't pay back to Twelve after over a week? 200 bits. Hell, I just spent twice that in a day. That's chump change now."
I pause for a second and gently run my fingers along her side. "Most important," I say. "Is that I got to meet you. You're smart. Strong. Resourceful. And not exactly bad to look at either. So no, if I had to trade all the peril I've been dragged through for what ammounts to a chance to never have met you, I'd decline in a heartbeat. I-"
I lean my head on her and close my eyes. "I love you, Violet Moon, and the best thing you can do to make up for anything you've caused -real or imaginary- is to stick with us and help us see this thing to the end. Or at least until we beat Lysander's ass, anyway."
She flinches as you run your fingers on her side. She doesn't seem to be in the mood, looking at you with a harrowed expression. Still, she can't help but smile weakly. "I love you too. More than anything. Gods, I don't know what I'd do without you. I… You're right. I can't keep running forever, can I. I'm going to have to face him eventually. I don't really feel like I… like I deserve to have you, or the others, after all the bad things I've done, but… Well, we'll pull through. Won't we?" She looks uncertain of her future, but in better spirits.
After a minute, she frowns. "What, do you mean, I'm not bad to look at?" she says with concern. "I mean I know I don't dress myself up too much, but I try to look presentable at least." She touches the side of her face self consciously. "It's the scars, isn't it. Maybe Zunden knows a way to get rid of them…"
"I mean to be fair most of us have a history. And after what we overheard Silvy say… well, I don't really wanna think about it too much, but I feel like the others might be hiding somethin' too."
My stomach sinks as she misinterprets what I said. "No, no. I was only teasing, not wanting to focus on physical stuff and all that. You're beautiful. Thought so since the first time I saw you. Sorry, guess it wasn't really the right time."
Sitting hunched over on the edge of the bed is making my back ache, and I have to stretch my arms above my head. My back makes an audible popping sound, and I drop down onto the bed, suddenly feeling much better. "Trust me," I say, looking up at her. "Everything is gonna be fine. I promise. We'll sort all this business out. Together."
She blinks. "It's alright. Sorry, I shouldn't mope. Just had a lot on my mind today." She joins you on the bed, curling up next to you in a catlike fashion, as she often does. "I'll pull through," she says, more to reinforce it to herself. "As long as we're together, nothing can harm us. We'll get to the desert, pick up the Egg, then dump it somewhere no one will ever find it. And that'll be the end of that. We ought to take a nice long holiday, like Z said. Maybe by the lake, where the monastery is. Or even the beach where we met…" She looks over with a small, warm smile, scooting a bit closer and resting her head on you. "Wouldn't that be something."
I slip my arm around her, close my eyes, and laugh. "Yeah," I say. "Man. It'd be weird going back there now. It's probably the tension, but downtime like this doesn't even really feel all that much like relaxing, so a nice, long vacation sounds nice. Kinda wouldn't mind visiting the Monastery again, but I don't know if I'd really think of that place as a resort." I sleepily crack my eyes and look down at her. "But I guess that beach ain't really a normal beach either, huh?"
"Yes, well.. i was spared from any particularly gruesome memories, only one of speaking with my brother, Silver Mark."
Cutting into the bread, i continue. "I believe we've spoken about it before, during our drunken rambling at the inn back at Braildorn, but my banishment was no accident. Unlike the others who, like you, were victims of circumstance, Mine was a story similar to Hermodur, legitimate crimes punished accordingly."
"The memory was of my brother's confronting me over the murders, and my response to his realization. It was shortly after that that one of my victims escaped, leading to my arrest and, well, all of this."
Gesturing with a wing around the room, i lay out the sliced bread before slicing into the cheese block. "I'd like to think i'm a different mare from then, and i dread to imagine what Rabi would think of me if he knew, but the past still remains."
"Well, nothing's really normal here, is it. We're all mad here," she says jokingly. There's w comfortable silence for a but as she just rests her head on your chest for a while. "Thank you," she says quietly. "For everything. Thank you so, so much. You're the best thing to ever happen to me…"
For a while*
I half shrug the shoulder of the arm I don't have tucked around her. "Not much to thank me for. Really it seems like I'm just along for the ride most of the time. I'm trying to take steps to be more useful, but I feel like I just embarass myself more often than not. Still, it's no problem." I smile and chuckle. "Must not have had many good things come by ya then, huh? You're the best thing to ever happen to me, too. By a wide, wide margin."
