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1083314 No. 1083314 ID: 9ea24b

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

Gore and violence warning. No onscreen sex. No chance based events.
Expand all images
No. 1083315 ID: 9ea24b
File 170787410699.png - (15.28KB , 500x500 , p1.png )

It has gotten oppressively hot. George says this is a normal summer in Geoun and the plants seem to like it at least. Apart from one loud thunderstorm, it has been sunny and dry. I am currently sheltering under the crops in the garden, weeding with dainty bites and watering by way of mud. Wulfa is working on the other side of the yard and I hear several people greet her as they walk by.

Two weeks have passed since I defeated Icher in a feat of cunning, preparation, and strength. I am still very proud of my accomplishment. After resting for a week in my well, I emerged to rebury the bodies and collect my treasure, before returning to regular visits with the mortals. Thanks to my victory, my citizens are more welcoming towards me.
No. 1083317 ID: 9ea24b
File 170787413456.png - (9.25KB , 500x500 , p2.png )

In the tremendous amount of time that has passed, I have identified three primary concerns:

First, from what Icher described, it is likely that the army will raise another war spirit. I have no way of knowing its abilities or attitude towards me.

Next, the adventurers sans George are hiding some dark plan from me, which involves a failed attempt to capture Icher and use him for mana. I suppose I was not captured because I willingly give mana to Erogalf. I have not confronted them about this yet.

Finally, I have noticed that despite the heavy influx of citizens, I am growing weaker. My current maximum size is such that I have to store my treasure in one of my well tunnels while carrying my two dead friends. This is quite troubling to me.
No. 1083318 ID: ba6ac9

If Pliny is beginning to thrive again, perhaps this is why you are weakening. You were born of its rot, of our vengeance. That vengeance is complete, and as Pliny sprouts new growth your source is stifled. I think this is something Icher was making fun of you for. This may simply be the natural course of a spirit's life.

Erogalf and Telarin initially reacted to Icher's demise with horror, before Erogalf's predictable anger. It may be that they are searching for power to prevent something terrible, or that they were hired by someone more frightening than Icher to capture him. If we are to speak to anyone, it is to ask Telarin why she seemed so afraid when we slew Icher.
No. 1083333 ID: 273c18

Yes, it is likely you are the spirit of a dead city, and thus as the city comes to life you lose affinity and power.

A new War spirit could be a problem, but Icher had a long time to gain strength. This new spirit will be weaker. So are you, of course...
No. 1083335 ID: eb0a9c

You run on misery, but that's a renewable resource. As long as you keep the town populated and efficient, it should passively generate enough strife to keep you fed.

For instance, you could set up a graveyard and make mourning for dead relatives mandatory on sundays.
No. 1083336 ID: a7a180

Have people been making wishes in the well? I know you like shinies, but I'm not sure they're actually necessary for your mana cap. Perhaps you could give people two coins and ask them to toss one back in the well, for luck.
Also, George may have more information on why they knocked him out. Does he have any suspicions what this plan might be?
Even if capturing Icher would have prevented raising another war spirit, it was your duty to avenge Pliny. There are plenty of battlefields such spirits can come from.
No. 1083349 ID: b3eab7

When it comes to raising other war spirits, they're bound to run out of shamans to betray eventually.
No. 1083350 ID: 273c18

Yeah honestly I'd be surprised if they can summon even one more.
No. 1083401 ID: 9ea24b
File 170795891955.png - (12.83KB , 500x500 , p3.png )

I do not like what the voices are telling me but I cannot deny their sense. Since I was born of destruction, the city’s recovery means that I am losing affinity with its soil. This was my goal, I admit, but without me there will be no one to protect the city if the army returns.

People have not been using my well to make wishes since it is surrounded by decomposing corpses. Perhaps they could worship me another way, it does sound like an appealing concept though I do not have confirmation that it would strengthen me.
No. 1083402 ID: 9ea24b
File 170795894807.png - (11.50KB , 500x500 , p4.png )

Also, with the war ongoing, the experienced mages in the army should be able to raise another powerful spirit using the method they learned from the ogre shaman, though I expect this new spirit will be weaker than Icher initially.

I wonder what George thinks of the other adventurers after his unfortunate accident. He has been very nice to me since I killed Icher. Telarin seems more approachable than Erogalf if I wish to ask about the suspicious metal box. Jor the short orc would be a good lead for organizing mass devotion.

Who should I speak to first?
No. 1083410 ID: 5ebd37

George would make for a nice everyman sort of opinion. Ask him what words come to mind when he thinks of you. A sort of free association.
No. 1083411 ID: df60a9

You do not have affinity with the growth of Pliny, but you do still have some affinity with the cesspool that is your well. That's why you're weakening from your empowered state, but still able to draw mana.

Are you familiar with the concepts of sewers and garbage dumps? With some infrastructure, the area around the well could intentionally be made a focal point of the urban rot that a growing settlement will inevitably produce. Like how Icher gorged himself on conquest and bloodshed. But we can find a less harmful way to feed your spiritual affinity, by taking in what the mortals do not want.

For now, however, we may need to resign ourselves to your current weakness. A village does not produce much of those things. Maybe George can dump the unwanted gibblets from his hunts into your territory to keep it supplied with rot?

Let's go see George about that and the other things. Tell him he has a lovely smile, and you are glad he can share it again.
No. 1083437 ID: a31fe6

The middle of town isn’t really a good place to start a dump, unless it’s Teufort.
Maybe you should focus on making sure there’s a good bunch of protectors to replace you. If George is feeling empty after getting his revenge, maybe this can be his purpose, finding and training the next bunch of spirit hunters.
No. 1083450 ID: 9ea24b
File 170805122455.png - (15.41KB , 500x500 , p5.png )

I extend my hearing to locate George, who is butchering a deer outside of the city walls. He’s whistling, and there seems to be a woman helping him work. I know he has been sleeping better since Icher’s death. Revenge agrees with him.

While I travel to George, I have time to think. There has been more fragrant waste than ever with the influx of mortals and livestock, which pleases me. I estimate the current total population is around one thousand, which is far too few to resist the army, even with all the weapons and armor I scrounged earlier.
No. 1083451 ID: 9ea24b
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I arrive to see the woman I heard before packing meat with salt while George wipes his brow and considers the remaining cuts.

“Hello George.” I say. “I have a few questions for you. What words come to mind when you think of me? Besides my smell and appearance, of course.”

George considers me. “Justice.”

I take this as a compliment. “I am sure you are aware that your fellow adventurers intended to keep Icher alive. Have you discussed this with them?”

George hefts his knife and brushes the flies off the carcass. “We spoke. I gathered that they hoped to use Icher to stop the war. Not what I wanted and they knew it, but there is no ill will between us.”
No. 1083452 ID: df60a9

Interesting. That could mean a lot of things.

If the army comes again, it may benefit us to prepare in advance shelters in the wilds from which to conduct guerilla tactics, stockpile emergency supplies, and conduct scouting runs to detect the army and avoid a sudden pillaging like last time.
Our tunnel making ability could assist in this. George's hunting knowledge and Smit's particular set of skills could help in those efforts as well.
No. 1083461 ID: 273c18

Unfortunate that they did not tell us.
No. 1083463 ID: eb0a9c

"Well, I'm all for capturing low-level spirits and swaying them to our cause, but Icher? Keeping him imprisoned was never going to end well."
No. 1083467 ID: 8f9bc4

You don't understand how capturing a spirit would help end the war, but Icher was going to hurt everyone, so your only regret is they hid their plan from you. You're pretty sure they would have clocked you upside the head too, if they hadn't needed you to weaken Icher. That is not something friends do.
No. 1083495 ID: 5ebd37

Its good that George isn't pursuing pursuing revenge so soon after achieving his first one.
So he's accomplished his goal, what does he plan to do now?
No. 1083539 ID: 9ea24b
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“They said that specifically? Did they give any details?” I ask. “If that were the case they should have told me.”

George shrugs. “Likely some dark magic involved. Telarin has always been quiet about her past.”

“Imprisoning Icher would have been risky as well.”

“Yes. If you spirits could feel pain properly I might have changed my mind.”
No. 1083540 ID: 9ea24b
File 170820686095.png - (21.72KB , 500x500 , p8.png )

I watch George work the knife under the dark red backstraps, cutting them away from the bone in long strips.

“What will you do now that you have your revenge?” I ask.

“Our deal was for me to stay in Pliny. The wheat will need to be harvested and replanted, homes rebuilt, rules established. Plenty of work.”

George brings the meat to the woman, who looks up from her jars and smiles.
No. 1083542 ID: fad9ab

Thank George. We should go speak to Jor next about the possibility of using waste disposal around your well to keep you healthy. She seemed pretty good at logistics.
No. 1083554 ID: a7a180

Of all the mortals we have met, George is the most like us.
Let's talk to Jor about group appreciation time, then.
No. 1083602 ID: 9ea24b
File 170830170311.png - (11.98KB , 500x500 , p9.png )

“Thank you for speaking with me George.” I say. “I like your smile. I love you.”

George makes a pained expression and stands with his filthy hand sticking out in front of him. “You’re–You’re a good spirit, Pliny.”

I do not want to overstay my welcome among the townspeople, so I retire for the day to arrange my treasure in an appealing pile.

The next day I emerge from my well and listen for Jor’s loud voice. By the time I squirm to her home, which she shares with several other orcs from her village, I find her midway through her morning exercises.
No. 1083603 ID: 9ea24b
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It is cooler in the morning, but Jor is shining with sweat. Her back muscles work as she does push-ups.

“Good day Jor, I would like to ask for your help and wisdom. Have you heard of the concept of religion?”

Jor starts doing a little hop clap every time she pushes up from the ground. I wait patiently for her to finish the rep. She pushes herself to her feet and claps her hands free of dust.

“Geoun is a monotheistic kingdom. Worshiping false idols is a crime.” she says bluntly.
No. 1083604 ID: eb0a9c

"Well, screw Geoun then."
No. 1083607 ID: 58dd24

Oh so what god do they have then?
No. 1083612 ID: 5ebd37

Hmm, well as long as we have faith without the fancy trappings of religion we should be fine then. right?
No. 1083615 ID: a7a180

You seem knowledge about religion. What does religion have to say about spirits?
No. 1083637 ID: df60a9

Interesting. That must be part of why she's worried about a spirit at the center of the town. On the one hand, Icher has created negative associations. On the other hand, anyone who doesn't like us could brand the town as heretics worshiping a local spirit.
No. 1083667 ID: 9ea24b
File 170836561068.png - (13.02KB , 500x500 , p11.png )

“Ah. What matter of being is legally worshiped, then?”

Jor crosses her arms. “God.”

“Does this God have any useful abilities?”

“He is all-loving, all-knowing, and all-powerful.”

I am more flabbergasted than when Telarin called me cute. “Such a creature exists?”

“That kind of question is how people get hanged.”
No. 1083669 ID: 9ea24b
File 170836562338.png - (15.13KB , 500x500 , p12.png )

I do not know how to compete with a being of such magnitude, but I am reassured by the fact that God is all-loving.

“God must be fond of spirits then.” I say.

“Official doctrine is that spirits are spawned by bad energy and the work of devils.” Jor replies. “For example, you arose when the city was invaded and burned.”

“But–but, you think I am good, don’t you? You know I am benevolent.”

Jor checks over her shoulder for anyone who might be listening. “Of course, Pliny. I’m just telling you how it is before you ask whatever you were going to ask me.”
No. 1083684 ID: 8f9bc4

You are turning the bad energy into good. Just like the city turned from invaded to rebuilding. That's what worms do, they turn the bad into good. That's why you are smaller now. If there's bad in the future, you can get bigger and more powerful to fight it. God would appreciate you if you ever met him. You're a good good maker!

More worryingly though, why hang people just because they don't know God exists yet? You should go meet God. Then you'll know he exists, and nobody will call you a bad spirit!
No. 1083690 ID: a7a180

I was formed with an urge to fulfill people's wishes. Wishes are good energy, aren't they?
This is an awkward request, but I need people's help to fulfill all their wishes. We're not quite sure how mana works, but maybe their spirit energy can be channeled into me by... not exactly worship? Lets call it 'appreciation'.
No. 1083711 ID: 273c18

I wonder if Pliny would gain strength if she visited another razed town? Or arrived in one before the army, to burrow underground and absorb the power released by the destruction? Pliny is a town spirit, but is she linked ONLY to this town, or is it ANY town?
No. 1083714 ID: df60a9

So we can put cults aside. It may be best if Pliny becomes a mysterious presence that lurks in the town dump and sewers, before you become publicly known.

And we should operate in secret for the good of your people that you love. Can Jor help arrange to make it seem like you've disappeared after the crisis?
No. 1083729 ID: 5ebd37

With Pliny's tunneling ability, they could become almost omnipresent. They could be the voice in the walls and the alleys, listening to secrets and offering help.
No. 1083825 ID: 9ea24b
File 170847534262.png - (13.98KB , 500x500 , p13.png )

I am rather discouraged. “Perhaps I will meet God and convince him to tell everyone the truth that spirits are good.”

Jor massages her thick brow in frustration. “Pliny, it’s not possible to meet God. At the risk of a mage listening in on our conversation and getting me executed later, it can’t even be proven whether there is or isn’t a God. Personally I think it’s bunk and an excuse to imprison or kill any who seem to threaten the authority of the king.”

“Oh.” It is a shock to learn that a kind God is real and then not real in rapid succession. “Well, I was going to ask you to help me gain power by organizing a religion that worships me.”

