Seeking refuge, the party have fled the Sands, staying hidden in the elusive town of Last Hearth. While they are safe from Lysander for now, they have found that Last Hearth comes with its own slew of problems. The borough is entirely controlled by a party of elites known as the Parliament, keeping hegemony over all its residents in the form of imposing constructs.1185 posts and 3 image replies omitted. Click reply to view.
While exploring, the party have discovered several things:
The Keepers, mechanical sentinels that watch over Last Hearth, are in fact composed of the corpses of captured criminals.
Several areas of Last Hearth are marked as "Condemned" - though what this means and why is unclear.
The Parliament are a reclusive cabal, operating in and around a building known as the Parliament House.
An event known as the Night of the Hunt has been organized, due to happen in two weeks. This involves the mass slaughter of slaves purchased from the nefarious Chanticleers, and the subsequent reclaiming of their corpses to a place called Morrilcole, though to what end is unclear.
Perhaps most importantly for the party, Silver and Aegis have met a waif called Lilura. Afflicted with a disease that renders her vulnerable to fractures, Lilura has been pining to escape Last Hearth for a long time. She has offered to trade her entire supply of stockpiled goods in exchange for being smuggled out.
"This religion is so focused and specific," Hermodur responds to Marisol. "I'm very curious what it's based on."
>>735529"Oh, when is it ever a good time for you people. Piss and moan, piss and moan. I'm not here to serve you."
He looks around. "Nice place, by the way. Could use a bit more pizzazz, maybe some nightmare creatures, but it's not half bad. I might pop by and sprinkle some killer leeches in, see what happens.""Aha! Puns! The oldest jape in the book! Good, good. We're on the same page. Ish. Look, uh, you want something from me, so let's just skip the small talk, yeah? I've got hell to raise. Shall we walk and talk? I'm sure you were going somewhere and not just standing in the middle of a swamp for no reason.""Anyway. You know who I am. And you know what I can do. Now that I have some modicum of power back, I think I can, well, nudge things in one direction or another to suit my interests. And yours. So. Dog whose name I forgot. What do you want nudged?"
"Hmmnn, a final queztion zinze you are a collector after all. Ever interact wizh a cruzible before?" If he answers affirmatively, she continues, "Know by any chanze if zhey ztill function normally if you exztract ze zoul in zhem for ozher uzez? Azking for a friend."
Regardless of whether he can answer the second part, she nods and holds up a claw to say goodbye after, "Zhank you. We will zee you in a day or zome time I zuppoze."
"Yeah!" She nods enthusiastically. "Thanks for the opportunity, sir!"
"Yeah, don't get sappy," Pierrot says rather grumpily. "Apothecary work isn't for everyone." He turns his attention back to you. "Hm? Sure." He produces another pot of the salve. "Lucky you came my way then. This stuff sells out fast whenever there are drifters like you in town.">>735531
"Alright. Gimme a mo'." He goes to the back and produces a rough, thick manuscript. The handwriting is almost unreadable chicken scratch, but you can still make it out if you squint. "It's the only copy I have apart from the original, so be careful with it. Also, it's not complete, otherwise I'd be charging more. But for a novice, it should be a good start."
The saurian seems to hear you, and makes her way towards both of you. "Sorry, I couldn't help overhear. You're curious about us? This shrine is dedicated to the Three." She points out the hooded figures. "Maiden, Mother, Crone. Dove, Owl, Crow. Sky, Seas, and Earth. They exist in many forms, all around us. You, me, your friend. Everything, everything. They are fate itself," she explains. "In all its facets. We simply gave it a face."
"Just make sure they explode in colorful acidic blood when they die. Something really flasjy. Otherwise what's the point?" I let out a slightly uneasy, slightly genuine chuckle. "Norv," I say, entirely expecting him to forget my name again. "My name is Norv. And yeah, probably best to get right down to business." I glance down at Violet and knit my brow. I'd hoped to have this conversation in private, but I guess we're doing this now. I continue toward the ship.
"I'll skip the preamble and get straight to the point. Out little journey has left us with some pretty bad scars." I glance down at Violet again and give her an apologetic smile. I hate talking so matter-of-factly about this right in front of her, but I'd rather help her and have her mad at me than not help her at all. "Some more than others. We're putting her back in her body either tonight or tomorrow, but I don't think it'll heal everything. I know you're really powerful, even at a fraction of your strength, and I figured maybe you could fix her. Patch her back up to the condition she was in before the Shifting Sands, when you first saw her."
"Fascinating," Hermodur muses. "But, are these faces based on anything?"
