No.755503[Last 50 Posts]
Last time, on Anno Castra…
A long discussion unfolded between our explorers and "Mendicant Rudolph," assuming that was his true name. The dissident priest who unleashed a startling manifesto about the bleak future facing Ironcastle was, after all the panic and unrest he caused, a rather unassuming figure, not particularly unusual, nor even memorable. He maintained that everything in his manifesto came to him in a startling vision, which also included the zero-day virus that he used to forcibly download the manifesto to every Magicomp in Ironcastle.
This was an impossible feat, according to the Lux Deorum, as Rudolph had no background in technology whatsoever. They completely discredited his story about receiving it all in a vision, divine or otherwise, and maintained that he had to be working with a group of fellow terrorists and malcontents who wished only to stir up chaos in Ironcastle. However, Rudolph proved that he had information he could not have possibly accessed otherwise: He knew that the party had spoken with Godspeed. Just as this seemed to lend credence to his story about visions, he uttered a still stranger thing… that events that had unfolded in Ironcastle were also unfolding in other Castles as well, from ancient historical events such as the rise of the Brotherhood of Flagellants, to the schism of the Charismatics from the Abbey, to the development of mutually intelligible languages across Castles, despite there being no methods of communication between them, and the massive distances that separated them.
Before they could question him further, the DLs furiously dismissed the party, and took them away, back to the baggage claim area of the Ramparts. Many more hours than they had perceived finally caught up with them, and they had to get a ride from Rockfall back to House Titanite.
The mingling aromas of high-quality teas and coffee awaken you from your slumber. You lay sprawled out in various positions in one of House Titanite's guest bedrooms, which could very easily double as entire apartments. There's three beds, and two vast couches, upon which you've been deposited and nearly smothered with blankets and pillows. Light pours in from between the parted curtains. Judging by the glow of the ceiling-panels, it's almost Mid-Cycle.
Outside, you can hear a lawnmower puttering along, drowning out classic dadrock on a stereo system.
Grutar continues snoring loudly for the time being, only waking up when he starts hearing more voices around him.
Zamrud wiggles his whiskers and lets out an unbecoming groan as he's awakened by the scents of teas and coffee, his eyes stung by the light of the morning cycle coming through the windows.
Laying on one of the three beds, sprawled out with his hands and legs across whoever was unfortunate to spend the evening with him, Zamrud rubs his head and slowly pulls himself up, looking down at his dirty suit he nary had time to get out of as he lets out at a loud yawn.
"AAAaaaah…. ah… morning already? By the gods, I must have been exhausted…" He says pulling himself up as he does a few stretches. "Is this Good's manor?"
The luxuriousness of the guest bedrooms leaves the huge, bulky griffon a little surprised, but it doesn't take him particularly long to settle in and sleep- he's not really awake enough to make the trek back to his own dwelling, as much as he'd prefer the familiarity.
"Mmm… as confused as I was the night before. At the least, I'm not quite so tired." he says, mostly to himself.>>755507
"I would imagine so– and, I don't think it's morning anymore. Quite the… spacious place. Such large dwellings confuse me."
Zamrud looks over to who he was sharing the bed with, reeling back in surprise a bit as he sees the slobbering old dog on the bed along side him. He reaches over to pat Grutar's shoulders, "Grutar…? Grutar, up and at them, old boy.">>755508
"Us nobles need the extra space or no home could hope to hold our egos." He lets out a small chuckle, taking a look around. "Welcome to the lap of luxury, my friend. We must have crashed here last night after dropping off Good. I can hardly believe how exhausted we were."
Qhapaq lets out a bit of a laugh, before shrugging. "You have never struck me as the type with an ego, at least. My home had more shared spaces, so it all feels rather empty for me in places such as this- even if having the extra room to stretch is quite nice."
Good immediately moved to draw the heavy blinds on his curtains so he wouldn't have to hear the mower outside before he promptly moved to lay back down in bed.
By the abbey let him sleep in a bit.
Billy breathes out a happy sigh. "I am quite thankful to be here tonight. It feels all the warmer here with you all."
Grutar's leg twitches a few times as he's being spoken to, but when suddenly touched he jolts awake with a abrupt snore. "Reporting for du- AH!" He shouts, trying to salute with his drill arm but bonking himself instead. "Wuh, is it mornin' already?" Grutar asks outloud while scratching his head with his good paw.
As you disentangle from your blankets and pillows, you hear the metallic twang of a familiar accent between the brief pauses of the stereo system as it switches tracks. La Senorita is outside, and her gun barrel has been switched out for a rather modular power tool poll. Currently, she has been outfitted with a weed whacker, and she follows behind Steel Unyielding as he rides across the spacious backyard in his lawnmower. She trims up anything he might have missed in his mowing. You see also that much of her armor plating has been removed, and her heavy treads have been switched out for lighter wheels so that she doesn't destroy the grass.
Good realized he wasn't getting any additional shut eye and begrudgingly sat up, looking around his room for a moment to see what exactly had happened after he got bustled into home.
"Well, I learned long ago that humility has its advantages… and is far less obnoxious to interact with." He nods, looking around, "Yes, this is quite the change of pace from the Aya's bunker we came across. Quite comfortable, though.">>755512>>755511
As Good moves to draw the blinds on his curtains, Zamrud suppresses the urge to smirk as he raises from his slumber, "Yes, I'd say we earned a good rest after all we'd been through.">>755513
"At ease, soldier." Zamrud says, wincing as he bonks himself hard on the head. "And yes, so it would seem. The scent of coffee is quite enticing, care to partake?">>755514
"Interesting… someone's made some modifications to Senorita. Did Rockfall already get a look at her?"
Deciding to investigate, Zamrud decides to leave the room and make for wherever the source of coffee and tea was coming from, followed by a trip out into the yard to see Senorita in her new hobby.
Billy squinting decides to get up and visit the robot carrying with him some frustration to put out, due to not being sympathetic to Senorita.
"Heeey, I know this song! My nephews really like this one!" Grutar says in reference to the music, but then points to La Senorita when he notices the change of treads. "Did she always have those or was I out for longer than I thought?">>755517
"After how much I drank last night? You know I'm gonna need a cup of that mornin' brew." Grutar answers, taking the time to sniff the air and lead himself to the source.
"Mmm. I didn't know we could change quite so much about Senorita. It might be useful in the future, aside from such… recreational uses." the griffon says, nodding to himself. He'll waste little time in stepping outside- or, at least, wherever the food is.>>755517
"Mmm. Unfamiliar to me, but not a bad change of pace."
It looks like the butlers just deposited you all in this guest room and covered you with blankets and pillows. Perhaps it is curious that they did not take you to your own room, but then again, they may have assumed you'd want to bunk with all your pals.>>755517>>755519>>755520>>755518
You head down the high stairs, through the foyer, across the dining hall, and into the kitchen, where Lady Offbeaten Path sits doing an elaborate, 3-dimensional crossword puzzle in the newspaper. Several servants make coffee, tea and several brunch dishes by hand. Not a machine in sight.
You recall Godspeed's curious slip of the tongue regarding Good's mother, back at the bunker… but as this memory surfaces, Lady Path looks over her paper at you with a smile. "Well, it's about time I got to hail you. I'd begun to wonder if you'd sleep all Cycle long. Were the Dark Hours last Cycle that busy?"
As she speaks, the servants quickly dispatch several plates of bruncheon food to the dining hall for your consumption.
"A pleasure seeing you. Thank you for letting us all come for the cycle." Billy gives a smile coming in. "It was quite a busy time and had a lot of sudden and confusing circumstances."
"Yup! You wouldn't believe it either, felt like somethin' outta some sorta old spy flick! Makes me wonder what kinda job I'm about to get roped into next, don't have too weird jobs twice in a row, but you never know these days!" Grutar goes on, waiting until his platter is here to distract him.
"We needed time to discuss a few things, and I suppose we lost track of time. It is good to see you again, Miss Path."
"I still can't believe you had the energy to do so. We were all ready to drop dead asleep before we even left the carriage.">>755520>>755521
Zamrud looks on at Good's mother, remembering Godspeed's words well but the welcome, familiar face in the morning after an incredibly long, dreary day is too comforting a sight to dig into immediately.
Zamrud's nostrils catch scent of the coffee and the food, and sits himself down near the window to allow the servants to bring up a fresh cup of coffee and some buttered toast with jam and sausage.
"Don't tempt us, m'lady: I'm certain Good would readily take the offer to sleep in later." He says with a slight chuckle. "The journey home itself was grueling, and to make matters worse we had some issues with customs just as we were coming in. We were kept at the ramparts until zero hour, and by that point we had nothing left in the tank. Thank you kindly for your hospitality, Lady Path."
"Why do you think I take so many naps? Gotta have energy through the WHOLE day, so you gotta sleep a little bit each time!" Grutar says, despite almost being awake as often as he is asleep.
"And here I was thinking *we* were the master of 'cat-naps'." Zamrud says in reference to his being a Puros.
Good grunted, said hello to the others and moved to his own room to inspect it for anything amiss before he went back down to eat..
Upon entering your room, everything looks to be pretty neat and tidy; the servants have kept their promise of only doing the bare minimum of cleaning necessary so as not to disturb your privacy…
…but you can sense a strange presence lurking nearby… roll perception.>>755522>>755523>>755524>>755525
"The pleasure is all mine," Lady Path says. "But if you're exhausted, I'd caution you from going outside. Steel Unyielding has been up and at it since 0600 this morning, as always. If he sees an extra pair of hooves, or hands, he's likely to rope you into some work out in the yard or in his shed. Unless, of course, you'd want to add some technical skills to your repertoire whilst exploring the Outlands. As you probably saw, he and Rockfall have already recruited your charming robot."
>One option for this Cycle is to spend time training with Rockfall, La Senorita and Steel Unyielding for a specialization bonus in a chosen non-combat action, such as hacking, repair, tunnel digging, etc.
As always, the brunch is large, but quite varied for nobles. Wine, tea and coffee sit side by side with toast, jams, beans, omelets, flapjacks, and exotic fruits.
"Huh, so that is why Senorita was doing that," Billy mumbles to himself as he starts to eat from the provided brunch.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 1 = 1
"Well after I'm done eatin', I'm up to do some extra work. You fellas need any diggin' and I'm in!" Grutar says as he's half way through eating.
>Will spend time to improve Tunnel Digging
Good closed his eyes and tried to rely on his other senses to try and find this other presence.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 4 = 4
Zamrud takes a long sip of his coffee, taking a look outside as he sees Steel and Senorita still going at it with the yawn work. "Ah, so it was Rockfall who had made modifications to Senorita. Good work on his part," he says, "I take it you've been introduced then? We found this Helping Hoof while in the Outlands and did our best to get her speaking a language we could understand. Still very much in need of repairs, but it is good to know she's in safe hooves with Rockfall. It was actually your son who named her, in fact."
He smiles, "After breakfast, I believe I will volunteer my services. It's the least I could do to repay your for the meal and the bed last night. Besides, I could use something to take my mind off things… there's quite a lot I needed to do upon my return from our mission, and some time to think on it with a little back-breaking hard labor might be good."
"Ah- that makes much sense, yes. I am glad it is so versatile- we will have to remember such things in the future."
While wishing he had a little bit of meat, the omelets, beans, pancakes, and fruit are more than capable of making up for it. "Technical skills could be good. I may come back and take them up on that offer, if they'd be willing."
At once, a prickling feeling sends the hairs upon the back of your neck into a frenzy, but it's too late!"Titanite Style: Pulaski!!"
Lazy Days shouts as she drops from the ceiling-fan. Dropping her hind-leg like a falling axe, she kicks you in the back as she falls, but she mostly just bounces off your armor. She flips in mid-air, and kicks you again.
In her forehoof you can see she's got a charger of some sort, obviously pilfered from your electronics.>>755533
"Yes, I suppose I am not surprised it was my little Good," Lady Path notes. "I will have to ask him about her curious accent and demeanor, too…">>755534>>755534>>755531>>755530
She nods as Zamrud recounts the troubles you faced upon your arrival in Ironcastle. "But of course. There's no need to rush, so please, enjoy yourselves… I can only imagine how stressful it must have been to be apprehended by those Down-Lows no sooner than you got home. Oh, and I'll bet they didn't even compensate you for your time. You were still on the clock when you got back, weren't you? You didn't even get time to turn in your mission."
"Oh yeah! That! How do I turn it in again? Back in Zinccastle we had ways for folk like me to confirm our jobs bein' done face to face."
Good was just glad she didn't kick his head. For a kid she had a mean axe kick when she needed it. He promptly putt a hoof up to block her.
"Lazy what did I say about taking my things without asking?"
"Well, actually, my Lady… Good seemed to suggest you yourself were the one who showed him the concept of a 'saucy senorita', as I believe he put it." He clears his throat, "Ahem… something about putting him on the computer…?">>755535
"So you know it was the Lux Deorum who kept us, then. I imagine word they had detained your son reached your ears rather quickly. Were you aware of the reason why they were questioning us?"
As she reminds him that they have yet to have time to turn in their mission, Zamrud's eyes open wide. "Ah. We met with a primos who was representing USB Delivery but we never officially signed off on our mission. Suppose I should get that out of the way and see we receive our payment," he says, looking at his Magicomp mission board to check off their delivery as successful.
"Mmm… perhaps they have compensated us for the time? It would be nice if they did… we should try to turn in for payment, yes. I think after that, we can take some time to relax, or find activities to keep ourselves busy for the cycle."
Billy grimaces at the mention of not having been able to turn in his mission. "I do hope it doesn't cause any penalizations. I am unsure with the bureaucracy of it." Billy looks outside after finishing his brunch. "Maybe going out will help take my mind off things and a bit a labor as well."
Talking at the speed of light, she scampers off with her prize before you can stop her. Apparently it's gamer time.>>755538>>755536>>755539>>755540
As you turn on your Magicomps, Zamrud goes ahead and reports your mission as completed on behalf of your group. After a little while, you all get a notification. You've been paid – but not the 1,000 Schillings initially listed with the job. Instead you've been given 1,250 Schillings, a not insignificant bonus. With your payment comes an attached note.
>"I procured a little something extra for your recovery of Crystal Hearts," the note reads. "I am more than aware that it is far less than what you deserve for uncovering this security breach. Keep this matter as quiet as you can while we investigate. Our deepest thanks."
It is signed by none other than Mabin… and a seal, reading L.D., attached with his public authentication key, identifies him as being a member of the Lux Deorum. >>755538
Lady Path's eyes widen. "What…? Oh, I knew those parental controls were too easy to get around. Hopefully he didn't see anything warranting a mind-wipe. I'll have to check his PC later."
Good sighed. His sister was a lost cause."
He trotted on down to catch that line about a Mind Wipe and he froze with a genuine fear on his face. the DL's had left him on edge about this.
"Ah- well, that makes payment easier, I suppose. While I didn't like being pulled away by those… DLs, as they are called, this lessens the sting."
Billy comes up next to his friend Good after noticing him freeze. "Will you be okay?" Sounding worried for him.
"A bonus?! Wooohoooooo!!" Grutar howls with excitement, the idea of such a bonus making his tail wag. "Can't wait to get some armor polish, new shot glasses, and some fresh work on ol' spitty!"
Zamrud perks his brow up at the sight of a 25% increase on their promised profits, smiling to himself as he does so. "Well now, seems you may have been on to something…" he says to Lady, noting the signed note from Mabin - the King's personal butler - attached to the notice. "He's one of them?" Zamrud asks aloud, shaking his head. "Well, will surprises never cease…" he says, hoping to get a chance to speak to him later on if they'd made any head way on the mystery they uncovered at the Fortress, and if it has any ties to this dragon leaking Crystal Hearts outside of the castle.
With their increased payment secured, Zamrud takes a victory sip from his coffee, taking a moment to chuckle at Lady Path's reactions. "Well, I should have known he got around to learning such things on his own time. It's fairly innocent all things considered, though, and Senorita's accent has become to endearing to reset.">>755542>>755544
Zamrud looks on as Good comes in, "Ah, speaking of which. We were just explaining where you got your inspiration for Senorita's namesake.">>755545>>755543
"Some armor polish definitely sounds appealing right now, with what our suits went through. I might see if I could work in a budget for modifications to the rifle the Aya gave me, as well."
"Hmm… some better gear wouldn't be a bad idea, that's for sure. I have little in the way of weapons to modify for myself, but… I'm sure there's a thing or two I can find."
"What kinda mods were you thinkin' on puttin' on there, Zam?" Grutar asks with curiosity. "I was thinkin' of gettin' ol spitty a once over, maybe we can find someone who works on the same stuff."
It's just after Good comes down that you hear the power tools finally powering down. After a minute more, the great glass doors to the backyard open, and in steps Steel Unyielding and Rockfall, while La Senorita stays upon the patio so as not to track grass into the kitchen – something that Steel and Rockfall don't seem particularly concerned about.
"Hey!" Rockfall greets. "I was startin' to get worried for you! How'd you guys sleep?"
"I hope it was good, because it's all hooves on deck out there," Steel says. "I've got some things in the shed you'd never believe people just threw away! Any of you handy with a soldering iron? 'Cause you will be by the time we're done."
"Give them time to finish their coffee at least, dear," Lady Path says.
"Coffee?" Steel asks as he plunders the fridge for an energy drink.
"A fast drinker is a fast worker is what they say!" Grutar says, chugging the rest of his coffee, coughing at the end of his last gulp before getting up to get ready for some intense yard work.
Good was still visibly frozen and legitimately looking for exit points now.>>755544
"I do not know what a 'Soldering iron' is, actually. I was never much of one for… mechanical equipment, I suppose? There were others that did such things."
>>755552>>755549>Forgot to add
"And I slept well, thank you. I am rarely so exhausted- I apologize for collapsing as I did here, I didn't expect to be quite that tired."
"Well, no matter. We all shall work through whatever happens together!" Billy announces with a bit of energy. "Nothing can keep us all down."
"Well, regarding upgrades for my rifle, a scope and more stabilized stock seem like a good idea. I find myself most comfortable working with long-range, I might as well try to maximize those features.">>755549
Zamrud looks on at Rockfall as he asks them how they are, finishing up his cup of coffee as he nods to the engineer. "Better than we had in days, thank you for seeing us here. I know we called you at an incredibly unreasonable hour last night." He looks at Senorita, smirking. "What do you think of our newest recruit, fresh from the Outlands?"
As Steel says it's all hooves on deck, Zamrud puts down his coffee cup, carefully cleaning up his face with a napkin. "I've just finished my cup, so I'm more than ready to assist. Just point me where to go and what to do, my Lord.">>755551
As Good freezes up upon his father's entry, looking for exit points to get out of the back-breaking grueling yard work, Zamrud notices his plight and, having seen familiar experiences with the princes, tries to help out.
"Ahem… ah, Good, I think I left some gloves that'd be helpful in yard work up in the guest room. Could find them for me?"
"Yeah, sorry I had to toss you onto the back of the robot," Rockfall says. "But I think you would have squished the others if I put you on the palanquin.">>755555
"She's a strange one," Steel admits. "I helped myself to a look at some of her circuitry. I can't tell if it's advanced or primitive, but it's beyond even me. Rockfall's a bit younger, so maybe he can figure out what's going on under the hood. At the very least, I can repair her chassis and give her a few tools for the end of her barrel. Nothing as loud as a hedge-trimmer or a weed whacker, of course.">>755552>>755554>>755550>>755555>>755553
Amused that you're ready to work so soon after such a harsh Cycle, Lady Path relents. "It should go without saying, but as always, you are welcome to stay here as long or as briefly as you please. And if you need something purchased, go through me. I can have it delivered here faster than you can say Jack Rabbit."
"Whenever you're ready, gentlecolts," Steel says, sipping his drink as he heads back out to his toolshed with Rockfall.
Good gave him a weary smile, but then>>755556
Good took that moment to bolt to his room, locking it and starting to debate ways to escape, convinced he may be pursued by the DLs
"Nice! I'll just keep workin' on bein' up close and personal then, don't want them goin' near you next time either!">>755556
"Well that armor polish is a good start! I need that for later, gotta make sure all them scuffs are taken out."
>Ready to work with Rockfall & Steel.
Billy simply paused there with the now absent Good. Feeling quite surprised at the sudden departure. >>755556
"I think I am ready." Billy scratches his chin as he follows with Grutar.
"I can't tell exactly how old she is, but she's certainly ancient: whenever she was built it was when the ruins in the Outlands weren't ruins. She mentioned a place called 'Canterlot' that I have never heard of."
He smiles, "But I'm happy to see she is easy to work with. I did my best with her language barrier and translation protocols, but hardware is not my forte. If you have anything to show me that might make it easier, I would appreciate the lesson: I imagine we'll be taking Senorita out into the field more frequently, she's actually quite an asset."
As he puts down his coffe-cup and does some stretches, he nods to Lady Path. "I'll take you up on that offer, but first I should say I need to earn my breakfast. Show me where you want me, gentlemen.">Working with Rockfall and Steel to upgrade computer-knowledge or hardware repairs, whichever is available (prioritize former)>>755558
"Some heavier armor might be a good idea, as well. Not that yours isn't lacking for it but some modifications could make it even sturdier."
"Hmm? No need to apologize, I understand how it is- my size can be rather difficult to work around, at times.">>755556
"Hmm… I suppose some work couldn't hurt. Perhaps I'll pick up a thing or two as we work, as well.">Ready to Work
>Buying: Knight's Armor (150), 20 Rations and Water Capsules (200), 2 Armor Patching Kits (50), 3 Medical Kits (75), 1 Weapon Repair Kit (25)= 500
"That'd be a good idea! I'll let you handle the cash for that one, just lemme know when you need the armor for the mods. Though it's pretty sturdy already, so you're gonna have to find some sturdier stuff."
Naturally, as Nobles, there are no shortage of escape routes built directly into your home. It would be no exaggeration to say that every room in your house (certainly the bedrooms) possesses a hidden tunnel or secret door for emergency evacuations.
Of course, your parents would know about all of those…>>755558>>755559>>755560>>755561
It's less of a toolshed, and more of a small warehouse that Steel has out back. Rockfall gets the doors, revealing table after table, bench after bench, wall after wall, of tools, fuels, oils, and work projects, kept orderly by what must be a superpowered feat.
However, there is quite a bit of mess – in the form of the great heaps of junk that Steel has. Each one, some heap of discarded magitech, has its own designated work area. Computers, work robots, stereos, all other kinds of hardware consigned to the trash.
Rockfall busies himself with passing out some safety glasses and gloves. Steel opts to avoid such equipment, while Rockfall has on a full suit of PPE, including a hard hat and blast shield.
"Alright, I don't have any commissions scheduled for today, so why don't you fellas pick your project and I'll show you how to fix it up?" Steel asks. "Choose your junk."
They would also know where he kept his things. He knew one place he could go, a place even the cleaning staff feared tred.
Lazy Days room.
He made a run for it.
Billy finding an interest in magic lately decides to reach forward for the discarded magitech in curiosity on what he will do with it.
"I do not believe I am one for fine magitech or electronics. Perhaps something less… complicated? I have little in the way of equipment to manage beyond armor- I hardly use weapons, and I have little reason to keep a rebreather on at all times, but ensuring my armor and clothing isn't in poor repair is likely important." the griffon says, carefully setting his mask in his saddlebag and pulling on the safety glasses and gloves. "
Zamrud looks across the small field of supplies as he's escorted to the warehouse out back. Looking at the massive pile of gear, Zamrud rubs his chin with an impressed expression. "Quite an impressive collection you have here…" he says, looking through it. "Hmm… do you happen to have any parts that could be fitted to a modular rifle?"
"On our mission, I received one as a gift from an Aya tribe we helped. It's completely bare bones right now, but I learned enough about it to know it has room for modifications. In addition to that, I could use a bit of work sharpening up my programming: would you happen to have computers running on particularly old or out-dated OS?"
"You wanna die?"
Only one person in this house would talk to you like that… Lazy Days.
She's sitting in her gamer chair, playing some Aurora. She doesn't use a mic, but even so, she's plainly carrying her team to yet another victory.
"What're you doing in my room?">>755565>>755566>>755567
Steel nods. "We've got a little something for everything here. C'mon."
He picks his way through the junk heaps, and as he does, he rambles a bit about his hobby: repairing and reselling discarded technologies. The selling's done through a third party so that the Titanite name doesn't inflate the prices. Any cash he makes just goes into the charity fund; mostly he does it for the fun of it, only rarely keeping something for himself when he finds something he thinks looks cool.
From the junk heaps, he picks out an old brick of a PC, a security bot destroyed in a riot that followed a factory disaster in the Technicarum, and some run-down lawmowers (though nothing as large as his tractor of a mower out there).
With Rockfall's help, he carts the chosen junk heaps over to some open workbenches, while directing you to grab this or that tool so you can get started with the work…
>continue to post as you please, but the end is nigh
Billy attempts to follow the directions of Steel with his eyes alternating between the junk he has and his instructor.
"One shut up, you've never beaten me, two, I think I might be being watched by secret police."
Qhapaq hums a little to himself as he practices maitenance skills on whatever seems best- for the most part, the griffon sticks to clothing, armor, or saddlebags- that sort of thing. Unsurprisingly, he doesn't trust himself to handle tiny wires and sensitive electronics with his enormous talons.
As he explains his hobby to them, Zamrud comments, "That's quite impressive: not relying on your prestige to sell the product, and giving all profits to charity? A most worthy pursuit of your time, Lord Steel. I should like to pick myself up a similar hobby, but my studies and my time in the Outlands have yet to provide me with much free time."
He sets down to one of the workbenches, taking some of the scrap pieces out of the pile resembling rifle parts as well as a computer to get started in repairing and restoring them to their original glory, learning a few things in the process as he fixes up the items to sell later as well as seeing if there's anything he can keep for himself.>>755566
"I understand your healing factor is quite effective, but some heavier armor would go a long way as well. May as well not tax your regeneration and let armor take more hits, so that when you do need to heal, you can do so more quickly and efficiently."
"I was thinking much the same, actually, as there have been many somewhat close calls- among the things I ordered was stronger armor. I know how much it worries you that I… 'play lose', as you might say, with injury and damage due to my nature. Even if I didn't think the armor was a good idea, I'd do it to make you feel better."
"That sounds like a personal problem. What'd you do to get on their radar?">>755569>>755571>>755572
Steel is a patient tutor and a knowledgeable one, in fact, and despite some early mistakes, you pick up on his lessons in mechanical aptitude. He seems particularly keen on helping Qhapaq. As a fellow absolute unit, it seems he knows all too well Qhapaq's struggle with fine repairs. During breaks for water and food, Lady Path comes by to help you order some supplies, while Steel sits back to tell you some of his favorite stories about his repair projects, and all the crazy things his servants come across while dumpster diving for repairable technology.
And as all of that unfolded in this warm scene deep in the security and warmth of Ironcastle…
A mountainous fortress, extending thousands of miles into the sky and into the earth. Dim radiance exudes from the metal and stone comprising its outer walls, offering it holy protection against the eternal darkness that envelops the whole of the earth – the Outlands, whose black hills overflow with the abominable Dreaded Ones, and who seek the Castles' destruction.
Coppercastle is one of the last nine Castles that remain in all the world, and is the final bulwark for the millions and millions of souls that inhabit it.
It is, as well, their home.
Some of them were born here, and others came to it, whether from another Castle, or even, as the rumors go, from elsewhere in the Outlands.
It has been just over two months since a member of Coppercastle's Abbey, a minotaur by the name of Mendicant Rudolph, disseminated an alarming manifesto about Coppercastle's future, broadcasting it to every intranet-linked device. In it, he claimed that at current projections of energy consumption, the Heart of Coppercastle would run out of what was once believed to be its limitless magical energy. Without that energy, Coppercastle's impenetrable holy light would fade, leaving it defenseless, and open to siege by the Dreaded Ones – spelling the complete and total overwhelming of all life within, with fates far worse than death in store.
Curiously, the manifesto concluded with a strange legend from the Time Long Forgotten, about an age long since past, an age when mortals lived outside of the Castles, protected by the light of two great Lamps, called "The Moon" and "The Sun." This strange turn offered a glimmer of hope to what was otherwise a warning of total collapse.
Within a few hours of the manifesto's publication, Mendicant Rudolph was arrested and brought in for questioning by direct order of the Copper Family, the royals who lead Coppercastle, and a further order came directing all subjects to erase Rudolph's "screed" and forget every one of its claims. But, it was far too late; fear was already spreading through the Castles. Authorities among the Sages and Nobles busied themselves with attempting to quell the worries before they could escalate into full-blown panic. It took a month of such efforts, but eventually, things quieted down.
Every Cycle brings its own problems, after all.
With a deafening GRRR-CHUNK
of grinding metal, several sealed bulkhead doors open before them.
What awaits them, on the other end of those bulkheads, is a wave of frigid cold air, which rushes into the sealed chamber as if it were attacking the sealed doors behind them. Absolute, utter blackness is above, stretching all the way out to the farthest horizons. A faint, bitter glow clings to the rocky ground, like a sticky fog. The land beyond is lifeless as far as they can see, which isn't much considering the oppressive weight of the darkness upon. Intranet signals cut off on their magicomps, and the visors on their armorsuits start to adjust to the darkness, allowing them to see ever so slightly better with a pale neon glow.
A team of five.
And a Sage.
Commissioned by none other than the Copper King, Ozymandias the Liberator, to venture into the Outlands, following a horrendous streak of deaths among the Warrior Stratum.
But they were not there simply to pick up slack.
Their mission was the immediate apprehension of the saboteurs behind the deaths, and all their collaborators. Dead, or perhaps alive, in one piece or in many.
Every clue they had fought to uncover, led to Ironcastle, Zinccastle, and Goldcastle.
The leader of the group, a young Noble retainer to the King, double-checks his lightrifle, and slings it across his shoulder.
"Let's go, and stick close," he says, as he steps into the mist. "Separation could imperil your very life, but if you do find yourself alone, watch your magicomp, this close to the Castle you should be able to find your way back."https://youtu.be/w_ZMGj54aYU?t=199
>See you next time
"Hmm… I must admit. I still can not say I'm used to such amenities- I am grateful for them all the same, it's just… well, unusual, for me."
"Can't say I have either. I am quite happy, but I promise myself to not get used to them." Billy adds in his own sentiment of agreement.
"I don't know. Maybe because I was showing disrespect to those who rule from the shadows. If I knew I would tell you Lazy!" He said clearly in a panic still.
Grutar works on tinkering on his flamer further, humming loudly an old sing song tune as he just tweaked to make sure his ol' spitter just spits like it used to. The wasteland outside of the castle wasn't too kind to any of his equipment, even after some lighter repairs.
>Last time, on Anno Castra…>>757222>>757223
"Everyone has to start somewhere – I'm self-taught, and here I am," Steel says, clapping you both on the back. >>757225>>757224>>757223
Steel cleans off his hooves on his oil-stained apron, then crushes his energy drink can against the concrete floor. "You boys can have your run of the workshop if you want, I'm going to work out for a bit. Might sneak into the house too for a shower, too, before Path can blast me with the hose again."
He hangs up his apron on a clothing rack, then heads out into the backyard once more.>>757224
"Maybe you could have thought that through before you pissed them off," Lazy says, continuing to slaughter the opposing team."…Triple kill! Overkill! Extermination!"
the announcer declares. Lazy spins her reticule about the screen in a frenzied pattern, her face absolutely blank.
"I really appreciate that good sir!" Billy gives off a bright smile.
"Just make sure to give me some space, boys! Don't know if this thing will POP on me, if it does it's gonna be loud!" Grutar warns as he starts to work on the gas canister piece of his weapon to help it conserve more of the fuel it uses.
"Mmm. Thank you for the aid, Steel. And, I hope you can dodge the Hose as effectively as you worked in your workshop. Good sneaking, Steel." the griffon says, smiling a little and bowing his head.>>757225
"Hmm… I would offer help, but I do not feel confident handling someone else's prized equipment. It seems as if it's seen much action, even before this."
"Oh yes because I'm the type to just go and upset people with no provocation. I swear your heads empty sometimes Lazy." He said annoyed by the curtness of her response.
"Getting real tempted to yank that wire out of your setup." He added.
While you work at your various personal projects around the workshop, Zamrud busies himself with tapping away at his Magicomp on some other business. Soon he excuses himself and steps away, evidently taking a call. You see that he's clearly stepping away from the mansion's many servants, keeping them out of earshot.>>757230
"Mrrrrrghghghgh!" Lazy growls, nearly spasming in her chair and just stopping short of an actual shriek as you threaten to unplug what's shaping up to be a 30-0 game for her. "Okay, sorry! But I'm focusing here, what am I gonna do about the Lux Deorum from here? Challenge them to a 1v1? This stuff's not my business!"
