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/qst/ - Quests

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You are Lieutenant Richter Von Tracht, an armor officer of the army of the Archduchy of Strossvald, and you are on your way to what could be your first combat deployment.

It was, to be frank, a welcome change from the nonsense that happened during your short time in what was purported to be garrison duty. At the very least, should Valsten, the country to the south whose border you were headed to by train, decide to raise some hell, they wouldn’t be doing it with soul eating monsters or annoying masked wizards.

You had been explaining the recent war history of Valsten to Maddalyn, your arranged fiancée and resident expert in the bizarre and supernatural. She had been bored, so you had decided to share the contents of your briefing papers with her. Being blind in a manner that made it impossible for her to read printed text, it wasn’t as if she could read them herself.

Maddalyn had promptly observed certain aspects of Strossvald’s military history that had uncomfortable implications.

You were no expert in politics, but you knew plenty enough to know when you weren’t supposed to be talking about something.

“The walls have ears, Maddy,” you hold up a hand and gesture to the thin wooden door to the compartment on the train that you shared, “Don’t make me a widower before we’re even married.”

Maddalyn frowned and looked back out the window. It was open for her sake; she couldn’t see through glass, for reasons you ill understood, but the noise from the rattling tracks outside wasn’t such that you needed to raise your voices.

“I thought you didn’t really care about such things,” she said, “You’re so inquisitive about threats to the state, yet when it comes to questioning the same state you dutifully look away.”

“What could be done about it anyways?” you ask defensively, “All we can hope for is that we come out on the other side with as few nicks and scratches as possible. That’s certain not to happen if you think about such things too hard.”

“I don’t know,” Maddalyn half closed her eyes, “Something. Plenty of other people had to have noticed it. What happens when enough countries outside of us decide to do something about it?”

“I refer to my earlier statement.” You said.

“Richter, you must have figured out by now,” the hollow, strange echo of Poltergeist’s voice floated in the window. Maddalyn recoiled and fell backwards as his face rose up and looked into the window. The shrouded soulbinder propped his masked chin on two hands, resting his elbows on the rim of the window, with his cloak billowing in the wind. “The young lady doesn’t think such passivity is very sexy.”
“Couldn’t you have come in through the door like a normal person?” you ask baldly. While most would be shocked to find a masked wizard clinging to the window of a moving train and intruding upon their conversations, this was far from the most bizarre way Poltergeist had chosen to approach you.

“I have no need to be restricted by such normality,” Poltergeist said haughtily, his odd voice unusually clear over all other sounds, “I came to tell you that, tragically, I cannot accompany you on your journey to the Varbonnlands.”

“How do you know that?” Maddalyn demanded, “How do you know where we’re going?”

“I am sad to say that that will be yet another question you ask of me that will never be answered,” Poltergeist waved a heavy, gloved finger, “I will tell you why I am not going, however. To put it shortly, there are far too many restless soul fragments. If I were to set foot there for long, the results would be far from pleasant.”

>Glad to hear it. Although to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if you pissed off without announcing it either.
>That sounds like something I should be concerned about.
>That’s a strange thing to need to tell me. Why should I believe that you’ll stop bothering me?

>twitter is @scheissfunker for announcements
>previous thread archive pastebin: http://pastebin.com/UagT0hnh
>That sounds like something I should be concerned about.
>>Glad to hear it. Although to be honest, I wouldn’t have minded if you pissed off without announcing it either.
Out of curiosity - it this the same quest that started originally in August '15?
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Wait... 2 years and it's barely part 17?!
You guys are slow
>That sounds like something I should be concerned about.
"Is Maddy going to be alright?"
Yes, but it was rebooted in July of 2016.


“That…sounds like something I should be concerned about.” You say uncertainly.

“Not particularly,” Poltergeist waves a hand slightly, “Unless you stir up spirits from simply existing like one such as myself. The girl’s eye worms simply consume, they do not radiate a strong presence as mine golem and I.” Poltergeist opens the hand he waved, and a bundle of shining threads splay out, dancing from his fingers, and leaving sparkling trails in the air. “You, on the other hand, may choose when to have a strong presence. None of your spells, o boyish one. The shattered impressions of the anguished and vengeful hunger for presence, and your arts invite them to a feast.”

“I’m not afraid of these spirits,” Maddalyn declared shakily, sitting back on the chair she fell out of.

Poltergeist closed his hands, and all his threads vanished; the room became somehow, imperceptibly, dimmer, and all the noises from the outside became dumbed.

“Then you are a fool.” Poltergeist whispered.

After he had said this, the sounds of the land steadily returned.

“Well then,” he waved a little farewell gesture, “I must be off. Some appointments to attend to, nice and far from any wars. Tah tah.”

“Wait,” you hold up a hand, “Wait, is Maddy going to be alright?”

Poltergeist clearly heard you, but he didn’t answer. Instead, he let go of the edge of the train and vanished into the sunlight, as if he had been a mere shadow.
“That was…foreboding.” You comment after a minute of uncomfortable silence.

“Whatever.” Maddalyn bit on one side of her lip and brushed a few red, curled locks away from her face, “It’s all some sort of trick.”

“Are you sure?” you ask.

“I don’t want to talk about it.”Maddalyn brushed you off, “You were talking about Valsten, weren’t you? Tell me more about that.”

Well then. You could hardly resist an invitation to wax historical.

“Did you know that Salzbrucke doesn’t have any salt farms?” you read another section, “It got its name from salt merchants who ran the town and marked up the prices of sea salt heading north.”

“Neat.” Maddalyn feigned interest very poorly. Her mouth said one thing, but her eyes darting side to side said something else entirely.

You continued your reading nevertheless.

Valsten had been incredibly rich and powerful, once. The bounty it brought from the sea filled its coffers; for centuries, it had grown fat off of maritime trade. Even in the times the Great Gales shut away the southern seas, many merchant mariners simply went east, or even north, for when the Gales closed one corridor, another soon opened.

Valsten’s endless flow of gold closed when East Valsten broke away from its motherland. Valsten’s greatest loss was not merely the rich and fertile territory of the east, but also a great many maritime merchant cabals, as well as many important ports. The most important of which, so far as you had heard of in your studies, were those on the islands of the Grunmeer Gulf, which had sided with the Easterners in Valsten’s civil war.

