Last time on PirateQuest…202 posts omitted. Click reply to view.
The party met up in the manor's dining hall, trying to make sense of all that had transpired so far. Thessaly, Cloud and Alder could only remember vague snippets of the events of the past few hours, but even then, their memories did not match up with Cerulean's and Cutlasses. Thessaly, Cloud and Alder remembered battles lost, battles ending in death against the Immolatioknight, but Cerulean and Cloud remembered only winning.
Without more clues to go on, their discussion could only go so far. So, following the maps and the instructions of the mysterious notes that Alder had found on his person, they went upstairs, passing through an unused children's room into the master bedroom. In the bedroom's walk-in closet was a door with a most unusual mechanical lock, requiring a special medallion depicting a bear cub and a deer fawn playing together. Thessaly and Cloud dimly recalled picking up such a medallion earlier, and indeed, it was in Thessaly's purse without any explanation as to why.
When they inserted the medallion, the door gave way, revealing a ladder to the attic. The attic was cramped, made worse by the plethora of boxes and barrels stored up there over the years, and choked with interminable dust. Upon heading a little south, they came across a sprawling play-city, made out of toys, scraps of cloth and junked machinery, overturned cabinets and tables and book, and no small shortage of imagination. The "city" was so immense that they could not proceed without either knocking it all over or shrinking themselves down with Cloud's magic, and so they chose the latter.
To their surprise, when they shrunk down, the toys came to life, milling about with city business as if they were all real. Taking a moment to visit the inhabitants, they came across two key objects. The first, which Cloud and Cerulean "bought" from an imaginary shop, was the tone arm of a record player. The second, which Cutlass obtained from a barkeep who thought it was a rag, was another of the notes written in invisible ink. The message was short but partly garbled, due to one of the verses being used for its encryption being marred by water damage. The most likely renderings were either "can't dodge," "shouldn't dodge," or "don't dodge."
With all that gathered, the party left the toy city down the western road, regrouping at a small crawl-space door just outside its borders. There, peering through the ajar door, Alder and Thessaly spied a massive bear, asleep in a small, cramped room. The bear towered over them, and would do so even if Cloud undid his shrinking spell, but it was asleep, giving the party the advantage. Cerulean tried to sneak in with the tone arm while Cloud attempted to shrink the bear, but his spell misfired, waking it up. Seeing Cerulean in its domain, the bear raised its claw, poised to strike her down.
"Huh, that's pretty nice of your associate."
Cloud says to Mallea.
"If it is Hearths' Warming time though, we'll need to decorate a little after we get your place all fixed up.">>728939
Cloud walks through the manor, starting to grow uneasy as they approach the basement. He holds his dagger tightly and at the ready, ears turning this way and that to keep listen for any surprises or magic mishaps that may come their way.
When they reach the wall, Cloud stands by as Mallea draws some blood and drips them into the chalice. When nothing happens, he looks over to it.
"If it's a wedding altar, it'll probably need a second offering…"
He says, standing a little awkwardly.
"I'd offer, but with Chiu… even if this isn't official or anything it just feels wrong to do."
"Ugh, doesn't she have servants to do the decorating?" Cutlass grumbles, not seeming pleased about the whole notion of celebrating Hearthswarming in general.
Alder flushes, before rubbing at his neck a little "I-I suppose I can understand that, yes. I was very timid about it, but… i-it can be rather fun." he says.
"Hrm… the feeling of this is all… awful. Whatever it is, it feels as if it is waiting just where I am not looking…" the griffon says, shivering a little. "As for what to do… maybe, are there vows to be said?"
"Ugh, I only have negative memories of dancing. Certainly no fun. But, I suppose we are talking about two very different kinds of dancing."
She frowns in confusion as she reads the letter, looking from it to Mallea. "Never heard of her.">>728939
Not for the first time lately, the hairs on the back of her neck stand on end. She peers at the shadows, ready to lash out with an incantation at the first hint of things going south. The fact that they don't puts her even more on edge.
As nothing happens when Mallea offers her blood, she shrugs, taking matters into her own hooves. "Perhaps a larger offering is required." Without asking, she takes the knife and spills some of her own blood into the chalice, waiting to see what will happen next.
[1d10] OfferingRoll #1 1 = 1
"Most likely, yes. I did, well… performance dancing, I suppose. Flashy, showy stuff."
