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File 170093856914.png - (11.45KB , 500x500 , p0.png )
1077945 No. 1077945 ID: 9ea24b

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.
Expand all images
>>
No. 1077946 ID: 9ea24b
File 170093859393.png - (10.54KB , 500x500 , p1.png )
1077946

You are the many citizens of Pliny, the fourth largest city in the monarchy of Geoun. The city is home to members of most of the larger races, including humans, orcs, elves, dwarves, and more. Urban fae are a common pest that dwell in the rafters of larger buildings.

Many years ago, Pliny began as a small settlement with one well dug in what would become the center of the city. Far too shallow to produce enough water for the crowded populace, the old well became a symbol of good luck.

Put something in the well and make a wish. Feel free to provide details about the individual making the wish. One wish per suggestor.
>>
No. 1077949 ID: e51896

our individual is a lonely male human who drifted into town after hearing about this well.

he puts himself into the well by jumping in, and wishes for a friend as we fall and before he hits the bottom.

his friend is the first person to help him by pulling him back out of the well
>>
No. 1077950 ID: a7a180

A orcish athlete wishes she was taller.
>>
No. 1077953 ID: 3c2dff

A human woman drops a few coins into the well and wishes her fae would stop throwing parties in the ceiling.
>>
No. 1077964 ID: eb0a9c

A tiny catfolk wishes she wasn't allergic to herself.
>>
No. 1077966 ID: f3171e

An old soldier wishes he could forget.
>>
No. 1077973 ID: 443b73

Aelius, a massive orc with an imposing physique, stands before the town's wishing well. His green skin bears the scars of countless battles, telling tales of a warrior's life. However, it's the gentle calluses on his hands, stained with various hues, that reveal his true passion: art.

Despite his fearsome appearance, Aelius is a painter and sculptor with a penchant for naif art. Although lacking formal education his creations are not accidental, they carry the soul of an artist who has found beauty in the midst of chaos.

Aelius takes a deep breath, his gaze fixed on the bucket at the bottom of the well. Gripping a paintbrush in his massive hand, he closes his eyes for a moment, reflecting on his dreams. With a determined expression, he hurls the brush into the well, its trajectory a symbolic offering to the spirits.

As the paintbrush disappears into the darkness below, Aelius whispers, "Grant me the talent to create beauty from the rough canvas of life. May my art prosper and speak to the hearts of those who see it." The echoes of his words linger in the cool evening air.
>>
No. 1077991 ID: 273c18

A goblin thief. They throw in a corpse and wish for it to never be found.
>>
No. 1077993 ID: de5cb4

A kobold has her lunch and accidentally knocks her sandwich in the well.
She wishes she hadn't done that.
>>
No. 1078009 ID: 53b46b

>>1077946
A half-ogre throws a days pay into the well, she wishes for someone to be a genuine friend
>>
No. 1078041 ID: 6773b2

A pair of hunched men throw a chest down the well. It contains the remainder of their ill-gotten gains.
They wish to have turned their lives around in time.
>>
No. 1078050 ID: 9ea24b
File 170103091459.png - (10.67KB , 500x500 , p2.png )
1078050

Over the years, the well accumulates coins, treasure, food, and two corpses that decay slowly in the cool water. All sorts of worms and parasites flourish in the tainted liquid, and a wooden handled paint brush floats above the bones and metal. The air rising from the well is foul, which matches the stench of the sewage and manure lining the streets.
>>
No. 1078051 ID: 9ea24b
File 170103092275.png - (12.03KB , 500x500 , p3.png )
1078051

I am the mud in the well, until I’m not. I have a long, slime coated body, with false eyes picked from the finest of the coins, the rest stored safely in my stomach. I shoot out of the well on a jet of water and land on the packed dirt.

It is night and the air is smoky. I hear the buildings around me crackling, and a gust of burning wind against my surface makes me frown. I prefer damp and cool places.
>>
No. 1078052 ID: 9ea24b
File 170103094144.png - (18.13KB , 500x500 , p4.png )
1078052

In front of me, an elf has stopped from where he was retrieving his spear from the body of a familiar kobold. He is wearing armor and has his head turned to face me.
>>
No. 1078054 ID: eb0a9c

"Yes. Monster. Beast. But the Man in front of me has murdered an innocent. You are... expendable."
Rush over to the kobold, see if she's still alive. Use the elf's life force to try and heal her.
>>
No. 1078055 ID: a7a180

Dead elves tell no tales. Squeeze, bash, just hit him til he stops moving. His spear won't help against mud.
>>
No. 1078056 ID: f3171e

Splash muddy water in his face.
>>
No. 1078057 ID: 064c2c

Dont get involved. For all we know, that kobold was the evil one.

Just ask "what?"
>>
No. 1078060 ID: 443b73

The people who trusted you with their dreams are dying, and with them so die their wishes. Fight the attackers, save those you can.
>>
No. 1078061 ID: 273c18

>>1078052
"familiar kobold" means it was a member of the town.
Fire everywhere means this is a raid or an invasion. Defend yourself against the elf, and use wellwater to put out the fires.
>>
No. 1078075 ID: de5cb4

Possess the body, that it might get its own vengeance.
>>
No. 1078101 ID: 8f9bc4

That spear looks tasty. Is it treasure?
>>
No. 1078142 ID: 9ea24b
File 170111407085.png - (13.73KB , 500x500 , p5.png )
1078142

I hear simultaneous voices in my mind which I am able to understand with ease. Most seem to be telling me to attack the elf and save the kobold, who once dropped a sandwich in my well. I suppose such actions would be worthwhile.

I squirm towards the elf and he immediately steps back. This will not do. I gather mud in my gullet and spit it at the elf, covering his face and pushing him to the ground.
>>
No. 1078144 ID: 9ea24b
File 170111422779.png - (12.24KB , 500x500 , p6.png )
1078144

He lets out some sparks of magic and tries to shout to his fellow soldiers before I reach him and slam my head against his repeatedly. After he is dead I take his spear, which seems to be of a high quality metal, and examine the kobold.

She was impaled below the chin and up through the roof of her mouth. Her heart is still beating but she is unsalvageable. I can hear her voice.

There are still many other raiders moving throughout the burning city. The heat is unpleasant. I assume most residents are dead or in mortal danger. Should I save those I can? Fight the invaders? I would much rather go back into my well.
>>
No. 1078156 ID: 8f9bc4

Alas, despite the gift of a tasty sandwich, you don't seem to be able to return it to her as if she hadn't done that. Perhaps you're not the wish granting Magical Carp you thought you were.

Returning to your well would be inadvisable, since the invaders will be looking for who killed their elf, and a nearby well smeared in a trail of mud is kind of a giveaway. You'd be pinned down in there.
>>
No. 1078168 ID: f3171e

The invaders may kill you if you remain in the well. Consider leaving with any of the residents that are salvageable and cooperative.
>>
No. 1078169 ID: 609d1f

I think its time to escape this town altogether and find a new well in another town... or maybe even find a paradise to live in. Time to go on an adventure.
>>
No. 1078170 ID: 443b73

The priority should be eliminating the invaders. Focusing on saving the citizens would be particularly difficult with enemies actively trying to kill them, so leave this task for after the enemies stop being an active threat.

Can you wield this spear effectively?
>>
No. 1078173 ID: 273c18

>>1078144
Can you even fit in the well anymore? What would you do down there? Try to think on what kind of spirit you could be. Wishing spirit? Wealth? Charity?
What is the kobold saying? Honor her last wish.
>>
No. 1078183 ID: eb0a9c

You are filled with treasure. If adventurers spot you, they will try to kill you.

>She is unsalvageable
Pity. But at least you tried.
Absorb her fleeting life force, say thanks, then leave.
>>
No. 1078193 ID: a7a180

Some people have a tradition to put coins in the eyes of the deceased. This might be rude while they're still technically alive, so just leave it in their hand or something.
Save who you can, the settlement is lost. You will have to find a new burrow...
>>
No. 1078196 ID: 38349b

>>1078183
Absorb her life force and end her life quickly, the least you could do, since you cannot save her, is not let her suffer
>>
No. 1078206 ID: de5cb4

Take as much of her voice and her self as is left. When the fighting is over you can do the same for the other victims.
Retreat to the well for now, this blazing heat is no place for a thing of sodden secrets.
>>
No. 1078234 ID: 9ea24b
File 170121870162.png - (12.62KB , 500x500 , p7.png )
1078234

I put the spear down and listen closely to the kobold, but she cannot speak clearly with her tongue impaled and mouth full of blood. I bash her head into the dirt so that she can speak clearly in my mind.

Her corpse contains as much mana as it did while she was alive. I have no means of extracting it, and as a spirit I have no use for such paltry quantities. Instead I check her dress pockets for any loose silver and am thrilled when I collect two shiny coins.
>>
No. 1078235 ID: 9ea24b
File 170121871294.png - (11.81KB , 500x500 , p8.png )
1078235

The voices urge me to escape rather than become trapped in the well. I toss the elf corpse in instead and take the spear carefully in my mouth. It would be difficult to use as a weapon as I am, and inconvenient to swallow, but I’m reluctant to leave my prize.

I contemplate my nature as I crawl through the streets. I know that I like coins and treasure. I feel no urge to act on the wishes my well received throughout the years, though I remember all of them. I enjoy filth and foul smells. I cannot cast spells in the way that mortals can. I am large for my age. My name is Pliny.

Around me, houses and tenements roar with flame and collapse. The soldiers disperse as the air becomes unbreathable. I am unharmed, though very much displeased that I’ve abandoned my home.
>>
No. 1078236 ID: 9ea24b
File 170121872759.png - (16.22KB , 500x500 , p9.png )
1078236

The city wall has been damaged enough that I can slip through to the fields and roads beyond. The invading army must be camped nearby, and likely many citizens escaped into the surrounding area. I have little idea of what to do next. I’m practically invisible to mortals at night when I move low to the ground.
>>
No. 1078237 ID: f3171e

>>1078236
The invaders will store treasures they have hoarded in their camp.
>>
No. 1078238 ID: 8f9bc4

A home is only abandoned if you never intend to return triumphant with many shiny and filthy things.
>>
No. 1078253 ID: 273c18

Yes, yes, we can return later. From the sound of it, you are a spirit of Treasure?

Sneak around, find some loot, steal whatever you can swallow.
>>
No. 1078255 ID: a7a180

Trade your inconvenient spear to a citizen for any shiny coins he's got.
>>
No. 1078296 ID: 9ea24b
File 170130685087.png - (11.43KB , 500x500 , p10.png )
1078296

Doubtless the invaders have looted the city and have money and valuables stored at their camp. There will be guards, but I do not feel tired and can sneak around when most of the soldiers are asleep.

I have no intentions of abandoning my well, but I may not return to it for some time. I leave the spear in the grass and accept that a passing citizen may find it.
>>
No. 1078297 ID: 9ea24b
File 170130685743.png - (11.61KB , 500x500 , p11.png )
1078297

I stretch tall and extend my senses. I believe the camp is about a mile to the northwest, and I start the slow crawl toward it.

When I arrive at the first orderly row of tents, I smell meat and many horses. There are several cooking fires manned by boys and a few women of many races. It took so long for me to arrive that the camp is well into the process of settling down after the battle.

By listening and observing very carefully, I estimate there are about 3,000 soldiers stationed here. Valuables are stored in tents and saddlebags, though several large paintings are leaned against a nearby tree. I assume there must be a leader near the center of the force.
>>
No. 1078298 ID: f3171e

>>1078297
Paintings are unshapely and cumbersome, and only the frames sparkle. We yearn for coins.

Are there gaps beneath the edges of the tents that we could slither through in the dark?
>>
No. 1078299 ID: eb0a9c

Go for their weapons and armor first. An army without its gear is easily routed. If need be, destroy what you can't carry.
>>
No. 1078301 ID: 273c18

>>1078297
Sneak in, peek into tents on occasion to find small valuables. Stay away from campfires and be careful that no-one steps on your long tail.

Listen in on conversations, see if you can learn about general goings-on. Maybe find out what the invasion is about?
>>
No. 1078322 ID: a7a180

Lift saddlebags and other containers of pre-packaged loot. Pack the bags with mud so their contents do not clank. Maybe you can find a chest to complement your other one.
>>
No. 1078341 ID: 9ea24b
File 170139769293.png - (13.18KB , 500x500 , p12.png )
1078341

I wonder if I should try to deprive the army of its weapons. I do not think this would work, I move quite slowly and I can only carry one large object in my mouth at a time. I could spit mud and make a mess of the tents, but that would draw attention to me.

Instead I slither between the gaps between shelters, nosing through sacks and bags for small valuables. I collect a great many coins and jewelry this way, storing everything in my stomach, and before I know it I arrive at an especially large and ornate tent.
>>
No. 1078342 ID: 9ea24b
File 170139770307.png - (9.11KB , 500x500 , p13.png )
1078342

I stay out of the light of the nearest fire while I slide up against the edge of the fabric, listening closely.

“We had a successful invasion tonight sir, only 72 soldiers unaccounted for. Besides the initial resistance by the guard at the wall, the city was practically defenseless.”

“Hm…Let us let the men rest and celebrate for a day. Jamuk is the next city I see on this map. It will take several days to make our way through the towns to get there, and I expect they’ll be better prepared. Best take some time to plan.”

It sounds like this army will continue its path through Geoun, burning and ransacking along the way. This displeases me.
>>
No. 1078343 ID: 273c18

>>1078341
yessss more for the hoard

>>1078342
Not sure what we could do. Maybe find some poison and sabotage their water supply? Tempting to assassinate the commander but that won't actually stop the invasion, whoever's second in command will step up.
>>
No. 1078348 ID: f3171e

>>1078343
I think we ARE a poison that could taint their water supply, considering the filthy corpse-filled disease-ridden mud we spawned from.

Then, we can smother their doctors and healers in their sleep. An army marches on its stomach. Let us cramp its stomach.
>>
No. 1078350 ID: 273c18

>>1078348
Killing their doctors would work, but there might be too many to assassinate all at once. Stealing all their medical supplies might accomplish the same thing.
Unfortunately, stealing their food and water will just make them raid more villages for supplies. If we steal MOST of their food and water and taint the rest while sabotaging their ability to provide medical aid, we could ensure a significant setback.
>>
No. 1078351 ID: a7a180

They will need maps and leadership to plan. Put this guy to sleep and then eat all of their valuable parchments.
>>
No. 1078352 ID: a7a180

>>1078350
They will raid villages for supplies either way, and with only 72 wounded their medical supplies won't matter to them in the short term.
>>
No. 1078355 ID: f3171e

>>1078352
It will if they drink tainted water.
>>
No. 1078363 ID: 273c18

>>1078352
The general plan is to combine a lack of medical supplies or doctors with a sudden outbreak of deadly disease or poison. We have to ensure a majority of the 3000 soldiers here get sick though. It'll be difficult, and we have to do it in a way they won't immediately notice and throw out the tainted supplies.
>>
No. 1078367 ID: f3171e

>>1078363
Instead of spitting gobs of mud in the water, what if we drop some of our coins in? They've been stewing in our rotten gut, but they might not spy the danger right away.
>>
No. 1078419 ID: 9ea24b
File 170146363646.png - (7.77KB , 500x500 , p14.png )
1078419

With the help of the voices, I come up with an ingenious plan. I harbor all kinds of parasites, volatile organic compounds, and disease thanks to the two bodies dumped in my well. If I can poison the army’s water supplies with the toxic mud that I produce in my belly, they will fall ill and crumble.

It’s also tempting to enter the tent and murder the commander right now, but no doubt he would be replaced by a lower general at the cost of revealing myself.

Mind made up, I turn away from the commander’s tent. On my initial journey through the camp I noticed several barrels of water, and I spit in as many as I can before the rising sun makes me flee for the tall grass
>>
No. 1078420 ID: 9ea24b
File 170146364810.png - (10.95KB , 500x500 , p15.png )
1078420

I watch my first sunrise with trepidation. I do not particularly care for the bright light, which is even brighter than the fires last night. The only saving grace is that my coins shine with great beauty.

I must be more careful during the day, since I’m more visible. I wonder what the refugee citizens are doing and I wonder what the effect of my poison will have on the army. There is also the ruined city to explore and my spear to retrieve.
>>
No. 1078421 ID: f3171e

>>1078420
Do you have the means to speak to the citizens? Do they know of your existence?

Some citizens may take shelter in the city ruins. It is unlikely the soldiers will return, but deserters and looters may trail behind the army. This is not good, as they would take our spear and kill the citizens.
>>
No. 1078427 ID: a7a180

Retrieve arms from chest. And by arms, I mean spear.
>>
No. 1078479 ID: f2320a

>>1078427
Imagine darksouling it up spears and sheilds
>>
No. 1078489 ID: 9ea24b
File 170155274214.png - (13.20KB , 500x500 , p16.png )
1078489

I can speak perfectly fine, in every language as well. I am sure once I politely explain what I am and that I have their best interests at heart, the refugees will be understanding.

I start the long crawl back toward where I left my spear, careful to keep an eye out for any citizens along the way. I see several bands of soldiers heading toward the city, but everyone else is laying low.

I have a good memory and sense of direction, and I arrive where I’m sure I left the spear only to see bare grass. I start circling the area in desperation, and am caught unawares when someone stabs me between my fake coin eyes.

Ow! I feel a mild sting and leak some mud as my own hard won spear pierces my head. I shake myself and pull free, coming face to face with a pair of young orcs.
>>
No. 1078490 ID: 9ea24b
File 170155277381.png - (15.74KB , 500x500 , p17.png )
1078490

The one holding the spear is a girl who’s shielding what I assume is her little brother. The boy’s eyes are red from crying, and he starts leaking more snot from his nose as I rear my head.

“I want dad, Wulfa, I’m scared.” He tugs at her dress and she growls at me and jabs the spear in my direction. They both seem uninjured, though dirty and tired from a night spent outside.
>>
No. 1078492 ID: eb0a9c

"Please stop. I will give you money so you can buy food."
Vomit up a few coins.
"...Don't touch that with your bare hands."
>>
No. 1078493 ID: 273c18

Tell them you are the spirit of the well. Ask them if there are any other survivors.
>>
No. 1078494 ID: de5cb4

"You should know me. Were you not the one who wished to be taller?"
>>
No. 1078500 ID: f3171e

>>1078494
>>1078493
These seem suitable. Considering their warranted stress level, they can be spared at least one warning.

>>1078492
Not our beautiful coins! Besides, who will they buy from? The soldiers?
>>
No. 1078503 ID: a7a180

You mean no harm. The spear is yours by right of combat, but you would trade it for some coin. You can offer other services in exchange for coin too, like leading them away from the army or finding them something safe to drink. (Do not drink the soldiers' water, by the way.)
>>
No. 1078509 ID: 8f9bc4

Wow uh, wish granted!

Guess it's been quite a few years since Wulfa stopped by.

Can you speak? If not, present your belly for them and make this expression: owo
>>
No. 1078568 ID: f2320a

>>1078494
Support
>>
No. 1078574 ID: 9ea24b
File 170163508513.png - (13.08KB , 500x500 , p18.png )
1078574

I do a quick mental roll call of the notable wishmakers from my past. The lonely human man died when he fell in my well, the human woman tells me she was killed last night, ditto for the catfolk, half-ogre, and Aelius, the old soldier died of illness, I killed the kobold, and the pair of criminals suffered a violent end before the invasion, leaving only the orc athlete and the goblin thief unaccounted for in my mind.

Could this be the athlete? I don’t think so, she seems too young, though she is quite tall.

“Hello. I’m a spirit who came from the wishing well, my name is Pliny.” I say. I stay still and flat on the ground.
>>
No. 1078575 ID: 9ea24b
File 170163509596.png - (12.59KB , 500x500 , p19.png )
1078575

Wulfa lowers the spear slightly. “You’re the spirit of the city? You smell like rotten fish.”

“I do yes, thank you. Are there other survivors? Do you need any money to buy supplies?”

While before I was opposed to the thought of giving away any of my precious coins, I feel rather generous when looking at these poor citizens.

