Now that the crisis has passed, the Iraklins have moved in to pick up the pieces – literally, in the case of the destroyed Abrahad statue. You watched with a lingering sense of regret as they picked up every last scrap of stone and sealed them away in ugly metal storage cases. Some of the remains will be shipped to Odyssey Point, or wherever the latest batch of cloistered researchers are hiding, while others – the good bits, the aesthetically pleasing bits – will likely end up in Consul Hess' care.That living statue had been a thing of incalculable age, granted some animating force through means yet unknown to you... and now its remains will last out the coming years as an ornament, part of the consul's collection. It's a strange thought, and the implications of it leave you feeling a touch dizzy.But on the other hand, the statue would certainly have killed you if you'd given it the chance, so you're not about to feel any real sympathy for it. It's just a little disheartening to see what should have been your profits vanishing into Iraklin hands.But that's life in the airship business – easy come, easy go.
>>2708116>Twitter: https://twitter.com/MolochQM>Previous: http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Into%20the%20Skies>Airship combat rules: https://pastebin.com/DTLDheZ6What a difference a few hours can make. As the storm outside finally broke and bled away to nothing, Firebase Alpha seemed to come alive once more – civilians dared to show their faces outside of their fortified homes, and the soldiers relaxed slightly... as much as Iraklin soldiers ever relax, at least. With the Guild crews working at a more efficient pace the repairs to the Spirit of Helena should be finished soon, in a matter of hours at the most.Good. The sooner you can leave this place the better.“Won't argue with you there, chief,” Dwight agrees, his voice causing you to realise that you were speaking aloud. That's a bad habit for a man to get into. “I figure there isn't a single man on the ship who'd argue with you,” the pilot adds, “You know?”“I know,” you sigh, “Morale isn't good, is it?”Dwight considers this for a moment, deciding whether or not to give you a pleasant lie, then shrugs. “Nah, chief, it's not good,” he admits, “Between this place and that other island, I reckon the boys are getting sick of Zenith. You don't need to watch out for a mutiny just yet, but you can only push a crew so far, yeah?”“I know,” you repeat. You were talking with Caliban about taking some time off not so long ago, and the idea is seeming better and better with each passing moment. An awkward silence descends, and you speak up before it can settle in. “Quiet around here,” you mention, “Where is everyone?”“Lhaus and Caliban went off drinking together, and I heard that Gunny was knocking at Grace's door for some reason,” Dwight shrugs again, “Blessings is sleeping – he won't be waking up for a while, if what I heard was true. Your scary friend, the one with the mask, he's probably staring at a wall somewhere. You ever noticed how he does that? Stares at walls...” Frowning for a moment, Dwight shakes his head. “Keziah...” he adds, “Nah, I got no idea where she is.”Dwight always seems to know what's happening on the ship. Strange, considering that he rarely leaves the bridge. Reaching out with your thoughts, you nudge Keziah. “I'm at the Guild, boss,” the witch replies, “Just sorting some things, really. Booooooring things. I'll be back on time, don't you worry.”So that's what the others are doing. What you'll be doing next, though...>Join Freddy and Caliban at the bar>Check on Gunny and Grace>Help Keziah with her Guild business>Other
>>2708118>Join Freddy and Caliban at the barA drink is just what the doctor ordered.
>>2708118>Help Keziah with her Guild business.That reply stinks of deflection and covering something up.
>>2708118>Check on Gunny and GraceGotta check on our bro
>>2708118>Join Freddy and Caliban at the bar
What you'll be doing next is following the example that Freddy and Caliban are setting by hitting the bar. Right now, a few drinks are just what the doctor ordered – in fact, you're pretty sure that Doctor Barnum would tell you get a little medicinal liquor in you, something to help you to relax a little. On your way back, you might stop off at the Guild to see if Keziah needs some help with her errands. If her work is as boring as she says, she might appreciate the company.As you're leaving the ship, you stop by Grace's cabin and knock on the door. True enough, both Grace and Gunny are there with a number of books scattered about in front of them. Grace, you notice, has thin black gloves on despite being indoors. “Keeping busy?” you ask, gesturing to the tomes.“You know me, brother, always trying to better myself,” Gunny replies with a low chuckle, “I figured that it was about time that ol' Gunny Hotchkiss got himself an education. I figured that if I can... I don't know, talk with these statue things, it might help to know some of their language. You see what I'm saying, brother?”“I see. Good thinking,” you reply with a nod, “Grace, don't you treat my artilleryman too hard, you hear me?”“I'll only treat him as harshly as I need to,” she promises you with a prim smile, “That's what one of my old tutors said. I never thought that I'd be in their shoes. Care to join us, captain?”“Maybe later. I did have something I wanted to talk to you about, actually. For now, though, I've got a few errands to run outside,” you tell her, shaking your head, “Besides, all this book learning looks a little too much like hard work for me.” With that, you leave to go about your “errands” - wandering out to the curved civilian district and passing by the various bars that you see. More of them are open now, the metal shutters opening to reveal doorways and windows. In the same cellar bar that you visited before, you find who you're looking for.It's much quieter now, less busy and without the same frantic energy that you had sensed before. Sitting opposite one another with several empty ale tankards beside them, Caliban and Freddy continue a hushed conversation. To judge by their expressions, it's not a warm, casual discussion. Every so often, Freddy will mime aiming a rifle or Caliban will jab a finger down onto the table. Buying a drink of your own, you call out a low greeting and join them.“So,” you begin, “What are you reprobates talking about?”“Killing,” Caliban replies frankly, causing someone at a nearby table to glance around with nervous eyes.“Not so loud, you drunken fool!” Freddy hisses, sighing wearily before looking back to you, “More specifically, we're talking about the best ways to fight those statues. Important work, wouldn't you agree?”The kind of important work that can only happen in a bar, of course.[1/2]
>>2708152“Other than the obvious, the special weapons required to destroy these things, we've reached a few conclusions. First of all, they have the advantage in height and speed – so even if they're unarmed and we have weapons, we can't necessarily count on the advantage of reach,” Freddy reports, her voice brisk and clipped despite the heat the ale has stoked in her cheeks, “Second of all, they CAN be goaded into making mistakes.”“That trinket of yours can distract them, although not for long, and they really seem to hate it,” Caliban agrees, “That's something we can use, but frankly I'm starting to wish we could just shoot the bastards.”“I don't know exactly how tough Abrahad stone is, when we're talking about conventional weaponry. An autocannon might be able to shatter them, but we can't exactly carry one of those about with us,” Freddy frowns at this, as if it was an option she had seriously considered, “The same applies to missiles or Pleonite cannons. Iraklin soldiers are sometimes issued grenades, but those aren't sold on the open market.”“Which means we can probably find a few crates of them in the first Monotia marketplace we visit,” you suggest, “Some supply captain looking to make some extra coin, and maybe...”“I should hope not!” your pilot blurts out, her eyes widening at the prospect, “That would be a very serious crime, a crime against the nation itself! No Iraklin soldier would... would...” Her voice trails off as Caliban laughs, chuckling at first but soon his laughs devolve into a mad cackle. Again, worried eyes turn in his direction. “Okay then, what's so funny?” Freddy grunts, pointing an accusatory finger at Caliban, “Just what's so damn funny?”“The last time I was in Monotia, I saw exactly that,” the hunter remarks, “A crate of Iraklin grenades, marked “One careful owner”. Thought about buying one as a souvenir, but I didn't have much coin on me.”Scowling enormously, Freddy rises up onto unsteady legs and turns, marching towards the bar and calling out for fresh drinks. Hurriedly drinking off half of your ale in a few large gulps, you gesture to Caliban. “So,” you ask him, wiping ale from your lips, “You really came here to talk about killing statues?”“Hell no, we came to get drunk!” he snorts, “Talking about killing, that was just a good distraction. I think we've both got things we don't want to think about... you know what I mean, captain?” The illusions, you assume, the maze of illusions that you very nearly fell into. Reading your expression, Caliban nods sombrely. “Scary, that they can do that,” he muses, “I don't like the idea of them rummaging about in my head.”>I'm the same. It's just... wrong>Got something you'd rather keep hidden?>Maybe it's not all bad, if they can dig up lost memories>Other
>>2708166>That explains you. I wasn't aware Freddy had seen anything yet, she's getting the visions too?
>>2708166>I'm the same. It's just... wrong>It's tempting though. I've got some incomplete memories of childhood and it was letting me get a glimpse for the first time in ever.
>>2708169She must've. Blessings was the only one unaffected at the core.
>>2708172She's never mentioned them, and this is a good lead in to asking her about them when she returns.
>>2708170>>2708166ThisYou know regarding those repressed memories, we could message Maeve and ask that if we know the exact location witch rituals happened, is there a way to detect what happened there years after it was cast?
“So that explains what you were seeing. I didn't know that Freddy had been seeing things as well,” you reply, glancing across at the Iraklin as she talks with the bartender. You catch a few words of their conversation, mostly just complaints of the most prosaic kind imaginable, and then look back to Caliban. “She say anything about it?” you ask, “I shouldn't pry, I know, but...”“Pry all you like, captain, it's not my dirty laundry you're peeking through,” Caliban assures you, flashing you a sly smile, “Truth is, she didn't mention anything specific to me. Even so, I can figure out a few things. That mess on the Eòin Eagal, that slaughter... I don't think it's sitting well with her. If she saw anything in that corridor, I'd bet some serious coin that that was what she saw. Can't say that I blame her, really.”Now that you think about it, his words make a lot of sense. The fighting in the Eòin Eagal had been close and bloody, nightmarish in the most visceral way possible. Even if her training had inured her to a certain degree of violence, that had been... different. Part of it, you're certain, had been due to Masque. “Well... you're right either way. It's just wrong, all this stuff,” you sigh, “But I'll be damned if it's not tempting at times. I've got these memories, childhood stuff, that I've never been able to dig up. Down there in the tunnels, I caught a glimpse of them – I could have stayed, seen a lot more...”“And then Marshal Lhaus would have wound up dead, killed by a statue that WE brought here,” the hunter points out, this time keeping his voice mercifully low, “What a mess that would have been!”“Still...” you murmur, but Caliban cuts you off with a curt gesture.“Still nothing!” he scolds, “If you really want to dig up these memories of yours, you just need the right encouragement. A few herbs, some oils and extracts... another little something you can find in any Monotia market stall. Sure, you might get a little bit poisoned, but it's got to be safer than letting one of those things into your head, right?”Staring at Caliban for a long time, you realise that he's being more or less serious. “You sound like you know what you're talking about,” you reply slowly, “If this is some kind of joke, I really don't appreciate it. Tell me-”“One last drink for the road,” Freddy announces as she sets down three fresh mugs, “What are you boys talking about?”“Drugs,” Caliban answers. This time, the nearby eavesdropper doesn't even bother to look around.“I should have known,” the Iraklin sighs, taking a deep swig of ale, “Honestly Caliban, I don't understand how you can poison your body like that...”[1/2]
>>2708189Before you can think about leaving the bar and heading elsewhere, you hear footsteps and glance around to see Keziah trotting downstairs. Seeing you, she hurries over and flops down into one of the empty seats. “Gods, I'm tired!” she gasps, “Feels like my eyes are about to start bleedin', all the readin' and writin' I had to go. Goods news though, boss, I managed to arrange a salvage crew to pick up the Eòin Eagal. Pulled a few strings to get it done cheap, see?”“That sounds uncomfortably close to being illegal,” Freddy warns, “I don't think we really need the Guild as an enemy.”“Nothin' illegal about it!” Keziah protests, “Regulation twelve, subsection B. A Guild salvage crew can be requisitioned to recover a wreck if it is believed to be of interest to the Guild. All we need to do is drag back the Eòin Eagal, give it a wee look, and tell them that it's nae anythin' they'd be interested in. Easy!”It all sounds vaguely fraudulent to you, but considering how the Spirit of Helena came into your possession you probably shouldn't throw too many stones.“Besides, it IS an interestin' ship, seein' how old it is,” Keziah continues, “Once we've got the Meggido cannon stripped out, we can think about turnin' it over to them.”“Fine, fine. I'll keep that in mind,” you sigh, waving a hand at her, “Did they say how long it was going to take?”“Could be a wee while. Delicate work, see? But they'll be bringin' the wreck down to the main Guild shipyard in... shit, what was it?” reaching across, Keziah takes your mug of ale and takes a deep drink from it. “Rasnic, that's it,” she finishes, “That's up in the Pastona Union, Caliban. I dinnae ken if you've ever been there. Not much in the way of scenery, but there's a big shipyard there. So anyway, that's that. What were you lot talkin' about?”“Killing,” you and Caliban say in unison.“And drugs,” Freddy adds.“And drugs,” you agree, “Actually, that reminds me. Keziah, do you think Maeve could tell me anything about a ritual? It happened a long time ago, I think, but can she... I don't know, sense any kind of trace it left behind?”“Tough question, boss. I dinnae really ken, but she hasnae taught me all that much. Chances are, she's been keepin' plenty of secrets to herself. I'd ask her, but... it's no really safe right now. She told me that, that we shouldn't send a daemon to her unless it's an emergency. We're supposed to be dead, y'know?” Keziah shrugs, “So you'd be better off asking her in person. It's... not an emergency, is it? I mean, seein' as you said that it happened a long time ago...”“It's not an emergency, no,” you assure her, “At least, I certainly hope not.”[2/3]
>>2708223>She told me that, that we shouldn't send a daemon to her unless it's an emergency. We're supposed to be dead, y'know?”Right, I forgot about that bit. No rush though, something to sit on until business takes us back to Nadir.
>>2708223You drink for a while more, each of you thinking your own private thoughts. It's Keziah who breaks the silence, clearing her throat before cutting straight to the meat. “I got a theory,” she begins, “Part of it is what Professor Haydn told me, and part of this is...”“Making it up as you go along?” Caliban suggests.Snorting with laughter, Keziah reaches across and punches him on the arm. “It's about these islands, see, the six Zenith islands. They form a kind of system, a kind of... life cycle. We start in Saint Alma's Academy – it's a school, children get taught to live a good life there. They get older, they end up in the Palace of Silence with all the monks and stuff, spendin' the rest of their days in meditation. They die, their bodies are taken to the Vault of the Sun to be...” she makes a vague gesture here, “So that leaves Cloudtop Prison and the two Iraklin islands.”When Keziah falls silent, struggling to put her theory into words, Freddy leans forwards and nudges the witch's shoulder. “Go on,” she urges, “I think I see what you're getting at.”“Okay, so this place kinda... it's almost like it judges people, showin' them their crimes and sins. Cloudtop Prison is where the sinners get sent. Firebase Omega, though...” Keziah shrugs, “I got nothin'. What do we know about that place?”“I don't know anything significant,” Freddy shakes her head, “I've heard that morale is good there. Soldiers are often sent there to train in the Zenith climate. Maybe it formed a stage between Saint Alma's Academy and the Palace of Silence?”“Hold on, hold up!” Caliban protests, “Why are we assuming that the old Zenith people used these islands for the same reasons we do? This whole theory hinges on them having motives we can understand!”“Aye,” Keziah admits, “There is that. I dinnae want to say it's a perfect theory or anythin', but it's somethin' to think about. Haydn has been studyin' these islands for a good long time now, and I figured you might appreciate the benefits of his, uh, wisdom. If you want to call it that.”“What else would you call it?” you ask mildly, “His madness?”Keziah, to her credit, doesn't entirely refute that suggestion.>Okay class, lecture time is over. Let's get back to the ship>I've got a question about this theory of yours... (Write in)>Other
This quest is my fetishJust like Keziah
>>2708246>>I've got a question about this theory of yours... (Write in)Do you think we built the Academy and the Iraklin bases in a certain way because of the effects each island has on us?
>>2708246>About your theory...>Perhaps Firebase Alpha is an institute for higher learning, a continuation of St Alma's? Or a vacation spot for people who earned it? At least used to be, I don't think Iraklins take vacations.
>>2708246>Maybe Firebase Omega is where non-sinners get sent.
“Well, I've heard that genius and madness are two sides of the same coin. Either way, I had a few questions about this theory of yours,” you begin, giving Keziah a nod, “Do you mind?”“Go ahead, boss. The point of a theory is to have folk shoot it full of holes, right?” she laughs, “But go easy on me, okay?”“Do you think it's possible that the Academy and the Iraklin bases – all the islands, really - were built in a certain way, specifically intended to have an effect on people?” you ask, “I mean, to make the most of the anomalies found on each specific island?”“I cannae rule it out,” Keziah replies slowly, “But to me, that says that folk knew what they were gettin' into. The Carths found out that somethin' about Saint Alma's Academy helped people learn and study – I mean, the buildings that would later become the Academy – and so they made a school there. It makes sense to me. Mind you, that doesnae mean they knew everythin' about the islands – wee things like the dangerous parts of them.”“Or they did know,” Freddy suggests glumly, “And they went ahead regardless.”“Aye,” the witch says with a reluctant nod, “That was the other possibility.”“Could Firebase Omega be where those who didn't sin ended up?” you think aloud, “Maybe somewhere for those who had earned a reward. Like... somewhere they could take a nice holiday.”“Sounds like a nice place to me,” Caliban groans, stretching and peering down into his empty mug, “But somehow I doubt it was anywhere that pleasant. If we ARE assuming that their current roles reflect their old roles... some kind of training camp? Somewhere for soldiers to learn their craft? Doesn't exactly sound like a holiday camp to me...”“You lot aren't big on holidays, are you?” you ask Freddy, “Then again, maybe doing your training in a new base counts as a holiday.”“We go on holiday!” Freddy protests, “...Sometimes.”“The point is, we don't know exactly what the deal is with Firebase Omega. Hell, we don't know anything for certain. Maybe Alpha was where the purest of the pure went, and that's why sinners like us see these visions,” groaning softly to yourself, you push your chair back from the table and stand. “Thinking about things isn't going to get us anywhere,” you conclude, “It's a good theory to work on, but there's only so much we can do for now. Let's head back to the ship and get a move on. I want to be out of here before another storm rolls in.”That gets everyone out of their seats in a hurry. Nobody wants to be stranded here for another few days. Hell, nobody wants to be stranded here for another few hours.[1/2]
>>2708286A strange sound greets you as you arrive back in the aerodrome, strange in how familiar it is. The sound is a thin song, keening and yet melodious, with either no words or no words that you can understand. It takes you a while longer to recall just where you've heard it before – it was the night of the storm, the night when you shared a drink with Sinclair. One of the new crewmen had been singing that same song as you wandered the Helena's corridors.Now that you're entering the aerodrome, you can see it for yourself. The three men, the only survivors from Captain Bhaskar's last stand, are standing atop the Spirit of Helena with a bucket and brush. As you watch, one of them dips the brush in the bucket and smears some clear liquid – water, you assume – across the hull in some odd, swirling pattern. The water glistens under the aerodrome's lights for a few moments before drying and fading away, only to be replaced by a new swirling design. All the while they work, they sing that curious dirge.“Strangest damn thing I've ever heard,” Caliban murmurs in wonder as he looks up at them, “And I've heard some pretty strange things.”“What are they doing up there?” Freddy wonders aloud, “Chief engineer?”“Hey, I dinnae ken a thing about this. Whatever they're doing, it isnae anything I've seen either,” Keziah replies, shrugging her shoulders, “But they dinnae seem like they're doing any harm. So long as they're back in the ship before we take off, I cannae see any reason to complain about it. Now, if they were makin' a mess with paint, I'd go up there are give them a good shoutin'. You dinnae just paint another man's ship!”“Bad luck,” you agree, watching as the three crewmen draw one last design, their song drawing to a close. Apparently satisfied, they start to return to the ship. “So that's that,” you decide, “Okay ladies and gentlemen. Our next stop is Salim – just a quick visit to drop off Prudence and the other women. After that, my schedule is entirely open.”“Understood, captain!” Freddy cries out, giving you a salute that is only a little bit messy before marching back aboard. Rolling her eyes, Keziah follows her inside. Caliban is last, slapping you on the arm before vanishing inside the ship.>Take the Spirit of Helena down to Salim>Find Grace, to check on her and Gunny>Look for Bhaskar's crew, to get an explanation for their painting>Other
>>2708315>Look for Bhaskar's crew, to get an explanation for their painting
>>2708315>Find Grace, to check on her and Gunny>Have Dwight take us out
>>2708315>Look for Bhaskar's crew, ask about their ritual.