Jor gives me a calculating look. “I can help with that, but what happens when the lord arrives in a few days to take over Pliny?”
No. 1083828 ID: a7a180

Well make it into a secret cult.
No. 1083831 ID: 273c18

Hold up wait a minute, we don't need a cult. Remember the tradition before, where people threw stuff into the well and made wishes? People can still do that, except now someone is in the well and taking their stuff and trying to grant the wishes.
No. 1083860 ID: 5ebd37

yes, and the well is now a tunnel network, so "offerings" could be left for you anywhere in town.
No. 1083883 ID: eb0a9c

We should undermine the credibility of the authorities by showing how petty and spiteful they will get in trying to censor a simple ritual involving pennies and a well.
No. 1083889 ID: e2bf78

Just to be clear, while the army using Icher are very not the good guys, did they happen to be rebelling against this king?
No. 1083947 ID: 8f9bc4

Be ready for that. The lord will arrive with overwhelming military forces, to kill all the revolutionaries and hang all the dissenters. The fact that there are no revolutionaries or dissenters doesn't matter. Rich people immediately assume this to be the case, and always overreact in every disaster, stomping in and making everything worse with their paranoia and desperate greed. It happens every time.

Secret cult is def. the way to go, but be ready to get oppressed hard if you do. Make sure your allies know the storm is coming. The key is to appear completely subservient and innocuous to a royal completely losing his shit while accusing the rebuilders of panicking.
No. 1084033 ID: 9ea24b
File 170857100970.png - (10.42KB , 500x500 , p14.png )

“It will be a secret.” I say decisively. “I will dig tunnels connecting everyone’s yards so that they can drop me offerings. These can be minor, like small coins they would put in a well to make a wish.”

Now that I think about it, I could even give the townsfolk a little money from my stash to ease any financial burden. This makes me feel very generous and smart.

“I will be very polite to the lord. Unless he brings a retinue of highly trained soldiers he will pose no threat to me.” I add.

“Give me a moment to think.” Jor grunts.
No. 1084034 ID: 9ea24b
File 170857103173.png - (12.53KB , 500x500 , p15.png )

While Jor paces in a circle, I address a few questions from the voices. I doubt I draw mana from other ruined cities, though this raises the conundrum of what would happen if I left Pliny and its surrounding lands. The invading army is foreign and I have no reason to believe their campaign is religiously motivated.

“I’ll organize all this for you, but this time I want a favor in return.” Jor says.

I bob my head, well versed in matters of exchange.

“If for some reason I get arrested or imprisoned sometime in the future, I need you to do everything you can to get me out alive and intact. Sound good?”
No. 1084036 ID: 273c18

Uh, yeah, see, the reason why I said we don't need a cult is that doing favors in exchange for money is a business. This isn't a religion at all, there's no worship involved. It doesn't need to be secret.
No. 1084037 ID: 5ebd37

We will, of course, but it is a little suspicious you would ask for that, as if we would need to be specifically asked to help you out of jail.
To wit, if she's planning some crime, we would appreciate a little warning. As Erogalf found, leaving Pliny out of the loop can lead to a plan falling apart. And its rude.
No. 1084057 ID: 8f9bc4


Every religion is a business.
No. 1084062 ID: 273c18

First off, no. Second off, not every business is a religion.
No. 1084066 ID: eb0a9c

As initially-honest religions grow and become more organized, they also grow flaws that can be exploited by unscrupulous agents to form corruption, which can eventually reach levels similar to a sleazy business.

We're going to need to mix it up every generation to prevent the rot.
No. 1084135 ID: df60a9

"Of course I will. You are a citizen of Pliny, I love you."
No. 1084136 ID: ce8a39

Of course, we are asking you to do something which may get you unfairly imprisoned so it is only fair.
No. 1084228 ID: 9ea24b
File 170865626811.png - (9.35KB , 500x500 , p16.png )

I am making no promises to grant anyone’s wishes. The transfer of money is simply to help facilitate the flow of offerings, and once I am gone there will be no need for the practice to continue.

I do not think Jor is planning any crimes. Her request is based on the fear that she will be persecuted sometime in the future, which makes sense from what she has explained about religion.

“Of course I will do this.” I say. “You are a good and helpful citizen of Pliny and I do not want to lose you.”
No. 1084230 ID: 9ea24b
File 170865628018.png - (15.56KB , 500x500 , p17.png )

Jor looks away for a moment and only turns back after a few loud, wet snorts.

“Good.” she says. “If that’s all, I need to get back to my exercises.”

I move away as she begins to puff and contort herself. If I start work on the tunnel network, it will take me several days of continuous effort to finish. Should I focus on that project, speak to Telarin, or do something else entirely?
No. 1084237 ID: df60a9

Let's focus on the tunnels for now. They will make it easier to meet with people less obviously.
No. 1084246 ID: a7a180

Speak to Telarin before you lose yourself in your work.
No. 1084250 ID: 5ebd37

Tunnels. Are the rats enjoying all the underground infrastructure? Do they get in the way?
No. 1084308 ID: 9ea24b
File 170872439797.png - (10.46KB , 500x500 , p18.png )

I want to dig. I want to surround myself with the earth. I want to expand the rat habitat to even greater depths.

It is easy to choose something pleasing over the conflicting situation with Telarin. I survey all of the intact houses in Pliny and mentally mark out paths in my mind. Then, I start at my well and begin the methodical process of digging a wide tunnel down each street with smaller connecting tunnels branching out from the sides. Once I finish a lateral, I place a gold coin at the back doorstep of the house.
No. 1084309 ID: 9ea24b
File 170872442599.png - (7.73KB , 500x500 , p19.png )

While I work, I listen to the ambient noise of the town. Wulfa has been getting quite a few suitors, one of whom is from Jor’s party. She cries most nights, and so does Tytus. Erogalf and his wizard persona seem popular, especially when it comes to healing wounds and offering sage wisdom. I suppose he was the one who took the journey to spread word to the refugees, so it is not too surprising.

After two days, I hear a large caravan enter the outskirts of Pliny’s fields. This must be the Geoun lord. Should I go to greet him and make myself known or delay our meeting for as long as possible?
No. 1084310 ID: c4564a

Let us listen in first on his arrival, and see if we are already a known factor. If he's looking to assess us for the church, avoidance will not look good. But we don't want to seem too much like we're in charge if he's not looking for us yet.
No. 1084313 ID: 6a3b58

Lets eavesdrop on em
No. 1084314 ID: a7a180

There's no rush. Linger ominously beneath the fields.
No. 1084368 ID: 5ebd37

It may be best for the first meeting between you two to be more pirvate. A mediator would be good as well, since you have a hard time talking to people sometimes.
No. 1084510 ID: 9ea24b
File 170889236417.png - (9.90KB , 500x500 , p20.png )

I will listen in on this lord from my tunnels, as unbothered as can be. I have learned that I am perhaps not the best at first impressions, so better to get an idea of his character now and have a mediated conversation later.

I continue to dig, though I pause whenever I catch a juicy verbal morsel. The lord has a gruff voice which I learn to pick out from the near one hundred new mortals. A “spirit” is mentioned several times, though never with much detail. At one point the lord even hushes an advisor who tries to ask his opinion on me.
No. 1084511 ID: 9ea24b
File 170889237386.png - (11.81KB , 500x500 , p21.png )

Nothing of interest happens until I hear the caravan arrive at the city walls, where the familiar voices of Flint and Erogalf begin mixing with the lord. After some pleasantries they fall oddly silent.

I strain myself and pick up a repetitive scratching sound, and the clink of coins in a pouch. After maybe an hour, the caravan continues into town and its people get settled. Over the next day I hear the lord interacting with the adventurers fairly often. Perhaps he is living in their house? He asks questions about the upcoming harvest and what the adventurers know about the army.

I finish all of my tunnels and emerge by my well in the midafternoon light four days after beginning my project. Already I have received a few offerings, including a smooth stone and an egg, which are immensely pleasing.
No. 1084528 ID: df60a9

It sounds as though the lord and adventurers know each other. He may be the employer, or a contact for the employer, who wanted to capture Icher.

There's a lot of conclusions we could jump to about that. We should speak to Telarin about it before meeting the lord.
No. 1084537 ID: 5ebd37

Do the offerings work the way the wishing well objects did? Can you sense what the offerers want?
No. 1084606 ID: 9ea24b
File 170897606464.png - (7.85KB , 500x500 , p22.png )

I bring out the egg and stone from my stomach to hold in my mouth. I get a sense that the past owners, beyond basic desires for survival, wish for the war to end so that the army does not return.

I am overdue to give Erogalf mana, and I suppose I will take the opportunity to finally speak with Telarin about the metal box and the adventurers’ general secretive behavior. How should I phrase my questions to avoid offense or misunderstandings?
No. 1084608 ID: 7c55ad

very carefully
No. 1084727 ID: a02a72

"What was that metal box Flint had?"
"Why did you look frightened when I killed Icher?"
Don't overexplain or give too much information about your own thought process.
No. 1084743 ID: 5ebd37

Reiterate that if they expect you to be part of a plan, they should really tell you about it before hand.
No. 1084754 ID: 9ea24b
File 170908563122.png - (10.75KB , 500x500 , p23.png )

I will be polite but to the point, without making it seem like I suspect or resent them. Telarin has always been friendly, so I am hopeful.

I go to the adventurers’ house and sure enough there is a large, lordly wagon parked outside. After waiting around to see if anyone comes out of the house, I slither up to the door and knock with my snout.

Flint answers and I ask for her to fetch Telarin, who waits for me to back away before she emerges into the light.
No. 1084755 ID: 9ea24b
File 170908564422.png - (11.32KB , 500x500 , p24.png )

“I would like to ask you some questions about the night of Icher’s death.” I say. “Why did Flint have a metal box? Why were you upset when I declared my victory?”

“I am not mad.” I add, when Telarin presses her lips together. “I wish to be included on important plans, if it would aid the well-being of my citizens.”

“What if it didn’t? What would you do if you decided we were a threat to yourself and the city?” Telarin asks.
No. 1084756 ID: eb0a9c

"Hurt you. Because if you did risk the lives of the citizens for a paycheck, then I'm going to compound my anger for every day you don't tell me."
No. 1084763 ID: 273c18

Tell them they would be banished if they turned out to be a threat, and if they returned then you would have to fight them.
...do they think Icher didn't deserve to die? He was a spirit of War. Propagating war was his duty, his purpose. Any attempt at redemption would have been going against his very nature, and to defy the nature of spirits is to invite unknown disaster.
No. 1084768 ID: 01315c

"You would not ask me that question if you wanted to be a threat to myself or my citizens, Telarin. Are you in danger?"
No. 1084769 ID: 5ebd37

You would confront them and try to talk them out of it, but if it comes to it, the needs of the citizens come first.
No. 1084819 ID: 58dd24

in order: try to understand why they are doing things that are a threat, try to convince them to stop doing those things, try to convince them to leave. Violence is reserved for those who have already done harm and are going to do it again.
No. 1084852 ID: 9ea24b
File 170917459682.png - (10.07KB , 500x500 , p25.png )

My instinctual reaction would be to kill them, of course, but I am on my most careful and polite behavior and I do not say this out loud. This is a nuanced issue since the adventurers are tangentially what could be considered friends, and instead of sneaking into their home at night to pummel them to death, I will try to talk.

“If you intend to harm my citizens, I will end our deal and you will leave the city.” I say. “What plans could put such fear in you? I would prefer to help you rather than hurt you.”

There are other people on the street, and Telarin beckons me to the more secluded backyard before she speaks.

“The box was to trap Icher. If you weakened him, we thought we could seal him in a fetish.”
No. 1084853 ID: 9ea24b
File 170917463039.png - (13.37KB , 500x500 , p26.png )

This is more or less what I had imagined, which does not seem too bad. Telarin hesitates before continuing.

“Since the war is ongoing, this would make a very powerful fetish that maintains itself across a large geographical area.”

I nod.

“...which means we’d be unstoppable for as long as Icher had affinity to wherever we were.”
No. 1084854 ID: 273c18

Were they planning on letting the war continue in order to stay powerful? What would they do with that power?
No. 1084867 ID: 5ebd37

Unstoppable is a strong word, I mean, Icher was stoppable, so why wouldn't they be?

Power for its own sake is pointless. What were they planning to do with it? Or were they really not thinking that far ahead.
No. 1084870 ID: eb0a9c

Insist that stories about insane spirits being trapped in small boxes never end well. You'd rather start small than try to imprison someone who wants to murder everyone.
No. 1084940 ID: 9ea24b
File 170926017644.png - (9.43KB , 500x500 , p27.png )

I am skeptical of this “unstoppable” claim. Icher was defeated and he was not made of exceedingly smashable flesh. All mortals need to sleep eventually.

“What would this power be for? Would you try to stop the army at all?” I ask.

“I think without a spirit the army wouldn’t be able to conquer Geoun and the war would end. If Icher was still active they wouldn’t be able to summon a new one.” Telarin explains. “Power is useful for staying alive, in general. I’m not sure what capabilities we’d have, so it would be an ongoing process to decide what to do.”
No. 1084942 ID: 9ea24b
File 170926021283.png - (12.27KB , 500x500 , p28.png )

“If you are still committed to this plan, you should find a smaller spirit and not one as dangerous as Icher.” I say.

Telarin gives a nervous giggle. “That’s you, Pliny. You’re nice and understanding though, so we don’t need to keep you in a fetish. As long as we stay in Pliny, we can try again with the next war spirit when the army returns.”

She crosses her arms over her knees. “The scary thing is if this new spirit wants to work with the army mages, we’ll have a lot more trouble. Icher was fairly independent, and even humored us in battle a few times when he could have easily killed me or Erogalf. There’s a reason George is alive, you know.”
No. 1084943 ID: df60a9

>If Icher was still active they wouldn’t be able to summon a new one.
This would have been useful information, and potentially made his capture more palatable as a solution. Please share information such as this with us in the future.

Does this mean that so long as Pliny exists, no other spirit of the things that Pliny is a spirit of can exist?

>The scary thing is if this new spirit wants to work with the army mages, we’ll have a lot more trouble.
Yes, Icher was arrogant and not very intelligent. If the new spirit is smarter, we may need alternative ways to negotiate with or distract them.

