You are currently flying your ship above a salt flat, which you traversed on the way to the abandoned town that hosted the vault. While there's no sign of the brick cylinders that opened the door to the vault, you have spotted a group of desert travelers braving the salt flat. They have spotted you, but have made no attempt to engage. Violet suggests asking them about the desert, while Dawn believes she could try to teleport the group to the vault from here. Carabas seems eager to keep searching.
"Hrm… I think it's worth at least checking out what the travelers are like- they might have seen something. Failing that, maybe… hrm. Didn't you have some sort of pillar connected to this?"
Aegis overlooks the travelers with her icy gaze, the book THE FAR LANDS OF THE ECHOES, AND WHAT I FOUND THERE by Larrikin Longstrider floating idly under her chin ''Its a possibility'' She starts ''They might be a group working under Lysander, scouting the area for him'' She points at the one holding the compass ''If that is not working for us here then it wouldnt be working for him either. I say we approach those travelers but with the utmost care, and interrogate them''
"The key, yeah. One of three that opened the door to the vault. Should still be out there somewhere."
>taking response from last thread
You begin to use your Astral Projection again, leaving your body and drifting down towards the travelers to investigate. The majority of them are Saddle Arabians like yourself, though there are a few Saurians present as well. They are dressed in typical desert garbs, traveling in a caravan. They are speaking your native tongue, asking their apparent leader, an older stallion with a salt and pepper beard and a checkered black and white headdress to match, about your ship.
<"Now there's something you don't see every day,"> says the leader, looking up at your ship.
<"Maybe we ought to hail them?"> someone asks.
<"They could be pirates,"> says another. <"Or worse.">
<"What would pirates be doing all the way out here?">
<"You never know.">
The leader rubs his beard as he stares at the flying ship. <"I say ignore them. We don't know them and they don't know us. If they choose to greet us, then we might make some allies. But let's keep our distance for now.">
"Hmm.. While i'm hesitant to ask for aid, the original plan for our compass has failed completely. Perhaps we can dance around the subject, mention the ghost town near the peak, not the vault.."
Rabi awakens with a bit of a start, picking himself back up and smiling to the others.
"Well, good news, friends! They seem to be travelers, like us- they're actually a little concerned we might be pirates, but don't seem hostile- they sounded pretty okay with the idea of us approaching them, so why not give it a shot?"
"If you believe zhat to be zo, I will lower ze zhip. Az paranoid az I have been, I have mizzed zeeing new fazez like uzual."
I let out a relieved sigh. "Great! So then we don't have anything to worry about."
''Excellent work again, Master Rabi. I am beggining to consider more and more to dedicate part of my studies into mastering Astral Projection. This seems like a skill that would be most useful for the spies of my family''
"Interrogate?" Violet says with a slight frown. "That sounds a little harsh."
"Harsh it may be," says Dawn, "but we can take no chances with others. Not when we're so close to our goal."
"Anyone could be an enemy," Carabas nods in assent. "If we approach them, we should not reveal anything about our mission.">>721816
Her expression darkens a bit. "I can only pray that it is the desert causing the interference, and not something else," she muses.
"For what it's worth," Aurora chimes in, looking concerned, "I don't recall the compass being like this last time. In fact, those two merchants sold it to us so we wouldn't
get lost. Something's changed.">>721817
Dawn nods. "Best to keep people out here at arm's length. Good plan, Miss Silver.">>721818
Carabas, who has been pacing back and forth concernedly, perks up a little at the news. "Good, good. Might be worth our while to speak to them then. Still. We ought not to mention our purpose to anyone, no matter how trustworthy they may seem.">>721819
Violet nods. "I reckon it's worth a shot. Worst comes to worst, we have a ship and they don't. We can easily get away from them if it comes down to it."
"Yez, I worry zhat zomezhing haz happened to ze egg in zhiz time. Let uz hope not."
Zunden takes the ship down, landing a bit off from the travelers.
''I will keep quiet. Perhaps they will know what is interfering with the Compass''
''Who will stay behind to guard the ship?''
"Indeed. Once we have our bearings the rest of this trip should hopefully fall into place."
Looking out over the railing, i wait for the ship to land with the others.
"Of course- though, it could be good to see what they're out here for. It sounded like they wouldn't mind some 'allies'.">>721821
"A-Ah, thank you. And. yeah, I'm glad I practiced it some myself."
"Yeah," I say. "Probably better to ask about the cemetery or town." I look over the edge of the ship, smile, and wave down. Wish we'd thought about this at the group of partiers. Maybe I could have gotten a darn drink for the first time in what seems like weeks.
Violet shrugs. "I'm down for anything."
"Same," says Aurora. "I'll come along if you want."
Dawn turns in Carabas' general direction. "I am indifferent as well. What would you have us do, my love?"
"It would be good to stretch my legs," Carabas replies, spreading out his wings to their full impressive span.
"Then we shall both go," Dawn decides.
Etrigan seems keen on staying below deck. The heat doesn't agree with him.>>721823>>721824>>721825>>721826>>721827
Zunden brings the ship down gently, landing on the salt flat not far from the travelers. You leave the ship and go to greet them. As Rabi saw earlier, they consist primarily of Saddle Arabians, tall, elegant equines with stronger builds than ponies. There are several saurians as well. They are clad in desert robes of muted colors. There can't be more than two dozen in their group. A trio of Saddle Arabians move to greet you, including the leader Rabi saw. He seems older, but well built, with striking yellow eyes, a grey-flecked beard and a headwrap to protect him from the sun. A rifle is stored on his back. The other two are a stocky red-coated stallion and an elegant golden mare.
"Peace upon you, drifters," the older stallion says with a cordial smile, speaking perfect Common. "To what do we owe the visit?"
"Hello, fellow drifters. We were heading through the desert ourselves, and figured we'd check out and see if you were friendly faces. What brings you through these parts?"
"I think I'll go with you guys." I squint up at the sun. "Really wish my desert clothes weren't practically rags at this point."
Aegis nods ''You two should probably stay, along with Etrigan, the three of you should be enough to repel most invaders, in case. Besides we might not be gone for long, we'll see''>>721830
''Why havent you bought new ones at the Swap Meet?''
Zunden gives Aurora command of the ship to watch over Etrigan and make sure things don't go south, informing her she'll invoke the Chariot in an emergency.
Zunden nods at Rabi's words, "Az he haz zaid. Truzh be told I waz in need of zeeing new fazez, traveling zheze waztez can get lonely, even in a group."
"A pleasure to see you as well." I reply, offering a winged curtsy. "We were traveling through the area and noticed your caravan passing through. In our haste through the desert we.. lost our bearings, something not uncommon due to the nature of this place." i add, laughing lightly.
"I don't suppose we could trouble you for directions?"
"Because I had other goals in mind and didn't think about it."
The leader gives you a look of acknowledgement as he recognizes you as a fellow Saddle Arabian. <"Always good to see one of us out here,"> he says in your native tongue with a smile.
"We are pilgrims," he explains. "You might think it strange of us, but we are chasing a dream. A vision we shared in the not too distant past. We believe that ultimate truth can be found at the center of this desert, as ordained by the spirits of this land, the Echoes. So that's where we're heading. It sounds… strange. And it is! But it is something we must do. The truth of existence will be revealed at the center of it all. At least, it is what the vision spoke. So we're heading there." He looks behind you, towards the giant spire that is visible from all around the Sands.
"My name is Zafer." He extends a hoof. "So what brings you all here? There is little these lands have to offer outsiders, save for dust.">>721831
Violet nods. "I'll keep watch in case anything happens." "And I'll pilot the ship if it does," Aurora chimes in.>>721832
Aurora simply nods in understand. "Let's hope it doesn't come to that…"
Zafer agrees. "We haven't seen another living soul for weeks. Save for one other group, but they didn't want anything to do with us. It's good to have someone to chat to.">>721833
"Trouble us all you like," Zafer says politely. "We know this land quite well. We've been traveling through it our whole lives, after all. What do you seek here?"
"More travelerz hm?" Zunden says, raising a brow, "I'd love to know if you zaw ze way zhey were going. We are here zeeking a treazure we had to abandon onze before, due to a great plague of inzectz. We fear anozher group may have learned about it'z location zinze, zo it iz a raze againzt time to find it."
<"Truth be told, I hadn't expected to see any others. I hope the sands have been as easy to bear as the ones back home.">
"Rabi. Good to see some friendly wanderers out here. As for us, we're doing a little treasure hunting, like she said." he motions to Zunden. "We're in a bit of a hurry, but not so much that we couldn't stop and say hello."
''A vision?'' Aegis speaks up from the back of the party before walking foward to let herself be known ''What kind of vision?''
"Ah, interesting! As it happens, we are also searching for the desert's center, though our search is more motivated by the material than mystical. There is rumor of a fabulous treasure within the center of the desert, 'buried beneath the standing pillars' as they say.>>721837
"Yes, i'm quite interested in this 'other group' they've mentioned. Given where we are, i doubt spotting others here is more than coincidence."
Well, the whole 'chasing a vision' thing seems a little weird, but I decide it'd be rude to say anything. I cock an eyebrow. "Other group?"
"Yes. There were some other we saw… Hm." He turns to the red stallion, conversing with him in their native tongue for a moment. "Two days ago. They were traveling by air, like yourselves. Headed towards the falling sun." He points westwards. "We tried to hail them, but they ignored us. It was a rather small ship, as I recall. We didn't see who was aboard either. Make of that what you will."
Dawn and Carabas exchange a glance, looking troubled. "So we aren't alone out here," the latter muses.>>721838
<"These are no sands, my friend. This is like nothing back home. Far more hostile and unforgiving. I hardly thought it possible.">>>721838>>721840
"You will be disappointed, then. This place… it has a mind of its own. And lusts for gold and rarities. Any treasure left open is swallowed whole by the sands. If you can call them sands. Whatever you seek, it has probably been consumed by now.">>721840
"I know the place you seek," says the golden mare, making her voice heard. She has a thicker accent than Zafer. "It is two days west of here, in a straight line. Though, the land changes constantly. You may be hard pressed to find what you're looking for.">>721839
Zafer nods. "It has been a week hence. All of us here shared the dream." He gestures towards his two companions, who nod vigorously. "The spirits of our ancestors appeared to us all, urging us to undertake the pilgrimage. To reach the spire at the center of the world, and achieve enlightenment. …Well, I don't know about the world, but there is a spire in the desert. After some debate, we decided to follow the dream. We don't know what we'll find there. But we are being guided by forces from beyond the physical plane. We would be remiss to ignore such a calling."
''The Spirits of your Ancestors?'' Aegis tilts her head lightly ''Are you native to the realm of the Echoes?''
I frown. So the ship was headed the same direction as the vault. And I thought we wrer ahead of Lysander's goons. My eyes widen. "Wait, spire? Isn't that dangerous?"
<"Tell me about it, friend. This land is harsh.">
"We've seen as much with the time we've spent here. We've got a method to follow our quarry, actually, but thanks for the warning. These sands are surprising."
"Mm.. and if it's who we assume it to be, we have much less time than we thought." i add, nodding to carabas.
"That iz unfortunate zhen, zhey are headed ze zame plaze we are. We know of ze dangerz of ze 'zand' here zhough, again it iz ze reazon we had to flee ze firzt time we came here. We do not plan to zpend long here."
She looks out at the dunes, "Zhough, planz and reality are not ze zame."
"We are not. We were banished many years ago, and found ourselves in this desert. …Truth be told, it is not much of a change from what we had back home." He smiles. "In the dream, I saw my father, and his father, and his father before. They begged me to lead my people to the center. To the 'truth'. Whatever that entails. Perhaps this is a fool's errand. But when dozens of us are visited by the same dream at once, do you not think it prudent to act on it?">>721844
"It might be. But whatever dangers we face, they are nothing but a test of our will. None of us have ever been as far as the epicenter. We do not know what to expect.">>721845>>721847
"If you are headed out of this salt flat, strangers," Zafer warns, "you should know. Things are changing all over these lands. The sands are turbulent, and the sand-beasts even more bloodthirsty than usual. They have even taken to tearing each other apart in fits of frenzy. Things are changing everywhere, and not for the better. Be alert, and be wary.">>721847>>721846>>721845>>721844>>721843
Carabas nods at Silver's suggestion. "We should leave," he says, raising his voice slightly to address you all. "And move at full speed."
Zafer looks concerned. "I take it this other party is bad news. We shall not keep you waiting."
''Perhaps, though I find it strange that your Ancestors from your homeland would know of anything in the Echoes'' She notes before turning to Carabas ''Understood''
"I-" Dozens visited by the same dream… "I'm not sure that's a good idea. I'm pretty sure the spire is a hive. There's an evil dream magician lurking about. I don't know why he'd be sending you to the spire, but it's possible that's what's happening." I look the group over. "I won't tell you not to go, but- well, you all seem really nice. Just be careful, alright?"
I glance back up at Carabas and nod. "Yeah. We really should get going." I glance back to Zafer. "Thank you. And good luck."
"Thank you again for the directions. I wish you safe travels to the spire. As you say, these are dangerous times ahead.."
trotting away a ways, i unfurl my wings and fly back onto the deck, ready to continue the trip westward.
Zunden looks warily towards the spire,
"May your fortunez be favorable zhen, make your anzceztorz proud."
"Thanks for the words of warning, friend. Safe travels, and may you find something good in this broken land."
Zafer frowns. "Well, who are we to question the wisdom of those from beyond?" he asks with a smile. You sense a little bit of doubt in his voice.>>721850
Zafer exchanges a worried look with his companions. "I… We will. Thank you for bringing this to us. Good luck to you as well.">>721851
"Likewise to you. Take care, drifters.">>721852
"We will do our best. Until our paths cross again!">>721853
"I hope you find what you seek out there. This place tests us all.">>721849>>721850>>721851>>721852>>721853
Zafer bids you all goodbye, and with that, you all return to the ship, where Violet, Aurora and Etrigan are gathered on the upper deck, waiting for you to return. "That looked like it went well," Violet comments. "What was that about?" Aurora asks. Etrigan tilts his head to the side slightly.
"Pilgrimz. Zhey zaw a zhip head towardz where ze egg iz, two dayz ago. Zhingz have been chaotic here zinze, zo I worry."
She takes the necklace back, "I'd azk if you want to pilot for a while, but it iz imperative we get zhere az zoon az pozzible."
Zunden dons the necklace, and through the power of the Chariot, gets the ship moving immediately and with haste.
>Chariot: Dominion 
"At least we've got a good idea of what's going on now, then- better to be prepared than surprised."
''So, we are indeed heading to the west then?''
"According to the nomads, we're to head west to make our way to the pillars and the egg. They made mention of an airship passing overhead two days ago, and given the location it is safe to assume Lysander has beat us to the vault.." i explain to the three, looking grim.
