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File 163198472971.jpg - (967.32KB , 1053x562 , sojourn_titlecard.jpg )
1010895 No. 1010895 ID: 673fe6

||=========||
|| SOJOURN || NOTE: This will be a NSFW / 18+ only quest!
||=========||

It is the FOURTH AGE, and now is a time of dire peril and uncertainty; the GREAT KHAN, AZAD KHAZARAD,
has perished at the apex of his ascension ceremony — leaving prophecies in tatters. Once mighty empires
teeter on the precipice of destruction, and the greatest among them, the KHANATE OF KHOR, lies in ruin
beneath a dark and mysterious PALL.

From the heart of the KHANATE, a terrible CURSE has begun to sweep the land, the spreading PALL warping
the very landscape and changing those with the misfortune of its touch in strange and sometimes MONSTROUS
ways. Sages say this is a prelude to the END TIMES: if left unchecked, all may be lost.

Desperate to avert calamity, many have dispatched expeditions or even armies, hoping to quash and forestall
such great perils and open the way to the FATED CITY at the heart of the KHANATE, where it is said answers
may lie. Few have returned, and the realms of man have grown restless -- and those beyond watch with
a growing concern.
334 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
>>
No. 1024778 ID: 89649e
File 164591751020.jpg - (385.35KB , 750x450 , soj_078.jpg )
1024778

Continuing your dinner conversation, you decide to entreat Erik for additional information and offer the man some measure of indulgence in one facet the company a buune may provide. In truth, you've had comparatively little experience speaking with those who dwell among the realms of man as opposed to your brethren and peers -- and find simply observing the subtle tells of this fellow's responses interesting in its own right: each inflection and lilt of your words, shift of your posture and twitch of your ears and nose seeming to garner different fascinations.

Letting Erik take the lead as you eat, the man regales you with the story of having taken on looking after the inn in Greta's passing -- and that she had inherited it from her parents, its prior stewards; the tower is apparently the remnant of a long disused fort before the wetlands reclaimed much of the area. Greta passed a few months ago, prior to the descent of the Pall -- and for that, at least, he is somewhat grateful.

Seeing C.C. resting at your side with her tongue poking out, you consider whether or not your otherworldly pup can eat before offering her some of your potatoes; greedily, she chuffs and slurps up the remnant portions to your surprise... though your long ears prick to a splat against the floor below as roughly half of it ends up there. You snap your fingers and point down and C.C. drops down to redouble her efforts to re-eat the potatoes, beginning something of an ectoplasmic cycle.

Hearing the ruckus below, your mind wanders to the bustle of buune family gatherings and festivities -- poetry, song, sensuality. You decide to share some talk of home with Erik: you recount the scenic peaks and valleys beyond the bramble veil and the handsome glean of buune lancers standing vigil over your departure; you talk of your many siblings and speak of the first time you made a connection with a spirit under tutelage. Erik appears keenly interested, sharing in turn of growing up as the son of a woodsman and accompanying his father and laying eyes upon the golden sea -- though he is swift to clarify that it was wheat, noting bemusement that sometimes foreigners to Khor are disappointed to discover such.
>>
No. 1024779 ID: 89649e
File 164591754401.jpg - (299.59KB , 750x450 , soj_079.jpg )
1024779

In the interests of comfortable inquiry, you share your intent to combat the Pall and its spread -- a topic which seems to garner a hopeful look from Erik. On the matter of other passerby, he considers for a time before sharing glimpses of three separate travelers: some manner of courier who passed by swiftly on horseback, a masked individual bearing a mustard cloak and finally, a third who you bring to mind -- another foreigner who isn't human, like yourself, but with a longer, broader snout who appeared well armed.

It seems that all three passed his inn without stopping, however. Perhaps they'd simply gone on to Hevelston -- but he admits that they too may be headed to Volkregar when you mention your own destination.

Erik does not know overly much about the Vaults, he confesses -- though he does share with you that he once received guests headed to or from there in the past and gleaned from their conversations that the magi overseeing Volkregar is an 'unusual' individual. Eccentric, you gather. This prompts Erik to speak further of the tower adjoining the inn: nowadays, he shares that it is used as a secure storeroom for more valuable keepsakes and belongings for travelers wishing to keep precious belongings under sturdier lock and key -- mostly merchants, but occasionally those headed for Volkregar as well.

Erik considers your suggestion of abandoning the inn and moving for more fruitful or safe work elsewhere, but is reluctant; you may yet be able to convince him to accompany you as far as Hevelston if you still choose, though. After dinner, you help with cleaning up the dining area and kitchen (along with C.C.'s mashed mess) before inquiring after the feed for your meal and lodging; after pondering, he suggests three coin would suffice -- though you suspect it to be a small amount.
>>
No. 1024785 ID: 89649e
File 164591834481.jpg - (195.31KB , 550x350 , soj_disctome.jpg )
1024785

Pondering on your next move for the morrow, you ultimately retire to your lodging for the evening -- alone this night, but not lonely, the pleasant company having proven revitalizing after the ardors you have faced thus far. Settling comfortably in to bed, sleep's embrace ferries you off once more to your starry subconscious where inspiration bristles keenly as you traverse your latest experiences and reflect. It's time for more character advancement!

Presently, your primary focus is the Path of Shrouds, with lesser foci in Stars and Roots; this directs Kaia's growth most expeditiously in stealth and subtlety, but provides options for further attuning with occultism, sooth-saying, acrobatics and athletics. With your current Inspiration, you now get a few additional picks you can make -- this time, in developing Kaia's talents as well as growth for C.C.! We'll get to C.C. next, but first we'll focus on Kaia since there's a bit of ground to cover...!

Talents! - Along the course of the adventure, Kaia (and others, should you gain additional companions) will also be able to develop and improve on a number of 'talents' -- which can be likened to perks, feats or similar fare you might be familiar with from elsewhere. Your choices and growth in the 'paths' available to Kaia (and others) are what inform which talents become available to you and as your talents develop, their benefits become more potent and varied. Talents are rated in ★ Stars, and generally 'max out' at anywhere from three to five stars!

Kaia began the adventure with a few talents at her disposal based on your original choices -- now you can see a bit more about the buune. Mechanically, you don't generally have to worry about these elements and they'll be largely handled 'off screen' -- just know that your choices and accomplishments will gradually reward additional opportunities for character advancement and achieving more adventurous, daring or unexpected feats may sometimes be worth bonuses.

Even the very basic form of a talent can offer significant boons, so it is up to you if you want to try to place your focus on strengthening your existing talents to reach their deeper ability or to broaden your access to a wider variety of talents, to help in more varied situations. As part of unlocking talents, you get to vote for how you allocate talents you'd like to gain or improve, ranked in order of your preference -- when I tally up your votes, your first picks will have more weight than your second and third in determining which selections are ultimately made.

Currently you have four TP or 'talent points' at your disposal -- giving you a fair bit of flexibility for this round. You can save up TP over time or spend it during downtime -- unlocking a new talent costs two TP, and improving a talent costs TP equal to its current rank (so for example, improving from one star to two stars would cost one TP, but from two to three would cost two and so on.) You can only improve a given talent once per round of advancement.

Here are Kaia's current Talents:

Witchcraft ★☆☆☆ - Cast cantrips, perform rites and rituals, utilize grimoires and scrolls to enact potent arcana; higher ranks increase available cantrips and spells, and improve the efficacy of those already known.
Herbalism ★☆☆ - Discovering, identifying and collecting useful herbs and plant-life for use as reagents, ingredients, food, poisons or medicinal purposes. Higher ranks increase success rate and yield, opens rarer finds.
Essence Weaving ★☆☆☆ - This talent is a separate but related aspect of your witchcraft, and primarily allows you to assess the corruption of your surroundings -- one of the most evident consequences of the PALL and its CURSE.
Enchanting ★☆☆☆ - Imbuing objects and equipment with magical enchantments and augmentations, empowering and improving them.
Cloak & Dagger ★★☆☆ - Stealth & subterfuge, efficacy at the finer arts of secretive actions, hidden movements and matters of espionage and misdirection.

Here are new talents currently available:

Alchemy ☆☆☆ - Utilizing mortar and pestle with special materials to produce a variety of concoctions and tools, including the likes of fulminating smoke bombs and black powder implements.
Soothsaying ☆☆☆ - Dabbling in divination, reading of portents and signs -- and an appraisal of omens for weal or woe. Used for active endeavors of fortunetelling -- and gleaning subtle hints and premonitions.
Martial Arts ☆☆☆ - When bereft of blade or implement, the ability to fight and maneuver in hand to hand combat with techniques honed by your ancestors.
Pathfinder ☆☆☆ - Among the most remote reaches of wilderness through the depths of the darkest caves, expertise in navigating and finding one's way in places others may become helplessly lost.
Markswoman ☆☆☆ - Honed excellence at range achieving challenging or tricky shots, with improved accuracy over greater distances and leading fast moving targets.
Fortunate Bun ☆☆☆☆ - When the chips are stacked and the hands are down, sometimes the wiles of fate may be a matter of luck alone. Rabbits are supposed to have lucky feet -- and you've got two of them!