Wulfa rests the butt of the spear on the ground. “I don’t know if there’s anyone to buy from. We’re hungry and thirsty and scared of the soldiers still roaming around. I didn’t have time to grab anything from the house before our dad told us to run. Have you seen him? He’s a famous painter named Aelius.”
>>
No. 1078576 ID: f3171e

>>1078574
"Aelius is here. I can speak to and hear the departed. Is there anything you would like to tell him?"
>>
No. 1078577 ID: f14228

>>1078576
Other way around. Is there anything Aelius would like to tell them?
>>
No. 1078579 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1078576

Don't be insensitive. Just tell her that he didn't make it.
>>
No. 1078581 ID: a7a180

How do you know the status of wishmakers?
Help them find hidden shelter first, you can make a nice hidey hole in the dirt, and then go forage for clean rations.
>>
No. 1078582 ID: 273c18

>>1078575
Hungry and thirsty... sadly you are toxic so you can't really store food and water inside you to deliver to anyone. What we *can* do is go scavenging in the ruins of the village alongside them. Or ask them where the nearest town is, and escort them there. Though we might want to look in the area around the ruins (or in the ruins) first to see if anyone else survived.

The soldiers should be fairly busy later today and tomorrow dealing with the sabotaged supplies, that gives us a window of opportunity.
>>
No. 1078641 ID: f3171e

>>1078581
Earlier, Pliny said it could hear the kobold girl more clearly after putting her out of her misery. I think when residents of Pliny (or maybe just wiashmakers) die, Pliny can communicate with their spirits.
>>
No. 1078658 ID: 9ea24b
File 170174178813.png - (10.11KB , 500x500 , p20.png )
1078658

I can hear the dead citizens of Pliny all the way back to the first generation that founded the city. It must have something to do with my spirit powers. I do not mind and they’ve certainly helped me make decisions.

Right now the voices are advising me to tell Wulfa the bad news.

“Aelius is dead.“ I say. “I know because I have some kind of magic imprinted echo of him inside me.”

I must seem like I’m telling the truth, because Wulfa drops the spear and sinks to her knees.
>>
No. 1078659 ID: 9ea24b
File 170174180214.png - (10.85KB , 500x500 , p21.png )
1078659

Crying is counterproductive when clean water is in short supply. I wait several minutes for Wulfra to stop, but her sobs only seem to increase in intensity.

“I can steal supplies from the army camp at night, but if you need something before then I can go into the city ruins. Do you have a safe place to shelter where I can find you again?”

The little boy is wailing now too. I sigh and dig a little dirt cave for them. Should I go to the city to get supplies or look for other survivors?
>>
No. 1078674 ID: f3171e

>>1078659
Soldiers went into the city. They must be going to loot. If we wait, supplies may be gone.

Use the shadows of buildings and rubble to move while the sun is out.
>>
No. 1078677 ID: de5cb4

Let them grieve. Tell them you will make a loop around the city to find any other survivors and return at nightfall.
>>
No. 1078678 ID: 1dc902

>>1078674
This
>>
No. 1078680 ID: d4c0a0

Tell them to seek shelter, its dangerous to stay out in the open like this. Can you trace their mana to find them later?
>>
No. 1078693 ID: 273c18

Yeah look for supplies first. The soldiers shouldn't be too interested in tracking down the survivors, it's a waste of their time in the long run, but properly looting the village is definitely something they'd send troops to do. Especially after you poisoned their supplies.

Tempting to suggest poisoning the wells in the village but that would make it difficult for people to live here in the future (depending on how easily they can cleanse the wells) and might cause some collateral damage to boot, so instead, try collapsing the wells after you draw a bucket of water or two, put the water in sealed containers and either bury them or swallow them depending on how well you can keep them from interacting with your toxins.
>>
No. 1078694 ID: 443b73

This is very interesting. So the advises Pliny hear aren't literally what we write, instead they're similar suggestions said by the dead inhabitants.

I imagine Aelius would have something to say to his daughter. I will try something feel free to reinterpret however you want:


My dearest Wulfa,

You've navigated the treacherous paths of an invaded city, escaping the clutches of chaos and finding refuge in the shadows of uncertainty. My heart swells with pride, not just because you bear my blood, but because of the resilience I've always admired in you.
In times of upheaval, remember that strength is not solely measured by the battles we win but by the courage to face adversity head-on. You are a survivor, and that, my dear, is a testament to your indomitable spirit.
As you tread the unfamiliar grounds of refuge, adaptability will be your greatest ally. Forge alliances with those who share the common goal of survival, and let trust be the mortar that binds your newfound family. In unity lies strength, and it is through cooperation that the seeds of resilience blossom.
Practicality is the armor of the pragmatic. Assess your surroundings, identify resources, and cultivate the skills that will ensure not just survival, but a semblance of a life worth living. Your skilled hands can now shape the tools needed for your journey. Adapt, improvise, and overcome.
Forge ahead, my daughter, with determination as your compass and adaptability as your shield. Know that my spirit accompanies you, whispering encouragement in the wind, standing beside you. May the path ahead lead you to a place where safety meets fulfillment.

With unwavering love,

Your Father,
Aelius
>>
No. 1078697 ID: a7a180

Survivors are more finite than supplies, find them as quickly as possible.
Perhaps any newly dead citizens can give you some idea of what the soldiers are up to.
>>
No. 1078760 ID: 9ea24b
File 170183592080.png - (13.20KB , 500x500 , p22.png )
1078760

While I hollow out a nice safe hole for Wulfa and her brother, I store a long and heartfelt message from Aelius in my memory. I decide to save telling Wulfa until after I come back with supplies. Hopefully she’s stopped crying by then.

I also ask the recently deceased if they know what the army is up to and I very quickly gain an encyclopedic knowledge of how mortals torture others to death for entertainment. It seems rather excessive.

Once I finish the hole, I nudge the two orcs inside and tell them I’ll be back in a few hours. I head for the ruined city to find supplies. With the spear to defend themselves, I hope they will survive.
>>
No. 1078761 ID: 9ea24b
File 170183594023.png - (13.31KB , 500x500 , p23.png )
1078761

Ash, bodies, and cold cinders litter the ground as I make my way into the city. Most of the homes were destroyed, but a few streets were only singed and could be habitable. I nab a couple of wayward chickens, a metal pot, and a sack of cabbages before I notice soldiers in the distance.

I lie still in the street with my sack and extend my hearing. It seems they’re gathering as many valuables as they can while searching for their missing brethren. I hear six distinct voices. Two are complaining of an upset stomach.

The soldiers are coming closer, drawn to the same high value area I was. I cannot outrun them, but I doubt they’ve seen me.
>>
No. 1078762 ID: 273c18

>>1078761
Ambush seems like the best plan here. Blend in somewhere and lunge out for a big opening attack. Getting stabbed didn't seem to hurt you much so you should be able to go for overwhelming offense. Maybe snatch one of their weapons if you feel like it but mainly just batter them around to keep them off balance and eventually crush them.
>>
No. 1078773 ID: a7a180

You're a creature of wealth and taste, you want what they have. Go for an ambush on the healthy ones first and see if they drop any good loot.
>>
No. 1078786 ID: 443b73

Six may be too many for a direct confrontation. Hide somewhere and only attempt to ambush if they split into more manageable numbers.

>Getting stabbed didn't seem to hurt you much
Pliny suffered a surprese attack without any defense. I'm not sure small wounds are as inconsequential as they seem and I don't imagine he will be fine if he get surrounded.
>>
No. 1078794 ID: f3171e

>>1078761
Best place for ambush is inside one of the intact buildings. Dark, and close quarters. Their main weapons are spears which can become awkward in enclosed spaces, while our body is flexible and unimpeded. If any of them split up to search, you can engulf their head to keep them from screaming and pick a few off individually. If spotted by a lone looter, use the mud spit technique to buy yourself time to close distance. If multiple spot you, retreat and hide.
>>
No. 1078825 ID: 9ea24b
File 170191127891.png - (12.67KB , 500x500 , p24.png )
1078825

My wound from the earlier spear piercing has healed and I feel no lingering effects. With a body made of earth instead of flesh, I’m naturally tougher than organic beings and can ambush this group of soldiers.

I crawl into the nearest house and set my sack to the side before lying against the inside of the front wall.

I only get to enjoy the dim, confined space for a minute before a pair of soldiers enter the house carrying short swords. I strike with great force, smashing one into a sturdy wooden table and knocking the other to the floor. My coordination is improving and I quickly dispatch both with blows to the head.
>>
No. 1078826 ID: 9ea24b
File 170191128756.png - (16.28KB , 500x500 , p25.png )
1078826

The other four soldiers are drawn by the noise and rush to surround the house. I watch from the very edge of the window as they wait for their comrades to emerge. I hear them communicating the suspicious activity to their base before erecting some kind of magic shield and cautiously approaching.

Once all four have entered the house, I block their exit and repeat the bludgeoning process. It takes more effort to shatter their shield, but they have nowhere to run and I do not get tired. One cuts me lightly with his sword while the others scream about a spirit into their hands.
>>
No. 1078827 ID: 9ea24b
File 170191129992.png - (9.09KB , 500x500 , p26.png )
1078827

Like the elf from last night, the soldiers seem to prioritize using communication spells over attempting to fight me. I wonder if they are aware that they’re outclassed.

I recover a good amount of valuables, several loaves of brown bread, and a wheel of cheese from the corpses. Combined with my previous findings, this is enough to feed Wulfa and her brother for three days.

Should I do anything else in the city before I leave? There are likely other bands of soldiers roaming around.
>>
No. 1078829 ID: 273c18

No. They're alerted to your presence and will swarm the area, likely even bringing a specialist to fight you. Deliver the supplies, then perhaps we can look around outside of town for more survivors while the soldiers are looking for you inside of town.
>>
No. 1078836 ID: 443b73

A kobold may have only a paltry quantity of mana, but maybe the elves have enough to be worth consuming. In case you can't acquire mana this way, how do you regain it?

Other than that leave. The disease was a good plan so prioritize this strategy. Being discovered was a drawback but they still lack enough information to connect you to the rotting material in their supplies. For now avoid confrontations and later try to repeat your sabotage.
>>
No. 1078839 ID: f3171e

More will be coming, or will be alert to your presence. Deliver the supplies.
>>
No. 1078858 ID: de5cb4

Quit while you're ahead. Don't take a direct route back in case someone follows you.
>>
No. 1078860 ID: 768150

So they already know of your presence. You are going to have to lay low for a bit, or risk detection. Grab what you can and get out... Actually... can you do something with those corpses? Besides consuming their mana? Lay a trap perhaps?
>>
No. 1078919 ID: 9ea24b
File 170200284567.png - (7.64KB , 500x500 , p27.png )
1078919

As stated before, I am unable to extract mana from dead mortals. I get mana passively from the ground and do not know how to increase my intake. I do not know what will decrease my intake either. Both are likely something to do with my nature as a spirit of this former city, but I have not had a chance to experiment.

I certainly enjoy being within the city walls. I think longingly of my well but the voices convince me to leave and deliver the supplies instead. I take the soldiers’ waterskins before I go.
>>
No. 1078920 ID: 9ea24b
File 170200285914.png - (16.93KB , 500x500 , p28.png )
1078920

My cabbage sack has become quite heavy, and by the time I drag the supplies back to Wulfa a large tear has formed in the fabric. I hear unfamiliar voices, along with Wulfa, who sounds angry and annoyed.

I reach the edge of the grass and come face to face with a dwarf and an elf holding a staff and wearing an egregious fake beard. Wulfa uses the excuse of my appearance to take the supplies and ignore the strangers in favor of caring for her brother.
>>
No. 1078921 ID: 9ea24b
File 170200287708.png - (12.20KB , 500x500 , p29.png )
1078921

I’m left to take the brunt of the socialization. I get the sense that these people are not refugees or soldiers. I introduce myself as Pliny the spirit.

“Nice to meet you Pliny, I’m the great wizard Erogalf!” The elf puffs out his chest and extends his arms so that an unseen breeze can blow at his robe.

The dwarf grunts and crosses her arms over her chest. “I’m Flint. We’re adventurers, we’ve been following the war for a while.”

“Glorified bandits.” Wulfa growls.

“We thought this hole could be related to a spirit, and I’m glad we stopped to check.” Erogalf extends his hand to me. “We want to be of service to you, Pliny!”
>>
No. 1078923 ID: eb0a9c

Don't trust them. You're a loot goblin and they're cultivating your growth so you burst open when they stab you and shower them in legendaries.

Hack up a couple coins and tell them you'll reflexively melt the rest into mud if they bash you open.
>>
No. 1078928 ID: 273c18

>>1078921
Tell them you want to stop the advance of the army, so that they'll go away, and allow your town to rebuilt so you can inhabit the well in peace again.
>>
No. 1078930 ID: 443b73

Please don't share any clues about your rich insides with mercenaries.

If they want to help they can assist the surviving citizens.

The invading army seem to consists of elves, as far as we know, so could this wizard be a spy with a bad disguise? If he is I'm not sure what we can do without confirmation. Just something to keep in mind.
>>
No. 1078963 ID: a7a180

What can they do to make the army leave? What do they want out of helping us?
>>
No. 1078982 ID: 9ea24b
File 170208358434.png - (12.98KB , 500x500 , p30.png )
1078982

The army consists of a variety of races, not just elves. Of the six I killed today, three were human and one was a catfolk. I do not think these adventurers are soldiers in disguise since Wulfa is unharmed.

That said, I still do not trust these adventurers and they are certainly not invited to dinner, but I want to know to what extent they’re willing to help.

“What can you do to halt this invasion? I do not want to build this city back up only for it to be razed to the ground again.”
>>
No. 1078983 ID: 9ea24b
File 170208359134.png - (7.30KB , 500x500 , p31.png )
1078983

The adventurers look at each other.

“There’s the small matter of scale here, Pliny. Our party can’t defeat an entire army.” Erogalf says.

“We’d like the war to end too, but we also value our lives.” Flint adds. “Being a spirit, you could pick away at their numbers over time without as much risk.”

“Yes, that’s a good idea, you can travel with us as we follow the army to Jamuk!” Erogalf’s smile seems a little forced, though it’s difficult to tell through the fake beard.

I’m at a crossroads. The army will depart tomorrow and I can either stay here and help the survivors or pursue, with the adventurers or on my own.
>>
No. 1078985 ID: 273c18

Ugh following the army is so much trouble. There are people here, your well is here, your town is here. Just stay put. Maybe kill the commander to weaken their tactics so the defenders of this nation can potentially defeat them.
>>
No. 1078998 ID: a7a180

Become an adventurer. There's gold to be made in that profession, and they won't be looking for you away from the city!
>>
No. 1079003 ID: 76615e

You are the spirit of the city, should you go haring off on this adventurer nonsense? No, you should protect your home and prepare to rebuild.
>>
No. 1079007 ID: f3171e

>>1078983
They were searching for a spirit. They said as much when they found the hole we made. Perhaps they truly do oppose this army, or perhaps they do not. Either way, I get the sense that they need a spirit for something and wish to use us as a tool. We could follow the army in secret if we truly felt the need, we do not need them for this. What benefit we would have in this arrangement is unclear.

We are Pliny, not a tool for adventurers.

I also do not think they are being genuine. Their friendliness seems too fast and too strained. Do not accuse them of anything, but decline. Be prepared for them to react badly to rejection.

Even if they do not react violently, we should keep track of them when they leave, and consider eliminating them if they act suspiciously and the opportunity is presented. They may decide there is more profit in selling us out. Always prioritize mages first if it comes to violence.
>>
No. 1079031 ID: 768150

>>1079003
I'm gonna go with this too. You have to protect your people and your well. If they want to act, they have to do it tonight, tomorrow they are on their own.
Besides, the enemies already know of your existence, even though they don't exactly know what you are.
>>
No. 1079053 ID: 9ea24b
File 170217030238.png - (13.52KB , 500x500 , p32.png )
1079053

Following the army sounds like a dangerous bother, and I get the feeling that the adventurers want to use me somehow. Here I have my well, rebuilding to do, and citizens to look after.

“I will stay.” I say.

Erogalf leans on his staff with dismay. “What will you do when the army returns then?”

“I will deal with them.”

Erogalf sighs. “Okay, I hope we meet again one day, Pliny. Best of luck.”

Flint and Erogalf walk away. I watch them shrewdly and gauge that I can find their camp if I listen for it.
>>
No. 1079054 ID: 9ea24b
File 170217033390.png - (13.46KB , 500x500 , p33.png )
1079054

Once they’re out of sight, I crawl to Wulfa and examine the spread of food and water. I pass along the message from Aelius to her, and she tears up again.

“Thank you for sharing that with us, and thank you for deciding to stay. I’ll protect Tytus and any other survivors we find with my life.”

I think Wulfa will be safe here tonight, which means I can leave and do some work. Should I try to sabotage the army more, eavesdrop on the adventurers, or search for more survivors?
>>
No. 1079056 ID: f3171e

>>1079054
We may not know the adventurers' true motives if we leave them be, but time is ticking on the survivors to last on their own. The adventurers' exit was graceful, and what little they know of our hole in the ground will not matter for long. With more survivors we will need to locate better shelter. I am inclined to say they are not a significant threat right now.

Find survivors.
>>
No. 1079057 ID: 76615e

Under cover of night it will be easier to sneak around. Do you have some way of detecting where survivors are hiding?
>>
No. 1079058 ID: 273c18

>>1079054
Go kill the army leadership. We can only do that under cover of darkness. Searching for survivors is possible at day.
>>
No. 1079062 ID: eb0a9c

Kill the leadership and poison their gear. When the chain of command returns the first thing they'll do is fortify themselves into a position of strength - it will be their downfall.
>>
No. 1079063 ID: a7a180

Eavesdrop on the adventurers. What did they really want, and what do they know about the army?
>>
No. 1079064 ID: f3171e

Some good points. I'll change my vote to sabotaging the army and assassinating the commanders.
>>
No. 1079077 ID: 9ea24b
File 170224353454.png - (10.49KB , 500x500 , p34.png )
1079077

Best to kill the army generals while the enemy forces are still close by. I want to be as discreet as possible, since the mortals are aware of my existence.

Once the sky is dark except for the stars and moons, I start the slow journey toward the army camp. I slip past the perimeter of guards with ease and head for the ornate tent I remember from last night.

The camp smells strongly of feces due to the tainted water. I even crawl over what feel like fresh graves for the mortals who succumbed to their illness. This pleases me.

I pass the broken remains of several fae, a burnt corpse resting on a bed of ashes, and various other remnants of daytime entertainment. I’m only a few tents away from the commander when I pause, suddenly uneasy. The animals I take after are very simple, and I have trouble parsing this new stimulus.
>>
No. 1079078 ID: 9ea24b
File 170224354215.png - (9.12KB , 500x500 , p35.png )
1079078

I strain my hearing, picking up the sleeping exhales of the soldiers and the slow smolder of the old cooking fires. There’s a light breeze, and between the rustle of the grass and the occasional footsteps of the horses, I’m not sure what I sensed. The ground here feels less familiar than before.

I squirm forward to the next row of tents, then stop. I hear the faintest tap tap tap of something following behind me before the sound cuts off.

The tents are tall and I only see horses moving around in the dark. I am not used to this feeling of unease, but I haven’t been attacked yet, so maybe I should continue my mission.
>>
No. 1079079 ID: f3171e

>>1079078
Perhaps it is a fae or another spirit following you. Continue moving around a corner, then double back upon yourself to catch the follower.
>>
No. 1079087 ID: 443b73

If your stalker isn't related to the army he is very bold to follow you here. It's safer to assume this person have a reason to not fear being discovered by soldiers until proven otherwise.
I say approach him. If he scream kill him and flee. If he behave and doesn't alert the enemy ask what he is doing.
>>
No. 1079103 ID: 273c18

This is the red rider, isn't it. Well, better to meet them now when there is still a clear path of escape.
>>
No. 1079114 ID: 21c889

Get ready to fight or flight.
>>
No. 1079123 ID: 9ea24b
File 170232702854.png - (11.57KB , 500x500 , p36.png )
1079123

I suspect this is the army specialist that deals with spirits, and I assume they’re a spirit as well. I prepare myself to fight or talk, since I’m much too slow to flee.

I move around a corner and wait for my stalker to show themself. The tapping noise comes back and a horse emerges from between the tents.
>>
No. 1079124 ID: 9ea24b
File 170232703757.png - (16.82KB , 500x500 , p37.png )
1079124

At this distance, I can make out the spirit’s unusual features. They walk on legs resembling mortal fingers, each ending in a nail instead of a hoof, which explains the softer steps. Their surface is shiny and red, and they seem to have a large growth on their back resembling a rider.