Zunden nods, eyes rolling back.>>721856
"Who knowz what to exzpect, if zhey are already zhere, who knowz what chaoz zhey've already cauzed. You remember ze entity trapped in ztone, for inztanze. Who knowz if zhey've made a bargain wizh him?"
"W-Well, I mean like, at least we know they're there, right?"
"I fear the worst may come to pass," Dawn muses, as Violet looks stony. "We cannot waste any more time. We must reach the vault as soon as possible." Carabas keeps pacing back and forth, clearly losing his nerve at the prospect of what may have come to pass, while Etrigan sits on the floor in disbelief.
Zunden wastes no time in piloting the ship to the best of her abilities, focusing every fiber of her being in rocketing forward as fast as it'll go. You are forced to cling on to something to avoid being knocked around. Even traveling at this speed, however, it is another day before you reach anything resembling your objective.
The following day, at around mid afternoon, you spot them. Three brick cylindrical pillars rise out like fingers from the crimson sands, alongside the picked clean remains of an abandoned desert town. The pilgrims were right; much has changed since you were last here. The desert has almost entirely swept over the area, burying the buildings beneath the "sand". Here and there is proof of what the pilgrims had claimed; corpses of sand-beasts, huge red mantis-like creatures, lie dismembered, either by members of their own kind, or, strangely, by themselves. You find the entrance to the vault is open wide, a flight of stairs leading below the sands. Much of it has been filled up by sand, but it seems to have been excavated relatively recently, the path downwards lying wide open.
What draws your attention the most is the being sitting atop one of the pillars, surrounded by dead sand-beasts, a serpentine, winged, goat-headed creature seemingly made of a hodgepodge of different creatures. Even from the distance, you can feel his gaze on you. Discord has somehow freed himself from his stony prison, and is just sitting there, waiting, staring up at your ship patiently. He gives you a little wave, waggling his fingers.
Violet grits her teeth at the sight. "Oh no. No no no no no."
Aurora pales. "It's… It's…"
Etrigan just looks bewildered, while Carabas is speechless. "Is that what I think it is?"
Dawn is left in the dark, frightened and confused by the atmosphere. "Wh-what is going on?"
Kairon floats out from a crack in the floorboards, peering over the edge. "HIM?! He's here?!"
Mercutio giggles to himself. "Oh boy. Here we go! Nyeheheheheheeee!"
"G-Gah, shit. D-Did they break him out already?"
Aegis peeks at the figure among the others, unphased ''Who is that?''
I pale, gulp, lift my hand, and give him a little wave back.
"So, Lysander freed him, did he? Goodness me, things really have come apart, haven't they?">>721863
a statue within the vault, when last we were here. It was him who insisted we break the egg to escape, before any of us knew just what it would do, ending reality and all. We realized he was rather dangerous and chose to leave him as a statue, assuming nopony would return here."
"And it seems Lysander has struck a deal with him."
Zunden drums her claws against the railing of the ship, looking out at the creature.
"Ze greatezt problem here iz ze egg mozt likely being mizzing. I have no intentionz of fighting ze creature, it iz trapped in ze Echoez az much az we are. I juzt want to zee what haz become of ze egg, and perhapz azk it if it knowz where zhey intend to take it if it haz indeed been taken."
''That sounds pretty awful'' Aegis notes dully, glaring at the strange mismatched creature>>721915
''Why would that Discord thing want the egg broken? Does it, like Lysander, not realize what it will do once the cuckoo is freed?''
"Looks like it," Aurora comments. Discord just keeps sitting there, patiently waiting for you to come closer. It's as if he's been anticipating you showing up."Ooh! Ooh! I know what's going on here! Why don't you ask me?"
Mercutio bounces eagerly on the spot.
"Well of course you know," Aurora snaps at him. "You just won't tell us.""Very true! But I might be feeling generous today! Or I might not. One way to find out! Eh? Eh?">>721863
"Bad news is what he is," says Violet grimly.
"Unless this is a shared hallucination," Carabas intones, "that's Discord. An entity of pure chaos. The last thing we want to find out here. And there he is."
Dawn does a double take. "Are… are you sure it's him?"
"Absolutely," Carabas replies. "What he's doing out here is beyond me.""He was a pox,"
Kairon comments bitterly. "He plagued my kingdom more than once, back in those days. It took a tremendous effort from my court and I to keep him at bay.">>721914
"Or someone else," Violet muses."Whoever freed him would have to be an arrant fool,"
says Kairon. "Lying is as easy as breathing for the Draconequus. Do not trust a single word out of his mouth. He lives for trickery.">>721915
Violet seems to struggle to say it, but she sees no other options. "Could… could you bring us down, then? Closer to the vault? We'll have to deal with… him… to get inside, after all."
Dawn turns in your general direction. "Duplicitous as this creature may be. He may be the only chance we'll have to know where the Egg has been… been taken. Assuming that has come to pass."
''An entity of pure chaos'' Aegis repeats ''So like a living god of… Discord, huh, so that is the why of the name'' She says pulling out the Beastiary
''An impossibly ancient being rumored to date back to creation itself
'' She reads it out loud mostly for herself, then read the rest in silence before closing the book
"Well… could you please tell us, then? There's no other way to find out, so it's worth a shot."
"I do not know, ze creature iz foreign to me, it iz zomezhing apparently native to ze Dominion. Zhey treat it wizh ze greatezt of cauzion, zo I will do ze zame. Dezpite it'z nature, it doez look interezting, vizually.">>721917
Zunden begins to lower the ship, placing it between/over some of the ruins so that it has a solid resting place, if the sands decide the swallow the ship.
''I disagree. It is a blight to my eyes and I hope that the time we'll have to suffer it will be brief''
"I haven't the slightest idea how they managed to seal him inside the echoes, something so intense as chaos incarnate.">>721917
"'An arrant fool'? Well, given what we've seen of Lysander he fits the description perfectly." i reply, laughing lightly.
Not sure how to say, I quietly watch Discord from the sidelines. I'd been worrying about this since the last time we were here and now- now it's ruined.
>>721920"I'll consider it! Patience is a virtue, my oversized friend!">>721923"It took all my power and that of the greatest sorcerers in the land to seal him away when he plagued us,"
Kairon pipes up. "And even then, he always escaped eventually. He is a pest. No two ways about it.">>721921>>721918>>721920>>721923>>721924
Zunden brings the ship down closer, landing atop the roof of a half buried building, next to the vault entrance. Discord hops down from his perch. "It's about time you all showed up!" he says, putting on his genteel voice. He approaches you on foot. "I thought you might've forgotten about me! And you brought new friends, too. I don't even know half of you, and I don't really remember the rest of your names. I'm pretty good with faces though. I remember that at least!" He points at Norv's nose."Discord."
Kairon spits out the name with contempt. "A cruel joke of fate that we should be brought face to face again."
"Sorry, do I know you?""You ravaged my kingdom six times over! If I still had my physical form…"
"Sorry, you'll have to be more specific." He looks at Mercutio. "Oh! YOU I remember! It's been a good few decades, hasn't it?"
Mercutio leaps with joy. "Far more than that! We've been waiting so very long! As I say, patience is a virtue! Nyehehehehe!"
He jumps off the ship and is caught in midair by Discord in one claw, who proceeds to hold the skull and pet it like a cat.
He turns his attention to the other newcomers, Dawn, Carabas and Etrigan. "Hm. You're not interesting enough to spend much time on, sorry." They are too thunderstruck by his appearance to say anything right now. He gives Aegis a once over. "And who are you? You seem like a bundle of joy. I'm sure we're going to get along great!"
With that, he faces you all, lounging back lazily. "So how've things been? Keeping well? Keeping fresh? Seem to be living the high life with that new boat, eh?" Without being invited, he flies up and lands on the deck, towering over you all, still holding a very snug looking Mercutio in one claw.
"So. What brings you back here? I mean, I know why you're here, but I want to hear it from you. Why come all this way after you left so rudely last time?"
I wiggle my nose and briefly cross my eyes to look down at it before returning my attention to Discord. "I was coming back to keep my word. I was going to bring you along with us." I shift and chuckle uncomfortably. "Guess you don't need my help now, though. Nice getting to stretch your legs a little?"
''My name is of no concern to you'' She says stoically
''And please put Mercutio down, he is very valuable to us''
"I am Zunden, a tarot reader. Ze lazt time we were here, an incoming zwarm of inzectz zhreatened to conzume ze ruinz, and zo we left. In zhat time, we learned of ze importanze of ze egg in ze vault, and have come to return for it."
Zunden says, looking up at the strange creature, "Ze ozherz know far more about you zhan myzelf, but I can azzume you wizh to be free of ze Echoez like many ozherz. It iz one of ze zhingz we zeek, after we have zolved zhiz ordeal."
"Why, for the egg, of course." i reply, remaining courteous. "We're well aware what the egg does, should it break, and given the cost we'd very much prefer keeping it intact."
"Might i ask who managed to free you, as well? As i recall we were forced to flee as the vault was sealed by more of these bugs scattered about." i add, gesturing to the 'sand' with a sweep of a wing.
Rabi blinks at the mention of 'oversized', before shrugging a little. Watching the exchange between Mercutio and Discord, he frowns a bit and asks "Do you… know each other? I guess I should've figured as much." he says, trotting backwards a little when Discord invites himself along.
"WERE you now? How decent of you! And very stupid." "Very, very stupid!"
Mercutio chimes in. "Very, very, very stupid!"
"Oh, yes, it's lovely not being stuck as a statue." He cracks his neck. "Though the enchantment still has some chains on me. If I could, I'd be out of here by now. Reality, alas, still has rules I have to obey. For now." He flashes you a toothy grin as he continues to pet Mercutio like a spy movie villain.>>721927
"That's a terrible name!" he comments in mock outrage.
Discord and Mercutio exchange a look, then the skull spits another tooth at you. "No," says Discord childishly. "No, I don't think I will."
"So, No Concern. Why are you here? You aren't friends with the rest of these losers, are you?">>721929
"Hm. Keeping it intact. Yeah, see that's the thing." He doesn't elaborate.
"A little fellow you might know. But knowledge is power, right?">>721928>>721929
"Yes, yes, I guessed as much. I know where the Egg is. I know who took it. My question to you is, why should I tell you anything?"
Dawn speaks up. "Th-the world is in danger! Our REALITY is in danger!" she cries desperately. "If you don't tell us, everything
"Yeah, see, that's not really a big deal," he shrugs. "In the cosmic sense. If this reality gets ripped to shreds, it's not my business. Might even be kind of fun, actually.">>721930
"Oh, Cutie and I go WAY back," he says with a dismissive handwave. "Back to before he was… well, this. You see, Purdue, the other guy in here-" he knocks on the skull with his knuckles- "was desperate for more knowledge. He turned to me in desperation. I… showed him a thing or two, and, well, here we are.">>721926>>721927>>721928>>721929>>721930
"So. In case any of you missed that. I know where your little plot coupon is. I know who took it. I can help you. But I don't really have a reason to. So, sweettalk me. Give me a reason to give you a hand. Hoof. Claw. Smoky green tendril. Take your pick."You notice Mercutio has gone bizarrely silent.
My shoulders slump, I look away, and my ears flatten against my head. "Yeah," I mumble. "I guess it was kinda dumb."
I look back up at him and knit my brow. "Sounds like you already know what you want us to offer."
"What iz zhat, iz he ze type of entity zhat formz contractz? Or demandz zervitude?" Zunden turns, looking to Norv
"Interesting… I guess. I'd ask Mercutio, but he looks a tad overwhelmed right now." he remarks, shrugging a little.>>721933
"Contracts seem a little… eh, rigid for him? Maybe that's just me, though."
"Pretty much. Seems like he wants us to offer to help get his power back to me. Otherwise why would he even be talking to us right now?" I shrug. "Maybe I'm wrong, but it ain't like we have anything else to offer a cosmic being."
>>721935>[ 1d10 = 10 ]Roll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
"Making a deal? Given you've already been freed i doubt anything physical would suffice."
"What could we possibly offer as payment for a being that doesn't care for this reality? A favor?"[ 1d10+2 = 4 ]
PersuasionRoll #1 5 + 2 = 7
/ Roll #2 10 + 2 = 12
[ 1d10 = 4 ]
testRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
test [ 1d10 = 1 ]Roll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
Roll #1 7 = 7
Roll #1 1 = 1
''They saved me from trouble'' She replies, barely flinching at the tooth pocking her on the forehead
''Then explained the whole story shortly after. After learning our reality could be destroyed I offered my help in preventing that''
She glances to the rest of the party then back to Discord ''I would rather you just told us what you want, instead of wasting our time''
"Zo ze zame zort of agreement you have pledged to Kairon zhen." Zunden rubs her chin,>>721931
Zunden looks to the others, "zhiz Dizcord az you zay iz duplizitouz, but az I have zaid-"
She looks back to Discord, "-you likely zeek to leave ze Echoez az well. It iz ze ultimate goal of many of zhiz group, I would zhink. If we were to find a way out, we could zertainly enzure you were able to leave az well."
"I-" I clear my throat and rub the back of my neck. "Yeah. I guess so."
"Do I?" he asks mysteriously. "I'm not omniscient. Your pal here is." He holds up Mercutio, who sits there slack-jawed like a marionette. "Nyeh! Make me an offer, Norv!"
Discord crows, imitating Mercutio perfectly.>>721933>>721935>>721936
Discord looks a wee bit offended. "Why are you talking about me like I'm not even here? That's very rude!">>721935>>721938
"Oh yes. Quite overwhelmed." He gives you another grin, but this time it is more the predatory kind, like a lion about to pounce on a helpless gazelle. You notice that as he holds Mercutio, the telltale spark of life in the oracle's eye sockets is fading, looking more and more like a lifeless prop.>>721939>>721945>>721946>>721936>>721935
"I suppose there's no sense in beating around the bush." He continues to hold Mercutio as he makes his proposal. "You see, I'm out and about, but I don't have my powers anymore. I'm still a slave to reality. For now. That means I can't really leave this awful desert without it taking forever. So. You have transport. I know what you want from me. You get me out of here, and I'll tell you everything you want to know. What do you say? Give us a lift?" He gives you a "charming" smile.
Carabas speaks up. "It may not be my ship, but I wouldn't trust you with the time of day, fiend. I believe it for the best if we continue to search on our own."
"Wow. Mean. What did I ever do to you?"
Kairon agrees. "You are nothing but a backstabber,"
she says coldly. "You will betray us at the first opportunity you get."
"I'm a changed man! I swear! I'd never betray you!" he proclaims completely unconvincingly.
Violet crosses her forelegs, looking conflicted. "What else can we do?" she asks you all. "You know how urgent our mission is. …Oh, I don't know what to do." Aurora shifts in place uncomfortably, completely lost as to what to do in this situation.