More talents may become available as a result of further advancement, story developments and bonds formed with other characters along the way and some may also be provided by possible companions in the future as well!

To make it easier to review things like talents, inventory, magic and so on, I've created a Google sheet here: https://bit.ly/3HqtzU3 which will be maintained as we go; please note that because of the nature of this sheet being current, it may contain spoilers if you're reading this in the future and haven't caught up on posts!

I've also finally started a disthread for Sojourn here: https://questden.org/kusaba/questdis/res/137106.html

This post has ended up pretty beefy, apologies!

Please vote for how you'd like to spend TP (or save it)
>>
No. 1024794 ID: 96c896

>>1024785
Witchcraft
Alchemy
Herbalism or save the point
>>
No. 1024806 ID: 93ba79

I'm in favor of soothsaying.
For the rest, I do not know.
>>
No. 1024808 ID: 676f44

>>1024785
Alchemy
Martial Arts
Save The Point

I'm feeling Ninja Witch Bunne, as a whole.
>>
No. 1024809 ID: 894419

>>1024785
Improve Cloak and Dagger to Rank 3

Unlock Fortunate Bun, because luck builds are always awesome.
>>
No. 1024822 ID: 094652

Lv1 Pathfinder [-2 Talent Points]
Lv2 Witchcraft [-1 Talent Points]
Lv2 Herbalism [-1 Talent Points]
>>
No. 1024844 ID: 8483cf

Pathfinder, herbalism, save 1 TP. We're going on an adventure, we gotta know where to go and how to not die.
>>
No. 1025104 ID: c92a02

Enhance Witchcraft and Essence Weaving, learn markswo- no, no stealth archer, bad! Okay, learn Soothsaying.
>>
No. 1025138 ID: f57349

Essence Weaving and Pathfinder seem the most immediately mission-relevant. Maybe herbalism for the last point?
>>
No. 1025245 ID: 4cee48

>alone this night
Hmm, I thought option D won tho...

>in Greta's passing
Still can't say for sure if Greta was his wife or not. Like, maybe she was simply some elderly woman who took care of the place with him. Would make sense why she passed away. And he's not actually a widower.

>TP
Soothsaying, Witchcraft, save 1 point.
>>
No. 1025278 ID: dccdd0

>>1025245 yeah, I'm confused as well that option D wasn't the choice.
that said.
Witchcraft
Essence Weaving
Fortunate Bun
Enchanting
pure mage bun
>>
No. 1025285 ID: fe7daa

>>1025278
Probably either didn't win when the author started drawing (since the frames seem pretty damn elaborate), or the author decided this would fit the narrative better.
>>
No. 1025367 ID: 06495a

2 ★ for Cloak and Dagger
2 ★ for Fortunate Bun
>>
No. 1025370 ID: 89649e
File 164650888823.jpg - (1.19MB , 1100x1100 , soj_080x.jpg )
1025370

In your slumber as you navigate the starry ensemble of your inspiration, a particular brush of salacious indulgence seems to linger at the periphery of your senses -- before your mind meanders into the prickly embrace of more lurid contemplation. You had been conflicted and uncertain in the regard of your host in waking hours -- but among the mores of your imagination, you may yet mete invigoration with your inspiration to sate and slake this particular thirst...

NSFW Smut / dream sequence ahead, feel free to skip past the spoiler to the next post for the return.

Having bared yourself in preparation for the evening's meditations and respite, you stirred to a gentle rapping at the door -- discovering beyond the stout and rugged fellow you had fancied after a fashion. He had come to check in on your needs before retiring for the evening -- eyes widened at the state of your leisure before averting his gaze; instead, you entreated that he might join you with a gentle touch of slender fingers against calloused knuckles and the honeyed murmur of a crooning lilt.

Khasma was generous when a devotee sought a more 'spiritual' indulgence -- and so it was that you found yourself swept up in strong arms and carried from your feet, a trill of laughter bubbling up from within you as that warmth and power enfolded you so. A swift and earnest exchange of kisses, your supple lips finding his own in a warm, moist crush as he seemed to grow quickly eager to steal your breath away.

Large, strong hands ferried you to the cushion and comfort of your bed, knees parting as you wrapped your calves around his back and nestled his flanks in the firm embrace of your inner thighs. He hastened, nearly uncoordinated as he could scarcely divide an interest in shedding his garb and filling his hands with your figure; you visit the ginger serenade of kisses against his lips, cheeks and brow as he abandons his slacks -- aiding the unveiling in turn as you gather up and peel away his tunic to cast aside, finding a mix of muscle of softer padding about the man's upper body and midsection.

Newly naked, he covers over you anxiously, the heat of his body cloying against your bare form as rough mitts roam and grope at supple, pliant buune with surprisingly tender care. Whether real or imagined, you find a sense of relief in those needful touches -- feeling him squeeze and caress at your breasts and hips with open desire while nosing beneath your chin to kiss and nibble at your neck. Draping your arms about broad shoulders, you feel a shiver run through you with the burgeoning heat within you as a familiar firmness soon nuzzles and presses twixt your thighs before bearing your petals to part as your breath hitches anew.

There is little hesitation as he enters you then, the slick heat of your body unfolding to accept and coax at him as he spreads you with a dizzying thrill of inner warmth. Fingers curl to grip you firmly then before he rocks his hips with a decisive clap against your callipygous derriere which sets your whole body to jostle, bosom set to quiver against the hot press of his pectorals and chest. He wastes little time then, commencing to set a steady tempo of slick, steady plaps as he pistons himself against your body, grunts and groans escaping his chest and throat in haggard spurts as moans blossom as surely as the lurid scents in the air.

It had been some time since so large a partner had held you so fiercely, the fervor itself thrilling in its own sense -- but even in your imagined tryst, he does not last long before succumbing to the sensations of your body gripping his; you feel him spill himself inside you with a low moan of exultation, hands grazing over the curves of your body anew with hungry abandon before settling in over top of you with the rumbled mutterings of trade tongue affections you don't quite understand in his post-coitus haze.

You wake from your dream to the faint sound of crickets reaching your long ears, heat still flushed in your cheeks; rather than seek out a corporeal recreation of your imagination, you proceed to invigorate yourself to satisfaction before slipping back to blissful slumber.


Drifting on further still as dreams give way to your inspiration once more, you find yourself with a curious twinge of realization formed from the bond you have forged through the vessel you bear: Crystal Crumpsy... and a strengthened connection through which you could improve upon your ability to manifest.
>>
No. 1025373 ID: 89649e
File 164650902496.jpg - (195.31KB , 550x350 , soj_disctome.jpg )
1025373

So! There was a bit of confusion / consternation regarding how the votes had come together for the prior update, so I wanted to offer a bit of clarity -- and also this vignette as a bit of a bridge for those who were still earnest in wanting something a bit more salacious.

When there are multiple vote options going together, as I've mentioned I will generally weigh the 'first' picks more heavily than any secondary / tertiary picks; in practical terms, when there isn't a 'clear' winner what I will typically do is tally everything that each suggester votes for by assigning two 'points' to whatever gets mentioned first, and then one 'point' to any further picks / suggestions.

In the case of the two recent updates, since there was a feeling out process with Kaia and Erik, it was a little murkier with some mixed signals in the posts; a number of folks couched votes with D as their secondary picks, generally with the context of 'if he's into it' etc. and with how I tally first / secondary picks, this basically made it a 'tie' in my count in this case.

There was the added wrinkle that we also had a number of suggestions in both recent rounds that were also specifically opposed to going that route, which I feel is also worth weighing when reaching a general consensus. For controversial votes, I generally hope to try to strike an accord that at least most of you will be happy with, but know that that may not always be possible.

Hopefully this helps offer a bit more clarity on how I try to handle these things and can help ameliorate for this round: some smut for those who were keen on such, but in this case without the attachments / complications / concerns a number of you had for if Kaia had actually engaged with Erik here.

