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/qst/ - Quests

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‘Soon’ is such a curious word, one usually reserved for when more specific chronological estimates can’t be made. But what is soon, precisely? A day? A week? A minute?

Sometimes it’s far less crucial to know the exact when and where of things then others, like when the rain will fall after a long drought as opposed to when a neighboring army might come marching on your doorstep. At this particular moment for the voices, the urgency was more on the side of the latter than the former, mystical visions of forested landscapes and mysterious, cloaked figures bound their way giving little in the way of a timeline by which to expect them.

Talks with the local monarch would have to wait, then. With a pair of possible kidnappers on the way, they would need to be vigilant of their ward, focused, and above all… Is that thing still alive!?

“Aunt Rosie!” Cici calls excitedly as the massive oni makes her way from the nearby woods, muscles bulging beneath her skin as she carries a writhing, carapace covered monstrosity over one shoulder.

“Heya, runt!” she greets with a smile, letting go of the pull string she had on a cart behind her in order to wave back. “I brought you guys dinner!”

Vivi noticeably shuffles back from the still chittering, snapping crustacean as the oni draws closer, a peak over her shoulder revealing she hadn’t come alone as Mishael waves and continues on his way, leading what appears to be a caravan of horse drawn carts in his wake.

“We brought sand, too!” Rosie adds with a laugh.

“I see…” Mama hums from her place by the fire, a law book folded carefully in one hand so as not to lose her place. “And about that news you said you were bringing…”

“Come on! Food first. Questions later,” the oni insists. “This little guy’s been begging for the pot since we left camp back in Sarda!”

“L-little?” Vivi squeaks incredulously, looking to the beast roughly the size of a cow.

“Yeah… Biggest one there coulda fit Mishi inside its shell and run off. Meat on that sucker was delicious.”

“Ah, speaking of fitting inside shells-” Iris starts, but Vivi clamps a wing over her mouth.

“Huh?” the oni inquires. “Well, apparently the shells of these tasty bastards actually is kinda valuable. Good for armor and whatnot, but don’t let that keep ya from smacking ‘em with a hammer. That’s half the fun of eating crabs.”

Iris is laughing, one eye narrowed teasingly at Vivi even as she keeps up her barrier.

“Also, I like your hair,” Cici adds, looking to the brain now hanging down one side of her chest.

“Ah, this?” the oni looks away and scratches her head a little. “It’s okay, I guess.”

Seems lunch and possibly dinner is served.

> Write-in
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For any new players:

Welcome to Gorgon Child Quest! Where-in you take up the role of a magical talking artifact being wielded by a young gorgon girl named Cici. Living out of the remains of a once great dungeon, the game will focus on exploration, character interaction, and learning as the voices of the players within the amulet help guide her along.

For news about quest updates, my twitter can be found here:

And the archive can presently be found here:
Ask for advice about how to fight crustaceans, Cici. You never know when you might get caught in a crab battle. Also what do they use the shells for?
Simple. You attack it's weak point for ma-
(Sounds of a struggle, muffled yelling)
Let me phrase that better: can you make anything other than armour out of giant crabs?
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“So, how do you fight crabs?” Cici asks, seeing the weird, almost alien-like creature make a run for it as soon as Rosie lets it down and wincing as that escape is thwarted by one heavy foot landing on its back. “A-an’ how do they use it for armor?”

“Well…” Rosie says, reaching to her side and pulling out a dagger.

Before Cici can even let out a whisper, the blade flashes down and buries itself in the creature’s eye socket. Its movement immediately stops as a hiss escapes its insectoid mouth.

“Ye see, ye always gotta aim for the- Wait. What?”

She looks curiously to the young gorgon now hugging her mother.

“Was that really necessary?” Cassandra asks, running a reassuring hand through Cici’s hair.

“Either that or we boil ‘em alive. I’d say that’s a sorrier fate by at least half. Anyway…” She apparently isn’t going to let a small misstep throw her off. “The key to taking out something like this, or really anything that’s got bones on the outside, is that ye wanna stab it in the joints. Anyplace where something is soft or has to flex is a place where the armor is weaker. Then you just gotta find the crease, and push the weapon in. Might do better with an axe or a spear than a knife though…”

She flips over the crab to expose its belly.

“You can see how it’s got something like a little shoulder for each of its legs, right?” Cici offers a small nod. “Well, if you take out that shoulder, the leg isn’t a problem anymore. Take out enough legs and it’s not going to be moving very fast. And if it can’t move, it can’t fight back.

“The cleanest way to end any fight, though, is to do what I did and stab your opponent through the eye. Doesn’t matter how strong they are. Doesn’t matter how much they’ve trained. You get them through the eye socket, plunge a bit of metal through their brain and they aren’t going to be getting back up. Simple as that.”

Cici doesn’t feel so good after witnessing that.
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“But you were talking about armor,” Iris puts back in, getting a laugh from the oni and another wing swat from the harpy.

“Right. Right. Well, their shell is really tough stuff. Strong enough to turn a normal steel blade. Some of the less bright races or monsters will just sling the bits on their back and be done with it. However, as I understand it, some of the crafty folks have found better ways to use them.

“For one thing, the bones can be steamed to make pink, red, and even blue dyes without ruining the shell. More heat and more molding and you can reshape it for bows and conventional armor plates. Then again, if you just want to make better steel, some folks will dry up the shell and hack it into chips. Toss those in the fire, and it makes the resulting pieces tougher.”

“Huh. Why?” Vivi asks.

“Dunno. Anyhow, you got a bigass pot anywhere around here, Cassandra?”

“Stop swearing in front of the children!” Mama fumes. “And we might need a couple for a beast that size, not to mention fire wood.”

“Leave that part to me, Cass. Been meaning to try this new axe out anyway.”

With a grin, she takes a gleaming axe from her belt, a mirror like finish on the head and intricate detailing down the spine, runes and gemstones gleaming. Seconds later, she’s dragging an entire tree back toward the house.

> Guess there’s time for more questions…
> Write-in
>> Guess there’s time for more questions…
Love the axe, Rosie. I take it that it's a reward for finishing your quest? You're looking like a real adventurer type now!

Anyway, Cassandra, since she mentioned it, perhaps you should consider teaching Cici some basic archery. Perhaps some of her friends too. We have the material to make some youth bows and archery breastplates, and it would be a start of a good militia program, lest marauders become a problem.

Anyway, Rosie, Mishael, since you were the ones who helped get rid of the crabs, you should be the ones who get to have most of the spoils of it. I'd recommend some fine crab-chip armor for you, Rosie, and perhaps a large ring to be enchanted for you, Mishael. I've got no doubt that this stuff will empower water based enchantments.
So Baroness, do you want new armor?
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“Hmm?” the oni questions as she begins trimming branches. “Yeah. Guess you could call it a reward. They called it Stone Biter, and well, they needed the crabs dead more than they needed it sitting on some noble’s wall.

“Not like they had much use for it anyway. It’s heavier than it looks.”

“Ooh! How much does it weigh?” Iris asks excitedly.

“Well, that’d be the weird thing,” Rosie answers, hefting the axe in hand before tossing it on the ground. Then, with a thin branch, she casually flips it back up into her hand. “It ain’t heavy until somebody tries to pick it up.”

With a flourish, she plants the axe head into the tree and motions toward Iris.

“Go ahead. Try to pick it up.”

With her characteristic Cheshire smile, Iris attempts to do just that, walking over and seemingly giving it her all as she yanks on the handle with an increasingly dark complexion. All the same, the axe doesn’t budge an inch, implacably seating itself in the wood until she finally gives up.

“Impressive,” Iris says with a winded laugh as she pushes back her hair. “Though it begs the question how you manage.”