He raises his eyebrows. "A crucible? …Yes, yes I have. I have one right here, as it turns out." He gestures at a painting on the wall, which doesn't seem to depict anything in particular; it's an abstract piece. "Empty, for now. They'll latch on to any death they can find to use for their own half-life."
"So, if they don't hold a soul, they die?" Dawn asks.
"Well, you need to be alive to die. But I suppose that's apt. Without a soul inside them, they wither away, and become an ordinary object once again. Until their next opportunity comes along. All they crave is life. Devilish, but also sympathetic, in their own way. Don't you think?"
He nods understandingly. "Good luck, Miss Zunden. Do stop by if you ever feel like chatting. It's good to have a fellow antiquarian to talk to."
"I'm glad we came when we did, then- thanks for the help, sir." he says, before looking to Lilura. "So, either of those other places sound neat? We could go check either out next, I think."
>>735537"Ooh, I like it. I'm thinking rainbow blood. And confetti! Maybe even some treats inside them to make them worth the while. A leech piñata! What a time to be alive."
Violet looks up at you, apprehensive but understanding.
Discord eyes you with curiosity. "Hmm That's a considerable nudge. ..But that's not a no. In fact, I can do you one better."
His eyes gleam like lamplights in the dark."I can make it so she's back, good as new. And ensure that it never happens again. She'll be protected for the rest of her days. Not a scratch on her. The kicker is. What do I get out of it? What could you offer me, Dog whose name I remember but consciously opt not to say?"
Violet looks a bit frightened at the prospect, shaking her head and grabbing you by the arm. She doesn't seem to want any deals with Discord at all.
That's both tempting and a little too good to be true. "As long as you go by what I actually want and don't turn her into a statue or something silly like that. You know what I mean, so as long as you don't turn it into some weird parody…" I trail off. "Anyway, I'd originally considered taking you up on helping you get some of your power back. Joining you for a few weeks or something. It sounds like you have that under control, though. What do you want
?" If he offers something too insane I can just say no. Not like he has anything to gain by gouging me.
"They're us," she says simply. "Or rather, us locals. Hehe." You see what she means; the three hooded figures are depicted as saurians. "Other places depict them differently, I'm sure. But their three faces as Maiden, Mother and Crone are the most common way to show them. Really though, the Three can be anything. The world works in threes, after all."
sliding the bits over to him, i gingerly take the book and store it for later.
"I'll be certain to take care when reading. Thank you again for this, the help is very much appreciated."
>>735542"I mean I would, but I don't have any monkey related limbs anymore.""Oh, I'm doing just fine. It's a bit of a drag finding bits and pieces of myself out here, but you know, I'll get there. That's the thing about being chaos incarnate. You don't tend to WANT anything in particular. The idea of having someone indebted to me is quite delicious though. Who knows what I could get you to do for me!""Though. To be blunt. You don't exactly have much you can offer me. You're quite scrawny and weak. I don't know if we can really come to an arrangement here. Unless…"
He lets the carrot dangle, waiting for you to indulge him.
"Huh… What's your view on relationships, then?" Hermodur asks, contemplating the implications of this religion.
>>735540>>735544>total spent: -85 bits
"Do come back," Pierrot says jovially as you exit.
"Oh! Could we try the general store next?" she asks. "It's on the way to the castle anyway. I think. Can't hurt to try, right?"
I cock an eyebrow. "I don't know. Seems like every time I try something new something chaotic happens. Last time I blew up my friends." I swallow. Oh, heck. This isn't gonna be good. "Unless?"
Zunden collects her two friends, leaving and inspecting the card more. "Ze creature we met in ze zandz, an anzient entity zhen. Any idea where ze ozherz might be now?"
She blinks. "Everything is preordained. Love who you will, marry who you fancy. It was destined from before the beginning. Fate is a twisting thread, entangled with those of all others. These ties that bind us cannot be undone."
Marisol looks a bit skeptical, but stays quiet.
"I see," Hermodur muses. "This has been an enlightening take on the world. Thank you."
He turns to Marisol. "Ready to go?"
>>735548"Chaotic. Yes. Good stuff, good stuff. Can you really say you're friends if you haven't blown each other up at least once."
While his expression can't physically change, you feel him sporting a Cheshire cat grin."Unless I could give you something else? Something you didn't know you wanted…?"
A beat. Nothing else happens. "That was, uh, a cue for something to happen. I'm a bit rusty. Bear with me. …Alright you know what, just look into the skull already. This isn't gonna work. Ugh. Hate it when this happens. Just… yeah."