I'll strive to make the voting clearer in such situations moving forward, and hope that folks continue to enjoy reading along and participating!
>>
No. 1025376 ID: 89649e
File 164650942056.jpg - (385.12KB , 750x450 , soj_082.jpg )
1025376

With your continued growth of your bond with C.C. and your practice in summoning spirits with the vessel, you have also managed to strengthen your ability to bolster your manifestation. You can choose which way you'd like to try to focus development with C.C., each having their pros and cons:

> A) Corporeal C.C.
Pursue developing a more physical manifestation of C.C. that might allow her to interact with the environment or other creatures. The trade-offs: a more corporeal form also renders C.C. susceptible to being 'dispersed' by hazards and it is more taxing to manifest her.
> B) C.C. Un-tethered
Pursue developing C.C.'s independence, making her less reliant on the vessel more able to manifest and act on her own - such as being able to proactively appear even if Kaia is unconscious. The trade-offs: C.C. may be more prone to following her instincts or potentially getting into mischief.
> C) Trained C.C.
Pursue developing C.C.'s intelligence and training, seeking to unlock new and possibly unexpected abilities and coordination. The trade-off: C.C. would need a deeper investment of essence reserves.

You can potentially eventually pursue all three over time, but this is to pick where you'd like to lean for now.

Finally, off our previous picks, there's a bit of a tie that has developed, so a follow-up vote is necessary: Witchcraft had a clear push and lead, so one TP will go to increasing Witchcraft to ★★, leaving three TP to spend. Pathfinder and Soothsaying were tied in the lead for a new ability / two point spend, and Herbalism, Essence Weaving and Save the Point are tied for a one point spend -- with Cloak and Dagger having a mention for voting, but being a more costly increase.

Please also pick a preference between Pathfinder and Soothsaying for a new acquisition, and Herbalism, Essence Weaving or Saving the Point for the last remaining TP this round.
>>
No. 1025387 ID: 8483cf

Trained C.C.! Intelligence and tricks are kind of Kaia's thing, they should be C.C.'s too.

Pathfinder for new acq, Herbalism for last TP. We are about to venture out for a long and confusing journey, we need survival and navigation skills.
>>
No. 1025389 ID: 34dfce

>>1025376
>diagram
That is sickeningly cute, lol


C.
This one seems like it could help prevent some of the negatives of the other two later on, so it is probably best to take this one first.

Voting Pathfinder. This is a strange land and navigation is paramount to our success.

Plus it could help with losing a tail later on by dragging them through otherwise innavigable terrain.

Also voting for Essence Weaving. Seems like this would help increase the rate of our CC gains.
>>
No. 1025393 ID: dccdd0

Essence Weaving and Soothsaying are my picks. Also option A for the ghosst pupper.
>>
No. 1025400 ID: 96c896

Pathfinder, Essence Weaving. Mission-relevant skills.

C. A trained pupper is a happy pupper.
>>
No. 1025573 ID: 4cee48

C, Soothsaying, Save
>>
No. 1026178 ID: 89649e
File 164723780671.jpg - (304.59KB , 750x450 , soj_082_lv.jpg )
1026178

On the following morning, you freshen yourself up in full advantage of your lodgings before gathering your belongings, intent on an early departure. Descending from the room you let, you reflect on a desire to offer an added boon which still lingers -- and elect to spend some time before sunrise cleaning the innkeeper's cloak and mending frays and tears with your cantrips. Fresh from your inspired rest, you find added efficacy in your witchcraft and suspect your grimoire studies will prove most fruitful in the next few days.

Erik proves to have been something of a morning person himself: returning from an early foray before providing you a small bundle of leftover bread wrapped in linen as something of a 'breakfast to go.' He is quite surprised at the speed and skill with which you'd repaired his cloak -- though you still insist on rendering coin for the room and food, three gold coins from your purse along with teaching Erik the Buune tongue for a farewell til one may meet again as friends.

With that, you set out along the road once more, venturing deeper into the wetlands on your quest.

~

Talents improved & unlocked:
Witchcraft ★★☆☆
Essence Weaving ★★☆☆
Pathfinder★☆☆

0 TP remains.

C.C. has improved Training.

-3 gold spent for food & lodging.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GMZzD92D41H7SBRdr3Znag5X2oVB5aWmL0tPqlywi7M/edit?usp=sharing Link to the game sheet; possible spoilers for someone reading this from later updates!
>>
No. 1026179 ID: 89649e
File 164723785075.jpg - (310.11KB , 750x450 , soj_083.jpg )
1026179

You travel at a steady pace, freshly fed and rested -- continuing on the easterly path as the morning carries through to afternoon; as you had been warned over supper, the terrain grows steadily more arduous along the way as road grows far more muddy and haphazard. Around you, the bogs have become steadily deeper and more dense, with wet sticky heat proving much the order of the day.

A succession of winding switchbacks lead you to a precipitous quagmire -- but with some canny navigating and careful maneuvering, you're able to not only avoid becoming lost or mired but discover an old footpath which cuts more directly across the swamp: while unsuitable for horse and cart and easily missed by most passerby, you make excellent time in traversing the wetlands late into the day.

With a keen eye (and nose) you remain on the lookout for any particularly choice or useful herbs off the beaten path along the way -- and manage a handsome haul of bog sage, milkweed, horsetail, quamash and a generous assortment of fragrant (and likely, tasty) flowers. A smorgasbord of useful herbs (and snacks) for your journey ahead.

To your surprise, you even manage to collect an assortment of mushrooms you know to be quite effective in providing hallucinogenic experiences when eaten or brewed with tea. Perhaps not the most personally practical find, but you imagine you may find a clever use for them at some point.

Traveling overland can trigger a number of talents both actively and passively -- and in this case, you managed to score a critical success with an Herbalism prompt working in concert with a successful application of Pathfinder when the way forward grew tricky.

As a result, a generous supply of Herbs have been added to your inventory and you've made faster-than-expected time in reaching another location, which spares you camping in the swamp this evening. Herbs are another somewhat abstracted supply and are particularly handy with Alchemy, but can be useful in other disciplines as well (plus, Kaia really enjoys snacking on flowers.)

>>
No. 1026180 ID: 89649e
File 164723788933.jpg - (286.28KB , 750x450 , soj_084.jpg )
1026180

Before sunset, you reach a break in the overgrowth once you emerge from the game trails and lay eyes on what you expect to be Hevelston -- having arrived sooner than Erik's estimate, thankfully. You ponder briefly if buune are simply more effective travelers than denizens of the realms of man. Nevertheless, you take a moment to observe the settlement from afar under cover of foliage.

From a distance, Hevelston seems to be a hamlet built among the swamp with dwellings and structures tailor-made for just such a purpose; most of the buildings you see implement some combination of sturdy wooden supports or rocky earth to avoid the brunt of the boggy, muddy terrain. Nearly every home or hall boasts some form of thatched roof coupled with wood or mud-brick walls.

Wooden walkways suspended over the swamp span gaps between platforms and more solid ground, while small jetties can be reached from a number of places -- presumably for one to paddle about. To the periphery, you can make out the main thoroughfare you imagine leads from the main road whence you came, but it is so thoroughly muddy and trenched with wheel ruts that you suspect it would be quite vexing to navigate.

Faint trails of smoke drift from chimneys and other ventilation, but you don't spot any inhabitants after observing for a short time; your long ears prick to ample sounds of wildlife and buzzing, biting insects -- just not villagers near as you can tell. There's still a brief span before you expect evening to descend, so you consider your approach.

You decide to...

> A) Make your way to the main approach, so as not to seem suspicious as you arrive...
> B) Skulk around the periphery, hoping to avoid being seen at all...
> C) Wait here and continue to observe, mosquitos be damned...
> D) _

As riders to the above, feel free to include any extra actions you'd like to take along the way.
>>
No. 1026182 ID: 8483cf

A, no sense being any more suspicious than we already are. Make sure not to radiate too much pride in our confirmed faster-than-denizens-of-the-realms-of-man travel time.

Do not eat the magic mushrooms. Also do not eat tasty flowers. Do see if there are any ways or tools we need to crush and preserve the herbs.
>>
No. 1026314 ID: 92c1dc

A. I think the other two options would be more suspicious, and I think that we are skilled enough that we can escape if this proves to be a trap.

If we encounter anyone, we can swiftly become friends via offering of tasty herbs.
>>
No. 1026344 ID: e51896

A
>>
No. 1026351 ID: 4cee48

A. Since Erik said no invaders came this way, it's most likely safe. But yeah check out what's up with this village.
>>
No. 1026385 ID: 89649e
File 164740788501.jpg - (267.89KB , 750x450 , soj_085.jpg )
1026385

Reasoning that the Sarken would not be present, you decide to navigate your way from the foliage and thick undergrowth to the muddy main road -- an open approach, lest the inhabitants of this place view you with undue suspicion. Feeling mud cling and pull at your sandals as you go, you endeavor to step lightly and nimbly to avoid the worst of the squelching patches and furrows -- finding some solace once well-trod planks are underfoot with a firmer span to traverse.