Zunden nods, "I have azzumed az much. It iz of little worry to be. For one, everyone here, bezidez zhoze born in ze Echoez, iz a criminal in zome regard. To be worried about one'z pazt bezidez az zomezhing to learn from iz quite zilly. Zecondarily, even before ze Echoez, I took care of zhoze who killed and did ozher unzavory actz, I am quite uzed to any zort of hiztory one haz."
She continues to prepare the soup, lighting the range. "Unlezz you are ezpecially adept at hiding zuch, I have not zeen you keep up zaid actionz here in ze Echoez. I would zhink it helpz to prove my idea zhat it iz a rezult of ze Dominion'z reztrictionz to one'z Fate. Here, ze law iz what we make of it, and az a rezult zhoze zhat would've been condemned to never realize zheir deztiny, inztead can flourizh."
She looks up at Silver, "Rabi iz a very underztanding ztallion, I do not zhink hiz love would falter becauze of zuch. Do you have planz to ever tell him of your pazt, zhen?"
"I've been doing a lot of thinking," she muses. "And… well, I don't think I realized it at the time, but before I met you I… I wasn't very happy. After what happened with Lysander I was always on my own, traveling by myself, pairing up with others only for mutual benefit. It was… pretty lonely. And, uh… I didn't really like myself, very much… Even when I did meet you all, I wanted to go my own way for the longest time. Remember? …I still do.. sometimes… but the point is, I didn't know what I was missing by having friends again. And even more…" She looks up at you with shining eyes. "You're everything to me," she says quietly, and kisses you.
"Yeah. I had a friend or two, but this -what the whole group has- it's different, y'know? And with you…" I let the sentence trail off, wrap my other arm around her, and pull her in close, returning the kiss.
"Hmm.. I suppose if the others have heard as well, making an attempt to hide it would be pointless. If the subject is brought up, i won't deny my past, but if the others opt to proceed as normal then i will follow suit, i suppose."
"You wizh for ze zubject to have to be zomezhing he haz to pry you for? I do not zhink zhat az a healzhy action for your relationzhip. I ezpect one of ze ozherz will have looze lipz, you would razher zhey tell Rabi inztead of yourzelf?"
Zunden shrugs, cubing the tomatoes.
"Ah, you do
have a point.. Perhaps it would be better to hear it from me than from one of the others.. Though how could you broach the subject of your murders to your lover? It isn't as simple as a dinner conversation.. Right?"
Zunden shrugs, "Zhat, I do not know. Perhapz it'd be bezt to wait till after ze night you have prepared for him. If anyzhing, it will zoften hiz mood I zuppoze. Zhough, zhat may be manipulative."
She sighs, readying the soup in the pot, "Relationzhipz are complex, it iz why I normally go to ze cardz to zeek guidanze on zhem."
She shrugs. "'S okay," she answers distantly.
The mare at the counter puts everything in a neat little bag for you after counting out your money with a satisfied nod. "Thank you very much!">-52 bits
"And for you, miss?" The mare looks at Aurora.
"Just looking," she replies rather sharply, turning to follow you out. Something seems to have set her off, and she looks at you expectantly without another word, waiting to follow you back.
With the items in hand, Aegis thanked the mare and left with Aurora
''What is bothering you, Aurora?'' She asked as soon as they were out
She gives you an odd look as you head back to the ship. "It's nothing. I'm… fine. Really. Just need some time to think." She starts heading with intent back to her room.
Aegis followed her up until they reached the door of Aurora's room
''Would you want to share it with me?''
"I'm just…" She cuts herself off, sets her jaw, and invites you into her room, closing the door behind her and sitting on her bed. "…I'm just trying to figure you out, really," she says, sounding a bit timid. "We… I… I risked my life for you today. I didn't know what to expect from the demon. None of us did. But I stood up and went for it anyway. And… well, call me spoiled, but… I don't really… feel like it meant much. To you, I mean. I did everything I could to help you, and support you, and… and you just turn around and start making fun of me not an hour later… That hurt, you know."
"And uh… that's it, really. I'm… I know I'm not the easiest person to talk to, but… but I'm trying my hardest to be a good friend to you. I'm not sure why you… are the way you are, but… but I'll stick with you, no matter what. I'd just like to… to see you give back… a little more. To everyone, I mean. Not just to me. …Does that make sense? …I'm not very good at expressing myself. …Sorry." She gives you a somewhat doleful look, unsure if she's getting across what she's trying to say.