Without the harbors and fortresses of those islands, Valsten could no longer freely benefit from the bounty of the seas. Where once, they could have plausibly flooded their military budgets with gold and procured the best and most advanced weaponry, the army was now one of the many establishments who were forced to pinch pennies, as Valsten’s government propped up the Navy in vain attempts to overpower their easterly foes.

As you were explaining this, Maddalyn’s head sank further and further down into her crossed forearms, leaning on the windowsill, and before you got the opportunity to describe the naval arms race taking place in the southern seas, Maddalyn’s eyes had completely shut, her shoulders slowly rising and falling with long, slow breaths. Her round, childish face was partially obscured by a cascade of wavy red strands of hair tucked in the crease of her arms and her head.

You weren’t sure whether to be offended or not.

>Hey, wake up, I’m not done.
>Leave her be. Go elsewhere on the train.
>It’s probably a good time to sleep. Her loss if she didn’t want the bed, you’re taking it.

Well at least she isn't bored anymore.
>It’s probably a good time to sleep.
>Try to manoeuvre her into the bed without waking her.

Are you suggesting we sleep with her?
>Try to manoeuvre her into the bed without waking her.
>Go elsewhere on the train.
>Yes, but it was rebooted in July of 2016.
Oh, that explains it.
Still slow, but at least not super-slow
Leave her be, go elsewhere on the train
Seconding trying to move her to the bed without waking her.

I was gonna ask last time if there were naval forces in this setting since the Maelstrom sea sounds like it would put a damper on any blue water fleet. Guessing major ships are akin to coastal defence ships, heavy firepower and armor but not a whole lot in seakeeping.

Also what's stopping the Empire from annexing valsten, if my memory serves the mountain range ends where valsten and the empire's borders meet. I can see the massive river being a natural barrier between us and valsten, but do they have something similar? I can't see their navy being able to blunt a massive land assault.
Just pulled up the map, had previously missed river between the Grossreich and Valsten
You sigh and drag your hand across the side of your face. It wasn’t as if you had a shortage of free time, at least, so you couldn’t really deny Maddalyn a nap.

You gingerly lift her by her back and the crook of her knees. This wasn’t the first time you had carried her, but it was still odd to feel how light she was.

It was good that she was such a heavy sleeper; despite your best efforts you couldn’t help but bump her into bits of errant furniture. The space had been designed for a single occupant’s privacy with as little space as necessary, so in spite of Maddalyn’s small frame it was difficult to avoid everything as you rolled her onto the little bed.

You closed the window and went to seek other things on the train. You locked the panel door behind you as you left; if Maddalyn woke up early and wanted to leave for some reason…well, there was another key in the room. Whoever had designed this passenger car hadn’t been very fond of deadbolts for whatever reason.
While you didn’t know an incredible amount about what had been referred to as “blue water navies,” considering that conflicts against countries across the oceans were frustrated by the risk of the sea routes being blocked off by colossal storms, you did know that the sort of ship that saw the most use locally were the sort that preferred to stay close to the shore, squat steel graceless bunkers bristling with all manner of cannon; any warships you knew of that had crossed the seas were relatively lightly armed and armored cruisers, often more for show than for any conflict.

As for the matter of her borders, at first glance, Valsten did indeed seem quite vulnerable to any ambitions by the Reich; they had no impassable mountain ranges, merely a few rivers that fed into a wet, nasty series of marshlands. An obstacle, no doubt, especially with the numerous fortifications that had been built there, but not one that previous Kaisers hadn’t seen fit to challenge.

From what you vaguely remembered from the academy and word of mouth, there were many reasons for the Grossreich of Czeiss’s skittishness when it came to war with Valsten, apparently having to do more with matters of both money and diplomacy than any inability to make war, but the greatest reason you could think of was because of the long standing compact between the disparate nations of Sosalia; such was the fear of the Reich once more conquering the continent, most of Valsten’s neighbors had agreed that should the Kaiser attempt to annex Valsten, all of Valsten’s neighbors would come to her aid.

This shaky treaty had never been utilized, however. By the time it had been signed by a few nations, the Reich had abandoned any ambitions of reconquering Valsten or the rest of the Sosalian nations any time soon, as they struggled to maintain the rest of their imperial lands in the decades leading to the apocalyptic Emrean War. Thusly, as far as you could see, it had been much easier to trade with Valsten than attempt to launch a grand offensive on a nation with nearly the population of the Emrean territories; territories the Reich had lost one of the greatest defeats in history to.

Now with Kaiser Henrik on the throne, however, the question of what he would do with Valsten had been brought up many times, with variable conclusions.


There were a few places you could go on the train, in the meantime.

>Find your company commander; you knew his name, but little else about him.
>Find your officers, you’d meet any higher ups when the time came.
>Probe around for information and rumors about the region. The briefing pamphlet was informative, but it had an…impersonal manner, about it.
>Find your company commander; you knew his name, but little else about him.
Let us built up trust in both of us.
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Also I meant to post an updated map but somehow I missed it.

Hopefully this has significantly less impossible rivers.

fewer impossible rivers
A man named Captain Alden Schwarzholdt was your captain and company commander. All you really knew about him besides his name was the incessant rumormongering you couldn’t help but hear even in the short time you’d been hanging around the station; that he was descended from bastardry.

Courtly affairs were far from being an interest of yours, so you didn’t know the politics of such matters beyond what produced bastards in the first place, and that traditionally, they were disinherited from any noble possessions even in the event of the death of all other heirs, represented by the stripping of “Von” from their names.

It didn’t take long to find him. Once you climbed in rank enough, there simply weren’t that many others to be lost among.

There was no need to demand an audience; you merely knocked on the door to his quarters and let yourself in.
Captain Schwarzholdt was a wiry, strong faced man, relatively young looking for a captain, with coal black oiled hair slicked backwards, falling in long dark strands that coiled at the ends. One of his slender hands dug furrows into his scalp, the other fervently pushing a piece of paper into the desk with two fingers. His little desk was a mess of scrawled upon maps and poorly rendered spare copies of said maps, seeming to portray enemy attacks from every possible directions, even thoroughly impossible ones such as attacks from the north.

