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Last time, in the Castle of Silence…

After whipping up a quick meal offering, the expedition team ventured out from the warehouse to approach the Necromancer, who floated languidly through the northern streets. Upon confronting him, they found him willing to engage in dialogue, whereupon he divulged that he indeed had been to the Pillars… in fact, he entered Agatecastle through the Pillars, indicating the existence of a clandestine gateway between the Pillars and the Castle itself. It was as this came up that Lost Hope accidentally divulged the existence of the Ironcastle Expedition Team, a fact which the Necromancer found quite interesting. Huitlapan panicked and tried to walk back Lost's revelation, only to be frozen solid with a blast of winter air.
276 posts omitted. Click reply to view.


"I mean everything is in ruins so it's a bit hard to traverse reliably."


"I only want to go somewhere I don't explode as often."
I hustle through the door.


Deadweight lowers her brows seeing the picture. "I'm sorry. We can definitely try to find her, though. Who knows, she might be hiding and surviving like Green was."


"Miss Ruby I must admit this is a vast layer. There are resources and stockpiles that have gone untouched- undiscovered of use by anyone."


"Granted, but…" Ruby begins, but sighs and puts the thought aside. "No. You're right. She's a smart mare… who knows what's out there? I'm going to put my faith in her survival."

The others nod in solidarity.
The portal deposits you outside the fenced park serving as the training grounds. You see the others sitting at a bench nearby. Ruby perks up as she sees you.
"Well, you're in luck, because I've been putting my machine learning to good use!"

A Ruby desktop buddy appears in your HUD.

"I'll be accompanying you specifically as we go," Ruby continues. Another desktop buddy appears – perhaps resulting from an overlooked bug in the spawn code – imitating the first one's startup and greeting animation cycles. Another spawns shortly thereafter. "I analyzed the training program user data, focusing on the patterns in your aetheric signatures preceding one of your explosions."

More and more Ruby desktop buddies start to flood your field of vision.

"And the next time it happens, there is a better-than-half chance I might be able to mitigate it!"

The Ruby desktop buddies have swarmed all that you can see. All has become the Ruby desktop buddy.


My eyes slowly cross while I try and focus on each of the new desktop buddies.
"Really? That sounds great, but, um-"
I wave a hoof in front of my face.
"Is there supposed to be so many of you? I can't see anything anymore."


"Hey, Hothead, long time no see! Well, let's get a move on, yeah?"


"Indeed miss Ruby."
"It's wonderful to have you back from training mister Conflagration!"


"Yeah, let's. Are we going back to the real world soon? Is Ruby coming too or is she staying here?"

"And it's wonderful to be back."


"I will have the same faith you do Ruby."

Did you explode again? You smell singed."


"Oh, whoops!" Ruby says. Conflagration sees a cursor highlight all the Rubies, and grab all but one. The Rubies screech in terror as they are dropped into a recycling bin which is promptly emptied.

The lone survivor, heedless of the destruction, continues her earlier charming animation cycles.

"You could make quite a bit of shillings making those available for paid download," Cautaa notes.
"And do what with all that money?" Ruby asks.
"Ah…" Cautaa says, his argument destroyed by a fatal flaw.

As you talk, a bus pulls up nearby. It is driven by a Ruby and some of the seats are filled with Rubies. "There's our ride back to reality!" Ruby says.


Deadweight gets in the bus and sits next to one of the Rubies. She waves hi with a smirk when she sits down.


"A few times."

I hurry onboard and sit by the emergency exit.


[1d6] don't/say it

Roll #1 6 = 6


In response to the money question
"Obviously with a sizeable donation you could find yourself and miss Preserve a boat to a secure hive. Then perhaps design a slightly larger storage chip for more ruby designs to sell."


I will also get into the bus and sit closest to the door.


"We need to get you a fire extinguisher." Lost mumbled following suit and climbing onto the buss and taking a seat in the back near the window.


"Oh yeah," Ruby says. "Amber needs money. She could get herself a lot of haymburgers with that kinda cash."

Ruby, hearing Firmgold's well-constructed argument, considers the possibilities of minting herself as an NFT. Meanwhile, the bus driver closes the doors, and drives away from the vaporwave beachside town, into the dwindling light.

A bright light washes over everything… and you find yourself sitting in the VR arena, just as you were when you entered the simulation. A wave of exhaustion engulfs you, having been abated and put off by the VR immersion. You feel it the worst in your eyes and forehead.

Huitlapan groans. "Just as I'd worried – that prolonged of exposure to EMF and blue light pollution is hitting me hard. I vote we make haste back to the FOB and report on what we've found."

As you come to from the simulation, you see that a new spell-program has been added:

>Ruby Flare: Passive; If the User rolls a Critfail with a Spell, roll 1d3; 3 = Apply the Critfail effects to an enemy instead of the User; 2 = The Spell is Negated and applies no Effect; 3 = The Spell Critfails on the User as normal.

>You have also gained a +1 to all Spells


>Assuming healed up

Lost groaned and relaxed as she looked at herself, seeing if she had aged or anything else in the indeterminate amount of time she had been under.


"Ugh," Deadweight groans, feeling the effects of VR. "Sounds good," she says to Huitlapan as she pinches the bridge of her snout with her hoof and makes her way outside.


I lean against something and rub my eyes with a hoof.
"Indeed we ought to, mister Huitlapan. However a foray into this level should be taken to ensure the survival of miss Amber Preserve. Like mister Green her survival back to the FOB is paramount."


"Ooooohh, this looks good. Thanks a ton, Ruby! And, yeah, let's get back to the base."


>"Yeah, I wasn't expecting to simulate that many explosions on your character model," Ruby says, having invited herself to the Concord voice chat. "So I figured, if I'm gonna have to make that many, why not put them to better use?"