The spirit pauses, examining the ground for traces of slime. The mass on their back is dangling a greatsword down their side. With a sudden jerk, they skuttle horizontally towards my hiding place and raise the sword overhead. I have to react!
>>
No. 1079125 ID: eb0a9c

Throw the tent on them
>>
No. 1079127 ID: f3171e

>>1079124
The Red Rider, War.
Its weapon is heavy, and we are low to the ground. Forward dive under it, and slip its legs with mud to topple it with its own momentum.
>>
No. 1079142 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1079127

War and... uh oh.
>>
No. 1079152 ID: 273c18

Spitting mud at its legs could make it lose balance. We should try to communicate as well- ask to parley. Negotiation is part of war, isn't it?
>>
No. 1079165 ID: eb0a9c

>>1079152
We didn't parley with the raiders so far, and I doubt he hates his job. But just state that you'll leave them alone if they leave this town alone. (They won't.)
>>
No. 1079193 ID: 2f5b64

Oh yeah, let’s talk to it. We’re gonna befriend the shit out of mister horsey hand.
>>
No. 1079196 ID: ba0234

Whether you fight or talk, you need to dodge its blade first.
Diving under it can work, but it's unlikely to work twice, so you need to strike at least an incapacitating or disarming blow.
>>
No. 1079197 ID: 273c18

Diving under can't possibly work, we are a massive worm. That will just expose our body and tail to the sword stroke. Actual combat would involve rearing up and striking faster than the sword can intercept, or knocking the rider over.

We could also, instead of aiming for the feet/legs, aim for the eyes, to blind it. Then hit it until it stops moving, preferably with an object since it'll be flailing around with that sword. We could puke up a treasure chest to use as a bashing implement?
>>
No. 1079201 ID: 21c889

Go under it, go for the legs or the center mass.
>>
No. 1079226 ID: 9ea24b
File 170243235958.png - (14.72KB , 500x500 , p38.png )
1079226

I spew mud in a panic as I tuck my tail and dive between the spirit’s legs, dodging the arc of the enormous blade that would have cut me in half. They immediately try to collapse on top of me and grip me with their limbs, but the mud and my natural slime let me slip free and we both tumble to the ground. I hear a few tired grunts within the surrounding tents at the sound.

I need to try talking, if I attempt to actually damage this spirit I’ll rouse the army and be doomed for sure.

“Hello, I am Pliny, spirit of the city, I want to negotiate.” I whisper.

The war spirit easily rights itself and stabs me in the neck, pinning me to the ground, though it wouldn’t take much to wiggle free. Seemingly satisfied that I’m not trying to escape, they let go of the sword and take a knee next to my face, leaving one finger free to tap the ground erratically.
>>
No. 1079227 ID: 9ea24b
File 170243238277.png - (13.56KB , 500x500 , p39.png )
1079227

“I am Icher. You are at my mercy and will do what I say.”

“Right.” I do not have to do anything Icher says, I just need an excuse to get them to let me leave the camp.

The tapping finger pauses to kick me in the face, which doesn’t hurt much physically, but seems awfully rude. “Use ‘sir’ when addressing me.”

I do not see any reason to do that. Is it some kind of weird mortal thing? I have never negotiated before and do not know what to do.
>>
No. 1079228 ID: a7a180

The reason is to avoid further harm. Call them sir next time you speak, it is just a mortal thing so it does not hurt to grease negotiations by complying with this simple request.
>>
No. 1079235 ID: f3171e

>>1079227
It is his fetish.

Entertain the spirit's ego for now to get some information out of it.
>>
No. 1079237 ID: 273c18

"What does sir mean, sir"
>>
No. 1079238 ID: 21c889

I guess it makes him feel better. Just do as he says, we just need to make him not kill you and leave the town alone.
>>
No. 1079254 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1079227

He didn't kick, he flicked! He flicked you in the nose with a finger! The audacity!
>>
No. 1079262 ID: 9ea24b
File 170251550091.png - (18.16KB , 500x500 , p40.png )
1079262

Perhaps being called sir pleases Icher, like how I get enjoyment from collecting treasure. This makes sense, since all spirits derive joy from different things, and is a small concession on my part. I doubt it is sexual in nature, spirits have no need for reproductive instincts.

“Sir, it is true I am at your mercy. What would you request of me?”

“You were the one who polluted the drinking water, correct?”

I hesitate, but tell the truth. “Yes sir, I came to the camp last night.”

“It was amusing, but harmed the efforts of the army. Do not do that or anything similar again or I will hold you down as the soldiers cut you into pieces until you are too small to sustain yourself.”
>>
No. 1079263 ID: 9ea24b
File 170251551433.png - (11.83KB , 500x500 , p41.png )
1079263

Icher firmly taps me on the head to emphasize his point. I am displeased that they are so comfortable with disrespecting me.

“Yes sir. In return I would like you to leave the survivors of Pliny alone. I will be staying here to help rebuild the city.”

Icher clacks their teeth together and continues tapping my head. The sword is starting to itch as my flesh tries to mend around it. I am really quite annoyed.
>>
No. 1079264 ID: 9ea24b
File 170251552487.png - (11.26KB , 500x500 , p42.png )
1079264

They think for several minutes before speaking again.

“It is early summer. The siege of the larger cities will take some time. Supplies will be needed. In return for sparing your people you will provide food and metal, and shelter any reinforcements that travel this way.”

“Yes sir.”

“Failure will result in punishment.”

“Understood sir.”

Satisfied, Icher springs to their feet and retrieves their sword. They prod me with the sharp point until we reach the edge of the camp. A few of the guards spot us and Icher explains our arrangement.

I am allowed to disappear into the grass. I get a short distance away before I stop and seethe quietly. The nerve of that spirit! Burning down my city and then demanding I supply further destruction!
>>
No. 1079265 ID: 443b73

That was a satisfying agreement, for now. If they fulfill their part the survival chances of the scattered citizens increases a lot. Even better, our part of the deal can only be implement after we rebuild the city and the army will be far away, so we will enjoy all the benefits before they find out that we have no intention to deliver anything.
We will need to figure out a way to kill Icher. Your performance was much better than what he think it was (which is good because he still underestimate you) but didn't seem enough to guaranty victory. We need to find a way to constrain his movimentes and remove material from his body. Some custom tools can assist with this task, but that is a problem for after dealing the immediately crisis to the survivors.
>>
No. 1079266 ID: 273c18

>>1079264
You can't do anything about it until you get good enough at fighting to beat the horseman. So that needs to be part of your efforts from here on. Now, go look for survivors. Tell them you made a deal and they no longer have to fear the army. You're going to want to find someone who knows how to fight, and to ask them to help train you.

From the way that was phrased, *you* have to provide shelter and materials, but I imagine the survivors will need to help you with that.
>>
No. 1079267 ID: e97b05

You'll have to grow in power as well. You need information on the "horseman" to beat him in the future. It might take time, but it's not impossible.
>>
No. 1079268 ID: f3171e

This arrangement can potentially place us in a position to disrupt reinforcements or supply lines at a key moment. But we would need a continual supply of information on the army's status, to know when the pivotal moment comes.

We should find the adventurer camp and see what they are doing. If they are not up to anything suspicious, this may be a more reasonable way for them to help us, and for us to help them turn the war.
>>
No. 1079269 ID: a7a180

So poisoning them is right out, but serving as a waypoint for the army means an opportunity for spying. That is, assuming there are more than a handful of townsfolk left.
>>
No. 1079310 ID: 9ea24b
File 170259297118.png - (8.13KB , 500x500 , p43.png )
1079310

The voices assure me that the agreement leaves plenty of room to disrupt the army, and that I will be able to defeat and kill Icher one day. I feel a bit better.

I must recruit allies to help me fulfill my side of the deal since I doubt I have much talent in harvesting grains or working metal. I can recruit city survivors and any adventurers that travel through this area, organize the workforce, and defend them from marauders. Depending on when Icher returns to collect his share, I may be able to fend him off without having to give up anything at all!
>>
No. 1079311 ID: 9ea24b
File 170259298207.png - (12.81KB , 500x500 , p44.png )
1079311

There are several hours of night left. I decide I will seek the adventurers now and regroup with Wulfa to look for more survivors during the day.

I crawl all the way over to where I estimated the adventurer camp would be, and follow the sound and smell of a fire until I spot two wagons around a smoldering, stone-lined pit. There’s a human man keeping watch, though he seems to be taking advantage of the quiet moment to make arrows.

This is a little awkward since I snubbed Erogalf and Flint earlier, but I call out softly to the man anyway. He beckons to me and I move into the light. The human has light, patchy facial hair, and seems either young or undernourished.

“I’m George the ranger. What brings you here, spirit?”
>>
No. 1079312 ID: f3171e

>>1079311
Make an observation on his state. Is he unwell?
>>
No. 1079313 ID: 273c18

>>1079311
Tell them about Icher. The army is under a spirit's protection!
>>
No. 1079353 ID: 9ea24b
File 170267855715.png - (12.13KB , 500x500 , p45.png )
1079353

I give the fire a distrusting look before addressing George. “Did you know the invading army has their own spirit? I just met them, his name is Icher and he’s terrible.”

George nods. “We knew. We’ve even had to fend him off a few times.”

The man shaves some more wood off the arrow he’s working on. “Icher killed my wife and children personally, the sadistic bastard. Made some of his men hold me while he cut them to pieces. Joined this adventuring party after Erogalf visited what was left of the town.”
>>
No. 1079354 ID: 9ea24b
File 170267856806.png - (12.48KB , 500x500 , p46.png )
1079354

I study George’s face for a moment. He has a few old pox scars and looks like he hasn’t slept well in a while.

“That sounds bad.” I say lamely. “I was going to invite you to stay in Pliny and help rebuild the city so that when the army eventually returns we will be strong enough to fight back but it seems you are trying to get revenge on a shorter time scale.”

George shrugs. “We’d put it to a vote. If we get to make an offer to you, you can make an offer to us. Erogalf wants some of your mana, Flint could be paid off, and Telarin would stay if you offered her regular hot food and a bed with sheets. Me, I just want that spirit dead.”

It seems like I only need to get three adventurers on my side to get them to stay.
>>
No. 1079355 ID: 273c18

Seems easy. Give mana, give money, give food. Except, are you willing to give money to someone who isn't a citizen of your town? Part of the agreement would have to involve them staying permanently, I think.

>his men
Wait, is Icher the commander of the army too? We've heard the commander's voice, did they sound like the same person?
>>
No. 1079362 ID: f3171e

>>1079354
Present George with a proposition. Icher has strongarmed Pliny into acting as a supply waypoint for the army. We will be in a position to sabotage them at a future point in the war, but we will need information to know when that is.
When that sabotage happens, Icher will be angry. He's no fool, but he is an egotist and a sadist. This would be us, making a fool of him. If we make him angry, he will make mistakes. He would likely come personally to get revenge on us for the double cross. Just as Icher came personally to get revenge for our past sabotage. Which would mean leaving his army in the midst of whatever they were besieging at the time. Sunk cost fallacy, backing off completely would be letting them win, and Icher is obsessed with winning.

As adventurers, they are in an excellent position to establish this line of communication, and we would be in a position to lure Icher into an ambush for them.
>>
No. 1079367 ID: 273c18

A potential problem with killing Icher is that he may leave orders for his army to raze the city to the ground if he dies. I'm not sure we can really defend the city from the army. Though, if they are halfway across the country setting siege to a castle or something they won't send a large force against us. If we can fortify the city enough to defend against, say, 100 men, then that might be enough.
>>
No. 1079370 ID: 9ea24b
File 170277329354.png - (9.14KB , 500x500 , p47.png )
1079370

Icher did not sound like either of the people I heard within the commander’s tent the first night. I assume the spirit was given a position in the army hierarchy and can give orders to basic soldiers.

I wonder if it would be better to have the adventurers continue following the army so they can pass information back to me, but I decide they’d be of more use here. Spells make long distance communication very easy and there will be someone else we can get information from.
>>
No. 1079371 ID: 9ea24b
File 170277330650.png - (11.36KB , 500x500 , p48.png )
1079371

I explain to George how I’ve been forced into acting as a supply waypoint for the army, but that I’m planning to sabotage anything I pass along. I agree to satisfy Erogalf, Flint, and Telarin’s desires, and since I’m planning to kill Icher eventually, it’ll be a full party satisfaction guarantee. George grunts in acknowledgement and spits on the coals.

“You can wait here to talk to everyone once morning comes.” He says.

What should I do to pass the time for the next few hours? I need to stay in this area.
>>
No. 1079372 ID: 273c18

Dig around in the dirt.
>>
No. 1079382 ID: e51896

you can nap. Dream speedrun is go!
>>
No. 1079383 ID: f3171e

>>1079371
Strategize with George. I'm guessing he and Erogalf have researched Icher's weaknesses, or the general weaknesses of spirits. We know the city and its terrain. Both of us have seen the way he moves and acts.
>>
No. 1079392 ID: b8122b

See if you can use your mana to extend your sight & hearing even further (but don't drain all of it!)
>>
No. 1079418 ID: 9ea24b
File 170286723039.png - (7.23KB , 500x500 , p49.png )
1079418

I wiggle down into the trampled grass and try to imitate how mortals sleep. Try as I might, I can’t turn off the constant voices in my head, which makes drowsing impossible. I have no need for sleep so I do not mind.

Instead I start burrowing into the dirt with my sturdy snout. The adventurers have camped at a lower, sheltered spot, which means I reach damp earth quickly. I relish the feeling of cool mud on my face as I dig straight down, making a deep hole.

I lie vertically in my crevice, immensely pleased. I decide to test the extent of my enhanced hearing and let my focus drift outwards until the noise is as jumbled as my inner citizens. I can only hear one other survivor besides Wulfa and Tytus, it seems all the others have fled my range or perished.
>>
No. 1079419 ID: 9ea24b
File 170286724368.png - (12.31KB , 500x500 , p50.png )
1079419

This reminds me of how much I loathe Icher, and I address George with my other end.

“Do you know if Icher has any weaknesses? Or what weaknesses spirits have in general?”

George puts down a little pot of melted pine pitch that he was using to glue cut feathers to his arrow shafts. “Spirits are tough when they’re touching familiar ground, since that’s their source of power. A contented spirit can work without tiredness or boredom. Icher can run twice as fast as a horse and he likes to entertain himself in the areas that the army has left behind, so he’s often by himself.”

Hopefully this means Icher will come to do supply collections alone. I add Icher’s high mobility to the reasons I dislike them.

The distasteful sun returns once more, and George puts away his gear to start fixing breakfast. I watch with interest as he fills a kettle with water and some dried leaves, then puts it on the fire, before slicing some bread and a strange dark brick that smells like meat and berries.

A female elf emerges from the wagon on the right, yawning and shaking out her thick, shoulder length blond hair. This must be Telarin, and she collects her food and a hot mug of tea without noticing me.
>>
No. 1079420 ID: f3171e

>>1079419
With the right application of our mud, we could turn his speed against him and make him lose control. We will need to practice our control, and our range and aim against swifter targets. Maybe George can help with that.

Introduce ourselves to the female elf.
>>
No. 1079421 ID: 273c18

I don't think spitting mud is ever going to work against Icher, unless we can get good enough to blind him with it reliably. Fighting him IN mud could help, maybe. Depends on how dense he is.

Making a network of tunnels could help in a fight as well. Icher won't be able to move through them, but you can, and by doing so you can actually escape combat if it goes badly. Or just reposition for a tactical advantage.
>>
No. 1079456 ID: 9ea24b
File 170294954344.png - (10.00KB , 500x500 , p51.png )
1079456

Icher should have a similar body composition to myself, which means they’re the approximate density of soil and lack internal organs. I see no reason why spitting mud at them wouldn’t work to push them back, blind them, or make them slip. A particularly pressurized jet of mud could even do cutting damage.

I draw myself out of the hole, which makes Telarin blink sleepily and amble over for inspection.
>>
No. 1079457 ID: 9ea24b
File 170294955231.png - (14.57KB , 500x500 , p52.png )
1079457

“Thas a big one.” she mumbles around her bread. “Whew, you’re ripe.”

“Yes, thank you. My name is Pliny, happy to make your acquaintance. If I provide you with two square meals a day and a soft clean bed, would you be willing to stay here and work with me?”

Telarin mulls it over. “And a hot bath every other day?”

“I can do that.”

“Fantastic. Hey Flint, the city spirit’s here granting wishes, come check it out.”

The dwarf emerges from the other wagon and I explain my offer. I try not to wiggle when Flint pokes at my belly to test for treasure.

“I want half of what you have right now.” she says.
>>
No. 1079458 ID: 443b73

Spit a corpse.
>Here.
(The one who throw himself. The other one no one can find out about because of the thief's wish.)
>>
No. 1079460 ID: 273c18

>>1079457
Half? Take stock of what you have. Could she even carry that much? Tell her she is underestimating how much you have.

How about this: tell her you will give her a chest and fill it with gold until she can't lift it. That is how much she can have.
>>
No. 1079471 ID: f3171e

>>1079457
The chest was weighing us down significantly. If we wish to be more agile, removing it would be helpful. So long as they are spending it on a rebuilt Pliny's goods and services in the future, the investment will come back to us.
>>
No. 1079489 ID: f2320a

>>1079471
should we do fairytale wager that if she fills the chest enough to not be able to lift it she will not get all that gold
>>
No. 1079490 ID: 273c18

Depending on how reluctant we are to give this much at once, we could make her swear an oath to serve the city...
>>
No. 1079507 ID: 9ea24b
File 170302869852.png - (11.80KB , 500x500 , p53.png )
1079507

I’m reluctant to part with my treasure, but I can understand the need to get Flint as an ally. It’s easier to stomach the idea when it's for the city’s benefit. I’ve also never done a full inventory of my possessions and I decide now would be as good a time as any.

The dwarf backs away as a great shudder goes down my body and a large mass begins working its way to my mouth. The items from the army emerge first, a bit muddy, but still vibrant in the morning light. Coins bounce and roll in the dirt before I spit out a soft wooden chest that breaks against the ground, revealing a pile of bright silver.
>>
No. 1079508 ID: 9ea24b
File 170302871561.png - (19.00KB , 500x500 , p54.png )
1079508

Telarin gags as I work on the next largest object, the corpse of the lonely man. When even George looks repulsed, I stop with it halfway out of my mouth.

“Is something wrong?”

“That’s freaky. How are you doing that? He’s moving.” Telarin gets out.

Indeed the corpse is scratching at the dirt with its exposed phalanges. This strikes me as perfectly normal.

Flint turns away, hand over her nose. “I don’t want that. I’ll take the jewelry pieces that are worth more for the weight.”
>>
No. 1079510 ID: 273c18

Oh! A friend. Let your friend out. See what he scratches in the dirt.

Give Flint half your jewelry.
>>
No. 1079513 ID: f3171e

>>1079508
I see. They have become a part of us. Thus, the spirit of the man that is a part of us is still a part of himself.

We can explore his capabilities later. His smell and appearance, though natural for a corpse, is causing an adverse reaction in the mortals.
>>
No. 1079537 ID: 76615e

Give him a second to see if he tries writing in the dirt then slurp him back up.
Minus the jewelry, what's the total for our trove?
>>
No. 1079539 ID: f2320a

>>1079508
this is the friend first person to help him will grant his wish
>>
No. 1079540 ID: 443b73

Are the two corpses technically part of your body? Can you use their hands to wield tools and weapons?
>>
No. 1079572 ID: f3171e

>>1079539
Wulfa might be more willing to entertain a strange request like 'helping' the corpse to fulfill its wish.
>>
No. 1079591 ID: 9ea24b
File 170312985912.png - (13.84KB , 500x500 , p55.png )
1079591

I nod to Flint, then turn away and spit the corpse onto the grass.

It flops to the ground, still and lifeless. Hm. I pick it back up and the withered tendons start twitching again. I have the wishmaker who used to inhibit this body in my head, so I do not need the corpse to write me messages. The other citizens encourage me to fulfill the man’s wish for friendship which strikes me as a bit foolish because he is dead.

Instead I find I can clumsily use the corpse as an extension of myself, waving its arms and puppeteering its decayed hands. I turn around to show the adventurers but they have all mysteriously gone to stand on the other side of the wagons.
>>
No. 1079592 ID: 9ea24b
File 170312987680.png - (12.07KB , 500x500 , p56.png )
1079592

Flint has taken the jewelry as promised. I have a good eye for value, and not including the two bodies I have parted with about a quarter of my wealth. Much better than the earlier promise of half, I am pleased that my corpse has gotten me a bargain.

Erogalf sticks his head out of the wagon, sans beard, hat, and staff, just in time to see me swallowing my treasure. “We meet again, Pliny.”

“Yes. I am here to offer you some of my mana.”

Erogalf tumbles out of the wagon in excitement, hastily cramming his hat on his head. “Really? That would make my spellcasting so much easier. How much do you want to give?”
>>
No. 1079594 ID: f3171e

>>1079592
We should keep the amount we offer modest. We have fulfilled the requests of the other adventurers already and must keep from becoming drained while we learn our limits, but we should keep him from feeling snubbed.

