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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.
Expand all images
>>
No. 1010900 ID: 673fe6
File 163198516795.jpg - (1.41MB , 1661x1199 , sojourn_class.jpg )
1010900

You are KAIA, a bold and inquisitive BUUNE. Elusive, reclusive, and
secretive, yours are a people most have rarely seen among the realms
of man -— but the threat of what lies ahead have called for ACTION.
You have a purpose, a calling, and have embarked on a QUEST into the
strange and unfamiliar lands of an empire in collapse.

Our records are unclear in some regards - you must help us to correct them before the tale of your QUEST
can begin…

On the matter of your calling and creed, you assert that you are:

Dame Kaia, First Blade of House Rivello - a skilled martial combatant whose title and reputation
may precede you — for better or worse. An intrepid duelist, fencer and musketeer -- you have been honed
in battle. This expedition requires an adventuress of sure steel and stalwart mettle.

Sister Kaia, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire - a hedge-witch and student of magical arts undeterred in
your study of the occult and esoteric arts -- considered taboo or forbidden by many outside your brethren
of the coven, for the realms of man fear the unknown. An adept versed in cantrips, essence-weaving and
rituals. This expedition requires an adventuress of expertise beyond the mortal ken.

Seeker Kaia, Sentinel of Secrets from the Obsidian Sanctum - an agent of an order dedicated to
safeguarding the realms from the shadows. A cunning rogue versed in intrigue, subterfuge and skulduggery,
you are an able acrobat well familiar with paths less traveled. This expedition requires an adventuress
of a more canny, stealthy approach.

...>_
>>
No. 1010902 ID: f6629d

Sister Kaia, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire
>>
No. 1010903 ID: e51896

let's be someone who works behind the shadows, not often we play as a stealthy character. Seeker Kaia
>>
No. 1010904 ID: 11f77a

Sister Kaia, always mess with magic!
>>
No. 1010905 ID: 96c896

Dame Kaia.
>>
No. 1010906 ID: 506f7b

Seeker
>>
No. 1010907 ID: 9c850e

Sister Kaia
>>
No. 1010909 ID: 8483cf

Seeker Kaia! Stealthy characters are so rare here, it would be cool to play one.
>>
No. 1010910 ID: ede6d0

Seeker! Let's get our stealth on.
>>
No. 1010911 ID: f610a0

Tossing in a vote for Sister Kaia, because magic is fun!
>>
No. 1010912 ID: 15a025

Seeker Kaia
>>
No. 1010913 ID: c92a02

Dame Kaia.
>>
No. 1010915 ID: b6986d

>>1010900
Sister Kaia!
>>
No. 1010916 ID: 51c10d

I'm throwin' in my vote for a seeker. The world deserves a primo-sneaksbee.
>>
No. 1010917 ID: bfbddb

Im tossin my vote for Sister Kaia!!
>>
No. 1010918 ID: 094652

Seeker
>>
No. 1010919 ID: 6e4236

Dame first and foremost. Seeker if not.
>>
No. 1010920 ID: 92c1dc

Sister Kaia, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire
>>
No. 1010921 ID: 684ae8

Sister
>>
No. 1010922 ID: 673fe6

Dame----: ===
Sister--: ========
Seeker--: ========

What an unexpected result - it would seem, then, that our records held two
halves of a whole. Ahh -- now, it grows clearer, to a more cohesive whole.
Let us review the archives...



( A surprisingly vigorous enthusiasm, and neck and neck for two of the three. Already taking things in unexpected directions, but I think I can work with this for both camps: allow me to adjust accordingly - but it seems to me that your desired charge is a blend of magic and stealth... quite useful, then! More to come shortly. )
>>
No. 1010923 ID: 334144

Wow! 19 votes right off the bat. Well done on an amazing start on your quest.
>>
No. 1010924 ID: 673fe6
File 163200873883.jpg - (1.18MB , 1495x1098 , sojourn_covenagent.jpg )
1010924

You are Seeker Kaia, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire and Sentinel of the
Obsidian Sanctum - a talented hedge-witch and student of the magical
arts, whose study of the occult and esoteric arts drew the eye of the
Obsidian Order -- willing to overlook their taboo nature in service
of safeguarding the realms. From your sisters of the coven, you became
an adept versed in cantrips and rituals -- while in service of the
Order, you have been trained in subterfuge and discretion.

Elusive, subtle, yet braw and bold enough to seek out forbidden knowledge, feared by the realms of man:
in such trying, perilous times, this expedition requires an adventuress with expertise beyond the mortal
ken -- and a canny, stealthy approach when faced with overwhelming odds.

A witch, a rogue -- an arcane trickster, of sorts, such a background has granted you the weal of magic
through your sisterhood coupled with the nimble, deft efficacy an agent may rely on to evade notice when
desired. Such cross-training is not -quite- so thoroughly effective as a more dedicated path, but together,
these skills may prove invaluable as you venture ahead, alone or otherwise.


You are a Coven Agent. You are able to cast cantrips, perform rituals from grimoires or scrolls, and weave
essence--the spiritual underpinning of the living world. You are also trained in stealth and subterfuge,
and if prohibited from your arcane arts can still prove capable with a light blade at hand.
>>
No. 1010926 ID: 673fe6

On the matter of preparations for your journey, you have readied yourself with many staples for an able
adventuress, safely secured in your satchel and messenger bag. In addition to your personal grimoire,
a set of thieves' tools and a dagger -- these particular trinkets were important to you...

You may pick three starting trinkets to aid you on your journey -- one 'major' trinket, and two 'minor'
trinkets. In the event that there's a lot of tiebreaking going on with the minor trinkets, I'll weigh them
in order of listed preference (so the first trinket you list is a higher priority than the second.)


Major trinkets:
A Spyglass, perfect for observing from a greater distance
A Tinder Ring, handy when a small spark can make a big difference
A Firebomb, a powerful and dangerous explosive fashioned from the alchemy of black powder
A Coin, ancient and mysterious, gifted to you by your mentor; it is always warm to the touch
A Shard of ice which never melts, excellent at cooling one's beverages
A Draught of an imbued healing elixir, potent - but foul-tasting
A Mask of alabaster, smooth and obfuscating, if you wish to hide away your features and face
A Compass, a rare and excellent tool for navigation
A Holy Symbol of Khasma, may she watch over you on your perilous journey

Minor trinkets:
A Portfolio of pressed flowers, keepsakes for when you may feel homesick
A Sizable pouch of deliciously roasted nuts
A Phial of scented oil, a fragrance you deeply enjoy
A Hare brush, your favorite of the lot
A Stack of letters from sweethearts past
A Handkerchief of exceptional quality, given to you by a past admirer
A Translation Guide, an aid for the slang and colloquial phrases found in the realms of man
A Flute, an instrument you are skilled at playing
A Bottle of your favorite brandy

Thanks to your dabbling in the arcane arts, you have an enchanted messenger bag capable of holding more
weight and quantity than one might expect in its various pockets! Not only is it easier for you to retrieve
something you're after in a hurry, but it can make more time for others who might go rummaging about your
belongings in a compromised situation.

>>
No. 1010928 ID: e51896

 Mask of alabaster

A Translation Guide
Portfolio of pressed flowers
>>
No. 1010929 ID: cdbcf8

Mask of alabaster

Handkerchief
Flute

Handkerchief over the mask, no one will ever know who we are. And we can somehow play a flute with all of it on, was going to pick Translation Guide so we can gp "Ey yo what up bros, it's me, your sneaky girl Kaia." but we can do that later.
>>
No. 1010930 ID: 9c850e

MAJOR: healing elixir
Reason: It only takes a moment to inflict a wound that can last a long time. Having this will allow us to be twice bitten, once shy.

MINOR: stack of letters
Reason: if you ever want to eat ass
>>
No. 1010931 ID: 9c850e

>>1010930
whoops, forgot one MINOR:
phial of fragrance oil
>>
No. 1010932 ID: b6986d

>>1010926

MAJOR: Shard of Brandy Cooling
MINOR: Translation Guide
>>
No. 1010933 ID: b6986d

>>1010932
Additional Minor: Favorite Brandy.
Unmelting ice, brandy, and a translation guide.
>>
No. 1010935 ID: 96c896

>>1010926
Major:
A compass

Minor:
Translation Guide
Bottle of brandy
>>
No. 1010936 ID: ede6d0

Major
Compass
Minors
Roasted nuts and Brandy!
>>
No. 1010949 ID: afe7de

Major - Mask
Minor - Brush + Brandy

You're an elusive rogue and agent, so the mask of alabaster is your bread and butter for moving unnoticed as your ears do stand out.

The brush is a keepsake, you love it dearly as you shed only a small amount, but it feels nice.

And the brandy... What brandy? Its your brandy. not others... yours.
>>
No. 1010954 ID: 4f8284

>>1010926
Major: Coin - who knows what you can buy with the ancient mystery currency

Minor: A Flute - music has a power all it's own, don't underestimate it
Translation guide - knowledge is power, and a social faux-pas avoided is always good
>>
No. 1010976 ID: f610a0

Major: Compass

Minor: Bottle of Brandy, Translation Guide
>>
No. 1010985 ID: c92a02

A spyglass, your hairbrush, and a flask of brandy.
>>
No. 1010986 ID: bc11b8

Flowers to remind you of the warrens back home.

A pouch of delicious roasted nuts, a snack because you should always stay well nourished.

A holy symbol, to be protected.
>>
No. 1010987 ID: 6e4236

A compass, a flute and a translation guide could help a lot.
>>
No. 1010988 ID: 673fe6
File 163202838163.jpg - (374.89KB , 759x632 , sojourn_bunponder.jpg )
1010988

Decisions, decisions...
>>
No. 1010989 ID: 673fe6

Upon further consideration and reflection, and its runaway
lead position for accessories, the Obsidian Order will make
sure the Translation Guide is standard kit for our dear Kaia
given that it may be coming across as too must have. If any
prior picks would like to swap to something else feel free--
otherwise I'll treat them as wildcards probably.

I'll round up tallies and see about our embarking on the morrow
while Kaia daydreams about necessities and niceties as buune
are wont to do!

And on an extra note, many thanks to you all for the wonderful
welcome and interest as things kick off!

>>
No. 1010990 ID: 96c896

Ok, I'll swap that choice out for deez nuts.
>>
No. 1010994 ID: f8fa51

Spyglass

Flute
Scented Oil
>>
No. 1010997 ID: 1d4f7b

Major: A Coin, ancient and mysterious, gifted to you by your mentor

Minor: A Bottle of your favorite brandy

You never know when someone needs to be bribed, and now you've got coin and contraband.
>>
No. 1011004 ID: 673fe6

A reflection on your ABILITIES:

You are able to cast cantrips, simple but readily accessible magic
at your fingertips. With a deft touch, murmured phrase and careful
concentration, you are currently able to do the following with only
minimal preparation:

> GLOW - Imbue an object such that it illuminates its surroundings
for a short while. Your focus allows only one such object at a time.
> INVIGORATE - Stir a living thing you touch, encouraging flowering
plants to blossom, fruits to ripen and creatures to rouse in various ways.
> MEND - A clear favorite for a fashionable buune, it is a most
practical tool, repairing damaged garments and minor injuries alike.
> SOOTHE - Relieve the pain of a living thing, comfort and combat
agitation, anxieties or fear -- regrettably, not as effective for yourself.
> COMMUNE - Project your words a short distance for a creature you
can see, or communicate with entities which manifest nearby.

Note: If you are bound or gagged, it substantially affects your ability
to perform cantrips, let alone more involved magical rituals!


You are able to perform rituals, more elaborate or involved magic
accessible through your personal grimoire or other sources, such as found
scrolls or imbued icons. Rituals require reagents or foci -- even with
your imbued bag, your supply for such magics is more limited, requiring
you to keep a weather eye for more. You are currently able to perform
the following rituals:

> BEWITCH - Attempt to ensorcell or charm a living creature, to
sway them towards agreeability and subject them to your influence. It
is not mind control, and likely to fail against hostile targets.

> HEAL - Provide a living thing magical recovery from more serious
injuries, including yourself -- a slow and involved process requiring
concentration and reagents proportional to the wounds involved.

> CURSE - Reserved for targets of your substantial ire, a witch's
curse is no paltry matter -- and yours, in the past, have often been
rather creative. Scope and effects can vary greatly, reliant on the
time and reagents you commit to the task, but the results...

> CLEANSE - Purifying magic to combat corruption, poisons and
other maladies which may extend beyond ordinary injury. Can prove to
be an exhausting ritual.

> SLUMBER - Attempt to lull a living creature to blissful sleep,
provided it is something they are capable of; the effectiveness of this
ritual is relative to preparation, but imbuing fruit as a vector is a
particularly effective approach.

We're not going to get into nitty gritty and specificity over these
elements -- it will remain fairly abstract, mostly beholden to Kaia's
overall supply of components and reagents e.g. ample or low. You'll
find opportunities to try to restock throughout your QUEST, and will
doubtless discover additional rituals which you may be able to pursue.


You are able to weave essence, the spiritual underpinning of the
world and the beings within it. All living creatures possess essence,
and most magic manipulates the properties of such. 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.

You are limited in this ability initially, but your decisions and
experiences may help or hinder its growth throughout your QUEST.


You are trained in stealth and subterfuge, meaning that you
are particularly adept at attempting to remain unseen and avoid notice
when you make an effort to do so -- provided your surroundings allow
for it. You are also able to utilize your tools to attempt to pick locks
and interact with other mechanical obstacles, such as traps.

You are a knowledgeable herbalist, able to recognize plants which
are useful as reagents -- or tasty snacks. You are especially versed in
flowers, as fresh flowers are delicious; in theory, you've convinced
yourself that you're going to stop eating so many flowers.
>>
No. 1011011 ID: 673fe6

A reflection on your INVENTORY:

Thanks to your involvement in the arcane arts and the Obsidian Order, you
possess a magically imbued messenger bag able to hold more supplies and
weight than may be outwardly apparent, while allowing you to remain light
on your feet. Very handy for an adventurous buune!

Additionally, this has allowed you to carry twice the trinkets
than originally expected! Two major, and four minor selections have been
added to your INVENTORY.


As you are a professional, you've made a point of preparing for
your QUEST with many of the staples an adventuress would think of. Of
course, there's always a chance you may have forgotten or misplaced a
thing or two, but you've resolved to mostly try to remember your
INVENTORY.

Currently you possess:
> Your personal travel grimoire
> Your dagger, also suitable as your athame for witchcraft
> Your personal set of thieves' tools, a priceless boon
> A compass, a rare and excellent tool for navigation
> A mask of alabaster, smooth and obfuscating
> A translation guide, to aid in understanding parlay in the realms of man
> A bottle of your favorite brandy, priceless where you're headed
> A flute, an instrument you are skilled at playing
> A sizable pouch of deliciously roasted nuts
> Your favorite hare brush, thank Khasma you remembered to bring it
> A portfolio of pressed flowers, for when you may feel homesick
> 50 feet of sturdy rope (or, approximately 15 meters)
> A grappling hook, every adventurer's favorite rope accessory
> 10 iron pitons, a staple for safe spelunking and climbing
> A small hammer, good for pounding pitons and cracking walnuts
> 3 torches, for when you require fire and light not magical in nature
> A sizable waterskin, to stay hydrated
> A comfortable bedroll
> A concerning number of caltrops
> 10 pieces of chalk, some of them colorful
> A small mirror, important for embarrassing oversights
> A pot for cooking, but not to piss in -- you have standards
> A set of flint and steel, not as handy as a tinder ring, but it'll do
> A change of clothes
> A mess kit for civilized eating, with extra salad forks
> Enough trail rations to feed yourself for another twenty-one days as of
the start of the QUEST.
> An AMPLE supply of reagents and spell components for your rituals.

So there was a tie for the fourth minor trinket as well, but you managed
to squeeze another in rather than bringing even more torches.

>>
No. 1011015 ID: 673fe6
File 163207600549.jpg - (187.78KB , 700x300 , soj_001.jpg )
1011015

Prepared for your QUEST ahead, well-supplied and nerves steeled, you
then spent a final evening among your friends and loved ones in good
company -- enjoying the comforts of food, drink and revelry before
the perils which laid ahead. Perhaps, knowing then what you would
later come to discovery, you never would have left. Perhaps, you
would have done so with greater urgency still...

ڿڰۣ-ڰۣ—

Onward you set from the safety of the bramble veil, the watchful eyes
of the wardens gazing after you as you dwindle into the distant horizon.
Through territory rich with verdant wilderness and familiar groves, out
and beyond to the very cusp of your homeland -- the furthest reaches
tread upon by most of your people.

You have prepared for this day, steeled your resolve as your brethren have
steeped well-wishes and blessings for your difficult trek -- but ready as
you thought yourself to be, there is an irrepressible pang of anxious unease
at the pit of your being when you truly depart to lands unfamiliar, leaving
behind that which is precious to you -- and which may not remain, unchanged,
should you ever return.

For two weeks you stride, as buune are excellent travelers by foot -- each
eve, setting camp to rest beneath the starry sky, embraced by the fleeting
brush of essence upon the breeze and suffused in the life around you. In
such remote spans, you are alone -- following after the aged and dusty
remnants of a road once laid by the mightiest of empires -- at least, until
it had been felled by the GREAT KHAN of generations passed.

By midway through your third week of travel, striding into nightfall, you
stead yourself to make camp as before -- yet as the stars twinkle above,
to yonder skies you spy no such gleaming. At first, it is difficult to
fully ascertain, but soon you arrive at a certainty: you have reached the
present precipice of the PALL, the smothering darkness shrouding everywhere
it reaches.

Among the Obsidian Order, it is said the PALL has wholly consumed KHANATE
and now threatens its neighbors, allies and enemies alike; the realms of man
have bore the brunt of its ceaseless spread -- but left unchecked, it's only
a matter of time...

As you camp this night, you do so knowing that it will be your last certain
gaze to the great cosmos above. Ahead, will your ancestors watch over you
still? Can Khasma's vigil pierce that CURSED veil? You cannot be certain.

Nevertheless, you must not falter.
>>
No. 1011019 ID: e51896

Anything fun we want to do tonight before we head into the unknown tomorrow? It's important to relieve stress so we can stay focused on this serious mission.
>>
No. 1011020 ID: 094652

Inscribe a journal entry on a particularly smooth boulder.

>>1011018
And invigorate yourself.
>>
No. 1011021 ID: 38de5d

Cast invigotate on yourself and have fun.
>>
No. 1011064 ID: c92a02

>Falter
>>
No. 1011071 ID: 673fe6
File 163209888554.jpg - (1.03MB , 1500x1125 , soj_002xx.jpg )
1011071

> Relieve stress and INVIGORATE yourself...

Anxiousness, uncertainty, stress -- much swirls through your thoughts as
you prepare to bed down for the evening. After contemplating amid your
restlessness, you look to a nearby boulder near where you've settled in
-- taking to it as a makeshift journal in a sudden bout of inspiration.
Upon the smooth stone you share the tale of your present undertaking,
that perhaps someday another may happen upon such words -- someone who
knows the eloquent tongue of the buune, at that. If they should not?
Clearly not the right party to make acquaintance with your story.

By the time you have finished, the hour has grown quite late, yet still
anxious energy wells within the pit of your stomach and sets your tail
to twitch and flick of its own accord. Baring yourself beneath the
tranquil starlight, you stow away your things within the tidy confines
of your bag before settling upon your bedroll for a weary stretch.

Some relief, after as with many an evening after a day of stride -- but
it does not quite satisfy the tangle of essence and energy bristling
within you...
>>
No. 1011072 ID: 673fe6
File 163209894038.jpg - (1.03MB , 1500x1125 , soj_003xx.jpg )
1011072

...a notion percolates, a solution to your troubles; who could say for
a certainty when next you may happen upon a safe place of respite and
solitude? You've not seen another soul in quite some time, and even
along the old road, what were the odds that one might come traipsing
out to reveal themselves now? Taking a moment of caution, you have a
look about your surroundings, keen ears and eyes attentively searching.

Alone. Well, you're comfortable enough -- and your practice of the
esoteric arts had more nuance than most would ordinarily consider...
>>
No. 1011073 ID: 673fe6
File 163209898684.jpg - (1.03MB , 1500x1125 , soj_004xx.jpg )
1011073

A melodic murmur, crooning from your throat -- though here, for your
ears alone; a tingle, blossoming warmth from the pit of your stomach
until it spreads to your fingertips, where there a familiar sensation
builds with each lingering moment as the invigorating essence takes
shape. It is scarcely your first time exercising this particular
discipline of the craft, though oft as not it has been in service of
introducing partners past to an exhilarating peak.

Indulgent, relaxed, your hands drift in the languid press of a lover's
leisure -- smoothing your palms in a slow, methodical knead over each
new inch of short, soft fur and supple flesh -- aching from the day's
rigors. Slender fingers splay and squeeze, focusing your attentions
against the tops of your thighs where you sit as a shiver runs the
length of your spine and your tail begins to tremble in a display of
emphatic delight.

In your mind's eye, you manifest a particularly favored lover from
the past, motions falling to an easy tandem with the flourish of heat
and energy your questing hands bear. A quiet moan slips from your
throat past parted lips as you allow your roaming touch to mirror the
motions of your fondly remembered tryst.

One hand inexorably trails back along your thigh to sweep against the
pliant warmth of your belly -- before fingers slip past the heat of
your mound to ply gingerly at your quim. Dexterous digits flex, twin
fingertips spreading yourself, before shifting to part slick, delicate
petals and slip within before the cool evening air can encroach beyond.

Groans blossom alongside louder, more earnest moans; you shudder as
fond pleasure builds, heightened to dizzying degrees as nimble fingers
work the cantrip's magic as expertly as your own most sensitive forms.
Your head swims, pulse quickened, fingers working a feverish tempo as
your free hand captures and kneads at the supple heft of your breast,
pinching and massaging almost haphazardly to dimple the flesh beneath.

Pent up as you are after forestalling such pleasures for so long, the
act alone would have seen you through to swooning in bliss -- but to
couple as well with your coven's more lurid arts, there's little chance
to resist those growing heights for long. A climax overtakes you,
profound and upending you bodily as your toes tightly curl -- an earnest
cry escaping you as it echoes through the open evening countryside.

Inner thighs trembling, you pant and gasp breathlessly, blinking your
eyes back open once more -- uncertain which among the stars you see
above is there at your own making. Khasma, you are certain, must be
smiling down on you in your carnal reverie -- enough to bring an
impish smirk to your lips before you suckle your own slick fingertips.

Absently, you find yourself teasing still at your figure as you gaze
up at the stars. Perhaps, then, if you will be unseen in the days to
come -- you'd best be sure. With a luxurious stretch, you find a
comfortable position again before the lilting murmurs of the cantrip
are crooned anew...
>>
No. 1011074 ID: 673fe6
File 163209902322.jpg - (2.51MB , 2000x1500 , soj_005.jpg )
1011074

In the morning, you feel refreshed and revitalized; the lingering aches
and soreness of your travels have fled your limber legs and the weight
upon your heart feels lighter, if only temporarily. You fix yourself
breakfast and see to your morning affairs before slipping back into
your traveling attire. As you tug and cinch your sandals, your eyes
fall to your journal entry upon the smooth boulder once more as a coy
smile spreads at your lips.