''I might have an alternative, Violet'' Aegis speaks up for all to hear, shooting discord a cold gaze ''It might not be the most trustworthy but perhaps better than resorting to Him''
"If he iz a entity zhat'z main goal iz cauzing chaoz, zhen he zhould find himzelf able to cauze much more chaoz if he waz to leave uz after we had tranzported him from ze dezert." Zunden says, continuing to rub her chin, "I do not zee ze reazon he would backztab uz and torment a dozen or zo people when zhere are much larger groupz he could cauze more havok in."
She looks back up to Discord, "Iz zhat az far az you wizh uz to take you? Out of ze dezert?"
"Hmm…. a good show of trust could be handing our friend back, if you're a changed man? No need to hog him too much, even if you are friends." he offers, frowning a little bit.
"A lift? How pedestrian. And i suppose it is safe to assume you'll leave to cause all measures of havoc once we clear the sands?"
"If bringing you along as stone would have been stupid, wouldn't giving you a ride be even dumber?" Still, it's not like we have too much of a choice. "And yesh. Can we have Mercutio back?"
The other crew members turn to you. "What's your idea?" Violet asks. "Yes, do tell, No Concern. What IS your idea?" Discord asks.>>721951
"Bingo. I don't much care to vex you when there's a whole dimension of mortals to play with. You're a means to an end, really.">>721954
"Yeah, I know. Pretty shameful that I have to resort to it, but desperate times call for desperate measures, and all that sort of thing."
"Well, duh. Who do you think I am? I have a reputation to uphold, you know.">>721953>>721956
"Sure. Done with him anyway. Catch!" He lobs the skull at Rabi, then examines himself. There doesn't seem to be much of a change, but he seems satisfied. "Bit less than what I expected, but better than nothing.">>721956
"Well if you'd rather keep combing the desert, then here. Knock yourself out!" He tosses you a cheap plastic comb out of nowhere.
Violet frowns. "I thought you said your powers didn't work anymore.
"Well, they didn't. And now they do. A bit. Your chatty friend there still had a piece of me in him. So I took it back."
Violet looks to Mercutio with a furrowed brow. He continues to lie there limply.
''I will use the Liber Animarum to guide us to the Egg. There is a particular Demon I read on that might be just what we need. I refrained from suggesting we used it until now because this is a rare situation where a lesser Demon could be more trustworthy than Him''
My stomach sinks as I look over at the limp Mercutio. "Is he-" I gulp. I look back up at Discord and glare. "Why- why would I want to help you after you hurt my friend, Persolus?"
Rabi catches the skull, daintily passing it to Norv. He sets a hoof on the dog's shoulder, before speaking up with. "I think I saw a bit of him still in there. We can try taking a look in a couple of ways later, Norv."
"A demon? This won't involve more of that severance ritual to pull it off of you, will it?"
"The Liber Animarum?" Discord parrots. "That's cute. You think that old rag will do you any good. Here's a little piece of advice, No Concern. That thing's never brought anyone anything but misery. And now that you have it, you can't get rid of it either. So have fun selling your soul to some two bit demon. I'm much more reasonable than their lot.">>721961
He is inert.
"Oh, you don't have to use that name anymore," he says dismissively. "And why? Because I need that power more than he does. Because you're one of the idiots that lives in this reality. Because you don't have much of a chance of finding the Egg without me. So…"
I sigh. "Sounds like we're caught between a rock and a hard place, huh?">>721963
I relax just a little and nod. So he's not completely gone.
Zunden gives the skull a once over, while they talk.
>Antiquarian [ 1d10 = 4 ]Roll #1 4 = 4
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
'1d10' whoopsRoll #1 2 = 2
I cock an eyebrow. "Wait, then why did you take the name in the first place?"
''Unlikely. This will be, hopefully, much more controled''>>721965
''We'll see'' She replies dismissively>>721966
''I know I might not be completely deserving of your trust either, but I am confident in my ability to go through with this'' AEgis nods to Norv
''I am only offering an alternative of course, if you want to accept Discord's offer, I will not rebuke''
Looks like a skull to you, and nothing more.>>721969
"Because I was bored," he shrugs. "You try staring at a wall for a good few centuries and not resort to doing weird stuff to pass the time."
"Really now, is that the best method for convincing us to help you? Demanding a lift and breaking Norvy's friend?" i chime in, scolding the chaos god
"I'm sure you must be aching to have that power back, but is it really necessary to take it now and ruin your chances for an easy ride out of here?"
"Return Mercutio and we'll assist you."
'1d10+2' persuasionRoll #1 6 + 2 = 8
"Mercutio iz no more, I am afraid, or anyzhing zhat onze waz enchanted in zhat zkull. It iz now completely mundane."
I study him. I don't buy it, but decide now isn't exactly the time to discuss names.>>721970
"I'd hate to point this out, but he's probably gonna get out of here one way or another. Seems like a net gain getting his help out of it."
I slowly look over at Zunden and the skull. "Are- are you serious?" >>721972
Tears well up in the corners of my eyes, but I fight to keep composure. There's not even anything I can do. Why does it seem like it's always like this? "Yeah! I'm not helping unless you give The Oracle back."
Aegis looks through Norv for a moment, silent
''Very well, I'll follow your plan then''
"I could have sworn there was just a bit left… I'm sorry I didn't catch on sooner."
"You're welcome," Discord shrugs. "He talked too much anyway."
Violet covers her mouth, looking at the skull in disbelief. Kairon looks vindictive. "He always was a nasty piece of work."
Aurora looks upset, while Dawn, Carabas and Etrigan don't have much of a reaction, looking somewhat sorry for the loss.>>721972
"I already did," he retorts, pointing at the skull. It floats up into the air, seemingly of Discord's will, and clacks its jaw like a marionette. "Nyehehehe!
See? He's still alive. Kind of. I'm sure there's something in there. You seem like a smart cookie. Fix him yourself." He lets the skull clatter to the floor again. "So. Are we getting out of here or not? Time's a-wasting.">>721975
"Yeah, exactly. If you don't help me, I can get out of here on my own now that I have a little bit of a boost. It'd just be more convenient for me to tag along.">>721976
Violet doesn't seem to know what to do, putting one foreleg around your shoulder. "It's okay. We can find a way to get him back. There's always a way. He's not gone."
Discord gives you a mischievous smile, and the skull twitches slightly. Presumably Discord using telekinesis again. It rolls along the ground towards you. "All yours," he he says.>>721977
"Excellent! I'll make myself at home then, shall I?">>721977>>721976>>721974>>721972>>721978
As Aegis seems to concede, Discord looks a bit triumphant. "Do we have a deal then? Transport in exchange for what I know?"
Dawn looks hesitant. "…Reality is on the line. I think we should do it." Etrigan nods, while Kairon still looks obstinate. "As much as I disliked that chattering animal, making any sort of deal with this one would be a mistake."
I pick up the skull and hug it to my chest with both my arms. "I don't-" I swallow. "How long?" I ask. "How far do you plan on us taking you?"
"Ze deal haz already been altered. You have taken zomezhing of ourz, Mercutio, wizhout return. Balanze ze zcalez and return him back - ze ability manifezt zmall combz, or your way out of ze dezert."
''Whatever comes later, we will deal with it the best we can'' Aegis says to Dawn ''Anything'' She emphasizes ''Is better than letting everything simply be gone. Discord has been put under control thrice before, it is much more feasible to inprison him again than to stop the freed Cuckoo. Now, for the sake of our reality, enough hesitation. Let us go'' She orders, turning to Discord for a second with a discerning glare
"If it's possible to, yeah. Couldn't take too long, could it?"
>>721981>Zunden's words are filled with determination, unwittingly activating the Chariot.
"hm.. i suppose you're right. attain the information now, deal with the lesser threat later."
"Just outside of the desert," he shrugs. "I can go and find someone to bully from there. There's almost no one out here though. So dreadfully dull. The dead buried here don't talk much. And when they do it's just the same thing as always. Whinge, whinge, whinge. 'The coffin's too cold! My plaque should be larger! Why does he get more worms than I do!'">>721981
"Pray I don't alter it any further," he answers in an uncharacteristically deep voice.>>721984>>721981
He looks frustrated. "Well that's just cheating!" he gripes. "You can't just invoke Them
like that. Ugh. Fine, fine. I'll bring him back.">>721980>>721981>>721982>>721983>>721984
Discord snaps his fingers grumpily. After a moment or two, Mercutio starts to stir, letting out an uneasy groan. "There. He's back. Give him some time," Discord says, sounding annoyed at being forced to act against his will. "He should be back to normal. Now. Get this hunk of wood up in the air and I'll tell you anything you want to know."
"My ozher intention waz to invoke Zeverance, but I azzumed zhat would be more painful. Waz zhere anyzhing left in ze vault after zey left? No uze leaving it here, before we leave."
I loosen my grip on the skull and let out a relived sigh. "Thank you." I only catch that I probably shouldn't have thanked him for fixing something he caused after the fact. I ket out a mirthless laugh. "Well, I guess I expected to leave with you anyway. So I guess that much hasn't changed."
Satisfied, i wait with the others as Zunden readies the ship.>>721987
"Excellent work, Zunden." i add, relieved
''Lovely'' Aegis notes dully ''I will go ahead and prepare a vacant room for our guest, I suppose'' She turns around and begins heading for the ship
"Oh, thank goodness- I'd say you're a literal life-saver right now, but… I suppose you always are.">>721986
With the skull returned, the Saddle Arabian lets out a sigh of relief. "Deal's a deal, I suppose. Welcome aboard."
"See, here's the thing. I don't really know much about whoever it was that came here. At all. But they looked like they meant business. They weren't the ones to free me either, it just… wore off. On its own. They ignored me and went after the Egg, but didn't find anything. Check for yourself. The bugs took it months ago. I tried to tell them but they didn't believe me. Can't imagine why. Anyway. Where you're going to want to go is the Hive. That's where the bugs take all their little knick knacks. Fun place, really.">>721988
"You're very welcome. Enjoy your friend while he's around. Nothing lasts forever, you know." He gives you a wink.>>721991>>721989>>721990>>721987>>721988
Carabas looks grim. "I hope you realize what you've done, drifters."
Dawn looks indifferent. "A means to an end. We have our heading, at least."
Kairon seethes. "As if the head wasn't bad enough."
Violet doesn't look happy with it, but seems resigned to the decision. "Guess we don't have much of a choice."
Aurora shies away from Discord, looking intimidated. "Let's just make this quick."
"Huzzah!" Discord crows. "All aboard the… wait. Does this hunk of junk have a name or…?"
Aegis silently heads on ahead to embark on the ship, heading to the main hall and finding a seat for herself as she waits for the others to rendezvouz
"Fatez… it really haz been monzhz haz it. Anywayz, ze zhip iz between namez. We have not yet replazed ze old one, but I zhink a fair few of uz are calling it ze Fate'z Fortune. I zhought it waz a clever name."
She starts to move the ship, "My welcomez, Dizcord, for ze time being."
I gulp and squeeze him tighter again. "I, uh… I think I'm gonna head to my room.">>721994
"Yeah. I've been calling it the Fortune in my head."
"Oh my, so the egg was stolen away by those bugs? I'd be relived if i didn't know who we were up against. If we
could clear them out, no doubt lysander can as well.."
Rabi offers a short shrug to Carabas and Etrigan, before sighing. "Aegis made a fair point- one of these is easier to deal with than the other. Sorry you have to put up with it all the same.">>721992
Looking back to Discord, he frowns a little "The… bugs took the Egg? Well… let's hope they can do a decent job safeguarding it until we find them."
"Fate's Fortune? That's a terrible name!" Nevertheless, as he boards the ship, you see an elegant golden scrawl appear on the bow, spelling its name in graceful handwriting. >>721995
Violet looks at you as if to ask if you want her to come along.>>721996>>721997
"We're facing an entire desert of insects," Violet muses. "We're going to have our work cut out for us.>>721993>>721994>>721995>>721996>>721997
As Zunden moves the ship up and away, Discord climbs up the mast, coiling himself around the mast like a rope, proudly perching himself atop its sails. "This is going to be fun on a bun!" he proclaims. As you zoom off across the scarlet dunes, music starts playing out of nowhere, speeding you along your journey.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7UEnAY6C1xk
You find that the unearthly music is quite literally speeding you along your journey; the ship is moving much faster than it ever has before across the sand dunes. Curiously, apart from a slight initial jolt, you are not put off by the sudden speed at all. Discord takes in the view of the desert with a smug smile before simply appearing next to you all; the next moment, he has taken off into the bowels of the ship. "I simply must
know what you've all been up to for so long!" His voice echoes in the distance as he begins acquainting himself with every nook and cranny of the Fortune. You hear things being toppled over and breaking as he does so. Violet looks annoyed and takes off after him. "Oi! You can't just…" Aurora seems intimidated by it all, omposing herself after a moment and flapping up into the crow's nest. Carabas and Etrigan go with Violet to see what Discord's doing, while Dawn seems deep in thought about something. Kairon looks very annoyed at Discord's presence, and seeps off through a crack in the boards to sulk somewhere. Mercutio has a faint glint in his emerald eye sockets, but still has not said a word.
Rabi frowns a little bit as, after the surprisingly nice act of whatever he did to hasten the ship, the draconequus popping off to another part of the ship. He moves to head downstairs in to the lower decks of the ship after him, before stopping to take a look at Mercutio's skull.
"Hrm… maybe I should take a look? I'm not sure what to expect, but maybe… I don't know. If he's a soul, maybe I could see something?"
In the time since the ship had left, Zunden has checked in and identified Mercutio with her talent, ensuring that Discord has kept his word.
Otherwise, Zunden has kept watch over Discord via her magic view of the ship, humoring him if they want a conversation.
Aegis proceeded to calmly powerwalk her way to her room
With the clatter from within the lower deck, i rush downstairs with a gasp, trying to make sure our room is okay
"My word! That furniture is quite expensive, do be careful!" i call into the lower deck as i gallop down.
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
I hold The Oracle in my hands as I follow Discord's erratic movement to the best of my ability, silently hoping that he didn't break anything important. "Lots of stuff, actually. It'd probably take a while to actually go over it all."
"Is it ýou making the ship go faster?"
"I suppose it's worth a shot," Aurora says from her perch. "He's… definitely less chatty than usual.">>722104
Mercutio seems to be different somehow. He still seems to be able to perform his function as an oracle, however.>>722114
You go back to your room for some peace and quiet. Discord seems to have left it untouched for now.>roll Perception in addition to whatever else you do>>722199
"Hm? Yeah, sure, let's go with that.">>722121>>722098>>722198>>722104
You follow (and Zunden watches from afar) as Discord heads for the cargo hold. By the time you have caught up with him, you find him judgmentally surveying the various trinkets and baubles you have accumulated over the course of your travels. Inexplicably, the draconequus is wearing a pair of round spectacles, a chic turtleneck sweater and a pretentious silver wig.
"Oh don't mind me," he says pompously, strutting through the cargo hold and eyeing your miscellaneous goods judgingly. Violet and Carabas look dumbfounded. Etrigan looks like Etrigan.