"Have you seen any around here?"
Cloud says sarcastically.
"Don't tell me you thing Hearths' Warming decorating is a chore too."
"No, none of this really looks familiar to me," she replies with an annoyed, though somewhat curious, head tilt.
"I don't understand how that works!" Cutlass suddenly bursts out as if she's had this on her mind for a while. "I've only ever done ballroom dancing, and even that is too much to memorize. I mean, I was perfectly adequate at it, but I still was robotic. I wouldn't call it fun at all."
"Then, I see performers on stage jumping and spinning around in these intricate routines! I can't imagine how they memorize all of that and still make it look so smooth! And they have such smiles on their faces! How are they enjoying themselves while doing all those complicated things in front of people!?"
Mallea blinks as Cloud makes his suggestion. "Perhaps you are on the right track after all, Cloud. It doesn't matter who does it. Perhaps you may all need to do it."
When Thessaly drops a little of her own blood into the chalice, you notice that the wall in front of you starts to shimmer, almost turning into a vague mist. Mallea withdraws a wand from her bag and experimentally pokes at the shimmering. The wand goes a little past the surface of the shimmering, but still collides with something solid about a centimeter or so in.
Mallea nods. "So that's the trick. The rest of you are going to have to offer yours to the cause."
>roll perception, add any visual bonuses you may have
She folds her arms and stands to the side, looking on as the rest of the group offer their blood, peering through His Eye readily.
[1d01]Roll #1 1 = 1
[1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
"Of course it is! And what do you even get out of it? It's just a bunch of dead plants and shiny baubles thrown about in celebration of a horrid, cold time of year.">>728950
"Hold on, I don't want to jump to that conclusion so quickly…" Cutlass says as she observes the wall and altar. [1d10] perception (would Hornlight be a visual bonus!?)Roll #1 5 = 5
"I hope not… No offense, it's just a bit strange feeling."
As the wall shimmers and Mallea is able to push her wand slightly through, Cloud takes his Yearning Knife, pushing it through the shimmering mist.
"Let's give this a try.">Poke [DC5] [1d10]>Yearning Knife: Attacks from this knife can cut through magic, enabling them to counter magical attacks and damage lingering magical effects, as well as Amnis-type Aura Abilities. Countering a magical attack reduces its damage, or negates it completely if you match or beat the roll on the attack. Damaging and dispelling lingering magical effects may be more complex, and generally requires striking at the source of the effect.
>Perception [1d10]>EcholocationRoll #1 10 = 10
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
"Wow, you really are cold hearted child."
Cloud says in astonishment.
"I figured you'd take Hearths' Warming for granted, but to not like it at all? I feel sorry for you."
"First of all," Cutlass says, sounding annoyed at having to repeat herself. "I am NOT a child."
"Second, what's the like about the holiday? It's a time where you're forced to interact with a bunch of people you barely know so they can judge you and take your things."
"O-Oh! Well, I suppose I could explain it some later, if you would like. It is definitely nothing like ballroom dancing, for sure." he says, before looking back to Mallea.>>728950
Perception [1d10] (+1 if Master Thief applies)
Alder pricks his arm, and lets a bit of blood drip into the chalice.Roll #1 9 = 9
Cerulean, being full of suspicion of this place, eyes the shimmery bit cautiously before doing anything rash.
>Doubt electroception applies here
[1d10+1]Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
Cloud blinks, taking a moment to process what Cutlass said.
"Wow, so you never had a real Hearths' Warming. Now I really
feel sorry for you," He says with concern, "Most normal ponies spend the holiday with family and friends and just enjoy spending time together, and also give presents."
"You also get things in return," she points out.
"Is that not what I just described?" Cutlass asks dryly.
"No, my grandparents get things in return," Cutlass responds. "I get books. And fruit…"
"No, not at all."
You all note something peculiar about this whole thing. As Cloud gets ready to push the knife into the slight shimmering that has appeared on the wall, the shimmering actually increases before
he puts the knife in. He pokes in the knife, which cuts through a little more of the magical wall, increasing the shimmering, but only by a little bit.
In other words, the knife had almost no effect, and certainly less effect than Thessaly's blood did.
In other words, some other unseen force is also causing the magical wall to disappear at the exact same rate
that your blood caused it to disappear.