You hear something in the background… the subtle soft pulsing that every young pony with an overbearing parent learns to detect, no matter how far away… the approaching hoofsteps of that parent.
"Oh, Good? Lazy? Are you two playing nice up there?" Offbeaten Path calls from the stairwell.
Qhapaq eyes Zamrud a little, but says nothing- he trusts his friend, and understands that he might need the privacy. He'll work to keep any servants from straying too close to Zamrud while he works on… hardware repairs! Hopefully, he can learn to better maintain his armor, now that he'll have better equipment to use.
"How are things going on your end over here?" Billy pops up with the question reaching beyond his teeth.
Grutar seems a bit too absorbed into his tinkering to notice much, it requires a lot of concentration from this old dog.
"Well, it seems- I am trying to learn how to better repair armor. I would like to keep what I bought in good condition, and it seems pointless to repair weaponry- I don't use them."
Billy nods his head. "I don't think I have much myself in that regard. Though I think I should better change that soon."
"Mmm- if you travel often in the Outlands, maintenance is important. Between my talons and my natural mutation, I rarely had a reason to worry about repairs. It is good to have the knowledge, though."
"Indeed. The more one knows the better they are prepared for the future me thinks. Just depends on the situation." Adds in Billy.
Good began to genuinely eye the window and debate if he could make an escape out of it. He was fairly certain his mother was in on this conspiracy.
"I think Mom may know something but she may also be working with them." he said scooting closer to a self defenestration.
"Mhmm. I wish there were more things I could know- like, the source of my newfound, confusing dreams. I wish to pursue them, but… I do not wish to disappear."
"Why would you disappear from your dreams?" Billy looks quite confused.
"I… do not know. It is what the Brain of the tribe we visited told me would occur. Those that chase dreams of masked warriors tend to vanish."
"Sounds like her," Lazy says, queueing up for the next match. Several other players in the chat accuse her of hacking, to which she only responds with derisive streams of laughing emoticons.
"Conspiracy?" Path asks, her voice just beyond the door now. She respects Lazy's privacy by knocking but asserts her authority by promptly coming in anyway.
"Are you two winning?" Path asks. Lazy responds with just a grunt. "Young lady," Path says, and Lazy freezes, just as she did when Steel said the same two words to her some Cycles ago.
"We are, Mom…"
"Good," Path says. "Good!"
She beams at her own joke.
"Good, I never did hear about how your latest mission went. We made breakfast, so come out and eat before it gets cold, alright?"
Good slowly backed to the window and debated if crashing through it was the most viable plan right now as he seemed to be giving his mother a sideways glance, like he wasn't entirely sure he could trust her right now.
Path, either not noticing or choosing not to react, turns and leaves the room as if nothing were amiss, and shuts the door behind her.
"There's no way dad couldn't catch you if you jumped," Lazy says. "Then you'd really be screwed… assuming whatever paranoid delusion's running through your head has any credence."
"Is he under the window right now?" he said stood up on his hind legs to peek out "Besides I might be able to slow him down with my magic…" he mumbled as he sighed and rubbed his head.
"Could you for once be some kind of supportive. Watching you play I know you never play Support classes."
"Oh, wah wah, let me call you a wahmbulance. When you can finally parse anything above green for once in your miserable career, then you can talk all that poop," Lazy grunts. "Anyway, if you want to take that chance, it's either him or the concrete you hit."
Steel Unyielding is currently lifting some steel in the backyard. His weightlifting area is a good stretch away from the patio, so he might not be able to intercept you considering he's mid bench-press…
"Just use an escape route like a normal Noble," Lazy says. "The security system will log it, but it's not like the rest of us don't use them as shortcuts anyway."
"Sorry I have a taste for good games instead of whatever new game they jam out that you devour. Unlike you someone here has beaten the entire Stygian Spirits series." he said before pausing "Where is the nearest escape route?"
"Hmm… if it's all the same for you, I think I will go for a walk- I have much to think on. You can contact me with the MagiComp, yes? Zamrud can, as well- watch him for me." He asks, before starting starting amble off. He leaves his gear and work neatly piled out of the way, taking only a few things- his mask among them.
"No problem. Though I don't think I have many plans myself for the cycle." Billy scratches at his furry chin in thought.
[[1d100]]Roll #1 100 = 100
"You used summons, it doesn't count," Lazy grunts. "Just take mine, it's in my closet."
Said "closet" is bigger than some – most – of the apartments lived in by the poorest Commoner families of the Warrens. It's walk-in, of course, and it's a multi-tiered clothing rack maze. All the clothing, naturally, is gamer themed. The designs are atrocious; it is impossible to tell which were designed in irony or sincerity.
The escape route awaits at the back – a mysterious keypad is the only visible indication that something might be there. Lazy has given you the code, but if you do, the security system will log it…
Somehow, you sense that your mother is directly downstairs… looking up.>>757251>>757250>>757249
Zamrud briefly stops you on your way out. He is sparse on the details, owing to how populous the Titanite manor is, but he confides in you that he's going to have someone look into the data provided to you by Apuchin, now that you have access to Ironcastle's superior computer systems. Bidding you all safe travels, he excuses himself from the manor and departs.
Heading upward, you decide to have a look around the rest of the Noblesse Layer, particularly the entire Floor dedicated to social venues. Each Floor of the Noblesse is so much vaster than anything above that the maps on your Magicomps have to download additional district data just to provide an intelligible idea of where you are.
Taking elevators and trolleys, you start to explore around the socialite Floor, that is, Floor 6. Its social venues, combined with its position below Floor 7 (the commercial Floor), makes it one of the most populated Floors of the Noblesse. Many Noble branch families and their retainers travel around here among the Floor's bizarre gallery of localities. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2_OSd9P3PIM
As you walk around, catching odd and sometimes outright contemptuous glares from the passing Nobles, you eventually see something quite peculiar. It's a pastiche of a gritty, grimy casino that one might see in the Warrens. "Pastiche" might be generous – it's a cruel parody, composed only by those who have never seen poverty anywhere except on their Intravision screens. The attendants are all dressed up, some are bulky bouncers, others untrustworthy dealers, even gambling addicts who hit up casino-goers for some spare coins (but not too much, just enough to sell the experience).
Correction: Change "Warrens" to "Comons"
Humming a bit Billy can't help but comment to himself. "Are we able to do anything here?'
"I like takin' in the sights! Even a sketchy casino has some flashy colors to it!" Grutar says as he looks about, paying no mind to the looks the group gets.
Good paused "I'll… eat first so she's not too suspicious." he said before stepping out "And Goldaire is worth the summon every time." he said walking by "You dex build pleb~." he added knowing it was gonna rile her up before moving to eat his breakfast before he made his escape.
Qhapaq nods a little, before softly patting Zamrud's head- something that, while Qhapaq seems to do it often, isn't a common gesture… who taught him this?
Regardless, he sets off to explore more of Ironcastle. The griffon is accustomed to the stares and glares of the populace- though he seems to get more of the latter than usual due to currently being in the Noblesse. The odd casino brings him pause, though. It's so painfully out of place, and so entirely fake. "Why would one seek to mimic such conditions? What a… curious place." He comments to himself. Still, he decides to check it out for himself- if only for a bit of amusement.
"HEX AND DEX IS THE MOST OPTIMAL DAMAG–" you shut the door before she can chew your ear off for blaspheming the dex build.
You hustle downstairs, finding Path sipping another round of coffee as she reads through some rather important-looking documents. Meals are sitting out still from when she and the servants cooked breakfast.
"I'm so glad you two get along with each other," Path says. "Well, tell me all about it. That's been your longest mission to date, hasn't it?">>757254>>757255>>757257
You step inside the garish parody of a casino, and find that inside, the kayfabe is maintained. Seeing the Nobles, dressed in such alien high fashions it's hard to parse where their bodies end and clothing begins, contrasted with the relatively normal costumes of the attendants, you get the sense that this casino is equal parts gambling, money laundering, and amusement park for the Nobles.
You see a counter nearby where you can exchange, at a 1:3 ratio, your digital-only Schillings for proprietary RFID-tagged coins, marked just like the coins of old empires, to fit the casino theme. They're even being sprayed by someone in the back of the counter, just to give them a layer of grime, grit and stench for that true atmosphere.
Billy nods appreciating the atmosphere of the place at least since he believes he can't enjoy the games given by the casino itself with the extravagence of it.
"Why would they mimic these conditions? I wasn't aware nobility would like grime, even if blatantly an act. Perhaps we ought to leave, unless one of you feels inclined to play? I'm not a gambler, but perhaps there is someone of interest here."
"Oooh I hope they have Zinc Hold'em here!" Grutar says as he looks about for a potential gambling table he could give a try. He presses his luck with his life, why not with money too?
"Zinc Hold'em? I feel as if I've heard the name before… a card game, yes?" he asks, even as he begins to wander.
Good shrugged "I've only had 2 mother. My frame of reference is kind of limited." he said as he took his seat and began to eat quickly, not wanting to tip his hoof about how he was suspicious of her.
The wary stare nullified this point.
"Yup! One of my favorites to play with the lads back home, we would bet who can win in three rounds with the most gems. Winner got to pay off their tabs easier too!" Grutar explains with nostalgic excitement.
Grutar trades in 100 Schillings for 300 coins, and promptly finds a gambling table. Actors, dressed like the dapper gamblers of bygone eras, mingle with the trueborn Nobles, most likely to lose after coming just close enough to victory.
The dealer flips out the cards to the table.
>place a wager and roll for gamblin if so desired>>757263
"Oh really, I hadn't noticed," Path deadpans, staring at you over the rim of her mug. "So… what happened? What did you do? Did you make any friends out there?"
"I met some of the Aya. And the bandits. I find them to be… less than deserving of existence. The Aya were pleasant by comparison. I won a wrestling match with one of them and had a nice time. Aside from the mishap with the Sauna."
"A random thought, do you believe in a road a redemption for them?" Billy pops up.
"Time to see if I'm any good as I used to be!" Grutar says as he goes in and gambles at least 100 coins first to see how well he has been last time.
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Qhapaq doesn't buy in, but he does try to look around for anyone either un-costumed, or particularly receptive to talking.
Looks like pretty much everyone here's in a costume, but one of the actors doesn't seem to be playing along – a griffon dressed up like a horrific genetic fusion of peacock and cockatiel, he seems less a griffon and more a bushel of feathers. He's vacantly staring at a slot machine like he's just done with life and everything in it.>>757269>>757268
Victory! Grutar wins back 200 coins for a net gain of 100.>>757266
"Such is what I have heard from others who have encountered the Mutants of the Outlands," Path agrees. She perks an eyebrow at the mention of a sauna. "Oh dear… well don't just leave it at that, what happened?"
Billy gives small claps as a small congratulation to Grutars winnings.
"I walked into the female section by mistake. And they rather rudely shoved me out. I was about to leave and they literally shoved me. It was quite unnecessary."
"Hmm… you seem a little, well… bothered. I've little interest in this vice, but perhaps you'd like to talk for a while? Get something off your mind."
"Alright!" Grutar shouts out, continuing on with his bet. Although he tries to play the best poker face he can by just distracting several of the others at the table with long winded yet quirky adventures from his old ventures.
>300 coin bet!
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
The dealer looks on with horror as you absolutely fleece a full table of five gamblers, netting a profit of 1000 coins, putting you at 1400 Coins total. The dealer's horror looks like it goes beyond "Oh hell, my boss isn't going to be happy about this," to "Am I going to wake up tomorrow?" levels.
The other gamblers depart from the table, their cushy, safety-rails-guarded fun having been spoiled by your tremendous turn of luck. The dealer quietly informs you that you probably should try to not have such an incredible turn of luck next time…>>757273
The griffon slowly leans forward and plants his forehead against the screen of the slot machine, and he looks like he's very quickly losing his grasp on his emotions.
"I don't… know how much longer I can keep doing this…" he says.>>757272
Path laughs. "Well, now you know. It was their loss, anyway."
She finishes her coffee, pours herself more, and studies her reflection for a bit before gently stabbing in a spoon overflowing with sugar… a dosage that reminds you of how Godspeed would take her coffee.
"And when you came back to Ironcastle after so long away… I'm sure that was a welcome thing, wasn't it?"
"Speak, then. Perhaps I can help- or, at least, help you release the pent-up emotions. A distracted mind is more dangerous than any weapon."
"Do you still plan on going?" Billy asks with a tilt of his head. Wondering about the if his friend would push his luck.
Grutar laughs heartily as he scoops up his coins, feeling proud of his luck as he counts each one. "I already feel lucky enough! But hey I may as well put three hundo aside and keep going a little longer."
Grutar says, looking around for a different table.>>757463
"Let's see how lucky I can be at the other tables, huh? I'll just tuck some of this stuff aside and see what this place has to offer!"
>More gambling, this time with 150 coins!
[1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
>Last time, on Anno Castra…>>757462
"Not unless you can find me some other line of work," the griffon sighs. "Every day it's a new rotten-smelling costume, a new dance routine, a new shtick they want me to memorize. I'm just some side-show to them… but I'm one of the lucky ones. Everyone else I know in the Commons isn't even making half of what I am here, and I can barely manage to afford an apartment… in exchange for everything else about myself."
This time finding a poker table proper, you promptly lose those 150 coins you handily won just now, but at least this loss affords you a little buffer from the casino's toughs making you play 52 pickup with your teeth…
"It was." was the terse response
Path blinks at you rapidly, then twirls her hoof in an obvious, "Okay, and?
"Quite harsh the losses are. Do you have any goal for the casino?" Billy found himself entertained seeing Grutar at the tables.
"Things changed. Masks fell. The truth came out and I was not most pleased."
"Goals in casinos for me is just to have some fun! Now that I have more money I just keep trying a little bit longer for more money! Either way I walk away whenever I know I still got more."
Grutar finds this chance to show the wonders of gambling through doing small superstitious things to increase his luck like blowing on his dice or even cards for good luck.>Gamble 150 credits again
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
Path tilts her head in interest. "Oh…? Perhaps you refer to the barbarians who dwell in the darkness beyond our walls. But you're being vague again. What 'truth' did you discover out there? If it's something I may know of, I would gladly share what I can of it.">>757471>>757469
On the bright side, if Grutar does end up losing his teeth to the bouncers, he'd be able to get a new set of solid gold. He cleans out the poker table just as he did for the Zinc Hold 'Em table, earning himself 900 coins in the process.
As the dealer nervously scoots the pile of coins to Grutar, you both vaguely get the sense that someone nearby has their eye on you…
"The things I found distasteful were the things I found upon my return to this castle. Secrets and those who deem themselves the arbiters of what info must be shared."
"Huh, are you speaking of money or luck that you have more of? Would be quite nice if we could keep track of our luck." Billy taps his chin in thought.
"Hmm… that does seem to be a very difficult situation to have to manage- there's truly no other jobs near here you could find that wouldn't require you to do this to yourself?" He asks, cocking his head to the side. "Jobs in castles are still an odd concept to me."
"Luck isn't somethin' you track much of, it's just somethin' you're given!" Grutar says, setting aside more of his earnings so he can go another round of pushing his luck.
>Gambling 150 coins again
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
"Hahahahaha," she suddenly laughs. "So you met the vanguard of Ironcastle's defenses against itself. That must have been a very awful thing to endure. I have run into them before. Rotten little buggers, cowards the lot of them. They can't and won't do anything without overwhelming numbers on their side. That's the secret to all their little tricks. If you want, I can arrange an appointment for a psychological, spiritual and medical exam to make sure they did not leave you with any lingering… inconveniences.">>757474>>757476
Balance is restored as Grutar becomes 150 coins poorer, but still you sense that presence looking on from afar… perhaps monitoring others is something that the Lux Deorum do not have a monopoly upon.>>757475
The griffon shakes his head. "Anything else I'd find around here would be a loose variation on this. Commoners like me can't find work doing much else in the Noblesse. So some of us go to the Technicarum's factories, the Aetherium's test chambers, or the Orchards' plantations, but there's always at least a hundred other people competing to get the same job as you, and if you get yourself hurt on the job, well that's your fault isn't it? Seems like everyone I knew up there went to work hiding some injury or something else to avoid getting let go."
"Do you think we might get robbed at this rate?" A worried tone enters Billy's hushed tone as he feels more people stare.
Good couldn't hide the wary glance "I also met Rudolph. He was interesting."
"Hm… life here is difficult- not because of the harsh conditions of the world, but the harsh conditions created by the Castle. There's no other talents you could work with? Or, perhaps a Noble that might help you?"
"Bah nonsense, they're just entertained by my wild strokes of luck!" Grutar exclaims as he goes on another roll. This time he does a small jig and makes a little shanty tune for good luck on his next roll.
>Gambling 150 again
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
With another 900 Coins and a third anxious dealer suddenly making his way for the break room with little to no excuse, the sense of being watched starts to turn into a growing sense of danger. If you don't cash out soon, Grutar may find himself missing more than just teeth… say, when did this casino get so many bouncers hanging around this part of the tables?>>757480
The griffon shrugs. "I'd need a certification, but even with certifications, your lot's not much better than other competitors in the field… and to get a certification in the first place, you need to be in the field at a certain level. And you can't get to that level without a certification!"
He slams his fist down onto his leg. A bouncer glances over, then looks elsewhere in disinterest.
As you suggest Noble patronage, the griffon shudders. "Well… maybe I could… but depending on who you get, you could be worse off than working in the private sector… I… I suppose public sector work's always an option… I hear the Lux Deorum are always hiring.">>757479
"What an opportunity!" Path exclaims. "What did the most famous priest in all the Castle have to say? Another conspiracy theory, I imagine? A call to insurrection?"
"Mainly that he was unaware how a Rudolph in every single castle managed to send a message at the exact same time. The exact same message."
"Hmm… I do know of a surprisingly nice Noble- an unusually large pony. Perhaps he could help you receive a certification?" he suggests, glancing to the bouncer for a few moments… and glancing back.
"See? It's like goin' out into those wastelands. Take some risks and get some high rewards! Say, wanna get a drink after I cash this out? It'll be on me!" Grutar offers now that he has won so much, taking the signal as a way to get his credits and a drink to go.
"I sure do appreciate your generosity. I am quite impressed myself by your gains. Honestly if it was I, I would have a problem of hoarding it." Billy gave a smile.
Path has no reaction for a moment… she does nothing but blink, her hoof slowly turning her drink about. "Is that what happened, now…? How could the would-be saboteur not know of collaboration of that level?">>757484
The griffon suddenly looks nervous as a prospect presents itself – equal parts the comfort of misery, and suspicion of Nobility from all his previous burns. "Wh-what…? H-hey, wait, you can't be serious… what would I even do for him? This better not be like the last freelance job I took…">>757485>>757486>>757484
Grutar goes to cash out his coins, and gets himself 967 Schillings as a result, a profit of 867 after his initial buy-in of 100 Schillings. Qhapaq and his despondent companion notice Grutar and Billy over by the door while a bouncer keeps a wary eye on them. Maybe a few spirits could help raise the griffon's spirits.
Billy gives a big wave towards his friends. "Did you all have fun?" he calls out.
Grutar gives a wave of his own over to the others. "Hey! I was about to grab drinks, you fellas want some too?!"
"I have thoughts but I am not keen to share them. I have no proof and could very easily be wrong. Or some who I wish not to hear it might do that. I don't want a mind wipe in my future…" he trailed with a wary look.
"I am… not sure. He is a man of many hobbies and talents- I imagine he could find something far more respectable than this for you."
"The mind wipe might be the safer option," Path says. "If the Lux Deorum left you with any of their trademark antihazards, getting it out would require significant work. Depending on how vicious their handler ended up feeling by the end of your meeting with them, removing the antihazard could be like removing a pronged arrow from a wound…">>757491>>757489>>757488
As the griffon looks over and sees Billy and Grutar about to collect Qhapaq, he hems and haws, fearful of this unknown Noble… then gulps and hurriedly scribbles down his contact info on the back of a tear-stained napkin, and entrusts it to Qhapaq. "Alright, alright… alright. I– I'll give it a try."
As soon as he says that, he looks like he wants to snatch the napkin back, but he clenches his hand and holds it back. He must have been burned by shady people offering ways out before…
"Who is that over there?" Billy poses the question seeing the griffon.
Qhapaq hums, and after a moment, lifts his mask up. "I know I am… a stranger. An Outlander. But, I wish to help. Thank you for trusting me.">>757493
"Someone who needed help."
"If they did they did it quickly and in such a way none of us noticed. Either way I would not care for losing myself."
Billy blinks at that. "Huh, alright. Did they manage to get help?"
"They need help? With what, some gamblin' advice or somethin'?" Grutar asks curiously.
"You do not understand what an antihazard is," Path says. "Just as a piece of antivirus software captures and quarantines computer viruses, antihazards capture and quarantine infohazards – information designated by the antihazard's creator as hazardous to know.
"Thoughts quickly forgotten, mind going blank, emptying itself just before rounding the corner of a thought and reaching an unpleasant conclusion, connecting dots obvious to anyone with a clear head… And, just as any program can learn from inputs and improve itself with that input, antihazards can adapt and strengthen themselves based on how their subject reacts to their mind being forcibly steered away from that infohazard. A labyrinth folding into ever-more-complex forms with each time you reach its center…
"To wipe a part of your mind in block format, a one-and-done operation to excise the antihazard… or, to let it remain riding around in your mind, in your flesh and bone, growing stronger every time it evacuates you away from a line of thought, towards a sweet and harmless untruth alternative, rewarding you with that sweet serotonin nectar, a dopamine overdose that melts your brain's pleasure center into mush… which one really constitutes 'losing yourself'?">>757494>>757496>>757497
The griffon gives a start as Qhapaq confesses to being an Outlander, scooting away a bit as well… but he blinks, frowns, and shakes his head. "S-sorry, that… I shouldn't have done that. Never thought I'd ever meet one of you guys… let alone get some career advice from you. L-look, if this turns out alright, I won't forget it. Drinks will be on me… or whatever you guys want, really."
He glances at his magicomp and winces. "Hey, I really need to go. Break will be over in a minute, and if I'm not clocking in the moment it's up, my time-off-task will start to rack up. Th-thanks… I mean it."
"Right. I will get them in contact with you, as soon as I can." He says, replacing his mask. "And, do not worry- most are wary of my kind. I don't hold it against them."
"Mmm, no. Life help. How was gambling?"
"It was pretty fun seeing Grutar win. Though I didn't have any confidence myself with it all." Billy shrugs.
"Neither is ideal. But I cannot say I have had any difficulty thinking. And you seem to have no difficulty guessing whats on my mind too curiously enough."
"Ah! I'm glad you won, Grutar."
"It was great, made over 900 schillings tonight!" Grutar gloats.
"Oh please, with how much you take after me, it'd be concerning if I couldn't," she retorts. "And the point of any competently-built antihazard is that you will not notice your difficulty of thought. The Lux Deorum would be able to write one of that level without a doubt.">>757499>>757504>>757501
The griffon waves goodbye, and scoots off, rushing back to the break room, leaving you with a whole lot of money and a whole evening to spend it however you wish. You were let into this shady casino without too much trouble, but Noble bars and eateries might be another matter altogether…
"And what if you're wrong and their playing on your own level of paranoia?" he asked as he pondered it "And this goes beyond guessing to saying things I was only thinking in another room."
"Got any plans for the time we are here?" Billy asks out loud.
"Find a place to drink and maybe go shoppin' for some fancy new gear upgrades. That's what I usually do with a big payout." Grutar replies
"That's why I suggested a checkup," Path says. "A precaution can't hurt, can it?"
She then blinks at your other accusation. "Hmm…? What are you talking about?"
"I have my armor, so I believe I'm fine on gear. But, I could see some upgrades being useful. I ought to get in touch with Good's father, though- perhaps over the Magi-Comp?"
Upgrades from shops owned by the Noblesse would be a great deal more powerful (and more expensive) than that on other Layers, you realize. But, getting into them without being Nobility would be another matter. You do have your Noblesse access authorizations from the King, but with neither Good nor Zamrud around to attest to your character (in the eyes of the Nobles) by virtue of being seen around them, it may be difficult…
"Why not take a look then, you never know if we find something that could help us all. I'm willin' to use what I got to invest!" Grutar says, feeling that whether he was noble or not he would still try to shop around them.
"Hmm… sure, why not? If we can get in the door, at least." the griffon suggests, sending the contact information and a quick message to Steel.
"You spoke of a conspiracy before when you entered the room when me and Lazy had been speaking. Neither of us had used that word."
"Ohohohohoho!" Path laughs, reeling. "A Noble speaking of conspiracies? Oh please, stop the newsfeeds, this is truly novel development. Do not let your sister's hobbies and your father's earnest physicality deceive you, my son. We are Nobility, my son. In the time it takes a Commoner to choke down their gruel, we plot and thwart assassinations, poison and treat water supplies, and falsify terrorist incidents as we sip our coffee. I don't know why I used that word. Maybe I just hoped you'd take an interest in some current events. But if you really have more fun in the Outlands, that is your destiny to pick. Do you fear I am some sort of mind reader?"
"Given your reputation has spread outside the castle that is not surprising. But I seem to recall you originally belonged to the Sages. not the noble houses." he responded as he turned to her.
"So you while the stereotype does exist it is not without precident for me to worry about them. But you were something of an outsider to them as I recall. Or perhaps that was a lie I have been told for a good deal much like other things apparently if Rudolph is to be believed."
Deciding to go bar-hopping for a bit, you ride the trolley down some streets, until you stop at one that the intercom's announcer notes for having its share of popular eateries and bars. A peek into some of them reveals that you'd hardly be able to get water, let alone some quality drinks, on your paychecks and Grutar's winnings…
Until at last, coming upon an alleyway, you spy a joint that's rather out of the way.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34Zh0a08Gq8
For a Noble's establishment, it's surprisingly despondent. There are few guests, and the earth pony barkeep has numerous bandages upon his face, doubtless from shaving accidents. He looks a bit surprised to see more entering this place; the people already there must be regular barflies. They look like practitioners of law.
"Woah! H-hey, how's your Cycle going, folks?" the barkeep asks, tidying up a bit.>>757516
Path seems truly offended, on both counts. "I am
a Noble," she says sternly. "What Stratum I was born into is a matter of the past, not of now. I can't believe you; are you saying you do not trust me?"
You hear Lazy very quietly try to open the fridge, desperate to not be noticed as she walks in at the most awkward time possible.
"It is going quite swell! A pleasure to meet you." Billy gave a wave as he walked in.
"Goin' great! I hit the jackpot today! Get me two shots of whiskey and whatever else these fellas want!" Grutar says, feeling both generous and thirsty.
"When there is a literal secret police who you seem to have a very intimate knowledge of, and have openly mentioned mind wiping me to my companions when I was not in the room, I feel it is best to trust only those whose lives I have saved and who have saved mine in turn."
The young noble was letting his anger at the politics and conspiracies start to show "And you have made a life of flouting orders and scorning castes when it suits you but now you're getting effected by my words mother. You can understand my confusion at your offense." he said stampping his hoof on the table
"It is going… well. I must admit I'm not much of a drinker, though. I just came here for the company."
Instantly, her offense evaporates, and she smirks. "…You wouldn't be a Noble if you did trust me. Very good. I am glad it only took a short glance at Ironcastle's home-grown darkness for you to begin questioning everything and everyone. But don't worry; the Lux Deorum are merely the shallows in comparison to what else I have begun to trail."
She finishes her drink. "I know I just said you shouldn't trust me, but you can take what I said about infohazards and antihazards to the bank – all of which we own. Haha, I love being a Noble! Erhm, pardon the digression. You and I both want the truth. It would be very inconvenient to have a mind parasite ride along to deter that. The sooner you kill it, the less you will lose. Just friendly advice."
"Is he gonna get mind-wiped?" Lazy asks.
"That is entirely his decision," Path says.
"Dang, that's crazy," Lazy says, snacking on a granola bar.>>757519>>757518>>757521
"Hey, alright!" the barkeep says to Grutar. "You got it pal, coming right up. Oh and not everything here's alcoholic, we also have coffee and juice and things like that."
One of the regulars, a stern sort wearing a prominent cravat, casts a castigating glare at the barkeep. "Perhaps that is why this place is always on the verge of going under."
"Gah!" the barkeep winces. "I'm sorry, sir, I thought by expanding, we'd get an edge over the competition!"
"Do one thing and do it right," the stern lawyer says. "Spread yourself too thin, and you will always lose your balance."
"Y-yes sir…" the barkeep sighs.
The other two guests, a blue-suited lawyer and his diminutive assistant, are busy eating sushi.
"So what happens when I get mind wiped? are those memories simply gone forever?"
"Coffee? Yes- some coffee would do, I think. It's not so late in the day that caffeine would be a bad idea."
"Haven't tried much of coffee. May I give it a try?" Billy raises his hand.
Grutar takes a seat at the bar and taps the table with his paws a few times in excitement. "You sell those fish n' rice pucks? I'll take a few of those too!"
Zamrud, dressed up in his finest civvies, enters the bar with a casual glance, rubbing his temples as he tries to fight back the headache. The last few days were a mix of resting and keeping quite busy as he chased various leads into the data he'd found while on their last mission, as well as trying to think of the mystery surrounding Rudolph and the other castles. But for now, work was soon to be upon them again, and it was time to check int to see how the team is doing.
"Gentlemen," Zamrud says with a small wave as he approaches the bar. "Haven't been getting up to too much fun without me, have you?"
>Last time, on Anno Castra…
While the others stayed behind at the House Titanite estate, you got in touch with some of your Family's more clandestine resources for assistance with decompiling the mysterious OS that Apuchin allowed you to take from the bunker. They pointed you in the direction of a figure named Key Keeper, gave you an address (pointing to an otherwise nondescript facade in the Noblesse) and a time to meet him.
Upon arriving at the noted facade, to all outside appearances an office building amid a sea of office buildings, you entered quite a strange space… clear-cut, near-white and grey all within, it could not have been more bland and featureless. A receptionist directed you to the tenth floor, near identical to the first, and directions to a terminus of the labyrinth of empty cubicles, where you entered a small corner office. There, you met with Key Keeper, a unicorn who rode about in a wheelchair.
His words were terse and few, and he seemed to be under much stress. You felt somehow compelled to keep your words to him as concise as possible. By the end of your meeting, he agreed to have the data chip analyzed from end to end, and a report delivered to you ASAP. Your body involuntarily breathed a heavy sigh of relief once your meeting ended and you were allowed to leave. It was like your body had been soaking up his stress through some kind of osmosis…
Once you were freed, you sent a message to the others, who informed you of their brief visit to a casino, and then to a coffee shop on Floor 6 of the Noblesse. Luckily, it was only a brief trolley ride from the facade you just left.>>757523
"It is comparable to clearing up memory on a computer," Path says. "Through psycho-chemical intervention, the space that the memories and other mental hangers-on occupied is 'marked' as being available within the brain, even though the memories are still there. All incoming stimuli received after that point are then routed to that so-called free space to overwrite that which was previously there. As you can imagine, if you have ever tried to salvage overwritten files, it is not an exact science yet, and often old memories may linger on after their supposed deletion. Any competent mind-wiper would run multiple passes over the designated areas.">>757683>>757682>>757524
"Alright, pals, comin' right up!" the barkeep says, quickly hopping to the grounds and fish under the withering stare of the cravat-wearing practitioner. The cravat must be something of a boss to the poor, harried barkeep…
The barkeep proceeds to make an elaborate show of his preparation of the drinks. Very minimal machinery is implemented, and he takes the utmost care to prepare the coffee by hoof, even heating the water personally in a small pot over a stove. The sushi is given a similarly personable and low-tech preparation.
For two coffees and a plate of sushi, the cost comes out to 30 Schillings.
"Ah! Zamrud." the griffon says, working his way over to the Puros and doing the traditional greeting; patting Zamrud's head. Where he learned to begin doing this is… uncertain. It definitely seems intimidating to most, though there's no menace in his body language when he does it.
"Not much. I have hopefully helped a citizen find a better life here. We went to a casino. I do not like casinos.">>757685
Qhapaq tilts his head to the side and stares at the sushi, before taking his coffee. "Thank you, bartender."
"Much appreciated good sir!" Billy gingerly holds up his drink to take small sips to not burn his tongue.
Zamrud looks up to Qhapaq as he pats his head, unfamiliar with the fairly unusual greeting as his tail whips about in surprise. His ears do not flatten though, merely flickering in response as the talon leaves his fluffy head. "…good to see you as well, Qhapaq." As you mention having gone to a casino, Zamrud gives a shake of his whiskers. "I find myself in agreement. I'll admit I find a certain… 'flair' to it. A sense of danger and mystique with the roll of the dice, it's fun to watch in the movies. But in reality I must admit it's unbecoming. Who's idea was that?" Zamrud asks sarcastically as he looks over in Grutar's direction with a smirk.
