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File 170787409543.png - (20.42KB , 500x500 , p0.png )
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.
251 posts omitted. Last 50 shown. Expand all images
>>
No. 1088486 ID: 9ea24b
File 171280375622.png - (16.22KB , 500x500 , p82.png )
1088486

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

>>1088486
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 )
1088567

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

>>1088567
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 )
1088691

“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 )
1088692

“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

>>1088692
"...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

>>1088695
As a spirit of war, he seems to want the conflict and opposition. Trying to dissuade him away from it would be fruitless.

>>1088703
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?

>>1088692
>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

>>1088722
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

>>1088725
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 )
1088769

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

>>1088769
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

>>1088769
"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 )
1088856

“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 )
1088857

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

>>1088871
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.

>>1088877
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 )
1088995

“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 )
1088996

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

>>1088996
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 )
1089083

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 )
1089084

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

>>1089084
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 )
1089227

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 )
1089229

“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

>>1089229
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 )
1089269

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 )
1089270

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.

>>1089271
Agreed, he knows where to find us if he ever needs help.
>>
No. 1089314 ID: 9ea24b
File 171370594423.png - (11.95KB , 500x500 , p97.png )
1089314

“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 )
1089315

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

>>1089315
Is smit drained of magic or is he having a nervouse breakdown?
>>
No. 1089338 ID: f3171e

>>1089315
>>1089325
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 )
1089401

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

>>1089401
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

>>1089416
Yeah, plus being small might be good if the lord hears about your deal and you need to lay low.
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