Heading to the bridge, you find a different kind of dirge awaiting you. Dwight is listening to his usual dreary music, his hand swaying in time with the mournful tune as he sits dozing in the pilot's seat. When you tap him on the shoulder, though, he doesn't jolt awake as you had been hoping – that would have been too much like hard work, probably. Swallowing back a wave of disappointment, you give him the order to move out.“Got it, chief. A little trip to Salim. Sounds lovely,” he yawns, picking up the radio and mumbling something into it. Above you, the aerodrome doors begin to grind open. Leaving the flying in his capable hands, you head down to the cargo hold to take a look for some of Bhaskar's crew. That ritual of theirs – and it was, undoubtedly, a ritual of some kind – has got you curious. If it's not witchcraft, what exactly was it?You find Akshay, the oldest of the three crewmen, as he's returning the bucket and broom to the storage closet. His seamed face draws back into a calm smile as he sees you, and he gives you a short bow. “Captain Vaandemere,” he begins, “I understand that you saw us earlier. Don't misunderstand me – we weren't trying to hide from you or do anything behind your back. We just...” He finishes this thought with a shrug.“I'm not going to throw you out of my airship or anything, don't you worry about that,” you assure him, “I'm just curious about what you were doing. I've never seen anything like it before. Was it some kind of ritual, some kind of... religious thing?”“It was exactly that, yes. We were blessing this machine,” Akshay says slowly, “Machines have a spirit of their own, although few would admit to knowing such things. They must be treated with respect, or they will rebel against their owners. After suffering a grievous injury, this ship would have been ill at ease. We simply sought to placate her spirit.” Something of your confusion must show on your face, as Akshay lets out a dry laugh. “We adhere to an older faith, Captain Vaandemere,” he declares, “Outside of the gods of Nadir and the Lord of Rising Light. Few today follow our ways.”The more he says, the less you understand. “So... where does this faith come from?” you ask bluntly, “If it's not a Nadir thing or a Zenith thing, then...”“Azimuth had her own faiths once, before the great powers swallowed up the islands. Captain Bhaskar hailed from the Pastona Union, as did many of his crew... myself included,” Akshay presses his palms together in a curious gesture, “I heard tell that Theon dhen Chreig hailed from the same province, what men now call Machen. Of course, there are many stories about Lord Theon's past...”Now you're more confused than ever.[1/2]
>>2708381Akshay laughs again, long and loud. “Worry not, Captain Vaandemere,” he assures you, “Our little blessing should not be of any trouble to you. Helena may even appreciate it – please, do tell me if she seems different at all.”“I'll, uh, I'll do that,” you reply slowly, thinking over his words, “You really think it'll make a difference?”“My people, we've always had faith in our engines... but that doesn't mean we don't perform maintenance on them,” Akshay says with an enigmatic smile, “They always worked, our machines.”-The strange conversation sticks with you for a while longer, and you find yourself thinking strange thoughts as you walk through the Spirit of Helena's halls. Stopping, you rest the flat of your palm against the metal wall and wait, feeling the hum of activity that pulses through the ship. “Thanks, old girl,” you whisper, “Thanks for everything. I'll treat you right, don't you worry about-”“Captain?” Grace asks, opening the door to her quarters and peering out, “Were you talking to someone?”“Just, ah, thinking to myself,” you lie hastily, “I was looking for you, actually. Is Gunny still here?” “Mister Hotchkiss wanted to do a little studying of his own. I lend him one of my books, and I have every confidence that he can learn the fundamentals... eventually,” she smiles a little as she says this, gesturing for you to follow her back into her quarters. She's still wearing those delicate gloves, and your glance doesn't go unnoticed. “Actually, I think you ought to know,” she says hastily, speaking up before you can ask her about them, “Mister Hotchkiss... Gunny wasn't just here for an introductory lesson on Zenith linguistics. He, ah, he had doubts.”“Doubts,” you repeat, nodding for her to continue.“He blamed himself for what happened with the statue, you see, but he also felt... he felt like everyone else treated him unfairly. Part of why he came here was to talk to me about this,” Grace pauses, frowning a little, “I don't see why everyone comes to ME for advice. It's awfully inconvenient for me, I never know what to say to them.”“It's because you're the closest thing to a mature adult we have here,” you tell her, watching her smile return, “What did you tell him?”“I told him that everyone was very stressed due to the conditions here, and that no harm was intended. It was a bad situation, and nobody could afford to speak in diplomatic terms,” Grace explains, “He understood, I think. As I said, he was mostly angry at himself. He feels like he let everyone down, and he's beating himself up over it.” She lets out a delicate little laugh. “Now that I think about it, maybe there's a good reason that people tell me their problems,” she muses, “Although I still feel rather uncomfortable about it all.”[2/3]
>>2708404“How are you?” you ask her plainly, looking the young scholar straight in the eye, “I've not really had the chance to talk to you properly since we... you know. Since we-”“Since we dabbled in powers better left alone, permanently marring our souls because of it?” Grace offers with a coy smile, “Since we did that, you mean?”“I was going to say “since we helped Keziah”, but that works too,” you tell her, laughing despite yourself, “If you're able to give me that kind of cheek then you can't be too unwell. Really though, how do you feel? No health problems or nightmares? Keziah warned me that you might suffer some kind of... ill effects because of what happened. Backlash, I guess you could call it. I don't really know what kind of form it might take, so just... be aware.”“Thank you for the warning, captain, but it's really not necessary,” Grace replies, her gaze involuntarily dropping to her gloved hands, “I'm in fine health, although I could do with a little sleep. Do you mind if I take a little nap? Teaching is hard work, I think.”There IS something wrong. She knows it, you know it, and she knows that you know. The question, then, is what you're going to DO about it.>Press the issue. You need to know the situation>Let her keep her secret. It's not your place to pry>Other
>>2708416>Show her our left arm.>Press the issue. You need to know the situation
>>2708416>When's the last time you took off those gloves?I don't want to press too hard, but I think we can go a little farther.
>>2708416>Press the issue, but be willing to back offThe crux of the issue is why she's hiding it. Is she embarrassed? afraid? in denial? worried about burdening us uneccessarily?If she doesn't want to talk about it for personal reasons, then we should just explain why we think it's important. We should be willing let her have space if she still doesn't explain after that. If she doesn't want to talk about it to not bother us or Keziah, then we should explain that it'd bother us anyways, so it's better to know.
“Grace,” you ask softly, “When was the last time you took off those gloves?”“I... I've not been wearing them for... it's cold in here, that's all!” she stammers, your question cutting straight through her defences, “Don't you think it's cold? Zenith can be very... very cold.” Even as the panic bleeds out of her voice, replaced by a pleading note that you hate to hear, Grace seems to lose the will to resist. Slowly, she offers her hands to you and waits, waiting for you to pull the gloves from her hands.Instead, you roll up your sleeve and show her your left arm. “You see?” you murmur, taking one of her hands and placing it against the rough scales that have formed on your skin, “I suffered some of that backlash too. This is what it did to me, and I know that it did something to you. Now, if you don't want me to see – if you really don't want me to see – then that's fine. That's your choice... but I need to know what the situation is. I need to know if your health is at risk.” When she says nothing to this, you smile and soften your tone. “Put yourself in my position,” you urge her, “If your father found out that I'd gotten you hurt...”“I'm not... hurt,” Grace replies, her voice stilted, “I'm just not sure what... to think.” Slowly, she begins to tug off her gloves before dropping them to the floor. Kneeling down before her, you take the delicate hand that she offers out to you and raise it to your eyes. There, you see the first sign of Nadir degeneration, although not of any kind you've ever seen before. Her skin is forming a thin layer of scales, like Keziah, but they have a soft silver sheen that glints like polished glass.“I don't know what to think,” she repeats, shaking her head, “I feel like I should be ashamed – this means I'm impure, doesn't it? That's what the church would say.”“The church would say that we're all impure,” you point out, “Well, except for Blessings. The company he's keeping, though, I wonder how long that'll last.” You both share a subdued laugh at this, and the mood lightens. “So if you don't feel ashamed,” you continue, “How do you feel? Don't try and think about it, just give me your gut answer.”“My gut answer?” Grace repeats, “I think it's rather... pretty. Father wouldn't like it, but I can't spend my entire life doing what would suit him. There's just one thing I do want you to do for me, though.” Clearing her throat, Grace reaches down and picks her gloves up off the ground. “Please, tell Miss Keziah that I don't blame her for any of this,” she asks, “I don't regret what we did. We're crew, and that's all that needs to be said about it.”You consider her words, then nod firmly. “I'll make sure she knows,” you promise her, “She'll appreciate it. I'm sure she will.”[1/2]
>>2708477>“She'll appreciate it. I'm sure she will.”Then she'll get jelly at Grace's silver scales.
>>2708477How long has it been since you spent any time in Salim, or even Carthul in general? Between Zenith, Nadir and the Outside, it seems like it's been an age since you actually spent any time in Azimuth – in polite civilisation, really. It's more stressful than you had been expecting. Down in Nadir, you never really worried about whether or not your clothes were splattered with filth. Now, you spend a long time searching your wardrobe for something that looks – and smells – clean.Just as you're pulling on a shirt, you hear a knock at the door. Making sure that nothing incriminating is left on display in your quarters, you go to see who your visitor is. Opening the door, you come face to scarred face with Prudence. The fear and uncertainty that had haunted her at Firebase Alpha is gone now, a hard mask of discipline – different, somehow, to Iraklin discipline – closing off her expression. Her eyes look like cold flints, while her mouth is as thin as a blade wound.“Captain Vaandemere,” she begins briskly, “I'd like to thank you for this. For everything that you've done for us. Additionally, I wanted to give you an assurance – I do not intend to tell anyone about any aspect of your operation. For one thing, I genuinely know really very little about you, or what you're doing. I've gathered that you're no common airship captain, but that is all.”Keeping your expression neutral, let out a non-committal murmur and gesture for the stern old woman to continue. You're not sure where she's going with this, but it leaves a bad feeling in the back of your mind.“What I mean to say is, I don't intend on bringing any trouble to your door,” she concludes, “Any MORE trouble, I should say.”Is that a wry smile that twists one corner of her mouth as she says this, or are you imagining it? “I see,” you muse, “So what are you going to do now?”“Immediately? I'll be escorting the other women to... somewhere. I'm not quite sure yet. Any of the churches would be happy to take us in, but I'm not sure where to try first. Rest assured, Captain Vaandemere, I'll find my way eventually,” Prudence assures you, “After that? In time, I think I might rejoin the volunteer militia. Service will do me good, I think. I'd rather keep busy than... Oh, excuse me. Here I am, rambling on when I merely wished to say my goodbyes.”Saying this, the scarred woman touches one hand to her heart and bows her head.>Goodbye then. I wish you all the best>Allow me to escort you. It's not good to be alone>I'd like to say something before you leave... (Write in)>Other>Sorry for the delay, folks. This summer heat is killing me!
>>2708556>Allow me to escort you. It's not good to be alone>OtherMake an announcement that the crew is to go out and have some fun or relax. Consider it an order.
>>2708556Backing>>2708567It has everything I wanted and more.
>>2708567Gonna back this
“Allow me to escort you,” you tell Prudence, your voice causing her to look up in surprise, “It's not good to be alone, even in a city like this.”Again, that smile shows itself through the cracks in her armour. “But I won't be alone, Captain Vaandemere,” she reminds you gently, “I'll have the other women with me. Still, it would be rude of me to refuse your kind offer, so... lead the way, my escort.”Speechless for a moment, you rally quickly and give her a flowery bow, channelling every drop of foppish excess that you can gather together. Your jest is rewarded with a slight widening of Prudence's smile, and she offers her arm to you with an indulgent sigh. Slipping your arm through hers, you lead her out into the rest of the ship. Before leaving, you visit the bridge and nod a greeting to Dwight. “Take a break,” you order him, “We're going to be staying here for a while, to let the men unwind a little. Give the intercom, I'll share the good news.”“Finally,” Dwight sighs, kicking back and slumping down, “A break from all this hard work...”-When you had first rescued them from the stables, the captive women had been garbed in little more than rags. Now, your crew have managed to scrape together enough spare clothes that the women can walk the streets of Salim without being stopped for salacious behaviour. It's strange to see them react to this place, simultaneously reassured by the peaceful civilisation and cowed by the scale of things. Large groups of people are both a threat and something to be jealously studied, for the first while at least. Slowly, they allow themselves to calm.Not even Prudence is immune to the contrasting mess of emotions. Although her face rarely gives away any trace of her fears, her fingers occasionally close in a tight grip around your upper arm. In particular, the sight of white clothing causes her to tense up. After the things that the Pierrot did to her, you can hardly blame her for that.“Here, I think,” she murmurs, demurely nodding towards a park. The sun's warmth seems to have collected here, soaked up by large beds of flowers that bloom vibrantly around you. “I've missed the scent of flowers,” Prudence confesses, “As a young girl, I spent almost all of my time in a garden just like this. Looking at me now, you wouldn't think such a thing, would you?”“People change. Children grow up,” you reply vaguely, sniffing the air. You catch a hint of jasmine, shivering a little as a flush of nostalgia steals up on you. “I can't say I've ever really been much of a gardener,” you admit after a moment, “The last time I went to pick flowers, I ended up getting... hurt.” Wincing at the memory, you pat your left arm.“Oh dear,” Prudence murmurs, allowing her eyes to widen a little, “Nothing serious, I hope.”Nothing serious. Right.[1/2]
>>2708607“I do hope your crew are enjoying this fine day,” Prudence continues, leaning down to smell a tall flower. It contrasts awfully with the darkened scars on her burned face, but she doesn't seem to mind that you stare. “I must confess, I'm ignorant about a great many things,” she thinks aloud, “What would a crew such as yours do on a day like this, when you order them to rest and relax?”“Drink, mostly, or get up to all kinds of trouble,” you laugh, “They'll have a hard time of it here, though. It's not exactly a city that favours troublemakers, Salim. Still, if anyone can find a drinking den in a place like this, it's an airship crew...”“And what about you?” she asks, “What do you do to relax?”That's a hard question for you to answer. Just lately, you tend not to relax as a rule. You're either working or laying the foundations of your mission. In your spare moments, you tend to get a bottle and just... space out. Brooding, daydreaming, obsessing over past slights and petty complaints. “This, I suppose,” you reply after a long pause, “Wander about and see new sights. I find that even familiar cities have something novel to offer you if you look hard enough. Maybe I should do this a little more, though. I don't often have the time.”“Make the time. Give yourself an order, if that's what it takes,” Prudence turns, looking you dead in the eye. “Take this advice. As someone who was, until very recently, deprived of her freedom, I know what I'm talking about,” she continues, “Make the most of the time you have. You never know when your circumstances might change, and you suddenly find yourself unable to do all those little things that you meant to do.”“Funny,” you murmur, “When you say it like that, it almost sounds like a warning.”“Does it?” the scarred woman replies, plucking a small flower and delicately tucking it behind one of her ears. Looking away, she sets her sights on a church – one among many others that you've passed by since coming here. “There, I think,” Prudence decides, gesturing for her companions to follow her before slipping away into the gardens.You're left there for a while longer, alone with the smell of jasmine flowers.>I think I'm going to pause things here for today. I'll aim to continue this tomorrow, and if anyone has any questions I'll answer them if I can>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!
>>2708641Thanks for running, my dude.
>>2708641Thanks for running Moloch
>>2708641Thanks for running!That's some grim foreshadowing. Can Prudence see the future? Also we haven't seen or heard from DuPont for a while, he getting up to any shenanigans?
>>2708677Prudence? No, she can't see the future - she just fancies herself as a font of sage advice. I'll say this, though. If anyone should have enjoyed their freedom while they had it, it would have been our boy DuPont.
>>2708726Did DuPont get arrested?
>>2708726Oh no! But he's our rival so also oh yes!
>>2708744DuPont is more of a pest. Miriam was our rival.
