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820566 No. 820566 ID: d36af7

Long ago, a great sorceress named Salina used a miracle shell called the 'Orb of Infinite Psyche' to ennoble the cosmos, easing the process of initiation into sorcery by ensuring that all who sought tutelage would be able to find it. For me, that's you: the Voices of the Working. Always present, usually helpful, sometimes brilliantly incisive or possessed of impossible secrets, more often diffuse and distractable. Still, I'll take all the help I can get. https://www.patreon.com/user?u=4587981
A more conventional single-protagonist quest this time. Suggestions from my patrons may be weighted more heavily, but sufficiently persuasive arguments founded on in-setting logic will bypass vote-tallying entirely, regardless of who they're from.

Expand all images
No. 820567 ID: d36af7

Five days hence I will be summoned. Scant few moments to prepare, then I need to get going. What equipment should I bring?
*A brass-thread mycelium. Pretty sure I'll need it, don't know precisely why.
*Imperfect azure-glass ward against some category of mundane weapon. I've got arrows, axes, chains, hammers, knives, needles, or swords. Usually I'd go with an arrow ward, but I'm pretty sure they don't just randomly rain from the sky so much out in the Second World.
*Boots. Spiky vitriol-hardened iron (kicking), bouncy Mela-blessed brass (running), or pulsing veined leather (path-carving)?
*Some light and stylish armor. Brazen leaf bikini, silk catsuit, jade-steel chain tunic, translucent gossamer poncho, or something else?
*Something in my other hand. Bottle of booze? Puzzle-box palanquin? Razor-edged folding fan? Bundle of tree-grain stalks? I hear metallic vegetation, gold especially, is rare and valuable in the Second World, even though they're basically weeds around here. Set of acupuncture needles? Those could also work for tattooing, which tends to be useful if the summoner screws up and I slip away to organize a cult. Spare pair of boots, or alternate weapon ward? Can't benefit from more than one at once, but I might want to switch back and forth as the situation develops, or share with somebody. Hatchet, valgrind coupler, or some other basic tool? If enough of you help me concentrate through the travel-trance, I could probably filch any reasonably common item on my way out.
*Or, instead of any of that, I could cram a random array of trinkets in a big sack, leaving hope of elegant plans in the gutter for Kamilla.
No. 820569 ID: b27cac

Arrow ward - Running away is always hampered by being shot at.
Brass boots - To reduce travel times when things aren't exactly five days away.
Brazen leaf bikini - it's a classic and matches the boots.
Acupuncture needles - They'll be useful for the sorts of tasks for which neomah are usually summoned.
No. 820599 ID: 3abd97

>Five days hence I will be summoned
For what, and by whom?

>what take
*Brass-thread mycelium
*Imperfect azure-glass ward: arrows
*Boots: Mela-blessed brass (running)
*Some light and stylish armor: Brazen leaf bikini
*Something in my other hand: Razor-edged folding fan

Being warded against ranged attacks cuts down on being attacked in ambush, or while retreating. Weapons close enough for melee you have more options to respond to based on your skills. Boots of running are good for travel, offense, and escape. A concealed weapon is good for elegance and being deadly. As for the bikini... well, I guess we're just brazen.
No. 820674 ID: d22dc0

*A brass-thread mycelium. Pretty sure I'll need it, don't know precisely why.
*Imperfect azure-glass ward against arrows
*Boots: bouncy Mela-blessed brass
*Some light and stylish armor: jade-steel chain tunic
*Something in my other hand: Needlework kit for tattooing and sewing
No. 820686 ID: d36af7

>For what,
A year and a day of micromanaged service or a single task of indefinite scope, as a gesture of ongoing submission to the hateful Lightbringer who has never known defeat.
>and by whom?
Details yet unclear. One of the neo-olchiliké, most likely. Possibly a god, or a dragon king. Conceivably someone who learned sorcery entirely by Salina's Working and their own will, like Mother Bog or the Eye of Paragon, which is a rare treat, since the binding would be invalid.

>ranged attacks
Axes, knives, and needles can also be thrown, and needles in particular can also be launched by air pressure or various other mechanisms.
Poison-tipped pneumatic needles are a classic assassination trick, since their deployment is not heralded by the sound of a bow being drawn.

Regardless, while I haven't fully mastered the innermost secrets of Crane Style, I do know the Fluttering Cry of Warning which negates the element of surprise for attacks upon myself or nearby allies, and the Crossed Wings Denial which can block any single attack. I'll be fine unless somehow goaded into striking first. In a prolonged siege I could use the less perfect but more efficient Jade Mountain Style instead.

Faced with overwhelming numbers, I could allow myself to be struck, and then subvert them with an Outrage-Kindling Cry, the ultimate technique of Fainting Maiden Style. Of course, I try to avoid using such a secret forbidden style unless there aren't any witnesses, or the situation is so dire that restraint would mean certain death. Same deal with my own sorcerous initiation.
No. 820695 ID: af6e04

Do you have any idea of what you'll be doing when you're summoned? What's this Second World like? My vote is for random trinkets.
No. 820712 ID: d36af7

>Do you have any idea of what you'll be doing when you're summoned?
Not yet. There may be opportunities for negotiation with the summoner, after I arrive but before being bound.
>What's this Second World like?
One layer - well, three if you count the ghost-gutter and the Stolen City - more than ten thousand miles wide, but the accessible portion is less than a mile thick in most places. Five elemental poles: Air in the north, Water in the west, Fire in the south, Wood in the east, and Earth in the center. Day and night on the primary layer follow a strict 25-hour cycle (only disrupted twice in tens of millions of years, not counting brief scheduled eclipses), which is marked mainly by changes in the color of the sky rather than the screaming of tomescu. All sorts of other strange features, which I could elaborate on as necessary. There's a certain internal logic once you get used to it. The world's open edges are surrounded by progressively more severe primal chaos, which lacks that consistency. I'll be arriving at midnight, most likely inside some sort of artificial structure. As a non-native spirit, I'll be naturally immaterial there, but the summoning compels me to compile a physical form on arrival (only the Unquestionable Lypothymie and a few others are exempt, as to do so would go directly against their nature). I can maintain tangibility for a little over two months without further effort.
No. 820742 ID: af6e04

>Water in the west
Well going off the name of the quest, we might want to bring a boat or something.
No. 820758 ID: d36af7

With the wards, it's probably best to go for something common (like knives) or something harder to defend against via mundane means (like arrows or axes).

I have no idea which armor is best. The bikini is more exciting, but the poncho sounds practical?

Path-carving boots sound really useful, if they can do things like walk on water or through lava or stuff like that. Don't they turn stuff into stone normally? If so, that means they might cause problems, but also have a lot of puzzle-y uses, and make surviving all sorts of terrain easier.

>> *Something in my other hand
A Sesseljae! (You cannot get ye stomach bottle.)

Maybe see if you can find some other helpful (not-actual-demons) bugs laying around, like some Builder Bugs (they're like an adorable little microbot factory) or a Mayfly Mask (it's like a butterfly gasmask and a food/drink filter). More generally, it's probably better to grab too much stuff than not enough, unless you grab something super-deadly.
No. 820759 ID: d36af7

I'm walking through the Endless Desert carrying a jade-steel chain shirt upside down, slung over my shoulder, with the neck and sleeves laced shut. It's loaded up with my entire collection of weapon wards, a razor fan with the acupuncture needles tucked inside (plus an extra?), gossamer poncho wrapped around the brass-thread mycelium as padding so it doesn't activate prematurely, path-carving boots, a dozen doses each of sypax, riot pepper, and barrier sands, two or three kitten-sized beetles crawling around trying to encase everything in resin, and the Lament something-or-other.

I'm wearing the brass bikini, arrow ward, mayfly mask, and air-blessed boots, of course. Can't remember what that thirteen inch cube was supposed to be for, though it seemed obviously worthwhile at the time, despite significant weight.

I see a turtle laying on it's back, and I'm too busy to help because four days hence I will be summoned by a woman who was Chosen by the Dragons. What's her elemental aspect?
No. 820762 ID: 3abd97

>What's her elemental aspect?
No. 820833 ID: a267b7

The turtle's a sign, she's definitely water.
No. 820849 ID: d22dc0

The fifth element, known by many names across different cultures, which fills the spaces between the worlds: Akasha, aether, void, perhaps even quintessence.
No. 820866 ID: d36af7

There are twelve known elements, or seventeen if you count necromantic inversions (of which 'void' is the worst). Dragon-blooded who are capable of conventional sorcery can only be aspected toward the five gaian elements: air, earth, fire, water, and wood.
No. 820870 ID: 17c2ee

The tortoise is an ancient and venerable symbol of earth, and a frequent dweller of deserts such as Cecelynne. A turtle's close enough, earth it is.
No. 820888 ID: d22dc0

The turtle is a symbol of steadfast, unyielding longevity and is associated with the earth. If we are indeed set on basing our decisions on roadside animals, then it may represent the Earth aspect of our summoner.
No. 820890 ID: d36af7

Three days hence I will be summoned by an Earth-aspected exalt who was disgraced, exiled, and now works as a Guild mercenary.

