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 No.766596[Last 50 Posts]

After parting ways with their comrades descending into Tartarus, the remaining group of the Saviors met with Ecclesia to join into the Vermillion Corps, a mercenary faction that would give extra aid while they prepare for the oncoming forces of the Treibheanna. Their first mission is heading north to Ornifex to uphold the promise made to Zjetya to help her homeland with the Draconic Lords. Their official task for Ecclesia is to end the civil war, not mattering which side wins, leaving leverage of their aid to stick with the victor.

After a long journey, they reached their first destination of Vortigern's home village, where they met her husband, Grantz, and were filled in over time on the history of the land and the takeover enacted by the Dragon Lords. With unanimous agreement to aid the rebels against the dragons, their first step in fighting the war was to recruit Alloy, a descendant of Buiwong and sister of Mocha, to strip the draconic power given to knights that collected tributes from the lower villages.

With a grand success, they then joined a meeting of the villages, learning they were divided between the sides of the war as well, leading to a sneak attack against them in their sleep. Stopping the attacked, they discovered the dragons also had the aid of angels on their side, with the attacked under a heavy and inescapable mental alteration.

Now, they work to decide their next step. Lying low while they wait for the villages to decide who they stand with, and working on a defense against the angelic mind control to avoid losing themselves in the conflict.


"That's precisely the issue," Vortigern says. "The uptick in war aggression and banditry has caused certain monsters to flee their usual roaming grounds for the nearby regions. It's akin to an out-of-season migration, and likewise risks disrupting the balance of the food chain. It's not dire at the moment, but we want to nip this problem in the bud before it gets worse."

At the mention of W&W, Spitshine and Sugar's ears perk up. In fact– so do the others. Vortigern, now recalling Regina's board games, smiles. "Sounds like you're already prepared for this task."


"Ah, so we'll be keeping their numbers in check and corralling them if we can to keep things in order."

Pryce chuckles as everypony's ears perk up at the mention of the game.
"It seems so, yeah. I've set up a monster island for our games, so we've already been through this a few times in a sense," He explains, then looking over to the others. "Guess we'll see whose paid the most attention."


Vortigern nods. "Always nice to see a hobby Rise to the level of practical skills."

Spitshine pokes Onion's arm. "I know we're supposed to stay out of harm's way but since we've been practicing with the game, can me and Sugar give the hunt a Tri?"

Onion shrugs. "I don't got any objections to it, if nobody else thinks of any. But we should get a move on. Sun's Breaking through the clouds."

"Yeah," Zjetya says. "Every hunter in the World knows the early bird gets the worm."

Sugar clutches her head as the existential horror overwhelms her.


"If we're all together, it'll be fine. Besides, hitting the Wilds will be a good test for all the training we've done, both in-game and what Sir Estuary has taught us," Pryce adds.

"So, what kind of monsters should we be on the lookout for? And where should we start?" He asks Vortigern with everypony on board.


"I suggest taking a two-pronged approach," Vortigern says. "There are a number of less dangerous monsters which one group can handle, but there are some bigger threats that I just can't allow KP, Sugar and Spitshine to fight, in good conscience. So perhaps they could take the first group with the assistance of Grantz and Onion, and you, River and Zjetya can handle the second category."

Zjetya's intimidated, in a rare turn, and Sugar and Spitshine are simply too thrilled about getting to fight to be disappointed that they can only fight the easy ones.


Pryce nods in agreement.
"That sounds good, it'll be a good test of all their training."

>"What kind of monsters are around here? Is there any more like our pets?"

KP asks Vortigern curiously, holding onto Lockjaw while pointing out Pucchini and Catcher.

Seeing Zjetya intimidated, Pryce can't help but chuckle a little.
"Us three can handle anything, don't worry."


Vortigern shakes her head. "Yours are a special case. You can hunt without fear of fighting a potential friend."

"Well, I am getting thrown right into the test so soon after my training…" Zjetya says.

"Just copy our answers and you'll be fine," River jokes.

"Pfft. That's why we're dating," Zjetya says.

"Pryce, your group will deal with a quarray eel that's moved into the cliffs north of here," Vortigern says. "Should you need any more supplies, you can get them freely from the village."


>"Cool! This'll be a great way to fill out my bestiary!"

"Hey now, no cheating," Pryce mock scolds. "Heh, how about whoever gets the last hit gets a gold star."

"A quarray eel, good thing we can all fly," Pryce comments. "Got it. Think we're mostly set, but we should recheck our stocks."


Vortigern nods. "With that, I think that covers our meeting. Zjetya, Pryce, Alloy, if you need more sleep following your rude awakening, don't hesitate to take it. We'll need everyone operating at top condition every day from now on."

"I… might take that offer," Alloy admits. To tell the truth, Zjetya looks like she could use the same.


"I can only imagine. We'll be sure to be at 110% with what's coming."

Pryce looks to the others as it looks Alloy and Zjetya will be taking the offer of sleep.
"You guys can head back to the ship, I'll do a check on the supplies and see what we need."


River gives you a light boop. "I'll handle the restocking. You go catch up on your sleep."

"Thanks," Zjetya says, brushing up against her as she heads for the ship. Alloy follows as well, giving each of the pets a scratch as he goes. The others break away to go get ready for their own hunts.


(Pardon my intrusion, had an question, is there a way to join these games? I was intrigued and wanted to join but there is no link or anything in Quest Talk.


"I'll be fine, I got enough," Pryce says in response to the boop, before yawning a little to undercut that. "…Okay, maybe a little nap."

>"I'll help out with supplies! Could pick up some snacks for the monsters out there."

KP says, stepping up to bat to help out with River.

With duties split, Pryce heads back to the airship, inadvertantly following Zjetya back in her room.


River ruffles KP's hair and throws in an ear scratch, then goes with Vortigern to do the supply check.

As you enter Zjetya's room, finding it an utter mess of unfolded clothes, half-open drawers and unsorted picture books, Zjetya scoffs. "Hey buddy, I think you got the wrong door. Your room is two down."


Pryce stops at the scoff, taking a moment to process that he stepped into the wrong room.
"Huh? Oh, must be more tired than I thought," He responds, his eyes glancing around before he realizes, then averting his gaze to not pry.
"Sorry, but, uh… bit of a mess you have…"


"You offering butler service?" Zjetya banters, unphased by the observation. "You'd look pretty dashing in Ecclesian dress uniform."


"Seems like the fair thing to do here," Pryce counters, with how the stallions handled lunch services earlier. "Though we're a bit short on uniforms," He adds with a laugh.


"Well offer it later," Zjetya counters. "It's naptime."

With that she turns and bucks with one leg, vaguely in your direction. The universal equine sign to get gone.

>timeskip available


"Right, right. Night Zjetya," Pryce says with a yawn, leaving off to his own room for a nap before the monster hunts.


Hopper retires to his aquarium as you hit the hay.

About two hours later, you awaken, certainly feeling revived after your rude awakening, as is Hopper. You freshen up and leave the airship, where you see Zjetya, River, Grantz, Onion, KP, Spitshine, Sugar and the pets. Alloy has already gone on ahead to see to the POWs.

"Supplies are all topped up," River reports. "And I procured maps for our hunts."
"We'll meet back at the trailhead after each hunt is done," Grantz adds.


Pryce wakes up feeling plenty rejuvenated, not just catching up on sleep but also resting after the mental connection with the villager. He gets ready, picks up Hopper, and heads out to meet the others.

Pryce nods at the report update.
"Good, so what's the spread look like?"

KP has his bestiary at the ready, all set to record info on the monsters.
>"Yea, who do we get to pick from!"


River passes KP a map. "You're looking for bnahabra and jaggi. They're the ones most stirred up and mobile out of this region's monster population. They're pests and more than plentiful this time of year, so the village hunters always welcome extra help culling them."

She passes you the other map. "And Vortigern already assigned us the quarray eel. Between the three of us, we might have more trouble with the hike up than the eel itself. It's a rocky, rarely-used trail we'll have to take."


>"All mobile and stuff… wonder if I should get a net."
KP mutters aloud, thinking about the monsters they'll be hunting.