“Huh?” the oni asks as she casually goes back to trimming the tree into logs. “It ain’t that heavy for me, I guess. A heck of a lot harder to stop a swing though.”

With a hum, she continues working, carving with a smooth, shaving motion until most of the branches are gone.

“As for armor, I guess it’d kind of be a waste on me, ya know? Hell, ends up breaking half the time anyway, so that usually me and Mishi are the only things coming back in one piece. I’d rather sell off the shells for booze.”

“And dresses,” Cici insists. “You’d look really pretty.”

“Ah, geeze…”

As the oni murmurs quiet denials into her axe with each swing, Mama is apparently hunting for a second cauldron, the voices taking a careful tally of the available materials before turning their proposal to her.

“Practice with a bow and arrow?” she questions. “Well, I suppose I wasn’t much older when I first learned. Still, giving them weapons and armor…” Her tail twists nervously. “I’ll have to give it some thought.

“And I do have armor, you know. It’s just more leather than plate. Gods willing, I won’t need anything heavier to survive the world of politics.”

> That’s debatable. Feel free to debate.
> Otherwise, write-in
if youre iffy on the Bow, maybe get cici a Slingshot to start with. At least you can pass that off as a toy, and you dont have to worry about making arrows either.
Similar theory behind the use, if much different in practice
Well, a bit of reinforcement should be something you should look into. The shell would be quite useful when facing foes who might conceivably have tamed rust eaters, or spells that magnetize metal.

Anyway, learning how to use a bow and arrow is a useful skill, as you well know. As long as you just follow your standard safety practices, I'm sure the little ones should be safe. I have no doubt you'd do your best in teaching them appropriate archery rules and etiquette. Hell, perhaps later, when the program becomes more established, we could do archery competitions! That'd be a good way to get visitors here from the city...

Oh, yes, perhaps we should send something for Miss Faye, something like a badge of office of some sort, that shows her right to carry your laws in the forest?
So, things to use the shell for...

>Ring for Mishi, enchanted to help improve his intelligence score
>Bows for militia and youth archery
>Sell some shell chips for the blacksmith, use to buy pretty dresses for Rosie
>Armor reinforcement for Cassandra's leather
>Some sort of badge of office for Miss Faye, perhaps a shell chip reinforced shield?

“A bow is better than a sword for feeding families in peace time,” Cassandra notes. “And there’s a certain level of detachment, calm, to loosing the bowstrings that I think would suit Cici better than close-up combat. I just… I’m always worried at what point I’m enabling her to get hurt or to accidentally hurt someone else.”

She sighs.

“But I can probably teach them the basics. It is part of our culture, after all, though I’m afraid Vivi may have to take a back seat.”

With a small grunt, the heavy iron pot is finally found in a cellar room, coming free from the floor with a groan before Cassandra hefts it under her arm.

“As for wizards leading legions of rust monsters, a part of me still hopes you’re wrong about those visitors. They’d certainly pose a threat I don’t feel confident in dealing with. Anyway, best not to worry the girls with that.”

Her face blanches as she rounds outside.

“Girls, what are you-“

The three girls collectively voice their effort, groaning aloud as Cici and Iris both pull on the axe handle, Vivi gripping the top and flapping her wings with all her might in an attempt to lift. The axe, however, remains unimpressed and unperturbed.

“Come on, girls! Lift with your knees, not with your back!” Rosie cheers from her seat. “Put in a bit of elbow grease, and I’m sure you’ll- Oh, hey Cassandra.”



Herbs and spices boil with an intoxicating aroma long before the crab is added, the two pots roiling with the heady, spicy aroma of peppers and a dozen different vegetables simmering. It’s a difficult process to wait through, Cici’s earlier horror turning into anticipation as the poor crab’s sacrifice is made into a worthwhile meal for them all to enjoy.

“Heard this stuff goes good with butter,” Rosie mentions to the others.

“If it’s anything like cave cricket, grilling it afterward will also probably increase the flavor,” Iris tacks on helpfully.

“Well, not like we don’t have enough to experiment with,” Rosie concedes.

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However, the truth of the matter when weighed against hungry mouths is anything but simple, succulent crab steaks the size of plates disappearing one after the other as they’re carved and cracked free of the carapace. It’s strangely light for all its delicate richness, a stringy, savory meal filled with the rich broth it had bathed in pairing with vegetables just with a hint of crispness left to them.

“Gon’ haffa grab emshelf shum rashor shell oyshers next time,” Rosie mumbles through a mouthful of food. “Dang things look like snot, but taste great!”

“Eww!” Cici scandalizes, imagining it with vivid detail.

“Ha! Don’t knock anything until you’ve tried it twice, squirt,” the oni laughs. “Speaking of, got some rum back in the village.”

“What’s rum?”

“Something you can’t try until you’re older,” Mama explains helpfully, giving Rosie a sour look.

“Basically candy for grownups,” the ogre woman re-explains.

“They basically take something incredibly sweet and leave it out to rot for days on end,” Iris continues. “It rots slowly breaking down until it liquifies, the germs inside mixing and matching the individual components until- mmf.”

It is somewhat harder to talk with a mouthful of crab.

“That sounds gross,” Cici comments, after silencing her friend.

“Lots of stuff is if you think too hard,” Rosie comments lazily. “Like-“

“Let’s not have any more examples until everyone’s finished eating,” Mama suggests. “And again, about that news you were planning on bringing.”

“Ah, right. The folks down river were wondering if they could join your territory.”

Cassandra, her mouth full of water, proceeds to eject it all in something like a fine mist.


“Seems like the other guy’s been screwing them pretty hard…”

“Mama, what’s screw-“

“Cici, sweetling,” Mama coos, one hand clamped over Cici’s mouth. “Could you and the girls go inside for a moment? Aunt Rosie and I need to talk…”

> Intervention/advising may be necessary
> Write-in
>> Intervention/advising may be necessary

Well, Cici, while you're still too young for the adult meaning, Aunt Rosie used the phrase to describe how the down river folks are being treated unfairly by their leader or leaders.

Anyway, could you leave us with your mother and aunt for a bit? We might need to advise them on this situation, and it's going to be rather long and boring.
"The phrase 'to screw someone over' typically means to cause someone an unjust amount of harm, usually for one's own benefit in some way. For example, paying someone in counterfeit or underweight currency could be considered screwing them over."
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Trying to write, but exhaustion is hitting me like a truck. I'll pick back up writing tomorrow. Until then.
No problem. Get some rest and we'll see you tomorrow, Boss.

“Okay, Mama,” Cici says, giving her mother another hug as the other girls stand. “The voices say they might be able to help though. So, can they stay?”

“Of course, sweetling, but before you go, how would you girls feel about learning some archery soon?”

“Mhm. Sounds neat!”

[“And thanks voices.”]

“It could be amusing. Though I’d prefer a slingshot myself,” Iris answers, miming an imaginary one with enthusiasm.

“Mom had a foot bow… So maybe I could learn,” Vivi says.

“Well, I suppose we’ll see if I can find the right materials, then, but for now, inside. All of you.”

With things decided, they do just that, the voices hearing both ends of the channel as the girls are out of sight.

“By the way, Cici,” Iris begins. “If you really want to know what screwing means…”

Oh no.

“It’s when someone takes an oddly shaped, usually small and relatively thin cylindrical object and inserts it into a firm surface through a series of measured gyrations. There’s also the colloquialism, but that’s the crux of it.”

“What’s a colloquialism?”

Bullet dodged. Maybe…
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In any case, back outside, things are on a bit more of a serious tone. Rosie, having expected to be yelled at, is at once relieved and concerned as Cassandra takes on a thinking pose.