"Wh… what are you doing?" is all Carabas can ask.
"Destroying your collection, of course." He keeps moving past them looking snobbishly derisive, disregarding each of your treasures in turn with a wave of his claw. "Garbage. Garbage. Derivative. Shallow. Fake." He stops at the Severance seal Black Pudding placed. "That's not half bad," he admits. He pauses when he gets to the core of the ship, a pony sized blue crystal in the far end of the cargo hold "Oh, this
I love. I absolutely love." He moseys towards it, seemingly reveling in the magical energy that radiates from it. He turns around in a complete 360 before facing you all, looking directly up at Zunden in her omniscient vantage point. "How much for it? I need
it. It's everything. It's…" He clutches his hands to his chest dramatically. "Beautiful.
Zunden speaks to Discord, assuming he can hear her despite her location, "If you wizh for ze zhip to ztop in plaze and forze you to walk ze rezt of ze way, have at it. Perhapz you'd have more fun in ze kitchen- talk to zome tomatoez or make ze potatoez waltz. Zhere iz a zet of cutlery in zhere zhat'd hate you, I'd want to hear zhat converzation."
Wait, so is it not
him speeding the ship up? I get the feeling he just said that to confuse me, so I decide not to continue the line of questioning.
At first I'm stunned by his nonchalant wandering and dismissal of everything he comes by, but I manage to compose myself enough to follow him around in hopes of even attempting to keep him from actually destroying anything. "I, uh- I ain't completely sure how it works," I say, "But I'm pretty sure we need that. Both of those, actually."
Annoyed but holding my tongue, i follow along with discord as he wanders through our things, speaking up when he mentions the crystal.
"Yes yes, i'm sure it looks quite lovely, but i would recommend you leave the crystal there alone, lest you send the ship crashing into the sand below. It is
what seems to be the 'engine', after all."
Aegis made sure to take a good look through her belongings once she arrived
'1d10'Roll #1 8 = 8
>>722237>>722200[ 1d10+2 = 9 ]
PersuasionRoll #1 10 + 2 = 12
/ Roll #2 7 + 2 = 9
>>722201[ 1d10 = 5 ]
oh boyRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 8 = 8
'1d10] goddamnitRoll #1 2 = 2
"Let me just, ehm… go check on, you know." he gestures to the noises from below deck, and follows after the others.>>722200
Rabi grimaces a little as Discord seems to take his time to disturb almost everything in the hold, before sighing.
"Maybe just… I don't know, find something less disruptive to do? Knitting?"
'1d10'Roll #1 8 = 8
'1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
"You know, you don't really need this with me around," he drawls. "With the power inside it I could have made you rich, and flown you to your destination. But if you insist." He gives you all a judgmental look. "By the way, darling, you do know that ring is fake, right?" He points out the signet ring on Zunden's claw. Before you can answer, he simply poofs out of existence, and you hear pots and pans clattering loudly, along with a shrill little yelp from Aurora. Zunden can see he took her up on the whole kitchen thing.>>722238
Everything seems to be in its place, for now. However, as you rifle through your belongings, you find something that was not there before: a single grey and white feather, half buried beneath your stack of books.
I sigh and flip The Oracle around, looking into the small glowing pinpoints in its eyesockets. "Hey," I say. "You doing any better, buddy?"
'1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
Aegis mentally raises a brow at the feather, then storms her way out of her room, looking for the others. She headed to the Kitchen to find Aurora ''Where is Zunden?'' she asks, a hint of worry in her voice
Crisis averted, i roll my eyes and make my way back to mine and Rabi's room.
"Right then, i shall retire to my room for now, doubtless i'll need to steel myself for the mess we'll need to clean later.."
>ret 2 skip
"Oh, goodness… I hope Aurora hadn't been carrying anything fragile. Should I go check on her?"
Zunden starts making her way to Norvegicus' location, interested in the skull as well.
"Zomezhing haz zertainly changed, I have been trying to figure out what."
Antiquarian [ 1d10 = 6 ]>>722247
Listening and watching the commotion in the kitchen, Zunden watches Aegis ask Aurora for her location. She summons a Servitor next to Aegis, beckoning her to follow to Zunden and Norv's location.Roll #1 5 = 5
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
And follow she did, bringin the feather with her, presenting it to Zunden the moment she she the Saurian
''Zunden, they were here. Lysander spotted us''
I knit my brow and look the skull over. "What I'm afraid happened was Discord gave back The Oracle powers but not actually Mercutio or Perdue. Which is the opposite of what he should've done. Actually 'figure out a way for them to stop knowing everything' has been on my list for a bit."
I look down at the feather and swallow. Is that another one from the cuckoo? "What's that?"
''It's a dove feather. Lysander has gone to hiring birds to spy on us now, since he cant track the ship magically anymore''
I relax a little bit, but I'm still tense. "Oh, that's all?" I catch myself and clear my throat. "I mean, that's bad, but that looks like the feather I found when I-" I gulp. "You know. Died."
As you try and prod him into consciousness, the Oracle comes to life in your hands. He starts breathing heavily, crystalline eyes darting left and right. "Wh… What is this?"
It's Purdue's voice. "What's happening? Where's… where's my body?!">>722248
You find that Discord seems to have been through your room at some point, having torn through it like a tempest. While nothing is broken, clothes and assorted knick knacks are strewn willy nilly across the room, looking like some sort of war zone. You also notice a tiny sort of tornado in the corner made of assorted rubbish.>>722247>>722249
Aurora is in a corner, shrinking away from Discord, who is currently entertaining himself crafting some sort of horrific misshapen homunculus out of pastries. "How dare you interrupt my work," he says in a mock sneer. Aurora looks too intimidated to say anything, giving you a side glance before waiting patiently for Discord to leave.>>722251
You examine the frightened skull. It seems Discord has revived Purdue, but at the cost of either removing Mercutio or his knowledge. Or both.
Groaning, i set about trying to put the room back together, doing what i can to pull the items from the tornado and get the clothing back into the clothesrack.[ 1d10 = 9 ]
CleaningRoll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
My stomach drops. "Purdue? Do you- do you not remember? Is Mercutio still in there with you?"
''I'm glad to see you got better'' Aegis squints, scrutinizing the Diamond dog for a moment''I think''
''But this is more than bad, Norvegicus, Lysander will know our every move now, and he has been striking deals with the Oneiromancer. I saw it, the black mark that was on Hermodur's hand. He was bearing the same mark on his chest. Who knows what else he will do now that he knows where we are?''
"And we know zhey or a group likely paid by zhem were here earlier. It changez little, unlezz it haz heard ze converzation wizh Dizcord. Nonezhelezz, at ze next meal, made by Dizcord or not
, everyone on ze zhip zhould be made known of zheir exiztanze, and to routinely check ze zhip for zheir prezenze, bozh inzide and outer perimeter.">>722259>>722257
Zunden nods, "Mercutio iz likely gone, and wizh it pozzibly zheir knowledge. I do not know if zhiz iz becauze of having been 'killed' and revived, or if Dizcord haz kept ze magic for himzelf.">>722260>>722256
She nods, "I do not zhink it az dire az you zay, but yez, he knowz he cannot have ze Oneiromanzer keep tabz on uz, and haz created what I azzume to be homunculi made in ze zhape of ze cuckoo to watch over everyzhing he needz to keep tabz on. Zhey zhould be deztroyed on zight, zhould we zee one. Likewize, we zhould have zentriez watching out on ze top of ze zhip, zniping any zhat come in zight."
"Hrm… I wouldn't suppose this is an Equestrian take on a Gingerbread Pony, is it?"
''I always enjoyed practicing with far away targets. And we could have Carabas take that form he used to chase us and drive away any birds he sees''
Mercifully, it doesn't take too long to clean up Discord's mess. He doesn't seem to have taken anything, just barged through your room out of sheer curiosity. Even though the door was locked. >>722259"…Who are you? What did you do to me?!"
He drops out of your hands and to the floor in a panic.>>722262
"I hadn't thought of it that way, but sure!"
The pastry golem comes to life with an unnatural groan. "K… Kiiiiilll meeeee!…"
Discord frowns. "Shame. Ungrateful little swine." He taps it lightly, and it collapses into a pile of baked dough and mushy ingredients. Aurora looks both horrified and annoyed at him wasting her money.
I defensively throw my hands up. "It- it wasn't me! You've been like this for a long time. What's the last thing you remember?"
"E-Ehm… a bit more talkative than I expected."
"And much less thankful to be alive. Oh well. On to the vegetables!"
He finds a particularly large eggplant and takes a knife from the rack, starting to chop it into impossible shapes with the intent of makinge some sort of otherworldly moussaka. He is interrupted, however, by a strident voice that rings out from the utensil. "What in the WORLD are you doing?!" it thunders. [i]"You're ruining it! You animal! Moussaka! More like mouSUCK! Absolutely worthless piece of SHIT!"
A frying pan flies off the shelf of its own free will, narrowly missing both of you and leaving a dent in the wall. Discord looks thunderstruck, gingerly putting the knife away. "Guess not, then.">>722266"Th… the queen… she wanted me dead… I knew something… What did I know, what did I know… Everything's so blurry… What happened to me?"
Later that day, while having lunch, Zunden, Norv, Aurora and Aegis inform the rest of the party of what Aegis has seen: Lysander is close, and he is using cuckoos as spies. One seems to have slipped on board at some point.
Dawn looks fearful. "So he's watching us? Right now?"
"Potentially, yes," says Aurora grimly. "We don't really know how his spies work yet."
Violet looks very concerned. "And no one saw a thing. That's what worries me the most. You're meant to be able to see the whole ship with that necklace on, but nobody saw a bird fly in and out?"
Carabas seems more resolute. "I will fly alongside the ship from now on. If anything approaches, I will hunt it down. We can't have him tracking us again."
The next few days are hell. Discord continues to run rampant through the ship, leaving destruction in his wake. Where Mercutio seemed to only like to annoy people, Discord is more malicious, hiding clothing and other essentials, popping in on people when they are seeking privacy, or simply stalking you unseen and playing obnoxiously loud music to make you jump. Overall, he is a pest. He seems to delight in vexing Queen Kairon, often calling her out when she's trying to eavesdrop. It's unclear what exactly he wants from all of you, though he still seems interested in acquiring the crystal core of the ship for reasons known only to him.
After heading back over the mountains bordering the desert, you stop on a patch of land near an overgrown crossroads. You go to find Discord to tell him you're dropping him off, only to find him outside already, leaning against the crossroads sign, carrying a comically large bindle full of who knows what and sporting a swanky black suit. "Well, I can't say that wasn't a fun little trip," he grins. "So long, my little ponies. I'll be seeing you. If
you survive your travels."
During the trip, Aegis finally gave in to the heat and began strutting around the ship without clothing, excusing herself as 'not being used to the high temperatures'
She also doesnt head out to bid her farewell to Discord, prefering to remain in the ship far away from the draconequs
I wave. "It was- well, it was an experience. I'm sure we'll bump into each other again. Good luck with your thing." I wait a moment, trying to gather what I'm going to ask before finally asking it. "Is Mercutio going to be back? And is Purdue going to get his memories back? I don't care if you give them back their future sight. Actually I'm kind of glad you took it away, but I was hoping you could tell me they're going to be alright." I look away and rub the back of my neck. "Alright for being dead and trapped in a skull, anyway."
"Good luck out there, I guess. I'm sure you'll find more people to entertain you aside from us…" the stallion says, with a sigh. Hopefully he and Silver will be able to get some alone time now.
Having come close to pulling my shivs more than once, Discord's passing has finally given me a sense of relief. "Not to worry about us, i'm sure we'll see this though. Do try to keep things in one piece, i'd hate to put all this effort in just to have the dimension collapse in on us anyway."
Zunden does her due diligence and sorts all her belongings before Discord leaves, ensuring, even if out of place, everything still remains in her possession. She also makes sure to check the crystal as to make sure it wasn't tampered with before Discord leaves '1d10' [Antiquarian].
Nonetheless, she takes the jar of randomly flavored sticks and brings it up to the top deck, handing it to the draconequus as they leave.
"I believe order doez need chaoz to balanze it. Of ze all entitiez trapped here I've met, you are far from my leazt favorite. I will look out for objectz zhat I would
be fine wizh you draining of zheir chaotic magic, zhould we meet again."
She grins a little, "I am zure we'll zee ze rezult of plazez you've been
before we zee you zhough. Anywayz, I don't know if you actually have ze need to eat, but zheze remind me of you. I zhink we've yet to tazte a good one, but zhat iz juzt how ze world iz. Where iz ze fun in knowing what'z to happen next every day."Roll #1 6 = 6
Aurora looks a bit surprised seeing you out of your usual outfit, and perhaps a little uncomfortable. "If we run into some merchants, it might be good to get some proper desert clothes. We're going to be here for a long time, after all."
You notice Etrigan doesn't seem interested in bidding Discord farewell either. He is sitting in the dining hall, inspecting some sort of trinket you can't make out. Kairon wants nothing to do with him either, floating around idly, seething over one thing or another.>>722272
He purses his lips. "All I know is I know nothing," he says mysteriously, then opts to give you a more straightforward answer. "Really though, I have no clue what's going to happen there. I just did what I could with the little I had. At least something's back. Maybe you two can be better friends now!">>722274
"Oh, I'm counting on it." He gives you a big toothy smile.>>722275
"Well, in the cosmic sense, you're doomed to fail eventually. Food for thought. Have fun on your little sortie though. Wish I could be there!">>722276
It seems to be just fine. He doesn't seem to have touched anything, just messed things up and slightly traumatized your pet balaur.>>722276
"Oh, one of these! I love these!" He eagerly grabs it and takes a bite.[ 1d100 = 21 ]Roll #1 14 = 14
/ Roll #2 31 = 31
"Yech!" He spits it out. "Honey!"
"Right you are, reptile. It's good to be free. I've so missed toying with people. And knowing what you're all up to, things will get very, very
interesting around here.">>722276>>722275>>722274>>722272
Violet looks thoroughly harrowed from the past few days. "Don't take this the wrong way, but I really hope we don't run into each other again."
"Likewise," Carabas grumbles. He's missing a couple feathers here and there from Discord plucking them out in his sleep to make a set of quills.
"I feel like fate has plans for us meeting again," Dawn adds. "For better or worse."
"You're all too kind," says Discord with a cloying tone. "Oh, before I forget. Catch!" He pulls out some sort of orb from his pocket and lobs it at you.
'1d10' Carabas catching
'1d10' Violet catching
'1d10' Dawn catchingRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
/ Roll #3 7 = 7
Well. I guess he tried. Hopefully The Oracle will be alright. I give Discord a small smile. "Well , thanks again for giving them back. Basically. Maybe we can actually get to know each other a little better next time." I flinch as he tosses the orb and throw my hands up in front of my face on reflex.
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
"Yeah, I think I could do without this experience again." he says, before scrabbling a little as he chucks the orb.
