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File 131119893207.png - (431.72KB , 1080x1096 , the fortress at the pass.png )
328652 No. 328652 ID: 6bf918

This will, for the most part, be a text quest. I will draw images to establish scenes, or show off locations, but in no way will this be a regular occurrence



So.

I’ve been thinking it’s time to retire.

I mean, mercenary work? Sure, the money’s good, but after thirty years of fighting, killing, and bleeding across half the continent, I’ve realized I’m getting too old to keep this up much longer.

Mind you, I don’t mean old, old. Hells, I’m not even at that point it’s all downhill from. But, I can already see it from where I’m standing, if you follow the metaphor. And I have plans for the rest of my life, plans that need me at my best if I want them to stand a chance of succeeding.

See, I want to claim my own Dominion.

I even have the perfect place picked out.


The valley is labeled as Ciriano’s Gap on some older maps – nearly a hundred and fifty kilometers long, it neatly bisects the Cloudrends at their widest point, making it the only route between the coastal kingdoms and Dominions of the west, and the clusterfuck that is the League, for more than three hundred kilometers in either direction. It used to be dwarven territories, then an imperial trade route, then, briefly, the independent kingdom of Cradia after the Sitadian Empire fell. Now it’s mostly a bunch of mountain folk, who raise sheep, live in clans, build settlements on large hilltops, and ride around on ridiculously hairy ponies.

It’s also a claimed Dominion, but I’d be surprised were it otherwise, considering the prize it holds. A massive battlement spans the eastern pass, standing sixty meters tall, a giant steel gate ready to slam shut in the face of any invader foolish enough to attempt a ground assault. And as intimidating as it looks, the gate is in turn dwarfed by the castle that overlooks it – a fortress carved into the mountain itself, with thick walls dozens, if not hundreds meters tall. Accessible only by a single road which snakes up from the valley’s only city, or by air, it’s a dream made reality for any ruler – a virtually unassailable fortress. Even the Empire (at the height of its power, no less) had to resort to deceit in order to capture it.

In short, just the place for me. There’s simply the matter of evicting the current tenants.


Technically, the Agreement means I could just head right for the fortress to issue the challenge, but… well, I’d feel safer with some sort of plan. An exit strategy, if nothing else. For now I’ve taken up residence in a cave I’ve found on the slopes across the valley from my target. The supplies I brought with me should be good for a week more, and I can always send the Crew out hunting if need be. I’ve heard that the winter storms get fierce in the Cloudrends, but the weather’s been holding for now. I have some time to think.

From what I know, these are the forces present in the immediate area:

- 2000-odd mercenaries organized into 14 companies. Spending the winter here, before their services are needed again in east come spring. They even have their own semi-permanent town across the river from the city. Also, they’re completely irrelevant.
- A few hundred guards/militias/yokels with clubs, charged with keeping peace in the city, which they achieve mostly through clobbering shitfaced mercenaries. Also completely irrelevant.
- Unknown number of soldiers in the fortress. However, I estimate the garrison size as 200 at most – anything more would be a needless waste of resources in peacetime. Available weapons and level of training also unknown. Mostly irrelevant, as per the terms of the Agreement.
- 2 dragons. Oramar and Ethelira, siblings, formerly of the Vilerde lineage, both recently de-Legitimized. Rulers of this Dominion and my primary targets. Sister known to have considerable experience with all three magic schools. Other traits presumed normal.

Maybe I should consider gathering more information.

Meanwhile, these are the resources at my disposal:

- A field alchemy kit of my own devising. Insufficient for anything really complex, but it serves my needs. Currently not as well stocked with reagents as I’d like, and wintertime won’t make remedying that any easier. My supply of potions is equally poor: two Battledin elixirs, two Fireward ointments, and a bottle of completely mundane rustproofing oil for my armor.
- About 20 centnars worth of assorted gemstones – the fruit of three decades of mercenary work. Actually, I’m sure I’ve earned a lot more than that, but I can’t remember any of the other places where I’ve stashed my loot.
- Camp stuff – bedrolls, cooking utensils, tools, weapon maintenance gear, rations, personal possessions etc.
- A harness to carry all that junk, my weapons, and the Crew around.
- A set of plated armor with chain underlay, custom made for yours truly, as protection against halberds, pikes, crossbows, and other nasty things one expects to find on the modern battlefield.
- Two daggers, strapped within easy reach, one on each flank. Each barely one meter long, they’re purely fallback weapons, though useful in a tight spot.
- Finally, my pride and joy, and tool of the trade, the weapon that earned me my reputation in the Dominions of the far south, and one I’ve spent nearly half my life trying to master. Hold on, where did I put it again…

[PICK ONE]

#1 Glaive – I needed a weapon that I could carry anywhere and, more importantly, use anywhere. In a word, I wanted versatility. Light, balanced, and with decent reach, I’ve yet to encounter a situation it was unsuited for, be it the middle of a battlefield, a mid-air duel, or fighting off a particularly thick-headed troll in the woods. If there’s any complaint I’d make, it’s that the blade isn’t heavy enough to make my swings have the strength they could.

#2 Maul – The whole reason I’ve even picked up a weapon in the first place, was because I knew I’d be fighting things bigger and meaner than myself. I needed power, and I could’ve done a lot worse than swinging a lump of metal the size of my head. And boy, did it deliver. It broke everything – bones, heads, shields, armor, formations, siege engines, gates, walls… Sure, it takes me a bit to recover after a swing, and it’s too unwieldy for fighting in the air, but one, hardly anything needs a second swing, and two, I have those daggers for a reason.

#3 Lance – Far as I could tell, the whole point of having a weapon is to put something very sharp and very lethal between you and the other guy – and the longer that something is, the better. While I’ll admit that it’s somewhat unwieldy in melee, and absolutely useless in any sort of confined space, I’ve made it a point to avoid such engagements. Besides, who cares about tangling with a bunch of common soldiers, when you can instead go into a dive to pick up speed, then level off, thundering just above a forest of spears which try to reach you in vain, as you skewer a general, marshal, or even a king, as they belatedly realize the folly of observing the battle from the height of a saddle.


Of course, I’d never have made it as far as I did on my own. My support consists of:

- The Crew – my guardians, warriors, scouts, spies, and saboteurs. There may be only six of them, but if need be, they can do the work of sixty. Current status: moderate misery brought on by cold and boredom.
- My own personal slice of insanity, usually stupid, often perverted, sometimes very, very helpful, and a constant reminder of why advanced magic is called “advanced” for a reason. Current status: apparently suffering from amnesia. How the fuck does that even work? Seriously it’s just another joke of yours, right? “C’mon voices in Alterada’s head, let’s all pretend we don’t remember the last nine years, or her, or anything else for that matter. Oh man, she’s gonna freak.” Alright, ha ha, you got me. I’m freaked. But joke’s over, yeah? It’s not funny anymore. I’m actually doing the Dominion thing. I need your help with this. It was your damned idea!
Expand all images
>>
No. 328653 ID: 46c430

...It's... Not a joke, unfortunately... ...So, uh. Hi. ...Again.

((Voting for Glaive))
>>
No. 328657 ID: 44766a

#1 Glaive
>>
No. 328660 ID: 4043d8

Voting for glaive.
>>
No. 328661 ID: 07416a

Glaive.
>>
No. 328664 ID: 44766a

Sorry about the whole amnesia thing. Could we get the story on how you got stuck with us? And some general information about you and the world at large.
>>
No. 328706 ID: 6bf918
File 131120647687.png - (92.34KB , 774x1080 , weapon of choice.png )
328706

>>328653
>>328657
>>328660
>>328661
I remember that it took the smiths seven tries until they got the weight and balance right. The shaft is 5.5 meters long, single piece of black ash, hollowed out inside to make room for a steel rod – wood alone wouldn’t stand up to the kind of stress I regularly put that weapon through. As a result, the blade had to be increased in size to compensate for the extra weight – it’s 156cm long and 27cm wide at its widest point – and it gained the hook, which I don’t think I ever actually used. It’s still a bit light to my liking, but, as I said, I don’t recall ever being in a fight where it was the wrong choice.

>[Combat Trait: GRACEFUL]
>- bonus to fighting multiple small creatures
>- bonus to dodging attacks from large creatures
>- bonus to maneuverability while airborne

Of course, there’s always a drawback. In this case, there was that one time I got hired to kill a nest of sandswimmers, and it happened to be witnessed by some twerp of a troubadour. His brain must have been baked by the sun, because he looked at the mad hopping about I was doing to avoid their coils, and saw the “most beautiful, most deadly of dances”. And because I didn’t have the presence of mind to bash his head right there and then, he went and wrote a ballad about me. And do you know what he used instead of my – apparently – unpoetic name?

Steel Rose.

For fuck’s sake.

It caught on too. And the ballad as well.

>[Reputation Trait: STEEL ROSE]
>- Alterada’s unique weapon and armor make her immediately recognizable to anyone familiar with the ballad and/or the recent history of the South

I hope he died of indigestion.
>>
No. 328719 ID: 0d095c

I recommend gathering information. You are a dragon, right with blades that large? Or a giant or something? Bad for stealth, like your reputation. Send your spies to the town. Remain in cover.
>>
No. 328731 ID: 6bf918

>>328653
So… not a joke? You’re serious? Nothing?

Fuck.