“Why?” she asks finally, not really aimed at anything, before she turns to the oni, exasperated. “Why precisely do they want to become a part of our territory? They’re nearly half our size already and a day’s ride away by horse.”

“See, that’s the thing,” Rosie explains. “They’re about a day away by horse from us, border-to-border halfway around. They’re also one of those settlements whose stay of patriotic consolidation’s up.”

“Patriotic what now?” she demands, thumbing through her law book.

“See, way back when, the king knew not everyone wanted to be part of the barony system. And obviously, they couldn’t just pack everyone out who disagreed, since some of those tribes had been around for long-ass periods of time. So, they let ancestral tribes keep their lands, usually the ones the nobles didn’t want, and let them stick around as their own pocket nations.

“Problem is, a lot of those deals were cut under pressure and came with unfavorable terms. Ssen’s Redoubt got shafted with a repatriation order that basically said they had to become tax paying citizens after so many generations. Well, time’s up and they aren’t looking too hot.

“Their fish farm took a major hit from the crabs. They’ve got no army to speak of, and the neighboring noble has been a belligerent dick about blocking their trade routes off. It’s pretty clear to everyone that the reason he’s doing it is to keep ‘em weak. Make ‘em desperate enough, and they’ll have no choice but to join his territory.”
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“As a member barony, they would have the ability to lodge complaints with the council,” Cassandra points out.

“And because of the internal political bullshit and their relative size, their voice would get buried. Isn’t like they call them minor lords for nothing. Anyway, they’d rather add their voices to yours rather than the dickhead’s, and in the process, they’d net you a shitload of river land stuck between your province and theirs.”

“River land already heavily populated by farmers.”

“River land filled with farmers who don’t give a shit who the big boss is, so long as they can keep scratching up turnips.”

“Baron Faust probably wouldn’t take kindly to that legal annexation, all the same.”

“And? That land should have been theirs anyway by the original accords. Just so happened they ‘forgot’ to redistribute it after a border war settled out.”

“Honestly, Rosie, I wouldn’t have thought you would be this detail oriented about history,” Cassandra finally comments.

“Gods. It’s all they would talk about,” she groans. “Seems like they’re real gungho on making this work.”

“So, we either roughly double the size of our holdings, including some valuable commodities and disgruntled farmers. In exchange, we risk making enemies of our second largest trade partner and his allies. Alternately, we allow said partner to continue beating a smaller nation into submission, a move for which no one would blame us and from which we might profit in the long run.”

“Tough choice.”

> Write-in
"You will have to let them join but put conditions. You will need an army for the inevitable border disputes and possible war. Oh and get the wizards help. Lords aren't idiots, they are less likely to go to war if the enemy has golems and wizarda on their side. But you know you still need a real army."
Maybe you can find other trade partners.

Anyway, I recommend taking the land; it's not like you can easily make sub-planes for more land.
Yeah, it's really not that hard of a choice, its just hard deciding how were going to make it less painful.
Hmm, if that other guy is our trade partner and wanted to get control of that land, maybe it'd be easier to take them in and just give him more favorable conditions for trading whatever it was he wanted out of it, rather then him getting it for free or whatever he planned to do? Might be easier to convince him to let you take on the responsibility of managing the area while still getting what he wants that way, and the fisherman and farmers wont have to deal with him.
This Voice got it figured out Cass.
Both should be employed.
"...um, both this place and that other place are part of the same country, right? How likely is it that they'll start a civil war over this?"

“I don’t expect a war,” Cassandra sighs. “Come whatever may, they wouldn’t want to get on the wrong side of the ruling council. Wardens and police is one thing, but an army…”

“The voices talking crazy to you?” Rosie inquires.

“No, not exactly. They’re just trying to think of the best way to protect ourselves from the collateral of accepting the offer we’ve been presented with.”

“Ah, right. Keep in mind, fellas, I’ve found carrying a big stick around is a good way to give the wrong guys the right message, but last I heard, nobody outside of the border kingdom’s supports their own armies. They have the habit of chewing up the local budget something fierce.

“Barons might drum up a couple of knights, more than a couple if they’re rich and paranoid, but even they don’t exactly go stomping around kicking other barons’ teeth in. I could always be the first, though.”

“Please no…”

“See, that’s most people’s reaction. It’s boring as hell, but it pays not to have your neighbors hate your guts.”

“I ‘could’ offer to pay him a premium on the lands I’m taking,” she suggests, “or cut favorable trade deals for a few years to ease tensions.”

“Sure the farmers and everyone will -love- that,” Rosie yawns.

“Well, as I understand the laws here, I could make up that slack in taxes they don’t otherwise owe to the baron.”

“The land wasn’t his to begin with, and from the sound of things, the lamia aren’t exactly happy with having human farmers plowing through their ancestral graveyards.”

“Oh gods…”

> Well, this keeps getting better.
> Write-in

This is going to require a meeting with the Lamia and the Clans to discuss terms, isn't it?
yeah, this seems like a "tommorow problem", as in, we'll deal with it tommorow, or whenever they can get someone down/up here to explain their exact situation to you. I dont think were going to see the whole picture otherwise.
What's the difference between lamia and gorgons?

“We’re really going to have to talk to the leaders of these communities… and pray this doesn’t spiral out of control.”

Cassandra runs hands through her slithering hair before putting her face in her palms.

“Just make sure you invite me,” Rosie reminds her. “I’ll crack as many heads as necessary.”

The tired gorgon just groans a little more as her tail tip continues trying to bury itself in the dirt.


“Huh?” she perks up a little at an easy question for once. “A gorgon is the result of a goddess’ curse inherited through the blood. We have serpentine lower halves and our hair consists of multiple serpents. Lamias share a serpentine trunk, but they don’t otherwise bear the marks of the curse. Some claim that’s because we share the same origin but that some members of our species were redeemed somehow by striking a compact with another god.”

“Either that or you guys are like those three-eyed fish that just got -way- out of control.”

“That is another theory, yes,” Cassandra says, blushing, “but you can’t deny that there’s some sort of magical influence involved. We’re all but immune to transmutation, have the ability to turn people to stone, and prophetic powers.”

“Huh? You can see the future?”

“Well, not all of us,” Mama admits, biting her lip.

“Can you turn people to stone, then?”

“I… um… I never really practiced.”

“Can you at least breathe fire?”

“That’s not a thing!”

“Wait. What was the third thing?”

“I… You…Heh. Heheheh.” Confusion and frustration slowly turns to a smile on the gorgon mother’s face as she begins to laugh, a strained, unrefined noise that causes her chest to sway as she double over.

“Oh gods! This job… This job is going to drive me insane!” she giggles. “I am going to get locked up in a ward somewhere before they throw away the key. Hahahaha!”

> Well, laughter is the best medicine…
> Write-in

Seeing as your mother is the current ruler of your kingdom (which I have forgotten the name of), have you considered talking to her again for some help? As you know, her servants have a mirror that they can use to contact her, and since Cici has some talent in seeing beyond her eyes, it might it be a good chance to talk to your mom for advice or help.

Assuming they're not going to pull the "We are loyal to the queen first, primarliy, and only" malarkey, but she sounds smart enough not to tell them to do that.
Wow. Looks like youre going to need to take a break sooner rather then later. Maybe you should just take a day off tomorrow, and just send letters to people.
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“Ha. Haha. Ha…” she seems to slow her pace just as Rosie seems to be winding up a slap, her glare quickly making the oni rethink that course of action as she peters out.

“You know.” She swallows as she catches her breath. “The last thing I heard from my mother was that she hoped I and my mud-blooded child would die choking on our own blood before my husband landed us penniless on the street…”

“What the f-“ Rosie breathes.