This all feels strangely familiar to you. There was a time, many years ago, where you found yourself in a Carth garden not too unlike this. It was in Sol Carthul, the rooftop garden at the Coronation hotel. It had been a hot night, the taste of wine and fine food had lingered in your mouth, and you had been in dangerous company. Strangely, what you remember most about that night is the feeling of sweat gathering on the back of your neck. It's a feeling that reminds you of being young and foolish, or-“Wow, it's bright today. Never thought I'd be so glad of these glasses!” Keziah remarks, flopping down next to you on the wrought iron bench, “You called, boss?”“I did. I wanted to pass on a message,” you reply, shaking off the last of your reveries and looking around at the witch. She looks to be in a good mood, her formal Guild uniform replaced by a light outfit that leaves her shoulders and thighs bare. Her stomach, of course, is as carefully covered as her eyes. “It's about Grace,” you continue, “You were right – she DID suffer some kind of backlash. I can't explain it, but... the evidence was right there in front of my eyes. The important thing, though, is that she doesn't blame you or regret any of what happened. She wanted you to know that.”Keziah considers this for a while, her good cheer giving way for something more serious, more contemplative. “She's a good kid,” the witch offers at last, “She might not blame me for anythin', but I still feel bad. Crap like this is gonna stay with her for the rest of her life. No matter what she says, I gotta accept that.”“She's ruined for marriage now,” you scold, “Are you going to take responsibility?”“You ass!” Keziah yells, her voice loud enough to draw stares from all around the gardens. Flushing red to the tips of her ears, she gives you a swift punch on the arm – hard enough that you actually feel it, even through the unnaturally thick hide that is now your skin. When the people nearby have lost interest in you both and wandered away, she lowers her voice and continues. “But c'mon boss, you gotta tell me,” she whispers, “Did Grace get it bad? You said that you saw the evidence, so don't tell me that you dinnae ken!”“Why are you whispering?” you ask, exasperated by her theatrics, “If you really wanted to be quiet, you wouldn't need to talk aloud at all. So don't tell me that-”“You're dodgin' the question!” Keziah hisses, only for her eyes to widen behind her dark glasses, “Oh man, she had something really weird, didn't she? That must be it, she showed you all six of her nipples or something. She-”“What? No! Just stop jumping to conclusions and...” sighing inwardly, you focus on the memory of the silvery scales forming on Grace's hands. Concentrating on it, you open your mind to Keziah's thoughts. For a fleeting moment, your minds are one.[1/2]
>>2710721“Oh wow...” Keziah breathes, “That's so beautiful.” Opening her eyes again, she blinks a few times in slow wonder. Initially shaken, it takes her only a few seconds to recover her wits. “Oh man, she's lucky,” the witch grumbles, “She gets proper beautiful scales, all silver and pretty, while I look like bruised fruit. Life isnae fair, is it boss?”“Where would be the fun in that?” you remark with a shrug, “Part of life is dealing with the hand we're given. Some people are born rich, others are born poor. I mean, look at DuPont – he was born with a whole bunch of silver spoons in his mouth.”“He's been awfully quiet lately,” Keziah muses, “Dinnae get me wrong, boss, the less we have to deal with him the better. Still, it makes me wonder what he's up to...”That's a curiosity that you share. The last you heard from DuPont, it was Lem telling you that he had been released from his duties as a spy – released rather abruptly, with no explanation for any of it. That's the sort of thing that leaves an impression on a man, but you've been too busy lately to follow up on it. You're not even sure how to go about following up on it – asking the right questions, probably, and listening to a lot of gossip. Maybe not difficult work, but oh so tedious.“Speakin' of life, and how shitty it is,” Keziah pauses awkwardly, abruptly changing her mind about something – you can feel it, almost like a strong wind – before speaking again. “We arenae busy with anythin' right now, are we boss?” she asks, “So I mean, if I had a wee errand that needed doing, that wouldnae be a big problem, right?”“Depends on the errand,” you point out, “So go on, spit it out. I can't help you if you don't talk to me.”“I want to go see Brookmeyer,” the witch answers honestly, “I figure he's gotta be feelin' down, being stuck in a military hospital and all. I bet they arenae treatin' him all that well either. So, if we showed up to give him our best wishes, I reckon he'd feel better for it. I dinnae ken exactly where he's being kept, but if we ask around in Pastona then...” She finishes this thought with a shrug, and you catch a flash of guilt off of her. Guilt, you assume, for not having said anything sooner.“We could always take the Eliza over. It'll be faster that way, and the rest of the crew dinnae need to disrupt their time off,” Keziah adds, “Freddy might be able to help with the askin' around, seein' as she's an Iraklin and all...”>You're right, that's a good idea. We'll go and see him together>I don't think so. Maybe it's best if we stay away. He might not want to see us>I had some other plans... (Write in)>Other
>>2710723>You're right, that's a good idea. We'll go and see him togetherI wonder how that airship captain couple, Hanson, and Cammy are doing.
>>2710723>You're right, that's a good idea. We'll go and see him togetherraise all the flags for something really terrible to happen!
>>2710723>You're right, that's a good idea. We'll go and see him togetherHow bad were his burns again?
>>2710721You ninja'd my "ruined for marriage" quip before I could make it. How could you.>>2710723>You're right, that's a good idea. We'll go and see him together
This opens up a question, by the way: do we continue to set Blessings up with Grace? When he learns about her corruption it will be a heavy shock for him. And if he ends up dumping her because of this, it will be a heavy shock for her.
>>2710746We could just stay out of it. Playing matchmaker is tiresome. Rather let things happen naturally. Also I think Blessings is better than that, even with his religious beliefs.
>>2710746It's really more a matter of setting Blessings up with EVERYONE. Boy needs to interact with them outside of cooking. And git gud.
Thinking back to Brookmeyer's injuries, you can almost smell the field hospital that he had been lying in. His wounds had been bad, with gruesome burns spreading all across his back, but not so bad as to be fatal. Still, he had needed a better standard of care than you could have given him, and so you had had little other choice than to leave him. You had always intended to visit him, but you kept... putting it off. No more, you decide.“You're right, that's a good idea,” you tell Keziah, “We'll go and see him together. At least, we'll try our best – for all we know, he might not be allowed visitors.”Or, you add silently, he might not want to see you.-Freddy's expression is leaden when you find her in her quarters, but she doesn't offer a single word of protest when you order her to ready the skiff. She hurries off ahead to the cargo hold, and you're just following her when a voice calls out to you. “Captain,” Doctor Barnum whispers, peering out from the infirmary doorway, “Would I be correct in saying that you're going out on an errand?”What was it that Haydn had said about Barnum? A genius with poisons, as you recall. Trying not to think about how many times you've shared a drink with the doctor, you give him a nod. “Going up to Pastona,” you answer, “Is there something you wanted while we're out?”“One moment please,” the doctor murmurs, vanishing back into the infirmary for a few seconds. When he returns, he has two sheets of thick paper in his hand. One of them is a list of items, along with an address on the outskirts of Pastona, while the other one is a blank letter of credit. The name on the letter reads “Klaus Fairweather”. Looking at that name for a moment, you glance up and meet the doctor's eyes. “There are many advantages to keeping money under another name,” Barnum muses, “I understand that some Free Captains do the same.”That brings up bad memories. Towards the end of his life, as you later learned, your father had been borrowing money under assumed names. Banishing that thought, you nod curtly and raise the list. “That medical equipment you wanted, I assume,” you guess, “Is any of this stuff bulky? We might not be able to bring it back on the skiff.”“Oh, I do not imagine that it will be too much of a problem. If need be, you can ask for it to be delivered,” Barnum nods soberly, “Thank you, captain. I do hope this does not inconvenience you too much. When you return, allow me to offer you a drink as thanks. I feel in uncommonly good spirits today. The weather, perhaps.”More thoughts of poison, despite your best attempts at keeping them at bay. “Count on it,” you promise the doctor, turning and marching down to the cargo bay.[1/2]
>>2710773You're halfway towards your destination before Freddy finally speaks up. “I got a letter,” she announces, making a tiny adjustment to the controls as the Eliza slices through the air, “Marshal Lhaus must have sent one of his men to drop it off at the ship while we were... away. I found it slipped under my door when we got back.”“I see,” you reply cautiously. You had thought that you were done with Marshal Lhaus, but perhaps he had other ideas. “So what was it about?” you ask, “Was he wishing you well?”“Actually, yes. That's not all, though,” Freddy explains, glancing to her left as you pass a sluggish cargo ship by. “He suggested that I go back to the military,” she adds in a lower voice, “Even hinted at pulling a few strings to get me a promotion. He's a presumptuous bastard, thinking a disgrace like him can pull any strings. Part of me wants to write this off as just some stupid game he's playing, but...”“But you actually think it's genuine,” you guess, “Right?”Hesitating for a moment, Freddy gives you a clipped nod. “I'm not going to take his advice, and even if I did, I certainly wouldn't accept his... help,” she assures you, “I don't care if he could make me a marshal, put me in charge of an entire fleet, I wouldn't accept it. As far as I'm concerned, it's just not an option. I signed on as your pilot, captain, and I'm not going to quit this job until it's over.”“Or until you get fired!” Keziah chips in, leaning into the cockpit and giving you both a sly smile.“Sit down and buckle your damn harness!” the Iraklin scolds, flapping a hand at Keziah as the witch retreats, laughing to herself. “Sorry about that, captain,” she continues, “I just wanted to get that off my chest. That letter has been bothering me ever since I found it. I feel better for talking about it, though.”“I'm just that great of a listener,” you reply, “No need to thank me.”Snorting out a curt laugh, Freddy glances around and meets your eyes, the beginnings of a grateful smile dancing around one corner of her mouth.-It's a clear day, beautifully clear, and you can see all the way across the Pastona Union from up here. Looking out over the horizon, you spot the distant shape of a sprawling manor. “That's the DuPont estate there,” you call back to Keziah, “It's not a smoking crater, at least... unfortunately. Maybe we should drop by unannounced.”“Oh, he'd hate that,” Keziah chuckles, “Let's do it!”“Later, maybe,” you reply, “I shouldn't need to remind you that we've got other business here.”“I know, I know...” she sighs.[2/3]
>>2710815“We're looking for Artillery Square. There's a hospital there, and all the wounded from the attack on the consul's party were taken there. Most of them have been released since then, but a few of the more... serious cases are still there,” Freddy reports as she returns from the aerodrome's security station, “It's on the eastern edge of town, apparently. Do you know it?”You know the place. Gesturing for the others to follow you, you lead them towards the eastern edge of the city. As you walk, you think back to before the war. So far as you can recall, Artillery Square never had a hospital in it. It didn't have much of anything, in fact, just old houses and a large official library. When you arrive at the square, the first thing that draws your eye is the glint of bronze from the statue in the centre of the area. An old statue of a cannon, commemorating some old treaty that was signed here – something about not making any weapons of war, you think. In light of the Annexation War, it seems like a pretty foolish treaty now. The square is busy enough, with a great crowd of people gathered around the statue. Children climb on it, and you see a cheerful looking couple aiming an Imago device at them.“That must be nice,” Freddy remarks suddenly, “I mean, taking a family outing on a day like this. You don't need to worry about ghosts or ancient relics, getting shot at or chased by daemons. The most those people need to worry about is sunburn. I wonder if...” Cutting that thought short, she shakes her head and frowns. “Just thinking aloud. Forget it, ah... That must be it there,” she concludes, pointing towards the old library, “I was told that it was an older building. It was renovated after the war, put to new use.”That makes sense. There was definitely a need for hospitals in the aftermath of the war.-Stepping into the cool darkness of the hospital, you feel the tang of disinfectant sting your nostrils. Noticing you, a young doctor hurries over and looks all three of you up and down. He wears a tin badge, the name “Lindwall” engraved into it. “None of you appear to be wounded,” he begins in a crisp voice, “So I assume you're here to visit someone. That, or rob the place. I'd really prefer if it was the former.”“No, I'm here to visit someone,” you assure him, “Brookmeyer? He was injured in the attack on the consul's party, burned pretty badly. Is he...”“Ah, yes, I know the man,” Lindwall confirms, glancing at a clock on the wall, “He should be able to take visitors now. Follow me, please. Did you have questions about anything? His care, or his condition maybe?”>No. Lead on, doctor>I did have some questions... (Write in)>Other
>>2710880>I did have some questions... (Write in)"How has he been?">Lead on, doctor
>>2710880>Definitely his condition. How has he been? Recovering?
>>2710880Seconding the questions above>Lead on, doctor
“I'd like to hear about his condition,” you agree as you nod, gesturing for the doctor to lead the way, “How is he recovering?”“As best as can be expected, given his circumstances,” Lindwall replies carefully, “Follow me, I'll show you through to him.” Turning swiftly on his heel, the doctor marches off into the peaceful hospital. You can still hear a few voices from outside, but they seem muted and distant inside here – it's as quiet as a hospital should be, really. The sound of your footsteps echoes out through the corridors as Lindwall leads you to a stairwell, shafts of sunlight pouring through a tall window and highlighting the motes of dust that drift in the air. “His temperament is good,” the doctor adds, “He keeps in good cheer. I wish all of the patients here would follow his example.”“Aye, he never was one to let a wee thing like this keep him down,” Keziah murmurs, taking off her dark glasses and squinting against the gloom. Before she can say anything else, a pair of Iraklin soldiers pass you by on the stairs.“A lot of guards around here,” Freddy notes, “I saw some more down in the lobby as well.”Lindwall just grunts at that, clearly uncomfortable with that line of inquiry. “Brookmeyer is out of any danger. The worst is behind him now, and we don't expect him to suffer any kind of infection or contamination of the wound,” he continues, bringing you back to the original subject, “Of course, he's going to be in the ward for some time yet. If he tried to do anything too strenuous now, he'd just be putting himself at risk. If you were hoping to leave here with him...”“I'm sure he's in good hands here,” you reply quickly, looking around at the new room you enter. A large portrait of Chancellor Wellager hangs on the wall – as if you needed another reminder that this is an Iraklin hospital – with discrete brass plaques pointing out the wards. Lindwall pauses a moment to check one of the signs before leading you onto a smaller section of the hospital. The scent of disinfectant grows stronger here, bold enough to make your eyes water. Freddy shakes her head faintly, gesturing back towards the stairwell and retreating. Letting her hang back, you follow Lindwall to Brookmeyer's private room.-With the window open, the voices from outside seem louder. The white linen curtains flap in the breeze, almost as if those voices are moving them. Brookmeyer sits by the open window in a metal wheelchair, his gaze locked on the sky outside. In the brief moment before Lindwall announces your arrival, you feel a biting sympathy for the wounded man. Stranded in this room, looking up at the skies is the closest he can get to being on an airship.Then Brookmeyer looks around at you and Keziah, his face lighting up with a broad smile.[1/2]
>>2710927“Hey there,” you begin, “We thought you might appreciate seeing a few friendly faces.”“But we couldnae find any, so you're stuck with us instead!” Keziah finishes for you, laughing loudly. She hushes up quickly as Lindwall shoots her a stern look, and then the doctor retreats to give you some privacy. “You're lookin' good though,” Keziah continues, making sure to keep her voice low, “Sorry that it took us so long to get here. You wouldnae believe the sorts of crap we've been dealin' with lately!”“How about you tell me all about it, and I can decide that for myself,” Brookmeyer replies, “Honestly though? It's probably for the best that you didn't come here sooner. I'm back to my usual beautiful self now, but...” He waves a broad hand at his back, grimacing a little to suggest how bad it had looked. Beneath the loose tunic he wears, you can see a tight layer of bandages wound around his torso and creeping up his neck. They have an odd sheen to them, those dressings, probably something to make sure they don't stick to anything... wet.That's not a pleasant thing to envision. “How are they treatin' you here?” Keziah asks, dragging a chair across and sitting down opposite her fellow engineer, “What about the food? Is it as bad as I'm imaginin'?”“Oh, I really can't complain too much. It's awfully boring here, but they bring in books sometimes. I can't ever remember reading so much in my entire life!” Brookmeyer brushes a shaggy tuft of hair out of his face as he says this, nodding towards a shelf at the far end of his small room. “Here's a treat, though. You saw that picture of Wellager they have out there?” he continues, “She actually visited here once! I got a chance to talk to her – just a few words, mind you, but that's more than most people can claim.”Chancellor Arya Wellager herself... she's technically your leader, although you've never really thought about her all that much. All you really know about her is what you've assumed from seeing her picture – a surprisingly young woman, with hard eyes and a dignified face. “So that was your brush with fame,” you chuckle, “It's all downhill from here, unfortunately.”“Oh no!” Brookmeyer cries, widening his eyes in mock horror. Laughing a little to himself, he looks back out the window. “It's weird, though. If someone came to me when I was a boy, just some farm kid in Rubal, and told me that I'd end up meeting the Iraklin chancellor, I'd tell them that they were crazy,” he murmurs, “Funny how life works. I've been thinking about that a lot lately, how things were when I was young. You wind up doing a lot of thinking when you're stuck in hospital. Who knew, right?”“Most thinkin' you've ever done, I reckon,” Keziah teases gently. She reaches over to punch the wounded man on the arm, only to wisely stop herself at the last minute.[2/3]
>>2710962“But seriously, captain, I've been thinking about home a lot lately. I bet you'd never guess it, looking at me, but I'm a landowner. Well... co-owner. Me and brother, we own a good chunk of land in Rubal. The family farm, you know?” Brookmeyer rambles. His eyes, you note, have the faint glassy look of analgesia about them. Suddenly, his disjointed thoughts make a little more sense. “I never had much of a head for the farm stuff, so my brother runs it all. I was better with engines,” he continues, “As soon as I was old enough, I was tinkering with them. Before that, I had these... aw hell, you don't want to hear this.”“No, I'm curious,” you urge, gesturing for him to continue.“I had these model motorcars. Real good models, not toys or anything,” he admits, an embarrassed flush building in his cheeks, “They're probably still at home, boxed up with all my old stuff. Hope my brother's taking good care of the place. He writes sometimes, but...” Brookmeyer shrugs, smiling fondly at the memories. Before he can say anything else, there is a knock at the door and Doctor Lindwall looks in.“I'm sorry to interrupt,” he says firmly, “But you'll need to leave us for a little bit. Routine checks, you see, and-”“You guys don't want to see me getting my dressings changed,” Brookmeyer agrees, “Trust me. I'll be fine – Lindwall here has had his hands on me plenty of times already!”Judging by the thin smile that the doctor forces onto his face, he doesn't find that much of a joke.-“He's in a good mood, at least,” Keziah thinks aloud as you're leaving the private room, practically chased out by Lindwall and a heavyset assistant. “I dinnae ken if I could be so cheerful if I was in his shoes,” she continues, “But he's always been like that. One of the good ones, Brookmeyer. I've had one of the new guys sniffing around the engine room, looking to help out there, but it isnae the same.”“He'll heal,” you point out, waving to Freddy as you return to the main room, “He won't be stuck here forever.”“Aye, I know,” the witch sighs, “I just wish there was somethin' we could do for him. Somethin' nice, just to show him we care.”>We visited him, didn't we? That seemed to brighten him up>I've got an idea... (Write in)>Other
>>2710974>I've got an idea... (Write in)Maybe we can pay a visit to his brother. See if we can't get him to visit Brookmeyer. Or we can buy Brookmeyer a toolset and parts for a new model car so he has something to tinker with while he is in the hospital.