"Yes, Miss Firmgold makes a fair point," Cautaa says. He checks the time; it is 2230. "Still, the hour grows late. Would you prefer to make camp here instead?"
>"I could engage the arcade's security systems again," Ruby suggests.
"Even if we stay here, we need to get a report to the FOB and see if there are any updates on the mission as a whole," Huitlapan argues.
"Perhaps we might consider a brief split," Cautaa suggests. "You and I can travel back to the FOB while the others press onward to search for Amber, or else find a place to rest."
"Is that acceptable to you all?" Huitlapan asks.


>"Good point."

"Is it safe to split up?"


"Sounds alright with me," Deadweight says.


"I dislike the idea very much, as we've encountered enough near-death threats from one floor to the next. Splitting away for any reason weakens us and, I fear, would put the overall mission at risk… Miss Ruby."
I bring up my magicomp, hud, or however else to get Ruby's attention.
"Your existence is a great boon and indicative of yet another survivor. However, simply coming this far has been exhaustive to my compatriots, perhaps in a way that cannot be treated with a night's rest. I would ask of you, tentatively, that we return to our FOB before searching for Miss Amber Preserve."


"I guess you have a point," Deadweight weighs in.


Lost for her part slipped back into her usual quiet state as she slowly moved besides Deadweight.


>Ruby is silent for a time… then sighs in acceptance. "Right… I said I'd believe in her, didn't I? Besides, I doubt we'd solve her disappearance so easily right off the bat."
"If it is a comfort to you," Cautaa says. "Most of the security bots on this Floor remain fully operational. This Floor seems to have endured little violence."

You begin to head for the elevator, near where you met the skeletal adventuring party. Huitlapan calls the elevator, and you wait for a while for it to arrive.

"Oh, right," Cautaa adds. "Ruby, I wish to see any material you yet retain covering the fall of Agatecastle, from your perspective. I understand it was archived?"

>"Yeah," Ruby says. "Let me get that decrypted."


"This is gonna be good. Who wants to bet on another time anomaly?"


When Deadweight finds Lost beside her, she looks left and right, then she opens one of her wings to bring her closer and keep her warm. For purely practical survival-y reasons.

Deadweight heads to the elevator.


Lost let out an eep and we very glad she had her helmet on right now. She just hoped her guest would stay quiet as she leaned into Dead a bit.


I use speech-to-text and send it to Conflagration
"(Not now, mister Conflagration.)"
I ask the adventuring party if they accept quests, considering they're still around and that what I offer is only what can be afforded.


As the elevator arrives, Firmgold notices the Knights of the Gravepyre back at their burning trash barrel once more. Seems camp wasn't broken, as they didn't fix it.


As Firmgold offers to send them on a quest, Gaston raises a skeletal eyebrow. "What quest is this you offer us?"

Huitlapan awkwardly holds open the elevator door.

>"Who're these weirdos?" Ruby asks in the vc.


I respond to Ruby
>"Adventurers, dear. They might be able to help us if you'll allow me to show them a picture."
Then I address Gaston
"It's a search quest, while we're away for a time on other urgent matters. One of our group is looking for someone rumored to be on this level, a Miss Amber Preserve. I'm afraid the name is all we can offer to this endeavor."


"We're seeking the Sacred Chalice." she said recalling an old movie she had seen back at the lab.


Deadweight lets Firmgold handle the recruiting.


I hang out on the elevator and wait for Firmgold to finish.


"I see," Gaston says. "Have you any leads to its possible location?"

Ruby transmits the picture to the Knights. Varo chimes in. "Is she connected to the Sacred–"
"I believe she was just joking," Cautaa says.
The Knights deflate with disappointment. "So there's no Sacred Chalice?"
"Not to my knowledge," Cautaa says. "But Castles are large places, you may find–"
"A lost soul is more important than a magic cup," Gaston interrupts sternly. "We shall search for this mare and report whatever we find to you, whether it be good news or ill."
>"Thank you, sir knight," Ruby sighs, emotionally drained. "And you too, Firmgold."
She gives Lost a dirty look.


Lost shrinks down with a wince. She supposed humor was something she should avoid as she did her best to hide behind Dead's wing.


I give a deep bow to the group.
"Your assistance is the utmost, and I thank you all for your help in this matter."
I try to find out what they would like in return, but Cautaa is holding the door open so I bid the adventurers farewell and go into the elevator.


Deadweight stretches her wing out to more effectively cover Lost and holds her in her wing lightly but firmly. Morale is very important to a Warrior.


"I hope they have more grilled veggies at the commissary."


After bidding farewell to the Knights, you step into the elevator, preparing for the long ascent. This elevator possesses benches, as many in Ironcastle do, allowing you a place to sit and nod off for a while.

After some hours of travel, the elevator doors open to the transfer point between Layers Eight and Nine, and you are able to catch another elevator up to the Observatory's FOB. After the usual decontamination check, you are given free rein of the FOB once more. There is little activity at this late hour, and almost everyone besides the night shift are asleep or still camped in the field.

With a yawn, Huitlapan sleepily motions in the directions of the barracks.


Lost follows suit and moves to find a bunk she can collapse into and sleep this bit of negative emotion off.


Off I go for a nap.


Deadweight finds herself sleeping next to Lost, her wing still around her, when the elevator doors open.

After the usual decontamination check. Deadweight stretches and says, "Well, I'm lookin' forward to sleeping on a bed," and heads to the barracks herself.


"WOuld be better than the VR chair maybe."


Deadweight chuckles and says, "That's for sure."



You all get some well-deserved rest and recovery after a long Cycle of exploration.

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