>>328664
Alright, let’s start with how we’ve “met”. Basically, I’ve decided that it would be neat if I could communicate telepathically with the Crew. You know, skip the bit where they have to run back to me to say there’s an ambush ahead. Well, that spell I’ve found worked, only it didn’t, because I’ve ended up with you on top of everything else. Or maybe it did work exactly as intended, and you’re just part of Rule One.

And general info? Like… what? I’m a mercenary with ambitions, it’s currently the winter of… damn it, what’s the date again, Arcel?
[Arcel] :Post-imperial, or southern calendar, Boss Lady?:
Local, smartass.
[Arcel] :By the post-imperial calendar, today is the 13th day of the first month of winter of 285:
Thanks. Where was I? It’s the winter of 285, and another year nears its end, same as every other. The southern Dominions are collecting taxes, the League is still at it like a dozen cats in a small bag, there’s word that a sea serpent wandered up the Estelona and there’s a contract out to kill it before it starts wrecking trade boats in the spring… I don’t know, are those the kinds of things you want to know?
>>
No. 328733 ID: 07416a

>>328731
Well, most important right now would be the terms of the Agreement, which is probably why all these armies they have are irrelevant. Do you get to challenge them to single combat or something?

Also, a rundown of your compatriots.
>>
No. 328736 ID: 02de21

>>328706
>The shaft is 5.5 meters long
...how tall are you?
>>
No. 328739 ID: 0a356a

meter-long daggers... harness to carry your six-man crew around... 30 years of mercenary work and still relatively young...

uhh. storm giant? seriously, I don't even know what species you are.

what I want to know is your race, your skills other than combat, recent events, especially ones that might have caused amnesia, and whether your hymen is still intact or not.
>>
No. 328740 ID: 44766a

With us around? Not Likely.
>>
No. 328930 ID: 6bf918

>>328731
See, these are the kinds of questions I can easily answer.

The Agreement gets a bit involved, and it’s written in this horrid, heavily stylized manner, so I’ll summarize: armies are for fighting other armies. If you want to claim a Dominion from another dragon, do so through personal combat. No total war, no backstabbery, if either opponent surrenders, let them live.

Basically, a way for a bunch of greedy, territorial, sociopathic idiots to avoid exterminating themselves. It works surprisingly well, all things considered.

So, yeah, I should be able to just fly in and issue the challenge.

In theory, anyway.

>>328739
It gets a bit complicated. I am a dragon as well – sort of.

See, there’s the dragons with the Dominions, the lineages, the size advantage, the fire breathing, and the superior affinity for magic, and then there’s my kind, who have none of these things, and are implicitly excluded from all the privileges the former enjoy. We’re sometimes called drakes, to further highlight the difference between us and the “true” dragons, but to the lesser races we’re all cerri or cera.

My skills other than fighting? Alchemy, I suppose, but I’ve dabbled in the other two schools as well. Really, it’s almost impossible not to, especially if you have an instinctual understanding of how they work, the way dragons do. Also I know how to survive in the wilderness, am a fair hand at horse-bothering, and I did a three-year stint with a traveling actor troupe, though that’s ancient history – way before I went mercenary.

As for why you don’t remember anything (or claim to – I’m still not completely convinced this isn’t some prank) – I’m damned if I know. You just went silent three months ago, a couple weeks after I’ve decided I quit. I was even starting to think you’re gone for good. Then, just like that, this morning you’re back.

>hymen
And let me tell you all about how much I’ve missed those little conversations we used to have!

The answer is no, and it’s still none of your business.


Moving on to the relevant stuff. What I may lack in non-combat skills is more than made up for by my Crew – six kobolds, I’ve gathered to me over the years. They’re all proficient with polearms, daggers, crossbows and slings, and have a good understanding of stealth, small unit tactics, scouting, and espionage. They’re all unflinchingly loyal to me and, as I’ve mentioned, a spell enables us communicate without speaking at distances of up to fifty kilometers. Additionally, each one of them has some skill or ability I consider invaluable – indeed, it’s often the whole reason I’ve taken them into my service.

Arcel – he’s been with me the longest, and is the closest thing the Crew has to a leader. But what I value him for is his memory, which often seems limitless. Me, though I hate to admit it, I sometimes forget details, or miss things, and before you lot showed up, he was my go-to guy for not getting in way over my head. A couple years ago I’ve managed to sneak him into the archives in Timonta for a few nights, so now I also have free access to mostly up-to-date information on all the known draconic lineages.

Irga – head and shoulders above the rest when I need someone to do something without drawing too much attention. Not surprising, since she’s been a thief from the moment she could walk on her own. She also has a large number of contacts with the criminal underworld, but that’s mostly in the south. I’m not sure how things will look here.

Mara – I have Irga to thank for having her, though it cost me never being able to show myself in Reora again. Mara has a knack for reading faces – human in particular – it takes a very skilled liar to get anything past her. I try to always have her with me when it’s time to haggle over contract fees.

Efrel – excellent tracker, trapper, and saboteur. And I recall him mentioning something about originally being from the Cloudrends – remind me to ask him about it at some point.

Cyrena – my original reason for picking her, was her (surprising, for a kobold) aptitude for magic. She’s fairly skilled at alchemy, and can even perform some sympathetic spells. After I’ve bound the Crew with me, I’ve discovered that – after performing a minor ritual – having her close to me nearly doubles the range at which I can communicate with others.

Ramirez – supremely skilled fighter – the kind you get one of every few generations. He has an instinctual grasp of tactics and an almost supernatural awareness of the flow of battle – to the point where the rest of the Crew tends to defer to him when we’re in a fight. He eats, breathes, and lives combat… and quickly grows bored when there’s none to be had.
This reminds me: you are banned from giving him ideas. In fact, you are banned from even talking to him.


Oh, and someone wanted to know my height? About six meters when bipedal and upright. Why?


And did I fill you in enough by now? Can we start making plans? What’s your take on how to approach my objective?
>>
No. 328933 ID: 44766a

Wait, we can talk to the Crew?
>>
No. 328935 ID: eba49f

Since these rival dragons are known to be skilled at magic, I would like you to go over a general idea of what the three schools do. (For example, is alchemy just the creation of liquid potions, or does it do other stuff like transmuting objects?)

Also, are weapons with drugs or poisons on them considered fair play in the Agreement?
And am I correct in thinking that a dragon's wings are extremely vulnerable, and are there any other notable weakness that they have?
>>
No. 328939 ID: 1ae77f

just how good are you? I mean, I get that you're an awesome combatant, Steel Rose and all, but is there a speckle of chance you'd win a fair fight against the two dragons?
>>
No. 328996 ID: 6bf918

>>328933



Forget I said anything!

>>328935
Right, magic. Now there’s a topic and a half. For now I’ll give you a quick overview.

There’s three recognized schools of magic: Alchemy, Sympathetic, and Essence.

Alchemy is, objectively, the least powerful, but also the most practical and widely used school, with a wide range of applications. It teaches the making of various brews, elixirs, oils and medicines, but also creation of magical materials and principles of enchantment, as well as certain aspects of transmutation.

The Sympathetic school is, broadly speaking, the study of connections. It encompasses divination and scrying, curses, mental manipulation, blood magic, protective spells, and transmutation. Despite its utility, it doesn’t see as much widespread use since, unlike Alchemy, its effectiveness is more directly tied to the power of the practitioner.

Essence magic is, for the most part, a theoretical field – the manipulation of the raw magical currents that suffuse the world. It’s the unreachable ideal, the “instant” magic, the “do anything” magic. The reason it remains such is that not even dragons aren’t capable of controlling more than a tiny amount of power from those currents, without risking setting their brains on fire. The only real practical applications – that I know of, at least – are feeding power into spells from other schools, or detecting use of magic, or enchantments in one’s vicinity.

All three schools can be freely mixed – and in fact usually are. For example, a potion “keyed” to a specific person will affect them with increased potency, and may fail to work for anyone else. A major magical working is almost always preceded by consumption of elixirs that briefly increase one’s capability to channel Essence magic. A major component of the Sympathetic ritual that granted me the telepathic link with the Crew was a potion with our blood as a reagent.

And then there’s Rule One. The cardinal, unbreakable law of every magical working.

There is always a drawback. Always.

Those Battledin elixirs of mine? They’ll let my voice be heard clearly over the noise of a fight, but after they wear off, I’ll spend the next couple days unable to speak in anything above a whisper. The Fireward ointments will, with repeated use, eat away at the material they’re protecting. Curative potions, such as ones that accelerate healing, will also damage your body’s ability to recover by itself. It gets even worse with Sympathetic magic. Even without drawing on Essence you’re attempting to bend wild magical energies to your will, and that sort of thing takes a toll on your body. On top of that, you’re looking at problems like the risk of backlash when trying to manipulate a particularly strong-willed individual, leaving yourself open to counterattacks while scrying, going insane, becoming paralyzed… and oh, did I mention the migraines? There’s the migraines brought on by the least mental strain.

That’s why I’m not too worried about the prospect of fighting a mage. No matter how powerful Ethelira is, I don’t plan on giving her enough time to concoct a spell – if she tries to do it too fast, she’ll just end up knocking herself out with the backlash. Still, there’s always a possibility of magical traps she may have deployed beforehand, and a stash of potions and elixirs she could have on hand.

As for the actual fight… damn it, you forgot that as well. Never mind drugs or poisons, if I were them, I’d cry foul at the whole weapons and armor deal.