He turns to the bar-keeper, "Excuse me, sir. A shot of milk, if you wouldn't mind."
"Right away, sir!" the barkeep declares, as he makes a dash for the mini-fridge for milk, after which he begins an elaborate show of pouring the milk and decorating it with cherries and shots of cream and cinnamon dust. By the time it arrives before you it has an edible illustration of a festival tree upon its surface.
Grutar pays for the drinks and sushi, taking time to enjoy each of his meal and a drink one bite and sip at a time.
Will it alter myself in anyway? Change me or how I think?"
"We were looking for somewhere to go. I had hoped to find interesting people in there, but most were… uncaring Nobles."
"There are many possible side-effects to mind wiping," Path says. "It is not an exact science, as I said. But of course, I would not take you to anyone who would not take proper care to mitigate those side effects."
Lazy continues to munch her granola bar, frozen in fascination for what she's hearing.>>757690>>757687>>757686
The purple-dressed mare accompanying the two practitioners of law has gotten up and has started to mess with the bar's jukebox. "Ave!" she says to the one in blue. "Let me borrow some schillings, they've got some good stuff here."
"Hey, what happened to all your pocket money? Remember, we haven't had a case in two Turnings," the blue-suited lawyer says.
"We'll be fine, it'll just be a song… or two," the mare in purple insists, putting on a song.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=34Zh0a08Gq8
"This is quite nice." Billy quietly says as he lightly sways his head side to side to the music.
"No rush." Zamrud nods to the barkeep as dashes for the fridge, looking on with intrigue as he adds on so much extra flair to the drink with the cherries, cream, and cinnamon. As he looks at the festive tree designed on top, he looks down, charmed with its appearance. "My goodness, it's almost criminal to drink this. I never would have thought of presenting something like milk so nicely." He says, smiling as he licks his lips and readies to take a sip of the sweetened milk.>>757692
"Ah, say no more." Zamrud says with a grumble. "Believe me when I say I know how those are. Did not give you all any trouble, I should hope?">>757693
As the jukebox starts to play, Zamrud's ears perk up, the smooth jazz speaking to his very soul as he turns his head towards the musical machine. He smiles, feeling much like the star of one of his favored noir detective films as the smooth music fills the air. He nods towards the mare who made the selection, raising his drink in appreciation.
"Yeh, drinks are good and so are these fish disks! I gotta remember this place for next time we come back from a mission." Grutar says before tapping on the table to the beat.
"No trouble, correct. Uncaring, but too uncaring to bother talking with us.">>757693
Qhapaq sips his coffee quietly, and gives the purple-dressed mare a curious stare. "I wonder what they mean by a case?" he asks, mostly to himself.
The barkeep laughs a bit shyly, a rare trait for someone as tall and bulky as him. "Little art like that has always been my passion, sir… say, pal, I gotta ask, have I run into you somewhere before? Or are you on Prancecast or something?">>757697>>757696>>757694>>757695
"We're the Fated Souls Law Office!" the mare in purple says, overhearing Qhapaq's question. With practiced dexterity, she slides a business card down to your end of the bar, advertising their services.
"Need I remind you, Fate, that I have declined your offer of employment three times now," the one in the cravat interjects. He passes you his own business card, advertising the services of Square Stature, attorney at law. "And you are not even a lawyer."
"I still help," Fate defends herself.
Good closed his eyes for a moment and pondered quietly "Allow me time to make notes of everything so I may not lose any information. If that is permissible." he said frowning "I am not exactly keen on your words. I would rather my brain melt and remain myself than lose who I am. As someone who may bear the burdens of others, I choose to keep my own as heavy as any others, and I do not wish to forget that fact."
"I really appreciate the sentiment. I am looking forward to the next time." Billy nods his head.>>757698
"Hello Fate, I am Billy!." Billy waves over to the nearby group.
Path narrows her eyes, then sighs. "Of course, my son. I will not force your will, as I said… hrmph. Enough of this. You should enjoy your Cycles off now. Even we Nobles must take days to 'chillax' as the youth say. I believe your friends have gone off now, why not catch up with them?"
"Hey, lawyers! My nephew is one of those, I think. They gave him a big wooden hammer and he's allowed to shout at people in the court! Family's real good at shoutin'." Grutar says with a hearty laugh to follow.
Good shook his head "Set the wipe as soon as you are able. I shall make notes then get in touch. I have no desire to let this situation linger any longer than I should."
"I… Lawyer? I'm afraid I have little experience in the way of matters here. What do the… two of you? Three of you?" do?" the griffon asks, cocking his head to the side and staring at the cards. The large griffon- currently unmasked, though still holding his mask in his free hand- speaks a tad quieter than normal.
"Hrmph." Zamrud says, taking another slow sip of his milk. "Better than the alternative, but still, I feel I should apologize. I know how nobles are. Was it worth the visit, then?">>757698
"A Prancecast?" Zamrud repeats as the large, hulking pony asks. "No, I'm afraid you may be mistaking me for someone else. I don't believe we've met before, do you happen to work close to the noble layer?">>757698
Zamrud picks up the business card as she slides it down, inspecting it carefully before the finely dressed stallion slides his over instead, taking a look at both cards, nodding at the cravat pony in particular. "Well, you never know when a good lawyer can come in handy, do you? Funnily enough, I feel we came awfully close to needing someone in your professions not all that long ago. Rather shady dealing in a mix-up of a delivery we were making, though they seem to have overlooked it in the end. How's your clientele?"
"That would be the judge," Square says. "I believe I may have brought a case before your nephew in my time. Although, this rank amateur does just as much shouting as he does," he adds with an accusatory point at Ave.>>757700>>757704>>757705
In response to Qhapaq's question, Ave and Square and Fate all attempt to explain the roles and functions of defense attorneys and prosecutors and the Castle's legal system in general, often clashing and contradicting one another with passion. Lots of jargon flies about.>>757705
"Not before getting hired here, sir," the barkeep says. "Warrior Stratum, former detective. Ah! Not that I was implying I'd seen you as part of an investigation or anything. Hahaha. But from tending bar and investigating homicides, I guess I've met a lot of different people.">>757705
"We're both Nobles, but Square and I have taken cases from people of every Stratum," the blue-suited Ave says. "We believe in justice for all, regardless of one's station in life."
"Indeed," Square says with contempt. "Crime and injustice permeate every Floor of every Layer of this Castle… and yet, in all my years I have not once seen a Noble prosecuted as viciously as Commoners and even Warriors. Such corruption is how Rich Duds here lost his position as detective."
Path pats your hoof. "Very well, Good. Be assured that I will not permit you to be treated by anyone less than Ironcastle's finest."
She gets up and begins to tinker with one of her tablets.
"Quite a change of careers there. Did you retire from your detective work or simply needed a break?">>757706
"Hmmm…" Zamrud contemplates deeply in thought as Square and Fate explain their professions in extremely interesting detail. Zamrud was aware of court proceedings - one of the many subjects he was raised to learn up on - but never had he heard two ponies speak with such passion about the subject.
"…by any chance," he asks once there's a break in their explanation, "Do you happen to know if any attorneys are currently assigned to a case concerning one… 'Mendicant Rudolph'?" He speaks the last name in somewhat hushed terms, knowing it to be a touchy subject.
"Sounds like a pretty rough profession. Do you do your job well?" Billy asks in response to the explanation by the fate group.
"Auch the judge! That's what it was, never been to court too often to remember." He says, though when Ave is pointed at he just laughs and slaps his knee. "Then that just means his opinion probably be more important to hear out! Keep it up amateur lad!"
He nodded and stepped off to make intricate notes about everything that had happened between now and when he got back to the castle, sending a message to Zamrud asking what he was up to.>>757708>What are you up to Zamrud? Nothing illicit I hope.
Qhapaq looks more overwhelmed than anything else- he tries to pay as much attention as he is, but he's not even the best with attention to begin with, though. The clashing and contradictions don't help either.
Zamrud's ears perk up as he feels his Concord ringing a notification, taking a look at his magicomp to see the incoming message from Good. He types out a response
>Me? Never. Been a productive but uneventful few days on my end, Good. Just met the others at a bar. They went to a casino. Hopefully I did not miss anything 'illicit'.
He smirks.>And you?
Ave shudders at the mention of the name. Square shakes his head and keeps a low voice. "With the Down-Lows involved, only ambulance-chasing sensationalist Prancecast hacks have expressed an interest in taking the case, and of course, only to increase their viewership. No serious lawyer wants to come anywhere near that case… and so you can imagine that Ave here has floated the notion more than once."
"It is everyone's right as Ironcastle citizens to receive their due justice," Ave says. "Even a case as scandalous as that one. Regardless of what he actually did, he's going to be charged with basically everything the prosecution can find in the book, and then some… and you gotta admit, it would put our little law office on the radar… of course, getting in contact with the guy is the real trouble.">>757709
"I haven't lost a single trial," Ave says proudly.
"Sometimes it seems like all the forces of fate in the world conspire in your favor," Square says. "Regardless, winning is not what we seek, but truth, and when dealing with the law in Ironcastle, truth is often dismissed altogether in favor of the politics of inter-Stratum conflict. No Noble would ever be able to live down being found guilty of misconduct to a Commoner. And so, they seldom are. We have gotten our own share of danger as a result of fighting to find the truth even in those cases.">>757712>>757710>>757709>>757708
As you talk with Ave and Square, Fate ducks behind the counter and pesters Rich until he agrees to show her some of the tricks of the barkeeping trade. You overhear some talk that suggests that it was Square who got Rich this job; apparently, Square owns this bar and reluctantly put it in Rich's care.
Going down to just two people explaining it makes the situation a little less overwhelming. "I… see. Things are very complicated in the Castles, it seems. I am glad I do not often have to deal with such things as 'legal matters'."
"Does that mean Nobles committing misconduct against each other is easier?" Billy rubs at his chin.
>>757715>She believes the Secret Police we encountered may have planted mind worms*
Correction of previous statement
Zamrud blinks as he reads this response, trying to discern if it is simply the royal scribe's paranoia or sense of humor shining through… or if it is a legitimate concern.>Is that a real concern or was she joking? I'm unfamiliar with Down-Low practices I'd believe the former>>757714
Zamrud smiles as Ave proclaims the right of all citizens of Ironcastle the right to due process. "I'm glad to see you take that stance, sir. I ask because I actually had the opportunity to meet with him after that unfortunate delivery snafu I mentioned. I don't think he's being well taken care of. Who's to say if that's just or not, but at the least I feel he is owed more than he's given as a basic right. I am not certain I could arrange such a meeting again easily, but if I could, would you mind if I passed him your information, then?">>757714
Zamrud lowers his head at Rich as he takes on another sip of his coffee. "I am sorry to hear about your precinct. I do not know how much pull my family has in the Warrior strata, otherwise I would be tempted to see what could be done about your wrongful termination."
"Probably easier than a drill breakin' through rock I imagine! Lads down below have tussles but we settle our differences easier than those with their heads stuck in the clouds. No offense to rich folk, just sayin' it must be easier to them!"
"In a relative sense," Ave says to Billy. "Most inter-Noble conflicts seldom reach the courthouse, no matter what the nature of their conflict may be. Those that do are fraught with their own perils. Square and I have gotten used to having to look back over our shoulders and wear armor to and from our offices while dealing with a case where one Noble takes another to court.">>757720
"Believe me," Square says. "I have appreciated the earnestness and sincerity present in every case I have taken where the defendant and plaintiff have both been of any Stratum other than the Nobility.">>757719
"That's very kind of ya pal, but believe me, Square and I aren't giving up without a fight on that front," Rich says. "And even if we lose, he's hooked me up with a promising career here! But if you know a way to get more people into having coffee with their sushi, now that kinda help I'd take! Hahaha.">>757719>>757716>>757717>>757720
Both Ave and Square give you more business cards when Zamrud brings up giving their information to Mendicant Rudolph. The two lawyers stare one another down.
"I thought you said you didn't want to take the case," Ave says.
"I didn't want you to take the case," Square says. "What cases I take are my business."
The two immediately get to arguing about who's poaching whose high-profile client. Meanwhile, Fate and Rich, blissfully disconnected from the lawyers' rivalry, roll sushi together.
Billy gives a small clap, "Sounds like you have quite many great tales. I haven't involved myself in court so far, only been out and about."
"Interesting, to say the least. Cutthroat world, yes." he remarks, stroking his beak a little. >>757722>>757719
"Hmm… what is the phrase? Like Fireworks. They do seem rather competitive. Why not work together?"
"What the most thrillin' case you've had? I could tell you my most thrillin' moment but it shows off well enough!" Grutar says as he lifts up his drill arm to show to Ave as he laughs.
"Well, all the same, if there is anything a semi-distinguished nobleman can do for the cause," he says as he readies a Concord friend-request to Rich. "Let me know. Though I'd be remiss to see your skills behind the counter leave, this is quite good." He says as he takes another sip of the milk, cream frothing around his whiskers.>>757722
Zamrud looks on with interest as the two lawyers duel with their business cards, to which Zamrud holds up his paws, "Sadly, I am not the client and do not feel so obligated to decide on his behalf. I will take both your cards to him and see if he has any preferences. He's a bit of an odd one, though.">>757724>>757722
Zamrud nods. "That seems agreeable. You two clearly have professional history, perhaps you could cooperate on this case?">>757721>I see. Well then, in which case, if you wouldn't mind putting me in contact with her I think I would like to have my head examined then. Feel it is a good idea to keep it to those we can trust. I'll write down anything of importance to remind myself later should the worse occur.
He says, making a mental note to jot down everything he's done regarding the mysterious historic OS from the bunker.
>>757726>You may wish to do the same for the others.
With that he sent the feline his Mother's concord contact info.
>Where are you by the way?
Rich accepts the friend request. "Yeah, I'll be in touch! Appreciate it pal," he says as he tops off your drink.>>757727>>757723>>757724>>757725>>757726https://youtu.be/upOhRRYVGkA
Another song comes on as you suggest that the bickering lawyers work together to come to the Mendicant's aid. "Yeah!" Fate says, the idea clearly catching her attention. "You guys can tag team it, switching out whenever one gets tired!"
"Despite all the months you've worked with Ave as his aid," Square says. "You seem to have not learned how trials work."
"What?" Fate gasps. "I'm like 90% of the reason he's won every case!"
"Hey, I think I can take credit for a good 60… no, 70% of the work!" Ave protests.
While the rather eccentric legal trio get back to arguing, you notice an email notification from Mabin. Its subject line requests your presence in his meeting chamber to discuss a certain mission.
>"Given the nature of the circumstances, it would be best to speak in-person regarding it," Mabin writes. "I will await you next Cycle at 0800 where we last met."
Grutar takes awhile to figure out how to open up mail once again on his magicomp before "Blasted thing, how do these things work again?"
"Hmm. A new mission? This could be good, I think- I have been stationary too long."
>>757727>Indeed. I shall inform them>As to where we are, we're at a bar in the noble district, down an alleyway. >>757728
"Well, perhaps you can all work it out once you've had a chance to meet with Rudolph. I will see if I can arrange one more audience with him, provided his jailers are merciful enough for at least that.">>757728>>757729
Zamrud looks down as the three start their spirited and heated debate once again, noticing the alert coming in from Mabin. Taking a look at it and finishing it, Zamrud lets out a quite groan, before moving over to Grutar and looking over his shoulder, pointing out the directions to use the magicomp. "Just click that symbol there…" he says as he starts out the process of explaining it.
He takes another look at the message before looking to the others, presuming they may have acquired a similar message. "I assume we're all available for that time?"
"With us all together it shouldn't be of any trouble." Billy gives a big grin as he readies himself up.
"Agreed. I believe I am more or less ready- I have little in the way of equipment to gather.">>757728
Qhapaq eyes the trio curiously, and turns away for now.
Two pertinent matters dwell in your minds: Mabin's summons, and the possibility of the Lux Deorum leaving you with a parting gift of antihazards, mental parasites designed to cancel out undesirable thoughts in their victims…
You recall that Mabin's public authentication sign-off key contained the insignia of the Lux Deorum. Perhaps he may be able to answer any questions about this chance… if you trust him enough to ask them.
You spend the rest of your Cycle recovering from the ordeal of the last Cycle, as the House Titanite manor is always opens to friends of young Good Intentions.
The next Cycle, at 0800 hours, you gather in front of the indistinct meeting-hall in the Noblesse where your meetings with Mabin have taken place thus far. You approach the guards, announcing your business with the Iron King's steward. After taking a moment to verify this with the staff inside, the guards direct you inside.
Once more you are led to the meeting-chamber that Mabin and the Iron King preferred, where you already find the lean, tall Diamond Dog sitting, an unlit cigarette held between his teeth.
"Hail, brave souls," he says in greeting. "I trust you've recovered from your rather surprising welcoming party last Cycle."
Good for his part, having joined the others, was silent and somewhat rightfully so.
Billy gives a smile in a show that he did enjoy his time. Then tilting his head down slightly in a nod.
Zamrud gives a respectful nod to the guards as the Puros enters the domain of the Iron King's steward. As they see the faithful butler ahead, seated in his chair, Zamrud gives a customary bow to the steward as he stands up straight at attention.
"I would say so. A few days rest with little to do between jobs would do wonders for stress." He says, trying to downplay his own private investigation into the USB he found with the hundred year old 'modern' OS on it.
"Though in honesty, one could hardly call the Downlow's involvement a surprise once we realized what it is we ended up shipping out of the Castle. I was half expecting the king's own guard with a warrant for our incarceration for treason. I'm only grateful things were able to be cleared up so relatively quickly."
"I suppose even the trained minds of the Lux Deorum would overreact at the sight of such a dramatic payload of contraband making its way back into our Castle," Mabin says. "Regardless, I hope the incident will not color your opinion of the Castle's many loyal defenders. It may assuage your concerns to know that, as the High Director of the Lux Deorum, I have stepped into the investigation myself to give it a more… measured approach. You won't have to worry about waking up inside of any black bags with cement horseshoes."
His tone betrays no humor.
He leans back and lights his cigarette. "That aside, I have another mission, one I believe that a team such as yourselves are suited for, considering your apparent knack for missions with unexpected twists. I trust that, prior to accepting the delivery mission on behalf of USB Delivery Systems, you also saw a mission named 'Uprooting the Tree of Evil'?"
Zamrud raises an eyebrow with surprise, looking towards the steward. "The High Director? My apologies, Mabin, I did not realize such was in your resume. I suppose that explains the LD's signature on the messages we were sent." He says, a little warier of the Dog now.
As he poses the new mission, he nods his head. "Quite. There was quite a bit of debate over which job to take, in fact, we saw much potential in it. I hadn't had mind to check it recently, I take it's still on the Mission Board?"
"I did. But I would also like any countermeasures your associates put into me and my friends removes post haste."
Good's tone was not a pleased one "Then we could discuss the issue of the tree."
"I did glance over it from before when we all were picking a mission, was there any new incidents?" Billy couldn't help but sound worried.
"My opinion of Castle Dwellers is no more colored than it already is." The griffon says, offering a soft shrug and staying silent to listen. As usual, his mask makes his emotions much harder to read.
"I… believe so."
Mabin arches a brow at Good's quick cut to the chase. Then, a look of realization replaces it. "You must be referring to that old spectre. Antihazards, right? A favorite talking point of conspiracy theorists and dissidents. You do not have to worry about that. It is not possible for the rank-and-file Lux that you encountered to simply implant antihazards into anyone they like. Special permissions are required – permissions only I can grant, as High Director. No such requests hit my desk, and even if they had, I am not so trigger happy as they are. I don't even carry a gun, as you can see."
Well, perhaps… his suit coat could still hide a smaller weapon than those the Lux you met liked to carry.>>758313>>758315>>758316>>758314
"No, that Mission has been pulled from Open Contract – what you colloquially know as the Mission Board – and put into Direct Contract, a program we and other souls of influence in Ironcastle use for Missions we cannot simply trust to anyone who happens upon it.
"When the team that accepted that Mission did not come back within the estimated timeframe, a division of the Psykers of the Observatory was assigned to psionically search for them, as per protocols. They discovered no trace of the original team nor of their potential whereabouts, but they did discover that the Tree of Evil designated as the original Mission's target had grown – further and faster than initially anticipated.
"As a team, you may have only two Missions under your belt, but your track record and previous individual accomplishments indicate high skill in adapting to adverse and unexpected twists. We want you and one other hand-picked team to head into the original Mission area, annihilate that Tree, and if possible, recover what can be recovered of the initial team who accepted the Mission."
"Forgive me Mabin but when dealing with those in the shadows it is far more wise to do so with a healthy dose of paranoia. And I would like confirmation one of your higher ranking underlings didn't pull the trigger without permission." he replied with a cool tone.
"That being said I will do as you request. I myself was quite interested in the nature of the trees fruit and the potential they might hold.
Billy straightens up at the praise. "Thank you. I am more than willing to aid in this issue if everyone else is."
As Good cuts to the chase in implying the nature of the antihazards, Zamrud studies Mabin for any sort of deception, as much as he would prefer not to mistrust the steward. "Right. Well, I certainly appreciate your candor on the subject. But all the same, I hope you might forgive us a bit of caution in dealing with the Lux. If what you say is true, would there be any way to affirm it? Scans of the brain or some such, to put ours at ease?">>758317
As he explains the details of the Tree of Evil mission's acceptance, and the accepting team's disappearance, Zamrud rubs his chin as he thinks over the details.
"How long ago did they set out? Did they accept the job the same day we left for the Bunker? How many in total are now missing?"
"Interesting. I do not know if I have heard of this tree before… though, why are we going with another team? Is the threat that dire?"
"What you are suggesting is not possible," Mabin says evenly. "But I won't require you to simply take my word for it. My employment means I am not an impartial party, after all. I can refer you to a quality medical service, free of charge – but you are also welcome to whatever independent practitioners you may prefer. I will warn you that you will get what you pay for, and when someone is trawling around in your brain of all things, you don't want to go cheap… but I doubt quality medical service will be hard to come by for Nobles such as yourselves.">>758321>>758320>>758319>>758318
As you ask your questions, Mabin types away at his Comp – a sleek and shiny model you have not seen on any digital marketplace, not even those of the Nobles. Your emails all receive an invitation to download the Direct Contract plugin and drivers for your existing Mission-handling programs, v.1.2247.
"Indeed," Mabin says, answering Qhapaq's question first. "A team of five took the Mission before you did, so allowing another team of five – such as yourselves – to undergo the Mission when the situation has obviously gotten worse, would hardly be wise. I believe you have already made the acquaintance of your partners: Ride or Die, Assembly, Bet, Gimmel and Dorya.
"As for the missing team, they departed for the Mission the Cycle it was posted. Following the restoration of the Mission Board online service, they must have hastily accepted the first Mission they could without proper consideration for its dangers. Some of them were of Commoner stock on one side of the family – those whose parents married up in Stratum tend to be more reckless to prove themselves. We included their profiles in the Mission dossier."
"Perhaps doing something to calm fears might be for the best- it wouldn't do to go on a mission as dangerous as this with two of our number distracted." He states, before nodding a bit and continuing with "It is good that they are still well. In that case, it could be for nice company."
"Though everything is still a time away from now. I am sure will all be able to work through it through that time."
Zamrud can only offer a light nod in response to having to investigate their own medical research to alleviate their concerns. "Hmmph… well, may look into that myself when I get the opportunity, then.">>758322
Zamrud looks down at his Magicomp as the 'Direct Contract' board is made available to his dashboard, staring to look through it as he goes over some of the mission details and reminds himself of the tree's nature.
"Ah, Ride or Die's squad. I am glad to hear they all have recovered from their harrowing experience at the Frotress and are ready to brave the Outlands again. We can meet with them today and make arrangements to leave by tomorrow, given a bit of time to restock supplies. A reminder, how far away from the Castle does this mission take us?"
Good was silent but nodded before quietly checking the dossiers of the missing castle dwellers.
"The previous version of the Mission estimated the travel time as seven Cycles in total – three and a half there, three and a half back," Mabin responds to Zamrud. "Though that estimate should still hold up, nothing is certain in the Outlands, as you are aware."
The Mission Dossier lists five MIA targets: A Kirin stallion – the team's Captain – by the name of Herb, a minotauress named Lone Star, two unrelated Diamond Dogs, Origami and Locomotive, and a Unicorn stallion named Kirk. Herb is a Sage, Lone Star and Locomotive are Warriors, and Kirk and Origami are noted for being of Commoner stock, but Warrior by patrilineal descent.
"Be sure that, whatever your choice regarding your supposed case of antihazards, you do not take long," Mabin says. "The sooner you leave, the sooner that Tree can be exterminated… and the sooner whatever remains of your fellow Ironcastle souls can be recovered. That is all from me – unless you have further questions."
"No nobles. Not that it would have helped but then I might have known one of them. If any are alive and not monsters, I shall work to bring them back.
"We shall try to move more swiftly than that- it might be dangerous, but with two groups, we ought to be able to fend off anything we encounter. Time is of the essence."
Billy gives a smile. "That is a great attitude to have, and you can count on me to help."
"Personally, whatever my concerns regarding the antihazards, I don't foresee them causing any issue on this mission with it taking us so far from the Castle. It can wait until I return." He says as he looks over the previous team's dossiers. "Hm, heavy on warriors but not an unbalanced team. Can only wonder what happened to them."
"I did have one question regarding the mission's parameters. It calls for a special injection to be distributed to the Tree of Evil to end its wretched existence, as well as take some of the Dreaded Ones who subsist off its fruit with it. Firstly, I would ask if there is more of this bioweapon to infect the tree with, or did it disappear along with the first team. And secondly…," he says calmly, "given the tree's unique properties, we would propose collecting samples of it or its fruit instead. The ability to manipulate time seems rather imperative, considering the other, looming issue against the clock our Iron Heart faces."
Good smiled back at him "I try to look on the bright side most of the time."
"Considering the Tree of Evil's unexpected rapid growth, we have issued a more potent countermeasure than a mere toxic injection for you to deal with it," Mabin says. "Less sophisticated and subtle than our original plan, but considering the circumstances, we feel it is an appropriate measure. It will be issued to you on your departure from the Castle.
As Zamrud suggests retrieving a sample of the Tree's fruit, Mabin puts out his cigarette butt and bites down on another, not lighting it just yet. "Your Mission first and foremost is the annihilation of the immediate threat, and your second priority is the recovery – or blessed destruction – of five Ironcastle souls from an unspeakable fate in the gullet of a Dreaded One. As potentially useful as a sample may be of this Tree's fruit, you are not to consider it anything more than a quaternary objective: Do not put it above your Mission objectives, nor over your own lives. We are already bending protocols to account for unacceptable losses of personnel as it is. Am I clear, Zamrud?"
"Sir with all due respect we are capable of doing all that. But at the same time the potential of the fruit is as fascinating as letting this tree continue to exist is horrifying."
"I feel as if taking fruit from a horribly corrupted tree could be a bit dangerous."
Billy nods not thinking much of the fruit besides as something to munch on. Would that still count as annihilation or using the fruit? For some reason Billy feels he would be scolded if he asked.
Zamrud offers a bow to the steward. "Transparent, good sir. Forgive me, my intention was never to imply I'd place this proposed objective over the lives of my Castle, or any of its souls, myself included. I just wanted to verify that the idea of preserving it in some way or form for study, should the other goals be accomplished, would be acceptable."
"As the young Lord points out, this tree's properties, as dangerous as they are, could prove integral to slowing down, or perhaps even solving, the entropy issue the King tasked us with. If it's capable of rewinding time itself… any Light lost in the Heart overtime could easily be undone."
Mabin seems to calm down somewhat from his brief and muted bout of frustration at Zamrud's suggestion. At last he lights the cigarette. "If xenomaterials acquisition is a career path that interests you, you are in luck: Such Missions are almost exclusively restricted to the Direct Contract program, precisely because they are among the Missions with the highest fatality rates. Nevertheless – bring in results, gentlecolts, and your efforts will be greatly rewarded. But for this Mission, it is the lowest of your priorities.
"Ah, and one last thing. Seeing as this is your third mission together, I thought I'd suggest to you a common practice among more solidified Warrior teams: Picking a moniker. Team This or That, or X Team, Y Team, is usually how the convention goes. Something short, sweet, and punchy. It makes DC assignment paperwork easier for myself and other questgivers as well. Give it some thought, I'm sure you can come up with something suitable."
"A… moniker? Why?" He asks, cocking his head to the side and sighing "Ah. For, paperwork. I care little for what we are called- what matters is what we do. If any of you have a preference, feel free to suggest it."
"I am pretty open to suggestions as well, I have always lacked that creative side honestly." Billy grumbles a bit at himself.
"We'll put the established mission priorities first, and acquire anything else that may benefit the Castle as it proves possible." He says firmly.
As he asks for a suggestion on a moniker, he ponders. "Hmm… what about Team Aurora? In honor of that game Lazy is so fond of? The princes play it often as well."
"I'd rather not leave her in control of the name if I can help it." Good said with a hint of distaste in his tone
"Team Gravity seems poignant but also rather self serving to myself. Team Sacrifice is just in poor taste. Though if you are wed to the idea than perhaps Team Borealis would be apt."
Zamrud chuckles. "No, I suppose she might have something to say to that suggestion wouldn't she? Would constantly check our kill-death ratios to make sure we were doing it credit."
"Hmmm… I would not say I was wed to it but, 'Team Borealis' has a certain ring to it. Or perhaps simply shorten it to 'Team Boreal'. It's fitting for explorers, for which true North has always been an integral part of any journey. And it is the way pointed to by the iron needle of a compass, honoring our castle as well."
He looks to the others. "What do you think of the name then, 'Team Boreal'?"
"In any case, gentlecolts," Mabin says, standing. He offers each of you a handshake. "My time here is up. You will find in your inbox my reference for the complimentary mental analysis. I cannot guarantee a targeted mind wipe will be free as well, but – well, I'll leave that to you. Fare thee well, and come back alive."
With that, Mabin turns to leave.
"Sounds decent enough to me.">>758344
"And what, pray tell, should happen if I do find these antihazards in my mind Mabin?"
As he turns to leave, Zamrud raises a paw. "One more thing before you go, sir." The cat asks, reaching up to rub the scruff of his chin. "Regarding the original matter the Lux were investigating: had any headway been made into learning of the dragon seen in the video footage provided, a motive or means of smuggling so much Light from the Heart with no one internally catching on?"
Mabin stops and turns, looking down at you from his full height.
"If you can provide proof – I shall look into the matter," Mabin says. "I assure you it is an impossibility, but for the sake of argument – you should know firsthand by now that the Lux Deorum have their ways. Walk ever in the Light of the Gods.">>758346
He turns to you, putting out this second cigarette of his. "An investigation is well underway – handled by the Lux Deorum. It is our job, after all – not a matter for exploration teams. Rest assured that this individual will soon learn there is nowhere to hide from Light."
"Thank you for your time, it is much appreciated." Billy bids him adeu with a bow of his head.
Qhapaq just sort of cocks his head to the side, a little… confused, about all of this.>>758343
"Sure. If it is a suggestion you rather like the sound of, then why not?"
Zamrud bows his head. "Well, should you require any assistance in pursuing him, don't hesitate to send me a message. Naturally, as the one who allowed himself to be duped into carrying out so much necessary Light from our home, I have a sense of personal responsibility on the matter."
Good remained externally unphased. He had stared down death more than once this life. He would not be shaken so easily.
"Noted. We shall see if your words ring true comrade."
Mabin leaves you, and with your business concluded, you step back out into the streets of this Noblesse district, as empty, vast, spotless – and lifeless – as ever, a pinnacle of luxury.
Good sighed and wished he had fingers to pinch his brow but settled with using his hoof to scrunch it a bit "Starting to feel like the lights here are more like fires that lead to an inferno." he said positing something without really thinking before looking to the others "So how nasty do you think these creatures will be?"
As Mabin leaves, and the squad moves back out onto the spotless strees of the Noblesse district, Zamrud lets out a sigh then turns to the others.
"Well, Team Boreal, we have our mission. I intend to spend the rest of today wrapping up any to-dos on my part and then I'll be going out to re-supply for the journey outward. I assume we'll want to take Senorita with us as well, assuming she's fully repaired, so I may need to stop by Rockfall's."
"Regarding our potential… mental compromise, what are your thoughts in seeing these medical sources Mabin provided? Before we depart or after?">>758353
"Not a bad comparison. Unfortunately, despite fire's potential for destruction, at least for now it is also our only defense against the cold and dark of the Outlands. So we must find a way to keep it burning."
As Good speaks of the creatures, Zamrud shakes his head. "Honestly, I can hardly comprehend it. A Dreaded One that can manipulate time? Even in the realms of magic, I find that difficult to grasp. What defense could there be against it?"
