The party's expedition into the Shifting Sands has been successful, though it did not come without great change.548 posts and 4 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.
Upon returning to the initial spot they found the Egg, they found only Discord, freed from his stony prison and weakened by his long slumber. The first thing he did upon meeting them was to drain the seer Mercutio, absorbing the power he had granted him and effectively removing the Mad Oracle from existence. All that remains now is Purdue, wiped of his memories of his centuries-long ordeal, slowly adjusting to his newfound consciousness.
Upon reaching the Hive, where the Egg was being hoarded by the guardians of the Sands, they did not find the Egg themselves; instead, they found their old adversary Clawson, acting as transport for Lysander in the form of a flock of cuckoos, along with several other prominent adversaries of the party. These include:
Cecile Grosvenor, the Lady of Braildorn, Lysander's closest confidante. Aegis has promised to kill her in the name of the demon Ragalaseab.
Elaina, Grosvenor's personal assassin, who can effortlessly phase between the astral and physical plane.
Reck, a largely unknown figure to the party. He appears to be a member of the Bloody Mummers.
Kairon Irse, the deposed Queen of Equestria, unwittingly freed by Norv. While she accompanied the party for a long time, she eventually abandoned them in favor of Lysander, finding him more to her liking.
Through spying, they learned that Lysander had cut ties with the Oneiromancer completely, renouncing his scheme to erase the Echoes in favor of using the Egg as a bargaining tool to gain greater power in the realm. After a long and brutal skirmish, the party managed to steal the Egg from under their very noses, fleeing the scene and heading south, vowing to hide the Egg in a place it can never be found again.
This skirmish did not come without consequence. Not only is Violet's face disfigured and Aurora paralyzed and comatose, but the party's ship, the Fate's Fortune, has been horribly damaged, and Dawn's husband Carabas killed by the swarming insects of the Sands. Clawson too has been killed, his ship having crashed headlong into the party's.
Nevertheless, the Egg has been claimed. All that remains now is to find a suitable hiding spot for it.
"Yeah. Just dropping some stuff off. Rosen and Glider were at the gates so I bought a few things."
"That's… a lot of words, but I'll keep that in mind. Thanks. Hope it's not as bad as it sounds." He looks a bit worried by your words, while Rosen just seems skeptical.
"Ah, so a contract in need of fulfillment, quite grim work but i would imagine quite necessary."
"Though of all the towns to choose this one may prove quite the challenge, presumably stuffed to the gills with constructs. Have you put a plan together?"
She nods. "I've met them before, running errands for Lady Grosvenor. They're quite cutthroat when it comes to their business, but otherwise agreeable enough." She doesn't seem to approve of the gambling, but it's not her business to pry.
"Ah," Hermodur nods. "If you see them again, give them my regards. And my thanks."
"What did you buy?"
"Rabi. Here for trading, and for some water."
She smiles again, tapping her tail against the floor, "If zhey worry you too much? Remember zhey are juzt cardz, no magic tied to zhem. Zhere are many wayz people uze to interpret ze ztrange eventz zhat go on in ze world. I have been told back in ze Dominion by zome zhat I juzt uze playing cardz az a coping mechanizm."
She laughs, shuffling the cards again and putting them away. "Perhapz next we meet I can draw you a more pleasant card, zhould I ztill be around."
"Rabi. Here in the Echoes for Murder, I suppose."
''It was useful, both to keep track of Lysander and to get myself a taste of what is possible when you tap in to a demons power, and also learned me the consequences of doing so''
She tilts her head. "I've heard others say the same," she replies as the magic shifts into a silver key. "I don't regret coming here though. This place is fascinating, don't you think? If I still had my sight, I could appreciate it more…"
You excuse yourself and go to check on the newcomers. Marisol nods in greeting as she helps Norv haul a glass terrarium containing what can only be described as dragon snails. "Back so soon," she confirms. "I was just helping Norv carry this. We'll be heading into town shortly if you want to come with us. It seems safe enough. No influence from Lysander to be found."
You hear the scribbling of a pen on ink from somewhere nearby. The gate slowly begins to open, allowing entrance into the city. "Enter at your own discretion. Remember, do not break the laws here in Last Hearth. Order will be maintained."
"If there's no danger to the ship, then maybe I will," Hermodur replies, though he sounds dissatisfied.
Gilder smiles. "Well you've survived this long, right? Sure nothing will happen 'tween now and then. Safety in numbers, and all." He looks over his shoulder. "Seems you've got quite an army built so far."