And let’s skip the argument this time around, alright? Yes, I’m the only dragon I know of that ever wised up and armed herself. No, I don’t know why that is so. Hubris, probably. A dragon’s hide is tough enough to deflect a sword, or spear, and we’re lively enough that even a crossbow bolt won’t faze us much. But change one spear to a company of pikemen, and one bolt to fifty… yeah, I’d rather endure mockery off the battlefield, than make myself an unprotected target on it.

>>328939
It’s me, armed and armored, against two larger and stronger, but unprotected opponents. The glaive will give me a reach advantage, and since I doubt they can maintain a bipedal stance for any amount of time, I’ll also have the height. Furthermore, I doubt either of them ever had to deal with someone like me. So, overall, I’m looking at a tough, but in all likelihood winnable fight.

Provided they accept the challenge instead of laughing me out of their sight. And provided they won’t cheat.

What am I talking about, of course they’ll cheat. The only reason them ganging up on challengers isn’t cheating, is because the makers of the Agreement couldn’t conceive of a dragon that would willingly share power over a Dominion with another. Once they realize how much tougher a challenge I am than a typical challenger, they’ll cheat in every way they can.

But that’s not even the worst part.

See, even if I do win, someone like me acquiring a Dominion is going to cause a major political shitstorm. And if I’m to have any chance of riding it out, my claim needs to be impeccable.

I have to find a way to win without cheating.
>>
No. 329006 ID: 0d095c
File 131126937249.jpg - (10.52KB , 300x253 , Udina.jpg )
329006

Don't worry girl. I have a great deal of experience with political shitstorms. Have you tried manipulating them against one another? Or using sappers to place explosives under their palace?
>>
No. 329011 ID: 1ae77f

it's reconnaissance time, then. >>329006 has the right idea, we should get a feel for their personalities, learn of underlings prone to betraying them, look for structural weaknesses... though the fortress seems too valuable to make it worth destroying too much.
>>
No. 329024 ID: 07416a

>>329006
>>329011
Are you even paying attention? This has to be two on one combat where her conduct is impeccable. That being said, we should probably reduce that to one on one combat. What sort of soft targets are there that could threaten them enough that ONE of them will fly off to investigate? Preferably something personal as anything financially valuable to them will weaken you as well when you take their holdings.

Arcel, the profiles on the two? Why were they de-legitimized, for one?
>>
No. 329087 ID: 44766a

[Switch to the Crew]

Testing, testing. Can you here us? If you can, Hi. We are back!.

[Switch back to Alterada]
>>
No. 329193 ID: eba49f

>There is always a drawback. Always.
Does that mean alchemical poisons will have some temporary positive effect before doing their damage?

And you didn't say about the wing thing. If dragon wings are vulnerable to being ripped by your glaive, that allows for a basic fight plan I have in mind:
* Harass them from above with the polearm until you can get them to fly after you
*Once they are fairly high up, damage the wings of the less-magey one. At best the fall will injure them, and at worst they will be stuck on the ground.
*As long as you keep the one on the ground from casting spells or doing something tricky with a ballista, being land-bound should keep them out of the fight unless the other sister makes an effort to stay together with the injured one, which would severely hinder their ability to maneuver.
>>
No. 329473 ID: 6bf918

>>329087
[Arcel] :So I see. Greetings:
[Irga] :Oh fu- I mean, hi:
[Mara] :Uh, hey:
[Efrel] :Welcome back:
[Cyrena] :So where were you when you weren’t here?:
[Ramirez] :WHAT UP?:


Alright, alright, greetings are over. We have work to do.

>>329006
>>329011
Yeah, I think I’m going to agree with >>329024 Manipulation and betrayal are a good strategy, but in this case I simply can’t risk the backlash of my schemes being discovered.

I’m not sure what I could threaten that would be valuable to them without simultaneously not damaging the Dominion. And if there was such a thing, wouldn’t they keep it close to themselves? My brief survey of the valley showed me the fortress, the city, the mercenary camp, villages dotting the snow-covered landscape… there’s one of those hilltop clanhalls about twenty kilometers from here.

>profiles
Huh, I don’t know what you’re expecting to get from there. The archives are primarily a genealogical record – birthdates, lineages, familial relationships, that sort of thing. But let’s hear it, Arcel.
[Arcel] :Oramar and Ethelira. Hatched in the spring of 236, second clutch of Inezara Vilerne. Ethelira Legitimized in 267, after successfully claiming Ascavian Dominion. Dominion lost to dragon of Arjora lineage in 274. Oramar Legitimized in 269, after successfully claiming Meledian Dominion. Dominion lost to non-Legitimized dragon in 273. Both de-Legitimized after jointly claiming Elvalian Dominion in 281:
Yeah, I did mention that teaming up like that wasn’t exactly in the spirit of the rules, right? Well, there’s no real way anyone could bring them to task without violating the Agreement themselves – having the matriarch toss them out of the family was just about the extent of it.

It’s also one of the several reasons I’ve chosen this Dominion as my goal. Nobody really likes those two right now, so maybe I can avoid having a vendetta declared on me on top of all the other trouble I’m looking to stir up.

>>329193
Well, no. That would be silly.

Alchemical – and by that I mean magical – poisons tend to lose potency very rapidly. They last anywhere between several hours, up to a couple days at most. Makes it tricky to build up a stock.

I suppose you can stick to mundane stuff, like arsenic or belladonna. They keep just fine, but on the other hand, they won’t do you much good against an ogre, or a dragon.

As for the “wing thing”, yes, targeting them is a valid tactic, more so with a glaive. Difficult to pull off, though. See, for one, in aerial fights dragons have this tendency to turn their backs away from you, which lets them bring all four limbs to bear, and at the same time protects the wings. Two, the membrane is actually fairly tough, and we have enough wing surface that it would a lot more than a slash or two before we’d be forced to land.

Also, keep in mind that I’d be vulnerable to the same tactic – I never did quite figure out how to armor plate my wings.


One thing is certain though. I definitely need to get started on reconnaissance. There’s the villages, the city, the mercenary camp… the fortress may yield good results, but it’s riskier as well. I usually deploy the Crew solo, or in pairs for this kind of work. Any ideas on who to send where, and what they should look for?



[I’ll also need six separate 1d10 rolls. Sensible and detailed plans may improve, or even override bad rolls]
>>
No. 329480 ID: 90abeb

rolled 5 = 5

I'll not make any suggestions, but I will say that you ought to learn how they fight at the very least.
>>
No. 329514 ID: 6e44d2

Have Efrel enlist in the town's militia. If worst comes to worst, he can sabotage things for you. Irga should scout the fortress. Mara should go speak to the dragons, pretending to be a diplomat sent from another dominion. Have her get a bead on the dragons' personalities and any potential fragility in their alliance through the ruse. I don't know the political landscape of the region well enough to know a likely dominion of origin for her, but a simple enough pretense could be that her dominion wishes to establish trade. Ramirez and Cyrena should go into town masquerading as a wandering mercenary pair. Have them plug into the town's gossip at the taverns and inns. They should also suss out any potential fighters among the populous. Then have Ramirez split off and go visit the mercenary camp. Finally, have Arcel visit the villages in sequence and pick up any gossip he comes across there. What we're looking for are political rumors, information on the personalities of the dragons, a solid estimate of the strength of the enemy, stories from the recent past of this region, etc. Any weakness that can be exploited would be helpful.

Also, ask Efrel about his youth spent in Cloudrends.

Sup, Ramirez? How you doin' bro?
>>
No. 329593 ID: 9202a9

rolled 2 = 2

>>329514
I like this plan. Roll number 2
>>
No. 329600 ID: 44766a

rolled 8 = 8

rolling
>>
No. 329637 ID: 858968

rolled 4 = 4

Let me show you how it's rolled.
>>
No. 330077 ID: 9202a9

rolled 10 = 10

Rolling number Five
>>
No. 330079 ID: 44766a

Cyrena: Don't know. Memory loss. It sucks.

Irga: You don't like us? ... What did we do?

Ramirez: NOT MUCH!
>>
No. 330597 ID: 44766a

rolled 7 = 7

rolling again so we can get the show on the road. Hope noone minds.
>>
No. 330607 ID: 6bf918

>>330597
Actually, I was going to go ahead with five rolls, because of how things worked out. I’ll just store this one for the next round. Also, this would’ve been up yesterday, but I got dragged off to a family barbecue. In my defense, there was bacon.

>>329514
Small problem. For one, a dragon’s envoy would be carrying the proper credentials. For two, if seeking treaties, she would bear appropriate gifts. For three, she wouldn’t be a kobold. As invaluable as I consider the Crew, their kind doesn’t command very much respect among dragons – or among other lesser races, for that matter. Also, consider the fact that who the envoy you receive is, says a lot about your own standing in the eyes of the dragon who sent her. If it’s a drake, he considers you an equal or at least worthy of respect, and expects whatever issues the two of you have to be resolved amicably. If it’s one of the more prominent lesser races, such as a human, or a naga, he thinks you’re their inferior, and you should expect the envoy’s requests to sound a lot more like demands. If he were to send a kobold… well, I’d know where my next contract would be coming from, know what I mean?

Other than that, the plan seems sound. I’ll just keep Mara on standby for now.