'1d10' "W-Woah, I think I got it!"Roll #1 5 = 5
Aegis's interest is picked, and she silently approaches Etrigan, snooping over what he is doing
Zunden choose to sidestep, rather than catch.
'1d10'Roll #1 3 = 3
further from the orb than i'd like, i use my wings to push myself from the ground, leaping towards the lobbed sphere!>bounce
'1d10' catch!Roll #1 3 = 3
He is holding some sort of locket, looking at it wistfully. Inside is an old faded photograph of a doe. He puts it away promptly as you approach, looking rather defensive.>>722279>>722280>>722282>>722284
Even with Dawn and Carabas trying their best, there's too many cooks, and the orb shatters on the ground. It was made of clay, with green patterns on it. "Ah, shame. I hope it'd be sturdier than that. That's what I get for buying online I suppose. Until next time!" Discord snaps his fingers, and with that, he appears to vanish in a big puff of dramatic smoke; however, you catch a glimpse of him running off quickly to give the illusion of disappearing. Either way, it doesn't seem like you'll be seeing him again any time soon.>pausing
She looks at him for a moment, then bows her head ''Forgive me''
"I-" I pause, look him over, and gulp. Should I just rip the bandaid off now? "You were killed," I say. "And trapped inside that skull. I think for some reason with the jester Mercutio? You were turned into a tool. An oracle that knew everything and every possibility from every time. It drove you a little crazy, but it's gone now. I found you at a travelling caravan, bought you, and we became friends." I knit my brow. "The queen? Kairon? I thought you were killed because she wanted you to be-" I clear my throat. "Well, The Oracle."
"Back unto ze fray, I zuppoze. We will have to take Dizcord'z word on ze location of ze egg, but I do not zhink it particularly likely he had any reazon to lie, unlezz he had made a deal wizh ze previouz vizitorz."
She drums her fingers on the side of the deck, bringing the ship to start heading to the center of the desert, "I worry not only for what liez in ze zenter of the dezert, but Lyzander'z zcoutz and zhoze zhat may be influenzed by ze Oneiromanzer. Zhoze zhat truzt zheir dreamz more zhan anyzhing are dangerouz."
Rabi picks himself up off the deck with a somewhat annoyed whinny, before looking to the others "You, uh… You all don't suppose that breaking's a really bad thing, do you? Anyways, I guess we ought to keep moving, right?"
My stomach sinks as I see the orb shatter. I really hope that wasn't something useful. "Should we, uh, keep the pieces?"
landing with a sigh, i eye the pieces before making my way back into the ship.
"Wonderful.. Well, hopefully the egg will fare better when the time comes.."
'1d10'Roll #1 9 = 9
'1d10'Roll #1 2 = 2
"I can keep it in my curio caze, unlezz you have planz to repair it."
'1d10'Roll #1 9 = 9
'1d10'Roll #1 6 = 6
"I can take a look at it. Won't try anything if it just seems like I'll mess it up more, though."
Roll #1 7 = 7 / Roll #2 3 = 3 / Roll #3 2 = 2 / Roll #4 2 = 2 / Roll #5 7 = 7
'1d10' CarabasRoll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
'1d10'Roll #1 1 = 1
He nods solemnly and puts it away. In his dead black eyes, you sense deeply rooted pain and grief over his trials and tribulations.>>722418
Violet nods. "Not to mention we've lost even more time dropping Discord off. For all we know Lysander's already at the Hive by now…">>722421>>722432
Carabas gazes out at where Discord ran off. "It is probably nothing. He lives to vex mortals. If anything, we should put it out of our minds.">>722286>>722418>>722421>>722432>>722442
A few days of uneventful travel go by. You find that most of the relentless heat of the desert is avoidable by staying indoors. Etrigan especially seems to shun the raging sun, keeping to the shadows.
Violet and Dawn chat a little. From what you learn of the latter, she was a well regarded sorceress in the Dominion, but was betrayed by a jealous peer and framed for a spell gone awry.
Carabas and Aurora spar occasionally, the latter teaching her how to defend herself more effectively in combat. While his past is not yet clear, he seems to have a martial background.
Purdue, now separated from Mercutio, is extremely reclusive, shying away from any interactions in favor of spending time in solitude, contemplating his existence.
Kairon is more active, loudly asserting her opinions on Discord; from what she tells, she had to rally forces to keep him at bay many, many times during her reign. He is a timeless being, perhaps one of the most powerful in the Echoes, and revels in trickery. He will betray anyone, even if it inconveniences him to do so, if it means getting a cheap laugh. For now, he seems much less powerful than he was at his peak, and he will surely become a problem for the Echoes at large.
On one quiet night, all of you save for Zunden are plagued by horrific dreams, the type of nightmares that have you break out in a cold sweat and wake up with your hearts pounding in your chest. One by one, each of you awaken. From the looks of it, it is very early in the morning, and as befits a desert, it is extremely cold. You can hear the others starting to stir in their rooms as well. Norv sees Violet wake up next to him, having a haunting look in her eyes, while Silver notices that Rabi is still asleep, and seems to be having a nightmare. Zunden awakes for different reasons; while sleeping and controlling the ship, she was jolted awake by a strange foreboding feeling, like a shadow passing over everything.>>722455https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cADlT6ylv4YYou are the only survivor.
The ship is splinters.
Silver is dead. Zunden is dead. Aurora is dead.
You did nothing.
You could do nothing.
The world is on fire.
You are alone.
A hooded figure stands over you.
He holds a black orb.
Two mouths appear where the Oneiromancer's eyes should be.
He reaches towards you with many hands.
He whispers in your ear.The mummer's dragon.
You awaken with a jolt, your heart feeling like it's going to burst out of your chest. You're back in bed, next to Silver. For a moment, you're not sure whether this is a dream or not.
Tossing and turning fitfully in my sleep, dreams of abandonment and Rabi's death, of rancorous laughter and gnashing teeth, the very breath pulled from my body as a weight sought to crush the life from my form.
I awake in a sweat, falling out of bed screaming, wide eyed as i slowly try to recover my senses.[ 1d10 = 4 ]
I practically throw myself into Rabi, sobbing uncontrollably as i hold onto him.Roll #1 6 = 6
/ Roll #2 6 = 6
Aegis occasionally stops and watches in on Aurora and Carabas's sparring sessions during her breaks, silently scrutinizing both fighters with her cold, analytical gaze
Upon waking up, Aegis stared at the window of the Captain's room from the comfort of her blankets, thinking about the nightmares she's just experienced for a few minutes before she finally hopped off the bed, fixing her mane and getting dressed before heading off to the kitchen to whip up breakfast
"Eh, if you say so. If I had some sort of magic… broom, or salt circles, I'd use it."
Rabi spends most of the time on the trip with Silver, or offering to go over some of the magic he knows or found with Aegis. Aside from that, he'll occasionally check in on Etrigan>>722462
Rabi grits his teeth and thrashes in his sleep, trying to no avail to help his friends, or even just do anything at all. He awakens a few moments after Silver begins to jostle him and lets out a panicked shout, grasping on to her and gripping her tightly.
"C-C'mon, say something! Y-You're still there, right? S-Silver?" he asks, too terrified and hazy to even realize he'd woken up at all.
I slowly sit up and scoot a little closer to Violet. My whole body feels heavy, and I'm sure I'm wearing the same look as her. I swallow. "Bad dream?" I ask, hoping I'm wrong about the answer. "You don't think Discord did something to the enchantment, do you?"
I lock eyes with you and nod, still teary from the nightmare.
"I.. I'm here, Rabi. We're okay."
Zunden awakens and watches over the others as they stir, clearly suspecting the work of the Oneiromancer. Getting up with purpose, she clears some space on her table, immediately getting to work on creating charms for her allies.
>Creating a Severance charm like the one she made with Black Pudding[ 1d10+1 = 10 ]Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
/ Roll #2 6 + 1 = 7
"I… W-We are?" he asks, exhaling shakily before gently feeling her over. I-It… it was a dream, I guess. Did you, uh, have one too?" he asks, letting his tensed-up body relax a little.
For a good minute, you're not sure what's real and what isn't. It takes a while to come around and realize you're not in another nightmare.>>722468
It seems Aurora is picking up quite well. Though she's still a little clumsy with her new sword, she's getting much better overall. Carabas, from what you can tell, is an expert swordsman as it is.
There is no one in the kitchen as far as you can tell, yet you can't shake the slight uncomfortable feeling of being watched from afar. In the distance, you can hear Etrigan patrolling the ship.>roll Perception>>722469
While Etrigan is, unsurprisingly, not much for conversation, he seems to greatly value having someone that'll stick around him like you do.
The gripping fear of the dream slowly starts to ebb as you regain your grip on reality, though the words of the Oneiromancer still echo in the back of your mind. "The mummer's dragon".>>722471
She gives a slight nod, tearing up a little and suddenly throwing her arms around you. "I…. I don't know what's happening… It felt like there was something torturing
me in my head… I… I think it might be him…
" It takes her a minute to calm down, reassuring herself that she's not dreaming anymore before breaking away. "You felt it too, then… We… we should go check up on the others. I hope it's just us." She seems to doubt her own words.>>722474
You oversee the others. Aurora tosses and turns fitfully, almost falling out of bed as she awakes, while Carabas jolts awake with a cry and instinctively shoots his claw out, reaching for the greatsword next to his bed. Once he snaps out of it, he begins to comfort Dawn, who is curled up and crying quietly as she awakes. Etrigan seems to be stalking the ship, as if looking for something.
You don't waste time in getting to work, taking one of your many necklaces and engraving the rune of Severance on it, with the intent to ward off intrusion. As soon as you are done, you sense a magical energy coming from your new artifact. The rune invocation seems to have worked, and you now have a pendant that should keep the Oneiromancer at bay.
I nod, wiping tears from my eyes with a wing. "I did, yes.. A horrible nightmare, even now just trying to recall it all.." i trail off, shivering in fear as i lean into you for support. "I'm just glad we're okay."
Aegis picks up an apple from the basket and takes a bite out of it, idly looking over at the window on the kitchen as she chewed incredibly slowly, her mind sharp for any disturbance in the silence of the early morning
'1d10'Roll #1 2 = 2
My voice trembles as I speak, but I gently put my arm around her both to try to comfort her a little and to help ground myself. "If it was both us then I doubt it was just
us. It feels-" I gulp and turn away, swinging my legs over the side of the bed. "wrong. Yeah. Let's go check on everyone else."
Zunden grits her teeth and continues to work, summoning a Servitor to aid Etrigan in search of black marks or cuckoos.[ 1d10+1 = 4 ]
charm[ 1d10 = 2 ]
Servitor perceptionRoll #1 3 + 1 = 4
/ Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
/ Roll #4 6 = 6
Not knowing much of what to say, the stallion will talk about a little of anything- if it catches Etrigan's attention, he'll likely talk about it more.>>722483
"Yeah. I-I don't know if I remember everything, but… I lost everyone. You too. I-I've lost my family once already, and I'm not keen on repeating that here." he says, after a pause. "Think you'd mind hanging in bed a little longer? I think I just… I don't know, I need to be near you.">>722488>>722482
Some time later in the morning, Rabi approaches Zunden and Etrigan uneasily "Hey, uhm… I wasn't sure who to take this to. I had a dream involving the Oneiromancer, and he said something. I can't get the phrase out of my head, but… does 'Mummer's Dragon' mean anything to either of you?"
You think you hear a slight flutter of wings somewhere nearby on the ship, but it could just be your imagination.
Norv and Violet join you in the dining room, looking thoroughly shaken by something. The latter manages a weak smile of greeting.>>722486
She nods weakly and joins you in getting out of bed. You move to the kitchen, where you find Aegis already up and about.>>722490
You go to find Etrigan. As you speak, he motions for you to be silent. He seems to be looking for something. A Servitor, doubtless sent by Zunden, appears next to you. Etrigan ignores both of you as he keeps walking the corridor, heading towards the cargo hold in search of whatever he's trying to find.>>722488
As you send a Servitor, you keep an eye on everyone on board. Kairon and Purdue are nowhere to be seen, while Aurora is trying fruitlessly to get back to sleep. Dawn and Carabas are talking about something in hushed tone, while Violet is with Norv in the kitchen, where they have met up with Aegis. Silver and Rabi comfort each other before the latter goes to find Etrigan. The undead elk seems to have found something, ignoring both Rabi your Servitor as he chases something down throughout the ship.>>722490>>722488
He grabs it from up in a small, dark gap. A squirming grey and white bird, flapping furiously trying to get free of his grip. One of Lysander's eyes and ears. Etrigan stares at the struggling for a moment, then without further hesitation, wrings its neck with a single powerful motion. Etrigan turns to Rabi, dead bird in hoof, having a fearful look in his eyes. >>722490
The phrase mummer's dragon seems to resonate with Etrigan when you bring it up, but he would require something to write on to communicate what he's trying to convey. The bird he killed seems to worry him more, however.>roll Perception>>722488
The scene with Etrigan distracts you from your work, and you fail at first to make another necklace.
Smiling, i nod. "Of course, dear, i'll be here for you, for as long as you need."
Putting a wing around you, i lay my head against your side for a time, the ordeal behind us.>>722494
After some time, i slip on my under dress and follow Rabi out into the ship as he searches for the others.
Zunden keeps to work, the Servitor watching over the others as she's swept up in a protective fervor, creating etchings into her necklaces.[ 1d10+1 = 11 ]
Severance[ 1d10 = 4 ]
Servitor percepRoll #1 1 + 1 = 2
/ Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10
/ Roll #3 1 = 1
/ Roll #4 4 = 4
"Another one of those? I guess they can come as they please… I'll help you look."
"If we can't find anything, you can write on my cloak."Roll #1 4 = 4
I nod a greeting at Aegis, but don't make eye contact. After a moment, I glance up at her. "So, sleep alright?"
Aegis replies with a simple nod, filling a bowl with some oatmeal
''What are the plans for today'' She speaks up>>722503
''No, I didnt''
"Thank you, Silver. I don't know what I'd do without you." he says, with a nervous chuckle.
That's not good news. I fold my arms in front of me and lean on the table. "Yeah," I say. "Me neither."
You find Rabi and Etrigan in the cargo hold, the latter holding a dead grey and white bird in his hoof. You remember Aegis and Zunden having warned the rest of the party about these birds; they are spies sent by Lysander to track you. Both of them seem to be searching the ship, alongside one of the Servitors.>>722499
You keep working, crafting two more functional Severance necklaces for the group. The Servitor patrols the ship, looking for additional cuckoos. >>722502
After a quick search, you find a piece of chalk and some parchment. Etrigan draws a surprisingly good sketch, depicting a cloth dragon supported on tent poles, waving above a cheering crowd.
Silver joins you both as you begin to search for more cuckoos.>>722497>>722502>>722499
To your dismay, you spot a total of eight more cuckoos as you scour the ship. If neither Silver or Rabi wish to do the dirty work, Etrigan or the Servitor will kill them themselves.>>722510
Violet shrugs. "We keep moving, I suppose." Her voice sounds a little hoarse.