“He… He wasn’t the right man, she said. His life was fated to be short and meaningless, and our child… o-our child was…”

“Alright, shut it,” Rosie demands, picking the increasingly hysterical snake woman up in a joint popping hug. “Otherwise, I’m gonna go out and turn that bitch into a pair of boots. Seriously, the fuck?”

She holds Cassandra, supporting practically one ton of her off the ground for a long moment before finally letting go.

“Okay. So, your home life was shit,” the oni continues. “I get that, now, but what the hell does she have to do with this anyway?”

> Maybe the voices should explain. Cassandra looks a little pale.
> Write-in
Cassandra's mother has everything she does not: experience in rulership, managerial experience, having held political office. In short, Cass is terribly unqualified for this job, yet there are few people who are qualified, and fewer still that wouldn't abuse their power, and within that small number, none that would accept replacing her.
Well, Cassandra's mother was the leader of their society, and it appears now that Cici appears to have seer abilities, shes sent some of their number to come and "aquire" her, by force if necessary.
And one of the voices made the mistake of stepping on the mom issues land mine.
> Maybe the voices should explain. Cassandra looks a little pale.
Well, Rosie, Cassandra's mother is a seer. Gorgons are well known for their ability to see into the future and from afar. Unfortunately, this ability has been fading from them in recent times.

The thing is, Cici has the sight. To keep their civilization from crumbling, her mother is attempting to bring her back to their kingdom. Which is disturbing, thanks to that little bit of information Cassandra just mentioned. Personally, I'd rather have her kingdom fall to ruin, if that is what she thought of our beloved niece. Besides, if they've been trying to breed true for the sight, then clearly their methods are wrongheaded.
I really dont see what youre going for here...
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“Oh gods. I’m starting to sound like a broken record here, but again, the fuck? Does the runt know about this?”

“I never told her what my mother said. Why would-“

“Not that, you big-titted moron! Does she know about-“ She thinks for a second and lowers her voice. “Does she know about the people heading this way?”

“No,” Cassandra murmurs quietly. “I didn’t want her to worry.”

“Were you going to tell anybody about this?”

“I... I don’t know…” she admits.

“That’s a shitty answer, Cass. Doesn’t matter who the hell you are: you’re just one woman. And if they’re here to pick a fight-“

“They aren’t coming to pick a fight!” Cassandra interjects forcefully, her voice cracking. “They’ve got money, Rosie, and political connections and access to every bit of information they could ever want! They- They don’t have to fight us to win.”

The stress finally reaches a head as moisture gathers in the woman’s eyes, wrinkles from a dozen or more sleepless nights making themselves known as she visibly sags.

“Well, they sure as hell won’t have to if you’re already giving up!” the oni condemns, having none of this as she snatches up Cassandra by the arms. “When the fuck did you turn into a coward, huh?”

“The second I became a mother!” the crumbling snake woman sobs at last. “The day I finally had something too precious to lose…”

In that moment, Cassandra doesn’t seem quite like the woman the voices know, the quiet façade of maternal surety giving way to a much more fragile and timid creature, a mother ten years too young and desperately aware of her own powerlessness in this situation.

> Rosie’s pep talk may not be what she needs right now
> Write-in
Rosie, I think right about now we should just let Cass cry it out for a bit. Offer a shoulder for her to cry on, I'm incorporeal and stuff.
"Cassandra, YOU ARE NOT ALONE. You have wizards on your side, you have an army of golems, you have the Bees. You have friends and most important, you have a vault of secret weapons we are going to go and get Cici to open if they even THINK they can take OUR little girl away. Oh and we are going to break that stupid mirror of them. Stupid magic mirrors they always cause trouble."
"Well, we probably don't need to beat them or anything like that, just cause enough trouble for them that they decide it's not worth it to continue going after Cici. Never underestimate the power of greed and laziness."
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“Umm… There, there?” The oni offers a hesitant pat to Cassandra’s back. “It’ll be alright… probably… I-”

“You’re terrible at this,” Cassandra whimpers into the other woman’s shoulder.

“Yep,” Rosie sighs. “Ye got that right, sister. The only thing I’m good at is smacking the crap out of stuff. Sure as hell couldn’t fill your shoes… Err… Sock?”

She lets out another long breath.

“Listen, we got a mountain of shit heading our way, Cass, but I’ll be there with a shovel when ye need me. And if by some chance it does come to a matter of force, they can just try to move me out of the way.”

“I already told you-“

“Yeah. Yeah. That’s not how they operate. Look, we know I’m not good at this, but worrying yourself half to death and having a melt-down is only going to make it easier for them. Unless you want me to make them disappear before they get here, we’ve really got no choice but to wait till they show their cards. In the meantime, breathe damnit, take a day off every now and again, and remember that you have some people in whatever goddamn corner they try to back you into. Alright?”

There isn’t an immediate response to that, not even a nod as Cassandra takes a long moment to let out some more, painfully pent-up stress, but the way she leans into the impromptu bearhug the other woman is offering may say it all.

> Now might be the time to mention that Cici and the girls have been looming in the doorway for a little while now. Might want to tend to that.
> Write-in
Cici, go to hug your mother. Girls, you too.

I'll leave this one up for the night. Operation Snake Hugs seems to be go, but bear in mind that Cici also has a very limited idea of what's going on.
yep, give your mom a hug!
"Bad people want to take you away Cici, don't let them!"

Shhhh, she'll be fine. Your mom needs a hug, Cici.
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[“I don’t wanna go away…”]

Cici ‘s thoughts are troubled by the news one of the voices manages to slip through, but with her mother hovering not far away and so obviously upset, other things had to come first. And so, she waits a little while longer, hiding there in the doorway before making her approach and offering her own arms to the imbalanced group hug.

“Cici?” Mama asks, voice wavering as she turns to confirm that it’s her. “Oh gods. I didn’t want you to see this.”

“How come, Mama?” the girl inquires. “An’ why are you sad?”

“I… It’s just-“

“It’s been a heck of day, kid,” Rosie finishes for her, “and yer Ma needs a nap.”

“I don’t-“

“Yeah. You do,” the oni corrects her. “Leave cleanup to me, and get some shut-eye, alright? Else, I’ll have to knock your lights out manually.”

“You look sick,” Vivi agrees, wings folding over Cici as they go around Cassandra.

“Mm’ mm mm,” Cici murmurs from below.

“And what?”

“And exhausted,” Iris clarifies. “Though I might be paraphrasing…”

Cassandra looks around hopelessly to the congregation of bodies and finally realizes the battle is lost.

“Fine,” she sighs. “I’ll get some sleep.”

“And I’ll look after ‘em in the meantime,” Rosie assures her. “Ain’t a reason you should worry.”

Cassandra can’t seem to bring herself to respond to that. She just does her best to put on a smile as she returns the hugs from the girls in-turn then scoops Cici up into her arms.

“Make sure to wake me up before dinner, okay?”

“Yes, Mama.”

Seemingly satisfied with that, the gorgon mother heads inside, candles lit and extinguished in short order before everything is quiet.

[“Voices, how come Mama was sad?”]

> Oh boy
> Write-in
"Cici, is because your grandma isn't a good person and she sent people to take you away."
"Apparently some gorgon relatives of yours found out you had the Sight, and now they want to take you away because they want more Sight stuff. Unfortunately, it appears that neither your nor your mother's consent were taken into consideration and we may have to deal with them trying to force you to come with them."
"Your mom really needs to start taking weekends off."
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“Oh…” She furrows her brow as she considers that, the voices switching the channel to speak to everyone and make sure they are all on the same page now.

“What the heck?” Vivi demands. “Don’t they already have enough Seers or whatever?”

“Hmm. Well you know what they say about too much of a good thing too often,” Iris murmurs. “People can do terrible things when they become reliant.”

“Can’t we just tell them no?” Cici asks. “I mean, I’m not very good at seeing stuff anyway.”