Ears pricked high, you gaze about the dwellings you pass -- most shuttered and closed up, but still showing signs of inhabitants within. Chirping, croaking and buzzing sounds join the periodic burble and bubble of the bog beneath the walkway as you move, a certain serenade of the swamp in which the hamlet has laid root. You glimpse a few small buildings with signage as you have a look around -- shops, perhaps, that you might barter for equipment and supplies.

Nearer to the center of Hevelstead lies the larger hall, the raised upper floor of which boasts a more open ventilation as warm smoke billows out from either end. From there, you can faintly make out the sounds of a larger gathering inside and imagine it might be another inn or tavern. Among the mud and muck, you catch the waft of burning charcoal and some manner of stew.

As you approach the hall, figures appear in the windows to either side of the doorway gazing out at you with earnest interest; you hear a shifting of heavy timber before the double doors part open with some apparent effort -- and can make out the silhouette of a man garbed in leather with a long spear. Beyond, you can see a dozen or more people within the hall, some openly armed -- before a man hastens to step out from the hall and close the gap to meet you.

An older man with a thick, bushy beard draped in a durable hooded cloak over what strike you as somewhat finer linen garb; the man clearly sizes you up before halting a few paces away from you, clearing his throat.

"Stranger -- I'm not sure where you've come from, but it's not safe out here this eve." He asserts, casting glances to either side of you. "Best to leave the hungry beasts to the mercenaries--" he pauses a beat, eyes flitting to the hilt over your shoulder before fixing you with a look "--unless you're to join them."

"If you're coming inside, best to be quick about it -- though I'll need to have you check your weapons first, for the safety of the others." There is a clear apprehension to his voice; beyond the man, you reason there are militia in the hall.

You decide to...

> A) Agree to stow your weapons and join the villagers in the hall...
> B) Decline to stow your weapons and / or inquire further before you make a decision...
> C) Elect to seek out and aid these 'mercenaries' with whatever threat they face...
> D) _
>>
No. 1026386 ID: 8483cf

B. Ask to see the precautions they're taking to keep weapons safe. Don't get suckered or scammed!
>>
No. 1026388 ID: dccdd0

B, ask why they want you to give up your weapons to enter.
>>
No. 1026392 ID: 96c896

>>1026385
C. You have CURSE and MEND, you should be useful even as support.
>>
No. 1026393 ID: 4cee48

A. I'd go with C, but since talking will take some time, to learn about these beasts and what not, it would be best if it was done inside.
>>
No. 1026395 ID: 0c47e4

>>1026386
And
>>1026388

we should know both these things before we agree to anything.
>>
No. 1026401 ID: 89649e
File 164744161710.jpg - (50.93KB , 334x200 , soj_085b.jpg )
1026401

Wary of the prospect of forfeiting your weapons for however long, you press the man on the matter first. "Why must I disarm? How will yew keep my weapins safe?" You prod.

A frog croaks loudly beneath the elevated walkway below and the man offers you a plaintive look. "Forgive me, but these are... dangerous times to be trusting to outsiders -- and some fear a, ahh, stranger being armed in such circumstances." He attempts an apologetic look after a sidelong glance back to the faces observing from within the hall.

"It is only a temporary precaution -- with brigands and invaders about. As for your question, there is a small store room under lock and key, for safekeeping -- I can assure you that your belongings will be secure." He offers, before puffing his chest up with a measure of pride. "You can be safe under the protection of the militia and my wards." Confident, at that.

While he did not strike you as a practitioner of the arcane, you suppose it is possible magical protections could be in place over the gathered villagers here -- so it could be secure from whatever creatures are afoot. For now, the man appears anxious to return to the hall as he watches for your response.

You decide to...

> A) Agree to stow your weapons and join the villagers in the hall...
> B) Decline to stow your weapons with insistence, but otherwise try to join the villagers in the hall...
> C) Elect to seek out and aid the 'mercenaries' in contending with whatever threat they face...
> D) _

Since those were quick and reasonable questions, I figured I would make this as an interstitial update -- and will treat this vote as a rolling count from the previous votes still; anyone who has already voted but would like to change their vote with this new information is free to do so.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GMZzD92D41H7SBRdr3Znag5X2oVB5aWmL0tPqlywi7M/edit?usp=sharing Reference sheet for current talents, magic and inventory. (Note: possible spoilers for anyone in the future catching up, as this document will be current to whatever the most recent update is!)
>>
No. 1026410 ID: b485dc

Let's go with A.
>>
No. 1026411 ID: 894419

>>1026401
C.
>>
No. 1026424 ID: 96c896

>>1026401
C.
>>
No. 1026432 ID: 656eff

A sounds good.
>>
No. 1026433 ID: 8483cf

C!
>>
No. 1026453 ID: 355980

Probably not a good idea to put yourself in danger going after a unknown force. Probably the best option is (A) for now till you get a full grasp of the situation
>>
No. 1026559 ID: 8a8cfd

>>1026401
A. but could you potentially hide a dagger in case something does go down? Make a show of giving them the sword and make sure you watch them secure it as well. Say the sword has a lot of sentimental value.
>>
No. 1026574 ID: b6986d

>>1026401
A is completely reasonable, if unfortunate. Insisting on keeping your weapons to hand will probably result in needing to use them, anyway. Anything we have on us that wouldn't necessarily qualify as a weapon to these people we should keep, though.
>>
No. 1026752 ID: 89649e
File 164779467519.jpg - (295.21KB , 750x450 , soj_086.jpg )
1026752

Ultimately, you decide it best to at least gain a fuller grasp of the situation before venturing out into the perilous gloom -- the prospect of safety and security for the evening an appealing one whatever the measure. You acquiesce to surrender the heavy blade at your back to the man, lending a look of relief as he glances down to the blade -- before making a somewhat obvious effort to maintain eye contact with you after a glimpse of buune.

Fortunately, his earnest effort of politeness provides you a prime opportunity to secret away your glade blade -- doubly fortunate, given that the athame is crucial should you need to perform and rites or rituals in the interim. A look past the man finds similar relief among the faces watching you with intent curiosity (and some apprehension) within the hall once the more obvious weapon is stowed.

"Thank you for understanding, stranger -- I'll see to it that this is safely kept, and returned to you later." He offers with a wan smile. "Come along inside then, where it's safe -- and you'll weather the eve among company."
>>
No. 1026753 ID: 89649e
File 164779471184.jpg - (363.56KB , 750x450 , soj_087.jpg )
1026753

Following the fellow inside, he hands your heavy blade to a young militiaman and asserts its safekeeping before the lad totes it off into a room at the back of the hall. "I am Emra," the older man offers you then before dipping his head, "something of a sage for this community. You'll find the folk of Hevelston to be good people, I'm certain. Once this trouble has passed, on the morrow things should be back to better fare."

You cast your gaze about the broad hall, feeling the bristling warmth against your face and fur: a long broad fire-pit dominates the center of the span, smoke wafting up in great billows to the ventilation far above -- while a second stone hearth sits at the far end, lit in kind. On the air, you can catch whiffs of somewhat recent cooking still lingering, though it would seem whatever supper the others have had was prior to your arrival.

More than a dozen men, women and children occupy the space, with nearly a dozen more apparent militia standing about at various places -- each garbed in leathers with skullcaps and long spears. A few of the militia peer out broad easterly windows into the gloom of the hamlet's periphery there. Taking a brief look, you gather that they're watching how the mentioned mercenaries fare -- though it's somewhat difficult to discern much in the moment beyond the distant silhouettes; they do not seem to have encountered trouble yet.

Periodic glances and stares are leveled your way from the gathered folk of the hamlet -- like as not in equal measure for a stranger in their midst as much as a buune at that; you do not see any among them who aren't of the realms of man here, not that it surprises you. At the rear of the hall, a stairway leads up on the left to an upper level and you can glimpse an open mezzanine of that second floor above you with more individuals lingering upstairs.

There is a steady clamor of conversations and cross-talk, your long ears pricking to and fro reflexively; the group to your right seem to be particularly agitated about the situation, and you catch mention in passing of a particularly unusual 'foreigner' among the mercenaries -- seemingly prompted by one of the men seeing an unexpected buune in their midst.

Faintly, you can also sense the weave of arcane wards as you probe with your more preternatural senses -- though you'd need more focused study to fully gather their extent and efficacy.

You decide to...