“Efrel, you’ve mentioned you’re from these parts?”
>[Efrel] “Yes, Boss Lady. My old tribe lives a week’s journey from here. Or used to. It’s been years since I saw them.”
“A week? What, on foot?”
>[Efrel] “Yes. You could probably reach them in a day or two, Boss Lady.”
“Hmm. Any other tribes closer than that?”
>[Efrel] “Don’t know any personally, but I’d be surprised if there weren’t. There’s kobolds all over these mountains. Want me to go looking for territorial markers?”
“Not right now. I have something else in mind for you first. What else is there in these mountains?”
>[Efrel] “Trolls, bears, ogres, mountain lions, goats – the usual, Boss Lady. Plenty of ferals too, though there won’t be any near here, I think.”
“Alright, thanks.”
Nothing immediately helpful, I think – unless you lot have other ideas?


We all catch a few hours of sleep, and I spend the night deploying the Crew near their objectives. Around midnight, I leave Irga on the mountain above the fortress with climbing gear and a week’s worth of food – she’ll do better finding her own way inside. Shortly before dawn I carry Efrel, Ramirez, Cyrena, and Arcel down into the valley, and leave them near the city, with enough money to cover their needs. Then I return to the cave, to wait, and endure Mara’s moping and worrying.

DAY 1
Weather: Cold, cloudy, strong winds.


Efrel
I’d have imagined that a kobold would have trouble becoming a city guard – the size thing and all – but Efrel reports back that the recruiting officer seemed almost overjoyed to have him volunteer for the job.

It turns out that between Ravada’s (the name of the city, it turns out) native kobold population, and the mercenaries that regularly visit kobold pubs, the guards are desperate for someone who can keep an eye on what’s going on there (mostly because kobolds make their doors too small for larger races to pass through, Efrel informs me).

[Information Gathering: 5+1-1=5 - Average]
After demonstrating that he already knows his way around a weapon, Efrel is assigned to a more experienced guardsman and sent on an evening patrol of the kobold quarter on the very same day. His partner proves moderately talkative and Efrel – couching his questions as inquiries about the possibility of eventually moving up to work as part of the fortress guard – is able to pick up the following:

- The fortress garrison is exclusively human
- Because their commander, Jenaro Rojas, is a frothing racist
- The only reason he hasn’t enforced his views on the city’s armed forces is distance. It takes almost two hours to climb the road snaking its way up to the fortress so, for conveniences sake, the guards and militiamen have their own command structure, independent of the garrison.

It’s not much, but Efrel isn’t the most social among my Crew. He’ll probably need some time to befriend the other guards and feel safe enough to start asking the more sensitive questions.


Irga
She’s probably the best choice for this job, but I feel a bit uneasy about sending Irga into the fortress. If something goes wrong, I’ll have one hell of a time extracting her to safety. About the only way I can think of right now, would be to immediately fly in and issue the challenge.

[Infiltration: 2+1+1=4 - Poor]
Irga makes it inside the fortress just fine – there are large gaps in the sentry posts, with almost none present on the peripheries of the battlements. However, shortly afterwards, she reports that the part of the fortress she’s in appears completely abandoned – and it’s been sealed off from the inhabited areas. She’ll look for a way through, but doesn’t know how long that will take.


Cyrena and Ramirez
Unsurprisingly, it turns out that with all the mercenaries in town, inn owners can set room prices to whatever they damn well please. It’s not like I can’t afford to waste a few crowns, but Cyrena sticks to the archetype of a penny-pinching mercenary by haggling bitterly for half an hour.

The pair quickly confirms what I’ve already guessed, or at least suspected – this Dominion is considered a haven for mercenary companies who spend the warm months hiring themselves out all over the League territories, while Ravada also serves as a rest stop for caravans, and a place to hire guards before heading further east – as a result, the city positively teems with all manner of swords for hire at all times. It’s almost too bad that I can’t think of a way they could be helpful to me right now.

[Information Gathering: (4+8)/2+1=7 – Good]
During a casual conversation with a few caravan guards, Ramirez manages to blurt out that he wants to know how the dragons ruling this Dominion fight. Luckily, Cyrena quickly covers his blunder, briefly explaining his passion for all forms of combat, and that one of the reasons they came here was to hopefully see an aerial battle between the siblings and a challenger. In the conversation that follows, they find out the following:

- Ever since they took control of the Dominion four years ago, Oramar and Ethelira have successfully prevailed against seven challengers. Four of the fights took place in the skies, and three within the fortress.
- Two of the fights in the air, and one in the fortress ended with the death of the challenger. The others have admitted defeat and were allowed to depart.
- One of the challengers defeated in the fortress, received wounds severe enough that he was unable to fly, forcing him to leave on foot, descending down the road from the fortress, and walking through Ravada’s streets, in full view of the entire city – something that I’m sure he’d have considered adding insult to injury. Unfortunately, the guards don’t remember his name.
- Additionally, Cyrena picks up that her conversation partners have little sympathy for the current masters of the Dominion and, after some careful prodding, gets them to admit that it’s because of the number of caravans – and, consequently, everyone’s profits – has been falling off in recent years. A number of bandit groups have taken up residence in the valley, raiding the caravans, while the various clan lords have taken up the habit of charging merchants for passing through their lands. A large number of traders begun taking their wagons through Church lands to the north – a round trip that makes their route 600km longer, but much safer. The only response from the dragons was to increase the taxes on the remaining merchants – driving even more of them away.

I’ll have Cyrena and Ramirez poke around the mercenary camp tomorrow – I don’t think I like the idea of leaving Ramirez to his own devices.


Arcel
To be honest, I didn’t expect much from Arcel. Not because he’s bad at talking with people – quite the opposite, in fact – but because of where I’ve sent him. Peasants, as a rule, are an insular bunch, concerned only with their livestock and crops, and rabidly mistrustful of outsiders – kobolds in particular, who the ignorant yokels perceive as thieves, baby snatchers, or worse. I had him spy on the villages only because it would’ve been stupid not to cover all my bases.

And indeed, Arcel is given the cold shoulder in the first few villages – even explicitly told to leave before there’s any trouble, in one case. However, he eventually makes it to a larger settlement positioned along the main tract, one in possession of its own inn.

[Information Gathering: 10+1=11Critical Success]
He steps inside to warm up and, over a tankard of warm ale, starts a conversation with a sullen looking drunk – the only other patron at that time of day. And he strikes proverbial gold.

The man turns out to be a former servant from the fortress, his bitter disposition partially the result of current unemployment, but mostly the loathing he feels towards the current rulers of the valley – a feeling he’s all too eager to talk about to anyone willing to listen.

As most people who work in such proximity to dragons, the man has a good understanding of the Agreement and, being both honest at heart, and actually liking his former master, he felt revolted by the blatant unfairness of Oramar and Ethelira’s challenge. In fact, that was the reason he left his job – he couldn’t stomach working for someone he thought of as honorless murderers.

By being an eager and sympathetic listener (as well as frequent application of alcohol), Arcel is able to find out the following things:
- Although the siblings formally rule together, most times Ethelira is content to leave administrative tasks to her brother, while she spends entire days in her workroom.
- Oramar is impatient, and easily bored with the minutae of managing a Dominion. The actual work is, more often than not, done by Seneschal Octavio Mares, a man also tasked with overseeing the day-to-day matters within the fortress itself.
- While the former ruler used to come down from the mountain every few weeks, to hear out petitioners, Oramar amuses himself by having them make the trek up to the fortress – the only reason anyone still does this is because every now and then he’ll actually grant a request.
- The former servant knows all this because daughter still works as a maid in the castle – while he takes this as a personal betrayal, the fact that she visits home every few months means he has access to information about current goings-on at the fortress. She’s due to visit again in a week or so.

Needless to say, Arcel considers this man an invaluable source of information, even if he does describe talking to him as “hunting for nuggets in a river of anger, self-pity, and drunken belches”. He spins a quick story for the innkeeper about how he’s a retired mercenary on his way home, looking to spend the winter months somewhere warm and quiet, away from the noise and bustle of mercenary camps, or big cities. Then he throws enough silver the man’s way to silence any objections.

The former servant is a regular at the inn, so Arcel should have little trouble striking up conversations with him – although he tells me that judging by the rate the man empties tankards, he’s going to need more money from me before long.


So, any insights on what the Crew found out so far? Should I modify their orders, or let them proceed as they are? Are there even more specific things they should try and find out? And is there a task I could give to Mara?

Oh, and as a favor to me, could you please stop bothering the kobolds without a good reason? It puts unnecessary stress on my connection to them.

[Another six five 1d10 rolls as well, please]
>>
No. 330759 ID: 6e44d2

dice 1d10

Send Mara into town to hit up the inns and such, as well. Her cover is that she's a prospective merchant, trying to decide if she wants to establish a trade route. This should make her pretty popular.

All the other orders stay the same. Consider bribing Mares. Seeing as he already pretty much runs the place, we want him on our side. His intel would be invaluable, and we can retain him as second-in-command when we take over.

Anyway, let's see what we come up with today.
>>
No. 330774 ID: eba49f

rolled 9 = 9

>>330759
The ' dice XdY ' goes in the email box.
>>
No. 330813 ID: 44766a

rolled 6 = 6

rolling
>>
No. 331107 ID: 6e44d2

rolled 10 = 10

>>330774
Thanks. I was wondering why the syntax didn't have anything to denote it as code. Wish I had double-checked after I first posted it... Whatever.
>>
No. 331108 ID: 07416a

>>330607
Tell Irga to drop out at the first sign of danger. The other leads are proving fruitful and it sounds like it's even more dangerous than we thought inside. Ask more about the Seneschal. What does he thinks of the twins? Was he appointed by them or inherited? What influence does he have over them and most importantly, can he be turned?