>>2710974>>2710980Let's do this.
>>2710980Yeah, seems like a nice thing to do.
“Why don't we pay his brother a visit?” you suggest, “A quick flight over to Rubal won't take us too long, and we might be able to bring him back with us. Seeing family might be good for him, you know?” Nodding slowly, you find yourself warming to the idea. “Or if that doesn't play out so well, we could try picking up one of those model cars he mentioned. Putting together one of those would give him something to do,” you continue, “Although I'm not sure where you'd even find something like that...”“A shop, presumably,” Freddy suggests with a wry smile, “Do you know where to find your man's brother, then?”“Not yet,” you reply with a breezy shrug, “But it can't be that hard. We just need to ask after the family farm, after all. What do you think, Keziah?”“I think it's a great idea!” she agrees with a bright smile, “Boss, you've got a good head on those shoulders of yours. Let's go!”-Seen from the air, the island of Rubal makes you think of the ocean. Seas of farmland stretch out for miles around, rows of wheat taking on the aspect of waves as they stir in the wind. Tiny vehicles crawl about beneath you as the farmers tend to their fields, while humble houses form islands in the sea of crops. There's only one major settlement on the island, a trading post for farmers to sell on their goods. Asking around yielded directions, and now you're flying towards the Brookmeyer family farm.“Follow the road until you reach the junction, then follow the left fork,” Freddy mutters to herself as she slows the Eliza down and drops lower in the sky, “Is that my left or their left?”“Left is left, isn't it?” Keziah remarks with a shrug, “I dunno, just pick a left. Either left.”“That's not how...” the Iraklin begins, only to sigh and turn the Eliza to the left – your left. Up ahead, you see the blocky shape of a farmhouse. “I think that's it,” she murmurs, “There's a clearing nearby. I'll set us down there, and we can walk the rest of the way. Hold onto something, everyone.” With her hands dancing across the controls, Freddy guides the Eliza along a wide circle of the area before bringing the little skiff down towards a patch of empty soil. By the time you've landed, a young man has made his way out of the house and approaches the skiff. His hand is raised to block out the sun, also serving to hide his face from you, but he looks perfectly harmless.“Hey there, strangers!” he calls out, “Reginald Brookmeyer, at your service. Don't get many fancy airships like that out here, I figure you must be...” He pauses suddenly, stopping dead in his tracks. “Is this about Grayson?” he asks sharply, “Is he...”“Huh,” Keziah mutters to herself, “So THAT was his first name...”[1/2]
>>2711037Reginald's plump young wife serves you glasses of some odd herbal cordial – sharp and tart, but oddly refreshing in this heat – as you explain the situation to the farmer himself. Once he knows that his brother hasn't died in his sleep, Reginald calms down a lot. Your first impression of the man is a positive one – large, broad at the shoulder and deeply tanned, he seems like the sort of man to whom honesty is as natural as breathing.“If you don't mind me asking,” you begin, “Why did you think Brook... Grayson had died?”“Well, this might sound silly, but he was an awfully sickly child. The way our father told it, his skin was as grey as lead when he was first born. That's how he got his name, you see. He got better as he grew up, but we always worried about him. Doctors didn't give him much of a chance, but what do they know?” laughing loudly, Reginald slaps the palm of his hand down against the table, “So, you must be the captain. Grayson mentioned you in his letters. He was working for you when he got hurt, right?”Cautious about where he's going with this, you nod slowly. Your expression causes Reginald to chuckle, and he reaches across the table to slap you on the shoulder. “Wasn't you who burned him, was it? Then you've got nothing to feel guilty about,” the farmer states stubbornly, “I'm just surprised to see you coming here like this. Always thought you flighty types just saw your crew as disposable, like. Always plenty more young kids looking for an exciting life, right? So don't mind me – what can I do for you?”“Well, we're looking to do something for Grayson, just something to brighten up his stay in the hospital,” you explain, “I thought he might appreciate seeing family, face to face. Would you like to come back with us to see him? If you can't get away, I was thinking we could bring Grayson a gift. Something from home, and-”“Gosh...” Reginald interrupts, “An airship? I've never been up in one of those things before. They ARE safe, aren't they?”“Perfectly safe,” Freddy assures him, “So long as the weather is fair, at least.”Seemingly pleased by this, Reginald begins to say something. Before he can speak, however, his wife hurries in. “Reg, there's a problem with the harvester,” she tells him, weariness in her voice, “I can't make head nor tail of it. Needs your special touch, I think.”“These engines, you need to kick them just right,” Reginald explains, shaking his head in frustration, “Make yourselves at home, folks. I'll be through with this as soon as I can. Sorry for the hold up!” Rising up from the table, he follows his wife outside and leaves you to... well, to make yourselves at home.>Settle in and wait for Reginald to get back>Take a look around for some gift to bring Brookmeyer>Take a stroll around the fields>Other
>>2711115>Take a look around for some gift to bring Brookmeyer
>>2711115>tell keziah to help him. Grayson is the mechanic after all
>>2711115>Take a stroll around the fieldsWith a cute girl in each arm on a hot summer day. Living the dream.
>>2711115>Take a stroll around the fieldsHope we don't stumble over some ancient evil.>>2711121Even Keziah needs breaks anon. She just got finished with a lot of Guild work recently. If she was feeling up to helping, she would have volunteered.
>>2711115>Take a look around for some gift to bring BrookmeyerMaybe we can find a childhood trinket or toy that he'd like.
>>2711115>Take a look around for some gift to bring Brookmeyer>>2711123>Thinking Freddy is cute
>>2711144Hell yeah she is.
“You reckon you'd be of any use, Keziah?” you ask, gesturing to the doorway Reginald retreated out of, “I mean, you're an engineer so...”“Airship engines,” she points out, “I dinnae ken much about motorcars or any of these land machines. I might be able to fumble somethin' together if I really had to, but I might do more harm than good here. Our boy here seems to know what he's doin', I say we just leave him to it.” Groaning softly, the witch laces her fingers together and stretches her arms above her head. “This heat is drivin' me daft too,” she adds, “I'd probably hook up two wrong things and blow us all up.”“Let's just... not do that,” Freddy suggests lightly, taking a sip of her cool drink, “Why don't we take a walk about the fields? It seems like a shame to waste this fine weather. I'd like to stretch my legs after the flight, as well.”“A walk sounds good,” you agree, “I feel pretty stiff as well. I'd like to check for something to bring Brookmeyer – shit, I mean Grayson – but there's no hurry. Out here, I get the feeling that things happen at their own pace.” Setting aside your glass, you stride out of the farmhouse and narrow your eyes against the sudden glare of the sun. Above you, the Zenith islands form looming shadows against the otherwise brilliant sky. Not a single cloud in sight, no matter where you look. “We're pretty far inland, aren't we?” you ask nobody in particular, “Shame. I had the urge to look down at Nadir. Just lean over the edge and-”“Ugh, dinnae talk about that stuff!” Keziah wails, “It makes me think of someone sneakin' up behind you and givin' you a shove. Awful, awful!”“That's a very strange thing to fixate on,” Freddy remarks as she walks a few paces ahead, her hand reached out to brush through the long wheat. All three of you fall silent for a moment, appreciating how quiet this place is. There is the distant rumble of machinery from a far-off farm, and you can occasionally hear some clanking as Reginald works on his harvester – clanking, and a few good-natured curses.“I have to admit, I can see why Grayson left,” the Iraklin adds, gesturing at the emptiness around you, “This place reminds me of the Outside, almost. If there wasn't any wind...”You wish she hadn't mentioned that. Until now, you had been enjoying the stillness of this place. Now, it feels almost oppressive. Shivering despite the midday heat, you turn and look back towards the farmhouse. “I'm going back,” you announce, “Going to look for that gift.”“Aye?” Keziah remarks, “Reckon I'll stay out here for a while longer. I can really hear myself think out here, you know?”“Must be novel,” you shoot back, “Don't get used to it, though.”“Ass!” she cries, giving you a very rude gesture as you stroll back to the house.[1/2]
>>2711157Wooden stairs creak underfoot as you climb towards the second floor of the farmhouse. Stopping by the first window you come across, you gaze out at the back of the farm. There, you see Reginald working on a massive vehicle – a brutal piece of machinery that seems like it could crush an Iraklin armoured car beneath its weight. Looking up from the innards of the harvester, Reginald notices you and gives you a cheery wave. As you return his wave, Freddy calls your name in a low voice.“Grayson's old room,” she declares, tapping a thin wooden door. Gingerly pushing it open, she looks inside with a frown. Joining her in the doorway, you glance across the stacks of boxes that fill the small room. Each box has a thick layer of dust on them, and not a single one of them has any kind of label suggesting what might be inside. “Inefficient,” the Iraklin murmurs, “If something went missing from here, you might never be able to find out about it.”“Some people just aren't the sort to file things away and keep records,” you reply with a shrug, “Go on. Pick a box and start looking.”-This time, you get lucky. After a box full of children's clothes and a second filled with picture books, you strike gold. One of the boxes is filled with twists of paper, so fragile with age that they seem fossilised, but they hide a beautiful model car. This still has a sheen to it, and it has the weight of good quality metal. It's definitely not a toy, or something that a child might have put together – it seems more like an engineer's tool, a scale model for referencing. Studying it, Freddy lets out an impressed whistle.“Turn it over,” she whispers, peering at the tiny name stamped into the bottom, “Ah, it really is an Achterberg!”“That... sounds like it should mean something to me,” you reply with a puzzled frown, “Is that good?”“It's valuable. They weren't made in very high numbers – just too expensive to produce – and they've only grown more expensive with age. You find a collector, you could sell this for a pretty respectable sum,” Freddy pauses, then smiles ruefully, “My father had a taste for things like this. Rarities, things he could collect and show off to people. It's unfortunately common among the upper classes.”A pretty respectable sum... those repairs to the Spirit of Helena left your coffers in a sad state, and it's just like she said – something could go missing from this place without ever being noticed. What would be the harm in...>Take the model car for yourself>Bring the car as a gift for Brookmeyer>Let Reginald know about the car's real value>Other
>>2711176>Bring the car as a gift for BrookmeyerOh no we don't
>>2711176>Bring the car as a gift for BrookmeyerI know we robbed Blessings of his inheritance, but there's a limit to how low we can sink here.
>>2711176>Bring the car as a gift for BrookmeyerMilos plsBut he is right, we are a little low on funds. Though couldn't we, after lifting the Megido Cannon, sell the salvage rights to Theon's ship to someone who might be interested in an older ship like that?
>>2711176>Bring the car as a gift for Brookmeyer>Hit ourselves for even thinking of doing anything else.
>>2711176The car is an old one isn´t it? Why don´t we sen it to a restorator first, to make sure is in top notch form?
>>2711176>Bring the car as a gift for BrookmeyerCome on, Milos
>>2711198If it isn't in top form Grayson would want to tinker with it. He enjoys that kind of stuff
No, no way are you considering this. Just what the HELL were you thinking?“Let's take this with us, I'm sure Brookmeyer – I mean... oh, you know what I mean,” you sigh, shaking your head with weary resignation, “I'm sure he'll appreciate seeing this again. It'll make a fine gift.” Carefully placing the model back down into its box, you tuck it under your arm. The moment of weakness has thankfully passed now, leaving you with the shadow of guilt in its place. Maybe you're not a perfect man, but there are lines that you really shouldn't cross, depths that you refuse to sink to.The next time your resolve starts to waver, you'll need someone to knock some sense into you. You could use the money, sure, but there has to be a better way. Maybe the remains of the Eòin Eagal would be worth something, or maybe you can find some work elsewhere. Either way, there has to be a better way.-Bringing the model car downstairs, you find Keziah dozing at the table. You reach out to softly shake her awake, but then the roar of a powerful engine shakes the house. Letting out a quiet little cry, the witch jolts upright and looks about her in panic. Realising where she is, all the frantic energy seeps out of Keziah's shoulders and she groans softly. “Must have looked like a right idiot, huh boss?” she grumbles, “Go on, laugh it up.”She says that, but when you DO chuckle she just scowls even harder at you. Before this can devolve into a full scale argument, Reginald strides in and studies the three of you. “Well now,” he laughs, “I told you to make yourselves at home, sure, but I never imagined that you'd relax quite so much. That's the old girl fixed up – I never had Grayson's eye for engines, but you learn a thing or do when you live all the way out here. Got to, really.”“So, are you coming with us?” you ask him, “You don't need to be here and keep an eye on things?”“Ah, Sania knows how to keep the place ticking over without me. If the harvester breaks down again, well... I guess we can send for a Guild engineer. Won't be cheap, but sometimes you can't avoid it,” Reginald nods happily to himself, “Family comes first. If he was in my shoes, Grayson would do the same thing for me. Wouldn't even hesitate.” Taking a rag out of his pocket, Reginald scrubs engine oil from his hands and looks down at his scruffy clothes. “Don't reckon I'm dressed for a trip to the capital, but I've got nothing else to wear,” he laments, “Ah, it's a hospital anyway. So long as I'm not dripping blood, I don't reckon I've got anything to worry about.”Whatever else you could say about him, you could never accuse Reginald Brookmeyer of being a pessimist.[1/2]
>>2711451The flight back to Pastona has an air of almost childish excitement to it, courtesy of Reginald. He chatters almost constantly, commenting on every bump or jolt. You've seen this often enough before in people unused to skiff flights. They're a different beast to larger airships, skiffs, and you can't blame people for being skittish in them. The very first time you flew in one, you weren't exactly calm and composed either.Fortunately, Reginald manages to keep from making a mess of the Eliza. Even so, he walks with you to the hospital on wobbly, unstable legs.-“You...” Reginald breathes as you pause in the upstairs room, a mere handful of paces away from his brother, “You go in first. I haven't figured out what I'm going to say to him yet. Letters are good for that – they give you plenty of time to think, see?”“You sure about that?” you check, shifting the model car from one arm to the other, “I don't mind-”“C'mon boss, he isnae gonna change his tune. Give the man some time – I want to see the look on Brookmeyer's face when he sees that wee toy you've got,” Keziah urges, her own excitement gathering, “Oh, I know I know, it's no a toy. Come on!”“You kids have fun,” Freddy adds, “I'll wait here and keep Reginald company. I know a thing or two about brothers, after all.”Leaving the pair of them to talk quietly amongst themselves, you lead Kezian into Brookmeyer's room. The medicinal smell is even stronger now, and his eyes are even blanker than before. Whatever they hand out here, you reckon that it's a good deal more powerful than anything that Doctor Barnum keeps in his medicine cabinet. Then again, if you were recovering from being set on fire, you'd want the strong stuff as well.“Got two surprises for you, Grayson,” you begin, your use of his given name causing Brookmeyer's eyes to sharpen a little, “Well, the second one might not be as much of a surprise. We couldn't find a box big enough to hide it in, you see. Take a peek at this one first, see if you can guess what's inside.” As you say this, you hold the box out to him and he takes it with tentative hands. Weighing it for a moment, he smiles a goofy smile.“Not a pair of shoes, that's for sure,” he guesses, laughing as if he had told the best joke in the world. Waiting a moment more, he lifts the lid off of the box and looks inside. As you watch, his mouth forms a silent gasp of surprise. As if he can't quite believe what he's looking at, the engineer reaches down into the box and lifts out the model automotive. “This is... the very first model I ever got,” he murmurs, turning it over in his hands with a faint frown, “And it's scuffed!”[2/3]
>>2711536“Well, get yourself something to clean it up with, then!” you reply, his outraged voice causing you to laugh aloud, “Weren't you complaining about not having anything to do here? Now that I bring you something to clean up, you're still complaining!” Shaking your fist at him, you hear Keziah laughing until she can't breathe, tears flooding down her cheeks as she is gripped by powerful convulsions. Her laughter is cut off by the sound of the door banging open, and Reginald practically falls into the room.“What's all this ruckus about?” he yelps, “Something wrong? Something-”“Reg!” Brookmeyer gasps, “You... I thought... the farm...”“The farm can wait, lad. You think I'd pass up the opportunity to come visit my little brother?” Reginald manages, finding some semblance of composure, “It's all thanks to your captain though. If he hadn't come and lit a fire under my ass...”“Captain,” Brookmeyer murmurs, turning in his wheelchair and giving you a look of the purest gratitude.That expression... that's your reward, right there.>I'm going to have to end things a little early today. I'll continue this tomorrow, starting at the same usual time>Thank you for your patience today!
>>2711550Thanks for running Moloch!Did Blessings swing by his home to visit while we are in Carth doing R&R?
>>2711550Thanks for running!Will Brookmeyer's gratitude spread out over the rest of the crew and prevent a mutiny? That's how it works right? We take the average level of happiness around the crew, and even if everyone else is low Grayson is high enough to bring them all up? No? Emotional radio waves then?For earning money, how easy would it be to nick some priceless vases when we drop in unannounced on DuPont? I know we didn't want to steal from Brookmeyer, but stealing from DuPont is 200% different.
>>2711550Thanks for riunning!How long until we find out Blessings has a scale fetish?
>>2711561He found the time to make a quick visit, yesAlthough he didn't go alone!>>2711571Well, it might not work exactly like that, but word will get back to the crew and it'll certainly help morale.Stealing from DuPont - while absolutely acceptable on a moral level - might be harder than you think. That's about all I can say about that, though!>>2711573Why not just ask him outright? It can't be THAT awkward of a conversation, right?
>>2711573>>2711620He did spend an awful lot of time funding chapels in Nadir.