"I can't imagine they are any less nasty than anything we have face before to cause a whole group to go missing." Billy grimaces as he remembers the lost names.
"Always best to have things organized before departing." Billy shrugs looking to others.
"Whichever makes you feel more comfortable, friend. We could go now, if you wish."
"My powers amusingly enough. Making it harder for them to move would make their powers efficacy lessened. Though that road would in theory run both ways."
He sighed "Regardless if we do not save this world, all will still be ash."
"As for our minds, seeking medical help as soon as possible would be advantageous."
"Don't play – outside – after dark," a robotic voice commands from behind. You turn in time to see La Senorita disembark from a lightrail trolley, much to the displeasure of the one singular trolley operator, at the tread marks she left behind.
"Be sure – invite – friends for birthday parties," she splices.
Again with that strange term, 'Day'… but anyway, it seems she wasn't happy about being left behind… and how did she find you?
Good took the time to see if his mechanical companion had received any tlc from the staff, fixing dents and buffing her back to a presentable level of cleanliness
"Ah I was wondering when you would join us my mechanical companion."
"Then let us see to it while the time is available to us." He says, taking a look towards his Concord to see what recommended medical practice Mabin proposed. "Honestly, full a check-up wouldn't be a bad idea in general. Two trips out into the Outlands, want to make sure we've not contracted anything out there.">>758359
Zamrud's tail stands straight on end as he hears the robotic voice of Senorita from behind, turning about to look at the Helping Hoof as he looks up at the tank. "…well, that's fortuitous timing. Good to see you again! I take it you were in good care with Rockfall? How are you feeling?"
"Will it be okay?" Billy point to out and about senorita. Just something about the machine discomforted the dragonlike goat.
"What a… curious construct- there is, without a doubt, far more to her than I would have imagined initially." He says, rubbing the robot's head softly.>>758361
"Hmm… very well, then. Let us go, Zamrud. Everyone."
"Regular vehicle maintenance can help prevent unexpected breakdown," La Senorita says. "Car's extended warranty – unnecessary. No new voicemails. Main menu."
She looks like Rockfall and Steel Unyielding did quite a good job repairing her… at least, what they could anyway. She is so old a machine that some repairs would require taking apart every piece of her.
"In the metaphysics of identity, the Ship of Theseus–" La Senorita begins. A link opens up in your Comps.https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ship_of_Theseus
"–Voicemail deleted. I apologize – spam is a bannable offense," she splices.
"Well that is interesting?" Billy quirks up an eyebrow.
"It's good to see you're doing better. We need to sit you down and let you watch some entertainment to help with your sentence mixing."
"Yes. It is good to maintain you, Senorita. I would hate to lose one as dependable as you…" he trails off, clicking the link with one of his massive talons to look at what exactly a 'Ship of Theseus' is.
Zamrud's eye pops up as she shoots him a link in his comp, following the link to a concept he'd come across in his studies. He turns with a slightly worried look towards Senorita after receiving it, but puts on a smile to lighten the mood. "I'll have to commend them on treating you well next time I see them. Felt like something was missing without you."
He says, "We're needing to visit a medical facility before our next exhibition into the Outlands. Would you be willing to give us a lift?">>758367
As he catches Qhapaq following the link, Zamrud chuckles. "Her AI is even more advanced than I previously thought. I fear the poor thing may be undergoing an existential crisis."
"All aboard," La Senorita says to Zamrud's request. It's doubtful you can all fit on her, but that won't stop her from trying. "Please specify a landing zone."
"You are still you. Even if your parts look different. I am still myself, even after I mutated." he says, patting her again.
Billy can't help himself but ask, " How would you fit us all?" With a quirked eyebrow.
"Carefully – in compliance with OSHA regulations."
Good took the offer and climbed onto her shoulders as he messaged his mother about good doctors to probe their brains for the potential issues."
Not wanting to leave his friend alone Billy decided to follow after Good.
As everyone starts to pile on top, Zamrud declines adding more weight to a freshly oiled machine and opts to walk alongside her treads after all. He takes a look at his Concord to get the recommended facility Mabin provided.
"We're looking for 'Vejovis Nobility Care', if you please." He says to Senorita.
Whether riding on or with La Senorita, your group heads to the Noble hospital recommended by Mabin, to judge whether you carry lingering biopsychic surveillance methods courtesy of the Lux Deorum.
You eventually reach the clinic, after some walking through the vast and unpopulated Noblesse.
Gleaming, near-translucent walls surrounded by a garden. Practically transparent, thin entry doors part ways for you. You might almost mistake the interior for an art gallery, for the inner walls of the place cycle through many series of copyrighted paintings and brief copyrighted videos, no doubt the private collection of the practitioners here.
>moving things for the sake of time
After greeting the griffoness behind the receptionist's desk, you explain your business, and reference Mabin by name. After confirming your referral with the computer records, she directs you to room 302.
More art and finery occupy your senses as you ride the elevator to the third floor. As the elevator doors slide open, a holographic doctor's assistant manifests, and directs you down the hall to the room. Upon entering, you see it is more of a lounge, a vast, spacious and comfortable room, with lush seating. As you enter, the holographic assistant dons a butler's vest and slacks, and takes any orders for food or drink you may wish while you wait for the doctor.
"This place is HUGE!" Grutar shouts loud enough to make it echo through the lounge. "Oi you got any whiskey? My back is KILLIN' me!" He asks the hologram as he looks for the comfiest seat to slouch down into.
"This is quite… unusual. Quite spacious, too." The griffon remarks, looking over the selection of food and drink. The masked griffon orders some food, and water, but strays from liquor for now.
Good seemed to recall this place being more opulent than he remembered as a foal, but this was years ago when his sister was born. He decided to order a soda and a small sandwich to help hold him over a bit.
Billy takes near Grutar feeling content to gaze around the building. Noticing the gallery, billy wonders if it is some kind of strange advertisement.
After a brief period, a tall, short-maned Yagi enters, wearing a doctor's gown. Markings and emblems upon her gown identify her as a Sage who has been given the special clearance to perform medical procedures upon Nobles – a privilege normally reserved for Nobles themselves, rarely distributed to Sages, and only to those of uncommon skill and accomplishments.
"Hail, good souls," the Yagi says with a bow. "I am Curate Katsuragi. I understand you have concerns regarding certain biopsychic traumas following your latest mission in the Outlands."
A knowing smile suggests she is saying less than she could.
"Rest assured that High Director Mabin often trusts me with the care of his trusted allies and agents," Katsuragi continues. "Deep scan procedures are painless, but thorough. I cannot promise this will end quickly, but I can attest we will get results. Do I have any volunteers for the first two screenings?"
"I am fine with allowing everyone else to go first. I am no hurry myself here besides being here with everyone." Billy looks to the new arrival.
"What does bio-sci-kick mean again? Is that when you encounter one of them brain scramblin' things out there? My brain feels fine though, just my back kickin' me today. Can you do a deep scan on that too?" Grutar asks as he downs his glass of whiskey.
"I will go first." he said simply as he stood up and approached and set his empty can aside.
"That is… yes, I think that is why we are here. I must confess, I only came here with my companions. I do not, ah… fully understand the issue myself."
Upon reaching the Noblesse clinic, Zamrud looks around the lavish surroundings and architecture. He bemuses how much just went into making this place look as extravagant as it was, rather than what might be spent on the medications and treatments themselves. This pondering of priorities fades as they reach the front desk though, and Zamrud explains their need for a check-up and bill of clean health before going out into the Outlands. The specifics of the mind-worms they may have, he does not specify yet. He orders a coffee from the holographic butler after they reach the waiting area, and calmly sips it as he waits for their appointed physician.>>758635
As the Yagi comes into greet them, Zamrud turns his attention from sipping his coffee and reading his messages to turn his attention to the doctor.
"Hail, doctor. Thank you for meeting with us today on such short notice, I do hope we haven't disrupted your schedule too much."
As she gets into the topic of 'biopsychic traumas', and then Mabin himself, Zamrud offers a smirk to the knowing doctor. "Well, I see our good friend the King's right hand has already sent word ahead on our behalf. Yes, we are interested in the scans for what you are probably imagining… for piece of mind, if nothing else."
As Good raises his hoof, Zamrud raises his paw. "I will volunteer for the other first scan as well."
"Biopsychic. Essentially a fancy way of saying something that may be messing with our brains… and, we fear it may not be a Dreaded One responsible in this case."
Grutar scratches his head with his drill. "Somethin' else other than Dreads? Seems fishy! Maybe it's somethin' made by a Dread!"
"Of course," Katsuragi says. "Such an examination will not require the hardware of the deep scan, however. I will have one of my assistants perform that for you.">>758636>>758637>>758638>>758639>>758640
Katsuragi takes some notes on a data-pad, then gestures for Zamrud and Good to follow her. "Right this way. As for the rest of you – I will collect you when the time comes. Until then, please make full use of the available amenities. You will find a rich encyclopedia of the procedures we offer, and a humbly small record of the contaminations one might encounter while exploring the Outlands.">>758638>>758640
Katsuragi leads Good and Zamrud down many halls, made the more convenient by automated walkways until at last you reach another room. This room, unlike the others, is not translucent, but an opaque white. Inside are two great machines, almost resembling great eggs in their ovular shape, though surrounded also by no small number of monitors, meters, dials, levers and switches, and of course, a sea of wires. A small set of stairs by each "egg" leads up to a chamber in which a patient must lay, filled with some warm amber liquid. Medical undergarments sit on a table beside each egg.
"I can step outside, or substitute out a male doctor, if you are uncomfortable being in your undergarments around me," Katsuragi says.
"I wonder if they give massages here too!" Grutar says as he gets himself another whiskey to help dull his aches of the day.
"I… will be fine." the young noble said as he blushed a bit but went to begin changing into them with no small amount of embarassment
"Well, I don't know this place for doing that. Honestly I don't know where those services are sold." Massage stores, or is it massage parlors? It sounded dirty in his mind.
"Mmm… I wonder what they have on Outlands contamination." Qhapaq remarks, giving the material a check.
Zamrud gives a wave to billy, Grutar, and Qhapaq. "Won't be long, gentlemen." Before following behind Dr. Curate Katsuragi down the various halls and doorways making their way to the next room. He's tempted to ask why this hospital has so many lavish furnishings, but gets the feeling he well already knows the answer.
As they get to the massive egg-like containers, Zamrud gives them a look over, trusting them to do their purpose and the Doctor to do her job.>Appraise, trying to get an understanding of the brain-scanner [1d10+1]
As she points out the medical undergarments, Zamrud gives a shrug as he begins to unbutton his coat and takes off his light jacket he wears as casual fair around the Noblesse. "It's quite alright, this is hardly my first examination by a female doctor." He says with a smirk.Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
"Oooh! Maybe I can find one on my little tech thing, let's see…" He grumbles as he begins to drunkenly attempt to tap away at the screen of his magicomp with his drill arm. "If I use the tip, it'll be like usin' a big pen!"
>Drunkenly web surfing
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Once again, you just end up trapped by algorithms into a slew of bizarre videos that seem to be popular with the modern youth.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=x7s9obLCEaQ>>758646>>758644>>758647
The hardlight holographic assistant proffers a datapad, the screen open to a diagram-laden encyclopedia of Outlandish afflictions. A few jump out at you.
>"Eldritch Aether">"The Voice of Reason">"La Chute">>758645>>758648
Katsuragi turns aside, not looking as you change. Zamrud tries to make sense of the arcane machine, but most of it is beyond his level of magitechnical education. At the very least, it all looks very well-built and sturdy, and not like to cause undue harm to the patients within.
"Whenever you are ready, then," Katsuragi says. "Step inside, and take a deep breath of the liquid."
Good, rather off put but not entirely bothered by the fact he undressed in front of a stranger and a girl, quickly moves in and takes a breath.
Zamrud quickly removes his noble attire and puts on the medical gown, turning around to look inside of the machine as he takes a cautionary 'step' inside the liquid. His paw shrinks back, the fur on his entire body up to his tail and ears standing on end as he shivers. "Oooh. Never did do well with water." He says as he takes a breath, immersing himself quickly in the amber-liquid before his body has time to react to the temperature or wetness, shivering as he settles in.
"Right, let's get started." He says as he dips his head under and, as instructed, take a 'breath' of the liquid, trusting the doctor knows what she's doing.
Billy peers over Grutar's shoulder. "Nothing looking quite appealing over here. Machines aren't that reliable honestly." Billy shakes his head thinking about proper entertainment and the stories he knows.
Grutar lets out random bouts of hearty chortles, guffaws and even some uncomfortably long laughs.>>758646>>758647
"Hey look, check this one out! This weird little creature does a cool spin!" He says as he shows his magicomp to the others around him.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RuG2Dli3MWo
Qhapaq isn't particularly picky, so he'll just go down the list- starting with Eldritch Aether!
Billy squints with a weird expression being put off by the noises and weird shapes. "No one at home has said anything about this."
A brief spasm of terror rushes through your body, as it senses for a moment that it is at risk of drowning– but through some chemical feat, the peculiar liquid in your chambers seems to mimic air, and all is well, for you can breathe it through both mouth and nose… and a good thing, too, for soon after you inhale the liquid, you drift off into a warm and comfortable sleep…>>758655
Eldritch Aether, according to the encyclopedia entry, consists of a local disturbance in the latent aether of an area, causing any effects which are not purely mundane in their causation to behave erratically and unpredictably. Most commonly, spells misfire or produce entirely unintended results, including results impossible to the magician who performed them – a fire mage accidentally conjuring lightning when he lacks all skill in lightning magic, for example.
Eldritch Aether can also infect a victim, causing such effects normally localized to an area to follow the victim wherever they go, as the "area" affected is now the victim's biological mechanism for their preternatural skills. As it is highly contagious, teams that lack preternatural abilities are selected for missions requiring passage through or into areas known for Eldritch Aether contamination.
>timeskip to the next pair of patients available
Zamrud nearly panics as he feels the predictable sensation of drowning occur, but after a moment and the liquid delivers all the qualities of a breath of fresh air, and his body allows itself to relax in the amber liquid, drifting off into sleep as the machine does its job and he dreams once again of a certain striped individual…
Grutar keeps algorithm surfing, likely until he gets called up to be next.
>Ready for any timeskip.
Qhapaq will check out the next entry, the 'Voice of Reason'. If no one else offers to go next, Qhapaq will offer to go up as the next patient.>>758654
"Interesting. What exactly is this?"
Billy despite his words, entertains himself by keeping an overwatch on grutar and his web surfing.
>Ready for timeskip
"I don't know! Looks like a funny lookin' dread doesn't it?"
Good had an idea and despite a bit of a tensing he had managed to focus himself on calming. He idly wondered upon the future as things faded and he welcomed the darkness.
Indeed, it is a dream most peculiar… you would recall some of it later, in hindsight… you smoke a pipe after a hard Cycle of work, idly arguing with the old mare over some mundane thing as you leaf through a newspaper. She heckles you about lacking some ingredient for a dish she'd planned to make the coming weekend– heedless of the reservation you made a week prior for her birthcycle celebration.>>758660
The "Voice of Reason," as it is sarcastically termed by exploration teams, is a phenomenon without known cause, where an explorer, usually only one per group, has an alteration in their internal monologue. At first indiscernible from their normal internal monologue, this "Voice of Reason," using the victim's very mental-voice, begins to ruminate incessantly on perfectly logical and apparently reasonable arguments that the victim should commit some atrocious act, whether bodily mutilation, theft, sabotage, or even murder – against the victim themselves or their allies.
It is because this phenomenon's presence that exploration teams are encouraged to talk frequently on Concord voice chat to assess the mental well-being of their allies, as well as their own. Its lack of identifiable cause is a grave concern for exploration teams, and a bounty has been offered to anyone who can pin down its source.>>758664>>758660>>758661>>758662
Around an hour later, Katsuragi comes and collects Grutar and Qhapaq for their examination. When they reach the testing-chamber, they see that Good and Zamrud are both drying off on special lounging-chairs of a sort, with towels sitting nearby. Good and Zamrud gradually come to, and see that Qhapaq and Grutar are up next.
"Alright, fellows, you two are up next," Katsuragi says to Grutar and Qhapaq. "Rest assured that the deep scan chambers are totally decontaminated between each scan."
Good took the time to clean himself off and redress "Did you find anything?" he asked simply as he began to redress, focusing on his question more than the fact he was less than dressed "I would prefer a direct answer."
"I'm pretty sure after watchin' the fortieth video related to this fella raisin' his brow to sounds of explosions, I'm gonna need a scrub with the scan too!" Grutar exclaims as he switches off his comp's videos to follow Katsuragi.
"And the last one is… La Chute." the griffon rumbles, giving it a curious once-over.>>758665
"I… see. Well, very well. Whatever it is we are going to do, let's do it." The griffon says, humming and mulling over whether or not to remove his mask…does he need to?
As his brain is scanned, Zamrud smiles within the egg, if his mumbling could be heard through the liquid one might hear a practiced smart/suave remark or another, for reasons unknown. Nonetheless, he purrs calmly during the process.>>758665>>758666
After the procedure wraps up and Zamrud gets the opportunity to step out of the liquid-filled eggs, Zamrud lays out on a towel while rubbing out the amber fluid from every bit of his fur, already going through a few towels as he grumbles earnestly. "Rrrmmm… this is why I don't do well with the water, my coat is adamant in refusing to dry."
He turns to look at Qhapaq and Grutar enter next, smirking. "Ah, next up I see. Hope you were prepared to get a little wet." He turns back towards Katsuragi as Good asks her about the findings, equally curious about the results.
"I don't mind going myself. Though I am just quite unfamiliar with the procedure." Billy speaks up.
La Chute, understood less than the Voice of Reason, refers to a phenomenon of personalized antigravity and intangibility that seems to afflict its victim following their contact with particular xenomaterials. Under the effects of La Chute, the victim falls out of their armorsuit, and through other tangible materials, in a seemingly random direction that may change over time, sometimes within minutes, or within seconds, unless the effect can be dispelled. The intangibility, more than the antigravity, is what inspired its name, after an influential philosophical novel written around the time of the Age of Corrosion.>>758669>>758666
"No, deep scans turned up no contamination, nor parasites of any biological, spiritual or mental natures," Katsuragi says. "We can get you an export of the test results along with your complimentary printout, though I think you will find that only a hoofful of people would be able to understand the direct results."
>For everyone else
In turn, you are all scanned, and by late afternoon, the tests are all done, and you are afforded a chance to recover and dry off. Katsuragi presents you all with a printout, in both paper and PDF form, declaring your uncontaminated health.
"And of course, if you have any questions about the… veracity
of the results, you can always contact us. Mention Mabin's name in the right places, and you might even be able to get a second opinion at another clinic."
"I'll take one." he said simply as he slowly moved out. He waited for them to head out before looking to Zamrud.>>758669
HE motioned for the feline to stay back so they could have a somewhat private convo.
"What's it say about my back? Did I knick it wrong or am I just gettin' old?" The already old dog asks the curator.
Billy overall felt nonchalant over the matter, and doubted he could understand the test if he tried. "Thank you." He bowed his head.
Zamrud continues to lounge in his seat, using a towel frustratingly to sap up all the moisture from his fur as he listens to her explanation of the results. "I see… well, that's good to hear. I think I would appreciate a copy of the results all the same, perhaps some light reading material. Anything else of note then? We're about to head out into the Outlands again, I take it we're in a clean bill of health?"
As Good signals him, Zamrud's ears flicks down as he picks up on it, sticking close to the unicorn when they get an opportunity to slip somewhere quiet.
"Hmm. So, I am apparently fine. I was not surprised, but I am thankful nonetheless. Were I seriously debilitated, I imagine I would already have known.>>758675
"I hope this has calmed your nerves, friend. I know you were… suspicious, which is likely not a bad thing."
"The latter, though the former is certainly possible," Katsuragi says. "I can have an appointment made for you at a specialized clinic if it does not improve through a basic Cyclical stretch routine and proper lifting form. You may find that the liquid used in the chamber will calm the pain you had, at least temporarily.">>758672>>758673>>758674>>758675>>758677
Katsuragi taps at a data-pad for a time, and a holographic assistant shortly arrives with a printed copy of the direct results of the tests. As she warned, most of it might as well be gibberish to you, but those with magical and medical education recognize some of the terminology used in the report. She then gives you the clinic's contact information.
"If that's all, you are all set for the Cycle," Katsuragi says. "You can get some candy at Room 302 if you wish."
>Pause, but post for next time
"Much as I hate to drag you into my philosophical ponderings my friend, I feel like you're the only one who can talk to me like an equal on these matters."
"Oh! I'm used to temporary pain relieving liquids! Here, can you help me put it in my little comp thing here?" He requests as he shows his comp. Though turning it back on just plays one of his previously watched videos.
Zamrud grunts as he wraps a towel around his shoulders. "It has… as much as be expected, anyways. I'm not sure I'll be able to ever rest fully though, one can never be too cautious where the Downlows are concerned. We'll want to stay vigilant, I should think.">>758678
Zamrud gives a cursory glance over the reports and, accepting it's not something he can readily understand right away outside of the summaries, puts it away for later, giving a low bow for their caretaker. "Thank you very much for the very impromptu examination, Dr. Katsuragi. It's good to know we're still well and fit for the King's service. We'll be sure to stop by again if we're in need of your expert caretaking. And send Mabin my thanks for your recommendation.">>758679
As Good calls his attention, Zamrud slips off to the side to speak with the young unicorn in private. "Of course, young lord, as nobles I feel it is our obligation to consider moral quandaries. What specifically is on your mind, the mind-worms? Or the Tree? Something else entirely?"
"Mmm. If there is anything that can be done to help, please, do not hesitate to ask. I would not like to lose you in the Outlands from distractions, if there is something I could have done to help put your mind in more focus." He explains, before setting a heavy set of talons on his shoulder. "Either way, I will remain extra vigilant on this next trip.">>758678
"Mmm. Thank you, Miss Katsuragi, for your help." He offers, bowing a little.
Zamrud's eyes perk up with surprise, looking at the griffon with a curious look. "What? Oh, you… I see." He says, rubbing his chin. "You think my fixation on what the DL's did will distract me once we're out in the Outlands… not an unreasonable concern, I suppose, the way I've been chasing this."
He nods. "I appreciate your concern Qhapaq. I admit, it helps to have someone to point that out. But rest assured, when I am out in the Outlands, my mind is very much on the present. I like to think whatever business I have in the Castle will only be an issue inside of it, not outside of it. My focus will be dead-set once we depart."
"Good. I apologize if I came off as overbearing, or condescending." The griffon offers, pulling his mask off long enough to offer a soft, genuine smile.
Zamrud shakes his head. "You have nothing to apologize for. I appreciate your concern, in honesty it may be something I truly needed to hear lest I actually let it distract me when it shouldn't. I'll put it out of my mind while we're in the Outlands."
"Fair but I suppose I worry about the nature of my queries and quandries lately. I genuinely worked myself up about being mind wiped before and I feel that is… Alarmingly indicative of our world and not in a good way. Our world… Well if it was a good world we wouldn't need to worry about that sort of thing no? I've always been told of how the castles and the light are these inherent goods and yet I find myself stuck wondering after these recent events."
"Thank you kindly." Billy bows his head as he turns for a fast walk towards getting some candy in room 302.
As you tumble, would up by doubts and by stress and by the faceless, light-wreathed shadows who call themselves the Lux Deorum–
Your mind briefly swims in a murky haze. Dissociation – from your body, from the scene. You've read about this… a stress response. And as you drift there, watching the stage from somewhere else, another scene is clearly visible, just as the other one.>>>/q/758869
Good blinked, sitting there and watching the exchange between himself and a strange yellow mare who felt so oddly familiar to him.
Something tells you this episode is almost passed… like you'll be waking up from it very soon… lest you can hold it together – or snap out of it right this moment.
Good did his best to try and linger for a bit longer with this strange mare and his family. She felt so… Oddly familiar.
The vision fades as the mare leaves the house. As you slip back into your body, it feels ill-fitting, and foreign. Zamrud is speaking, responding to what you said earlier – you couldn't have been out for more than a second or two.
Katsuragi raises an eyebrow. "You'll have to get a prescription from the clinic.">>758681>>758682>>758698>>758679
After getting any desired candy from Room 302, you are able to make your way out of the examination office, and back into the vast and empty streets of the Noblesse.
Qhapaq would take any piece of candy he would be allowed to- but only one, to be polite.
"To the mission, then? Or are further preparations required?"
Good stood in a daze amongst the others, very visibly confused and very much moving on autopilot as he seemed to be trying to focus on something.
"Hmmm." Zamrud says, nodding his head as he considers this viewpoint himself. "It's certainly been less than a favorable outlook on some of our Castle's practices. I've long known about - and disagreed with, to varying degrees - the practices done by the Lux in the name of security, but now having been made subject to it ourselves, those feelings have changed somewhat."
"…I am not so idealistic to think the well-being of our Castle, or any other, can come without some sacrifice, however. At least, that's what I have told myself in the past. It is not to say that extreme means are to be justified by the end, but the Castles are complex, sometimes vulnerable structures with millions of lives to look out for. To keep society protected, sometimes darker acts are needed.">>759149>>759150
Zamrud passes over the candy on his way out of Room 302, offering his thanks once more to Dr. Katsuragi as he looks around to the others.
"We all seem to be in a bill of good health. I'd say there's only just a stop to make sure we're supplied with enough food for the journey, and then we should meet with our fellow squadron we'll be working with on this mission, make sure they're prepared as well." He says pulling up his Magicomp, looking to see if there's a way to reach out to Ride or Die
Good, being dazed was not quite cognizant enough to properly respond, murmuring something along of the lines of "Wait… who are you?"
"I'm honestly ready for anythin', just no more boorahcracy stuff. It'll drive me to drink too much!"
You see that you have Ride or Die's team's contact information stored in Magicomp memory. You can reach out to any of them at anytime.
Zamrud looks back at Good, his brow raising up in confusion to that response. "…are you quite well, young Lord? Still feeling light-headed from the exam?"
"I… I had a vision of sorts… like I was pulled into a strange home, I could see my family… and this yellow mare. I had no idea who she was but she felt… so familiar to me…"
Zamrud, finding his contact info on Concord, sends out a message (and friend request), suggesting that their two parties meet up somewhere to coordinate before going out on their mission. He makes suggestion of Rich's bar in order to grab a bite as well.>>759157
"Just now?" He says, looking at the colt's face with concern and scrutiny. "Odd… anything else you could say of this yellow mare? Anything of note we could check against the records?"
"She didn't seem much older than me. And She called my parents Mom and Dad… but I don't have an older sister."
"Is that bad? I though that drinking was something good?" Billy was left feeling left out of the meaning.
"You know, one time I had a dream REAL SIMILAR to somethin' like that. Though it was me dreamin' of a bar and gettin' married to a big tall glass of beer. Though I swear I knew that beer all my life, can't remember seein' the brand at all outside of the dream!"
"Ah- contact Ride or Die's team, then? It would do well to see them again, and plan things out." He suggests, smiling a little.>>759157
"Just now? Hrm… perhaps one of the attendants of the clinic. A memory of young age?"
"But I saw her talking to me… and I was the exact same as I am now… I may need to talk to my parents…"
"Hmm… I have heard of those within the Outlands that are capable of speech without speech- conversations within the mind. Something similar?" He suggests.
You make it back to Rich's coffee shop in about an hour, where you find that the bickering lawyers and their peculiar assistant are no longer there. Just Rich. He's busy washing dishes while Ride or Die, Assembly, Bet, Gimmel and Dorya are enjoying their coffee and some pastries – the pastries being just as artful as Rich's coffee.
"Wha-hey, guys–" Rich begins, before Ride stands straight up, cutting him off entirely.
"Well, well!" Ride says, striding forward to offer a hand barely as you cross the threshold of the sushi-bar-coffee-shop. "Our saviors are back in our humble presence again. How have you chaps been?"
"I believe I am doing fine. Though I can't speak for everyone as recent times have been quite exciting." Grutar's winnings were quite a memorable sight.
"…again, odd." Zamrud repeats, rubbing his chin as he tries to consider this. "Hmm. Normally I'd say you should just take a moment to lay down, but recent events lead me to believe sometimes unsuspecting oddities should be investigated. I suggest contacting your parents with a description of the yellow mare, see if they might know anything to that effect.">>759165
As they head into the bar, Zamrud raises a paw, "Well met, Ride or Die. And please, we did no more than any other of His Majesty's servants would have done. I am relieved to see you all alright after such an incident. Comparatively, we've been fine. Had quite an encounter with another sort of Dreaded One a couple of weeks ago now, but thankfully all of us are no worse for wear."
"Thirsty, that's how I'm doin'! You got any recommendations to this place? Because I usually like my coffee black like a big deep cavern!" Grutar says with a guffaw before getting a brew ordered, though taking suggestions from whoever speaks up first to him about any.
He nodded and sent a text to his mother asking for a moment of her time to respond when she had a chance.>>759164
"Perhaps that is the case.">>759165
Good nodded to them "It has been some time my friends."
Qhapaq shakes the hand, and offers a soft smile. "Good to see you, Ride or Die. I hope you and your companions are well. We are doing well enough, it seems." he replies, nodding a little. His mask is still on, but his tone is friendly.
"You'll be after What the Doctor Ordered, then," Rich says, pouring you a mug of the darkest brew you have ever beheld. No flourishes or adornments to this cup, but perhaps its simplicity and purity is this one's flourish.>>759169
She responds with old-school ASCII emoticons depicting someone flipping a pancake. Seems emoji are too modern for her.>>759166>>759167>>759168>>759169>>759170
Rich patiently awaits for more coffee orders as you sit.
"We have been chipping away at some shorter missions ourselves to boost strength and morale after the recent setback we suffered," Ride says. "It is a great honor to have the High Director assign us to a mission with that unfortunate history considered, and to be working with allies as well."
"I believe the High Director was most amused with the idea of sending us
on a rescue mission," Assembly dryly notes.
he sent his mother before getting serious
>I had a rather strange vision of the family talking to a yellow mare who was only a little older than me. She referred to you to as Mom and Dad. Do you know anything?>>759171
Good looked up "Given the danger this mission bodes to the castle, it makes sense that we send a large well prepared group. Hopefully we needn't have to rescue you again."
"Good. Confidence and trust are key. If you cannot trust the hand that holds the sword, you cannot strike true."
"Glad that it hasn't gone bad for you all, I do hope it gets better though." Billy lowers himself down.
Zamrud turns to Rich, "I'll have a latte, if you please. Little extra milk."
He turns his attention back to Ride. "That you came back from the Fortress at all should be written as commendable, I doubt many teams would be met with as favorable circumstances as yours. I agree it'll be good to be working with a familiar squad on this next one, hopefully we can avoid whatever may have happened to the original team."
"Do you know anything more about the ones MIA? I hadn't met any of them prior but I take it you've been at the game a bit longer."
Grutar takes a sip, though it's taste is likely bitter as herbal medicine he's got the biggest smile on his face after tasting it. "Now this is the kind of kick I was looking for today! Good stuff!"
>>759172>I will look into this peculiar vision. Did the Lux do anything to you?>>759172>>759173>>759174>>759175>>759176
Rich serves Zamrud his coffee, and Ride overlooks Good's backhanded comment.
"Not much more than what other rumormongers would tell you," Ride says, his voice lowering. "They were noteworthy for getting more Direct Contract missions than the average Teams, leading to plenty of rumors about their skill… and plenty more rumors about them being privileged with access to experimental weapons and armor types. They aren't unique in that regard – many long-running teams end up in similar circumstances – but what set them apart was how quickly their team ended up in those circumstances. Normally a team has to be established for year minimum, and with many distinguishments to their name, before they are thrust into such a position. But nearly from their inception, their team was put on DC assignments."
"Ah. There is a word I heard you people use describing such things… an -ism. I do not know the word. But, if they are skilled, I suppose it does not matter. Who are these team member? Who are we looking for, physically?"
>>759177>Clean as far she could tell. I asked her to be as thorough as she could.>>759177
"Perhaps it's a desperate times situation? I'll admit I am not the most familiar with the politics of these things."
"Maybe they just did somethin' REAL impressive, like the hush hush kind of real impressive so you don't go makin' anyone else extremely jealous or overly envious." Grutar replies to Ride with a somewhat equally yet still louder hushed voice.
"I don't think guesswork works best as it does lead to confirmation bias once actual reasons are discovered. I am more willing to wait and see."
"I was not ware of that, on either point." He says, nodding to Rich in thanks for his latte as he takes a slow sip, milky froth forming on his lips. "Either that they were frequent recipients of Direct Contracts, or that they had gotten to such a lucrative position so quickly. I suppose it's possible they're simply that skilled, but then how ill does that bode for our upcoming mission if even they went missing?"