“But guessing you could be,” Rosie sighs, pulling out a dagger and beginning to sharpen the edge. “Not like you throw a prize mutt in the pit straight off the teat.”

“The what?”

“Well, you see, Cici,” Iris begins. “Some people like to make animals fight other animals. So they’ll stick them in the same cage, starve them a little, maybe stab into something private and painful and then-“


Further horrifying statements are blocked by a wall of feathers.

“That sounds mean,” Cici whines.

“People can be mean sometimes,” Rosie says frankly. “And sometimes they care more about what they want than what you want. Anyway, let’s stop talking about all this. Yer Ma didn’t want you worrying, and that’s why she kept it secret. Might as well honor the thought.”

She groans, stretching her arms before cleaning throwing the knife down in the log in front of her.

“So, what’ll it be? Something I can teach ya?”

> Write-in
How to hit a target?
"Rosie, teach her how to use a knife... but be careful. Or just how to make a campfire... is not like a few hours if knife training would do much."

"Iris please remember that Cici is young and there are things you shouldn't say to her."

"Vivi, how was your day? How it feels to be the oldest sister? Because no matter how old Iris is, she is not fit to be the oldest sister."

"Cici, remember to invite Iris to play with you more. She actually wants to be a kid and enjoy things but... she has problems."
Well, how about we start off with showing how to do a good haymaker and roundhouse punches, then start training in kicks. You've already started training them with punches, but the legs you've left off until now.

After that, maybe a bit of storytime. Tell us about your trip in the swamps. The people you met, the weird creatures, OHH! The lamia! Tell us about their culture!
>"Rosie, teach her how to use a knife... but be careful. Or just how to make a campfire... is not like a few hours if knife training would do much."
If you don't know how to fight right, you shouldn't fight at all. Teaching Cici to run would be infinitely more productive.
I have to agree. Teaching her something that will let her get away, or discourage someone from pursuing her seems most prudent now. Plus, Cici is a gentle soul. It wouldnt fit to have her try to hurt someone
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“Learning how to start fires sounds nice,” Cici offers. “Mama always starts one in the morning and around dinner time.”

“And it’s a pretty useful skill in general,” Vivi agrees.

“Hmm, I guess I could learn to do it more than one way. Still, it’s rather convenient to just-“

Iris turns her eyes on a stick near the fire place, a flash of light from one of her eye stalks causing it to erupt into flames in an instant.

“Wow! That’s amazing, Iris!” Cici cheers.

“And dangerous…” Vivi murmurs.

“Please, it’s not like I’m going to do it in my sleep. It’s like kicking with your brain.”

[“Ugh. She’s not my sister!”] Vivi complains to the voices. [“And she’s really weird.”]

“Well, yer gonna need your brain for this one, but try not to ‘kick’,” Rosie interjects. “Might practice actual kicking later, but first thing’s first is getting a knife and a branch.”

She pats around near her thigh before eventually producing a few comparatively smaller, but still sizeable knives and distributes one to each of the girls. Their reactions are somewhat telling.

Cici holds the blade far away, as if afraid she might accidentally cut herself by looking to hard, with Iris all but brushing the edge against her larger eye as she meticulously examines the workmanship. Vivi, having only one foot to stand on with the other full of knife, takes a seat.

“Alright…” Rosie sighs as she sits down as well. “So, a few things first. A knife isn’t a toy. If it’s sharp enough to be worth a damn, it’s also sharp enough to stick you if you aren’t paying attention. And unlike me, you girls can’t grow back skin nearly as fast.”

Cici shudders.
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“That’s why-“ The oni produces a stick and lays it across her lap, moving the knife toward the protruding end opposite of the arm she uses to pin it in place. “You never want to pull the knife back toward yourself.”

She mimes cutting toward her thigh and shows where a knife might go amiss into it.

“Instead, we want to always cut out,” she explains, showing the correct motion. “Doesn’t matter if it’s an apple or a log, you cut away from yourself and make sure at no point following through are you going to put yourself or someone else in harm’s way. Also helps to keep whatever you’re chopping up from moving.”

The girls follow along.

“Now, a branch is something easy enough to find out in the woods, but you gotta be careful. Fresh branches are actually worse for making fires because they’ve got plant juice still in ‘em. Green is a no-go.” She shows the green of the branch she’s holding before tossing it aside for something dryer.

“That’s cuz what we want… is to cut ourselves little ribbons off of these suckers, like straw cuz it’ll be easier to light. Now, I’m gonna repeat. Don’t stab yerselves. Otherwise, Cass’s gonna kill me when she wakes up.”

> Hmm. Well this seems only minorly dangerous.
> Write-in
Stress the importance of sharp blades and the maintenance! A sharp blade is a safe one!
You're doing a good job teaching so far, Rosie.

Now, you may be wondering, 'if a sharp knife is dangerous, why don't we use dull ones'. Well, because dull ones are usually more dangerous to the wielder. Unlike a sharp knife, a dull one needs more pressure to cut through an object. More pressure means you're focusing on cutting through the thing, and not making sure where the knife is going. If something unexpected happens, you might hurt yourself. A sharp knife will cut through things easier, so you're paying more attention to where it's going.
"Would it be a good idea to grind down and round the tip of a knife to prevent some accidental stabbings? At least to begin with? "
I kind of want to see if Cici can learn parkour now.
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“It’s pretty much what they said,” Rosie agrees, nodding to the voices. “A sharp knife is a good knife. It it’s dull, it can get stuck. If it’s stuck, getting it out can not only damage it, but damage you cuz there’s no way to tell when and how that pressure is going to let up.

“That’s why if you have a knife, you always want something to sharpen it with. Those are pretty sharp already, but they got that way because I used something like this.” She removes a pumice-like rock from her satchel. “A knife is sharp because its edge is thin. So, to sharpen it means taking off a little bit off each side of it. This rock does the job, but don’t think you can pick up just any old rock and start grinding your knife against it. Too rough, and you’ll wind up snapping the knife rather than sharpening it. Now, how are you doing on those ribbons?”

The girls have about the results you can expect from people who’ve never done this before, wood coming off in chips and chunks rather than ribbons. Cici, by virtue of her practice weaving baskets with Uncle Yesh, is at least a little further along than the others with her trimming. In any case, it isn’t long before they have a sizeable pile or three laid out in the yard.

“Now, the hardest part of getting any fire going is producing a spark,” the oni continues, “but someone figured out way back when that if you have a hard enough rock-“ She pulls out a triangular wedge of flint from her pocket. “And you grind your knife against it quick enough, you make sparks.”

She puts a palm on top of the rock and balances it, in turn, on a log, striking down with her hand to demonstrate the process to the kids.

“Now, it’ll take a couple tries to get enough sparks to catch some of them on your wood, but when that happens, we’ll go on to the next step. So, take turns and get on it.”
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“Ahh! It’s burning!” Cici cries excitedly as after nearly half an hour, Rosie took the sparks into her own hands.

“Yep, but it’s just a little squirt,” the oni points out. “It’s not gonna burn long if it doesn’t get tended to. Now-“ With her bare hands, she reaches into the soft mass and begins fluffing the coals, a gentle breath finally causing the cinders to erupts into a proper flame. “Ah! Hot! But that’s the point. You can handle fire for a minute before it burns you, but only a minute. Then, you wanna get hands off and feed it something small.”

And so, the chips from earlier find a home in the growing flame, crackling and smoldering as something self-sustaining licks its way up from the earth.

“Um… Is the grass also supposed to catch on fire, Aunt Rosie?” Cici asks as their creation continues to grow, at which the older woman stifles a swear.

“Nah. And that’s why you wanna have something around to throw over it: dirt, water, even a blanket can work. Though I recommend you try them in that order.”