An addendum is added, simple and succinct: that a bold daughter of
Khasma was truly here beneath the stars...

...and that she came and went.
>>
No. 1011075 ID: 673fe6
File 163209908151.jpg - (4.18MB , 3000x1500 , soj_006card.jpg )
1011075

||==========================||
BASTION OF THE LAST LORDS
||==========================||
>>
No. 1011076 ID: 673fe6
File 163209912191.jpg - (7.11MB , 3000x2662 , soj_007.jpg )
1011076

This past day's travel has, at long last, brought you to the very cusp
of the existent PALL in this region -- and by surety of your compass
and the direction of the Order, you are certain now that the KHANATE's
territory lies ahead. As you reach the crest of a steep and craggy
slope, you stand on high overlooking a sweeping valley below.

To the northeast, the dark shores of an unfamiliar sea loom beneath
the gloom of the PALL, abutting a dense, primordial forest. Such
wilderness lay sprawled before the base of a broad mountain range
spanning the horizon ahead as far as you can see.

Flanked by the wilds, an open lowland stretches along the span, its
center cut by a newer, broader road which overtakes your own faded
trail; its path disappears into the western wilds, leaving the way to
the lands of your people long-since disused and forgotten.

Most prominently, you can see a broad, fortified city nestled securely
upon the only observable breach in the mountains yonder; a vast gate
able to host the tread of armies stands at the center of towering
battlements, a formidable bulwark to the lands of the late GREAT KHAN.

Even from such a distance, it is clear to you that much is awry in
the once-grand site: smoke trails skyward from several places beyond
its high walls, while a multitude of tents brightly festooned in red
and gold have been raised a short distance from the city, among the
lowlands.

It is difficult to see precisely what lies among them -- faintly,
you can make out a few disparate figures moving among the encampment.
If there was a grand battle here, it would certainly seem that you
have missed it. The result of such is obvious, however: that
grandiose gate lies open -- and with it, your surest, most direct path
into the KHANATE itself.

...>_

A saucy detour! A beginning to the grand undertaking beyond! For
now I'm going to leave the input open ended on how you would like to
proceed, but it seems the old road that you've followed here is at an
end and that its continuation -- used by the realms of man -- lies far
below and beyond.

You are still up rather high at the moment, but you are an agile buune
agent -- and a path down looks relatively accessible, if a bit time
consuming. What you need to decide together is how you'd like to
take your approach once down below; you have seen signs of movement
off in the distance, but cannot say who or what it may be.

From up your high vantage here, you are confident the city fortress
has fallen -- and there does not appear to be anywhere close to a
city's worth of activity beyond its walls.

Kind of a big art blowout for the start of this; with the weekend
closing out, may pivot to some narrative posts for a bit between
the next big art update!

>>
No. 1011079 ID: e51896

I'd say we head to the forest first, hunt some wild animals or monsters, and then we bring the carcasses to the campsite as a meal and gift for those campers to stay on the people's good side and give us easier access to the city, and information. first impressions are important
>>
No. 1011086 ID: 094652

Check the cliff to your left for hidden treasure. There's always some nut who thinks nobody will find their super-secret hiding place in a hard-to-reach location, acting as if OCD adventurers didn't exist.
Did you know that Notepad has a word wrap feature?
>>
No. 1011130 ID: 6e4236

Become permanently asexual.

Also, causiously approach the camp to learn what's going on.
>>
No. 1011136 ID: 7f1c09

Use stealth to sneak unseen and listen in on the campers, see if they are friend or foes.
>>
No. 1011138 ID: 96c896

Once you get down there, try your best not to be seen until you find out what people are like around here. The corruption could have had negative affects on the populace's mental faculties.

You DO want to find someone who knows how to survive in the PALL, though. I'd imagine the plants and animals have changed enough that it's difficult to know what's safe to eat... and you're probably going to want to know what towns are still safe to visit.
>>
No. 1011166 ID: f8fa51

The first thing you should do is attempt to gather information without being seen. Approach cautiously, beware that if this is an army they'll have their own scouts, and just watch for a little while. Figure out who (or what) these figures are and what they might be doing here.
>>
No. 1011179 ID: f610a0

I will reinforce the "Be stealthy and approach the area to learn about the Campers" advice, with a side of "Have a hearty meal and drink before you so much as touch the Pall so you can go as long as possible without possibly tainted food."
>>
No. 1011188 ID: ede6d0

Stealth is most likely your best bet here.
Though, proficiency in stealth tactics mean diddly squat if you're coming at them from an open field, maybe stick to the forests? Should offer a decent amount of cover there until you've figured out if it's safe to approach them or not.
>>
No. 1011196 ID: 673fe6
File 163218738694.jpg - (157.28KB , 700x300 , soj_008.jpg )
1011196

From your vantage on high, you decide the most sensible approach is to descend towards the depths of the wilderness, to best avoid detection before you can be sure of the situation at hand. With the road at your back and uncertainty ahead, you situate yourself around the cusp of the cliffside with room enough to prepare a meal: here, before the PALL, while you still have a moment's peace.

A portion of pumpernickel with crisp greens whets your appetite, and you afford yourself a delicious roasted nut from your stash -- a candid celebration of your arrival. As you sit contemplating sneaking a bit of brandy as well, your gaze wanders along the nearby rock face before an old hunch tugs at the periphery of your thoughts. These heights at the end of the old road would be a landmark of a sort, what if a wary individual had made a point of its use?

You clamber up to your feet, a cool breeze setting your cloak to billow briefly as you adjust your garb; for a long few moments you study the rockface, nose twitching as you run your fingertips along a deeper series of crevices. A silly musing? But then, your fingers find purchase--a wry smile forming at your lips as you gingerly tug and shift your grasp, unseating a broad and dusty stone and revealing a hollow behind it. You reach inside, scooping free a dusty, weathered leather pouch which had been hidden out of sight from any passerby.

You suppose the denizens here might balk at the cliff's precipice, but you were never really afraid of heights, were you? Hefting the pouch, it jingles with a curiously satisfying clinking; easing it open with nimble fingers, you peruse its contents -- assorted coins of silver and gold emblazoned with a bearded ruffian in profile. Currency of the realms of man, no doubt.

You have gained a Weathered Leather Pouch, along with twenty-seven gold coins and thirty-five silver coins.

Sated in appetite and curiosity alike, you gather your belongings, stow your discovery and begin to plot out your descent in your mind's eye -- setting out soon after as you navigate your way to the wilds below.
>>
No. 1011197 ID: 673fe6
File 163218742759.jpg - (178.90KB , 700x300 , soj_009.jpg )
1011197

At the base of the cliffs, you set foot among the darkly verdant wilderness -- ears poised high as your nose sets to task, taking in the great breadth of scents and sounds peppered throughout. It is remarkably dense growth, thick foliage providing ample ground cover while the canopy above offers only the most fleeting glimpses of the darkened sky beyond. Despite the gloom of the PALL looming overhead, you find sure, easy footing as you maneuver among the terrain; much of your childhood had seen wilds as rich as these, and there is a certain comfort to the presence of so many towering trees.

Birches and oaks stand interspersed with an overwhelming number of old pines; the scent of sap hangs thickly on the air, while thick carpets of dry needles have been shed across the ground at your feet with nearly every step you take. Grand boughs sway as bushes and branches rustle -- and you spy in your peripheral vision a glimpse of a doe peering at you in the distance. You consider the creature for a moment -- but elect to remain focused on reconnoitering the camp first and foremost.

You check your compass, affirming your bearing, continuing onward...

*******

It is no trouble catching wind of the camp long before you lay eyes on it -- the sounds of man a curiously bawdy and boisterous affair as they yawp about; this is to say nothing of the smell -- sufficient to make your sensitive nose wrinkle as you catch a particularly odious sampling downwind.

Caution is foremost in your mind -- and well before you near, you take to a mindful silence, stalking your way to a suitable vantage point hidden among the dense wilds. You are, of course, conscious of the prominence of your ears as the camp comes more fully into sight -- but confident in your stealthy positioning, you poise them high to better listen to what transpires before you.
>>
No. 1011219 ID: 673fe6
File 163219437625.jpg - (171.15KB , 700x300 , soj_010.jpg )
1011219

Crouched low, you believe you are well-hidden a short distance from the camp's periphery as you settle into a kneel. There are a great many tents populating the lowlands before the fortress city, though you can see now that a number of them appear to have crumpled or collapsed in apparent disuse or neglect. Most of the large tents boast a motif of burgundy with gold -- bars of gold crossed in a symbol that stirs familiarity from your preparation with the Order: the SARKEN, an enemy of the KHOR.

Above, you had nominally suspected it -- but it now seems clear that an opposing force arrived at the city and that a battle must have ensued. As your eyes rove the encampment, flitting to what had been most likely a bivouacked army, you count ten visible denizens outside of tents; they are largely apart from one another, dispersed into smaller gatherings or going about individual business. Not remotely an army by any measure; it is possible the others have moved beyond the fortress, deeper into the KHANATE.

Silently, you observe and take stock of what you can see: near to one of the larger tents, a mat has been laid out with assorted belongings and supplies -- a few valuables noticeable among them. Off in the distance, a pair of individuals sit lethargic across from a guttered out campfire. Near to the gathered loot, a trio gathers before one of the men begins to show off a slender blade of silver with boastful enthusiasm.

Nearest to you, your nose wrinkles as you catch the sharp tang of a man's musk as he relieves himself behind thick foliage; briefly, you wonder at the display as the man sways where he stands -- a smell of alcohol carrying as surely as unkempt flesh. As you listen, you believe you can understand most of the speech you hear, at least the thrust of it: one of the men has been complaining that all of the camp followers have gone.

Most of the figures you've glimpsed boast thick beards in the curious fashion in which such creatures grow hair; several appear to be tall and stout as they bandy about together -- while all of them seem to be in varying states of disheveled irreverence. Some wear leather and chain armor, and while a few display the colors of the SARKEN military, others appear more piecemeal and mismatched; the man showing off the silver sword wears the lamellar befitting a warrior of KHOR -- likely taken from such a source.

Still confident that you are well-hidden, you assess the situation and contemplate your approach.

...>_
>>
No. 1011232 ID: c92a02

Once an army, perhaps, now vagrant bandits. Take out their sentries and then their leader, then search his tent for useful information.
>>
No. 1011238 ID: 96c896

You could Bewitch the guy taking a piss, and interrogate him to find out the specifics of what these people do. They could just be looters... After you're done interrogating him, put him to sleep and move on.

I don't really want to fight all of these guys. You could kill a few by stealth, yes, but wiping out all of them seems too risky and none of our spells are particularly suited to direct combat. A half-witch half-rogue isn't really good at combat in general.

Hmm, how far away can you target foodstuffs for a Slumber ritual? If you can hit their alcohol supply, you could just wait for them all to drink and pass out, then take your pick of the loot etc.
>>
No. 1011288 ID: f610a0

First: Put on the MASK OF ALABASTER, to conceal our identity
Second: Attempt to abduct the drunk peeing guy via SLUMBER so you can milk him for information
>>
No. 1011292 ID: b6986d

>>1011219
Mask up, boys!
>>
No. 1011361 ID: 673fe6
File 163234952537.jpg - (164.17KB , 750x300 , soj_011.jpg )
1011361

A frown tugs at your lips as you regard the men -- bandits, looters, like as not deserters left behind by whatever force has ventured deeper. Opportunists, picking at the carrion of the city; despite this, they number more than you, and you cannot yet be altogether certain of your safety in engaging them.

One step at a time -- your first order of business is further obfuscation, and reaching among your bag you retrieve your shroud mask, easing it into place over your features before adjusting and securing it into place. It is a snug fit, costing you the full measure of your keener senses and their faculties -- but given the stink prevalent in the camp, you reflect that it is not wholly a loss.

Tucking your ears into your hood in kind, you adjust the clasps of your cloak and cinch it tighter, working to further reduce your profile much as you're able: uncomfortable for a long stretch, but for the task at hand you'll surely be able to endure.

Regardless of whether you ultimately seek to spill blood or avoid violence, you assert a need to glean more information still -- engaging on your present opportunity. If all else fails, you'll have given yourself a chance to remove at least one of the men.

With deft, nimble footfalls you stalk nearer to the wayward fellow, scarcely making a sound as you cover the ground; it would be best to render the man unconscious first, lest his reaction to your more persuasive magics draw unwanted attention so soon.
>>
No. 1011363 ID: 673fe6
File 163234974602.jpg - (212.12KB , 750x300 , soj_012.jpg )
1011363

Against your training and preternatural grace, the bearded man fails to notice you until you're upon him, darting your hands outstretched akimbo to slip up beneath his rough-spun tunic -- where fingers can splay in direct contact with warm flesh. Distance and obstruction were not insurmountable things for your witchcraft -- but the more directly and closely you could interact with your target greatly increased the likelihood of its results.

Here, it proves insurmountable for the broad fellow's resilience -- the hushed whispers of your incantation soliciting a numbing flourish from your fingertips which swiftly wreathes his mind, causing the man to collapse unceremoniously into the earth in an ungainly pile. Out cold, soon set to soft snoring -- caught quite literally with his pants down, you have a brief moment to take stock of his bearing up close.

With little time to waste, you do not linger overlong: scooping your hands beneath his arms, you breathe a terse grunt as your legs flex, leaning to leverage his limp weight before you manage to shift him from where he lay. He's large and heavy, but you are blessed in at least his lack of armor as you work you drag him to a more secluded spot.

It's hard work, the feat of hauling a fellow nearly twice your size in some contrast to your travels thus far -- but by all accounts, you seem to have escaped notice in the affair. After some time and great effort, you have moved the man a sufficient distance to be clear from the camp's immediate vicinity -- leaving you with a stinking, hairy, oafish creature snoring away before you.

Lifting him from his slumber can be achieved readily at your whim; he is presently unconscious and helpless.

...>_
>>
No. 1011364 ID: 673fe6

RE: Slumber & Alcohol supply, the nature of the various rituals is generally a tradeoff of access vs. cost. The closer / more hands-on you can get with something with as few barriers as possible, the easier it is to pull off and the more potent the potential results. You could conceivably try to affect an alcohol supply from a distance, but that's probably something to consider after you have a bit more information at the moment -- since you're not entirely sure yet where such a supply may be yet. Since the separated fellow was more time-sensitive and had a few nudges towards it, that was the immediate action for now.
>>
No. 1011365 ID: 96c896

>>1011363
Tie him up, wake him up while covering his mouth and with a weapon to his throat. Then you can safely interrogate him, judge by his reaction whether you need to Bewitch him to get any info out of him. Though I guess you could just go ahead and do it anyway if recovering your reagents isn't too much trouble.

First off, tell him you just want some info, and if he cooperates you'll let him return to his group unharmed.
Priority one is asking what stable civilization still remains here. Second priority is finding out what areas to avoid.
>>
No. 1011366 ID: 094652

>>1011365
This, but don't use the knife. Fanatics have a chance of impaling themselves on the blade.
Tie him upside-down to a tree so it's harder for him to escape or break free.
>>
No. 1011367 ID: 1ee277

>>1011363
Given the inebriated state of our captive and the encroachment of our position into their camp, it may be best to leave him to sleep for the time being and see if there is anything to be gleaned from our new proximity. Pay mind to the surroundings, establish a general layout of the camp, their numbers and if they even speak anything that you can understand. If possible, their own ramblings will likely offer more of their temperament and situation than a single drunken fool.
>>
No. 1011379 ID: 3328c7

Let us:

1) Put his pants back on.

2) Perform the Bewitching ritual.

3) Wake him up while taking off our mask.

4) Tell him we are The Rabbit of Good Fortune and that good fortune will befall him if he answers our questions.

No one will believe him afterwards.
>>
No. 1011479 ID: 673fe6
File 163246067551.jpg - (362.57KB , 750x630 , soj_bunponder_II.jpg )
1011479

With the SARKEN man slumbering soundly beneath your spell, you are left with a pause -- and begin to consider your options with how best to deal with him and the matter of his fellows. You'd prefer to have more information about the encampment and its occupants, for even if you were to attempt to avoid it and venture into the city itself, you could be exposing your back to trouble. But of all your possible avenues, which would serve you best...?

Do you...
>A) Bind the man, secure him to your advantage and proceed to question him with threat or persuasion.
>B) Bewitch the man, tidying him up before presenting yourself as a benevolent and impressive creature.
>C) Secure the man as your prisoner, but then take advantage of his long sleep to sneak about the camp.

We're fairly divided with different directions this could go, and each of them is a sound one--so let's see if anyone else might want to weigh in for one of these paths to make up our mind! I'm presuming the prior suggestions align with their respective picks from these three, but if you change your mind you can make it known. If we get no other takers, then you'll ultimately trust your whims before too long has passed...!

...>_
>>
No. 1011480 ID: 8483cf

Bind and interrogate! We need details.
>>
No. 1011482 ID: 96c896

>>1011479
A. We can do C afterwards.
>>
No. 1011489 ID: b6986d

>>1011479
>B) Bewitch the man, tidying him up before presenting yourself as a benevolent and impressive creature.
We're a magical Buune on a quest to save the world, we ARE an impressive and benevolent creature. We just have to play it up a little bit!
>>
No. 1011493 ID: c92a02

A.
>>
No. 1011494 ID: 8233ee

If A fails we can “rescue” him with B and see if it works out better. Let’s tie him up
>>
No. 1011522 ID: 9c850e

>>1011479
B
>>
No. 1011538 ID: 673fe6
File 163254969982.jpg - (200.28KB , 300x750 , soj_013.jpg )
1011538

Erring on the side of caution, you elect to see to binding the man -- retrieving your rope from your bag before taking dutiful time to truss his arms and legs. Afterwards, you toss the rope over a thick, sturdy branch and quietly thank the tree's presence in foisting so large and heavy a creature from the ground. With some strain and long effort, you flex and pull before tying off your rope--leaving him dangling just a touch above your own height, upside-down. It would serve to disorient him and keep him in a compromised position, just in case.

A part of you still fosters the notion of cultivating your more magical and wondrous image with these creatures, however; it could prove quite fortuitous.

Once you're confident you have your captive secure, you rummage through your reagents and ration out a portion for a bewitching spell; up close, with a slumbering captive, you've ample opportunity for direct contact and muttered murmurs -- feeling the bloom of your essence's influence branching out as the broad and hairy man sways, rope faintly creaking above. A sparing use of your ritual, for now -- but enough, you hope, to keep him from more immediate alarm and drawing unwanted attention too soon.

With that, you dismiss the shroud of slumber from the man, watching through your mask as he stirs groggily from his stupor with a guttural sound. He mutters something you don't quite recognize in searching your knowledge of the 'trade tongue' most commonly favored in the realms of man, but from the look on his face, he appears duly confused and uncertain what to make of the visage before him. Squirming, he tests at his bonds; your rope work suffices.

"El sou hwim ca soo cin co soo," you offer initially, expressing an intent to know what he knows "Ol co flep si su shoonncean?" Unsurprisingly, he appears baffled by your own tongue. You clear your throat, seeking to enunciate for him in a more familiar fashion. "Yow are in the difficult state, but I cahn help with these things..." Better -- understanding registers, though his brow knits in clear consternation. Though your accented trade is not quite fluent, he mutters a gruff acknowledgement before nodding, upside-down as he is. His name, you glean, is 'Rolph.'
>>
No. 1011539 ID: 673fe6
File 163254972641.jpg - (167.36KB , 750x300 , soj_014.jpg )
1011539

Between your ensorcellment, his lingering libations and the man's predicament, Rolph proves fortunately and fortuitously forthcoming enough as you proceed to probe him for a better understanding of the situation. By his word, those who remain in the camp had been left to secure passage for messengers or supplies across the border, while most of their number were to hold the city beyond as a limited garrison; one hundred were left to this task.

Ahead, an army has ventured deeper into the KHANATE, seemingly accompanied by 'great heroes' if Rolph is to be believed and trailed by a supply chain. However, Rolph indicates that the supply chains dwindled, until it had been weeks without relief; he speaks of 'dishonoring the ancestors' -- harsh treatment grew as the occupying force became more demanding, until it had apparently come to a head. Recently, Rolph claims that nearly everyone who had remained in the city had somehow gone in the night, including the remaining leadership among the SARKEN.

In the ensuing days, Rolph asserts that more of their number have 'vanished' into the night -- you're not entirely clear on whether he means desertion or disappearances, beyond his insistence that behavior has grown worse. Those who remain have been looting what has been left behind and that there is talk of abandoning this place once they have finished; he claims that he has refused to do so himself, and that the 'ancestors' would not forgive for such behavior.

All told, twelve others remain in the camp outside the city walls and another eighteen have remained in the city itself -- but most of them have not been seen for days; he knows only that they had boasted opening the way into the 'HALL OF LORDS' where allegedly hidden riches and RELICS were interred.

You have managed to gain a better understanding of the situation from Rolph, who has proven cooperative.

Currently, you have a few important decisions to make...

>1) What do you want to do with Rolph now?
Bearing in mind that you've currently used your rope tying him up, he is otherwise presently at your mercy and affected by your witchcraft.

>2) How do you want to deal with the camp, if at all?
Whether attempting to sneak around or openly engage the SARKEN there, you may yet be able to find useful supplies or valuables at some risk. It is possible that you could avoid the camp entirely, if you so choose.

>3) If you proceed directly to the city instead...
How do you want to approach it? Its grand gates are wide open, and may be unguarded; you could also seek to scale the battlements -- the walls are high, though crumbling in places and largely unmanned. Or another approach entirely?
>>
No. 1011540 ID: 8483cf

Open engagement is silly. Let's see if we can figure out if it's desertion, or something else poaching their numbers- and if the enemy of our enemy is our friend.

Also, we should put Rolph to sleep (but not upside-down).
>>
No. 1011546 ID: c92a02

Untie him and set him loose into the woods, to eventually wake from his stupor lost and confused. Head directly for the city and scale the walls.
>>
No. 1011569 ID: 3328c7

Tell him to remember this dream well,, and that to keep an eye out for the white rabbit, as she brings aid to those in need.

Then make him sleep again and leave him back in the camp, before moving on to explore the city.
>>
No. 1011668 ID: 9c850e

1) ROLPH
Leave him tied here while you investigate the camp. If you proceed to the city, DON'T leave him tied up, but wait to let him go until you have searched the area. BIND HIS MOUTH so he cannot reveal your location.

2) CAMP
Investigate the camp more closely. Attempt to scare these oafs away using your most dramatic witchcraft. If that succeeds, see if there is any more loot available.