Aegis simply stared at Aurora with the same dull look as always while she spoke, staying quiet for a moment before speaking up herself ''It is fine, I understand your intent, and I must admit I have not been behaving in a proper way around you, around everyone'' Aegis sat down and stared at the floor as she continued to talk
''Its all very different from my home and my family. Our communion is considerably more quiet, reserved, disciplined, and honest. But make no mistake we all share a deep love for eachother, and that honesty among us is proof of that… But I should have expected that attitude would not be as welcome with others'' Aegis closed her eyes in thought and bowed her head further
''You saw how well my words were received by Black Pudding and his apprentice, even though I meant no harm, and now I did the same to you as well. Forgive me Aurora, I never once told you a lie since we first spoke but I understand some ponies do not take kindly to being reminded of their flaws''
"Yeah. I can understand that. We're, uh, pretty close knit ourselves. You must… feel a bit like an outsider still, huh." She rubs the back of her head. "I know you don't mean to offend, and I don't hold it against you. Really. It must be hard, being so far from home, having to fit in with a group of strangers just like that." She looks at you earnestly. "You really miss your home, don't you. I… can't imagine what that's like, anymore, but I sympathize. Really, I do." She hesitates a bit before reaching out and touching your shoulder reassuringly. "It'll be okay. We'll find a way to get you home. Together. What do you say?"
Aegis didnt react upon Aurora's touch ''I appreciate your help, and your desire to assist me, I really do. Such kindness for a stranger is rare and I will not forget it. Just like how I wont ever forget what you all did for me. I am sorry that I didnt express that before'' With her own hoof, Aegis carefully took Aurora's hoof from her shoulder, holding it up ''There is nothing I would like more than that. But first we must deal with this situation with Lyzander, I understand that, if what you all say is true, it is something that is more important than even my family, and I will help you put an end to that first, as I have been hired to do''
She frowns slightly. "We haven't hired you for anything, you know. Violet said it before. You're not our lackey, you're our friend. …But you're right. Lysander comes first, and this business with the… the Cuckoo." She looks uncomfortable thinking about all the cosmic happenings the group have gotten entangled with. "A-after that's out of the way, we'll get you home. Cross my heart." She looks at you with determination.
Not taking her apathetic eyes out of the bat mare, Aegis tilted her head to the side ''Aurora'' She started ''Why are you so determined to help me? I appreciate your kindness, but I'm curious as to why you feel so involved in this''
She hesitates to answer, and looks away. "I… I want to find a way home in general. Not just for you, mind you, and not really for me, but… you know, in general. Lots of people here don't really… don't really deserve to be. Look at Norv. I don't know if you know, but he didn't really do anything to warrant his exile. Neither did Zunden, or Violet, or…" She seems to catch herself.
"…Anyway. I want to help because there's so many like you, that don't belong here, and that want nothing more than to see their families again. …Plus, we have a better shot at it than most. If we don't find a way home for the less fortunate with the resources we have, then what makes us any better than selfish thugs like Lysander?"
"That's all it is. I feel like someone needs to do something. And I want to help in any way I can." She shrugs a little. "And you're the only one here that really wants to go home. So I'll do what I can for you."
The following morning, you awaken to the usual gentle pattering of rain on the ship's deck, and the dawn chorus of birds. Aurora and Violet sleep in, the latter woken up only by Mercutio screeching in her ear like a rooster for his own amusement. She vows to kick him out the window.
Overall, it is a rather sleepy morning, with a hearty but not particularly notable breakfast being served by Violet. With your business at the Swap Meet all but concluded, it is time to decide on your next course of action, and set off for further adventures.
Addendum: you have the vague realization that you remember nothing from your dreams that night. In addition, Black Pudding seems to have stolen away quietly at some point while you slept, leaving a note pinned by a knife to a wooden support pillar in the cargo hold. It is addressed to Zunden.
Zunden adorns the new Fulcrum necklace, connecting to the ship before leaving her bed.
Once she has, she goes to check the note.Roll #1 5 = 5
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I jump and swipe blindly at the air as a shrill screech pierces my eardrums. Losing my balance, I topple onto the floor, realizing that the screech is just Mercutio. Huh. Must've fallen asleep at some point last night and didn't realize it. A dull ache creeps across the back of my skull where my head smashed against the floor, and I slowly sit up and rub it.