When Cloud pulls out the knife, preparing to try it again, the shimmer increases again, seemingly for no reason. Cloud inserts the knife, which once again only cuts through a little of the magical wall. He pulls it out, and after a moment's pause, more of the magical wall vanishes, seemingly without cause. Then, when Alder puts in his blood, the shimmering finally vanishes, leaving behind the door that was originally there.
Mallea takes the chalice, pouring out the blood upon the altar, staining the white cloth red. She takes it and wipes out the inside of the chalice before stowing it away in her bag. She didn't seem to notice whatever it was that was going on with the magical wall during all of that.
She opens up the door, revealing the corridor to the basement. The double doors that lead to the basement seem unchanged. Mallea tries the handle, and they turn easily, just as they did before.
Mallea looks to you, her jaw set and eyes focused. Her horn glows faintly.
"Are you all prepared?"
"How ironic that the naive one calls ME a child," Cutlass rolls her eyes.>>728958
"I doubt I'd be good at it, but I'd at least like to know the mental process," Cutlass nods. "Once we get out of here.">>728965
"Yes, let's see what this Spite has in store for us," Cutlass nods.
"This is a trap," she states plainly, staring down the corridor with an inscrutable expression. "But where else can we go." She takes the first step forward. "Let's get this over with."
"Yea, sure. I'm naive for celebrating a normal holiday the right way like everypony else.">>728965
Cloud looks at the wall oddly as it reacts to his knife. Once it finally fades, he nods to Mallea, brushing aside this occurrence.
"Let's settle this magic and get your house back to normal."
"As prepared as I can be, I imagine… whenever you all are, we should go."
"You're naive for thinking that family is anything other than a bunch of people who judge you. You're naive for thinking your family is visiting you for any reason other than to get things from you."
"Yeah, let's go. The sooner the better."
Cloud looks down at Cutlass, due to their difference in size, almost with pity.
"My family was close, though that's pretty much the norm with farmers. We shared a lot, and didn't need to judge since most stuff was out in the open."
"I…" Cutlass attempts to respond, but has nothing to say. She has a look of genuine confusion on her face. "How many people are we talking about here?" she asks as if she's trying to figure out a riddle.
"What, for my family? It was pretty much just me and my parents. Occasionally the grandparents too if they were around and the weather wasn't too bad."
"Ah, that's it," Cutlass says with an understanding nod. "Hearthswarming for us was an unpleasant, arduous affair of dozens of ponies with relations so obscure, they needed a literal chart to prove they were related at all. Not to mention all the 'friends' who wished to be related to us. Including the colt who my grandparents intended for me to marry one day," Cutlass rolls her eyes.
"If it was just me and my mother, it would certainly have been a far more manageable and perhaps even enjoyable holiday. If my mother weren't such an insufferable coward."
"Wow, yea, that hardly sounds like a family gathering at all," Cloud comments, before pausing at the mention of an arranged marriage, "Or even a normal family."
As she comments on her mother, Cloud looks unsure on speaking, so he holds his tongue to prevent opening that can of worms.
"Arraigned Marriage? Ah… my apologies. It sounds like many of your 'friends' and 'family' were not quite so much." he says, kicking the ground a little.
Mallea pushes open the doors, revealing a long set of stairs leading downward. Unlike how the rest of the manor changed between the state it was in before sundown, and the state it was in after you woke up, the basement almost looks the same as it was the first time you set hoof in it. The stone walls are cool and clean, and the sides are lined with magitech electrical lights, providing light to the darkness.
Mallea gulps, and proceeds downward.
And, with no other choice, you start to walk.
The stairs just keep going and going and going and going. Down and down and down and down.
>make one mystery roll and one perception roll.
Cloud walks down the stairs after Mallea. And walks, and walks, and starts to wonder how long these stairs are. She said the mansion was mostly normal when in a group, and he definitely remembers these being a lot shorter.
"…This is the right way, right?"