3) CITY
See if you can glean something useful from the camp before proceeding to the city.
>>
No. 1011678 ID: f610a0

ROLPH: Put him to sleep and drench his shirt with alcohol to make him just look like an untrustworthy drunkard.
CAMP: Work our way around the camp stealthily, keeping an eye open for any valuable targets of opportunity while declining direct engagement.
CITY: Once past the camp, find a sturdy-looking unmanned section of wall and prepare to climb.
>>
No. 1011713 ID: 673fe6
File 163272196329.jpg - (188.96KB , 750x300 , soj_015.jpg )
1011713

Rolph has proved useful, though you've finished with him here; with a ginger flourish you mutter an incantation -- speaking to him then in a lilting tone as slumber and spell begin to wreath over his senses once more. "Remember this dream." You chime. "Seek the rabbit white, thee aid will come."

Once his eyes have slipped shut and you are confident he is fast asleep, you go about the business of letting the fellow down from his hanging place and reclaim your rope. Drench? You consider your available alcohol. A dousing of just a splash of your precious brandy is a considerable gift, but you commit it to his shirt in service of misdirection...

Stowing your rope -- already contemplating ascending the walls to make your way into the city beyond -- you stalk back through the foliage and make your way back to the campsite.
>>
No. 1011714 ID: 673fe6
File 163272203458.jpg - (101.62KB , 750x300 , soj_016.jpg )
1011714

While the city beckons, there is a part of your mind that draws your attention still to the camp; with a better notion of just how many count among its scattered tents and guttering firepits, you move with deft, quiet footfalls to maneuver among the blind spots the tents can lend you. Your senses are more limited with mask and hood, but stealth remains at the forefront of your focus.

You're able to listen in on two of the men for a time as you remain out of sight; it would seem that in the span of your questioning of Rolph, the figure with the silver sword had encouraged others to accompany him back into the city before returning, himself.

Seemingly, the men in the city have been harangued by some 'elusive cur' that they have, as of yet, been unable to successfully confront; they complain of cowardice and injury, with growing desperation. There is uncertainty in those who remain -- something about dwindled supplies in the camp, but a wariness of 'losing their way' in the night if they attempt to leave.

Debating bringing your witchcraft to bear, you're unclear on a best means to frighten the oafs with your present repertoire -- but the thought has given you INSPIRATION to study deeper in your grimoire when next you rest. Creeping about, you attempt to spy a central reserve of alcohol and rations -- concluding that both must be tucked away inside one of the remaining tents, however much there is.

You feel that you have gleaned much as you are likely in a reasonable time from those who remain without exposing yourself further -- but before you slink out for the city walls, there is yet one opportunity of interest...

You've been INSPIRED for developing additional witchcraft when next you have a chance to rest and spend time to yourself.
>>
No. 1011715 ID: 673fe6
File 163272205696.jpg - (162.57KB , 750x300 , soj_017_chestday.jpg )
1011715

Carefully screening your surroundings for any onlookers or passerby, you make your way successfully to a collection of goods and valuables the men have laid out over a broad mat beside the more muddy footpath. Set beside one of the larger tents your eyes sweep over a variety of objects, containers and equipment gathered together and left, at least for now, outside of the tents.

Not everything could fit within even your magically imbued bag and lingering too long bears the risk of discovery, but nevertheless you've given yourself an opportunity to abscond with some of what you can only presume to be ill-gotten gains from the SARKEN men.

Quite a smorgasbord of things here to pick over, with a large, heavy chest securely locked on the far end. There are several smaller containers of different weights, lengths and sizes, as well as several sacks and pouches. A bundle of silk has been piled up beside a quiver of arrows.

There is a smaller lockbox, a goblet and what you recognize to be a holy symbol for SEHRAZAT. Some coinage, daggers, a gemstone, pearls and ornate bronze plates with different scenes and images on them. Additionally, a small shield or buckler, a helmet for creatures with much smaller ears, a ring and some gloves.


What do you examine or take, and how far are you willing to push your luck?

...>_
>>
No. 1011716 ID: 8483cf

Thank our lucky stars for making it in undetected. Stealth is awesome!

Gemstone and pearls for sure. Silk too. Value/weight ratio is great!

Has the lockbox been opened? Do we feel lucky in being able to get it open ourselves?

Leave the armor and weapons, we're fine as is.
>>
No. 1011717 ID: e51896

got tools to pick the lock of the chest? if so, spend time doing that before deciding on taking anything

otherwise, ring, gloves, goblet, and coinage.
>>
No. 1011718 ID: c92a02

Cool sword! Take that, the ring and gloves. Then scamper!
>>
No. 1011719 ID: 96c896

>>1011715
Spend as little time as possible standing over the loot. This means no opening containers, and not trying to carry off anything too big.

Objects of priority:
gemstone
holy symbol
lockbox (open it later)
pearls
>>
No. 1011721 ID: 673fe6

>>1011716

The smaller lock box has not been opened yet, but it does seem to be locked currently.

>>1011717

You are carrying your personal set of thieves' tools among your belongings, facilitating picking locks or disabling devices.

Both the smaller lock box and the chest seem locked; the largest chest seems to have a more elaborate and hefty lock on it.

There are signs that someone attempted to force it open, but they have not gone far enough to outright bash their way fully through the exterior of the chest yet.
>>
No. 1011739 ID: 1ee277

>>1011715
>>1011721
It's a tender balance: the value:weight ratio is operating on the assumption that there remain bastions of civilization where such rarities will remain desirable outside their practical stores of value. While they are light weight and can be very useful for trading, the opposite is true of the practicum in that they are large, heavy, difficult to conceal and likely outside your skillset.

However, the risk of trying to pick locks in the open could be well worth it. They obviously haven't made efforts to break the strongboxes, or at least not successful ones, and their origin is unknown. Depending on the size of the city, the contents may be important to the KHANATE and could prove useful later. If anything, stow the small box in your bag for later practice and try your hand at the larger box now.
>>
No. 1011764 ID: b6986d

>>1011715
Take anything small that can fit in your bag, and then have a go at opening the chest. Don't suppose we have a spell to pop it open?
>>
No. 1011783 ID: 094652

Grab the daggers, jewelry, gold, silk, and arrows, then scamper. Don't fleece too much or they'll pursue you.
>>
No. 1011864 ID: f610a0

I will throw a vote in for 'no lockbox picking, it'll take too long' and taking the lightweight stuff and scarpering; I will however specify that I think we really should take the holy symbol with us and not just the obvious riches, just in case.
>>
No. 1011913 ID: 673fe6
File 163289676786.jpg - (211.67KB , 750x300 , soj_018.jpg )
1011913

After a quick assessment of what lay before you, you swiftly settle into a low crouch and loosen the flap to your bag -- hands darting to deftly snatch up some of the more valuable or immediately useful articles on display. First you scoop up the ring and pearls, careful not to snap the band tucked beneath a heavy sack; the gemstone, a satisfying heft to it in your palm as you shift it atop the silk with one hand, the other grabbing the holy symbol, just in case.

You seize coins in a small fistful, a few errant offerings escaping between your fingers, focus divided to sidelong glances to make certain you've remained undiscovered; the goblet gets tossed against the gloves already resting atop the soft fabric before you gather it up into a bundle, easing the swaddled goods into the broad opening of you bag before it slims again as its enchantment does its work.

Time of the essence, you weigh your remaining options quickly, but carefully -- abscond with too much and it would be all the more obvious, or potentially prompt a more earnest pursuit of whatever thief had visited the camp. Shying away from the helmet, buckler and heavier sacks, you pass over the bronze plates and wooden cases in kind -- but quickly stow the pair of daggers into your bag, then heft the smaller lockbox with a flex of your forearm, feeling its contents jostle mysteriously.

A brief pause, and then you stuff the smaller lockbox into your bag -- feeling it occupy a more significant portion of the magical compartment, about half full you wager. Thoughts flit to the arrows and sword, both longer and more cumbersome by contrast, before you set your sights on the larger chest. No magic for this sort of thing, not yet at least -- but your skill at more delicate handiwork is not insubstantial. You still probably shouldn't...
>>
No. 1011915 ID: 673fe6
File 163289703511.jpg - (118.25KB , 450x300 , soj_019.jpg )
1011915

Out comes your kit, gingerly loosening its tether as you unfurl the leather spread of picks, rods and implements; taking another moment to listen intently, catching the faint squelch of mud from footfalls somewhat nearer to your vicinity, pulse quickening. It relents, trailing into one of the tents instead -- and in the quiet thereafter, you swiftly set to work attempting to defeat the sizable lock.

Nimble fingers working with practiced efficacy and a dash of adrenaline pumping through your veins, you work the tool to dance among the lock's mechanism in a succession of probes and tested tension until you arrive at a satisfying click. You angle your wrist to pop the lock open without scraping or knocking the iron unduly -- then ease it away, thumbs sweeping as you leverage the latch and heave the lid to the chest open enough for a peek at its contents.

Layered on top of the contents is a thick white cloth which you pull away, setting aside where the silk had lain -- before your brows rise as you lay eyes on the contents of the chest beneath. A long, thick case, suitable for parchment or scrolls, along with a weighty medallion, a sizable chunk of a light blue crystal resembling topaz and finally a peculiar implement with a cord-wrapped handle and metal prongs.

Your ears prick beneath your hood to stirring sounds -- you'd best be quick.

A bit of a narrow call with some of the split on trying your luck at the larger chest, but fortune favored the bold this time insofar as your skill with the picks proved out. No time for gawking now though -- you've made it boldly off sneakiness this far.

What is your immediate instinct with the contents of the chest before you seek to make yourself scarce?

...>_
>>
No. 1011916 ID: 96c896

>>1011915
If you're trying to escape notice you shouldn't take all of the contents. Take half.

Priority:
keysword
scroll
crystal
pendant
>>
No. 1011917 ID: 1ee277

>>1011915
The key and the crystal take priority, the scroll case and pendant can be left.
>>
No. 1011929 ID: b6986d

>>1011915
Take EVERYTHING, put it all in your bag. The key first, pendant second, then crystal, then scroll case.

Then if you still have time, put the cloth back how you found it and close the chest.
>>
No. 1011933 ID: 094652

>>1011915
Now that you've opened the chest, they're going to know they're dealing with a rogue. May as well take all four items. Do not stick around to look for hidden compartments, because once again, they'll hound you if you fleece them.

The sword-key comes first. You know this is either a funny prank or the key to something very important. Either way, the hilt should be worth a pretty penny.
The pendant is easy to carry.
The scroll has information.
Finally, if you can, the crystal. It might be worth the most food to an immediate trader but that is what the guards need right now.
>>
No. 1011946 ID: ec632b

Take the key-sword and leg it!
>>
No. 1012060 ID: 673fe6
File 163303516663.jpg - (163.82KB , 750x300 , soj_020.jpg )
1012060

Working deftly, you gather up the peculiar implement -- presumably a key of some sort -- and tuck it away in your bag, next seizing upon the scroll container, fingertips brushing over a smooth stoppered end. As you shove the cylindrical case into your bag, you can hear movement drawing closer to your position, pulse quickening. Nimble digits darting, you snatch up the pendant by its chain and shove it into your bag before easing the lid of the chest back closed. Replacing the lock, you hear a voice carrying nearer -- time to flee, lest you risk discovery.

On nimble footing you move, quickly and quietly to depart from the camp, maneuvering quickly among the periphery tents to obfuscate your presence as best as you're able -- hearing the belated arrival of someone at the spread haul in your wake. You make for the city wall, veering to avoid the main gate until you tuck yourself low beside the foundation of the fortifications. There, you pause for a time further in caution -- but when no SARKEN appear in your pursuit, you still your heart and prepare for a climb.

INVENTORY Updated. You have gained:
> Gold Ring
> Pearl Necklace
> Gemstone
> Holy Symbol of SEHRAZAT
> 28 gold coins, 17 silver coins
> Carved Goblet
> Leather Gloves
> Silk Fabric
> 2x Dagger
> Small Lockbox
> Key-Like Implement
> Wooden Scroll Case
> Bronze Medallion Pendant
>>
No. 1012061 ID: 673fe6
File 163303528633.jpg - (167.32KB , 300x750 , soj_021.jpg )
1012061

High battlements prove for a challenging throw for your grappling hook -- requiring a few attempts before you finally hook a secure, stable anchor; after testing the line and re-checking your stowed belongings, you begin the steady ascent of the fortifications, feeling a faint burgeoning burn in your hamstrings and arms as you advance. Climbing towards the PALL above fills the pit of your stomach with an uneasy flutter, as if even so 'slight' a move of proximity could bear ill portents; nevertheless, you pace yourself and steel your resolve, continuing onward.

A stiff wind buffets over the old stone of the wall beneath your sandals, billowing your cloak and skirt as you brace yourself against the bluster -- hood slipping back as your hair and ears are freed in a moment of almost disorienting sensation. Steady now. Looping your forearm to further secure your grip, you flex your form lower and steady your position until the gust subsides. Faintly, the creak of leather straps reaches your ears, working to hasten up the last span of the wall.

As you reach the rampart battlements, you haul your head high to peer at the vicinity, taking pause to search out any possible sentries; finding the wall-top vacant, you waste little time kipping up and hooking a leg over the top, pulling yourself onto the comforting reprieve of a solid, stable surface once more. Pulling your rope up behind you, you lay back against the cool stones and feel a palpable wave of relief.
>>
No. 1012062 ID: 673fe6
File 163303537877.jpg - (421.19KB , 750x750 , soj_022.jpg )
1012062

For a few long moments you lay there catching your breath and steadying your nerves, before gradually pushing yourself up to a low crouch and taking stock of your surroundings. There are signs here of a siege--broken and crumbled stonework in places, patches of scattered scorch marks and overturned braziers -- along with signs of dried, congealed blood in one span. No bodies, however, nor further remnant sign of their passing.

Searching further, there are sconces for torches, along with other low braziers to provide light further down the span; as far as you can tell, no one has manned the wall-top recently. Westward, further down the wall, you have access to the main gatehouse -- presuming you can make passage beyond an iron-reinforced door to the wall-top; the gatehouse appears to be a formidable fortification in its own right.

Opposite and much closer to your position is a doorway into a narrow tower -- though its top appears to have been sheared off by some manner of siege artillery and its upper reaches have partly collapsed. Here, the doorway is partly ajar, a faint scent of timbers and dust wafting free of the gap. You may be able to leverage it open further, or squeeze yourself inside.

Peering back over the parapets whence you came, you check on the camp; it's difficult to tell from such a distance, but you can see some of the men there moving about with more purpose than they had before -- though that may be, in part, because evening approaches, with whatever else that entails.

At last, you turn your attention inward, cautiously peeking past the cover of the wall-top to gaze on the city below. There, you spy a dizzying sprawl of urban structures, sizable in their construction with a great deal of stone and timbers. Many appear to have had their doors staved open or windows shattered, while others deeper in the city smolder from prior fires, or lay in collapse from the fall of siege works which had cleared the walls.

Among the streets and alleys below, you can glimpse a handful of the SARKEN within the city itself, many seeming to have congregated near the vicinity of the main gate itself and the thoroughfare beyond. A dark gloom hangs over the recesses of cramped and winding spaces between buildings and among the alleyways -- and refuse, offal and detritus has been scattered in many places.

Off in the distance, nearer to the heart of the city, a gap in the PALL has lent a column of light over the center of an elaborate ring of pillars and stonework; raised stone dais and broad steps, flanked by braziers, lead to a grand looking stone structure capped with a trio of statues, figures rendered in prolific scale. This, you conclude, must be the HALL OF LORDS Rolph had spoken of.

You decide to...

> A) Make your way to the gatehouse to seek entry, contending with the SARKEN there.
> B) Make your way into the nearby tower, to explore its inner reaches.
> C) Make your way back over the rampart, lowering yourself to the streets below by rope.
> D) _

You are INSPIRED, and can develop yourself further when next you have a chance to rest and spend time to yourself.
>>
No. 1012065 ID: 2aef11

A. The gatehouse will is where the action is, and the more we can learn about what is going on (and what's passing through) the better. Plus it gives us practice breaking in, and potential to leave ot find a backdoor for if we need one in an emergency.
>>
No. 1012067 ID: 9a2966

>>1012065
Sounds good.
>>
No. 1012228 ID: 56d49d

I think the tower would be a good place to rest, and it does seem safer than the other places.
>>
No. 1012230 ID: 9c850e

>>1012062
I vote C, since it looks to be the most furtive. You have been so meticulous about not being spotted in the camp and subduing Rolph before he could report you.

>>1012061
Plus, you demonstrated already that you are a decent rappeller/abseiler

Why reveal yourself on purpose?
>>
No. 1012234 ID: e51896

Agreed with c, we're stealthy after all
>>
No. 1012235 ID: bc11b8

C
>>
No. 1012254 ID: 673fe6
File 163322725054.jpg - (336.01KB , 450x750 , soj_023.jpg )
1012254

You consider making headway into the gatehouse and encountering the SARKEN gathered there, but decide to retain your advantage for now; readying your rope for a descent, you cinch it such that you can retrieve it once you're down. After taking a moment to check and secure you belongings, you leverage yourself over the edge of the ramparts and begin to lower yourself down -- a more swift undertaking than your prior climb. With deft kips and flexes you spring your way expertly down to the city streets below and leaving the high ground behind.
>>
No. 1012255 ID: 673fe6
File 163322732207.jpg - (202.57KB , 750x300 , soj_024.jpg )
1012255

Once you're on the ground, you take quick stock of your surroundings before darting past the precipice of the outermost buildings, navigating your way onto a broader side street which curves further into the city; as you had gathered from the ramparts, there is an eerie absence of the inhabitants you would otherwise expect in so prodigious a settlement of towering stone such as this.

Light on your feet, you push onward -- wary at the way your hood muffles your keener hearing with so many blind spots and hiding places to be aware of. Darkened and shuttered windows are nearly everywhere you look, both at street level and above -- while numerous alleyways offer egress and doorways loom with the prospect of plying their interiors. Faintly, voices carry from streets away from your own where figures glimpsed from the wall top still congregate.

With the span of this place, you could easily lose yourself for days if you're not careful -- and it is uncertain what may be found among its reaches. While the PALL oft casts its gloom over the lands beneath it, nightfall will surely deepen the shadows here further -- though you can glimpse the occasional street lamp illuminating pockets of the city.

Of greatest note yet is the HALL OF LORDS, where allegedly hidden riches and RELICS were interred which could prove invaluable for your journey -- and you recall mention of an unknown entity or individual haranguing the remaining SARKEN in the city as well.

You decide to...

> A) Begin seeking entry to building interiors, to search for useful supplies or a more secure place to rest for the night.
> B) Navigate the more narrow alleyways of the city, restricting your maneuvering but lending yourself more opportunities to avoid notice.
> C) Follow the broader streets, affording yourself more opportunity for discovery at a greater risk of discovery yourself.
> D) _

Separate and in addition to the above choices, it's up to you if you'd like to try to utilize the night to your advantage for greater cover of darkness -- but bear in mind Rolph's mentions of strange occurrences after nightfall.
>>
No. 1012256 ID: 8483cf

B. We have enough supplies for now, and fewer opportunities for us to move also means fewer angles to keep track of.
>>
No. 1012257 ID: e51896

A. We probably should look for supplies, and rest up for tomorrow, we did walk a long way to get here after all, we might get too tired to continue on, especially if we get spotted by an enemy. time to rest.
>>
No. 1012260 ID: e51896

Actually, changing my vote to B. we might have already been spotted by someone here >>1012254, so we should probably quickly make some distance from this place before we retire for the night
>>
No. 1012262 ID: 96c896

B, and see if you can find a secure location somewhere. You have to at least examine the loot you just got.
>>
No. 1012310 ID: 1ee277

>>1012255
A is the most viable option especially considering the habits of SARKEN looting toward treasures and relatively intact nature of the city. Further, if would allow for any spotting from scaling and descending the walls to blow over and bring them into a tizzy that would ultimately make any roving patrols more disparate and tired. Even if only for a small while a rest would do us good and give us a tenable position to hold for a time.
>>
No. 1012313 ID: b6986d

>>1012062
> B) Make your way into the nearby tower, to explore its inner reaches.
Maybe we can find some unlooted goodies, or someone off on their own we can interrogate. And if neither of those, it should be a good place to rest.
>>
No. 1012390 ID: 9c850e

>>1012255
voting for 🅱

This continues the stealth path. Are you able to cover up more to "blend in" with passing citygoers? Rather than hiding from view, you could go bundercover
>>
No. 1012458 ID: 673fe6
File 163346623132.jpg - (196.56KB , 450x600 , soj_025.jpg )
1012458

Erring on the side of caution, you take to the more narrow and darkened alleyways as you begin to navigate your way deeper into the city, softly padding over cobbled stone and hard-packed earth as you go. An eerie quiet hangs over your surroundings as once populous streets lay largely vacant and empty; though there are few signs of the remaining inhabitants or their SARKEN occupiers, you nevertheless cinch your cloak tight and your hood low -- keen to keep your identity obscure, should you encounter any passerby.

Most of the buildings you surmise to be dwellings of a more closely clustered community -- and though the architecture here looms high with stone masonry and roof tiles of fired clay, you can draw a sense of familiarity with the barrow homes you were raised among as a child. Passing beneath archways, your sandals lend quiet footfalls as you peer past darkened and shuttered windows, seeking to surmise the interiors beyond.

Despite the sacking of the city, you find surprisingly few signs of forced entry as you trail among entryways in the alleys; it is often difficult to discern what lies within a given space, in part due to the limitations your mask imposes on your senses -- but most are unlit as well. Still, you glimpse the occasional windows whose shutters afford a dull gleam, suggesting some still dwell within the city in spite of Rolph's foreboding tales. You take care to avoid lingering unduly where such vantages could observe you, for now.

At last, you come upon the stooped doorway to a promising building to stow yourself for the evening -- catching the faint but enticing scent of bread. Away from the sounds of more regular patrols and with no signs of active neighbors, as long as you keep a low profile and control your lighting you believe it will suffice to avoid detection while you rest. Slipping your tools to the ready, you work at the lock for a few deft moments before gaining entry, swiftly moving inside before you close and lock the way behind yourself.

Within, it is a narrow span nestled between buildings and sharing common walls. On the lower level you find the signs of a bakery, peering into the dark and cramped space of its kitchen and a broad stone oven -- long since cooled. There are sacks of flour among other ingredients, and though you find a few scarce remnants of the bakery's inventory, a cursory sampling finds it to be stale. Edible still in a pinch, though not your first preference.

Past a service counter there is a broad front window, presently shrouded by heavy curtains; you take a peek past the narrow part at the center and spy a continuation of a thoroughfare where more regular foot traffic would pass. No signs of passerby. Content with the privacy it provides for now, you take the time to check that the lower level is locked and secure at the front as well, before making your way up a narrow set of stairs to the upper level, boards creaking faintly underfoot as you ascend...
>>
No. 1012459 ID: 673fe6
File 163346640534.jpg - (286.50KB , 450x650 , soj_026.jpg )
1012459

Brushing past a crumbling patch of wall, you reach a short, tight hall -- finding three small rooms: a bedroom, a cluttered bath and a niche alcove which appears to be a shrine for offerings and prayers to SEHRAZAT and other deities. As below, so above -- you check to make sure the windows are latched, shuttered and secured before settling in.

