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1083314 No. 1083314 ID: 9ea24b

Previous thread: https://questden.org/kusaba/quest/res/1077945.html
Short VN game in this setting: https://tippler.itch.io/march-time
Discussion: https://questden.org/kusaba/questdis/res/135483.html

Gore and violence warning. No onscreen sex. No chance based events.
201 posts omitted. Last 100 shown. Expand all images
No. 1087674 ID: 9ea24b
File 171201938640.png - (16.31KB , 500x500 , p67.png )

I stay low to the ground as horses and soldiers pass nearby–the siege of Jamuk is reaching its peak and there is much activity around the army camp. When Erogalf is invisible I cannot see him either, but he occasionally taps me with his staff so I know he’s there.

I spot a large group of soldiers digging a pit about one third of the way from the camp to Jamuk. The nearby wheat has been burned in a neat black circle and horses arrive to bring dead animals and mortals to lay in the ashes around the growing hole.

Erogalf prods me. “There’s another mage nearby and it’s getting dark. I’m going to turn around, but you can stay here if you want and we’ll find you tomorrow.”
No. 1087678 ID: 443b73

Can you dig undetected beneath the ritual? We will only act once the war spirit is born so instead of regrouping we could trust our mages to start their offensive on their own when the time is right and surprise attack the mage or the spirit from underground when we hear a commotion or a password from our allies.
No. 1087679 ID: a7a180

There's lots of friends for your lonely friend in the corpse pile.
No. 1087695 ID: 273c18

Start digging around for easier access to the site.
No. 1087698 ID: 5ebd37

Can you control corpses outside of your domain? This would be the perfect ambush if you can.
No. 1087863 ID: 9ea24b
File 171211130380.png - (10.97KB , 500x500 , p68.png )

Erogalf can contact me via communication spell which means I should be fine to stay here for the night. I can dig a narrow tunnel around the ritual site and try to identify the mage or mages in charge of the ritual. If only I had my enhanced hearing! Instead I will have to try to identify the magic users visually. I bid Erogalf farewell and begin burrowing into the field.

I do not think it would be wise to fight using the dead or infiltrate the camp with my current abilities and energy reserves, though I can opportunistically target lone soldiers.
No. 1087864 ID: 9ea24b
File 171211131440.png - (15.35KB , 500x500 , p69.png )

I make an easy underground loop around the burnt crops and surface on the side closest to camp. There is smoke in the air and distant screaming. I stay with my head sticking out of the hole so that my snout rises just above the ripe wheat berries.

I do begin to miss the comfort of Erogalf’s presence as the hours pass. The moons are high when a small party emerges from the army camp to approach the fresh hole. There is a blond elf, a slim orc, and a dwarf with an artfully woven beard, all dressed with more elaborate garments than the soldiers. I see several fairies circling their heads, casting light on their path.

They stop at the hole and hold hands. Should I try to ambush them? I think I will only be able to kill one if I catch them by surprise.
No. 1087882 ID: bed889

Hold off for now. This is only a scouting mission, we do not want to be spotted.
No. 1087885 ID: 443b73

Am I misremembering the plan? I though we would wait until the spirit is born to do anything.
We can't ambush anyone, at best we could dig some pit traps.
No. 1087886 ID: df60a9

Do you feel them using any magic? If so, we should go into the tunnels and try to influence the spirit's manifestation. That was our goal here, after all. Not to get in a fight in the middle of the army, but to alter the spirit in such a way as to make it less cooperative to the army.

Ideally, we would want Telarin's help with this, but perhaps some of us spirits could transfer into the new spirit during the ritual to influence it?
No. 1087895 ID: 1758e4

Dig closer if you can. Maybe your presence will influence the budding spirit. You are rot related and there are plenty of rotting bodies here.
No. 1087910 ID: 9ea24b
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The goal of this mission is to interfere with the new war spirit by influencing its creation with suboptimal intents. After it is born it will be surrounded by soldiers and our party will need to return to Pliny to make battle preparations.

My lonely friend would be a good source of intent. Rather than attack the army mages I decide to dig close to the birth hole and plant the corpse vertically in a parallel passage. The mana coming through this side of the hole will be filtered through the body.

What main intent should I put in my lonely friend? This will influence what the new war spirit finds pleasing or displeasing.
No. 1087911 ID: df60a9

The intent that is most powerful in him will be most powerful to use.

The new spirit will be LONELY. It will want a FRIEND. You will likely be the first other spirit that it meets. This will give you the opportunity to gain its rapport.
No. 1087912 ID: df60a9

Thinking about it, you may even find this is a powerful intent for you to wield and infuse. You have often felt lonely and in want of a friend who will not be turned away by your kind of beauty. You know this feeling. Use that.
No. 1087926 ID: f2320a

Support we are lonely and we are rejected so a friend for a friend
No. 1087928 ID: 443b73

More important than the new spirit liking Pliny is making it distrust it's mortal "allies". It shall detest be use to spread suffering so some may profit because the last thing we want is for this spirit to willingly offer mana to their mages.
No. 1087994 ID: 9ea24b
File 171227430211.png - (16.81KB , 500x500 , p71.png )

I want the war spirit to yearn for a friend who is another spirit. I have felt the desire for an ally who would not judge me for my smell or power, and it is easy to put all of these aggregated feelings into the wet bag of bones and skin. Hopefully this will make the spirit eager to please me while also keeping them standoffish towards their mortal companions.

