The party's expedition into the Shifting Sands has been successful, though it did not come without great change.776 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.
"Now," I say, shaking my leg a little. "Now I have to start preparing. I get the feeling poison isn't going to work on those guys. I hope I can find R and G again, because I'm going to need more stuff than I already bought.
Since I'm pretty sure they aren't alive- at least not any more alive than something like zombies- I have a couple of ideas." I shake my leg again. "Maybe I should get this checked out. I feel like I should probably take off my coat and mask before doing anything else, though." I sigh. "Just wish I had something to carry them in. These pockets got me spoiled. I don't know, what do you think?"
"Oh, man. Yeah." I pull my mask off and tuck it under mu coat, knowing that it's probably the most obvious feature. "I can't even imagine how bad I probably smell. I should probably look for R and G first, but if I find some place to clean up on the way I'll take it."
[1d10]Navigation if neededRoll #1 7 = 7
You limp along, making your way through the city, avoiding Observers whenever possible; however, it is almost impossible to walk without having to deal with one eventually. You make your way due west, towards the gate you came through. Sure enough, before long, you find where Rosen and Gilder are stationed, having set up their wagon just inside the walls of Last Hearth, though to woefully little reception from the looks of things. They have an Observer orbiting them at all times.
They hail you, scrunching up their noses as you approach. You get the feeling they smelled you before they saw you. "Bloody hell! You look awful mate!" Rosen exclaims. "What happened? You alright? Mother on high, you smell bad…" "Don't mind him," Gilder adds, nodding at the Observer floating around them like an annoying halo. "Haven't been able to shake 'em since we managed to get in. This place is the pits, ey."
I shoot the observer shifty glances without looking directly at it. "Yeah, this place is pretty rough. Honestly can't wait until our business here is done." I nervously tap my finger against the side of my coat as I speak. "I actually have a couple of things. First, I just wanted to maybe buy a couple more things. Some of that vanishing powder, specificially. Two if you have it. Second, I wanted to know if you could hold onto a couple things for me." I clear my throat. "A couple of very specific, very identifying things. My mask and my coat. Things that I can, say, pawn to you for the vanishing dust as an entirely legitimate transaction that if asked about you could have no way of knowing is questionable or not. Then if all goes well, maybe I come back and buy them back for, say, about 80 bits?"
>>728108Ah, I mostly asked for the case of Ganzen, the balaur. Still, they have not acted strangely, and I do not feel threatened by the chickens.
The saurian rubs her temples, thinking on what to do about the Oneiromancer. So do you believe that the Oneiromancer manifests here through your mind, or without the need of a host? Has the enchantment of the ship waned after only some days or weeks?
They shrink away from you a bit, clearly put off by the smell. Gilder silently motions for you to keep your voice down, shooting a furtive glance at the eye in the sky. As you bring up the deal, the two huddle together and whisper for a bit.
"Alright, yeah, sounds like a deal," Rosen says after a while, speaking a bit more quietly. "We're gonna be leaving in the morning though, so either you make it quick, or you come find us later down the road. We're heading to Withick next. Four days ride to the west. Right on the edge of the Mire. Follow the roads and you can't miss it. Probably better off there for business than 'ere. So yeah, I dunno what you're up to, but you'd better hurry unless you wanna catch up with us later. Can't really afford to wait around, y'know?"
>>728192I have learned much more on the nature or runes since the warlock Black Pudding placed the protective incantations upon the ship. If we are to hide away the egg, the Oneiromancer must not be able to know where. I will see about reinforcing or adding my own runes to ward the ship further.
She turns her head back to the hallway, But most pressing I think would be ensuring Aurora's safety while she is incapacitated. She seems like the easiest to influence without any of us being the wiser. I know not the extent of Union, however, she cannot infer consent in her state. Rabi may be the better aide in this case.
She drums her fingers on the table, However again, I would like to extend the offer to allow you to speak with Dawn through this method, if you would like. Even if not to discuss the Oneiromancer, I again think you would be a welcome voice in her grieving.
He nods. Best to wait until they return and discuss this as a group. I am curious about Rabi's new abilities. Have you heard? Ever since his encounter in the Sands, his abilities to interact with the Astral Plane have improved considerably.