"Neither," she says as you answer Norv. "I feel… I feel like something might've happened. With the dream walker. He's not meant to be able to plague us anymore. But he is."
Finding Rabi with the mysterious Etrigan, i glare at the cuckoos as i recall Zunden's warning.
"This is ridiculous, all the effort to place the runes and still
we're not free from that wretched mage! I suppose these horrid birds are the nightmare's source as well, yes?"
In a huff, i join in the hunt, scouring the ship with the pair for more birds.
"Had i brought my shivs i would fillet them for Zunden, such is my disgust, but i suppose hunting them for you to dispose of will suffice, Etrigan!"[ 1d10 = 1 ]
Bird hunting!Roll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
Rabi will at least try to snap the necks of a few of them, seeing as they find so many.>'1d10' if you need another roll
"If I knew more about magic, maybe I could do something about this. They can't just be flying on, can they?"Roll #1 10 = 10
Zunden continues her fervent runecrafting, putting her all into two more charms, quickly growing weary of the enchantment work.[ 1d10+1 = 2 ]
Severance[ 1d10 = 9 ]
Servitor PerceptionRoll #1 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10
/ Roll #3 4 = 4
/ Roll #4 4 = 4
I nod. "Yeah. Maybe Z will know something about it, but-" I let my sentence trail off. Something tells me she won't, and I'm terrified we might have to deal with it again. Or force ourselves to stay awake.
''Nightmares of the eldritch variety I assume?'' She raises a brow at the dog>>722514
''Maybe the presence of its flock is allowing it to sow the chaos in our minds, otherwise I cant think of any explanation as to why it would suddenly be able to invade our dreams. At least its interference seems to be limited to our sleep, or so I hope''
Together, you patrol the whole ship, searching in every nook and cranny for the birds. It seems that they numbered 9 in total. After you deal with them, Etrigan takes the corpses outside and throws them into the dunes below, where they are promptly swallowed by the living desert.>>722521
In your haste, you slip and crack one of the necklaces, rendering it useless for rune-crafting.>>722526>>722527
"Miss Aegis may be right," says Dawn. She and Carabas have entered the room quietly, looking as haggard as the rest of you. "He may not be able to enter our minds directly due to the seal placed, so he has sent spies to act as his representatives. If you see any of the birds, kill them on sight."
Violet blinks, taken a little aback by their sudden appearance. "Uh. Will do. Good to know. Hi."
"Hello. …Tell me," Dawn asks, "does the phrase 'mummer's dragon' mean anything to you? We both heard it in our nightmares, but as little more than a whisper on the wind. It is very odd."
I nod. "Yep. That about sums it up.">>722533
"Will do." I shake my head. "No, that doesn't ring a bell. Think it has something to do with that gang?"
Zunden hisses, holding out a claw and channeling her determination to finish her project into the last two necklaces, carving the symbols with her own claws into the necklaces.
"Think there's a way we could sweep for them? Magic, maybe?" he asks, before humming a little bit "Oh… and, did you know much about what I said earlier?"
"So… was this 'Mummer Dragon' some part of a festival, then? Is it here, or back in the other world?"
with the ship cleaned of birds, i breath a sigh of relief.
"With that settled, i wonder how the others are faring? Plagued by nightmares as well, no doubt.. So close to recovering the egg, i can't help but wonder if nights like this will continue."
''No, I dont believe I recall hearing it before''
"They share the same word, but I doubt they are related," Carabas chimes in. "A mummer's dragon is a cloth contraption used by performers," he explains, "in parades and such. A mummer is an actor, you see. It's a fake dragon made of cloth and sticks. The question is, why would the Oneiromancer be telling us about a false dragon?" You're not sure whether it's a rhetorical or genuine question.>>722537
Filled with otherworldly determination, you doggedly carve into the necklaces with all the strength you can muster, etching out the four pointed eye symbol on the remaining two necklaces. When you are done, you have a collection of five similar necklaces, all protected from the Oneiromancer by way of Severance.>>722540
He nods at your first question, and points towards the sky for the second. He looks as confused as you are, really.>>722544>>722539
Etrigan nods towards the ship interior as Silver brings up the others. Taking the hint, you go back into the main dining room, where you find Aegis, Norv, Violet, Carabas, and Dawn gathered, discussing the previous night's events. It seems the latter two have heard about the mummer's dragon as well.
''No doubt something to try and confuse us. If it is against us, it would have no reason to do anything but torment and confuse the group the best it can, not that different from Discord, but at least his intents were simply for his own amusement. Who knows what the Oneiromancer seeks to gain from destroying both our realities'' Aegis stands up and carries her bowl to the sink
''I would dismiss these words if I were you, or at least try to not worry about them. The Oneiromancer is not trying to give us a friendly hint here''
"He mentioned the same thing to me last night- I can't say I'm sure why, though. Maybe he's talking about Lysander?" the stallion suggests, with a shrug.
Roll #1 9 = 9
He keeps looking around, trying to make sense of his surroundings. "Who's Mercutio? I… I don't understand… I was in my private quarters, and… now I'm here here…"
He looks down, looking dismayed at being reduced to just a head. "Stranger. I… I do not know who you are, but I beg you, please help me. If nothing else, I will need a better body than… th-this. A-and I can help! I'm something of an oracle, it is true. Perhaps not omniscient, if I am to be frank, but I can read stars. Constellations. Patterns in the spheres, pertaining to things to come. And I am well connected, if I may say so myself. As Queen Kairon's personal court mage, I do have friends in high places. I could make you quite wealthy. …Queen Kairon… If… if you are not mistaken, I wonder why she would have wanted me dead. I did everything to serve her…" "…It seems… It seems the details of the truth are vague here,"
he muses, more to himself. "You say one thing, but that contradicts everything I know… I have no reason to doubt your word thus far, stranger. One of us must be mistaken.""In any case. I'm sure I can be of service to you in some form. You do your part, and… and I'll do mine. What do you say?"
I smile, walk over to him as calmly and unthreateningly as I can manage, and sit down in front of him. "Like I said," I say, resting my arms across my thighs. "We're pals. I was already lookin' for a way to help you anyway, and you might not remember, but you already done a hell of a lot to help me out. You don't know everything, and can't remember knowing everything, so that's a good first step. It, uh…" I rub the back of my neck. "It drove you a little batty, y'know? You said it was more of a curse than a gift. Anyway, I'd appreciate all the help you're willing to give, but I ain't gonna hold it over you-" I pause, look the skull up and down, and clear my throat. "Over your head. Your grace-" I pause again. "Uh… her grace? I think that's how you'd say it. She's here too, somewhere. Probably best to tell you that now before you run into her yourself."
"Also you can call me Norv," I add, just realizing I need to introduce myself.
I sheepishly glance down at my hands. "Oh. Didn't, uh… didn't know that. So, what, it's sayin' something about something that either looks like a dragon but ain't, or claims to be a true dragon but ain't. Seems like a lot of room for interpretation." I squeeze my eyes shut scratch the top of my head in annoyance. "Y'know, I kinda like things like balur, bandits, and brigands more than this guy. At least they make sense and you know what their goal is."
Zunden rests her head against the table, feeling tired despite having just woke up. She has the Servitor start work on breakfast, a quick fruit medley for the party.
my fury sated by removing the birds, i join the others in the dining room looking haggard.
"Hmm.. Given nearly everypony is here, i suspect you all had much a similar night? Etrigan, Rabi and i have rid the ship of a veritable coop of cuckoos, no doubt what brought such a horrid spell upon us."
Carabas nods. "Believe me, we're all as confused as you are. The only thing that comes to mind is Lysander himself. But why would the Oneiromancer, his master, refer to him as such? It's all beyond me, quite frankly.">>722832
You sit and almost nod off as the Servitor prepares breakfast, serving it dutifully. It consists of a surprisingly well made fruit salad, along with a few bread rolls with sandwich options for those so inclined. "Oh. Thank you, Zunden!" Carabas says cheerfully, his spirits improved by the sight of food. He helps serve Dawn a small serving of fruit salad before helping himself to a ham and cheese roll. Violet heads off to go make coffee for those so inclined. Aurora is still in her room.>>722833
Carabas nods between bites of his bread roll. "The dream walker is back, it seems. Though we don't know what he wants. I'm assuming Lysander sent those feathered spies. We shouldn't linger. He is most likely ahead of us, after all."
>timeskip when everyone is ready
''Perhaps the Oneiromancer has some kind of plan not even Lysander knows'' Aegis speaks up as she makes herself as she butters up some bread ''Lysander probably doesnt know he must be merely a puppet for the Dream Walker''
Zunden watches over Aurora and delivers has the Servitor deliver fruit and a necklace to Aurora, concerned for her wellbeing most at the moment.
I sigh. "Yeah. Punching the cuckoos clocks is all we can really do right now. Can't wait for a day where I can just sit down, relax, and not have to worry about being spied on by someone with ties to some apocalyptic, cosmic otherworldly entity."
Taking a seat, i put together a serving of salad with the others, grateful for something to settle the stomach.>>722835
"Curious indeed.. It's all come to a head now, we'll need to put everything we have into making sure neither of them retrieve the egg."
"I guess he doesn't think very highly of him? I don't really know what else to suggest." the stallion offers, before settling in next to Silver in the dining room. He'll happily have some salad and bread; eating might take the edge off.
Ready if we need to timeskip!
"I'd like to think we know everything he's planning," Dawn muses as she fumbles with her bowl, "but we can't, really. That's what has me worried. What if we don't have the full picture? What if we're wrong about something, and this whole expedition was built on bad assumptions?" The thought lingers uncomfortably for a while.>>722836
The door to her room is open, but Aurora seems to have curled up and fallen asleep again, clutching her blankets tightly. >>722837
Dawn nods. There is a brief silence, then Carabas laughs slightly. "Haha! Clocking the cuckoos. How apt.">>722838
Etrigan nods. "I have to wonder, though," says Carabas, "what comes next? After we retrieve the Egg and hide it away somewhere. We had planned on going our own way after that, but what will you all do? Do you have a plan in mind?">>722839
"Perhaps," says Dawn. "Or perhaps something happened between them."
Six uneventful days go by as your ship soars above the Shifting Sands. The sun seems to threaten to boil you alive, and the pervasive sand storms (or sand swarms, as Aurora has taken to calling them) make it difficult to stay above deck for too long. You take to closing all the windows and doors, preventing any dust or insects from entering. On the occasions that you do withstand the blistering heat to get a view of the desert, you are greeted to a dead, scarlet landscape. There is nary a living soul in sight, save for the occasional dead shrub or bones picked clean, and the landscape varies shockingly little. With the compass being sabotaged, you have to rely on cartography and your sense of direction to navigate towards the Hive. Violet helps here more than most, being experienced in surviving in the wild. As you fly closer and closer, the ubiquitous drone of the Shifting Sands grows subtly louder, always just loud enough to not be able to be ignored.
After the Hive you have been heading towards is more in sight. You can see that it is a spire that seems to tower up to skewer the clouds above, composed of some unknown material. It seems to glitter in the heat of the desert. The Hive slopes out from the bottom of a rocky red crater, too steep to be able to go down normally. The constant droning sound of the Sands is almost deafening; you can barely hear yourselves think over the skull rattling buzz that emanates from the structure. You have to crane your necks to take in the full scope of it; it is the size of a mountain unto itself, dominating the landscape. Just looking at the structure fills you with a vague sense of dread.
"It's even worse up close," Violet comments as you all gather on the deck, wrinkling her snout slightly as she takes in the view.
Aurora looks intimidated, but also curious. "I wonder where these bugs came from. How long this place has been standing. It's like… like it's been sitting here for a million years, just waiting for us."
"Being blind has its mercies, I gather," Dawn says with a wry smile. "It sounds dreadful."
Kairon emanates from a crack in the floorboard, curious to see what has everyone abuzz. "What a curious construct. In all my years I cannot say I've ever seen anything like it before."
Carabas looks very troubled. "How in the world are we meant to search that
? It could be anywhere!" Etrigan seems to share his sentiments, backing up slightly at the sight of it.
I pant through the heat and squint through the sun as I look the structure over. "Starting to feel underprepared," I say. "Like we shoulda gotten some of those, like, bee keeper suits."
"I juzt worry where to land - ze zandz will zurely zwallow ze zhip while we zearch ze zpire. I'd prefer to have it in ze air ze whole time if pozzible."
''Then we will adapt once we figure the truth, lest this land be swallowed whole by the Cucoo, as it no doubt did to so many others''>>722841
Over the following days, Aegis covered most of her own room in layers of ice, enchancing it magically with the frigor spell she was taught. She also did the same for some of the other rooms of the ship, but avoided overdoing it to not exhaust herself and also to avoid weighing the ship down as she tried to provide everyone some relief from the heat the best she could
Upon the arrival at the Hive, Aegis appears silently among the party, having just returned from refreshing the frigor spell on some part of the ship
''The safest way I can think would be to have Rabi astral project his way there, but that would take time we dont have'' Aegis shakes her head ''How was the egg even hidden here to begin with?''
"Mm.. An excellent question. I had assumed a vacation would be in order, but beyond that i'm not quite sure. I'll have to consult with Rabi about his and my future, whatever that may be, once this egg business is concluded.">>722841
shielding my eyes from the sun with a wing, i crane my neck to take in the whole structure, in awe of it's size.
"My word, the size of it all, and the noise
! We'll likely go deaf unless we find some ear protection!"
"Sounds like the bugs like to collect things. Pretty sure it got "collected"."
"Hmm.. while entomology isn't my forte, i'd assume the swarm must have some sort of room further in for food items and the like. Perhaps they mistook it for some morsel of food?"
"Worth trying to look into, maybe? We'll have to see what Lysander's like when we see him again, I guess.">>722841
"Jeez… I didn't have any idea what to expect, but this is just ridiculous, to be honest." the stallion says, folding his ears back from the constant noise and trying to think of what to suggest.
"Maybe… maybe they put it with their eggs, if they have any? That, or wherever they might put food, or anything special. I could try scouting it out a little, but I don't know if it'd be any faster."
Rabi flicks his ears back up and looks over to Silver, before offering a somewhat-excited whinny. "Yeah. I like the sound of talking it over."
''Hmm…'' Aegis spares Norv and Silver a glance before looking back down at the hive ''This is a bit of a strech but what if we tried to disguise ourselves as something 'collecteable' then? In theory the bugs would take us directly to the egg''
I stop panting, slowly turn my head toward her, and stare. "If you'd seen what these things can do then you'd know how bad of an idea that is. We'd be stripped to the bone in minutes." He looks back up at the hive and his ears fold back. "These things are like carpet beetles, but way, way worse."