> )_

You're now safely holed up with the people of Hevelston, near as you're aware; this is a much more open ended point here as far as what you might wish to pursue, inquire after, interact with and so on. You can talk to Emra if you'd like, try to pursue food, room and board, converse with locals or militia, try to explore the space, settle in and keep to yourself, try to observe the mercenaries and so forth -- I'll endeavor to work in what I can from your suggestions next.
>>
No. 1026755 ID: e51896

We can let Crystal Crumpsy play with that animal over there
>>
No. 1026764 ID: 8483cf

RELEASE THE HOUND

Also make small talk with the militia. Maybe put on a skullcap and do funny things with your ears. They're going to remember you, might as well make it funne.
>>
No. 1026767 ID: 4cee48

Let's not scare the already-scared people with an apparition of ours. I would suggest talking with Emra. Compliment him on the wards he's set up tell him that you feel safe here due to them. He might be surprised that you're able to detect them, but that's ok, you need to show at least a little bit of expertise on the subject. Ask him if he could teach you how to set one up. I'd also ask them about the mercenaries. What do they look like. And to tell you more about the beasts. Wouldn't it make sense for all the men here to attack together with the mercenaries?
>>
No. 1026786 ID: 96c896

Before releasing CC, go over and introduce yourself to the dog and its owner. Would be much more shocking for CC to run fully across the room.
>>
No. 1026799 ID: 1c6255

Lets refrain from unleashing phantomatic pups.
>>
No. 1026953 ID: f57349

Ask if the foreigner had a yellow cloak.
>>
No. 1027405 ID: 94bb57
File 164836176431.jpg - (318.53KB , 750x450 , soj_088.jpg )
1027405

Despite the tension in the air, you decide to endeavor to introduce a bit of levity in the moment -- and make a friendlier impression on the holed-up folk of Hevelston. With a canny eye you spy another hound by the hearth, your thoughts going to visions of playful pooches with C.C.'s own presence; you do feel some hesitation at springing your spectral companion on the inhabitants sight unseen however, holding off on such manifesting just yet.

Intent on a bit of playful merriment, you ponder a measure of mischief. Looking nearby, you gingerly help yourself to a skullcap which had been left unattended -- donning the helmet with a lowering of your long ears with an amusing waggle before you try to strike up a conversation with a militiaman: a lean, younger looking man seemingly anxious by a window.

You express your puzzlement that the militia are here, rather than joining the mercenaries outside; he indicates that they are tasked with protecting the villagers from anything that might slip past the hired blades -- but that some militia are fighting alongside them. When asked of the mercenaries themselves, he speaks of a few familiar faces among former caravan guards and the like who have since lingered in Hevelston.

A man with a yellow cloak seems to prompt recognition -- though he is not certain if that traveler is among the mercenaries now or if they passed through beyond the hamlet earlier in the day; the 'foreigner' he purports to be 'demi-human' -- not unlike you, he says -- though tall and imposing with 'the head of a beast of burden' and clad in unfamiliar armor.

For a moment, you scoff to yourself at the notion of his comparison, quite certain that buune and other species are hardly 'half human' just because you're featherless bipeds -- but this young fellow is likely not the best suited for a philosophical debate of that nature. Instead, you decide to excuse yourself to instead have a word with Emra...
>>
No. 1027406 ID: 94bb57
File 164836207376.jpg - (403.00KB , 750x450 , soj_089.jpg )
1027406

You manage to spot Emra off in a corner away from the broader crowd now that the doors have been secured and your blade stowed; the man has since lowered his hood and as you approach, you spy him with a long carved pipe he's packed with fragrant leaves. Seated at a small table near one of the broad windows, you watch as Emra carefully covers the bowl of his pipe with a hand to shield it from a breeze before lighting it with a snap of his fingers - a small flame conjured forth.

"May I join yew?" You chime with a bat of your lashes, lightly adjusting your skull cap. Emra gives you a nod, gesturing across from himself before taking an exceedingly long puff of his pipe for very nearly a full minute. "Yes." He says after finally releasing smoke, though you'd long-since seated yourself. Eccentric, perhaps.

"I must say, the wards yew have placed are quite good. Could you teach me thee technique?" Emra appears surprised by your assessment of the wards -- doubly so when you inquire after their creation. "It has been some time since I've met with another with a knack for these things; you were able to sense the construct without laying eyes on them?" You nod at that and he snorts, taking another long puff of his pipe and seeming to relish the experience.

"Can yew tell me of those beests?" You inquire during his pause; Emra nods slowly after a moment. "I suppose I could show you a thing or two about warding. What sort of training have you had, anyway?" He lets the question linger openly, while also wordlessly offering you his pipe, should you choose. "As for the beasts -- it's thanks to the curse, you know." He frowns. "It twists things: animals, men, the land itself. Warps them, sometimes in ways more predictable than others."

Gesturing, Emra casts a look out into the gloom beyond the hall. "This lot has been plaguing us nightly; horns, scales, fur, tooth and claw -- some on all fours, some upright. A few may have been cutthroats that made lairs in the swamp, for all I can wager." He shrugs. "I've done what I can to secure the hamlet's homes, but I have my limits." He shakes his head. "And with a damned invasion underway -- and no help from Volkregar, leveraging what coin we could for sell-swords seemed the surest bet to try to put an end to it."

You decide to...

> )_

Not quite the right time to turn C.C. loose, but the polter-pooch is prominent on Kaia's mind to the buune's delight. We're still fairly free-form here on what you'd like to say or inquire about, as well as whether or not you'd like to share details of yourself or partake in his offer. Emra does seem willing to exchange some magical know-how with you however!
>>
No. 1027410 ID: 8483cf

I'd like to have Kaia tell stories about home and her family. Let's hear more about her!

Also, what the hell, it sounds like the real problem is about the beasts, not armed travelers- that's no reason to come after a BUUNE!
>>
No. 1027414 ID: 96c896

>>1027406
Tell him about your training and your mission. Perhaps you can help with warding more buildings?
>>
No. 1027428 ID: e51896

Maybe after we're done talking we can play our flute for anyone who wants to listen?
>>
No. 1027467 ID: 34dfce

>>1027406
>corruption
Is that what they meant by half human? You may want to make it clear that you are a Bunne from outside the Pall.
>>
No. 1028036 ID: d3d7b6

I doubt he'd teach us anything for free. Or at least not without us gaining his trust/favor first. So I'd offer to go back out to fight those monsters. Can't be a lazy buune and just stay inside doing nothing!
>>
No. 1028781 ID: 94bb57
File 164963203725.jpg - (526.36KB , 750x750 , soj_090.jpg )
1028781

With the comfort of warm company helping you to relax, your thoughts turn to your home and the family and life left behind on your quest -- all the training you had done and the experiences of life as a young buune. Emra seems as receptive an audience as any, you reason -- and for the others whose attention you had gained, perhaps recounting your origins would help assuage any concerns that your appearance might be the result of the Pall (after all, most among the realms of man had never seen one of your kind before!)

Bellinea was the buune city in which you were born and raised, a bustling community nestled high among the peaks and valleys of the Ustellen mountains and near to the heart of your homeland. Far removed from the periphery of the bramble veil, it made for a more cloistered upbringing compared to the sights you've since come to know. Travelers of any sort who were not buune themselves were quite rare and denizens of the realms of man were nearly unheard of.

You do recall a visit of Retavii traders, long of snout and tail and round of ear -- though near as you know, such distant 'cousins' did not often leave the deeper crags. Emra puffs thoughtfully at his pipe at this mention before nodding somberly -- expressing some familiarity with 'rat folk' as he calls them. You catch a few more disparaging mutterings from others, but continue on nevertheless, reflecting on fond memories.

Among your four brothers and two sisters, you were the youngest of your kin -- and often enjoyed exploring the groves of the valley in the humid harvest season in particular. During your younger years, you were schooled like many of your brethren in the great communal burrow halls set within the hillside -- but remember a great deal of fun making your way to the rooftops of the taller homes in the exterior sprawl of Bellinea.

There was a bakery in Bellinea where you'd often pined over confections: walnut pastries, candied citrus peels, spiced almonds, apple tarts, jam-filled pastries and cinnamon cookies summoned in vivid memories which make your mouth water and nose wiggle in remembrance. Of course, you omit from your retelling that you'd had sticky fingers on several occasions, absconding with delicious sweets to enjoy while watching the sun set over the valley -- no need to worry these folk over thievery.

