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 No.721543[View All]

The party have departed the Swap Meet, embarking on a journey north-east towards the Shifting Sands. After a series of misadventures, and reuniting with Dawn, Carabas and their ally Etrigan, they have returned to the living desert, racing against time to find the Cuckoo's Egg.

Upon arriving at the Sands, they have found that their trusty compass no longer guides them towards their objective, an odd phenomenon that was not present before. They have been left to search for the vault where the Egg was kept on their own, navigating the Sands by way of memory.
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"Excellent. Do be safe, dear, i'll keep watch while you away!"

with Rabi slumping over, i take a seat nearby while the others pick through their options.


He straightens up a little as magical energy courses through him, closing his eyes and nodding in thanks. "I won't," he reassures you. "I've come too far to get killed by a bunch of bugs."

He does a double take. "I… Well, thank you. I'll take all the help I can get. Hopefully we won't be gone long."

Violet has about the same reaction as Dawn, but trusts your judgment. "Please," she says, her voice trembling a little as she looks you in the eye. "Please. Be careful down there. Come straight back, and don't go too far in." She goes in for another hug, kissing you on the neck. "Be safe," she repeats forcefully, and almost has to force herself to pull away.

"We won't be able to see the results if we just throw it down," Carabas explains. "We have to see for ourselves. If this works, we'll have a way to navigate the Hive."

You take a seat and shift into your astral form, copying Kairon in descending to the bottom of the crater.

You drift over the red stony slope, towards the base of the Hive, getting a closer view of it. The glossy surface you saw from afar is not a mirage; the red stone is covered in a thick glaze, making it look like stained glass. Here and there, you can see fragments of the Hive's spoils. All manner of trinkets and baubles are trapped within the Hive's exterior; coins, jewels, artifacts, weapons, even bones all make up an enormous, mountain-sized collection to rival that of even the mightiest dragon. Impossibly small holes litter the surface of it all, and the droning sound echoes ear-splittingly from within. Here and there, on the floor of the crater at the base of the hive, are larger holes, patterned irregularly, but each a perfect circle.

"I'll go as well." Aurora throws her hat in the ring. "If you get hurt, you'll need someone to fix you up." She gives Aegis and Zunden a long, meaningful look. She seems to regret having volunteered already, but it's too late now.

Dawn looks unsure, but accepts Carabas' decision. The two embrace for a long time. "Don't worry," Carabas says gently. "We won't be long." Him and Etrigan look at each other, and the latter gives him a small nod.

Carabas dons his frogmouth helmet and peers over the edge. Aurora perches on the railing, ready to descend, looking back with trepidation. "Ready when you are." Carabas stretches his hand out to Norv. "Try not to throw up, friend." The others watch nervously as the trio prepare to head down.

>Aegis, Silver and Zunden roll Perception


Ears folding back in an attempt to muffle the noise, i peer out past the railing from my seat, watching the descent and the area around it.
[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 8 = 8


"Do not ztray long, for i will worry too much for your zafety." Zunden says, looking to the others.
[1d10] percep

Roll #1 3 = 3


Aegis Watches as the trio descents before turning back to the Saurian
Seems we will have to wait for a bit. Zunden, could you help me with something in the meanwhile?''
'1d10' perception

Roll #1 2 = 2


I close my eyes and nuzzle into her neck. "We'll be right back," I assure her. It's just as hard for me to pull away as her. I feel like it isn't often I put myself right at the front of something so dangerous, but there isn't any other choice. I smile at Aurora. "Thank you," I say. "Just stay close and watch yourself."

I finally break away and step up to the edge of the boat. I'm already starting to have regrets as I brace myself to descend. Brifely, I glance back at Carabas and knit my brow. "Why would I puke?


Zunden raises a brow expectantly, "Hmmm?"


''Could you look into an artifact for me? I had bought it during the Swap Meet and forgot about it on my shelf until yesterday. It's a curious item and I have a feeling it might be cursed, but I wanted to be certain, and this is one of the few times you are not either sleeping or piloting the ship, so I thought it might be a good time''


[2d10] Perception: Etrigan, Violet

Roll #1 10, 3 = 13


Rabi looks over the glazed exterior of the hive, and frowns a tad as he sees most of the prizes are trapped within it. He tries to look around the exterior, seeing if he can spot the egg they're looking for… if not here, then maybe it's stored with the eggs?