However, while we are working together, we are open to requests for mana for specific projects and objectives. He seemed like he had some sort of goal in mind when he sought us out, after all.
>>
No. 1079599 ID: 273c18

I have no idea how much mana you have in proportion to the wizard. Let's go for (not weakening you much) or (giving him a moderate to big boost in power), whichever of those is smaller.

...do you have a mouth on both ends? Perhaps you should practice fighting with both ends facing your enemy. Using the corpse to hold weapons is a good idea... oh, maybe you should go recover the kobold's corpse to see if you can puppet that too.
>>
No. 1079608 ID: 443b73

Does this work with any corpses you swallow or just those two?
Does he still have some control over his body when it's animated or are all movements only done by you?
He wasn't a citizen, just a drifter. How can you hear him? What is he saying? Should one of us speak for him?
>>
No. 1079610 ID: f2320a

>>1079599
The lamia earthworm undead oroborus
>>
No. 1079631 ID: 9ea24b
File 170320445505.png - (11.42KB , 500x500 , p57.png )
1079631

I am not sure how much mana I have or how much it usually takes to cast spells, so I will keep my offer vague and modest.

“I can give you what you need for specific requests until I notice a decline in my abilities.”

Erogalf nods and reaches out his hand to touch my head. “Let’s test it. Let me in.”

I can feel him trying to take from me, like he’s lightly tugging at a rope that I have a secure grip on. I give him a bit of slack and he starts glowing like a hot coal. When he takes his hand off, he dims slightly, but remains charged. I feel a little like when I was stabbed and had to heal.
>>
No. 1079632 ID: 9ea24b
File 170320446714.png - (8.90KB , 500x500 , p58.png )
1079632

I must find out if my newfound reanimation powers work on other dead bodies. I can even test to see if it applies to the soldiers who perished: they may not count as residents to me but they are still in my domain. I currently have a single orifice but I can add temporary ones if need be.

Thinking about that some more, I suppose if someone made a wish in my well that’s a good enough criteria to me for citizenship. As always, I’m willing to hear what the dead have to say at any time.

The adventurers agree to go into the city and start setting up a permanent camp. What should I do?
>>
No. 1079635 ID: 273c18

>>1079632
Go with the adventurers. You can't be certain all of the soldiers have the new orders, so you need to be there to help protect them.

You can try looking for corpses and other useful items at the same time.
>>
No. 1079638 ID: f3171e

>>1079635
Yes, this seems like a good idea.
As the soldiers begin to draw back from Pliny, the other survivors may also chance venturing inside once more.
>>
No. 1079639 ID: 76615e

Return to town. You can muck about with the kobold's corpse and then spend the day in your cozy well to recuperate.
>>
No. 1079685 ID: 9ea24b
File 170336178666.png - (9.68KB , 500x500 , p59.png )
1079685

I decide to go with the adventurers for now. Wulfa has food, water, and a spear and doesn’t need to be micromanaged. This way I can experiment with my newfound ability and perhaps even spend some time in my beloved well.

I’m slower than a horse drawn wagon, and I don’t think the adventurers want me to ride with them, so I lag behind as I crawl. When I reach the city walls, there’s a wide selection of corpses to experiment with, and I find I can make them all move as long as they’re mostly intact and I’m touching them. Animals do not qualify. I also swallow a short sword so that I have a weapon.
>>
No. 1079686 ID: 9ea24b
File 170336179901.png - (13.49KB , 500x500 , p60.png )
1079686

By the time I catch up to where the wagons have stopped in the unburned district, I see that George has already captured a pair of soldiers, both catfolk. He has their wrists bound with coarse rope and is glaring at them with a hand on his knife.

“We were sent by officer Icher to make sure Pliny is fulfilling her side of the agreement.” the fluffy black one says, when he spots me. “We are to be treated with respect and have our basic needs met.”

Telarin looks at me with interest. “I didn’t know you were a girl.”

I did not know this either. I suppose cities are usually referred to as female.
>>
No. 1079689 ID: f2320a

>>1079686
Huh im a girl? worms genitals is the whole swollen band area but even then im not a actual worm? Is handhorse actually a mister?
>>
No. 1079692 ID: 443b73

Our agreement was brief so some details are unclear, but I was under the impression our obligations started only after the city recover. The infrastructure is in ruins so any shelter we can offer is worst than army encampment, the people are scatter so there are no organized workforce to produce or deliver supplies, on top of that the previously accumulated resources were already plundered by the army. It's too earlier to expect anything.
Ask what exactly they've being ordered to do and details about their criteria to judge our performance.
If they bring any short therm demand kill them. No point in prolonging deals we can't fulfill.
If they agree to accommodate a recovery period enlist their service during their stay. They helped ruin the lives of the inhabitants so they better be prepare to help fixing their own mess.

"I'm the rot beneath urban ground, such concept doesn't truly apply."
>>
No. 1079707 ID: f3171e

>>1079686
As are ships.

Inform them that we are in the process of hiring help to reestablish infrastructure. Do not kill them. Unbind them and allow them to stay in an intact building, one separate from the adventurers to avoid quarrels. It is still too soon to provoke Icher, his army is near at hand.
>>
No. 1079711 ID: e50fff

>>1079707
Also no free food or water its scavenging for everyone so we are not treating them like royals
>>
No. 1079720 ID: 273c18

I dunno if unbinding them is needed. You can keep someone bound while treating them with respect...
>>
No. 1079734 ID: 9ea24b
File 170347486992.png - (13.08KB , 500x500 , p61.png )
1079734

I do not have genitals, and if I did I would be a hermaphrodite like a worm or slug. Gender is irrelevant to spirits and this means that I should not care what I am referred to as.

I tell Telarin as much and she smiles and says I’m cute. Flabbergasted, I turn back to the soldiers.

“I do not have any supplies to give at the moment. For now I will unbind you and allow you to dwell here peacefully. You are responsible for feeding yourselves.”

The black catfolk frowns. “Once there is a consistent food source we will expect a portion.”

“Fine.” I will decide if I wish to give them any precious resources when the time comes.
>>
No. 1079735 ID: 9ea24b
File 170347489869.png - (13.09KB , 500x500 , p62.png )
1079735

George spits on the ground and walks away, leaving Flint to untie the ropes, which she ends up cutting with her ax.

There are wells beside my own dotted around the city, so there should be freely available drinking water. I need to find appropriate lodgings for Telarin, as well as put together a long term plan for obtaining food. I am also worried I’ve upset George.

The soldiers and adventurers will do as I command. What should I focus on this afternoon?
>>
No. 1079747 ID: f3171e

>>1079735
Let us delegate with the adventurers.

Dwarves usually have a keen eye for quality and craftsmanship. Have Flint locate buildings with foundations sturdy enough to patch up for habitation.
Have Telarin contact Wulfa, they can to gather food and come join us in Pliny. If Wulfa distrusts her, tell her to use Aelius' name to signify that Pliny has sent her.
Erogalf can be placed in charge of locating other survivors. If we're lucky, he has some sort of divination magic. Should he find any, he should inform them that the spirit of Pliny's well summons them to the ruins to rebuild.
And lastly, we should speak with George to clear up any misunderstandings.

Remind George that we hate the army as much as he does. They have taken from Pliny. They have taken from us. The time will come when they and Icher will answer, but like a clever hunter we must lay our traps and stalk our prey. Trust us for now, and when the time comes, Pliny will be beside him to face the spirit of war.
>>
No. 1079760 ID: eb0a9c

To George: You wouldn't shed a tear if this village-butchering army was swallowed up by a cosmic entity, but every opportunity should be taken to convince the recruits how badly they've been suckered into donating their souls to empty bastards. Otherwise, your underhanded slaughter would be indistinguishable from their rampage.

And hey, if they still refuse to change their ways, you'll rip them apart before you allow them to die.
>>
No. 1079791 ID: 9ea24b
File 170361509074.png - (9.35KB , 500x500 , p63.png )
1079791

The voices advise me to focus on the adventurers and let the soldiers be for now. I tell Flint to look for the best buildings to inhabit, Telarin to send a communication spell to Wulfa telling her to come to the city, and Erogalf to find the one other survivor I sensed last night. Finally, I slither after George, who I can hear walking through the city hopefully in an attempt to check the perimeter or clear his head.
>>
No. 1079792 ID: 9ea24b
File 170361510565.png - (14.41KB , 500x500 , p64.png )
1079792

I squirm slower than George’s pacing speed, and I only catch up once he stops at my well. He’s staring into the depths.

“There is a dead elf soldier in there.” I say helpfully. “I smashed him.”

George glares at me over his shoulder. “Once the army reaches Jamuk I want to kill those two catfolk. Only Icher will care by then and we can challenge him if he returns.”

“Or we could try to help them see the error of their ways and help them desert?”

George slams his fist into the top layer of stone of my well. “No. They die.”
>>
No. 1079793 ID: 443b73

I'm inclined to agree with George’s plan, except for the timing. We should delay such action until the point of no return: when we can't give any excuse for avoiding our part of the deal.

But of course, if they do repent and desert before that we will spare them. Our priority is survival and hopefully eventual prosperity, not vengeance or justice.
But honestly by now we don't have any reason to expect a change of heart from the soldiers, so killing them is the main plan.

Since the criteria for post life citizenship is not hard is it possible that you will be able to hear them if they die after living here for a while?
>>
No. 1079819 ID: f3171e

>>1079792
If he would prefer they die, that is acceptable. So long as the timing is in service to the trap, it can act as bait to lure Icher back into an ambush.
>>
No. 1079837 ID: 76615e

Whether these two random soldiers die is imaterial, Icher is the only real target. This whole shitty deal is probably the best chance we'll get to separate Icher from the army and slaughter it. Is George going to keep his head, or is he going to be a liability to this operation?
>>
No. 1079850 ID: 273c18

I wonder if there's any way we can puppet corpses from a distance... or without holding them in Pliny's mouth. If one of the soldiers was killed without the others noticing, in a way that isn't obvious from casual observation, then we could puppet that corpse to fool the others, couldn't we? I'm imagining Pliny worming up to the group of soldiers with the dead soldier "riding" her and the soldier claiming it's just for fun, before making a false report about something important like the quality of supplies or something. And then riding back off only to be found dead later, in a way that looks like suicide or an accident. Hell, since we can puppet the corpse we could make it VERY convincing. We could even have the corpse kill itself in front of the other soldiers.
>>
No. 1079890 ID: 9ea24b
File 170371662656.png - (10.82KB , 500x500 , p65.png )
1079890

According to George, the timing would work for luring Icher back without incurring the wrath of the army at the same time, so I do not see any reason not to kill the two catfolk. I will keep the corpses since my newfound power of reanimation could fool other soldiers that pass through here.

If I tell the catfolk to make a wish in my well, I should be able to hear them after death, though I cannot force them to share information.
>>
No. 1079892 ID: 9ea24b
File 170371663848.png - (12.84KB , 500x500 , p66.png )
1079892

“They die.” I say in agreement. “When do you estimate the army will reach Jamuk?”

George finally turns around to look at me, his mouth set in a grim smile. “A week at most. I’ll take care of it quietly once we know.”

I worry that George will become a liability due to his desire for revenge, but for now he seems to have calmed down. I tell him what I have assigned everyone to do.

“You need to focus on food soon, we can salvage what’s left in the city for now, but it’s already been picked over by the army. Our supplies won’t last with so many mouths to feed.” he says.
>>
No. 1079893 ID: 273c18

The city got its food from somewhere. Are there farms? Let's go find them.
>>
No. 1079925 ID: f3171e

>>1079890
Perhaps they could be leveraged somehow. But who can say how?
What do we know of the afterlife? Are the souls within us unable to move on? Can we let them? Questions to ask the elven mages, perhaps.

>>1079892
We are rot. Not great for improving food stores, but perhaps we can fertilize soil to improve crop yield. Or farm edible mushrooms from the decay.
>>
No. 1079941 ID: 443b73

You should only touch food if no one else is available.
Let's see what kind of farm the surrounding countrysides have. Hopefully their owners survive to take care of the land, but if they are abandoned we need to quickly gather any remaining farm animals, fix potentiality damaged fences and check the crops.
>>
No. 1079973 ID: 9ea24b
File 170379939128.png - (14.79KB , 500x500 , p67.png )
1079973

I follow after George as he walks back to the camp, deep in thought. The city must have gotten regular food from somewhere, and while the surrounding fields are full of grain, the plants are not yet ready for harvest. There should be wildlife that George can hunt, and livestock that scattered when the army came. Combined with some small gardens that I can fertilize with my mud, that will be enough to sustain the mortals. I should be able to handle food, though it’ll need to be washed and cooked before it is eaten. This makes me a tad concerned about how Wulfa and Tytus are faring.
>>
No. 1079974 ID: 9ea24b
File 170379940758.png - (13.92KB , 500x500 , p68.png )
1079974

One of the voices changes the topic and asks if I have any knowledge of a greater afterlife. I have no idea, I suppose I am the current afterlife for Pliny citizens, but whether there is some encompassing spirit for all mortals is beyond me.

It is evening by the time we return to the camp. Telarin has retrieved Wulfa and Tytus, who sure enough have stomach pains that the elf is treating with healing spells and herbs. There’s a strangely familiar goblin lurking in the shadows, tapping his little booted foot on the ground. Finally Flint points out the house where we’ll be staying, which is modest but relatively clean and has an underground pantry that the army missed. The soldiers are nowhere to be seen.
>>
No. 1079977 ID: 273c18

>>1079974
Tell the goblin it is secret. It is safe.
>>
No. 1079992 ID: 443b73

You will be staying in the house? I though you preferred to be underground, and in this case underground is where the food you shouldn't be in contact with is stored.
Do you feel unsafe returning to your well after telling everyone you've met about it?

Tell the goblin you are happy that he is alive as he is one of your citizens. You sincerely hope all of them survive this ordeal.
>>
No. 1080002 ID: f3171e

Apologize to Wulfa and Tytus for their stomach aches. You had not thought to inform them to clean and cook it. Thank the elven healer. It is good that she is here.

Greet the goblin thief. Is he the remaining survivor that we sensed, or has he eluded our senses through some sort of stealth magic?
>>
No. 1080041 ID: 9ea24b
File 170388150358.png - (16.69KB , 500x500 , p69.png )
1080041

I greet Wulfa and Tytus and apologize for my hand in their illness, whether through the water taken from the slain soldiers or the muddy chickens. Wulfa seems happy to see me and quickly forgives the mistake, while Tytus sulks and hides behind her dress. The food they still have will be cooked thoroughly before being eaten.

I leave the adventurers to prepare dinner and lean in very close to the goblin thief who shrinks deeper into the shadow he’s lurking under. He must be the sole survivor I sensed in the area besides Wulfa and Tytus, I’m glad Erogalf convinced him to join the group.

“I will keep your secret of the dead man you put in my well safe.” I whisper in his ear. I notice a very sharp blade pressing into my throat.
>>
No. 1080042 ID: 9ea24b
File 170388151543.png - (15.49KB , 500x500 , p70.png )
1080042

“I exist to help all citizens of Pliny, including you.” I explain, leaking cold mud onto his glove. “Do not be afraid, mister goblin, we are all friends here. What is your name?”

The thief withdraws the knife and shakes it clean. “It’s Smit.”

I bob my head encouragingly. “See that nice house there Smit? You get to live in it! I will keep watch at night to make sure everyone is safe.”

Smit does not look terribly convinced or enthusiastic. “Are you stupid enough to think the elves would want me there with them?”
>>
No. 1080044 ID: eb0a9c

"I don't care, but they would care about the dead guy thing. Take it or leave it."
>>
No. 1080047 ID: 273c18

>>1080042
Ask what he means. You are only recently manifested and do not know much about mortals.
>>
No. 1080052 ID: 443b73

Tell him the circunstancies are not normal. Whatever he did is nothing compared to the horror of the recent massacre. If he can be friendly and helpful to his neighbors in this time of need they might be willing to accept him and help him in return.
>>
No. 1080060 ID: f3171e

The elves are in the employ of Pliny. They need not interact if they dislike one another.
>>
No. 1080068 ID: a7a180

It is your choice if you want to stay in the house or not. If you prefer the cold and mud, that's fine too. I like cold and mud.
>>
No. 1080072 ID: 76615e

Eh, why not? You don't seem like a bad guy to me
>>
No. 1080093 ID: 5eecdc

"The elves will do nothing. You, on the other hand, have a chance to find a new life here, if we manage to pull this off. Not sure you have much of a choice though."
>>
No. 1080103 ID: 9ea24b
File 170398688709.png - (13.26KB , 500x500 , p71.png )
1080103

I have to think about this one for a long time. Smit does not have a pleasing smell to me so that means the adventurers should like being around him. They do not know he is a murderer or a thief, and since I am in charge and satisfying their demands, they should not complain. I see no reason for Smit’s puzzling statement.

“You are all citizens of Pliny. It is your choice whether you would like to stay in the house or in the dirt with me. As long as you are helpful to the rebuilding efforts I will ensure you are accepted.” I say.

Smit quirks a thick eyebrow. “You’re not going to treat me differently because of what you know? And after I stabbed you?”

“I do not intend to. Wulfa has stabbed me as well, it is a small inconvenience.”
>>
No. 1080104 ID: 9ea24b
File 170398690216.png - (8.99KB , 500x500 , p72.png )
1080104

Smit mutters to himself and sheaths his knife.

“There’s plenty of places to stay on this street besides that one place. I’ll live in a neighboring house, it’ll make things less crowded.” he says.

This is perfectly acceptable. I gaze lovingly at Smit until he averts his eyes and goes to collect dinner. Wow, I am very good at conflict resolution.

I do a quick check of my hearing. The catfolk are moving around two streets over, accompanied by the occasional dying squeak of a rat. I no longer sense the army, which means they’ve completely moved out of my range. This pleases me greatly. My citizens are gathered around a fire built from scrap wood.
>>
No. 1080115 ID: f3171e

>>1080104
Rats. Of course there are rats. Rats are an element of the urban grime we embody. Maybe we can sway them to be our allies, before the cats exterminate them all.
>>
No. 1080127 ID: 273c18

We've checked on food. Now let's check on the metal we're supposed to provide. Go scavenging, loot corpses, collect scrap from any destroyed houses.
>>
No. 1080140 ID: 5eecdc

Maybe you should prepare a speech. to help people understand what is happening. We can't, of course, explain the plan about taking Picture on. Not yet. For now, we have to focus on rebuilding. Finding survivors, take in more people.
>>
No. 1080147 ID: 9ea24b
File 170406484824.png - (11.71KB , 500x500 , p73.png )
1080147

The voices give me good ideas on how to spend my night. First I will give a speech to the assembled crowd at dinner, then once it gets dark I will begin gathering scrap metal from around the city. Hopefully one of the adventurers knows how to metalwork so that we can build our own armory.

While I collect metal, I will encounter many rats and see how they react to me. Since they are not sentient beings, I do not think I will be able to control them, but they may carry diseases that I can add to my collection. I do find them to be pleasing creatures since they are a component of urban filth, and I doubt the catfolk will make much of a dent in their population.
>>
No. 1080148 ID: 9ea24b
File 170406486388.png - (20.19KB , 500x500 , p74.png )
1080148

I slither back toward the fire and the pot of chicken and cabbage stew. Everyone turns to look at me. Erogalf is not glowing anymore and Wulfa’s eyes are still red.

I have learned that I am not very eloquent on my own. What should I say?
>>
No. 1080151 ID: f3171e

>>1080148
"Dearly beloved, we are gathered here today to honor the remains of Pliny and those lost, who are here with us and wish you well. Though the city is slightly diminished from the teeming hive we fondly remember, we have secured time to rebuild.

In the coming days, we have a few priority tasks. We will need to gather what harvest and livestock remain unplundered, and plant new crops for the coming days. We will also need a place to store the harvest.
Secondly, we must be prepared for other survivors of the army's march to find this place. They will want to loot what we have, but we may be able to convince them to cooperate if we can gather materials and shape things up.
As Pliny, we will offer the advice of deceased farmers and tradesmen as it comes."
>>
No. 1080154 ID: eb0a9c

"When I first awoke, I thought my purpose was to collect. A spirit made from the honest wishes of a dying town, but manifested from the muck and waste of murder and neglect.

It would have been a cruel existence to you all, I suppose.

But instead, I awoke to injustice. I watched a perfectly well-off and well-trained soldier slaughter an innocent girl like she was some kind of beast.