As you bring up Dawn again, he gives a nod of consent. Yes, perhaps we should speak. Lead on.
He follows you to Dawn's room. You can't hear anything from behind the door. Etrigan knocks, to no response. He gives you a concerned look.
>>728194I will look to see if she perhaps is resting.
Shifting her sight to that of the ship's omniscient view, she checks within without intruding on their physical privacy.
You peer into her room. There's no sign of her at all. It's as if she vanished into thin air. Anything?
Etrigan urges, looking nervous.
>>728197Perhaps she used a Silver Door?
he suggests. If so, she could have gone anywhere.
He nods at the suggestion of using the Return rune to try and find her. It's worth a try. Though if she did use a Silver Door, it's likely she values her privacy. Up to you.
Zunden pauses in thought, then nods. It is not urgent, perhaps a method in case she is ever missing for hours on end. I could bring it up next time she is available.
He reluctantly nods, but looks worried at her being missing. It's not like her to just vanish without warning. Maybe we sh-
She's back, stumbling through one of her Silver Doors, breathing heavily. She almost walks right into you. She doesn't seem to be hurt, just exhilarated. Clutched in her hoof is a small glass vial. She doesn't seem to have noticed you're there, sporting an uncharacteristic giddy smile.
Zunden makes sure Dawn has a tight grip on the vial as not to cause her to drop whatever it is she's holding before making herself known.
She does a double take as you call out to her. She looks a bit out of it. Etrigan moves to her side with concern, forgetting she can't hear him for a moment. Are you alright? It's me. You're safe. Zunden helped me with my voice. …What happened?
"Zunden? What are you… where am I? Back on the ship? I…" She takes a deep breath to compose herself. You notice she has a nosebleed. She doesn't seem to notice. She looks very excited about something, speaking rapidly. "I made… I made progress. On what I've been working on, for Rabi. And everyone else." She holds up the glass vial, within which is a strand of smoke, which strobes gently in all colours of the rainbow. "This is it. This is the key. I have the lock too. But the pins don't align. The door's still closed, but I'm one step closer to cracking it. I managed to incorporate the magic from the portals into the Silver Door. For a moment. I think I made it… stronger somehow. Able to cover more distance. With time… and if my theory is correct… I might be able to open a door back home. Eventually. It's complicated… very complicated… But maybe…"
"I need to try again. No time to waste. The theory… I need to test it… I… …I…" Her legs give way and she almost collapses, but Etrigan catches her. He looks to you, fraught with worry.
>>728202Rabi introduced her to a distraction, but she has made it an obsession.
"Dawn, allow yourzelf zome time zit and eat a meal. You're weakened. Zhiz I azk of you while you are aboard my zhip.
Etrigan doesn't reply. It's obvious it pains him greatly to see her in this state.
Reluctantly, she agrees. Etrigan helps her sit, and goes to fetch her something to eat. "Sorry," she says quietly after a minute. "I didn't mean to startle you or anything. It's just… after all this time, there's finally a glimmer of hope. I might be the one to bridge the worlds. The first in history! Can you imagine?"
She seems to realize she has a nosebleed, and wipes it. "Zunden. Listen. The theory. I think I might have stumbled across something."
"You might have heard the Dominion referred to as the other side of the sky before, yes? Metaphorically, of course. But… but what if it's literal? What if this dimension is physically linked to the Dominion? And that's why the portals appear in the sky? That's what I was testing just now. The magic, from that sword… it emboldened my Doors somehow. Maybe if I push hard enough, I can open a door to the literal other side of the sky. The Dominion. Do you follow?" She looks excited to share her findings with anyone who'll listen. "Where are the others? They need to know. I might be on to the discovery of the century!"
Zunden makes sure Dawn remains seated and allows her to speak, continuing to speak softly, "That iz incredible, Dawn. I'm exzited to hear your progrezz.
Zunden has her servitor fetch Dawn a blanket, not specifically to keep her cold but to more keep her in place.