"Right," Pryce says, looking over the map. "I don't think that'll be too much of a problem, all three of us can fly if it gets too rough."


River looks over at Zjetya. "You seem to be lacking your cello-scythe."
"Musta left it in my other armor set," Zjetya says. "But maybe for today… Pryce, think you can make a special order for me?"

Assuming you assent, Zjetya describes a weapon for you to conjure for her… though the description superficially matches other swords you've seen before, more particulars emerge in the details. It seems to be of a kind very local to Yongning-si.


"Of course, got to be prepared for your first test after all."
As Zjetya describes her sword of choice, Pryce focuses his magic onto making it to her order, pulling it from his bracelet once she's finished, adding his own element and adjustments as well.
>Conjure Weapon: Jikdo Sword (Fire, Single, Shield) [DC5] [1d10+1]

Roll #1 10 + 1 = 11


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive
Effect: Conjured Weapons get a second Weapon tag and are +1 by Default, or +2 on a critical success; Landing a critical success with that Conjured Weapon grants it another +1, this Effect does not Stack.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A


Zjetya takes the sword and steps back, performing a few practice swings in air and on the ground. River nods in admiration for the technique.

"Something tells me you're already a dab hoof at this," she says.
"Oh–" Zjetya stammers, a little embarrassed for the praise. "Yeah, I used to do some dancing, forever ago. Pryce and I sparred yesterday, so it must be coming back to me."

She sheathes the sword and adjusts her bags, as do the others, as they make ready to get on the hunt.

>roll navigation twice, take better


"Keep it up an you'll be a knight yet," Pryce adds.

With everypony prepared, they set off for the hunt.
>Navigation [2d10]

Roll #1 7, 4 = 11


Once your group arrives at the trailhead, Grantz and Onion take point, and lead their group down a smoother and more well-worn trail due west to begin their hunt. As for your group, it's a little difficult to be even sure where your trail is supposed to begin among the rocky northern hillside. Only after a bit of eliminating possibilities do you find a steep, grassy lead up the slope. Your wings are certainly going to get a workout today.


Pryce bids good luck to the other group as they split up on their hunts.

Now on their hunt for the Quarray Eel, and the path to start it, Pryce leads on as he holds up the map so they don't get lost.
"If it moved into the cliffside, we should try to lure it out as much as we can. That way we can avoid getting caught in any rockslides or being knocked out of the sky," Pryce says, planning their method of attack.


"Maybe we could set up bait, and a trap," River suggests.
"How big are these things exactly?" Zjetya asks. "And they don't eat equines, do they?"
"About the two of us stacked together is how tall they are," River says. "And it's not out of the question."
"Great…" Zjetya mutters.


"A trap sounds good. Maybe we could set up a small avalanche ourselves to bury it."
Pryce thinks a moment on the threat these eels hold.
"I'll take it's attention when it comes to fighting, so you don't need to worry about what it might eat."


You continue onwards, at times losing the trail, finding it again only with an aerial view and a good bit of detective work. The sun rises quicker than expected, owing to your late nap, but the heat and summer sunlight is a lesser misery than a lack of sleep, and so you persevere.

Some time later, you finish ascending a plateau, and see a good-sized cluster of steep sandstone hills wavering their way across the plateau. The trail keeps heading that way… the eel could be close.


Pryce leads on as they follow the trail through the growing heat of the day. When they reach the sandstone hills, Pryce gets his sword at the ready.
"We don't know how far this eel may be roaming. You two should take to the sky going forward, and I'll stick to the ground to be bait if it detects us first."


The two nod and lift off, circling up above you like a pair of buzzards. Though, they probably didn't intend the grim image.

>roll searching


Pryce proceeds forward as River and Zjetya take to the skies. Likely a good thing Zjetya chose not to have him conjure a scythe for a weapon or it would truly be a grim sight.

Pryce scans the hills as he follows the trail, looking for anything out of the ordinary, holes or tracks from burrowing and the such.
>Search [1d10]

Roll #1 4 = 4


It's hard to tell what disturbances in the landscape come from monster, or the primal forces of storm and wind and earthquake. The trail here is a little more easy and worn, almost distractingly s–

You hear a scattering of rocks, and check the direction. Somewhere around the sandstone contours, small scree rolls down. You can't tell the source of it. But, that should be the proper direction…


Pryce looks over at the sound. He signals up to Zjetya and River that it looks like they might be close. He then whistles out a tune, using his Songspinning to fade from sight as he approaches the sound.
>Limerick of Desert Mist [1d10]

Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell
Effect: Renders user near-invisible and Stealthed to all but those in your Range; Does not break when taking Actions.
Duration: 3 Turns
Recharge: 1 Turn

Roll #1 2 = 2


You scale up one of the sandstone layers, and stand upon a squat bluff, where arches of stone stand all about in a natural corridor. Your eyes dart about, as you count a number of spots from which a foe could ambush–


Roll #1 2 + 3 = 5


You leap back even before you consciously process the clamor of clattering stones and bursting dust, narrowly avoiding the slam-shut jaws of a great, dark sandy eel. The monster marks you with its pus-yellow eyes, then darts back into the cave from which it sprung, the sounds echoing off the cold stones.


Pryce holds his sword in front of him after narrowly dodging the eel's surprise attack. He can barely process the size of it before it darts back into it's cave. He glances up to see if River and Zjetya are at the ready, and then his horn glows bright as he attempts to conjure an arsenal of small rockets, preparing for the next strike.
>Homing Magic (Rockets) [Flare] [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10


The two descend but stay airborne, their eyes scanning for the next attack out of the sandstone arches. This twisting bluff no doubt holds many such caves the eel can use to catch prey of many kinds. With this in mind they stay above the arches, and you gather up six homing orbs to defend yourself.

Another attack… does not yet come.


Pryce looks around the sandstone, keeping an ear out for where the next strike may come from. When none arises, he plans a moment. His horn lights, grabbing stones with telekinesis and throwing them forcefully at the ground a distance away to see if the sound and impact lures it out. Additionally, he signs another tune, enchanting himself in case it's plotting and surprises him again.
>Telekinesis [Scatter stones] [1d10]
>Hymn of the Cedar-Tree Shrine [Instant] [1d10]


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell; Instant
Effect: Target will take only 1 Hit of damage from every damage source each turn.
Duration: 2 Turns or 3 on Critical Success
Recharge: 3 Turns after Effect ends

Roll #1 4 = 4 / Roll #2 3 = 3


From the other side of the canyon wall, stones rumble, and a heap of eroded dirt runoff bursts away, as the Quarray Eel comes out for another attack!


Roll #1 8 + 3 = 11


>Homing Magic: 6 shots

Pryce turns as the Quarray Eel emerges again. He swings his sword to cut at the eel's jaw, and fires off two of his rocket to hopefully anger it enough to stay out.
>Slash [DC-1] [1d10]
>Homing Magics [Flare, Instant] [1d10] [1d10]
>Radiance [1d10]

>Flare [Fire]: Bright flashes and loud bangs disorient the target, adding one stack of Flare when hit. When a target reaches 4 stacks, they are stunned that turn.


Attribute: Debuff
Tags: Single, Guarded (Reduces Critfail Damage by half)
Effect: Steals a Target's Skill upon hit, enabling you to use it while they can't; Normal success = 1 Use, Critical = 2 uses; Only one (1) Skill can be stolen at a time
Duration: Until used or Dispelled
Recharge: N/A


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive; Instant
Effect: While worn, the Cloak takes half of all damage and negative Effects on your behalf; As an Instant action, you can inflict all stored damage and negative Effects onto a Target to whom you can touch the hem of the cloak.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 6 = 6 / Roll #2 4 = 4 / Roll #3 6 = 6 / Roll #4 7 = 7


The jaws of the beast close around you, but you slip out between its teeth like a snake, cutting and blasting your counterattack!

>Took 4 hits of damage, 4 hits stored in SC

>2 sparks generated

The quarray eel comes at you again for another bite!


Your special someponies fly northward, remaining low over the arches. It's hard to tell what they're after but they wouldn't leave you in a fight for no good reason.