What if we attempted to summon our own spirit of war, before they can? Icher shared with us some of the broad details.
No. 1085032 ID: 9ea24b
File 170934790794.png - (15.12KB , 500x500 , p29.png )

It sounds like there can’t be more than one spirit of the same type raised in the same area. Since I am already the spirit of Pliny, there will not be another born that embodies this city until I am gone. I suppose there could be different categories of spirits in the same place at once, which means we could possibly summon the new war spirit ourselves.

This would have been helpful to know earlier and I tell Telarin as much.

“Sorry. You’re right.” she sighs. “This isn’t exactly common knowledge. I guess we didn’t trust you enough at the beginning.”

“Can you help me summon the next war spirit before the army? Icher said there was chanting involved so I think we have the general idea.”

Telarin looks horrified and scolds me like a bad dog. “No Pliny! A lot of people would have to die, which ends their affinity with their surroundings, to free up the mana to make a spirit. We just have to wait and hope the army is weakened enough the next time they arrive.”
No. 1085049 ID: 5ebd37

Oh, I guess we didn't have the general idea.
Then there's nothing for it but to wait and see if they get a new spirit. Do we have any sort of intelligence on the army's activities?
No. 1085051 ID: 8f9bc4

Nooo you are a good dog! Please say it isn't true! You are a good dog! You are!
No. 1085054 ID: df60a9

If mass casualties are required, what if we were to hijack the army's next summoning ritual instead?
Is there a way to tell when they have succeeded in summoning their next spirit?
No. 1085056 ID: 273c18

Mass casualties... sounds like what happened when you were born, Pliny.
No. 1085092 ID: d59e9b

Did someone summon you?
No. 1085158 ID: 9ea24b
File 170943300351.png - (15.28KB , 500x500 , p30.png )

I am struck by a worrying thought. “Was I summoned then since I came from the death of many mortals?”

“No no, summoning a spirit is really just finding conditions where one could appear anyway. You know, natural disasters, changing seasons, fairy circles…Summoning just adds the participants' intent and affinity to the mix.”

Telarin seems to know a lot about spirits. “When will the army get a new spirit then? Do we have any way to know when they do?” I ask.

Telarin chews on the tip of her finger. “When Jamuk falls they’ll probably do it. Since Icher was killed the army’s been having a harder time with the siege, but from the communications we’ve been intercepting from the city mages, it’ll happen in a few days.”
No. 1085195 ID: 236926

If we were to use the siege first, we could hijack it, then? Or sabotage the summoning. A smaller infiltration is less risky, but wouldn't give us as much power to shape the spirit compared to the will of the army. Still, we could pour some suboptimal intents into it. Character flaws to fester like a cancer, or even guide it to take on the vengeance of Jamuk to increase the odds the spirit comes out hostile to the army.
No. 1085197 ID: eb0a9c

I think it's worth the risk, trying to subvert the spirit's creation. Too many people died to create Icher, and too many people suffered and died under Icher's command. If we convince the army that the ritual isn't a guaranteed equivalent exchange, they won't do it as often.
No. 1085282 ID: 9ea24b
File 170951273215.png - (10.35KB , 500x500 , p31.png )

Jamuk is not far, and I could ride in a wagon to travel faster than I could by myself. It would be feasible to go there on an undercover mission to sabotage the ritual!

I tell Telarin my idea and she drops her head on her knees.

“Do you not like it?” I ask.

“I mean, it has potential. You know George is setting down roots so I don’t think he’ll be interested. Flint will come if we pay her, and it would be best if either Erogalf or I stayed so there’s one experienced mage here. You’d need to leave tonight.”
No. 1085283 ID: 9ea24b
File 170951275617.png - (8.64KB , 500x500 , p32.png )

I do not like the idea of leaving my citizens or my well, but I am excited about this plan. I think it holds great promise. Should I take Erogalf or Telarin on the trip? Are there any other citizens I should bring?
No. 1085300 ID: eb0a9c

Start out by building some basic shacks on the outskirts of town, and have a portion of the volunteer militia act as outpost guards. If anything happens to the village, there will be enough cells left to start over.

Bring the entire adventuring party. We go big or go home.
No. 1085338 ID: df60a9

Take Telarin, and Smit if he's willing. She knows a lot of sus information about spirits and dark rituals, and Smit might know some things about smuggling and stealth that would help us get in and out clean.

George and Flint can be in charge of preparing hidden dugouts/survivalist bunkers like >>1085300 suggested in the surrounding wilderness, in case the village needs to evacuate and go guerilla for any reason.

Erogalf can be the resident mage while we're gone.
No. 1085343 ID: a7a180

Take Erogalf with you, he’s smart and cunning.
No. 1085451 ID: 9ea24b
File 170960845334.png - (12.02KB , 500x500 , p33.png )

“I want both you and Erogalf to come.” I tell Telarin.

“I guess it would be safer with both of us. We’ll take Flint for sure then. Anyone else you’re thinking of?”

I think for a moment. “Smit should be very stealthy given his background. He will be an important asset to the team.”

“His background as..?”

“Oh. Er. He fits into very small spaces! To make them clean and fresh because he is a nice fellow.”

Telarin gives me a skeptical look. “Like a chimney sweep?”

“Yes!” I am good at lying.
No. 1085452 ID: 9ea24b
File 170960846589.png - (17.44KB , 500x500 , p34.png )

Telarin stands up and dusts off her dress. “Okay, I tell Erogalf and Flint to get ready. You can talk to Smit and get some gold to pay Flint. Let’s meet in front of the house at supper.”

After Telarin ducks inside, I spot Tytus peeking over the fence between the neighboring houses. I assume he overheard our conversation and I squirm toward him until we are face to face.

“You leavin’?” he asks.

“Yes, Tytus.”

He chews his lip. He has had a haircut recently and is dressed in a clean shirt and little trousers.

“If you go you’ll take my dad away.” he mutters.
No. 1085453 ID: 5ebd37

"Your dad and I want the same thing, for you and everyone to be safe."
No. 1085456 ID: eb0a9c

"If I don't go, then the bad guys will create another Icher. I have to try and make the next spirit less... evil."
No. 1085460 ID: a7a180

Your dad will always be with you the same way he is with me - in spirit.
No. 1085528 ID: ddf04e

"An artist is never gone so long as their name is spoken."
No. 1085552 ID: 9ea24b
File 170969330461.png - (17.32KB , 500x500 , p35.png )

“You are correct, but this will help everyone stay safe by making Icher’s replacement less dangerous. Your father would want everyone to be safe, and remember, he is always with you in your heart.”

I thought that came out rather well and Tytus seemed to think so too, judging by his resigned frown instead of tears. The pain of losing Aelius is still fresh, but it is not like I am killing the orc again by leaving.

I refrain from asking Tytus if any paintings survived the fire, perhaps in some secret vault, so that Aelius’ art can help him live on. There may be a few works carried with the army, but I do not want to remind Tytus of this.
No. 1085553 ID: 9ea24b
File 170969331631.png - (10.17KB , 500x500 , p36.png )

“Who’s gonna protect us then? If the adventurers are leaving and you’re leaving there isn’t anyone strong left.” Tytus asks.

Again, Tytus is right. “We will return before the army decides to ransack Pliny, if we do not perish on our mission. Also I will tell George to arm the citizens from my scrap piles and prepare dugouts as emergency shelter.”

The boy ducks his head while keeping his hands on the edge of the fence.

“Would you like to play a game, Tytus?” I ask gently. “We can hit stones with sticks.”

“No. I hafta do my chores and you smell bad.”

I sigh. Very well, I suppose I better see Smit. What should I say to the goblin about the mission?
No. 1085629 ID: 97a0f9

Give it to him straight. We're pulling a *heist*. A *spirit heist*. We're going to steal their spirit. We need someone on the job with his particular set of skills.

He's a goblin with an angle of his own, of course. So we'll need to offer up something in return. It just so happens we're already preparing a secret underground network of tunnels. How would he feel about his very own *secret hideout*? Maybe even the beginnings of a Pliny-based thieves' guild, if he's feeling at all ambitious. Not all thieves' guilds out there have their very own friendly spirit in their corner, I'd bet.
No. 1085726 ID: 9ea24b
File 170986266912.png - (9.39KB , 500x500 , p37.png )

It takes some time to locate Smit, who moves quietly and doesn’t have many friends to make conversation with. Eventually I hear him breathing evenly and I realize he must be dozing right next door.

I have never really explored Smit’s motivations, so I am unsure what to offer him. Besides his now dead partner and a knowledge of spirit trivia, he is a mystery. Perhaps he would like to start some sort of Pliny thieves guild with its very own secret underground hideout. That sounds appealing!

Tytus is still watching me so I ask him to fetch Smit and move over the barrier to the other yard to wait.
No. 1085727 ID: 9ea24b
File 170986268490.png - (25.75KB , 500x500 , p38.png )

The goblin emerges from the back door shirtless and groggy. He shakes out his hood and puts it on before coming to stand in the shade with me.

“Thanks for the gold coin from a few days ago.” he says.

“Of course. It is to help ease the financial burden caused by making offerings.”

“You shouldn’t say–well I guess everyone already knows. Why did you want to talk?”

I explain my plan to perform a spirit heist in Jamuk, and why I want him to come, with many offerings of wealth and support to sweeten the deal.

Smit scratches his stubbly chin. “You think the adventurers would come back afterwards? I don’t want to get stuck out there.”
No. 1085731 ID: 5ebd37

I mean, unless they have some secret base out there, they might as well come back here after the mission. Plus if things don't work out with the new spirit, Erogalf will still want Pliny's mana.
No. 1085740 ID: 273c18

Yes, at the very least, Erogalf will want to come back.
No. 1085746 ID: a7a180

They will, Pliny is serving as a sort of base for them right now.
No. 1085747 ID: df60a9

We suspect Erogalf may have some dealings with the local lord. Whether that's good for us in the long run, who can say. Flint would escort us back for the right price. Telarin's true motives are still a mystery.
No. 1085933 ID: 9ea24b
File 171002492503.png - (18.35KB , 500x500 , p39.png )

“I would think they would like to return here. I won’t be able to give Erogalf mana anywhere else and a familiar bed with consistent food is valuable to Telarin.” I think about it some more. “To be extra sure I can pay Flint to make sure she takes us back.”

Smit nods. “I think we’ll be safe from attack with both magic users, so I’m not concerned about that. You’ve proven your ruthlessness and the army won’t have time to beat us here on our return trip. I assume we’ll discuss tactics when we get closer to Jamuk.”

“Yes, thank you Smit!” I say. I am pleased that he is joining the team.
No. 1085934 ID: 9ea24b
File 171002494168.png - (13.05KB , 500x500 , p40.png )

I go to my well to get a mouthful of treasure. After paying Flint the first time, giving a gold coin to every house in town, and now this second payment to Flint, my stash is fairly depleted. It doesn’t exactly bother me to have less when I know my funds are going to good use, but it would please me to get more treasure soon.

When I return to the adventurers’ neighborhood via my tunnel, I see the lord for the first time, supervising outside the house while servants move furniture and chests around. He is either a short human or a tall dwarf, with a short dark beard and many succulent rings on his fingers. Should I speak to him?
No. 1085946 ID: 4e34e1

It would be good to take a measure of him before we leave him unattended.

Undersell your intelligence when interacting with him, and offer him the same fawning attitude you would give to true citizens of Pliny. He will underestimate you, and see you as less of a threat.
No. 1085963 ID: 5ebd37

make sure to maintain a respectful distance, cause of the smell. And so you aren't tempted by those rings.
No. 1086057 ID: 9ea24b
File 171010974423.png - (11.76KB , 500x500 , p41.png )

If the lord is living with the adventurers, he cannot think I am inherently evil. Well, perhaps he still does but is smart enough to take advantage of the many benefits I bring to the city.

I move into the road, but stay a polite distance away to allow any odors to disperse.

“Greeting, Lord of Pliny.” I say, to announce my presence. I keep myself low to the ground and bow my head in deference.

The servants look to the lord for orders, and he raises his hand to put them at ease.
No. 1086058 ID: 9ea24b
File 171010976818.png - (13.43KB , 500x500 , p42.png )

“So you have shown yourself, beast. I have heard tales of your nature, and I trust you to mind your business and leave the matters of statehood and governance to me.” he says.

The voices advise me to underplay my intelligence. “Of course, my lord. I am naive to the ways of mortals and I will keep to what I know, which is primarily matters of dirt and protecting my citizens.”

“Stick to the dirt. You lack foresight and knowledge of how your actions affect the greater kingdom.”
No. 1086059 ID: eb0a9c

"Okay. Just don't lack knowledge of me. I can do powerful things - mostly field enrichment to grow better crops - but I need complex rituals and sacrifices. I'll give you a menu later."
Sell your services and ignore this fop otherwise.
No. 1086060 ID: bd7abf

Let's not mention any cult rituals or sacrifices to him.

Simply agree.
No. 1086063 ID: 7c55ad

You will.

ask if there is anything he needs of you right now.
No. 1086090 ID: 5ebd37

Hah, what a rube. Assure him that you will keep to your own affairs.
No. 1086148 ID: dba62b

"As you say. Please keep the citizens of Pliny well and safe, my lord."
No. 1086174 ID: 9ea24b
File 171021018068.png - (18.75KB , 500x500 , p43.png )

I bow my head even lower so that my mouth brushes the ground. “As you wish, my lord. Is there anything you need from me?”

“Only your continued obedience.”

I hold my bow and retreat to my tunnel in the alley so that I can take it to the backyard instead of making a scene by moving amongst the wagons and servants. From my first impression the lord seems shrewd, if ignorant to my true influence. He hid his fear well.
No. 1086175 ID: 9ea24b
File 171021019411.png - (14.11KB , 500x500 , p44.png )

I knock on the back door of the house and Flint answers. I lay the valuables at her feet.

“That’s a lot.” she says.