“You,” he said without looking back to see who you were, “get me some tea. If I get any dryer I’ll crumble away.”

“Actually,” you coughed, “I am your new platoon officer. Lieutenant Von Tracht?” Officers, particularly ones of nobility, fetched tea for nobody unless they were at least three steps higher in rank.

“…oh.” Schwarzholdt still didn’t look at you. He pulled at a clump of his hair for a few seconds. “Oh...you.” He finally turned and stood up, forgetting to salute, until he realized with a start a few seconds later. “Hello, I suppose.”

“…Greetings.” You try to hide your sudden discomfort with a smooth salute.

Alden Schwarzholdt was slightly taller than you, with a long chin and eyes so tightly squinted you weren’t sure whether he wore optics or if his eyes were simply that small. He blinked at you expectantly, then when neither of you said anything, nervously looked from side to side.

“Er,” you tried to break the silence that had enveloped both of you, “Those plans,” you point to the messy pile on the desk; one of the pages fluttered off as you pointed at it, “I beg your pardon, but I doubt that Valsten will be invading from the north.”

“Oh, those,” Schwarzholdt looked to the side with a grimace and pushed a black strand of hair behind his ear, “You shouldn’t worry about those. They’re for my nerves, you see. Easier to face the Judge’s spite when you prepare for it.”

“The Judges spite.” You say with perhaps a little too much puzzlement.

“It’s…a long story. Unless you were here for anything else, I suppose I could tell it to you.”

>I actually just came to introduce myself. I’ll be on my way now.
>What else am I doing here anyways? I’ll listen.
>Instead of that, how about you share with me what you’re planning to do, just in case these plans are, for some reason, needed?
>What else am I doing here anyways? I’ll listen.
Don't we have to salute first, as the subordinate?
>Don't we have to salute first, as the subordinate?

Normally yes, but not in informal situations such as this, and especially not if the person being spoken to is of non-nobility.

It isn't unheard of for officers whose ranks aren't too far underneath that of their superiors to act rather rudely because of their heritage.
Option 2&3
Mobile copy pasting is to much of a hassle ATM for me
“It isn’t like we have a drought of time, is it?” you shrug, “I’ll listen.”

“Well,” Schwarzholdt said, “Well. You should come in, then, I shouldn’t have you standing in the doorway.

Once you have done so, Schwarzholdt sits on his bed, and motions for you to sit in his chair.

“This may be hard to believe, but I am cursed. Or rather,” the captain pressed his hands on his thighs and leaned forwards, “the men of my family are cursed.”

You nod without a word. The nonsense you could tell this man if you wanted to. The knowledge tickled in your mind.

“Ever since the first of my line…bastard, line. I suppose if you didn’t know already you would soon enough. Back when Kaiser Alexander first conquered our lands, he rode out with his realm’s outriders. The eve of his first battle…poof.” He mimed an explosion in the air above him, “Killed by a shell, the first fired in the battle. Every man after him that fought in an army, we get struck down by inglorious artillery. Always the first shot, always the first battle, always a mortal wound.”

“My condolences,” you say.

“Hopefully I won’t need them,” Schwarzholdt gets up from his seat on the bunk and points to the maps on his desk. “I suppose you’re wondering what these are.”

“Actually, I was.” You reply, “From what I can see, all of these portray some series of events where we would be outflanked.”

“Specifically,” Schwartzholdt says, “events that might convince command to hole up in the ruined city for a siege, or to weather the enemy on the banks of rivers and streams. I’ve drafted some proposals for plans in these events, to make counterattacks and try to outmaneuver the enemy, instead of digging in.”

You notice most of the plans involve friendly movement out of the city and away, to the east and west, or to the north, depending on the direction the simulated enemy was taking on that particular map. None bothered to press south into enemy territory.

>This is a bit much for some bad luck, don’t you think? Do you not trust the steel of your tank to protect you?
>Trying to break out of a siege is risky when you could wait for relief. The river island is incredibly defensible, there’s no need for this.
>These plans aren’t daring enough. What if the enemy is weak to the south in some of these?

>this is a map of the general area; you'll have to imagine what the captain's simulations look like, since they seem to come and go from every direction, even ones that would be completely implausible.
>>These plans aren’t daring enough. What if the enemy is weak to the south in some of these?
>Trying to break out of a siege is risky when you could wait for relief. Especially when you can only break out through two chokepoints

>This is a bit much for some bad luck, don’t you think? Do you not trust the steel of your tank to protect you?
These two
Sorry, but could you be a bit more specific with what you mean? Because to me both of those at once would be a contradiction.
Point out the possible weakness to the South when the enemy expects you to break through the north and regroup with friendlies, was my initial thinking.

But on further thought attacking into enemy territory when encircled and with a huge natural obstacle preventing us from swinging around somewhere else back into friendly lines seems more suicidal then being bottled up on an island.

We could bring it up for conversation purposes I guess.
“Considering how…unlikely this sort of movement is,” you point to a particular map where Valsten’s armies somehow close in from the north, as if they were riding on a train directly behind you, “Wouldn’t they expect an attempt to break to the north? You could try pushing south, if only because that’s the last thing they’d expect.”

Captain Schwarzholdt looks at you quizzically. “Be reasonable, Lieutenant. Tanks can’t swim. Trying to force a crossing at either of the bridges would be a bad idea.”

You shrug a little, “Just an idea. Besides, the safest plan would be to hold our ground here. There are fewer more formidable obstacles to an attack than the city we’re heading to.”

“Well, yes, but,” Schwarzholdt did that thing where he pulled at his hair again, “If a siege were forced, they would bring up their artillery…and I have heard of pieces they have that were developed from the guns of their cruisers, able to crack a fortress with a single strike…”

Said pieces were developed during the war that separated Valsten and East Valsten; not what they called themselves, but nobody but themselves referred to them by many other names. It was a miniature replication of the Emrean War, and when stopped by vast forts built in relative secrecy by the rebelling easterners, the loyalists in desperation seized the guns from battleships still under construction and attempted to destroy the bunkers with them, as the war at sea was going poorly and the then Second Republic of Valsten wished to end the war quickly.