Roll #1 1 + 3 = 4


>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 4 rockets
>2 Sparks

Pryce jumps back as the Eel goes for another bite, not a fan of getting inside those jaws again. He sees Zjetya and River fly to the north, trusting they found something important. For now he can keep the eel distracted to let them be undisturbed. His horn glows bright hot, and flashes a wave of heat over the eel to weaken it.
>Smite [1d10+2]
>Radience [1d10]

>Smite: Recharge 3, spell; Open a gate to your chosen deity, summoning their power to raze your foes. Hits all enemies in a target area and marks them to be struck down. Next turn, all your attacks on any enemies marked by Smite will autocrit on success.


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Passive; Instant
Effect: While worn, the Cloak takes half of all damage and negative Effects on your behalf; As an Instant action, you can inflict all stored damage and negative Effects onto a Target to whom you can touch the hem of the cloak.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 4 + 2 = 6 / Roll #2 4 = 4


The eel's bite comes just short of you, providing an ample opportunity to blast it with a great wave of fire! Scorched and snarling, the beast retreats as it has before, retracting backwards into its cavern with the alacrity of a piston pump.

With it gone, River waves your way, making no sound.


With the eel retreating, Pryce looks River's way. He spreads his wings, taking flight to follow after her to not let hoofsteps alert it again. When he gets close he extends a thread so they can communicate silently.
[What did you find?]

>White Threads [Auto]


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Spell; Ranged; Automatic
Effect: Create a telepathic link with the Target.
Duration: Until Dispelled
Recharge: N/A


Loose rocks, big ones, she thinks back. Lure it out and hold it still, and we can get it in one go.

Zjetya eyes up the rocks to try to figure out the best method of loosing them.


>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 4 rockets
>2 Sparks

Pryce sends a thread to Zjetya as well to connect them all in thought.
>White Threads [Auto]
Got it. It seems to be rather slow when going for a bite, so I can keep it occupied a bit.

Pryce flies back to the cave nearest the rocks, landing down. He aims one of his rockets into it, and fires it down the cave to lure out the eel again whether by sound or irritation.
>Homing Magic (Rocket) [Flare, Instant] [1d10]

Roll #1 3 = 3


The stones rumble, and the quarray eel shoots out from the cavern with a chugging roar, headbutting you in retaliation!

>take 2 hits of damage, store 1 in SC

As it rears back to take another bite of you, River and Zjetya position themselves for some rockwork. With how fast this thing can retreat, you'll need to distract or restrain it for this to work.

[1d10+3] bite attack

Roll #1 5 + 3 = 8


>SSC: 4 hits
>Homing Magic: 3 rockets
>2 Sparks

Pryce tumbles back from the headbutt. He rights himself onto his hooves, looking up at the eel as it goes for another lunge. He reaches into his cloak, pulling out his lexicon. He's not sure how eel hierarchy works, but he hopes the sight of a large one might give this one momentary pause. If that fails, he fires off the rest of his rockets, hoping they hit to disorient it enough.
>Lexicon of Moon's Dread [Larger Alpha Eel] [1d10]
>Homing Magic (Rocket) [Flare, Instant] [1d10] [1d10] [1d10]
>Radience [1d10]


Attribute: Debuff
Tags: Spell; Illusion
Effect: On success, Common Enemies are Incapacitated; Minibosses lose half their Actions; Bosses lose 1/3 their Actions; Superbosses lose 1 Action; Can Target up to 10 Enemies, but increase Recharge by 1 per Target.
Duration: Roll - 5 Turns
Recharge: X Turns, where X is the number of Targets

>>Flare [Fire]: Bright flashes and loud bangs disorient the target, adding one stack of Flare when hit. When a target reaches 4 stacks, they are stunned that turn.


Attribute: Buff
Tags: Free Action
Effect: Generate Roll - 5 Sparks for use of Will of the King Skills.
Duration: N/A
Recharge: N/A

Roll #1 3 = 3 / Roll #2 6 = 6 / Roll #3 5 = 5 / Roll #4 9 = 9 / Roll #5 3 = 3


The eel bites through your spell of darkness, clamping onto you, but with a shower of light and sparks, you break yourself free, albeit bruised and stumbling. As the eel squints and shudders from the blast, Zjetya and River start pushing at the rocks atop the ledge!

>take 2 hits, store 2

[2d10+3] DC 8

Roll #1 10, 8 + 3 = 21


Great slabs of stone launch off from the ledge, plummeting down in a shower of dirt and rock shrapnel. You barely have time to roll away and hide under your cloak, as the rocks tumble down and collapse onto the neck of the eel, crushing bone and flesh in an instant. When the dust clears, it lies dead.


>SSC: 7 hits
>2 Sparks

Pryce coughs, standing once the avalanche stops and dusting himself off. He looks worse for wear, but nothing too bad.
Phew, glad there weren't more of those. I feel like a chew toy after that.
Pryce thinks through their connection.
Good job you two.


>Perception [1d10]

Roll #1 7 = 7


Before you can even declare the hunt complete or set about your carves, instincts warn you again. You wheel about, spinning the cloak so as to catch the blade nearing your back–!


Sir Estuary arches a brow, finding that you've caught his sword with no hope of retrieval – a far cry from when he got the drop on you at the cookout.

"Good job, indeed."


Pryce glares at the sudden strike, magic gripping the hilt of his sword before he sees that it is Sir Estuary that got the drop on him.
"Sir Estuary!" He says in welcome surprise, lowering his cape and handing back the sword. "I didn't except to run into you out here, how did you recon go?"


River and Zjetya leap with surprise at the shinobi's sudden return. Estuary takes no notice, simply sheathing his weapon. "Fruitful. But I am loathe to repeat myself. Let's quit this place posthaste. Have you dealt with the rest of your share of eels?"

"Thought there was just the one," Zjetya says.

"Vortigern only mentioned one," River confirms.

Estuary hums in thought. "Then she was unaware of the others… or her information was outdated. I have already dispatched the others, in any case. We can still leave."

He slinks into a shaded area in the canyon and sips from his water gourd. No doubt the sun and heat here are agonizing to his gooey form.


"How did you hear about the eel epidemic?" Pryce asks as Sir Estuary questions their progress. When he then follows with saying he's cleared them all, Pryce is astonished.
"The others are working on some of the smaller monsters, we can make our way back to the trailhead to wait for them if they're not already done."
Seeing Sir Estuary head to the shade, Pryce removes his bracelet and conjures a parasol for the gooey knight, handing it to him.
"Here, this should help."


"I did not. I saw many near old traders' roads and other trails," Estuary says, grunting his gratitude for the parasol.

"Could they really all have moved in so quickly that the scouts would only notice one?" Zjetya wonders.

River gasps. "Yes… if they were being summoned."

Estuary nods. "It is possible, though I've yet to catch the culprit."

>timeskip to reunion available


"Summoned… Do you think they'd be affiliate with the Dragons? Summoning monsters down here would break up the tribes more. It could be retaliation for us taking out the tributes," Pryce surmises as they head back towards the trailhead.
>Good to timeskip


Estuary leaves you to your speculation. Perhaps the weather combined with his long trip has left him irritable.

You manage to get back to the trailhead with little trouble, being that you can fly and Estuary can slither. Mercifully there is a shade tree where he can wait. Some time passes and the other group returns. Spitshine perks up when he sees Estuary, and he points a hoof at the samurai, pantomiming a gun. "Bangbangbang!" Estuary says nothing but pantomimes slashing at all three shots, cutting the imaginary bullets with an imaginary sword.

"Made it back alive I see," Grantz says.
"As did you," Zjetya observes.
"Your hunt go as good as ours?" Onion asks.


>"Hey our group is all back together!"
KP cheers as they see Sir Estuary on their return.

"Had a few scrapes, but it went well, and it turned out Sir Estuary was on the same hunt as us. How well did your hunt fare, the training paid off I assume?"
Pryce asks, looking over at the kids.


They're all a little scuffed up from the fight, but without any major injuries. Spitshine thinks back to the hunt, and you sense he wants to say something, but stage fright holds him back.

"It was…" Sugar hazards. "A little unnerving killing something the first time. But, we got them all so as to help the village."