He asks, starting to recall the one dream he had of it's near endless staircase. His ears focus forward, keeping at notice for the end, or if anything is up ahead of them.>Perception/Echolocation [1d10]>Mystery [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
[1d10] Perception (+1 if Master Thief is applicable)
[1d10] Mystery roll!>>728979>>728978
"Perhaps… have we, missed something? I feel like we are missing something vital."Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
"Oh, I'm sure it's not THAT different for most families," Cutlass says dismissively. "The arranged marriage is the most unusual thing, I imagine. I mean, it's not like pirates have been much friendlier. Except my current crew. But, I've thought that before. So, we'll see.">>728978
Cutlass provides a little extra light with her hornlight, hopefully helping the perception. [1d10]
[1d10] mystery rollRoll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
"More trickery." She leans down the stairs and fires off a magic bolt into the gloom, trying to see if there's any end to the stairs. Though she already suspects the answer.
[1d10] ???Roll #1 2 = 2
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
"Jeez, just how far is it? Hey, think you could give us a light?" Cerulean asks the fox.
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
It's a faint feeling.
It's like walking out into the ocean's waters, gradually getting acclimated to the cold, and to the push and pull of the waves, with each gentle step.
But eventually, even a seasoned pirate is blindsided by a wave taller, bigger and stronger than them. Even if they can keep their hoofing, the water that washes over their heads can easily sweep them away to waters unknown.
All of you are met with such a feeling. It's not overwhelming, not subtle, but there's a brief lull in your focus, your alertness. You nearly stumble under its gentle push. As your heads clear, you realize that you are standing in darkness. At some point, the lights lining the walls stopped giving off their light. You look back up searching for the light, and have to crane back almost all the way to see the faint glimmerings of the magitech bulbs all the way up at the start of the tunnel. They glimmer faintly like far-off stars.
By the light of Cutlass' horn, you are able to see that the tunnel is getting far more narrow. The walls funnel more the deeper you go in, until the tunnel is only wide enough for a single person to go in at a time.
You look down, and see many, many hoofprints below you. Dozens. Hundreds, perhaps more. Scuff marks, subtle chips in the stone. They are utterly innumerable.
The only way forward it seems, is down that narrow shaft. Thessaly's bolt fizzles out before it can reach the end of it.
Cloud, although able to see in the dark, is still unnerved and stops as he suddenly finds himself in the dark. He looks back, confused if they suddenly skipped ahead, or the lights just went out on them. He looks back down, seeing the tunnel narrow and tighten.
"…Maybe I should go first, or more in the front. I'll be able to tell if anything is there before we'd see it, so I can give a heads up."
Cloud says to the group, starting to head down slowly and careful, head lowered and ears facing front.>Echolocation Perception [1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
"Hmm… Odd," Cutlass comments as she realizes she failed to noticed reaching the bottom of the steps.>>728985
"I'd prefer if you were in the back, watching for anything behind us. I have have the light, I'll go first," Cutlass says with uncharacteristic bravery.
Cutlass goes first, lighting the way.
[1d10] to light the way with competence!Roll #1 3 = 3
She peers down into the shaft. Part of her wants to turn back, but there's no doing that now. She takes a deep breath and steels herself. "Well. In for a penny, in for a pound." She follows the others in warily, peering through the dark, trying to make out anything at all.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
"Ah… this is quite unsettling." the griffon says, peering further down. He takes note of the chips and scuffs in the floor, and tries to look for… well, anything. A sign of the 'right' way?
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
Cerulean tightens her body, getting ready for the next thing to come at her in this trench of a mansion.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4
[View All] (202 posts omitted)
With Cutlass in front, you are forced into a single file procession, a claustrophobic arrangement to say the least. Cutlass leads the way down the tunnel, the stairs below her feeling cold and slick, both from being smoothed out by countless hoof prints, and from drops of some unknown viscous substance. All you can see in the dim light is that the liquid is black and almost gel like. The further down you go, the more you are aware of a very faint, but omnipresent pressure, like that of the deep sea, bearing down on you. The more that it increases, the more that you can hear. The more that you feel hyperaware. The movement of your tongue. The shape and weight of your lips. The subtle sounds and feelings of your eyes moving about in their sockets. The rustling of every single hair covering not just your scalp, but on your coat. The click and pop of your bones. The blood running through your veins.
Just when all of this seems to reach a fever pitch, Cutlass at last finds a single narrow door at the end of this interminable hallway. The door is very old, the paint chipped and wood splintering with the wearing of eras and eras.
She tests the handle.
It clicks open.
In the gap of the door awaits the dark.