>How could someone so timid reach your position? Artillery is a fact of life in war.
>You’re worrying far too much, in my opinion, considering that most of these situations where we get trapped are nigh impossible.
>I’m sure high command will have taken these possibilities into mind. We should trust them.
>Well, those guns didn't help Valsten to win the war. I'm sure fs we're speaking only about staying alive, Salzbrucke's fortifications will be sufficient.
>You could probably establish a bunker and give field command to someone else.
Like a bright platoon commander with combat experience

I think your plans sound fine. An armored unit shouldn't be seeking to dig in anyway when we can utilize the open terrain to the north. Let the infantry dig in on the island.

>>You’re worrying far too much, considering that most of these situations where we get trapped are highly unlikely.

Valsten experimental paratrooper units with Zeppelin gunship support incoming
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“Well, those guns didn’t help Valsten to win the war,” you mention, the existence of East Valsten being rather solid proof of that, “It’s unlikely that we’ll be trapped anyways; if command has any wisdom, they’ll do something like you’re planning, since our armor shouldn’t be digging in anyways. In any case…” you try to reassure your superior, “If you aren’t certain, you could establish a bunker and give field command to somebody else.”

This was perfectly sound procedure. Company command units weren’t meant to be at the frontlines anyways; with only a command tank and a guard tank accompanying HQ personnel and company level salvage and management, they didn’t have much punching force anyways.

“If you think so…” Schwarzholdt tried and utterly failed to say in a believable tone, “Honestly I’d rather this all blow over like a rainy day.”

Not much chance of that, from what you’d heard.


After saying your farewells to the captain, you went back to your room. Maddalyn had shifted a little, but was still fast asleep. Not used to sleeping outside of a bed? Or perhaps she had been occupied with something else last night?

It hardly mattered now. You look out the window at the passing rolling hills, crowned with autumn rainbows of birch trees and oaks. The hills were shallow, very slight prominences that likely offered visibility over most of these flatter plains. Very good tank country.

Perhaps a better word would be “beautiful countryside.” A tactical assessment wasn’t improper though, was it?

You give the land a more thorough inspection. Brick cottages painted white, clouds of tiny blue and yellow flowers that piled high upon each other, big stone boulders covered in orange and grey lichens, brought down from the mountains by some unknown forces long ago.

None of those details seemed relevant, somehow.


Before you know it, you arrive at the place you’re set to detrain at. It’s a little village called Gellen; a clump of buildings next to a train stop with a few heavy cranes that were clearly not native to the place. Why you weren’t disembarking at Salzbrucke itself, you didn’t know, but you could guess that it was probably because some other train was clogging up the works there.

It was typical of a southern border town, from what you had read; little in the way of heavy industry or farming beyond what was needed for sustenance, for fear of all their hard work being trampled by soldiers when the next war inevitably sprang forth.
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Even with a short look around while waiting for all of the personnel train’s cargo to get off, there was little to indicate that Gellen wasn’t a ghost town. The only person you’d seen that hadn’t been somebody from the train or somebody working on getting things off the train was a dust-covered teenage girl sitting in a chair in front of what looked to be a small border patrol outpost; probably the daughter of one of the patrolmen. The local Grenztruppen were likely not very busy anymore, with the recent buildup at the southern border.

While m/28 and m/32 tanks were not disassembled like some heavier tanks were for transport, it was still a chore to unbind them and set them up to be driven off of ramps; it was an even bigger pain if one of the unloading crew drove off of the narrow ramps incorrectly and tipped the tank over.

In the hours spent waiting, not permitted to stray far from the empty town, you hoped that one of yours wouldn’t be the one tank that inevitably got knocked off.


When you and your men are bundled up and sent to your unloaded tanks, you quickly notice that one of them is not like the others.

…There’s probably no hope of finding the culprit. The teamsters have been rotated out to the next crews, and orders say to move out to predefined company deployments as soon as your tanks are fueled and stocked with ammunition.

>You’ll have to deal with the damage for now. It isn’t the worst that could have happened.
>Take time out to file a formal complaint. While you wouldn’t see any results from it, incompetence could not be tolerated.
>Seek out the work crews and find out who messed up your tank. They will pay!

>…wait. Ammunition…
Deal with damage for now, not the worse that could have happened. Make sure tanks are properly supplied and everyone is here.

Is it considered insulting/disrespectful or just unprofessional that the emblem is on the chassis?
It's more unprofessional than it is disrespectful. As long as the emblem is somewhere visible, it's within regulation, but everybody looks for it on the front of the turret. It's confusing to have it anywhere else and you'll generally get bitched at for it but won't get reprimanded.

Because of the m/28's curved mantlet it's a pain in the ass to do on the fly though.
I've always considered tracht to be a consumate professional when it comes to his tanks so I think it'd be in character for him to file a formal complaint.
>>Take time out to file a formal complaint. While you wouldn’t see any results from it, incompetence could not be tolerated.
Rolled 2 (1d3)

Writing next thing, but rolling for something first.

Probably nothing to worry about.
“Damn part time muscle,” you mutter to yourself, making a mental note to file a formal complaint as soon as possible. “Dropping military equipment like they’re children’s toys. Intolerable.”

“Heh,” Von Walen chuckled sympathetically behind you, “Tough luck. Guess life had to take a dump on you at some point, right?”

“This is hardly the unluckiest thing to happen to Von Tracht.” Countered Von Metzeler sternly, “Krause, would you mind submitting a formal complaint? Damages to the exterior of the lead tank.”

“Hold on,” you say, “Let me check the inside. May as well get a full report on this crap.”

You check inside your m/32. Besides the front of one of the mudguards being torn off, everything outside and inside seemed fine. You inspected the ammunition racks, since you were there anyhow, counted your shells…plenty of Armor Piercing, some high explosive, one of the strange and powerful Hellfire rounds…

Wait. You counted through your ammunition once again. There was only one hellfire round in your tank.

You distinctly remembered having two.