"Y-yeah," Spitshine agrees. "That's about how it went."

Lockjaw walks alongside KP, without his saddle– KP hitched it to his bag so as to give his trusty steed a break after a hard day's work. Lockjaw looks a little banged up too, but satisfied with his hunt. He comes up and bumps his head to your leg in greeting.

River gives everyone a little healing, while Zjetya leads the way back to the village.


Pryce sees how both of them are shaken from the hunt.
"It takes a toll, when you reach step of battle. If either of you want to talk about it, I'll always be available," Pryce says to them both, realizing this might have had a bigger impact on them.

>"I got some good entries for my bestiary too!"

KP chimes in, also scuffed up.
Pryce gives Lockjaw a pat and a scritch under the chin as he bumps his leg.
"I bet it was good exercise for you too, wasn't it?"

As they head back to the village, Pryce speaks up to Sir Estuary again.
"We've made some progress here too while you were on recon. Should we report first, or would you like to go first?"


Spitshine and Sugar nod. They will probably take you up on that later.

You take another meeting room in the village council chamber. Estuary chills out a little in the cool building. "Give your report first," he says. "Yours is likely to be the shorter of the the reports we will discuss today – and will probably have more good news than mine."

A little worry passes through the group at the sound of that.


Pryce has a slight frown at Sir Estuary's comment, though he was expecting that the recon wouldn't have much good news coming from the enemies capital.
"Well, we do have good news. We've already made some progress against the Dragons, and have the gears in motion with the tribes…" Pryce goes on to explain what's happened while Sir Estuary was gone. He covers the recruitment of Alloy and the dispatchment of the Dracoknight tributes, the meeting they had with all the tribes, and the confrontation they had with the midnight attack and the vision he saw in the assailant's mind.
"…And that's pretty much it. We were on that hunt while we wait for the tribes to vote, so it's a matter of waiting now." He ends, leaving the floor to Sir Estuary.


Estuary silently contemplates your information as the others add in their own little anecdotes and details.

"Then, to mine…" he begins.

Yongning-si lies high to the northwest up the great mountain of Ornifex. The further uphill one goes, the greater the presence of dracoknights among the villages. Grantz confirms that the northwesterners are generally more loyalist the closer they are to the capital, although there is some little presence of discontent fomenting among them. Not enough to be a reliable asset however.

Estuary continues. The capital itself remains prosperous, undamaged and unaffected by the supply shortages to the south and southeast. One would be inclined to think that no demons have even gotten near the capital at all. The locals, generally well-off apart from the local slave underclass, are of the mind that this attests to the true divinity of the draconic lords. The lords are not seen, but an eternal cloud hovers beyond and above the capital, and a bridge of light connects it to the peak of the mountain where the mortals live. Their dignitaries cross the bridge daily to bring decrees to the people, and bring back tributes to the lords. None save for this royal priesthood are permitted near the bridge, and there is even an entire district guarding the bridge. The mightiest dracoknights guard the capital day and night. Wanted posters depicting Grantz and Vortigern are hung in many places, offering a bounty reward for their capture– alive only.

More on the dracoknights: for their service they are frequently awarded with live concerts performed by special priests. These are all acappella, and they seem to be the only reward of the knights. The knights do not have a salary, for nobody in the capital charges them for material goods or services. The knights universally enjoy these serenades, raising no protest against the lack of material reward.

"However…" Estuary says. "It does seem that one particular priestess is the most popular performer, weaving the most intricate songs… even I was nearly spellbound, and had to retreat lest I stay for the whole thing. I never caught her face. She wears a veiled headdress at all times. But… I nearly mistook her for someone else."

Zjetya lets out a shuddering, horrified chuckle. Estuary watches her in silence.


"Sounds like they formed their own utopia up there, at least for those in charge," Pryce says, displeasured at hearing they've basically isolated away from the world and left these lower villages to fend for themselves.

"Alive only? That's, concerning…" Pryce comments on the wanted posters.

Pryce glances over at Zjetya as Sir Estuary talks of one familiar looking priestess.
"That supports my one concern after that attack. The priestesses must have some form of mind control with their songs then, especially if they play for all the knights," Pryce surmises. "Sir Estuary, did you see any signs of angels when you were up there?"


Estuary shakes his head. "No, nor did I sense them spiritually. However, their presence could have been masked under the spiritual weight I sensed coming from the eternal clouds. The magically inclined here will suffer from the mighty energy that radiates from that area. Those clouds certainly hide something of great power. It's possible angels could be hidden somewhere there, but they take no active role in the capital if so.

"Mind control…" Zjetya repeats. "Did… you get a sense for whether the priests were affected by the mind control as well?"

Estuary shakes his head. "Only the Dracoknights seemed affected. The priests and priestesses carried on their business with no influence to their free will, near as I could tell."

"I see…" Zjetya says. "Sorry, I…"

She rises and darts from the room to the exit of the chamber. River goes after her with a look of concern.

"What about the changelings?" Sugar asks. "Zjetya was saying they'd all moved to the capital."

"I believe I already mentioned the slave underclass," Estuary notes.


"How much do you mean by 'suffer'?" Pryce asks, remembering his experience during the Blood Moon before.
"If there was no sign of them, that's good for now. If they are involved in some way, it sounds like they won't show themselves or won't be a concern unless we go directly into the clouds."

When Zjetya darts from the room, Pryce looks to her, to Sir Estuary, then back to the door.
"Excuse me a moment," Pryce says, following after Zjetya to check on her. With that last comment on the changelings made as he steps out, he knows Zjetya will need a lot of support with what's happened to her home.


Zjetya walks about in a stunned silence in front of the council hall. River waits nearby. When Zjetya at last completes this meandering circuit, she stops and blinks.

"Sarajinae… huh. Pfft… always did say… she'd be a lot more popular than me…"

"Then that really was her voice in the conch," River says. "Her song being the most coveted of those performed by the priesthood. Since the commander tried to use it in battle, that must mean it would compel the dracoknights to fight until total victory… or perhaps even death."

"…and she's working for them… of her own free will," Zjetya mutters.

"M-maybe Estuary was mistaken? Surely they can't all be…"

Zjetya stares at the ground for some time, her face blank. She draws her jikdo, and studies it. "But if she really is… I have to…"

"Enough!" River snaps. "You'll have to confront her, but that's all… you remember, surely. I, in my free will, worked for higher powers time and again. The people I now call my friends confronted me and stopped me. Now, I work for good. We will do the same here."

Zjetya startles from River's words, but it seems to calm her down some.


"River's right," Pryce says, now that Zjetya's calmed. "All we can take from Sir Estuary is no outside force is influencing her. She could be going along with this to survive under the conditions the dragons have her in, or simply following authority."
Pryce looks down at Zjetya's jikdo for a moment.
"We've seen and faced a lot of different characters in our travels, when have we ever needed to go down that route?"


"Yeah…" Zjetya says, sheathing it. "Sorry… it just all got to me at once. I won't do anything crazy. Least not until I see things for myself."

River bumps shoulders with Zjetya, and with a wing guides her back toward the council hall, where you find the others discussing the reports in further detail. Grantz seems to have taken over, and he and Estuary debate battle plans. Estuary, though not usually talkative, seems to have quite the interest in this subject. When Zjetya comes back in, Onion pushes a cup of tea toward her, which she accepts with gratitude.


"It's alright, it is a lot to take in," Pryce says, giving Zjetya a comforting wing.

As they renter the hall, Pryce sits down to get caught up on the report and plans.
"One of the key plans we'll need is dealing with those songs," Pryce adds when there's a moment to interject. "We'll need a way to keep us from hearing anything, though it will make communication between ourselves harder. If can find a way to silence the priests too, that'll be extra security to keep them from supporting the dracoknights."


"Just kill them," Estuary and Grantz say in unison.

"Out of the question," River retorts before Zjetya can keel over. "Just as they wish to take you alive, we have someone we wish to keep alive as well."

Grantz scoffs. "They intend to publicly execute us."

"And we intend to interrogate our hostage," River says. "You will not envy them their fate."

Grantz chuckles. "Hmm… well-said. Alive only for the enemy too, then."