Satisfied, you elect to get situated in the bedroom for the evening, at last shedding your mask, cloak and travel gear beside a surprisingly well-appointed bed -- it even has a stuffed mattress and pillows! You strip down from your attire and proceed to get more comfortable, contemplating how you wish to spend the evening's respite and make preparations for further exploring on the morrow...

* * * * * * * * *

After a bit of adventuring, some closer calls and exploring your capabilities, we've reached our first bit of downtime where you are also INSPIRED! Occasionally you will be able to further develop and expand your adventuring ability in a variety of directions, partly informed by the sorts of choices you've made in encountering and overcoming obstacles. As with many things, the more Kaia puts different skills and abilities to use, the more you can improve them.

With your currently inspiration, you can STUDY the Bramble Grimoire to discover new cantrips or rituals to pick from. These picks will be included alongside the results of your chosen downtime activities. Note: this does not count against the below picks!

Whenever you have a chance to take a 'proper' rest, you'll have an opportunity to examine and review anything you've collected along the way, use any of your supplies, attend to your equipment, etc.; there's a lot that Kaia can do during these opportunities, but limited time, resources and the like -- so it's up to you to decide together where you'd like to focus your efforts.

You won't generally have to worry about the 'essentials' as long as you've still got supplies and an appropriate place to rest (so e.g. eating is 'free' unless you'd specially like to skip it / ration yourself.)

* * * * * * * * *

During your downtime, you decide to...

(Pick three, in order of priority):

> A) Attempt to open the small lock-box and examine its contents
> B) Attempt to open the scroll case and examine its contents
> C) Attempt to sooth-say about _____ (write-in responses, seeking weal / woe insights)
> D) Relax & recuperate (enjoy luxury supplies / creature comforts)
> E) FORAGE for supplies or reagents in your surroundings.
> F) Pray for favor & guidance (To Khasma, or another deity if you so choose.)
> G) STUDY Logenthal's Lines for Lagomorphs and practice your 'trade tongue'
> H) __ (write-in activity not covered by the above.)

You are uninjured, and none of your belongings have been damaged, so there is no need / option to MEND.
You do not currently have spare arcane materials, so there is no option to ENCHANT.
>>
No. 1012462 ID: b320b1

Study the Bramble Grimoire. Maybe you can learn an invisibility cantrip or ritual to make you invisible for a certain amount of time to help with stealth. (Probably one of the drawbacks is that it only works on living things like yourself, not on objects like clothing...)

And lets do A, open that box!
>>
No. 1012463 ID: 96c896

>>1012459
STUDY the grimoire. Seems like that's all we can do atm with the inspiration.

A, B, F.
>>
No. 1012464 ID: a3b25e

>>1012462
Forgot we got three

To add on to my choice of A from my previous post, B: open scroll case, and D: relax (you know what to do ;) )
>>
No. 1012467 ID: 673fe6
File 163347089781.jpg - (195.31KB , 550x350 , soj_disctome.jpg )
1012467

Quick addendum / clarification:

STUDY of the grimoire is in addition to / a free pick an activity, and I'll further note (because frankly it's a fine idea) you can submit a suggestion for a possible cantrip / ritual to pick from in the next follow-up. I have a pool I'll be drawing from, but may also include some choice suggestions as options as well.

I'd also planned to give an opportunity to direct additional growth from your inspiration, there was just already a lot there to digest in one post; as I don't want folks to think that the grimoire alone is your option though, I may as well include this extended bit:

There are other sorts of inspiration Kaia can reach as well as you adventure -- as a buune with strong ties to ESSENCE and its flow, you have the potential to discover and unlock wholly new abilities and expertise along your journey -- some of which may be quite unexpected or potent. Other paths will remain surprises for now, but this is a good place to make note that communing, forming BONDS or finding powerful concentrations of ESSENCE can lead to new branches of growth as well!

So, beyond your STUDY -- you have also been INSPIRED to...

> 1) Pursue the Path of Shrouds, further honing your stealth and subtlety
> 2) Pursue the Path of Thorns, further improving your handling of martial combat
> 3) Pursue the Path of Stars, further attuning yourself to occultism and sooth-saying
> 4) Pursue the Path of Roots, further developing your form for acrobatics and athletics

Note: available paths may fluctuate / lead to new discoveries / close along the way.

To recap - please pick three downtime activities in order of preference / priority, and one inspiration; you can also optionally suggest a cantrip or ritual, which may or may not end up in the selections available when we see the results next!
>>
No. 1012469 ID: c92a02

Thorns cantrip (or ritual). Pick the lockbox, the scroll, and forage for cool stuff.
>>
No. 1012470 ID: 96c896

I'm gonna say 4. If things go tits up, the best backup plan is running away.
>>
No. 1012488 ID: 094652

Path of Shrouds - you're currently alone, so you need to focus on stealth until you can form an adventuring party. Stealth is also great for scouting ahead and stealing from the strong-yet-stupid.
>>
No. 1012492 ID: bc1608

Path of Shrouds
>>
No. 1012494 ID: 92c1dc

Path of Stars seems like the wise choice. It seems as if our magical gifts are the most useful tools we have at our disposal, and making them more powerful would be a great boon.
>>
No. 1012497 ID: b6986d

>>1012459
Study the BRAMBLE GRIMOIRE and learn a matchstick spell!
> F) Pray for favor & guidance (To Khasma)
> C) Attempt to sooth-say about traps or danger in the lockbox
> A) Attempt to open the small lock-box and examine its contents
>>
No. 1012498 ID: 92c1dc

> C) Attempt to sooth-say about traps or danger in the lockbox
> A) Attempt to open the small lock-box and examine its contents
> G) STUDY Logenthal's Lines for Lagomorphs and practice your 'trade tongue'

I think that we should probably want to open this box, but we could be smart about it. If there is anything worth selling in it, I think practicing the trade tongue would be beneficial!
>>
No. 1012508 ID: f8fa51

B) Scroll Case
E) Forage
A) Lockbox

Path of Shrouds
>>
No. 1012519 ID: f610a0

My votes: A, G, F in that order, and study the Path of Stars. I agree that magic is our best play but I want to keep balance between that and our athleticism; we wanted to be dual-role rollin' so let's keep to that!
>>
No. 1012608 ID: 9c850e

>>1012459
D > G > B

>>1012467
Path of Shrouds
>>
No. 1012630 ID: e0aaa8

Path of Roots.
Gotta unlock those sex positions.
>>
No. 1012636 ID: 094652

EGAd!
>>
No. 1012643 ID: c4817a

A B F sounds nice to me.
And the path of shrouds has taken us this far, so let's keep at it.
>>
No. 1012680 ID: 673fe6
File 163382056121.jpg - (138.49KB , 350x464 , soj_027.jpg )
1012680

As you consider your options for the evening ahead, you run your fingertips along the hinged lid of the lock-box and peer with some fascination at how snug a seal it has formed. Curiosity brimming, you can scarcely resist the allure of secured containers with mechanisms; you gather up the lock-box and scroll case along with your tools, seating yourself on the edge of the bed and pulling the small table at its side to use as a workspace.

Before you begin, you take a moment to center yourself and focus on the faint brush of essence threaded around your vicinity; retrieving a pinch of herbs from your reagents, you tuck them into your mouth and lightly chew, closing your eyes and steadying yourself with slow, deep breaths: attempting to search the nudges of fate. Weal... and woe. A vexing result, but not entirely unexpected -- you elect to proceed with caution.

Setting out the lock box and gathering up your tools, you go to work. Carefully, you probe about the conspicuously larger top to the keyhole as you feel out the pins of the lock -- pausing in hesitancy before you begin to test them; with a deft, gradual twist you find a secondary mechanism occupying the space. Woe indeed. Angling the box to one side, you swap tools and tease at the mechanism to better visualize it in your mind's eye -- and with a distinct, satisfying click you cinch it.
>>
No. 1012681 ID: 673fe6
File 163382057360.jpg - (207.61KB , 450x450 , soj_028.jpg )
1012681

Satisfied that you have disabled the trap, your handiwork is swift and practiced as you move on to the lock itself -- defeating it after a short span once it is safe. You open the lock box, discovering an exceptional find secured within: a roughly egg-shaped object four inches long, fashioned from smoothly polished kalatite crystal and secured with golden caps. With your knowledge of arcane and the occult, you recognize it to be a VESSEL for ESSENCE -- capable of containing and storing a substantial quantity of such, whatever the source, and making it available for later use.

You can feel a twinge in the pit of your stomach as you run your fingers along its polished surface, seeing faint glimmers of light shimmer and fade from your presence; it is warm to the touch and faintly, you can feel it tugging at your own spirit -- albeit fruitlessly with your present self-control. This is quite a find, though also a somewhat troubling one as it suggests a knowledge of essence weaving among the realms of man.

From what you can discern, there is a faint store of spiritual essence within the vessel already.

You have gained:
> Soul Vessel

With this object, you can potentially store spiritual essence or 'soul' energy from whatever sources you may discover; stored energy can be consumed to significantly augment your arcane abilities, to imbue items with magical properties, or as a means of containing spirits divorced of their own mortal or immortal vessels. You may draw your own implications from this.
>>
No. 1012682 ID: 673fe6
File 163382058583.jpg - (196.03KB , 450x450 , soj_029.jpg )
1012682

Stowing the vessel for the time being, you turn your attentions to the scroll case next -- its stoppered ends proving slightly more elaborate than a more straightforward removal; after puzzling out twists and pressure while listening with your keen ears, you are able to determine the correct motion to open the case and retrieve bundled parchment from within. Numerous written documents have been secured within the case, but regrettably they are written in a script you do not presently understand; there are, however, several diagrams included among the writings, some of which you glean to be the designs for intricate traps of a large scale for securing passageways and chambers.

Returning the scrolls to their container and stowing it in turn, you tidy up your belongings and haul before settling in for more lengthy study with your remaining hours. You capitalize on your inspiration to delve deeper into the Bramble Grimoire in poring over extended ritual-work, committing the incantations and foci for reflection while you dream -- and then finish out the evening nibbling rations as you pore over SARKEN segments of your translation guide to better foster your communication.
>>
No. 1012683 ID: 673fe6
File 163382059656.jpg - (246.45KB , 750x350 , soj_030.jpg )
1012683

When at last you settle in for slumber, sleep takes you swiftly after the long day's affairs -- ferried off to the depths of your own starry subconscious. There, inspiration helps to guide you as you reflect on your experiences, invigorating your core with the inklings of ancestry and more primordial ebbs and flows. Collectively, this helps you to focus your subconscious to better bolster your conscious expertise.

Your have set your current primary focus to the Path of Shadows, with lesser foci in Stars and Roots.

You have learned a new cantrip:
> KINDLE - Focus your touch or elicit heat with a snap of your fingers and produce a small flame, comparable to a matchstick while concentrating.

You may learn one new ritual:
> A) PHANTASM - Conjure an illusory figment in an attempt to frighten or vex observers with visual and auditory elements. Magnitude and convincing efficacy are dependent on time and reagents invested in preparation, while more detailed or specific phantasms are more difficult to pull off. Interacting directly with a phantasm can allow beings to realize its farce.

> B) SHROUD - Cover yourself in an illusory shroud which provides misdirection for your presence, bending light with a faint shimmer to render yourself nearly invisible. Potent augment for particularly focused stealth, though fast or rigorous movement can hinder its efficacy. Duration dependent on concentration and partly fueled by your own essence.

> C) AUGURY - Divination of a more potent magnitude which augments your sooth-saying capabilities, potentially allowing you to commune on subjects in search of portents of futures which may yet be. Can allow you a glimpse of possible outcomes ahead, or to glean sometimes cryptic omens which have yet to transpire.

> D) WARD - Wreath a measure of magical barrier about an individual or object, providing a degree of added protection; subtly turns or lessens blows, diminishes force and offers a modicum of resistance to the supernatural. Magnitude and duration of wards depend on essence and reagents invested in their creation -- can be applied to yourself, others, or objects.
>>
No. 1012684 ID: 673fe6
File 163382060944.jpg - (228.62KB , 750x390 , soj_031.jpg )
1012684

When morning comes, you rouse refreshed and readied; taking advantage of your undisturbed respite, you tidy yourself up and have a good breakfast before donning your gear. Descending from the upper floor of the bakery, you take the time to scrounge around the lower level -- managing to collect a few old baked goods and a container of cinnamon from otherwise threadbare stock.

You have gained:
> 3x Old Baked Goods
> Cinnamon Shaker

Taking stock of the vicinity of the bakery, you see no signs of passerby in the morning -- though you do faintly hear some clamor off to the north. Avoiding the front door, you instead double back into the alleyway before proceeding to follow the narrow pathways further still, arriving at an exit into a broader open square. In the distance, to the northeast you can see light penetrating the PALL still -- a curious anomaly.

Though muffled by your hood, you can also hear what sounds like a commotion off in that same direction beyond what you can currently see; you hear what sounds like a short cheer before it is interrupted by shouting.

Note: Please be sure to also include your vote for the new ritual in addition to your response below!

You decide to...

> 1) Move swiftly and directly, attempting to gain a vantage on what is transpiring with more time to respond to it.
> 2) Follow a more circuitous route, seeking to maximize your position but arrive later.
> 3) _
>>
No. 1012685 ID: e51896

B, shroud, we're in unfamiliar territory, best to have this to spy on others before making major decisions.

1, move swiftly
>>
No. 1012691 ID: 51c10d

I vote B as well. Who needs to know what's coming or not get hit when nothing can see you?

1 as well. Don't want to miss whatever's going on.
>>
No. 1012692 ID: f3efdd

B, for sneaky invisibility fun.

2, circuitous route. Best to make an escape route.

But if we do 1, lets test out our new shroud ritual first to gauge how invisible we'll become, and what parts of us will be invisible. If there are a lot of people over there, there is a large chance someone might turn to see us if we dont use our shroud ritual.
>>
No. 1012705 ID: f610a0

As a veteran D&D player I pick A) because the ways you can apply illusions are infinite and truly sicko. And circuitous route
>>
No. 1012706 ID: 96c896

B, Shroud. Let's lean into our dual-class specialization.

1. Move swiftly.
>>
No. 1012733 ID: b6986d

>>1012684
>Eat a baked goods
If necessary, toast it a bit with our new cantrip to negate the staleness.
>>
No. 1012843 ID: 673fe6
File 163409502871.jpg - (284.56KB , 450x750 , soj_032.jpg )
1012843

Intent on seeking the source of the commotion swiftly, you nevertheless take the time to put to practice your new SHROUD ritual -- focusing your spiritual essence as you gesture and shape the force of your will to coax the incantation into being. Having not seen it put to practice before, you're initially startled as the faint glimmers and shimmers blossom about your belongings and being in rippling waves -- leading to the unexpected and somewhat embarrassing predicament of inadvertently baring portions of yourself beneath garments and gear as they grow more translucent.

In turn, you can feel a prickling sensation as the shroud washes over your form in broadening waves, affording you a chance to see through yourself save for a faint shimmering blur, quite a unique experience on reflection...
>>
No. 1012844 ID: 673fe6
File 163409505355.jpg - (250.23KB , 450x750 , soj_033.jpg )
1012844

Fortunately, the spell completes its wreathing of your figure after only a few moments -- and as far as you're aware, no one witnessed your temporary arcane wardrobe malfunctions this time. You make a mental note to remind yourself that SHROUD's casting and full effect takes some time to complete, helpful to know in future potential predicaments.

As professed, you are not entirely invisible as a result of the magic hiding your presence -- but it certainly will lend itself to making you even more difficult to discern from a distance and liable to amplify your stealth in dim light or near darkness that much more.

You move with haste then towards the source of the commotion, opting for the swiftest and most direct route to seek a better vantage of what is already underway.
>>
No. 1012845 ID: 673fe6
File 163409510178.jpg - (248.54KB , 550x450 , soj_034.jpg )
1012845

Darting deftly among the shadows along the main thoroughfare's buildings and awnings, you maneuver your way to a broad junction of several broader streets; you arrive in time to see six SARKEN men running after a seventh figure in the distance -- most of them with weapons drawn and shouting in clear agitation.

Thanks to brushing up on your translation guide, you're able to readily discern "It's him! Get the bastard!" and "He's fast, don't let him get away!" among a litany of curses.

All you can make out of the pursued figure is a mustard-colored cloak -- and he appears to be quite swift. One of the SARKEN is lightly armed and armored, one of them is heavily armored and the other four wear heavier lamellar and leathers. They do not appear to have noticed your arrival or observation, distracted as they are.

Of interest, the SARKEN have been drawn away from a pair of tall pillars with an overhanging archway leading to similar structures down a more ornately cobbled path. You recognize the path to the HALL OF LORDS from your wall-top vantage.

You decide to...

> 1) Pursue the SARKEN and the mustard-cloaked figure, to see what unfolds and have a chance to get involved.
> 2) Follow the path to the HALL OF LORDS in their absence, a chance to investigate without guards.
> 3) _
>>
No. 1012846 ID: 51c10d

Follow the scene! We've already been granted the powers of not-exactly-invisibility. Sneaking past them again shouldn't pose any issue.
>>
No. 1012847 ID: 8483cf

Hall of Lords! Couldn't have asked for a better distraction.
>>
No. 1012858 ID: 820483

Follow them. As much as getting riches is nice, we can use this opportunity to instead learn more and get an understanding what is going on and who to help and gain an ally, lets not let out invisibility go to waste
>>
No. 1012859 ID: 094652

He'll be fine. Get the loot while you can!
>>
No. 1012864 ID: f57349

Follow, and get your rope ready. All sorts of ways an invisible rope could be used to interfere, and it's a chance to test out the duration. If you go into the hall and start poking at stuff, that risks getting cornered inside when your shroud wears off and the guards come back.
>>
No. 1012866 ID: 1ee277

Given the input of our confidant in Rolph telling us that the SARKEN have been lately harassed by an unknown figure, the relative sanctuary that our cadbury-clad compatriot has provided on the path to the HOUSE OF LORDS and their insistence on defending it, it would be wise to slip inside unnoticed. There must be a reason they linger in this place despite the brigands and the PALL; if you are able to ascertain why and assist them in this moment, you may forge a powerful alliance of them yet. Rogues must stick together!
>>
No. 1012868 ID: b6986d

>>1012845
To the HALL OF LORDS! This is a perfect distraction, and if this is the unknown figure haranguing the SARKEN in the city, it's doubtful they'll catch him now. If we run into him later, we can thank him.
>>
No. 1012921 ID: 673fe6
File 163427244214.jpg - (353.06KB , 750x750 , soj_035_halloflords.jpg )
1012921

Weighing the situation, you consider following the men in their pursuit, that you might intervene -- but reflect that the figure is like as not the one Rolph had mentioned haranguing the SARKEN in the city; if so, perhaps they are elusive enough to avoid capture and combat even still. Instead, you decide to capitalize on the distraction offered while your shrouding magic remains, treading down the cobbled path towards the HALL OF LORDS.

Along the way, you pass beneath stone archways held aloft twixt tall pillars of carved stone, before arriving at a broad central plaza; further pillars stand in a ring connected by further archways, separating the plaza from an encircling pavilion beyond. At the heart of the plaza, broad stone steps lead up twin terraced stone platforms -- the way forward flanked by sizable braziers steeped with ashen embers.

As you ascend the first set of steps and arrive at the base of the second, you turn your gaze skyward and take in the sight of the grand hall's entrance. From above a shaft of light continues to penetrate the PALL beyond, wreathing a faint glow about a trio of towering statues poised overlooking the entrance below -- each depicting a crowned figure you surmise to be a 'lord' by its namesake.

On the left stands a man in heavy armor with an immense kite shield and sword, wearing some manner of lenses over his eyes; at the center, a robed figure supported by a long staff with a bell hung from its hooked top. Lastly, the figure on the right is garbed in a long cloak and holds aloft what appear to be a scepter and sling with a fiery arch between them. You feel as though the statues observe you where you stand; the air feels cold here, but you can still feel slight warmth from the braziers nearby.

Beneath the stone figures and above the entrance lies a broad recessed mural of intricately etched and painted stonework -- though the pain seems to have chipped and faded. A trio of figures stand to the left of the mural, seeming to correspond with the statues above, with a mountainous landscape in the background; on the right of the mural, you see a creature only vaguely resembling a horse made monstrous -- with multitudinous limbs, frightful jaws and a billowing cloud of miasma surging behind it.

Below, flanked by carved pillars in turn, lies the entrance to the HALL OF LORDS: heavy stone doors carved with two of the figures from above hang ajar -- affording access to a darkened span beyond with steps trailing down into the greater structure below the plaza ahead.

Faintly, you can smell the remnants of the SARKEN having lingered here -- and easing your hood, you allow your ears to stand tall to better listen to the path before you. There is a sound, quite faint, reminiscent of wind chimes somewhere in the dark ahead as a breeze filters through the opened entrance.

You still have some of your obscuring magic in effect and neither hear nor see signs of the SARKEN here at this time; you recall from your interrogation of Rolph that the way ahead being opened was an apparently significant and recent development.

INVENTORY as of this post: https://pastebin.com/jCRpvtT0

How do you proceed?

> _

Collectively, you can form a plan of action / approach to proceeding utilizing what you know, what you have, and what you can do according to your suggestions.
>>
No. 1012922 ID: 094652

Light the braziers, set caltrops in the shadow of the entrance, press forward.
>>
No. 1012925 ID: b6986d

>>1012921
Hold the SOUL VESSEL aloft and check for stray magic or spirits it can absorb, before proceeding.
>>
No. 1013092 ID: f6821f

The remains of the responses can be solidified as such: as this is sacred ground, it is best to tread lightly and ensure that those who may yet pursue you do as well. Do both above suggestions in the same order then venture within.
>>
No. 1013165 ID: e51896

try to stay in the shadows if you can, you're not totally invisible
>>
No. 1013290 ID: 51c10d

Lay caltrops at the entrance before descending down the stairs. Hopefully you'll be able to jump them if you need to leave in a hurry!
>>
No. 1013296 ID: 673fe6
File 163478195618.jpg - (361.37KB , 750x750 , soj_036.jpg )
1013296

Reasoning that you tread on what may be sacred ground, you consider the braziers and their dwindling heat; though it would doubtless draw more evident sign of your passage from afar, you decide that lighting the path into the HALL OF LORDS may nevertheless prove fortuitous -- for reasons you can't quite crystallize, it feels right to do so. With the aid of your new KINDLE cantrip and a bit of stoking to coax re-lit embers into flames -- you soon have the braziers brightly lit again, the warmth of their light bolstering your determination.

Next, you turn your thoughts towards more corporeal concerns and rummage in your back for your enormous supply of sharp iron caltrops to sprinkle about the entrance to the hall -- with more to spread along the stairs descending when you proceed, affording you more protection from interlopers who may arrive behind you. While you are commit to memory the presence of this deterrent, you feel confident that others are likely to overlook them in any haste to descend as well.