"The word is nepotism, I believe," Assembly says. "And those are the prevailing theories as to their rise."
"Billy has the right of it, I believe," Ride says. "No point to speculate with no hard proof one way or another… but I do not believe that they were so skilled as to be untouchable by the likes of us. Were they the unapproachable, unstoppable forces that some believe them to be, they would send teams of much higher rank than us to retrieve them. Not to put us down, by any measure!"
"Mmm- fair enough. I am ready to depart, though mostly because I have little for me in this Castle. The others may still be busy."
"I understand, and have some trust in those managing this. At least I doubt there would be an conspiracy against us." Billy frowns at the thought of such.
"So does that mean we're goin' as soon as I finish this coffee?"
"Right," Zamrud says in agreement with Assembly. "I do believe that is the more likely case here, between that and them earning it. Not to downplay their abilities, if they have multiple Direct Contract missions under their belts already then they must have been skilled enough to accomplish them, but obviously such perks given to a crew so early can only point in one direction."
"Then, in which case, I suppose the question is nepotism from 'whom'. The missing team consists of a sage, two warriors, and two commoners with warrior ancestry. No nobles. Arguably, our team stands more chance to benefit from nepotism than theirs. Perhaps Herb has some connections with the Sages?"
"Perhaps, they have some Low Down friends."
>>759179>Very surprising. Report to me if anything changes there.
An image file comes through. It's a picture of some pancakes being cooked on the stove in your mansion. The caption – ¿Quieres?>>759188>>759187>>759186>>759185>>759184
"A connection with powerful Sages would explain their early access to experimental weapons and technology," Ride agrees. "No offense to the Sages in the room, but your Stratum is well-known among the others for your constant bickering and backstabbing and conniving over research grants and invention fame. The stories I hear coming out of the Arcanum and Technicarum would put the DL's to shame! Ah, but I digress."
He finishes his coffee, and stands. "My team and I are quite ready once you are. Have you any more preparations to make?"
"I do have a bit, do you have a bit of wisdom to share to take note of in particular?" Billy tilts his head.
It seems I have a meal at home, Otherwise I am good to go once I have my gear and have eaten."
"I'll be as ready as I'll ever be!"
"…perhaps even a particular DL. Mabin seemed familiar with them.">>759189
Zamrud holds up his paws, "None taken, though while none of us are Sages ourselves some of us are related to one. But I digress, that would make the most sense is Herb's associates."
As he finishes his coffee, he turns to look to the others. "I believe we're all ready to go. Though, one more thought does come to mind." He says, looking to everyone.
"Say Herb did receive special privileges and equipment from his fellow Sages, and now Herb is at risk, would it stand to reason that they might be interested in seeing us succeed in finding him? It seems we have an opportunity to benefit from a little 'nepotism' ourselves."
"Given his supposed rank, he would be the type to have his digits in many pies."
"All ready to go myself."
With the coffee and discussions done, Ride's team set out for the Ramparts. Rich wishes them well on their way out, but looks a little forlorn. He'll be alone running the coffee shop again.
Qhapaq hardly takes any time to get ready; as he's never really been fully acclimated to Castle Life, the griffon is quick to get what he needs together and meet up with the others.>Ready to Roll!
Good for his part was ready now if a bit sour about how his last few days had been.
"Should we be checking for anything else?" Billy calls out feeling wary of the upcoming mission.
Zamrud gives the bartender Rich a fair tip, and with Ride or Die's team ready to disembark on their next excursion into the Outlands, prepared to face the perils involved with the tree and finding the missing team
>Ready to disembark
After paying his tab, Grutar polishes up his gear and gets ready for a trip into the Outlands.
>>759257>>759256>>759253>>759252>>759251>Deduct 5 Schillings for coffee, Zamrud deducts 7 instead (incl. 20% tip)
You follow after Ride or Die's team, meeting them at the district of the Ramparts for pedestrian entry and exit. For a moment, both groups stop and behold the countless pentagonal ports of the exit and entry chambers, heavily guarded as always with some of the most powerful and destructive weaponry that mortal bodies can wield – with machines wielding what they cannot.
After stopping at the Exit checkpoint to confirm your identities, your Mission, and your DC credentials, you are then subject to a mandatory screening of all belongings you plan to take out – no doubt, a new measure following the incident with the drained Crystal Hearts some Cycles ago.
After at last you are cleared for departure, the pentagonal gates slide open, and you begin the miles-long hike downward through the Rampart chambers, being blessed by Abbean guards on the way out.
…Once you're at the end, a bulkhead seals behind you, the lights turn off, and a siren begins to blare. With a deafening GRRR-CHUNK of grinding metal, several sealed bulkhead doors open before you…
And the Outlands greet you once more. Your suits automatically adjust internal temperatures and visor lighting to compensate for the cold and lightless stonescape before you. You step beyond the armored doors, and they close shut as quick as they can, as if the metal itself feared what these lands held.
"Suggestion," La Senorita splices. "Radio – tunes."
Ride or Die's team arch their brows at the talking tank robot with a pony head.
"I was going to ask you about that thing," Ride says. "But I didn't want to come off rude. Does it possess a true A.I.?"
Billy glances over looking confused. "I am quite unsure what you mean? Is there a difference between A.I. and true A.I.?"
"I am uncertain but it is learning, slowly but surely. We call it La Senorita." he said checking for Trajan to see if his small companion had hidden himself in his belongings,
"I am… not sure, actually. I have never interacted with many computers. She does seem to learn quite well- better than I think would be the norm. Perhaps she is a 'True AI', whatever that might mean. She has much knowledge of before times." He explains as they step out.
Qhapaq, as normal, doesn't seem particularly bothered by the change in temperature or general conditions, simply making sure his mask is secured before they proceed further.
"What does an AI mean? That some sort of code for an Alcohol Injector? Because if so, why didn't anyone tell me sooner!" Grutar exclaims after hearing Ride's question.
"Not any that I can think of, Billy. I believe we're as ready for another sojourn to the Outlands as we'll ever be.">>759258
Zamrud, now fully dressed in his Sage's Armorsuit and appearing ready for another adventure in the Outlands, he goes along with every procedure needed in going through security (not wanting to ruffle a single feather after their last incursion) and bowing gratefully to the guards blessing them on the way outwards.
After all procedures and screenings are dealt with and Zamrud, now with a bag full of supplies ready for multiple weeks in the harsh and lightless landscape, he turns to look at his Magicomp as he proceeds to look out for their first directions towards the tree.
As Senorita asks for a tunes selection, Zamrud raises his eyebrow, unaware that that was a feature. He turns to look at Ride or Die. "Of a sorts. As close to any as Old World tech ever seemed to produce, anyhow. I apologize, I don't suppose I've made introductions. As the others have said, we've dubbed her 'La Senorita'. She's a Helping Hoof robot melded with some sort of heavily armored tank, the story behind which we've yet to discern. We've been teaching her what we can of our local language and context and return she's offered what insight she can to the era she was built."
"Well, to keep it brief," Ride or Die says. "True A.I. and, I suppose, 'false' or one might say 'artificial' A.I. are popular ideas, promulgated by fiction, about what really happens inside of A.I.. A simple bot, one with neural networks enabling it to detect common associations between words and concepts, would be an example of the latter – like a predictive search engine, categorization algorithm, or a chatbot. A 'true A.I.' would be something akin to a sapient intelligence – something wrought of electricity and metal that could think and reason just as well as any of us… in reality, what happens inside an A.I. is basically a black box, destined to be destroyed the second it is open and understood… or at least that's what I've been led to believe."
La Senorita rolls about in place, her barrel twitching. She seems agitated.
Gulping, Ride extends his hand, and shakes the barrel. "Pardon me, I should have introduced myself properly instead of lecturing the others. I am Ride or Die. Meet my team, miss Senorita."
The rest of his team then 'shake hands' with La Senorita, so to speak.
In any case, agitated, she proceeds to the head of the group. "Calculating most fuel-efficient route. Did you know – employee productiveness – increase of 20% when music is played periodically in the workplace?"
You hear the soft click of a cassette tape.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0WLyPzJMywQ
>Can one lucky member of Team Boreal roll 1d100?
[1d100]Roll #1 84 = 84
Good for his part did his best to climb up and ride on the back of Senorita for now as he kept looking for Trajan.
Billy's head sway lightly from side to side in enjoyment to the music. "Can't say I am familiar with any of those, and I can't rightly judge whether or not robots fit these requirements."
"Senorita have you been hidin' the good stuff from me? Also does the container holdin' the alcohol come with some ice?" Grutar asks the robot companion of the team.
"Music is quite nice, yes. I have an instrument of my own I keep on me, but I cannot claim much in the way of skill. Just a trinket to pass time with, I suppose." He remarks, smiling softly behind his mask as the music comes on. The music is… not what he would have expected, but he doesn't really ever know what to expect from La Señorita. It's very nice, though, and he gives her a soft pat on the head as they move out, commenting "Full of surprises, in a good way. I look forward to discovering more."
Zamrud nods in understanding as Ride offers the explanation to the difference. "Yes, I'll admit, after acquiring Senorita on our last excursion I took to the subject myself."
He chuckles as she seems to be offended by his talking about her 'behind her back' of sorts, reaching up to pat the side of her treads. "Honestly, I feel like Senorita straddles the line a bit. A lot of her functions feel like the culmination of a mundane, if very intricate, artificial intelligence. And then at times, she does something like this that makes you think something else is going on beneath the surface."
As she begins to play music to accompany them, he looks to her as they walk. "Was that always a feature or did Rockfall add a few upgrades?"
Trajan appears from your bag, his sword and armor polished and ready. He also possesses now a shield, proudly boasting the crest of House Titanite.>>759270
"A – suggestion by – [Steel Unyielding]" Senorita says, using a new voice synthesizer. It's obviously in the very early stages… it hardly sounds like a mortal voice. "The – cassette disk format – a stylistic choice – over more advanced – technologies.">>759265>>759266>>759267>>759268>>759269>>759270
Onwards you travel with your groups remaining on alert for Dreaded Ones, environmental hazards, xenomaterials, and other dangers. Yet even as they keep weapons at the ready and heads on a swivel, something of a calm keeps the stress at bay, whether from your numbers or your growing history of experience in the Outlands.
Around 2000 of the first Cycle, Shelter is made in the outcropping of an old rock formation. Watches are established, and rotations made with fairness. The second Cycle begins anew, and quick meals of food and water tablets are cooked and shared. The first meal on a mission is always said to be the most difficult, when one's stomach must grow re-acquainted with the calorie-dense, and technically nutritious – but generally tasteless preserved meals prepared for Outlands consumption.
Resting Billy took out his small magical box containing the magically supplied rations and devouring them in quick succession.
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Good smiled and pet his little scorpion. the next day he began gesturing to Ride and his crew "I hope you remember our previous companions." he said after starting out once more.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 7 = 7
"You know fancy foods were great and all to try for once, but I almost missed my 'Crammits' brand rations. 'No complainin' with these foods, just crammit!'" Grutar says, showing off the very work safe graphically designed snack box he has. Though when taken out they look about the same as any other ordinary ration.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
"AH, Lord Steel. Somehow I could see that." He smiles as she points out the cassette format being a preferred choice. "Yes, definitely could see that… a fan of the classics, that one.">>759271
Zamrud moves along with the team of 11 total, looking around as the music from Senorita's cassette player offers them a break from the howling silence of the Outlands. His ears twitch at every shifting shadow, but he keeps an alert watch with his telescopic eyes as they settle down by the rock formation for camp. He thinks about what to try out for dinner with his limited travel supply of ingredients as he keeps an eye out for trouble…
[1d10+1] PerceptionRoll #1 8 + 1 = 9
The rations are… not the best, but food is food, and a creature Qhapaq's size needs to eat. He is, of course, wary of the approach of something like a Dreaded One, but for the time being is content to relax a little, and enjoy the presence of others around him.>>759274
"I understand. It is… a comfort, even if it is not the most pleasant thing normally. I sometimes miss the crampedness of my tribe's home. It is why I do not mind the rather… modest space of my living arrangements in the Castle. The closeness reminds me of home."Roll #1 7 = 7
Ride and his gang greet Trajan too, but busy themselves mostly with the breaking down and disguising of camp, taking great pains to disguise and dispel any remnants that might attract predatory Dreaded Ones – disturbed rocks, burn marks, scents of sweat, or of food – to your path. They seem to have the scouring down to a science, for they are thorough, and swift.
As they do that, they leave you to scout your projected route from here. The outcropping is positioned over a rocky valley, and though the scope is clear for the valley, to the northwest you espy a rather odd disturbance. On scope it appears as a blur of static, but, when at last some brave or reckless soul tries to view it with visor lowered
… you can see an ambient glow, an unearthly thing, paradoxically devoid of color and true light. It radiates from some unseen protrusion over the next ridge in the valley beyond.
Xenomaterials – a catch-all term for objects of interest in the Outlands, generally identified at a glance by an assortment of glitches they cause in Castle gear, visor disturbances being a common one.
"Shall we investigate?" good asked simply looking to the others for their response.
"Is there a way to make sure it isn't anything dangerous, or would anyone be able to see anything nearby?" Billy fears the object in question might have more than his party interested in it.
"Oh I love those kinds of spaces, tight spaces reminds me of the good times when I was just a mine worker before the outskirtin' business!">>759277
"Surface here don't look too good, I can dig us a little travel tunnel if we need one. Is why me and my last crew dug all the time, topside too hostile."
"Hmm. It is… how do Castle People name them… 'Xeno-Materials.' We may approach, but with caution. They can have a variety of severe effects- good, or ill." Qhapaq comments, slowly stalking closer. For now, he tries to get a better look at the area, to try and spot out something more distinct. He doesn't get too close, however. >Perception [1d10]>>759279
"If I can get a better look, I may perhaps recognize it.">>759280
"I have… slightly less love for them than I did when I was younger, but they are a comforting place all the same."Roll #1 1 = 1
Zamrud looks at the phenomenon with his own eyes, glaring with intent as his mutation allows him to zoom in on the strange lights occurring in the distance.
"Hmmm… I'm concerned any detour we may take could increase the risk to the missing team. But, oddities in the Outlands should often be seen as opportunities to act upon, one never knows what they might be able to bring back to the Castle. After all, if we had headed straight to the Bunker with no stops, we wouldn't have acquired our fair Senorita."
"I think it's worth closer investigation, but let's wait until tomorrow's Cycle, we need our rest."
[1d10+1] Using the enhanced version of Zamrud's mutation, he strains his eyes as he tries to see what might be the source of the lights and to evaluate the risks>Enhanced VisionRoll #1 9 + 1 = 10
"It's probably going to have some danger out here my friend. but we have numbers on our side.">>759283
"Best to document it if nothing else."
The xenomaterials are too far off and hidden by the ridges across the valley to be seen from here. Even with his zooming X-ray vision, Zamrud has a hard time seeing it. The most he can capture from here is its general shape, tall, jagged and broken, some kind of hard material that may have survived a repeated bombardment of explosives or blunt force, or some other manner of assault irregular in its projection – this damage was caused by no weather or other natural phenomenon. Surrounding it, near its base, is a host of other shapes, though these resemble squat shelters, like yurts perhaps… it gets harder to see the lower he goes, for the hills separating you and the xenomatierals are wide.
"Do you intend to approach them?" Ride asks. "We have only limited space for collecting samples, and we've a yet a ways to go. Every ounce counts, as they say."
"As I said, if nothing else it would be good to document and take notes."
"I am quite unsure about the appeal, but if we find something better we could always throw the less useful stuff out right?" Billy asked Ride.
"I… think I will, if only briefly. I will attempt to collect a sample, but I cannot pretend I do not have at least some sense of curiosity." He remarks, stepping closer to the odd huddle of structures.
Zamrud closes his eyes once the strain becomes too much, reaching them up to rub them after he's finished surveying the scene.
"Couldn't get much, but the source is a tall, jagged sort of material that appears to have withstood a good deal of punishment. There's also some kind of cobbled together shelters around them, if anyone scouts ahead be warned it could have tribals camped around it."
He turns to look towards Ride, nodding. "True, but who knows when the next xenomaterial we'll come across will be? Best act now while opportunity knocks, lest we lose it."
Grutar just shrugs to show his indifference to the xenomaterials. "I'll stick with anyone who's goin' out for a piece just to watch their backs."
"I will hopefully be able to communicate easily with any Outlanders living there."
Ride nods, and his crew make their way down one of the outcropping's less steep faces toward the valley below you. "Heading north from here looks like the easiest path toward the xenomaterials," Assembly says. "Or we could try to go northwest, up the ridge – but that's a steep climb."
"Getting to the ridge would give us a good vantage point, no?" Gimmel suggests. "Well, I don't have a preference… but we do have a lot of walking to do still."
"I could always fly a couple of us there."
"I'd rather not climb as I lack things like fingers or claws to help with it. Though I suppose Qhapaq could ferry some of us up."
"I am quite built for this. Steepness isn't an issue for me." The goats stands tall with his chin up.
"I agree. I'm not a bad climber myself," he says, extending out his paws and revealing the claws hidden within his digits. "But a steep climb isn't much issue for a few dedicated fliers. If Qhapaq and Billy don't mind us volunteering their services."
"I suggest we take the ridge, see what's in those shelters I saw just to be sure we're not walking into anything we're unprepared for."
"I can give climbin' a try, gotta expect to do lotsa stuff while out here anyhow." Grutar says as he looks towards the ridge.
Ride checks his Comp to confirm he has you all added. "Copy. We'll proceed along the valley route, while you take the ridge. If Dreaded Ones are about, silence all Concord communications, and communicate by non-vocal signals. If they are not, we'll share what we can see through Concord and coordinate a plan of approach. If anyone starts attacking, concentrate all fire on that target. I'm sure you know, but the Dreaded are known to act as erratically around xenomaterials as the xenomaterials themselves."
They give you some waves, and proceed north, leaving you to tackle the far ridge as you see fit. Better get to hiking.
Good waited patiently for those in the group who can fly to get them up and onto the ridge.
Qhapaq will fill Good Intentions, as well as any other party members following from either group, up on to the ridge.
>Slight Retcon: Billy, Grutar, Gimmel and Dorya proposed remaining behind to scout out a route toward your ultimate destination, as the way to this Xenomaterial site is out of the way of your intended mission. Your groups assented to this split, with the provision that any team can break radio silence on Concord in an emergency to signal for assistance.
Zamrud looks to his Magicomp to ensure the light function is working (planning to use it as his non-vocal signal to flash from above), and then turns and nods to Ride. "Right. I could not see any Dreaded Ones in my earlier attempt to see the material, but that's hardly a reason to drop our guard. Watch your backs down there Ride, we'll take your fronts."
He says before looking to the others, ready to take their ascent up the ridge
"Remember to use proper lifting form," La Senorita splices. "And – oversize loads – transport – other methods."
On that note, while Qhapaq flies the others up to the ridgeline, La Senorita decides to find her own trail, so as not to throw out Qhapaq's back. Baq?
Whatever the case –
In time, Qhapaq lands with Zamrud, and Good, having already had some time atop the ridgeline to observe the sights below, points it out to them.
Down a steep hillside marred by great shattered rocks and fallen petrified trees, there is another valley below. That strange spire you saw from the cave is now in full view – not that that offers much insight into what it might have once been. What remains of it is a deep grey structure of metal and petrified wood, perhaps some manner of tower. It appears to have barely endured some manner of vicious bombing, for what little remains of it is broken and burned, and branches and internal support structures jut out at tortured angles.
At its base, you see that the square structures Zamrud saw earlier are mostly buildings of a similar style of construction to the tower. No Mutant tribe tents are to be seen…
But as for Mutants, that there are.
One in particular stands out, head and shoulders, quite literally, as their leader. A gargantuan mutant, bipedal, and clothed rather extravagantly. It's hard to tell who or what they might be from this high up, however. What they're doing there is unclear as well – too much debris and broken tower obscures your view.
"Hmm… a mutant tribe, from the look of it. I do not see huts- perhaps they are passing through, like us. That one wears… unfamiliar clclothing. Perhaps if we get closer, I might know what tribe they are of." He suggests, taking in the scene before him.>Perception [1d10]
"These structures must have seen quite the attack. They are little more than rubble." He notes, humming a little bit.Roll #1 10 = 10
Good for his part did his best to get a good view of them.
"Perhaps they hold clues to the times before the castles."
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
Zamrud thanks Qhapaq for the ride upon landing down on top of the ridge, and likewise looks down the slopes towards the base of the massive spire towards the varied Mutants below, rubbing his chin as he observes.
"No one's using the tents I saw earlier… that may be a Tribal raiding party. Could be hostile, but there's no getting to the xenomaterial without getting past them. I'm contemplating whether we should observe them for a bit or introduce ourselves."
Qhapaq, by floating a bit upward, is able to see the situation – a group of about 10 Mutants, though none quite as large as their obvious leader. The hulk of a Mutant is bipedal, and light gray of fur; a stark contrast to her flash of long red hair. Her clothing and armor, one and same, is an eclectic and dark mixture, mostly black and other dark shades, equal parts vest, dress, boots, shoulder pads, arm braces – it's like she throws on everything she can find, but despite its asymmetric and bizarre nature, it somehow all works.
She directs the other Mutants toward the base of the tower, where there seems to be some kind of stairways leading downward into the tower's interior. Their progress appears to be blocked by perhaps a doorway or another obstruction; it's impossible to tell from this far off.
"Perhaps they're salvagers? I'd like to think they're not all monstrous." he said with a wry smile.>>759420
Good waited for Qhapaq to give them some info.
"Possibly salvagers, yes. Hopefully peaceful, we're not all so far out from IronCastle yet so I would like to think we wouldn't run into too much barbarism outside of the Dreaded Ones."
He says, "I could go and meet them first to see if they're amicable while you two hold back. If they seem on the up and up and willing to discuss whatever the xenomaterial is, I can call you down."
"I see… ten, and the larger one- the leader. They seem to be attempting to delve deeper within. The leader's garb is… unique- I cannot place what tribe she would come from. Aside from her, though…" >Maybe one of the others is more recognizable? [1d10]>>759421
"They likely are some variety of scavenger, though that is not uncommon amongst the Outland tribes. We could attempt to approach plainly, and gauge their reactions. Few out here strike without warning, unless it is a Dreaded One."Roll #1 6 = 6
"I think it wise for only one of us to approach, to gauge their reaction. Will seem less threatening only one coming along, and should they prove violent the others will be in a better position to act."
Qhapaq's supernatural Mutant kinship sense doesn't respond – they aren't Aya, for sure. From here, they appear to be either Cen or Haegyl, for they carry themselves with more dignity and confidence than Feoh. You'd have to determine by their language or conventions.
"Cen. Or, Haegyl. Feoh rarely carry themselves with such confidence. I can approach, and see." He suggests, moving forward.
"Then let us approach as friends. Or at the very least as not enemies."
Zamrud looks between the two of them as they both seem eager to move forward, shrugging to himself. "Well, I can't well just stay back here where it's safe and allow you two to go on ahead, can I? If you insist, let's all go together."
He takes his Concord out though and sends a message ahead to Ride or Die:
>"See tribal mutants at base of the spire, ten or so, possibly salvagers. Do not appear hostile but approaching cautiously, wait for our signal for safe approach or rescue."
>"Copy. Standing by on the northern side. Ready to attack or approach on any notice.">>759426>>759427
Qhapaq flies down, and when he touches down upon the earth, an unnerving vibration greets him, humming from the very unliving stone. It is faint, but with the steps he takes toward the Mutants, it grows subtly stronger. The Mutants are fixated upon the tower ahead, and they have not yet noticed him.
Qhapaq takes note of the… odd, humming, vibration coming from the stone, and presses on anyways. After closing a little more and still not being noticed, the large griffon takes a moment to clear his throat and call out "Uhm… hello."
Zamrud follows in closely behind Qhapaq, figuring that it may be best for a fellow tribal of the Outlands to make first introductions: either of the nobles going forward they may take in some poor light. He looks around the operation though as the mutants move about, trying to get a sense of what they're up to and sense for anything resembling a trap
>Alleycat: Instant; DC 4; Every alleycat develops a keen sense of where he or she should look for potential attackers. You can roll this to identify places in your immediate surroundings that would be relevant in combat, such as ambush spots, choke points, and good escape routes. Higher rolls can even anticipate incoming attacks.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Good checked his magiccomp to see if it could give any rhyme or reason to the thrumming that vibrations.
The Mutants wheel about, save for the leader, immediately brandishing weapons. It seems most, if not all, favor caesti, brass knuckles, spiked gauntlets, and the like. The only one unarmed is also the only one not turning around – the giant one. She, as you can see now, is a diamond dog, with quite a large and fluffy tail.
The Mutants look at you, then look about the area. The sight of only a few approaching figures, even with a tribal among them, probably made them suspect a trap. "Hold it,"
one says in the common Mutant pidgin, with a heavy Haegyl accent.
This could be bad.
Where the Feoh are regarded as cowards and thieves, and the Aya proud warriors, the Haegyl are shrewd hoarders and bargainers. An unwary soul might find himself being haggled out of the armor off his back.
However, these folk don't look much like Haegyl. The Haegyl wouldn't normally have such brutal weaponry or outfits. Like the big one, the Mutants are clothed and armored haphazardly – most Haegyl would take a little more care to appear clean cut.>>759432
Small amounts of visual static and noise strum at the corners of your magicomp, but otherwise, the functions are not disturbed.
Good decided to step forward first, bowing his head "Good greetings to you.
" he said trying his best to use his pidgin lessons his mother had drilled into him " We mean no harm
Zamrud, putting to use his own experiences in the Mutant pidgin as taught by his noble upbringing, raises both paws to show neither have any sort of weapon within."Indeed. We spotted the glow from the other side of the ridge when we woke up and thought we should investigate. I see you all seem to have the situation quite well under hand, though."
>>759434>>759435>>759436"This one's our claim,"
the speaker says. "You should hurry along, find something else to study. These things are dangerous – you might get hurt, Castle folk."
Yeah, this doesn't sound much like a Haegyl mutant. They wouldn't jump to implied threats like this. You could push them on this, see if it's a front… no, it'd be best to challenge the leader in this case. Her pride as a Haegyl would be on the line here. Yet she's conspicuously ignoring you, focusing on whatever's there at the base of that tower.
Good hummed for a moment and decided to tap on her pride a bit to try and get her to relax "Please dear madam, we mean you no harm. We are friends here and have no desire to steal from you. We can tell from your attire and your stature that you are one to be respected amongst the wastes."
he added bowing once more to her.
Deciding to take something out of what he saw as Zamrud's playbook he gave a bit of an attempt at flirting "Besides, I would be remiss to have one as lovely as you as a foe."
Finding themselves overwhelmed by the sudden smooth talk, the speaker snarls and steps back. He wasn't fit for the job – most of them don't seem to be. Then from the base of the tower–
"Haaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaah?" the giant one snarls. You hear something metal getting punched, punched hard, and dented. Then, heavy footsteps come toward you
"Hello!?" the giant one snaps, in a more passable Equish accent. "Can I get a little help down here? What's–"
The giant one stops, and glares at Qhapaq.
"…Feoh?" she snorts, looking down at him from her great height – nearly seven feet tall. She knows damn well he's not.
"Oh, well you speak equish. This is most fortuitous." he said doing his best to insert himself between the two outlanders despite his diminutive size compared to both "He is no foe, and neither am I madam. If we were we wouldn't have bothered to approach openly and under the banner of friend."
Qhapaq blinks once or twice as the giant steps up to him, leaving him to be the one to crane his neck for once. He makes a bit of a face at the suggestion of being a Feoh.
"No. Aya." He remarks, ruffling his wings softly. "What is it you have found here? My companions and I are… curious.">>759442
"Not Foe, Feoh- Tribe."
I wasn't mishearing. Just clarifying you aren't her enemy."
As they seem to grab the giant female dog's attention, Zamrud's hair stands up on end and he takes a step back, looking up with pressed back ears at the imposing female canine before them.
"Suddenly I'm wishing we had Grutar here…" he says under his breath before looking up at her once more.
He clears his throat, "Ahem, ah, no, not Feoh, as my companion has pointed out. Are you the leader of this tribe?" He asks, trying to get a hint of even if she's a tribal at all.
The giant diamond dog, in contrast to her outburst a moment ago, stops to take a moment and consider her next move…
"Who wants to know?" she spits back, folding her arms. She even pops the top of her back, and subtly cranes her neck up, to get just that bit much taller.
"Well… we do." Qhapaq says, after a pause. He tilts his head to the side. This Diamond Dog is… strange, to say the least. "We do not mean harm, as they said. I am Qhapaq, of the Aya. We were wanting to explore the area as we saw what these ones call 'xenomaterials'
Good once again bowed before her "Good Intentions of Ironcastle my dear." He said once again trying to be somewhat flirty to try and make this nice and copacetic. Plus he would be lying if he said he wanted to try it out for once instead of just being a spectator. "Now surely it would not be too much to ask a lovely lady such as yourself to give me your name as well?" He added, eyebrows waggling under his helmet.
Zamrud gives a proper bow of his head, "Zamrud Permata of House Bahasa, at your service miss. As I just finished explaining to your associate, we noticed the effect of the spire from beyond the ridge and thought to see if we might offer any assistance, and perhaps learn something to take back with us.">>759449
As Zamrud notices Good putting on the extra layer of charm, Zarmud takes another look at the seven-foot tall goliath of a woman and then back to the young lord, and quickly types out a message on Concord to send to Good.
>Tread lightly, young lord. A lady's heart can be fragile and is to be handled delicately. Particularly one this many times outside our collective weight class.
The giant dog picks up Good like the grabber hand at a crane game, walks ten paces forward, sets him down, and walks back to where she once stood. Nobody says anything during this time.
After a few names get dropped, she thinks again, then cocks her head back. "Shikiki Shishi, Haegyl Clan outcasts. The rest of these guys, you probably couldn't even pronounce or spell their names."
The rest of her Clan outcasts wince at this put-down, but they look like they're used to it.
"Yeah, I guess there's no hiding it," Shikiki continues. "This thing's weird. Off. I wanted to see what's up with it. But, as you can see, we got here first. We're already mostly done with our investigation."
An obvious lie.
"So, like and subscribe and we'll just let you know what we found afterward."
"I'll give you my @ if you want to follow."
That one was the truth. She's even produced a rectangular device that flips open like a clam shell. Several little pink baubles dangle from its antenna.
"Mmm. outcasts- that makes more sense. I do not discriminate against outcasts, though. Through the Blood, through the Flesh, we are one." Qhapaq says, carefully removing his mask and nodding to her, before replacing it shortly after.
"I… do not think you are done with your investigation. I would not speak for us- but, we may be able to assist with this. I, however, do not believe I… understand. Like and subscribe? And, at what?"
Good sighed and just sat there for a moment before quietly laying down in the dirt. This was why he didn't try new things. It always lead to him getting put down or thinking he was going to get mindwiped. It wasn't worth the effort he put into it sometimes.
He remained there for a bit clearly quite put down that he wouldn't even get a response.
"I see… then, you're sure there's nothing we could assist you with in regards to its excavation? We actually have an experienced digger with us ourselves, and we've had some luck uncovering rare finds in the Outlands before. If there's anything we could do to assist, the discovery itself may well be reward enough."
"Also, 'Follow'…?" Zamrud asks, "Do you mean on Concord?"
Zamrud looks over at the distraught Good, and sends one more message on Concord
>It was a valiant effort, Good. I think she may just prefer those with more experience. You'll get there.
>>759455>I'm starting to think these outlanders are beyond any hope of civilization my friend. Barbarians of the highest order.
He shot back not quite able to hide the mild resentment.
"On, like, everything?" Shikiki says to Zamrud. "Don't know what Concord is, but we have most everything else.""Lord Shine,"
one of the other Mutants tries to say to her. Shikiki cringes. "Hey, c'mon, I told you not to use that when we're in public,"
Shikiki whispers. "Errr… right. But, they do have a point… we haven't been able to…"
Shikiki clears her throat, and the Mutant quickly stops.
"Okay," Shikiki continues, now concentrating on you again. "Maybe we might be able to use some help. You know, carrying treasure out and stuff. But before we let you in on it, let's make a deal."
>>759456>Now now. Perhaps we just need to find a nice tribal mare a little closer to your age to change your view on things.>>759457
Zamrud notices the other Mutant who refers to Shikiki as 'Lord Shine', curious what that could be in reference to (possibly a noble from another Castle?) as he looks to her as she starts to become more agreeable.
"Certainly. What would be your terms?"
Qhapaq, thankfully, does remember how to use Concord enough to offer a warning.>Haegyl hoard and bargain as Aya fight and train. Be wary.