“Yes, it is payment for the mission and for a return trip.”

Flint goes into the house to fetch a pan of water, which she uses to rinse the money in the doorway before gathering it in a leather pouch. Ever the professional, she does not initiate a conversation.

I watch her, placid. Is there anything I should do before we ready the wagon to depart? I am currently carrying both corpses.
No. 1086207 ID: 58dd24

I think you're good to go buddy
No. 1086255 ID: df60a9

Bring a sheathed sword, concealed within you. Potentially Icher's, if you still have it.
Leave Smit's former partner here, well-hidden somewhere buried alongside the tunnels. You may need to move lighter, or store something else large later. We can keep our lonely friend along in case we need hands.
No. 1086358 ID: 9ea24b
File 171037459181.png - (12.93KB , 500x500 , p45.png )

Since I expect to shrink or pick up something useful at some point on my mission, I go back to my well to deposit Smit’s dead partner. For a weapon, I retrieve my trusty, rusty shortsword. Once I return to the adventurers’ house, the wagon is loaded up and Flint is sitting at the reins.

“We’re heading due west, and we’ll stop to camp when night falls, so how about you travel on your own to start. It’ll make things more pleasant for us and the wagon will be lighter.” Flint tells me.

This makes sense and I agree. The wagon peels away from the house and slowly gets further and further along the road until it is out of sight. I listen to the wooden wheels clattering against the packed earth as I slowly move west.
No. 1086359 ID: 9ea24b
File 171037461073.png - (14.21KB , 500x500 , p46.png )

It is wretchedly hot and the tall fields of grain do not provide much shade as I push the stalks aside. I leave a trail of wet mud as I go.

A feeling of unease begins after I cross the edge of what I consider to be the boundary of Pliny’s lands. I am displeased to be away from my well and the ground here does not feel kind. At least the sun is setting.

Once night falls, I realize I cannot hear the wagon anymore. I can hardly hear anything except what’s in my close proximity! This is frightening, am I losing my powers?
No. 1086365 ID: 5ebd37

Well it is night, is there much to hear? Your powers are probably just reduced a bit from leaving your home.
No. 1086414 ID: 9ea24b
File 171046397351.png - (12.01KB , 500x500 , p47.png )

The voices reassure me that my powers have likely just been reduced from leaving home. I can still control my lonely friend and I am as dextrous and strong as usual, but this does not reassure me much. I will not find the adventurers if I cannot hear them! Back in Pliny I could easily trace the sound of the wagon, voices, or even the crackle of the fire if they stopped to make camp.

I maintain my path forward, but even after several hours do not spot the camp. The displeasure is too much to bear and I decide to turn around. After a while, a blue communication circle appears by my face.
No. 1086415 ID: 9ea24b
File 171046398383.png - (17.88KB , 500x500 , p48.png )

“Hey Pliny, it’s Erogalf. I’m on third watch and don’t see you anywhere, did you get lost?”

“Yes! Oh it is terrible here, please guide me to camp.”

A little light appears and leads me to the road, which I had utterly missed. I have to squirm a good distance on the rocky surface before I spot the wagon parked in the grass.

I hurry to meet Erogalf, who yawns and leans on his staff once I come into range of the small fire. He holds out his hand.

“Mana please, that took forever.”
No. 1086417 ID: 58dd24

please be gentle, you may not recover as well outside your town.
No. 1086419 ID: 5ebd37

Nuzzle up to his hand. "Its scary out here, I can't hear anything."
No. 1086420 ID: df60a9

We will need some way to recover mana over the course of this journey...
From Telarin and Erogalf's description, your mana recovery involves affinity to the area. You are naturally well-attuned to Pliny, but your fading power there and Icher's situation suggest that the location alone is not everything, it is how well a location aligns to your nature.

Your affinity appears to be for death, rot, urban decay, and treasure? Not much of the latter two out here. You should rest alongside the carcasses of any kills the adventurers make for food, and any latrines they dig - even if they think it's awkward. If Erogalf wants his mana during this task, you will need to find a way to recover as well.
No. 1086479 ID: 9ea24b
File 171053043858.png - (9.47KB , 500x500 , p49.png )

I stay where I am. “How can I replenish my mana back if I give some to you? I do not think I will recover very well outside of Pliny.”

Erogalf tucks his hand back into his sleeve. “Short answer is you can’t. You don’t have affinity for this area and we’re not sticking around for long enough for anyone to build some.”

That is concerning. “Perhaps if you pointed me to the camp latrine?”

“No Pliny, that’s a negligible amount of mana.”

I feel better being near the wagon and my citizens, but now I am worried about my mana usage. The mages will need my mana to help cast spells if we are attacked, which will cause me to shrink and be less effective in battle. A benefit of shrinking now would be I can more easily ride in the wagon.

Should I give Erogalf mana now or tell him to wait for a time of greater need?
No. 1086481 ID: df60a9

>Better around wagon
So it is possible to create mobile sources of affinity. If we'd known that, maybe we could have brought a supply of Pliny dirt.

Share some now, to keep him content, but ask him to be frugal. We will need a supply for infiltrating the city itself.
No. 1086482 ID: a7a180

Share now and tell him to spend wisely, it won't burn off just because he has it and you will fit better in the wagon as mentioned.
No. 1086504 ID: 5ebd37

Let him take a bit, but keep a steady eye on your mana levels.

If you end up small enough they could hide you in a barrel! That would probably be comfier for you, and less smelly for them.
No. 1086508 ID: df60a9

Not a bad idea.

If we're lucky, Pliny will also have an affinity to the ruins of whatever settlements we pass through that the army has destroyed.
No. 1086511 ID: f2320a

Ergalf if you want mana, any amount collected counts.... its also scary i dont want to die withering into nothing
No. 1086530 ID: 9ea24b
File 171061539421.png - (11.83KB , 500x500 , p50.png )

“You must use my mana sensibly.” I tell Erogalf.

“When have I ever not?”

I approach Erogalf and nuzzle up into his palm. The elf pulls his hand back and looks surprised.

“What was that?” he asks.

“I am…expressing affection? I was worried that I would have to abandon the mission if I could not find you since I lost my hearing powers.”
No. 1086531 ID: 9ea24b
File 171061540723.png - (14.07KB , 500x500 , p51.png )

Erogalf takes enough mana that I shrink by a stage, though this has the benefit that I do not feel groggy. I can still carry my lonely friend and my sword. The wizard’s eyes flash briefly and he does a full circle to scan the perimeter of the camp.

“I thought the refugees we passed earlier might follow us, and it looks like a group of them did. They’re desperate and starving, and they’ll probably attack when Smit goes on watch next.” he explains.

I lift my head and look around, but do not see anyone in the tall grass. “What should we do?”

“I think we should keep all of our supplies, though we do have a little to spare. I could scatter them with some noise and light spells, or you can wait for Smit to take care of them. They’re mostly kobolds, if that matters.”
No. 1086536 ID: 273c18

Ask him if we could pay them off. They could take that money into town and buy food, couldn't they?
No. 1086540 ID: 5ebd37

Save your mana, Pliny can just talk to them. They won't be able to significantly harm a spirit. Tell them that you don't have much food, but you know where they could find more, and direct them to town.
No. 1086575 ID: c11ca3

I agree. They can be sent to Pliny and told it is safe there and welcoming those displaced by the army.
We do not know how many there are. If things go poorly we can dispatch them easily, but our damage will not heal as smoothly away from home. We should get the others up instead of confronting them alone.
No. 1086604 ID: 9ea24b
File 171070705310.png - (14.90KB , 500x500 , p52.png )

“I will go speak with them. If I give them some coins they will be able to buy food in Pliny.” I say.


“Since I am not carrying my treasure with me, I would like to ask for some money.” I stare at Erogalf expectantly until he sighs and starts counting out little silver coins from a leather pouch.

I take the coins in my mouth and go toward where Erogalf indicates the kobolds are hiding. I move slowly and silently, and do not notice the refugees until I brush against one and she gasps.
No. 1086605 ID: 9ea24b
File 171070706444.png - (21.01KB , 500x500 , p53.png )

I have seen some thin mortals before, but this kobold is particularly skeletal. She’s holding two of her children to her chest where they dangle limply, large eyes visible through thin layers of skin. Their rags smell good, which I understand is bad for their well-being.

Her gasp triggers a ripple of movement in the grass, and I feel the sting of several wounds as the kobolds scramble to stab what may be a potential meal.

“Ow! Stop that, I have brought money for you. Take it and follow the road east to Pliny.”

The improvised weapons are replaced with outstretched hands and a rush to crowd around me once I repeat my message a few times. I try to dispense the coins fairly but people are getting squeezed and shoved around.
No. 1086606 ID: ae56a9

Tell them to seek Jor when they arrive in Pliny. She will see that they are helped, and given a place in the community if they would like one.
If I remember right, kobolds reproduce quickly and like holes, which would make for an excellent following for you.
No. 1086607 ID: 273c18

Don't forget to warn them that you are diseased and they will need to wash whatever they touch you with. Also, the coins.
No. 1086623 ID: 5ebd37

Do kobolds eat rats? Let them know there are plenty of rats to hunt in town.
No. 1086668 ID: 9ea24b
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“When you arrive in Pliny, ask for Jor the orc. She will find a place for you. Also try to wash yourselves after touching those coins, I do not want you to become diseased.” I instruct them.

Disease is likely the least of these kobolds’ concerns, I am sure they will feast upon Pliny’s many rats at the first opportunity. Yes, now that I think about it, I do not think the lord will be pleased about this.

I fall silent as I ponder, which makes the kobolds press against me. The mother from earlier begs me for food and says her hatchlings won’t make it through the night without some nourishment.
No. 1086669 ID: eb0a9c

"We are going to do something important. Our rations are going to be a matter of life and death. Swear to me that you will work a month without pay for every day's worth of rations that you take from me today."
No. 1086673 ID: 8f9bc4

She just asked a spirit of rot to give her food. Those hatchlings are so doomed.

You did make sure the skinniest ones got money first, didn't you? It's not like you offered her money, and then gave it to all the grabby paws that descended upon you, pushing her out of the way, right?
No. 1086682 ID: f2320a

Do not overfeed a starving baby no matter how hungry they are as they will die from the shock.
Also hope you did not just scatter the coins to random gruppy hands instead of the most needy
No. 1086697 ID: 273c18

Tell her you cannot carry food without tainting it. If she needs food that badly she will have to follow you, alone, to meet the others you're traveling with and beg them for scraps... or dig for worms right here and now. If she does not fear your sickness and rot, you could help dig for worms and grubs?

Warn the group that the adventurers you're traveling with do not want to give up their provisions and will kill to protect themselves... and you will fight to protect the adventurers, as the kobolds are not your citizens yet. They have been fairly warned and given an opportunity to survive in your town. Urge them not to squander it by turning to suicidal banditry.
No. 1086700 ID: 5ebd37

Can you tell with your diminished senses if there is anything to dig up nearby?
Express your regret that your nature is to nourish plants, not people.
No. 1086701 ID: c295a0

I am sure the adventurers can spare a small amount of food to get the newborns through the night.
No. 1086792 ID: 9ea24b
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I finish distributing the coins. I could not tell who was in more dire need or control the mob, it seems like all of these kobolds are on the brink of starvation anyway. I privately grumble about the voice criticizing me on my technique. I do not like being wrong.

Money is not food, and even if the mother got a coin she cannot use it to buy anything unless she walks all the way to Pliny, which will take too long for her hatchlings. Were I fresh out of my well I may have considered them not worth saving.

I edge towards the camp in the hopes of asking Erogalf to spare a bit of food, and all of the kobolds immediately push towards me.
No. 1086793 ID: 9ea24b
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This will not do, the adventurers would never forgive me for bringing the horde upon them. I must think of an alternate food source.

One of the voices suggests digging for insects. This is a good idea! I can easily till the soil to expose worms and grubs to the kobolds. Were they to dig themselves, the effort would not be worth the calories gained.

I tell the kobolds to stand back while I dig through the tough surface layer of roots. There is enough starlight that the kobolds are able to comb through the soil with their hands and gather bits of nourishment.

They begin to disperse in the early morning, and I sneak back to the wagon where the adventurers are having breakfast. I will ride in the wagon and our party will arrive at Jamuk later this afternoon. The city is currently under siege. What is our approach plan?
No. 1086798 ID: b8c31c

We will need to get a good vantage point on the siege, to find an avenue of entry.
One option is to ambush a patrol and steal their uniforms?
No. 1086839 ID: 9ea24b
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I am instructed to lay myself across the tongue and doubletree of the wagon while Flint perches on the jockey box. I can see and speak to Smit, Telarin, and Erogalf, who occasionally leave the sweltering wagon bed to walk alongside the horses. As we travel, we continue to pass the occasional group of sad mortals fleeing the city or sitting with their possessions along the road. I tell them all to go to Pliny.

Smit informs me that Jamuk lies at the bottom of some hills, which will give us a good vantage point to survey the battlefield. I suggest stealing armor from the soldiers to disguise us, but the mages shoot down the idea, saying they won’t be able to move easily and nothing will be in Smit’s size.
No. 1086840 ID: 9ea24b
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Flint brings up that someone will need to stay behind to guard the supplies and the horses from desperate mortals.

Erogalf rights himself from where he was slouched against the taut inner canvas. “It’s too dangerous for Telarin to go near the army. She can stay at the wagon with Flint and I’ll go with Smit and Pliny.”

“It’ll be dangerous for all of us.” Telarin says.

“I will not let the soldiers torture you.” I say firmly. “I will kill them before they can think to put you in a large pot of hot water, disembowel you, take off your skin, remove your eyes and tongue, bludgeon you until all of your bones are broken–”

“Appreciated.” grunts Smit.