Focus on finding the name of the defeated challenger. What more delicious insult could there be to a racist than his enemies being outwitted and defeat by a "mere drake"? Also, of course, descriptions of the aerial combats.

Try and get a hold of the bandits. Maybe Irga should go meet up with them. Learn where they lair for future extermination and see if you can get them to raise enough of a stink that one of the dragons will be forced to deal with them. Keep an eye out for any that seem honorable/trustworthy enough to be recruitable, perhaps ex-patriots who were too disgusted by the change of rulers to stay on.

Absolutely love your writing, but I've got to say the more images you include the more attention you'll get. Due to certain things and people in tgchans history there is a bit of prejudice against text quests. Even just a character profile to accompany each update would double your readership and also help us connect to the characters.
>>
No. 331110 ID: 07416a

rolled 10 = 10

>>331108
Haha, derp.
>>
No. 331112 ID: 07416a

Oh wow. 10. Also, if you hang out on #rubyquest and #tgchan on rizon you'll nab a few more people and maybe get some nice conversation out of the deal.
>>
No. 331116 ID: 6e44d2

rolled 6 = 6

I'm gonna roll one more time. I'm eager to see what happens next. With the banked roll from earlier, that should be all we need.
>>
No. 331947 ID: 6bf918

DAY 2
Weather:
Cold, heavy fog, intermittent snow


Efrel
Scheduled for another afternoon/night shift, Efrel takes spends this morning finding lodgings more in line with a guardsman’s salary. After some asking about, he rents a tiny room in a house shared by eight kobold families.

[Information Gathering 7-1=6 – Average]
While being given the tour, he strikes up a conversation with the landlord – a kobold himself, and one of the few that own property in the city. The owner recognizes Efrel as a Cloudrends native, and from there the topic easily shifts to kobold tribes living in the immediate vicinity of the valley. In its course, Efrel finds out the following:

- There are two major kobold tribes living in the mountains surrounding the valley, the first about 60km west of here, and the other even further away, near the other end of the Dominion.
- There used to be a third tribe, living closer to the fortress, but it has since moved away, as too many young kobolds were departing from it, either to live in the city, or to join up with a mercenary company.
- Contact with the remaining two tribes is limited to the occasional trader showing up in the city to sell animal pelts, or various species of cave-grown mushrooms and fungi, valued as food, and as alchemical reagents.

Once again, Efrel’s information does not contain anything immediately useful – or, at least, I can’t think of any way it could be. Can you?


Mara
Mara jumps at the chance to help out in some way. This being Mara, it means me parting with a large sum of money.

“But you already have a dress.”
>[Mara] “Pah! Deliara Estades, senior representative to the great merchant Artono Linaes would not be caught dead owning just one dress!
“The who now?”
>[Mara] “And it is only by cruel happenstance that her entire wardrobe was lost, when her brave, but careless steed foundered on a patch of ice while crossing a bridge, and succumbed to the depths of the river below. She endured her limited attire because the only other choice was no clothing at all. But now that she’s reached civilization at last, she must remedy this ignominy posthaste! And only clothes by the finest of tailors will do.”
“Oh, of course, only the finest. But that still in no way justifies me handing you a whole fifty crowns.”
>[Mara] “Oh, but what of Deliara’s lodgings! It wouldn’t do for someone of her consequence to stay in just any common inn. Why, the mattresses there might be filled with straw. Straw! And, lest she forget, now that her guards have abandoned her, the disloyal curs that they were, she must procure the services of a reliable bodyguard – she is, after all, carrying around a sizeable amount of coinage.”
“…You’re enjoying this far too much, you know that?”
>[Mara] “She’ll also need a new steed. And she really likes those hairy ponies they have here.”
What?!

After some arguing, I bring my expenses down to forty crowns and no pony, then drop Mara off near the city before dawn. She enters the gates as soon as they open, and becomes Deliara Estades.

Deliara represents Artono Linaes, a powerful merchant from the coast – a trader of fish, spices, precious ores, and weaponry, among other things. He is a man unaccustomed to hearing the word “no” – and, as his right hand, neither is she. The owner of Ravada’s finest inn, initially dismissive of a “mere” kobold, receives a thorough tongue lashing to set him straight. The tailors are harangued in unkind words until they agree to have her new wardrobe ready by tomorrow. A hulking minotaur is hired as a bodyguard, any thoughts of disloyalty quelled by demonstrating how vulnerable one’s knees are to a blade wielded by someone of small size. All of it accompanied by the sweet jingle of coins – a sound that suddenly makes it so easy to put up with the monumental arrogance of the very rich.

It’s midday by then and Deliara, declaring herself peckish, heads to an establishment frequented by affluent Ravadian merchants. And that’s where Mara’s work begins.

[Socialite: 9+2=11 – Superb]
To her peers and equals, Deliara is the soul of courtesy, charm, and wit. She quickly gathers a group of – mostly non-human – merchants about herself and, over the next two hours, all but turns them into her new best friends. Between sips of wine, polite compliments, and careful angling to find out just how much danger her employer is likely to pose to the local market’s balance of power – these are merchants after all – she manages to find out the following:

- Thanks to Cyrena, we already knew that the Vellestros have increased taxes on merchants, but Mara learns that the rates are truly murderous, with fully half the yearly profits of local traders landing in the Dominion’s treasury, and Ravada’s staple rights requiring traveling caravans to either offer their wares for sale in the city for a full two weeks, or pay the waiver fee equal to fifteen percent of their goods’ value.
- There is a small number of merchants exempt from this crushing taxation. They’re the ones who supply the dragons directly, with food, luxury goods, and reagents for Ethelira’s experiments – and they jealously guard this monopoly.
- Needless to say, this has earned them the positively vitriolic hate of every other merchant in the city. Once the topic is brought up, the conversation descend into a quarter of an hour of loud expletives, heartfelt curses, and muttered oaths. Deliara is quick to assure everyone that her employer has no plans to become part of that unsavory group.
- As the meal draws to its end, Deliara receives an invitation to a formal dinner and party taking place tomorrow, at the house of one of her new acquaintances. Mara gathers that it’s a major event, one that will bring the cream of Ravada’s merchant class under one roof. She, of course, cordially accepts – then rushes off to the tailor again, to order yet another dress.

I don’t think I’ll be getting any of my money back after this.


Irga
Irga spends half a day exploring the empty, labyrinthine corridors of the fortress. Even though she doesn’t venture too deep, focusing on finding a way around the blocked off passages, it’s clear that these tunnels honeycomb a large part of the mountain – it must’ve been a home to thousands of dwarves once.

[Infiltration: 6+1=7 – Good]
She eventually discovers an entrance into a network of copper pipes, stone aqueducts, and half-flooded canals that once must’ve supplied water to the entire fortress. After a few hours of crawling, squeezing, and swimming, her inerrant sense of direction leads her to the shaft of a well – with torchlight flickering in the opening above.

However, at this point she is tired, soaked from head to toe, and shivering uncontrollably. I tell her to just find an out of the way place to get dry and rest. Hopefully she’ll be able to begin collecting information tomorrow.


Cyrena and Ramirez
The duo begins their day with a tour of the mercenary camp. My earlier comparison of this place to a town seems apt – between the camping grounds, there’s a somewhat chaotic network of streets lined with smithies, armor and weapon sellers, horse traders, and pawn shops. There’s even a town square, containing a dozen or so taverns and brothels.

The mercenaries themselves are as diverse a bunch as one could expect – all manner of races and nationalities are present, from fair-haired northerners with thick beards and shaggy minotaurs hailing from the Broken Coast, to horsemen from the eastern plains and cold-eyed nagas used to the much gentler climes of the South.

The quality the companies represent is just as varied. There’s the disciplined and militaristic – often former soldiers, displaced when their nations in the League ceased to exist or changed hands, and who decided to maintain their principles, even as they were forced to sell their swords. And on the other end of the scale there’s bands of crazed cutthroats who are in the business as much for the thrill of killing, as they are for the money.

Keeping to the combat enthusiast story, Cyrena and Ramirez begin asking around for someone who can describe the aerial battles the Vellestros fought against the challengers. Frankly, I don’t have much hope for them finding anything satisfactory – even should they find a reliable witness, the problem with the lesser races is that, being incapable of flight, they also lack the innate understanding of its mechanics. This lack of knowledge would rob their description of details vital to any flier.

[Information Gathering: (10+10)/2=10Double Critical Success!]
So you can probably imagine my surprise when my kobolds are pointed to the absolute best kind of witness imaginable – a drake!

Those of my kind who choose the mercenary path, given choice, would probably elect to spend winter somewhere warmer. Herid would’ve done so as well, but an unlucky spear thrust through a wing joint left him the equally poor options of either recuperating here, or making the journey south on foot. After weeks spent in his tent huddled to a stove, he is bored out of his mind, and very glad for the company – and probably more talkative that he normally would be.