To demonstrate, she grabs two massive handfuls of dirt and very casually lays the flame to ruins.

“Now, don’t know what the hell parkour is, but we’ve got a bit more time for me to teach you something else.”

> Write-in
How about those kicks you mentioned earlier?
"Parkour is essentially the art of running away when there are obstacles in the way.

Anyways, >>1533228 mentioned storytime and lamia culture earlier. That could be interesting."

Hmm. I need to get sleep, I think. Tomorrow I'll be busy, but there's a non-zero chance I might be able to run between 3:00 and 7:00 central.
Thanks for writing.
See you around, boss.
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“Usually I just slam myself horns first into obstacles, but…” She looks at the petite girls arrayed in front of her. “That’s probably not gonna work for you all. As for kicking, I might be able to teach you how to throw your weight around, but we might wanna get something you won’t break a leg on first. At least we’ve got a ton of sand around…”

“Can we hear about your trip, then?” Cici inquires. “Did you an’ Uncle Mishi make lots of friends?”

“Heh!” The oni smiles. “Guess you could say that. Honestly, they were all just thankful for our help clearing out the crabs. Sarda’s not a huge place and having that bunch of gluttons eating up all their fish was a real gut punch.”

“Did they really eat that much?”

“Well, it’s less that, Cici, and more the fact they’ve got almost nothing else to eat around there. See, the nobles that gave ‘em the land kind of also gave ‘em the… Err, they weren’t nice to ‘em. So, it ended up as mostly rocky land that isn’t good for deer or cows or growing crops. And since a lot of people there eat mostly meat, being lizards and snake people and all, losing a little, hurts a lot.”

“It’s gonna take them a long time to recover,” Vivi predicts glumly.

“Well, they’re pretty smart folks,” Rosie offers. “See, they’ve been digging out these lakes of theirs for a long time, just digging straight down into the rocks to create all sorts of chambers, houses, and tunnels. It isn’t gonna be easy, but they had a few places the crabs couldn’t get into.”

“Well, that’s good,” Cici agrees. “A bunch of people being hungry would be really sad.”

“Hmph, not like yer Ma will ever let ye get much o’ that,” the oni jokes, poking Cici’s belly, “but yeah, being hungry sucks. Especially for runts like you, you need everything you can get to grow up decent. Speaking of which, where’s yer little boyfriend, anyway?”

“My wha- Oh, Danny! He’s at home, I think. His Mama’s running around lots an’ he was worried.”

“Ha! That Faye’s a monster, alright. We might have to chain her up with a cone before she runs that kid into the ground.”

“The Cone of Shame…” Iris intones ominously. “By the way, were we expecting visitors?”

Eyes swerve and hearts beat a little faster as everyone scrambles to catch sight of the people Iris had mentioned, by the looks of things a lamia slithering along at a good clip with a smaller, red-skinned woman at her side.

> Write-in
Here comes the trouble, Cass will hate her self sooo much for not being here now.
Great. I wonder how many different ways we can say "No."?
I'll start. "Over your dead body."

“So, I take it these are the guys?” Rosie inquires as the voices flutter forward angrily.

Figuring it’s just as well, she removes the clip from the holster on her axe, readying to draw it at a moment’s notice.

“I’ll go wake up Cassandra,” Vivi confirms before scampering away and vanishing inside.

The rest of them just opt to sit there before the pair come into shouting distance.

“Hoi!” the demonic looking woman cries with a wave of her arm. “This the baron’s place?”

“Who’s asking?” Rosie shouts back.

“Name’s Raine. The Baroness and her kid in?”

“We’re not exactly taking company at the moment.”

“I think the lady of the house’ll make an exception in our case. We’re friends of the family.”

“Yeah, I’ve heard about her family,” Rosie says bluntly, standing up to her full height as the pair draw close to the tower, “and that’s not gonna really help yer case.”

“Listen, bitch!” the red woman, Raine, shouts, stepping right up to the physical threat of the larger woman. “We traveled halfway across the damn continent to get here, and you aren’t going to stop us from seeing her. So how about you take that axe and-“

“Raine!” the lamia says excitedly.

“What is it, Mina?” the other demands irritably.

“It’s her,” she confirms excitedly, a disturbingly wide smile on her face as she looks past Rosie to Cici. “It’s Cassandra and Aaron’s baby!”

As if in a trance, she completely ignores the stalwart defender, rushing past her and ducking what would have been a brutal clothesline before sweeping Cici up into the air.

“Hey, put her down!” Rosie shouts, pulling her axe as she whirls around.

However, before she can take a step, there’s a pair of legs wrapped around her waist and a pair of daggers pressed to her neck.

“Don’t. You. Dare.” Raine intones gravely.

“Aunt Rosie!” Cici cries, terrified by the woman excitedly nuzzling her and the horrifying scene going on in the background. “Please don’t hurt her!”

“Go ahead, twerp,” Rosie grunts over her shoulder. “Make my-“

“What in the gods’ names is going on out-“ Cassandra shouts from the doorway, her face blanching as she looks around at the scene. “Mina? Raine? What are you two doing here?”

> Write-in
Nein, Iie, لا, geen, jo, አይ, ոչ, yox, нямa, ne
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So ACTUAL friends of the family, colour me impressed.
OH, wait.
So, maybe these are some adventurer friends? How many false alarms could we possibly get today?
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“Oh, you know, just paying a house visit, Cass,” Raine grunts, struggling to hold onto Rosie’s bulk.

“Youhadbeengoneforalongtimeandwewereworriedsowefiguredwedcometovisit and OH MY GODS, SHE’S SO CUTE!” squeaks the jubilant snake woman.

“Umm. Should I zap her?” Iris inquires.

“No,” Cassandra groans. “She’ll calm down in a moment. As for you two, please break it up. No killing, maiming, or destroying.”

It takes a long second before Raine finally pops off of Rosie’s back, dusting herself off.

“Heh. No hard feelings, right?” Rosie’s silent glare denotes many things, but not forgiveness. “Right…”

“Umm. Mama?” Cici calls.

“Mina. Could you please put my daughter down?”

“I… Right…” The snake woman seems to come back to herself, gently setting the child down. “Hello, little one. I’m your Aunt Mina. It… It’s nice to meet you.”

“Hi,” Cici returns, seeming to shrink a bit as that simple reaction draws another squeal of delight.

“Mina, please.”

“Ijustcanthelpit! Shelookslikeatinyyouandhimand-“

“We’ll have plenty of time to catch up later,” Mama insists. “Just try to sit down, alright?”

“’Kay,” she agrees reluctantly, taking a seat and a deep breath.

“You too, Rosie. Raine.” She waits. “Alright, good. Well, now that we have that all sorted out, I’ll start. Yes, these are my old guild mates from back in Ashport, and if they’re here…”

“Sarah’s in town gathering information,” Raine explains. “Ben had a baby recently. So, he had to pass.”

“Right. And, of course you would visit without telling me.”

“Hey! You didn’t tell us jack before you up and disappeared for four years. Turnabout’s fair play.”


> Well, this is going well.
> Write-in
It isn't as though the Baroness had no reason as to her actions, especially considering how her mother has been.
I'm sorry about the meeting. We've been worried that Cassandra's mother might have sent some people here.

So, how do you two meet Cassandra?
"Umm... hi? Should we introduce ourselves now? We are known as "the voices" and are currently bound to a bracelet thing. Nice to meet you."
hugs for everyone?
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“I… wasn’t well back then,” Cassandra explains. “Mother disowned me, Aaron passed, and… I just needed to get away.”

“Speaking of, what exactly did you do to piss off the old bat, this time?” Raine asks. “The little fairy’s telling me you were expecting company from her outfit.”