What's her name, and how does she defy the stereotypes of her aspect?
No. 820906 ID: 3d2d5f

Well, to start with, what are the stereotypes of her aspect?
No. 820921 ID: d36af7

It can already be inferred that she studies sorcery and has some prurient interest in demons, interests which are considered more typical of Air and Wood aspects, respectively. Further detail on either subject could be very relevant.

Earth abides. Mountains withstand the press of time, changing little
even since the First Age. Stone and earth are the ever-enduring fundament
upon which all Creation depends. The Earth Aspects reflect this
unchanging nature. The Children of Pasiap understand the importance
of tradition and ritual; they provide a framework upon which society and
culture is supported and depends. Actions become habit, which become
rituals, which become traditions, because they are important, and because,
in the end, they work. Things that do not work pass into oblivion.
The Earth-aspected Terrestrial Exalts are living embodiments of stability
and tradition, adhering to practices and methods that have become
honored and time-tested over the centuries. They follow the intricate
dance of courtship rituals because the process produces stable relationships.
They study the teachings of the Immaculate Dragons because those
teachings are proven methods of gaining spiritual understanding. They
train themselves in martial arts because the study is proven to prepare the
student physically and mentally for both life and war.
How exactly an Aspect of Earth approaches tradition and ritual is
personal, of course. For some, ritual is like the dirt beneath one’s feet,
adapting and giving where necessary to smooth one’s path. For others,
it is akin to clay, malleable and shifting when necessary, but not
without effort. And for many, tradition is like granite, solid and
unyielding, fixed in form and function for the Ages.
The Children of Pasiap value those things that endure.
Lasting friendships are more important than brief alliances.
Centuries-old magic, tactics and weapons are encouraged
over experimental sorceries, unproven strategies and untested
arms. Obliteration of ones enemy is preferred to a
temporary victory, and long-term economic stability is preferred
to short-term windfall profits. Frivolities and fancies have their
place, but they pale when compared to matters of lasting import.
The eternal value of spiritual enlightenment is judged more
important than any material matter.
Earth-aspected Terrestrials are the backbone and granite
souls of their societies. Their staunch upholding of their beliefs
forms a solid foundation to their culture upon which others can
build. Traditional and steadfast, the Children of Pasiap believe that
the old ways are often the best ways, and they stubbornly defend the
ways and beliefs to which they hold. If a new thing can stand on its
own, they reason, it could be worthy of protection at some future
date. If it cannot, then it was never worthy of consideration.
Earth-aspected members of sworn brotherhoods are the stony
pillars from which their brothers and sisters draw strength—if not
exactly comfort. Their iron conviction and steadfast devotion
propels the group toward the completion of any action to which
it commits. Earth-aspected Terrestrials rarely enter into the bonds
of the sworn brotherhood lightly, out of respect for the traditions
of the bonded circle, but once they commit to such a group, their
dedication is unwavering and absolute.
Failings: Earth-aspected Dragon-Bloods are well respected for
their devotion and dedication to that in which they believe. Unfortunately,
this iron will can make them exceedingly diffi cult to work
with. The Children of Pasiap are notorious for being stubborn and
bullheaded. Once an Aspect of Earth has made up his or her mind about
something, changing it can be like trying to move a mountain.
The Immaculate Dragons: Earth Aspects who follow the
path of Hesiesh are hidebound traditionalists, placing little trust
in the contemporary and untested, preferring that which is timehonored
and proven. Those who walk with Daana’d press beyond
their breaking point, seeking enlightenment through grueling ritual,
asceticism and challenging sorceries. Emulators of Mela are seekers
after personal perfection, seeing mastery of themselves in mastery
of tradition. The followers of Sextes Jylis are inquisitors and missionaries,
stressing the power of tradition while they strike down
the unrighteous. And the followers of their progenitor, Pasiap, are
builders and architects of great buildings, trade associations, armies
and political coalitions.
Aspect Markings: Children of Pasiap tend toward two body
types—the compact and stocky, and the massive and powerful.
Their skin is often of a stony tint—the brown of freshly turned
loam, the blue-gray of slate or the gray-white of granite. This
tone becomes even more pronounced as they grow older. Their
skin hardens as they age and grow in power, taking on a stony
texture ranging from that of polished marble to the rough texture
of sandstone or hewn granite. Aspect elders often smell of turned
soil, moist clay or sand.
Aspect Anima: The anima of an Earth-aspected Terrestrial
erupts in a mantle of yellow and white light, glittering like a gemstone
or shifting like sands in the wind. Massive expenditures produce
phantoms of badgers or bulls, great stone constructs, earth dragons
or the Imperial Mountain. Such displays are often accompanied by
the sounds of avalanches, earthquakes or volcanoes.
An Aspect of Earth can spend five motes to attune his or her
anima to the nearby stone, taking on the durability of the earth
itself. For the duration of the scene, the Exalt may soak all lethal
damage with her full Stamina. She may also add her Essence to
dice rolls to resist grappling attacks or to avoid knockback. Finally,
she may add her Essence to her Stamina for all purposes, but only
while her feet rest on either earth or stone.
Aspect Abilities: Earth Aspects are builders and makers. They carry the strength of the Earth in their blood and their beliefs, making them enduring beyond measure. Their insight and perception gives them a keen strategic sense. Aspects of Earth have an affinity for the Abilities of Awareness, Craft, Integrity, Resistance and War.
Associations: The color white, the Maiden of Battles, the season of Earth and the central direction
Sobriquets: Children of Pasiap, Ivory Dragons, Stone Fists
No. 820983 ID: 3abd97

That sure is a big block of copy-pasted text with carried over line-width formatting.

>how does she defy the stereotypes of her aspect?
Where the earth is usually a traditionalist, she sees herself as something an innovator. A bohemian. She explores the new and the usual.

Physically, where the earth usually tends towards bodies that are compact and stocky, or the massive and powerful, she appears more delicate. Delicate crystal, of hidden strength, rather than a hewn block of stone.
No. 821055 ID: d22dc0

She embodies the earth for she is as stubborn and unchanging as any mountain. She eschews her aspect because she is impatient and spits on traditions. Like a mountainside soon to crumble and rain down upon unwary travelers, she is earth; once her path is set she cannot be stopped, regardless of what it means to her health or others in her way. But unlike the mountains and land she embodies, she could spring into action at any moment- coiled, dynamic, a rock slide waiting to happen.
No. 821085 ID: d36af7

What's her actual name, though?
No. 821087 ID: aa83b6

No. 821094 ID: d22dc0


Eight Vibrant Hearts
No. 821103 ID: d36af7

Two days hence I will be summoned by the sorceress known to some as Brant. Her only child has anomalous hair (slimy, prehensile, up to ten yards long), boundless energy, and a knack for architecture. What is the child's name and, less relevantly, gender?
No. 821127 ID: 3abd97

>Her only child has anomalous hair (slimy, prehensile, up to ten yards long)
The choice to wear the bikini just went very right or very wrong.

>What is the child's name and, less relevantly, gender?
Poetry Jade Daughter
No. 821136 ID: d22dc0

Fallow Echo, or Fal for short, with gender being ambiguous.
No. 821253 ID: d36af7

Tomorrow I will be summoned, but not for my chartered purpose as a neomah, to give pleasure and weave flesh. Certainly not for my own sorcery, which I've been obligated to conceal, on pain of death, as far back as I can reliably remember, and which the mechanism of summoning cannot even discern, for the secrets of sorcery were not yet known to those who wrote the oath.

Rather, primarily for my skill at martial arts. There aren't many who'd choose a demon courtesan as their champion in battle. Other species, such as blood apes and clamorous cloud arsenals, have natures more suited to violence, and no less capable of advanced training.

Why did my summoner choose to let maternal love for E-ko overpower the combination of academic ambitions, faith in the Immaculate Philosophy, and loyalty to the Scarlet Empress's Realm?
No. 821254 ID: b27cac

Because it's been a long and slow process of erosion of faith. A child such as that doesn't have a human father, whether it be god, demon or something partially unshaped by the formlessness of the edge of the world.
No. 821312 ID: d36af7

Because she takes her responsibility as a mother that seriously and genuinely cares that much about the kid, more than that all those other priorities.
No. 821324 ID: fc3fc0

What wouldn't you do, to give the person you love most a chance at a better life?
No. 821463 ID: 3abd97

>my own sorcery, which I've been obligated to conceal, on pain of death, as far back as I can reliably remember
What's your particular brand or style of sorcery, and why are you obligated to conceal it?

>There aren't many who'd choose a demon courtesan as their champion in battle
You might be being employed as a champion in an arena where some measure of subtly is needed, or where there are significant social or political factors in play beyond mere physical violence. Bodyguards who can fit in, and play the game have different options than those who only have raw power.

...it could also be you're expected to provide something of an education for the child.

>Why did my summoner choose to let maternal love for E-ko overpower the combination of academic ambitions, faith in the Immaculate Philosophy, and loyalty to the Scarlet Empress's Realm?
Her loyalty has ebbed somewhat over the years, as her nature (as previously described) has lead her to break from tradition in the past, and found herself sometimes at odds with some dedicated servants of the realm. Such conflicts have left her loyalty to her kin greater than her loyalty to the realm.