When you had begun to blossom into a young woman, it was decided by your family that you would depart from Bellinea to enter the tutelage of the Briar Spire owing in part to your burgeoning sensitivity to spiritual essence: an uncommon trait, but one found most often among buune women -- though your sisters had not shared in such. You were to become a Rhiannon, in part that you might assist the wardens in safeguarding your homeland; however, as things would unfold fate had more in store for you...
>>
No. 1028783 ID: 94bb57
File 164963207705.jpg - (283.95KB , 750x450 , soj_091.jpg )
1028783

Deciding against sharing the particulars of your esoteric training (and that it may be best not to speak of the Obsidian Sanctum in unfamiliar company,) you nevertheless find that a fair few of the men and women in the hall have turned their attention to you in your storytelling. Some see to sating their curiosities, asking you of your people, culture and customs. You speak of Khasma, goddess of the stars and fertile harvests (and really, other fertile interests as well) and some seem to consider a similarity with their own rites of harvest.

As well you reflect on courtship, for which trinkets fashioned of flowers were quite important, on craftsmanship and the talented artisans of woodworking and glass-blowing in Bellinea especially -- and even on love, which you swiftly gather is far more open among the buune than the folk of Hevelston. Your thoughts turn to the stack of love letters in your bag and a faint flush enters your cheeks, tail giving an unconscious twitch; fond memories indeed. Lastly, you talk of poetry and music, offering a demonstration with your flute which your small audience proves keen on.

Easing free from your cloak and hanging it aside, you rummage in your bag before retrieving your flute; after some brief consideration, you settle on the rather catchy tempo of Coupthlut si Othhwut -- part of a ballad about the buune bard Engelard and his cunning, passionate courtship of the Snow Queen. An exhilarating (and tricky to play!) piece, even if it's left somewhat wanting by the lack of a honeyed baritone providing the lyrical accompaniment.

Nevertheless, your talent as a flutist proves well-received and you are relieved that you're not too terribly out of practice; you even receive an applause afterward and find yourself relishing in the moment of remembrance however far from home you may be. Emra seems quite taken by the performance and deep in his pipe along the way.
>>
No. 1028784 ID: 94bb57
File 164963242511.jpg - (305.35KB , 450x750 , soj_092.jpg )
1028784

Upon the completion of your tale and performance, your thoughts go to the threats beyond the hall as you reflect on rendering aid for the mercenaries fending of the denizens of the dark. However, no sooner have you resolved to head out when a call comes from the militiamen at the fore of the hall. Two men move to lift and hoist aside the great timber barring the doors, opening the way then as light spills out onto the raised causeway beyond, bathing the faces and forms of some half dozen men and women bearing various arms and armor.

"It is done." Declares a tall, stout fellow clad in studded leather and resting a broad-axe across his shoulders; a few ragged tears can be seen in his garb. Another, slimmer fellow in low-hanging chainmail clutches at his arm where the links have been torn away, blood caked where it has oozed between his fingers; among the rest, several seem bruised and bloodied for the affair, but standing ably enough. "Three at the apothecary." Grunts the tall fellow. "And one dead."

A mixture of elation and more somber moods clash among the denizens within the hall -- but most appear palpably relieved that the bloody work is nevertheless concluded. You see the mercenaries welcomed into the front of the hall, each of them handing off their weapons to waiting militiamen; two who enter seem clad as militia themselves and are permitted to keep their spears at hand.

Once the rest have cleared the doorway, your eyes fall to a striking figure still standing beyond the hall: a head or more taller than yourself of braw build, a crimson cloak slung about their shoulders over armor of a strange style unfamiliar to you. Of most significant note, however, is their appearance -- boasting the equine head and tail of an onager. You watch as this last arrival silently surrenders a sword in its scabbard with a stoic expression before glancing over; your eyes meet, their nostrils flaring with a faint snort.

Around you, what empty spaces had remained among the tables are soon occupied by mercenaries returned from the battle beyond while a few of the men and women in the hall set out with some haste, seemingly to see to the aftermath outside.

Though the hour is now growing late, you decide to...

> )_

Whatever you might like to pursue next will like as not lead into wrapping up the day afterwards -- but tensions have eased now and things seem more safe for finding a place to stay for the evening.
>>
No. 1028789 ID: e5709d

>>1028784
Invite someone to dance!
>>
No. 1028809 ID: 8483cf

It might be a little late in the evening to RELEASE THE HOUND when everyone's so tired and the mercs are drained. Alas, maybe tomorrow.

Khasma would probably smile on congratulating the onager captain on a job well done!
>>
No. 1029528 ID: 2f1c85

So the mustard cloak must be someone else. Still, this would be a good chance to find out what mission the equine fellow is on.

Act reserved for a while, in case the equine person has similar thoughts to your own, and decides to approach you first. But if he's shy, then you'll have to be the one to walk to him and strike a conversation.
Compliment him on defeating the beasts and then ask about who he is, why he's in this town, and what's his mission.

But also, flirt. Would be a shame to spend another night alone~
>>
No. 1030401 ID: e51896

Congratulate him
>>
No. 1030750 ID: dccdd0

flirt with him.
>>
No. 1030801 ID: 894419

>>1028784
Invite this strapping lad for some celebratory dancing and revelry!
>>
No. 1030856 ID: 94bb57
File 165134734992.jpg - (394.86KB , 750x450 , soj_093.jpg )
1030856

Finding yourself feeling festive and friendly with present company, you decide to see to offering congratulations to the tall onager -- and see, perhaps, if they might fancy a dance or prove amenable to a more flirtatious approach. Initially, you take to a more reserved approach while you wait for the mercenaries to disperse and settle among the inhabitants of the hall -- catching a few glances your way from the equine and others alike.

After observation, you decide the onager must be shy and elect to go on the offensive, approaching the strapping mercenary with bright eyes and a friendly smile to introduce yourself and offer your regards. Up close, you feel a bit of a thrill run up your spine as you take in just how sizable the onager truly is -- easily standing over the men and women of this place and looming over you easily.

Cheery, you level praise for a job well done and offer companionship; the onager seems to tense and consider you with some measure of uncertainty, nostrils flaring with a chuffed breath much to your puzzlement.

"Easy there, don't just grumble at the pretty lady." Interjects another of the mercenaries as he inserts himself into your midst: he looks young and braw, with blue eyes and chestnut hair, a scar across his left cheek and a square jaw with the darkened remnants of a shorn beard. "Excuse my brawny friend here -- they're not very talkative." He offers to you wryly, reaching up to clap a hand on the onager's shoulder. "I'm Geoffrey and the big one's Zarin."

"Kaia." You offer back of your own name, smiling; Zarin's jaw tightens, but the onager dips a polite nod towards you while Geoffrey's smile broadens. "Excellent, a pleasure to meet you Kaia." He grins before gesturing to the hall beyond. "We've had ourselves a proper scrap and I'm apt to celebrate -- and if you don't mind me saying, I'd wager you're a lot more fun to drink with than this lot." He winks.

Keen to gather information and to avoid an evening spent alone, you acquiesce to join the pair and together claim a table. Geoffrey orders up wine and other libations, proving to be a rather gregarious sort (and rather flirtatious in his own right, as you soon discover.)

Gamely, you manage to dance with them both: Geoffrey is quite sure-footed, and while Zarin seems hesitant to participate Geoffrey goads the onager into joining you in kind. It is swiftly clear to you that the equine is unaccustomed to dancing, but through patience you guide them along the steps (and avoid getting stepped on in the process.)

Several bottles and a hearty meal later, most of the activity in the hall has slowed to a late-night lull as you find quiet conversation with Geoffrey -- Zarin going unspoken but still attentive to the exchange. "We happened to be here when the call to arms came about," Geoffrey explains, "so it was serendipity, you might say." You're not certain what that word means, but you nod anyways. "Not that a bit of coin hurts, but we were obliged to lend our blades."

"What do yew plan next?" You inquire. Geoffrey shrugs, finishing off the last of his drink and setting it aside. "Look for another good charge to put our talents to use. What about you, Kaia?" Folding his arms against the table, he leans forward and watches you intently -- and perhaps a bit earnestly as he smiles.

Sensing you have an opportunity to chart your course, you decide to...

> A) Trust these two with the truth of your task and entreat them to travel with you
> B) Be pleasant but vague about your destination, deciding you'd work best alone
> C) _

In addition to voting on the above, you can separately weigh-in on if you'd prefer to keep things just friendly, respond to Geoffrey's flirtatious interest or similar pursuits; Zarin seems reticent at the moment, but perhaps they might loosen up more.

Generally, this is a chance to potentially start a party if you are inclined to do so. Finally, independent from this vote Emra will also be sharing knowledge of warding magic with you as part of your downtime here.

>>
No. 1030861 ID: e5709d

C) Immediately ravish Zarin and break out into a sexual dance number!