“Damnation!” you say under your breath as you climb out of the turret. You peek inside the other m/32s. They weren’t fitted with the right cannon to shoot the Hellfires out of, but maybe, just maybe the loaders made a mistake.

“Commander, what the hell are you doing?” You hear Walen ask from below. You don’t bother telling him to shut up.

Nothing. All the shells in the tank were the proper size – and the proper types.

You check the other tank, but to no avail. The missing Hellfire shell isn’t in any of your tanks.

It wasn’t as if you hadn’t specifically requested those shells to be put back where they belonged. That they were important, and that they belonged in your tank and not somebody else’s. You had done those things, yet somehow one of the incredibly deadly experimental shots had gone missing.

>Well, no crying over spilt milk. If it gets shot out, so what? At least it’ll be towards people who deserve it.
>You’d better go tell Maddalyn. She’s where you got them in the first place, after all. Maybe she could help.
>No need for Maddalyn to know, you’ll keep an eye out for it yourself. You don’t want to give her a heart attack.
>No need for Maddalyn to know, you’ll keep an eye out for it yourself. You don’t want to give her a heart attack.
But if anyone else votes for option #2 I'll change to that
>You’d better go tell Maddalyn. She’s where you got them in the first place, after all. Maybe she could help.

We might need that anti-spirit shell.
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You jump out of the tank and grab Maddalyn out from behind the flock of enlisted.

“Come over here,” you roughly pull Maddalyn along by her twiggy arm.

“What?” She yelped, caught off guard, “What’s with you?”

“One of the hellfire shells is gone!” you hiss in her ear.

“Gone?” her eyes widened for a moment, then relaxed. “Well…that’s not good.”

That was far more of a muted reaction than you had expected. “Not good?”

“I mean…” Maddalyn looked down and idly pushed a pebble around on the ground with her foot, “The Demi Phantom is locked up in that cave. There really isn’t much else to do with one of them. Unless you wanted to shoot Poltergeist with it or something.”

“But…” you feel yourself deflate, “It’s really dangerous to shoot at people, isn’t it?”

“Isn’t anything that’s shot out of a cannon?” Maddalyn seemed entirely unconcerned, and looked sideways as if she was being lectured.

“Uh…” you started to feel like you were the only person concerned about this.

“It’s only a really big problem if you shoot something that’s made to eat a lot of presence,” she continued, “Then you might get something that makes a lot of people feel sick, but nothing as bad as a Demi Phantom.”

“If you say so.” You give up. If Maddalyn wasn’t worried about it, you had no reason to be either. You had a niggling bad feeling about the matter, though. Was losing something like that really alright in a place like this, where somebody like Poltergeist refused to come?
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Your company, and by extension your platoon, was to be one of two companies based on the river island where Salzbrucke lay. While it wasn’t the place of greatest tactical benefit for your sort of operations, you were at least close to the city, and by extension the supply dumps. You wouldn’t have to go far to fetch your meals.

You got a good look at the “city” on your way in. It was clear that it wasn’t nearly as built up as it used to be; the steel bridges leading to the island were an indication of how huge the place had gotten before it was unceremoniously burned to the ground. Charred buildings pockmarked the landscape, but to your surprise even the city itself was full of burned black buildings; you weren’t sure if it was because they were still useful or if it was because of laziness, since many of the burned buildings seemed to have caved in roofs. The new constructions weren’t much better looking, being structurally sound but ugly buildings.

The whole place seemed to have an odd, ashy aura to it, which you weren’t sure was actually there. There were also rippling, invisible shapes moving through the low, barely visible clouds. It all looked incredibly strange, and your eyes felt strained simply beholding the sight.

“Could you look at this?” you say to Maddalyn down in the tank, “Look at this.”

Once you pull her up to the turret and guide her out the side of the turret, she looks toward the city.
She gasps and ducks back inside, throwing herself back into you and knocking aside Hans, who swore loudly as he careened forward.

“What did you see?” you ask.

“Oh…nothing!” she lied badly, and corrected herself when she realized how transparent her expression was, “I-I mean, nothing you should worry about.”

>Horseshit. What’s out there?
>If you say so, then.
>You seem awfully worried about something I shouldn’t worry about, but I won’t pry.

It's a good thing you're such a bad liar. What did you see?
>You seem awfully worried about something I shouldn’t worry about.
>What’s out there?
>Horseshit. What’s out there?
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Note: Picture not necessarily reflective of actual scale and interior. Maybe someday I'll actually model out the interiors so they'll be accurate the the outside model's scale.

“It’s a good thing you’re such a bad liar,” you say, restraining yourself from smirking as Maddalyn bristles in response to your quip, “That was a queer reaction to something I shouldn’t worry about, how about you tell me what you saw?”

“And I thought I was done with monster ghosts…” Hans groaned as he pulled himself back up.

“Salzbrucke is one of the most haunted places in Strossvald,” Stein pointed out eagerly, ‘A place of vengeful spirits, who appear in the darkest of knights great burning apparitions…it is a great gathering place for exorcists and supernatural scholars.”

“A gathering place for quacks, perhaps,” Maddalyn said with venom in her voice, “Soulbinders don’t go anywhere near places like…that, and I can see why.”

“Imagine…uh,a big pair of rods, connected at the top. They taper at the end, and they just walk endlessly, like they’re legs, but move in ways legs don’t. They’re also thirty to fifty meters tall.”
“Yet it’s nothing we should worry about.” You say.

“I mean…” Maddalyn hooked one of her thumbs into the other and bit a corner of her mouth, “I don’t know what they are, but they look like Pacers. Pacers are like….like earthworms, except for soul fragments and things like them. They don’t occur naturally that often, soulbinders like to raise them and scatter them in places with dangerous concentrations of presences. They feed on such things.”

“They don’t exactly seem to fit in your pocket,” you think of Poltergeist herding swarms of fifty meter pairs of walking legs. You haven’t taken nearly the amount of drugs necessary to imagine it properly.

“No, they’re usually only a few centimeters tall,” Maddalyn corrected quickly, “They get bigger the more they eat, but they’re ideal for long term pest control because they don’t try to consume anything but fragments, never whole, intact presences of living things.”

“So these boys have been eating good.” You conclude.

