>Iron King Ischyros, the Far-Seeking, sets down the First Report with a long and relieved sigh, though his brow is knit with worry. "To think, that a lead might be uncovered so early…"972 posts and 1 image reply omitted. Click reply to view.
>"Temper your optimism, sire," Mabin, his right-hand diamond dog, says, looking over the edge of his copy of the Report. "Our opponents are hardly the type to leave such a fortuitous opening for their foes unintentionally."
>"Regardless, it is a lead," the King replies. "And I wasn't crowned King before I'd scurried my way through my share of mousetraps. Tell the Magister to guard that young bird's life with her body, mind and soul."
>"What of his rescuers?" Mabin asks, extinguishing his cigarette butt.
>"Ah, yes. Have her compile a section on them with each report from now on."
>Sister Root enters the meeting-chamber, carrying a tray of coffee, sugar and Mabin's favorite cigarettes on her back.
Last time, inside the Castle of Silence…
The expedition team successfully recovered Green, a young and emotionally-scarred Vola, who hid in a mall security room on L-8 F-7 after surviving the Dreaded Ones' breach of Agatecastle. He was immediately classified by Magister Colonnade Reprise as a Priority 2 Person of Interest, which set him on the level of witnesses to crimes, high-level info brokers, and traitors, within Ironcastle's hierarchy of criminal investigation. His designation as such came about from the very fact that he witnessed Agatecastle's fall – which, according to prior mission intelligence, occurred thousands of years ago. Green, on the other hand, claimed it occurred only one year prior.
The Magister and Knight-Brother Mountain attempted to steal away Green into a separate decontamination room, but the expedition team intervened, insisting on their presence there to help keep Green calm after his traumas. The Magister and Knight-Brother agreed, and conducted the decontamination in the presence of Huitlapan, Conflagration, Firmgold and Cautaa. During the process, the Magister intensely questioned Green not on the fate of Agatecastle, but on a particular mural near his hideout, which depicted a beach, just on the verge of the Dark Hours, when the ceiling-panels turned a nostalgic shade of pink and orange. When Green answered that the mural made him think of his late father, the Magister immediately lost interest, and discharged Green into the medical ward for more mundane medical and nutritional treatment.
Meanwhile, Deadweight, Steadfast and Lost Hope called up Xu for assistance with surreptitiously examining the security footage that Green entrusted them with – and that the Magister had instructed them to turn into the Spymasters' Office without delay. They went to the western end of the FOB to study the data inside one of the Observers' Chambers. When one of the Observers nearly walked in on them, they created a distraction – by beaning Xu in the head with a water canteen.
Deadweight scrunches her mouth. "It's fine."
Lost rather surprisingly seemed to be making a cobbler in one of the pots they had, placing a few burning pieces of wood atop it's lid to help it act like an oven as she helped to direct Deadweight in how to make a stirfry for the hopefully nice bonemongler.
Last time, in the Castle of Silence…
After finding the keys to a forklift, some PPE, and a warehouse all to themselves, our explorers helped themselves to no small amount of low-authorization hazmat gear, which should come quite in handy if (more like, when) they encounter mutagenic substances that might corrupt them.
Cautaa observed a strange parallel between Ironcastle and Agatecastle: The use of the terminology "interior incident" to refer to significant incidents within the Castle, such as civil unrest, hazmat spills, or or even terrorist attacks. Why would these two Castles, previously so far apart that none from Ironcastle had ever so much as met a soul from Agatecastle, still share an ominous bureaucratic euphemism?
In any case, their looting came to a halt when, signaled by electrical disturbances in the surrounding districts, the Necromancer strayed near. Green did warn them that the Necromancer had a habit of wandering about L-8 F-6…
An offering was quickly concocted to put their meeting on a good first hoof.
Lost Hope and Deadweight whip up a cobbler and a stirfry upon the flames Conflagration provided, while Cautaa, Huitlapan, Steadfast and Firmgold press to the warehouse's north-facing window in search of their bony target. To the northeast, in the gaps between the buildings, there floats a blur… a haze of static, screen glitches, bursts of random characters, all surrounding a pixelated mass…
Cautaa grunts, and looks away. "Blast. I recall now what Green said – the Necromancer somehow defies all attempts to capture his image through drone footage and other recording devices. Apparently this extends to our armorsuits. We'd need to raise our visors to see him…"
"And risk airborne toxins, not to mention the cold?" Huitlapan asks. "Is that worth the risk?"
Kinda depends on if you wanna die seeing what kills you or not huh?" Lost joked a bit morbidly.
Deadweight suggests, "We'll just check to see if the air's safe," and tests the air's toxicity with her armorsuit. Technology's great.
"No one thought to bring a helmet with glass eyepieces?"
Current Airborne Toxicity (CAT) concentration levels are negligible. Your armorsuit is, by default, set to alert you when they reach levels considered dangerous for prolonged inhalation.