And then they started speaking to me. The dead. They helped with this speech. There's... a sort of balance between wisdom and despair. All the grudges and fears melt away... but what's left is this endless regret. They risk what is left of their existence for a chance to tip the scales. To help you live.

The army has made their intentions clear. They wish for death, humiliation, and glorious oblivion. And in time? We will deliver unto them. No refunds."
>>
No. 1080155 ID: f3171e

>>1080154
Remember, we must be careful not to say anything incriminating lest the soldiers overhear and slip away to report in.
>>
No. 1080156 ID: 443b73

I guess you should quote and credit someone who was good at speeches, like the way you passed Aelius' message. The idea that the dead remain conscious and wish the well-being of the living is encouraging. It also gives a notion of continuity with a previous culture instead of simply starting from nothing.

Am I allow to make more characters? Ignore this if I'm not:


Ladies and gentlemen, residents of this resilient city, and esteemed friends who have journeyed from afar to stand by our side,

In the quiet echoes of devastation, I speak to you not as a distant voice but as a shared spirit, one bound by the threads of sorrow and courage. Though the shadows of tragedy now loom over us, let my words serve as a beacon of hope and encouragement in these darkest of times.
To the survivors who have weathered the storm, your presence here today is a testament of enduring strength. We find ourselves in the aftermath of a merciless attack, an assault that sought to shatter the very foundations of our home. The pain is deep, and the wounds are fresh, but remember this: the strength of a city is not measured by the height of its buildings or the grandeur of its monuments. No, the true essence of a city lies in the resilience, courage, and unity of its people.
In the face of this unspeakable tragedy, I urge you, my fellow citizens, to rise above the ashes and rebuild not the structures that once stood proudly, but the very soul of our beloved city. We may have lost much, but our collective strength remains untouched. It is in times of adversity that the true character of a community is revealed.
To our dear friends and allies who have come from afar to extend a helping hand, your presence in our city during these trying times is a beacon of light that pierces through the darkness. As the fallen mayor, I express our heartfelt gratitude for your selfless dedication to aiding us in our hour of need. Your generosity and compassion remind us that the bonds of humanity are stronger than any force that seeks to tear us apart.
Your willingness to stand shoulder to shoulder with us, to lend your expertise and support, speaks volumes about the power of solidarity. In the face of tragedy, you have not hesitated to offer assistance, and for that, we are profoundly grateful.

With deepest appreciation,
Tandam Woldhead.

(I imagine him as a dwarf who used to make speeches on top of a stool.)
(What generic terms adequately replaces "humanity" and "human spirit"? It's difficult to talk about a collective nature without those...)
>>
No. 1080177 ID: 9ea24b
File 170415101258.png - (9.84KB , 500x500 , p75.png )
1080177

The voices begin reciting many overlapping words and I have to wait for them all to finish.

“Keep eating, I am going to make a speech in a moment.” I tell the assembled mortals.

What I gather from the dead is that I should clarify my magical abilities as a spirit, desires for taking in potential refugees, plans for securing food tomorrow, and make ominous promises that the army will get what it deserves. I say all of this, though not quite as delicately, and credit the deceased who gave me the words.
>>
No. 1080178 ID: 9ea24b
File 170415105471.png - (14.77KB , 500x500 , p76.png )
1080178

Telarin claps after I finish, and Tytus and Wulfa start crying again. Smit seems more impressed by his bowl of soup than my words, which is understandable.

With everyone brought up to speed, I stay just out of the firelight’s range and bask happily in the conversation. Ah, I can only imagine the noises of the full city.

Once night has fully fallen, I begin my quest to collect metal. I find that most of the soldiers’ armor is thick leather, not metal, but I still scrounge plenty of arrowheads and swords. There are rats feasting on the bloating corpses all around me, and whenever I try to come closer, they hear me and scatter.

Should I try to capture some rats?
>>
No. 1080183 ID: 273c18

Just try to get one, see if anything happens if you catch one.
>>
No. 1080184 ID: 76615e

Given our lack of citizens, the rats would be very useful if we could control them. At least try to catch one, see if we can communicate at all.
>>
No. 1080186 ID: 443b73

Why do we think controlling rats is a possibility?
>>
No. 1080187 ID: a7a180

>>1080186
Because despite all their rage, they are still just rats in a cage.
We can control rats the old fashioned way, by keeping them on a farm and feeding them to make a large, hungry population of rats we can plant in places supply trains just happen to pass through.
>>
No. 1080208 ID: eb0a9c

You're not susceptible to disease, so just surround them while they're distracted and smoosh your body into them.
>>
No. 1080239 ID: 9ea24b
File 170424780032.png - (13.68KB , 500x500 , p77.png )
1080239

I lie amongst the dead and wait for a rat to skitter across my surface. I do not have to wait long before several climb onto me, undeterred by the slime. I attempt to coil around them but they are too small and immediately scatter.

Wait, I have a new idea! I simply rest against a corpse and use my powers to clamp its mouth shut when a rat crawls inside.
>>
No. 1080241 ID: 9ea24b
File 170424786779.png - (18.57KB , 500x500 , p78.png )
1080241

I inspect the rat. It seems I used a bit too much strength and chopped straight through its middle. I watch fleas desert the cooling pile of juice and fur with great interest.
>>
No. 1080242 ID: 273c18

Hmm. I guess check to see if you can control a rat corpse too.
>>
No. 1080243 ID: 284c7a

Rip ratto, he died as he lived.
>>
No. 1080250 ID: 443b73

If someone ask why you are playing with rats and corpses please don't tell them the voices told you to do this.
>>
No. 1080264 ID: f2320a

>>1080241
guess its time to swallow it all up perhaps we could use the corpses armor and fill it up with our mud to move around sort of like a shell? perhaps a moving phalanx of undead soldiers with Shields and swords
>>
No. 1080303 ID: 6e2982

>>1080264
We do seem mainly vulnerable to piercing and slashing attacks. A shell of some kind could be useful, though a full set of armor would impair movement. Maybe if we had one half of a breastplate worn on our back.
>>
No. 1080306 ID: 9ea24b
File 170433502458.png - (12.72KB , 500x500 , p79.png )
1080306

The voices seem displeased by my examination, so I put the rat parts in my mouth and swallow. I have already tested my reanimation powers on animals and it does not work.

I catch another rat with the same trick, though this one survives being bitten. I swallow this rat too, and then get another so that they can be friends. If I let a little air in through a hole in my back, they should be fine. I am quite pleased by this.
>>
No. 1080307 ID: 9ea24b
File 170433504155.png - (16.15KB , 500x500 , p80.png )
1080307

One of the voices has a tremendous thought, which is that I should touch and control multiple corpses at the same time. I assemble all the nearby corpses in a shield around me without much difficulty.

What is more complicated is trying to move. I am slow normally and trying to manage all of the bodies in a way that creates efficient locomotion is too much even for my highly refined mind.

I do one more test, which is to see if I can control bodies that I am not touching, but are touching a body I am touching. I can, but it makes me feel drained after a while.
>>
No. 1080308 ID: 9ea24b
File 170433505471.png - (16.41KB , 500x500 , p81.png )
1080308

I continue gathering as much scrap as I can. I make a nice pile by the wagons and start looking for some pieces that would protect my back. With a little adjustment by someone skilled with a hammer, I can embed the selected plates in my flesh.

George comes out of the house in the early hours of the morning, before the sun even begins to show. I watch him work on his arrows and collect some water from the nearest well.

How should I aid the food collection efforts today?
>>
No. 1080310 ID: 038622

>>1080308
Take Erogalf and Smit with us to the farms. We can use baskets or buckets rested atop our body to help carry back any grain or usable crops we find, then ensure they are washed and cooked before use of course. If we encounter any unaffiliated looters, Erogalf can do the talking and Smit can do the stalking.

Flint and George are on home duty, putting the scrap to use.

Telarin can keep an eye on Wulfa and Tytus to ensure their recovery.
>>
No. 1080311 ID: 76615e

How small of a hole can you fit through? There could be good food trapped in collapsed cellars.
>>
No. 1080312 ID: 273c18

>>1080307
Oh this seems like a great combat technique though. Jump into a pile of corpses with weapons, then assemble them into a very deadly shell. As for moving, why don't you have them carry you? Or drag you?

>food efforts
I don't think you can do much. Maybe provide mud and mana (assuming spells can grow crops)
>>
No. 1080313 ID: eb0a9c

Collect as much rotting meat as you can. Mulch and bury it in the fields to increase crop yield.

Keep the skulls, though. Those get buried in a charnel house so the army at least has some identifiers on who's who.
>>
No. 1080374 ID: 9ea24b
File 170442490390.png - (15.42KB , 500x500 , p82.png )
1080374

First I ask Erogalf and Telarin if there are spells to make plants grow, and they say that there are, which sounds very helpful. After preparing the soil and finding some seeds, we can plant our own garden within the city walls to make caring for the crops more convenient.

I delegate tasks based on advice from the voices. I ask George and Flint to work on the armor for me, send Smit and Wulfa to explore the city ruins for any surviving cellars, and have Erogalf and Telarin take a wagon to the surrounding farms to see if there’s any animals or crops left. I give Erogalf another mana boost before he goes, which leaves me lethargic.
>>
No. 1080375 ID: 9ea24b
File 170442491422.png - (11.87KB , 500x500 , p83.png )
1080375

That means I am left to entertain Tytus. He does not seem to be in a very good mood. I wonder if he would like to go collect some mortal meat and skulls.
>>
No. 1080378 ID: df60a9

>>1080375
Mortal children do not (generally) enjoy playing with corpses.

Children enjoy physical activity. Use some scrap to make two designated areas across from one another, then find two not too sharp or pokey sticks and something round (not skull), preferably spherical, that rolls. Try using the sticks to hit the round thing into the opposite player's goal area.
You will probably lose, because you are a lethargic worm. That is okay, as winning may make the child's mood improve.
>>
No. 1080381 ID: 443b73

His hygiene is almost to your standard, this can't be good for a child. Maybe we can find a bathtub.

Offer to intermediate a conversation. He probable miss his parents...
>>
No. 1080389 ID: 273c18

Ask what he does for fun.
Also yes I think finding some soap and clean spare clothes is a good idea at this point.
>>
No. 1080390 ID: eb0a9c

You could practice shapeshifting and see if he likes certain... shapes.
>>
No. 1080399 ID: acffac

This child needs to be washed.
>>
No. 1080422 ID: 9ea24b
File 170449561626.png - (14.98KB , 500x500 , p84.png )
1080422

I am told by the dead that Tytus needs a bath, which I find hard to believe. I suppose it makes sense that mortals, lacking a connection to the mana of the ground, are not as one with dirt as I am.

“Tytus, would you like a bath?” I ask.

“Why’d Wulfa leave me with you?” he mumbles petulantly. “You smell like old fish.”

“Tytus, you did not answer the question. I sent Wulfa to find food with Smit because they seemed like a good tactical team. You are safe here with me.”

Tytus glares at me. “I hate baths.”
>>
No. 1080423 ID: 9ea24b
File 170449562652.png - (10.89KB , 500x500 , p85.png )
1080423

Now I am upset that Tytus is challenging my authority. Perhaps I should try to put him in a better mood with a game.

“Let us hit a round object with sticks.” I propose. “Or perhaps you would rather I undulate in a pleasing fashion?”

“I want my dad. I hate this.”
>>
No. 1080426 ID: df60a9

"Your father is present."
>>
No. 1080432 ID: 443b73

We never asked, but Aelius would know if he is his son as Pliny assumed. I'm not sure how they used to interact or what words of encouragement he would want to give. I will try, but if anyone want to speak for him his is someone who see deeper meaning in small gestures and is supposed to be a medium for ocasional external references.


My Little Warrior,

I see the sadness that clouds your young eyes, and it tugs at my ethereal heart. In these moments of sorrow, I want you to know that it's okay to feel this way. Life is a series of hills and valleys, and it's alright to pause and acknowledge the valleys.
Our journey together has taken an unexpected turn, but the road ahead is still uncharted. Embrace the uncertainty with a brave heart. Life has a way of surprising us, and sometimes, the most beautiful moments emerge from the ashes of sorrow.
I am with you, my son, in the rustle of leaves, in the whispers of the wind, and in the beating of your heart. May this comfort you on the nights when the world feels a little colder.

With all the love that transcends the realms,

Your Father,
Aelius
>>
No. 1080441 ID: 273c18

Hmm... you can control bodies. Is it possible for you to sortof... give control over to one of the dead people? Like, find his dad's body and then give control to his father, so that he can... well, probably not talk at this point but maybe write things?
>>
No. 1080445 ID: eb0a9c

"Noted. But you need to keep yourself healthy if you want to live long enough to dive deep into quality beef."
>What the heck does that mean?!
"I'll tell you when you're older. Bath now."
>>
No. 1080447 ID: 443b73

>>1080445
Maybe it's too late for me to say this to you, but that is a weird comment.
>>
No. 1080450 ID: f2320a

>>1080445
Sounds like orky advice
>>
No. 1080461 ID: df60a9

>>1080445
Pliny may interpret this as a threat to behave if he wants to live long enough for the food to arrive.

We can suggest that his father is watching, and that he should maintain the attitude he wishes his father to see.
>>
No. 1080468 ID: 9ea24b
File 170457826147.png - (15.00KB , 500x500 , p86.png )
1080468

I am not in the mood to recite Aelius’ entire message to Tytus and decide to paraphrase.

“Aelius has passed on. He says he loves you very much and he is watching you through me. You should behave and take a bath so you do not disappoint him.”

Apparently this is not good enough for Tytus and he starts bawling while scratching at his arms. The noise is even louder than Flint and George hammering bits of heated metal around the main fire, and Flint stops what she’s doing to investigate.

“We’ll watch him, take a bucket and go get some water for a bath. I’ll have a tub out when you return but you’ll need to make a few trips to fill it.” she tells me.
>>
No. 1080469 ID: 9ea24b
File 170457829709.png - (15.32KB , 500x500 , p87.png )
1080469

I am puzzled by Tytus and how to make him a productive member of society. Based on the reaction of the adventurers to my lonely friend, I do not think parading Aelius’ rotting body around camp will impress anyone.

Is there a way to resurrect Aelius since I am storing his spirit? I would have to ask the elves, though I assume it would be mana intensive.

I take the container to one of the new wells, which is fitted with a permanent bucket on a rope. The crank system has been destroyed. I need to fetch Telarin a bath today as well. Should I use my lonely friend to help manage the rope since I would struggle with only my mouth? Everyone in the party is busy and cannot help.
>>
No. 1080470 ID: 232232

>>1080469
What are friends of a worm for? Hands, of course!
>>
No. 1080485 ID: 443b73

I'm not comfortable with you manipulating the tool necessary to collect clean water, specially if you use decomposing hands to do this. To safely perform physical tasks you should acquire a cart you can pull and container like barrels.
I also don't think Aelius would want to become an undead. He would agree if necessary to help his family but he won't be happy about it.
>>
No. 1080508 ID: 273c18

Using a corpse to manipulate the rope should be fine so long as you keep it clear of the bucket. Maybe you can move things indirectly by holding a stick?
>>
No. 1080521 ID: eeafe4

If Flint feels it truly necessary, the bathwater can be boiled to sterilize it, then allowed to cool enough to be used. A warm bath is pleasant anyways.
>>
No. 1080551 ID: 9ea24b
File 170466974548.png - (15.03KB , 500x500 , p88.png )
1080551

I decide to use the corpse to help me handle the rope, even at risk of contamination. If I stay back from the well, it should be a low risk.

It still takes over an hour to fill the tub. The rope is a little slimy but I am sure no one will notice. A rat made an escape attempt but I caught it in time. I feel like a cart of buckets would be far more efficient, since I wouldn’t have to go back and forth to the well so many times.
>>
No. 1080552 ID: 9ea24b
File 170466978489.png - (15.40KB , 500x500 , p89.png )
1080552

I am searching the streets for a cart before I start water collection for Telarin’s bath when I hear one of the catfolk approaching. Sure enough, the gray colored cat with a white belly rounds the corner. He is bare except for a pair of leather sandals and a belt. He salutes me politely.
>>
No. 1080570 ID: 76615e

worms can't really salute, so have your helpful corpse do it for you.
Ask the cat if he has seen any carts around.
>>
No. 1080600 ID: df60a9

>>1080552
They're certainly getting comfy. That's good. But it isn't time yet.

Inform him that the food situation is being looked into today.
>>
No. 1080649 ID: 9ea24b
File 170476575105.png - (9.39KB , 500x500 , p90.png )
1080649

It is warm outdoors and I can understand why the soldiers would shed their heavy armor if they do not fear an attack. I suppose I should greet him.

I tell the cat that I am searching for a handcart and that my party is working to find a sustainable source of food.

“Understood ma’am. My comrade and I brought our things in a cart with our horse, since we’ve unpacked, you’re welcome to borrow it.”
>>
No. 1080650 ID: 9ea24b
File 170476576558.png - (10.98KB , 500x500 , p91.png )
1080650

I follow him to the street where he is staying in a singed brick house. I have to use my lonely friend to handle the cart, and the cat’s ears go back against his head for a moment when the corpse emerges from my mouth.

With the cart and a few more scavenged containers, I finish collecting water before dinner. I even place several metal pots of water around the fire to start heating them, which makes me feel quite proud and accomplished.

Flint and George have finished my armor and Tytus smells like soap. I roll over the metal plates to pick them up, and settle them on my back. I feel quite secure though I cannot twist as well. The others have not returned yet but should be arriving soon.
>>
No. 1080655 ID: 273c18

Don't let the soldiers see you wearing those. Or let them see them at all, since they'll want to claim them as metal salvage.

Maybe spend more time salvaging metal to make up for the lost materials.
>>
No. 1080665 ID: daaf20

>>1080655
I agree on keeping it hidden, but we should prioritize recruitment soon I think. We are supposed to build the city back up after all, and when the time comes we will need defenders TO arm.
>>
No. 1080700 ID: 9ea24b
File 170485312363.png - (12.58KB , 500x500 , p92.png )
1080700

I experimentally sink the armor under a thin layer of dirt flesh. It feels uncomfortable, like an itch, so I will only do it when I hear the soldiers nearby.

I stay out of the way as Smit and Wulfa return with some old apples, bread, and even a few live chickens. Everyone seems heartened by their finds, and the atmosphere improves further when the elves return bearing four goats, beans, and various vegetable and grain seeds. I watch them figure out where to put the livestock and prepare dinner while I think.
>>
No. 1080701 ID: 9ea24b
File 170485313559.png - (7.00KB , 500x500 , p93.png )
1080701

I have salvaged all of the weapons and armor from the dead soldiers, though there is much raw metal buried in the ruins of the city. I will work on collecting that for the next few nights.

I would like to recruit citizens at a faster pace than the natural influx of refugees. I could send someone out on a horse to spread the word, or I could ask Erogalf to do an open call through a high power spell. I’m not sure if there are any other methods that would work better and I will not be recruiting the soon to be deceased catfolk.
>>
No. 1080704 ID: a7a180

A sneaky rider and a fast horse might just be able to get the word out without getting caught.
>>
No. 1080711 ID: bedb99

A rider sounds like a good idea. They can personally fill in any new recruits on the situation, instead of a vague sending spell we will need to explain when they arrive.
George is one good choice. He would be away from the annoying presence of the soldiers, and he seems the most capable at traveling alone.
The other is Erogalf. He's personable enough that he avoided being gutted by Smit, certainly more than George, and could explain the plan better.
If we feel comfortable with it, we could send them together.
>>
No. 1080735 ID: 9ea24b
File 170494119632.png - (12.90KB , 500x500 , p94.png )
1080735

Yes, I will send one of the adventurers out on horse to do my bidding. George seems like a good candidate, or perhaps Erogalf since he has magic to protect himself.

I approach the men and tell them my request. They look at each other.

“That’s a good way to run into Icher alone at night.” George says.

Erogalf raises his hand. “I would volunteer if you gave me a few days worth of spare mana.”
>>
No. 1080736 ID: 9ea24b
File 170494120816.png - (13.87KB , 500x500 , p95.png )
1080736

I would be giving Erogalf mana anyway, so I agree. He places his palm on my snout and I feel the tugging sensation again. It’s stronger, and when I loosen my hold on my power I feel quite a bit of mana being lost.