... Just kidding, look around for more potential teammates.
>>
No. 1030873 ID: ea5947

>A) entreat them to travel with you
>B) but be vague about your destination
It's definitely safer to travel with companions, and these guys seem to be reliable as far as their battling skill goes. Since they're mercenaries, it would probably be difficult to convince them to travel with you for free, but you have plenty of coin, so that's not an issue. You shouldn't immediately tell them about your mission. Not before learning more about them, their history, their desires and what not. So for now, you should hire them, unless they already intend to travel in your direction, in which case you could try to join their party (or convince them join yours) for free.

A buune needs her carrot, so keep flirting, but don't push too much at Zarin. Maybe they'll open up once the party is formalized, or after traveling together for a while. For one, you don't even know what's in their pants...
>>
No. 1030931 ID: 48c95d

I agree that she should hire these strapping lads to be bodyguards initially rather than immediately involving them in her plans. More details about the mission could be provided once a bond is forged and they prove trustworthy. Perhaps there is a question Kaia could ask to glean their opinions before opening up to them?
>>
No. 1031282 ID: dccdd0

A) tell them about your quest and try to get them to join you.
Also, keep a flirtatious tone with them. Hopefully, you'll get lucky.
>>
No. 1031888 ID: f57349

A) "So, this whole situation with the Pall... who's working on fixing the heart of that? Anybody? Well then maybe WE should."
C) Also check if you can do anything to help out those three at the apothecary, or whoever else has less serious injuries.
>>
No. 1031951 ID: 8483cf

>>1031888
Agreed!
>>
No. 1031952 ID: abaa91

>>1031888
Backing this.
>>
No. 1032426 ID: 94bb57
File 165267672281.jpg - (352.93KB , 750x450 , soj_094.jpg )
1032426

With the perils which doubtless lay ahead, you decide to seek companionship for the road -- while not quite overtly playing your hand in the process. Aided in some part by the jubilant libations and affable airs you've managed with the pair (and a fair bit of flirting,) you broach the subject of the Pall broadly enough: was there anything to be done of the matter? Who might get to the heart of it?

Geoffrey posits that the Sarken and their Empress cite just such a charge with their march through the Khanate. "Zealots, the lot of them," he opines with a shake of his head, "but it was zealots who loosed it in the first place, I'd say." Zarin chuffs at the statement, but offers no remark beyond a thoughtful nod. "I wouldn't wager on their success." Geoffrey concludes.

Sensing an inroad, you suggest a more academic approach might prove fruitful yet if one might seek out scholars, or perhaps even magi among the Khanate. Geoffrey offers a chuckle and a smirk at that, but nods to you just the same before taking your bait: "Fancy you might be on to a proper solution, then?" Without putting too fine a point on it, you let slip that you'd heard of a wise and learned sort further east, albeit through what you understand to be a treacherous trek.

"So you're looking to hire some protection, are you?" Geoffrey casts a sidelong glance to Zarin before shooting you an appraising look. "Well, you're in luck -- we're available for such a jaunt, aren't we Zarin?" Another chuffed breath in response. "Normally our services come at something of a premium," he notes before leaning forward over the table and lowering his tone, "but call it ten gold a day and we're yours to see you safely through." He smiles.

Part of you senses that Geoffrey's interest (and apparent inclination to 'bargain') extends beyond your noble cause alone and into other fancies. Still, while you're not thoroughly versed in the cost of hirelings, it seems a reasonable rate while you grow more familiar with the pair; from Hevelston, it shouldn't be more than another day or two to reach Volkregar and even if you decided to return here afterward, you'd have coin to spare.

You agree, intent on setting out together early on the morrow having reached an accord -- before setting your sights on lending a hand at the apothecary...
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No. 1032427 ID: 94bb57
File 165267681303.jpg - (434.41KB , 750x450 , soj_095.jpg )
1032427

Three lie among the injured at the apothecary, their wounds cleaned and bound as they drift in and out of uneasy slumber. Where Geoffrey and Zarin seem to have fared well among the other mercenaries at the hall, the trio here are markedly worse for wear. You introduce yourself, candidly sharing your talent as a hedge witch with the apothecary -- offering to help mend and soothe the wounded as best you're able.

Setting to work, you take the time to enact the more involved process that is your healing rites to provide more potent recovery and relief from their wounds; for this, the apothecary lends many of the necessary reagents in service of facilitating your work making for an easier undertaking. Deep gouges and rending injuries from substantial teeth, claws and quills fill your imagination with ferocious and twisted beasts lurking among the gloom.

Nevertheless, you are an able hand at such magics and your handiwork spares these three from a more severe recovery. It would seem that some word must have spread from the display, perhaps through one of the militiamen posted outside -- for onlookers eager to observe a buune with a healing touch arrive from elsewhere in the village. To your surprise, the apothecary shows thanks for your efforts by way of coin in payment before you depart for the evening...

...and find Emra, puffing at his pipe and looking pleased with himself and you alike. "Too right, too right, I've seen you've a proper hand for the art now. Let's show you about the warding, then." He leads and you follow, for want of expanding your repertoire despite the late hour; it proves quite enlightening, even if the man is a peculiar teacher.

By the time you have finished, you feel thoroughly exhausted; much as you might fancy sharing a bed this eve, you decide it best to get what rest you can before setting out with your companions. Still, you're rather confident by the looks you'd gotten that you've sparked an interest among them -- so who could say what might unfold in the nights ahead?

15 gold coins gained from helping the apothecary. You have also gained the WARD ritual for free as a result of your earlier pursuit - it has been added to your sheet!
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No. 1032428 ID: 94bb57
File 165267704309.jpg - (348.03KB , 750x450 , soj_096.jpg )
1032428

You awaken the following morning feeling reasonably well-rested, though some soreness and fatigue still cling to your form after the exertion of back to back rites late into the night. As promised, you meet up with Geoffrey and Zarin early with a spot of breakfast before paying the pair for the day's accompaniment -- which Geoffrey attends to, seeming to manage Zarin's coinage as well for safekeeping. Your blade is returned to you once you depart from the hall.

Briefly, you consider an effort to pawn the valuables you've collected thus far before you set out -- but decide to hold on to the trinkets and jewelry that you might find a more suitable merchant, or use in enchantment at another time. ( You can earmark valuables for later sale if you'd like; by default, Kaia is presumed to hold on to rings and things in case they might be useful later. )

Together, you set out from Hevelston down the easterly road despite its muddy state and soon put the village behind you as you venture into the wetlands beyond.

Though you are unaccustomed to traveling with others, having company proves comforting -- even simply having an armed and able-bodied escort, should a foe present itself. On the other hand, neither Geoffrey nor Zarin are buune: you underestimated just how much more light of foot and swift of pace you were compared to those of other kinship. Still, adjusting your gait and tempo proves easy enough and the pair are not wanting for endurance, at least. ( Kaia is actually quite a fast traveler -- having new companions makes for somewhat slower travel, though not without perks! )

Zarin brings up the rear as you and Geoffrey keep to the lead, the sizable onager quiet but keenly alert; you suspect they've senses comparable to your own, at least. Geoffrey is surprisingly light on his feet you find, and though he might be no match for your swiftness you wager others might underestimate the man's speed; he also proves quite curious about you. You decide to share what you had among the villagers of Hevelston at first, reasoning that there was little secrecy there, but reserve more pressing details for now.

By mid-day, you arrive at something of a fork in the road presenting two possible routes to Volkregar. To the right lies an old, well-traveled trail winds down a slope and into what seems to be the beginnings of a steep ravine and possible valley beyond. To the left, the trade road carries onward and upward into the wilderness rutted with the remnants of passing carts and wagons.

"I'd wager there's a chance of brigands up yonder." Geoffrey offers of the trade road after he sees you contemplating. "Terrain's not kind to merchants through the low trail. Might not be kind to us, either." He offers a wry look at that. "Easier travel on the high road, but may avoid trouble on the low. What do you say?"

Considering your options, you decide to..

> A) Follow the low road into the ravine, preferring to take your chances with treacherous terrain and other hazards
> B) Follow the high road into the wilderness, preferring to take the chance of brigands for an otherwise easier trek
> C) _

Whew! That was a lot to cover this update, but we're underway again and things should pick up a bit more now. Geoffrey's not an infallible opinion on the possible paths, but those choices are the broad strokes of what each might entail -- while there are also less obvious factors, such as what opportunities you might find for your different talents in the mix.