Deadweight shrugs. "Seems safe enough." She flicks up her visor to get a better look at the Necromancer.
Lost does the same.
I keep mine on and watch these two instead.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
As prancing fire-ponies trot through your imagination… you imagine yourself exploding. At the very least, this terrible vision passes without incident.>>755074>>755076>>755072
Cautaa and Huitlapan look apprehensive, and are shaken by Lost's comment far more than they would have ordinarily. Huitlapan in particular appears opposed to the idea altogether, as a devoted Abbean. When Deadweight and Lost use their helmets' functions to retract their visors, he grimaces, and makes a religious gesture, tracing a diamond over his heart, as the Abbeans are wont to do.
Then, with the visors back, Deadweight and Lost can, through the gaps in the buildings, get a partial glimpse of the form floating there. Far be it from any narrator to dictate what they had pictured, but many would find this passing strange…
A long and soft white robe hangs over a form of many limbs, dozens or more, perhaps. A rounded dome, it seems, comprises the head. And all is covered by blooming vines of myriad species, almost like belts, or straps, by how often and fashionably they twist around its body.
That's all they manage to glimpse before the figure is passed.
After seeing the figure, Deadweight blinks a couple times. "Gnarly," is her comment before flicking her visor back down.
Can't make an omelette without detonating a few eggs.>>755080
"What did you see?"
"Like, a thing with a bunch of limbs, and its head was just, like, a dome, and it was wearing a long white robe. Pretty freaky, honestly."
"Huh… Kinda hoping that's an illusion otherwise I dunno if this guy can eat."
"There's gotta be a mouth somewhere in there," Deadweight says as she (somewhat gingerly) pursues the Necromancer.
She shrugged and followed her.
You take a rough guess of his route, and, despite Cautaa and Huitlapan's trepidation, you take a rough guess at a path that will intercept his at some point. Keeping a brisk enough pace to catch up with his floating, but not so fast that you drop the dishes, you leave the warehouse compound (undisturbed by the security bots, who are all rather paralyzed by the Necromancer's electrical interference) through the eastern gate, and zig-zag up through streets north and east, until at last–
As you step onto the street, a cold blast of air greets you, followed by the promise of warmth, just beyond its edge. You turn westward, and see, with retracted visors, a shape floating in the sky.
Clothed in a long white gilded robe, that trails down many lengths below its body, a mass of bony limbs plays and gestures in the air. Many are arms, still others are legs. There is no uniformity to their length, nor to their species, only that the elaborate robe has a dedicated sleeve for each. Lengths and lengths of blooming vine, its flowers of diverse species somehow growing on the same plant, wrap around the figure every which way, giving it something of a distinct shape, in spite of its chaotic limbs. Atop the body is a rounded dome of a head, with many carved circles rounding its edge, perhaps serving as eyes. The figure appears to be no less than eight feet tall.
As you approach, the circles upon the skull, the ones facing you most directly, fill with golden light.
The figure says nothing at your approach, merely halting its silent advance as the frigid air feels your skin.
"Well I was hoping to meet someone vaguely normal looking to contrast all the Evil guys but guess that was a bit much. Still it's nice to meet you bony guy."
Deadweight clears her throat then says, "Great Necromancer!" She pauses briefly, then continues, "We've made a delectable treat for you to enjoy! We only ask if you know anything about the Pillars that you might've passed by on your way to this Castle."
"The janitor a few levels up needs a new broom."
The lights in the Necromancer's carved eyes adjust their brightness, such that the ones most turned toward Conflagration alight the brightest. It approaches somewhat, and the cold worsens, but the warmth beyond can be felt ever more.Living things,
a pressure intones, lacking a voice, but not devoid of tone or timbre. It sounds curious. Small wonder I could not sense you.You, burning soul,
it continues. For the care you have shown to mine subject, I shall grant you mine audience. What brings flesh as warm as yours to this frigid place, this not-yet-hollow shell? Life such as yours… has no need of this place, not anymore.
Cautaa and Huitlapan open their Concord voice channels.>"I say we reveal to him only what's necessary," Huitlapan says. "Perhaps not even that.">"Aye," Cautaa concurs. "At least, insofar as the expedition is concerned… yet, I admit… my curiosity becomes me."
"I really tried to make it good…" Deadweight says to herself as she looks at her stir fry.
He seems to have pretty much disregarded your offering altogether…
"That's pretty much it. We're worried about what happened here. Do you know how this Castle's own burning soul got extinguished?"
Lost blanked for a moment before suddenly offering the… well the offering of the food they had made.
>>755095>>755094>>755092I bore witness only to the last gasps of the violence that shook this shell inside and out,
the Necromancer continues. By the time I threw my hat into the ring, this place – the Eighth Layer, the records called it – was already discarded, like so many table scraps, while the darkness pushed further below.