“If they run out of things to eat they dissolve into the earth,” Maddalyn said, “These ones still smell food.”

That wasn’t very reassuring.

“Honestly,” Hans breaks up the moment of silence, “You can say there’s fifty meter giant ghosts walking around, but I’m more afraid of something else.” He gestures over the gun breech to Stein, “If what he says is true, the city’s chock full of other people like him. That’s more terrifying than any ghost story you could ever tell me.”

>Sounds like we need to find that missing shell.
>I concur, as long as the giant invisible things aren’t harmful, they shouldn’t be a concern.
>I prefer any sort of aid against the supernatural, even ones that are just candles in the night, to be honest.
>I concur, as long as the giant invisible things aren’t harmful, they shouldn’t be a concern.
>I concur, as long as the giant invisible things aren’t harmful, they shouldn’t be a concern.
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“I concur,” You dismiss the matter of these “Pacers,” “as long as the giant invisible things aren’t harmful, they shouldn’t be a concern.”

“Commander,” Stein said, sounding hurt, “it isn’t as if I’m obsessed with this stuff, comparing me to the people who gather at Salzburg is unfair…”

“I didn’t mean it like that, you reassure your gunner, “I just meant that there’s nothing to worry about, if Maddalyn says there isn’t.”

It was good that you had a spare Hellfire shell just in case your presumption was wrong, though, you thought.

Your company was to be based in the section of the city in front of the southwest bridge over the river. Once you had reconvened, Captain Schwarzholdt gave the order for all platoons to fan out to predetermined positions along the southwestern arc of the island, wherever any platoon decided they wanted to stay, so long as it was behind the slope of the hill (as to prevent spotters from having an easy time of determining exact positions) and close enough to quickly prepare for battle when war came.

There were a few positions available to you; being practically a fifth platoon among what would normally be four, most of the best positions had already been taken. Thus, your position was to be somewhat further back in the city proper, acting as a mobile reserve to the normal four platoons.

That said, only one of the positions was truly capable of housing the platoon; a fire damaged blockhouse, with a hasty roofing repair job done; military contractors were working on doing repairs at the moment, so lighting and heating would be restored at some point in the near future.

The other two positions were an open shed for housing vehicles, and the incinerated remains of what had to have been a grand residence; its spectacle only hinted at by the blackened skeleton of the original structure, piles of ashen rubble still littering it. The roof had been caved in; it was only because of the amount of space that it was even considered a place to base a platoon.

>Pick a base location to operate from; you probably won’t have to stay for long, at the very least, since none of these places are exactly good…

>A-The closest position to the front, the burned up mansion
>B-Neither close nor far away, the shed, with only a roof over enough space to stuff all the tanks.
>C-Furthest away but with the most potential homey comforts, the blockhouse under repair
>Look for something else more specific
>>A-The closest position to the front, the burned up mansion
However since it seems like it'll be a tie just count me for A unless someone else votes C
>A-The closest position to the front, the burned up mansion
Let's go loot explore it.
You found yourself rather curious about the burned up old mansion on the hill; perhaps it wasn’t the most comfortable lodgings, especially considering that you had been told the building itself was far too unsafe to be used as such even if rubble didn’t block off much of the entrances on top of supposedly being haunted, but the temptation of discoveries drew you nevertheless.

Despite how barren the town was, there wasn’t a shortage of wandering people and traffic obstructing the roads. Somehow, you had gotten caught between a train departing the station and an overturned curio wagon. With the wagon scattered over both this street and somehow over the next few, with its merchants hopping madly about screeching at passersby who dared to touch their bouncing and rolling wares; a complete mess, of which the easiest option appeared to be letting the train pass.

Children who had been frightened off by the merchants soon congealed around your armored column, gawking at these new strange automobiles that bristled with guns. After enough bellowing at children, you elected to take a break and let Stein keep mischievous youthful apes from swinging on the 13mm machine gun.

A pair of loitering middle aged men were having a conversation that caught your ear.

“Can’t see why nobody’s sent off these runts…irresponsible, I tell ya. Ya’dhev thought all the guns on the border, plus the snipers’d run off anybody with a mind for keepin’ safe.” A shorter, squat citizen said to the other. They both wore grease stained jumpsuits; perhaps mechanics or engineers of some sort.

“Snipers?” you find yourself asking them.

“Have you heard of the New Moon Sniper?” the shorter of them asked.
“…No.” you answer, “Should I have?”

“Ah, well, you see,” the tall local said excitedly, “Last week, in the darkest kind of night, some sneaky bugger went out and shot a bunch of seagulls. Bang, bang! Shot about a dozen of ‘em. Tis bad enough Valsten’s been droppin’ their own snipers about lookin fer em. Ain’t safe to walk alone, lest you catch a round by a paranoid watchman.”

“Aye,” the man’s compatriot noted, “They’re pissed alright. But ‘e didn’t kill none of ‘em. All shot in the hands n’ feet, so I hear.”

“Hands and feet?” you echo, “odd aim for a sniper.”

“Aye, that too,” the shorter man grimaced and nodded, “Who knows why, after all, a live seagull dun do anybody much good.”

“Less they’re a lady seagull!” the tall man laughed at his own remark.

“Lady seagulls er too fine for filthy rat munching gull men,” the short man lamented, “Proof the Judge is a cruel God, that the gulls get the finest girls. Only greater sadness tis that their girls ‘ave to consort wid their men!” With that both the tall and the shorty burst into uproarious laughter.

“Ey, you remember the other shooter?” the short man asked his other, “One who killed twenty three seagull soldiers, ‘fore he was arrested. Full month ago.”

“Aye, he’s still in the town prison, so I hear.” The tall one snorted, “They ain’t lookin too hard for the New Moon, so ah bet they wouldn’t mind ‘is ass out about now.”

>Vigilante snipers just make the work for the professionals harder. Inquire further for more information so you can keep a look out.
>Any enemy of Valsten is a friend of yours. No need to try and impede.
>Surreptitiously inquire about how popular these snipers, and people who act as they do, are around here.
>Surreptitiously inquire about how popular these snipers, and people who act as they do, are around here.
“So, er, this New Moon Sniper…” you try to glean more information.