I stay with the corpse until it is the next morning and Erogalf calls.

“Are you there Pliny? How was your night?”
No. 1087995 ID: 9ea24b
File 171227431870.png - (14.85KB , 500x500 , p72.png )

“I am well! I have influenced the birth hole of the spirit and would like to stay here until they are born so I can show myself to them.” I reply.

“Okay, that’s good. Did you know Telarin is related to the army? Apparently when Smit brought the soldier to her he said something about her going missing and being glad she’s nearby.”

Icher never mentioned anything like this though he did seem to imply there was a lot I did not know. “What did Telarin say in response?” I ask.

“She didn’t want to talk about it and I’m kind of mad at her for keeping secrets. We’ll have to deal with it eventually but we should focus on the mission right now. Anyway, do you think you’ll need any support today? Otherwise you can come back to the wagon when you’re ready.”
No. 1088009 ID: 443b73

Any particular reason you decided to rub your head on a dead man dick? Will this project the idea of intimacy between the new spirit and you?

This is a bad time to handle a potential spy. Erogalf and Smit will need to decide if Telarin pose any sort of short therm risk and handle the situation accordingly. As far as I'm concern as long as no blatant betrayal against us or communication with the enemy happen this prior association shouldn't be a problem.
No. 1088018 ID: 5ebd37

If the enemy discovers you down in a hole, there's not a lot anyone could do to help. Best if they stay at camp today.
No. 1088026 ID: df60a9

We knew that Telarin had a dark past, and familiarity with the spirit magics they are using.
If she wanted to harness Icher for the army, there's no reason she would have had to leave them to do so. It's more likely she disagreed with either their methods or goals, and left. There is no reason to shun her for this.
No. 1088038 ID: f2320a

Possibly more friends then a friend as they say all is fair in love and war, love is a battlefield, love can bloom in conflict ect. There are ALOT of love war sayings and most warriors and soldiers have wives and girlfriends to return to a hometown
No. 1088049 ID: 9ea24b
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I do not think wedging myself in the perfect head level crevice between the tunnel and the storage cavity is sexual, though it seems some of the voices disagree. Are reproductive organs inherently sexual, even when I do not consider them so and they are but rotten tissue? I have explored mortal attitudes towards intercourse very little besides what I overheard casually in Pliny, and it holds no inborn value to me.

Rape was described to me by the dead Pliny prisoners from the army camp, but it seems less damaging than most of the other torture methods. If the new spirit has an interest in performing intimacy with me I suppose that is a weakness and will make stabbing it to death easier.

“Pliny? Still there?”
No. 1088050 ID: 9ea24b
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“Yes I am. Do you think Telarin poses any risk to the mission? I have never heard her communicate with the army while she was in Pliny.”

“There are ways to communicate without verbal language. But yeah, I don’t think she can do anything from here.” Erogalf says.

“Then let us treat her normally for now in the hopes that she will be honest with us later. I do not need any aid and should return by nightfall.”

Erogalf ends the spell and I am left to wait for the spirit to come into being. At what point after its birth should I try to speak with it?
No. 1088051 ID: eb0a9c

Any amount of time without empathic persons to talk to will damage the spirit's forming mental health. You also want to forge an ironclad bond - the moment you leave, they will feel the loneliness and associate leaving you with badness.
No. 1088052 ID: df60a9

Indeed. And once it exits the spirit hole, it will be in clearer view of the army mages. Your best chance at remaining undetected it meeting it down there.

>If the new spirit has an interest in performing intimacy with me I suppose that is a weakness and will make stabbing it to death easier
Alternatively, it may open up the possibility to make the spirit an ally.
They cannot make a new war spirit while there is already a war spirit, remember. If the war spirit is made to be alive and not be on their side, that is good.
No. 1088054 ID: 443b73

It's more about the symbolical disrespect than physical pain. Since sex have no meaning to you and your ego was never hurt by attempts of humiliation from Icher I wouldn't expect such act to even bother you.

In case sexual act toward you actually happen don't think of such behavior as an attack. Normally it's a gesture of intimacy, so the first assumption should be that whoever desire you want some kind of emotional bound. More sinister motivations are less common.

If the new spirit had such desire would it be able to fulfill it? Wanting something that cannot be felt could be horrible.
No. 1088057 ID: 5ebd37

Especially if it is looking for friends, its important to get to it before the army endears itself to the spirit. Pliny can warn the newborn about those jerks up above who will just take advantage of it.
No. 1088087 ID: 9ea24b
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I must speak to the spirit as soon as it forms, when it is still in the hole and has not yet climbed up to see the army. The mages may overhear us, but it will give me at least a little time to shape its impressionable mind.

I dig a little further so that the tip of my snout just clears the wall of the hole and I can see inside. I am deep enough that it would be impossible for a mortal to see, and even if they did notice an odd patch of wet dirt, it would not worry them.