"Of course, no problem. I'll just go give my partners the heads-up before heading in, if you don't mind." he says, stepping back to wave some of the others down.>>727505>>727503>>727501>>727498
"Hey, good news- I don't think it's too
hard to get into town. They seem to 'scan for anomalies' though, so I've got no clue what that means."
"Ah, just a moment dear!" I shout, waving at you with a wing. "I'll join you momentarily."
Approaching the gate, i flag the guard down and clear my throat.
"Silver Song, banished for murder as well." i state when asked.
I clear my throat as I start going down the list. "Well, a few things. I bought a couple of wands -the kind I used when we fought the Balur- an endless mead horn and actual war horn, a clockwork orange that grows into more clockwork oranges -that's so I can have some metal and wood to work with-, a bell that summons a guy, a loud horn, a fake spider that turns into a real spider and makes people dance, and some Dragon Snails."
''Well, I might not be accepted inside then, lets see''>>727513
''Aegis Glaze, banished for theft''
Hermodur blinks a few times as he processes all this information.
"First, does the clockwork orange stop growing at some point? Who decides when it stops? The bell… who does it summon? And… how? What possible purpose could the spider serve? And… what in the world is a dragon snail?"
she nods, thinking to herself and replying in her softer voice again after a few moments, "Far zmaller zhan our advizary'z. Nonezelezz, a pleazure trading wizh you, az alwayz.
Marisol finishes helping Norv and motions for you to follow.
After a short trek, you find yourself facing the entrance to Last Hearth, a great stone gate marked with an intricate rune. Stationed at the gate as guards are a series of ominous figures, all identical ponies with peaked helmets and navy blue uniforms. Oddly, they wear off white bandages around their face, hooves, and any other exposed area, and have no tails or manes. You can feel their eyes on you. "Sinister bunch, aren't they,"
Purdue comments from Norv's belt. "I wonder what their deal is."
You see the Chanticleers' convoy stationed at a side entrance, driving their "cargo" into the town readily. Rosen and Gilder's caravan is also stationed at the main gate. They appear to be conversing readily with other party members.
"It grows another orange like a normal plant, it summons a guy that I'm not totally sure about, the spider would be useful as a nonlethal option, and the dragon snails are-" I point to the snails. "Those."
"Likewise, likewise," says Gilder genially. "Come again soon!" Rosen calls as you leave. "Might run into each other inside if we can get past these guys."
"Does that mean you need to water and nurture the orange?"
The dragon snails are a group of strange creatures within the glass terrarium. They resemble enormous snails with tiny shells, two curled antennae as "horns", and an oddly reptilian head with doleful black eyes. As you examine them, one of them spits a tiny gout of flame. "Terrifying," Marisol comments unenthusiastically.
"I'm- well, I'm not actually totally sure. They said it just sorta grows, but I guess I'll find out. I just thought the parts could be useful."
Zunden catches up to Silver after her interactions with the merchants, handing the party's bags of bits over to the mare, "Zilver, would you be zo kind az to take care of looking for goodz in which to reztock ze zhip? I don't wizh to enter ze town, I want to uze zhiz time to identify a few artifactz."
"Hm? ah, not a problem, Zunden! I'll handle the restocking from here, take your time." i reply, tucking the bit bag away for later.
"Well then I hope our ship isn't overrun with clockwork oranges.">>727526
Upon spotting the chanticleers, Hermodur gestures for Norv to come with him to where the others are speaking with Rosen and Gilder.
"Hello again," he greets them with a head nod. "I apologize for abandoning you before without a proper farewell. I'm happy to see you're still doing well. Thank you again for all the assistance you gave me before."
Then, he quickly turns toward the party. "The chanticleers haven't entered the city yet. Should we make our move now before we lose our chance?"
''That is what we are working towards yes. Present your name to the guards and your reason for banishment to be allowed in with us''
"Precisely." i reply with a nod. "We'll make our way inside, restock out larders, perhaps gather timber for repairs and make our leave."
>>727528>meant to be in italics >>727529
"Zhank you Zilver, it iz rare I have time where I am not piloting ze zhip zo I plan to uze it effiziently.
With that, Zunden makes her way back to the ship.
They do a double take. "Hey mate!" Rosen says cheerfully, as Gilder offers you a friendly wave. "Ah, don't mention it. Good to know you made it. Had me a bit worried for a bit. But it passed. "Still rocking the new hand, ey?" says Gilder. "Good man. You take care of that. Hadrian's work is nothing to sneeze at."