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 8 = 8


Carabas grabs Norv, and carries him downwards, the three descending the crater slowly.

After the group have gone, Silver and Etrigan seem to notice the same thing, and the latter alerts the rest of the group. There is a ship slowly flying in circles around the Hive, sticking closer to the ground, orbiting the spire like a shark. It is strikingly familiar; a small airship, the balloon painted black.

"Clawson," Violet hisses.

"A friend of yours?" Dawn asks.

"Not really. This is bad. Really bad. Lysander brought that skink all the way out here. God dammit. What do we do?" She looks to the rest of you with slight desperation.

"I take it you've never flown before. Brace yourself." He grabs you in one swift motion and holds you tightly as he jumps off the edge of the ship. Your stomach jumps into your throat as Carabas takes flight, holding you like an eagle holds a mouse as he flies down towards the crater. The world spins around you, and you feel like vomiting.

Before long, he drops you off gently on the bottom of the crater before landing next to you. Your legs almost give way on landing. Aurora soundlessly lands next to you. "You alright?" she asks with a suppressed smile. "Lemme see if I can help."
[1d10+2] Mend

See Rabi's reply in >>722886 for a description of the base of the Hive.

Carabas wastes no time in giving everyone an unlit torch before exploring the area, peering down one of the odd holes in the rock here and there. It's too dark for him to see anything, however.

The Hive is large enough that it would take a good hour to circle around the base on hoof, not to mention how tall it is. You see several artifacts that could be the egg, but it is too hard to be sure on surface inspection. It'll take a very long time to find it just by searching like this. In a nutshell, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.

Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3


I scream as we hurdle toward the ground, furiously clutching at Carabas's talons for dear life. My stomach flips around in my chest where my heart should be and my heart jumps into my throat. It's over in moments, but it feels like ages. When my legs finally touch the ground, they wobble and I collapse. An acidic burp passes through my nostrils as I hack a couple of times and throw up a little in my mouth. "How-" I gasp. "How do you guys do that all the time?"


''We repel him, same way we did before. Then lock him up again, or kill him, either one''
Aegis glares at his ship ''So long as he doesnt get the drop on us, he is outmatched, unless he brought friends with him this time''


Zunden nods, waiting for Aurora to produce an object then looking it over.
[1d10] antiquarian
"Perhapz practize your aim on ze balloon. It zeemz he needz it for lift, after all."

Roll #1 8 = 8


The stallion frowns as he looks over the hive… this is going to be a lot harder than he'd expected. Trying to take note of the few that stuck out, he tries to get a closer look. Maybe he can work his way up the side, or take a look from the inside?
>Perception, if I need it?[1d10]

Roll #1 6 = 6


Glaring at the ship, i spread my wings and lift off the deck.

"Wonderful.. Let me see just what he's up to now."

"He's polite when he wants to be, perhaps i can convince him to leave us be while we work" i mention to the others, before flying towards his vessel.

"I shall return forthwith, do keep an eye on Rabi while i'm gone."


After a brief trip back to her room, Aegis produces the tiny Iron maiden ''What do you make of it?''


[1d10] Perception

Roll #1 9 = 9


"Hm?" Carabas looks over. "Oh, well, we're used to it, aren't we. I didn't imagine it would be that hard on you. Sorry."

Aurora turns her attention to the surface of the Hive itself. "That's something you don't see every day. Take a look." She points out the thousands and thousands of treasures trapped within the Hive's walls. "Gods below," Carabas curses. "This really is going to take forever. If only the compass still worked, we could just follow it to the Egg."
>roll Perception

"I don't think he'd be stupid enough to come alone after last time," says Violet. "Let's just hope he hasn't spotted us yet."

"That's more Rabi's thing, isn't it," Violet shrugs. "I've never been good with a bow and arrow myself. I think it's better to try and stay out of his way."

Aegis presents you with what looks like an iron maiden, about 12 inches tall. You sense a powerful dark energy coming from it, enough to inflict great pain on someone if exposed to it. Just holding it gives you a vague feeling of dread.

>Maiden of Woe

>A sinister dark artifact of unknown origin. When blood is drawn by the spikes inside this maiden, the victim whose blood was used will be wracked with unbearable agony once the maiden is closed. This lasts until the maiden is opened again, and can outright kill someone if left under the maiden's curse for too long. The maiden seems to draw great strength from every victim it is exposed to.