Estuary grumbles, but stows his protests as Vortigern enters the council hall. Zjetya sighs with relief as the others stop to catch up Vortigern on the situation.




"We've already spared the first group of dracoknights we faced, it'll be better in the long run to not just cut down all who oppose us either. Besides, our true enemy is the dragons, all others can be considered hostages" Pryce adds.

After Vortigern enters, Pryce brings up another matter.
"Putting aside dealing with the priest songs for a moment. Sir Estuary, you mentioned you saw a lot more eels on your way to meet us. It seems we have a bigger epidemic on our hooves than expected."


"I'm hoping you took care of them," Vortigern says.
Estuary nods. "Your scouts only noticed the one?"
"Indeed," Vortigern says. "I did not consider unnatural forces, as quarray eels aren't foreign to this area. But, as River probably already knows…"
"Summoning of monsters is among the powers of those who cut covenant with the gods," River affirms. "So, it may be advance parties of the dracoknights or other loyalists trying to subtly undercut us."
Vortigern sighs and slams back the rest of her coffee. "Then it's possible that even the nearest villages have loyalist sympathies…"
"The answer to my challenge is due soon," Grantz says. "If our neighbors have any funny ideas, I'll dissuade them soon."
"Good," Estuary says. "Now, if we could return to the question of the dracoknights and the priests…"
Onion scratches his chin. "So the priests' songs support the knights' power… can we get the two groups split up somehow?"


"It could be an extension of the demon tamers that Ecclesia told us about… Speaking of, did you see any sign of tamers up there Sir Estuary?"

"It might be hard to split them up, I wouldn't be surprised if some knights were dedicated to protecting the priests above all else," Pryce says, thinking of how to deal with them. Pryce taps his hoof on the table, trying to come up with a plan. He looks down at the black chain link jingling off his bracelet with each tap, his mind drifting to Shei.
"…What if we played our own songs, to drown out theirs?"


Onion takes a second to ponder tactics.
River clicks her tongue. "Wait… I think the summoning might be more of a psychological attack. By using monsters endemic to this area, the attack is two-fold: increased inconvenience, and increased paranoia about loyalism among your neighbors."
"…and I was just about to fall for it," Vortigern mutters. "That could very well be the case… but we're still going to have to dedicate resources to investigating. They're up one, whatever the truth of the matter."
Zjetya nods to your suggestion. "That's something we both can do."
Grantz nods. "And combined with Alloy's power of mental influence, that's at least three who can protect us from the priest caste's songs. Hmm… but, even if we're shielded, the two forces combined would overwhelm us… to say nothing of our allies who are outside earshot."

Onion pounds his fist into his other hand in realization. "We gotta catch 'em between a rock and a hard place."


"We'll be on a split front too if they keep it up as well, since I doubt they'll stop when we make our move," Pryce adds on the monster topic.

"Maybe… we could make our own version of the horns their commanders used? We could give everypony on our side one to nullify out other songs then," Pryce suggests for an idea.
He looks to Onion as he looks to come to an idea. "What do you mean? Surround them with a pincer formation?"


Zjetya gasps at your idea. "Ecclesia has made a lot of money producing caller conches… we could commission them for a batch. Then it's just a question of what the conches will play when sounded."

"They wanna force us to make a hard choice," Onion explains. "Push forward and leave our flanks undefended against monster attacks, or shore up the flanks at the cost of manpower for the front lines. I say we flip it right back on 'em. Force the dracoknights to make a hard choice about what to protect."

"Interesting.." Vortigern mutters. "I think you have some potential targets in mind."

"Yessum," Onion says. "They'll have to choose between protecting the priests… or protecting the draconic lords."

A wave of unease passes through the party at this suggestion…


"Could Ecclesia get conches to us in time?" He asks, thinking over what to play. "I guess something loud or catchy enough to drown out whatever the priests would sing. Know any songs that'd fit that?"

"Yea, pressure the knights on their loyalty. Split them between the leaders and the public faces, that is a good plan," Pryce says in agreement with Onion's suggestion. "We would have to make sure the priests are distant from the cloud though to make sure they can't retreat back to the dragons. Hmm… maybe during one of their concerts?"


"Hmm…" Zjetya mutters. "Yes… but if their songs have any sort of enchantment or curse or anything, it could still take effect over a merely mundane noise."

Vortigern, blinking in sudden thought, quickly rises and leaves the chamber. Grantz goes to refill her coffee for when she comes back.

Estuary nods. "Not every dracoknight attends every concert. Though they happen very often, the dracoknights seem restricted to a strict attendance schedule so that their other duties have enough manpower at all times."

"So if we mess with that schedule, we can control who is where and when," Onion notes.

Estuary produces a sheaf of papyrus. "I copied the concert schedules down here. I perused their archives and found that the monthly playbill is rigorously consistent."

River looks it over. "Musicals… orchestra… even flytings… you know, I recognize a few of these. What if… we infiltrated one?"


"I don't suppose Ecclesia knows any anti-Songspinning verses then?"
Pryce glances over as Vortigern quickly leaves, wondering what she just thought of.

"Yea, we could almost set up exactly which knights we'd face, maybe even the priests too."
Pryce looks over the sheet as well, giving a scan of what shows they have.
"Crashed a performance? It'd be the perfect way to sneak in close for sure," Pryce agrees. "A musical would be a sure bet, with how much those use for extras."


You recognize some names among the catalogue, while others are foreign to you. A wide variety of media and genres are represented here… despite the demonstrated xenophobia of the culture imposed by the draconic lords.

A little time passes. Estuary, River, Zjetya and Onion bounce around ideas, but there are still too many unknowns for a concrete plan to come together just yet. Estuary confesses that security was robust up there. Even the old shinobi could not infiltrate all the secrets he wished to peruse, hence why he is back so early. With the conversation in a bit of a lull, the pets stretch out to nap after their hunt, and their owners are likewise drowsy.

Perhaps respecting that, the next messenger to come to you is quiet and subtle. You barely notice in time that a spider has crawled onto the table. It trots on over to Zjetya, raising a leg to tap her hoof with urgency. River intervenes before Zjetya can get startled, and signals for the three of you to head out and follow this arachnid messenger.


Pryce is impressed by the wide selection, wondering if they picked up some of these recently or from a time ago. He ends up getting a little side tracked in the discussion of infiltration, wondering which they'd be a good fit in.

Pryce glances down at the spider as River signals them. He wonders if its from Alloy, but then assumes otherwise. Pryce nods, and leads the three of them out to follow this spider's web.


You follow River, who, guided by the spider, takes you to another district a little to the northwest. This is the prison camp area, where you dropped off this village's share of the captive dracoknights. It's a walled area with armed guards, and River takes you straight to the front gate. The guards call for you to stop. River, suddenly realizing that "a spider told me to come here" would probably sound like a strange justification to enter a restricted zone, pauses to think… but a few moments later, Vortigern approaches the gate from the inside of the camp. She hovers over to the front gate and says something to the guards. They nod and let you all through.

Inside, you see the captives each with their own covered cells within a shaded central area. The cells are sparse but not overly cruel, having supplies of water, a cot, and the aforementioned protection from excess sunlight. You see other guarded areas such as the latrine and the medicine yurt. Near that yurt, Alloy sits in the shade, looking about as worn out as you were after the hunt. He waves as you approach, and River hands over his messenger spider.

"Just to confirm," Alloy begins. "Pryce, can you repeat everything you saw when you connected your mind to that villager who had attacked us?"


Pryce looks around as they pass through the prison camp, glad to see the captive knights treated humanely (ponily?). Once they see Alloy, Pryce is relieved that the spider was from him and not somepony else.
"Right. When I connected, I first felt an immense pressure and anxiety, which turned into an overwhelming joy and gratitude as I saw my thread and countless ponies rise up into the sky towards a sea of clouds and light. It had a constant forced feeling that this was good, and that I should accept it," Pryce recalls, telling Alloy what he saw and felt. "Did you find something out with that villager?"