Finally, you take a moment to fish out the SOUL VESSEL and hold it aloft, concentrating and searching for any latent spiritual essence which may be lingering in the vicinity...
>>
No. 1013297 ID: 673fe6
File 163478199454.jpg - (158.43KB , 450x450 , soj_037.jpg )
1013297

...perhaps unsurprisingly, you promptly feel a concentration of such spiritual energies clustered within the entryway -- some of it you estimate to be emanating from the structure itself, for ancient places of power could be suffused with essence. You reflect that the source of such an infusion could be the result of ambient gathering ( common for sites revered or paid homage by living beings ) or may otherwise be enriched by purposeful ritual or ceremony ( such as the consecration of sacred ground, or sacrificial forfeiture of the spirit. )

While you find that much of the latent essence here resists the draw of the vessel, so potently tethered to the HALL as it is -- you are still able to search out the spiritual essence of a lingering LESSER SPIRIT, which becomes snared by kalatite crystal before being drawn within it by your coaxing influence. When you have finished, it has grown warmer to the touch and you believe that you have likely captured some manner of entity.

You have CAPTURED:
> LESSER SPIRIT, (Unknown entity)

The faint store of spiritual essence within the vessel has been increased by what latent energy you were able to gather; additionally, the captured entity can also serve as a source of energy to augment your arcane abilities, imbue items with magical properties or interact with other vessels you may discover. You can also COMMUNE with captured entities.
>>
No. 1013298 ID: 673fe6
File 163478223714.jpg - (285.23KB , 750x450 , soj_038.jpg )
1013298

Finally, you proceed to descend the steps into the HALL OF LORDS, taking the time to sprinkle caltrops periodically as you go in order to potentially hinder or disable unwary beings who might follow you into the depths. As you venture deeper, your nose is greeted with a prevalent scent of dust and musty ash; you strongly consider removing your mask as you proceed, so as to take full advantage of your keen senses ahead. Though predominately unlit, there is still a bare enough shaft of ambient light cast from above that your eyes are able to adjust without the aid of magical or mundane light sources as of yet.

Treading deeper, you are surprised at just how far beneath the surface of the plaza above the structure seems to extend; you absently count in the back of your mind while you traverse the dark stairway, estimating roughly one hundred steps before at last it levels out into a passage proper. Here, the floor beneath your feet appears to be hewn and worked natural earth and stone, with occasional paving stones laid out. Stone masonry walls stand to a surprising height of ten feet, before extending a further four to the apex of an arched ceiling above.

Three paths are presented to you at this antechamber, while you are also able to faintly make out several torch sconces set into the walls flanking arched doorways. Very faintly, you can still smell what you believe to be the scent of man -- perspiration, grit, and some subtler aromas you can't quite identify. To your left, a detailed bust has been carved over the doorway in what seems to be the image of an armored figure with pauldrons and a hooded cloak presented with a skull for a head. It is very dark in the passage beyond, but you can faintly make out a steady dripping sound somewhere in the gloom and glimpse hazy silhouettes in a broader span at the edge of your vision.

To your right, a similarly detailed bust has been carved in the image of a robed skeletal figure wreathed with flames; for reasons unclear to you, this figure has been fashioned still possessing eyes in its sockets. As before, this passage is also quite dark beyond -- though listening intently you hear a faint crackling akin to a hearth and can just barely make out a ruddy orange glow from beyond a distant bend further down the passage. There are carved bas-relief murals a ways down which you can also faintly discern.

Ahead of you, the largest of the archways has been capped with a carving of what appears to be either a lantern or perhaps the top of a lighthouse, emanating the imagery of gross incandescence. Judging by the scents on the air, you estimate the SARKEN who have been down here may have traversed that passage most recently; despite the imagery over the doorway, you find the further reaches of this passage particularly dark, though it may just be your imagination playing tricks on you.

INVENTORY as of this post: https://pastebin.com/jCRpvtT0
MAGIC as of this post: https://pastebin.com/E8iTCvFQ

How do you proceed?

> _

While the broader vote here is ultimately picking which passage is of first interest to you, I want to also leave this open-ended enough for you to once more help one another to form a collective plan of action with your available knowledge and resources. You can also elect to do more within the antechamber before you proceed, as well.
>>
No. 1013300 ID: f6821f

>>1013298
The purpose of any is only partially discernable given the unknown purpose of this HOUSE or its significance to the SARKEN who once occupied this city. At best guess the halls are of rough analogue to the positions of the figures above the HOUSE: notice the left path features almost exactly the same armor and hood, the left is a catacomb of tombs of the interred LORDS, the right a cloaked figure flanked by fire as a spellcaster of some sort. Of worry is that the center figure has no bearing on the center figure but remains of interest given the darkness, the portrayal of illumination and the statue bearing a bell. Perhaps they are of rough analogue to their roles to the end of the city: the left is a crypt of interred dead, the right some sort of infirmary and the center a hall of worship to 'find' oneself. In the midst of the PALL, such shelter and promise is likely not lost on those who remain.

Given the potential of less than savory figures remaining, slipping to the right to see who if anyone lingers while we are still invisible would be the best choice of action to ensure they can only come from one direction -- or worse, that we only have one way to leave.
>>
No. 1013441 ID: 5c87b4

I guess the lesser spirit we caught is one of the dudes that went down here and got done unto. So first I'd try to COMMUNE with the spirit on anything noteworthy in this place, or ask how it died. We'll probably also need to cast GLOW on one of our items. I also feel we may need to CLEANSE this place, however there is no obvious target for such a ritual yet.

Three lords, three paths. A rather arbitrary choice. Our profession does not match any of these lords - we're not a valiant warrior, a pious priest, or an elemental sorceress. But since the SARKEN that went forward likely found their demise, left or right would be a slightly safer choice and one that I would split my vote on.

If we lit the braziers, we might as well put some torches in the scones here and light them up... well, since we only have 3 torches, use 2 to light the path that we'll be taking.
>>
No. 1013544 ID: 673fe6
File 163510717272.jpg - (231.59KB , 750x450 , soj_039.jpg )
1013544

For a few moments you consider which passage to address first, part of you imagining what regular function each might hold and whether the carvings could offer clues to such. Of the three, you regard the right passage first -- taking the time to ignite the torches poised to either side of the archway; fortunately, they are brought to flickering light fairly readily.

With this done, the spirit you snared comes to mind for questioning -- and so you COMMUNE, focusing on the vessel as you cradle it in your grasp and watching as the stirred entity manifests before you. As you suspected, he appears to have been a SARKEN man as the vestigial memory of his garb partly clothes his skeletal visage along faint echoes of long hair and a beard.

"El tlinn co sceath," you offer in customary greeting to the spirit, dipping your head, before you begin to question him. "What can yew tell me off these place?" You gesture broadly. "And how deed yew perish?"

Apparently the spirit is agitated. "What is this--where is Lars?! Egert!" He gestures a skeletal fist towards you. "Who are you--what did you do to me?!" Briefly, a more corporeal facsimile of his form ripples over the remains beneath before swiftly fading. "...perish?" He gawks, looking down -- nothing at all beneath the ethereal apparition's waist. "I heard the snap -- and Lars yelled to jump, but then..." He seems distracted then.

Silent for a long moment, the spirit looks to you with empty sockets. "What of you? Are you a spirit?" You remain partly infused with your SHROUD magic, semi-translucent.

> _
>>
No. 1013546 ID: 51c10d

Explain that you are living and they are a spirit. Hopefully, they won't freak out too much.

Then ask their name! Always polite to ask someone's name.
>>
No. 1013547 ID: 5c87b4

Huh, he only obtained consciousness once you tried to talk to him? What a mindless spirit.

Tell him that you're translucent because, uhh, it's magic and you don't need to explain shit. While touching your tiddy tell him that, see, it's all real.

Anyway, tell him that you came to investigate this place and if he helps you out, in return you'll try to find his body and give it a proper burial. He wouldn't want his body to remain rotting in this place, right?
>>
No. 1013569 ID: f57349

Pretend to be some sort of psychopomp or judge of the dead, but try to avoid saying anything explicitly false. Calm, formal, like this is serious but also just an ordinary job for you.

"Within the Pall, you died. I found you wandering. Now, we speak. You answer my questions, and I answer yours, in balance - as all things must be. Speak truth and I shall aid the next stage of your journey."
>>
No. 1013623 ID: 673fe6
File 163522150932.jpg - (239.70KB , 750x450 , soj_040.jpg )
1013623

Though you recall that lingering spirits could grow disoriented and confused in their manifestation, you are surprised at the degree to which this felled fellow has been jarred; perhaps, you reason, he has never seen a buune before -- much less conversed with one such as you. "What eez yew name?" She chimes with an authoritative air: best to assert your position in this exchange. "Gerard." He replies promptly. You nod, before laying a hand at your breast so that he can clearly see that you are nevertheless a corporeal woman, despite the air of magic about you.

"Gerard. Yew have perished in the Pall, but I cahn help yew to wander no more. I have come seeking answers and now we speek: if yew help me, then I will try to help yew on thee next stage of your journey." Calm, crisp, an air of formality -- you feel that you make for a rather convincing psychopomp and spiritual guide.

Gerard seems quite taken by your offer, despite a gape and grimace of skeletal jaws you presume to be anguished acceptance. "You--you'll get me out of here, then? I've been lost..."

You nod to this, lifting your chin. "Speek truth to me, and I will seek your body for a burial."

With a wafting bob, the skeletal apparition stiffens (not that you imagine a being of mostly ectoplasmic bones could do much else) before floating attentively. "I would be grateful for this." He asserts. "What would you know?"

"Do yew recall how you died?" It seems the most prompt and obvious thing to ask first.

Concentrating for a moment, Gerard nods slowly. "Lars, Egert, Oswald and I were the first to enter and explore. We carried torches and headed down the main passage, checking for any treasures we could find -- we were sure the Khor had hidden valuables here." He shakes his skull then. "The others started to retrieve things to take to the surface, while the four of us found a large room with an opening in the floor, down to a chamber which glittered. Lars lowered me down, and I saw something beautiful..."

Gerard seems to strain to recall or grow distracted for a long moment then. "...I had to climb to reach it. I heard a snap and Lars yelled to jump -- but I was struck and fell, could not feel my legs..." Craning to look down, he gestures a bony hand below. "Perhaps they are still there, with the treasures. There are traps here, I am sure; can you warn my brothers for me?"

> _

You are free to ask Gerard whatever you'd like, or act upon this information; the spirit is bound to the vessel you carry.
>>
No. 1013633 ID: 094652

"Any family I should notify of your death? I cannot guarantee the message.
Though it is not my duty, any information you have about the curse and how it might be thwarted would be appreciated. Less future workload if I help the heroes save this world."
>>
No. 1013640 ID: 5c87b4

There are several passageways here. Does he know anything of them? Which one is the one that leads to the room with the floor opening?

Ugh. It would be a lot of work to lift a body from a deep hole. And his brothers... it's been many days since he fell. Either they left the place, are dead, or are trapped somewhere. If there was anything to warn them of, it's already too late.

So this place is, unsurprisingly, trapped. Tell him that for now he should come with you. He can scout in front of you for traps. I'm unsure if it's possible, but casting GLOW on him would assist with this task. He may also come in handy later, to scare off anyone else coming down to these halls.
>>
No. 1013651 ID: b6986d

>>1013623
Ask the SPIRIT what traps he encountered before his death, and what treasures were removed. Worst comes to worst, we might have a Pirates of the Caribbean situation here.
>>
No. 1014119 ID: 9c850e

>>1013623
Show him the lesser spirit that you encased in kalatite.
>>
No. 1014342 ID: 673fe6
File 163617025050.jpg - (320.56KB , 750x450 , soj_041.jpg )
1014342

"Any family yew would wish I inform?" You offer, with the caveat-- "Though, I cannot gwaruntee thee message. Any knowledge yew can speek of the Curse, to thwart it--that I help others...?"

Gerard nods to this solemnly, his skeletal visage seeming to gleam in the flicker of torchlight despite his incorporeal manifestation. "Hildegart, she is my sister; if any should know of my demise, be it her." He asserts hopefully to you. "And the others, my brothers -- if you can help to spare them such fates with these thrice-damned Khor..." He mutters, tone taking a harsher edge.

After a moment, Gerard recomposes himself. "They have loosed this Curse, the Khor -- I am sure of it. Though I have fallen, I am certain the Empress will succeed in seizing the seat of the Great Khan and ending his blight." Gerard gestures as if he might spit at the mention of the Khan, but lacks the faculties to do so.

You suspect that Gerard is simply unacquainted with the particulars of the Curse, and may be a poor source of information beyond a zealous faith in the SARKEN EMPRESS. "What can yew tell me of what traps befell you, and where?" You ply further in more immediate concerns.
>>
No. 1014344 ID: 673fe6
File 163617034079.jpg - (260.04KB , 750x450 , soj_042.jpg )
1014344

Gerard recounts for you in surprising detail a plethora of hazards he and his fellows had discovered within this place -- tiles giving way to covered pits of spikes, recesses in the wall sprouting swinging blades threatening to cleave a man in twain and even hidden niches launching darts at the unwary. Most treacherous, however, seems to be the darkness itself: Gerard claims that down the central passageway, carried torches barely seemed to push back the gloom even with several at hand.

It was down the central passage he seems to have met his own end, and it is there that the opening was discovered in the larger chamber where apparent treasures laid. He does not know for sure if his brothers managed to recover what else was down there, as his awareness ceased in any clarity until you COMMUNED with his spirit.

Though he did not accompany them down the other passages, Gerard recounts that the other SARKEN were given pause down the left passageway by a 'frightening adversary' and that their progress down the right -- your present course -- was halted after they had failed to discover or avoid traps along the way, the suffered casualties leading to hesitation while they sought 'expendable' scouts instead.

Gerard and the other SARKEN seem to be under the impression that there are KHOR hiding down here trying to scare them off -- but even from their initial exploration of the left and central passage they recovered a large chest and other strongboxes to haul back to their camp. He has difficulty remembering what he saw that lured him to his death beyond that it was 'beautiful' and gleamed from somewhere higher up in the chamber.

Possible foe or foes to the west, seemingly supernatural darkness to the north and a higher concentration of traps to the east, it seems. You suspect you currently possess some of the treasures they've looted from this place.
>>
No. 1014345 ID: 673fe6
File 163617042146.jpg - (265.26KB , 450x750 , soj_043.jpg )
1014345

You reflect on how difficult it would likely be to actually recover and transport Gerard's mortal remains from in this place, especially if he perished from a deeper hole. Gerard has no choice in the matter of accompanying you at this time, for you have bound his spirit to the kalatite vessel; however, using your magic to COMMUNE only provides an incorporeal manifesting of the spirit and he is unable to physically interact with his surroundings or venture far from the vessel itself. Nevertheless, he could prove useful just the same.

At last, you consider the other presence you had felt within the vessel and decide to present it to Gerard: channeling more of your essence through the kalatite you can feel a tingling flourish as you coax the other entity to surface. With a billowing flourish of hazy shadow, the vague upper half of a decidedly more canine being manifests from its tether in your grasp -- with dark eyes and a sizable snout, the spirit looses an emphatic bark which echoes down the passageway.

"What is this?!" Gerard gawks; the spirit seems very interested in his bony manifestation.

You're not -quite- sure what this lesser spirit actually is, but it seems energetic and canine in some measure. With two spirits manifested, you feel a mild strain on your concentration, though nothing too severe when you're not also doing something else.

Perhaps you can name this second spirit?


You decide to...

> _
>>
No. 1014346 ID: e7c7d3

Looks like a Rascal to me
>>
No. 1014351 ID: c92a02

Looks like a dog, silly. I'm gonna call him Soot.
>>
No. 1014370 ID: b73e3a

It's only correct to name this dog Pylar the Proctrix. Or Pie for short. Perhaps her night vision can help us.

So, the two possibilities of treasure are the unexplored east, and "something beautiful" to the north. I feel we should change our direction and head towards the north first then.
>>
No. 1014394 ID: f6821f

>>1014345
Canines are known for the acuity of their senses, perhaps this one will serve as a boon as we sneak about, provided she doesn't bark and reveal our positions. Pylar the Proctrix, Pie for short, shall aid us in the quest for TRUTH in the ENDLESS DARK of the PALL!

For now, we ought to settle Pie back to her slumber and give venture to the remainder of the hall. With Gerald's insight and your own light footedness, the remainder of the traps should be traversed with ease.
>>
No. 1014563 ID: 9c850e

>>1014345
Crystal Crumpsy
>>
No. 1014648 ID: 92c1dc

Sir Snoutsley
>>
No. 1014649 ID: 00ffb0

Woof-o-the-Wisp
>>
No. 1014685 ID: e2f5cc

>>1014649
supporting
>>
No. 1014983 ID: 673fe6
File 163678222212.jpg - (188.53KB , 750x450 , soj_044.jpg )
1014983

Contemplating with great gravitas, you consider a suitable moniker for your newly discovered 'polterpooch' -- a woof-o-the-wisp by classification, you wager. Something about the gleam in those shining eyes strikes a chord with you, and you settle on a stroke of serendipitous inspiration: Crystal Crumpsy, the woof-o-the-wisp. You do consider if she might enjoy some pie, should you happen upon such a confection in your explorations.

Nevertheless, both spirits are returned to their kalatite resting place as you turn your focus back whence you came: intent on venturing northward over the span the SARKEN had tread before subjecting yourself to whatever possible traps or hazards may lie further eastward.

Thanks to Gerard's detailed recount and your own keen eyes, you are able to avoid several missteps while you maneuver your way down the central passageway from the entry antechamber. A smell of soot joins the lingering aroma of ash as you ply against the darkness therein -- and true to Gerard's word, it proves to be particularly resistant to light against its seemingly supernatural gloom. Still, you continue lighting sconces as you go, the better to retrace your steps later if need be.

You arrive at the chamber Gerard spoke of -- or at least, its upper approach. Squarely in the center of the broader chamber is an enormous opening in the floor, while at the far end of the span you spy a sizable double-door with some sort of bas-relief carved into its surface. A high arched ceiling looms above you overhead -- and though much of the chamber stands vacant, you glimpse several places where you suspect chests and other containers had rested previously, judging by disturbed dust.

Embedded into the cracks of the heavy stone tile of the floor to the right of the open drop are a pair of pitons, though presently bereft of rope; you reflect that this may have been how Gerard and his fellows descended in their own exploration here.
>>
No. 1014984 ID: 673fe6
File 163678225917.jpg - (296.59KB , 750x450 , soj_045.jpg )
1014984

Taking to a low, careful position you brace yourself and peer over the precipice of the broad opening in the floor. Far below, there is another large chamber shrouded in heavy darkness -- with four immense columns supporting the corners of the pit above. An eye-catching glow draws your attention behind the far pillar on the right -- and there you spy grisly remains beside a slender shard casting light about its vicinity.

Close to the corpse, you can make out what you suspect may be a sizable stone sarcophagus or container of some kind -- its nearest surface detailed with a carved relief you can barely make out as a figure in a circle or dome. It is difficult to make out much else about the chamber below, its periphery veritably pitch black save for the space near to the shard. You can smell the coppery tang of blood and viscera even from your perch on high.

You estimate the descent to be roughly thirty feet (or nine meters.)

INVENTORY as of this post: https://pastebin.com/vm1qgRj7
MAGIC as of this post: https://pastebin.com/E8iTCvFQ

How do you proceed?

> _
>>
No. 1014985 ID: 92c1dc

Crystal Crumpsy, the woof-o-the-wisp has quite the snout. Could we ask this entity if it is within their power to sniff out any traps that await us in the area below?
>>
No. 1014986 ID: 96c896

Use the rope on the pitons so you can go down there. Seems like Gerard was trying to climb up the wall? Now you know there are traps, but you know he got near the sarcophagus safely, at least.
>>
No. 1015005 ID: b73e3a

So Gerard was cut in half. The height of the cut seems around one meter above the ground. Should be easy to evade, either by ducking or jumping.

Let's go down and light up the room. Take the shiny next to Gerard's body.
>>
No. 1015742 ID: 673fe6
File 163754358503.gif - (9.27MB , 750x450 , soj_046_animated.gif )
1015742

Before you proceed down into the chamber below yourself, you ply the kalatite vessel once more -- manifesting C.C. to leap down into the darkened span below to scout it out. Darting to and fro with swift, bristling energy -- the ethereal canine sets to earnestly sniffing about the different corners of the chamber. Your long ears catch the airy whuffs and rumbles of the wispy creature, eyes following her movements as you observe from above.

When she has finished, she whisks back into the vessel whence she came with a tingly crackle of essence and energy that warms your fingertips -- and you become aware of the result of her reconnoitering, having spied no active creatures or threats that she could recognize among the dark recesses of the chamber. You are again alerted to the remains of the man, which you yet presume to be Gerard's -- but you can see them from on high as well.

Hurrah! Animation!
>>
No. 1015743 ID: 673fe6
File 163754363235.jpg - (190.84KB , 450x750 , soj_047.jpg )
1015743

Gathering yourself up, you make your way over to the pitons and retrieve what has proven to be a most trusty length of rope from your bag; securing it to that anchorage, you give a few firm testing tugs of the line with your weight to assuage concerns -- and then ease yourself over the edge, lowering down into the gloomy darkness of large span beneath you. Cool air chills your limbs as you gingerly descend the rope, the quiet creak of its taut fibers the only discernible sound to reach your ears.

Once your feet are on the ground, you breathe a terse sigh of relief -- your mask partly muffling the scents of the chamber to a degree, but even then scarcely suppressing the unmistakable smell of blood and viscera left to linger unattended for some time. Your eyes faintly water from the odor of it all and it would seem whomever had been with Gerard abandoned any notion of recovering his remains.
>>
No. 1015744 ID: 673fe6
File 163754369668.jpg - (242.71KB , 750x450 , soj_048.jpg )
1015744

You retrieve the source of the glow, finding it to be a small smooth shard of white crystal -- the likes of which you have never seen before. It emits a soft and almost chilly light naturally, yet you can feel from the faint stirrings of awareness that it responds to your mental focus as an arcane implement might. You suspect that you could utilize the shard as a lens through which to express your magic, GLOW coming to mind for obvious reasons -- but it is likely that other cantrips and rites could also be amplified or modified when cast through it.

While you found mundane torchlight left wanting against whatever strange supernatural gloom seems to cling to your surroundings, you follow your intent to illuminate the space by channeling your GLOW cantrip through the crystal shard -- and find that this seems to much more readily combat what may be magical darkness. In the process, you glean a clear vantage of where Gerard had found the object -- having apparently been part of some sort of large carved mural in the chamber's wall.

An enormous depiction of one of the figures you spied among the statues and other imagery you've passed spans much of the high wall before you: a crowned and armored man wearing lenses over his eyes holds an arm outstretched, as if he might be carrying a lantern or other object. Where such would be, instead a niche recess has been carved into the wall with a small shelf, presently occupied with a bronze bowl; you glimpse what appear to be other crystals and objects in the bowl, though it's a bit high up for you to discern more clearly from your present vantage.

Beneath the depiction lies what is either an altar or some sort of sarcophagus, the front of which also sports a carved mural of a sort. Here, too, you spy a figure wearing curious lenses, surrounded by a nimbus of light with arms outstretched -- and a delineation that suggests they may be shielding themselves from something beyond. To the right of this heavy stone construct lie the dismembered remnants of a SARKEN man, with dried gore splattered in arcs down along the wall and onto the mural above.