>>2711620"Ay Blessings. Were you really interested in seeing what was under Madame Lamia's dress?"
>>2711628We don't need to directly ask him. We can just pull up Keziah's shirt and show off her belly while he's in the room. If he runs back to his bunk for a while, we got him.
>>2711633Ah, but then we don't know if he has a scale fetish or if he just likes midriffs (like most people).
>>2711633No flaunting of Keziah, she belongs to Milos.
>>2711693I thought it was obviously a joke, it's wholly inappropriate to do to anyone. Even Freddy.
>>2711693Keziah belongs in a zoo! Dumb snakegirl! :^)>>2711699>Even Freddy.Wonder if he is into abs.
>>2711620>Stealing from DuPont - while absolutely acceptable on a moral level - might be harder than you think.ah. DuPont's broke as fuck.
>>2711960More like that since the dude is neurotic enough to spy on us his possessions are probably extremely guarded.
>>2711960Nobody remembered that DuPont wasn't communicating with him any more?Instead some Bad Dudes(TM) took over?Imagine how much we'll be able to smug at DuPont if we rescue him.Much like Mirriam did with us
>>2713276I remembered that he fired Lem from spying, and we didn't hear anything beyond that. Maybe he got jailed for tax evasion.More likely he followed our trail to something dangerous and got mindfucked though.
It takes a little cajoling, but eventually Doctor Lindwall allows you to wheel Brookmeyer to the hospital's radio room. You're not entirely sure why the long term patients are not usually allowed to make outside calls – Lindwall just offered some vague explanation about avoiding stress from outside the hospital – but you didn't really have time to dwell on the issue. As soon as you established a radio link with the Spirit of Helena, Brookmeyer was talking to everyone he could. It's good for him, but you get the feeling that it'll be even better for the crew – he was well-liked, Brookmeyer, that's just the sort of guy he is.Eventually, though, you outstayed your welcome. Leaving the two brothers to catch up, you went to focus on a few other errands – namely, getting Doctor Barnum's medical supplies. That doesn't take much time either, although there is one source of frustration. No matter what you said or offered, the merchant refused to ship the supplies to Carth territory. Even accepting your assurance that you weren't with the church, he simply would not allow it. In the end, you were able to reach a compromise – he would ship his goods to Monotia, and you could pick them up.Not the most convenient solution in the world, but you were planning on going down to Nadir at some point anyway. Salim is all well and good for a while, but your crew will be looking for more lowbrow entertainment soon, the sort of entertainment that only Nadir drinking dens and gambling pits can offer. Besides, if there's any work going around, it's likely to be found in Nadir.Before you do anything else, though, you stop to get a bite to eat in a cool basement shop. The food is nothing remarkable, but taking shelter in the the basement feels like you're being thrown a lifeline.“I cannae ever remember it being this hot!” Keziah complains, tugging at the neck of her thin tunic. Freddy has her jacket slung over one shoulder, while your coat lies at your feet in a crumbled ball. No doubt about it, you're all suffering the same pain. “It's gotta be a sign,” she adds, “Trouble on the horizon, that's what it means. My gut is tellin' me to expect trouble, and I always listen to my gut.”“But expecting trouble is basically normal for us,” Freddy points out, “Mainly because we have this habit of searching out trouble.”“Aye, well...” the witch begins, only to falter as her train of thought is completely lost. “We didnae go lookin' for the sun, but we're gettin' cooked regardless!” she stresses, rallying and picking up where she left off, “That means this time, the trouble is goin' to find us!”“Sure, that makes sense,” you sigh, “You think Reginald is going to be okay here? He said that he could find a ride back on his own, but...”“He seems like the resourceful sort,” Freddy assures you, “He'll manage.”[1/2]
>>2713308“Still,” the Iraklin concedes after a few moments, “It IS odd. Abnormally hot weather, storms that last days at a stretch, the ground trembling down in Nadir... things are changing around here. I don't understand it – and quite frankly, I'm not sure if I want to understand it.” Prodding listlessly at her half-eaten meal, Freddy shakes her head. “When in doubt, just keep your head down and follow orders – that's what they taught us in the military. Don't ask any difficult questions,” she sighs, “Ready to head back to the Eliza, captain?”“Sure,” you agree, “I'm starting to feel homesick already.”-“Hey boss,” Keziah asks as the Eliza is cutting a long, loose path around the islands of the Pastona Union, “You reckon DuPont keeps all his money tucked away in the estate? Like, I dinnae ken, piled up in some big underground vault?”“I wouldn't be surprised,” you laugh, “Why do you ask?”“Oh, you know,” the witch explains, her voice light and innocent, “Just wonderin' if he had anythin' to steal. The only thing better than droppin' by unannounced is droppin' by unannounced and takin' some souvenirs, you see?” Chuckling to herself, Keziah leans over and peers out the front window as the Eliza approaches the DuPont estate. “Ugh, look at it!” she complains, pointing to the stately home, “He's even got a wee little village to lord over. That guy makes me sick!”While you wouldn't put it quite like that, the estate does have a small – and rather shabby looking – settlement nearby. Noticing your interest, Freddy slows the Eliza down and begins to circle the area. “I see two landing zones. One of them is by the estate itself – I assume that's for DuPont himself, or his guests – and one by the town. Not much of a landing zone, mind you. Doesn't look like much more than a spot of flat ground.”Looking down, you're struck by how quiet the area looks. Hardly anyone is visible in the streets or lingering about outside the houses. “DuPont must be home,” you announce, pointing to a vivid blue pennant that flies above one of the two large hangers that sit near the estate itself, “Old Free Captain tradition. You fly a banner while you're at home, so other captains can see what's going on at a glance.”“I see,” Freddy replies, glancing around as she awaits your orders, “Want me to set us down, captain?”>No, there's no point. Let's just get back to the ship>Yes. Set us down in the town>Yes. Set us down at the estate itself>Other
>>2713310>Yes. Set us down in the townSee if we can't get the latest gossip about the man before seeing him.
>>2713310>Yes. Set us down in the townI don't think we'll be able to steal anything, but I am curious about what happened to this shitter.
>>2713310>Yes. Set us down in the townTime to run him down into the ground.Spread disease about him over town.
“Yes, set us down in the town there,” you order, pointing towards the flattened dirt that serves as a landing pad, “Maybe we can find someone who can explain what the hell happened here.” As Freddy guides the Eliza down, you give your weapons a quick check over. You're not expecting to run into any trouble down here – the sort of trouble that might require you to shoot something, at least – but it gives you something to do. “Strange,” you think aloud as the Eliza touches solid ground, “I was half expecting to see someone coming to greet us.”“Or to find out why we're here, at least,” Freddy agrees, checking her own pistol over. As you leave the skiff, Keziah sniffs the air. “Are you...” the pilot begins, only to shake her head in dismay, “No, forget it. I don't want to know.”“Caliban always does that when he goes somewhere new,” Keziah explains, “I figured that I'd try it and all. Cannae smell anythin' out of the ordinary, though. Cannae smell much of anythin', now that I think about it.”In a town like this, you might expect to smell smoke or the scent of cooking. Not here, apparently.-Roaming through the empty town, following the rough dirt path that winds its way through the ramshackle homes, you feel the hairs on the back of your neck stand on end. One of the houses you just passed had its door standing ajar, and something – maybe the wind, maybe something more than that – caused the rusting hinges to creak slightly as you walked by. Touching a finger to your lips, you nod back towards the ajar door and approach it. Pressing yourself up against the wooden door, you listen for any further noise.Nothing. Grimacing, you point first to Freddy and then to the door. Keeping her pistol ready, the Iraklin swiftly pushes through the ajar door and sweeps her gaze from side to side. “Clear,” she reports, “Nothing here, captain.”“All that fuss and bother for nothin',” Keziah sighs, peering inside before turning and looking behind her. Freezing in place, the blood seems to rush from her face as she pales. “Hey, boss...” she whispers, “I think maybe...”Turning, you follow her gaze. Standing in the doorway of another one of the hovels, you see a stooped old woman. She stares at your group without expression, without even a trace of curiosity. When she says nothing, makes no motion at all, you start to understand why Keziah was so spooked. “I'd say that we're looking at a ghost,” you murmur, “But they don't exist, do they?”“Suddenly, I dinnae feel so sure of that,” the witch breathes, gathering her courage before calling out to the old woman. “Hello there!” she cries, her voice strained with a friendliness that she really doesn't feel, “Nice day, isn't it?”Finally showing some sign of life, the old woman turns and retreats back into her hovel.[1/2]
>>2713346When the old woman doesn't slam the door shut behind her, you take it as an invitation to follow her inside. Sitting opposite her across a decrepit wooden table, you take a moment to study her features. You couldn't guess at her age, but the seams on her face are deep enough that they seem to swallow up her features. “Where is everyone?” you ask softly, skipping past the formalities and cutting straight to the heart of the matter, “Was there some kind of... trouble?”“Trouble?” she croaks, “Oh aye, you could call it that. When the work dried up, just about everyone who could upped and left. Only folks that are left now are those what can't leave, or don't want to.”“The work?” you repeat, thinking for a moment. This entire town must survive because of DuPont and his business. His money mostly comes from Pleonite mines, as you recall, the richest source of the crystal in the Pastona Union. The mines had been in his family for generations, but if the work has dried up... “Are you talking about the Pleonite mines?” you ask, “Did something happen to them?”“Nothing left in them. Just bare rock,” the old woman shakes her head slowly, “My boy worked in the pits until a few years ago. When they died, he got work in the factory. Bad work, that – I always worried about him.”Then, this wasn't a recent change. “Is the factory still here?” you ask next, “What did they make there?”“Killing tools, guns and bombs. Bits of airships,” she answers, falling silent as the door creaks. Freddy looks in, shooting you a curious look, but you gesture for her to stay back before looking back to the old woman. Taking a moment to think, she continues. “So my boy worked there for a time, until the soldiers came to shut the factory down. That was that for us,” she laments, “Now, the young folk have all gone to look for work. The soldiers hand out meals sometimes, so we don't starve here, but... this place is finished. It'll be dead soon, you mark my words.”Throughout this entire conversation, the old woman hasn't shown a single flicker of emotion until now – and even then, it's only a note of weary resignation. Looking away with indifference, she stares off into space. Keziah gives your thoughts a gentle nudge, a wordless touch of curiosity, but you offer her no answer. You're still thinking about the old woman's story – arms factories, soldiers, and a mass exodus... you're not sure what to make of it yet.“You'd best leave, stranger,” the old woman adds slowly, without looking around at you, “There's nothing for you here.”>Take the woman's advice and leave now>Proceed to the DuPont estate itself>Ask some questions... (Write in)>Other
>>2713411>Ask some questions... (Write in)>"What's DuPont up to then? Just holed up in his manor, handing out meals but not founding new enterprises?"
>>2713411>Ask some questions... (Write in)>"Why did the soldiers shut down the factory? DuPont wouldn't have had any issue selling to the Iraklins. Specially if it was his last business.">Proceed to the DuPont estate itself
>>2713411>Ask some questions... (Write in)When did the factory shut down? Just a month ago DuPont was flying around, trying to play grab ass with us. I'm surprised he was doing that if the foundation for his wealth was crumbling.
>>2713411>you're not sure what to make of it yet.Wrong. Du Pont had one of the illegal factories supplying Eishin.>Ask some questions... Is Du Pont planning to do anything?And a question for Moloch: did we tell the Iraklinas about the factories before or after we made Lem into a double-agent?
>>2713449>Du Pont had one of the illegal factories supplying Eishin.That does make a lot of sense if true.> did we tell the Iraklinas about the factories before or after we made Lem into a double-agent?I think it was after. We turned Lem around the same time we gave Hanson and Cammy back and I don't think they were around for daemon rocket man. I'm not 100% though.
>>2713449>It was after we turned Lem, yes
>>2713468Then Du Pont probably doesn't know we are the cause of his troubles, which is good.But then again he wasn't arrested, so he might have deep connections with Iraklins, so he still might know, which is bad.
>>2713473>inb4 he was selling to Iraklins before and during the war.
>>2713445Maybe that's why he did it. He suspected we were onto something big, and he needed something big to rescue his affairs.
“There's the master of this place,” you point out, “DuPont. What's he been doing all this time? I know the man, and I don't think he's the type to hide away in his estate while the last of his businesses crumbles. Do you know anything about him?”Again, the old woman takes a long time to answer your question. “Word gets around,” she offers vaguely, “One of the younger girls worked in the estate until the soldiers came, and she was dismissed. The soldiers closed the estate up, dismissed all of the staff and took over. Now, they say that they're the new staff.” Letting out a dusty cough that you realise is a laugh, the old woman ponderously shakes her head. “But they can do what they want. I don't care what they do to DuPont,” she sighs, “They're the ones handing out meals, after all.”Her words set alarm bells ringing in your head. “Are you saying that DuPont is being kept prisoner?” you ask sharply. When the old woman merely replies with an uncaring shrug, you lean back in your seat and take a different approach. “Why did these soldiers shut down the factory?” you press, “Was he refusing to sell to the Iraklins? No, that can't be it – if his money was running out, he wouldn't be so discriminating.” Even as you say this, though, an idea occurs to you. “He was selling to the wrong people, wasn't he?” he guess, “Is that it?”“So you say,” the crone murmurs, “Dangerous people came here for a while, looking to buy their weapons. Caused all kinds of trouble here. It was like having wild beasts running through the streets – awful. None of that trouble since the soldiers took over, at least.”And with that, the pieces fit into place. Thanking the old woman, you rise and hasten out. “Eishin,” you hiss to the others, “DuPont was desperate, selling weapons to anyone with the money. Pirates, probably, but Eishin's men might have been among them. Those daemon ships had to come from somewhere, and this factory might have been it. These solders... Iraklins, I bet. They must have come to shut him down.”“Hold on,” Keziah protests, “DuPont was swannin' about not so long ago. Wasn't he at the readin' of Miriam's will?”“And he was pissed off that he didn't get more out of it,” you recall, “Maybe he was hoping that Miriam's inheritance would get him out of a hole. I don't know yet, there's still a lot of things I'm not certain on. The only way to find out for sure is...”“Talkin' to the man himself,” Keziah finishes for you.“If these soldiers allow it,” you admit, “There's just one problem. If the Iraklins did arrest DuPont-”“They would have shot him for this. Unlicensed arms sales is a serious crime,” Freddy interrupts, “It would have been big news. A public trial, I'm sure of it. No, there's something more going on here, I'm sure of it.”[1/2]
>>2713475You mean>inb4 dupont was the one making kamikaze demon airships for eishin?
>>2713505You don't see another soul as you pass through the shanty town, moving uphill towards the estate itself. There, you see a pair of tough looking guards standing in the shade of the front entrance. They wear well-cut suits of deep, royal blue cloth and carry brutal carbines. They tense up at the sight of you, one of them raising his rifle to cover you while the second man vanishes inside the manor. Scowling at the hostile welcome, you slowly raise your hands away from the weapons in your belt and continue to approach.Just as you're reaching the front entrance, five more guards emerge from the manor and immediately start to hassle you. As one of them sticks his rifle in your face, a second man circles around you and begins to roughly pat you down for any hidden weapons. “Hey now!” you snap as he grabs you in places that you'd rather not be grabbed, “We've only just met, this is-”“Shut up!” he snarls, “Who are you, why are you here?”“Which one is it, shut up or speak?” you growl back, “We're here to see Captain DuPont, that's all. We're not looking to cause any trouble.”“That's good,” a new voice announces, the sound of it causing the guards to back off. A tall woman clad in the same dark blue uniform as the guards approaches you, studying each member of your little group in turn. Her hair and eyes are both leaden grey, while a delicate pair of steel-rimmed spectacles cover hard, humourless eyes. “Because it's my job to make sure that there isn't any trouble,” she continues, “Miata. Household security. The master of the house is not taking any visitors today.”“Is it because we didnae make an appointment?” Keziah asks, “Old DuPont hates it when people-”“The master of the house is not taking visitors today,” Miata repeats in a steely voice, “And before you ask, he will not be taking visitors tomorrow either. You're wasting your time here. I suggest you leave before you waste any more of the day.”As she pauses, you glance at the guards around you. Their uniforms have no rank pins or unit markings, while their weapons aren't official Iraklin issue – regardless, their poise is undoubtedly the result of military training. Ex-military sorts going into private security isn't exactly uncommon, but you're not convinced. These men might be undercover, posing as DuPont's security. Either way, they don't look like they're going to cut you even an inch of slack.Not unless you give them a damn good reason, at least.“Well?” Miata presses, poking you in the chest with one bony finger, “Shouldn't you be leaving now?”>Fine, you win. We're leaving>Actually, I have business here. You see... (Write in)>Other
>>2713605I want in, but I can't think of a way to get in, other than bluffing about being one of his buyers. That wouldn't go well though, they'd probably just arrest us.ugh>Fine, you win. We're leaving
>>2713605We could namedrop the Iraklin secret police guy
>>2713651That also might ruin our chances of getting into Firebase Alpha later, if he hears about it.Maybe we can lay out what we think about him supplying Eishin, and ask why this wasn't news or went to trial?
>>2713676We might need to come back after touching base with Lem, he worked for DuPont, he might know something that could get us in.
>>2713682I think these are Iraklin, not DuPont's men so Lem's insight might not give us much.I think maybe the safest bet would be to drop that we know about the Eishin connection.Of course that's assuming that daemon rockets is indeed what this is about.
>>2713707Alright, I guess we'll do that, and if that doesn't work we'll have to leave.
>>2713605I also wonder if this somehow connected to how the Nadir leader treated the Eishin messenger. Wasn't Hess's security man seen with him.Me thinks Iraklis is making some plays.
>>2713605Shit I got nothing other than what's already been mentioned. I hope we aren't missing the obvious ticket in.