"Ugh. Since we're leaving you'd think I'd have had a chance to sleep in." Slowly, I pull myself back to my feet, rest my hands on my lower back, and stretch. I feel my back pop and I let out a pleased breath as a wave of relief washes over me.
After breakfast I loiter around the dining area. "So I guess we're headed back to the Sands today. Not even sure my desert gear is still in tact, but hopefully we won't be there long enough for that to matter."
Stirring from my bed earlier in the morning, i quietly clean myself with the ship's bath before Joining the others at the table, saving some room for Rabi.>>716345
"Indeed, Hopefully we'll finally put an end to this egg nonsense and direct our efforts more to personally dealing with Lysander."
"While we're in transit, i might have enough time to patch up your outfit, if need be, Norvy." i offer in response "Repairing my own wardrobe has reignited my interest in sewing, in a way."
Rabi settles in a few moments later, letting out a soft sigh before rolling his shoulders out. "Morning, dear. Did you use to sew as a hobby? I've got no clue howto sew."
Aegis continued walking as Aurora spoke, heeding to every word before replying
''It makes me happy knowing you think this way Aurora. I appreciate your resolve'' She briefly turns to the mare before facing foward again
''You are too kind''>>716341>>716345>>716346
Speaking up from her place in the table, Aegis turned to Silver and Rabi ''Could you brief me one more time regarding our objectives in the desert? I want to make sure our wills align properly so there wont be any misunderstanding''
"Why Rabi, It was important for a mare of means to practice all manner of hobby. While it may seem mundane, you never knew when you might have needed to stitch something back together.">>716348
"Ah yes, the Desert." i begin, clearing my throat.
"Within the shifting sands is the particularly dangerous 'egg' artifact that lysander and his cohorts are after. We're to recover the egg and relocate it to someplace where they can never reach it, lest the whole realm collapse in on itself should we fail."
I clear my throat and glance away, nervously drumming my fingers on the table. "Uh, I think it'll be fine, thank you. Thanks, though. Maybe, uh… maybe some other time.">>716348
"Go to this treasure place we found a while back, pick up a magical, dimension-rending egg, and crack the head off a chaos god so Lysander can't get to them."
''Sounds simple enough. Unless we are to face opposition, this should be easy''
You find yourself a bit disoriented by the bonding process, but at this point you're used to it. The note is written in surprisingly neat handwriting, and reads as follows:
>The deed is done. The Oneiromancer will trouble thee no longer. Thou art protected by Severance.
>The ritual was draining on me, and brought me to a revelation.
>There are two Oneiromancers.
>One you are familiar with. The true Oneiromancer. The Dream-Walker that has vexed thee.
>The other is a mummer's farce. A physical being given power by some outside force. A false Dream-Walker.
>This is all I know, and is something I had suspected, hearing the whispers coming from Braildorn.
>Carnifex and I will travel there, for a time. The false Dream-Walker is something that should not be ignored. I do not understand the implications of his existence.
>We may not meet again.
Aurora is also around, sorting through a huge assortment of baked goods she bought at some point. She wordlessly offers you a cinnamon roll as she tucks into one herself. "I'm not sure it'll be that easy," she ponders. "We're a good few days off from the Sands, for one. And there's still the question of what to do with Clawson…">>716346
You sense a general air of discomfort towards you during breakfast. You recall your conversation with Zunden the previous night. Aurora especially seems to be avoiding making eye contact.
"I think we should just get as far away from this region of the Echoes as possible," Violet suggests. "There's plenty of other lands to go to, and we have the ship, so it's easier to travel that way. The further we are from where Lysander holds sway, the better.">>716348
Violet speaks up. "There's an… an egg buried out in the desert. We've seen it before. If it breaks, it will annihilate this dimension, and everything in it will be sent back to where it came, all in the same place at the same time. So we need to grab it, and put it somewhere far away, where no one can find it. Especially not him."
I sigh, take the cinnamon roll, bite into it, and thoughtfully chew. "Right," I say with my mouth still full. "Clawson. I guess that's something we should probably take care of way before we make it to the sands."