Oh! My belly feels uncomfortably tight and I hurriedly cough out my lonely friend to make space, which causes Erogalf and George to jump away. My new armor plates are loose and I feel exhausted. I look down in horror at my shrunken body.
>>
No. 1080737 ID: 5b198f

Scream in horror
>>
No. 1080738 ID: 124485

>>1080736
"I'm melting! Melting! Oh, what a world, what a world!"
>>
No. 1080740 ID: eb0a9c

"IS THIS WHAT ORGASMS ARE LIKE?! THE HORROR! THE TRAGEDY!!!"
Writhe for a few seconds and go limp.
>>
No. 1080741 ID: 5ebd37

Quick! back to your well to curl up and cry.
>>
No. 1080742 ID: 273c18

Yes I think it is time to hibernate. Tell them since they caused this they get to hide the corpse and armor plates.
>>
No. 1080744 ID: 0c061d

>>1080736
Need to curl our mud around our lonely friend so we can move about effichently.
>"how much Mana are you spending if this is a few days?"
>>
No. 1080770 ID: 73099e

>>1080742
Eh, let's not be too rude. We gave permission after all.
But we do need a well nap to recharge. Maybe the gang can toss a few coins and wishes into the well and see if that helps us gather more mana. Place Wulfa in charge of organizing the restoration efforts while we nap, I think she is the most qualified resident of Pliny.
>>
No. 1080801 ID: 9ea24b
File 170502700301.png - (14.84KB , 500x500 , p96.png )
1080801

I am alarmed by my sudden reduction, and the voices encourage me to flop around and wail in dismay. Everyone abandons dinner preparations to hurry to my side, despite the stench of the corpse, which pleases me a good deal. Erogalf looks a tad rueful, though it is hard to tell through the fake beard. I am not truly in pain, but I am enjoying the sympathy too much to say otherwise.

“I am fading…I am weakened…Oh what a cruel world.” I go limp and try to shed a few tears like I have seen Wulfa and Tytus doing, and squeeze out some convincing trails of mud.

The older orc puts her hand on my side. “What happened Pliny? Are you alright?”
>>
No. 1080802 ID: 9ea24b
File 170502701429.png - (13.19KB , 500x500 , p97.png )
1080802

“They gave me more mana than their previous size could support, so they shrank.” Erogalf explains. “Spirits can change size pretty easily, though this is probably the first time it’s happening to Pliny. They’re fine.”

“I need to go to my well and rest.” I moan. “Please, could someone come with me and drop some coins in the water? I think it would make me feel better.”

Wulfa and Erogalf walk me to my beloved well, which is just as beautiful as I remember. I croak to take care of my corpse friend and armor while I recuperate and then let myself fall to the bottom of the well. I wait patiently and hear a few coins clink off the armor of the dead elf. Soon I am left in the dark and quiet. How long should I stay here? Also I am not sure if Erogalf is acting suspicious.
>>
No. 1080827 ID: 273c18

Eroglaf probably just pulled too much mana all at once. We can simply not allow him to take mana for three days, and then after that don't let him take any more than you're comfortable with. After all, the deal didn't specify how much mana you'd give him.
Recover until you can carry the armor and corpse again.
>>
No. 1080829 ID: df60a9

>>1080802
We can reserve judgement on Erogalf until we see how long it takes to regain size, if he was telling the truth it's probably fine.
Stay until evening and assess how much energy is recuperated. But as a city spirit, we might recuperate faster the more bustling Pliny is.
>>
No. 1080862 ID: 9ea24b
File 170509473967.png - (10.26KB , 500x500 , p98.png )
1080862

The voices are willing to give Erogalf the benefit of the doubt. He will be gone for a while anyway and I will be able to recharge my mana.

Speaking of which, I curl up in the mud and wait patiently for the surrounding mana to flow into me. Since I am in a hole, specifically my birth hole, I feel like I should recover faster than if I were on the surface.

Still, it takes until mid-afternoon the next day before I have ripened to my previous size. I emerge from the well and return to camp.
>>
No. 1080863 ID: 9ea24b
File 170509475436.png - (11.36KB , 500x500 , p99.png )
1080863

Erogalf has left with one of the horses and everyone else is working on planting a garden in an empty lot near the house. I retrieve my lonely friend and armor from where they’ve been tucked into an alley across the street. I am sad that my rats have gone missing.

I still plan to retrieve metal scrap tonight. How should I help with the garden right now?
>>
No. 1080864 ID: a85e2a

>>1080863
Any produce we touch will need to be washed, but decomposition makes good fertilizer. We can provide them with some of our mud to test on some of the crops and see if it helps them grow.
>>
No. 1080894 ID: 5ebd37

>>1080864
Yes, section off a little patch to test your fertilizing capabilities in. Remember to have a control group to compare against.
>>
No. 1080937 ID: 9ea24b
File 170519164839.png - (16.53KB , 500x500 , p100.png )
1080937

I make myself known and offer to prepare the remaining piece of the lot with my mud, so that we can see if it makes a difference in crop productivity. Everyone agrees, though there are not many smiles. I think they are tired from the hard labor.

I break up the soil with ease, gobbling tufts of grass and weeds as I go so that I can maintain a constant supply of compost in my belly. While I move, I excrete mud freely. Once I’ve cleared my third of the plot, I divide it into neat rows and supervise as Telarin carefully drops seeds at regular intervals. I spit wet, rich mud over the little depressions and feel very accomplished. I finished faster by myself than all of the others combined!
>>
No. 1080938 ID: 9ea24b
File 170519165976.png - (16.47KB , 500x500 , p101.png )
1080938

As I lie against the shady side of the nearest house, I hear the soldiers approaching from up the street. Once they get closer, I hide my armor under my skin and listen as George intercepts them.

The black cat speaks first. “Hello, I’m glad to see you’ve gathered some livestock and crops. We’d like to learn what you’ve planted and collect a small share of food.”

“Cabbage, beans, parsnip, carrots, and onions. Do you see anything growing yet? We have barely enough for ourselves.” George says.

“We request to see your food stores so we can make our own judgment.”

“No.”

“Then we will be reporting this to officer Icher.”
>>
No. 1080944 ID: f2320a

>>1080938
>"no patience i see
>"i dont think we actually have any actual official foodstores all we have left currently is what the soldiers did not destroy, spill, steal or manage to spoil as we have had some sick people from recovered food or water so not surprisingly not enough not to starve until harvest if we dont need to start eating people"
>>
No. 1080946 ID: 71f26b

>>1080938
Offer to escort them to see the stores. We will ensure that food is distributed fairly.
Later, we can develop a plan for an official cache to show them and a hidden cache to start skimming off the top.
>>
No. 1080963 ID: 5ebd37

>>1080946
Pliny's affinity for mud and darkness should make setting up and accessing hidden caches easy.
For now speak up and tell the soldier that you will show them what you have, but remind them that if they take too much now it will ensure this venture's failure.
>>
No. 1080989 ID: 9ea24b
File 170526313076.png - (11.76KB , 500x500 , p102.png )
1080989

I hurry to join the conversation, which takes a minute of dedicated squirming from my resting place. By the time I arrive, George is shouting insults at the soldiers, who have their lips pulled back from their yellow teeth.

“I can show you what we’ve recovered from the city that your army destroyed, but as George said we will not have mature crops for some time.” I explain.

The black cat pointedly turns away from George. “Lead on, Pliny.”
>>
No. 1080990 ID: 9ea24b
File 170526314273.png - (12.91KB , 500x500 , p103.png )
1080990

I ask George to stay and work on the garden while Telarin comes to back me up. I show the soldiers our chickens, goats, and pantry, which they examine carefully. I plan to start stashing food in hidden caches in the future.

“If you take too much, we will not have enough to support future efforts to harvest food.” I warn them.

“Icher understands this. We’d like a few loaves of bread and a sack of cabbages. We also need our cart back.” the black cat replies.

Telarin has her face scrunched up in displeasure but she nods to me. I think she wants me to go along with this.
>>
No. 1080995 ID: ba08c9

>>1080990
She seems to feel this is acceptable. Go along with it.
>>
No. 1081035 ID: 5ebd37

After what George pulled its best not to argue. You should ask his friends to have a little talk with him about subterfuge.
>>
No. 1081083 ID: 9ea24b
File 170535324135.png - (16.73KB , 500x500 , p104.png )
1081083

I tell the cats that their request is acceptable and they seem surprised, even grateful. They thank me, load the food onto their cart, and leave. I sigh with relief and let those itchy plates out from under my surface.

I motion to Telarin to stay by the house for a moment to discuss George and his lack of subtlety.

“Have you spoken to him about how to interact with soldiers? Even after he kills these two we’ll likely have to deal with more, and if he insists on showing his true feelings we’ll look more suspicious.”

Telarin chews her lip. “It hasn’t even been two months since he lost everything. I’d rather he had outbursts towards his enemies than us.”
>>
No. 1081084 ID: 9ea24b
File 170535325304.png - (15.64KB , 500x500 , p105.png )
1081084

I am unfamiliar with how mortals express grief besides sobbing loudly and at length. “Maybe he should try crying more.” I suggest.

“Probably.” Telarin tugs at her enchantingly shiny necklace. “What’s the plan for when Icher comes to investigate? If it were me I’d make sure my minions have a magic communication channel, so it won’t be long before he finds out they’re dead.”
>>
No. 1081086 ID: ab1b2b

>>1081084
What do their know about Icher's mobility? From what we've seen, he moves a lot like cavalry, so making the streets muddy and obstructed by barricades could limit his huge mobility advantage. Have they seen if he has any other capabilities, like climbing?
>>
No. 1081099 ID: 5ebd37

What we need is plausible deniability, make their deaths look like an accident. No matter what, when Icher learns they are dead he will be suspicious, and they will be replaced with tougher, more on guard soldiers.
>>
No. 1081116 ID: eb0a9c

Icher's looking for a laugh. He doesn't care about his soldiers, he just wants you under his control.

Frame them for rape. Turn their corpses into artistic horror. He'll send you even more political officers so you can 'discover' they're war criminals and turn them into more art.
>>
No. 1081158 ID: 273c18

>>1081084
When he comes, lure him to a big corpse pile, which is where you will be, ready to turn it into a murder ball.
Make sure the corpses have weapons. Or things to tangle Icher in.
>>
No. 1081166 ID: df60a9

>>1081158
An excellent idea for the ambush point, yes.
>>
No. 1081213 ID: 9ea24b
File 170545354152.png - (11.17KB , 500x500 , p106.png )
1081213

I take a moment to listen to my internal advisors. Since I am unwilling to part with any of my hard fought supplies, I will plan to fight Icher when they come to punish me, but I can pretend to be complying up until the point of my attack to catch them by surprise.

“After George kills the soldiers I will say they had an accident.” I say slowly. “And then I will contort their bodies in a way that is sure to please Icher with its morbidity. Once I have gotten his attention I will show him a large pile of corpses as further amusement and then I will use my powers to manipulate the bodies and seize him and then all of us can work together to cut him into small pieces.”
>>
No. 1081214 ID: 9ea24b
File 170545355727.png - (11.45KB , 500x500 , p107.png )
1081214

Telarin fiddles with her necklace some more. “I think I understand. You’re seducing him to get his guard down.”

“I am distracting Icher with items I know are pleasing to them.”

“Well, however you say it, I think it’s a great plan. Icher will be alone and he’s confident enough in his speed to let himself get trapped. I’ll go back to the garden and let everyone know. In the meantime you might want to start collecting those bodies. Don’t put them too close to here though!” She smiles at me and walks away.

She has made a fair point, where should I start piling bodies?
>>
No. 1081222 ID: 5ebd37

You seem to be pretty good at digging, Pliny. What if you dug a small tunnel from your well to the nearby pile of corpses. When you show Icher the pile, slip into the well while he's distracted, and pop up among the corpses.
>>
No. 1081243 ID: a04d9f

>>1081222
Or as an avenue of retreat in case of emergencies.

>seduce him to let his guard down
In a spirity kind of way, I guess she's not wrong. Appeal to his morbid sadism and make him think he's found a kindred spirit.
Follow her advice and begin gathering the corpses somewhere with good vantage points for our archers and mages. If the soldiers ask what you're doing, tell them you're cleaning up.
>>
No. 1081262 ID: a7a180

Does the town have a church cemetery? You could dig shallow graves for them there and lay traps all over the yard for Icher to step into.
>>
No. 1081270 ID: 9ea24b
File 170554348518.png - (14.33KB , 500x500 , p108.png )
1081270

I make a mental map of the city and surrounding area. I have traveled the south side of Oliny extensively at this point, and have not noticed any churches or cemeteries, likely because the buildings or markers were burned away. Any religion that is not based on worship of spirits seems hardly worth my time anyway.

I will make my own special cemetery near my well! There may not be much highground since all of the surrounding buildings were destroyed, but there should be enough open space for George to use his bow.
>>
No. 1081271 ID: 9ea24b
File 170554349718.png - (16.05KB , 500x500 , p109.png )
1081271

I spend the rest of the day and night collecting the strongest looking corpses I can find. In my search I even locate the former Aelius, who is so charred I rely on his echo to identify him. I add him to my collection since I assume Icher would find the orc’s story entertaining.

Once the sunlight returns, I focus on digging potholes and tunnels leading from my well to hidden pits under the corpses. When I stop to check on my citizens with my hearing, I do not sense Erogalf.

I continue until I am sure that I have created the greatest rat habitat in the kingdom. I feel just as energized as when I started and wonder what I should do while I wait for Erogalf to return and George to kill the soldiers. I delayed collecting metal but am still planning to do that during my nights.
>>
No. 1081279 ID: a8a65a

>>1081271
There is no high ground right now, but we could work on reconstructing one of the buildings around the well square next. If the catfolk find it strange or suspicious, we can vainly claim that it will be a shrine to ourselves, overlooking our artwork. They'd probably share this strange revelation with Icher, which would make our later implications more believable.
>>
No. 1081338 ID: 9ea24b
File 170563661312.png - (8.97KB , 500x500 , p110.png )
1081338

I find some old mortar covered stones that may have been part of a church foundation in the surrounding wreckage and make a stack in George’s honor. This helps with the cemetery aesthetic which pleases me greatly. Despite the warm, bright sun I am very happy, and I find one of my freshly dug holes to make myself comfortable and listen in on the cats.

It seems like they spend most of their time sleeping, grooming themselves, or having simple meals. I am startled out of my peaceful state when I hear one of them moving their cart, which reminds me I need to fetch Telarin her bath today.

I sigh. I will need the cart if I want to get my chore done before dark and I am beginning to feel a little strange whenever I think about the cats. Almost as if I do not want George to kill them.
>>
No. 1081340 ID: 5ebd37

>feel a little strange whenever I think about the cats
That's how they get to you, don't forget they're part of an army that massacred your city, as well as who knows what other atrocities. They have the perfect opportunity to desert right now, if they don't its on them.
There should be enough wood around to construct a rough cart.
>>
No. 1081381 ID: fcd01e

>>1081338
That's probably the toxoplasmosis talking. Don't forget they hang Icher killing everyone over your citizens' heads as a threat to keep them obedient.
>>
No. 1081383 ID: 9ea24b
File 170570631317.png - (18.76KB , 500x500 , p111.png )
1081383

I am reminded that the cats are part of the army that massacred my city and are holding the threat of Icher over all of us. Doubtless they have innocent blood on their paws and could desert if they wanted to avoid the risk their positions pose. No, I should not feel any pity for them.

This leaves me unwilling to go to them to borrow their cart, and I make a very poor attempt at trying to construct my own. I have none of the skills needed to work wood, even at the instruction of several dead carpenters, which leaves me irritable.
>>
No. 1081384 ID: 9ea24b
File 170570633779.png - (10.16KB , 500x500 , p112.png )
1081384

Dusk is falling when I finally give up and begin my metal collecting. Telarin will survive without her bath for a day.

I dig through big dusty piles of ash to pick out cookware, coins, tools, and weapons. Rather than face my shame at camp I start a new metal pile in my cemetery.

I work through another night and morning when I hear a horse enter the edge of Pliny’s lands. I strain and catch the sounds of someone trying very hard to talk like a wise old wizard. Erogalf must be returning!
>>
No. 1081398 ID: a04d9f

>>1081384
The cookware can help us gather bathwater for her efficiently tonight. Be certain to apologize later, and tell her honestly that we did not want to rely on owing the catfolk favors.

Let us greet Erogalf's return.
>>
No. 1081399 ID: 273c18

Wait, you're missing a promise? DO NOT FORSAKE YOUR FOLLOWERS
>>
No. 1081425 ID: 5ebd37

>a very poor attempt at trying to construct my own
Looks like you'll be relying on others for crafting.
Meet Erogalf at the edge of town. See what he found and get his opinion on the corpse trap.
>>
No. 1081489 ID: 9ea24b
File 170579999939.png - (14.50KB , 500x500 , p113.png )
1081489

The voices scold me for forsaking my followers which riles me up again. It was only a day and missing a bath will improve Telarin’s smell. I suppose I’ll apologize and say I was busy building my trap for Icher, which is true. I still do not have a cart to haul water with.

I go to camp to greet Erogalf, since by the time I crawl there he’s already arrived. Everyone except Smit is gathered around him, though they back away when I approach.
>>
No. 1081490 ID: 9ea24b
File 170580000964.png - (10.83KB , 500x500 , p114.png )
1081490

The elf has removed his hat and fake beard, and has his left leg propped up on a stool showing a partially healed gash from ankle to knee. He looks tired and is nibbling a chunk of bread.

“What is your report, Erogalf?” I ask.

“Ran into a lot of merchants, travelers, and refugees, told them all that Pliny should be a safe haven or a good place to sell their wares. We’ll have more people arriving soon, which means I hope your plan to deal with Icher works. Telarin gave me the details, you’ll need to work on your seduction skills.”
>>
No. 1081498 ID: 273c18

Tell them about your cart problem.
>>
No. 1081503 ID: 5ebd37

>>1081498
Practice your seduction, observe your companions and how you would appeal to them. Use what you learn to convince Flint to make you a cart, with a little ring harness so you can easily pull it.
>>
No. 1081511 ID: df60a9

>>1081490
Compliment Erogalf on his wise counsel and experienced aura.
>>
No. 1081537 ID: eb0a9c

Practice enhancing knockers to catch Icher off-guard.
>>
No. 1081547 ID: 9ea24b
File 170587619323.png - (12.24KB , 500x500 , p115.png )
1081547

“Well done on your task Erogalf, rest and I will practice my techniques.” I look around for Flint so I can ask her to make a cart for me. Erogalf lets out a polite cough.

“I was wondering if you could help me heal this leg? By giving me some mana?”

“Oh, that makes sense.” I bow my head so that the elf can touch me with his hand. The subsequent loss isn’t enough to make me shrink, but I am beginning to dislike the sensation.
>>
No. 1081548 ID: 9ea24b
File 170587623784.png - (13.86KB , 500x500 , p116.png )
1081548

I focus my seductive gaze intently upon Flint while Erogalf hobbles into the house and the small crowd disperses. I peer into the very depths of her wants, desires, and dreams.

I try, at least. I do not gain any additional knowledge and Flint seems unnerved.

“Do you need something?”

“Yes Flint, I would like you to construct me a small cart similar to what the cat soldiers have. In return I will please you in the ways you like.”

Flint grimaces at my phrasing. “I do have a favor to ask for. Could you dig a new latrine for the house? And preferably not eat the existing waste?”

It has never occurred to me that I should not be eating mortal sewage, compacted decades of which adds flavor to the city streets. “Why not?”

“Because it’s disgusting, Pliny.”
>>
No. 1081550 ID: f2320a

Soldier boys do always need to return home or "home" to a woman
>>
No. 1081551 ID: f2320a

>>1081548
Flint you do know that all of the ground is that waste under your shoe someone dumped on the street literally all soil someone shit out once then it got mixed with sand and got eaten by worms and bugs a few times before plants start eating it
>>
No. 1081558 ID: 273c18

Tell them you are a worm, it is natural for you to eat waste. You are also aligned with rot for some reason so avoiding dirty things won't make you any cleaner. And yes they should try to avoid touching you or touching anything you have come into contact with recently.

I suspect your affiliation with rot is because of the city's current state. It's half-dead, full of corpses and wrecked houses. Once it's cleaned up and repaired a bit you will probably change.
>>
No. 1081581 ID: 5ebd37

Tell Flint you are born from the streets and bowels of this city, so naturally you one with the dirt. What did she think dirt was made of?
>>
No. 1081583 ID: 58dd24

I guess you could.. try... not doing it?
>>
No. 1081595 ID: eb0a9c

"I'm a worm spirit. We eat waste and spit out farmland, same way plants eat air toxins and spit out the type of air you put in your lungs to breathe.