Which two people should I bring with me for our first foray?
No. 1086846 ID: 5ebd37

Smit and Erogalf would be good for a first sneaking. A farsight spell wouldn't hurt either.
No. 1086847 ID: df60a9

Does Erogalf know as much as Telarin about how to actually carry out potentially usurping this ritual? Should we discuss that before sending a party in, in case we find it in progress and scouting turns into doing?
No. 1086888 ID: 9ea24b
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I agree with Erogalf’s instinct to bring him and Smit since I doubt we will need Telarin’s expertise on summoning rituals immediately. This is an intelligence gathering mission and Erogalf has proven his skill with detection spells.

Flint finds a somewhat sheltered spot to park the wagon and I set out with the wizard and the thief. I try to move as quickly as I can, but I am still slower than the mortals’ walking speed. Smit walks with barely a sound, at least when listening with my unenhanced hearing.

We come to the top of the hill overlooking Jamuk and see the army camp with its large white tents laid out below us. Past that are the grain fields surrounding the city, marred with corpses and brown with dried blood. Black carrion birds roost at the tops of the nearby trees.
No. 1086890 ID: 9ea24b
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“Two soldiers coming on our left.” Erogalf mutters. He hunches in a bush and Smit disappears from my view entirely. “Let’s kill one and use the other to gain information.”

I nod and get in position to strike. When I hear the clip clop of horse hooves, I coil myself tight and knock the first soldier off his saddle right as he passes by.

Erogalf hits the other soldier with a small glowing projectile, which makes him seize his chest and topple over. I think he is dead. Smit emerges from behind a tree to seize the reins of the horses while I squirm over to the man I knocked down. He is a young human, so it is unlikely he can use magic. How should we interrogate him?
No. 1086892 ID: df60a9


Torture, while often the first instinct, can be unreliable when you lack the means to verify their information.
Tell him of the stint of epidemic that hit the last war camp to cross us, and that we have already afflicted him with the plague. Even if this is not true.
Offer to have Erogalf cure him of this and let him go if he reveals information on the ritual, time and location especially, once we verify it is true.

The offer to let him go does not need to be genuine right now, that can be decided later.
No. 1086895 ID: 443b73

Maybe this would work better if he first get a mouthful of vomited mud so the threat doesn't depend on his gullibility.
No. 1086901 ID: f203ab

The smell alone should be enough to get him to talk.
No. 1086903 ID: 5cc3c7

For extra intimidation have your handy corpse come out and give him 'the touch of death' which only you or Erogalf can cure.
No. 1087208 ID: 9ea24b
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I loom over the soldier. “Tell us when the army is planning to hold the ritual to summon their new spirit. You will fall ill and shit yourself to the point of deadly dehydration unless you share your knowledge.”

I say all of this while gripping the soldier’s cheeks with my lonely friend. Conveniently I do not need my mouth to speak, and when the soldier continues to struggle rather than talk, I begin to pour my special mud onto his face. He retches and tries to shove me away but I dig wet phalanges into the gaps in his teeth and pry open his jaw so that he is forced to ingest the fluid. My grip draws some blood from his soft tissues.
No. 1087209 ID: 9ea24b
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The soldier begins to vomit, which makes him choke since I am holding him in place. He coughs and spits bile over me, which I do not mind.

“He’s going to die if you don’t let go, Pliny.” Erogalf says nervously.

I loosen my grasp and the soldier turns over to clear his airways. This takes a while and I watch him very closely.

“Tomorrow afternoon is what I was told. We’re to meet somewhere between our camp and Jamuk.” he gasps. “Please, I don’t know much else about it, I’m not a mage.”
No. 1087211 ID: eb0a9c

"Your life as a soldier is over. Now all that remains is if you can find a new occupation for our cause, or as mulch for our fields."

Lean in.

"Do not disappoint me. Too many people have died and that disappoints me."
No. 1087212 ID: 5ebd37

Hmm, not much to go on, but all we're likely to get out of him. Give him what comforting words you can while Smit slits his throat, spare him the slow death to disease.
No. 1087221 ID: 9b5eb2

Agreed. He will surely contract something terrible and lethal from the muck, so we can spare him what is coming.
Tell him that if it is any consolation, his spirit will persist in some form.
No. 1087227 ID: 273c18

Don't kill the captive, that's a war crime.
No. 1087229 ID: a7a180

Think we already did one of those. Unless Erogalf can heal him with mana, it'd be a mercy killing.
No. 1087230 ID: 273c18

What kind of twisted definition of mercy killing are you using? He's sick, not immediately about to die and in immense pain.
No. 1087231 ID: 443b73

Diarrhea is dangerous but easy to treat. If he have someone watching him for a few day providing plenty of water and easy to digest food like potato soup he will likely recover. He might develop a more serious disease, but that is a problem for later.
We can entrust him to anyone who cares, including his companions, and they can take care of him.
Or we can just leave him alone, it really doesn't matter if he survive on his own or shit himself to death.
No. 1087232 ID: 273c18

Leaving him alone could work but we'd have to, I guess... come back and set him free after the mission?

IDK, maybe Erogalf has an idea of how to deal with the soldier without being horrible.
No. 1087278 ID: 9ea24b
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I believe the soldier has told me everything he knows, which means I must decide what to do with him. The soldier will survive my illness if he rests and receives fluids, though if we spare him there is the issue of whether we take him hostage or let him return to the army camp. A hostage would be a burden to maintain and I would like to keep our party’s presence a secret, so I am not in favor of keeping the man alive.

The voices seem to have different standards for morality and some think it is objectively wrong to kill the soldier despite the many benefits it would provide. Objective good is a new concept to me, though it seems to ring familiar with what Jor told me about God and religion. Before I wondered about redeeming soldiers from the army but I was not able to because of George. This time Pliny has grown large enough that he would not notice a suspicious newcomer.
No. 1087279 ID: 9ea24b
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While I fall silent and still, as I do when I am trying out new lines of thought, Smit finishes calming the horses and brings them to stand by Erogalf.

“What are we waiting for?” he asks Erogalf.

“Pliny gets like this sometimes. Best to let them be, do you think we should keep the horses?”

“They’re valuable. We can ride them back to camp if you don’t want to use them now.”

The soldier stays on the ground, awaiting his fate. What should I do with him?
No. 1087284 ID: 8f9bc4


For a relative morality reason, they will fight more desperately and refuse to surrender if they know you kill your captives. That will kill more of your allies, and you will have fewer captives to interrogate. It would also give the opposing army good reason to kill any of your allies they capture.
No. 1087286 ID: 5ebd37

We cannot let him report back, the element of surprise is our strongest asset.
I suppose we could give him a horse ride an hour or two out and drop him off, far enough that he wouldn't be able to get back in time to give us away.
No. 1087289 ID: 273c18

Yeah, warcrimes are considered so taboo by civilized folk because by prohibiting specific behaviors, they establish a code of conduct that benefits both sides. Well, I'll admit that we aren't acting as an organized army so we're not expected to follow the laws of war. It's *generally* frowned upon to execute a defenseless prisoner though.

Oh, that's a good idea. Dump him somewhere so far away he can't get back in time to prevent what we're doing. We have horses and multiple party members so it won't eat up too much of our collective time, especially if we dump him somewhere that's not directly opposite our direction of travel. Perpendicular could work if our direction heads towards the enemy camp...?
No. 1087295 ID: 443b73

But right now we are in the middle of a stealth mission, in this situation immediate efficiency should take priority over procedure.

Doesn't that mean one of our three humanoids would have to spent two to four hours riding near enemy territory and regroup without being spotted?

This sound like a more reasonable middle term between practicality and morality: Restrict his movements and hide him at our camp (or somewhere nearby) with the intention of returning to free him after the mission.
No. 1087299 ID: 273c18

Oh wait, we're missing the most obvious way to deal with this. Just take him back to town. We got here pretty quickly so we can just put him in a secure building in town and then go to the meeting spot.
No. 1087336 ID: df60a9

This army has slaughtered civilians recklessly and betrayed their own allies for ritual sacrifice. If there is a code of conduct, they are not following it, which means it does not protect them. And no one among their number has any capital of trust with us to cash in. If we were facing a more reasonable or principled foe, I would agree.

A reputation for benevolence is useful, but mercy and redemption must come from a place of power if they hope to succeed. A little backwoods village is not in a place of power over a rampaging, conquering horde, and trying to exercise mercy when you are not equipped to enforce redemption only invites vipers into our bosom.

What's more, we're on the edge of an active battlefield on a stealth mission against the orders of the lord who is watching over our village. Ideally, NO ONE should never know we were here, which defeats the purpose of any reputation arguments.

I vote we give the soldier a quick death.
No. 1087337 ID: df60a9

It took us more than a day to get here. The ritual happens tomorrow according to the soldier. We don't have time.
No. 1087359 ID: 273c18

Huh really? I went back and checked and it looked like it took half a day.
No. 1087366 ID: df60a9

We camped overnight at least one time, which is when the kobolds showed up.
No. 1087393 ID: 9ea24b
File 171173438230.png - (22.64KB , 500x500 , p65.png )

It would not be too hard to order Smit to take this soldier with the horses back to camp where the human will be looked after by Telarin and Flint. I decide it is the morally correct choice, which makes me feel very righteous and good. Erogalf and I make a strong team even without Smit, so we can continue the mission.

Smit frowns but complies with my command. Erogalf helps him bind the soldier’s hands and heave him onto one of the horses. I watch as they follow the road back up the hill while Erogalf drags the dead soldier into some thick underbrush.

We have perhaps two hours before sundown. What should Erogalf and I do next?
No. 1087419 ID: df60a9

We should scout the area around the ritual site, and figure out a place to lie in wait.
No. 1087427 ID: 273c18

Alright having a captive is going to be a bit of a pain but we at least have him on hand in case we need to get an intact soldier corpse for necromancy shenanigans. And since we have extra horses, we could tie him to a horse and slap it to make it run off, if we need to ditch him at some point.

Definitely scout the site. Maybe dig some tunnels for easy access to useful locations in the site.
No. 1087673 ID: 9ea24b
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“Let us go down the hill to the fields, Erogalf. We will see if there are any signs of the ritual site.”

The wizard agrees and we begin our slow progress once more.

As we get closer to the army, Erogalf casts some kind of invisibility spell on himself which he says is more mana cost efficient than keeping constant surveillance on a large group of people to make sure he isn’t spotted. He needs more mana for this, and I happily provide it. I am now about half of my maximum size and will need to discard my lonely friend after any further shrinkage.
No. 1087674 ID: 9ea24b
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I stay low to the ground as horses and soldiers pass nearby–the siege of Jamuk is reaching its peak and there is much activity around the army camp. When Erogalf is invisible I cannot see him either, but he occasionally taps me with his staff so I know he’s there.

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

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

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

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

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

Can you control corpses outside of your domain? This would be the perfect ambush if you can.
No. 1087863 ID: 9ea24b
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Erogalf can contact me via communication spell which means I should be fine to stay here for the night. I can dig a narrow tunnel around the ritual site and try to identify the mage or mages in charge of the ritual. If only I had my enhanced hearing! Instead I will have to try to identify the magic users visually. I bid Erogalf farewell and begin burrowing into the field.

I do not think it would be wise to fight using the dead or infiltrate the camp with my current abilities and energy reserves, though I can opportunistically target lone soldiers.
No. 1087864 ID: 9ea24b
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I make an easy underground loop around the burnt crops and surface on the side closest to camp. There is smoke in the air and distant screaming. I stay with my head sticking out of the hole so that my snout rises just above the ripe wheat berries.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

More important than the new spirit liking Pliny is making it distrust it's mortal "allies". It shall detest be use to spread suffering so some may profit because the last thing we want is for this spirit to willingly offer mana to their mages.
No. 1087994 ID: 9ea24b
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I want the war spirit to yearn for a friend who is another spirit. I have felt the desire for an ally who would not judge me for my smell or power, and it is easy to put all of these aggregated feelings into the wet bag of bones and skin. Hopefully this will make the spirit eager to please me while also keeping them standoffish towards their mortal companions.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Jam nods. “Agreeable.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Agreeable.” says Jam, almost immediately.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I explain the deal, briefly.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Cornered, Telarin goes quiet.

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

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

“The ogre shaman?” I ask.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

I think you technically just got your first hug.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The goblin nods.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

What should I do?
No. 1089325 ID: f2320a

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Would some mana help?” I offer.

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

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

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

Yeah, plus being small might be good if the lord hears about your deal and you need to lay low.
No. 1089556 ID: 9ea24b
File 171392360568.png - (15.65KB , 500x500 , p100.png )

“Walk with me to my well. I will deposit my lonely friend so that I do not create a disturbance when I shrink.” I tell Erogalf.

“Thanks Pliny.”

We pass through the alleys that lead to the burnt section of town. I am pleased to see some of the kobolds have made camp around my sophisticated rat habitat. They hold out their hands when I pass and I hurry to retrieve the last of my treasure to distribute among them.

With my lonely friend safely tucked next to Smit’s partner in the depths of my tunnel network, I let Erogalf pull mana from me, then set my path toward George.
No. 1089557 ID: 9ea24b
File 171392361784.png - (14.38KB , 500x500 , p101.png )

I find him with the same woman as before, cooking dinner in the kitchen of an unfamiliar house. I call for him to come outside and he joins me on the street. His gaze sweeps over my body but he does not comment on my reduced size.

I explain my deal with the army and how they will likely arrive within a few days to depose the lord.

“They are not coming here to raze Pliny, but there will be bloodshed. I do not want you to be harmed. If you wish to avoid the risk you should travel east and then return once it is all settled.” I add.

“But their spirit will stay here because of you. It will never be safe in Pliny.” George stares at me. He reaches for his knife.
No. 1089560 ID: 5ebd37

Possibly, Jam is still new. They might grow to be well adjusted, but just as easily might not. Plus it would be just as unsafe after the army conquered the country.

If he's going to stab you let him, I guess. Not like he can really hurt you, maybe it will make him feel better.
No. 1089562 ID: f3171e

"Jam has only just begun to exist. We will be careful of his nature, but we do not think we should hate him for being born. Geoun believes that we spirits should never be born."