“An’ the guy before ‘im.” The tall mechanic added.

“Yes,” you adjust your cap with a hand, “Him too. Sounds like you support them.”

“Well, ‘course we support em,” the squat engineer said, “You think we don’t know what these burned buildings are? The folk across the river ‘ud give us the same fate, if they could. Ev’n fore the times were like they are now, any seagulls comin’ through would jus look at you,” the short man drew lines from his eyes to yours with his fingers, “Like we’re the ones who burned the place, so we could live in it.”

“Aye,” the tall man agreed, “Cause we’re livin in their place, an they’ll never fergit it.”

“So eventually, when things really get going,” the short, plump man punches a fist into an open hand, “and it’s time to kill everybody decides to kill everybody else who disagrees with ‘em, the less seagulls the better.”

“I see,” you muse, looking off to the side. The train had finally finished passing by, with a short pair of whistle blasts from a conductor in the caboose.

“Commander!” Stein shouted to you from on top of your tank, “Can we get going now!? If we stick around these kids for any longer we’ll be a company instead of a platoon!”

“I’ll have to bid you gentlemen farewell,” you begin to turn.

“Hey, wait,” the short man said, reaching into a greasy pocket in his coveralls, “Yer new round here, yeah? Might need this.”

He tosses a small, canvas satchel to you, which you catch easily. You peek inside, and see a multitude of tiny, grey crystals of salt.

“Salt?” you ask quizzically.

“Rock salt,” the short man says, “Seagull ghosts hate it cause it ain’t sea salt. Some newcomers say they get bad dreams cause a the ghosts. Sprinkle that about and they’ll be scared off right quick.”

“Er, thanks,” you say, pocketing the salt. You would doubt its ability to ward the ethereal until Maddalyn told you otherwise, though.
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After clearing the young rats away from your column and climbing into your tank and giving Malachi the go ahead to drive, you promptly asked Maddalyn about the salt.

“Rock salt?” Maddalyn said, “Yes, it has a little bit of a repelling effect. Not much though, unless you use it as a reagent in a spell. Most spells use materials to enhance their effects, and some need them to even work.”

“So you put different things into those card things and it does a different magic thing depending on what it is?” you ask.

“Well, um.” Maddalyn says uncertainly, “It’s a lot more complicated than that, but pretty much.”

“So rock salt is a repellent,” you think out loud, “What’s the secret ingredient in the healing thing?”

“Er...” Maddalyn flushed, “Maiden’s blood.”

“Seems awfully specific.” You say, expecting Hans to make a smart aleck comment. He does not oblige you.

“Well, I’ve never tried it with somebody else’s blood…” Maddalyn pouted.

It wasn’t too long before you reached the mansion. It was more intact than you would have thought; only half of it seemed to have collapsed, but every entrance you could see as you walked around it was blocked off by rubble, no attempts seeming to have been made to clear it away from the building itself. Perhaps you could clear it away with some effort.

Around the building was plenty of open, flat space for parking the tanks and perhaps erecting tents. Army tents weren’t the most comfortable affair, being little more than a few pieces of water resistant canvas with eyelets stuck in them, sewn together. They were hot and leaky anyways, and very unpopular with troops who preferred to lodge under trees or in available buildings.

The mansion, now that you were up close to it, beckoned to you even more now. Perhaps you had somewhat of a treasure hunter’s streak; the trinkets you had collected from the laboratory back in the Blumlands still rattled around in your case of personal possessions, and something told you the mansion had hidden treasures like the hole in the ground from a day ago.

Particularly, you knew for damn near certain, the wine storage in the basement, which if it had survived the great fires, would be stocked to the brim with prize vintages.

>Your greed can be fulfilled later; set up camp and watches and see if you can find out more about the area, and the current events.
>The company HQ section has a HandelWagen Wrecker for heavy recovery operations; maybe if you tempted the company authorities with treasures, you could start excavating out the entrances? It would also possibly serve as a better camp than sitting outdoors.
>Best to involve only your own with the mansion. Assign work details to clear out the rubble. Not like you’re doing anything else until Valsten decides to start with their mischief or you receive orders.
>Your greed can be fulfilled later; set up camp and watches and see if you can find out more about the area, and the current events.

So war hadn't even started and we already have snipers shooting people. Not good.
>“So eventually, when things really get going,” the short, plump man punches a fist into an open hand, “and it’s time to kill everybody decides to kill everybody else who disagrees with ‘em, the less seagulls the better.”

Jesus what the hell is this sentence

“and it’s time for everybody to kill everybody else who disagrees with ‘em, the less seagulls the better.” ***
Your greed can be fulfilled later; set up camp and watches and see if you can find out more about the area, and the current events.
Assign work details to clear out the rubble.
>>The company HQ section has a HandelWagen Wrecker for heavy recovery operations; maybe if you tempted the company authorities with treasures, you could start excavating out the entrances? It would also possibly serve as a better camp than sitting outdoors.
The mysteries of the mansion would have to wait, you decided. The tensions around the area were high enough that it was a wonder war hadn’t broken out already; some members of the populace apparently thought it already had.

You assigned work details to start trying to gain access to the mansion while you were out gathering information. Tow cables and shovels were not quite as efficient as a Wrecker would be, but there were few situations where they did not work regardless.

You made sure, however, to bar the use of the more powerful m/32 models for such work. M/32s were foul tempered when it came to pulling their own weight under duress, let alone that of other heavy objects like boulders, and particularly of annoyance, other temperamental vehicles.

With roughly forty people around the place, you could afford to take a few on your short trip.

>List any of your crew and/or officers to take, limit 3
>Or, you don’t need to take anybody. It isn’t as if you’re creeping around on the border ununiformed asking to get shot.
>Malachi, in case of fight
>Metzeler, in case of traps
>Maddalyn, in case of ghosts

Thus, we'll become Team M, the looters of loot.

sounds good to me
You collect the party you want to investigate with.

Malachi, your driver, who was quite the capable fighter from what you had observed, if severely lacking in actually speaking something resembling New Nauk. He seemed to understand it well enough, though.