…a message that takes him wholly too long to type.>>759457
"Very well, Shikiki. What is the deal you suggest?"
>>759458>Maybe she'll just be blunt and stab me and save me the trouble of humiliation.>>759457
And here comes the scam or inevitable backstabbing." He drawled aloud, not particularly caring who heard.
"Nah, unlike Feoh or the rest of the Haegyl, we're honest," Shikiki says. "And what's more honest than a duel? You'll like this one, Aya. We'll have a one-on-one bout. If we win, you'll help us get into the tower and figure out what's really in there, and you'll agree to do this only being paid in experience and exposure. If you win… well, name your prize."
"A duel? That seems fair, yes."
Zamrud, somewhat impatiently, awaits the message as it's typed out, and upon its retrieval quickly responds>noted, don't worry if there's one thing we Puros do well it's keeping on our toes>>759460
Zamrud chuckles.>That's the spirit. You should know, oddly enough a surprisingly number of fictional romances begin that way>>759461
Zamrud takes in the size of Shikiki once more, reaching up to gauge the strength of their opposition. "That's certainly fair looking at it up front, I should say. I suppose I don't have any opposition to that provided our Aya friend doesn't. And should we win, we ask for an even share of the treasure, split between our and your team.">>759462
He looks to Qhapaq once more as he seems to accept the challenge, leaning in to ask, "Be honest with me now, do you think you can take her? She is rather well built."
Good grunted and turned to look at the group as part of him was regretting this and idly wondering if he could go back to his strange dreams. Or Just away from this group of savages.>>759463>The optimism in your tone makes me wish I was stabbed right now. It would be an excellent distraction."
The young lords angst was beginning to crescendo.
"Sure, sure, we'll agree to that," Shikiki says.
"We will…?" the other Mutants ask. But something in their tone suggests they know they don't have much choice.
She gestures to a spot far away from the Xenomaterials. "Let's do this, guy," she says.
"Yes- it is not the first duel I have fought, and it will not be the last. I will not lose." he says, setting a set of talons on Zamrud's shoulder and giving him a smile- not that he can see it from under the mask.>>759465
Qhapaq nods silently, following Shikiki out to a more cleared-away spot for their fight.
Good just idly turned to watch but otherwise seemed content to give the non-qhapaq mutants the evil eye from behind his visor.
"All the same, I shall keep an eye and ear out for foul play. I take it this tribe is better than the Feoh, but if they're known for deals and hoarding than perhaps their greed may be overpowering. I'll make sure it's on the up and up.">>759464>I don't believe I understand what you mean, Young Lord. I wouldn't consider myself an optimist, more so a pragmatist >The duel might be an even better distraction. Let's make sure no one's up to foul play while Qhapaq defends your honor against this cold-stone dog who broke your heart.>>759465
Zamrud nods, "Then we're in agreement. Let's find a good spot so as not to damage the material and we'll have our duel to decide our reward. Qhapaq will be our champion, more familiar in this tradition."
Meanwhile, he messages Ride or Die's team>Not sure how much you've been able to pick up, but the salvagers are not hostile, if not welcoming. They are running into trouble with their excavation and offered to let us share in the rewards provided Qhapaq wins a contest with their leader. Do not interfere lest we be seen as trying to rig it.
Good let his shoulder gun kick up and draw a bead on the group but otherwise remained in his spot.
>I'm more expressing an annoyance at this. At how no matter what I do I get brushed aside by these people. It's… Disheartening. Tribe seems to matter little with these savages, they simply brush me aside and I hate it."
"They are- truth be told, they are… not bad. They would haggle for the clothing off of your back, but they are not a bad sort outside that."
>>759466>>759467>>759468>"We've been tracking the conversation. Tread carefully. That Shikiki did not specify what she means by 'winning' the duel. This could be to the death for all you know. We are prepared to intervene if it comes to that."
Shikiki leads the group down to a relatively clear spot in the valley, with only a few rocks around – an ideal battlefield. The Mutants all get quite clear, making sure there's enough obstructions between her and them.
Shikiki takes her place, and waits for Qhapaq to take his too.
Like him– she seems to be an unarmed fighter. She raises her hands up, then pauses. "Hey, wait, hold up."
She plugs some earbuds into her rectangular device, and presses a key. A musical note appears on the screen, and she slides it back into her pocket.
The moment she does–
She suddenly points a finger at Qhapaq, and then– shrinks.
Condition: Automatic, Turn Zero
Visibility/Appearance: Passive gigantism, which may increase or decrease by Activation of mutation
Effect: Declare a number X <= 5, an Enemy, and "Big" or "Small."
If Big is Declared: Grow X number in size (measured in ft.), and gain DEF Support against that Enemy equal to the difference in height between the User's height and the Enemy's height. Wears off after X turns.
If Small is Declared: Shrink X number in size (measured in ft.) and gain ATK Support against that Enemy equal to the difference in height between the User's height and the Enemy's height. Wears off after X turns.
Burden: After PHILISTINE's bonus ends, the User returns to their original height. The Enemy declared on Activation then gains ATK or DEF Support (whichever the User gained) for X Turns equal to that which the User gained as part of this ability's Activation.
>Declaring Qhapaq, 5, and Small
Shikiki shrinks down, until she might as well be a plush doll at only two feet tall, a description made all the more accurate by her now-cartoony face. Her smile might be accurately described as ":3" and her eyes are big bright circles.https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=o_0t15Mtmxs
This tiny goth plush doll rushes Qhapaq, her claws empty, without weapons – and absolutely dangerous.
>Revolving Blade, +5 ATK Support
[1d10+3]Roll #1 9 + 3 = 12
Correction: Shikiki has +4 ATK Support, not +5
>>759472>Sentry: Automatic Block
Qhapaq blinks in surprise as the diamond dog… shrinks? The following strike is so sudden, he almost doesn't have time to react- but his honed instincts and training kick in, and he matches her swing with one of his own to deflect it. His lightclaws flash out as he does so, trying to catch her across the cheek.>Light Claws Instant Action attack: [1d10+1] Roll #1 8 + 1 = 9
Crossing your arms before you, you catch her hand by the wrist, but before she can wrench her arm back and dodge, you graze her cheek with your lightclaws, and she hisses and leaps to the side.
>Shikiki 5/9 (down from 9/9 total)
Undaunted, she comes back in– for a hug!?
>Suppress, can't benefit from ATK Support
[1d10+3]Roll #1 5 + 3 = 8
Wanting to down the fast-moving canine before she has a chance to leap at him! A pair of quick strikes!>Melee Strike: [1d10+1]>Lightclaws Strike: [1d10+1]Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5
/ Roll #2 7 + 1 = 8
Shikiki tackles you to the ground, but as she raises her claws to slash away with abandon, you rear back your legs and make ready to kick her – but she's so small that just rearing back your legs is enough to fling her away! She hits the ground at a painful angle, gasping as the impact evicts the air from her lungs.
>Shikiki 0/8>Qhapaq 0/6
Shikiki props herself up on one elbow as she tries to get back up, and hucks a handful of rocks at your head just for good measure!
[1d10+4] Tumble with +4 ATK Support; extra bonus from MisogiRoll #1 8 + 4 = 12
Qhapaq grunts a little and lets out an angered snarl as she knocks him to the floor, trying to hop back up on to all fours to get back into the fight!>Recover: [1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
The rocks collide, and your head is knocked back down against the cold earth, and the lightless sky spins about you in a nauseating daze.
Shikiki runs forward on all fours, and with a battlecry part laugh and part howl, rips and tears into your sides!
[1d10+3] Revolving Blade +4 ATK Support
>Turn 4/5 of PHILISTINE's bonus…Roll #1 5 + 3 = 8
>>759555>Recovery roll: [1d10]
Qhapaq grits his teeth and snarls again, refusing to give up just yet!Roll #1 9 = 9
Sharp hot pain screams across your skin as Shikiki cuts into your flesh, but you shove her aside and roll back up, your minor healing shutting off the worst of the bleeding in short order.
"Oh please!" Shikiki cackles. She leaps into the air, brings her fists together, and comes down for a dramatic finish!
>Soul Punch, +3
[1d10+6] Slam, Crits 9+, +4 ATK SupportRoll #1 7 + 6 = 13
Qhapaq shakes himself out with a soft huff, taking a moment to re-adjust his mask and let his natural healing staunch the blood leaking out of his cuts. He screeches out another challenge and flares out his wings, meeting her swing with one of his own!>Sentry: Automatic Block
He tries to take advantage of her urge to down him again, snarling out "I will not
be so easily bested." before jabbing his lightclaws into her stomach! >Lightclaws: [1d10+1]Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11
You uppercut to meet her double-fist strike, and though your arm nearly buckles, your muscles bulge, and you lift up, launching her into the sky! Leaping after her, you slash down with your claws, and the impact drives her into the ground! The dust settles, and in the middle of the crater, you see Shikiki laying… Her injury looks bad…
Well, not to you.
But, to her…
Groaning, Shikiki lifts her head, and you see her face suddenly contract with horror. She reaches into her hoodie pocket, the one on her stomach…
And pulls out a broken MP3 player.
Her face goes blank.
Every Haegyl Clan Outcast mutant, earlier looking so smug and cocksure, looks like they're about ready to bolt.
Qhapaq blinks in surprise from behind his mask- she looks absolutely heartbroken at the realization that her music player broke. While not much of a technologically-inclined mutant, the griffon understands it's probably important. He holds his talons up a little before pulling his mask off, a bit of a confused look on his face. "A-Ah! I had not meant to break your music box." he says, landing on the ground next to her and frowning. "Perhaps a… truce, of sorts? If it is possible to mend it, I would like to. This was intended to be a battle of skill- I would be just as distraught had my mask been broken."
Qhapaq makes a bit of a face, and says "We can… put a hold on the fight. Here- until we fix your music box, you may hold on to this as… collateral, I believe the word is." Her says, offering his hand-carved redwood mask.>Negotiation: [1d10]Roll #1 4 = 4
Shikiki sits up, still looking at the MP3 player… her face can't be seen… but small teardrops darken the stones below her.
"A-Ah. Please, do not cry. I will help if I am able to." He says, hurriedly patting the giant canine's shoulder. While continuing the fight would be nice, it wouldn't feel… right.
Good would be lying if he said some part of him didn't take some sort of sick satisfaction at her crying, but it was quite quickly washed away with shame at feeling such a thing. He sighed and moved to stand next to Zamrud for now as he watched frowning gently.
"Tch…!" Shikiki sneers at Qhapaq's words, but as she sees the mask proffered to her, she freezes. Even Haegyl Clan – even an Outcast – knows the weight of the Aya Clan masks to those who wear them. Though his comfort stings her, she cannot help but see his sincerity.
And yet… She nearly snatches the mask in her smoldering anger, but catches herself at the last second. She takes the mask gingerly to avoid damaging it.
She gets up, quickly dusting herself off. Her clothes are in disarray, and though she's not damaged as badly as you are, she's definitely looking worse off. She leaves without another word.
"So… draw?" one of her subordinates eventually suggests.
I am debating offering my ability to help her. But I feel as if it would be rejected as some sort of untoward advance at this point." Good said dryly looking between the other two.
Zamrud looks to Good as he stands besides him his strained eyes focused so intently on the battle and its surroundings looking for outside interference he's caught off guard when he suddenly sees it ended so abruptly. And when his eyes spot the tears dropping down from the large Diamond Dog's eyes, and the broken MP3 player at her paws, Zamrud frowns, looking towards Good as he holds up hoof indicating they should stay back.
"Well… that is unfortunate. Hold on though, I feel as though we should let Qhapaq take the first steps in resolving this. As the duelist and a fellow tribal."
As he sees him offering her the mask in collateral, his eyes open wide in disbelief. He says to Good in astonishment. "He gave her his mask… that is incredulous, to say the least."
>>759580>Accelerated Healing: +1 Wound, Healing disabled for 3 rounds
Qhapaq shakes himself out a little, the gash on his stomach sealing shut before shrugging "I think, had the music box not been damaged, I would have tilted the tables easily." He suggests, not fully getting the saying down. "But… a draw, yes. Your talent was unusual, but quite effective.
Good clicked his tongue and nodded as he looked to the tower quietly. Perhaps it would have something useful to help him forget all of this.
Shikiki's underlings gather together in a huddle for a bit, whispering among themselves… eventually they break and turn back to you.
"We didn't really settle on what happens in the event of a duel. Between Shikiki wanting to make you work for free, and you getting a fair cut of the treasure in the tower, it's kind of hard to say. So, how about we work together to get in – but we get first pick on everything. You have to pick over what we don't want. Sound alright?"
Qhapaq looks to the others, and cocks his head to the side. "I… hmm. What do you think? Another idea could be we take turns picking, perhaps?"
"Considering you just fought their leader to a standstill I feel as if we have more leverage than they think."
"I would agree with the both of my compatriots: the duel was fought hard to a draw, and thus I would argue we might take turns picking. With you allowed to have first, of course, but ours the second, the fourth, and so on."
"And, in exchange, we will of course compensate for any and all expenses to repair miss Shikiti's music player. I do think the young lord might agree that a fair exchange?" He says looking to Good
"Quite noble of you to volunteer your funds to this you two." he said to his compatriots.
"Consider it an extension of good will. While Shikiki should have probably kept anything she would rather not loose somewhere safer during a duel, I feel we can afford to sympathize with the loss of something precious. And while it was well fought, it was technically one of ours who caused it to break."
"As I said, quite noble of you two, to pay for the replacement."
"Of course- I do not like a fight ending unfairly, so it is only right to do so."
"Hmmm…" the underling says. They go back to their huddle, then break again.
"We put it to a vote and we had 80% say that Shikiki totally woulda won if it hadn't been for that lucky strike on her beats. So, we'll be okay with the rotation."
It's not super clear what the first point has to do with the second point…
"We just wanted that to be on the record," the underling says.
Arguing with the narration, are we…?
"Mmm… agree to disagree. Her strength was flagging, and I was in a position to capitalize on her weakness. Where did she, ah… go? Back to the entrance?"
Zamrud nods his head in acknowledgement, picking up well on Good's intended meaning. "Thank you, young lord. I just wouldn't feel right otherwise.">>759613>>759615
Zamrud doesn't even offer a roll of the eyes, preferring not to risk agitating the pride tribals. "I was content to call it a close draw. But regardless, if the rotations are fine by you, then it's settled."
Feeling right at home with his hooves, Billy stands straight up to scout ahead for his party. Not fearing the larger world.
(Free Racial)Goatcraft: passive; The harsh and lifeless territories goats originate from have adapted their bodies to treat it like a standard field. All climbing and agility rolls have DC-1 and you can use anything as food, including non-food items.Roll #1 1 + 1 = 2
"Why not just sing instead of needin' a music player in the first place? I like the sounds of some real instruments if you ask me!" Grutar exclaims, poorly mimicking the sounds of guitar strums to a song he fondly remembers.
Good nodded quietly as he sat there vaguely over the earlier issues he was having.
Qhapaq takes a moment or two to focus, letting a few cracked or broken bones re-set before ensuring that nothing's been disjointed.>Accelerated Healing: +1 Wound, to 8/5>>759696
"Perhaps they carry noises difficult to replicate, or songs that are best in their original form."
Previously, Grutar and Billy had gone on northeast of the spire, in order to scout out the route ahead. The hills beyond here proved quite humid, and wet and marshy. Water was saturated into the soil, and curiously seemed resistant to any form of drainage, making all travel difficult and slow. Suit toxin scanners revealed also that trace amounts of airborne toxins hung around those hills. If there was a route forward through this way, it would certainly not be worth the effort to get through.
Therefore, the two had turn back around, and came upon the others as they were negotiating with the Haegyl Clan Outcasts following Qhapaq's duel with Shikiki.
You notice that La Senorita still isn't around, but that mystery is soon solved. From the hills from which Qhapaq, Good and Zamrud can hear a faint distress call in cassette tape transmission.
"Error – please rewind. Error – please rewind."
With a click of his tongue Billy scowls at the machine in annoyance from the repeat messages. Going towards it Billy calls out "What do you mean rewind, I certainly haven't seen a wind key on you."
"Oi, I just noticed… where's our big metal team member? I thought she'd be with you guys." Grutar says as he looks about.
As Grutar calls to their attention that the Helping Hoof was no where to be seen.
"No, our initial approach was to be stealthy and, the Abbey bless her steel, Senorita isn't that. Though she doesn't seem to be far away," Zamrud says as he flexes his ears, taking a moment to look to the hills where he hears the message coming from and looks to see what Senorita is saying
Qhapaq gently pats his friend's shoulder, before saying "Now- do we wait for the others, first?"
Good decided to hop up and move to those hills.
You split up through the hills down which you had arrived, and find poor Senorita turned upside-down, having taken a bad spill over a particularly narrow path. She doesn't seem to have fallen far, and apart from the dust in her machinery, the worst damage is a few dings and scratches here and there. When you help her to be upright, she thanks you all with a tap on the shoulder with the barrel of her gun.
"Model citizenship behavior," she splices. "Negotiations – successful? – unsuccessful?"
"I guess. They're a bit distasteful but they seem willing to listen for now." he said doing his best to try and get the dust out of her mechanics to avoid any seizing up.
"I don't know if they're successful, but I can tell you that goin' past the spire and through the hills is NOT worth it. Too much toxins and muck. I think I still got some mud in my armor."
To keep himself from turning unreasonably upset at the machine Billy takes out his grimoire to glance back at the notes he has taken hoping to immerse his emotions in his past study.
Zamrud looks alarmed as the group finally finds Senorita turned over on the slopes of the hill leading down to the spire, jumping to with the others to help her upright as he lets out a sigh.
"You need to take greater mind of the terrain you're on, Senorita. Would had to have seen a fumble like this over something worse than a small hill."
As she asks whether negotiations were successful, and Zamrud offers a nod. "For the moment, yes. They've agreed to split their findings with us, provided they get first pick. Which seems fair with their being here first."
He turns to Qhapaq, and nods. "We should let Ride and Die know we're going in there. Perhaps you should inform Lady Shikiki we'll have back up assisting her."
Qhapaq hoists Seniorita right side up with a grunt, before brushing the dirt off and patting her side softly. "Successful, yes. We did good. Sort of.">>759709
"Good thinking, yes. I will go inform Lady Shikiki, you can tell Ride or Die. I do not type fast."
"I am – more – proud – than – the average Equestrian parent," Senorita splices, continuing to roll down the hill once she's been dusted off. On occasion, she'll need just a bit of assistance from whoever's closest to keep her from hurtling off another ledge. There's not much of a trail to speak of, and with treads like hers, this landscape will be quite difficult to navigate…
But that aside, the Haegyl Clan Outcasts are calling you down to the base of the spire.
Billy follows along with his group intending to stand by senorita worrying that it would fall over due to the lack of adaptability of its treads.
Zamrud allows Qhapaq to go on ahead first seeing as he's built a rapport with the Haegyl's, and looks to his magicomp to alert the others
>We have come to an arrangement with the tribe, seem to be having some difficulty or another with their excavation>Agreed to allow us to assist and take split of earnings, though they get first pick>Meet us at the spire if you and your team are coming in, Qhapaq is letting them know we have more coming
Grutar follows the rest of the party, still humming the song he tried singing earlier.
"Ah, hello. The others will be down shortly- we might have even more help coming, if they agree to step in. If not, I am confident we will prove sufficient on our own. Have your companions told you of the agreement?"
Good for his part did his best to be a little walking guard rail to the robot.
Ride briefly acknowledges Zamrud's message, then once Qhapaq flies down to alert the Haegyl Clan Outcasts, Ride's group comes in from the rocks to the west. The Outcasts start to look a bit apprehensive now that the numbers are getting near to even. "Salutations,"
Ride says, raising his hand. He looks plainly ready to get the edge on any negotiations. "You have met our traveling companions, but rest assured we aren't trying to cut in on the deal.""I sure hope you aren't,"
one of the Outcasts says. "We settled the terms already. Changing a settled contract is bad practice.""No, no, we are merely here to see to our companions' safe passage,"
Ride continues. "These Lands are dangerous, after all.""You said it,"
the Outcast mutters. "No telling who or what you'll meet out here…"
Before the tension can linger too much longer, another Outcast speaks up."Shikiki wants you over by the tower,"
the second Outcast says. "We're almost in, just a few more doors."
Good for his part was making sure his weapons were in functional order, popping his light gun up to make sure the barrel was in functional order as he moved towards the tower.
"Mmm. Very well- let us go." The unmasked griffon says, heading for the tower's base.
Seeing his friend ready. Billy stood tall with his party showing that he is ready alongside everyone else.
Zamrud looks to Ride or Die with surprise as he speaks in the tribals' language so fluently, smirking as he catches up with them. "Didn't know you were so fluent. Mine needs some work still, if I'm being honest."
As the outcasts seem to agree with the updated party listing, he asks the Outcasts as they go along,
"Correct me if I'm wrong but I got the implication you were having trouble with your excavation. Care to give us a hint of what we're up against?"
Grutar checked to see if his flamer still worked by inspecting the fuel as well as ignition before setting off with the group.
The Outcasts lead the way to the base of the junkyard surrounding the great tower. Along the way you pass old structures of uncertain construction; most of them are buildings that appear to have been shelled alongside the structure, while others are more recent in construction, judging by the fact that they show no battle damage. Yet even these "newer" constructions are quite old. You see no mark nor symbol that would suggest they were of Mutant construction, but it looks like the Haegyl have appropriated them for temporary shelter all the same.
At the base of the tower itself is a very long and wide metal stairwell leading into the tower's foundation. A great hallway… well, a hallway of sorts, anyway… awaits at the bottom of the staircase. The hallway is unusual at first sight; its construction shows that a countless number of doors, maybe even nearing one hundred, once stood here, all of them, adjacent with nary more than a centimeter between them. There are grooves and tracks where the doors would have gone in. No two doors look to have been made in the same style; some were metal, others wood, others even stranger materials not immediately identifiable. Most appeared to slide, others swung one way or another.
However, almost every single one has been destroyed. The outermost look to have been destroyed some time ago, while others were more recently destroyed.
The penultimate door (or so one might guess) still stands at the end of the hall, where Shikiki also stands with the rest of her Haegyl Outcast underlings. They've set a rather crude griphoist-like system up; metal claws have been jammed into the metal door, and cables extend from those claws to the grip boxes, and the rest of the cables have been secured in the previous doorways to provide tension.
Shikiki, dry tears still visibly smearing her makeup, turns with a grimace. "You know how to use these things?" she barks with no preamble, gesturing to the boxes.
"Have these been used before, or tampered with in anyway? Machines I know can be quite dangerous if there are too many unknowns. Creatures before have tampered with them to turn them hostile to us before." Billy grimaces at his past mission experience.
Zamrud looks around at all the various doors inside the tower as they get their first look into it, peering at the distant 'penultimate' door with intrigue as he sees the wires and claws set up into it.
As she points out the boxes, Zamrud shakes his head, "I can't say I have used one before, but I'm a quick learner. These doors must be quite solid to need one of these." He looks around at all the various open ones that were destroyed. "You've been busy, I take it?"
"Place looks like time whittled it down good, that or scavs found the treasure trove through this place already." Grutar ponders out loud.
"What's behind these doors anyways?"
"Only vaguely. Perhaps a refresher would be in order, if you would be so kind as to offer one." He asks, waiting patiently by one of the boxes. He looks around the bizarre structure more now that they're closer, and cocks his head to the side. "What a truly bizarre place."
"Not even remotely." he said dryly as he looked more interested at his weapon then her.
"You should be able to get it," Shikiki says. She points to a handle in the box's top. "You just crank that back and forth, switch off whenever you get tired. And whatever you do, don't step in between the cables. If something breaks, anyone not clear might get their head torn off. Anybody who isn't cranking should stand guard. We're… probably close. Hard to say. But we've gotten this deep at least. Seems whoever's come here before us got a few doors in then gave up for some reason – nobody else has gotten this far."
You note that the strange vibration you sensed from the tower earlier is no longer present… perhaps you are too deep down from its source?
Whatever the case, Ride and his crew silently take position with the Haegyl Outcasts, keeping weapons trained upon the door for whatever might be on the other side.
Zamrud nods and takes one of the boxes, preparing to set up the claws onto the last door and pulling the wires far enough to go taught before he starts to set himself up on one of the cranks, though offering to switch off with one of his more physically able allies if they wish.
"So some of these doors were already open when you came here. Was there nothing inside them, any signs of anything?"
"I smell the work of dreads then… A good scav doesn't pass up rare stuff in a place like this unless its got TWO things. Dreads or someone better equipped than them wavin' their weapons around." Grutar says as he takes up his position to act as a guard.
"I will make sure to keep an eye out if you got this. Otherwise let me know." Billy comes closer to Zamrud intending to act as a guard in case of something unusual coming.
"Hmm… bizarre. The vibrations seem to have ceased. Perhaps we are too far away. Or, the cause is waiting- either could be true." He remarks, before taking ahold of the crank. The griffon is more than strong enough to handle one.
Good decided to join Billy in playing bodyguard for now.
>>759791>>759792>>759793>>759794>>759790>previous dialogue should have been italicized to indicate pidgin
Shikiki shakes her head to Zamrud's question. "Not what might have been behind them. Only what the last few explorers used to get in. Scrapes from prying things open, dents and pieces of battering rams, blast marks. They're not all the same age. They get fresher the further in you get – like the opposite of the rings on a chopped-down mushroom, and how those rings tell you how old it was when it got chopped."
>We'll need two to crank, and two to stand guard; those on the crank roll endurance, and those on guard roll perception
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Zamrud turns to Billy and Good, nodding in appreciation. "Good man. Still have a bit of unease about this place.">>759795
Zamrud starts to crank as Shikiki offers her explanation, looking around at all the various doors. "Odd… if there were previous explorers here with means to open the doors, why aren't they all already? I doubt they just decided to give up after a few…"
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Good also remained on guard.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 3 = 3
Qhapaq adjusts his grip slightly, grumbling about the size of the contraption, before going for it with a better posture! >Sentry
For a time, Zamrud and Qhapaq alternate on cranking the rigging system, along with two volunteers from the Haegyl Outcasts, switching off when tired to massage and stretch sore muscles, and to get some much-needed water from their water tablets. Progressively, the cables grow more tense from all the cranking, and the handle is harder to pull each time, requiring more and more frequent switching.
As they crank, those of you on guard focus your senses for anything that might be out of place, might signal an attack – perhaps the footfalls of a monster, or the hum of some malignant radiation, any contamination on your suits' environmental scanners… yet, there seems to be nothing–
–Save for the soft whisper of some manner of breeze, beyond the door.
Shikiki urges the guard group to get back, for the metal door begins to groan, and dent, as the built up tension reaches its limit to tear the door off of its frame…
Billy follows along with the instructions of Shikiki, but kept his eyes on the door quite curious of the contents.
As the door prepares to fly off its hinges, Zamrud groans and powers through one last good turn of the crank for good measure before following behind Shikiki's suggestion to get back. "She's coming off, everyone get clear!"
"Hmm. I do not like how… quiet, it is. I feel as if something is simply waiting for us." He remarks, forcing a few more cranks to pull the door off.
Goods gun draws a bead on it as he prepares for the worst.
Grutar readies his flamer, though he's clearly showing some tense anticipation of what could be behind the metal door.
A sudd– KHSHREEK! WHAM!… and the great doors have been snapped off from their sliding grooves, and slam to the floor. The hallway's occupants tense, readying weapons toward the shifting dust. But it clear quickly, thanks to a peculiar breeze coming from beyond.
Just behind those metal doors were… more doors.
Specifically, an old, worn and weathered set of fusuma, rectangular sliding doors, originating in a certain culture in Ironcastle… so old that they are near-translucent, and completely torn in some places. Behind them, you see curtains, and when those curtains flutter, you can see also thin bamboo doors behind them… presumably, similarly thin doors stand beyond.
Or at least they did, til one moment hence.
In an instant, the vibrations sensed before not only return, but intensify to a fever pitch, accompanied by the distant, yet rapidly approaching clamor of doors of all kinds being violently slammed open, one after anot— TAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAKAVVVVVVVVVVVVWWWWWWWWWWWWOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOSH!!!
As the fusuma are blown off their hinges, a great gale force wind floods down the chamber, scattering debris and dust with it! Yet strangely, the winds do not knock Zamrud, Billy or Good off their hooves, and indeed, the winds barely even graze their bodies. Yet not so for Shikiki, Grutar, Qhapaq and about half of the Haegyl Warriors, who are knocked helplessly to the ground, scrabbling for dear life for something, anything they can hold onto!
As Qhapaq, blasted by winds, is ragdolled along the ground, a terrifying weight, like the pressure of drowning, bears down upon his head, threatening to push him under into the darkness of sleep…
>Qhapaq must roll at DC 8 to not be blown away, and another DC 8 to remain conscious
Zamrud looks through the torn off door only to see another series of doors beyond it, Zamrud's thoughts have only a moment to contemplate things before the howling winds and the great overpowering vibrations return, prompting him to get down and cover his ears. "AGH! T-the vibrations…?"
He pauses, looking back at the great wind that pushes everyone else back, but only lightly pushes himself, Good, and Billy, looking on with confusion. "What… I barely feel it but, it's like they're being hit by a turbine."
Now that the wires are torn off of the door, Zamrud quickly moves to pull one of the claws off, and tosses it to Grutar and Qhapaq and Shikiki. "Hold on to this!" He says, throwing them the wire like a life-line to use.
[1d10] Holding onto the wire as to pull them backRoll #1 1 = 1
Good stepped forward, activating his mutation and aiming to fire a singularity down the hall to push this wind back.
>Mutation: Repulsive Force
[1d10] Singularity shotRoll #1 3 = 3
Panicked Billy rushes for Qhapaq in an effort to help him from flying off due to the sudden winds he is unaffected by, but puts off the thought for the reason later.
-Sentry: passive, recharge 4; You can declare one action you make to be Automatic instead of rolling.
Qhapaq tries to reach for the closest person he can, to help hold them steady- seeing as how Billy has already helped him!>[1d10+3] Grab: Whichever is closest!>Consciousness check! [1d10]
Qhapaq is shocked and staggered by the sudden wave of force, struggling to keep his senses.Roll #1 4 + 3 = 7
/ Roll #2 8 = 8
Grutar lets out a sudden shout of surprise, but after being blown back his drill arm revs up and he attempts to slam it into the ground so he can try and stand up against the wind
"What in the blazes was that?!" Grutar exclaims as he attempts to use where he is standing to catch any that were about to be blown further back from him.
>Recover and try to assist others around him
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
[1d10]Roll #1 1 = 1
Grutar slams his drill into the ground, and he and Billy help catch Qhapaq before he can be blown away. However, as Shikiki braces herself against the corridor, trying to grow in size to increase her weight, Ride or Die and Dorya both slam into her, and the three are jettisoned mercilessly, along with the half of the Haegyl Outcasts affected, out into the old ruins, as helpless as leaves in a storm. The Haegyl Outcasts and the unaffected members of Ride's team rush out to try to grab their cast-off friends.
In the middle of his sentence, Grutar suddenly drifts off, his head sagging, his body going limp. Qhapaq narrowly manages to force his eyes open, made dry and strained by the blasts of wind. You gather together and brace yourselves, holding fast to keep your allies safe…
…And then, after some time indescernible… the winds subside, and all you are left with is a hallway so dusty you would swear you were in the middle of some desert. Sawdust, sand, soil, clay, drier lint – all kinds of peculiar materials are present here.
With the calm after the storm, or is the calm before the storm. Billy decides to go rush for Grutar next seeing no one attending to him to check if he is ok.
"I… what? What happened to the others?" He asks, going to catch Grutar as he suddenly slumps to the ground. He leans him down carefully, before quickly rushing to try and help the others up. He'll try to wake up Grutar, Ride or Die, Dorya, and Shikiki, if he can. "Why are they unconscious? I felt a similar draw, but… what is in this place?"
Grutar starts snoring shortly after he passes out, but with the drill rooting in the ground he hangs from it as his legs give out.
Good turns his flashlight on "I'm going to step in now, Best to get a look at this place before everybody gets up and makes another windstorm."
"Hmm- some should stay with the unconscious ones.">>759819
"Yes, good thought. We must be careful."
Zamrud looks over at Grutar as he passes out, turning to look at the others as they are blown outright of the corridor from the source of the wind.
Zamrud tries to run over to help any remaining in the hallway as it seems to be reduced only to Team Boreal.
"What in the Abbey was that…? Why were only some of us affected by that gust, it was barely more than a breeze for some of us."