Carabas gives you an odd look. "Bee keeper? You think whatever made this works like bees do?" He doesn't seem to be mocking you, instead genuinely entertaining the thought.>>722843
"Maybe we could tether the ship further down," Violet suggests. "Like an anchor. Then we could shimmy down a rope or something to go explore.">>722844
Your efforts to cool down the ship don't go unnoticed. Etrigan especially seems to shun the heat, as an undead, and bows deeply in gratitude for your efforts. The others too are grateful for the temperature on the ship being drastically lowered by your spells.
"The sands are alive," Violet explains, "and they covet treasures. When we opened the vault where the Egg was, they must have swept in and claimed it, and brought it back here. At least, that's what Discord said.">>722845
"Any sort of protection, really," Aurora chimes in. "I doubt those things will take kindly to us wandering around their hive.">>722848
Carabas shakes his head. "No time for scouting, I feel. We should stick together from hereon out. Besides. With the Oneiromancer on the prowl, entering the Astral Plane might not be the best idea."
"I mean not exactly, but if the material wasn't organic it could maybe help keep the swarm out. Swarming the suit instead of your squishy bits."
''I have not, in fact, seen what those things are capable of'' Aegis nods ''My apologies, I didnt think of a plan coming into here, because I assumed you all would have already have a plan to retrieve the egg from the hive''>>722852
''Hm. Do you think perhaps there could be a way to communicate with them? I suppose this is nothing but a nice thought, but if we could convince them to trade the eggs for another thing they could covet more, this would be much easier''
Zunden raises a hand, "I might be able to help wizh warding ze Oneiromanzer," Zunden says, holding up four necklaces of hers with runes carved into them, "I zpent ze morning of ze dreamweaver'z return working on creating charmz to ward off zheir prezenze, perhapz you could project while wearing ze Zeveranze charm."
"Ah, that could work! Rabi could search for an efficient way in, we race to the egg and flee before the hive can muster a defense!"
"You know, that's probably a good idea- I don't know how much I like the idea of Projecting while he's lurking without something like that… thank you, Zunden. You're a lifesaver."
He looks to Silver and nods. "Unless they can attack spirits, I should be pretty safe."
''This will not be enough for all of us to use at once'' Aegis states ''We should plan accordingly to see who wears them for this operation. Remember that I too can give Rabi's Astral projection an attempt'' She glances away ''If you give me a minute to prepare. So take that into account''
"Oh, thank the sisters. I wasn't gonna say anything but I was terrified I'd have to deal with nightmares until we got the ship's ward thingy fixed back up."
I take the necklace and immediately slip it around my neck with the anti lightning charm thing. >>722854
"Yeah, sorry, I just-" I swallow. "I'm a little on edge right now, y'know? Things like these bugs really get to me. Especially swarms and infestations. I don't have any fatal poisons or insecticides right now but do effectively have a flamethrower, so I'm sure that'll help. I'll fill most of my cans with oil. Past that, though-" I shrug.
''Remember to breathe, mister norvegicus'' Aegis replies, deadpan ''We're just the last hope of saving existence from complete oblivion, so remain calm''
He nods. "If only we had more than one suit of armor to go around. …Though, you might be on to something. If nothing else, it might be a good idea to see what effect smoke has on them. If they are like bees, it might calm them. It's a stretch, admittedly. Not a good plan at all. But it's better than no plan.">>722854
"We didn't have much of a plan," Violet chimes in, looking sheepish. "Mostly because we didn't really know what we were walking into."
"They don't seem too intelligent," says Aurora, rubbing her chin, "but we could try replacing the Egg with something of about the same size and shape, maybe. If we do it quick enough, they might not even notice.">>722855>>722856>>722857
"Wonderful!" says Carabas cheerily as Zunden brings up the necklaces. "Just what we'll need to prevent any more psychic incursions!""Ahem."
Kairon speaks up, having sat by quietly until now. "I might be able to assist in this matter. I am intangible, so whatever these creatures may try, it will not affect me. Perhaps I could go forth and explore myself. It is for a good cause, after all."
''Do we even have anything of said shape to replace the egg?'' Aegis questions Aurora
''Yes, that would be helpful'' She turns to Kairon ''In this case the three of us could scout the give at once''
"Yes, i'm afraid i'm also out of my element here. Shivs and daggers aren't meant to fight clouds of insects, and even at my most careful a thousand eyes could easily spot me in the dark."
i hold my head in my hoof, sighing. "Quite the conundrum, isn't it?"
"Ideally, we would wizh not to fight ze zwarm at all - get in and out wizhout drawing ire of ze whole dezert."
She looks to Kairon, "You do wizh to explore a hive of zuch creaturez?"
"Oh? You'd be willing to help us? That would be lovely!"
"The more eyes we have within the mound, the more likely we are to find what we're looking for."
"Actually yeah. Could try smoke. They're swarm insects, so they might communicate with pheromones. That's why smoke works like it does in bees. It kills their sense of smell." I sigh. "But yeah. Some kind of armor would be nice right now."
I glance over at Kairon and study her for a moment. I open my mouth, close it to think a little more, and open it again. I bite my lower lip and nod. "Yeah. I think we should give it a shot." >>722861
I do continue to breathe. Really, really hard. "Yeah," I say. "No pressure. It isn't like I haven't done basically this for years now." I let out a slightly manic chuckle.
''Just try to think of this as any other daily service, and by the end of the day you'll be enjoying a nice…'' She pauses, scrutinizing the dog for a moment ''Bowl of strawberry chocolate ice cream''
She taps her chin. "We've got a skull. Two of them, actually. We could always fill a bag with unneeded things as well.">>722865"No. But I happen to value our reality. So I'll do what I must.">>722867
Seeing you start to fret, Violet puts a hoof on your shoulder reassuringly, looking you in the eyes. She looks as nervous as you, but suppresses it and forces a smile. "Hey. It's alright. We won't be here long. Quick in and out. Easy grab. Okay?">>722863>>722866>>722866>>722867"Then it's decided,"
she says curtly. "I will return shortly. Don't wait for me."
With that, Kairon floats over the edge and spirals down towards the crater, soon disappearing from sight as she blends into the rocks.
"O-Oh, wait- do you want me to come along too, or should I leave you to it?"
"If you're willing, i'd imagine you could split up and explore a different segment of the tunnels within, correct?"
She taps her chin. "We've got a skull. Two of them, actually. We could always fill a bag with unneeded things as well.">>722865"No. But I happen to value our reality. So I'll do what I must.">>722867
Carabas nods. "I'll go make some torches," he says, and proceeds to go do just that.
Seeing you start to fret, Violet puts a hoof on your shoulder reassuringly, looking you in the eyes. She looks as nervous as you, but suppresses it and forces a smile. "Hey. It's alright. We won't be here long. Quick in and out. Easy grab. Okay?">>722872"No need. I am not on the Astral Plane like you will be.">>722863>>722866>>722866>>722867>>722872"Then it's decided,"
she says curtly. "I will return shortly. Don't wait for me. I'll find you."
With that, Kairon floats over the edge and spirals gracefully down towards the crater, soon disappearing from sight as she blends into the rocks. Etrigan and Aurora watch her descend and vanish, the latter looking a bit concerned, but she doesn't voice what's on her mind.
Carabas returns with about a dozen torches in a bundle. "I suppose one of us will have to volunteer to test if the smoke will calm them," he muses. "Unless any of you are desperate to try it," he adds with a bit of a smile, "I will go."
Dawn bites her lip. "You don't know what we're up against. What if it doesn't work? You'll be dead where you stand!"
"I'm the only one with armor. And I can fly down. Considering what's at stake, I have to test this." He looks to the rest of the group. "I don't suppose any of you will want to come with me."
''No, but I will leave you with this'' Aegis produces a staff and waves it, easily casting a spell on Carabas>Dream wine staff, taking 6
''I trust you to not fail'' She glares at the groof, emotionless
I smile back at Violet and do what I can to regulate my breathing. I pause as Carabas volunteers himself. Can anyone else actually do anything against a swarm of tiny insects? It seems like everyone else is better equipped to fight bigger things. Maybe Aegis, but even then I've only seen her shoot ice as balls, and that wouldn't help much. I look over at Vi, knit my brow, look back to Carabas and step forward. "I'll g-" I croak. I clear my throat and try to still my trembling legs. "I'll go. If the smoke doesn't work you'll need someone who can clear a bunch of bugs at once. Not really anyone here but me who fits that bill."
"Ah… hm. I suppose I'll just hang back, then." the stallion says, frowning a little bit. He shrugs a little and sits down to wait, before flicking his ears up and looking to Carabas.
"At least take some help, maybe? I'd be worried about anyone going down there alone.">>722877
"Are you sure, Norv? I trust you, but I'd still be worried for anyone going there on their own. Maybe… hmm. Maybe We could like… throw it in there? Tie it to an arrow and shoot it?"
I hesitate for a moment, but finally nod. "Yeah," I say. "Just tossing the torch isn't gonna do much. We can't get close enough to see how it affects them, they can just avoid it, and the torch could go out. And I ain't gonna let him go down alone when I'm pretty much perfect for the job, y'know?"
"Alright, but be careful. I'd hate to lose anyone this far in, you know?" he suggests, before humming a little…>>722874
"You know what, sure. It can't hurt to have two people looking. I'll be back soon, yeah?" he says, before settling down.>Astral Projection
"Excellent. Do be safe, dear, i'll keep watch while you away!"
with Rabi slumping over, i take a seat nearby while the others pick through their options.
He straightens up a little as magical energy courses through him, closing his eyes and nodding in thanks. "I won't," he reassures you. "I've come too far to get killed by a bunch of bugs.">>722877
He does a double take. "I… Well, thank you. I'll take all the help I can get. Hopefully we won't be gone long."
Violet has about the same reaction as Dawn, but trusts your judgment. "Please," she says, her voice trembling a little as she looks you in the eye. "Please.
Be careful down there. Come straight back, and don't go too far in." She goes in for another hug, kissing you on the neck. "Be safe," she repeats forcefully, and almost has to force herself to pull away.>>722879
"We won't be able to see the results if we just throw it down," Carabas explains. "We have to see for ourselves. If this works, we'll have a way to navigate the Hive.">>722883
You take a seat and shift into your astral form, copying Kairon in descending to the bottom of the crater.
You drift over the red stony slope, towards the base of the Hive, getting a closer view of it. The glossy surface you saw from afar is not a mirage; the red stone is covered in a thick glaze, making it look like stained glass. Here and there, you can see fragments of the Hive's spoils. All manner of trinkets and baubles are trapped within the Hive's exterior; coins, jewels, artifacts, weapons, even bones all make up an enormous, mountain-sized collection to rival that of even the mightiest dragon. Impossibly small holes litter the surface of it all, and the droning sound echoes ear-splittingly from within. Here and there, on the floor of the crater at the base of the hive, are larger holes, patterned irregularly, but each a perfect circle. >>722876>>722877>>722879>>722883>>722884>>722865
"I'll go as well." Aurora throws her hat in the ring. "If you get hurt, you'll need someone to fix you up." She gives Aegis and Zunden a long, meaningful look. She seems to regret having volunteered already, but it's too late now.
Dawn looks unsure, but accepts Carabas' decision. The two embrace for a long time. "Don't worry," Carabas says gently. "We won't be long." Him and Etrigan look at each other, and the latter gives him a small nod.
Carabas dons his frogmouth helmet and peers over the edge. Aurora perches on the railing, ready to descend, looking back with trepidation. "Ready when you are." Carabas stretches his hand out to Norv. "Try not to throw up, friend." The others watch nervously as the trio prepare to head down.
>Aegis, Silver and Zunden roll Perception
Ears folding back in an attempt to muffle the noise, i peer out past the railing from my seat, watching the descent and the area around it.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
"Do not ztray long, for i will worry too much for your zafety." Zunden says, looking to the others.
[1d10] percepRoll #1 3 = 3
Aegis Watches as the trio descents before turning back to the Saurian>>722865
Seems we will have to wait for a bit. Zunden, could you help me with something in the meanwhile?''
'1d10' perceptionRoll #1 2 = 2
I close my eyes and nuzzle into her neck. "We'll be right back," I assure her. It's just as hard for me to pull away as her. I feel like it isn't often I put myself right at the front of something so dangerous, but there isn't any other choice. I smile at Aurora. "Thank you," I say. "Just stay close and watch yourself."
I finally break away and step up to the edge of the boat. I'm already starting to have regrets as I brace myself to descend. Brifely, I glance back at Carabas and knit my brow. "Why would I puke?
Zunden raises a brow expectantly, "Hmmm?"
''Could you look into an artifact for me? I had bought it during the Swap Meet and forgot about it on my shelf until yesterday. It's a curious item and I have a feeling it might be cursed, but I wanted to be certain, and this is one of the few times you are not either sleeping or piloting the ship, so I thought it might be a good time''
[2d10] Perception: Etrigan, Violet
Roll #1 10, 3 = 13
Rabi looks over the glazed exterior of the hive, and frowns a tad as he sees most of the prizes are trapped within it. He tries to look around the exterior, seeing if he can spot the egg they're looking for… if not here, then maybe it's stored with the eggs?
Carabas grabs Norv, and carries him downwards, the three descending the crater slowly.
After the group have gone, Silver and Etrigan seem to notice the same thing, and the latter alerts the rest of the group. There is a ship slowly flying in circles around the Hive, sticking closer to the ground, orbiting the spire like a shark. It is strikingly familiar; a small airship, the balloon painted black.
"Clawson," Violet hisses.
"A friend of yours?" Dawn asks.
"Not really. This is bad. Really bad. Lysander brought that skink all the way out here. God dammit. What do we do?" She looks to the rest of you with slight desperation.>>722890
"I take it you've never flown before. Brace yourself." He grabs you in one swift motion and holds you tightly as he jumps off the edge of the ship. Your stomach jumps into your throat as Carabas takes flight, holding you like an eagle holds a mouse as he flies down towards the crater. The world spins around you, and you feel like vomiting.
Before long, he drops you off gently on the bottom of the crater before landing next to you. Your legs almost give way on landing. Aurora soundlessly lands next to you. "You alright?" she asks with a suppressed smile. "Lemme see if I can help."
See Rabi's reply in >>722886
for a description of the base of the Hive.
Carabas wastes no time in giving everyone an unlit torch before exploring the area, peering down one of the odd holes in the rock here and there. It's too dark for him to see anything, however.>>722894
The Hive is large enough that it would take a good hour to circle around the base on hoof, not to mention how tall it is. You see several artifacts that could be the egg, but it is too hard to be sure on surface inspection. It'll take a very long time to find it just by searching like this. In a nutshell, it's like looking for a needle in a haystack.Roll #1 1 + 2 = 3
I scream as we hurdle toward the ground, furiously clutching at Carabas's talons for dear life. My stomach flips around in my chest where my heart should be and my heart jumps into my throat. It's over in moments, but it feels like ages. When my legs finally touch the ground, they wobble and I collapse. An acidic burp passes through my nostrils as I hack a couple of times and throw up a little in my mouth. "How-" I gasp. "How do you guys do that all the time?"