I wait. I hear the distant sounds of battle and death. The stamp of horses' hooves causes vibrations through the earth that I can feel even at these depths.

The battle stops and after more time I hear a growing swell of voices near the top of the hole. A few shadows sweep around the edge of the opening as people pass closeby.

The chanting begins. The soldiers ask for good fortune, strength, and a loyal companion. I feel the soil congeal around me, as if it’s trying to squeeze me out. I wrap my end around my lonely friend and hold firm.
No. 1088088 ID: 9ea24b
File 171243215714.png - (23.96KB , 500x500 , p76.png )

The dirt at the base of the hole bubbles like soup over the fire. It swells into two enormous mortal hands, building from fingertip to wrist, until the appendages connect to a narrow torso. Next is the head and a pair of long spindly legs. There’s a dim glow behind the spirit’s eyes, and I can see they take after Icher with their reddish hue and large square fingernails.

Once it begins looking around and flexing its hands, I speak.

“Hello fellow spirit. I am Pliny and I want to be your friend.”

I stick my head out a little further to make sure they see me. They stand and reach for my face, feeling the contours and slickness of my surface.

“I am Jam. I feel empty.”
No. 1088089 ID: eb0a9c

"There's all kinds of things to fill you up. Soft grass. Warm earth. Corpses. Soup. And some... unmentionable things that I'm not comfortable discussing for I am only a few months old. But the others say they're very filled, and they get so filled that there's a new them inside them waiting to be filled up.
Your new friends will try to fill you up with blood and malice.
They are not my friends."
No. 1088095 ID: 443b73

"That's loneliness. We are born as solitary creatures, too different from the mortals to be accepted as we are, but we don't need to live like that. We can have each other. Come with me, I will do whatever you think will help fill the the void you feel."
No. 1088102 ID: 5ebd37

>I feel empty
That's normal, since you're new. This place will only fill you up with bad and hurt. You should come with us and fill up on good things.
No. 1088109 ID: a7a180

Those mortals standing around the hole will try to fill that void with bloodshed and conquest. Do not trust them. These do not fill it for long.
No. 1088113 ID: 1fa9db

Curl a little around his finger to let him feel touch.

Does he hear any voices in his mind? It would be interesting to know if all spirits hear the voices of their composite affinities.

This seems good. He will need to escape, or the humans will try to use him as a tool. Jam looks like a bird. We should establish a place for him to fly and meet us, and not send him to Erogalf since they would probably trap him in the box right away. Maybe he could wait for us in the woods where we met the kobolds?
No. 1088161 ID: 9ea24b
File 171250184387.png - (14.32KB , 500x500 , p77.png )

I extend further into Jam’s hole and he wraps his fingers around my head and tugs. I graciously allow this.

“You are lonely, my friend. The mortals above your hole will try to befriend you because they wish to use you for blood and conquest.”

Jam nods. “Agreeable.”

“Ah, but there are much better things to fill you that will not cause hurt and wickedness. Come with me and I will show you.”
No. 1088162 ID: 9ea24b
File 171250187376.png - (19.28KB , 500x500 , p78.png )

Jam tugs on me more insistently, but I am too slick and he cannot get a strong enough grip to pull me free. His eyes narrow.

“I will climb out of this hole. You come with me.” he says.

It occurs to me that Jam is too large and awkwardly shaped to use my tunnels, and I hear the army mages approaching the edge of the hole with concern in their voices. I think if I go with Jam he will stop the army mages from immediately smiting me, otherwise I should tell Jam to meet me later.
No. 1088168 ID: ef9a76

Tell him that the mortals above are not fond of us, because we smited them and their champion before with pestilent vengeance. They are not actually all that smart at war.

We would like him to escape their clutches and join our side instead of becoming their new champion. He can find us at our meeting place in the woods.
No. 1088221 ID: 5ebd37

Tell him that the people above will pretend to be his friend, but if he ever does anything they don't like they will hurt and imprison him.
No. 1088222 ID: 443b73

Good point. Also inform Jam that his predecessor killed his summoners to avoid be controlled.
No. 1088258 ID: 9ea24b
File 171260287338.png - (20.60KB , 500x500 , p79.png )

“The mortals that summoned you are not fond of me, and they will hurt you if you do not obey them. They seek control over spirits.” I say.

“Come with me. I am strong and they will respect my will.” Jam insists.

They start digging at the soil around my tunnel to uncover more of my body. I pull back and he pecks my face.

“We can meet later in the woody hills to the east of the army camp. Do not trust them.” I say.

I continue my retreat and Jam begins striking me in a frenzy, even stuffing his head and neck into the hole to jab my false eyes.

I do not hold it against the spirit, he is young and unsocialized. I swallow my lonely friend again and dig to a location where I can surface safely. I can see the crowd of people around the burnt patch of wheat.