> _
>>
No. 1015750 ID: 8483cf

Try and find the source of the "snap" that killed Gerard.
>>
No. 1015752 ID: 96c896

>>1015742
>C.C works like a remote dog nose
Damn that's incredibly useful. Can anyone else see your spirits?

>mural
Well, the trap is likely a blade of some sort that comes out of that groove. See if you can figure out what activates it- wave something expendable in front of the groove, for instance.
Maybe you can knock down the bowl with a stick?

Examine the sarcophagus, but don't try to open it. I'd imagine it's trapped to deter grave robbers... it might be too heavy to lift the lid anyway.
>>
No. 1015839 ID: e79fc8

>>1015744
A "boob"y trap
Whatever is in that bowl is of sufficient value that someone designed a lethal mechanism to protect it...

If the wall groove is horizontal, stay below that level as you approach the fixture beneath the mural. Remember your ears!

If you are nervous to do this, see if you can grab some of the Sarken remains to set off the trap and gain an idea of its behavior
>>
No. 1015979 ID: f57349

Judging by position of the body I'm guessing the blade moves from left to right. Could you pry up a flagstone out of the floor and use that to block the trap mechanism?
>>
No. 1016194 ID: ab862d

I think it would be interesting if we could COMMUNE with the dead king that lies here, however, the spell doesn't seem designed to do that.
I dunno. Maybe if we used the crystal shard to improve it, it might work. But I suppose simply shining an improved GLOW onto the sarcophagus could rouse something.
>>
No. 1016520 ID: 673fe6
File 163840744299.jpg - (361.02KB , 750x450 , soj_049.jpg )
1016520

As you ponder the sarcophagus and its carved depiction along with the mural above, you consider the stonework -- certainly heavy in appearance, and whether or not it is trapped you find yourself wanting for better leverage in pursuit of potentially shifting the lid aside.

Further, you reflect on your COMMUNE cantrip: should the spirit of the interred Lord linger, it might be possible to converse -- but the crystal you hold does not seem to resonate with that particular magic as it does your GLOW, and a more involved ritual may be in order to reach out to the dead from further beyond. Still, it's an inspiring thought which you tuck aside for future research with your grimoire.

Assessing the vicinity, you deduce that the darkened recess beneath the mural may be a slotted blade of a sort -- and likely part of the 'snap' which befell Gerard and left the man in pieces on the floor. Shining your GLOW, you can more clearly make out the groove -- but it's not hard to imagine it being more easily overlooked without the benefit of magically imbued illumination on your side down here.

For a moment, you consider the flagstones underfoot -- though you ultimately decide they are too large and heavy to upend without a prying implement and you're not wholly confident you'd be able to move one with any efficacy on your own. Next, you contemplate how the mechanism might be triggered, and means by which you could 'safely' test it without risking life and lapine limb.

Anxious nevertheless, you decide to check the remains for something to extend your reach -- and though you wrinkle your nose at the brief consideration of risking Gerard's cold limbs over your own, you find a sword close to the corpse as a far more suitable substitute. Adopting a low crouching stance, you shed your SHROUD to more fully regain your concentration -- after starting to feel the creep of fatigue from sustaining it for so long.

Laying your long ears back with a conscious pause, you then proceed to test a few wary approaches to the mechanism: first, you shine the GLOW onto the sarcophagus itself -- though nothing seems to shift or rouse from that alone. Next, you wave the blade in front of the groove without an apparent response -- before finally extending your arm and nudging at the bowl in an effort to dislodge it.

Finding the bowl surprisingly heavy, you're startled by the swift and sudden SNAP! as a blade whirs out from the far end of the groove and towards you with alarming alacrity -- before it CLANGS harshly against the sword in your grasp, jolting your arm and twisting your wrist as it's very nearly send careening from your grip as it is swept aside.

You can feel a dull, throbbing ache in your wrist and forearm alongside a faint tingling in your fingertips -- but a quick check finds your ears intact and no loss of your form for the test. You feel confident now that some trigger has been set to respond to the bowl being jostled or moved -- and observed, however fleeting, that the blade had length enough to catch over the top of the sarcophagus beside you.

You have gained:
> Curved Sword

Longer delay than I would have liked with the holidays and whatnot, but we're back! Your right arm smarts after testing the trap, but you're otherwise intact at the moment; there may still be more that you can do in experimentation with implements, magic or otherwise -- but the main focus first was puzzling out the wall trap.

You decide to...

> _
>>
No. 1016522 ID: 96c896

>>1016520
Alright so the trap only triggers once the bowl is disturbed. That means we could climb up higher, and safely take the bowl from above the trap.
>>
No. 1016563 ID: 6c227a

Are the carved out recesses for the eyes hiding any mechanisms? they look quite deep.
>>
No. 1016632 ID: ab862d

Avoid the trap, obtain the treasure. Still, remain on the lookout for any secondary traps that the bowl could trigger.
>>
No. 1016766 ID: b6986d

>>1016520
Try moving or removing the contents of the bowl first, before moving the bowl itself. I still support trying to put the Glow back in its place, though.
>>
No. 1016785 ID: 673fe6
File 163877335633.jpg - (248.34KB , 750x450 , soj_050.jpg )
1016785

Reflecting on the mechanism, you conclude that movement with the bowl is the primary trigger -- though you suspect that interacting with the contents of the bowl could also cause the trap to spring; it's possible that adding or removing shards from it carefully might lead to different results, but you can't be certain.

As you stand pondering on attempting a combination of rope work and acrobatics in an effort to avoid the blade and access the bowl from above -- your attention falls to the front of the sarcophagus for another look as curiosity jogs your thoughts.

Crouching down, you take a closer look with the GLOW to examine the 'eyes' of the carving: sure enough, the recesses are actually rather deep and you can spy what seems to be another mechanism you might interact with hidden away within. Both holes seem to correspond with a pair of square, angular niches -- and with light probing using your fingertips, you think the raised circles of the eyes could be turned after inserting something into each.

You decide to...

> _
>>
No. 1016787 ID: 8483cf

Look for corresponding tools to insert and turn!
>>
No. 1016788 ID: 96c896

Try inserting the crystal in there? I think the crystal that was on the floor was from the bowl; Gerard must've managed to grab a crystal just before being cut in half.

I wonder if you could just throw your rope to pull the bowl off the shelf?
>>
No. 1016789 ID: ab862d

apply your breasts on the carved head, accidentally pressing down on the large chained studs (which stand out rather conspicuously), to unlock the secrets. Perfect plan!

Alternatively, crystals, square glowing ones... into the holes...
>>
No. 1017268 ID: 89649e
File 163942984576.jpg - (293.84KB , 450x750 , soj_051.jpg )
1017268

Deciding to take a closer look at the mechanism with your new discovery, you draw close and probe out its surface -- and taking care to avoid any potential springing mayhem, you assuage your concerns by confirming that the eye holes seem solely meant to accept implements. As you press close to train a weathered ear for sounds of its inner workings -- your admittedly generous bust applies pressure in a bout of bosom serendipity: the raised studs of the figure depress, resulting in the eye lenses extending outward with a series of soft, steady clicks and whirs.

Cautious, you give a moment's pause to ascertain if any further triggers were about to ensue -- before tentatively testing above the sarcophagus once more, only to find that the blade trap no longer emerges! Satisfied by your ingenuity in putting your breast foot forward, you collect the other crystals from the bowl overhead and find a matching pair among them just the right size for acceptance in the holes below.

Inserting both shards in tandem, you give a testing turn -- and sure enough, further clicks and whirs result before the enormously heavy stone lid before you recedes out of the way and into the chamber wall. Raising your head past the precipice, you brace for interred remains only to discover no such corporeal leavings. Instead, you find...
>>
No. 1017269 ID: 89649e
File 163942989013.jpg - (438.38KB , 450x950 , soj_052.jpg )
1017269

A blade laid out with reverence over silk of a royal purple hue, a matching scabbard at its side -- a sword of some length with a stout blade and an ornate pommel. By the length of its grip, it looks to be a hand-and-a-half; its finger details are somewhat lost on you, for you are no expert at swords -- but you suppose it may be a long-sword or even a 'bastard' sword, if there is no certainty for its origin.

Curious, you grip the supple leather hilt to the weapon and lift it from its resting place. You find that the blade leans away from you as you hold it, though your posture and lack of familiarity with so large a weapon seem culprit there. It's rather heavy, you decide -- at least markedly more so than the more slender blades your buune brethren favor.

While you are not trained with a weapon of this sort yourself, it could still be useful -- and you imagine it might prove quite exemplary in the hands of a more capable wielder.

Belatedly, you concentrate for a moment to probe at the sword with your more arcane senses -- and are left with the impression that it has had enchantments woven in its creation.

A marvelous enchanted sword -- a bit heavy and unwieldy in your hands and too large to stow in your bag. However, with its scabbard you could sling it about yourself to carry along.

You decide to...

> A) Remain in the chamber and explore it further for anything else you might have missed.
> B) Climb back up, proceeding deeper into the HALL OF LORDS.
> C) Climb back up, but begin to make your departure from this place.
> D) _
>>
No. 1017271 ID: 69985e

>>1017269
Time is if the essence for there is no promise of continued uninterrupted time in the HALL, just as there is no promise the SARKEN won’t have taken their positions once more and be investigating the trail of fires left behind. If we are to solve the riddles of the HALL, we must make haste: B), and make way toward the opposite hall.
>>
No. 1017282 ID: 094652

You got the main prize, bug out for now.
>>
No. 1017284 ID: 3a06e7

>eye lenses extending outward
Lmfao! Not only did that work, but his eyes popping out like that, I'm choking...

Take the sword and the crystals.
B) The treasures seem worth the risk to continue. And if it's not us, then someone else would eventually take them. Hmm, I'm not sure if this chamber is a dead end. Use a crystal to amplify your GLOW to make sure. If it's not, then continue through any passage. If it is, then return back to the intersection and take the path east, as Gerard said was still unexplored.
>>
No. 1017292 ID: 96c896

🅱️
>>
No. 1017304 ID: 8483cf

B. Lords!

But we'll never be royals
>>
No. 1017533 ID: 3425ba

>>1017269
C. While there is certainly plenty of loot to be had we have already pushed our luck enough as is, and without a clear goal here there is no point in staying when we could be pressing furthur into the Khanate. Not to mention the men up above. Also there is the matter of finding peace for our dearly departed Gerard, and his remains.
>>
No. 1017638 ID: 89649e
File 163971823377.jpg - (260.10KB , 750x450 , soj_053.jpg )
1017638

After some careful adjustment you sling the weighty blade in its scabbard to rest across your back before gathering up the remaining gemstones and shards to stow on your person. Using the GLOW, you take another look about the chamber below -- but upon finding no other discernible egress, elect to head back up your rope with your newly found loot... that is at least once you ponder what to make of your assurance to Gerard that you would see to his remains if you're able.

Unfortunately, in pieces or as a whole the man's corpse weighs more than you do and is cumbersome by a fair measure. There may perhaps be other means of helping the SARKEN spirit move on just the same -- but the conundrum of how to recover the pieces of the man and his viscera presents a dour obstacle.

Still, you gather up what you imagine to be funerary cloths from within the sarcophagus and do your best diligence to at least -collect- his remains together again and go about the hearty work of shifting them to rest at the base of your rope. You could, if you so chose, attempt to haul up the man's earthly leavings once above -- or otherwise leave some indication, that the other SARKEN might reconsider his recovery in your stead.

Limbered up and nimble as you are even with the new weight at your back, your ascent of the rope is swift and confident as you haul yourself back onto the cool, dusty stonework of the passage above. With your empowered GLOW in hand, you cast new illumination down the magically shrouded corridor -- and are reminded in that moment that a curious door remains nearby at the end of this passage as well along with a few conspicuous divots your light catches along the walls.

An interstitial update to go with the B vote before, as there was a bit of a spread on where to ply; I'll aim to do a follow-up update after this, but wanted to give a chance to consider the door close by as well and reach a consensus on what you'd like to do with Gerard's body.

You consider your options...

> A) Investigate the door close by, with an eye on suspicious wall spots.
> B) Go west from the original antechamber, where Gerard indicated a 'frightening adversary' spooked the SARKEN
> C) Go east from the original antechamber, where Gerard indicated tricky traps had forestalled the SARKEN
> D) _

Please also vote yea or nay on whether or not you'd like to try to bring Gerard's remains along as well.
>>
No. 1017642 ID: 094652

>>1017638
Ten internet points says those are projectile/spear traps.

Go west for now but set up some bait near the door.
>>
No. 1017646 ID: 96c896

>>1017638
Hmm, there is one way to definitely get the man's corpse out, but... it involves cutting it up into smaller pieces. Not sure if he'd appreciate that.
You could, alternatively, put him in the sarcophagus, where the sword was?

Get his opinion on those plans.
>>
No. 1017650 ID: 3425ba

>>1017646
What ARE Sarken burial rites like anyway? Also I doubt he'd enjoy being interred in a Khanate tomb, considering they hate each other apparently. For now we can try hauling him up, then we can drag him out when we are done here or leave him for his friends.

Lets go B
>>
No. 1017653 ID: 3a06e7

A - Oh, right, would be better to check out this path first.

Bring just Gerard's head. If Gerard later complains, just tell him that, uhh, that the head basically is his whole body and that the rest of it is unnecessary hubris, not required for him to rest in peace.
>>
No. 1017656 ID: 2beeb7

Try to haul him up (is there any way to loop the rope through the bundle for an imprivised "block and tackle"-like setup?)

If you fail, well, at least you tried to the best of your ability.
>>
No. 1017673 ID: 2f1313

>>1017638
A strong B) and an attempt must be made to make good on your promise, for what ills would the coven incur if a witch disrespects the spirits of the dead?
>>
No. 1017754 ID: b6986d

>>1017638
> A) Investigate the door close by, with an eye on suspicious wall spots.
Be careful of pressure plates or tripwires!

Bring the remains up too, promises to the dead (especially when they held up their end of a deal to help you) aren't to be broken lightly.
>>
No. 1017865 ID: 89649e
File 163997005553.jpg - (330.25KB , 750x450 , soj_054.jpg )
1017865

Gazing to the doorway nearby, you deduce the approach to be likely trapped -- and ultimately elect to turn your focus towards the western passage from the antechamber instead. First, however, you resolve to recover Gerard's remains from down below -- and once assured that the way above is cleared for now, you scurry back down the rope and set to the task of... bundling the man's body as best as you're able for transport; secured with the rope, you ascend once more before bracing your strong buune legs before working to slowly but surely haul the not inconsiderable weight up with you.

It is hard work, but you feel it prudent to keep your word for the departed as best as you're able: at the very least, you'd help make sure he would not lie forgotten in the pit of an ancient burial place not of his own people. Shouldering the weight of man and blade alike, you can feel a heady burn in your hamstrings as you adjust to the new burdens while doubling back whence you came to the antechamber.

Once at the entrance, you assuage your own anxiousness in affirming that the way to the surface remains opened and unoccupied for now; you then elect to leave Gerard's remains resting there before you proceed down the western passage -- the better to remain light on your feet ahead.

Bearing Gerard's remarks of a 'frightening adversary' rebuffing the SARKEN down the passage ahead, you elect to eschew lighting torches as you go -- instead fostering a soft GLOW sufficient to guide your way through the darkened span. Along the way, you pass a number of sconces with the scent of extinguished flames reaching you, which you gather to mean the SARKEN had lit the passage before but allowed it to gutter out in their absence.

Cautious and quietly, you keep a steady clip as your sandals stir scarcely a sound, keeping your cloak drawn close and your eyes peeled behind your mask. You resolve to remain conscious of time, however: it would not do to linger overlong in the more readily accessible reaches of the HALLS, especially knowing that the SARKEN have already plied and looted portions of their depths.

You have gained:
> Enchanted Heavy Sword
>>
No. 1017866 ID: 89649e
File 163997012001.jpg - (213.73KB , 750x450 , soj_055.jpg )
1017866

Along the way, you pass along several spans of packed burial chambers for what you estimate to be 'lesser' individuals among the KHOR and the lords interred here: largely unremarkable niches in tight proximity with few ornate markings -- though a fair number of receptacles in which to burn incense, judging by the surprisingly aromatic remnants among all the dust and desiccation. Small keepsakes have been scattered about and picked over unceremoniously -- a few small personal affects, perhaps left by loved ones, discarded or brushed aside in the haste of your predecessors seeking valuables.

It is clear that this wing of the HALLS saw more common foot traffic, even prior to the SARKEN making headway here -- and though you remain vigilant, you find no indication of traps having been set throughout these chambers and the halls which connect them.

At last, you exit the passageways and enter into a broader chamber with a long series of open archways before you -- various burial urns and other objects of simple art arrayed in the wing around you. Quietly, you stalk to peer past one of the archways and lay eyes on a much larger chamber beyond with a high ceiling and enormous arched passage into some immense cavern further still.

You are certain this is as far as the SARKEN have been, for you spy the source of their apprehension as Gerard spake: a startlingly large figure adorned in heavy steel plate, seemingly standing vigil. Wielding an immense shield easily as long as you are tall, the figure stands as if scarcely encumbered -- while a long, wicked poleaxe or halberd rests in their grip, its shaft braced on the stone floor. A heavy hood is drawn over the figure's head, obscuring their face from the light; you would wager they stand nearly two heads taller than the SARKEN men you'd encountered!

Before the figure, a huge span of broad stone steps descend somewhere deeper -- but behind them, you can faintly make out what you imagine to be the crypts and catacombs of far more prestigious or important likes.

INVENTORY as of this post: https://pastebin.com/fmiV3zjV
MAGIC as of this post: https://pastebin.com/E8iTCvFQ

You decide to...

> A) Attempt to contact the figure, or otherwise openly approach.
> B) Attempt to somehow sneak past the figure, or otherwise remain undetected.
> C) Attempt to engage the figure, or otherwise get the drop on them.
> D) _
>>
No. 1017867 ID: 2f1313

>>1017866
My inner FromSoftware child is telling me to say 'that dude will have a great equip load ring, we should backstab him until he sleeps', but we are simply not equipped to handle Havel at this point. Discretion is the better part of valor: we can engage him when we are good and ready -- or better yet, let him be a silent guardian of our rear as we venture to the chamber beyond him.
>>
No. 1017868 ID: bdc340

Contact
>>
No. 1017869 ID: 094652

Sneak past and leave the ghost dog in front. Wait until someone fights the golem before you decide to fight or run.
>>
No. 1017878 ID: 96c896

B, use SHROUD to sneak past.
>>
No. 1017893 ID: 3a06e7

A guardian, huh? If it's magical, then I doubt it relies purely on eyesight to keep unwanted people out, so I wouldn't rely on SHROUD to work.

A. I think this option is safe and without downsides. If it fails, it should be easy to retreat from someone in heavy plate armor, and then try something else. But if it works, well, then we'll have to convince it to let us pass or something. Or it may require some sort of key item. What to say? That we came to talk with the lordship?
>>
No. 1018235 ID: a8998c

> A) Attempt to contact the figure, or otherwise openly approach.

I think that this fellow is exceedingly scary. However, physically sneaking past him has risks. I suggest that we should use our Commune power in order to contact him while we remain hidden in the shadows. That way we can initiate a dialogue without exposing ourselves to a swing of a massive blade.
>>
No. 1018389 ID: 89649e
File 164048922814.jpg - (276.77KB , 750x450 , soj_056.jpg )
1018389

Observing the silent sentinel, you consider it pertinent to remain undetected -- weighing your chances at sneaking past their vigil, though you are uncertain if the aid of your magical SHROUD would aid you in this instance. For a moment, you reflect what treasures or sorcery might adorn the figure in question; ultimately, you decide that your first course of prudence is instead an effort to make contact... safely, preferably.

In this, you engage your magic of COMMUNE in order to reach out to this being from shadowy cover afar: coalescing your cantrip with deft and practiced focus, you can feel a faint tingle coalesce as you give voice to your best officiate greeting you can muster. "El tlinn co, guardian." You declare in a friendly tone, indicating a welcome. Then, you deign to try your best elucidation with the trade tongue of man.

"I have come to visit thee Lordship." You offer of your intent to the tomb beyond.

With your words, the sentinel stirs only slightly before a voice booms from beneath the hood.

"WHOM APPROACHETH THINE LORDS? SPEAK OF THOU'ST CREED; FOR THOU ART MEASURED, IN THY REQUEST JUDGED."

Your response is...

> _

You can freestyle a bit here, or give general intent on what you'd like to say / ask -- and we'll see how things unfold from there!
>>
No. 1018390 ID: 2f1313

>>1018389
[Speech 60] I'm new in town, and wanted to pay my respects.
All manner of things awry in the world above, we seek the old wisdom of the kings lives and deaths to steel us for a harrowing journey ahead.
>>
No. 1018394 ID: 094652

"The Pall shall be stopped.
By the will of the Buune, ever vigilant."
>>
No. 1018405 ID: c92a02

Start beatboxing.
>>
No. 1018410 ID: e51896

>>1018390
this
>>
No. 1018419 ID: 3a06e7

I am the Hero of the FOURTH AGE and Bulwark against END TIMES, Vanquisher of PAAL and Savior of KHOR, Slayer of SARKEN and Subduer of Rolph the Evil Peeing Man, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire and Sentinel of the Obsidian Sanctum, Seeker Kaia... the Holy Princess... yeah :smirk:
>>
No. 1018838 ID: 89649e
File 164090812631.jpg - (266.95KB , 750x450 , soj_057.jpg )
1018838

Given pause by the proclamation, you reflect on what you might say -- perhaps prose on your perilous quest to the PALL, or another manner of presenting yourself. For a moment, you even consider the aggressively lilting form of verbal sparring favored by fauns, 'bleatboxing' -- but you decide against it, being ill-practiced and wary of how such a sentinel might respond to that more confrontational call-out.

For all the likes of treasures and traps, you elect for honesty in your own trials: announcing yourself to the guardian plainly.

"I seek the weesdom of lords and kings that the Pall may be lifted!"

"IF THOU ART OF HONORABLE TRUTH, HIDE THEE NOT IN SHADOW AND PRESENT THYSELF!" Booms the guardian.

Though you are hesitant, for your paths has proven one of enduring caution -- you can feel a swell of boldness within your buune heart; what truer way to assert the importance of your mission than to bare your spirit?

You emerge from the shadows and stride forward into view -- almost reflexively reaching to touch your mask before electing to remove it such that the guardian can see your face and perhaps in doing so recognize your sincerity.

"I am Kaia, Rhiannon of the Briar Spire, Sentinel of thee Obsidian Sanctum and Seeker of sight beyond sight. I will stand for thee Khor and seek salvation -- from thee Sarken, and all that lurks in dread." You surprise yourself with the vigor your voice carries, feeling confidence swell all the more as your long ears tingle -- before reflexively thumping your foot with emphatic energy as you declare: "The Pall shall be vanquished, its curse undone -- by the will of the Buune, ever vigilant!"