As you keep looking, you see several black shapes that could be the Egg, but again, there's no way to be sure.

"Find what you're looking for?"

Turning around, you find yourself narrowly dodging a fierce claw swing. You are being attacked by a second astral projection, this time of a ferocious brown felid with a white cloak and a black face. You've never seen her before, but her intent is clear.

The felid leaps at you with fangs and claws bared.

You get closer to his airship, taking note of the name emblazoned on it: the Clementine. As far as you can tell, no one is on board; then, you overhear snippets of conversation coming from below deck. There are at least four others on board, two of which you recognize. One is Clawson. The other is Lysander himself. You don't get to hear much, only words here and there. "Egg…" "Scrying…"

Roll #1 8, 3 = 11


Careful in my approach, i attempt to land on the deck without causing a disturbance, intent on listening in on the conversation!
[1d10] Stealth

Roll #1 10 = 10


"Hmm?" the stallion says, turning around and stumbling back with a yelp to avoid the claw swipe. He rolls backwards a little further, before popping back to his hooves, drawing his copperhead rifle, and firing a point-blank shot.

>Surge Shot (Lightning) [1d10+2]

Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7


"No, no, -urp- I'll be fine." I weakly pull myself to my feet, take the torch in one hand, and pull out my sprayer nozzle with the other. Fumbling around a little, I light the charred rope on the end. It'll be a little harder to aim with one hand, but I'm sure I'll manage.


Roll #1 10 = 10


Zunden relays the nature of the artifact to Aegis, looking concerned, "I am glad you had not plazed your hoof in zuch an artifact. It zeemz quite cruel."

Zunden paces, waiting for her allies to return with information. Restless, she tries to prepare for whatever may come next by channeling her determination into summoning more Servitors to crew the ship.


>Summon Servitors [10]


You land on the deck soundlessly, pressing your ear to the ground to hear what they're discussing.

"After the hell we've been through, I just think I deserve a little more is all." It's Clawson speaking.

"You'll get whatever you want when we're done here," Lysander replies, sounding bored. "If you want to strip this place down to its last stone, that's on you, bounty hunter."

"What, you don't even want any of this?" Clawson sounds surprised. "I thought your kind were all about jewels and gold."

"Ignorant worm," he replies bitingly. "Treasures are a means to an end now. I thought they would grant me the power I deserve, but money isn't true power. What good are riches if you have nothing to spend them on?"

Clawson doesn't answer. He seems confused.

"Besides. We're not just here for the Egg. I have a score to settle. As do you. My birds showed me they're coming. In fact they're probably here by now. Now all we have to do is wait."

"What of Morpheus?" A third voice joins the conversation, a low, icy female voice. "I don't think he'll take kindly to your betrayal."

"I don't need him anymore. I'm protected from his meddling by the rune. The Collective is broken. Let him find another pawn for his game."

"That is not wise. You know what he is capable of. You saw what happened to that Felid that crossed you."

"He will do nothing because he can do nothing," Lysander answers dismissively. "Hermodur did not know about Severance, now did he."

You hastily fire off a shot at the ghostly Felid attacking you, clipping her on the shoulder. She flinches, but grits her teeth and powers through it, lunging at you with claws bared, raking you across the face. You feel blood trickling down.
>Rabi takes 3 hits

The Felid keeps swiping at you, falling back into a defensive stance.

Everyone stands back as you light a torch and point it down the hole. You see nothing but swirling red bugs coursing through the rock mindlessly, the blood pumping through the veins of the Shifting Sands, scrambling over each other in a frenzy to serve their hive.

Aurora cries out in disgust, and Carabas looks horrified, but steels himself for a moment and takes the torch from you, wafting it down the hole. The bugs seem to slow for a while, becoming sluggish and complacent. However, there are too many of them to be able to go down the hole. Even if they are not aggressive, one would easily suffocate on them.

You put all your focus into summoning Servitors.Through willpower, you manage to evoke a trio of the blue spirits before you, ready to serve.

You see Rabi's body twitch slightly, and deep cuts appear across his face, as if scratched by some invisible claw.


Roll #1 7 + 1 = 8 / Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11


''Terribly so. I'll be sure to find some use for it eventually. Thank you Zunden''


"Queen Kairon? She's here? She must know the answers. I'll… I'll speak to her. See what can be gleaned."