Maybe if we depose the lord before they arrive, that will reduce any bloodshed. Or the wilderness shelters can be used for non-combatants.
No. 1089648 ID: 9ea24b
File 171401291202.png - (18.59KB , 500x500 , p102.png )

I do not make any effort to defend myself when George grips me with one hand and begins shaving me with long strokes of his knife. He moves with purpose, stripping away my flesh and flicking it away so I cannot easily reincorporate the mass.

“Do not condemn the war spirit so soon, he is young and can be taught to be well-adjusted in mortal society.” I say. “George, please stop this, I do not mean you any harm, this arrangement will ultimately benefit our people.”

He doesn’t respond.

“I could even defeat the lord now so that there is less violence when the army arrives!” I plead.

I wiggle and George tightens his grip. “Go quietly, Pliny.” he growls.

I begin to struggle with more vigor, but given my reduced size I cannot break free. George pins me between his knees and hacks a deep gash in my middle. He is trying to cut me in half!

I still have my shortsword. Should I stab George to force him to let me go or accept my fate? It is hard for me to accept harming George, since he is my valued citizen.
No. 1089656 ID: 5ebd37

Oh, George. Spit in his face and wriggle away.

What is this reaction, George? Did Pliny not help you get revenge on Icher, when your other companions would have denied and used you? Are you really so much of a coward that you'll slaughter someone who trusted you because you know they won't fight back? Will you feel like you accomplished something? You couldn't take down Icher, and you couldn't take down the army, but at least you killed something huh? Complete the army's work and snuff out the spirits of Pliny's citizens for good, but it's easier than going after the actual villains, right?
No. 1089660 ID: f3171e

If you die here, Jam will surely be enraged, and at worst he may generalize that rage at all mortals.
George was given the chance to stop, and he made his choice clear. You need to defend you now. George isn't the type to give up easily, so non-lethal strikes or disarming probably won't cut it. He'd keep going with his fingernails if he had to. If you curve and aim up now, you can go for the throat.
No. 1089663 ID: eb0a9c

Scream. Make sure everyone can see you. If George murders you, everyone will know what he did.
No. 1089716 ID: 9ea24b
File 171409947941.png - (18.51KB , 500x500 , p103.png )

I do not have time to ponder the finer philosophical points of George targeting me when his real ire is with people and spirits outside of his control, though it takes several valuable seconds to come to this conclusion.

I spit mud in his face. As expected, the smell and inconvenience does not deter him, George merely wipes his cheek on his shoulder. I follow up with a strike that breaks his nose.

George snarls and gets a better grip on my head to hold me still, digging his nails into my empty eyeholes. Warm blood drips onto my back.

There are several people close by, and I attempt to scream to get their attention. Surely they will come save me from being murdered.

“Ah. AH. Eeyeeehh.” I say. It is hard to change my pitch and tone since I do not have vocal chords. The mortals walking along the street avert their eyes from me.

At this point I decide it would be best to stab George, as displeasing as that may be. I try to maneuver myself to point my blade at his throat, but I have become too small and weak. I am going to die and I do not think Jam will appreciate it.
No. 1089717 ID: 9ea24b
File 171409949542.png - (13.63KB , 500x500 , p104.png )

I still do my best to struggle and make George’s task difficult, if only to give myself more time to listen to the sounds of the city. The squeak of the rats, the crackling fires as people cook their evening meals, the clink of coins and the sharp voices of children.

And the sound of wet feet slapping the ground. Erogalf skids onto the street, hair wet and entirely naked. He’s holding his staff, and he shoots a spell that knocks George over. The human is still holding me, and it takes a harsh blow to the arm for him to finally let go. I flop into a puddle of my own mud and cough up the sword, which has become too large for me to comfortably carry.

“You fucking idiot!” Erogalf shrieks. “They’re going to kill you and anyone you care about in the most horrible, painful way, because you couldn’t fucking keep a low profile!”

I notice he has a communication circle buzzing next to his ear and I distantly hear Telarin telling Jam to be calm.
No. 1089723 ID: df60a9

>The mortals walking along the street avert their eyes from me.
Do your best to remember their faces. In a town of refugees from the war, the choice to turn coats for peace will not be a popular one, however sound the reason. They are not as dangerous as a broken man, but they can still be a danger.

Begin recollecting as many of your materials as you can. If best boy Jam goes on the warpath to avenge this, we will need to assemble anyone still loyal to us to get them into shelters.

The sentiment in me wants to tell George to take his woman and run. A furious George on the loose is a threat, Icher made that mistake already, but if he has something to lose he has something to keep him from coming back.
No. 1089745 ID: f2320a

To avert there eyes to someone beimg murdered in the streets one who has toiled and killed for them someone who has feed them is horrible
No. 1089749 ID: df60a9

You forget that George has also planted, hunted and killed for them, fed them and lived among them. They know him, they trust him, those who live near him likely know his story. And most of all, he is like them, he is one of them.

Pliny is a strange, alien thing, that the church and state have taught them is evil, malevolent, an ill omen. To uneducated peasants, that is the only truth of spirits that they have ever known, and Icher and the army have done nothing to divest them of that notion.

From their perspective, if George decided that Pliny was dangerous, he must have a good reason. Particularly if they overheard any of our surrender to the army that destroyed their lives.

It is okay to recognize that the uneducated mob cannot be trusted, that they may be dangerous, and also not hate them for acting on the flawed information they have.
No. 1089774 ID: 9ea24b
File 171417517036.png - (15.93KB , 500x500 , p105.png )

I lie still and try to recover as much mass as possible. I am hurt that the passing citizens did not help me, but I understand that they have been taught by the church and superstition that I am something wicked. Also, with their suffering and loss still fresh, they would want to avoid any danger from interfering.

George drops his knife when Erogalf buffets him with another spell. Despite his attempt to kill me, I do not want George to be tortured to death.

“You must leave Pliny as soon as possible.” I tell the human. George holds his sleeve to his bloody face and looks at me with hatred. I am dismayed. It seems I have few willing allies left in Pliny.

Erogalf shivers as a breeze dries the water off his bare body. “Don’t give him a chance to tell the lord about this. I’m going to stay near you until you get somewhere safe, though I’d like to get my clothes.”

I am gaining mass quite slowly. What should I do about the lord?
No. 1089797 ID: df60a9

We lack the strength to defeat the lord and his guards personally, and our known allies are few, which places us in a difficult spot. Erogalf has a point about George being a risk to warn the lord. Sparing George and keeping the lord in the dark are probably mutually exclusive.

Get Erogalf's clothes and try to get into contact with Jor. She's been the one developing the connections here, already skeptical about the church doctrine, and savvy enough to tell who can be trusted. Hopefully Jor, Wolfa (and Tytus) and Smit are still our allies. Maybe the kobolds will be more sympathetic than the humans, as well? They seem to be treated as second class citizens and disliked by the lords.

Smit doesn't want to associate with us too directly in case Jam gets jealous (he has a point, we should be careful who we tell we love them right now since Jam is listening and could see them as competition. His understanding is still very limited and skewed by his nature), so Smit might not want to shelter with us, but we should still extend the invitation through Jor and warn him about the coming unrest.

We will want to get our remaining allies into the woods of Pliny and prepare for potential guerilla warfare against the lord's hunting parties until Jam arrives to take control.
No. 1089805 ID: 5ebd37

Whatever you do you should get below ground as soon as possible. Try to coordinate with others at the well or other entrances if you can, but remaining above will leave you too vulnerable until you regain mass and mana.
No. 1089810 ID: df60a9

On second thought, you're right, don't go to the woods. George knows them too well, and he will probably help the lord hunt you instead of flee like we hope. But you are in no condition to finish him off right now, and I would not ask Erogalf to execute the last of his former party in cold blood.

Gather everyone at your well and the surrounding buildings. There are buildings for cover and choke points, and you already have a series of tunnels that you and the kobolds are capable of using. It's also a distinct area we can convey to Telarin and Jam so that the army knows where friendlies are.

And get Erogalf to grab your shortsword and bring it with.
No. 1090208 ID: 9ea24b
File 171475977046.png - (14.08KB , 500x500 , p106.png )

I am too weak to fight the lord and his servants and must retreat. I can wait in my hole until sufficiently recovered to gather my allies.

“Take me to my well, please. I assume you do not want to kill George?” I ask Erogalf.

“I’d rather not murder my former party member, no.” Erogalf gingerly picks me up and holds me dangling like an overripe sausage above the ground. “George, if the lord resists most of the town will be wiped out again. There is no world where you win.”

“We would have a chance if you and Pliny weren’t filthy traitors.” George spits a gob of snot and blood on the elf’s hairless leg.
No. 1090209 ID: 9ea24b
File 171475982289.png - (14.82KB , 500x500 , p107.png )

Erogalf gives a watery sigh. “It’s been kind of a rough day, George. I’m going to go now.”

I nudge Erogalf to pick up my sword and afterwards he jogs to my well. Once we’re there and surrounded only by kobolds, he places me on the lip of the stone.

“Telarin says they can’t come for another two days at least. I’m not sure what I should do before then.”

“Seek shelter with Jor and see if Wulfa will help you.” Ah, I recall that Wulfa vowed to protect Pliny. “Perhaps be cautious with Wulfa since she does not care for the army.” I add.

Erogalf drops my sword into the well and I tip myself over the edge to enter the murky water with a splash. What should I do while I regain my strength?
No. 1090219 ID: df60a9

There is much to consider. This isn't how we initially expected things to go when we set out to interfere with the spirit's summoning, and it is very messy. We lost the trust of George, who you trusted. Flint is leaving, but at least she will be okay. This will not be an easy thing to swallow for any of those who choose to remain with us.

However, the lord and the king of Geoun were always going to become a threat once the army was no longer there to distract them. We know where we stand with them. The worldview that places them in power names you a monster. Under Geoun, it was always going to be an existence of secrecy. A hidden cult organized through Jor just to try and keep yourself from fading away, always with the fear of when inquisitors would come and raze those you care for.

I still do not fully trust the army. We know too little about them, and what little we know is that they have turned on their allies in the past. We need more information about who leads them and what their long term aims are. From Telarin, preferably. Maybe from Jam. Probably both, so we can see what they are and are not telling Jam.

And Jam is still a wild card, but it is nice to hear that someone was ready to come to your defense at the drop of a hat, after the townsfolk turned away. Does it at least feel nice to have another spirit? Someone who is willing to touch and caress you, who doesn't find your natural beauty gross, who wants to be nearby? Even George at his happiest couldn't bring himself to return your expression of affection in full.

Jealousy could be dangerous. Bird form means he may have hoarding instincts. It is important that he comes to see your citizens as extensions of you rather than as competition for your attention.
No. 1090220 ID: df60a9

As for things you could physically do while not in slumber, we should prepare the tunnels in the well area, strengthen them, and teach the kobolds how to use them.
No. 1090252 ID: 5ebd37

When you are feeling a little stronger travel the tunnels, see what you can hear. Has anyone left you anything? What do the people need?
No. 1090301 ID: 9ea24b
File 171485248925.png - (12.31KB , 500x500 , p108.png )

I soak in my lovely well. With some time to think, I deduce that Jam must have heard my struggle with George and rushed to have Telarin call Erogalf while the wizard was in the bath so he could help me. I very much appreciate the intervention, otherwise I would have perished. While I am sure coexistence with Jam will bring its own troubles, I am glad I have someone who cares about my well-being unconditionally.

I extend my hearing to the surroundings. It seems the kobolds have indeed learned how to use the widest of my tunnels and are catching rats for their evening meal. I am startled when a bucket is lowered into the depths next to my head, though it makes sense that they would be using my well as a water source.

Once night falls, I travel to my offering sites. I find more nice stones and objects of minor value, but most seem to be from a few days ago. Some homes are beginning to use the holes as latrines, which I do not mind.

I return to my well in the morning after patching some of my tunnel walls and listen intently for George. He is still within Pliny, which is a bad sign. Is he literate and thus can pass on messages to the lord without speaking?

I have grown enough to swallow my sword, but am still small otherwise. Should I wait and recover more or venture out?
No. 1090309 ID: 34acdf

We should speak with the kobolds and hear their thoughts on what's going on, see if we can sway them soundly to our side. They won't like the army sure, but their kind seemed to have a rough go of it even before things were turned sideways. Maybe they're pragmatic enough to see the reward in the risk, that the downtrodden could found a better system in the aftermath. Seize the means of production, redistribute wealth, eat the rich, all that good stuff.

And they're not far, so we won't need to venture out very much into more dangerous territory.

>Is George literate?
On the one hand, he seems more like a peasant and a wildman, certainly took to working in the fields without a blink. On the other hand, the adventurers may have taught him something while traveling with him. We're definitely not strong enough to tangle with George yet.

We should pay attention to his location. He might be stalking and targeting some of our allies, in which case we or a kobold runner if they're on board would need to warn them.
No. 1090312 ID: c5529d

wait a bit more. You've done a lot lately. recover a bit more of your strength.
No. 1090335 ID: 5ebd37

There is little you can do while diminished. Stick to the tunnels, you should still be able to coordinate with your allies from there. Maybe start organizing the kobolds, since they can travel the tunnels as well.
No. 1090380 ID: f2320a

Hmmm have we made the muck in the well settle at thr bottom? Our bath water
No. 1090401 ID: 9ea24b
File 171496032869.png - (14.53KB , 500x500 , p109.png )

I stay underground. I doubt George, as a ranger in a small town, knew how to read and write before joining the adventurers, and it is unlikely he had much time to study while they pursued the army. I keep my awareness on him so that I know if he goes to the lord or tries to attack Erogalf.

I would like to make contact with the kobolds, and I wait for one to send a bucket down to skim the cleaner water off the top of the layers of scum in my well to wrap myself around the rope. I am lifted into the light and dismount on the stone to face the startled kobold who pulled me up.