As for Philosophy, well it of course is meant to be tested and explored, is it not? And such exploration might potentially aid academic ambitions, if something of value is learned. She can't help but try something different.
No. 821567 ID: d36af7

>What's your particular brand or style of sorcery,
Emerald circle, the lowest. Mainly influenced by the Salinan school, but for most practical purposes, only the degree of initiation and selection of spells available are significant.
>why are you obligated to conceal it?
It is forbidden by the Unquestionable for lesser demons than themselves and their component souls to be initiated into sorcery. I also have... vivid memories (presumably acquired through overexposure to dream-rain) of life as a human, from before the Great Uprising, subject to similar laws except that rather than the Unquestionable. policies were set by what are now known as Anathema. As for what I can recall of how I was initiated, well... that can wait. We're here.

I have been summoned, and... what is this crap? I haven't seen a binding circle so sloppy since Abscissic Plates were first developed, sixteen hundred years ago! No finesse at all, just raw geomantic power, and barely even enough of... oop. In that momentary distraction my will breaks and I'm bound to the task of delivering a particular soulsteel canister to the uttermost West, so that it's noxious contents may be safely disposed of.

Summoner herself is now irrelevant, except to the extent that she may aid or hinder me in that task by other means. I have no idea where the relevant canister currently is, and she may be willing and able to tell me, so it'd probably be wise to stay on her good side for at least the next few minutes.

>dune cannibal x2 appears
>a battle is joined!
>Brant starts casting Flying Guillotine
>dune cannibal attacks Brant with spear
>Brant is impaled
>Brant loses concentration
>miscast spell appears
>miscast spell attacks dune cannibal with raw essence
>dune cannibal is burned, knocked down, and overwhelmed by nausea
>miscast spell attacks Brant with raw essence
>Brant is bruised, knocked down, and stunned
>miscast spell dies.

Apparently I am surrouned by idiots.

>dune cannibal attacks neomah with spear
parry > can't parry a bladed weapon with bare hands!
dodge > not enough floor space to dodge!

Right, I'm also surrouned by a binding circle. Guess I'll just have to take one on the chin and... ooh, there's an idea.

charms > Jade Mountain > Pasiap Still Stands (redirect damage to the ground beneath your feet)
>floor is impaled
>floor cracks and splinters
>binding circle is destroyed
charms > Fainting Maiden > Table-Turning Reversal (counterattack to disarm your assailant and gain a temporary form weapon)
>dune cannibal is disarmed
>neomah equips spear

My turn. Hm, what to do...
A)Kill the intruders, by directing the business end of this spear through an eye or perhaps the chest vitals. Quick and clean, better than they deserve. Minimizes further damage to sorcerous paraphrenalia. (The floor's already structurally compromised, a bit of blood can't make that much worse, but extended battle might wreck things on the walls and ceiling.) Downside: Deliberate initiation or escalation of violence means my best Crane Style tricks for not dying won't work for a while. Maybe an hour? Sometimes less, but never before the end of a major battle, if one is ongoing. Very bad if I've been summoned into a siege situation.
B)Chase off the pathetic mortals with something nonlethal, maybe a display of fire breath. Ransack cabinets for Mission Objective Canister, clues to it's location, or other items of interest, use any medical supplies therein to patch up Brant's wounds. Exalts recover easily from most anything short of dismemberment or death, but salves and bandages can still help that process along, and it's a clear symbolic gesture of goodwill. Downside: they'll get away and/or cause more trouble.
C)Move to block the only exit, force a confrontation, use Torn Lotus Defense and Outrage-Kindling Cry to subvert the raiders into expendable allies. Downside: Door opens outward. If more enemies are outside, someone will have a clear shot at my back.
D)Pause the physical action by weaving a shared dreamscape, then attempt seduction. Downside: while diplomatic, ethical, and personally gratifying, this would take a lot of energy (my reserves are already well below half, mostly from the effort of forming a material body) and is unlikely to accomplish anything of strategic value. Even if these raiders are part of some rival faction, with it's own agenda for the object I'm bound to transport... all that haphazard scarring, and use of bone rather than metal for spear-points, suggests that they are, frankly, savages. Pawns, not decision-makers, in any organization of significance. I'd be lucky if they can even understand Original Language.
E)Freeze up for a few crucial seconds to run a more comprehensive review of other conceivable options.
No. 821585 ID: 3abd97

>I haven't seen a binding circle so sloppy since[...]
A summoning in haste, in extremis, without necessary materials, by an inexperienced summoner, or under otherwise desperate circumstances? Might explain the previously observed incongruity in your being chosen as a champion. Also would be consistent with the fact your summoner was immediately attacked.

>what do
I think we want to prioritize keeping your summoner alive and in useful condition. If she put you on this task, we can presume she has some motivation to see it completed, and can nominally be considered an asset. And exalted make powerful assets, if used correctly.

That, and in addition to information about the location of the cylinder, she might have other pertinent information about this task. Like why she thought you were the best choice for the job. What obstacles she expects to oppose you.

I feel like the shoddy summoning and sudden attack is consistent with a possible siege or more enemies, which makes me not favor A or C.

Plan B, then.

>sorcery stuff
What means do the Unquestionables possess to monitor you and learn if you break their edict? Would you be willing to use sorcery, if you could arrange a situation where there would be no witnesses?

>summoning stuff
So what happens if you suffer some indignity like being speared repeatedly? Can you suffer a permanent death in this realm, or does your destruction just return you from whence you came?
No. 822160 ID: d36af7

Regarding plan D... if those Dune Cannibals are the usual type of Dune Cannibals ("Dune People") to be found in the Second World, they're descended from some escaped first-age slaves some particularly jerkish Solars made (and they're albinos vulnerable to daylight).

In other words, they most likely only speak "original language", Old Realm.

They are indeed pretty nasty folks normally, what with the desperate aggressive cannibalism around which their entire culture revolves, but you might be surprised what they could get up to if their basic needs (food and not-dying-from-sunlight) were more consistently met.

Anyway, diplomacy is always a good thing if you can pull it off... if you can avoid getting killed in the process, that is. So that's a tentative vote for plan D (for Doom Death Dumbassery Dreamworld Diplomacy).

(Speaking in my capacity as one of the 'voices of the working'... I don't expect most people would be familiar with Dune People, as they're a bit of a footnote even in Creation. But I have some relevant experience with derivative Dune People sub-cultures...)


No. 822171 ID: d36af7

>A summoning in haste,
Ritual takes six hours, sundown to midnight. To my knowledge only the greatest of the anathema ever devised ways to shortcut that.
>without necessary materials,
No, the basic materials are superb. Some of the best stuff that can be bought for cash in the black market of a major city like Chiaroscuro.
>by an inexperienced summoner,
Mostly this. The actual diagram looks like it was scribbled into being by a small child, and the summoning chamber's furnishings include almost none of the custom enchanting that a career sorcerer tends to accumulate.

>What means do the Unquestionables possess to monitor you and learn if you break their edict?
Orabilis, the End of All Wisdom, is mentally linked to countless floating eyes of living glass, which can perceive magic directly. Others have more conventional spy networks, or in a few cases the ability to remotely sense when a law they personally ordained, as a core expression of their own nature, is broken. Sorcery doesn't fall into that last category, but most spells are obvious to all while being cast, and even those optimized for conventional subtlety might as well be fireworks to essence-sight. Diligent monitoring of geomancy or astrology might pick up traces of a sorcerer's activity from beyond line-of-sight, or even hundreds of miles away.
>Would you be willing to use sorcery, if you could arrange a situation where there would be no witnesses?
I have a spell to seal a single room or small building against scrying (and incidentally, teleportation) for just that purpose. Even with precautions in place, though, secret forbidden techniques should generally be reserved for situations where the immediate consequences of not using them would be at least as bad as eventual consequences of being discovered. I didn't survive the past couple thousand years by allowing reckless greed to lead me into traps.
>So what happens if you suffer some indignity like being speared repeatedly? Can you suffer a permanent death in this realm, or does your destruction just return you from whence you came?
Mundane physical violence could at worst force me to dematerialize. I'd probably lose some equipment, and want to rest for a few days, but the mission could continue.

Violence from another spirit, or a mortal armed with spirit-cutting weaponry (such as any non-fraudulent exorcist) could damage my actual body, but if I was 'killed' that way I might be able to reform a year later around a suitable focal point: either a special talisman, which costs about as much as an imperfect azure-glass ward against magical weapons (enough to bankrupt a small but prosperous kingdom, when such things are for sale at all), or a sanctum combined with ongoing support from a cult.

Building a minimal immaterial sanctum here in the Second World would only take me a week, but it's not possible if I'm bound... well, not when I'm bound directly to a sorcerer's will through an Abscissic plate. Never heard of anyone who actually had the opportunity to try it while task-bound, so that might be an interesting experiment if I can rationalize it somehow. Setting up a cult so they'd be willing to continue offering prayers and sacrifices, even without my ongoing supervision and rewards, is a nontrivial matter of social engineering.

If an Immaculate Master, or one of the Anathema, strikes the core of my essence with the Ghost-Eating Technique or some equally atrocious equivalent, that'll be the end of me no matter what precautions are in place. Only options would be to win the actual fight, beg for mercy, or somehow flee. A sanctum's handy for that too, since only other spirits can slip inside without specialized sorcery, and it can be set up for defense as easily as any other building with a single choke-point entrance. If some hostile party does get inside, though, mundane violence against structural components could collapse the whole place in a matter of hours.