"I azk you take zome time to heal after your recovery. If we do not deal wizh ze Cuckoo'z egg, zhen all your amazing findingz will be for not. Zhere iz no need to finizh now when we could not return wizh ze rizk of lozing everyzhing.
I relax a little and nod. "I appreciate it," I say, shrugging my coat off with my mask inside. "Trust me, I wouldn't want you guys to stick around this
place any longer than you have to." I chuckle uncomfortably. "Sorry again about the smell."
She jumps a little as the Servitor appears with a blanket for her, but she readily accepts it. Etrigan brings out some fresh grapes for her. "Oh. Is that you, Etrigan. Th-thank you." She starts eating them, calming down some more, offering you both some. Etrigan takes a few.
"R-right, yes. Priorities first. I'm sorry, I just… You do understand the implications of my potential discovery, don't you? A link between the worlds… after millennia… Of course, this is just the first step. I could very well be wrong. …Part of me hopes I am, really. If some of the things here got back to the Dominion… it'd be catastrophic."
"But yes. First order of business is to see to the Egg. If it breaks, there won't be a world to connect. I think we should see if there's a cartographer of some sort in the nearest town. Or at least some sort of map. We should weigh our options before deciding where we'll go next, after all."
"Oh, by the way. Have you given any thought to that idea that was being passed around before? About erasing our collective memories, so we cannot say where the Egg is. I feel it would be best for all of us if we did. But we'd have to find someone with the expertise to be able to do that, wouldn't we. Hm…"
"Yeah, it gives me the willies," Gilder comments. Rosen snickers immaturely on the sidelines. "I don't even think most of their guards and whatnot are alive. Can't help but wonder what's going on really. Who put these creeps in charge? Why all the control? Who are the leaders really? What's their agenda? Why all the secrecy?"
As Gilder ponders this, Rosen dives into the back of the caravan and brings out a pail of water and some soap. "'Ere. It's on us this time. Go wash yourself of, for Mother's sake. Where have you been anyway? Looks like you were crawling through a bloody sewer or something."
>>728207Only momentarily excitement, thank goodness.
"Of courze, Dawn. Az long az it can be done zafely. I am a healer, I can zee ze ztrezz you've put on your body. Give yourzelf time to heal between zheze dizcoveriez, you have time to perfect it. Juzt az it would be all for naught if ze Egg hatched, we couldn't do anyzhing about your dizcovery if we lozt you in ze prozezz. You are juzt az important az your dizcoveriez, Dawn, zo treat your healzh wizh ze zame pazzion.
Zunden takes some grapes, eating them passively, "I have made a dizcovery too, if you are interezted. Me and Etrigan, we were talking togezher before you appeared in ze hallway in front of uz. He haz a very nize voize.
" She chuckles quietly.
"I waz able to bring our mindz in Union enough to hear eachozher'z zhoughtz. I… waz wondering if you two wanted to zpeak? I zhought you two might like being able to able to zpeak to eachozher, az I zhink it'z been awhile, haz it not?
She nods. "You're right as always, Zunden. I think I might've gotten a bit carried away. I just… I live for this sort of thing. To see more, to know more. I hate looking at the world through a keyhole."
She perks up at the mention of being able to speak to Etrigan. "You can do that? I'd love to try it. We haven't spoken in… how long?" Five months. Maybe more.
"What do I have to do?" she asks, eager to try this. Etrigan moves over and gets ready for you to do your thing. Dawn looks excited to try something new.
I take the bucket and soap and nod in thanks. "Sewer. Trash can. Some deep crevices made by the sisters know what. Thanks guys. I really appreciate it."
"Sounds like a good time," Gilder grins.
Rosen handwaves your thanks. "Bill's in the mail mate. Now go get clean before you start wilting the flowers or something. You know where to find us."
I wave and go to find some place to clean up some. "I'll catch you guys around, then."
"Don't be a stranger!" Rosen calls as he and Gilder wave you off.
You head off and start looking around. You start to feel the numbness in your leg wearing off by this point. Seems the paralysis agent takes a few strong doses to really kick in. Among the clumped together buildings, you find a small, out of the way house that doesn't seem like it's been used for years. No Keepers or Observers here. There's a sign out front, but it's too faded to be legible, at least on first inspection. There's also an alley nearby full of overflowing rubbish bins, and extremely large rats. You could also just leave the city and wash up outside its walls.