“I can think of a few reasons why I should stay, but this might not be a conversation that you want to have out here,” you reply slowly, meeting Miata's cold eyes, “I understand that some security matters are better kept secret, and I'm sure that you feel the same way. Maybe we should talk more inside – in private.”“Anything you can say to me, you can say to my men,” Miata counters, gesturing at the lingering guards, “So if this was a bluff, I'm afraid that you're out of luck.”“It's no bluff,” you jab, “I know about why you're keeping DuPont here. It's because of his little side business in selling arms to Eishin's faction, isn't it? When the Bureau learned that it was him, you were sent to clean things up... right? Gehrard did say that he'd investigate the matter, but I never expected that it would lead him here.”Miata regards you cautiously, her eyes narrowing slightly as she re-evaluates you. Whether you've grown higher or lower in her eyes remains unclear for now, but at least she's taking you seriously. After dropping some pretty heavy names into the conversation, she doesn't really have a choice. Even her attack dogs seem to change their minds of you, some of them casting curious glances at each other. “This sun ill suits me,” Miata decides at last, shielding her eyes with one hand and peering up into the sky, “Why don't we continue this conversation inside?”“Isn't that what I suggested?” you ask, trying very hard not to gloat.-The immediate entrance to the estate is as lavish as you would have expected, but that is just a false front. Once you take a look behind the scenes, the true state of DuPont's finances makes itself clear. Some of the things you notice as Miata leads you deeper inside the DuPont estate – empty plinths that should have held ornaments, blank patches of wall where portraits should have hung, a general sense of absence and sorrow. You can almost imagine DuPont selling off anything he could bare to lose, scraping in any money he could in order to keep up appearances.“You two,” Miata orders, pointing to Keziah and Freddy, “I need to speak with your leader – alone. You can take a walk around the estate if you wish, but you will be escorted by my men. Do NOT push them, or they will shoot to kill. Do you understand?”“Oh aye,” Keziah says with a nod, perking up as a thought strikes her, “Can we see his ship? His airship, the Themela, I've always wanted to see it-”“Fine, fine,” Miata sighs, waving an indifferent hand at her, “But don't forget my warning.”“Yessss...” Keziah hisses, practically skipping off. Shrugging her shoulders, Freddy follows the two burly guards who chase after the witch.[1/2]>Sorry for the delay. I had a brief family errand to cover
>>2713764Looks like we were right to an extent. DuPont must've been really desperate.
>>2713779Maybe we can still steal his airship. Go Kez!
>>2713790Watch it already be sold off.
>>2713764Miata leads you into a small office, the sign on the door reading “security”. In better times, this must have been where DuPont's real head of security worked. Sitting behind the desk, Miata gestures towards a seat. “I'll be blunt,” she begins, “No matter what you say here, you won't be seeing DuPont face to face. He's under isolation – solitary confinement. I have my orders, and I can't change them. The only reason you've been allowed this far is because of what you said. You know Administrator Gehrard?”“We've met,” you reply evenly, “I did a spot of work for him. Gave him a little piece of information that he seems to have made good use of. Your superior officer, I assume?”“You assume correctly,” Miata agrees, “But now I have a question for you. Why did you come here? Give me a full and honest answer – omit nothing.”Now things make a little more sense. She was expecting some kind of fellow criminal, some associate for her to drag back to her boss. “DuPont and I have some history together. We're not exactly what you'd call friends, you see. I was in the area, and I thought about paying him a visit – partly professional courtesy, and partly...” you shrug, “Partly because I thought it would irritate him. At the time, I didn't realise that he was in this... situation.”“We've been keeping the situation quiet. Of course, I'll have to ask you to do the same,” the woman's brow dips in a hard scowl as she says this, a hint of resentment slipping through her armour. Listening to her now, you get the impression that she would have preferred to shoot DuPont and be done with it. “He's not being mistreated, if that makes it any better for you,” she continues, “It's true that he is, essentially, a prisoner here, but he has certain privileges. We regularly bring him fresh books and other ways of passing the time. I'm told that he's learning to paint, actually.”“And then what?” you wonder aloud, “You're just going to keep him here forever?”“Yes,” the Iraklin agent confirms bluntly, “Such are my orders.” Sighing quietly, she takes off her glasses and begins to polish them with a small cloth. “If you were the one to inform Gehrard about these suicide airships, then you would be... Vaandemere, correct?” she guesses, “You've done good work for the nation, so I suppose I should apologise for the rough treatment outside. Orders are orders - you understand me, don't you?”“Of course,” you assure her, giving the woman a cold smile. She holds her tongue for a moment more, leaving you to carry on the conversation.>Thank you for your answers, at least. I'll leave you to it>Just why is DuPont being treated so mercifully?>How did you people figure out DuPont was behind the suicide ships?>I wanted to ask you something... (Write in)>Other
>>2713870>Just why is DuPont being treated so mercifully?>How did you people figure out DuPont was behind the suicide ships?
>>2713870>Just why is DuPont being treated so mercifully?Crimes like this warrant a public trial and execution. I doubt any of his buyers would just waltz up to your soldiers, if you're hoping to lure them in.
>>2713870>Just why is DuPont being treated so mercifully?"Normally a crime of this magnitude would warrant execution in Iraklin law no? Does Gehrard still have a use for him? Or his factory?">How did you people figure out DuPont was behind the suicide ships?"Did he even know about what his arms was being used for or was he just selling to whoever so he could stay afloat?">Other"For what it's worth, thank you for keeping that village down there fed. They've had a rough go of it."
“Just why is DuPont being treated so mercifully?” you ask, “As I understand it, his crimes would normally earn him a public trial and a quick execution, so why is he getting to live? If you're trying to lure in any of his associates, I doubt a buyer is going to stroll up and let you arrest them.” Your question causes Miata's expression to darken, and she doesn't answer straight away. “Does Gehrard have some use for his factory?” you guess, trying to bait out an answer, “Or for DuPont himself?”“DuPont has... influence. Even now, he has friends back in Iraklis who were able to pull certain strings,” Miata explains at last, her voice growing taut with anger, “His inaction during the Annexation War did not go unnoticed. Were it up to me, he would have been given exactly the punishment he deserved.” Placing her glasses back on her face, she folds her arms and frowns at you.Considering her words, you feel a certain anger of your own. That DuPont is still benefiting from the Annexation War, even now, feels like a slap in the face. Perhaps it's a good thing that you're not allowed to see him face to face – otherwise, you might end up strangling the man. Swallowing back your anger, you look Miata in the eye and ask your next question. “How did you figure out DuPont was behind the suicide ships?” you ask, “Did he make a mistake?”“No. He was very careful, but no man can completely hide his tracks. I was in charge of auditing all the licensed arms factories in the Pastona Union, looking for any abnormal activity. There was none, but I found certain... discrepancies. Raw materials – metals, explosives, that sort of thing – were being shipped here, even though there was no factory to make use of them. DuPont used agents and concealed himself well, but not well enough,” she gives you a thin, deadly smile, “In short, legwork. A lot of legwork.”You imagine Miata spending long hours poring over ledgers and record books, looking for even the slightest hint of improper activity. No man can completely hide his tracks, she says... it makes you think back to how you stole the Spirit of Helena. If she set her mind to it, would she be able to uncover your crimes?Someone to watch out for, this Miata. Clearing your throat, you try and think of other things. “Did DuPont know who he was selling to?” you ask, “Or was he desperate enough that he'd cater to anyone with money?”“The latter. That, I think, was what saved him,” the Iraklin agent explains, “If his motives had been political, no amount of influence would have protected him. As it is, profiteering is... acceptable.” Again, her words take on a bitter note. An acceptable crime... but not if she had her way.[1/2]
>>2713940You rise to leave, but a thought makes you pause. “For what it's worth, I'd like to thank you for keeping the town fed,” you tell her, “They've had it tough down there. It's good that someone is looking out for them.”“They're innocent in all this,” Miata answers simply, “Without DuPont, these people have no way of earning a living. I had no desire to see them faced with starvation or exile, and so I took steps. DuPont isn't the only one who can pull a few strings around here.” She says this with a cold smile, her spectacles glinting in the low light. Returning that smile, you see yourself out.-Returning to the lobby, you see Keziah and Freddy waiting for you – although it would be more accurate to say that you hear them before you see them. Keziah talks excitedly about the Thelema, while Freddy sits in a rigid silence. Her shoulders are tense, and her leather jacket rests in a messy bundle in her lap. Tucking that crumpled garment under her arm, she rises and nods towards the door. “Captain,” she announces, “I'd like to get back to the Eliza now, before it starts to get dark.”“Huh?” Keziah asks, “But it willnae be dark for hours yet, are you... oh, oh!” Her eyes widen, and she nods quickly. “Aye, maybe you're right. C'mon boss, I want to tell you all about what we saw!” Hurrying over, she grabs you by the hand and practically drags you towards the door. “Seems like the Thelema was the one thing that DuPont didnae sell,” she explains, “Had to keep up appearances, see? Only, he willnae be flying it anywhere now. I took a wee peek in at the engine room, and these guys stripped the core right out. Cryin' shame, seein' a ship like that.”Freddy just grunts, glancing around at the guards as you pass them by. They watch you leave, but their earlier bravado seems completely absent now. You've seen that sort of behaviour before in the Nadir gangs – they act tough when they see you as just another victim, but once they know that you're above them they remember to act respectfully. Nadir or Azimuth, some things just don't change.-“Hold onto this,” Freddy mutters, pushing her jacket into your hands as you're trekking back to the Eliza. Taking it, you feel something solid and heavy wrapped up in the padded leather. “Just hold it, don't act funny,” she adds, “We're being followed.” Having said this, she walks a little bit faster and leaves you to hurry after her.When you reach the Eliza, you take a casual glance behind you. One of the Iraklin guards has been trailing you, carrying a covered tray of food as a feeble excuse for his roaming. Even as the Eliza takes off, he holds his ground and watches you fly away. Once the estate is retreating into the distance behind you, Freddy finally allows herself to relax.[2/3]
>>2713998When you can be absolutely, definitely certain that none of Miata's men are following you, you open Freddy's jacket and examine her ill-gotten gains. Bundled up in the thick leather is a rod of white Abrahad stone, about a foot in length and slender enough that you can comfortably hold it in one hand. No markings to suggest its function, but that's not uncommon. “I suppose you could bash someone's skull in with it,” you suggest, wielding it like a club, “You found this on the Thelema?”“There was a sort of... gallery. We saw a statue – just a regular granite statue, I should say – and it was holding this,” Freddy explains, “We thought that you might want it, so-”“So, in a perfect display of teamwork, I distracted the guards while Freddy robbed it!” Keziah chirps, “I did all the hard work, though, but I dinnae mind that. I'll do anythin' for the sake of our mission!”“And if there's one thing you're good at, it's causing a scene,” Freddy shoots back, before smiling grimly and looking back to you, “We saw some things that might have been more valuable, but there was no way to sneak them out. An item like this, though... where do you think DuPont found it?”“Could be he dug it up, found it in the family Pleonite mines,” you suggest, “Caliban found that arm in an old mine. Maybe there are pieces of Abrahad buried all over the place, just waiting for someone to uncover them. Either way, this is a good find – if we can't use it, we can probably find a buyer for it. Good work, both of you.”Sitting behind you, Keziah pumps her fist and lets out a triumphant laugh.>I'm going to have to take a pause here. I apologise for this delay – the next post should be up in half an hour or so.
>>2714101We aren't going easy on DuPont at all, are we?
>>2714101Miss Llaus just stole something under the noses of Iraklin agents.We are a good influence.
Arriving back at Salim, you enter the Spirit of Helena and head straight for the gunnery deck. When you arrive there, though, you have to stop and remind yourself that you're still on an airship – as opposed to having wandered into a chapel by mistake. Gunny has decorated since you were last here, adding a few more articles of faith to the numerous charms and talismans that were already strung up. This time, he's stuck sheets of paper – pages torn from some books, you assume – to just about any surface he could reach. Passing by one of the cannons, you lean down and read the first line from the paper.“To spill the blood of another man is to stain one's own hands,” you read aloud, “And yet in pursuit of a greater goal, it is sometimes necessary to take this stain upon one's own self. It is a question with no answer, and yet-”“And yet it is a burden that one must sometimes endure,” Gunny finishes for you, “Not exactly cheerful stuff, is it brother?”“Feeling the need for some spiritual aid?” you ask, gesturing around you, “I'm no priest, but you can always come and talk to me if you're feeling... off about anything.”“Milos, brother, I know that – and I appreciate that. You know me, though,” Gunny chuckles ruefully, “I'm not so good with words. Can't always find the right way to say that I want to say, you know? The way I see it, it's easier just to trust my gut – and this time, my gut told me to stick up a few inspirational passages. I know you're not much of a churchman, brother, but... well, we've all got our quirks, don't we?”Quirks. This new show of faith, coming so soon after Grace mentioned that he had been having doubts. Perhaps you would be overly cautious to connect the two, but...“Oh hey,” Gunny adds suddenly, pointing to the Abrahad rod in your hand, “You found something for me! I won't lie to you, brother, I had been hoping you'd find another piece like that. After that mess with the statue, I wanted to do something useful for a change. Let me have a look at it, won't you?”>Leave Gunny to study the new piece. That's why you came here, after all>Stay and talk for a while longer. You ought to catch up>Other>>2714110>Rest assured, he'd do the same - and worse - to us if he had the chance!
>>2714254>Stay and talk for a while longer. You ought to catch up
>>2714254>>Stay and talk for a while longer. You ought to catch up>How ya doing gunny? Hope I wasn't too rough on you last time, but the whole walking maybe murder statue bit made me stressed.
>>2714254>Stay and talk for a while longer. You ought to catch upGunny, bro, the statue wasn't your fault and no one blames you. They blame Prudence. It's why we kicked her off so fast.
>>2714315I know you're joking, but it totally was his fault cause he took the security of the statue too lightly and just let Prudence walk in AND take the key.I feel like it's important that we establish that yeah he did mess up, but Milos and the crew don't hate him or anything.
Casually tossing the Abrahad rod from one hand to the other, you watch Gunny's eyes hungrily following it. You've seen that kind of look before, usually in the eyes of sorry drunks gazing at a bottle of the hard stuff. It's not a look that you particularly like, for obvious reasons. “Hey, Gunny, let's talk for a while,” you remark, dropping the rod into the deepest of your pockets. “I've been thinking a bit lately,” you continue, “And I've realised that I was too harsh on you, about everything that happened with Prudence and the statue. It put us all in a bad place, that damn island, but that's no excuse.”“You know, brother, I was hoping you'd say that,” Gunny laughs, slapping you on the arm with enough force to almost pitch you sideways, “But I've gotta take my own share of the blame. When Pru asked me for that key, I know I should have said no, but... ah, hell, you know what it's like. When a woman gives you that smile and asks for a favour, what kind of man has the heart to say no?”A man who knows what “security” means, you think to yourself. “Still. It feels like we all ganged up on you,” you continue aloud, rubbing your aching arm, “I should have had your back. It feels like you've always had my back when I needed you there, and I wasn't able to-”Gunny smacks you again, his blow cutting your words short. “I got your apology, brother, that's good enough for me,” he stresses, “You keep on like that, and you'll start making me feel guilty. How about you tell me what you got up to? I hear Brookie called back – I wish I'd been there to give him my regards, but I was out of the ship. Figured I'd stop by my old chapel while we were in town, drop a few coins in the offering box. Seems like we're all doing our good deeds lately, huh?”“And a few little sins. That Abrahad rod? I sort of “borrowed” it from an old friend,” you reply with a sly smile, “But what the hell, right? It's not like DuPont is going to miss it.”Gunny pauses halfway through lighting a cigarette. “You got one over on the old boy?” he asks, grinning to himself, “Now you've gotta tell me all about it!”-By the time you've finished your story, Gunny looks somewhat less cheerful. It's not that he's feeling sorry for DuPont, but the whole situation doesn't leave him with much to smile about. If Miata hadn't been handing out food to the townsfolk, you almost feel like Gunny would be flying over to handle it himself. “Can't say things have been very eventful here, but maybe that's for the best,” he tells you, “Oh, but Blessings took a skiff over to his home... and he wasn't alone!”“Grace?” you guess, and Gunny nods firmly. It's not exactly a difficult question, though – after all, it's not like the boy was going to invite Masque over for afternoon tea.[1/2]
>>2714347>it's not like the boy was going to invite Masque over for afternoon tea.Now that's a mental image.
>>2714347“Still...” Gunny muses, tapping ash from the tip of his cigarette, “Him and Grace... you reckon we should give him any advice?”“Gunny,” you reply in a grace voice, “Do you really think advice from either of us would be even remotely helpful?”“Huh,” the burly man considers, “Maybe not, brother, maybe not.”Conversation falters after this, and you take the Abrahad rod out of your pocket. “Say,” you ask, “What does it feel like when you... I don't know, when you do your thing? Study these things, if that's what you want to call it.”Gunny thinks about this for a long moment, frowning as he searches for the right words. “It's like going into a totally silent room, somewhere with no sound at all,” he offers at last, “And sometimes you hear things.”Thinking about this for a long time, you nod slowly and toss the rod over to him. Murmuring his thanks, Gunny weighs the rod in his hands and retreats, slinking away into the bowels of the gunnery deck.-Grace and Blessings are just getting back as you amble back down to the cargo hold, and you study the young pair. They laugh and talk like... well, like two normal young people. Friends for now, but who knows what the future might hold? You wave to them as they pass you by, and they both call out greetings. Grace – who has her hands hidden once again – happily trots off towards the private quarters, while Blessings approaches you directly.“Lovely day today, isn't it captain?” he begins, “You made sure to make the most of it, didn't you? I hope you don't mind that I, ah, that I left the ship without permission, but I took the opportunity to pay a visit to mother. She sends her good wishes, and she said... ah.” Blessings laughs nervously. “She said that you might not be the rogue she thought you were,” he admits at last, “Don't blame her, captain, she's just-”“She worries,” you finish for him, “That's what mothers do.”“Well... most mothers,” Blessings corrects you, before his eyes widen with horror. “Ah, I mean... I only meant...” he stammers, “The chief engineer, I mean...”“Settle down, I know what you meant,” you assure him, hoping to calm him down before he can have a panic attack. As he draws in a steadying breath, a thought occurs to you. “Say, the chief engineer...” you ask him slowly, “What do you think of her? Just say whatever comes to mind, don't worry about hurting anyone's feelings. Give me your honest opinion.”“Oh, I can't wait to hear this,” Keziah whispers into your mind, her thoughts lively with humour.Blessings, having only just calmed himself down, suddenly looks like he's about to throw up all over his shoes. “What do I... think about her?” he repeats, “I'm, ah, I'm sorry captain, I don't really understand the question.”[2/3]
>>2714434“Well. How about this,” you offer, “You've seen her eyes, haven't you? According to the church – and do correct me if I'm wrong about this, I'm not what you'd call a churchman – she's tainted, spoiled by virtue of her blood. Knowing that, what do you think about her?”“Oh, I understand now!” Blessings laughs awkwardly, “I thought you meant... ah, well, it's a tricky issue. I don't think that... being unclean, as the church would call it, really means that she's... a bad person.” His words have an odd, halting pace to them, but his voice retains some semblance of calm. “I mean, I think she's a good person,” he continues, “And really, I think... I think that's more important than whether or not she has an unclean spirit. At least, in terms of, ah... day to day life. What I mean is-”“I think I understand,” you interrupt, “That's good to hear.”“Uh... sir?” Blessings shifts awkwardly, his cheeks flushing a dark red, “Did she... say something about me while you were away?”“Ooh, you should tease him a little, this'll be great fun!” Keziah urges, “Go on, tell him... oh, I don't know. Tell him that I said something incredibly vulgar. You can think of something like that no problem, can't you?”“Just what is that supposed to mean?” you think back to her, “If anyone around here is vulgar, it's you!”“Uh, captain?” Blessings presses, waving a hand to get your attention, “Should I be... worried?”>Double down on teasing the boy>Have mercy on him and be serious>Other
>>2714470>At least, in terms of, ah... day to day lifePfft.>Double down on teasing the boy
>>2714470>>Have mercy on him and be serious
>>2714470I'm torn. I don't want ruin the kid's after he just brought home a girl to visit, but on the other hand it'll be funny.Go easy on him.