He looks over and sees Grutar unconscious, his drill pushed far enough into the ground to catch him, and sees Qhapaq managing to hold on. "Are you alright? I'm not quite sure what we just experienced.">>759819>>759815
As Good suggests going in before it starts up again, he nods, offering a shoulder to help carry Grutar if needed through the open door way. "Agreed. Let's get through before it kicks up once more, I'll send a message through Concord to confirm the others conditions."
He looks around, "Was only I, Good, and Billy unaffected…?"
"Yes- and I seem to be one of the few that managed to stay conscious that was affected by… whatever it was. Something within here certainly seems to not want certain sorts inside."
"Hmm… it can't be strictly tribals, or Ride and Die's team wouldn't have also been blown away. Not to mention Grutar." Zamrud says as he tries to help carry the sleeping Grutar. "Young Good and are are Nobles, but that would not explain Billy…"
Billy manages to coax Grutar awake, though his head rushes with the shady remnants of unpleasant dreams which bleed into reality… something furtively known in Ironcastle as a 'nightmare,' though even speaking the term is taboo, something believed to bring very bad luck… perhaps mercifully, he can remember precious little of what just assailed his mind…
>Grutar can roll to recover that nightmare
When he is up, and he and Qhapaq feeling well enough to stay awake, you gather yourselves, and as a group, proceed through the yonder hall, stepping through the shredded remains of who knows how many doors to confront this unseen assailant, be it a Dreaded One, a great machine, or something else altogether…
>roll your preparations…
>this is where we would have paused on Wed., so pausing here
Grutar starts to grumble out loud as he stirs in his restless sleep. "Get… back boiz…. It's glowin'…"
[1d10]Roll #1 7 = 7
Good grunted and paused to make sure Grutar was well before beginning to prepare himself mentally and physically for pushing on.
[1d10] PrepRoll #1 5 = 5
Zamrud takes first steps into the mysterious hall, strained eyes looking through to see if there is any immediate danger to be aware of after surviving that first trap. "Everyone hold…"
[1d10] Alleycat (DC4)Roll #1 10 = 10
Billy's hairs stand on end, still rattled from from the sudden attack on his team. He can only try stand ready for the front and stand for the fight.
[1d10] on grutar
>Crystal Wall α:>Spell; Ranged; Recharge 1 after effect ends; Encase your target in a 5x5' square of crystal, permeable only from their end. The crystal square absorbs 5 Hits of Damage on behalf of the target, after which it breaks.Roll #1 3 = 3
"Perhaps… hrm. Those of a certain 'caste', so to speak? Castes as you have in your Castles, at least." He suggests, flicking his tail in thought.>>759824
Qhapaq has little in the way of preparations to make, so while the others mentally prepare themselves or scout ahead, he takes a little time to try and ensure those blown away are at least grouped and more comfortably splayed out. Some part of him considers retrieving his mask, but… he decides against it.>>760266
"I wonder… the dreams of the tiger-masked mutant. Having traded my own mask away is coincidence, but perhaps the situation arising is somewhat of an omen?"
A nightmare most common, and yet… The big game was coming up… and yet, you the star pitcher, had left all your uniforms in the wash… you showed up to the plate in your undergarments, and couldn't even hold the baseball properly… a girl with a kind countenance was at the plate… but in a turn most cruel, she scored a home run on you… and you lost the entire game…>>760265>>760266>>759825>>760267>>760268
You pick carefully over the remnants of the shredded doors, made of every kind of material conceivable to mortalkind: Paper, wood, metal, stone, earth… even materials you cannot recognize. The further you go, the more stale the air becomes, ancient and without filtration…
Zamrud's pace involuntarily slows, as he senses something further ahead… a curious sense… it's like… arriving at a train station, and waiting for one's guide, filtering through so many others, who are looking for still others… seeking someone who is seeking someone else…
"Mmm. This is a very… peculiar place, yes. I can only wonder how it was created." He muses, before cocking his head to the side as he notes Zamrud slow his pace.>>760266
"Hmm? Something wrong, friend?"
Good makes sure his light is on and his shoulder gun is ready to go as they make their way through the place.
"Keep your eyes open. No telling what may be in here."
Grutar just stirs more heavily in his dream, at one point swinging his arm dramatically in his sleep.
>Try not to cry
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
As Zamrud's pace slows, his keen ears and eyes looking around the halls, he is suddenly taken out of his precautions state by a touch from Qhapaq, causing him to jump slightly.
"Ah. I, do not know, to be honest. I feel like there's someone here, waiting for us, but it surely must be my nerves. I see and hear nothing, at least not yet, and still my hairs are standing on end. Could just be instinct, but I've grown to trust mine."
[1d10-1] looking around for any presence (perception)Roll #1 1 - 1 = 0
Perception to scan the area ahead out of a sense of precaution
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
Qhapaq frowns slightly, looking around to try and spot what Zamrud might have seen.Roll #1 1 = 1
Grutar manages to shake off the last of the nightmare as you proceed down the strange corridor. Over countless shattered doorways do you walk, every single one of them adjacent to the last, without even so much as an entire inch of space between them. The going is slow and awkward as you navigate the grooves and tracks of the various kinds of doors. The ones comprised of unusual materials have grooves as well, seemingly consistent with established reality at least on this front…
At last, you step forth from the cramped corridor into a wider space, where dim, twinkling lights of a faded, grimy amber await you.
Your visors' night vision systems adjust to accommodate for the changing light conditions in this room… and when they do, you behold that you are in some kind of testing facility. Bulky, rectangular computer terminals line the walls, of a much older grade than any terminal you have seen in Ironcastle. In the center of the room, there is a cylindrical glass tube, filthy with grime and dust. The top and bottom are sealed by a kind of docking station, though you cannot see inside.
At the far end of the room is another doorway, but the glass panel near the top is similarly darkened by filth and decay.
You've got a bad feeling about the glass tube before you…
Zamrud looks around the archaic testing facility, rubbing his chin as he approaches several of the older computers on display. "Are these computers… far more ancient than what I've seen in Ironcastle, I take it this is Old World technology." Curious about their nature, given his recent exposure to old technology being found in the most unexpected of places like the Bunker's OS, Zamrud experiments with the large terminals, seeing if there's any power to turn them on
[1d10] Working with the terminalsRoll #1 10 = 10
"Curious device… but, If there is something amiss, I do not sense it- but, my senses are not keen to danger. I will approach cautiously, and remain on guard while you access this old-world computer."
There seems to be power coming from somewhere, as some of the less-damaged displays do respond to your investigations. However, most of the keys, levers, knobs and other buttons have long since lost their labels to rust and grime. The few that work only result in unintelligible characters appearing on the small monitors. Yet, you're able to pick up on a peculiar logic to it all, quickly learning to recognize certain recurring characters. It seems there is a master menu, with three options, to which this terminal keeps returning.
"It looks like these still have power after all." Zamrud says to the others as he investigates the computers. "These must be millennia old, and still getting electricity. Very impressive."
He looks over all the various levers and unintelligible keys. "I can't make heads or tails of these controls though, and I've adventured enough to know you don't go pushing buttons at random. Let's see what we have here…"
>Reading to discern what the three options are for this terminal
[1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
"Hmm. There are no appropriately-colored buttons to dictate what might be what by chance, is there?"
"Let's just say if you see anything 'red' in particular, I advice against touching it."
Good pushed on a bit, scanning for anything of note.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 5 = 5
After Grutar snores himself awake and searches around his surroundings with the others taking a look for themselves, he walks up to the glass tube to tap on it with the tip of his drill. "What's inside one of these things?" Grutar ponders out loud.
As Grutar taps on the glass… tink, tink, tink…
…Tink, tink, tink…
…Something inside taps back.
Good turns and aims his gun at the tube quickly.
Likewise, as soon as something tinks back on the glass, Zamrud turns about face, readying his new rifle gifted to him from the hunters at the Bunker and training it centered on the tube.
"…we all heard that, I take it?"
"Yes, we did. Be ready- I do not know what would dwell here, but I doubt it is good."
Nothing further happens… you don't hear any stirrings from within, nor from anywhere else in the room.
"Hold on." Zamrud says as he steadily approaches the glass. "I'm going to wipe some of the dust off the glass. Get ready to fire if whatever it is turns hostile and manages to break through."
Zamrud says, taking the initiative to wipe the thick layer of dust off of the tube Grutar was tapping
Good remains trained on it to defend his friend.
"Hrm- a concerning thing. But, I insist- allow me to do that instead, Zamrud. I am more durable, and more capable in close quarters." Qhapaq says, gently picking the cat up, setting him behind the enormous griffon, and wiping the glass clean.
Billy feels unsure about stopping whatever may comes forward, but stands by close ready and tense.
Qhapaq stands guard before you, as he cautiously smears away untold ages of dust and grime from the outer surface of the glass tube. It only helps but little – you can see from here that the tube is double-layered, and incredibly dense, almost even to the point of armor. It might not even be glass… the other side is similarly wretched; it seems a layer of some manner of slime covers that side, suggesting aqueous materials coated the inside at some point, but have since been drained. The slime is thick and coagulated, but beyond it, you can only faintly discern a tall silhouette of some sort…
A shadow presses against the glass – a hand. Six long fingers, and a thumb, does it possess, and though it is but shadow, you can see that it is quite angular, perhaps metallic, in its build.
"A Prench Exit refers to the socially-disapproved practice of leaving a function without saying goodbye to the host," La Senorita suddenly splices.
"DO we dare uncover it more… or do we leave this tube?"
Seeing that Qhapaq is closest to whatever is the creature behind the glass tube. Billy doesn't feel the need to take any chances and looks into his grimoire.
[1d10] On Qhapaq
>Crystal Wall α:>Spell; Ranged; Recharge 1 after effect ends; Encase your target in a 5x5' square of crystal, permeable only from their end. The crystal square absorbs 5 Hits of Damage on behalf of the target, after which it breaks.Roll #1 7 = 7
"Hrm… I see a hand- six fingers and a thumb, and very long. It is… bizarre. Angular/ Metallic?" He says, looking closer.
Zamrud looks back with surprise as Qhapaq takes the initiative in rubbing the dust off the glass, looking at the griffon with a slightly irate expression. "Understood… but, please don't make a habit of picking me up to get me out of the way in the future."
As he wipes away the dust and they get a look at the very vicious liquid inside the tube, Zamrud at least takes a sigh of relief in the sheer thickness of the glass. He jumps slightly when he sees the six-fingered hand pressing up against the glass, his curiosity fiercer than ever.
"At the least, I feel more at ease seeing just how thick its container is. As to what it could be… I surely have no idea. Some sort of Dreaded One, perhaps, but then raises the question of just how old the facility could be." He takes one more long look at the hand, but then starts looking back at the computer terminal. "For now I think it is best if it stays in there, there has to be information on it somewhere. Take a look around for any notes, I'll keep working to see if I can make sense of this system."
Very slowly, the hand wipes at the inside of the glass, in just the same spot that Qhapaq did. Besides that, the silhouette is motionless.
"Emergency exits are located at the – back – of the – facility," La Senorita says.
"It seems that it follows the moved others did." he said as he approached and gave more of a rub on the bottom part he could reach to see if it would follow his motions as well.
"Ah- apologies. I was far too hasty in moving you- I was just worried for what might happen." He remarks, before looking back to the glass. "How bizarre… it mimics." He comments, leaning in closer to get a better look.
"I don't think it is best to test this thing we don't understand. Could be working in a bizzare and magical way." Billy felt the need to speak up and warn.
Good paused "Good point."
Zamrud looks over at Good and Qhapaq as they notice the creature's mimicking nature. Zamrud lets out a grumble. "I am in agreement with Billy as well, whatever it is it is most likely dangerous. If we can just learn more about what it is though… what sort of tests were they running here?"
Zamrud takes another look at the terminals, before calling over Senorita. "Senorita, do you have any information on computer terminals of this age I could use? Most of the keys are eroded away, or if there's any way you could directly access it."
"Perhaps testing the nature of its abilities? Its form?" He suggests.>Mental Fortitude Roll: Automatic (Sentry)
"Studies recommend – children – and adults – play outside," La Senorita splices to Zamrud. "Prolonged computer use – many detriments to – mental – health."
She does not approach the computers. >>760306
You lean in for a closer look… and for a moment, your weight feels like it went a little too far forward. Like you'd leaned in twice as far as you had initially meant to. Caught in that sensation of vertigo, you hardly notice when your other hand stretches out toward La Senorita's chassis–
But you catch yourself, pull yourself back together, and regain control of all your digits and faculties… as near as you can tell.
>roll once more
"Perhaps we should just push forward." he said noting the way Qhapaq reached for La Senorita. HE beckoned for her to come with him away from the tube as he made his way forward.
"Hrmm… I do not know. I feel a little… strange? As if I lost control of myself for a moment…">Mental Fortitude: [1d10+1]Roll #1 2 + 1 = 3
Unable to shake this ominous feeling on him, Billy reaches forward to qhapaq intending to grab him and drag him away right now. The tenseness in his mind is not helped by Senorita's constant warnings.
"Hmmm. Will take that as a no." Zamrud says, taking another look at the computers as he tries to make sense of the first three options it presents to him. "I find we get enough outdoors in the Outlands as it is, personally. Let's see…"
[1d10] Zamrud's attempts to decipher the computer's options, cautiouslyRoll #1 8 = 8
Qhapaq staggers slightly and shakes his head, pulling away from the glass. He turns to Seniorita and gives her a somewhat confused look, before shaking his head again "Please, do not worry- a little dizzy, but I believe it has passed. It was the sense of… hrm. I believe the term is 'vertigo'? I've never felt such a thing.">>760307>>760311
"Hrm… I think the third one is the project log directory, the second one is an experiment schedule, and the first is the master program for the controls."
"I do hope that is it, but for some reason I don't think that is. I believe we should regroup outside to ask about whatever that is." Billy looks back the way they came.
Zamrud turns his attention towards Qhapaq with surprise, looking over the instructions on the computer as he tests out the controls to try and navigate his way to the Project Log directory option, hoping it holds more data.
"I see computers are growing on you after all, Qhapaq. Did you recognize some of the symbols?"
>Accessing Project Log Directory
"A… little, yes." He says, bobbing his head and saying "I think… hrm. Click the the third option there." He suggests, before humming a bit. He looks around the room for something in particular…>Perception [1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
"Take your time companion. We must move forward though."
The screen changes as Zamrud clicks the third option at Qhapaq's direction. However, the screens are small, and can only ever show three lines. Zamrud still doesn't recognize the language these lines are in…
While Zamrud accesses that, Qhapaq looks about the room, going through some nearby desk drawers, and combing over the tops of the other terminals. Eventually, he finds a narrow, chunky block of plastic, grooved here and there and raised in other places with similar symbols to those on the terminal screens. It's a keycard.
"Ahh. A card, with similar writing." He says, pacing back over to Zamrud and looking at the screen. "Mmm… the third option, again."
Good did his best to try and find a way forward from the room. He was beginning to grow more apprehensive the more time they spent around the tube after it seemed to have gotten to Qhapaq.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 10 = 10
You notice something about Qhapaq… his movements are… small. Very small. His stride is truncated, and his arms never fully extended while he searched about for that keycard…
"Do you recognize it?" Billy asks out loud to no one in particular.
"Yes, I do." He says, looking over Zamrud's shoulder.
"Zamrud… a moment please."
"Mind if I ask where you could have seen this kind of writing before. Perhaps we can look into some kind of reference on our gadgets or through Senorita." Billy perks up.
Zamrud looks over at Qhapaq as he presents the keycard, looking at him with a curious, almost cautious look at him as he presents it.
"Interesting." He says, pausing as he does not yet push any buttons to select the third option again. He looks over the keycard, "What made you think to look for a keycard, Qhapaq? I didn't take you for being very learned in technology."
"Yes… and I would point out he began choosing options after touching the tube."
He turns his attention towards Good, his eyes narrowing. "So he did," and turns to Qhapaq, looking to see if he has anything to say in this regard.
Qhapaq ignores Billy and Good Intentions for now.>>760326
Qhapaq turns to look Zamrud in the eyes, leaning in a little. He cuts Zamrud off, starting to speak at the exact time Zamrud says 'technology'.
"Technology like this is meddlesome, but not insurmountable.">Zamrud: Roll Mental Fortitude
Good moved to try and shoot his gun, aiming to hit Qhapaq in the shoulder to break his focus.
>Hard-Light Shoulder Mounted gun>Instant, Recharge 1; Attack a target or group of targets using thought-controlled technology wired to the armorsuit's circuitry. All attacks deal an additional Hit of damage, and have the Light damage tag.
Secondary fire:Recharge 2; Instant; If the standard attack with this weapon fails, you can use this skill to reroll and take the better result. Or, if it succeeded, you can use this skill to make an additional attack with the extra barrel
[1d10] First shot
[1d10] Backup if the first fails.Roll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 5 = 5
Zamrud looks on at Qhapaq as he stares him right in the eyes, the puros leering in confusion as he tries to gauge what exactly is happening to the griffon when he speaks.
He is about to formulate a response, but first feels his ears twitch, as though something tickles the forefront of his mind…
[1d10] Rolling Mental FortitudeRoll #1 2 = 2
Deciding to act in tandem with Good after being exposed to the abnormality. Billy rushes at qhapaq in order to grab him and constrain.
-animal husbandry (Bear Hug): passive; Bear hugs are the strongest grip known to ponykind. Your arms are like a vice-grip, anything you grab, unless it’s bigger than you, has no chance of escaping. You also lift, carry and move heavier objects than most other races.
-Sentry: passive, recharge 4; You can declare one action you make to be Automatic instead of rolling.
With a stinging blast, Qhapaq is knocked to the ground, and Billy leaps upon him, pinning him to the floor. Qhapaq, for his part, barely registers this change or pain, instead feeling his head rushing upwards through a sea of electrical static. He involuntarily coughs and gags, as one who has swallowed seawater has. Feeling drips gradually from the back of his head into the rest of his body, and as he revives from this peculiar numbness, intense cramping, a stench of burnt plastic, and a taste of copper and steel plague him.
Seeing the others beginning to dog pile on Qhapaq, Grutar raises both limbs in the air almost like a cheer. "Finally! Some good ol' fashioned WRESTLIN'!" He shouts out, before making a charge to wrestle both Qhapaq & Billy at the same time.
"One of you are gonna buy me a drink if I can getcha both!"Roll #1 7 = 7
Good waited quietly as his gun cooled down from the shot as he let it fall back to his shoulder, waiting to see if things had been fixed, or at the very best calmed down.
As Good lets loose a blast that hits Qhapaq square on, and his subsequent dog-pile on from Billy and Grutar, Zamrud stands and looks on towards the others, peering at their suspicious friend.
"That was perhaps a tad excessive, but I suppose best not to live it to chance. I apologize, Qhapaq, are you alright? Did anything happen to you after touching the glass?"
[1d10+1]Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
Billy Decides to hold onto Qhapaq in fear of any other sudden anomalous action taking place. "We should all head out here in a group right now, no telling what will happen to the rest of us the longer we stay here."
Qhapaq doesn't feel the pain of the strike due to hardly being in control of his mind, let alone his body. He does, however, experience possibly the single worst sensation when the presence evicts itself from his mind. He shakes it off with a groan, before finding himself in a dog pile- and with a new scorch mark, though one that's quickly healing away. "I… hrmn. What an awful experience.">>760421>>760420>>760423
"Ah… release me, please. I do not know why I did what I did, but it was not of my own mind. I think that… something inside that area there wishes this panel operated, though I do not know why.">>760422
"Ah, Zamrud- forgive me for my actions. I am alright, and will recover in a few moments. I feel their actions are not too extreme- it's hardly as if I haven't taken worse." He remarks, before humming "I think it prudent we do not operate the panel. La Señorita's concern was valid."
"Ah! I would be happy to oblige, but at the moment we must remain aware and alert."
From down the long hall of shattered doors, you can hear slow, cautious footfalls, though the tunnel is so poorly lit that you cannot see the source.
>"It's time to STOP," La Senorita suddenly blurts out, for once using an intact audio file. "NO MORE."
"If given the choice I would rather shoot him than you. He can take a bullet with ease.">>760426
His gun immediately turned to aim at the noise as he backed up towards Senorita in a defensive position.
"Honestly I am a bit worried once I put you down I may lose track of you here. So I hope you don't mind until we get out of here." Billy gets up with Qhapaq in hand to get closer to the exit.
Grutar gets up from the wrestling pile and lets go of Qhapaq. Though now after hearing the sounds of stepping he peers down the hallway, looking left to right to see if anything might be using the doors as cover.
"We'll just settle with the one who can take out the most dreads gets their drinks for free." He says with a wiggle of his mustached beard and a wink.Roll #1 9 = 9
"You have the right of it, yes. It is safest to shoot me." He adds.>>760426
Qhapaq struggles to free himself from the pile atop him, standing up to his full, imposing height and glaring in the direction of the noise. For what it's worth, he steps between the noise and Señorita, his feathers ruffling up as he states "Perhaps I accomplished whatever it was I set out to do… remain cautious."
Zamrud snorts. "Noted, though I've said it before and will say it again, I'm not comfortable stress testing Qhapaq's regeneration.">>760424>>760426
As Qhapaq manages to get back up again, Zamrud lets a sigh of relief. "That is good to hear, Qhapaq… though, I hope you do not take offense if I ask you restrain yourself for a bit longer. I'm not sure what happened but I want to make sure nothing is affecting you."
As he points out that La Senorita's concerns were valid, Zamrud nods. "I don't doubt at all that they were, but, I think now we have an idea of which options we are not to select, we should have peace of mind in looking at least to see what the others offer." Zamrud says as he looks towards the terminals. "Clearly this terminal is key to learning whatever's going on, and we've thankfully thwarted whatever plans from… whomever devised them."
[1d10+1]Roll #1 3 + 1 = 4
"Hsst!" comes a harsh whisper from the tunnel. You see a very large shape in the front, punk in its silhouette – absolutely, this is Shikiki. "Is that you guys? Aya? You there?">>760432>>760429
From the corner of his eye, when everyone else has their focus on the tunnel, Grutar notices Zamrud make a peculiar step, and pry the keycard off from the bottom of his armorsuit's boot. Taking a long stride, Zamrud makes to slip the keycard into a slot on the terminal…
>any actions against Zamrud at this stage must beat DC 8
"I appreciate the concern, but I do not like what I hear from the tunnel… if I caused this, I want to be able to protect us from my mistake." He adds, flapping his wings once or twice, and wincing a little.>>760433
"Ah, Shikiki?" Qhapaq asks, tilting his head to the side. "Yes, I am here. A gust of wind rendered most of the group unconscious, so we pushed ahead alone. Something within this tube took control of my body, but I seem to be free now. I am glad you are on your paws again."
"Oi! Zam! Whatcha got there?" Grutar asks, reaching over to try and yoink the card from him so he can get a better look. "Issit somethin' valueable, like old world tech?"
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Good's head snapped at Grutar's words and immediately moved to blast the card out of Zam's hand before it became an issue.
[1d10] 1st shot
[1d10] Second shot if needed.Roll #1 10 = 10
/ Roll #2 3 = 3
Billy in the belief he is unable to reach Zamrud in time due to the distance decides to apply his crystal magic he has gained from the grimoire to intercept the insertion of the keycard.
>Learned Crystal Wall Beta>Spell; Recharge 1 after effect ends; Summon up to 15 meters of crystal, in the shape of a bridge, ladder, or other material suitable for climbing over, down or under obstacles. Such a structure provides +1 to rolls made to travel across them (such as when under duress).
[1d10+1]Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
Qhapaq blinks as he remembers the key, before reaching out yo try and carefully pull Zamrud from the console. "Ah! No, I advise against it.">Grabbing Zamrud by his scruff and hauling him back.: [1d10+2]Roll #1 5 + 2 = 7
"We'll be out shortly, Qhapaq. I'm certain disaster has been averted, and it's best we learn whatever we can about this… thing, within containment.">>760436>>760437>>760438
Zamrud looks alive as Grutar noticing him grabbing the keycard, and the cat wordlessly and quickly looks to slam it into the controls while his free paw prepares to select the third, then second options
Zamrud tries to shove the key into the slot, but a wall of crystal blinks into existence between him and the terminal. A great crack shatters in the surface of the wall, but it holds firm… just barely.
Then Good shoots the keycard – a near-impossible shot without destroying Zamrud's fingers, but he barely lands it, and the card flies into the air, tumbling end over end. Zamrud side-steps Grutar and Qhapaq without thought, without even glancing at them.
With a horrifying twist and pop, Zamrud's head snaps to the keycard's position, then his arm follows suit, flopping towards it as if arm and hand were both broken, before the fingers swing all around the card, positioned as crudely as an artist drawing fingers for the first time.
With his free hand, Zamrud performs an occult gesture that should be impossible for one with healthy, functioning digits. The air hums with some unseen, terrible eldritch energy. His eyes are wide, so wide as to pop out of his head – and his pupil shakes, contracting and dilating, threatening even to split into many, so as to make eye contact with all of you!
>Diluted mind influence, Cleave vs. 3 (Billy, Grutar, Qhapaq)
La Senorita rolls away, training her barrel on the terminal…
>actions against Zamrud must beat DC 7Roll #1 9 + 3 = 12
Good let out a small sigh only to see his morbid action move and decided to do his best to pin him in place by force with his magic now.
2d10] Magic Bolt: Gravity
[2d10] since I forgot how to bracket like a retardRoll #1 6, 4 = 10
"Ack! Quick, someone get a laser pointer to distract him!!" Grutar shouts, now trying to tackle Zamrud to the ground so he can grab the keycard himself.
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Billy can only rush him himself forward after Zamrud. Aiming to use his entire frame to his advantage and keep him down.
Combat Talent: [Headbutt]; recharge 2, instant; Slam your horns into an enemy and send them reeling. Knocks an enemy helpless on success, dealing 5-(X-5) damage to yourself as well.
-Cavalier (Lone Knight):You fight by yourself. You have a Bonus Action every turn for basic attacks only. You have +2 Max Hits and +1 Max Wounds. All Doctrines from Cavalier apply to you.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
/ Roll #3 9 = 9
"I apologize. I am having more trouble than I anticipated. This system is more than a little archaic." Zamrud speaks as though nothing else is going on, despite the abject horror going on with his body
"If I could just figure out some sort of pattern or read the symbols on screen, I am sure I could work out the controls. Has anyone had any luck in finding a manual?"
Qhapaq folds his ears back, before frowning a little and saying "Please, friend, forgive me, but I cannot let you continue." He remarks, going for a swing with his Light Claws>Light Claws (Instant): [1d10+1] (DC-1 due to Single Weapon Tag)
He'll take Senorita's suggestion, and slam into the console with his bulk. >Slam: [1d10] (If it can apply weapon bonuses, add a +1 and lower the DC by 1)Roll #1 4 + 1 = 5
/ Roll #2 7 = 7
"Shikiki, try to keep Zamrud from the console if you can- he is not under his own control!"
5-(X-5) where X = 8
>Billy takes 2 Hits>Grutar takes 8 Hits>Zamrud 0/4>Good takes 1 Hit
Zamrud falls as Qhapaq, Billy and Grutar rush him, crushed under their weight, but then Zamrud, with another grotesque snapping, kicks Grutar with a leg that extends vertically into the air. Grutar falls back, but Zamrud catches him mid-air with the free hand, and throws him at Good Intentions. The two collide, but Good holds his ground, managing to keep his gun trained on Zamrud.
However – Billy, Grutar and Qhapaq freeze up, and fall still, the three feeling like one on the verge of falling asleep… into a nightmare. Zamrud's pupils force themselves into the forefront of their minds, like cells undergoing rapid mitosis, bulging on all sides with hideous strength… strange protrusions poke out of the center of the new pupils, almost like tentacles… Billy, Grutar and Qhapaq can feel these tentacles licking their very own eyes with a ravenous hunger…
>Billy, Grutar and Qhapaq must spend their standard Actions this turn attacking someone in their party. However, instant actions can still be used against Zamrud or on some other effect.
Zamrud's arm, the one that clutches the keycard, spins about and tries to slam the card into the slot.
>Zamrud can now roll Mental Resistance; on success, subtract 2 from the Entity's roll result from the above roll.
>"Unknown – effects – from – shooting – computer," La Senorita splices. "Fire when ready – question mark?"
Shikiki pauses briefly as Qhapaq shouts his strange command, but then rushes forward into the room, trying to grab Zamrud!
[1d10+3]Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6
/ Roll #2 9 + 3 = 12
Good winced but grunted and stamped a foot down "Senorita attack the console now, even if you just have to run into it!"
He tried his best to obliterate said console with another magic shot.
[1d10+1] Singularity ShotRoll #1 8 + 1 = 9
"I think I begin to see a pattern…" Zamrud says, as though still completely unaware. "I can't help but feel this would be more efficient if someone else were dealing with this, computers aren't exactly my field of expertise. Least of all ones with an operating system centuries old." He continues to speak through his mouth, his mind completely disconnected from his surroundings even as his broken form combats his teamRoll #1 3 = 3
Qhapaq tries to resist the urge to lash out at his allies, but the influence is too strong. He lashes out towards Grutar with his claws! >[1d10] DC-1 from Single
Fighting it to the best of his ability, he tries a different approach- jamming his lightclaws into the card reader to damage it beyond use. "P-Perhaps not destroy the console, but damage the part that matters!">Light Claw (Instant, DC-1): [1d10+1]Roll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10
Grutar lets out a grunt that sounds like the wind got knocked out of him when hit, before toppling over when smashed into Good. Using his drill to sit him up as his free hand rubs his lower back, all the while groaning to get the air back into his lungs. "Remind me… Not to piss ya off… Lad… oooough…">>760446
Suddenly, Grutar reaches over as if to help Good only to try and smack him in the gob instead. "LAD, THERE'S A DREAD ON YOUR HEAD!" He says, looking at something that isn't quite there.
[1d10]Roll #1 3 = 3
Greatly affected by the entity Billy is forced to take a large swing at his teammates with the only other one left standing being good up and about.
[1d10]Roll #1 8 = 8
Qhapaq wheels around and drops his considerable bulk atop Zamrud in tandem with Shikiki, aiming mostly to cover the Puros's eyes and prevent the Dreaded One from jumping bodies, but also to try and remove Zamrud from the fight>9+1 from earlier roll, utlizing Grappler.0>You have a +1 to all non-combat attempts to subdue, restrain, or prevent a target from moving. You may use this in combat to remove a foe from combat without killing them, but only if they're the only enemy in the zone and helpless, or on very low health.
Zamrud shatters the Crystal Wall Beta with another slam of the keycard. Pink fragments of glass fall all around, before fading into air. Before Zamrud can punch in the fatal combination of keystrokes, Shikiki and Qhapaq dogpile him, trying to pin him to the ground… but Zamrud rises up, animated by a strength not his own. He looks at the three of Qhapaq, Grutar and Billy, who spin, animated by this same force, and take a swing at each of their allies.
>Good loses 3 Hits>Grutar loses 4
Just as Zamrud turns to lock eyes with Shikiki, Good and La Senorita turn their guns on the computer terminal, and their shots blow it up, sending Zamrud and Shikiki flying across the room, singed with burn marks.
>"Emergency!" La Senorita shouts. "User death imminent!"
Zamrud, heedless of her warnings, grabs Shikiki and tries to slam her against the glass tube.
>Zamrud can roll mental resistance again
Shikiki and La Senorita hesitate, sensing Zamrud's life fall into peril…
You hear other footsteps down the corridor as others approach!Roll #1 4 + 3 = 7
"Remind me to make you lads buy me drinks after this, my headaches tellin' me I'll need more than a dozen." Grutar says groggily as he tries to stand back up from his injuries.
[1d10]Roll #1 6 = 6
Rushing into the fray after Zamrud hoping to hold him down to prevent him from hurting himself or others any more due to the control of the entity.
-Cavalier (Lone Knight):You fight by yourself. You have a Bonus Action every turn for basic attacks only. You have +2 Max Hits and +1 Max Wounds. All Doctrines from Cavalier apply to you.
Grappler: passive; Trained in melee and close quarters combat, you overpower foes easily in such situations. You have +1 to all rolls when making non-combat actions to grapple, subdue, restrain, or in any way preventing a target from moving with your own body. You can apply this bonus in combat to remove an enemy from combat without killing them, but only when they’re the only enemy in their zone and helpless, or on very low health.