"Sure, sounds great!" he says, chuckling a little.
Not sure making a deal for something I 'didn't know I want' is a good idea. "Uh…" I turn the skull over a few times, looking for whatever he's talking about. "What?"
"And now he's loose," Dawn comments. "I can only imagine the implications that's going to have for us down the line. We have enough on our plate as is."
Aurora thinks. "Well, Norv's out and about somewhere. And I think Hermodur and Marisol are just exploring. The rest of the gang are helping Lily with job hunting, I think. Maybe we should go look for them?">roll Navigation regardless of who you go after
"You're very welcome," the shrine maiden says politely. "Even if you do not follow our faith, all are welcome in this place of sanctuary."
"Ready when you are," Marisol shrugs, idly examining the decor. "I hope we can get moving soon."
"Agreed. You think we should head back, then?"
You double back and start heading towards Fareeha's general goods store, just off of the market square. It's a small, cozy little shop, with several cramped but tidy shelves, with an overall distinctly Oriental aesthetic. Reminds you of home. You can see all manner of trinkets both mundane and magical, as well as general all purpose wares such as candles, lanterns, plates, cooking utensils, fresh water, rations, etcetera. Behind the counter is a graceful looking mare, a Saddle Arabian like yourself, with a lilac coat and dark eyes. "Hello travelers," Fareeha says warmly. "What can I do for you?"
"We'll just see which we run into first, or if we find something interesting along the way."
Zunden heads out with the two others in tow, impromptu girls.. morning out.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
>>735554"Ugh. No, not there. The eyes. Look into my eyes, not the… THERE we go. Boom!"
As you look into the skull's eye sockets, the world seems to change around you, all light being sucked from your surroundings. You can't even see your hand in front of your face, and looking down, you can't see anything at all. It's like you're floating in a cold, infinite void.
Suddenly, a light shines through the darkness, like a spotlight shining down on something in front of you. It's you, in full battle attire, masked and commanding a legion of rats. The rats seem like a tide of fur and claws, yet upon closer inspection, they are not real; a magical copy of your own pets, while the real ones are unharmed. With one hand, you point them forward to victory, and with the other, you hold your sprayer, revamped to be a powerful, versatile tool, more so than ever before. You stand powerful, unwavering, like a legendary hero of yore."Wouldn't this be nice?"
Discord's voice rings through the darkness, disembodied. "Don't you want to be a real hero, Norvy? I could give you anything you could ever want. Anything in the world. I could make you into this. …Or not. What do you say?"
"Probably. Maybe if we look around some, we could even run into them.">roll Navigation
[1d10] navigationRoll #1 5 = 5
You double back and exit Caer Portach, heading out into the streets. >see >>735499 for a general layout of the town>>735562>>735559
As you roam the narrow boardwalks of Withick, you run into each other, almost literally, while near the market square. "Oh! Hello there," says Dawn with surprise. "We were just about to search for the others. Good timing." Marisol greets Zunden's group with a wave of her paw. "Productive morning?" she asks idly.
My jaw drops as I see myself. I was getting pretty strong on my own, but here… I feel a lump in my throat as I genuinely consider it. Being able to use magical copies of my rats instead of putting them in danger would open up so many possibilities. I could be strong. A real
hero. This reminds me of so long ago, when I'd considered going to Black Pudding to ask him to make me stronger, only Discord is way
stronter than BP.
I swallow the lump and my voice cracks as I ask, "What's the catch? What do you want in return?"
"Oh- a Saddle Arabian! That's a pleasant surprise." he says, smiling a little bit. "We're here looking to see if you might need some hired help- my friend here is looking for work."
"I hope we don't end up wasting all of our daylight?" Hermodur comments as he looks up to the sky.
"I've only had a mild converzation, I'd hope I hadn't zlept zhat long." Zunden responds to Hermodur and Marisol, "What have you been up to."
>>735564"Oh, I don't know yet. But I'll think of some use for you. That's the fun, isn't it? I do you a favor, and in exchange, you have to open the mystery box."
You find yourself quite literally holding a mystery box, but it resists any attempts to open it."So, are we doing this?"
A disembodied hand appears in front of you, extended.
I hesitate for a second. My heart races, and for a second I genuinely think of backing out. Then the hand appears. Just giving him free reign to decide what he wants when he wants is the absolute worst deal possible. Infinite risk. At this point I haven't put myself in much of a position to make a counteroffer, though. "You can't force me to kill anyone or do anything against the best interest of my friends. If you can agree to that then we have a deal."
She does a bit of a double take and smiles. "Likewise! I didn't know there were any of us this far west, especially not here of all places."