I assume it will be several hours until Jam comes to find me. What should I do before then?
No. 1088305 ID: 5ebd37

Briefly stop at camp to tell them what you know about the new spirit.
No. 1088307 ID: 443b73

Are we genuinely trying to befriend Jam?
Would it be wise to get backup for our meeting? Erogalf will want to capture Jam, but if Jam is followed by our enemies or doesn't value a friendship with Pliny as much as with his mortals this could be a dangerous interaction. A coordinated escape plan could be important.
No. 1088317 ID: f3171e

It's hard to say if we can or not. Like Ichor, Jam has that habit of casually stabbing things around them, and I think that might just be a natural instinct war spirits have. Stubborn and aggressive, too. Hard to tell how much we can get through to that.

There is value to being friendly with a spirit of war, even if it ends up being unable to coexist with our peaceful village and needs to go travel to other conflicts to sustain itself. We could keep those wars from Pliny's doorstep, for one, prevent getting caught in the path of another war machine. Or we could have something to call on for aid if the king and church decide to exterminate Pliny.

On the other hand, it would piss Erogalf off to pussy out of capturing the spirit, and Pliny's growing sense of virtue may make betraying Jam difficult. I think we should discuss this with Smit and Telarin at camp. We have her revelations to discuss, and she seems to know the most about how spirits work and whether Jam could even be socialized. Flint will value completing their spirit capture contract above anything and Erogalf wants to harness the spirit for power, so I doubt we could swing them to a friendship plan.
No. 1088424 ID: 9ea24b
File 171271882596.png - (13.41KB , 500x500 , p80.png )

My end goal is to stop the war, which necessitates working in opposition to Jam’s nature. I think if I could convince Jam that he should die, I can still be his friend.

I wish to consult with the adventurers about their plan to capture Jam, if they still wish to pursue that goal. I begin the slow journey over the hills and to our camp and arrive to the smell of supper being cooked on the fire. Smit and Flint are manning the pot and Erogalf is slumped in the wagon with one leg sticking out over the wooden edge. The soldier is sitting on the ground with a mug of some green brew while Telarin broods on a stump a ways away.
No. 1088425 ID: 9ea24b
File 171271884873.png - (12.95KB , 500x500 , p81.png )

“Hello everyone, I have returned. The new spirit looks like a bird and is called Jam.” I announce.

Erogalf kicks his legs to right himself. “Kinda sounds like Jamuk the city, doesn’t it?”

That had not occurred to me. “They are aggressive as seems to be the norm for war spirits. I instilled in them a great loneliness and desire for the companionship of other spirits, then made sure I would be the first being he met.”

Telarin looks up from gloomily contemplating the grass. “Say that again?”

“I believe he is quite attached to me. I agreed to meet him at a later point instead of going to the surface with him and he seemed displeased.”

Telarin slaps a hand over her mouth and motions frantically to the others not to speak. Smit seems confused but Erogalf rummages in the wagon for a pair of quills and some paper.
No. 1088426 ID: eb0a9c

Some problems with leaving him alone like that, but it's better than him growing obedient to those psychopath-worshipping commanders.

He'll want you. Show him that he can have you - if he proves he deserves you. And it begins with the destruction of those who would wield him against the powerless.
No. 1088428 ID: 443b73

To be honest I'm also as confused as Smit. Did we trigger her obsession? Is Pliny's loneliness noteworthy? Does she think it was a mistake? Does she want to communicate without us hearing?

I'm a bit worried the need for companionship will backfire on us. Less about Jam becoming obsessive with Pliny and more about he getting along well with the army.

Anyway... Telarin, care to soot our concerns? Explain the army thing?
No. 1088431 ID: 8f9bc4


Of course it was a mistake. Pliny's a worm. Jam is a bird. About the worst possible thing you could do is instill in Jam a powerful urge to seek out Pliny to fill the emptiness inside him.
No. 1088444 ID: f3171e

The army mages may be performing an auditory scrying using Jam's draw to Pliny, which is why she wants us to be quiet. Much like Erogalf can project his voice.

Say NOTHING more, and see what Erogalf writes.
No. 1088486 ID: 9ea24b
File 171280375622.png - (16.22KB , 500x500 , p82.png )

I think Telarin is afraid someone is listening in on our conversation. I wait patiently for her to scratch out a message, which I find I can understand.

Jam will listen in on Pliny. Risky to talk around her.

That’s right, since Jam is a spirit, he can extend his hearing over his domain, which includes all of the places affected by the war.

Smit shakes his head at the message and mouths that he can’t read. The captured soldier is sick enough that he doesn’t notice we’ve fallen suspiciously silent.

Erogalf follows up with his own elegant script. Pliny, go ahead of us and return to the city. Don’t speak about anything sensitive.

I reach for the quill with my lonely friend and Erogalf moves it away. He shakes his head and gags.

I grumble. Very convenient of Telarin to completely shut down the conversation.

Should I go meet Jam on the hill or begin the return journey to Pliny?
No. 1088491 ID: eb0a9c

Meet with Jam. You cannot break his trust this early in his development. That said, you are going to 'meet' him, not talk at length while the soldiers get into position. Say hi, then discuss how the soldiers would love to kill you, and you would like them to not be here, then bolt.
No. 1088493 ID: 443b73

You can still speak things that wouldn't upset Jam, just need to be careful to not sound like half of a conversation. Writing on the dirt is also a possibility.
Explain that you would like if things work out between you and Jam. Maybe they don't understand how isolated you feel.
No. 1088494 ID: 5ebd37

Ah Pliny, your hand's all covered in stuff! You can't write like that, you'll smear all over the words. Just draw in the dirt.