''We repel him, same way we did before. Then lock him up again, or kill him, either one''
Aegis glares at his ship ''So long as he doesnt get the drop on us, he is outmatched, unless he brought friends with him this time''
Zunden nods, waiting for Aurora to produce an object then looking it over.
[1d10] antiquarian >>722896
"Perhapz practize your aim on ze balloon. It zeemz he needz it for lift, after all."Roll #1 8 = 8
The stallion frowns as he looks over the hive… this is going to be a lot harder than he'd expected. Trying to take note of the few that stuck out, he tries to get a closer look. Maybe he can work his way up the side, or take a look from the inside?>Perception, if I need it?[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Glaring at the ship, i spread my wings and lift off the deck.>bounce
"Wonderful.. Let me see just what
he's up to now."
"He's polite when he wants to be, perhaps i can convince him to leave us be while we work" i mention to the others, before flying towards his vessel.
"I shall return forthwith, do keep an eye on Rabi while i'm gone."
After a brief trip back to her room, Aegis produces the tiny Iron maiden ''What do you make of it?''
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 9 = 9
"Hm?" Carabas looks over. "Oh, well, we're used to it, aren't we. I didn't imagine it would be that hard on you. Sorry."
Aurora turns her attention to the surface of the Hive itself. "That's something you don't see every day. Take a look." She points out the thousands and thousands of treasures trapped within the Hive's walls. "Gods below," Carabas curses. "This really is going to take forever. If only the compass still worked, we could just follow it to the Egg." >roll Perception>>722898
"I don't think he'd be stupid enough to come alone after last time," says Violet. "Let's just hope he hasn't spotted us yet.">>722899
"That's more Rabi's thing, isn't it," Violet shrugs. "I've never been good with a bow and arrow myself. I think it's better to try and stay out of his way."
Aegis presents you with what looks like an iron maiden, about 12 inches tall. You sense a powerful dark energy coming from it, enough to inflict great pain on someone if exposed to it. Just holding it gives you a vague feeling of dread.
>Maiden of Woe
>A sinister dark artifact of unknown origin. When blood is drawn by the spikes inside this maiden, the victim whose blood was used will be wracked with unbearable agony once the maiden is closed. This lasts until the maiden is opened again, and can outright kill someone if left under the maiden's curse for too long. The maiden seems to draw great strength from every victim it is exposed to.>>722900
As you keep looking, you see several black shapes that could be the Egg, but again, there's no way to be sure."Find what you're looking for?"
Turning around, you find yourself narrowly dodging a fierce claw swing. You are being attacked by a second astral projection, this time of a ferocious brown felid with a white cloak and a black face. You've never seen her before, but her intent is clear.
The felid leaps at you with fangs and claws bared.
You get closer to his airship, taking note of the name emblazoned on it: the Clementine
. As far as you can tell, no one is on board; then, you overhear snippets of conversation coming from below deck. There are at least four others on board, two of which you recognize. One is Clawson. The other is Lysander himself. You don't get to hear much, only words here and there. "Egg…" "Scrying…"Roll #1 8, 3 = 11
Careful in my approach, i attempt to land on the deck without causing a disturbance, intent on listening in on the conversation!
[1d10] StealthRoll #1 10 = 10
the stallion says, turning around and stumbling back with a yelp to avoid the claw swipe. He rolls backwards a little further, before popping back to his hooves, drawing his copperhead rifle, and firing a point-blank shot.
>Surge Shot (Lightning) [1d10+2]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
"No, no, -urp
- I'll be fine." I weakly pull myself to my feet, take the torch in one hand, and pull out my sprayer nozzle with the other. Fumbling around a little, I light the charred rope on the end. It'll be a little harder to aim with one hand, but I'm sure I'll manage.
[1d10]perceptRoll #1 10 = 10
Zunden relays the nature of the artifact to Aegis, looking concerned, "I am glad you had not plazed your hoof in zuch an artifact. It zeemz quite cruel.">>722904
Zunden paces, waiting for her allies to return with information. Restless, she tries to prepare for whatever may come next by channeling her determination into summoning more Servitors to crew the ship.
>Chariot>Summon Servitors 
You land on the deck soundlessly, pressing your ear to the ground to hear what they're discussing.
"After the hell we've been through, I just think I deserve a little more is all." It's Clawson speaking.
"You'll get whatever you want when we're done here," Lysander replies, sounding bored. "If you want to strip this place down to its last stone, that's on you, bounty hunter."
"What, you don't even want any of this?" Clawson sounds surprised. "I thought your kind were all about jewels and gold."
"Ignorant worm," he replies bitingly. "Treasures are a means to an end now. I thought they would grant me the power I deserve, but money isn't true power. What good are riches if you have nothing to spend them on?"
Clawson doesn't answer. He seems confused.
"Besides. We're not just here for the Egg. I have a score to settle. As do you. My birds showed me they're coming. In fact they're probably here by now. Now all we have to do is wait."
"What of Morpheus?" A third voice joins the conversation, a low, icy female voice. "I don't think he'll take kindly to your betrayal."
"I don't need him anymore. I'm protected from his meddling by the rune. The Collective is broken. Let him find another pawn for his game."
"That is not wise. You know what he is capable of. You saw what happened to that Felid that crossed you."
"He will do nothing because he can do nothing," Lysander answers dismissively. "Hermodur did not know about Severance, now did he.">>722906
You hastily fire off a shot at the ghostly Felid attacking you, clipping her on the shoulder. She flinches, but grits her teeth and powers through it, lunging at you with claws bared, raking you across the face. You feel blood trickling down.>Rabi takes 3 hits
The Felid keeps swiping at you, falling back into a defensive stance.
Everyone stands back as you light a torch and point it down the hole. You see nothing but swirling red bugs coursing through the rock mindlessly, the blood pumping through the veins of the Shifting Sands, scrambling over each other in a frenzy to serve their hive.
Aurora cries out in disgust, and Carabas looks horrified, but steels himself for a moment and takes the torch from you, wafting it down the hole. The bugs seem to slow for a while, becoming sluggish and complacent. However, there are too many of them to be able to go down the hole. Even if they are not aggressive, one would easily suffocate on them.>>722908
You put all your focus into summoning Servitors.Through willpower, you manage to evoke a trio of the blue spirits before you, ready to serve.
You see Rabi's body twitch slightly, and deep cuts appear across his face, as if scratched by some invisible claw.
>pausingRoll #1 7 + 1 = 8
/ Roll #2 10 + 1 = 11
''Terribly so. I'll be sure to find some use for it eventually. Thank you Zunden''
>>722633>>722634"Queen Kairon? She's here? She must know the answers. I'll… I'll speak to her. See what can be gleaned.""…Purdue. But you already knew that. Ahem. Where.. where
are we right now, exactly, Sir Norv? Some sort of castle? And who is this "Mercutio" you mentioned? The name isn't familiar at all."
The Felid leaps at you before you can react, raking you across the face with her bared claws. You are wracked with pain, and you can taste blood. In retaliation, you shove her away with the butt of your rifle and shoot her point blank. Lightning wracks the Felid's body, and she falls over on her back, twitching.
"Right now we're on a ship. It, uh… it's a long story. We're not in The Dominion anymore, though. We're in a prison dimension called The Echoes." I pause. "Actually I guess you wouldn't call it The Dominion. Equestria? We're not in Equestria anymore. And Mercutio was the queen's jester if I remember right. A hunchback when he was alive I think I remember someone saying? Maybe it was Kairon. He was trapped in the skull with you." I fall silent and suddenly feel incredibly melancholic. "You, uh… you don't hear him in there with you, do you? He was a friend of mine too."
>>722914"That… that can't be right."
He looks confused. "I was a member of the Queen's court for almost a decade. She never had a jester… Someone must have their facts wrong here."
He looks more troubled at finding out he's in another world now. "Well that won't do. We… we have to return as soon as possible. My queen and I, we don't belong here, you see. Without us, the realm will fall into chaos. It would behove us to find the way back as soon as we can."
I sigh and plop completely down onto my backside. "Oh boy, I was not ready for this." I rub the back of my head. I'm really not qualified for this kind of thing. It's gotta be bad enough waking up to find yourself trapped in a skull, but also not in the same dimension or
century. "I, uh… I have some more bad news there. Kairon seems to want the same thing, and I'm doing what I can to help her out there, but- well, you and her were both exiled centuries ago. The Dominion isn't really
technically even a monarchy anymore." I knit my brow. "Wait, Kairon didn't have a jester? Then where did- she at least seemed to recognize him, I think. She's around here somewhere. I want to go ask her about it now. Just, uh, heads up. She's not ecactly as -ahem- corporeal
as she was last time you saw her. She's more of a-" I twirl my hand and look up. "Well, more of a billowing cloud of angry green smoke."
>>722916"Not a monarchy? Preposterous!"
he blusters."She was… altered? How What happened?"
He looks a bit overwhelmed. "I'm sorry, this… this is a bit much to take in all at once. Just… I'll need some time to think things through. If you wouldn't mind, would you leave me to do so for a while? It's clear much has changed since I was last around."
"No, I don't mind at all. Sorry to drop all of this on you." I stand back up and brush myself off. "If it makes you feel any better, we're all pretty new to this place. I don't know how much I can actually say, but if you want to talk or something- well, I'll be around."
If he leaves then I wander off to find Kairon.
I blink. "I- I thought you could sorta hop around." I knit my brow and frown. Wow. He can't even move around anymore? That's pretty bad. "Alright, yeah. Sure. We have plenty of extra rooms. I, uh… H'm. I don't know if I have anything that you could really do without moving. I have cards and we have some books on the ship, but-" I clear my throat. "Anyway, yeah. I'll take you to one of the empty rooms and then check back on you later so you're not just sorta trapped in there. Sound good?"
He seems to focus on trying to move, but to no avail. Despite not really being able to emote, he looks very let down. "Nothing,"
he says sadly. "…Shame."
He looks up at you. "Yes, that would be excellent. Thank you, Sir Norv."
I give him a short, somber nod. "Yeah, of course. No prob, Purdue. I crouch down, gently pick him up, and carry him off to the living quarters and one of the empty rooms.
You take him to one of the empty rooms, placing him on top of a cabinet facing the window, at his request. "Thank you again. For everything. It's hard to believe everything that's happened, but this is only temporary.""Oh, one other thing. As I said, I am something of a star-gazer. If you happen upon any maps of the night skies in this strange land, please, bring them to me. I would be very interested in studying what they have to say."
I chuckle. "Man, probably could've found those easy if I'd known about it a week ago. Alright, I'll keep an eye out." I walk over to the door and give him a short wave. "We'll get all this sorted. I'll make sure of it. I'll be back to check on you later."
>>722925"You know where to find me,"
he says cordially. "Where else would I be?"
With that, you leave him to his own devices as you close the door on him. You hear him breathe a heavy sigh of despair a few moments later.
After a bit of searching, you find Kairon with Dawn on the forecastle.
"…So that is why, you see," the blind mare says calmly."…Ah. How… how monstrous,"
Kairon replies. They both turn to you in greeting. "Ah, Norvegicus. Hello. I was just filling Kairon here in on the nature of Lysander's goals." Kairon, for once, seems a little shaken by what she has learned, merely nodding to you.
"Yeah. It's pretty bad. Not sure I've ever met someone so blindly greedy." I turn to Kairon. "I, uh, actually had a question. Purdue is back but doesn't remember anything after he was put in the skull, and Mercutio-" My ears fold back. "Well, Mercutio hasn't said anything yet. But while I was talking to Purdue he said something weird. Was Mercutio not your jester?"
>>722927"He was. For a time. The truth about that one is… complicated." You see, Purdue was interested in predictions. Very, very much so. On my behest, he began to research other methods of gaining knowledge, and while I am not privy to the details, I can only assume with what we know now that he came into contact with Discord. All I knew at the time was that he had indeed gained knowledge, a great deal of it in fact, but it had driven him completely mad. He had another voice in his head now, one which spoke through him much of the time. I questioned him many times, trying to glean information from him, but Purdue rarely answered. It was always that blasphemous little imp. No use to me as a court mage, of course. So I put him where he wished to be: a jester to amuse me and my guests. Of course, he began to become unruly, as you can imagine. Disparaging me, degrading my guests, overstepping his boundaries… It was unconscionable. So I had him beheaded. To my surprise, however, that wretched creature yet lived, taunting me from beyond the grave. I tried to have him destroyed many, many times, but he would always find some way to persist, mocking me and my efforts. So I had him turned into an artifact, cast away through a portal to another world. And I thought that was the end of that. …How very wrong I was,"
she adds bitterly.
"You put him on as a jester, then had him killed for… being a jester?" Dawn asks with confusion. "Yes, of course. He was amusing at first, but the vile things he would say and do. I couldn't stand it any longer. He simply had to go."
I fall silent, completely floored by the revelation. So Mercutio just didn't actually exist? He was just gone forever? Even if Purdue was given the power again and went mad there wasn't any guarentee it would happen again, and doing that in the first place- it wouldn't be right. My lip quivers and tears well up in my eyes. I'd been telling myself that Mercutio just hadn't spoken yet, or maybe Discord had to keep him with his powee, but- "Alright," I say, choking up a little. "Thank you. I- I think I'm gonna go lay down. I'll catch up with you later."
Kairon looks surprised, and perhaps a bit annoyed by your reaction. "Don't tell me you actually miss that obnoxious cur. Good riddance, I say. We're better off without him."
Dawn seems more compassionate, giving you a sympathetic look. "I can't pretend to know what your relationship was like with him," she says, "and I know we're not particularly close, but… well, if you wish to talk, I'm always around."
miss him," I say, not looking up at her. "We weren't travelling together that long, and he was kind of an ass, but he was my friend. And it's silly, because that means he didn't technically exist in the first place, but- but it still feels like he's just dead now."
I nod to Dawn. "Thanks. I- I might take you up on that. For now I think I'm gonna go find something to keep me busy. Clean my sprayer, read that book Aegis got at the meet, something. If you guys need me I'll be in my room."
>>722931"And the world is a better place for it,"
she replies snootily.
"I understand," says Dawn, and leaves it at that.
You head back to your room. Violet is nowhere to be seen just yet, leaving you alone with your thoughts for now. The dresser looks very bare without Mercutio on it making snide remarks.
My shoulders slump and I sigh, walking over to my bed. First I summon a few rats to keep me company, in hopes of making the room feel less empty. Then I decide to pick my sax up and try to noodle some blues. At first I feel silly, like I'm deliberatly trying to put on a show with my lackluster skills, but even as I mess up I slowly relax and focus on the music.
[1d10]Got them magical skull ain't so magical no more bluesRoll #1 2 = 2
[Last 50 Posts]
[1d10]because he's gonna be here a while before checking on PurdueRoll #1 3 = 3