“Greetings kobold. I am Pliny the spirit and led your kind here after you fled from Jamuk.” I say.

“Do you have any more money?” the kobold asks hopefully.

“I do not. How have you fared since coming here?”

The kobold explains that the lord was upset at first but agreed to let the refugees stay as long as they give him a portion of the wheat they harvest from the northern fields. The situation is stable, though the kobolds aren’t living in good conditions and quite a few are ill.

“Your coins have helped us buy goods from the other townspeople. We heard that you defeated the army’s spirit and slew hundreds of their soldiers!” The kobold’s eyes sparkle. “Is there something you need?”
No. 1090407 ID: ca8543

We're going to need to spin this carefully. And we're going to need to be double careful not to use phrases that would upset Jam. A bit of a juggling act.

"I am sad to hear that your conditions are not good, and that the lord has kept better aid from those who need it. I think it would be very good if we could distribute the resources to those who need it, but the lord has forbidden me from interfering in governance. It seems that he dislikes those who are different." Prime them with the fact that the lord is in the way of getting their people the help they need, because he is racist.

"I went behind his back, however, because despite my power I cannot protect everyone forever. I was able to leverage my prowess to negotiate a treaty to stop the war from harming Pliny again after the fall of Jamuk. However, the lord will not simply leave Pliny under the guidance of a spirit, and I fear he will lead the citizens into more bloodshed. What do you think I should do?" Gauge what the kobold thinks is best, while probing to see if any of their ideas match what you already want to do. If they do, it will seem like the kobold's idea, and be more easily accepted.
No. 1090469 ID: 9ea24b
File 171504585728.png - (8.86KB , 500x500 , p110.png )

I need to assess how the kobolds feel about their current situation. I do not want them to decide I am a traitor like George did after I told him about the peace deal. “I hope your conditions improve. Would you say the lord has been fair in his treatment of you? He has forbidden me from interfering in matters of state, which I find impertinent.”

The kobold balances the mostly empty bucket on her hip. “I’d say he’s alright. We were impressed that the king sent anyone here, Jamuk didn’t get many reinforcements during the siege.”

Not promising. “What would you do if the Vishelt army decided to return here?”

The kobold looks haunted. “I-I do not know. We are so weak now…They would surely slaughter us.”

I perk up. “Ah, but what if I told you that I had brokered a peace treaty? The side effect is that Pliny would be considered Vishelt territory instead of Geoun’s.”

The kobold looks around, uncomfortable. “But the lord didn’t say anything about a treaty. Should you be telling me this? I was just here to fetch some water and I don’t know anything about any secret plans.”

I sigh. It does not seem like the kobolds are comfortable with treason. “Do not worry about it. I will keep you safe.”

I slip back into the well. Sometime in the early afternoon I hear George speak to his woman friend.
No. 1090470 ID: 9ea24b
File 171504601935.png - (8.50KB , 500x500 , p111.png )

“–don’t know what to do Beatrice. I don’t want to take you from your home but it might not be safe soon.”

“Is this about what happened to your nose yesterday? You’ve been quiet…”

“I didn’t feel safe speaking because of the spirit, but I’ve made the decision to leave. You don’t have to come with me, it will be a hard life away from town.”

There’s a lull as Beatrice thinks.

“I’ll go with you. We can find other refugees and small farmers. I trust you.”

It sounds like George has made the correct choice and is leaving Pliny soon without informing the lord of my deal. I credit Erogalf and I’s good relationship with him up until he attempted to kill me.

Should I assassinate the lord tonight to ease the transition or wait in my well until the army arrives?
No. 1090471 ID: ded463

Their hesitation is understandable, but at least they don't sound angry or hostile, and the kobolds know to lay low and stay safe now. I think you did well.

It would be perfectly clear who assassinated the lord, but it will also be perfectly clear who brokered the treaty, and his death should break the morale of the Geoun guards he has here in town and leave them without a commander.

It would be better for our image to allow the lord the chance to leave knowing he is well outclassed, but doing so without backup would risk being overpowered and killed again.

Tonight, let us see how Erogalf has fared and what Jor and the others think, then decide how to handle the lord before the army arrives tomorrow. Erogalf has spoken with the lord before and may know more of his character, and Jor seems like the type to stay informed.
No. 1090472 ID: eb0a9c

No, the townsfolk are already enthralled to anti-spirit propaganda, don't give them evidence to that theory.

However, you can slowly poison the lord, weaken him just enough that he doesn't show any severe symptoms. Something else can kill the bastard if you nudge the odds in their favor.
No. 1090572 ID: 394dad

I’m sure that’s what every evil vizier thinks, and look how well their plans go.
You should wait in your well, and hope the lord continues to be reasonable and surrender. Better than being branded both a traitor and murderer.
No. 1090602 ID: 9ea24b
File 171521290270.png - (9.30KB , 500x500 , p112.png )

I do not think I can kill the lord without being discovered, and I do not want to harm my reputation with my citizens. Hopefully the army will send mortals to negotiate when they arrive instead of storming through Pliny, and that means the lord will have a chance to surrender. Instead of assassination I decide to take the tunnels to visit Jor and Erogalf right before dusk.

I can hear the other orcs Jor lives with laughing with each other as they settle down for the night. Quite a few burly bodies in a small house, and Erogalf’s voice is a nervous tenor trying to play along with their in-jokes and references.

I wait for someone to come use the latrine to show myself and ask for Jor and Erogalf. The orc pads out naked in sandals with the wizard trailing behind.

I tell them of my utmost restraint in sparing the lord, and ask what they think of him.

“Geoun politics aside, he’s a reasonable man.” Jor grumbles.

“Yeah, he’s a smart guy. Smart enough to take us hostage if we tell him what we did.” Erogalf adds. “I’m almost out of mana and you still look pretty small so I won’t take anything. I can call Telarin and tell her who to send with the negotiating party when they arrive tomorrow. Jam will want to see you so he’ll be there no matter what.”

Erogalf gets Telarin on the blue glowing circle and holds it out so we can all hear. Which mortal should the army send with Jam? The options are the commander, who is also apparently the blond elf I saw in the field, the dwarf mage who I have never spoken with, or the young orc mage.
No. 1090608 ID: d322f0

Take this moment to pass along sincere thanks to Jam for his timely intervention when you were being killed. Give Erogalf a non-verbal nod of respect and thanks as well.

Don't share aloud the fact George is leaving peacefully. It would put Erogalf at ease, but Jam would very reasonably want to hunt him down. If we share the fact with Erogalf after our meeting, it will need to be in writing somehow.

The commander and the dwarf mage are unknowns. I want to meet Telarin's brother and learn what his deal is, but not under such stressful and unpredictable conditions.

We know the young orc mage, that he is reasonable and well-spoken. I suggest we request him.
No. 1090692 ID: 9ea24b
File 171537144778.png - (20.54KB , 500x500 , p113.png )

“What is the name of that young orc mage? I think he is well-spoken and calm, he should be the negotiator.” I say.

“Yonnie? He’s pretty young…” Telarin says.

“I think he is perfect for the job. I will expect to see him with Jam tomorrow evening.” I decide. “Is Jam there? I must thank him for his timely invention when I thought I was about to perish.”

There’s a shuffling noise. “Pliny. You are not permitted to let others touch you. It is most disagreeable. I will make sure that George man does not hurt you again and the loud male elf leaves you alone.”

Erogalf gulps audibly.

“But Erogalf had to help me to my well and he always asks before I give him any mana.” I reply.

“I will be the only one to handle you. We will be together soon.”

Erogalf ends the call. “I’d really prefer if Jam didn’t torture me to death, Pliny.”

“Of course I will not let that happen. Go to sleep now.”

I return to my well to recover through the night and most of the next day. How should I greet Yonnie and Jam tomorrow? Should I go with them to the negotiations?
No. 1090704 ID: df60a9

Definitely going to take some work coexisting with the handsy bird. At least people aren't exactly lining up to pet you.

We should accompany them to negotiations. Being seen with Jam won't earn you any favor, but it's going to happen one way or another. Better to be there so you have a voice in what happens.

Jam will want contact and to hold you, but he will need his wing-hands free in case fighting happens. You should request to coil around his torso for ease of carrying.

Yonnie is capable, but he's young. Best to give him a chance to organize his thoughts and plan. We should establish what terms the army is willing to offer and what terms they are willing to accept.
No. 1090709 ID: 5ebd37

You should be there to keep Jam in check. Maybe people won't resent your association if they think you're protecting them from him.
No. 1090758 ID: 9ea24b
File 171548062035.png - (18.21KB , 500x500 , p114.png )

I stay in my well until I hear hooves pounding into my territory the following afternoon. I can hear Jam speaking with Yonnie and roughly 200 soldiers with them. Is Jam riding on a horse? That would be an odd sight.

I take my tunnels as far as I can go in their direction, then rise to the surface and begin squirming towards them. I am about a third of my maximum size and have my lonely friend with me.

I listen to the fraction of the army pitch their tents near the river and their old campsite. I cannot help but be displeased at the sound.

I enter the camp and call for Jam, who comes loping to greet me. He has grown and easily picks me up in a familiar, firm grip. I rest myself around his shoulders so that he may keep his hands free in case of combat.

Jam takes me to Yonnie, who is shuffling through a stack of parchment. His face reminds me of Erogalf when the elf is struggling to stay patient through one of my ponderous moments.

“I’ve informed lord Vorad that we’re here and seek a peaceful negotiation. He asked us to come to the western city wall. I’m not sure how to phrase our terms.”

“Easier to kill him.” Jam states.

“Yes, but I’m trying to do things…ethically?” Yonnie sighs. “We all know he’s doomed unless he leaves or steps down, but some people would just rather die fighting. We need to offer him something good in return.”

“Much easier to kill him.” Jam argues.
No. 1090763 ID: eb0a9c

"I just lost George by doing things the 'easy' way.
Doing things the easy way saves you energy you might need. Doing things the hard way means you don't end up accidentally triggering a chain reaction that leads to unforeseen consequences.
Time and place, Jam. Life's a fluctuating challenge."
No. 1090764 ID: 53560f

Killing someone makes most people upset. When you’re taking over a town, you want to make sure the citizens don’t completely hate you. That just leads to problems down the line that can’t easily be fixed, so it’s worth it to try being nice even if it doesn’t work at first.
Who’s going to be in charge of the town of Pliny once the lord is gone? I’d like to suggest myself if you haven’t got the position filled already.
No. 1090785 ID: df60a9

George is really an argument for violence, not against it, since it was trust and peaceful negotiation that placed us in a bad spot. Won't do much to sway Jam.

Lord Vorad is an intelligent and reasonable man. He also seems unusually tolerant of spirits compared to most of Geoun's nobility, as he did not attempt to have you exterminated.

"Death makes the lord a martyr. It would serve as fuel for Geoun's anti-spirit propaganda machine, and their citizens would gladly join the army to exterminate us. The church is powerful, but there are those who question its doctrine. If a war spirit were to be seen negotiating and allowing surrender, that information could be used to sow doubt among the free-minded. Vishelt is consolidating its power now, but is its ambition against Geoun sated? We should engender sympathizers now. Let them see that Vishelt's way can be a better way to live, and you will have your own agents gestating inside of the future enemy, Jam."

When we negotiate with Vorad, we should explain to him that you hold no ill will towards him.
Under his rule, both a new invasion by Vishelt and from the inquisitions of Geoun were a danger to you and your citizens.
The only way to ensure the safety of you and your citizens was to alter the course through a treaty with Vishelt.
If the Lord can be made to view you as a shrewd leader, he may see you more like a peer and respect your offer of surrender. More importantly, it is a good image for the citizens to see.

The Lord should be guaranteed safe passage out of Vishelt territory for himself and his soldiers if he surrenders, rather than being taken as POWs. This is the best case scenario for him. He and his men live to fight another day, and do not face imprisonment or torture.
No. 1090848 ID: 9ea24b
File 171562563902.png - (13.05KB , 500x500 , p115.png )

Now is the perfect opportunity to teach Jam about delayed gratification and the mortal psyche. I tap him on the cheek with my snout.

“Jam, if we kill Vorad in front of his followers, that will not inspire confidence in our ability to govern Pliny afterwards. Wouldn’t you like to rule Pliny?”


“Well there you are then. We can offer the lord and his servants safe passage back to the kingdom in exchange for his official abdication. You can tell him what you would do to him if he doesn’t agree to frighten him into compliance.”

“I would peck out his eyes. Then I would eat his kidneys.”

“That’s right, Jam. You are doing a good job.”

I am pleased that Jam is the peak of rationality. I look to Yonnie for approval and he nods.

“I’ll draft it in writing. When we’re ready I’ll bring a small force with us.”
No. 1090849 ID: 9ea24b
File 171562567911.png - (13.90KB , 500x500 , p116.png )

Jam and I stay and watch while Yonnie scratches a message in ink with a broken feather quill. The orc makes quite a few mistakes and mumbles to himself while scratching out the words for corrections. Jam shows me my gold coins, which he keeps under his tongue.

“What is the commander like?” I ask Jam, as we walk toward the west wall with Yonnie and a handful of soldiers. A few kobolds are cutting wheat with small knives and yell to each other in alarm. I call to them that this is a diplomatic mission and there is nothing to worry about.

Jam thinks about my question for some time. “He preferred Icher.”

I do not have long to ponder this before the lord emerges with his entourage, and Erogalf. Vorad frowns deeply when he sees me.

Yonnie approaches the lord and they begin the negotiation. It does not seem Vorad respects the young mage, and brings up the various horrid crimes the army has committed, leaving Yonnie stammering and apologetic. Jam begins edging towards Erogalf.
No. 1090873 ID: ded463

"When a mortal acts as your agent, their hands are like your own hands. So it was really you who was handling me all along when you commanded Erogalf to help."