''Oh, maybe I should have mentioned this earlier'' Aegis spoke up again
''But I saw Lysander, and he offered me to join his crew''
With that Aegis took a bite out of an apple
"Huh. I guess it shouldn't come as a surprise, really- you're very talented, dear.">>716353
"We probably can't drop him off, but…"
Zunden passes the note to Aurora, "Could you read zhiz for me pleaze?" She asks, a bit embarrassed, "Pudding left me a note, zhough I am unfamiliar wizh zome of zheze wordz.">>716355>>716353
at the mention of Clawson, she taps a claw on the table, "I waz meaning to put in my opinion on ze matter. Given ze new enchantment to ze zhip, ze zaurian iz of much lezz worry now. Ideally, I'd like to return him half a day'z away from hiz zhip zo zhat he can go about hiz life az he waz earlier. Hopefully zomeone elze haz not laid claim to it in zhat time. If zhey have, I zuggezt a long walk'z away from ze Zwap Meet inztead. He zhould be able to make zome contactz zhere."
Zunden clears her throat, trying to prevent herself from giggling as she realizes what she said, "Err razher, a zlizher away."
Noticing the mixed reactions, i sent my breakfast down and sigh.
"Hmm.. I had hoped to address the events of yesterday at a late time, though i suppose i should clear the air now." i begin, nodding to zunden.
"I believe Aurora left the table early, and Violet was.. indisposed at the time, but i had made it clear to the assembled during our (ahem) drunken revelry in Braildorn that my banishment was no accident."
"I was a petty mare who for the sake of staving off boredom used her knowledge of poisons and surgery to.. perform an extensive and rather gruesome string of murders in the city of Levin." i continue, visibly pained in my admittance, glancing occasionally back at Rabi. Fishing through my bags, i drop my journal onto the table for the others to see.
"What transpired during the exorcism was a conversation between me and my brother, who had realized what i had done and confronted me over the killings. It was after this that i was eventually caught and sent here."
"I believe i've changed since my banishment, certainly after meeting you all, though given the extend of my crimes i won't hold it against any of you if you bear ill will towards me after this. I simply wished to clear the air." i finish, watching the room for a response.
Zunden's reaction is minimal, having already heard most of the things mentioned.
"It iz to be exzpected zhat ze world meant for houzing criminalz haz criminalz in it. Az I have ztated before, we have not died in our zleep or anyzhing of ze like, and you have been a good ally. I hold no ill will."
Aegis was still chewing at her apple, eye Silver with a dull look
''Boredom you say'' She swallows ''You're right, that is very petty. Especially seeing it doesnt sound like you gained nothing from those murders, aside from your exhile''
There is a bit of an awkward silence. Aurora stares at you intently. "I'm… guessing you didn't take him up on it," she says uncomfortably.>>716356
"Sure." She nods understandingly and reads it out loud. Her brow furrows considerably at the mention of a second impostor Oneiromancer. "Well now it's getting out of hand. One was bad enough. Though, that would explain why he was on those wanted posters back in Braildorn…" She looks up at you. "Seems like everything's under control now though. Thanks be to Black Pudding, I guess?">>716358
Violet's expression grows grim, but she nods stiffly in understanding. "I… Well. …That's, uh… about what I thought…" She shifts in her seat awkwardly. "…I think… I think this place changes people. And you're no exception, I'd say. I'd like to think that's not you anymore. …It seems to me like you've changed your ways. And hey, we've all done questionable things in the past, haven't we? …Though not like… that. Still! You've been a great friend to all of us ever since we first met. So I can look past it all. It's like Rabi said back when we met. We're all equal nothings here." She smiles encouragingly.
Aurora, on the other hand, says nothing, giving you an icy, soul-crushing stare.>>716353>>716354>>716355>>716358>>716356
Zunden maneuvers the ship, and even though it's only been two days, you can't help but feel like you've been at the Swap Meet forever. With a steady shake and slight creaking, your ship starts to rise, the flags unfurling as it takes to the skies. Guided by the ever useful compass, you soar through the rain, flying off to new lands.
The rest of your morning goes by fairly uneventfully:
Kairon comes out of the woodwork (literally), but doesn't talk much, instead taking a misty form and clinging to the ship's hull. She seems to enjoy watching the world fly by from there, humming happily.
Mercutio entertains himself by practicing his puns in the mirror. They are almost all skeleton based. He seems to find them infinitely amusing.
Violet and Aurora bond a little, playing a game of chess with the new board Aurora got. The chess pieces prove difficult to control, as, being animated, they have a burning hatred for the opposing side and often get into fistfights.
Clawson gazes out the window idly, singing a sea shanty under his breath. At one point, Zunden sees him find a bug crawling around, and eats it without hesitation. He doesn't seem to mind.