A silence follows as stillness hangs in the musty air of the long-buried halls. Adrenaline leaves you feeling bristled, pulse racing, your tail twitching of its own accord beneath your cloak. For a time, you wonder if some great cleaving blow is about to descend, bracing for the possibility.

"THOU ART MEASURED," declares the towering sentinel, "MAY THY CREED DOTH PROVE TRUE."

With a great and momentous weight as if some living glacier of steel and stone, the guardian makes way to the deeper chambers that you may pass; your relief is palpable, and you waste little time in advancing into the great span beyond.
>>
No. 1018840 ID: 89649e
File 164090825156.jpg - (229.53KB , 750x450 , soj_058.jpg )
1018840

Descending dusty stone steps, you enter the deeper halls beyond the sentinel and gaze into the long sprawl of high archways supported by massive stone pillars. Among each, you can make out the recesses of a great multitude of burial places within this deeper span.

While you might have expected more ostentatious resting places for the more esteemed Khor, the seemingly simple niches have been steeped with occupants both ancient and otherwise; each appears to be appointed in such a fashion as to suggest their import to the rulers of this place.

You can scarcely wager as to just how many individuals may be interred here, but feel confidence now that these catacombs must span much of the greater city above for as spacious and packed as they've proven to be.

Part of you is tempted to ply the long halls to your flanks but much of your focus is drawn to the passage immediately before you: an immense hall at the top of a small flight of steps flanked by another pair of braziers. Above, a carved mural depicts a seemingly wondrous city wreathed with light, a tower of massive height at its very center -- this strikes you as something of import.

Faintly, you can smell pleasant herbs on the air over the otherwise ashen and dusty aromas of the halls. Something about the passage before you reminds you of the entrance to the halls on the surface as well. With the guardian standing vigil at your back you are at least confident of some measure of safety there -- now, for the way forward...

You decide to...

> A) Explore the burial niches along the side passages first.
> B) Don your mask and hood once more before proceeding stealthily ahead.
> C) Remain a bold buune and conduct yourself openly, proceeding ahead.
> D) _

If you'd like to do anything with the braziers as well, just indicate a yea or nay / what you'd like to do, since that can go independently of any of the above.
>>
No. 1018843 ID: 96a9a8

>>1018840
C. We are alone here.
Lighting the braziers makes sense, considering the mural. We even have a cantrip for it.

I dunno what we'd find in the side passages anyway, aside from loot, and I think graverobbing would piss off the guardian.
>>
No. 1018874 ID: 2f1313

>>1018840
It is the earnest nature of our plight that we were granted access, it is this boon that stays him from thrashing us. C), go forward unto the breach and know that history favors no heroes that skulk and consort in shadows.
>>
No. 1018896 ID: 8483cf

C! Light em up!
>>
No. 1019103 ID: b6986d

>>1018840
Light things up! And continue to show proper respect as best you can while you journey deeper, being earnest and honorable about your intentions has worked well so far.
>>
No. 1019168 ID: 89649e
File 164109727773.jpg - (190.78KB , 750x450 , soj_059.jpg )
1019168

Resolving to boast such braw mien for what lies ahead, you set to task with your KINDLE cantrip to light the braziers here in kind -- the great swell of crackling flames casting long shadows as they warms your form quite deeply. Where before you had caught lingering remnants of herbs, your lungs catch a blend of incense as smoke wafts up to the high ceilings above; your eyes adjust to the new flourish of illumination as the further recesses to your flanks deepen in their shadowy niches.

For a few moments you gaze up at the relief of the city over the entryway -- its great tower seeming to catch your attention in some manner of resonance. However, you do not linger overlong and instead set forth, proceeding down the grand hall ahead as sandals treat soft footfalls and your cloak lightly flourishes in your wake.

Some fifty feet you tread as the light from the braziers dances after you and quiet reverberations of each motion seem to form a faint ambiance around you. At the far end of the passage, your find yourself stepping out from beneath a ring of archways into the center of a round chamber with a high domed ceiling of stone before your attention is swiftly seized by the stirring of much movement above you.
>>
No. 1019169 ID: 89649e
File 164109731112.jpg - (315.99KB , 750x450 , soj_060.jpg )
1019169

Before you is a sight which gives you pause, the thump of your heart nearly skipping a beat as light blossoms from overhead: arranged in an array of tiered stone thrones are eleven figures which gaze upon you from on high. Each bears some manner of robe, armor or both coupled with stately or regal accouterments -- crowns, mantles, circlets, jewels and other markings of station and import. Save for a single hulking figure clad wholly in heavy armor, each of the figures is plainly skeletal in form -- yet the lot of them prove quite animate, even without your having to COMMUNE!

"What manner of creature is this?" One voice intones as one of the figures gestures a bony hand towards you.

"Not a woman of Khor, it is plain!" Declares another.

"Ears as a rabbit..." Another mutters as you can feel the gaze of many empty sockets bear down on you.

"An outsider -- yet be this a pilgrimage?" Yet another figure seems to muse.

Much such discourse is given to a clamor among the assembly over your regard; your ears prick to the shift of chain link as one figure near to the center gestures with some agitation over your shoulder. "This hilt is known to me!" He balks, thrusting a bony finger in an accusatory fashion. "Baghatur!"

"Enough!" Cuts the tone of a skeletal woman to your left, her bare skull seeming to affect a particular grin at you. "Let this one speak for herself." She dips her hooded head towards you. "It has been long before one has stood before us as such. We have heard your declarations -- now, we would hear more of you."

It would seem you stand before an assembly of ancient lords of the KHOR, quite animate at present; you have no doubt there is a well of power in this place which may perhaps influence your quest ahead.

You decide to...

> A) Seek a boon from the old bone lords, some manner of magic or treasure or 'blessing'
> B) Seek wisdom from the wisest lords, knowledge to aid you in your mission to the Fated City
> C) Seek inspiration from the ancient assembly, to better empower your personal experience
> D) _

Feel free to get creative here, and to include anything you'd like to say or ask; I'll use the voting to help guide an overall direction and goal here, but will try to also incorporate as much as I can from anything you'd like to try to establish or discover -- this is a big opportunity to further shape your character along the way.
>>
No. 1019170 ID: 8483cf

A. I'm gonna be honest, I doubt I could use the wisdom very well. Ask for a get out of jail free card, or lacking that, awesome powers that can get us out of a bind in the future.
>>
No. 1019173 ID: 2f1313

>>1019169
This council of lords is likely the best font of knowledge we will find. Their knowledge, let alone their wisdom, could prove invaluable to our quest. B)!
>>
No. 1019175 ID: 96c896

B. We're in sore need of knowledge. Power is nice, but without knowing where to point a blade it's useless.
But why not all three options? You will accept any help they are willing to give.
Also ask how they are in this state.
>>
No. 1019177 ID: c92a02

A. Cantrips are cool, but could you teach me a real spell? Something to help me sneak into the city, maybe.
>>
No. 1019207 ID: db9d01

Keep calm. Identify yourself and explain your mission. If you know any Bune diplomatic gestures now's the time to break them out (kneeling ? gift giving ?)

B is priority, knowledge is power, but if they seem sympathetic to your cause trying pressing them for additional help.

Offer to return the sword. You meant no insult, you were trained to make use of any resource you can lay your hand on.
Also ask if there is somewhere to intern Gerards' remains. Might be an alternative to hauling a sack of bones back to his sister
>>
No. 1019329 ID: af2f11

>>1019207
Good idea, but probably shouldn't bring up the body of their enemy.
Explain that the city has fallen and the original resting place for the sword would have been compromised shortly had we not found it first. If they would like the sword to stay, they may want it to stay with them behind the guardian.
>>
No. 1019427 ID: b6986d

>>1019169
Option B, for B Polite. Explain how you got the sword and ask if they want it returned to a safe place.
>>
No. 1019443 ID: 094652

Consider offering to masturbate in front of them in exchange for an extra boon. Might be dumb, but if they still have enough vigor to argue amongst themselves...
>>
No. 1019460 ID: 076735

B. Knowledge is pretty much what we came here for.
>>
No. 1019493 ID: db9d01

>>1019443
Well this does seem to be their first encounter with your species... perhaps the more scholarly boners would like to inspect your physiology.

Y'know for research.
>>
No. 1019499 ID: 676f44

>>1019169
B) Seek wisdom from the wisest lords, knowledge to aid you in your mission to the Fated City.

"I am of the Buune, ward and warden of the Earth and her gifts. It is in this duty that we seek your knowledge and wisdom of the Fated City of the Khanate, for the PALL that ails us is little of this earth by it's nature, and such location is its seeming source. It is by this that we request aid, as it threatens the creations of both Earth and Man alike."

That sound good?
>>
No. 1019970 ID: 89649e
File 164169024711.jpg - (252.44KB , 750x450 , soj_061.jpg )
1019970

Beneath the gaze of the ancient assembly, you steel yourself and steady your nerves before mustering your response -- head held high as you bristle with braw buune resolve: knowledge is what you seek most of all, any and all boons by which to better pursue the arduous path that yet lies ahead in these cursed and dying lands. Yours is an impassioned appeal, elucidating your order's charge -- and the duty you bear in seeking out the Fated City at the heart of it all. A grave matter, for grave lords to consider.

You offer to return the enchanted blade if bade, explaining the fall of the city above 'neath the tread of foreign armies -- though you strive for politeness and respect as you do so. With an audience so steeped with bones, there is a part of you that contemplates the way of Khasma's disciples in offering a more salacious presentation for your skeletal audience; however, this did not bode as the time and place for bawdy boning (though you do recall a sister of the spire who offered emphatic praise for the passion and pottery ghostly paramours could offer when one was duly possessed by such a drive.)

Midst the assembly are mutterings as you conclude -- some openly skeptical of your prospects while others seem moved by your manner -- at least, as much as you can tell from empty sockets and gleaming boney smiles.

"She cannot possibly bear such a duty." Glowers the figure near the center once more with a dismissive gesture while his opposite steeps bony fingertips. "Perhaps her purpose is to aid the one who shall? A Khor hero, to bring salvation to the Khor?" Several seem to take to this latter notion -- the lord gesturing to the blade at your back. "Bear it past yonder walls if truly you seek to reach the Fated City -- that you may find the Baghatur."

Leaning forward in her seat, the skeletal lord to your left stirs once more. "Prick those long ears of yours keenly now -- we may not have the reach once held, but we know of things yet that you should heed..."

You nod, feeling your ears twitching higher reflexively -- listening intently as they begin.
>>
No. 1019972 ID: 89649e
File 164169096625.jpg - (325.57KB , 750x450 , soj_062.jpg )
1019972

There is much to be learned from the buried lords -- and that which they impart upon you comes from a variety of speakers as they proceed. Not all here are of the Khor, you are surprised to learn -- many, in fact, were once the lords and lieges of other realms of man who fell beneath the spread of the Khanate in time -- their lands and peoples pressed into vassalage, brought into the greater fold. Here beneath this city at the furthest of the Khanate's borders was erected a bastion beneath which to inter them among the honored dead, those whom the Great Khan had found esteemed and noble orders to join among the Khor.

Such a ceremonial assembly was not entirely without its ulterior intent, however: through the focus of kalatite threaded among the foundations of these halls, the magi of the Great Khan would allegedly have a vantage over the lands beyond and a means by which to commune and weave essence over great distances. From your tutelage among the sisters of the spire, such notions are not unfamiliar to you -- but both the necessary mastery and quantity of energies involved would doubtless be precarious. You consider if this may have played a role in the swift and sudden proliferation of this fell curse -- but listen onward as they continue.

Deeper among the lands of the Khor are several sites of power, erected as they were at focal points where the flow of spiritual essence and arcane energies were at their zenith; you imagine this to be the likes of 'ley lines' or similar principles from your magical studies. At these locations, great magi and their subordinates held vantage over the sprawling lands of the Khanate while essentially helping to coax and cultivate the further flow of magic for use in esoteric ceremonies and rites. Much of this, it would seem, was at the behest of the Great Khan's most trusted oracles in pursuit of their prophecies -- such that the man himself, Azad Khazarad, might 'ascend' and usher in a Fifth, everlasting golden age for the Khor.

As your order and others had ascertained and suspected, so too do the lords here seem to share the idea that the Fated City is where the root of such must lie: whatever happened has clearly gone terribly awry and thrown wide the shadow of the terrible Pall.

Though this bastion was once meant as a bulwark to alert and summon the armies of the Khor against foreign threats, the chaos sown by the curse assured ruin -- and now the Sarken and likely others march deeper into the Khanate as well. In their last fleeting correspondence with the lords from on far, two of the magi entreated aid while a third spake of the arrival of a siege -- but the lords have heard nothing further for many days now. They had expected the arrival of clergy from above -- but only you arrived.

Sensitive to the threads of spiritual essence as they are, the lords can see the 'thickness' of your own; coupled with your bold declarations it would seem that despite reservations, these are desperate times -- and the looters above are unlikely to do anything at this bony court's behest...
>>
No. 1019973 ID: 89649e
File 164169152513.jpg - (195.47KB , 750x450 , soj_063.jpg )
1019973

While the lords are uncertain if you are any sort of 'hero foretold' or the like, they seem to recognize your potential as well as your sensitivity to the weave. As such, they implore you in your journey inland to seek out one or more of the magi -- or failing that, the places of power and kalatite foci they tend -- and gather their reserves of spiritual energy to take to the Fated City. There, the assembly warns, great magical barriers may bar the way within the city and the great tower at its heart.

Such a journey as yours need not be taken alone -- doubtless there are others as well seeking to find their way to the Fated City, whatever their own daring duties or dreams may be. You might yet find stalwart companionship among such persons... or perhaps rivals, instead.

To aid your trek, the lords impart on you the locations of three of the magi places of power in the lands beyond -- you make note of these destinations that you may later reference them again when considering your chartered course. These destinations are:

The Vaults of Volkregar, a site secluded in easterly wetlands and overseen by a magi charged with the observation and study of antiquities and oddities.
The Sundered Sanctum, a site overlooking a stygian rift to the northeast and governed by a magi overseeing the penitent practitioners of sinful ceremonies interred there.
The Last Vigil, a site high in the northern mountains overlooking the vast stormlands beyond Khor and overseen by a magi protected by a revered honor guard.

No word was received from the magi of the Sundered Sanctum by the lords. A fourth magi may yet be found in Khel-Ranak, a fortress along the main roads -- but the lords assert that this is where a siege had arrived, and suspect it has fallen to the Sarken host since.

Beyond this, the lords impart that they are willing to reveal to you an alternative egress from the halls -- one which leads through a temple at the surface, originally meant for the clergy seeking their counsel.

Much to consider, all told; grave and foreboding matters abound. You decide to...

> A) Seek additional knowledge from the gathered lords before departing, with questions you have in mind...
> B) Make haste with what you have learned, taking advantage of the secret egress to return to the city through a temple...
> C) Bid the assembled lords farewell, but double back that you may yet explore the remainder of the halls for possible boons...
> D) Insist more fervently upon additional aid from the assembled lords, whatever the cost.
> E) _

A lot to read and take in! Several possibilities to seek out in your travels ahead, should you make it out of the city here -- though it is ultimately your decision to heed or discard the wishes of the assembled lords here; I encourage you of course to arrive at your own conclusions as the story continues, so weigh the counsel of those you parlay with as you wish.
>>
No. 1019974 ID: 8483cf

D. The lords have admitted that these are indeed desperate times. Why not make certain that our quest to seek out magi succeeds?
>>
No. 1020001 ID: 676f44

>>1019973
Eh, I think we're good here.

> B) Make haste with what you have learned, taking advantage of the secret egress to return to the city through a temple...

Let's get a move on and get to these MacGuffins.
>>
No. 1020036 ID: db9d01

Thank them for their counsel and ask for a skele token or some other emblem/marker, to show their endorssment of your quest. It might be useful icebreaker if we ever encounter this "real hero", you're supposed to assist. (Also pout a little about being called a sidekick.)

Also make a humble personal request for any advice they can offer to a student of the Occult, nothing major just something to guide you to greater magic.

Give them your best formal bow, and maybe wiggle your hips a little on the way out via the temple.
>>
No. 1020046 ID: 1a1d89

>>1020036
Definitely ask for a token of some sort (maybe the sword itself would serve as one?).
>>
No. 1020356 ID: b6986d

>>1019973
Seconding the suggestion that we should ask for a token that would gain the cooperation of another would-be preventer of the end of the world if we meet them.

After that, we should go to the LAST VIGIL, since we could better survey the extent of the Pall from such a height.
>>
No. 1020527 ID: 89649e
File 164231475092.jpg - (320.87KB , 550x750 , soj_064.jpg )
1020527

Offering your thanks to the lords, you give them your best formal bow with a swish of your cloak, your tail giving a reflexive wiggle of its own accord as you do. A member of the assembly leans forward as you do, perhaps to return the gesture as you dip low? Eyeless sockets gazing intently down, you can't help but suspect that even were the lord's corporeal form intact, he would not be making eye contact at this moment.

This notion is sufficient prompt for you to impress upon the import of these desperate times, insisting upon any further aid they may yet be able to render you -- perhaps as a 'weaver' yourself.

After a brief deliberation, the lords acquiesce: imparting on you an intonation which proves sufficient to grant you INSPIRATION.

Echoing faintly in the distance your long ears prick to the sounds of a commotion, coupled with a familiar bellow. "WHOM APPROACHETH THINE LORDS?" It would seem that at last, others have followed whence you came. No doubt, one among their number has suffered caltrops on the way.

"Hmmph. Invaders and brigands." Sneers a lord above. "Best then that you depart, lest you be waylaid. Pass below twixt the arches -- find passage to the temple above and venture forth with pep."
>>
No. 1020528 ID: 89649e
File 164231484271.jpg - (290.04KB , 450x450 , soj_065.jpg )
1020528

With the thought of providing proof of your task ahead, before you leave you entreat the court for some manner of token or symbol that you might show others their apparent faith. To this, there is some muttering and commiserating once more -- before the lords acquiesce, bestowing you with a curious bell. Fashioned of bronze, the bell is inlaid with numerous markings as well as a depiction of what seems to be a phoenix. Checking within the cup of the bell, you find no clapper present -- rendering the implement silent. You stow it in your bag for safe-keeping, before making your leave from the court.

INVENTORY Updated. You have gained:
> Phoenix Bell
>>
No. 1020529 ID: 89649e
File 164231488370.jpg - (298.03KB , 750x450 , soj_066.jpg )
1020529

Setting out, you delve past the archways beneath the assembled lords with a wiggle of your hips as you depart, padding deftly into a dark and narrow passage beyond. With the aid of your GLOW focus, you're able to navigate the hidden tunnel with relative ease and expedience.

After some time, you arrive at the base of a well with a stone spiral staircase -- ascending several flights with a faint tingling of your hamstrings. Once you near the surface. cool air faintly brushes through your hair and fur as you find yourself in a small round chamber with a high open belfry above.

Cautious as you are, you take the time to check the vicinity for any sounds of further commotion before braving beyond the door and finding yourself emerging from the rearmost chambers of a temple.

Deserted, the broad hall of reverence has been partly ransacked -- and someone has removed the head from a statue overlooking the empty congregation, nowhere to be found. Deciding not to linger overlong, you find your way to a side door to exit out to the city streets again at last.
>>
No. 1020530 ID: 89649e
File 164231494262.jpg - (309.11KB , 750x450 , soj_067.jpg )
1020530

Eyes and ears keenly attentive, you follow along the main thoroughfare from the cover of alleyways before finding the northern city gate. While the southern approach had served to rebuke the encroach of troops, once the city had fallen securing passage deeper into Khor territory was an inevitable affair. From a distance, you find no sign of a sentry ahead, near as you can tell; perhaps the threadbare remainder of Sarken in the city are now tied up being measured by the sentinel below.

You are free to leave the city and venture on in your QUEST.

You decide to...

> A) Set out for The Vaults of Volkregar, a site secluded in easterly wetlands and overseen by a magi charged with the observation and study of antiquities and oddities.
> B) Set out for The Sundered Sanctum, a site overlooking a stygian rift to the northeast and governed by a magi overseeing the penitent practitioners of sinful ceremonies interred there.
> C) Set out for The Last Vigil, a site high in the northern mountains overlooking the vast stormlands beyond Khor and overseen by a magi protected by a revered honor guard.
> D) _

Past the city, you're returned to overland travel through the wilderness; the vote here mostly informs your next general goal, though there will no doubt be other encounters and obstacles along the way to any of these destinations. You're welcome to deliberate or put forth other immediate goals.

Since you have INSPIRATION, the next time you make camp you'll also be able to choose another advancement.

>>
No. 1020531 ID: 96c896

>>1020530
I don't suppose we could find whoever the Sarken were chasing? Could be an ally.
>>
No. 1020533 ID: c92a02

Head for the wetlands. Maybe they'll be able to tell you about your bell.
>>
No. 1020535 ID: 8483cf

A: Vaults, but only after D: we take a break for some well-deserved R&R. Maybe at a buune & breakfast?
>>
No. 1020545 ID: f57349

>>1020531
Yeah, let's follow up on that before leaving. Gerard might know more about the pattern of activity, and Crystal Crumpsy could probably track scent trails starting from some spot where we actually saw the mysterious cloaked figure.
>>
No. 1020547 ID: e4b19e

D. I like donut's idea of taking a break before going anywhere maybe for an entire day. Maybe find a beach, or a lake and go skinny dipping or something
>>
No. 1020570 ID: 34dfce

>>1020545
Thirding this.
>>
No. 1020589 ID: 1ee277

>>1020547
I am inclined to believe this, but with a twist on >>1020531 in attracting them by way of skinny dipping. Our keen senses should be enough to clue us in to any potential peepers and yellow certainly doesn't blend in to nature well.
>>
No. 1020694 ID: 676f44

>>1020530
> A) Set out for The Vaults of Volkregar, a site secluded in easterly wetlands and overseen by a magi charged with the observation and study of antiquities and oddities.

Thinking this. Not a fan of going for a rest now.
>>
No. 1020709 ID: 34dfce

>>1020589
That assumes that they would actually be attracted. Not everyone is into girls, or people outside their species (and the chance of them being a Bunne is pretty much zero).

They could potentially target us for leaving our belongings, but that would assume that they are a thief.

Basically, luring them via skinny dipping doesn't seem likely. I mean, we can do it still, if we want, but I think if we do it, it should be separate from luring the mysterious stranger.
>>
No. 1020949 ID: ee9ae6

I think we don't need to rest yet... maybe after journeying to our next destination for a while, but not yet. About the pursued figure, an enemy's enemy is our friend, sure, however, enough time has passed for the Sarken men to return to the crypt, so even if the person was still alive, there's no tracks or clues where to find them now. I think it would be unrealistic to waste time pursuing such a difficult and uncertain option. Maybe they already left the city so I think the most we can do is reduce our stealth and use a main road, in the off chance that one person spots us.