Lieutenant Von Metzeler, your second in command, despite sharing your rank. You’d be leaving his close friend Junior Lieutenant Krause behind, who by now had to have been used to such duties. Von Metzeler knew quite a bit about what occurred behind the scenes of places where suspicious matters were afoot; experience from the family, as he would put it.

Finally there was Maddalyn Von Blum. Supposedly, this city was haunted by ghosts of the spiteful dead of the 1929 war. You didn’t know for sure about that, but you did know strange invisible beasts that Maddalyn said hunted spirits were on the prowl. You deemed it best to be safe and bring her along.

Not that you figured she had anything better to do back at camp.

You informed everybody about what you had heard while you were trapped between a train and an overturned cart, concerning the snipers and the general attitude of the populace.

“It has been three years since the cessation of hostilities,” Von Metzeler points out, “It seems rather late for any vengeance. Then again, maybe the recent tensions have created an excuse.” Von Metzeler looks over the hill at the sun, beginning its descent towards twilight, “I personally find such matters to be unimportant. It may be days, possibly even hours, before war begins regardless.”

“Yet the people around here seem to think they’re a big deal.” You say.

“What if we…” Maddalyn suggested slowly, “Caught them? And make them help us? After all, it isn’t as if there’s rules against it, are there?”

There were actually rules against conscription of civilians. However, it was also high illegal to shoot at foreigners for no justifiable reason. Protocol stated that any civilian vigilantes in peacetime were to be arrested, and that militia were to be advised to either sign a mercenary contract or enlist in the military.

With war so close on the horizon, however, you could probably get away with a lot.

>Alright. Let’s see if we can find this New Moon Sniper.
>You don’t need to waste time looking for the one on the loose. Perhaps you could simply conscript the one in the prison.
>There’s no need. Simply going out and measuring the attitudes of the people will be enough.
>Any other things that come to mind
>Alright. Let’s see if we can find this New Moon Sniper.
“Alright,” you clap your hands together, “Lets see if we can find this New Moon Sniper. They might prove valuable, especially if we can just ask them what they’ve been seeing when they’re out on their siestas. After all, to shoot soldiers, you need to observe their movements.”

So you all set upon the town to try and track down this mysterious shooter, the classic way; by asking as many people as possible what they knew.

“Who’s the New Moon Sniper?” a young woman at a fruit stand repeated your question back to you, “Oh, he’s a skilled shooter, but also a kind soul…he’s not killed a single person, despite them being his mortal enemies! He must be so dashing…”

“I hear he’s an old veteran from the ’29 war,” a grizzly old man took a bite out of a chunk of plains cloud mushroom he held in one hand. “Mmf. Got a bone to pick with the people cross the river.”

“Why doesn’t he shoot to kill then?” you ask him.

“Donno.” The man shrugged a shoulder halfheartedly, “But I think it’s cause he wants em to suffer. Death’s too good for em, or sumthin.”

“Don’t know why they call ‘em that,” a bored truck driver was willing to talk while goods were unloaded from his Handelwagon Two-Ton. “Sure, New Moon Sniper sounds neat, but I was around yesterday, and two days before that, and they was shooting then too. I guess Night Sniper or whatever didn’t have the same punchiness.”

The search continued.

“I’ll bet that sniper’s the same one from a month ago,” you managed to tie down a border patrolman on break, easily distinguishable by his white and green scarf and armband atop a (currently non-regulation) summer uniform, “The one we have locked up right now, I bet he’s a fraud. Some friend of the real thing who’s fooled everybody into thinking he’s the sniper giving everybody trouble. The dimwits down at judicial certainly ate up that bate easy enough. I guarantee you, it’s the same guy as before, just with a different MO to throw off the trail.”

“I see.” You don’t take a particular stance on his proposal.

“By the way,” he said, looking at Maddalyn, “Aren’t you armor corps? Women aren’t allowed in frontline combat units, let alone little girls. What’s she doing here in that uniform?”

“Long story.” You say, pulling Maddalyn with you as you walk away. You’d gotten everything useful out of that man for now.
“I think that the New Moon Sniper isn’t a man, but a woman,” giggled a school aged girl you had found yourself unwittingly interviewing shortly after she overheard you asking other people, “I’ve heard that she was scorned by a Valsten soldier across the border, so to take revenge, she shoots any of their soldiers she sees. She still loves the man who left her, though, so that’s why she doesn’t kill any!”

“I think that’s stupid.” A passing young woman says, who had apparently been listening in. She had the look of a local hunter; the sort that advertised it with fur decorations on her clothing and trophies of claw and tooth in her hair and around her neck.

“I think YOU’RE stupid, Hilda!” the girl protested, “I bet you’re just jealous that you’re too mannish for anybody to like!”

Whoever Hilda was, she hadn’t stuck around to let the girl finish her insult.

The setting sun was beginning to tint the Varbonnlands a bright, golden orange.

“I think that the only thing we have learned about this New Moon Sniper,” said Von Metzeler disapprovingly, “Is that nobody seems to really know who they are.”

“Yak.” Malachi agreed with a vague syllable.

“What do you think, Maddalyn?” you include your fiancée in the matter.

“Couldn’t we just wait until it gets dark, when they might come out?” she asks, “I can…well, see, then, when people might think they can’t otherwise.”

>Sure, we can just watch and wait. Shouldn’t be too hard, considering how you see things.
>I’d rather find them before they might get shot. Maybe we should keep looking.
>If nobody here knows who this person is, how would we be able to ever find them? Let’s go back.
>If nobody here knows who this person is, how would we be able to ever find them? Let’s try and collect that other sniper.
>I’d rather find them before they might get shot. Maybe we should keep looking.
>For example, that Hilda woman looked like a hunter - exactly the type of person perfect to be a sniper. Let's visit her.
>>Sure, we can just watch and wait. Shouldn’t be too hard, considering how you see things.

>>For example, that Hilda woman looked like a hunter - exactly the type of person perfect to be a sniper. Let's visit her.

I don't know if she's the sniper or not but she seems like the sort of person who would know about how one would theoretically go about sniping people around this island. We could go ask her what she thinks about the whole thing and use any hints to try to find them with Maddalyn later.

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