Before making a choice I inspect the sign closer.
You can make out some of the letters on it.
It doesn't take a genius to figure out what it says.
"The willingnezz of you two will form ze Union you wizh to create. If I underztand correctly, it iz zhrough intentionz zhat ze runez get zheir power, zo I would zhink it iz your willignezz to zpeak to eachozher zhat will cauze zhiz to be zuccezzful.
She begins again with the parchment, being to draw Union again, before stopping.
"I zhould probably cut ze connection I have wizh Etrigan firzt, for zafety.
" Come to me if you have need to speak to me again, or wish to speak to someone else in this way. I might try making a charm that allows you to do this yourself once I figure out how it works more.
She draws the Severance rune after he's responded, with the intent to cut the connection.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
Dawn nods understandingly.
Etrigan agrees, albeit reluctant to sever a connection. It's for the best. I only hope we can find a way to restore my voice properly. This isn't the most convenient way to communicate. Though it is more private…
As you invoke Severance, you feel a slight rush of energy flowing from the tip of your tailbone all the way to your skull, like a little shiver. It passes as quickly as it comes. Etrigan seems to feel the same. He and Dawn exchange a glance, then look to you, ready to receive your gift.
Welp. I have a bad feeling about that, so instead I head into the alley. Probably best I don't smell like sewer when I leave town.
"Alright, forgive me for any performanze anxziety, it iz no longer affecting me zo I will be trying to make zure zhiz workz out.
" Zunden chuckles nervously.
""It iz wizh Union Etrigan and Dawn will zhare zheir zpeech, to make a momentary harmony of voize.
[1d10+1] she finishes drawing her Union rune.Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
You shuffle into the alley and get clean with the water and soap as best you can. You feel much better about yourself by the time you're done. You feel a little self conscious, however, when you notice an Observer watching you intently from afar. It seems to be logging your activity. You're not sure if what you did is even legal, but then again, you've already broken plenty of laws today.
Etrigan closes his eyes, and Dawn bows her head as you try to bind them together by Union. At first you're not sure if it works, but then you see them looking at each other intently. No words are spoken, and you are not privy to what they are saying to each other, but you can tell it has worked. After a while, the two friends embrace, overjoyed to be able to speak again, at least in some way. They look to you happily, and you can see that Dawn's blindfold is damp. "Th… thank you," she says, shaken by the experience. "This is… this is a gift. Truly. I didn't realize how much we missed being able to talk." They look at each other again and smile. "…He says he's in your debt. …And that…" She frowns and looks at him earnestly. "Are you sure you want to do this?" she asks him out loud. He merely nods determinedly.
"He… he says that in light of everything you've done for us, he'd serve you, as a protector. A bodyguard. It's more than just a pledge. It's part of his culture. He feels that he owes you that much. On behalf of the rest of the crew." They both turn to you, Etrigan looking solemn, while Dawn looks a bit apprehensive. "Will you accept his help?"
I swallow. Well, at least washing off in public probably isn't that big of an issue if it's a problem at all. I gather myself and make my way to the gate.
You get your things and head back towards the gate. The Keepers block your way for a bit, but after scanning you they move aside to let you exit. Outside, the Chanticleer caravan seem to be finishing their slave drive, though they don't seem to be leaving any time soon. You could try and sneak in through there, or return to the ship and catch up with Zunden, Violet and the others. "Where to from here, brother?"
I watch the Chenticleers and sigh. "Back to the ship, I guess," I say. "Just wish I'd gotten to explore the parliment building a little more. I don't actually know for sure if that's where I'll find the slaves, or a clue to where the slaves are kept. I wonder if the question is too vague for the compass to find them." I shake my head. "Anyway, sneaking in after them isn't really an option. Not really much room to sneak back in past the slavers and the keepers, and I don't really want to risk interacting with them directly."
A deep pit fills Zunden's stomach at the talk of servitude as a bodyguard, having heard it once before. She is quiet for a long time, and speaks even more meekly.