Alloy nods. "That's more or less what all the captive dracoknights I checked experienced. All of them had variations on that theme anyway. I kept hearing these strange songs… I've played flute for many years, so I jotted down the notes. The words were consistent, but I didn't know the language. It seemed like it had some kind of narrative structure, so I asked… my grandfather."

Alloy pauses a little to gauge your reaction to the words. "He… said he'd help me write a counter-melody, something that could even counteract the original song's hypnotic effects, but…"

Zjetya's astounded. "Perfect! That's what we were just trying to figure out. So what's the but…?

She looks at River, who frowns like she already knows.

"Grandfather wants… Pryce to be the one to ask for his help," Alloy confesses. "Uh, with… to… to quote the god himself… 'pretty please with a sugarcube on top.'"

"Huh," Zjetya grunts.

"That's… no that's him alright," River says.


Pryce frowns at hearing Alloy asked Buiwong about the language, already displeased at what could come next.
His displeasure is earned when he hears the Buiwong can write a counter to the song, and wants him specifically to ask for it.

Pryce says nothing initially, but it is pretty visible this is something that he dislikes immensely, and he's not too good at hiding it. Pryce takes a deep breath in thought, and his eyes glance to Zjetya for a moment.
"…How can I talk to him." Pryce asks Alloy flatly.


"I can let you into his office," Alloy says, the apology plain in his tone. River and Zjetya are similarly unamused. Vortigern gives you a look of very mild beseeching. She's all business, this one. She will need it for the war to be won.


Pryce sighs, feeling bad at Alloy's apologetic tone.
"Alright, open the way. I wouldn't want to keep him waiting too long," He says with light sarcasm, in a way to lighten the mood back up.


Alloy produces a dark corridor for you, and you enter.

Upon arriving on the far side of it, you find yourself in a classy, if small, office. An ornate rug covers the floor, and a dark fire perpetually burns in the fireplace. Small ornaments of a golden minotaur and a silver griffon stand guard upon the mahogany desk in the middle of the room. Bookshelves line the walls. No matter how many times you look at the shelves, you cannot count all the entries they contain. The books and scrolls resting there change each time your eyes pass over them.

The elaborate velvet chair behind the mahogany desk sits empty for a little while… until, between the crackles of the fire, you hear tiny steps upon the rug.

From behind you, a small spider walks out of the Dark Corridor into the office. It's the messenger spider who called you all to the prison. The spider spins a web and hoists itself onto the desk. When at last it crawls into the center of it, the spider turns to face you.

"Welcome," Buiwong, spider god of fables, says. "Can I get you any tea? Scone maybe? Sit, sir, sit."

A chair manifests behind you for you to recline in.


Pryce looks around the ornate room. The vibe of it both contrasting with and yet fitting Buiwong perfectly in his mind. He has to admit that effort is being made to keep up appearances at least.
When the spider enters and greets him, Pryce shakes his head.
"No, I'm good," He says, also electing not to sit. "So, you've dealt with these songs before then, I take it?"


"Bzzt," the old Spider says. "Not these ones. I'm improvising as I go, same as it ever was. But it wasn't too hard to crack their secrets when they're narrative in nature. Got it all written out for you. You'll just have to read 'em off the page to be defended against the priests' hypnotic powers. 'Course you'll still have to keep the dracoknights from skewering you like shwarma. I can't do all the work for you!"


Pryce is a little offput at the winging-it nature of Buiwong's method.
"Just read it off the page, and all it'll do is counter the priests' songs?" He asks, wary of anything extra being put in. "And no other strings attached outside of me asking for your help?"


"Mm-hmm," Buiwong says. "There would have been, but since you're working with my beloved grandson, I decided to leave out my usual surprises. I do ask though, just a little favor between old friends, that you help the kid lighten up. He's all high strung out on his first big adventure. But that ain't how a web catches its prey. Gotta be loose and limber, otherwise it'll get torn apart by hardships. Capeesh?"


Pryce is a bit taken aback by the request to help out Alloy, still not fully adjusted to the concept of Buiwong having a caring family.
"Yeah, I can do that," Pryce says, knowing he hasn't been too great of a help on that front at times so far. "A musical might do some good for that."


"Alright then… didn't you say you weren't gonna keep me waiting? Let's hear it already! The magic words!"


Pryce gives Buiwong a flat stare.
"Can you help us counter the songs… pretty please with a sugarcube on top," He says as if he's reading off a script.


"Pfffffftahahahahahahha!!!" Buiwong cackles, rolling over on the table. "Wow, I didn't think I'd actually get this far. Thought you'd call my bluff. Hey, whoa whoa whoa, don't go and reach for the swatter now. Since you were a good sport and all, I'll give them scrolls a little extra power to help you out in the middle of battle."

He wiggles his spider arms, and a number of scrolls manifest above him. Strings appear too, wrapping them all up neat and tidy for easy carrying. You sense a little extra boon fall upon the scrolls, endowing them with strength.


Pryce stifles a grumble, momentarily considering conjuring a swatter as Buiwong breaks into a laughing fit. Pryce lifts the scrolls in his magic, looking at the spider.
"You're lucky there's a lot riding on these to somepony important," He comments at falling for the bluff. "…But, thank you for your help." He says sincerely.


"Hey," Buiwong says, quickly losing all humor in his voice. "I'm entrusting you with these for a reason. Don't you go and let my grandson die. Same goes for my former servants… in fact I'll even extend that to all the rest of your allies. I'm a god of your homeland, no matter where we are. Within you lives the hopes of that homeland. Don't let any of that go to waste. Now… scram."

The spider vanishes.


"I don't plan on letting anypony die," Pryce says, feeling the gravity of the voice. With scrolls in telekinesis, he takes leave of the office, heading back to the others.


You return to where the others have gathered outside the medicine yurt. Vortigern, River and Zjetya help take some of the big stack of scrolls, while Alloy avoids your gaze.

"These must be the counterspells…" Zjetya says as she unfurls one, reading the words.
River nods as she looks over hers. "Oh, that's handy– he even wrote pronunciation guides."
"Did he actually make you say it?" Vortigern asks in genuine curiosity.


Pryce steps out, unfurling a scroll to look it over as the others help with the stack.
"That was one of the more pleasant meetings I'd say," Pryce says, seeing Alloy avoiding looking over to him, trying to lighten the vibe with him.

"Looks like we'll be plenty covered with all of these if we spread them through our force," Pryce comments as they examine the scrolls. "Where's the villager, let's see if this can snap him out of it."

"He didn't expect me to say it, said it was a bluff," Pryce answers Vortigern. "…I did say it before hearing that, though."


The scroll is divided halfway, vertically. Peculiarly, the left side has the original words. Accorsian script runs from right to the left; you then recall that the northwestern regions seem to write their languages from left to right. Taking this adjustment in mind, you see that the right side has a pronunciation guide for each line. Even if you don't know the translation, this should suffice, with some practice, to be able to sing the counterspell.

Vortigern chuckles. "The old boss never changes, it seems… well, he'll be this way."

Vortigern leads you to the far end of the prison camp. The hypnotized villager is in his own area of the prison, away from the formal POWs, but still in a cage much like theirs. Zjetya reads over the scroll as you go, and when you're gathered around the villager's cage, she stops you. "Okay, so… it looks like it's meant to go like…"

Zjetya then takes some time to teach you all the content of the counterspell scrolls. "Alloy, get that flute out, play this part for me."

"I-in front of everyone…?" Alloy asks.

"We're gonna be fighting for our lives up there," Zjetya says. "Better get that stage fright dealt with now."

Alloy nods, and produces his flute to accompany the singing.


Pryce follows along to learn the spell, the difference in script direction giving him some trip-ups at the start.
"Ok, think I have it down now…"

"From my experience, everypony enjoys the show. There's nothing to be nervous about," Pryce adds to help shake the stage fright. He then looks to the villager, wondering what will come from this counterspell.
"Alright, on three. One, two…" He counts down, before beginning to sing the scroll to counter this pony's hypnosis.


The first attempt at the song is… a work in progress. Your allies frequently sing over one another, whether rushing or dragging. Some mispronounce words or shoot wide of the mark when trying to hit a note. Alloy quickly forgets his stage fright, as he increases the volume of his fluting to serve as a central guide for the singers to follow. Maybe it's a good thing that the villager is off in his own section. Over time, though, this mismatched choir manages to pull it together, and reach the conclusion of the song (mostly) as one.