-animal husbandry (Bear Hug): passive; Bear hugs are the strongest grip known to ponykind. Your arms are like a vice-grip, anything you grab, unless it’s bigger than you, has no chance of escaping. You also lift, carry and move heavier objects than most other races.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 6 + 1 = 7
/ Roll #2 2 + 1 = 3
[1d10] Mental Resistance
"Almost there…. almost there…" Zamrud's voice, coarse and gravelly, speaks out, acting as though he is still wrestling with a computer and not being wrestled and blasted around by his compatriots. As he slams Shikiki into the glass tube, he speaks, "I hate to tempt fate by saying it, but I'm starting to get a good feeling about this…"
Roll #1 1 = 1
Good groaned as he winced in pain and tried his best to try and shield Shiki from it with some magic
[1d10] Inure on ShikiRoll #1 10 = 10
"No! It forces him to act regardless- it will tear his body apart if it must!" He says, putting himself between the glass tube and Shikiki >Catch? [1d10+2]
He reaches out and grabs Zamrud by his coat, staring deeply into his eyes "Zamrud, please. Do not fight it- you are far too injured - let me take it from you, please. >Instant: Eye Contact.Roll #1 8 + 2 = 10
If he successfully catches Shikiki, he tries to drop her on her feet, so he can focus fully on Zamrud.
Grutar manages to stumble to his feet, while Billy jumps behind Zamrud, pulling the cat's arms back to soften the impact of Shikiki against the glass. Together with Good's magical bracing, the two of you prep Shikiki, whom Zamrud slams into the glass. She gasps on reflex, but she holds firm, not giving into the pain! Qhapaq then jumps in, grabbing Zamrud by the shoulders to shatter his focus on Shikiki!
Zamrud feels his entire body relax – before being rapt with pain, burning and shuddering and quivering, as the entity leaps from Zamrud to Qhapaq!
>Qhapaq roll mental resistance, DC 7!
>Zamrud has been freed, must now roll recovery before he can act again!
Ride or Die is the first of his Team to arrive on the scene, flames wrapping around his hooves and hands! "What's going on!?"
Shikiki, clutching her throat, explains between coughs. "Something's got Zamrud! I think… think it jum– ack! Ghraaachk! Koff, koff!"
She clutches her throat, grimacing from the pain of being choked by Zamrud.
>"Virus scan – Kha – pack – contaminated!" La Senorita warns.
Ride or Die clenches his eyes shut, seemingly having experienced this kind of infection before. "Understood! Point me in his direction, and give the order to FIRE!"
Qhapaq's eyes widen, his head shuddering…
[1d10+1] horrific mutagenic effects…Roll #1 9 + 1 = 10
"It's the Tube, something in the tube is doing this!"
Seeing the actions taken by Qhapaq. Billy can now only blindly rush at him hoping to pin him down to prevent any more damage hopefully.
-Cavalier (Lone Knight):You fight by yourself. You have a Bonus Action every turn for basic attacks only. You have +2 Max Hits and +1 Max Wounds. All Doctrines from Cavalier apply to you.
Grappler: passive; Trained in melee and close quarters combat, you overpower foes easily in such situations. You have +1 to all rolls when making non-combat actions to grapple, subdue, restrain, or in any way preventing a target from moving with your own body. You can apply this bonus in combat to remove an enemy from combat without killing them, but only when they’re the only enemy in their zone and helpless, or on very low health.
-animal husbandry (Bear Hug): passive; Bear hugs are the strongest grip known to ponykind. Your arms are like a vice-grip, anything you grab, unless it’s bigger than you, has no chance of escaping. You also lift, carry and move heavier objects than most other races.
[1d10+1]Roll #1 5 + 1 = 6
/ Roll #2 9 + 1 = 10
Qhapaq keels over and struggles a little as he feels the entity slip into his mind, hardening himself against it as best he can.>Mental Resistance: Sentry
He's got little control over anything at this point, but the widened eyes and shuddering certainly looks unnatural. "Ah… perhaps someone else should take a crack at it, Zamrud." he says, his voice somewhat slurred.
"I'm gettin' sick of this thing! I'm gonna bust it open and just drill the dang tube juice dread to death!" Grutar shouts out, warning of his less than thought out plan as he starts revving up his drill.
>Sharpen on Drill
[1d10]Roll #1 2 = 2
Zamrud's eyes finally snap back to normal, his entire body aching and quaking in pain as he feels himself being cat-handled by Qhapaq. He looks around, hearing Ride or Die's voice shout out along with Shikiki's and Team Boreal as he sees more of his compatriots going after Qhapaq.
His many many questions about what just happened is overtaken by the overwhelming pain coming from his many throbbing and probably broken bones, gasping for air as he tries to role away and recover.
"*COUGH* *COUGH* get him… out of the room… get EVERYONE… out of the room, NOW!" Zamrud yowls, struggling to pull himself up
[1d10] Rise from helplessRoll #1 8 = 8
Qhapaq braces himself…
"Gh– aaaaaaaaaaAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHH!!! AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHH!!!!!!!!!! GYAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHHHHHHH!!!"
…But an involuntary scream rips from his throat, as the bones of his skull shudder apart, while his eyes, those soft, sensitive organs… balloon up
, as a ||Mad Daemon||, animated by fury, assumes full control of his body. And yet, Qhapaq drives his claws into the floor of the research facility, resisting the horrifying Daemon's attempts on the lives of his friends!
A sole comfort comes to Qhapaq, softening his pain… as Billy comes in, holding him steady in a bear hug.
"i HEAR YOU!!!" Ride or Die screams, his eyes brimming with tears. "Let me bear your pain, good sir Qhapaq, noble soul of Ironcastle!!! Haaa… AAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAHHHHHHH!"
>rolling for effect, on failure, activate Sentry
Ride or Die clutches his fist near to himself, ringed with fire… then, in the mere span of an instant, he swings a destroying fist at Qhapaq's head!!!Roll #1 8 + 3 = 11
Billy stand holding the of Qhapaq tightly looking on with his mouth agape as the head of his friend disappears.
Qhapaq attempts to say something, but it comes out as a gargled scream. His claws dig into the floor harder, as he struggles against whatever it is that's taken control of his mind and disfigured his head!
Good sighed and focused his magic on trying to repair Zamrud as he took a shot at the tube to try and harm whatever lay inside.
>Magic Boon on Zamrud
[2d10] Magic Bolt (Gravity)Roll #1 7, 8 = 15
Grutar kicks his drill into an overheated hastened spin, eyes darting around the glass tube to see if he can find out wherever this thing that is affecting his team is floating about. When he sees the first sign of movement, he finally decides to take a deep breath and brace for potential foul fluid to backfire into him.
>Mutation: Overdrill (Pick highest roll of the two results)>Slam drill into tube and possibly the dread inside it.
[1d10]Roll #1 10 = 10
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
Zamrud looks over at Good as he feels his magic washing over him to mend his injuries. He lets out a groan of appreciation, "Thanks…"
Before refocusing his efforts on Qhapaq again, shouting at everyone one again, "Clear the room, we need to put distance between us, the terminals, and the creature!"
He pulls out one of his inflammatory grenades, mixing a quick concoction using his available chemicals. "This all started when we wiped some of the dust off the glass, its possession at least seem to pass somehow based on visibility! So if we can cover up its sight…" he says, throwing the grenade at the tube
>Alchemist Fire: recharge 1, ranged; Concoct a flame that produces virulent smoke and can latch onto anything, even water. Deals damage and gives +1 to all skills against that target next turn. On Crit this has the Fire Elementalist effect.>produces virulent smoke
[1d10] Alchemist Fire on the tube to cover it with thick chemically soot
[1d10] Also Appraise on the tube itselfRoll #1 7 = 7
/ Roll #2 2 = 2
Ride or Die punches into Qhapaq, yet, as if by a miracle, no damage is dealt to the gentle griffon. Instead, a hideous thing,
neither light nor dark, neither mirage nor shadow, is punched forth from him, slamming into the wall while Qhapaq himself, exorcised of the Mad Daemon, falls to the ground in a semiconscious stupor. The Daemon, lacking black and white, color and shape, appearing as an eclectic and brain-dampening graphical glitch to your eyes, shrieks, and reaches for you all with claws that eclipse even your very bodies–!
[1d10+5] Cleave vs. 6; Good, Qhapaq, Grutar, Zamrud, Shikiki, Ride
Ride or Die, flames spinning about him, lunges in for a storm of punches against this Shade!
Shikiki, likewise, stands up in front of Zamrud, and delivers a deadly kick to the tall, cracking test tube, alongside Zamrud and Grutar!Roll #1 3 + 5 = 8
/ Roll #2 3 + 3 = 6
Good grunted and moved to evade the attack as his gun kicked on and moved to harm the demon's form inside the tube for it's crime of existing. HE hoped that the fact the attack was made of light would hurt it more.
[1d10] Evade attack
[1d10] First Shot
[1d10] Second ShotRoll #1 1 = 1
/ Roll #2 4 = 4
/ Roll #3 9 = 9
Finally finding the cause of all this madness. Billy willingly throws himself into the fray against the Daemon. Once against using his huge frame to attempt to slam into it.
Combat Talent: [Headbutt]; recharge 2, instant; Slam your horns into an enemy and send them reeling. Knocks an enemy helpless on success, dealing 5-(X-5) damage to yourself as well.
Slam: recharge 1; Crush an enemy with your body, dealing damage. Crits on 9+.
-Martial Defender: passive; You gain 3 Max Hits, and Slam Crits on 8+.
-Cavalier (Lone Knight):You fight by yourself. You have a Bonus Action every turn for basic attacks only. You have +2 Max Hits and +1 Max Wounds. All Doctrines from Cavalier apply to you.
[1d10] Basic attackRoll #1 8 = 8
/ Roll #2 1 = 1
/ Roll #3 6 = 6
Zamrud's attention is changed as the Daemon is quite literally PUNCHED clear out of Qhapaq, Zamrud's ears flattening in surprise as he focuses now on the semi-formless, black / white 'glitch' like creature that defies light and shadow. His eyes open wide as he tries to process how this creature even appears, but focuses his efforts on taking it out before it can possess anyone else.
He takes out his modular rifle, loading a round to fire point blank into the core of the creature from range. "RIDE! Aim for its core…" he says as he aims for the same spot
-Fault Point: recharge 3, weapon; You can notice the imperfections in anything from your years of crafting. Strike at a foes gear, either their weapon or armor, abusing these faults to weaken them and applying a stack of Faulty. Each stack lowers the quality of a weapon by 1 or lowers the damage reduction a foe has by 1 on armor. Once the gear reaches 3 stacks it will be destroyed. On Crit, or when the gear is broken, this will deal damage (Damage on break will be based on the roll that applied the 3rd stack). Can be used out of combat to break most average materials.
[1d10] Fault Point using the rifle on the Mad Daemon to weaken its defensesRoll #1 3 = 3
>>760479>0/6 if Helpless
Qhapaq's face is still a mess, but he looks to be more himself. He struggles to get to all fours to help the others. He looks somewhat shaken, but he pushes it off for now!>Recovery: [1d10]Roll #1 9 = 9
Grutar shouts in pain and rage as he keeps the drill spinning at the pace it's going. His blood beginning to boil and making some of the liquid in the tube where his drill was poking begin to bubble as well.
>Overheat: Take hit damage to refresh recharge on Overdrill>Overdrill again with a normal attack.
>Grutar takes 6 hits worth of self inflicted damageRoll #1 9 = 9
/ Roll #2 10 = 10
"HRRRRRR…. ORAORAORAORAORAORAORAORAORAORAORA!!!" Ride screams, throwing himself into the fray, his fists ablaze. The entity lashes out in retaliation, dealing 8 Hits to everyone in the laboratory! Yet, underred by the strikes and the pain, Good, jZamrud, nBilly and Grutar throw themselves into the melee, shooting, swinging and drilling at whatever amount of body the entity exposes to violence!!! Qhapaq, meanwhile, shuffles over to Shikiki, and the two brace themselves for the worst…!
Smoke, burnt metal and the dust of ages slowly clear themselves…
And you see, smoldering into the indentation of a beaten wall, and a shattered test tube, a faint burn mark…
Ride or Die falls to his knees, coughing and gasping, clutching his chest with a pained grimace.
Shikiki and La Senorita seem similarly exhausted…
The lot of you still possess your faculties, it seems… though Qhapaq's skull still aches.
Grutar pants heavily, his armor steaming as the sweat on him had heated into vapor and his drill slowing down to a sudden halt. "The only dread that's takin' this ol' dog and his crew is gonna be the dread of time! For Zinc and Iron!" Grutar says in a cheer before slumping down to sit. "Boy am I tired…"
"Is it still there? Is it gone?" Billy yells out unsure if the monster is still there, or if another teammate has been taken over. The entity sure had one too many tricks up its sleeves.
[1d10] PerceptionRoll #1 8 = 8
Zamrud lets out a groan as the dust finally clears, his body torn up from retaliation of the mysterious, otherworldly shade as it lashed out at them at the last second, his mind still reeling from trying to determine what it was exactly.
However, as its presence appears to have vanished, and everyone in the lab finally seems calmed down and clear of mind, Zamrud groans as he puts his hand over his aching chest, "Yep, that's more than likely a few ribs broken. Wonderful…" he says, leaning up as he looks around.
"Everyone, if you're still with us and unpossessed, sound off." He says as he tries looking around for any remaining sign of the creature
[1d10-1] PerceptionRoll #1 5 - 1 = 4
Qhapaq struggles to all fours, groaning softly as he tries to right himself. He does so- the entity's wide swing not making that any better, but he'll survive. With a bit of focus, the savage cut along his side seals itself shut- the fur growing over moments later.>Accelerated Healing (Automatic): Restore full Hits, or one Wound if at full hits. Disable Accelerated Healing's passive regeneration for the time this ability is on recharge.>>760485
"My head is sore- my skull aches… but, I seem to be myself again. Is everyone else alright? I deeply apologize for the harm I caused by giving it an escape.">>760490
"Z-Zamrud! Are you well? Please, try to remain still." Qhapaq blurts out, rushing to his friend's side and trying to help him up.>Recovery aid: [1d10]Roll #1 5 = 5
Good flumps to the ground holding his side quietly but relatively happy to be alive as he just laid there for a bit as he groaned quietly "That hurt."
The coast is definitely clear, save for Ride and Shikiki, the both of whom are plainly exhausted, having fallen upon their knees with pained grimaces… their clenched frowns suggest the two would be much happier with all the drama having been put behind them.
All that remains of your foe is a shattered test tube, grotesque gel staining the floor, and a burn mark upon the far wall…
>"Let's have – a first aid – intermediate – course," La Senorita suggests, positioning herself protectively between Zamrud and the burn mark.
"I apologize, Good. I will come and help you as soon as I am sure Zamrud is not on Death's Door."
Grutar sits idle for awhile, looking pretty still. But when someone eventually pokes him for medical treatment, it seems like he fell asleep again to take a nap after the intense battle.
"Oh no, I am just bruised, I can stand up in a moment. Please make sure Zamrud is well." he said moving to stand up.
[1d10] Roll to stand if needed.Roll #1 2 = 2
Zamrud winces as Zamrud comes over to help him up, the cat meowling in pain as he touches the tender puros. "ACH! E-easy, Qhapaq, easy…" Zamrud says, holding his side carefully. "'Well' is a bit of an exaggeration but, I am alive, and in control of my faculties… or so I hope.">>760493
As Senorita suggests taking first aid courses, Zamrud nods in agreement, "Quite, looks like we'll be digging into our medical supplies quite a bit. Rather early into the expedition, at that…" Zamrud says with disappointment as he looks around at everyone. He notes everyone is exhausted, battered, but alive, and with that he lets out a sigh.
He takes a look at the liquefied remains of the creature, whatever it was, within the broken down tube. As well as the destroyed remains of the computer terminal. He lets out a sigh. "Whatever it was, it's gone now. It's almost a shame, I'm rather curious what in the Outlands we were dealing with here."
"I would recommend that you go and take a sample or something. I assume that the sages would like to take the time to study something living in a place as nasty as this."
"Very well- if you are sure, Good." Qhapaq says, looking to Good and nodding a little.>>760497
"Ah- apologies, Zamrud. I should have attempted such a technique sooner- I am glad that it did… whatever it did, when it was within my body, and not within anothers. My head aches, but I will recover within a day or two at most. I should have been more careful when investigating the tube- I am sorry, friend."
Billy sits straight up feeling mentally exhausted. "Thank you everyone for making through it all." Billy states out loud.
Ride's team, together with Shikiki's Outcasts, start to move among the injured, beginning medical examinations. They bring forward a mixture of remedies both scientific and shamanistic, and although Ride's team looks a bit leery about letting Outlanders treat Castle souls, this isn't really a time to be picky…
La Senorita hangs back, wary of examining much more in this room, even with its former inhabitant seemingly slain.
>Party will regain 1 Wound per two rounds spent in here.
After Grutar awakes he take the time to let someone give him a medical examination whilst he sips a shot from some of the booze he had brought with him, as well as eating a portion of his rations to relax.
"What kinda dread was that thing anyways?"
Good rises up and decided to evaluate his armor suit for the moment before moving to check on Zamrud quietly "My friend do you require me to alleviate any mental trauma from you?"
Qhapaq feels at his face with a bit of concern, but otherwise focuses on the other injured members of the party. He also turns to Shikiki and Ride or Die, offering a bow. "Thank you for your aid, both of you- the danger we encountered was unexpected, and I am worried without assistance, injuries may have been more dire."
Happy to take a break, Billy decides to see if there is anything he could possibly discuss with his grimoire by writing his applications of the power in the fight, and possibly using the powers to bind.
Zamrud shakily nods his head in agreement. "Right, whatever that creature was, it was like no Dreaded One I heard of yet. They'll want to catalog it.">>760499
Zamrud shakes his head, "There was no way to be prepared for it, no matter how carefully we investigated the glass. All in all, we're all still here and it's been killed, I say we handled it as best we could.">>760593
As Zamrud prepares to use one of his Medical Kits to begin the process of patching himself up, he turns to look at Shikiki and Ride. "Amid all this, we still haven't quite pinned down what blew everyone out of the hall in the first place. Is any one injured from that?" He asks the other teams' leaders.>>760595
Zamrud holds his head, "Unless you're qualified in therapy, I'm not sure there's much can be done."
"If you are sure." Qhapaq says, going to pat his friend- and, after looking at his body, thinking against it. He doesn't want to hurt the cat!
"Well as you are aware, I can allow you to dump your emotional traumas unto myself to allow you to function better."
"We're all pretty good," Shikiki says. "Nobody was really hurt too bad from that wind-blast-thing. What even caused that?"
She looks back at the hallway comprised almost entirely of doorframes. "What was this all about, while we're at it?">>760597
The grimoire's margins start to fill with small illustrations and boxing, underlining certain words and circling others… however, no writing appears in response. It seems you will have to give it some time to process this experience.>>760594
Ride shakes his head. "Hardly any way to tell now, unless you can harvest a sample for later analysis. I would caution against the endeavor unless you've specific training and equipment for it."
Zamrud continues to hold his head, "Ah… right, that is what you meant. Appreciated, young lord, but I do not think I should burden you with such. I will manage… though, I will also consider it.">>760601
Zamrud shakes his head. "This spire is a mystery. Were all these doors simply for the sake of this one experiment, whatever it was?"
He moves to stand, having patched himself up a fair bit, to take a look through the wreckage of the computers. Even if the system is fried, if the hard drive is intact, or any kind of storage unit, they could bring it back to Ironcastle
[1d10] Searching for surviving memory storageRoll #1 2 = 2
Billy nods his head in understanding. Patience is a virtue that does bring many unexpected gifts. So he decides to contently pack it away.
"As you wish my friend.">>760601
Good for his part did his best to ignore Shiki as he looked at the far end of the room where Senorita had been standing to see if she was ok.
"I'm no science nerd so harvestin' dreads ain't my thing. I'm more into collectin' old world stuff or gems that won't mutate my bones into drills." Grutar says back to Ride.
"Not sure. A place built to contain that bizarre creature, it seems… as for the air blast, I do not know. It dizzied me, but I stayed standing. Perhaps this was meant to keep intruders out?"
It seems like the terminal on the western side is broken beyond repair from La Senorita's shot. The keycard must have flown off somewhere in the blast, and a terminal on the eastern side… perhaps there may be something of worth there, if only the keycard can be found.>>760605
Ride nods with approval, holding out his hand for a shake. A kindred spirit, it seems.>>760606>>760604>"Hypothesis," La Senorita splices.
She's at the northern end of the room, where there is another door. It is metal, and still sealed.
>"Folklore holds that vampires must be invited into a house – doors – hallway – plus – outward – air expulsion – suppression system – question mark?"
Zamrud holds his hand, remembering the keycard that was in his grasp while he was under the creature's control. In all the chaos of the fight, it must have flown out of his fingers… somewhere, but he cannot fathom where. He turns to look around the rubble, searching for the keycard that might unlock the eastern terminal.
Zamrud looks towards Senorita as she proposes her idea. "You think it was a defense system to keep us out?"Roll #1 5 = 5
"Well I would say it doesn't have to only keep us out. There are many different strange and bizarre creatures out here that could be attracted here for reasons we don't understand." Billy decides to add his two bits.
"A fair point, though the point to focus on is that, whatever that gust of wind came from, it was created by those who built this place to see this room was secured." He looks around. "I still can't even tell from whence it came, there are no turbines in here. And why did it only affect some of us more than others, how could it have known?"
"Mmm… a method of keeping those of a certain type out, perhaps? Those the Dreaded creature may have found to be a better host." He suggests, shrugging.>>760608>>760607
"Some of us- you were unaffected, I was.">>760607
"Should, ah- should we search for the card?"
Grutar gives Ride a shake with his paw, offering Ride a shot of booze to go with it as well.
"Whats a vampire?" Good asked as he began to look for the key.
[1d10] SearchRoll #1 9 = 9
He knocks it back, spitting up a little flame with a nod of approval.>>760610>>760611>>760608>>760609>>760613>"A vampire is a folkloric creature that feasts on the blood of living creatures," La Senorita splices.
"I think what the robot is speculating…" Ride says, scratching his chin. "Is that the air blast mechanism was meant to push things out
of this room. If a 'vampire', or whatever that thing was, cannot cross thresholds of houses without an invitation, then perhaps being forcefully expelled across a threshold could have been a form of subdual – or even torture?"
"That's a funny theory, I guess," Shikiki says. "But… I mean, look around. It's like the cat said: What in this room could have even caused that much wind?"
Indeed… nothing in the room could have produced such a blast.>>760613
After digging through the rubble, you find the keycard. It's a little singed and chipped, but apparently made of durable material, as it has mostly survived the explosion.
"Huh, sounds like something Lazy would fight in one of those shooters." he said before lifting the card "Found the card!"
"Maybe the dread had a bunch of gas and that's how they expel it! I mean, how many of you have seen dreads eat somethin' but then pass gas, right?!" Grutar gives his own speculation to the rest.
"Oh, do we just hand over the card to Senorita or Ride here?" Billy scratches his head unsure of what the point is with the card itself.
Zamrud considers this theory as he tosses aside a piece of wreckage amiss his search. "Interesting… so, perhaps it was not meant as a means of keeping us out, but of expelling - and thus killing - the creature should this lab be compromised."
"A lot of holes to consider though. First of all, while I'm familiar with the folklore, that's a rather specific weakness to draw a conclusion from. I can't say that monster looked or acted like any vampire I might have known. And secondly, if its goal was to subdue the creature, wouldn't its being locked inside that canister render that moot?"
Zamrud smiles, "Well done, Good." To Billy, he points to the sole remaining console in the room. "No Billy, we put it in there and see if we can gleam anything into this mystery."
"Perhaps. Or, maybe if one was possessed and ejected, it could be removed from their body? I do not know… ">Endurance Roll: [1d10] Roll #1 1 = 1
Ride frowns, tapping his forehead. "Hrm… no, no, the more we pursue this theory, the less it seems to hold water, or logic, for that matter…"
"Yeah, so…" Shikiki mutters, looking around the room. "It's probably not connected to the thing in the tube at all… so maybe…"
Before she can finish that thought, Qhapaq finds the floor suddenly rushing up to meet him, as he collapses, talons and paws rapt with a sudden onset of extreme, stabbing cramping. It moves from his extremities, up to his limbs…
Ride readies his fist, and the rest of the teams their weapons, fearing a return of the mechanical abomination…!
Good turned as his gun activated, tossing the card Senorita as he got between her and Qhapaq.
Billy stood following the actions of others. Being ready to rush forth if need be.
Qhapaq briefly blacks out, shaking his head as dizziness overtakes him and he collapses to the floor. He seems to cramp and spasm, with the spasms beginning at his tail, his ears, and his paws and talons and working their way up his limbs.
"I-I apologize, I… I-I do know know what's come over me. I feel… off."
Zamrud's attention is turned postulating the creature's nature to the spasming Qhapaq on the floor, his eyes narrowing as he moves a steady hand towards the griffon.
"Qhapaq! Speak to me, are you alright?" He says, not getting too close less this be another trick of the beast to leap minds
"Some sort of bizarre cramping." He says, squirming and huffing a little bit as he feels it pass up his limbs. It feels especially exhausting after the recent events.
A couple of the others step forward to help Qhapaq, but Shikiki's eyes widen, and she throws out her arm to stop them. Even so, she's scowling with supreme resentment, and her eyes are dark with envy.
The cramping begets spasming, as it runs up his legs and arms, until it collates in his wings. Beyond his control, Qhapaq starts thrashing and writhing, his wings spreading out and threatening to take up all the space surrounding. In spurts of blood and dust, many of his feathers start to fall out in waves. Before they can touch the ground, the feathers shudder and dissolve, almost ripped apart by an unseen wind. New feathers poke out from below the surface, growing so fast you can hardly see the bare skin beneath them. These ones are of colors foreign to his normal palette, waves of white, and of teal, and of black, taking their places alongside the peach streak that he was born with.
When at last the final waves of feathers have grown in, Qhapaq lays there, involuntarily gasping, as the last of his pain-delirium looses its grasp upon his skull…
Zamrud looks warily at his companion, kneeling down as he asks, "I don't imagine you'd likely volunteer yourself if you were, but - do you feel controlled? Is the presence of the creature still here?"
Billy felt quite perplexed right then and there. Not knowing of any similar occurrences happening to other people and briefly comparing it to creatures names in his head. "What happened?"
"M-My wings feel… bizarre. Heavier I think. Did… did my feathers fall out? My wings felt the sharpest pains, and the worst cramping." He remarks, gasping for breath as his splitting headache begins to clear. "I… don't think I am possessed."
Zamrud looks on with concern as the spasms intensify beyond control, but as he witnesses the transformation occur, he stays his hand, and approaches Qhapaq as they conclude.
"No… no, I do not think you are. Your wings have indeed changed… or, perhaps the more accurate term may be 'mutated'." He says, still amazed with the phenomenon.
Good is understandably still very wary as he keeps his gun trained on him.
"Ah, hmm. You think?" Qhapaq remarks, looking over his wings in confusion.
"You need a drink lad? That looked REALLY painful! What even was that?!" Grutar exclaims.>>760631
"Ooooh yeeaaah, he musta mutated! I remember it bein' real painful when I got my bone drill."
Shikiki is fuming like a box of malfunctioning firecrackers. The rest of the Haegyl Outcasts, and even Ride or Die's crew, are backing away from her.
>"Explosives – handle with care," La Senorita splices at her lowest possible volume setting.
"I was born with mine so I don't really know if it hurt, Though it does hurt when I use it so I guess thats the payoff."
"Mmm. It has been some time since I last had such an experience. I had, ah, forgotten.">>760635
"Ah. Uhm, I apologize. I did not mean to upset you, Shikiki- I have no control over this sort of thing, but all the same."
"It can vary. My first mutation was when I was very young, so I don't remember it well."
"Fascinating. It's been a long while since I've witnessed a mutation right in front of my very eyes." He says, chuckling to himself. "Pun intended, I suppose. Congratulations, Qhapaq, at least this is more welcome news than…"
As Shikiki is visibly fuming over to the side, his ears perking up in her direction. "Shikiki, is something the matter…?" He asks out of curiosity
"Fuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuuck you," Shikiki says, twisting her head to the side as she flips off Qhapaq. Evidently not wanting her to be alone in her impotent envy, the rest of the Haegyl Outcasts start taunting Qhapaq with rude gestures, some of them known only to Outlander tribes, others made up on the spot… some of these look like dances, almost.
"Ah, yes, the dispute over the xenomaterials," Ride says. "It seems our side's taken the first sample of the treasure, as it were… the lion's share, one might say. Ohohohohohoho."
>"Xenomorph – materials – question mark?" La Senorita asks. "¿A donde estan? ¿Signo de interrogación?"
"Well, hold on, I believe it's the Haegyl Tribe's turn, yes?" Ride asks.
"A-Ah! I apologize- I do not remember approaching any xenomaterials. Was it, ah… the gust of wind?" He asks, confused. >>760640
Qhapaq tilts his head to the side, before saying "Lion's Share? But I do not believe I am a lion." He looks a little confused, but he understood it for the most part. Ah- and, yes. It is their turn, correct."
Good shrugged as he climbed onto Senorita's back for now and motioned for her to move to the other terminal.
"Oh! Right. Does the keycard work for both?"
"Was going to find that out."
As Shikiki tears into Qhapaq following his mutation, Zamrud looks around at the growing hostilities as he quickly pieces together the cause for their being upset.
As the topic of xenomaterials is brought up, Zamrud's ears perk up. "AH! Was Qhapaq's sudden mutation triggered by contact with something in the lab? I did not see, did you touch something? As far as I know the only thing you came into contact with was the creature and its container, was there anything else?"
He looks up to Ride and Shikiki, nodding his head. "If Qhapaq's mutation *was* the cause of something taken in the lab, then yes, that was our agreement: you are owed a couple of picks yourself."
You enter the card, and the terminal pops up. The three prompts appear, just as they did on the other terminal… a thought occurs to you, hearing La Senorita's flawless language jump. Could there be language settings on this terminal?>>760641
"Whatever it is, I wanted thaaaaaaaat!" Shikiki gripes. No, more like whines.
"I don't know," Ride says. "I do not believe it would meld particularly well with your already impressive power of… erm, shrinking."
Shikiki growls at him, but he does not seem intimidated.>>760645>>760642>>760641
"Alright, the rest of you just sit right there," one of the Haegyl Outcasts says in the Mutant pidgin to try to defuse the situation. "Shikiki, c'mon, let's loot this popsicle stand."
"Nobody says that anymore," Shikiki complains, but starts to poke and prod and pull at anything that's not nailed down…
[3d10+1] Haegyl Clan starts looting.
>PausedRoll #1 1, 10, 6 + 1 = 18
"Ah, hmm. I apologize, I had not intended to take any form of 'prize' from here first. I cannot say I know for sure what caused it…" he offers, bowing his head a little.>>760645
"Hrm… I suppose the best way to figure it out would be to test it, but I do not know if that is safe. Mutations can be dangerous."
"All is okay. You did nothing wrong here. Though are you sure you are okay?" Billy comes to Qhapaq sounding worried.
Zamrud sits still and carefully surveys the damage to himself by the scuffle earlier while he was possessed, taking care not to move too much less he open up recent wounds. "Take your time. I could certainly use the breather…">>760968
"That they can. Before we go 'testing' it in our usual manner, how are you feeling? Any fatigue, weariness?"
"I feel well enough- my face is sore, though I think that's a separate issue… ah, hm. I suppose whatever has altered within me is related to my wings, which feel… perhaps less nimble than they were. They are certainly larger, which will make maneuvering a little more difficult."
Senorita, can you translate this and help me find a setting that makes it legible to us educated folks?"
The Outcasts proceed to earn their moniker, as they recklessly wield prybars, hammers, and other tools to inspect for anything that isn't nailed down – and then they move onto everything that is
nailed down. They search under wall and floor panels, behind the computers, and even brave what remains of the floor-to-ceiling test tube, searching for xenomaterials. More and more of the delicate-looking machinery around the room breaks as a result of this search, but they don't seem too bothered by this. La Senorita carefully hides behind Good to emphasize that she is not on the table for looting.
Shikiki, tapping around on a wall with a hammer, pauses when she notices a panel making a rather hollow sound. She grabs a prybar and jams it into a gap, nearly wrenching the bar in two as she peels away the panel. A curious neon green glow comes from the recess beyond, but you can't see what her find might be. "Unit!" Shikiki shouts at the Outcasts. "I need a unit over here!"
One of the Outcasts brings her a beige, rectangular bit of hardware, which resembles a charging station for power tools. Shikiki begins to mess with a control panel on the front.>>760972
A panel opens on La Senorita's front chassis, and you see it's a connector cable with an extending, retractable cord. After some investigation, you find an appropriate port on the computer, and plug it in.
>"Scanning – please stand by," La Senorita splices.
"Much as I'm sure you people are enjoying this, if you break this terminal, I will shoot you to death." he said not looking away from the screen as he was honestly quite put off that they couldn't wait 30 seconds for him to at least get any relevant info on how to get deeper safely. Or what was in that tube.
"Do you all need any help over there?" Billy calls out to the outcast noticing their shouting. "Though I am quit