Banishment is a whole different thing. It happens automatically when my bound task is complete, or can be forced early by rare and inconvenient thaumaturgy, or straightforward sorcery. A sapphire circle sorcerer with the right spell can banish entire armies at once. At this point, I'll only be able to linger unbound in the Second World (without first returning whence I came and then escaping again) if my task somehow becomes impossible - for example, if the canister in question, or the West Pole itself, were destroyed.
No. 822375 ID: d36af7

I chase off the disarmed raider, root through cabinets for medical supplies,
and patch up the incapacitated raider, arranging bandages to limit range of motion and cause maximum discomfort with minimum injury in the event of an escape attempt. Interrogation can wait until he's done vomiting.

Brant gets some salves, a small disinfectant bandage for that stab wound, and a cold pack for her head. She's not all that badly hurt from the actual fight, but it seems like she's been getting too much sun, not enough water, and almost no sleep for at least the past week.

Summoning chamber is a cubic room, five yards on a side. Door leads out to another cubic room, an apartment/office. Seems like this is a refitted fortress wagon, meaning we're in a well-funded trade caravan, probably associated with the Silver Wall of Marst. There's a bed, a hole in the floor next to it which might function as a latrine, or an access-port allowing someone sleeping in the bed to touch the ground with one foot for earth-aspected reasons, or both. Wrought-iron spiral staircase leads up to the roof.

On the roof, there's a lightning ballista - a magical energy weapon, maximum effective range about one and a half nautical miles, moderately impressive in it's own day but a terrifying relic of ancient glory from the modern mortal perspective - sitting unattended on a pivot mount.

Looking around by moon- and star-light, the caravan is encamped, and under attack. I'm more or less at the center. Looks like a ring formation, four other fortress-wagons forming the corners, wall-wagons in four rows of five between them, unarmored wagons and noncombative dray beasts in the center, elephant cavalry engaging the raiders outside.

[]Stay at the center. Further medical attention for two injured people who might have crucial information, try to figure out significance of the odd way those interior wagons are arranged, maybe get the lightning ballista up and running.
[]Transport patients to the hospital-wagon, conveniently identified by a large banner near the west corner. Possibly rescue other people.
[]North corner smells like smoke, and high-proof alcohol spilled on the dusty ground. Check that out to prevent an uncontrolled fire.
[]East corner seems to be focused on carpentry. Something over there is squealing and throwing severed human limbs improbably high in the air.
[]South corner has a lot of colorful paper lanterns, and the most powerful - or at least most active - supernatural being in the area.
No. 822446 ID: d22dc0

We are under siege it seems. We have no binding or loyalty to these people, our only real connection being the summoning and related task. If they can help with your task, it may be worth expending effort, especially if slipping outside the siege proves more difficult or risky than staying within. In any case, Brant seems functional, and the assailant less so. Perhaps, in order to ensure you do lot loose the ability to defend yourself, Brant can execute the offending visitor, and advise you on how best to carry out your next step while you two travel to the medical wagon.

A powerful supernatural creature represents a possible threat to us, and therefore I do not advise we engage- likewise with whatever is squealing and throwing limbs. Lightning Ballista could prove useful, but once again poses the issue of stripping you of much of your defensive capabilities, and thus unless its use renders the need for self defense irrelevant, it is also inadvisable. Stopping a fire may be helpful for the defenders, but we have little reason to care about such things until they are more directly useful; if the defenders are killed we may end up endangered ourselves, but as it is, the simple possibility of a fire is not the same as a tide-turning flame which results in our demise.
No. 822474 ID: 3abd97

>it seems like she's been getting too much sun, not enough water, and almost no sleep for at least the past week
Well that will slow down her recovery, then.

Since you didn't find the canister on your summoner's person, or stored nearby, our immediate priorities haven't changed. Your summoner remains your best lead on the location of the canister and other information that will aid you in your task. You want to see to her survival so she can be questioned.

Not sure I like the idea of getting the lighting ballista up and running. It might be enough to turn the tide of the battle, but at the same time, it's very attention drawing. Shutting down artillery fire would quickly become a priority for the attackers, and the defenders might not react well to an unknown demon bound to an unknown purpose suddenly commanding a powerful weapon in their midst.

Transporting your patients to the hospital seems workable. It ensures care in the short term, it establishes you as not-immediately-hostile to at least one faction here, and the people there can maybe tell you what the hell is going on.
No. 822633 ID: d36af7

Hospital wagon first, then. Before committing to dragging an injured prisoner, I re-lock and lightly barricade the wagon's exterior door, tuck the Lament something-or-other away in an unused cabinet (it's as heavy as a person by itself), jump down from the roof, and run ahead to check if the route's clear. With these air-blessed boots, I can run at ten miles an hour almost all day long, thirty miles an hour in short bursts, and jump more than twenty feet straight up in the air from a standing start.

When I arrive, there are no doctors visible, and the infirmary more resembles a slaughterhouse. A dozen dune cannibals are hard at work gathering, preserving, and packaging food to take home for their children, leather to make tents with, and other vital war-making materials. Only one of the humans who came here for medical treatment still has all their limbs.

Compassion compels me to intervene, though it would be possible to resist the urge, and Temperance similarly compels me not to charge into danger without some kind of plan. These feasting raiders have not seen me yet.

Pursuant to that planning, would you like to know more about exactly what I can do in a fight?
>Native and/or Cult-granted capabilities
>Jade Mountain style martial arts
>Golden Exhalation style martial arts
>Orgiastic Fugitive style martial arts
>Black ClawFainting Maiden style martial arts
>Crane style martial arts
>Meditative Discussion style martial arts
>Victorious Concession style martial arts
No. 822638 ID: fc3fc0

Jade style seems to focus on standing one's ground, Golden seems to focus on wielding fire, orgiastic is based in the recent indulgence of sex and drugs, Meditative seems to work best when not being aggressive, and Victorious seems to be based on purposefully allowing harm to come of yourself, despite what an attacker may desire. None of them seem particularly well suited to dealing with a large lumber of dune cannibals. Instead of trying to incapacitate or kill such a large group, it may be in our better interest to pose as something worth chasing.

If we make our presence known, we can use meditative discussion style to defend ourselves whilst moving, and hopefully they will engage us, so we can lure them away from the medical tent. It seems unwise to use sorcery here, given what you said about being bound under the pain of death to keep such abilities from being revealed. If we can, we should try to lure them towards the potential fire, so that we have more options at our disposal, and have a chance to intervene there.
No. 822650 ID: d36af7

>None of them seem particularly well suited to dealing with a large lumber of dune cannibals.
Fainting Maiden Style has charms which affect all witnesses, most notably the pinnacle technique Outrage-Kindling Cry. That wouldn't interfere with Crane Style defenses because it's a social, rather than physical, attack. At close range, I could force them to direct their blades toward myself (rather than the humans being butchered) using Spoken In Kindness, one of the most basic techniques of Victorious Concession style. In close quarters like the inside of a wagon, no more than four of them would be able to effectively attack me at once.
>Instead of trying to incapacitate or kill
Compassion insists that my immediate goal here is to rescue, rather than brutally avenge, the people who are being eaten. If I can neutralize or scatter the butchers without actually hurting anyone, that's still a win.
>such a large group,
Large? They're not even a full platoon! Mere mortals, neither professionally trained nor well equipped, and surprise is working with rather than against me, so this is clearly a winnable fight. If I get injured, I'll recover within a few days, and genuine pain until then makes Outrage-Kindling Cry work even better.
>it may be in our better interest to pose as something worth chasing.
Competent raiders aren't going to pursue an unfamiliar opponent into hostile territory when they've already got a big prize in hand. Even if some of them did split off to pursue, at least one would stay behind to finish the meatpacking, which is not an adequate rescue.

If you think I should go for a properly (rather than "technically") nonviolent approach, I'd need to offer them something worthwhile in exchange for mercy and a missed payday. Most of my native abilities as a neomah involve sensual pleasure and the weaving of flesh, so I could offer medical care, body mods, or to sire beautiful and fearsome demon-blooded children on the women of their tribe. As a supernatural martial artist, I might help to renegotiate a shaman's deals with various petty spirits, or fight on their behalf during further raids headed in a generally westward direction (after finding and seizing the canister. of course).

I can't simply conjure alternative food... though I might gain the ability to do so, if enough worshippers sincerely expected it of me. Exaggeration and omission are a routine part of recruiting and maintaining a cult, but blatant lies, including any promise or long-term commitment that conflicts with my bound task, would mean going against my Temperance.
No. 822667 ID: 44917d

If only four or so could assault us at once, it may leave the problem that they still have others capable of carrying on their grisly work. If we engage the fainting maiden style, then indeed they may see us as so meek that there is no need for the others to engage; such an occurrence would directly hamper our desire to rescue individuals. I feel that combat is likely our best option, given that the spoils they have claimed are likely of significant value to them, and they may be difficult to persuade through less forceful means.