At the end of it, the villager, still blank-faced, sits in silence… then blinks… once, twice, again. He shudders, and slumps over slightly, his eyes glazing over.


Messy rehearsals is something Pryce is used to, so the starting cacophony is not much of a surprise. What is though is the villager showing signs of response. Pryce steps to the cage, looking with concern at him.
"Hello? Can you hear us? Are you okay?" He asks, trying to get any response despite the language barrier.


The villager mumbles something back in his own language, and Zjetya steps in to translate. Their exchange is brief, for the villager is quick to lay down, and drop off to sleep.

"It worked…" Zjetya whispers. "It really worked! He was pretty out of it, but he seemed to remember his name, and what month it was. Still, removing the spell took a lot out of him. That'll probably happen to the others when we cure them. Could be a big hazard in the middle of battle."


Pryce breathes a sigh of elated relief at hearing the song worked.
"We'll let him get his rest then, he probably needs it to get his head around where he is even aside the mind control."
Pryce rolls up his scroll, tucking it away in his cloak.
"We'll have to be perfect on our countering then to keep it from catching any of us, though it would be a great boon if they're using their songs to control any of the knights. This could take out a number of their forces if so."


"Now that raises a question," Onion says. "Of whether we're going cure the enemy soldiers too."

He turns to Vortigern, who maintains a tight-lipped composure as she reads over the scroll again. She rolls it up, and looks over your group– there is some quiet, cold distance in her gaze.

"Only at my direction," she says. "I will select one to test it on. Do not try the songs on any of the other prisoners without my word."

You sense a troubled stirring within your allies, to hear one of your companions direct her cold authority over you…


Pryce is silent as Vortigern makes her decision. He isn't fond of leaving the soldiers under any possible control, but this is Vortigern's home and her war, so she has the authority.
"…We can cure the soldiers after the dragons are dealt with. Even if they are hypnotized, they can still be aligned with the dragons on their own accord or from simply living under their rule for some time."


"I concur," Vortigern says. "And we will need to maintain strict records of who was and was not under the priests' hypnosis, for the trials that shall follow our victory. Now, wait here, please."

Vortigern steps away, leaving you with the sleeping visitor in his cage. The awkward silence continues for a few minutes, until she returns. Behind her trail a pair of guards, who carry a bound and gagged soldier with a distant expression with them. Vortigern points to an empty cage, and the guards deposit the soldier there.

"Now, let's begin," Vortigern orders. Your allies shake off their reservations and warm up their voices to sing again…


"Right, I hadn't thought of that. We'd have to do it slow or one by one, and we don't have the time for that now."

As they wait, Pryce starts to think about the after affects of this war. They still have to deal with the Treibheanna, and then the wider range of demons once their friends are finished in Tartarus, and that's not going into any greater tasks such as rebuilding. But here the villages will need to restructure and rebuild the whole society after the heirarchy of the dragons is gone, so much will need to be dealt with on so many levels. Pryce is pulled from his thoughts as Vortigern returns, slightly glad for the distraction.
Pryce nods, unfurling his scroll to read the song.
"Alright. A one, two…" He starts to lead in the group to sing and cure this soldier.


The song goes more smoothly than the last time, now that you've all had a chance to hear it and try it once. It will be some time before you're all truly battle-ready, however.

When the song is over, the soldier's head flops down… then raises back up. He looks about, blinking half-asleep. He says a few words in his native language, to which Vortigern gives a quiet reply. The soldier looks up, beholds her face for but a second, then yelps in terror, and scoots back in the cage, muttering rapidly in continued fear. Vortigern continues to hold him in her icy stare for a moment… then looks back to you.

"I will remain here to question him. For now, you may go."

Zjetya, who no doubt understood the exchange, is wide-eyed. She nods, and quickly heads out. Your allies start to follow her, clearly sharing a little in the soldier's alarm.


Pryce is shocked and surprised at how quickly the soldier seems to have recovered compared to the villager, despite the fear shown towards Vortigern. He wonders if it's them being better at the song, or perhaps this soldier wasn't under as much control. In either thought, Pryce nods towards Vortigern.
"Go a little light on him. You need some time to adjust when waking up suddenly," Pryce says, hoping Vortigern keeps the question easy.

He follows Zjetya out, waiting until they're a distance from the hut before asking.
"What did he say?"


"Sounds like Vortigern has quite the share of terrifying epithets," Zjetya says. "They're hard to translate, but I'd guess part of the reason they want to take her alive is they're not even sure she's a mortal like them."

You exit the prison. As your allies ponder what to do next, you realize that, in a rare change, you have some free time again.


"Good we've never been on her bad side if they're that terrified of her," Pryce says in awe.

Pryce's mind wanders to his earlier thoughts on what's going on. It's then he realizes they have a moment with nothing to do since it's all stuck on waiting for other plans to finish.
"Hmm…" He hums in thought at the revelation. "I think we've earned an afternoon of R&R." He says aloud to the group.


"Ah yes," Estuary says. "Running and repetitions. Excellent suggestion, my liege. There is never a bad time to train."

"Actually," River says. "He meant reclining at the riverside. Not mine, but by the waterfall on the southeast end of town."

Estuary's ears perk up at that mention of a waterfall. "Hmm… there is the practice of meditating in water, I suppose. Which way is it?"

"No chance we're going to hike in this heat," River says, conjuring a dark corridor. "This way."


Meditating in the water, I guess you mean a method other than a spa?" Pryce questions as Sir Estuary is sold on the relaxation.

"Wonder if we should pack a picnic," Pryce ponders as River opens a corridor for their trip.


Your allies agree eagerly to the suggestion. Onion raises a hand. "I can throw together a mean pic-a-nic basket."

"You all go on ahead," River says. "I'll help Onion and catch up."


"I'll get the spot set up, see you soon," Pryce says, heading through the corridor with the others to the waterfall.

Once they're through, Pryce gets to conjuring up some picnic blankets to sit on and some parasols for any who want more shade in the heat.


You spend an afternoon at the waterfall, which feels especially cool and relaxing after that hunt. The picnic is a nice note to end on, and even Estuary isn't enough of a stickler to ruin the mood after sampling some of the food.

Still there's always business to get to. Zjetya takes the time to update Einmal regarding the progress of this mission, and puts in the request to gather special Caller Conches to store the healing songs. While Einmal can't promise the fastest delivery, he does pledge to put it on the docket. They have many other quests which they are overseeing right now, it seems…

When the sun starts to go down, you pack things up and return to your lodgings. Estuary and Onion keep watch over the ship, while you and the others settle down in the treehouses.


The picnic is great to help unwind and give some respite from the heavier news they found today.

As they settle in to the treehouses, Pryce thinks back to earlier.
"I hope Vortigern isn't going too hard that soldier," He thinks aloud, wondering how that will unfold.


"I hope she cooks him," Zjetya retorts.

"Far be it from me to deny mercy to a wrongdoer…" River mutters. "But I still had to contribute to the cause of the good. If he willingly advanced the cause of the Draconic Lords, that's one thing. But if he was coerced…"

"Yeah… I guess," Zjetya grumbles.


"There is a lot to consider, though that should wait until after this is done. We shouldn't jump the gun incase we find out more when we face the Draconic Lords," Pryce adds.


Zjetya sighs and nods. "So damn much that we still don't know…"

"Complicated matters are something worth sleeping on," River jokes.

"Pfft, okay," Zjetya says. "By your orders, your majesty."

>timeskip to tomorrow available


"We're making progress at least, that's always good," Pryce says, looking on the brighter side. "And tomorrow we can talk to that villager to learn some more."

"Night you two," He says as they turn in for the night, leaving the matters for another time.
>Good to timeskip


You wake up the next morning, get cleaned up, gather for breakfast, and meet your allies. You don't see Vortigern or Grantz there.

"They're already hard at work," Onion says. "Caught 'em this morning while I was sneakin' in for an early snack. Wanted to get to the prisoners first thing today. We're welcome to meet 'em when we're ready."