You return to the ship. You can hear Dawn working on something in her room, as well as Violet pacing the ship restlessly. Etrigan is sitting at the dining table reading a book, looking up and bowing to you slightly in greeting.
"Do you think doing something right outside the gates in front of all the weird guards is a good idea?"
Zunden raises a claw in greeting and sits on the opposite end of the dining table, pulling out her bag of holding and beginning to rummage. Pulling out the piscine amulet she had purchased form Fumblemore far back during the Swap Meet, finally finding some time to do some item identification.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
"Oh…" Hermodur says, after a moment of confusion. "So we aren't helping the farmers."
Then, he shrugs. "Alright.">>727535
Hermodur approaches the guards. "My name is Hermodur Aput. My reason for banishment was conspiracy against the throne. May I enter now?"
"I still want to," I whisper, "But we kind of can't do anything right here
I follow. "Norvegicus Black," I say. "Criminal assault, animal hoarding, and attempted murder."
"Animal hoarding is a crime?" Hermodur laughs.
"Not to mention we've hardly any idea just who
these farmers are, especially when mixed in with the other slaves. At that rate we may as well free everypony there, quite the tall order."
Etrigan puts down the book and watches curiously as you begin to try and glean the nature of this amulet. It soon becomes clear that the phrase inscribed on it is very literal; the wearer will be able to breathe underwater as a fish, but on the flipside, will be unable to breathe on land while wearing it. A double edged sword. Moreover, this won't help them with swimming, only breathing.
I shrug. "Apparently."
" Zunden mumbles to herself, next turning to Norv's feather, "What waz zhiz..
[1d10] AntiquarianRoll #1 3 = 3
The Keeper, as they are apparently called, stares you down as you hear writing from somewhere in the adjacent watchtower. "……No anomalies detected. Enter at your own discretion. Remember, do not break the laws here in Last Hearth. Order will be maintained."
The interior of Last Hearth is enormous, a multi-layered maze of Gothic architecture. Towering pointed roofs dominate the skyline, the streets paved with cobblestone. The mountain it is built at the foot of towers overhead, and it seems that further back, the town extends into the mountain itself. The town's citizens seem to be mostly Dogs, though other races are present as well. There is a Keeper on every street corner, watching the town's denizens silently. Some larger ones carry enormous flanged maces, though the majority are equipped with crossbows or pistols. You notice other automatons at work as well; small, wooden and metal orbs can be seen flying overhead, propelled by some unseen magical tech. They have a single transparent crystal in the middle, essentially making them look like floating eyeballs. At regular intervals are lampposts, with what look like gramophones attached to the lamps, occasionally blaring a public service message. The voice is that of a male, calm and professional. "Welcome to Last Hearth,"
it says as you enter. "The safest town in the Echoes. Please remember to maintain the peace while staying. Curfew begins at 9pm and lasts until 5am. If you have come to participate in the upcoming Night of the Hunt, please report to Overseer Arryn in District C."
"We shouldn't overstay our welcome," Marisol says quietly, trying to avoid being spotted by one of the floating automata. "This place gives me the creeps."
Just holding the feather fills you with a sense of dread, a creeping horror that gnaws at the back of your mind. You have a vision in the back of your mind of the black egg shaking, cracks shooting across its surface like a spider's web before shattering into millions of pieces. And inside…
The vision passes, as if a mere daydream. The feather is from the Cuckoo. That much is certain. You recall he found it on him after having died inside the Fulcrum. Carabas had tried to burn it, but it only came back.
Turning away from the feather for now out of discomfort, Zunden pulls out her two magic tarot cards, using divine determination to feed her curiosity towards what the other's enchantment holds.
"Huh… l-let's just get in, and get out. I don't think I've ever felt this unsettled by a city before. What for first, then?" he asks the others, looking around cautiously.
''It seems very disciplined at least. If we obey then we wont have anything to fear while we are here. We can stay for at most a day to rest, after what we have been through'' Aegis walks past Marisol, nodding to the Felid ''Our last mission will perhaps be the most dangerous one yet, we must be prepared. Now lets find a place to restock''
"Unsettled by peace?" Hermodur chuckles at Rabi and Marisol. "It would seem the Echoes have gotten to you."
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"By the peace? No, not that- being watched this closely just makes me feel a little antsy, is all."