- Of course he’s seen Oramar and Ethelira fight. It was against some no-name who, like them, lost his previous Dominion in the League. Doesn’t matter anyway, cause now he’s dead. Crashed right on top of the Red Daggers barracks – lucky them that they were all outside, watching the fight. How it happened? Oramar crashed into him, forcing a clinch and a tumble, then Ethelira dived in and tore up the poor sucker’s wings. And that was that.
- At this point I start telling Cyrena what questions she should ask. Herid, pleasantly surprised by her awareness of factors affecting aerial battles, is all too happy to tell the not-for-idiots version of the fight. By the time he’s done, I feel like I have some understanding of my opponents’ strengths and weaknesses in the air, as well as the nature of air currents around the mountain.
- Perhaps unwilling to deprive himself of an audience so quickly, Herid smiles slyly and mentions that he used to – briefly – serve Oramar during the dragon’s rule over his first Dominion, and would you like to hear about how he fights on the ground?
- Soon I learn that Oramar is gifted with above average size and strength, but lacks matching speed and stamina. Therefore, instead of exchanging blows and bites with a nimbler challenger, he seeks to overbear his opponent as quickly as possible, pinning him to the ground with superior bulk. He lost his original Dominion to a dragon who was simply too fast to be pinned – the challenger got a few good hits in right at the start, then stayed out of Oramar’s reach until the latter succumbed to exhaustion and blood loss.
- When asked about the dragon forced to walk down the mountain, he starts by commenting on this being classic Oramar handiwork. “See, little ones, strong as our wing bones are, they still snap like twigs with two dragons piled on top of them.” Unfortunately, Herid wasn’t in the valley when that fight took place, and doesn’t know the name of the dragon. “Though I think his lineage was… Ilrosso? I’ve heard something about them raising a stink over one of their own being nearly crippled for life. Can’t tell you anything more though.” Arcel lets me know that Ilrosso is one of those large, branching lineages, and gives me five likely candidates from across two generations and four clutches. It’s better than nothing, at least.
- Finally, as the kobolds are preparing to leave, Herid asks them whether they’d be willing to enter his employ – if only for a couple weeks. There’s errands he needs taken care of in the city, and between dragons generally looking askance at unaffiliated drakes in their territory, and this dragon in particular being his former boss, he’d prefer to keep himself out of sight. He’d pay, of course, both in coin, and in war stories.

I don’t know… I think I’ve learned everything I could about Oramar and Ethelira from him, and I may want to give Cyrena and Ramirez another goal to pursue. Should they accept Herid’s offer?


Arcel
Arcel continues to serve as the ex-servant’s drinking companion, patiently enduring the man’s sodden rambling. He tells me he gets the distinct impression that the reason the drunkard is so willing to talk to a kobold is because everyone else got tired of listening to him.

I tell Arcel to focus on finding out more about the Seneschal. You’re right – a man in his position would be a great source of information, as well as a valuable ally.

[Information Gathering: 6 – Average]
Octavio Mares is a great man. A great man. The only good man left in the entire castle. On this entire thrice-damned world. Great man! Octavio Mares. It must kill him to put up with those… those overgrown lizards. It must kill him right to the heart.

- Specifically, Octavio’s position as Seneschal is hereditary – his family has acted as overseers of the fortress since imperial times. The Empire has fallen, the rulers have come and gone, but the Mares line endured, continuing to fulfill their obligations.
- Octavio is greatly respected by both the fortress staff, and the citizens of Ravada. According to the servant, even the clan lords have a measure of regard for him. Like his ancestors and predecessors, he has a reputation for impeccable character, utter impartiality, and complete devotion to his duties.
- He is also quite old, well into the sixth decade of his life. Yet the increased workload brought on by Oramar’s incompetence and Ethelira’s indifference precludes him from properly preparing one of his children to replace him, as is the tradition.

Shortly afterwards, the servant becomes too incoherent to provide anything useful. Arcel apologizes, saying that he may have been too generous about refilling the man’s tankard.



So, another day, another batch of information. What’s your take on it, and what should the Crew do?

Efrel has yet to find out anything I can use to my advantage in the coming fight. I’m starting to think that the city guard may be a dead end. Maybe I should send him after the bandits? On the other hand, outlaws are usually outlaws for a reason. I’m uneasy about potentially including them in my plans.

Mara – though doing her best to bring about my financial ruin – will spend tomorrow evening hobnobbing with some of the most affluent people in Ravada. Is there any specific information she should seek out? Or maybe you can think of some sort of agenda she could pursue?

Irga is finally in a position to infiltrate the fortress proper. Should she focus on observing Oramar and Ethelira, looking for a weakness? Maybe she should attempt to contact Octavio? If so, what would be the best way to approach him?

Cyrena and Ramirez, though out of their usual element, have so far provided some of the most useful information on my opponents. Where should I send them next? Or should they accept the job offer from Herid?

Arcel’s find is certainly useful, but maybe the other sources of information I’ve since discovered are even more so – as well as being more reliable. And coherent. Is there another task you can think of for Arcel, or should he remain where he is? And in that case, what should he ask about?

Also, I’m getting worried about the weather. If it continues getting worse, it might force me to face the dragons inside the fortress, and based on what I learned today, I’d feel a bit more confident with fighting them in the air. On the other hand, more information is always good. I don’t know. Opinions?


[You know the drill, six more rolls. And be aware that I can’t do very much with just a number. The more detailed your suggestion, the more I have to work with – and the faster the next update happens, since I have a better idea of what to write about]


Thank you for the words of appreciation. I’ll see about including more pictures, but given that they effectively double the time it takes me to prepare an update, I make no promises
>>
No. 332026 ID: 44766a

rolled 10 = 10

Ok, so far we have learn that most of the people living here are probably going to rejoice when you take over. Awesome.

You should take note of how Oramar and Ethelira run things. THAT IS THE WRONG WAY. I am going to guess the high taxes are because that is the only way two spoiled dragons are going to get the luxuries they want.

Jenaro Rojas should probably be fired as soon as possible. An all human garrison? Really?

Is Mara always like that? She does have good acting skills thou.

Herid might be a good person to hire later. Cyrena and Ramirez should take the job so we can keep an eye on him. Maybe have just one of them take the job?

If Irga can talk to Octavio somehow, that would be ideal. She can use the angle that you are undoubtedly going to be more involved in the running this place, which would give him time to actually prepare his heir.

The info about the kobold tribes might be useful later, who knows?

Keep Efrel where he is. Advise him to try to steer conversations towards the dragons and what the guards and the landlord think of them. Do not include the outlaws in your plans, seeing as we will probably be wanting to wipe them out later.

Have Arcel keep an eye and ear out for any other leads he can find, but if he doesn't find anything else have him stick with the drunk ex-servant.
>>
No. 332152 ID: 07416a

rolled 6 = 6

>>331947
Contact Octavio. Have her present herself as the representative of a potential challenger. Offer your services in exchange for his help. Doubtless there are some tasks he would appreciate getting done.

Working for Herid would be useful for his contacts. Also might be nice.

Hmmm... Can you think of any very valuable components that the kobolds might possibly have that the dragon might want? Might be a possible ploy. Get them to pretend they have something she wants and has to get personally so that you can taunt her out there. Might be worth visiting them personally.

Mostly you can just keep on keeping on.
>>
No. 332211 ID: 9202a9

rolled 4 = 4

Prehaps we could get the kobolds (or some bandits) to attack one of the mercants that bring luxury goods to the dragons, necessitating that one of the dragons leave the castle to get it back.

The trick here is to be a big enough threat that they can not just send the Militia but not big enough to get both to come.

And a roll
>>
No. 332278 ID: 6e44d2

rolled 8 = 8

One possible move we can make is to attack and commandeer one of the caravans delivering goods to the dragons; this will allow us to bring whatever we want right up next to them, whether it be poisons or warriors or whatever else may decide to employ. I know you want to do this fairly, but let's keep an open mind to all possibilities.

Send Ramirez and Effrel to find the bandits. Infiltrating their ranks seems like it's be very difficult, but they must have a good idea of the sizes and compositions of traders' caravans that pass through to town. They also may be able to be convinced to work for us, should we want to make use of their services. Have Cyrena work for the drake. At the ball, Mara should... Well, what information has the most value for you? Seeing as you want to beat these dragons at a "fair" fight (I say that with quotation marks because there are two of them), I don't see a great deal of value in all this reconnaissance. What do you hope to gain from it?

The other two should carry on as before.
>>
No. 332301 ID: 6bf918

>>332026
>Is Mara always like that?

Well, yes, and no. Most days she’s probably the least noticeable of my Crew. Quiet, calm, unassuming. And deceptively stubborn, come to think of it – she usually gets her way in arguments with the other kobolds, all the while seeming to agree with them.

But give her a task like this, a role to play and… well, saw what happened. She almost immediately knows who to be and how to act, which things to say, and who to say them to. The only problem is that once her mind is set on a particular character, everything about it must be just so – and usually the “so” translates to “I’ll need lots of money, Boss Lady.” Still, the performances she gives are usually worth my price of admission.

But I’m fairly certain the part about all the dresses is just Mara being her own self. She really likes having the damned things for some unfathomable reason. Not even wearing them – just owning. I lost count of how many we’ve had to leave behind over the years because they were cluttering up the packs. And each time she’d get all pouty for about a week afterwards.

>>332152
>>332211
The problem with messing with trade is that it’s the wrong time of year for it. Wagons can’t ride if the roads are buried in snow. Winter is the season when merchants count up the profits of the passing year, and make plans for this coming one.