Later that day, your idle journey due south-west is interrupted as you fly over a stretch of woodland. You feel a sudden BANG
against the ship's hull, and the whole thing rocks violently.
"I suppose Idle hooves make for evil tools, as they say." i reply, nodding with a sigh. "I had assumed i was invincible; One escapee was all it took to disprove that."
"Well… I mean, that's not really you anymore, is it?" he asks, after a bit of a pause. "You're a new pony now, and that's the one I know." he offers, giving her a soft smile.>>716361
"Yeah, that too. It's not like any of us didn't do something."
Violet nods in approval of the plan. "No reason we can't show him a little mercy, but we shouldn't give him his ship on a silver platter either. I say we leave him with his kit and some food, but no compass. Let him find his way to us from there."
Zunden smiles, "I do not zee why we cannot include ze compazz too. It will never lead back to uz, now."
"I-" I pause. "Actually I had a lot to drink that night and only remember bits and pieces. I still thought you were just an assassin. Which isn't, you know. The best. But it's still better than-" I clear my throat. "Well. Is serial killer the right word?">>716361
I glance over at Violet as she speaks, toss the last of my cinnamon roll into my mouth, slump down in my chair, and sigh. "Yeah," I say. "Vi is right. It's different now. You're different." I confidently sit back up and look around. "We all are. It might be a little weird, but I don't think this actually changes anything. You're still Silver in my eyes."
I spend most of my time hanging around Mercutio or silently watching the sky with Kairon. I'm doing the latter when the ship lurches and I stumble. Losing my balance, I move to catch myself.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"Yeah. Honestly that seems like our only real option outside of- well. You know."
''Of course not, but I felt like it was something worth bringing up, and it does further comfirms what Norvegicus said about Lysander hiring more hands for his personal group. I also saw that not all of them chose to serve him, instead have opted for a money reward, as have I''>>716362
''That is a good saying. I hope you had learned your lesson and began to put your knowledge into something useful while you were here''>>716361
Aegis decided to spend her time in the solitude of her room in the captain's quarters, focusing her attention on the Book of Demons, the Liber animarum. Her focus seemingly broken by the loud bang as she leaves her room to meet up with the others in the main hall of the ship
"Setting him down relatively close to his ship would be a mercy at this point. Having been trapped in the hold for days now, i'd imagine he'll be more than happy to be rid of us, contract or not."
Matching your eyes, i tearily lean in for an embrace, burying my head into your chest.
"Thank you, Rabi.." i reply, biting back a sob "I was so worried you would abandon me, If you knew the truth.."
"I'll trust you on this one, Zunden. Drop him off with his gear, a bit of food, and his compass then?">>716369
Rabi wraps his forelegs around the mare and strokes her mane gently, before sighing. "I mean, I'm not necessarily clean either, and you've accepted me."
"Thank you, both of you.. I had hoped to avoid explaining the breadth of my charges, but now that we've a clean slate between us all, we can proceed as normal.. hopefully."
Rabi jumps a foot or two straight up from the sudden impact, grabbing his bow and hurrying upstairs to see if he can look over the side of the ship and see.
Spending the morning with Rabi, i'm sent falling off the bed with the impact on the hull, rushing out in my underdress, taking the refreshed poisons and the shivs with me
Already in the ship's view, Zunden sees what's the issue from where she's sitting.
"Oh, right. Sorry. I forgot you had us protected." She looks a bit embarrassed. "I guess then there's no harm in giving him it.">>716366
You are thrown off balance by the sudden impact, throwing out your bad arm in order to catch yourself. A sudden shock rushes up your arm and through your body.>>716368>>716366>>716372>>716373>>716374
As you look to see what's going on, you find yourselves flying over a small mountain range. Looking down, you see that not all of them are mountains at all; the rocks themselves are alive, forming colossal mountain sized bipedal figures that dominate the view. There are two of the stone giants that you can see, and they seem to be involved in some sort of turf war, hurling enormous boulders at each other. Unfortunately for you, your ship is caught in the crossfire, pelted with rocks and debris. Aurora looks awestruck by the behemoths, while Violet bites her hoof nervously. "What are we going to do?" she asks, her voice quaking a little.
"Pull off to ze zide and watch?"
Zunden says, watching with interest,>>716368
"Do you ztill have ze book on ze creaturez of ze Dominion I lent you?"
"Goodness.. what can
we do?" i reply, watching the mountains brawl below. "We may have to chart around them at this rate, else we risk a stone punching through our hull!"