Better make sure there's a good escape route at the hill. Jam is pretty grabby.
No. 1088498 ID: f3171e

Tell them that we are excited to have another spirit to be near and speak to that will not see us as disgusting and revolting.

Channel some real emotion in it, make it believable. The audience is listening.
No. 1088567 ID: 9ea24b
File 171293338832.png - (19.37KB , 500x500 , p83.png )

It is inconvenient for me to write in the dirt right now, since I would have to dig up a section of grass and learn how to write. If Jam is indeed listening, I can say things that he would find pleasing and Erogalf and Telarin will not even be able to argue!

“I am glad I have another spirit to be my friend. I am going to see him now since we have important matters to discuss.”

With that I turn around and head towards Jamuk. I find a good spot near where we intercepted the two soldiers yesterday and dig a deep escape hole in case Jam brings soldiers. I plant myself face up and practice my writing while I wait.

I see Jam coming first. They hop on thin legs and then propel themselves forward on their hands for larger bursts of speed. The slim orc mage is struggling to keep up with the inconsistent pace.

I do not see any other reinforcements. Jam reaches me and flexes his fingers, but has learned he cannot pull me out of my hole and keeps his hands to himself.

“Who were you speaking with? Why did you tell them about me?” he asks.
No. 1088569 ID: a671e8

"They are adventurers I hired."
No. 1088572 ID: eb0a9c

"They're adventurers. They're part of my business. They get in all the businesses."
Offer an eye. I think he'll feel better if he has a trinket of you at all times.
No. 1088582 ID: 8f9bc4

You didn't know it was a secret. Is there something wrong with telling people Jam is a bird? Or at least partially a bird. Design inspired by birds?

His creation is no secret. That army has been trying to do so for a while now. They don't think they can stand on their own.

Ask him what he needs you to keep secret, so you know what not to tell others.
No. 1088583 ID: f3171e

They are our mortal subordinates. I see he brought a subordinate as well. Who is his orc?
No. 1088691 ID: 9ea24b
File 171303887815.png - (12.30KB , 500x500 , p84.png )

“I was speaking to a party of adventurers, who I have hired to be my subordinates.” I explain. “It is convenient to work with mortals sometimes since they can use magic and there are more of them. Can you tell me about your orc?”

Jam jerks his head toward the mage, who is standing a safe distance away from me. “I was told you and your minions killed my predecessor. He is a precaution.”

“Oh. Yes I did do that but I wish for our relationship to be amicable. Here.”

I dislodge my false gold eyes and toss them to Jam, who snatches up the bits of metal immediately.
No. 1088692 ID: 9ea24b
File 171303889510.png - (19.43KB , 500x500 , p85.png )

“I have worn those coins for my entire life until now. They are a token of our friendship.” I say.

“You will not come with me.” Jam states.

“I cannot survive away from my source of power, which is my city and my people. I am planning to return there soon.”

Jam rubs my coins between their left thumb and middle finger. “I will conquer you, Pliny.”

The orc speaks for the first time. “Jam, if you cooperate with us in seizing control of the kingdom, you will be able to stay with Pliny however is most convenient for you both.”
No. 1088694 ID: eb0a9c

"...Hey, kid? Why do you need to conquer?"
No. 1088695 ID: a671e8

Jam doesn't need to participate in this conflict, just need to be near enough to sustain himself. If he join their faction he will share their conflicts and consequently every people he meet and every spiritual manifestation of their will will have a raison d'etre opposed to him.
Like you he is death and disease for the mortals, so in this army no mortal can interact with him like they interact with each other without deteriorating their heath.
He should consider at least a neutral stance in this war, maybe gathering adventurers that follow the army as his own faction like you did.

Explain your reasons to oppose Icher. As the spirit of a ruined city it was unacceptable for the moral and revitalization efforts to be subjected to the forces that trample it.

Talk about Icher. How you miss her in some ways, as a fellow spirit who sympathized with your emotional turmoil due to dealing with mortals. But also how in other ways Icher didn't seem to understand you well, attempting to dominate you with violence and threats as if you were a mortal capable of feeling pain.
No. 1088703 ID: 5ebd37

They offer Jam the ability to associate with you as though he couldn't just do that now. You see, they would take his freedom and then offer it back as you would a treat to a faithful pet. Don't let mortals control you Jam, they take more than they give.
No. 1088712 ID: f3171e

As a spirit of war, he seems to want the conflict and opposition. Trying to dissuade him away from it would be fruitless.

This seems like a better argument. Bring up how mortal religious figures and kings mark spirits as pariahs. This army hasn't shown themselves to be much better. We've seen them discard the powerful that they no longer need, like the shaman that created Icher. If they were on the side of spirits, why would they slay those with the knowledge of spirits?