Without any disgusting, there is no life."
>>
No. 1081618 ID: 9ea24b
File 170595738616.png - (15.34KB , 500x500 , p117.png )
1081618

I take a long time to think about this, long enough that Flint looks around as if she would like to walk away but won’t out of fear it would be rude.

“It is in my nature. It is important for decomposition and the creation of useful nutrients.” I finally say.

I do not think this part of me will change, even if the city is restored to its former glory. I was made out of the mud of a tainted well and that will always be true.
>>
No. 1081619 ID: 9ea24b
File 170595740209.png - (11.92KB , 500x500 , p118.png )
1081619

Flint sighs. “Okay, I understand. You can keep doing what you need to do but we’d appreciate it if you spent less time around camp due to the smell and danger of disease. There were rats crawling all over that corpse you spit out and George says the well rope was foul after you used it.”

I am taken aback. “How am I to fetch Telarin’s bath or protect everyone from attackers then?”

“I’ll have Tytus be responsible for Telarin’s water. You’ll still be in the city, like you were yesterday when you were working on your trap for Icher. How about you visit every morning like you did today to get updates or assign us tasks? That should be often enough to meet everyone’s needs.”

I understand Flint’s rationale, but I still feel displeased.
>>
No. 1081625 ID: eb0a9c

"Do not deny me. I am here to help in great quantities and I do not want to be written out of history for it."
>>
No. 1081656 ID: 81eaf0

>>1081619
The risk of disease is warranted. Decomposition is important, but mortals sequester their waste and compost for a reason.
>>
No. 1081662 ID: 273c18

Hmm, there are some things you can do about the issue. Before visiting camp you can cover yourself in fresh dirt. OH, or only visit camp by sticking your head out of the ground. They can put a lid over the tunnel you use. As for manipulating things without fouling them, all I can think of is to get some heavy gloves for a corpse to wear, and keep them clean by never touching them directly.
>>
No. 1081721 ID: 9ea24b
File 170605786752.png - (10.95KB , 500x500 , p119.png )
1081721

The voices agree that Flint’s reasons are fair. I feel self-conscious about my slime and scent and back away slightly.

“I do not want to be left out of anything important.” I say.

“You won’t be.”

“I can dig a tunnel into camp so that I can put my head out to speak. This way I will cause less of a disturbance.”

“That would be appreciated.”

“Would it be acceptable if I used gloves with my corpse friend when handling things?”

Flint frowns. “The gloves would get soiled in seconds. I think it’s best if you avoid touching anything that we use regularly.”
>>
No. 1081722 ID: 9ea24b
File 170605787835.png - (10.82KB , 500x500 , p120.png )
1081722

I nod sadly and go find the current latrine behind the house. I carefully take the lid off and dig a new hole that is much deeper on the other side of the yard. I even put stones at the bottom and use the excavated dirt to pack the old waste deep where it will not bother anyone.

Afterwards I slink over to Smit’s house to do the same, without anyone asking. While I am working I hear George approach, so I surface to see what he has to say.

“The army arrived at Jamuk. The cats will be dealt with tonight and I will deface their bodies if you’d like.”
>>
No. 1081736 ID: df60a9

>>1081722
If he feels up to it, making it a macabre display will convince Icher more that we share his morbid fascinations. We can probably arrange our ambush corpse pile to look more impressive and artistic as well. Bodies contorted in agony, in a terrible tableau of war.
>>
No. 1081744 ID: a7a180

Accidents do not usually deface bodies, so you shouldn't do that.
George, revenge is like... water from a well. You will never be able to take enough that it will satisfy you forever. So, be careful not to take too much at once.
>>
No. 1081749 ID: 864263

>>1081744
Deface makes it very much not a accident also what accident are going for? A idea is falling into a latrine that was newly made we can make them extremely deep
>>
No. 1081801 ID: 9ea24b
File 170615090358.png - (13.30KB , 500x500 , p121.png )
1081801

The plan was to have George kill the cats and then claim their deaths were an accident. The subsequent mutilation of the bodies was meant to get on Icher’s good side and hide any evidence of foul play.

That being said, I do not think I should further encourage George’s desire for revenge. I can take care of the corpses myself since the dead do not disturb me.

I tell George that I do not want his hands to get too dirty and he says he will leave the bodies at the cats’ shack.
>>
No. 1081803 ID: 9ea24b
File 170615093596.png - (9.21KB , 500x500 , p122.png )
1081803

After I finish Smit’s new toilet I stall in the yard practicing my seduction. An inner voice dropped a hint earlier that mortals enjoy prominent bosoms and I try to change my form to produce the same effect, with no luck.

I flop down in the shade of the house, despondent. At least the chickens seem fond of me and my ability to attract flies.

Eventually Smit appears, summoned by a call of nature. He spots me with his sharp eyes and approaches while staying upwind, I note sourly. I’m in half a mind to excuse myself to my well rather than hear what he has to say.
>>
No. 1081806 ID: 5ebd37

Grumble about how you're sorry that your smell is sooooo bad. As if the others smell so good themselves, hmph. Maybe Smit will have some advice on this problem.
>>
No. 1081866 ID: 9f51e2

>>1081803
Smit may have experience dealing with gangsters who aren't so different from Icher. Ask what approach he would take if trying to seduce someone with narcissistic and sadistic tendencies.
>>
No. 1081869 ID: 9ea24b
File 170623970539.png - (15.71KB , 500x500 , p123.png )
1081869

“Do you have any advice on how to make oneself smell like bland empty dust?” I grumble.

“No. Our reactions are bothering you then.” Smit says. He folds his arms and leans against the wall.

“Yes. I love you all very much and I want to be around you when you eat and talk and build. Flint would have me stay at my well forever.”

“It’s not just Flint. We all think you smell like shit and I don’t think that’s going to change.”

Smit’s words confirm my worst fears and I wail with frustration. “You did this to me! You threw that body into my well! Now nobody likes me and Icher will not be interested in my excuses and we will perish when he tires of my lies.”
>>
No. 1081870 ID: 9ea24b
File 170623972053.png - (13.72KB , 500x500 , p124.png )
1081870

I do the behavior where I wriggle around like I am in terrible agony, which does not get so much as a worried peep out of Smit. Thoroughly humiliated, I begin the slow journey out of the yard.

“Wait Pliny, I’m here to give you some advice about how to deal with thugs like Icher.”

I keep moving and Smit detaches from the wall to walk alongside me.

“I was never the pretty face in our operations, but I picked up enough from listening to my partner work. Older spirits are a lot like mortals, and most people love to hear themselves talk. Icher might be able to tell you’re lying about killing the soldiers, but if you ask it about itself, you’ll buy time.”

“Whatever. Even if I defeat Icher I will still be exiled from my citizens. I am going now, like you want.”

I sulk in my well. I feel loathsome and undesirable though I am still planning to defeat Icher and do as much as I can to stop the war. I suppose I need to think of a way to mutilate the cat corpses.
>>
No. 1081873 ID: df60a9

>>1081870
You are the spirit of Pliny. You are as Pliny shapes you. Maybe someday, Pliny will become a different kind of place. It is up to the citizens what it becomes.

Try to shape their bodies into a sculpture of Icher.
>>
No. 1081874 ID: 273c18

Remove their fur. Make them look red, like Icher.
>>
No. 1081879 ID: a7a180

You could burrow up and out of their chest cavity, or cut off their hands and mangle them to look like horses.
There is a solution to unavoidably smelling like shit: wear perfume! The worse it smells to you the more tolerable it smells to the people.
>>
No. 1081909 ID: 9ea24b
File 170630491054.png - (10.81KB , 500x500 , p125.png )
1081909

If Icher is as self-interested as Smit purports, he would be amused by an effigy. Yes, I will sit one cat on top of the other, with their flesh exposed, in the image of a horse and a rider.

I cannot stay mad for too long when I am in my well. I decide to be productive and dig that tunnel to the camp, as well as finish collecting scrap metal while I wait for morning when the bodies will be waiting for me. During my search I find and swallow a mostly intact knife, which I will use with the help of my lonely friend to skin the cats.
>>
No. 1081910 ID: 9ea24b
File 170630492512.png - (18.06KB , 500x500 , p126.png )
1081910

I ponder the use of perfume as I make my way to the east side of the city. Perhaps the incoming merchants will have scents strong enough to mask my natural stench and I will be welcomed back into society once more.

As George promised, I find the soldiers stiff and bloody on the ground next to their temporary home. They seem to have been shot with arrows, leaving noticeable puncture wounds.

I struggle with the skinning, but it goes much better than my attempt to build a cart. I finish with the black cat when I hear the sounds of approaching wagons. Should I go see the new arrivals or complete my project first?
>>
No. 1081915 ID: a7a180

Finish your work, I'm sure they'll leave the worm with a corpse hanging out of their mouth as they flay felines alone.
>>
No. 1081918 ID: dacc9f

>>1081910
Project first. We would not want to frighten away the new traders by revealing ourselves in this state.
>>
No. 1081941 ID: 5ebd37

They would likely be alarmed to see you covered in blood. Finish the task at hand first, then roll in some clean mud to hide the blood.
>>
No. 1081957 ID: 9ea24b
File 170639857404.png - (16.44KB , 500x500 , p127.png )
1081957

Apparently I am not presentable and should finish my project and clean up before I greet the mortals. I suppose that makes sense, much of the fur flying around has stuck to my slimy body and all matter of grease and blood is matted into it.

I set the first pelt aside and start on the next one. With my vast experience, I finish skinning the gray cat after only an hour! I am very proud of my improved dexterity and ability to handle my lonely friend.

I try to set up my effigy as I imagined it in my mind, but unless I am touching the corpses to keep their muscles in place, they do not stay upright.
>>
No. 1081958 ID: 9ea24b
File 170639858848.png - (14.38KB , 500x500 , p128.png )
1081958

The pelts smell good which means I should bury them. I sigh and dig a hole, rolling in the loose dirt to clean myself, then store the naked bodies in the little house. It looks like George took the soldiers’ horse and cart after he killed them, as a proper industrious citizen should.

By the time I retrace my path back to my well and take the new tunnel into camp, the fresh arrivals have dispersed to claim houses for themselves. From my vantage point I can see many animals and carts, and a short stout orc woman deep in conversation with Wulfa and Erogalf.

“You don’t have any legal basis for inhabiting these homes or leading the rebuild. What happens if the king sends a new lord who thinks you consort with demons and practice witchcraft?”
>>
No. 1081960 ID: a7a180

"Then he can take it up with me, his constituents. Hi, I'm the citizens of Pliny. You can call me Pliny."
>>
No. 1081965 ID: f2320a

>>1081960
" dont know why this is a saying 'there's more than one way to skin a cat' and i figured out two ways to skin a cat, Wulfa do we have anyone who knows how to treat a pelt?"
>>
No. 1081976 ID: e2bf78

>>1081958
"This king, I imagine, will be too busy fending off Icher's army to care much at the moment."
>>
No. 1081982 ID: 5ebd37

"Surely the king will find it easier to just demand taxes off us than to send someone to fight us."
>>
No. 1082015 ID: 9ea24b
File 170645918955.png - (16.05KB , 500x500 , p129.png )
1082015

I studiously memorize several cool one-liners as I wiggle myself free and approach the newcomer. Erogalf gives me a big smile when he sees me coming and Wulfa looks happy as well. I feel encouraged, not everyone wants me to stay away!

“The king can take it up with me, the spirit of Pliny. I expect he’ll be too busy fending off the invasion to concern himself with our rebuilding efforts until we are back at full strength.” I say.

The short woman has bulging biceps and is vaguely familiar, which means she must be the other wishmaker besides Smit. I wait patiently for her to stab me, but instead she walks around my body, observing my fine figure.
>>
No. 1082016 ID: 9ea24b
File 170645921334.png - (16.83KB , 500x500 , p130.png )
1082016

She turns to Erogalf. “You said it controls the dead and hears voices. It smells like rotten fish. I don’t see how you can convince everyone that it’s benevolent.”

“I have done nothing wrong! I am helping protect everyone and skinning soldiers and digging useful holes.” I say indignantly.

“Honey.” The orc snaps her fingers in front of my face. “I’m not saying you’re bad. I’m saying you’re going to be blamed for bad things. Doesn’t help that the Vishelt are actively using their own spirit for their slaughter.”

“We’ve asked Pliny to only visit once a day. She doesn’t have to interact with the others and we can pass along any requests for labor.” Wulfa says.
>>
No. 1082020 ID: a7a180

Well, what if you tried to make what we do sound cooler? Protector spirit of the town. Taking vengeance upon the invaders.
We'll just... keep out of sight of the lord I guess.
>>
No. 1082027 ID: df60a9

>>1082015
Your concern for the future of Pliny is heartwarming.

Our active intervention need not continue beyond the destruction of Icher; in truth, we would like very much to return to sleep and soak in the wishes of Pliny again.
>>
No. 1082031 ID: 273c18

>>1082016
Tell them you smell like this because you were born from a tainted well. Rot has become part of your body. You think you can control the dead because of how your citizens were dead when you were born.
>>
No. 1082041 ID: f2320a

>>1082020
we are also the collective spirits of the dead of the city
>>
No. 1082090 ID: 9ea24b
File 170654592962.png - (10.32KB , 500x500 , p131.png )
1082090

I cannot let my reputation sink with my new citizens or else I will not be able to buy perfume or claim authority to whoever the king sends eventually. I shudder with agitation.

“What is your name?” I ask the short orc.

“Call me Jor.”

“Jor.” I prostrate myself in front of her, which admittedly is my default state of being. “I can see you care for the city. Please understand that I am the protector of Pliny, the aftermath of a terrible invasion. I cannot help how I came to be or my powers, but I will try to be as unobtrusive as possible. I beg of you to spread these words.”

I wait for Jor to ask for gold or mana in exchange, but instead she gives me a long look and nods.
>>
No. 1082091 ID: 9ea24b
File 170654594228.png - (13.14KB , 500x500 , p132.png )
1082091

I am elated. “I am good. I am. Tell the people that I am good.”

“I heard you the first time.” she grunts. She walks away, leaving me with Erogalf and Wulfa.

“Flint made your cart.” the elf says to break the silence. “Also we noticed George slept in this morning. If you loan me some mana I can set up a warning system and let you know as soon as Icher is within five miles.”

I am starting to feel physically uncomfortable when giving mana to Erogalf. I do not want to be surprised by Icher but perhaps I should trust my own methods of detection.
>>
No. 1082101 ID: 58b8b1

Watch how he reacts to saying no. Is there any way you can corroborate his mana usage?
>>
No. 1082104 ID: f5b173

>>1082091
Are you feeling like resting in your well no longer rejuvenates you as much?
>>
No. 1082110 ID: 5ebd37

Tell Erogalf that you can't keep holding his hand, its time he learned to stand on his own two feet.
>>
No. 1082111 ID: 273c18

Ask if there's any spells to make you less stinky and disease-ridden.
>>
No. 1082166 ID: 9ea24b
File 170666519483.png - (7.62KB , 500x500 , p133.png )
1082166

Currently I am at full mental, physical, and magical capacity, the issue is that I do not like it when I give Erogalf mana. Liking and disliking things is still a fairly new concept to me, slightly separate from what is pleasing and displeasing. I also have no way of corroborating how much mana he actually needs for a spell. The only other magic user I know is Telarin, and I do not know whether she would assess Erogalf fairly.

I decide to test Erogalf’s reaction to my saying no, even though I cannot think of a method besides my enhanced hearing to detect Icher.

“Erogalf, I think it is better if you do not rely too much on my mana. Unless there is a spell for eliminating my scent or risk of disease perhaps we should halt this particular arrangement.”
>>
No. 1082167 ID: 9ea24b
File 170666520773.png - (12.39KB , 500x500 , p134.png )
1082167

His eyes narrow a little. I cannot see much else of his expression behind the fake beard.

“I mean, yeah that’s fine, since Telarin and George and Flint are still happy here, we’ll still stay. I thought you’d want to know when Icher is close since they could sneak in and pick us off while our guard is down. Also, if you want to be less of a health hazard you should bury that corpse you carry around.”
>>
No. 1082171 ID: f5be24

"The corpse wish was to have a friend before it fell down the well, and I became its friend. If i bury it, it will have to be with a new friend, another corpse"
>>
No. 1082172 ID: 5ebd37

Early warning does sound good, but it seems like every time we see Erogalf he wants more mana. Does our relationship have to be so transactional?
>>
No. 1082175 ID: df60a9

>>1082167
Humanoids call that a glare. He does seem to be holding back anger. I'd guess he's holding back because the others are still fond enough of us to be upset if he were to be verbally angry.

Ask him to speak in private, without the beard. Tell him that we wanted to see how he would respond, and that he seemed more angry than disappointed. Ask him why.
This is important, to see if he is merely controlling and power-hungry or if there's a deeper reason, something important to him that he can't accomplish without the extra mana.

Honestly, there's no reason to deny his detection plan if you can recover in time for the fight with Icher. This was just a matter of gauging Erogalf's motives.
>>
No. 1082198 ID: cb78f4

As long as I keep in inside it shouldn’t be a problem. I think the stink is more pervasive than that.
>>
No. 1082223 ID: 273c18

Have we considered bathing, yet? Honestly it doesn't make sense that you're getting smellier if it's just from your nature. The corpses have been rotting in that well long before you woke up, the decomposition process should be over and done with. Maybe you've been digging through sewage too much and need to wash it off.

That said, there's an angle we can use. With how stinky and disease-ridden you are, do you think you could pass for Pestilence? If you can make your "art" line up with that theme then maybe we can use that as a way to get Icher to lower his guard. Tell him you think you're a horseman too.
>>
No. 1082228 ID: 9ea24b
File 170674854288.png - (13.38KB , 500x500 , p135.png )
1082228

I am not getting smellier, I think that my people have merely grown tired of dealing with what they consider a highly unpleasant scent. Erogalf’s suggestion would help reduce my odor, but I am reluctant to part with my lonely friend, much less Smit’s partner. The thought displeases me because it goes against my nature.

I am also not a spirit of pestilence specifically, though I am told cities are often rife with disease. Icher found it humorous when his own soldiers were sick and I bet he would be similarly amused if I made any of my citizens ill. I do not know what a “horseman” is, Icher would have come from a hole that was near horses to have such a shape.
>>
No. 1082229 ID: 9ea24b
File 170674855839.png - (14.06KB , 500x500 , p136.png )
1082229

Wulfa has been standing here listening to us, and I ask her to excuse herself so I may talk to Erogalf in private. She seems happy to go.

“Erogalf, please remove your beard so I may see your face.”

The elf does what he’s told, removing his hat, sideburns, and shaking out his hair as well.

“Why must our relationship be so transactional?” I ask. “Why do you seem angry when I deny you one time?”

“You told me that I should have specific spell requests whenever I needed mana and knowing when Icher is near is pretty damn important.” he says bluntly.

“I thought elves were naturally gifted with mana, could you not use your own?”

“It doesn’t work like that. I need a spirit to accomplish anything important, they have access to the most mana but they can’t even use it. None of you realize how much of a waste it is.”
>>
No. 1082234 ID: df60a9

>>1082229
So he finds mortals' lack of mana frustrating, and feels like spirits are hoarding mana that could be put to use.

Ask more about what Erogalf hopes to accomplish. Tell him that extracting mana is unpleasant, like if he had to cut himself and bleed to cast spells. The experience is frightening, and we wanted to know if we could trust him.
>>
No. 1082242 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1082229

You wouldn't be here working with Erogalf if you didn't realize what a waste it is. He can do the things with your magic that you cannot do alone. You didn't realize setting up a warning system for Icher was important to Erogalf. You thought he was just trying to think of helpful things to do.

You're willing to undergo temporary discomfort to help him. You just want him to understand that it does hurt you to give up mana, and there are things you can do with your magic that he cannot. Such as make use of corpses, or become larger.
>>
No. 1082252 ID: 5ebd37

>>1082242
aye, and tell him your arraignment can continue, he just shouldn't have such a cheerful expression when he wants to wring you like a sponge.
It's seeming like people only barely tolerate you even though you're very helpful, and its disheartening.
>>
No. 1082258 ID: 8f9bc4

>>1082253

That's something called "imagination" where Pliny speculates on what it would have looked like if a red thing had crawled out of a hole next to horses. There are no actual horses, hole or Icher (yet).
>>
No. 1082260 ID: 273c18

>>1082258
Oh, you're right, I didn't properly read that last sentence because I was distracted by the Suspicious Background Detail.