"I… I have been azked zhiz onze before, by Hermodur. I have never liked… Being followed? It iz what lead me to arrive in ze Echoez in ze firzt plaze - zhould no one had come to defend me, ze boarding house would ztill be zhere today.
She lowers her head into a claw, wracked with worries, "I- really I zhould not make zuch a big deal of it. I have trouble aczepting. Maybe to a cauze, zuch az protecting ze egg. But not myzelf.
>>728354"Maybe you'll still get your chance,"
he says encouragingly. "Just… need a bit more of a plan is all! Those fancy ones in red seem to come in all shapes and sizes. Maybe if you could pass as one…"
You return to the ship, shimmying up a rope on the side and heading below deck as usual. Dawn and Zunden appear to be in the dining room discussing something important, while Violet is deeper in the ship, seemingly taking inventory.>>728355
Etrigan nods deeply, while Dawn looks earnest. "He says he knows about what happened with Hermodur. He feels that… where Hermodur failed, he will not. His words. That's a bit harsh, don't you think?… …He also says he understands if you won't accept. The last thing either of us want is to be a burden."
You hear someone returning. From the lighter footsteps, it sounds like Norv. "Consider it, please," Dawn urges you on his behalf, and they look at each other again, seemingly conversing.
"That-" I smack my forehead. "That's actually a really good idea. I don't know how I didn't think of something so simple."
I follow the voices to the dining room and stop to knock on the door before entering. My dirty white undershirt is half tucked into a pair of black slacks, but my mask and coat are gone. "Sorry," I say, "Am I interrupting something?"
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Zunden rubs her temples, wrought with guilt for Aurora and worry from Hermodur's past actions. With one eye covered by the claw gripping her head, she looks to Etrigan, searching for something. About to open her mouth, she turns her head towards the footsteps.
"R-right. I'll let you zpeak togezher, I am zure it'z been a while.
Zunden turns and gets up to meet Norv, looking haggard. She notices Norv's state and and lack of signature clothing, and grips her staff with more worry. "Are you alright? What happened? Are ze ozherz okay?
" She asks with quiet urgency.
>>728498"It only sounds simple on the surface. How do you plan on acquiring their uniform?"
You find Zunden, Etrigan and Dawn seemingly in the middle of a deep discussion. Etrigan tilts his head slightly, seeming curious at the sight of you. "Oh? Who's there?" the latter asks. You notice she has a bit of a nosebleed, and generally looks a little bedraggled. "…Oh, Norvegicus. Hello. We were just discussing the current state of affairs. Zunden here has found a way for Etrigan to communicate with us more freely. Though, it's only one at a time, for now. As for myself… well, I've stumbled upon quite a discovery. If my theories are correct, it wouldn't be understating it to say that this breaks the world."
She lets that statement linger for a moment. "I was hoping to make the announcement when the others return." She looks over to Etrigan for a moment, and the two seem to communicate somehow, non-verbally. "Oh. You're alone, then?" she asks you. "Where are the others?">>728500
Etrigan's usual air of melancholy is replaced by a staunch sense of determination. "He says that even if you do not accept… he is here to help. Whatever you need of him, he will provide. …I feel the same, truth be told. We all owe you our lives many times over."
Norv enters the room, underdressed and looking rather shabby, like he's been in a scrap. He doesn't seem too injured, though.
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"Well, it's still something."
I nod a greeting to Etrigan and Dawn. "Hey," I say. "Oh, wow, seriously? That's incredible! You've been working on that by yourself?" I knit my brow and look at her bloody muzzle. "You, uh- you alright?">>728500
"I followed some Chanticleers to the parliment building, snuck in to get a look around, and killed a keeper. R&G are hanging on to my mask and coat because I ran away from a few others and I'm sure they got a good look at me. There's this event where people hunt down slaves, and the Chanticleers supply them. That's in two weeks. I'm not hurt, but I have a lot of planning to do. I'm sure the others are fine. I split up from them at the place you sign up for the hunt." I tap my finger against the side of my leg and think for a second befote glancing down at Purdue "Did I miss anything?"