"…Purdue. But you already knew that. Ahem. Where.. where are we right now, exactly, Sir Norv? Some sort of castle? And who is this "Mercutio" you mentioned? The name isn't familiar at all."



The Felid leaps at you before you can react, raking you across the face with her bared claws. You are wracked with pain, and you can taste blood. In retaliation, you shove her away with the butt of your rifle and shoot her point blank. Lightning wracks the Felid's body, and she falls over on her back, twitching.


>Rabi still takes 3 hits


"Right now we're on a ship. It, uh… it's a long story. We're not in The Dominion anymore, though. We're in a prison dimension called The Echoes." I pause. "Actually I guess you wouldn't call it The Dominion. Equestria? We're not in Equestria anymore. And Mercutio was the queen's jester if I remember right. A hunchback when he was alive I think I remember someone saying? Maybe it was Kairon. He was trapped in the skull with you." I fall silent and suddenly feel incredibly melancholic. "You, uh… you don't hear him in there with you, do you? He was a friend of mine too."


"That… that can't be right." He looks confused. "I was a member of the Queen's court for almost a decade. She never had a jester… Someone must have their facts wrong here."

He looks more troubled at finding out he's in another world now. "Well that won't do. We… we have to return as soon as possible. My queen and I, we don't belong here, you see. Without us, the realm will fall into chaos. It would behove us to find the way back as soon as we can."


I sigh and plop completely down onto my backside. "Oh boy, I was not ready for this." I rub the back of my head. I'm really not qualified for this kind of thing. It's gotta be bad enough waking up to find yourself trapped in a skull, but also not in the same dimension or century. "I, uh… I have some more bad news there. Kairon seems to want the same thing, and I'm doing what I can to help her out there, but- well, you and her were both exiled centuries ago. The Dominion isn't really technically even a monarchy anymore." I knit my brow. "Wait, Kairon didn't have a jester? Then where did- she at least seemed to recognize him, I think. She's around here somewhere. I want to go ask her about it now. Just, uh, heads up. She's not ecactly as -ahem- corporeal as she was last time you saw her. She's more of a-" I twirl my hand and look up. "Well, more of a billowing cloud of angry green smoke."


"Not a monarchy? Preposterous!" he blusters.

"She was… altered? How What happened?" He looks a bit overwhelmed. "I'm sorry, this… this is a bit much to take in all at once. Just… I'll need some time to think things through. If you wouldn't mind, would you leave me to do so for a while? It's clear much has changed since I was last around."


"No, I don't mind at all. Sorry to drop all of this on you." I stand back up and brush myself off. "If it makes you feel any better, we're all pretty new to this place. I don't know how much I can actually say, but if you want to talk or something- well, I'll be around."


If he leaves then I wander off to find Kairon.


"Thank you. I appreciate that. These are strange times for everyone, aren't they. …Er. If I could ask for a favor. Would you mind taking me someplace private where I can think things through? I cannot move, after all."


I blink. "I- I thought you could sorta hop around." I knit my brow and frown. Wow. He can't even move around anymore? That's pretty bad. "Alright, yeah. Sure. We have plenty of extra rooms. I, uh… H'm. I don't know if I have anything that you could really do without moving. I have cards and we have some books on the ship, but-" I clear my throat. "Anyway, yeah. I'll take you to one of the empty rooms and then check back on you later so you're not just sorta trapped in there. Sound good?"


He seems to focus on trying to move, but to no avail. Despite not really being able to emote, he looks very let down. "Nothing," he says sadly. "…Shame."

He looks up at you. "Yes, that would be excellent. Thank you, Sir Norv."


I give him a short, somber nod. "Yeah, of course. No prob, Purdue. I crouch down, gently pick him up, and carry him off to the living quarters and one of the empty rooms.


You take him to one of the empty rooms, placing him on top of a cabinet facing the window, at his request. "Thank you again. For everything. It's hard to believe everything that's happened, but this is only temporary."

"Oh, one other thing. As I said, I am something of a star-gazer. If you happen upon any maps of the night skies in this strange land, please, bring them to me. I would be very interested in studying what they have to say."


I chuckle. "Man, probably could've found those easy if I'd known about it a week ago. Alright, I'll keep an eye out." I walk over to the door and give him a short wave. "We'll get all this sorted. I'll make sure of it. I'll be back to check on you later."