“Don’t swear in front of the kids,” Rosie pre-empts Cassandra, getting a stuck-out, forked tongue.

“I’d rather not discuss that in front of the children, if you don’t mind.”

“The voices said Grandma wants people who can see things,” Cici explains, and her mother looks as though she’s been slapped.

“Oh? You have the Sight?” Mina coos excitedly. “That’s amazing! Your mama must be so proud!”

“Grampa says I’m a mage, too! An’ Uncle Guyus is teaching me how to be a baker!”

“Wow! That’s a lot of things to learn!”

“Have you also been teaching her how to fight, Cass?” Raine asks. “You were a mean customer with a spear and a bow last I checked.”

“I don’t want to hurt people…” Cici murmurs.

“D’aww, that’s adorable,” Mina says.

“And I’m guessing that’s a no,” Raine guesses.

“That’s a no,” Mama confirms.

“I see. What’s the deal with the pixie anyway?”

> Write-in
The mouth piece for a collection of extra-dimentional intelligences mostly bound to a bracelet, call us Voices most do so.
Well, might as well start with introducing everyone.

I am an amalgam of souls that were, minds from another realm, and incorporeal beings mashed together and implanted into a bracelet. You can call me Voices.

The harpy on the rock is the oldest child, Vivi. She works as a mailharpy most of the time. Next to her is our newest addition, Iris. She recently came here with her golem friends from the underdark, and we've adopted her into our little family. Finally, you've met Rosie. She's been watching the girls when Cassandra needs things done in town, and a bodyguard to both her and the girls, as well as a friend and auntie. Her brother Mishael around here somewhere. For a ogre so big, he can be quite quiet...
what about you guys? who are you, how you eneded up in a guild with cass?
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As mentioned, I'll have to leave off here for today. Take care folks.
>Cici has an old artifact that connects with voices of people that are in a sort of limbo. Not fully gone, not moved yet to their next life and that. No one ever told us the afterlife would be a lot of waiting with nothing to do but to talk to each other. However with the artifact help, we can talk with people in this world. We try to help Cici but we are not entire sane.
"Not a pixie. Disembodied voices from alien realities joined and bound in a bracelet."
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“Right… Uh. Cassandra, what the heck? You’re letting her play around with a bunch of disembodied voices, but you’re scared of teaching her how to shoot a bow?”

The gorgon matriarch frowns.

“The voices are nice, though,” Cici objects, the small girl having been moved into Mina’s lap at some point. “They help me learn stuff an’ always have lots of good advice.”


“I had the exact same concerns, Raine,” Mama assures her. “I don’t even know how she got ahold of the bracer the first time, but… Well, they’ve been rather helpful since then, to her and to me. Brad also confirmed that they aren’t dangerous in any way.”

“Heh. Guess you’ll take whatever help you can get running this place. Seriously, holy shi- eep. Nobody could believe it when we heard you’d inherited a barony. Between that, adopting a harpy, an aberration and a pair of ogres, sounds like you’ve been busy.”

“You have no idea…”

“There’s also the ancient factory buried somewhere beneath our feet…”


“Iris!” Mama objects.

The oni begins counting on her fingers.

“There’s also a herd of flightless griffins running around, a felon chasing them, a ton of magical bug people out in the woods, and-“


“What?” she objects. “Might as well be thorough.”
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“Oh my,” Mina comments, stroking a reassuring hand through Cici’s hair. “It really sounds like you’ve been having a rough time of things. Is there anything we can do to help?”

“You good at killing things or teaching?” Rosie asks bluntly.

“Umm. I’ve never been very good at hurting people,” Mina admits. “My magic’s only really good at helping me avoid fights. I have always wondered what it would be like to teach children though…”

“Teaching magic?” Rosie inquires.

“Oh no!” she says. “Just teaching in general. Helping young minds grow, writing every day on a chalkboard…”

“Not getting our livers stabbed out by monsters every other week…” Raine finishes.

“Oh gods. Have things been that bad?” Cassandra asks with concern.

“Ugh. You and Aaron were always the linchpin to our operations. We’ve had tryouts since, but…”

“It just never felt right,” Mina finishes.

“Not surprising,” the red woman sighs. “That idiot’s luck was out of this world. Still remember the day we gave him up for dead and here he comes along with a captain of the Stone Isle’s royal guard princess carrying him back.”

Cassandra blushes a little.

“In case you were wondering, that’s where it all started,” Raine says to the voices. “It was me, Ben, Mina, and Aaron up till then, dungeon delvers extraordinaire. Then, Aaron got himself swept up in an underground river and disappeared off the face of the earth for a month. We figured his luck had either finally run out or he’d been abducted by horny mermaids… even had a betting pool on it.”

“To be fair, gorgons are partially aquatic,” Mina points out.

“To be fair, a gorgon’s more likely to send a crew of sailors jumping overboard than have them lining up for kisses… No offense.”

“None taken…” Mama sighs.

“Anyway, turned out he wasn’t dead and we all had to surrender the pool to the god of booze. Had a good laugh when he told us the woman that had carried him back was the same one who broke his leg.”

“He -was- trespassing.”

“And you were already about halfway head over tail for the lovable mook. We all saw it…. And so, a new betting pool was born. Speaking of, I’m starting to get thirsty.”

> More questions?
> Write-in
Hey, If you want to help, we couldnt be happier. Cassandra's been running herself ragged and shes terrible at letting anyone help her. So just dont take no for an answer.
Was she always this much of a worrier?
"We could use more teachers for the school. And magic that allows to avoid fights seems to be something Cici and Iris should learn."

"And yes Vivi, you are the older sister, and yes Iris is a brat but is up to her new family to teach her better."
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STORY TIME! Also, you guys know the god of booze?
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“We have tea,” Cassandra offers, getting a frown from her guest.

“And I’ve got rum,” Rosie adds, laughing as she pulls the bottle out of Raine’s grabbing mitts. “Only enough for one, though.”

She takes a satisfied pull straight from the bottle as the smaller demon woman whines.

“I guess we might still have some wine as well. Though you really should eat something first.”

“Nnnn,” she complains dramatically as the lady of the household slithers off, presumably to fetch cheese and bread as well. Raine then turns to the voices. “But does that answer your question?”

“Cassandra was always like the team’s mom,” Mina elaborates. “She always made sure our weapons were sharp, we had everything we needed in our packs, and that we ate well the night before a mission. I still remember when I got sick that one time and she spent a week making me soup.”

“Pretty sure that stuff had soap in it,” Raine mentions, memory bringing a sour expression to her face.

“It’s the thought that counts,” Mina insists. “It was honestly kind of nice having someone to fuss over us, and when push came to shove, she was always reliable.”

“Only woman that I’ve met who would stare down a dragon without batting an eye but spend hours fussing over one of our scraped knees. More than anything, though, it was just nice to have somebody there to keep Aaron in line. You wouldn’t believe how many times she had to pull that idiot out of a trap he’d triggered or save the rest of us from the fallout.”

“Umm,” Cici murmurs, trying to find the right words. “Ms. Raine, Ms. Mina… what happened to Papa?”
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“Oh…” Everyone’s breath leaves them in that moment, Raine’s tail flicking nervously as she averts her eyes. “Well… Ye see, kid…”

She just winds up shaking her head, dumbfounded that this was somehow already happening.

“We made mistakes,” Mina explains softly after a moment, squeezing Cici’s hands in hers. “We wound up someplace dangerous and your Papa… Your Papa stayed so the rest of us could get away safely. I’m so, so sorry.”

There’s a dryness in her voice, a pain that compliments the moisture welling up in her eyes.

“An’ where was Mama?” Cici asks. “Did she get hurt?”