If we can use Jade Mountain Form from the Jade Mountain Style to encase ourselves in stone, will that violate the principles of fainting maiden? If we enhance ourselves with Jade mountain and wade into the midst of the combatants, we could redirect any attacks towards ourselves and protect everyone in the wagon, while using fainting maiden and meditative discussion to whittle away at them and keep ourselves safe. We can easily disarm and grapple individuals, and redirect attacks towards them, and when we transfer attacks away from the wounded towards ourselves we can then force them to attack each other with outrage kindling cry as you mentioned. Pasiap Still Stands and be used to break the ground of the wagon and ensure we can maintain contact with the earth and utilize the defensive capabilities of Jade mountain style.
No. 822713 ID: d36af7

>they may see us as so meek that there is no need for the others to engage
Outrage-Kindling Cry would compel them to defend me and assault my attacker. They might fight each other, or the rest of the raiding party, or that noxious thing on the south side, or even help stop a fire, depending on what they viewed as the most urgent threat to my safety. It only wears off after a minute outside sensory range.

>If we can use Jade Mountain Form from the Jade Mountain Style to encase ourselves in stone, will that violate the principles of fainting maiden?
Yes, that wouldn't work. The Crane, Orgiastic Fugitive, and Fainting Maiden styles of martial arts all require a degree of lightness and/or openness which is incompatible with armor. My brazen leaf bikini is one of a very few types of ultra-light protection which do not count as armor for such purposes. That gossamer raincoat I'm carrying, for example, also would not be compatible, despite being translucent, totally weightless, and much more comfortable to wear than the bikini, because it's constrictive on a metaphysical level, woven from dreams of isolation and invulnerability. Flimsy as the gossamer looks, though, it'll stop a knife better than some kinds of plate armor.
No. 822717 ID: 3abd97

>Native and/or Cult-granted capabilities
Honestly, aside from the fact you're sex associated purple demons, I'm not really sure what Neomahs are normally capable of.

Somewhat of a non-issue, considering you can't safely use it right now. Biggest practical question would be what can you accomplish with sorcery you can't by other means?

>Crane style martial arts
From previous comments and context- good for defense, so long as you don't go on the offensive?

>Jade Mountain style martial arts
Also from previous context- another defense focused school?

>Fainting Maiden style martial arts
This seems to be your go-to style. Biased mostly around counters, deception, luring enemies into ill advised attacks or letting their guard down?

>what do
Medical supplies could be valuable to you, rescuing the wounded and securing a place to treat further wounder could buy you favor with the caravan (and possibly your summoner, if she's allied with them) and attacking a hospital violates the rules of war as held by more civilized factions. I think you should intervene.

Some combination of Crane style and Fainting Maiden seems like it would work. A lone, scantily clad individual, running into a hospital in the middle of a battle? They expect you to be a victim.
No. 822830 ID: d36af7

>what Neomahs are normally capable of
Shapeshifting into anyone's ideal sexual partner (I am unusual among neomah in that my default form is male, but this is seldom a significant issue), tangling up a single subject's senses with illusions, spitting fire, deploying a small nautilus-shell-shaped tower from within our mouths, with a flame at it's peak, and withdrawing it when the time comes to move on. The core function, though, is to weave flesh: combining samples of skin, muscle, blood, semen, or suchlike into a new creature which has the best qualities of all the parents. Lasting modifications to an existing organisms would be based on the same skill, but would require tools...
> what can you accomplish with sorcery you can't by other means?
...if all I had was native Neomah abilities. Even without casting spells, without knowing how to cast any specific spell, sorcery is powerful. The Salinan Working altered the entire cosmos, but most sorcerers are content with lesser workings. For example, giving a man's blood the property that, when it is spilled, each drop transforms into a monstrous scorpion which hunts down and stings whoever caused it to be spilled. Famous case study, you see, he was so worried about assassins but never considered what might happen if he, say, cut himself while shaving. Anyway, sorcery could substitute for many essential bits of specialized genesis-tech lab equipment, and doing so might be passed off as unusual mastery of my innate powers, at least to a nonspecialist observer.

As for actual spells, only the three I've known longest - Lightning Spider, Spirit Sword, and The Violent Opening Of Closed Portals - are so overt and personal as to require privacy and discretion to the point of being unusable. Private Plaza Of Downcast Eyes is somewhat self-concealing, though it requires ritual implements for setup. Theft Of Memory can be performed from afar via an arcane link, and immersion in the Salinan school means I can pull some absolute shenanigans when it comes to arcane links. Sleep Of Stony Safety or the Sworn Brother's Oath are shared with a group, so if that group contains a dragonblooded sorcerer, I could simply attribute the spell to them. With help from illusions or memory-theft, they might even come to believe it themselves.

>From previous comments and context- good for defense, so long as you don't go on the offensive?
Uses bare hands, hook swords, or fans, commonly wielded paired, as a one-winged or broken-winged crane has certain... occult implications, with which few wish to visibly associate themselves. (The combination of a hook sword and a sai is, however, explicitly compatible with Meditative Discussion style, isn't that interesting?)
Fluttering Cry of Warning negates surprise as a factor for an attack on myself or anyone within fifty yards, provided the beneficiary has not attacked recently. Counterattacks are permissible.
Empowering Justice Redirection stores the force of an attack on me and returns it when I next strike the attacker, but cannot store more than one such load of aggression at a time, and blunts the attack so that it cannot kill.
The form provides graceful weightless movement, and defensive benefits when wearing clothing with long flowing sleeves.
Humbling Enlightenment Commentary makes it possible to provide eight hours worth of mundane martial arts training to someone in one minute, or more than a year's worth in a day.
Kindly Sifu's Quill provides a damage bonus when fighting in a manner consistent with Compassion, and the ability to arrange bruises as clearly legible calligraphy.
Crossed Wings Denial, the current limit of my understanding, is a perfect parry. It is costly - unsustainable in a prolonged battle - but blocks absolutely any physical threat, even things which cannot be blocked. Only the unexpected can defeat it outright. If I were trapped in a room, flooding floor-to-ceiling with caustic poison, I could use Crossed Wings Denial and the sludge would not touch me (or anyone within a few yards to whom I extended it's protection), at least until I ran out of energy. Very quiet, as such effects go, which is why I prefer Pasiap Still Stands for 'flagrant display of invulnerability'-based intimidation.
>Jade Mountain
>Also from previous context- another defense focused school?
More accurate to say it focuses on the brute strength of stone. Works as well with a variety of blunt weapons, clubs and hammers and so on, as with bare hands, but is dependent on secure footing.
Boulder-Crushing Grasp enhances damage when grappling, or provides a reassuringly firm handshake.
Sliding Glacier Grip prevents someone from escaping a grapple, even if they otherwise gain the upper hand.
Pillar of Marble Stance prevents knockback.
Fortress of One can add tremendous natural armor, but only while stationary. Bad for dodging.
The form essentially creates a suit of stone power armor.
Pasiap Still Stands you already saw.
Finally, the capstone, Falling Rockslide Onslaught, applies a 'sleeper hold' capable of subduing even the most hearty and tenacious opponent with crushing inevitability.
>Fainting Maiden style martial arts
>This seems to be your go-to style.
It was originally invented by Deer-Footed Mara, built around themes of perverse relationships and unjustly assaulted innocence. Mara also guided the first human sorcerer, so the style resonates with my nature on a number of levels.
Open Palm Caress is used at the beginning of a fight, accelerating situational awareness and persuading all witnesses that I'm not the one who started it.
Torn Lotus Defense is used upon successfully blocking or dodging an attack, persuading the attacker to feel more positively toward me. It is incompatible with Crossed Wings Denial.
Flexing the Emerald Claw delivers a subtle poison.
The form allows me to reflexively retreat when attacked, speed proportionate to how pretty I am, and erodes all positive feelings any witnesses may have toward my active opponents.
Storm-Calming Embrace enhances any attempt to hug someone without injuring them, and worsens whatever poison happens to be in their system.
Doe Eyes Defense provokes an attacker's emotions to momentarily hamper their competence, proportional to how pretty I am.
Table-Turning Reversal you've already seen. It also helps reassure any witnesses that I'm a good person.
And finally there's the capstone, Outrage-Kindling Cry, which has already been discussed. Naturally it works best on an audience which already loves me, hates my attacker, and/or thinks someone other than me started the fight.
>I think you should intervene.
Any proposals for specific tactics?
No. 822939 ID: 3d2d5f

>my default form is male, but this is seldom a significant issue
Well it does make the bikini a somewhat more interesting affectation.

>The core function, though, is to weave flesh: combining samples of skin, muscle, blood, semen, or suchlike into a new creature which has the best qualities of all the parents. Lasting modifications to an existing organisms would be based on the same skill, but would require tools...
Does that mean you would be in a position to put the people being harvested for parts here back together? Or failing that, that you could put the harvested pieces to use if you recovered them from the cannibals?

>Any proposals for specific tactics?
Crane style seems like it would work well here- intervention is compassion motivated and the cannibals are quiet likely to attack if you make yourself known. Might want to open with Open Palm Caress for the bonus, and to cement yourself as in the right to any injured witnesses?
No. 822969 ID: d36af7

>interesting affectation
Mostly practical. I spend a lot of time at work shapeshifted into forms with breasts, and I don't much enjoy being stabbed in the heart, lungs, or mid-upper spine, which a banana-hammock couldn't protect against by itself.