>>1082229
Tell him that's not quite right, you have to use your mana to move corpses around. But you agree, what he's suggesting is important and if he can't do it himself then he can have some mana... but you need mana to fight Icher. There needs to be a careful balance here so you don't run out and lose.
>>
No. 1082261 ID: 273c18

Also by horseman I mean War is one of the four horsemen of the Apocalypse. Icher is also in the form of a man on a horse. A horseman. It's very on the nose.
The other three Horsemen are Pestilence, Famine, and Death. There may or may not be more, such as Chaos, Conquest, or Pollution.
>>
No. 1082265 ID: f2320a

>>1082229
Well we have access to mana in the same way non-spirits have acess to meat, blood, sweat and tears sure you can take enough to not kill but it still hurts..... its scary its like dying again
>>
No. 1082322 ID: 9ea24b
File 170690290681.png - (11.99KB , 500x500 , p137.png )
1082322

“I understand that I cannot cast spells, though I do have my own magical skills in reanimation. What were you hoping to accomplish with more mana?”

Erogalf scuffs the edge of his staff against the ground. “I could heal any injury or sickness, grow plenty of food, win every fight, I don’t know, anything useful you could imagine really.”

Those ideas all sound beneficial and I nod to show I approve.

“I do not like giving mana because of the resulting physical discomfort, but If you allow me to fully recover after each exchange I see no reason our deal cannot continue. I think this Icher alert system would be helpful.” I say.
>>
No. 1082323 ID: 9ea24b
File 170690291949.png - (17.71KB , 500x500 , p138.png )
1082323

Erogalf reaches for me immediately and I shrink away.

“Move slowly or you will frighten me. Imagine you are taking blood from a mortal.” I stammer. I still have no way of knowing how much mana Erogalf needs versus what he takes.

He obeys and slowly presses the tips of his fingers into my slime. I give him mana until I am lethargic, but not at risk of shrinking.

“I want my people to love me as I love them, but it seems as if they only tolerate me.” I say softly, once he’s done.

Erogalf shakes the goo off his hand and turns away. “It takes time to form emotional connections. Even then, you can’t force people to like you.”

Should I try to do more today or rest in my well?
>>
No. 1082328 ID: f2320a

>>1082323
"You scare me a bit how eager you are to eat me"
"But what if i am nothing beyond useful and then i am thrown away"
Also never use discomfort it trivalizes our own experiences hurts and painful is closer and does not make it seem light
>>
No. 1082333 ID: 7e0dd2

>>1082323
We should ensure we are in peak condition.
>>
No. 1082355 ID: 5ebd37

rest, make sure you're in peak condition for the fight.
>>
No. 1082419 ID: 9ea24b
File 170700874364.png - (15.66KB , 500x500 , p139.png )
1082419

I expect Icher will arrive within a day or two thanks to their great speed and go back to my well to recuperate for the upcoming fight.

While I rest, I do not think about much since most of my thoughts would be redundant. I do mentally chew on my new fear of Erogalf and his ravenous desires, which is confusing since I plan to continue working with him.
>>
No. 1082420 ID: 9ea24b
File 170700876330.png - (9.30KB , 500x500 , p140.png )
1082420

Speaking of Erogalf, I become aware that a fair amount of time has passed when a bright blue communication circle appears in the dank depths of the well. I feel back to normal, and the tiny, stone rimmed window to the sky is lit with stars.

“Icher is on the east side of Pliny. He’s listening.”

That is all the elf says. It is up to me now, except I’m not sure how to coordinate my approach. I know to hide my armor plates, but I need to lure Icher to my current location somehow and hope our eventual fight makes enough noise so that the adventurers know to come help. But wait, I left the cat corpses at their shack. Oh how am I to impress Icher with my effigy?
>>
No. 1082426 ID: 2f9996

>>1082420
Icher does not know we know that he's here. If we go to meet him, he will know we were spying for his arrival. We need to seem relaxed, even excited when he appears.

We should sneak to retrieve our effigy pieces and make it seem we are working on them somewhere near the corpse pile.
>>
No. 1082427 ID: eb0a9c

Work on melding yourself into various mortal shapes. Freak out when Icher catches you multiple-naked.
>>
No. 1082495 ID: 9ea24b
File 170709305053.png - (16.73KB , 500x500 , p141.png )
1082495

As explored previously, I cannot shapeshift besides some minor squashing and stretching. Icher should not know that we know they are here, unless they happened to be listening at the exact moment Erogalf contacted me. I decide this is unlikely.

In that case I exit my well and sneak toward the shack, moving as quietly as possible. Since I have a hard time hearing Icher’s light footsteps it is only fair they have trouble hearing me. I successfully retrieve the little bodies, which are stiff and bloated, and return to my well. Should I make noise to draw Icher here or wait for him to show himself?
>>
No. 1082619 ID: 9ea24b
File 170717443847.png - (10.96KB , 500x500 , p142.png )
1082619

The voices are quiet, leaving me to make my own choice. If I want to maintain the illusion that Icher’s visit is a surprise then I will move naturally and therefore make enough noise to be detected.

I put the cat corpses into position and then check on all of my hidden stashes of bodies to make sure I will have good access for the fight. There’s even a piercing squeak when I accidentally crush a rat.
>>
No. 1082621 ID: 9ea24b
File 170717447923.png - (17.05KB , 500x500 , p143.png )
1082621

The feeling of unease I experienced when Icher was stalking me in the army camp creeps up through the soil. It isn’t as strong this time, which makes me feel confident. I strain to hear his footsteps, and catch the clink of a greatsword blade tapping the hard dirt.

The spirit bursts into motion as they come into view amidst the burnt rubble, charging me. I dodge the initial obligatory impalement and manage to sneak my unarmored head under the next jab.

“You would betray me after only a week? How did my soldiers die?” Icher sneers.
>>
No. 1082636 ID: 15cb56

They tried to challenge us, so we put their skills to the test, and they failed.

A useless soldier is only good for raw materials. So we decided to carve them into a monument to your raw, stripped majesty. Do you like it?
>>
No. 1082638 ID: 5ebd37

They demanded more than their fair share of food, when we tried to reason with them they attacked and we defended ourselves.
Such undisciplined soldiers, since they couldn't follow your example in life I thought they might in death. Do they not now look the part?
>>
No. 1082687 ID: eb0a9c

"Is their death not the point of all this? You sent two feeble yet fecund messengers to a literal back-water village as 'messengers'. They were clearly sacrifices, appeasements to slake the bloodlust of my villagers."
>>
No. 1082699 ID: 9ea24b
File 170727071605.png - (13.43KB , 500x500 , p144.png )
1082699

I was originally planning to say the soldiers’ deaths were an accident, but the voices seem to be in favor of a more direct approach.

“They asked for too much food so my citizens killed them, sir. I collected them afterwards, look here.” I gesture at my monument. “Did you not expect them to die when you sent them here? Especially since you would know George has taken residence in Pliny.”

Icher grinds their gray teeth together. “I told you failure would result in punishment. This is failure. You will be punished.”
>>
No. 1082700 ID: 9ea24b
File 170727074146.png - (27.88KB , 500x500 , p145.png )
1082700

“Yes but–” I reach my free tail for the cat corpses and have them trot around in a circle. “Look at this! Look what I can do in mockery of the dead! Isn’t it amusing, sir?”

Icher watches me manipulate his soldier’s bodies in silence for several minutes. I make the slippery paws of the top cat swing a short sword, have the bottom cat rear up on its hind legs, and even make both cats salute. I run out of ideas eventually and let the bodies flop onto the ground again.

“That is very amusing.” Icher admits. “Meodin did mention you controlling a dead man in lieu of hands.”

His eyes narrow as he looks around my impromptu cemetery with its occasional protruding limbs. I need to distract him and loosen the sword before he becomes suspicious. What did Smit advise me to do again?
>>
No. 1082702 ID: c5c93c

>>1082700
Smit advised that the self-centered love to hear themselves talk.

"The decay you leave in your wake is most pleasing to we of the rot. We would love to hear of your manifestation, the violence from which you were born." Behave like a fawning sycophant.
>>
No. 1082703 ID: c5c93c

>>1082702
Oh, and the sirs. Don't forget the sirs.
>>
No. 1082708 ID: 5ebd37

You could have your lonely friend demonstrate wielding a sword(badly), then praise Icher's clearly much superior swordsplay. surreptitiously get closer to one of your secret tunnels.
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No. 1082717 ID: 273c18

Ask him how he came to lead the army in the first place. Was he born in their camp, like you were born in your city?

Oh and complain about how your citizens don't like you because you smell and spread filth, and there's no way you can think of to stop being that way.
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No. 1082814 ID: 9ea24b
File 170736128145.png - (20.69KB , 500x500 , p146.png )
1082814

I cannot spit up my lonely friend while I am impaled which means I must distract Icher with idle, self-centered chatter. I gesture to my well with my tail and they snap to track the motion.

“That is my hole, sir. I was born when the city was already destroyed and most had fled. How was such a powerful spirit like yourself born if the army is still intact?”

“Naive, young Pliny. I was created with intention, by my commander on Vishelt soil. After uniting the various nomadic tribes of the land he went to the great ogre shaman and learned a ritual to raise me from a battlefield. I rose from my bloodstained hole to a great swell of chanting.”

While Icher talks, I subtly wiggle my head to loosen the blade.

“Afterwards we burned the shaman in her home with her many fetishes of power, then scattered or recruited her apprentices.” he continues. “We began the conquest that would spread my influence over great swathes of land so that I could grow from a weak filly into my current form.”
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No. 1082815 ID: 9ea24b
File 170736129658.png - (22.23KB , 500x500 , p147.png )
1082815

“Do your soldiers like you, sir?” I ask, slight bitterness entering my tone. “My citizens think I smell and spread filth, after all I do for them.”

Icher chitters for several seconds. “How sad. I am regarded with great respect. I have my own regiment and I am invited to meetings on tactics and strategy.”

My list of reasons to hate Icher grows once more. I have worked the sword out of the ground though I am gripping it within my head flesh to keep it in place. I can dart for my holes and begin my attack or ask further questions.
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No. 1082817 ID: df60a9

>>1082815
Do you sense the others in position? If so, we may begin the attack.
If not, we should distract him further. We should ask what he intends to do when his conquest of the soil is complete. Will his power grow until he sprouts wings with which to conquer the sky?
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No. 1082818 ID: eb0a9c

Ask him how long spirits last. You wonder what will happen when there are no bodies left to stab and no bacteria left to infest.

Wait for your moment.
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No. 1082821 ID: 273c18

Ask if he has ever felt remorse for his actions.
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No. 1082831 ID: a7a180

Waste not your time on more questions, and strike while the dirt is, uh... cold.
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No. 1082841 ID: 5ebd37

Heave the sword as far as you can, preferably against something loud, and lets get this corpse pile rolling.
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No. 1082842 ID: f2320a

>>1082814
>"Oh are you a girl? If not the word is colt for a young male horse that then grows into a stallion"
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No. 1082945 ID: 9ea24b
File 170750905089.png - (17.57KB , 500x500 , p148.png )
1082945

Based on Icher’s word choice, it seems he may be a girl in the same way Telarin considers me to be one. The irrelevance of gender to spirits continues to inspire me. I do not think Icher feels any remorse for their actions, spirits do what is in their nature.

I decide not to ask about all that, but I do have other questions. I assume the adventurers are waiting for the fight to break out before they rush over so I do not need to stall for time.

“If the war gives you power what will happen to you when it ends?” I ask. I am a little concerned about what will happen to me when the city is fully rebuilt and I am consigned to stay in my well permanently.
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No. 1082946 ID: 9ea24b
File 170750907028.png - (12.56KB , 500x500 , p149.png )
1082946

Icher thinks about my question before speaking. “Conquered lands are never fully peaceful. Perhaps I will grow weaker as my affinity with this soil lessens, but I should not fade entirely.”

That sounds like a smart fancy word. “What is affinity?” I ask.

Icher laughs again. “Has your parasite wizard not told you? It is a measure of how much of the surrounding mana resonates with oneself. It applies to all things, but is a mortal term.”

They keep snickering. “Poor innocent Pliny. This punishment will grant you a small mercy.”

I roll to the side when Icher reaches for his sword, flinging it against the piles of stones as I dive into my well. How should I attack Icher?
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No. 1082948 ID: eb0a9c

Unleash the swarm of undead in waves to attack and distract him, then dart in and constrict a leg until you can rip it off.
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No. 1082964 ID: 273c18

Gather up a bunch of corpses, use them as a multitude of arms to grapple and wield whatever weapons you have available to deal damage. Hurl rocks if you have to. Basically, overwhelm the opponent with sheer mass and quantity of offense. You will be protected by your corpse shell so we don't have to worry about defense so much, and the corpses can carry you around so movement is taken care of as well.
If you can get that sword away from Icher then you have a huge advantage.

Be on your guard for any tricks Icher has up their sleeve. They should have some sort of special ability too.
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No. 1082993 ID: 5d63ad

I realize something. Icher has a dead corpse on it, and we have some control of the dead... can we maybe perhaps possibly conceivably take control the dead guy on its back and have it like, choke or punch it or something?
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No. 1082995 ID: 5ebd37

Send in bodies first, to pen him in. Let them wear him down, then pop out and constrict him. Your metal plates should keep you safe from any tricks.
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No. 1083004 ID: 28c488

Use the corpses as traps to ensnare and grapple him. If we can, drag him to the ground or pry away his sword. If he gets free, use our holes to keep him confused about where we are.
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No. 1083052 ID: 9ea24b
File 170759973681.png - (27.51KB , 500x500 , p150.png )
1083052

I hear Icher retrieve his sword as I get into position in the network of tunnels. I have to strain to extend my power through the lines of corpses for an all out attack, but it is worth it when Icher makes a startled bark followed by sounds of clashing metal.

The other downside of this method is that I cannot see what I am doing. I make sure Icher is buried under my waves of undead before I squirm through a tunnel up to the surface, spitting up my lonely friend and my short sword.

I am already feeling tired, but I cannot pause the offensive. I dive into the mass of bodies, sending the pile into a roil of twitching limbs. I find one of Icher’s legs and start hacking at it wildly.
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No. 1083053 ID: 9ea24b
File 170759976794.png - (21.64KB , 500x500 , p151.png )
1083053

By the time I cut through the limb, I have to expel my lonely friend and half of my treasure as I shrink. I am less able to influence the surrounding bodies as well, and I have to throw myself at Icher as he moves to right himself. The retaliating longsword strike clanks off my loose armor and we fall back into the mass, tearing at each other.

Icher does not display any new powers. He shrinks for the first time when I cut off another leg, wounds bursting into more delicate appendages as his mass recalibrates. I am healing perhaps a touch faster than he is, but we are both taking so much damage that it might as well be negligible.

I distantly hear the adventurers arrive and squawk when an arrow pierces my side. Icher and I are so intertwined that any attack will hit both of us. I could let go and trust the adventurers to handle things, or I could hold on to make sure Icher cannot escape while weakening alongside him.
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No. 1083058 ID: 5ebd37

Hold fast, Icher cannot be allowed to escape.
Trust your citizens to help you recover after.
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No. 1083067 ID: e51896

Keep holding. if you can grab hold of the corpse on Icher and control it in some way, do so too.
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No. 1083073 ID: 15765f

>>1083053
Focus on restraining Icher and exposing his body to the adventurers. Allow them to do the damage.
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No. 1083074 ID: a7a180

Hold that horse with a dead man's grip.
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No. 1083120 ID: 273c18

>>1083053
Hold fast. If you both shrink small enough then the adventurers can finish off Icher without your help. Try to conserve energy, and let your armor plates protect you.
>>
No. 1083121 ID: 273c18

Oh, and if you have to throw up the Secret Corpse, put it underground so you don't break that wish. Though, at this point, I doubt anyone will recognize it.
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No. 1083156 ID: 9ea24b
File 170768674252.png - (24.55KB , 500x500 , p152.png )
1083156

I am confident that my armor will give me the defensive edge, meaning that the sacrifice of holding on will be worth it to defeat Icher. I am able to make this decision with ease; I do not think spirits have a strong self-preservation instinct.

We continue to grapple as George shoots and Erogalf knocks us around with glowing magic projectiles. Eventually, Icher is forced to withdraw their rider-like growth into their body to conserve mass, dropping their sword in the process. I spit the last of my treasure and Smit’s partner to the side, hoping that the secret will go unnoticed in the large pile of bodies.

The attacks die down as I curl tight around Icher under my largest armor plate. He grips me loosely with pudgy baby fingers, silent.
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No. 1083157 ID: 9ea24b
File 170768675553.png - (15.87KB , 500x500 , p153.png )
1083157

I hear a thump and a clatter as George and his bow hit the ground. Footsteps. Flint lifts the armor plate with the blade of her ax and I peer out at her. She’s holding a little metal tin. Icher jolts beneath me.

What is this? I have moments to act before Flint reaches us. I will not let go of Icher, and with one last effort could force him against the exposed blade or trust in what Flint is planning to do.
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No. 1083159 ID: 19ca09

>>1083157
They have probably knocked George out so that Erogalf can capture Icher for research or mana. End him yourself if you must. This is for Pliny's vengeance!
>>
No. 1083165 ID: 5ebd37

>>1083159
This seems likely, do whatever you can to end Icher. If they wanted to change the plan they should have said so. Not your fault you don't know what they want you to do.
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No. 1083172 ID: f2320a

>>1083157
Swallow the hand
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No. 1083202 ID: a7a180

Force him against the blade. For Pliny!
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No. 1083229 ID: 9ea24b
File 170775852639.png - (24.32KB , 500x500 , p154.png )
1083229

If the adventurers spare Icher, then the spirit will have a chance to escape and wreak havoc in the future, not to mention they did not tell me about this aspect of the plan. I will end my hated foe myself!

I heave Icher into the sharp point at the top of Flint’s ax. The spirit melts against me into reddish soil without another word.

I immediately feel better and start to thicken as the ground’s mana flows up through the bodies and spilt mud into me. I have defended my city and proven myself the superior spirit.
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No. 1083230 ID: 9ea24b
File 170775855039.png - (15.03KB , 500x500 , p155.png )
1083230

Flint plucks me up with her callused fingers, turning me over and rubbing away the loose dirt. As a legendary war hero, I tolerate this remarkably well, especially since it interferes with my regeneration.

“Bring the light over.” she tells Erogalf. “I can’t find Icher.”

“I have defeated the enemy.” I say proudly, once the two elves are huddled over me. I will have to tell George once he wakes up.

Telarin and Erogalf look horrified. The wizard turns away and kicks a severed head, cursing, while Telarin sighs.

“Good job Pliny.” she says. “Let’s get you back in your well.”
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No. 1083232 ID: 69ab37

A well deserved rest, after a job well done.
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No. 1083244 ID: 8f9bc4

Be as proud and smug as the dog who helped hunt the ducks by scaring them all off into the sky.
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No. 1083245 ID: 8511a9

Maybe warn that as long as war still exist, a new spirit could be born to take Icher's place (if the spirits of seasons are anything to go by) and they should always be ready to protect their city, and youll be ready to help defend it if need be.
But yes, rest is what we need.
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No. 1083262 ID: 273c18

>>1083230
Heh. They didn't complain out loud. It really must have been something we wouldn't agree with.

Once you're back in your well and out of her hand, ask what they were going to do. Capture the tiny Icher and use them as a mana battery? That would have worked fine until someone stole the spirit from them, at which point it would become another disaster. Tell them you will still give Erogalf mana, whenever they stay here, so long as he's gentle.
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No. 1083271 ID: 91afc1

>>1083262
Let's not be too hasty in letting on that we knew they were planning something and acted to prevent it. Not while we're too weak to deal with an angry Erogalf if he decides to be a little bitch. But we should be certain to convene with George about what mysteriously happened to him when he wakes up.
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No. 1083281 ID: e51896

>>1083271
agreed
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No. 1083282 ID: eb0a9c

Tell them that it was a triumph to defeat a war-spirit as strong as Icher, and that nobody here could imprison them for more than about a week.
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No. 1083286 ID: 273c18

Honestly it's kindof amazing that Pliny is this strong. I guess city spirits must gain strength through the quantity and quality of offerings, and the well was full of them ready to feed a newborn spirit. Though, it's also possible that all the vengeful spirits of slain townsfolk helped empower her...
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No. 1083287 ID: 273c18

>>1083271
Well, okay it can wait.
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No. 1083288 ID: 273c18

It occurs to me that Pliny being very small has an advantage: she could control a corpse from within. Even a rat corpse. Maybe if we can get our hands on an elephant corpse or something, that would work as an easy vehicle at larger sizes.

Oh, we can use that to get both special corpses back into the well. Dig a tunnel up, sneak inside it and simply have it crawl/walk over and fall into the well.


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