“Home…” Raine says simply, shaking her head. “With a baby in her belly, no one wanted to take any chances of that, and… and we fucked up. We fucked up and then we fucked up again letting that idiot stay behind.”

“Mind yer language,” Rosie reminds her, but all the same, she passes the rum, letting the demon woman take a few, desperate gulps… then a few more for good measure.

“Anyway, kid, that’s what happened. It was our fault, my fault, that he didn’t make it home that day.” She takes a couple of breaths in the ensuing silence and another sip of rum for good measure. “I’m sitting here right now because he isn’t, and I never expect you to forgive me for that…”

Cici’s life was so very complicated, a mixture of sunny skies and stormy seas to navigate. This time, though, it was her fault this had happened, and that in itself was perhaps more painful than the confirmation of a death she had already come somewhat to terms with.

> Write-in
Hey Cici, it's not your fault your mum was pregnant, and there's no guarantee things would have turned out better if your mum was there at the time. Life is crazy like that. It's not your fault, it's maybe not even theirs, since your mum would be mad with them if it was. Things happen.

On the other hand, if these weirdos feel that bad about how things went wrong, they can make it up to you by TAKING YOU ADVENTURING.

Once you're a bit older.
You blame yourself for what happened, they blame themselves for what happened, Cassandra blames herself for what happened. I'm pretty sure that, from what's been told of his nature, Aaron would blame himself for what happened. Here's the thing, though. For everyone who thinks they deserve a share of the blame, there's really none of it to share. It was just a cra-sorry-crummy thing that happened, because it could have, and just did.

[“I made them talk about it…”] Cici explains to the voices, but now the question was decidedly there as to how things could have been different if it weren’t for her. She didn’t exactly have time to think about that, though.

“Bad stuff happens sometimes,” Cici finally asserts, “an’ when it does, the only thing you can do is to try to make things better. That’s what Papa did. He made a bad thing less bad, an’ I don’t think he would have regretted it. After all, you were his friends, right?”

“God… gods damnit,” the demon woman groans, wiping her eyes with her forearm before taking another drink. “You really are Aaron’s kid. Sounds exactly like something that moron would have said, right down to the bad grammar and the ridiculous f-freaking optimism!

“Still makes me sick to my stomach…” she groans, “or maybe it’s the booze. Stronger than what I thought it was…”

“Yeah, if you aren’t careful it’ll really knock you off your- Hey! That’s already half the bottle! Gimme that!” Rosie swipes the liquor back and takes another gulp.

“Sorry…” Cici apologizes, but Mina just laughs, tussling her hair.

“Some people just aren’t good at showing their feelings,” she explains, voice still bright even as she sniffles a bit. “That’s why you should always just try to be yourself.”

“Mmm,” Cici mumbles thoughtfully, not really understanding what her new aunts mean.

What had her father really been like? What had Mama been like before? Her stomach hurts a little as she realizes she’ll never really know, but at least she can take comfort in the moment from the hand methodically combing through her hair. It was just pleasant and oddly soothing, which helps kill the ache before Mama comes drifting back into the doorway.

“Tea anyone?” she asks as the voices contemplate exactly how much she might have overheard. “I also have some-“

“Blegh!” The rogue’s stomach comes undone as she empties its contents onto the lawn, drawing concerned and horrified views from everyone around.

“Did I… miss something?” she asks, perplexed.

> Write-in
Just some bonding, a few moments where people blamed themselves for what happened to Aaron, and a little moment at the end where Cici said something that reminded Raine and Mina of him. It was sweet until... Well, we all have our ways of grieving.

Anyway, Rayne, clean your mouth out with some water, it's time for a group hug, everyone.
"She drank a tad too much from Oni's liquor."
Uhhhhh, telling stories? About Aaron's misadventures.
Hey, bananon? You alive?
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“Nothin’ but a tragic waste of good booze,” Rosie says.

“And some serious talks I’d hoped to have when Cici was older,” Mama sighs while listening to the voices.

“It was me that asked Mama,” Cici explains. “I’m sorry.”

“There’s nothing to apologize for, sweetling,” Mama assures her. “And, as your father used to say: ‘There’s nothing we should really fear but ignorance.’”

“This before or after he’d start squealing at the slightest sign of a spider?” Raine asks.

Mama smiles.

“He wasn’t perfect, but he was the man I fell in love with,” Mama sighs, taking Cici into her own lap as she retakes her seat, “and I still miss him every day.”

“I miss him, too,” Cici agrees, getting a thoughtful hum in response.

“Sorry for bringing this sort of stuff up so soon, Cassandra,” Mina apologizes. “Even after we promised we were going to try to avoid it.”

“Not an easy promise to keep,” Mama points out, shrouding Cici in a hug. “He was such a big part of all of our lives, after all, and I don’t think we’ll ever quite be able to forget his absence in the memories we share. Maybe now you can understand why I left.”

“It was just hard to accept,” Mina explains. “You were in so much pain with a baby on the way, and then you just disappeared.”

“Ben road after you, you know,” Raine adds. “Three weeks out on the trail, he was scared to death you’d done something drastic.”

“I just needed time away, time to heal-“

“Time to kill a bunch of vampires and become a dictator,” Raine finishes.

“Please!” Mama objects. “I’d hand it all over in an instant for some peace of mind.”
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“And shortly afterward, from the sound of things, we’d have a civil war raging over half the continent.”

The latest comment comes from a voice at the edge of the clear, leaves rustling as an armored woman with long, blonde hair comes marching out from underneath.

“Sarah?” Mama confirms.

“Cass,” she responds in kind. “I see Raine’s already started drinking.”

“Bite me,” the tiefling growls with a mournful air.

“Maybe later. For right now, though,” she takes a knee near Cici, her green eyes piercing in the gathering dusk even though her smile is warm. “My name is Sarah, and you are?”

“Cici,” Cici answers.

“Well, Cici, we were friends of your mom and dad from a few years ago, and from the looks of things, we’ll be sticking around for a while to help. I hope in time we can also be friends.”

“Sarah, you really don’t have t-“

“Too late, Cass. We let you run off for four years on your own. You’re not gonna chase us off that easily.”

“Most of the contracts on pirates are cleared out anyway since the Flame of Vengeance started trolling the seas,” Mina adds.

“Ugh. I’m still on the fence,” Raine admits, “but I’m willing to give it a shot.”

“So, then, we’re all agreed,” Sarah concludes, getting a groan from the gorgon. “I’m not hearing a no.~”

“Whelp, a drink and crab soup to seal the deal then,” Rosie proclaims, looking through her rations. “To new friends!”
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“Boss say friend?” comes a voice above the tree tops, heavy footsteps coming into focus as a giant face looms over the trees.

“Holy mother of g-“ Raine is cut off as Rosie clamps a hand over her mouth.

“Sure did, big guy. What took you so long getting back, anyway?”

“Found chickenses,” Mishael explains dumbly, presenting his closed fist before opening it to reveal some bizarre looking creatures. “They funny.”

Whatever would come in the days after, as fire light burned against the dark, it’s clear they will be anything but uneventful.
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It just took a while this time for more than one reply to come in. Slows down the writing process a bit.


Also, I think that's where we'll leave it for now, folks. I need a bit of a break to recharge, so the soonest I'd think about running would be next Monday. In the meantime, have a nice week and I hope you all had fun.

As always, feel free to leave comments, questions, concerns, anything below and I'll get to it as I can.
>It just took a while this time for more than one reply to come in.

Gotcha. Anyway, go take a vacation from us for a bit and enjoy yourself, alright? See you when you come back, boss.
Thank you for writing.
Ah yes the pigmy griffins. If they breed fast enough they might be enough to feed him for a while.
Thanks, Bananon!
just a test, nothing to see here

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