>Does that mean you would be in a position to put the people being harvested for parts here back together? Or failing that, that you could put the harvested pieces to use if you recovered them from the cannibals?
Tricky, but worth a try. At the very least I could keep the relatively intact parts fresh long enough for someone to summon a stomach bottle bug to do the actual reconstruction.
No. 823471 ID: d22dc0

I would suggest using a burst of speed to break into the middle of the wagon and hopefully occupy a space where you can re-direct attacks away from the wounded; Take a hit yourself, utilize outrage kindling cry to force them to attack each other, and try to direct the flow of battle outside the wagon. You can block the point of entry into the wagon with your body by utilizing Jade mountain style and Jade Mountain form after you've changed the theater so the people being harvested are no longer at risk.
No. 823715 ID: d36af7

A few bloody minutes later, I've got three naked albino captives/brainwashed minions/prospective cultists, one dismembered doctor, and one relatively intact friendly combatant. As for spare parts, there are more workable arms than legs - no surprise there, since overwhelming consensus is that all the best cuts of meat on a human are in the thighs. Fortunately, the doctor is reasonably open-minded, so it seems like he'll be able to adapt effectively to his new six-arm, no-leg body. Everyone else in the infirmary is going to be bedridden for at least a day, if they survive at all. As for the other one... Delzahn ethnicity, the semi-nomadic ruling class of an empire centered around the ancient glass towers of Chiaroscuro. Female, lithe dancer's build, enlightened essence with an elemental aspect, but not an actual exalt, implying either parentage or close personal patronage from a fire elemental.
>Delzahn Dancer equips embroidered face veil
>Delzahn Dancer equips gray silk chest wrap
>Delzahn Dancer equips gaudy translucent parachute pants
>Delzahn Dancer equips massive scimitar
"You saved my life, praise Tamas, and I'll serve at your command until that debt is cleared. These are strange days indeed, that I'm obliged to tarnish my honor by fighting alongside a demon."
>Delzahn Dancer has joined the party!
He's got a lot of bruises and scrapes, but nothing life-threatening, assuming adequate sanitation. Should I hand over a spare weapon ward, or something else from my bag of tricks, and if so, which?

More importantly, where to next?
[]We could go back to the central fortress-wagon, retrieve Brant, and bring her here for treatment as originally planned, but she might be safer staying put.
[]North quadrant has most of the "sutlery" (food and other day-to-day provisions, including significant quantities of high-proof alcohol) and a shrine wagon housing the caravan's patron spirit, Seventeenth Minute Sweetness Over Banked Coals, whose 'day job' is being the god of a particular variety of coconut creme pie. All that smoke is probably coming from some ritual, nervous priests trying to make themselves visibly useful before the crisis is over. Fire risk could be significant.
[]East corner is mostly carpentry, equipment maintenance for the 'sand-eating elephants,' and barrels full of salted fish. Raiders say they were attacking from the west and sweeping north, coordinated with with a force of walking corpses which was to attack from the east and sweep south. This would imply that whoever I saw flinging zombie chunks around with those tentacles was a defender, and outnumbered, given that the cavalry are busy outside.
[]South quarter is the caravan master's office, other administrative stuff, and high-security storage. Based on the raiders description, that powerful supernatural thing I sensed was an insane evil ghost, specifically a priest of Oblivion, also known as a nephwrack. They use necromancy, in some senses a dark mirror of sorcery, rooted in death and destruction rather than the Essence of a living world.

Since the canister I'm tasked to transport and neutralize is made of soulsteel, that ghost is probably looking for it too, might be closer to finding it by now, and almost certainly has an agenda incompatible with my own. The obvious thing would be to charge in right away, but I'm not quite so certain of my ability to win a stand-up fight with an experienced and highly motivated necromancer that rallying defenders, or taking out the ghost's reserve forces, would be an unjustifiable waste of time.

On the other hand, if it does crack the right vault while I'm dawdling, and knows exactly the wrong spell, it might carry the canister down into the Labyrinth. That would be very bad, near-certain mission fail even if I managed to follow.
No. 823955 ID: 3abd97

>These are strange days indeed, that I'm obliged to tarnish my honor by fighting alongside a demon.
Well don't worry, I've got nothing dishonorable planned on today's agenda.

>Should I hand over a spare weapon ward, or something else from my bag of tricks, and if so, which?
Better equipping your only ally at the moment might be prudent, especially if she's honor-bound to not just run off with it.

If there's more cannibals armed like the others, a spear-ward might be most beneficial?

>but I'm not quite so certain of my ability to win a stand-up fight with an experienced and highly motivated necromancer that rallying defenders, or taking out the ghost's reserve forces, would be an unjustifiable waste of time
Makes sense to me.

>[X]East corner is mostly carpentry, equipment maintenance for the 'sand-eating elephants,' and barrels full of salted fish. Raiders say they were attacking from the west and sweeping north, coordinated with with a force of walking corpses which was to attack from the east and sweep south. This would imply that whoever I saw flinging zombie chunks around with those tentacles was a defender, and outnumbered, given that the cavalry are busy outside.
Seems a good next place to check. We can stop a defender from being overwhelmed, and maybe gain another ally to use against that ghost.
No. 823971 ID: d36af7

He is dereth, a peculiar status unique to Delzahn culture. Born a girl, grown to a man. You can tell by the gray sash or other prominent bit of clothing. Often misunderstood by outsiders, sometimes with deadly consequences due to the Delzahn proclivity to answer insults by dueling. Embroidery on that face veil encodes his most notable deeds, though I'm not familiar enough with the system to decipher finer details. I personally learned about all that fascinating cultural context some hundred and seventy years ago, from a guest lecture by Gervesin (who had then only recently become the Grieving Lord) during my tutelage in Jade Mountain Style aboard the Engine Rising To The Wounded Sky. Speaking of spears,
>a spear-ward might be most beneficial
Indeed! Alas, I cannot give up to another that which I already lack.
>I've got arrows, axes, chains, hammers, knives, needles, or swords

Gervesin, of course, is the progenitor of body-snatching decanthropes, and messenger soul to Ligier, the Green Sun, greatest craftsman among the Unquestionable. That makes him in some sense a brother to Berengiere, the Weaver of Voices, who is Ligier's indulgent soul and progenitor of neomah. Though his lecture was, on it's surface, little more than a disorganized days-long ramble about the many virtues and peculiarities of that great glass city which the old soldier Kinnojo died defending, some deeper meaning within it catalyzed the enlightenment which allowed me to finally master the Outrage-Kindling Cry a mere week later, after centuries of frustration and meditative dead ends.
No. 824138 ID: 3abd97

>I've got arrows, axes, chains, hammers, knives, needles, or swords
Well, okay then. Too bad we don't have more intelligence on our foes.

Lessee, we're in a desert, and blowgun-needles typically come from the tropics. A hammer is a good weapon against heavy armor, less so against a dexterous sword dancer. Thematically, might expect our necromancer to have chains, but those would probably count as magic.

I'd guess knives or swords would be the most likely thing to crop up?
No. 824288 ID: d36af7

I toss him the knife-ward. He reads the inscription while we run eastward, then says "Wearing this thing would be a blasphemy against the laws of Heaven and everything I believe in. How effective is it, in practical terms?"
I explain that I've known archers who could fire four arrows at once so that each hit a separate thrown apple in mid-air, who struggled to strike me with even a grazing blow while I stood stock still out in the open with this arrow ward on, and when they did score a hit the impact was softer than a butterfly's kiss. He ties the knife ward to his belt just as we reach the central fortress-wagon. Brant has de-barricaded the door and is stumbling out through it.
"Is that your daughter with the long greasy hair," I ask her, "fighting zombies over between the carpenter's workshop and the saddlery?"
"How do you know anything at all about my child, demon?"
No. 824293 ID: d22dc0

A topic of conversation for another time. If it is indeed your daughter, she would likely be an asset in combating the nephwrack who is after this container. For reasons that should be obvious to you, I can assume neither of us want that necromancer to gain possession of it.
No. 824337 ID: 3abd97

>Wearing this thing would be a blasphemy against the laws of Heaven and everything I believe in
How fortunate for you that the blasphemy falls on my head for making you wear it.

>"How do you know anything at all about my child, demon?"
It's good to see you again, too, summoner. You're looking much better.

I don't think we have time for prolonged exposition now. Perhaps we can discus what I know and how, as well as what you know about my task, after we have resolved the immediate crisis?
No. 827619 ID: d36af7

>the blasphemy falls on my head
"Deflecting responsibility isn't exactly honorable behavior either. Ah well. Survive now, avoid having my corpse desecrated, atone later."
Iconoclast and demon-lover though she may be, Eight Vibrant Hearts is still an Earth aspect: inclined to respect strength of character, shun blatant temptation, and think tactically. As such, if I make this subject look like a dangerous delay and distraction, by framing the information in terms of my loyalty to the yozis, she's likely to stop prying, at least for now.
"We can discuss the price of," I lick my lips and draw out the L sound suggestively "...learning exactly what the yozis have told me about your awkward family situation some other time, preferably in private. Right now, I have reason to believe your child is in danger, and furthermore that you'll be more useful to my mission if you're not in mourning." I bow slightly and extend an arm to the east. "Shall we go to the rescue, then, or do you have more questions?"

>Brant has joined the party!