>I will conquer you, Pliny
So long as we are in our territory we will heal after combat, so we could engage him in contests of strength if he would enjoy that. We only ask that these contests remain one on one, and our citizens be spared any violence.
No. 1088722 ID: a671e8

>he seems to want the conflict and opposition.
In this path he will be lonely forever, surrounding only by those who want to use him and fear him.
No. 1088725 ID: f3171e

And if he rejects it entirely he will wither and die. Pliny can't help being stinky, Jam can't help being violent. It's what they are, any kind of negotiations or plans for a future need to understand that they are not human and trying to live like humans will kill them.
No. 1088728 ID: a671e8

He can be violent without being part of an army that raises cities, massacre, plunder and rape.
Remember that when we met our mages they were acting like vultures following the path of destruction? Something similar is an option and it would almost certainly involve violence.
No. 1088769 ID: 9ea24b
File 171313183238.png - (14.90KB , 500x500 , p86.png )

Jam and I both lapse into silence as we conduct cost benefit analysis of different scenarios in our minds. The orc looks like he wants to sit down, then decides against it, probably in the interest of mobility in case I decide to attack.

I must carefully balance Jam’s desire for me versus his nature of violence and conflict. I know the army needs Jam to win the war, which makes it against Jam’s interests not to participate. He already knows the army wishes to use him, though I doubt they could control him if he decided to desert.

I reminisce about Icher. We would have had a working agreement if I had complied with their demand to fund the army. Perhaps I need to compromise now to find a peaceful resolution.

The army did suffer heavier losses from the siege of Jamuk. I could convince them to be satisfied with the territory they’ve claimed and stop here for now. Jam would be able to visit me in Pliny immediately and most of Geoun would remain intact.

Should I recommend this? Otherwise the army will conquer Geoun and I would have to deal with Jam later.
No. 1088785 ID: 5ebd37

The army should quit while they're ahead. How many spirits like Pliny has their slaughter left in their wake?
No. 1088811 ID: eb0a9c

War needs peace, or it will burn itself out. For Jam, a war that goes on too long will feel emptier than ever.

There's turmoil in times of 'peace' - or rather, armistice. He just needs to learn how to harness that. For instance, you absorb Rot from the slow deaths of the mortals in your village. Jam could easily siphon Conflict from dramatic tournaments with high stakes.
No. 1088816 ID: b63a56

We have an opportunity to ask the orc mage about the army's intentions here, their ideals and the reason for their conquest. And we can double check them with Telarin later. We know that Geoun looks poorly upon spirits, and should the threat of the army end the church and state may turn their attention to Pliny instead. The town and the spirit. What we don't know is whether the army's leadership would bring a preferable political state.

The adventurers want Jam for their magic box and if things fall out with him that could still be our play, but what we really want is for Pliny and its citizens to remain safe.

On the other hand, if we have the army spare Pliny but not the surrounding lands the collaboration will be obvious, marking us as an enemy to Geoun even if we try to claim neutrality.

By the standards of virtue and righteousness, the army's actions are reprehensible. I have no faith in them as long term allies. But that's all thinking like a mortal, not about what's best for you. We should consider if their war's geopolitical consequences might be better for you in the long run, Pliny. A disastrous enough war could end in a state of anarchy that would be fertile soil for a new paradigm, and more spirits being seeded that could be used for the adventurers' goals.
No. 1088822 ID: f2320a

"I apparently am a woman but you already have my heart"
What of when they are finished with the war the territories claimed the towns razed like all thing war ends and all soldier boys will return to a girl worth fighting for And war spirits put into boxes to become a magic battery
No. 1088856 ID: 9ea24b
File 171321301581.png - (18.67KB , 500x500 , p87.png )

“I have a proposal.” I say, addressing both Jam and the orc. “Your army has been warring for some time and is no doubt exhausted. Why not mark your new Vishelt boundary here and begin the task of governing your lands while defending your claim from the kingdom? Pliny will be yours and I will promise not to harm your soldiers. There should be enough conflict to sustain Jam and I will tell my adventurers to cooperate.”

“Agreeable.” says Jam, almost immediately.

“It would be nice to have a real home again.” the orc sighs. “The commander won’t be happy with stopping here and leaving the region ununified but he’ll be pleased to get a chance to talk to Telarin and sort out whatever they’re fighting about.”
No. 1088857 ID: 9ea24b
File 171321304257.png - (15.72KB , 500x500 , p88.png )

He casts a communication spell and begins explaining my plan to I assume the other mages. I wait patiently. It is completely dark before they reach an agreement and the orc turns back to me.

“I need you to take Jam and I to your adventurers.”

“They’re not far. Dwarf on watch.” Jam hisses.

“Telarin always blocks our attempts at contact, so we need to meet in person. Peacefully.” the orc continues.

I have committed to this plan, so I carefully extricate myself from my hole and begin the slow crawl to the wagon. What should I ask the orc and Jam during the short trip?
No. 1088871 ID: 5ebd37

Ask Jam how the army's treating him. Is he getting enough to eat? Making friends?
No. 1088877 ID: eb0a9c

There's going to be tensions from this haphazard armistice... but that's what we need to feed Jam.
Isn't arbitrage fun?

Warn Jam that the adventurers are your allies, not your minions. They might do something bad if Jam pushes them too far.
No. 1088898 ID: f3171e

I think it's been hours since he came into existence. I think we could try proposing the idea of coliseums to train soldiers, entertain citizens to reduce unrest, and feed Jam with combat and competition.