This really does put you in an awkward position. On one hand, the boy could do with easing up a little, and a spot of teasing – as Keziah suggests – might help him with that. On the other hand, he's naïve enough to take your words seriously, and that could put you in a truly awkward situation. Alternatively, he might take it badly and then you'd have to deal with ruining what has probably been a very good day for him. It's a difficult decision no matter how you look at it.Sometimes being the captain really does present you with difficult choices.“No, there's no need for you to worry,” you assure the boy, taking mercy on him and holding back a more risqué comment, “I was just lost in thought. Too much time in the skiff, probably.”“Oh, I... I see,” Blessings sighs with visible relief, “It's probably for the best, then. I'm sorry, captain, but I'm a little tired. I'm going to say a quick prayer and then take a nap. I'll be sure to say a prayer for the chief engineer as well!”“I... I'm sure she'll appreciate that,” you reply as Blessings hurries off, leaving you in a vague confusion. You can't be sure, but you get the strange feeling that you were the one who ended up getting teased instead of him.-“Ah,” Doctor Barnum whispers, his voice reaching you from the far end of the cargo bay, “I thought that I heard your voice, captain. I do not mean to pry, but were you able to track down those supplies I asked you to find?”“Yes and no,” you reply, “I got them ordered, but we'll need to pick them up in Monotia. It's... a long story.” Glancing down, you notice that the doctor has a bottle of brandy in one hand, and two glasses pinched between finger and thumb of the other. Sitting on a crate, you gesture for the doctor to join you. “So,” you ask as he pours out two small measures of brandy, “Handing over a blank letter of credit like that... most people wouldn't be trusting enough to do that.”“I am not most people,” Barnum points out, “I have chosen to place my trust in you, captain, and I consider myself to be a good judge of character.” Taking a small sip of his brandy, he rubs the scar on his throat and thinks for a moment. “Are you busy right now?” he asks, “You see, I had a... a story that I wished to tell you. How much of it that you believe is up to you.”“A glass of brandy and a tall tale,” you chuckle, “The perfect way to end the day in my book. Go ahead doctor, I'm listening.”“Delightful. Very well then. This is a story about another doctor,” Barnum begins, swirling the amber liquor in his glass, “Names are... unimportant, but shall we call him “Doctor Fairweather” for now?”“Suits me fine,” you agree, taking a sip from your own drink. It's as good as you'd expect it to be, taken from the doctor's own supply.[1/2]
>>2714520“You see, Doctor Fairweather was something of an adventurer in spirit. He enjoyed going to exotic places and following up strange rumours – myths, in most cases, with no basis in reality. He thought that one day, he might write a book about such things. That was a matter for the future, however. In the present day, Fairweather had his own job – a job that happened to help him with his hobby,” Barnum says slowly, his level voice perfectly clear despite how hushed his words are, “He would go to strange places, study the things he found there, and report back to his masters.”“Let me guess,” you remark, “One of these strange places was Nadir – the Deep Forest.”“Indeed it was,” Barnum agrees, “Of course, that is only our name for it. There are some who use the old tongue, calling it “Talamh naomha na diathan” - the sacred land of the gods. Ah, but I am getting distracted. You see, Doctor Fairweather was sent there to search for a very specific thing. Oh, he took his usual samples and notes of course, but the heart of his task was to follow... a rumour.”Taking a swallow of your brandy, you gesture for the doctor to continue. “Something bad happened to our good friend, didn't it?” you guess, “Something... messy.”“There are some who do not appreciate outsiders asking about their myths and rumours,” the doctor muses, “Sometimes there are disagreements. Sometimes these disagreements turn violent. The details are... unimportant, but the good Doctor Fairweather ended up falling foul of one such disagreements. His throat was cut open, and he was left to die – his blood intended to nurture something terrible. Not exactly a happy ending to our little story, is it?”“I get the feeling that it's not really the end,” you laugh, “But you missed out something important. This rumour Fairweather was chasing – what was it?”“In the Deep Forest, there are those said to be very old indeed,” Barnum muses, “Men to whom centuries are a thing to be counted – men who may never die, unless they die violently. If that story had even the slightest fragment of truth to it... well, certain factions would do anything to learn that secret, wouldn't they?”“So they would...” you murmur, “But is there any truth to those stories?”“I could not possibly tell you,” Barnum replies in a gentle voice, “You would have to ask our friend Doctor Fairweather, wouldn't you?”>I think I'm going to close things here for this session. I'll continue this next Friday, and we'll probably have an interlude episode on Wednesday sometime>Thank you for your patience today!
>>2714589Shieet Barnum has potentially got the secret to immortality in his noggin.Thanks for running Moloch.
>>2714589Thanks for running!Did Barnum survive his throat being cut because he had already become immortal? How long has he been poisoning us for, and what's the catalyst that will activate the toxins he's planted deep within our body and kill us within seconds?
>>2714669He did say the only cure for immortality was violence, so I doubt he survived dying that way.
>>2714669well he said they'd only meet a violent end. I think getting your throat slit open is pretty violent
>>2714669The only thing Doctor Barnum has been giving us is good, honest liquor - nothing poisonous about that!
>>2714724I'm pretty sure alcohol is a poison. Gunny says so after all. Now, tobacco, that's the safe stuff.
When he first saw Eishin's kingdom, Caldwell felt his nerve – already strained to breaking point – fail him. There were far more men here than even the most pessimistic report had suggested, and they seemed to be barbarians in name only. Carrying themselves with the poise and discipline of veteran soldiers, Eishin's men were both well-trained and well-armed. The savage attackers that Caldwell was familiar with seemed like a cruel jest now, a cunning ploy that hinted at greater things.Then he felt a soft touch on his arm, and looked around to meet Gorgon's flat, blank eyes. Their gaze met for a long moment, and then the witch gave him a slight nod. No words passed between the two of them, but Caldwell felt a wave of calm wash over him. His nerves steadied, and his thoughts regained their usual cold clarity. This was not impossible – difficult, yes, but not impossible.-Eishin's territory lay at the heart of the Deep Forest, the darkest and most ancient part of the region. The trees here were vast and wide, sparsely placed but with canopies that spread out far enough to shield the entire area from above. The tallest among their number must have been over one hundred meters tall, with a girth almost a third of that. Crude symbols and images were carved into the wood, and the lower branches were strung with all manner of talismans. Dwarfed by the massive trees, a dense scattering of stone houses and hide tents littered the area. Warriors glared out at Caldwell's group as they passed, but made no attempt at harassing them.“I must leave,” Segharl announced, “I have other duties to attend to. King Eishin is currently... elsewhere, but he will be returning shortly. Until then, you will remain here. Let me warn you now - it would be... unwise to spurn his hospitality.”“You're going to kill us all anyway, aren't you?” Hackett spat, his voice weary and broken, “Now or later, what difference does it make?”“There are good deaths, and there are ugly ones,” the giant warned, “A man such as you should know just how ugly death can get out here.”-There were no bars on the windows or locks on the door, and they had been allowed to keep their weapons, but there was little doubt in Caldwell's mind that they were in a prison. Security was tight, with the guards outside never wavering for so much as a moment. To judge by their uncanny silence and stillness, Caldwell wondered if they were entirely human – he had heard that the Deep Forest was home to some strange beings.Lying on a fur, Hackett glared at Caldwell for a while before turning away and going to sleep. There was a deep hostility in that glare, and a bruised sense of betrayal. If it came to a fight, Caldwell no longer knew if the guide would serve as an ally or just one more enemy.[1/3]
>>2720050Caldwell had been cleaning his automatic for a few minutes before he realised that Gorgon was staring at him. Glancing briefly up at the witch, he met her eyes for a moment before looking back down at his weapon. Softly, she moved closer to him before speaking. “I think I know now,” she whispered, “Why you brought me here. Why they want me.”Again, Caldwell looked up at her. “Then you know more than I do,” he told her simply, “Tell me.”Gorgon remained silent, biting her lip as she tried to put her thoughts in order. “They mean to offer my life to a daemon. That daemon,” she stressed, “It exists now as an unbalanced being, neither bound nor free, because of what was done to it.” Making herself more comfortable, Gorgon continued with her tale. Closing his eyes, Caldwell pictured her telling it to a tribe by the light of a campfire. It seemed fitting, and somehow nostalgic.“Long ago, the story goes that a group of witches attempted to call it into this world,” the young woman continued, “Either because their rite was flawed or they were interrupted, it failed... and the daemon was trapped, caught between worlds. The witches were killed, one and all, and it still roams the Deep Forest. We saw it, how it was...”“Drawn to you,” Caldwell finished, shaking his head, “I still don't understand.”“I wasn't certain until now, but when he... when that monster talked about my father, I knew. It may be a thin and tenuous connection, but the blood of those ancient witches flows through my veins,” Gorgon leaned a little closer, leaning in until her pale and glassy eyes were inches away from Caldwell's, “He was the one who told me that story. That's how I remember my father – his voice, as he told me stories, poems...”Caldwell had been about to push the witch away from him, but this stopped him. “Poems?” he asked sharply, the word coming out almost as an accusation. A poet, just like his own father...“They mean to feed me to the daemon, I know it...” Gorgon continued, either not noticing or ignoring Caldwell's harsh tone, “They think to appease it, to bring it under their control. If Eishin was able to command this spirit, make a weapon of it... he cannot!”Slowly, Caldwell drew his knife and raised it until the point rested in the hollow of Gorgon's throat. “If what you say is true,” he murmured, “Killing you here, now, would put an end to Eishin's plan. No sacrifice, no means for him to command the daemon. No means for me to bargain with him, either – I could focus my efforts on eliminating him.”“...Yes,” the witch breathed, giving him a tiny nod, “But I don't want to die.”“Nobody does,” Caldwell whispered, pressing the knife forwards until a bead of blood formed against Gorgon's pallid skin, “Not really.”[2/3]
>>2720051The door burst open, and a guard fell upon Caldwell. “Leig às an sgian!” he roared as he tackled Caldwell, “Knife, drop the knife!”“Caldwell!” Gorgon screamed, recoiling as a second barbarian barged into the room. The pair of them immediately tried wrestling Caldwell to the ground, but the assassin fought like a devil. One man died gurgling as the knife found his throat his throat, while the second man grabbed tightly onto Caldwell and punched him over and over again, pounding at the assassin with one meaty paw as he howled. Then, the attack suddenly ceased and the savage was pulled back – Hackett had him pinned, one thick arm locked around the barbarian's neck. With a cruel twist, he snapped the man's neck.“Come on!” Hackett snapped, hauling Caldwell to his feet, “You got us into this mess, killer. Now get us out of it!”Snatching up his automatic, Caldwell grabbed Gorgon by the hand and dragged her from the prison. The situation was rapidly disintegrating, spiralling out of control and heading towards disaster. Yet, perhaps it was not all lost – if they could find Eishin and eliminate him, the mission would not be a complete failure. Keeping his gun raised, Caldwell twisted around and scanned the area for the reinforcements that must surely have been coming... and yet there were no reinforcements. They were alone here, with the lingering barbarians having melted away into the forest.Then, dimly visible through the canopy of leaves, the shadow of a skiff passed above them. It was descending, coming in to land somewhere nearby. “Eishin?” Hackett growled, a question in his eyes.“Perhaps. He was supposed to be arriving soon,” Caldwell replied briskly, already following after the skiff, “Are you with me, Hackett?”“Damn right,” the tracker snapped, “But when this is over, you and I have business to settle.”Looking back, Caldwell met Hackett's eyes and let out a hard, clipped laugh. It seemed that he had an answer to his doubts, and it was not the one he had been expecting. “I'm looking forwards to it,” he jeered, “So you'd better not die.”>That concludes today's bonus interlude – Into the Skies will continue on Friday!
>>2720052Gehrard must have known he what was going to happen when he sent Gorgon. Something is up.Hey Moloch, Caldwell got two sets of orders. What were they again?Also thanks for the Interlude!
>>2720088Kill EishinBargain with Eishin, which by Iraklin standards is as bad as sharing drinks at a table but perhaps not as far as sleeping in the same bed with the same.....blanket.
Post yfw it's actually Consul Hess in the skiff.
>>2720088His first set of orders - his "official" orders - were to kill Eishin. Nice and simple. The second set of orders was to bargain with Eishin, offering him Gorgon - or, at least, her bloodline - in return for... something. Who can say what that might be?
>>2720098If Caldwell doesn't even know what he is bargaining for that means there is already a deal in place and Caldwell is just the delivery boy.That or Hess is actually on that skiff ready to negotiate.
>>2720051inb4 Gorgon is related to Kez somehow and the prophecy is about Kez being fed to the daemon to appease it
Finally caught up from the archives, what a ride. Good shit all the way through.
Leaving Dwight to handle the flying, you stand by the Helena's main observation window and look out over Nadir. The Deep Forest – the sacred land of the gods, as Doctor Barnum called it - stretches out before you like a thick, dark blanket. Seen from the air, it looks as impenetrable as solid rock. Sooner or later, though, you're going to have to go back in there – one of the final two fragments is waiting, hidden deep in some ancient tomb.Something that can wait a while longer, perhaps. The fragment isn't going anywhere – at least, you hope it isn't going anywhere. Looking away from the window, you collapse down into a seat and yawn.“I know how you feel, chief,” Dwight agrees, “This weather. Awful, just awful.”“Huh,” you reply with a faint smile, “You know, that's the first complain I've heard about it. Everyone else seems to be enjoying the warm weather.”“Everyone else is wrong, then,” he shoots back with a lazy shrug, “When it gets hot like this, I just want to find a cold, dark hole to crawl into. Wake me up when it's gotten cooler – all this sweating is too much like hard work for my tastes.” The radio lets out a blurt of static as Dwight says this, and he answers the summons. “This is the Spirit of Helena, under the command of Captain Vaandemere,” the pilot announces, “Requesting permission to land at the Monotia aerodrome.”“Permission granted,” the voice on the radio replies, “Enjoy your stay.”“You know,” Dwight remarks as he's setting the radio aside, “I don't think I've ever heard of anyone being refused permission to land here. What kinda crap would you have to pull to get kicked out of Monotia?”“I couldn't say,” you answer with a grim smile, “Ask Eishin.”-The daylight has started to fade when you land, the sun blocked out by the islands above. All over Monotia, countless lamps and lanterns are being lit to hold back the night. Even by night, the city will continue to thrive – if anything, the streets tend to grow even more vibrant once darkness has fallen. At any other time, you might be tempted to go out and wallow in the nightlife again, but this time... you're done for the day, about ready to get some sleep.But sleep is slow in coming. Your mind keeps slipping back to the story that Doctor Barnum told you. Life without end... if there is even a slight hint of truth to those stories, then it would lie in the hear of the Deep Forest, well within Eishin's grasp. Eishin, who has been making his own moves behind the scenes. Eishin, who has been learning all he can about what you're doing. You can almost feel him circling around you, your actions slowly drawing the two of you closer together. Maeve's cunning magic has you hidden, but somehow... it feels like only a matter of time before your paths cross.[1/2]
>>2724040Three hours of sleep is all you can manage – before you can get any more than that, a firm knock on your door rouses you. Rubbing sleep from your eyes, you open the door to see Freddy standing there, holding Mara aloft by the scruff of her neck. Staring at the pair of them for a long moment, you search for something – anything – to say.“Hi,” Mara begins, grinning despite her precarious position.“I found this one skulking about near the ship,” Freddy reports, “What should I do with her?”“Set her down,” you sigh, “I'll... deal with this.”“Are you sure, captain?” the Iraklin asks, “She looks like a troublemaker to me.” Mara laughs at this, fluttering her eyelashes in an attempt at looking innocent – although with a face like hers, she would need a miracle for that.“You're not wrong, but I can handle her,” you assure Freddy. Shrugging, the Iraklin drops Mara to the ground with a soft thud and strides away. As the Nadir girl dusts herself off with exaggerated care, you carefully step outside your quarters and close the door behind you. “So,” you ask, “Why were you skulking about around the ship?”“Heard you were back in town,” Mara explains, running her long tongue across the ragged surface of her teeth, “Had a job that you might be interested in. The Morey wants-”“No, wait, stop right there,” you interrupt, “I'm taking some time off. Do you understand what that means? That means no killing people or stealing crap, okay?”“Shh, let me finish,” the little mutant hisses, touching a finger to her lips, “It's very easy. All that the Morey wants you to do is retrieve some cargo. It will be delivered... sometime soon... and he needs a reliable man to transport it. Nothing illegal, nothing violent. He would do it himself, but our usual people are... unavailable. All that we ask for is your time – wait at the meeting place for a day or so, two at most. Easy work for a man like you, yes?”Work for Morey that doesn't involve breaking someone's legs? This really is a novelty. It's true that you could use the money, but...“Are you interested?” Mara presses, “If you are, then we can discuss the details.”Mission: Retrieve the cargoReward: 1 Funds>Accept the job>Refuse the job>Ask some questions... (Write in)
>>2724043>Ask some questions... (Write in)"What happened to your usual people?""I'm not going to get shot at while waiting at this meeting am I?>Accept the job
>>2724043>Ask some questions... (Write in)Who is the other party and what am I delivering?