I cry out in pain, and my hand shoots to my sholder as a jolt of agony rocks my whole body. I grit my teeth and slowly stand back up, biting back tears.
Stumbling and still holding my arm I rush to join the others. "What's going on?"
"Ah, there you are, Norvy! Are you alright?"
"We've made a course between a.. mountain battle? Stone titans of all things, quite the sight!" i add, gesturing to the combatants with a wing.
''I do'' Aegis replies briefly after entering the scene, eyeing the rare scene below
''It is in the bookshelf in the Captain's quarters. Do you need it?''
"Yeah," I say. "Just fell on my bad arm when the ship rocked. I'll be fine."
I look out over the edge of the ship, looking for what she's talking about. "Great. Can we not go any higher to avoid it?"
"We're, uh… we're intruding on something, I guess. Could we try flying higher, or something? Would that work?"
"I waz interezted in what ze book might zay about zeze creaturez."
Aegis Quickly hurried over to the bookshelf to retrieve it, handing it over to Zunden
''I didnt had time to fully study it, so I am clueless about them. Lets see if we can find anything''
"Giants," Aurora says simply, watching the scene play out with shining eyes.>>716383>>716384
The entry reads as follows:
>STONE COLOSSUS>Threat level: Extreme (if provoked)
>Gigantic stone golems of unknown origin. They are made entirely of natural stone, and as such are nearly indestructible. Solitary beings dwelling in the mountains of the Echoes, while dormant they are indistinguishable from a normal mountain. They are extremely territorial creatures, often fighting to the death in spectacular displays when one intrudes on the other's turf. Colossi are sapient, though rather dim witted, and have been known to be friendly towards drifters passing through their lands.
>Immune: Physical, Ice, Fire, Light, Poison, Sleep
As you watch, the burlier of the two giants takes a huge rock to the chest, scattering rocks across the scenery. Undeterred, he takes his own shapeless rock of a head and hurls it at the taller, thinner giant before taking the boulder he had just been bludgeoned with and taking it as his new head. They seem to be quite literally an amalgamate of rocks. A low foghorn-like bellow echoes through the canyon, shaking the ship.
The burly giant starts slowly, ponderously moving towards the thin giant, the mountains themselves quaking as it does so. Undeterred, the thin giant takes an even larger boulder and hurls it your way, smaller bits of shrapnel threatening to pelt the ship.
"So, if we just stick out of the way, will we be fine? I don't really know how hostile a, uh… pile of rocks would be."
Zunden frowns, "I'd be very interezted in talking to one, juzt out of curiozity. Alaz, it zeemz zhey are a bit preoccupied right now."
''Zunden you should probably move the ship out of the way'' Aegis said as she raised her shield and attempted to shoot down one or two of the bits of rock coming their way
[2d10] Magic Bolt, Ice>>716386
''Their fight seems to be among eachother, we are just caught in the crossfire. We should do what we can to minimize the damage to the ship and ourselvesRoll #1 6, 9 = 15
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
I watch in awe for a little bit, but scramble backward as the shrapnel nearly hits the ship. "Well, whatever we do we'd better do it fast. Going higher and over or turning around and going around is probably our best bet. I'm going back below deck before something takes my head off."
With little to help against the hail of stones, i do my best to take cover as the battle continues.>>716389
"I suppose it's your decision, Zunden. Shall we leave them to their brawl and move on? I very much doubt we could interfere otherwise."
"Perhapz we could check on ze location onze ze znake iz dropped off." Zunden shrugs, "Bezt not to interfere now."
You blast some of the incoming rocks down, preventing much damage to the ship other than a few dings on the hull.>>716389
You maneuver the ship out of the way of the incoming rubble. It takes some minor damage, but nothing to worry about.>>716390
As you speak, a decently sized rock whizzes right over your head, brushing your fur lightly. Violet flinches and grimaces. "Yeah, same. This is getting pretty ugly.">>716391>>716390>>716389>>716388>>716386
As the larger one approaches, the thin one stops hurling rocks, instead gathering them to add to its mass. Now almost as big as its enemy, it raises its leg and stomps like a sumo wrestler, cracking the earth before beginning to charge the other colossus head on. Unfortunately for you, you are stuck right between the two rampaging behemoths. Aurora looks to Zunden in fright.
Zunden starts manuvering the ship out of the way [1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
[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.