Although I’m certain that the privileged traders have stores of goods somewhere in the city, in order to keep the dragons supplied year-round. Maybe I could target that? But what can I achieve that way?

>>332278
>What do you hope to gain from it?

Very good question. In fact, I realize that it applies to this entire operation. I forgot – I keep forgetting – that you’re no longer familiar with how I work. And that you don’t remember the weeks we’ve spent discussing this plan. Allow me to remedy that.

My ultimate goal is to claim undisputed rulership of this Dominion. My objectives in support of that goal are as follows:

#1 Achieve bloodless victory.

While the Agreement requires the current ruler of a Domain to accept the challenge, he may forfeit if he considers the fight hopeless. Unfortunately, in my case this isn’t very likely to happen.

#2 Force the Vellestros to accept my challenge

To reiterate, I am not a dragon. I am a drake. Much as when I took up arms and armor, I am now doing something virtually unthinkable. Much as I did then, I can now expect mockery and disbelief. I can, and probably should expect refusal. Therefore, when issuing the challenge, I must do so from a position where I cannot be denied.

#3 Keep to the rules of the Agreement

No outside interference, no trickery, at least one witness, provided he is a dragon, three if they’re drakes, or ten if they’re of the lesser races. Given choice, I’d gladly work towards luring one of the siblings into the mountains, stabbing them through the neck, and stashing the body in an unreachable ravine somewhere. However, the loophole they’ve found in the Agreement means I have to play this one to their strengths, by facing them both.

#4 Negate their advantages while bolstering my own

If you think about it, the Agreement makes no provisions for what state the challenger or the defender need be in during the fight. Ideally, they should both be healthy and well-rested, but I either witnessed, or heard about challenges issued in the middle of the night, or right after the defender fought off a different claimant, or even in the midst of a battle against an army of lesser races. Nothing stops me from doing the same – except that every dirty tactic I use will serve to erode the strength of my claim once other dragons learn about my actions.

However, this also means I should seek to learn of, and neutralize beforehand any unfair advantages Oramar and Ethelira may have prepared against particularly troublesome opponents. They’ve shown themselves to be willing to bend the rules already, so I’d be stupid to discount the possibility of them doing it to an even greater degree.


Does that change any of your ideas?
>>
No. 332331 ID: 07416a

rolled 4 = 4

>>332301
The witnesses may make this difficult, but we have at least two willing. We need to track down that Ilrosso. Wonder if he's thought of technological repairs to his wings?..
>>
No. 332560 ID: 6e44d2

Well, we could have Mara spread rumors of a dragon coming to challenge the siblings. That will handle the witness issue. If she finds someone at the party worth confiding in, she could even say that her mistress is the one coming to challenge the pair, and in that way, barefacedly ask for help dismantling the dragons' unfair advantage.
>>
No. 332565 ID: 07416a

rolled 7 = 7

>>332560
You forgot.
>>
No. 332802 ID: 6e44d2

>>332565
Nah, I already rolled earlier, but thanks.
>>
No. 332815 ID: 9202a9

rolled 4 = 4

>>332802
in that case
>>
No. 335091 ID: f8aa66

> Efrel
Transitioning from the city guard to the palace guard would be the most useful, but with Roja in place... something might need to happen to him.

> Negating advantages
Irga will be your most valuable ally, here. I was going to suggest she focus on the more unaware Oramar, but I think now she should instead try and sniff out any runes, potions, reagants and such-like that the magic-user might have in store. More dangerous, but necessary. Don't have her actually try and steal/destroy anything yet, that'll just put them on their guard.

For that matter, how good are a dragon's senses?

> Ramirez and Cyrena
Do everything. By which I mean, Cyrena may want to take the job with Herid while Ramirez joins up with the bandits. Cyrena will get some coin and a potential witness/ally. Ramirez might be able to get the bandits to try something that won't link back to you (unless scrying can see things in the past, which might enable the dragons to find out about it afterwards) but that will inconvenience Oramar. Do your best to keep an eye on him so he doesn't do anything too... Ramirez-y, but knowledge on the bandits will be invaluable once you pull out the win, and if you could get the battle-maniac into a trusted position with them, I can think of a few uses for a directed bandit band.

> Merchants
Perhaps she could whip them up into a fervor and bring a list of their claims Magna Carta style to Oramar? Or get the names of the preferential merchants so we can disrupt that flow of goods and give Oramar something else to focus on? Just a few thoughts.
>>
No. 336597 ID: 6bf918

It seems some of you lot are confused about the witness part, so let me clarify. It needs to be one dragon, or three drakes, or ten people of another race. So a bunch of humans will do just fine – the entire requirement isn’t even that strictly observed, and exists mostly to make sure a challenger actually issues the challenge, instead of ambushing the other dragon out of the blue.

Of course, like with everything else, I’ll need to make sure that I fulfill this one perfectly.

DAY 3
Weather
: Cold, windy, light snow


I spend most of today day preparing a spell I’ll need to cast in the evening. I’m not looking forward to it, and neither is Irga, but I think it's necessary.

The worst part is, I already have a headache. Guess what Efrel’s been up to today?


Efrel
It’s not clear what causes the brawl, but it quickly spills out of the tavern, and before long there’s twenty mercenaries fighting in the middle of the street, and with more of their friends arriving by the minute, the situation threatens to become a full-fledged riot. The guardsmen and militia mobilize and deploy a number of heavily armed squads in response.

Efrel, along with the city guard’s other kobold members, are used as relays between the squads, helping to coordinate the attempt to surround and contain the fight. The attempt fails, with the brawlers realizing what is happening before all the forces are in position.

A third of the mercenaries break away and split into small groups, hoping to lose the pursuers in the maze of streets and alleyways, and flee the city to the safety of the camp. Most of the northern section of Ravada becomes host to a chaotic, rolling skirmish between the mercs and the guardsmen – with Efrel caught in the middle.

I tell him to hide somewhere and wait it out. He agrees, but then proceeds to happen upon three guardsmen caught in a desperate fight against five mercenaries. With me – and the rest of the Crew – yelling at him to stop, Efrel charges in to help.

[Skirmisher: 10+2=12Critical Success]
The lucky dolt manages to catch the mercs unaware, tackling one into another, and shattering a third’s kneecap with his truncheon. This unexpected help is enough for the guardsmen to recover, and quickly subdue their opponents – and for me to stop just short of breaking my cover and descending upon the city, glaive in hand.

The fighting eventually comes to an end with all the mercenaries either captured or killed. The handful of fires that always seem to break out in situations like these are put out before they do any serious damage. Efrel meekly endures me berating him for the needless risk he took, then justifies himself by saying that this will win him many friends among the guards.

I’m still pissed at him, but he’s right. The guardsmen Efrel saved laud him for his help, and he’s invited out for drinks in the evening. At the tavern, the conversation revolves, naturally, around the day’s events. Efrel steers it in the desired direction, by asking – innocently enough – whether this sort of thing happens often, and why the dragons won’t put a stop to it. After all, the mercenaries stay here by their leave, right? How is it that the siblings don’t react to strife within their own Dominion?

What he finds out… oy.

- Oramar and Ethelira don’t care. I already knew that they don’t care, but they’ve raised not caring to an art form. If I didn’t know any better, I’d have said that they’re trying to copy the Southern model – and failing. Leaving your subjects to their own devices is all well and good, but there are limits. As the other guards explain to Efrel bitterly, Ravada could burn to the ground, and these two wouldn’t react, as long as the taxes got paid.
- The other reason that the mercenaries have so much leeway, is that each company pays a one centnar fee for using the camping grounds over the winter. These fees, Efrel learns, represent a third of the Dominion’s yearly income.
- This tweaks my curiosity – the valley isn’t the largest or richest Dominion in the world, but this seems far too low. I ask Efrel to pursue this topic and… for fuck’s sake.
- The clan lords aren’t paying taxes. The clan lords, it turns out, don’t even consider themselves part of the Dominion. The dragons may claim rulership of the entire valley, but they, in fact, control the fortress, the city, and a couple dozen villages scattered around Ravada.
- Apparently, the clan lords all – simultaneously – declared their independence right after the siblings took over. Oramar reacted quickly, flying out on a punitive raid. He burned down half a clanhall, then returned to the fortress with fifty arrows sticking out of him and a sudden lack of desire to go back and finish the job. Instead, he sent out the militia, which promptly got outmaneuvered and shot to pieces by mounted warriors. Oramar responded by raising taxes, cutting spending, and pretending the problem didn’t exist.

I should forget about calling this thing a retirement, shouldn’t I?


Mara
Mara, at least, I could leave to her own devices. She spends the first half of the day trapped in the inn by the fighting, and the other getting ready for the party. When the time comes to depart, Deliara balks at the prospect of ruining her dress while wading through the snow and slush covering the streets, complains that this is exactly why she wanted a pony, and then manages to persuade her bodyguard to carry her there on his shoulders.

>>332560

I consider it too risky to reveal myself like that, but after discussing this with Mara, I agree that her mentioning the possibility of “some dragon” challenging the current rulers in the near future may take care of the witness issue, and maybe gain some additional info. Therefore, her goal at the party is to locate some merchants trustworthy enough to confide in.

First, however, comes the formal dinner, a time for inane conversations and polite platitudes, which Deliara spends weaving the tale of her harrowing journey from the coast. I block out most of it, partly because I don’t want to strain my links with the Crew any more that necessary tonight, and partly because I’ve heard that story – or some version of it – many times before.