His attention is caught, at last, when Lost offers him both the stir fry and the cobbler. He looks at it for quite a while, the lights dimming and brightening as he studies this peculiar food…
>"Oh dear… perhaps he prefers it cold?" Huitlapan asks as the food's freshness seemingly goes to waste…
Then, without warning, the dome opens up, splitting right down the middle and retracting down both sides. Golden light, near blinding, flashes forth from the hole in his head. The Necromancer tosses the main course and the desert, plates and all, into the light, then mercifully shuts the dome before you can hurt your eyes.
…Who prepared that?
"Me and my pal Deadweight." she said motioning to the Pegasus
Deadweight squints her eyes at the blinding light.>>755097
Deadweight looks down at where her stir fry was just a moment ago, then back up at the Necromancer. She nods.
"And I was the stove. Did you see anything strange around some pillars outside of the Castle?"
The little flame ponies dance around my head.
the Necromancer growls with a violent shudder, his head and bones rattling and popping more the longer it goes on.ehhhhhhhHEHEHEHEEHEHEHEH!
he suddenly cackles.I cannot remember the last time I consumed such a delight! My thanks, my many thanks. Ah, what was that you asked?
"Th-the Pi–" Huitlapan–Ah, yes, the Pillars!
the Necromancer's disembodied voice continues. I passed through that area, indeed. A most peculiar land. I took refuge there time and again, for it is a vast and naturally fortified country. Caverns fit to bury aeons of kings, and their retainers, down to the last assassin and courtesan… labyrinthine, too, and sprawling. Even I nearly got lost, were it not for the many dead I had passed along the way. It was they who knew how to operate those… what does your kind call them? The metal squares, plated in glass, awash with buttons and icons and tangled with cables and desktops.
"C-computers?" Cautaa asks. "There was technology down there?"Whatever you call it. No use to myself. It was with the aid of those 'computers' that I was not lost. Indeed, I even found a shortcut into this Castle.
Cautaa and Huitlapan turn as white as bone dust at this last revelation.
"That… might explain the ease with how the castle was overrun from within."
Deadweight's eyes widen as the Necromancer growls, taking a step back in case things go south, but she's pleasantly surprised when he gives his compliments to the chefs. She unconsciously smiles. When the Necromancer tells them about the Pillars, she hums to herself.
"Would you mind telling us how to find the shortcut? That sounds like a pretty interesting place."
>>755101>>755102>>755103The shortcut tunnel emerged in what you would call Layer Six,
the Necromancer says.
>"The first of the underground Layers," Cautaa says in Concord. "If Agatecastle was built like Ironcastle, it was the Technicarum in its heyday.">"But how could they have not noticed the construction of tunnels leading into and out of Agatecastle?" Huitlapan asks. "Such a thing would have violated every precept and law of security and Castle defense!"I recall seeing such bright lights when I entered…
the Necromancer continues.
"B-but you entered after the fighting was mostly ceased!" Cautaa gasps.Correct.
Cautaa steels himself, then asks. "Then… did you see others like us? Alive, and well?"Not many. Those I did, most unfriendly. Attacked me on sight, they did. They joined me for their efforts. And quite stubborn, even in death. They refused to tell, even in my grasp, where their fellows had taken shelter.
Cautaa bites his lip to keep himself from an outburst. "Th-then… others yet live, most likely…!"
"Damn," Deadweight says upon hearing this.
"That's very strange. And a lot to think about. Thanks for chatting though. This has been nice."
"Well I suppose that's good to know. Will have to send word back home to look for secret backdoors inside." Lost replied with a small chuckle
"Yeah, thanks for letting us know. Glad you liked the food," Deadweight says to the Necromancer with a smirk.
>>755105>>755106>>755107>>755108Word back home?
the Necromancer asks.
"Ah, we have a cave camp nearby, other survivors of this castle." she said lying because she realized that was a bad thing to say.
Deadweight nods coolly.
My eyes slowly shift to the side until I'm staring at Lost Hope.
"The mare is delusional," Huitlapan says. "There is no camp. She is traumatized by the loss of too many she knew to acc–"
Four of the necromancer's hands raise, and gesture, in four different ways, toward Huitlapan. A whisper of frost pushes toward him, gentle as a morning breeze… and within a moment, he is frozen, down to his heels.
Cautaa steps back, eyes widening with horror.Where?
the Necromancer asks again.
"A cave about 2 days travel away due south." she said with a small smile to try and sell the issue.
Deadweight turns to Huitlapan and nearly jumps in shock finding him frozen solid, but she manages to keep her cool. She asks the Necromancer, "Why do you wanna know?"
[1d10] DeceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
"Huitlapan, man, chill ou-oh.">>755115>>755113
"Not that you haven't been anything but friendly, but this is a good question."
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>>755114>>755115>>755117So that they may join me and mine. So that I might save as many as possible. So that we may even disrupt, or if not, then delay… that which will be brought down upon your kind.
Cautaa stumbles, but catches himself, his fear disrupted by this cryptic declaration. Brought down upon your kind,
the Necromancer repeats himself. By your kind.