"You know where to find me," he says cordially. "Where else would I be?"

With that, you leave him to his own devices as you close the door on him. You hear him breathe a heavy sigh of despair a few moments later.

After a bit of searching, you find Kairon with Dawn on the forecastle.

"…So that is why, you see," the blind mare says calmly.

"…Ah. How… how monstrous," Kairon replies. They both turn to you in greeting. "Ah, Norvegicus. Hello. I was just filling Kairon here in on the nature of Lysander's goals." Kairon, for once, seems a little shaken by what she has learned, merely nodding to you.


"Yeah. It's pretty bad. Not sure I've ever met someone so blindly greedy." I turn to Kairon. "I, uh, actually had a question. Purdue is back but doesn't remember anything after he was put in the skull, and Mercutio-" My ears fold back. "Well, Mercutio hasn't said anything yet. But while I was talking to Purdue he said something weird. Was Mercutio not your jester?"


"He was. For a time. The truth about that one is… complicated."

You see, Purdue was interested in predictions. Very, very much so. On my behest, he began to research other methods of gaining knowledge, and while I am not privy to the details, I can only assume with what we know now that he came into contact with Discord. All I knew at the time was that he had indeed gained knowledge, a great deal of it in fact, but it had driven him completely mad. He had another voice in his head now, one which spoke through him much of the time. I questioned him many times, trying to glean information from him, but Purdue rarely answered. It was always that blasphemous little imp. No use to me as a court mage, of course. So I put him where he wished to be: a jester to amuse me and my guests.

Of course, he began to become unruly, as you can imagine. Disparaging me, degrading my guests, overstepping his boundaries… It was unconscionable. So I had him beheaded. To my surprise, however, that wretched creature yet lived, taunting me from beyond the grave. I tried to have him destroyed many, many times, but he would always find some way to persist, mocking me and my efforts. So I had him turned into an artifact, cast away through a portal to another world. And I thought that was the end of that. …How very wrong I was," she adds bitterly.

"You put him on as a jester, then had him killed for… being a jester?" Dawn asks with confusion.

"Yes, of course. He was amusing at first, but the vile things he would say and do. I couldn't stand it any longer. He simply had to go."


I fall silent, completely floored by the revelation. So Mercutio just didn't actually exist? He was just gone forever? Even if Purdue was given the power again and went mad there wasn't any guarentee it would happen again, and doing that in the first place- it wouldn't be right. My lip quivers and tears well up in my eyes. I'd been telling myself that Mercutio just hadn't spoken yet, or maybe Discord had to keep him with his powee, but- "Alright," I say, choking up a little. "Thank you. I- I think I'm gonna go lay down. I'll catch up with you later."


Kairon looks surprised, and perhaps a bit annoyed by your reaction. "Don't tell me you actually miss that obnoxious cur. Good riddance, I say. We're better off without him."

Dawn seems more compassionate, giving you a sympathetic look. "I can't pretend to know what your relationship was like with him," she says, "and I know we're not particularly close, but… well, if you wish to talk, I'm always around."


"I will miss him," I say, not looking up at her. "We weren't travelling together that long, and he was kind of an ass, but he was my friend. And it's silly, because that means he didn't technically exist in the first place, but- but it still feels like he's just dead now."

I nod to Dawn. "Thanks. I- I might take you up on that. For now I think I'm gonna go find something to keep me busy. Clean my sprayer, read that book Aegis got at the meet, something. If you guys need me I'll be in my room."


"And the world is a better place for it," she replies snootily.

"I understand," says Dawn, and leaves it at that.

You head back to your room. Violet is nowhere to be seen just yet, leaving you alone with your thoughts for now. The dresser looks very bare without Mercutio on it making snide remarks.


My shoulders slump and I sigh, walking over to my bed. First I summon a few rats to keep me company, in hopes of making the room feel less empty. Then I decide to pick my sax up and try to noodle some blues. At first I feel silly, like I'm deliberatly trying to put on a show with my lackluster skills, but even as I mess up I slowly relax and focus on the music.

[1d10]Got them magical skull ain't so magical no more blues

Roll #1 2 = 2


[1d10]because he's gonna be here a while before checking on Purdue

Roll #1 3 = 3

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