With all the food eaten, the guests drift away from the table, wine glasses in hand, gathering into small groups and heading for private rooms, quiet alcoves, and out of the way corners. This is the time for serious talk – for striking deals and forging alliances. Time for Mara to make her move.

[Socialite: 6+2+1=9 – Excellent]
It turns out that there were already two merchants she had “a good feeling about” since yesterday, and by now I’ve learned to trust her feelings. She quickly gets their attention by implying that she wishes to discuss her employer’s plans for future cooperation (technically true, I suppose), and they all retire to a private study on the far end of the building.

Mara knows better to downright admit her deception – she presents the information as knowledge her employer is privy to and wishes to capitalize on, and is willing to share in exchange for help in – or at least a lack of opposition to – establishing a presence in Ravada. The merchants, of course, want more, forcing Mara to perform some clever hedging. She can’t say anything that would jeopardize her employer, or the dragon. Giving up the dragon’s identity is out of the question. Stabilizing taxes, trade, and in fact the entire Dominion will, naturally, be the top priority. Chances of the dragon actually prevailing against the siblings? Oh, pretty good, she’d say. Trust her on that. When? Soon – all that’s needed is an… opportune moment.

By skillfully feeding the merchants half-truths, stressing the need for secrecy, and allowing them to reach the conclusions she wants them to, Mara is able to glean the following:

- The merchants make a few of their own guesses about when the challenge will be issued, finally settling on one week from now, during the Equinox Feast. It’s a traditional yearly event at the fortress, which gathers the most prominent people in the Dominion in one place. From what Mara learns, Oramar and Ethelira chose to maintain that tradition since it gives them the opportunity to remind everyone who’s in charge (never mind the conspicuous absence of the clan lords ever since they took over).
- At the same time, despite Deliara’s assurances, they’re skeptical about any challenger’s ability to prevail against both dragons and, at the same time, apprehensive about the new ruler being even worse than the current ones.
- One of the merchants, in a sudden flash of insight, asks whether this has anything to do with the envoy from the Redelian Dominion that arrived at the fortress last month. Mara puts on her best “I can neither confirm, nor deny” face and gets him to reveal that the envoy is human, arrived with minimal entourage, and has only been granted private audiences with the siblings, so no one knows the reason for his visit, although everyone is curious.
- I query Arcel, who informs me that Redelia is ruled by Vellenar Tamezer of the Nezario lineage. I realize that I know him – or of him, to be precise. He was one of the biggest proponents of the Agreement, and the amount of influence and prestige he had even back then were the main reason many initially undecided or unwilling dragons eventually went along with it. He’s been ruling his Dominion for longer that I am alive, and I don’t think he had a single challenge issued against him in the past thirty years.

Right around that time Irga contacts me, saying that unless I’ve reconsidered the whole idea – and she knows I’ll disappoint her – I should get on with the spellcasting.

I leave Mara to try and weasel out the identities of the dragons’ privileged merchants and whatever else she can from her conversation partners, and begin the final preparations for the spell. And while you wait for this evening’s main attraction, here’s a brief overview of what the rest of the Crew got up to.


Cyrena and Ramirez

>>332026
I agree that I shouldn’t get involved with outlaws. Too much risk for too little gain. Working for Herid is the only other use I have for these two right now, so that’s what I have them do.

Herid is happy to hear they accept, and after some haggling over wages and benefits, immediately finds a use for them as messengers. They spend the day delivering letters and packages to a number of mercenaries from various companies, as well as visiting a leatherworker to check on whether Herid’s new harness is ready, and a barber to schedule a visit to sharpen Herid’s claws. The drake also says that he has some errands for them to run in the city, but the riot causes him to delay that until tomorrow.

[Information Gathering: (4+8)/2=6 – Average]
The kobolds don’t discover anything groundbreaking about their new employer. He’s barely forty, he’s been in the business for several years now, and he hires himself out as a scout, skirmisher, or chargebreaker, so about par for the course for mercenary drakes.

I’ll consider offering him a job if I win the challenge, but I doubt he’ll accept – I don’t think there will be many brave enough to willingly associate with me once word gets around about that one drake who considers herself equal to dragons.


Arcel
For lack of any better ideas, I tell Arcel to question the ex-servant about the clan lords and their declaration of independence.

[Information Gathering: 7 – Good]
This results in yet another torrent of curses and lamentations about how the new rulers have brought this fine Dominion to the brink of ruin. Arcel patiently presses the man for details, eventually learning the following facts:

- The declaration took place two weeks after Oramar and Ethelira won the challenge. According to the servant, this was the first time in living memory that the normally fractious clan lords all agreed on one thing.
- In fact, shortly afterwards, the clans fell to fighting one another for control over villages, pastures, fields, and mines. The conflict has been fairly subdued so far, the clan lords ever wary of Oramar, who they’re sure would pounce on a sufficiently weakened clan, seeking revenge for his humiliation. However, with no response from the fortress, the bolder lords are beginning to escalate beyond simple night raids and border skirmishes.


Irga
Alright, I’m ready. Here’s the situation: after recovering from yesterday’s ordeal, Irga spent the day sneaking around the fortress, attempting to locate Octavio Mares.

[Infiltration: 4+2+1[/b] – 7 – Good]
She succeeded in both identifying the Seneschal, and finding his quarters. She’s there right now – hiding under his bed, in fact, while he goes over the supply orders for the upcoming feast with the castle’s quartermaster. Irga says that they’re just about finished, and she thinks Octavio is going to sleep afterwards. This means opportunity to approach him when he’s alone.

The problem is, Irga isn’t what you’d call a smooth talker, and neither am I for that matter. And I can’t ask Mara to assist, because her particular talents work only if she can physically see and hear the person she’s talking to.

So here’s what’s going to happen: I’m sending you lot to Irga. You’re going to help her convince Octavio to help us.

I don’t think I have to tell you how important – and how risky – this is, so I’ll just say, don’t fuck up. Because if you do fuck up, I won’t be able to help Irga in any way for at least a day, and maybe longer.

And I know you have a history with her, but this isn’t the time to dig up old grievances. Stay focused.

Are you ready for this?
>>
No. 336613 ID: 44766a

Wait, What old grievances? We Don't Remember This Shit! This is the kinda stuff we need to be told about. Other than that, yes.
>>
No. 336708 ID: 6e44d2

Let's do it.
>>
No. 336754 ID: 07416a

>>336597
Just ask for his support. As a token of good faith, offer to fulfill his requests. Scratch his back so he'll scratch yours. Make it clear that you do not expect his loyalty immediately.
>>
No. 336897 ID: 6bf918

>>336613
If you don’t know, then… all the better, I suppose. Just try to behave while you’re there with her, would you?

Now…


Begin with the elixirs.

First. Dogwood, basil, dried cledalla, a few drops of my own blood. Effect: clarity of mind, awareness of self. Awareness of self-but-not.

Second. Baorol bile, powdered opal, my blood, Irga’s blood. Effect: our bond resonates, stark and clear in my mind.

Third. Ice berry seeds, Ozaia’s Star powder, egg of an obsidian serpent. Effect: heightened perception of Essence, heightened endurance to its touch.


Next. Find an Essence thread. Easy. They are everywhere. No, not this one. Too large, too strong, it will burn you in moments. There – that one. See how it glitters, so thin and fragile, barely thicker than a human hair. That one you can use just long enough.


Next. Reach out, seize the thread. Let it flow into your hands. Your hands now burn. Ignore the flames, the flames are not real. The pain is real, but pain is the price..


Next. Reach into your mind, seize the self-but-not. Separate. Not completely. Leave a cord, a tether to bring it back, to show the way home. Your body now burns. Ignore the flames, the flames are not real. The pain is real, but pain… pain is discipline.


Next. Grasp the bond, pour power into it, mold it, shape it into a conduit. Feel the mind waiting on the other end, apprehensive, but prepared. Y-your mind now burns. Ignore the flames. …ignore them. The p-pain…is real. Pain. Is…

Power.


Finally. Send the self-but not through the conduit. And surre-



[DISJUNCTION]
>>
No. 336898 ID: 6bf918

You here yet? Yes, no? I can feel you, you know. So let’s get this fucking over with.

The mark’s alone now. Still not asleep though. In the other room, at his desk. I hear him shuffle papers every now and then.

How do I do this then, huh? Wait longer? Reveal myself now? And what do I tell him when I do? C’mon, you’re always so full of your brilliant plans and shit.
>>
No. 336982 ID: 07416a

>>336898
Yeah, just reveal yourself. Rather than plan out the entire conversation I'd much rather advise as it goes on, if that's okay. The gist of our plan is this: Just ask for his support. As a token of good faith, offer to fulfill his requests. Scratch his back so he'll scratch yours. Make it clear that you do not expect his loyalty immediately.

We want to develop a two-way relatively equal relationship. Make this man feel respected for once.

Now, we know all these people are fucking racists and it's considered an insult to send a kobold as an emissary. I think that's total bullshit and you guys deserve much more respect, but that's the current standard. So, you're going to have to apologize for being a kobold, as vile as that is. Say that your master does not mean to offer insult, it is simply that you are the only person skilled enough to infiltrate.

If he is totally unwilling to converse with you, say that there is a drake who represents your master in the city and set him up with a meeting with Alterada.
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