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GMZzD92D41H7SBRdr3Znag5X2oVB5aWmL0tPqlywi7M/edit?usp=sharing Reference sheet for current talents, magic and inventory. (Note: possible spoilers for anyone in the future catching up, as this document will be current to whatever the most recent update is!)
>>
No. 1032430 ID: 8483cf

B. We've dealt with brigands before. Brigands also have useful information we might overhear!
>>
No. 1032444 ID: e5709d

B) Tell your teammates to walk slowly in plain view while you scout ahead in stealth. You'll use magic to clamp their mouths shut if you spot an enemy.
>>
No. 1032483 ID: 9748c8

On one hand, Pathfinder skill would make the low road's terrain not an issue. On the other, you have a powerful escorts and keen senses to counter any attack on the high road.

B) It's a dice roll, but I'd wager the high road has a higher chance of being interesting.
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No. 1032682 ID: b6986d

>B
Not only might brigands know something useful, they might have useful things or items we can use.
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No. 1033508 ID: 94bb57
File 165344899482.jpg - (428.26KB , 750x450 , soj_097.jpg )
1033508

Together, you decide to take the high road up and through the wilderness and to your surprise, find a certain eagerness in anticipating an encounter with your new traveling companions. Reasoning that brigands rather than beasts may prove a source of useful knowledge or equipment, you lay out your plan to Geoffrey and Zarin: both are to travel in plain view while you stalk ahead, traversing the terrain with canny senses and stealth that you might gain the upper hand on any would-be ambush.

Drawing your hood up and tucking your ears back, you take to the forest vanguard at a swift, light-footed pace as you navigate ahead of your 'escort'. For the better part of an hour you travel this way, cloak drawn about your figure as you weave a faint shroud over yourself -- just enough to render you more difficult to discern at a glance. Sweeping a wide circuitous route from the path, you take care to check on your companions from time to time lest you lose track of them, with a weather eye out for trouble.

Faint birdsong can be heard midst the creak of swaying boughs and rustling leaves, a breeze bustling through along the trade road; the scent of tall grasses, clay and sap greet you most prominently as you move, your sandals treading over mossy ground interspersed with thicker foliage and undergrowth. While these may be unfamiliar lands to the buune, you feel in your element as you carry yourself with dexterous grace -- a certain thrill stirred in your breast as you get your heart pumping.

Geoffrey's assertion proves true: as you maneuver your way back towards the path again from a broad sweep, you discover several men lying in wait -- having approached them from an unattended flank. At least five figures that you can discern paying overt attention to the pair of travelers arriving from a distance, exchanging glances and gestures as they no doubt ready for an ambush.

From what you can ascertain, the men are modestly armed and armored, but nevertheless strike you as rough individuals; nearest to you are two fellows with a sword and spear respectively, while you glimpse three others on the other side of the road -- unable to quite make out how they are armed, obscured by trees and foliage as they are.

You decide to...

> A) Lie in wait and see what happens when Geoffrey and Zarin encounter the men...
> B) Take action, by blade or sorcery, springing an ambush of your own...
> C) _
>>
No. 1033509 ID: 8483cf

A. We're better equipped to do a surprise attack (if necessary) when they're certain they have the advantage.
>>
No. 1033511 ID: 51c10d

A) But see if you can't use COMMUNE first to warn your comrades. Best none of you are taken unawares.
>>
No. 1033515 ID: 48c95d

We should be sure to communicate the number of foes and their location as best as we can to provide an advantage. Our companions are professionals, and now is their time to prove it. Considering our strengths are in magic and stealth I do not think that Kaia should initiate the fight, but rather supply backup if needed for her companions. Perhaps at some pivotal moment, she could spring upon them from the rear, and perhaps make them think they have been flanked by a larger force (Maybe summoning CC could aid in this)? Fear and surprise should be utilized, as these men seem rough, and a prolonged fight to the death would be costly no matter the outcome.
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No. 1033517 ID: e5709d

B) Summon Crystal Crumpsy and have them sow chaos to disorient the ambush.
>>
No. 1033519 ID: 894419

>>1033511
This
>>
No. 1034173 ID: 9748c8

Put one of them to sleep while staying hidden.
>>
No. 1034379 ID: b6986d

>>1033508
>C
Using stealth and magic, pick off one or two of them in secret before they can mount their ambush.
>>
No. 1035035 ID: 94bb57
File 165527137675.jpg - (308.15KB , 750x450 , soj_098.jpg )
1035035

With deft utterance and practiced gesture, you alert Geoffrey and Zarin to the brigands lying in ambush -- taking stock of those rough sorts you spy in strength and number. With the element of surprise tipped in your favor, you then set about plying your subtler talents from the advantage of stealth: opening with the rite of SLUMBER on the brigand nearest to your position in the hopes that he might succumb unnoticed by the others. To weave slumber at range even in so close a proximity requires some of your reagents, but nevertheless you see his limbs sag and head dip as he slides down against his hiding place, slumping into the bushes.

By now, your companions draw nearer -- and from your vantage, you see one of the men readying a crossbow to aim at the pair; this proves impetus enough to slip your hand into your bag to loose your secret weapon upon the unsuspecting fellows. With an onerous <b>boof</b> Crystal Crumpsey materializes -- and thanks to your efforts at training, seems to quickly grasp your intent; swooping in a frightful display, the woof-o-the-wisp pounces at the crossbowman who turns towards her in startled alarm, reflexively loosing a shot!

With a heady twang folly ensues as the man discovers one cannot bolt a polter-pooch as the projectile sails harmlessly through C.C. and instead catches the man brandishing a spear in the chest. Staggering with a pained cry, the spearman sways unsteadily while your ethereal hound passes through the crossbowman in kind; gaping in dismay, the man hastens to plant his foot into the cocking stirrup of his weapon to begin readying it for another shot.

Meanwhile, your ears prick to the din of unfolding violence not far off...
>>
No. 1035036 ID: 94bb57
File 165527141217.jpg - (305.54KB , 750x450 , soj_099.jpg )
1035036

More men than you'd expected seem to surface from hiding to engage Geoffrey and Zarin, but the pair are prepared to engage them. A tall, broad fellow with long blond hair makes for Zarin from a flank with a bold yawp only to be caught off guard by how swiftly the onager checks him bodily with that large shield -- a meaty crack audible as a few of the man's teeth dance out across its surface. With a curt chuff Zarin flexes and lifts, wholly foisting the tall fellow off his feet on the back of the shield as he splays out -- before Zarin delivers a decisive chop with a short, broad blade that hews the man's limb mid-forearm in a single blow.

Opposite the towering mercenary, Geoffrey is met by a brigand bearing a round shield and broadsword moving with a look of apparent confidence -- an expression swiftly dashed with your more talkative companion's expert footwork. Geoffrey deftly parries a swing from the brigand such that it crosses over the man's chest and throws his shield arm wide, creating enough of an opening to plunge his blade through the aged and tattered leather of the man as he croaks a breathless gurgle.

You've not been involved in such a melee as this before, pulse quickened and mind racing as adrenaline courses through you and you attempt to appraise the situation. Near as you can tell:

-One brigand slumbers near to you, and C.C. is harrying others.
-One brigand with a spear has been shot in the chest and seems badly wounded near you.
-The crossbowman is hastening to ready another shot.
-Zarin has thoroughly disarmed a brigand, and Geoffrey has surely slain another.
-Three more brigands are now closing on the pair to engage them.

You decide to...

> A) Maintain stealth for as long as possible, observing what else unfolds...
> B) Seek to join the melee and flank the brigands moving to engage your companions...
> C) _

https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1GMZzD92D41H7SBRdr3Znag5X2oVB5aWmL0tPqlywi7M/edit?usp=sharing Reference sheet for current talents, magic and inventory. (Note: possible spoilers for anyone in the future catching up, as this document will be current to whatever the most recent update is!)
>>
No. 1035038 ID: 8483cf

B! Get that crossbowman.
>>
No. 1035039 ID: 51c10d

B) See if you can't take down the wounded spearman first from behind—should be easier, given the wound—before taking down the crossbowman. Your companions are capable enough to take on the three others.

If you can't close the distance, whip out one of your iron daggers and try throwing it at his arm! Harder to aim a crossbow with a knife in your elbow.
>>
No. 1035043 ID: 7c0424

B. This crossbowman is the priority target.
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No. 1035050 ID: 273c18

I think those are all C votes. There's three more bandits approaching, that we haven't seen yet.

I agree that taking out the crossbowman is a high priority, but we should at least get an eye on the three bandits, right? If there's another one that would pose a problem for our friends then a bit of an interception is in order.
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No. 1035221 ID: f57349

Steal the wounded guy's spear so he's more fully neutralized, then use spear on crossbowman.
>>
No. 1035521 ID: 9748c8

Focus on the crossbowman.
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