"I am, as a matter of fact. I'd need someone to help run the shop. Business is quiet now, but it's usually much busier than this. I didn't think it'd be this hard to run a place on my own. I could use some help around here."
Lily smiles. "Well, that's… why I'm here. I'm Lily. We're new here, and I was hoping to be able to start work somewhere in town." She extends her hand, and Fareeha shakes it.
"Good to meet you! It wouldn't be that hard, just serving customers, replenishing stock, a bit of cleaning… It can get quite fast paced though, being the only general store in town."
"I'm ready for anything," Lily says, trying to sound confident.
"I like that! It'd be pretty regular work too, but a lot of it."
Lily looks back at you, as if waiting for your opinion. She seems keen on it, but unsure.
"It's quite early still," Aurora points out. "We're just waiting on Rabi and Silver now, I suppose. I wonder what Norv's up to…">>735567
"Oh, not much," she answers. "We ran into this awful preacher. He ended up getting arrested. …I think he knew something about the Oneiromancer. I didn't like him, to say the least. Nasty fellow.">>735566>>735567
Dawn speaks up. "Maybe we could go back to the castle?" she suggests. "We could have breakfast while we wait for the others there."
>>735569"Pfft. That'd be no fun. No can do. Come on! Where's your sense of adventure?"
His hand thrusts towards you rather aggressively. "Last chance. No backsies."
"I like breakfazt." Zunden nods to Dawn, though the motion is wasted on her, "Ezpezially when I don't have to cook it."
She looks concerned at the mention of the Oneiromancer, "Who knowz what it iz up to now zhat it'z got a phyzical form." She drums her claws on her staff, "..Maybe we zhouldn't be relaxzing here, we already zpent a whole night…"
I hang my head. "If it was just me it'd be one thing. I'd probably take the offer in a heartbeat, but I really can't risk hurting or harming my friends. If you can't at least agree to that much then I can't accept your offer, Discord. I'm sorry for wasting your time."
"Well, if it sounds good, you can give it a shot- nothing wrong with trying it for a little. It sounds like it'll be more consistent than the apothecary, but a little more strenuous." he says, humming in thought. "Maybe she could show you some of the cleaning and re-stocking, if you're concerned?"
>>735574"Hrmph. No you're not. I could've given you the world on a silver platter, but you had to be all high and mighty and - ugh - MORAL about it. I'm not mad. I'm just disappointed. But I haven't lost faith in you. You have the most potential of any of them! I see you as my son, in a way. My small, ugly, disappointing, incompetent, cowardly, useless son. Wait. Useless and incompetent are kind of the same thing, aren't they? Oh well."
The disembodied hand makes an obscene gesture to you."Hopefully though, you're not a complete failure. I get a feeling we'll sort out a deal eventually. Goodbye for now, Norv. Thungr. Vanity. Sam. Whatever your name is."
In a sudden flash of light, you find yourself at the end of the boardwalk, near the ship. Violet looks confused; you get the feeling she wasn't privy to that whole last part of the conversation.
The red glow in the skull's eyes fades, and it stirs slightly. "Ahh. Sorry brother, I must have dozed off. Where are we?"
"Oh I'm not concerned, I'm sure I can handle it," says Lily. "I think I should see what the other place has to offer first though." She turns back to Fareeha. "Thanks though, I'd love to work here! I'll be back soon, alright?"
"Of course. Come by anytime," she says to both of you. "I'm always around."
"For what it's worth," Marisol says, trying to sound reassuring, "he seemed like a bit of a lunatic. And no one really paid him much mind except the guards when he tried to pick a fight with Hermodur. So it's probably nothing to worry about right now."
I stare up at the ship in a daze for a long moment. I have no idea what he was talking about, but something about that filled me with a deep sense of exestential dread. I felt bad that he was locked away for so long, but does it really make sense for someone so small and insignificant as I am to pity someone so powerful? Am I arrogant for thinking that maybe we could have wound up friends?
I don't hook Purdue back to my side just yet, instead holding him in my hands. "Yeah," I say, and force a chuckle. "You were out since we talked to Sprig. We're back at the ship now. You me and Violet, anyway. Good news, though! Sprig said you could take a look at his star charts tomorrow morning."
A chill runs through my entire being, but I steel myself and make my way back onto the ship.
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"Yeah, yeah- good thinking, Lilura." the stallion says, before looking back to the shopkeeper and smiling.
"I might swing by later to shop or chat myself- and, we'll swing on by depending on how things pan out!" Rabi says, waving a little.