Brant is initiated into the emerald circle of sorcery, and has mastered the following spells:
Emerald Banishment
Emerald Countermagic
Eye of Alliance
Flying Guillotine
Impervious Sphere of Water
Purifying Flames
Summoning the Harvest

She's somehow managed to avoid learning any uses at all for the vast power of Exaltation besides sorcery, and... wait, what? Demon of the First Circle wasn't on that list. How did... holy shit, she doesn't even know how to summon demons without extensive thaumaturgical support. Her daughter's some sort of intuitive savant at geomancy, and several other Arts. Neither of them know any of the Abscissic Plates. No wonder that binding circle was a mess, it actually WAS drawn by a child!

Worry about that later. Time to move.

The east corner's fortress-wagon has been rolled aside, creating a crude gateway for cavalry to sneak in and out. There's an open area about ten yards in diamter, just big enough for two armored elephants to be geared up or stripped down without crushing the workers against adjacent wagons. Brant's daughter, E-ko, is standing precariously atop a reinforced 15' high stepladder, surrounded by a mob of sixty or seventy reanimated human bodies. Every time one of them starts to climb, she lashes out with her hair and dismembers it, but otherwise she's just wailing and trying not to fall. There's an elephant about to come in through the gate, but it's not alive either.

A) for agression. Hand off the spear to Brant, tell her to use Purifying Flames to keep the smell down, grab a carpenter's mallet and go Jade Mountain on the zombie horde. The delzahn knight's morale will likely improve, but this is slow and messy and costs me the Crane Style defenses which I might need in order to safely confront the nephwrack.
B) for the Brass-Thread Mycelium's ability to hijack that zombie elephant. Crush the little puffball near it's notstrils, let the spores drift inside. It'll grow progressively stronger, tougher, uglier, and eventually clumsier, seize up completely after about a week, then transform into a solid brass statue and produce two new brass-thread puffballs from the eyesockets.
C) for corruption. I've seen demon-bloods like this before. E-ko's hair probably has more than enough reach to extend and brace against the wagons on either side, and enough strength for her to lift her own weight. Just needs a little pep talk about embracing her father's powers.
D) Something else? Fainting Maiden won't be good for much here. Necrotech doesn't have minds or hearts, just rot and hunger.

With some very optimistic assumptions, I could teach either of my new companions everything there is to know about Golden Janissary Style in... mm, as little as 24 minutes, with several optimistic assumptions? More likely at least twice that, if the student in question isn't naturally inclined toward the martial arts, and they might run out of XP partway through. Shame we don't have that kind of time. The capstone technique, Lone Spark Lights the Conflagration, makes it relatively easy to take out large numbers of undead, demons, or other creatures condemned to darkness by the judgement of the Unconquered Sun. That intrinsic holiness also makes it impossible for creatures such as myself to use the style. I don't... remember exactly how I learned it. Or rather, I have memories of learning it, but they don't make much sense.
No. 827625 ID: 3abd97

>for corruption
Hmmm. Doesn't seem like we really have the timeframe for that now, and you don't know much about her personality or the specifics of her past that would really help in tailoring this kind of speech to the most effect.

Might be a good idea to attempt in other circumstances, if E-ko's going to be an asset for your longer mission.

>D) Something else?
Your proposed plans are all for engaging the zombie horde. Extracting E-ko by some feat of acrobatics, and then blocking the advancing horde rather than exterminating them might be more expedient? At least in terms of quickly gathering allies to deal with the nephwrack.

Say, if Brant summoned a wall of flames, a wall of stone, opened a chasm in the earth, or dropped an impenetrable orb of water in their way. Alternatively

>B) for the Brass-Thread Mycelium's ability to hijack that zombie elephant
I like this idea. Let the elephant deal with the lesser zombies for us, and we again another asset to throw at other threats when its done.
No. 827671 ID: d36af7

>Your proposed plans are all for engaging the zombie horde.
Not so much plan C, which is to use E-ko's own abilities in a nonviolent extraction. Pep talk might be as simple as "reach over here, no, not your hands, stretch out your hair as far as it can go, you can do it, I believe in you."
>Say, if Brant summoned a wall of flames, a wall of stone, opened a chasm in the earth,
She doesn't know how to do any of those things quickly enough to matter. With days of setup she could create such an effect as a one-off Working, or with weeks of research she could learn a spell to do so repeatably.

Could use some of that barrier sand I brought, though. I've got twelve palm-sized pouches, and each one is enough to create a wall of pebbled gray glass up to thirty feet long. It's always nine feet high and six inches thick, and erupts out of the ground with enough force to bend iron bars, so collateral damage might be a concern when using it to close gaps between wooden wagons.

One pouch of sand would be enough to split the zombie horde into two sections, and provide E-ko a reasonably convenient walkway over to nearby wagon roofs. Fully encircling the horde would take at least two doses. That undead elephant would be able to break through such a wall in a couple of minutes, and could probably survive a direct hit from the eruption, but if it were stuck straddling a wall it'd be too stupid to free itself without guidance.
>or dropped an impenetrable orb of water in their way.
Impervious Sphere of Water fills a 10' radius centered on her own heart, and only lasts as long as she concentrates. The water remains afterward, though. Refilling cisterns by casting that while standing inside is one of the main services she's been providing for the caravan.
No. 827980 ID: 3abd97

>Pep talk might be as simple as
Well, something that simple can certainly be attempted quickly, and should it not produce the results we want quickly, you'd still be able to attempt other interventions.

>That intrinsic holiness also makes it impossible for creatures such as myself to use the style. I don't... remember exactly how I learned it. Or rather, I have memories of learning it, but they don't make much sense.
Is it possibly you were previously something other than a Neomah?
No. 828019 ID: d36af7

The problem is that it gives up the element of surprise, might set the zombies all lurching in the same direction (toward the speaker) and thus knock over the ladder, and in the longer term, could be interpreted as an attack on the mother-daughter relationship.

Half-spirit mortals can cultivate their Essence or be endowed with additional power by spirit patrons, and eventually shed their mortality to become spirits themselves. The process generally takes months or years of intense work driving gradual growth and transformation.

I don't remember anything like that happening to myself, Last memories of being a human were separated from my earliest intact memories of being neomah by mere hours. If there's magic that can effect such a transformation, I don't know of it. More likely, I somehow drank too deeply of the last dream that man had while dying, memories mingled with bizarre fantasy. A world made of metal, marching off in tiny ships without oars or sails to war with vast Ishiika. Such strange dreams are often enough bottled and sold, in Malfeas. Perhaps I received it as a tip after servicing some heranhal, they're always carelessly generous with treasures they forge.
No. 829479 ID: af6e04

>for corruption.
>plan C, which is to use E-ko's own abilities in a nonviolent extraction.
Maybe it's best to hold onto our crane style things.
No. 829586 ID: 8c3ce4

>B) for the Brass-Thread Mycelium's ability to hijack that zombie elephant.
This seems like the way to go here. A hijacked zombie elephant is useful not only immediately against the zombie hordes but also afterward against other enemies or as a convenient means of transport after we leave this place.
No. 836640 ID: d36af7

'D' is for throw the kid one of your pairs of boots (the running boots to run away from the zombies, or the path carving boots to make an alternate path away from/past/over the zombies), and explaining how to use them appropriately. And making sure she knows to catch them (looks like she has a lot of options for how to catch). Proclaiming something encouraging, akin to some manner of hero clad in a Tuxedo and Mask, would probably also help this process.
No. 837573 ID: d36af7

I lob the path-carving boots toward E-ko in an awkward overhand, miss the mark by more than twice her height (I've never been good with thrown weapons) but she manages to catch them anyway. While running across wagon rooftops toward the perimeter breach and the elephant, I shout some simple instructions. All she really needs to do is put the boots on and attune her essence to them, then she'll be able to create a stone path wherever she walks. There's a range limit for extending the path into midair, or anywhere else without adequate support, but it won't be relevant in this case - usually between twenty and thirty yards for an unencumbered human. Unfortunately, the attunement process takes about twenty minutes.
So, the more immediate problem. I jump toward the zombie elephant, deliberately drawing it's attention. It swings it's trunk at me so predictably that I can catch it between my legs halfway through a backflip. Grab the narrow end of the trunk with one hand while dangling underneath, hold my breath, crush the mycelium with the other hand, bring them together... and just like that, it's my putrid walking beast-corpse now. Ugh. I should probably keep holding my breath for a little while yet, this thing seems like it wasn't very well-bathed even before it died.

Anyhow, that pretty much upgrades my little cobbled-together squad of adventurers from "light infantry" to "fearless, tireless, heavy cavalry," at least for the next few days or until someone de-animates this thing out from under us. I'd prefer the first outcome, since that turns the zombie into a nice sanitary solid brass statue and provides two new brass-thread mycelium spores from the eyesockets. What next?

a) Trample the crowd of zombies as previously scheduled, but invite teammates aboard rather than allowing the elephant to attack them

b) Smash up enough non-fortified wagons to clear an elephant-sized path toward somewhere else in the caravan camp interior

c) Reverse course, see what's happening outside
the perimeter

d) Slow down and talk
No. 838787 ID: 3abd97

>Unfortunately, the attunement process takes about twenty minutes.
Well, unless she's unnaturally adept with that, the boots are not a solution to her immediate problem then.

Although more generally, being able to stand on a path mid-air and strike from range with her tentacle-hair has nice synergy.