Pryce gets up, getting ready and feeling nice and refreshed. KP spends the breakfast looking over her bestiary after the hunt yesterday.

"We should see them early, might be a relief for them in a way," He says, finishing his breakfast up quick so he can speak to the prisoners.


After breakfast, you gather up everyone, and make your way back to the prison. The guard double-takes, seeing you approach, but apparently word has gotten to them from the previous evening's shift, for they let you in. At the far end of the camp, you see Vortigern and Grantz talking amongst themselves. They wave as you approach.

"Good morning," Vortigern says. "I trust you all ate well enough."
"Plenty," Onion says. "I reckon I may just learn the local language so I can get these recipes."
Vortigern smiles with a little pride.
"Let's get to business," Grantz says. "We ended up having to cure another soldier last night. First one didn't have the information we needed. Nor did the second one. Seems they keep the lower-ranking ones all but totally in the dark about battle plans. They're also subject to stronger hypnosis than the higher-ranked ones. We were debating curing one of their leaders next."


Pryce nods. "We're doing well," He greets.

"Stronger hypnosis? So, it sounds like the rank soldiers might not have been willing to go along with the dragons," Pryce surmises.
"That makes sense, standard soldiers and knights wouldn't be let in on anything too deep beside the current mission. What about the villager, have you spoken to him yet?" Pryce asks.
"Curing one of the leaders… If they have a lesser hypnosis it sounds like they were more in line with the dragons, so they might not be willing to talk. It is worth a try, if we can get anything out of them. Do any of the commanders look easier to talk to than the others?"


"The villager seems to be a late riser," Vortigern says. "Combined with the exhaustion of being released from hypnosis, we've let him sleep in, as a kindness."
"One of the commanders looked a bit scrawnier than the other two," Grantz says. "He was my pick. The bigger one looked a bit dull, and the middle guy… hmm, kinda boring-looking."
Vortigern shrugs. "It doesn't matter much to me which one you choose, so long as you can get results."


"Ah, we'll give him more time then."
Pryce thinks over the three options. "Hmm, let's go with the big guy. My magic could have shaken him from the fight, so he might be a bit more easier to convince."


"Wait here, then," Vortigern instructs you, and leaves for the other part of the prison camp.

Some time later, Grantz returns to your area, and signals for you to follow him. He leads you to a secluded section of the camp, separated from the rest by a high wall, covered with a roof. This section is comprised of a barren yard, filled only by a single stons hut. Inside the hut is but a single room, divided in half by prison bars. On the close side is Vortigern. On the far side is a handcuffed figure covered by a blanket. You surmise him to be the commander you took down in battle week before last. He doesn't stir, or make a sound. Vortigern nods as you enter, but also stays quiet, and simply gestures to the figure. Looks like she's setting you up to make a grand entrance, performer that you are.


Pryce enters the hut, the barren room looking very dull, likely a solitary confinement area. Pryce looks across to the figure covered by the blanket, silent and unmoving. He nods in return to Vortigern, surmising this will be left for him to run the questioning.
He thinks a moment, wondering how best to start conversing with this commander.
"Good morning!" Pryce gives an enthusiastic greeting, pulling the blanket off with his telekinesis to give it some flourish and a sudden change in sight for the prisoner. "I see you've pulled yourself together after we last met," Pryce adds, referencing the defeat and how the commander was captured.


The second you say "good morning," you see the commander's eyes – open in anticipation of an attack – fall shut. He's pretending to sleep now, ignoring your greeting. At the very least this gives you a chance to size him up. He's a griffon, something you remember only getting a vague glimpse of in the chaos of battle. His head is that of a mallard, while his body is that of a mountain lion. He has his share of scars, but also, despite his captivity, he retains a certain posh dignity, something that comes with years of living a luxurious life. Even as he pretends to be asleep, there's a contemptuous angle to his eyebrows, and his bill even sneers as he snores.

Fortunately your allies are staying outside, so they can't see you getting stone-walled.


"Hmm, perhaps I was mistaken," Pryce says as the gryphon continues to 'sleep'. "Suppose I'll just wait until your morning comes."
Pryce takes a seat by the bars, taking off his bracelet to conjure up two cups of tea through it, to add an aroma that might spur the gryphon to be more active.
>Hat Magic [1d10] [Fresh Tea]

Roll #1 9 = 9


The aroma of the gourmet tea provokes a twitching of the griffon's eyebrows. So far from the capital of the Draconic Lords, delicacies such as these are all too tempting. Still, he keeps up the barest pretense of his facade, tilting his beak away to smell the stone wall instead, lest he give in…


Pryce slides one of the cups up to the bars, leaving it as an offer.
"Hope morning comes soon, it'd be a shame to let this get cold."
Pryce takes a sip of his tea, and then conjures a couple scones to pair for a nice start of the day.
>Hat Magic [Scones] [1d10]

Roll #1 10 = 10


In a flash of feathers, the griffon commander darts to the bars, reaching for both tea and crumpet despite his being bound. You hear a quack of alarm – and see that Vortigern has moved up to the bars without so much as a sound. Though the commander is, at full height, taller than Vortigern, something about her seems to tower over him and you in this moment. The griffon scrabbles back to his cot with both tea and scone in hand, leering back at Vortigern as one would a monster that has them cornered.


Even Pryce is startled at how quickly Vortigern has moved, the standoff being much more imposing with his sitting position.
"It's alright, I had to get him up somehow," Pryce says to Vortigern to try and ease things with the leer the gryphon shoots Vortigern. Pryce then looks to the commander.
"So, are you open for a little chat?" He asks now that he's taken the food.


"Non. How do you say… take a hike," the griffon commander says. Despite this, he holds the tea and scone, half-consumed, clearly intent on savoring them as long as he can.

Vortigern says nothing, but instead looks at the door of the barred section. The griffon tenses a little at the threat…


Pryce stands, holding up a hoof to Vortigern, not wanting to jump to threats.
"Alright, I'll talk then. You enjoy breakfast," He starts. "First, though, I have to commend your craftsmen on that warhorn you had. It has a lovely sound too when we tried it," Pryce begins, seeing if them having those horns gets anything out of the commander.


"Honhonhon," the griffon honks. "I am glad you like them. I recommend you keep on sounding them for all your smelly comrades to hear the hymns of the Draconic Lords. Soon you will, how do you say, see eye to eye with us, non?"


"Funny you say that. You see, we've got some singers of our own, and we happen to have our own song that can, how you say, make you see eye to eye with us," Pryce says, taking out the rolled scroll of their song from his robe. "Though it sounds like we really only need it for your soldiers, I'm sure you know."


The griffon's smirk fades as he looks at the scroll. For a second his hand tenses, as if he would throw the tea onto the scroll so as to ruin the ink. But, Vortigern's hoof grinds into the dirt of the hut, signaling just one reason that would be a poor course of action.

"Hmph. And why even tell me these lies of yours? You want someone to listen to your noisy bragging?"


"Simple, you said you didn't want to talk," Pryce answers simply, seeing the smirk fade from the gryphon. "Though, I wouldn't call this bragging, simply a statement of fact. If you want, we could play it right here if you think it truly doesn't match up to yours. Unless you'd like to change the conversation?"


The griffon looks between you and Vortigern. You recall the wicked titles by which the soldiers regard her – a fear they did not even show to Grantz himself…

"Wack. Do not grate my ears with your tone-deaf ramblings, but do not waste my time either. What did you really bring me here to discuss?"


"Alright, let's get direct then," Pryce begins, tucking the scroll away.
"What plans did you have for the tribes down here? Any involvement with demons or summoning monsters to attack the locals?"


"Wack. You need to learn to take life a little slower, stickhead. Rush through too many questions and you forget to, how do you say, smell the flowers."

The griffon looks down– at his empty hand. Vortigern has snatched the tea and scone out of his grasp with nary a sound. The griffon blinks with surprise, and clears his throat.

"As I was just explaining… eh, it is not so complicated. The orderly conquest and governance of these tribals under our rule. No demons, but uh, oui, the monsters were our doing."

He looks at the snacks longingly…

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