Request Jam bring you closer to the negotiations, so that you may speak to Vorad.
No. 1091019 ID: df60a9

Oh, and lay on some worm praise for Jam to soften up his mood. Thank him for his intervention and curl around him affectionately to distract him from Erogalf.
No. 1091020 ID: 9ea24b
File 171582084803.png - (15.52KB , 500x500 , p117.png )

“Erogalf is my minion.” I remind Jam. “He knows that I am yours now, he will not touch me.”

Erogalf glances at us over his shoulder. He is clearly afraid.

“He could impede the negotiations.“ Jam replies. “I do not want him to strike Yonnie unexpectedly.”

“He is low on mana and outnumbered. We can ensure Yonnie is safe by going closer to him and speaking on his behalf.”

Jam seems to like this idea and hops toward Vorad at high speeds, making the lord step back in alarm.

“Do not disturb Yonnie or I will peck out your eyes and eat your kidneys. Do as we say.”

“Sorry, he wouldn’t actually do that.” Yonnie squeaks.

“I believe he would. Spirits are violent, wicked creatures.” the lord says flatly.

Jam’s neck muscles tense and I believe he is close to proving the lord correct. What should I say to the lord and Jam to keep things peaceful and resolve the negotiation?
No. 1091025 ID: df60a9

"Oh mighty Jam, and Lord Vorad, an old soldier would like to speak. In me are the voices of Pliny's fallen, the soldier among them. To seek treaty with those who ravaged us was no small decision."

"To be part of Geoun would be to be marked by zealots and slain the moment we were no longer useful, and all who benefited from our aid would be seen as tainted. The old soldier would not cast his comrades into the battle against Vishelt for a kingdom that cares not. He has done so once already."

"You now face the same decision, Lord Vorad. Will you walk away with the offer the spirits have negotiated for you and allow your loyal soldiers to live? Or do you care less for their lives than a wicked, rotten spirit?"
No. 1091047 ID: 53560f

We are more like mortals than many care to admit. Our births define much but the rest is decided by our words and deeds.
Regardless, I would like this to be a peaceful transfer of power. No blood needs to be spilt today and someone of your prestige is sure to recognise that Pliny in its current state is not worth further bloodshed.
No. 1091090 ID: 9ea24b
File 171590807542.png - (7.91KB , 500x500 , p118.png )

I address Vorad. “I know you do not like or trust me but I am speaking with the experience of the collective veterans of Pliny. There is no need for blood to be spilt today and it would be foolish to waste the lives of your servants by refusing to leave. I have helped negotiate this fair and generous offer despite my own feelings about the army that ravaged my city. Please understand that you have no other options.”

The lord furrows his brow and stands in silence, perhaps to give the impression to his followers that he is resisting my sinister words.

“Fine.” he says. “We will leave tomorrow morning. Erogalf, we would be lucky to have you join us.”

“What? Er, no thank you my lord, I wish to stay and protect this town.” Erogalf says, in his stuffy wizard voice.

“Very well. I doubt Pliny will last long with these two at the helm.”
No. 1091091 ID: 9ea24b
File 171590809436.png - (13.89KB , 500x500 , p119.png )

The lord retreats with his men into the city. Erogalf trails after them. The sun is quite low and Yonnie muffles a yawn.

“Are you coming to camp?” he asks Jam and I.

“We will stay here tonight.” Jam says.

Yonnie and the soldiers begin to walk away. I am glad Jam did not go with them.

“We must decide how to govern.” Jam tells me. “I find violence agreeable and will need some amount of it to sustain me if we are to live here.”

“I have an offering system that I set up to gain affinity. Won’t some soldiers stay in Pliny? Are they not enough to provide affinity via worship?”

Jam scratches the ground with a large index finger. “No.”
No. 1091092 ID: 5ebd37

How about an arena? Regular fights for prizes, or as a way to settle disputes. Rough sports might even be enough to generate a low mana flow.
No. 1091093 ID: 53560f

An organised fight pit solves this and adds entertainment value if we make it operate on a regular schedule. Eventually we can expand it into a full on arena to allow betting and more grandiose fights and even build Jam’s nest into it, similar to how your well nourishes you, a nest close to the fight pit might do the same for Jam.
Deaths will happen however, accidentally or otherwise, so we should implement simple rules like no armour, weapons or magic to lessen its likelihood and stop fights ending too early. Ask Jam if he would like to be the referee.
No. 1091096 ID: d9b49f

I'm surprised Erogalf decided to stay. I'm not sure how much he'll be able to get mana from us with Jam's rules in place, and getting it from Jam...
Well, he's an adult, he can decide how to live his life. Just keep an eye on him to make sure he stays safe from Jam's intrusive thoughts.

I was thinking along the same lines, taking volunteers and setting up prizes. This could also be a way to train those who could contribute to Pliny's defense force, and teach them tactics.

Tell Jam that we should avoid deliberate duels to the death between the fighters, since forcing these would strain loyalty, get fewer volunteers and waste trained warriors. We'll need some trained doctors or healers for the arena eventually, so fights can get more intense without sacrificing fighters.

The army will probably call on Jam to aid in border skirmishes, which will provide some exercise and entertainment. The army could set up a less public arena for prisoners of war to duel in, too.

Maybe Jam would like to go hunting in the forest as well, and see if slaying beasts sates his bloodier urges. Small animals would probably bore him, but something like a bear could put up a fight, and it would double as gathering food.

This is all about Jam's preferences for governance, of course. He asked about your thoughts too. As a judicial system, any disagreements or legal matters can be settled by a tribunal of Jam, Pliny and an elected citizen representing their democratic will.
No. 1091097 ID: a7a180

Time to add ritual sacrifice to the list. How about a hunt for animals?
No. 1091142 ID: 9ea24b
File 171596697239.png - (22.45KB , 500x500 , p120.png )

“Perhaps we could build an arena for sports and organized fights? Jor is an athlete and could help us. It will take some time to build and grow a population large enough to support frequent bouts.” I suggest.

“Fights to the death.” Jam clarifies.

“I suppose it could happen but we should not require it. Mortals will come in conflict and it will happen. Speaking of which we can arbitrate crimes or legal matters along with an elected mortal.”

“Why would we want a mortal?”

“To raise the citizens’ morale! If they have a small say in our rule they will be much happier and give better offerings.” I explain.


I cast around for other ideas. “Do you have any interest in killing animals?”

“Some. The army needs to eat.”

“You can help slaughter livestock and hunt when you have a free moment to travel outside the city. The army may call on you sometimes to help defend the new border.”

“Yes. You will come with me then.”

“Only if I am not needed here. There will have to be some flexibility in our relationship.”

Jam pinches my head between his fingers. “No. You must always stay with me. That was our agreement.”

This is my final major decision. Should I always stay with Jam and give up my independence or set boundaries?
No. 1091143 ID: 5cc7cc

"My coins will always be with you. Tbey are a token of your fair lady. A soldier should have a fair lady and a home to return to. I am both."

Jam can hear you from afar. I wonder if the coins would work both ways and let you both talk from afar.
No. 1091149 ID: 3d94a9

You should also let Jam know how happy you were he decided to stay. That you enjoy being close to him. I think we will usually want to join him on the campaign just to know he's safe, especially now that we know the Commander isn't as fond of him as we are.

But you have different skillsets useful in different places. Being attached all the time could be a vulnerability for enemies to exploit.

I wonder if distance sense and communication would be more possible if you had a token of Jam as well. A part of him to always keep close, like a fingernail clipping.
No. 1091153 ID: a7a180

Towns have boundaries. These change over time, but not all at once. Gotta set them somewhere.
No. 1091205 ID: 53560f

Jam, we both have duties to attend to that we can’t possibly spend all our time together. I promise I will always be here in Pliny for you to visit so I want you to entertain an idea for me. I can’t always join you or be everywhere, so the solution is to make friends everywhere you go instead.
I know this seems mean but I wouldn’t suggest it to such a dear friend as you if I didn’t think it would be good for you to see the world and all the different people and spirits in it.
No. 1091213 ID: 443007

Jam needs to understand that he can't have all of you. Because if he does, then you won't be 'you' any more.
The mortals do not understand yet that life is made of patterns and codes. If you eat these things, it means breaking the patterns apart to recycle the matter. The matter exists but the pattern is gone.
He is very lonely because many of the things in the world are based on his patterns and so there aren't many things around him that are not him.
No. 1091222 ID: 9ea24b
File 171604626785.png - (18.27KB , 500x500 , p121.png )

“Jam, I am pleased with our friendship and how much progress you’ve made. I know you wish for me to always be by your side, but it is not realistic. You have important duties that will take you outside of Pliny, but you will always be able to hear me, won’t you?”

Jam puts his other hand on me and lifts my body over his shoulders to press into the ground. I am reminded of when George pinned me between his knees.

“You are mine. You will not leave.” he says.

“You cannot possess someone in their entirety. I will always have my own thoughts and desires. Is it not enough that we are best friends?” I protest.

Jam’s sharp beak flashes in the starlight as it dives into my stomach, slicing me in half and severing the decayed ligaments holding my lonely friend’s spine together. My back end melts into mud and I reconstitute.

I have my sword and the lower body of my lonely friend. I doubt I can beat Jam without armor and in my already weakened state. I do not think he will kill me, merely reduce me to a size easier to handle and control.

What should I do?
No. 1091223 ID: 4e090a

Attacking may change that, should you be unable to establish dominance and be seen as an enemy state instead of a rebellious conquered state. Icher was open to negotiate because you proved your power by decimating his forces with disease, but Jam has the power and has established that.

Best to accept Jam's argument and agree to his terms. Tell him that you will fight alongside him if he brings you to the war, so he should allow you to retain your size. Being too small will limit you.
No. 1091224 ID: 0f4f29

Is Jam any different from Icher by doing this? Stand up for yourself. This isn't how friendships work. Refuse this.
No. 1091252 ID: 4e090a

I wouldn't exactly call either side of this dynamic healthy, considering we injected Jam with these feelings for the sake of geopolitics and survival. He is the violent war spirit Vishelt made him to be, sure, but he is also the obsessive and insecure spirit with attachment issues that we made him to be. I'm not sure there's a high spirit horse to climb on here.

And for the record Pliny, coming clean about that part for the sake of a moral catharsis is definitely not a good idea, least of all in this moment.
No. 1091253 ID: 43f8c4

Encouraging this is going to lead to more problems down the road. If Jam wants to continue this childish behavior then fine, but if he's as lonely and obsessive as believed then punish this behavior by disregarding and shunning him.

I'd recommend finding a moment to escape and letting him ruminate for a time if possible, but if not, don't interact with him. Besides, being smaller might make it easier slip away.
No. 1091254 ID: 4e090a

If we were dealing with a human, I might agree. I'm not so sure that will work with a mind like a spirit's. But as the voice of the cockroach, escape definitely seems like a better option than escalating, if we really want to avoid capitulation.

Just be prepared for the citizens to suffer the meltdown instead.
No. 1091256 ID: d1fb8c

Yeah, you're right about the citizens. I retract my sentiment of escaping, that isn't right. But these constant compromises will lead down a dark path.

If you're confident he won't kill you Pliny, then refuse to be owned by him. Endure his abuse and appeal to what he wants. He obviously values you, something only you can provide. If he kills you, he won't have that anymore, and if continues to act like a brat then you won't give it to him.
No. 1091258 ID: 4e090a

I'd still place my vote on capitulation. We made this attachment a core part of Jam's consciousness. I don't think he's capable of backing down first on this, and the more we let him shave off the weaker Pliny becomes. Again.
No. 1091270 ID: a7a180

Fighting back will only further reduce your mass. I do not recommend fighting back at this moment.
No. 1091286 ID: 9ea24b
File 171613067161.png - (15.12KB , 500x500 , p122.png )

Fighting would only cause me to become weaker. I lie still as Jam looms over me.

“Why would you do this Jam? Why would you hurt me?” I ask.

Jam’s answer confirms my suspicions. “It is agreeable to hurt you. It would be most disagreeable if you perished, but I will be careful.”

“What if I refuse to work with you? This is a cruel thing to do, Jam.”

Jam tilts his head. “Cruelty is agreeable. Telarin told me you are easily swayed and I will torment the loud elf and the orc and the goblin if you continue to defy our agreement.”

None of the voices suggested it but I noted and immediately disregarded the idea to push myself upon my blade and end my existence. That would no doubt leave my citizens in a much worse situation and might even convince Jam to return to war to produce other spirits.

“I will comply with you but I will not forgive you. Friends do not do this.” I say.

“Agreeable.” Jam says. He scoops me up in his left hand and holds me close to his chest. We stay by the city wall for the rest of the warm summer night.

Thanks for reading.
No. 1091288 ID: 59a4d4

Jam is a war spirit, not a human. The same reason Pliny finds filth and decay comfortable and beautiful is why he finds violence and cruelty comfortable and beautiful. But Pliny has grown used to thinking more like a mortal.
I don't think Jam has mortal voices like you do, Pliny. Might be part of the ritual, to make him easier to control. He did say he felt empty when he first woke to existing. Or maybe you're the outlier, and other spirits just don't have what you have.
Pleas to a human mindset won't accomplish much with him, he needs to see you as competent, reliable and strong if you want him to listen. There was likely some respect early on, for having slain Icher, that's why he restrained himself during negotiations. But allowing George to manhandle us didn't help our image. He sees power, and now we look weak.

>None of the voices suggested it but I noted and immediately disregarded the idea to push myself upon my blade and end my existence.
Just remember, this is all about surviving in a world that's stacked against you. Jam was to be protection from that, and to some extent he still is. But swords are swords, play with swords and you'll get cut. We need to start thinking more like a worm again, and remember that swords will think like swords.
No. 1091302 ID: dae6e4

Stay strong Pliny
No. 1091305 ID: 2d4982

Hang in there little worm.
No. 1091315 ID: eb0a9c

Bad Cute End. Oh well.
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