George certainly won't be happy, but hopefully we've built enough good will with him to accept it.

I'm interested to hear what Telarin has to say. It sounds like she wasn't just a turncoat, but high up enough to have a known disagreement with their leadership.
No. 1088995 ID: 9ea24b
File 171332043435.png - (17.26KB , 500x500 , p89.png )

“How has existing been in the few hours since we last met?” I ask Jam.

“Quite agreeable. There were many tender organs to eat around my hole. After your warning I made it clear I was not to be the commander’s obedient servant and he promised to respect me. I was told about my predecessor. I listened to your doings with your minions.”

I decide to speak more positively of the adventurers. “Perhaps minions is the wrong term for them. They are quite formidable and it would be wise not to anger them.”

“Apart from the commander’s sister they hold no value. I will respond to resistance.”
No. 1088996 ID: 9ea24b
File 171332045060.png - (15.10KB , 500x500 , p90.png )

I begin to grow more concerned as we approach the camp. I do not think any of my current allies will be happy with this agreement, and the lord in Pliny will be outraged that I have effectively usurped him. I do not think there is enough good will in the world for George to be content living under his family’s killers.

When I stretch my head over the grass I spot the glow of the fire as it wavers against the side of the wagon. I go ahead of Jam and the orc and make myself known to Flint, who yawns and scratches her beard.

I explain the deal, briefly.

“I don’t want any part of this.” she says. “Once we’re back to Pliny, I’m going to quit the group and go home. I’ll get everyone up and you can tell them what you’ve done.”

How do I approach this delicate situation?
No. 1089003 ID: f3171e

To start with, we should learn more from Telarin about why she left. We should be able to speak more openly about it, this time, with Jam here and not listening in from afar.

We brought Jam here alone, and they still have the box. Right now, she has no reason not to be entirely transparent with you about the full truth of what's going on, and from there we can decide once and for all if we want to trap him or ally with him.
No. 1089083 ID: 9ea24b
File 171340946291.png - (19.08KB , 500x500 , p91.png )

A good first step is clear communication. Telarin needs to explain her history to everyone and we can decide where to go from there.

I am startled when Jam runs his fingers down my slimy back. He must have grown tired of waiting and approached the camp. The orc coughs in the grass behind me to make his presence known.

There’s a bit of groaning as the party is roused from their slumber. Flint warns them to stay calm and they assemble around the fire clutching their weapons.

I explain the deal again, adding that Telarin has blood relations to the army commander and that she should explain herself.
No. 1089084 ID: 9ea24b
File 171340947844.png - (19.44KB , 500x500 , p92.png )

Cornered, Telarin goes quiet.

“Well, if you left then that’s a good sign. ” Erogalf says, in what seems to be an attempt to reassure her.

“I’m not a good person.” she mumbles. “I convinced my mentor to tell my brother how to raise a spirit, which is how we ended up with this mess.”

“The ogre shaman?” I ask.

“Yeah. I left because it got to be too much being a healer and dealing with dying soldiers all the time, but I would have gone back if Erogalf hadn’t found me. I put the idea in his head about capturing Icher, which was stupid. I don’t know, we should have stayed far away from the army.”
No. 1089115 ID: f3171e

Agree with her that trying to be a good person is difficult. The church mortals make it sound so easy like the way it is supposed to be and helping people feels good and righteous, but helping everyone is impossible because helping some sometimes requires hurting others. The church hurts others for their all-loving god too so hurting must mean love sometimes, but where do you draw the line between the good of helping and the good of hurting?

We want to prevent the people of Pliny from dying and the army will kill them again if they remain part of Geoun or the king of Geoun will kill them for god because of having a spirit, but a treaty with Vishelt will also hurt George's emotions and it makes Flint look horrified even though it means less people will die right now.

Who does her brother think he is helping by hurting to make Icher and Jam?
No. 1089227 ID: 9ea24b
File 171356620780.png - (15.16KB , 500x500 , p93.png )

As a known expert on being good, I try to console Telarin. “We are all trying to do what we think is best. In these complicated situations, helping some will cause the harm of others. What matters now is how we move forward with the current circumstances. I have chosen this path because it will protect my people.”

It occurs to me this rationale would apply to the commander as well. He likely thinks he is doing the right thing despite hurting so many.

Telarin rubs her face and sniffs a bit. “Has Jolir agreed to this?”

“Yes. Marcose was skeptical since Pliny has broken their word before in their deal with Icher, but I think everyone would like a break and Jam will be paying close attention to any schemes.” the orc replies.

I am surprised when Telarin stands and begins collecting her spare things from the wagon. Erogalf seems alarmed as well.
No. 1089229 ID: 9ea24b
File 171356622151.png - (18.59KB , 500x500 , p94.png )

“You’re leaving?” he says, voice cracking.

“I don’t want to use you anymore, Erogalf. I’ve taught you a lot and you can find other party members. Go back to Pliny and get everything sorted before the army arrives to deal with the lord.”

“I didn’t feel like you were using me.” Erogalf mutters.