Therefore, I vote we set out for The Vaults of Volkregar.
>>
No. 1021038 ID: 89649e
File 164291680175.jpg - (278.24KB , 750x450 , soj_068.jpg )
1021038

Eager to put the city behind you, you pause to pay consideration to the mustard-cloaked individual from earlier -- pondering that they might prove a prospective ally given the apparent bad blood with the Sarken. Searching out the city for the seemingly elusive figure could prove a lengthy and ultimately fruitless process; however, upon reflection you elect to entreat the aid of your woof-o-the-wisp in the matter.

Manifesting C.C. once more, you set her to task with her potent nose and keen eyes. To your surprise, after a swift darting circuit of the vicinity your snuffling companion bolts ahead into the shade of the city gate with eagerness -- leading you to a find you had not glimpsed from afar: a vibrant, mustard yellow kerchief neatly tethered to an unlit lantern sconce set into the wall. Easy enough to overlook, perhaps -- though you suspect its placement suggests a conspicuous intent.

Snuffling and snorting, Crystal Crumpsy whuffs assertively to you as she jitters with boisterous energy; if this -is- a keepsake of the mysterious figure as you suspect, it seems your hound has a sampling of their scent now, leading away from the city proper...
>>
No. 1021039 ID: 89649e
File 164291683679.jpg - (288.57KB , 450x750 , soj_069.jpg )
1021039

Taking quick stock, you consider the merits of some duly enjoyable rest and relaxation after the rigors of the city and catacombs beneath -- visions of scandalous soaks and tranquil scenery flitting through your mind. For now, however, you decide to at least make some headway away from the Sarken here and instead resolve to treat yourself to creature comforts and candid moments further down the road.

That's not to say you don't take a brief breather in celebration, rummaging in your bag's rations before retrieving a particularly large, possibly suggestive vegetation to nibble on. Despite the musings of some misguided scholars, buune weren't so transfixed by orange root vegetables as suggested at times -- sugary fiber that they are. Despite this, some preternatural force seems to nudge you to this dietary choice at this precise moment.

And then, mid-snack, C.C.'s sniffling seems to conclude that your mustard-cloaked stranger also headed towards the wetlands.

Nice.

Filename!
>>
No. 1021040 ID: 89649e
File 164291687362.jpg - (238.87KB , 750x450 , soj_070.jpg )
1021040

Serendipity seems on your side as you set out from the road trailing deeper into Khor territory -- the easterly path toward the wetlands appearing the road less traveled by contrast as it branches from the main route which bore far more substantial sign of a passing army. For the better part of an hour you seek a steady, swift pace intent on putting the city suitably behind you and with it, the Sarken brigands who might pursue you.

Before long, you find yourself among sprawling canopies with occasional dangling vines partly shrouding the way of the dusty, sometimes muddy road. Thick foliage and undergrowth creeps near from the flanks, while pools and ponds crop up sporadically as you go. Your ears prick to the sounds of multitudinous insects buzzing and flitting about the more humid recesses of the wilderness here, though birdsong occasionally filters through the faint sway and creak of boughs.

A broad, boggy river of a fashion follows along the road for some distance -- and though the Pall chokes out much of the daylight that might otherwise find you, you're able to make steady progress nevertheless.
>>
No. 1021041 ID: 89649e
File 164291695260.jpg - (275.30KB , 750x450 , soj_071.jpg )
1021041

Gradually, gloom descends more heavily from the roil of the Pall overhead, setting shadows to darken, lengthen and spread. Though it is harder to gauge than you are accustomed, you're fairly confident that evening is not far off. Considering the need to seek a suitable place to secure camp for the night to come, as you round a bend in the easterly road low hills and heavy foliage grant vantage to a fork from the path which trails to a small clearing.

Nestled among the wilderness of the wetlands, you spy a curious cluster of structures -- the most eye-catching of which is a squat stone tower of some apparent weather and age; a two-story building has been built at the tower's side and connected to its base, while a long broad barn or stable of some sort has been erected nearby. Behind the buildings you spy a stone well, while at their fore a weathered and worn sign sits twixt two wooden posts. Though caked with mud, from afar it seems to depict a creature beneath stars.

Nearest to the road, a post stands with pointed wooden signage suggesting whence you came and the way ahead both with what you surmise to be the names of communities; a third sign poised towards the buildings confirms what you expect: a roadside inn.

From the road, you can't make out any activity from the buildings -- the windows are darkened and drawn with curtains and no smoke rises from the chimney at present. You reflect that it seems strange for these buildings to be intact, but perhaps the Sarken did not visit here.

Somewhere, an owl hoots off in the wilderness.

You decide to...

> A) Approach the inn and attempt to gain entry
> B) Approach the inn, but scout out the vicinity instead
> C) Approach the barn and investigate its vicinity
> D) Check out the well
> E) _
>>
No. 1021042 ID: e51896

check well. maybe drink some water from it.
>>
No. 1021043 ID: 8483cf

A: If the lights are dark at an inn of all places, something bad might have happened. Let's not beat around the bush.
>>
No. 1021059 ID: 96c896

D. If it's good water, that's a useful thing to know, even if the location itself turns out to be dangerous. You could, after all, use shroud to sneak some water.
>>
No. 1021070 ID: ee9ae6

Perusing the well would probably cause some noise, so it would be safer to check out the other two buildings first. This does look like a good place to rest, and we could simply enter the barn and sleep there, but that makes little sense if the inn is abandoned and there are free beds. So, we should check out both the inn and the barn, the order hardly matters, to make sure there's no one around.
I guess something like B into C into A.
>>
No. 1021081 ID: e79fc8

A) Try to gain entry to the inn. Maybe you will find other likeminded shifty people, to make you appear less shifty.
>>
No. 1022176 ID: 89649e
File 164385489607.jpg - (265.25KB , 750x450 , soj_072.jpg )
1022176

With evening approaching and a desire for potential shelter, you decide to take a more direct approach and draw near to the inn for a closer look. While one of the windows is wholly blocked by drawn curtains, the other is parted enough to afford you a glimpse of the interior beyond: a tavern of a sort, though not as tidy or well-decorated as its buune counterparts in establishments you've enjoyed.

Still, you can make out several tables with mismatched seating of chairs, benches and stools -- a sizable enough hearth to one side, albeit presently unlit, looks as though it could afford ample light and warmth. Scattered about are various signs of utilization left out including a large stoppered jug and a bowl still on the center-most table. At the back, you can make out a green cloak partly caked with mud and signs of wear.

There is a stairwell headed up to the upper level that you can see, along with a doorway to the left which seems to connect to the neighboring watch tower; at the back, you also can spy a rear door and realize that it is ever so slightly ajar. Further, the bowl on the table appears to have been somewhat recently used. Perhaps the place has still seen passerby? At the very least, there don't appear to be signs of discord or bedlam within.
>>
No. 1022177 ID: 89649e
File 164385507198.jpg - (348.58KB , 750x450 , soj_073.jpg )
1022177

Your long ears prick to the sounds of crunching gravel and grass from nearby, followed by a rustle and shift of hay. Swiftly, you step back and take a look to your flank over by the nearby barn or stable and momentarily freeze as you make eye contact with a man emerging from behind the structure toting a sizable sack over one shoulder. Dressed in a rugged linen tunic and leggings with a pair of mud-caked boots, he gapes at you with apparent bewilderment and surprise!

Mid-stride, the man pauses and stares at you, seemingly speechless in the moment; he doesn't strike you as Sarken at a glance, nor a brigand at first blush -- but looks could be deceiving. He does not appear to be armed.

You decide to...

> A) Present yourself congenially, offer the man a greeting and then...
> B) Present yourself as an armed adventuress not to be trifled with, then...
> C) Present yourself as some manner of portentous forest spirit, then...
> D) _

I'll derive dialogue and general behavior from a blend of your responses, depending on where suggestions lean for a reaction.
>>
No. 1022180 ID: e51896

A, and ask if he needs help
>>
No. 1022185 ID: 894419

>>1022177
A, but lets not be shy about our arms. We're friendly, but the blade means business.
>>
No. 1022192 ID: e79fc8

>>1022177
He doesn't look very aggressive, so there's probably no need to flash any weapons yet.

D) Release Crystal Crumpsy again. The purpose is threefold:

- awe and bewilder this man with a ghost dog
- spend quality time with your animal companion
- find out just what the limits of CC's deployments are
>>
No. 1022198 ID: 8483cf

>>1022192
Yes, release CC! Doggo needs to be free for a bit.
>>
No. 1022213 ID: 93ba79

A indeed.
>>
No. 1022249 ID: f57349

B, but be polite about it. You're not looking to start any trouble, just a room for the night and maybe some information. Seems like business has been slow?
>>
No. 1022254 ID: ee9ae6

Considering he hasn't started running yet, he's probably not a thief and lives here.

A), then ask if this inn is open for business. Also smirking at him and add, what, has he never seen one of the buune kind before?
>>
No. 1022261 ID: 094652

Spread your legs, only to let Crystal Crumpsy burst forth from between and pounce.
>>
No. 1022389 ID: b6986d

>>1022177
A and B, present yourself as a friendly (and heavily armed) BUUNE, and ask if he needs help. Wear the mask.
>>
No. 1022964 ID: 89649e
File 164446454609.jpg - (320.73KB , 750x450 , soj_074.jpg )
1022964

By your assessment, this man does not seem to be a thief -- or a foe -- and so you offer a congenial greeting; it is a touch too late to don your mask and further, showing your face to him seems liable to further a warm reception. After brief surprise and hesitation, the man approaches, covering the ground to you at a leisurely pace before offering a faint smile on closer inspection. He is tall and broadly built, with brown eyes, a strong bearded jaw and reddish-brown hair; the man wears a simple linen tunic with a neckline and sleeves which afford you a glimpse of muscle and a somewhat hairy figure.

Intent on offering a friendly, but confident demeanor you strike a slight lean as you brush your cloak aside and rest your palms at your hips -- the hilt of your dagger and blade at your back apparent enough, should the stranger get any sudden ideas. To some surprise, you find his gaze lingering mostly on your ears, tempting you to make mention that he can find your eyes further down; you elect not to comment just yet, in consideration that he may have never seen a buune before in the flesh -- or possibly even heard of your kind before.

"Sou pteepsom ca co ouu." You offer briskly in greeting before taking to the trade tongue. "Have yew not seen a buune?" You smirk, eyes gleaming up at him as you feel your nose give a smug twitch and wiggle. He blinks, brows rising a bit before shaking his head at you. "Is that what you are?" He muses with a tilt of his head before you nod primly. "I am looking to stay. Is these een open for bee's nest?" You can see his brow knit briefly at that, making a mental note to brush up on that phrasing later.

"Ahh, aye -- just things have been slow, what with the Pall and all." He gestures about before nodding towards you. "Name's Erik. Have you traveled alone this way?" Instinctively, you tense a bit at the question -- but he doesn't -seem- to mean anything by it.

"I dew have a companion." You chime, reaching to retrieve the soul vessel from your bag...
>>
No. 1022965 ID: 89649e
File 164446458454.gif - (2.73MB , 750x450 , soj_075_animated.gif )
1022965

When your fingers brush over the smooth surface of the kalatite vessel you can feel a swell of spiritual energy bristle up the length of your arm with a pleasant, heady tingle -- a palpable excitement registering in your mind in an emphatic moment of empathy! Your intent was to make mention of the woof-o-the-wisp and offer explanation and demonstration, but to your surprise there is a rush of sensation which blossoms from the pit of your being in tandem with the vessel itself.

Crystal Crumpsy manifests behind and beneath you, prompting you to reflexively spread your stance and gather up your skirt as you feel the faintest brush of quasi-corporeal hound fur. A bustling concert of hurried and excited snuffling is felt and heard as your spiritual companion noses up from underneath you -- eyes shining bright as she sets her sights on the man before you, who gapes in momentary awe and astonished surprise.

With a ghostly, reverberating WOOF C.C. bolts forward in a pouncing lunge...!
>>
No. 1022966 ID: 89649e
File 164446462691.gif - (456.77KB , 750x450 , soj_076_animated.gif )
1022966

Before you the bewildered man flashes a look of fearful alarm before your hound leaps up at him with rigorous fervor; the man stumbles back a few steps, as though pressed upon by some measure of physicality. For a moment, your heart leaps in your chest as you fear the spirit might harm or terrify the fellow thoroughly -- but before your very eyes his bearded face is left to partly gleam as he is veritably slimed by ethereal slobbers and licks interspersed with Crumpsy quite insistently smelling the man.

Fortunately, Erik appears unharmed by the affair and manages to largely regain his composure as you offer an apology. This does, however, present you with a bevy of new developments and discoveries!

> * Your bond with Crystal Crumpsy has grown, strengthening your empathic link with her
> * Your ability to manifest C.C. has honed, affording her a measure of a corporeal form
> * Your influence with C.C. seems to allow her to gather intent non-verbally

With these developments, it dawns on you that you may be able to further hone and improve what you are capable of in manifesting spirits such as C.C. -- and as inspiration comes, perhaps you can even enhance your companion with deeper 'upgrades' (or, 'pupgrades' if you prefer.)

Apart from the faux paux of ambushing this poor fellow with a polterpooch, it seems you have an amenable opening.

You can seek shelter, goods and/or services with Erik as well as company and conversation as you please; for the voting on this one, I'll go off of the general intent folks vote on for how you'd like to interact with him and pull from multiple responses for subjects.

You decide to...

> A) Keep it congenial but professional, and...
> B) Seek a friendlier and more trusting rapport, and...
> C) Maintain a more wary regard for the situation, and...
> D) _

Essentially, inform how you'd like to flavor your interactions and feel free to offer up any particular goals (paying for a room, cooking or seeing if he'll prepare a meal, flirting, further exploring the location, etc.)
>>
No. 1022972 ID: 34dfce

>>1022966
C. But outwardly a mix of A and B. Dont let your guard down and be ready for anything, however; if he is trustworthy, they could be a useful contact.

Since it is getting late, we should probably stay the night. We should converse and see what he knows about the surrounding area and what has been going on lately.

--

Don't fuck the dude. We don't want to get some sort of std, and we also dont want to end up with an undesirable reputation. Also romancing isnt an option cuz they need to run the inn and we are trying to save the world.

This guy also strikes me as a widower and probably wouldn't be interested anyway.
>>
No. 1022994 ID: 8483cf

B. We've shown that we can be both playful and dangerous, so he's not likely to be a threat.

Let's ease up and have somme buune fuune!
>>
No. 1023048 ID: 894419

>>1022994
Agreed, no more need to show off how tuff and buff we are.
>>
No. 1023131 ID: 074326

C). But like >>1022972 said keep up a friendly demeanor

You are a stranger in a strange land, operating alone, on a dangerous mission, always favor caution at first

You're a traveler seeking refreshment, and perhaps conversation? A casual chat might reveal something about the local lay of the land, and give you a chance to brush up on your pronunciation. (Although the accent does add to you mystique somewhat)
>>
No. 1023520 ID: dccdd0

B.Seek a friendlier and more trusting rapport. It's probably good to have a few friends out here. Who knows maybe it might evolve into more than friendship.
>>
No. 1023522 ID: a355d6

B) and have sex, essentially. It's been a long time since you've seen some real action after all. So find out if he's single, flirt, you know how it goes. He asked if you're alone so, perhaps he's in the same boat hehe.
>>
No. 1023524 ID: 89649e
File 164495303937.jpg - (309.13KB , 750x450 , soj_077.jpg )
1023524

Though you feel confident that Erik is unlikely to prove a threat, the same cannot be said for your present environs -- and so you remain wary, albeit with an affable air nonetheless. After helping the man back to his feet after his encounter with your slobbering specter, you assert a desire for a room to let for the evening along with a meal and some conversation -- that you might glean any useful information in the process.

As the wetlands grow darker in dusk's descent, you head inside with the inn-keep and C.C. and have a look around -- the interior much as you'd glimpsed through the window, though the addition of lanterns and candles being lit helps afford a more comfortable atmosphere. Deciding to ease up, you hang up your cloak and heavier blade before tucking your gloves away and having a seat at the main dining table. You watch and listen as Erik busies himself preparing a meal for you -- the broad fellow moving with practiced efficacy and an energy suggesting enthusiasm.

"It's been slow out here as of late," Erik offers as the kitchen hearth gives off a warming glow. "You're my first guest in a week or more, I'd say." Your long ears prick to the shift and shuffle of sacks of grain and flour and you spy the man opening a larder before glancing over to you; he purses his lips, before seeming to decide against offering meat with your meal -- fortunate, being the obligate herbivore that you are.

"What can yew tell me of thee aria?" You probe, sitting back in your seat; the wooden chair is surprisingly comfortable even if not quite up to the par of buune woodworking and craftsmanship.

"Well, you're about a day or so out from Hevelston up the road -- mind yourself though, the bogs and mud can be treacherous this time of year." Erik cuts a bevvy of potatoes before setting them to boil and gathers up what looks to be fresh-baked bread; your nose wiggles reflexively, pleasing scents blossoming. "...'course, the Pall's made all that worse. Folk have been taking to escorts when they can, for safety. Least we haven't had any invaders come this way."

Swamps, bogs, wetlands with treacherous terrain and unknown creatures -- such do not inspire much enthusiasm, but there is some solace that you're unlikely to encounter Sarken soldiers on the leg ahead. After a time, Erik arrives at the table and sets out a plate for you with bread, mashed potatoes, peas and carrot slices before setting down a wooden cup for you -- and stein for himself. Into both, he pours what smells like warm cider before seating across from you at the table.

"Hope you don't mind -- haven't had someone here to speak to over dinner in a while." Erik offers a wry smile and then takes a pause to mutter a quiet prayer beneath his breath before he begins eating. In your periphery, you can see C.C. peeking her snout up over the edge of the table snuffling with scarcely veiled interest.

You offer a friendly smile and reassurance. "It is good to have a chance to speek." Feeling divided on flirtatiousness, you weigh your journey ahead and the prospects of warming a bed. Many uncertain factors, certainly -- but for the sake of curiosity, you probe lightly.

"Dew yew live here alone?" You ask innocently enough, leaning forward just a bit conspicuously as you eat; you catch the man's gaze darting down to the low neckline of your garb with your movement before pointedly glancing away. "Ahh. Yes, since Greta passed, it's just been me running the place." He lightly clears his throat, taking a long swig of cider.

You decide to...

> A) Eat, drink and be sociable, but abandon flirtatious pursuits and sticking to general conversation...
> B) Sup, while trying to press Erik for information on your destination...
> C) Entreat Erik to accompany you to the next community, for safety on the road...
> D) Press on to pursue more short-term companionship while you're here...
> E) _

These are more general goals for the conversation you might push towards, but not the limits of what you can inquire about or prompt here; feel free to include anything additional you'd like to ask or do -- and next update, you'll have an opportunity to resolve your Inspiration!
>>
No. 1023526 ID: 676f44

>>1023524

A) Eat, drink and be sociable, but abandon flirtatious pursuits and sticking to general conversation...

We need not worry much about bedwarming- we're better than to throw ourselves at the first male we see. Such a thing is for less reputable sorts of Buune. But, no reason to not be friendly. He seems nice enough, and companionship need not have carnality as a prerequisite.
>>
No. 1023527 ID: bad0af

>>1023524
A, but if he gets a bit more relaxed then let's move to D. Trustworthy companionship is only going to get rarer from here, but no need to lay it on thick though.
>>
No. 1023528 ID: dccdd0

First B try to gain some information that might help you on your journey. Then D.try to see if he's interested in you, you might have some fun tonight.
>>
No. 1023529 ID: 93ba79

A, but if he starts flirting we may switch to D.
>>
No. 1023530 ID: a355d6

Mostly D with a dash of B and C. He's already given you plenty of signs that he's into you.

You can tell him that you're on a mission to undo the Pall; it's a noble task after all. So of course you're looking for any information that could help you. Has he seen any other people pass by here, and what can he tell you about the Vaults of Volkregar.

Ask him if he's considered leaving this place. With the dangers and the lack of business, it's questionable whether he'll be able to sustain himself for much longer. Well, not that you mind, since you're able to rest here. But surely there are other, safer and better paid jobs for a strong and handsome man such as him to pursue, at least until the Pall is lifted. There must be something keeping him here.

It's definitely rare to find a man like him, to not be scared/disgusted over someone of another race.
>you catch the man's gaze
And he's certainly got a... fine taste, he should know. It's regretful if he's still got feelings for this Greta person, how long has it been?, and isn't ready to find a new companion yet. Or perhaps this is exactly what he needs? Some caring love to help him move on with his life? You're not accustomed to how people in the realms of men experience happiness, but if there's something you can do, you know, to repay the hospitality that he's shown you, you're open to some *cough* cultural exchange.
>>
No. 1023531 ID: 17dc6b

Options B "maybe he knows something that can help you", then D "hopefully you two can entertain one another tonight"
>>
No. 1023571 ID: 8483cf

>>1023529
Agreed. Let's have some genuninely good conversation. He wants to talk, too (he said it himself), and if he wants to flirt, we'll know.
>>
No. 1023572 ID: 34dfce

>>1023526
Strongly seconding. Also if we went through with trying to push for D, that could end up going badly in a few ways. The first is the obvious risk of him being appalled due to the forwardness, but also it could end up going badly due to him having regrets afterward due to feeling like he betrayed his lost wife. That could range from just being uncomfortable and low-key avoiding us, to being plunged into depression and self-ruin.

Regardless, I personally think it kind of forward to try to bed someone you just met (especially in this setting). If you really need an outlet, go sit on a root vegetable and deal with it yourself.

>>1023530
Despite not being keen on option D, we should repay him somehow. See if he has any sidequests! Otherwise make sure to pay him a bit extra.

--

When we leave, would it be possible to somehow cast something on him so that he can't vocally recall our appearance(particularly species)? Like, he would still recognize us if he sees us, but he wouldn't be able to find the words to describe us to someone else(maybe limiting a description to a friendly foreign woman from somewhere they didn't recognize) This would be mostly to prevent the news of a Bunne being in the area from spreading (both for stealth reasons since a Bunne's appearance is rather distinctive, but also so the wrong people don't hear, whomever the wrong people may be).
>>
No. 1023581 ID: 761913

Well option B sounds good. Than do option D.
>>
No. 1023593 ID: 074326

>>1023524

A.) He's shown genuine hospitality so return it in kind, and be a genuine friend. (did he even ask for payment?)
Avoid D.) you're not the kind of Buune to take advantage of a widower just to satisfy you own libido

Keep the conversation light and friendly only steer towards B.) if it happens naturally, key things to find out are, if he could guide you across swamp or knows someone who could.

Also can C. C eat? Would she like some scraps?
>>
No. 1023606 ID: 056ca0

>>1023527
This. If he shows interest, then show interest in kind. If not, then keep it light and friendly. No need to press the subject, but no need to be a prude, either. If he's showing signs, then by all means take the opportunity.
>>
No. 1024575 ID: 772302

B, ask for general information about the area maybe ask questions that will help you on your adventure. afterwards D, ask if he's interested in after dinner fun. if he dosen't seem interested then apologize.
>>
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!
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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
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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!
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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.
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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...
>>
No. 1032427 ID: 94bb57
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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
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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!)
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No. 1032430 ID: 8483cf

B. We've dealt with brigands before. Brigands also have useful information we might overhear!
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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.
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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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