>or until someone de-animates this thing out from under us
If the nephwrack specializes in necromancy, I'm not sure we should plan on your heavy cavalry being very effective against it.

>What next?
"A" sounds good. "B" sounds counter productive, really, we're smashing up what ideally are allied assets or defenses.
No. 844046 ID: af6e04

Somehow I didn't realize this had updated. "A" seems like the best choice. We should probably be minimizing collateral
No. 848988 ID: d22dc0

The way I see, our goal is still to get outta dodge, and busting out of here with our allies and Mount seems like the right choice. Only problem is the afformentioned nephwrack- if we try to run, and it catches us, now we’re just a few moments away from a zombie horde. So, I think we outta give the reigns t someone else, and hope they decide to crush the attackers underfoot, so that way we don’t compromise our defenses. Our dancer friend was originally from this caravan, correct? Seems like if he has some loyalty to the group, and no outside motivators for leaving like Brant, he might be more inclined to attack without explicit directions than other around us.

Get everyone on board, tell the elephant to listen to Dancer, tell Dancer to follow his heart and do what he thinks is right. Hopefully he crushes some zombies under foot, but if not we can think of a new approach.
No. 853242 ID: d36af7
File 151390984520.jpg - (553.33KB , 800x1066 , Elephant_skull_at_Serengeti_National_Park.jpg )

I offer the silk-clad knight command of my hijacked zombie elephant.

He protests that his cavalry experience is almost entirely with actual horses, occasionally camels, and all he knows to do with the undead is purge them by fire and salt.

I explain that it's not technically undead he'd be commanding, but rather a type of parasitic fungus native to the demon realm. He does not find this clarification particularly reassuring.

If he knows so little about the tactical use of elephants, I ask, what has he been contributing to the caravan's security?

Rather than explain verbally, he swings that scimitar to cleave the risen corpses of two of his former coworkers in half and then, with an odd kiai - more of a honking noise, almost a quack - reduces all four halves to orange sparks and ash before they hit the ground. He gives me a look and accompanying gesture which, among Delzahn, means "regardless of life-debts, if you ask one more question that stupid I'll have to challenge you to a duel."

>our goal is still to get
...that soulsteel cylinder to the west pole, right. Thanks for reminding me.

Once they're both safely aboard, and E-ko has stopped complaining about the smell long enough to get a word in edgewise, I ask Eight Vibrant Hearts where that item I'm supposed to be safely disposing of actually is, or at least where it was when she saw it last.

She says it's locked up in a vault in the caravan master's wagon, alongside some moderately priceless magic items and a lot of important Guild paperwork. It's been encased in a hundred-pound block of lead and another fifty pounds of multilayered wards, so there's no way somebody just snuck off with it in their pocket.

I point out that I only arrived here about an hour ago, so I don't actually know which wagon is the caravan master's.

She says it's in the southern quadrant, with all the strings of lanterns for insomniac bureaucrats to navigate by, and wants to know how I know her proper name.
No. 853361 ID: 3abd97

>"regardless of life-debts, if you ask one more question that stupid I'll have to challenge you to a duel."
Yes, let's not go out of our way to insult or offend the competent and dangerous individual whose cooperation we currently have.

>It's been encased in a hundred-pound block of lead and another fifty pounds of multilayered wards
Any idea how effective that will be at blocking the nephwrack access, or how long it might take to cut through those defenses?

That really informs how long we can continue to keep involving ourselves in lesser conflicts and gathering allies before we confront the nephwrack. Speaking of, has that fire started in earnest yet?

>wants to know how I know her proper name
Perhaps we could we discuss non-mission critical details such as where I may or may not have heard your name cried out in ecstasy when the immediate crisis is resolved?
No. 853369 ID: d36af7

>Any idea how effective that will be at blocking the nephwrack access, or how long it might take to cut through those defenses?
A combat-oriented Anathema, or anyone with heavy weapons and reckless disregard for the safety of all involved, could demolish the relevant wagon and crack open the warded box in less than a minute. Fortunately the raiders have shown no sign of that sort of firepower, and the lightning ballista atop the central fortress-wagon is still powered down.

Brant says the box's wards are mostly optimized against disease and the dead. A living sorcerer could unlock the outer box almost instantly by countermagic, but they'd still need to deal with the lead block inside, which would mean either several minutes of carving, or a significant fire. Possibly a highly selective sort of magical fire, which burns lead only and is cold to the touch for all other purposes, but again, the dune cannibals have shown no sign of having a sorcerer among their number.

Necromancy is not as efficient at countering sorcery, so a nephwrack or mortal thaumaturge would need hours or days of work to disenchant the container to the point that it'd be possible for dead things to touch without taking damage. The most immediate plausible risk is that the nephwrack could find the objective, and then direct mortal cultists or hostages to carry it off. I'd probably notice the shifting essence-currents if that evil ghost was on the move, though, since it's not exactly being subtle.

>has that fire started in earnest yet?
No, the pie-god's priests have not yet set the caravan's northern quarter ablaze with their reckless and excessive piety. There might still be time to warn them about the spilled alcohol.
No. 853656 ID: 3abd97

Okay, so the nephwrack isn't demanding our attention just yet.

Let's go try to stop the pie priests before they burn their crust.
No. 855690 ID: d36af7

Under a thin layer of sand and dust, and any debris the caravan brought with them, ground here is hard clay. Back in the first age, it was a seasonally-flooded riverbed, but weather-control and geomancy deteriorated during the Shogunate, so there hasn't been enough rain around here for anything thirstier than knifegrass or cacti since the Empress was born, and the negligent traitor Sun seared the riverbed into something that more resembles cheap unglazed pottery than proper dirt. Point being, the ground's dry, but it's not very absorbent. Puddle from that spilled barrel of liquor is spreading pretty fast, and the fumes smell flammable.

Shrine-wagon decorations seem to mostly emphasize segmented circles. Six- or twelve-spoked wheels, coconuts, rolling pins, geometric proofs relating circumference to diameter. Priests inside are engaged in some rite that involves an oven and lots of flour. If those embers coming out of the chimney hit the puddle of booze and start a fire, airborne flour (especially in an enclosed space) could turn into an explosion. Unfortunately, the shrine's warded against demons. I probably can't shout loud enough for them to hear over the din of battle, and their own chanting, through a closed door.
a) Search for an off-duty priest, or somebody else authorized to go in there and warn them.
b) Try to breach the wards by brute force, risking mystical backlash on a failure.
c) Try to unravel the wards by sorcery, risking political backlash even on a success.
d) Use Jade Mountain Style to lift the wagon. Those priests surely have some sort of fire-safety contingency, which they'll be forced to activate if it seems like they're about to be tipped over.
e)Something else?
No. 855705 ID: d36af7

Green-Eared Nahim
>magic powers from marrying a fire elemental
>Silken Armor
>Imperfect Azure Glass Ward vs. Knives

3x brainwashed albino cultists
>breathing tubes carved from human thighbones

>innate neomah powers
>martial arts
>Brazen Leaf Bikini
>Imperfect Azure Glass Ward vs. Arrows
>Bouncy Boots

Bag of Tricks (actually a jade-steel chain shirt with the sleeves laced shut)
>Acupuncture Needles
>Extra Needle? Tainted moonsilver, very slippery.
>Razor Fan
>Mayfly Mask (filters out poisons in air or liquid sustenance, prevents speech while worn, disgusting and loathesome)
>Beetles? Kitten-sized, drooling polychromatic resin.
>Bottle of Sypax w/ 12x doses remaining (distilled perfect pleasure, highly addictive and dangerous for mortals)
>Leather Pouch of Barrier Sand w/ 12x doses remaining (creates glass walls - maybe useable as a firebreak, but that wouldn't save the shrine-wagon itself, or the priests inside, so the caravan god's services would still likely be lost)
>Wax Paper Bag of Riot Pepper w/ 12x doses remaining (causes agonizing pain without injury, can theoretically slip through any non-airtight barrier, but I've never had the knack for using it effectively)

Brant and E-ko are outside the perimeter, riding my brass-mycelium-hijacked zombie elephant toward the caravan's next major stop. to call for reinforcements. Only two or three days away for heavy cargo wagons, so with a tireless mount they might make it there and back before dawn. E-ko is wearing the gossamer poncho and path-carving boots I gave her. I'll need to catch up with them within 25 hours or so to maintain the mycelium's attunement, otherwise that elephant will revert to it's previous controller.
No. 855944 ID: 3abd97

>Unfortunately, the shrine's warded against demons. I probably can't shout loud enough for them to hear over the din of battle, and their own chanting, through a closed door.
Is the shrine warded against Delzahn Dancers? If the problem can be solved as simply as warning and/or rudely interrupting them, sending in the person who was part of the caravan's security team prior to your summoning would probably work.

>>magic powers from marrying a fire elemental
...I don't suppose any of those are for preventing fire?
No. 872333 ID: d22dc0

Booze and chimney are the problem right? I there not some more convenient work around, like having the beetles clean up/cover the alcohol? I assume they can't get any closer than we can, but if they're not blocked they could always plumb up the chimney.

I didn't realize we still needed to get the special thing, and that the caravan was so large. Would have been useful to get the pathcarving boots back since we're going to have to play catch up.
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