Smit stays silent and watchful, as is usual for him. Jam wraps his hands around my clitellum, which I tolerate. He squeezes a few times, then follows the orc and Telarin as they walk into the darkness.
No. 1089253 ID: 5ebd37

Remembering that Jam will hear anything you say, time to head back to Pliny. Everyone's had their feelings hurt and they probably want to yell at you, but they'll have to wait till you're all out of earshot.
No. 1089254 ID: f3171e

I think you technically just got your first hug.

It sounds like Telarin is going to try and reconcile with her brother. We should check on her sometime. For now, we return to Pliny, see if the kobolds made it there, and break the awkward news to George.
No. 1089269 ID: 9ea24b
File 171364406180.png - (14.48KB , 500x500 , p95.png )

The remaining members of the party seem stunned for a moment, but soon go back to bed. It is late and none seem in the mood to start an argument.

“We’ll begin the journey to Pliny tomorrow morning.” Flint tells me, as she seats herself back in front of the fire.

The thought of returning to my well and regaining my powers is very appealing. I will have to be careful about what I say since Jam will always be listening, but I do not have intentions of breaking this deal so I doubt I will be exchanging much sensitive information.

I wonder how the kobold refugees are adjusting to their new home. I hope they are eating lots of rats.
No. 1089270 ID: 9ea24b
File 171364407312.png - (14.73KB , 500x500 , p96.png )

I dig some more holes for entertainment as the camp cycles through its watch. Flint heats some water for breakfast tea and then I crawl up onto the wagon and we are off.

There are fewer refugees on the return journey, which is a good sign. The horses kick up a good deal of dust on the dry road, which sticks to Flint’s beard and eyelashes.

“Pliny.” Smit pokes his head out from the front of the wagon sometime around noon. “Don’t worry about paying me back for this mission. Give some gold to Wulfa, if you must.”

“Okay Smit. You’re not going to leave Pliny, are you?”

“No. I don’t want trouble though, so don’t seek me out.”
No. 1089271 ID: 5ebd37

Thank him for his help and if he ever needs you he knows where to find you.
No. 1089275 ID: f3171e

Maybe he was trying to get out of the rogue life. Don't mention the chest or his former partner, but apologize for dragging him into this if this is not the sort of thing he wants to do.

Agreed, he knows where to find us if he ever needs help.
No. 1089314 ID: 9ea24b
File 171370594423.png - (11.95KB , 500x500 , p97.png )

“Thank you for your help Smit. Find me if you ever need aid.”

The goblin nods.

“I am sorry if you did not want to do this kind of work anymore. I did not mean to drag you into it.” I add.

“It’s not that. I don’t want to get between you and your new…partner. Seems like the jealous type.”

He lets the canvas flap fall shut, ending our conversation. I notice that the sick soldier is not anywhere in sight. I did not see him go with Telarin last night which means he is most likely dead.

“What happened to our prisoner?” I ask at large. No one answers.
No. 1089315 ID: 9ea24b
File 171370596867.png - (13.34KB , 500x500 , p98.png )

I am heartened when we cross the boundary of Pliny’s fields in the afternoon and my magical hearing returns. I pick out the sounds of George, Wulfa, and Jor. They all seem to be well. The kobolds are scattered to the fringes of the intact buildings, and as we approach I see their temporary shelters and smell their waste.

The ground is familiar, but I am not getting much passive mana. My absence was probably not good for the new offering system since I was not around to collect.

Flint stops the wagon in front of their house, which has been taken over by the lord and his servants. Smit slips away while Flint makes her preparations to leave. Erogalf seems dazed and stands in the middle of the street clutching his staff and swaying slightly.

What should I do?
No. 1089325 ID: f2320a

Is smit drained of magic or is he having a nervouse breakdown?
No. 1089338 ID: f3171e

I think Erogalf had feelings for Telarin. He must feel terrible after losing her like that. There's not much we can say to make it better, but we can ask if he needs anything.

Then, George should be the first person we tell. He may want to join Flint when she leaves after he learns what happened, so we should ensure he has time to prepare for that.
No. 1089401 ID: 9ea24b
File 171380710078.png - (13.69KB , 500x500 , p99.png )

Erogalf seems quite distraught. I nudge his boot to get his attention.

“What’s wrong? Do you miss Telarin? I know this is a stressful time but we are home now and it is okay.”

The wizard sniffles. “My whole party left me. I’m supposed to be the cool old wizard traveling the land fighting evil. That was my dream when I set out from home last year.”

I gaze up at Erogalf. I suppose when he is not wearing a fake beard he looks quite young, though it is difficult to tell with elves.

“Would some mana help?” I offer.

“Yeah.” Erogalf admits. “I’d just use it for a vitality spell and to wash up though.”

If I give Erogalf a boost I will be too small to carry my lonely friend. Should I do it? After this I will go warn George about the Vishelt takeover.
No. 1089416 ID: f3171e

Just ask him to let you stash your lonely friend in the well first, so you don't puke up a corpse in the street.
No. 1089420 ID: 5ebd37

Yeah, plus being small might be good if the lord hears about your deal and you need to lay low.
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