>>2724043>Ask some questions... (Write in)"How big is this cargo?"
“I'm interested, but... unavailable?” you think aloud, “They wouldn't be unavailable because someone killed them, would they? Killed them, maimed them, beat them to within an inch of their lives... what I'm getting at is, exactly why are they unavailable?”Mara gives you an unblinking stare as she considers this question, eventually letting out a tittering little laugh. “Oh no, nothing of that sort,” she assures you, “They are simply busy here in the city – the usual sort of errands, you understand. Collecting tributes, patrolling the streets, generally just making sure that everything is as it should be. The Morey has decided – and the other leaders of our community have wisely agreed – to increase security. So, all of our people are currently-”“Yes, but WHY is he increasing security?” you press, “Eishin?”Pausing again, Mara tugs at the corner of her mouth with one finger. “Eishin,” she agrees at last, “We caught a man agitating for the king in exile's cause, and he told us – eventually – that he is not alone. Perhaps he was lying – men say many things under duress – but the Morey has decided to err on the side of caution. Rest assured, though, this job has nothing to do with Eisin's people, or the Deep Forest at all. The job lies east, opposite of all that bother.”That comes as more of a relief than you'd like to admit. “So what is this cargo?” you ask next, “How big is it exactly?”“Likely a single crate, sealed, about... this long,” Mara gestures vaguely, drawing out a shape in the air before her. It's hard to be sure without any figures, but the box she suggests would be about the length of a rifle, although somewhat wider and deeper. A crate of guns, then? Seeing your expression, the girl chuckles. “Not weapons, no,” she admits, “Slime mould.”Surely you misheard her. “Slime mould?” you repeat slowly.“Slime mould,” Mara confirms, “A rare variety, found clinging to the rocks of a single island off the eastern coast of Nadir. Very delicious when made into a sauce – the Morey adores it. The exact location is yet secret, known only by a small group of fishermen. They gather it up and bring it ashore, to sell to us. Those are the men you will be waiting to meet. The last shipment was... intercepted by some ambitious locals, who wished to take a slice of our profits. Troublesome – as such, the Morey wishes the cargo to be escorted from now on.”“I'm not going to get shot while for this delivery, am I?” you check, “These ambitious locals...”“Silly young men looking for a little pocket change,” Mara finishes for you, waving a dismissive hand in the air, “Not the sort of people willing to risk their lives for... anything, really. It's a quiet little place really, where we want you to go. Ideal for some... time off, as you call it. Are you still interested?”“I am,” you conclude with a nod, “We'll take the job.”[1/2]
>>2724082“Wonderful!” Mara remarks, clapping her hands together, “I will confirm the details with the Morey, and then return to you tomorrow morning. There are some silly little things to iron out – code words and passwords – but those are nothing you need concern yourself with. Please, await my return.”“Code words?” you laugh, still unsure how serious the girl is being, “Passwords? Are you-”“The Morey is very serious about his slime mould,” Mara concludes, her voice grave and solemn, “Tomorrow morning, then.”-After you've finished escorting Mara off the ship, you find Freddy waiting for you in the cargo bay. She's trying very hard not to look like she's waiting for you specifically, but it's a futile effort. If she was just passing the time, she wouldn't sit urgently up as you enter the hold. True enough, as you're watching Mara scuttle away the Iraklin approaches you. “Captain,” she begins, “This might be presumptuous question, but do you know the night markets around here? Caliban mentioned them, you see – I think he was out browsing through them for... something – and I felt curious.”“I've been there a few times. Junk mostly, the sort of scavenged crap that wouldn't pass on the day markets. They can be pretty rough places – thieves are the least of the things you need to be worried about there. They're not all bad, though,” you smile a little as you think back to some of the lurid scenes you saw there not all that long ago. “They have a life of their own. It's hard to describe really, you'd need to see it for yourself,” you continue, “And sometimes, just sometimes, you can find real treasure buried there – usually in the hands of someone who doesn't know what they have.”“I see,” Freddy nods to herself, “So, captain, do we have a job?”“In the morning. Picking up some cargo, apparently. No real danger, save for boredom if it takes too long,” you answer, “Not much pay on offer, but every little helps.”Murmuring an acknowledgement, the Iraklin glances over to the open cargo bay door. “So, the night markets,” she continues, returning to what she really wanted to talk about, “Where exactly are they?”They're not hard to find, even if you don't just follow the noise. Most of Monotia's streets are nameless and unmarked, but the marketplaces tend to have signs pointing the way. Of course, that wasn't what she was really asking, was it?>Come on, I'll show you the way>Just follow the signs, you can't miss it>Other
>>2724095>Come on, I'll show you the way
>>2724095>Take Gunny with you. This might be the first time you'll get yourself into trouble, and he's just the right kind of guy to....well, not get you OUT of it, but to laugh it off and talk you through it.I suspect the REAL trouble will be looking for Milos, not Freddy.
>>2724095>Come on, I'll show you the way.Platonically though, Kez is OTP.
>>2724095>Come on, I'll show you the way>>2724131Absolutely agreed.
>>2724095>Come on, I'll show you the wayRomantically though, Freddy is OTP.;)
>>2724154Sure thing. Let me think of a shitpost.>IMAGINE being threatened by the MC hanging out with another woman that you have to add the 'platonic' write in even though the girl you favor has literally every advantage in terms of quests.
“I could always show you the way,” you suggest, “Although you don't really need a guide. If you wanted some company, you don't need to wait for me. You could have asked Gunny to keep you company. The sight of him would be enough to keep away any trouble!”“I know. I thought about asking him, but he seemed busy with that Abrahad item. I didn't want to distract him while he was working, just in case it... well, I think we both know how badly these things can go wrong,” she forces a laugh at this, although her heart isn't really in it, “Besides, it's always better to have a local guide. That's Iraklin military policy for Nadir – whenever possible, get a trusted local to guide you. There's never enough of those around, though. Trusted locals, I mean – I've heard of guides deliberately leading patrols into dangerous areas and... you can guess what happens then.”“Bad news for everyone involved,” you agree. For a while more you both fall silent, listening to the sounds of the city instead. There are certainly plenty of those to listen out for – shouts of both anger and joy, howling dogs, even a few gunshots rendered muffled by the distance. “Looking for anything in particular?” you ask after some time, “In the night markets, I mean.”“Maybe a gift to send up to Fredrick,” Freddy replies, “To thank him for his “kind” offer. Something perfectly awful, although I don't know exactly what yet. I'll know it when I see it, I think.”“First you were stealing from under the noses of Iraklin security, and now you're talking about making a vulgar gesture to a ranking officer,” you chuckle, “You've changed, Lhaus.”“You're a terrible influence on me,” she agrees, smiling and nodding, “But maybe that's not so bad. I think-” She says this as you're passing a raucous bar, and her words are cut off by a drunk reeling from the doorway. He crashes into her and almost knocks her off-balance, but the Iraklin rallies quickly. Grabbing the unsteady man by one arm, she pivots around and slams him up against the wall of the bar. He yowls with pain, his piteous cry causing Freddy to tense up. Just as swiftly as she acted, she releases the man and recoils, taking a few hesitant steps backwards.“You...” she begins, only for the drunkard to slump a few paces away and vanish down a dark alley. Watching him go, Freddy lets out a low sigh. “Damn it,” she mutters, “Twitchy. I've been feeling this way since Firebase Alpha. Hell, since the Kingdom. Anytime something like that happens, something gets the drop on me, I think it's that bastard again. I guess neither of us is totally done with him.”Recalling the Pierrot's apparition lurching out at you from the elevator, you nod grimly.[1/2]
>>2724154In a seriousness though someone had to lobby for the underdog and I personally find Freddy more interesting than Kez. I'm also not going to let 'platonic' shit get through after the two have had sexual tension so tight you could cut it with a knife in the past. Just doesn't make sense.
>>2724198Milos is a bit old to mistake sexual tension for a sign of a good relationship.
>>2724197The night markets. Bustling with the unwashed masses, deafening with the sheer weight of conversation, and utterly unique. No matter where you've gone, you've never seen anything quite like the night markets – the density of them, the unrivalled amount of sights that all pull your attention in different directions. If a man set out to examine every item on offer, he couldn't get halfway through the markets before dawn. The next night, there would be a whole new set of dubious treasures on display.“I remember coming here once with a... an associate, I suppose. Not really a friend, but a guy I knew,” you muse, thinking back to your time working for Morey, “He found something here – a pendant, I think it was. Real gold, made by some big name up in Carthul. He thought it must have fallen down here somehow. It was so filthy that the seller didn't have a clue what it was, let it go for a few coins. The guy, he gave it to his girl.”“A true romantic,” Freddy replies, “What happened to the lucky couple?”“Well, she traded it away for a flight up to Sol Carthul and vanished,” you recall, “About a week later, he vanished as well – ran away to live in the Deep Forest if you believe the rumours. So... I guess one half of the couple got lucky.”“Tough break,” she mutters. Pausing at a market stall, she starts to sift through the heaping pile of junk. Digging for a moment, she pulls out an empty bottle and wipes grime off the label. “This is something,” she tell you, holding the bottle out so you can read the faded label, “Savaghan, that's a good whiskey. Expensive stuff, not what you'd call common. Something like this, you think someone would buy it for an ornament?”“Sure. Fill it up with something and stick it on a shelf, tell your guests that it's the real deal,” you suggest with a shrug, “Just hope that they don't ask for a taste.”“It's perfect!” Freddy decides, digging in her pocket for a few coins and handing them over, “I'll fill it up with the cheapest gutter liquor I can buy. You'd know where something like that, right?”“And just what is that supposed to mean?” you ask with a firm scowl.-Trying to see everything that the night markets have to offer would be a futile effort, but you do your best anyway. By the end of it, Freddy has a thick canvas bag hanging from one hand, filled with an assortment of finds. Books mostly, along with the whiskey bottle and a small piece of artwork made from carved wood. Not a bad haul at all, especially for how little it all cost.But as you're leaving the market, disaster strikes. Shoving through the crowd, a slight young man pushes between you and snatches the bag out of Freddy's hand, bolting off ahead. You start to reach for the revolver at your side, but...>Give chase. You'll catch him on foot!>Take a shot at him before he can get away>Let him go. It's not worth the trouble>Other
>>2724277>Give chase. You'll catch him on foot!Just another day in Monotia.
>>2724277>Give chase. You'll catch him on foot!Queue Benny Hill music
>>2724277>>Let him go. It's not worth the troubleIt's a trap to lure us somewhere
>>2724277>Take a shot before he gets away
>>2724277>Take a shot at him before he can get awayJust in case this is the point where a young thief tries to mug us then gets caught and becomes a permanent party member, shoot to kill.
>>2724321We could just, you know, not take him on if that's the case. No need to blow his head off.
>>2724329Sorry. I just hate that trope so much.
“Damn it!” you hiss, drawing your revolver as you start to chase after the thief. Freddy follows, drawing her own pistol as a flicker of uncertainty passes across her face. Running after the young man – at least, you think it's a man – you round a corner and see a relatively empty street ahead. It's a rare thing to see at this time of night, and you don't let the opportunity go to waste. Steadying your breathing as best you can, you take quick aim at the thief and fire at them.The shot just misses them, skipping off the stone tiles underfoot with a faint spark. Even so, the thief cries out and staggers, clutching at their leg with their empty hand. Lurching around, they stumble into the cover of an alleyway. If your guess is correct, and this is the street that you think it is, then they just turned into a dead end. Holstering your revolver, you give chase and follow them into the alley. There, you see them sitting in a slumped heap. Their hands are held tightly to a bloody patch of their breeches, probably from a glancing shot. They're out of action... but they're not alone.Oldest trick in the book, you think to yourself as you look at the pair of bulky thugs ahead of you, lead someone into a nice secluded alleyway and rob them properly. Laughing to yourself, you spread your arms wide in a gesture of greeting. “More of them behind us,” Freddy reports, turning so that her back is pressed up against yours, “Four. A few clubs, no knives or guns.”“Good clean fun,” you reply, clenching your fists and nodding to the wounded thief, “Nobody else needs to get hurt, right lads?”“Just empty your pockets, man,” one of the thugs growls, “You don't look like you're hurting for coin. Just hand it over.”“I don't think so,” Freddy spits, “Six in all. That's what, three for each of us?”“We'll see,” you shoot back, “Bet you I can take down more of them.”“You're on,” she laughs.>Calling for a 2D6 roll, aiming to beat 8-9 for a partial success and 10+ for a full success. I'll take the best of the first three rolls.
Rolled 6, 2 = 8 (2d6)>>2724366
Rolled 3, 1 = 4 (2d6)>>2724366Come on Nadir arm.
>Partial success!With his club raised to bash your head open, the larger of the two thugs before you lunges forwards. It's a wooden club, thick and stout – not exactly a weapon designed to kill, but a strong blow could easily drop a man. It might not be his intention, but you can't imagine the thug shedding any tears if he did happen to kill you. Well, so be it – you won't hold back either. Ducking under his first blow, you grab him roughly by the arm and drag him forwards, lashing out and kicking his legs out from under him as you move. Stepping past the man as he tumbles, you swing a short jab into the second man's side.The blow connects, and all the air rushes from his lungs in a single explosive gasp. Grabbing his head as he doubles over, you bring your knee streaking up into his face with a violent crunch. Letting him fall limply to the ground, you catch a flicker of movement in the corner of your eye and turn quickly, driving your fist into the first man's face before he can rise completely. With the first two men out of the way, you glance across to see how Freddy is doing.The Iraklin might not be an expert in close quarters fighting, but her training is more than enough to keep back a pair of thugs with a combination of quick jabs and feints. The final two men hang back, watching the flow of battle with increasing unease. Behind you, the thief lets out a wordless cry of anger that finally spurs the remaining men into action. One is faster than the other, pouncing at you with a large rock clutched in one fist. He's fast, but his lunge is a clumsy one – easily avoided.At least, that was the theory. Before you can duck under his blow, something strikes you from behind – hurled at you by the wounded thief. It's not much, but it knocks you off balance at precisely the worst time. Pain explodes through your head as the rock connects with your temple, driving you to your knees and causing your vision to grey out for a moment. A snarl of anger rolls out through the alleyway, and you realise that you are the source. Clinging to the anger with both hands, you launch yourself to your feet and slam your fist into the attacker. The blow is strong enough to lift him up off his feet, tossing his limp body back a few paces to land at the feet of his fatter companion.The fat man's eyes widen for a moment before your fist collides with his face and closes them again, knocking him out cold. Ahead of you, Freddy has her final attacker caught in a firm grip. Holding him by the arm, she twists around and cries out your name. As she shoves him forwards, you stick your arm out to catch the stumbling thug. The blow connects perfectly, felling him like a cut tree.All of a sudden the alleyway seems very quiet, or perhaps it's that the sound of groans and gasping breathes seems very loud. One or the other.[1/2]
>>2724415Then the stillness is broken as Freddy lets out a loud laugh. Her hair is a mess and her face is streaked with blood, dirt or both, but still she laughs. Bending down, she picks up her cap and pulls it on other her messy hair. “That WAS fun,” she admits, stepping around one of the fallen thugs as she approaches you and nods up at your temple, “You're bleeding a bit, captain.”“It's not a real Nadir party until someone's bleeding,” you reply, your comment causing her cheeks to darken somewhat. Clearing your throat, you turn and gesture at the wounded thief – who is starting to look very worried indeed. Definitely a young man, now that you've got a better look at him, his face has gone pale with fear and loss of blood. Reaching down, you pick up the sack of Freddy's shopping from beside them. “You robbed the wrong people,” you tell the thief, “Better luck next time.”“Wait!” he pleads as you turn to leave, “I can't walk, the others are out cold, you can't... you can't just leave me here!”“Watch me!” you retort, taking a few steps away just to show him you're being serious.“I... please!” they continue, “I'm with the Crow, he'll not thank you for letting me bleed out here!”Silas Crowe... that, you have to admit, does change things. One petty thief is no big deal, but Crowe isn't the sort of man that can be very inconvenient if he wants to be. If he wanted to, he could make your time in Monotia much more irritating than it really needs to be. Then again, if he really wants to live, you're sure that the Monotia guards would be willing to take good care of him...>Leave the thief to his fate>Take him back to Silas Crowe>Turn the thief over to the authorities>Other>I apologise if there are any delays/connection problems. My internet seems to be playing up today
>>2724448>I'm with the Morley. Crow can take any complaints with him.
>>2724448>Take him back to Silas CroweIt doesn't take long to drop off at Crowe's doorstep. Might even get a favor out of it depending if this thief is worth anything to him.
>>2724448>Take him back to Silas Crowe
Looking down at the young man, you let out a low sigh and haul him to his feet. “I'm with the Morey, and your boss can vouch for that,” you tell him roughly, “I'll take you back to him, but if he has any problems... he can take them up with the Morey, not me. You understand me, thief?”“The Morey? Hell...” he whines, “If I'd known that, I wouldn't have...”“Yeah well,” you mutter, tugging off the ragged scarf around his neck and tying it tightly around the wound in his leg, “That's not always something that you want to shout about, is it?” He throws one arm over your shoulder as you start to carry him out of the alleyway, and Freddy soon picks up the other arm. “You can head back to the aerodrome,” you tell her, “You don't need to waste your time here.”“Doesn't seem right going back with the job half-finished,” the Iraklin replies with a shake of her head, “Besides, you took a hit on the head back there. You ought to have someone responsible keeping an eye on you.”“True,” you admit, “But you'll do in a pinch.”-The sight of two people carrying a wounded man through the streets of Monotia draws no attention at all, with the people you pass simply taking it as business as usual. Even the uniformed soldiers you pass – some Iraklin, some wearing the uniform of King Roegar's own soldiers – don't do anything more than glance aside at you. Nobody tries to start any trouble, but nobody offers any help either.When you arrive at Crowe's cavernous den, it feels like you're walking right back into the night markets. This time, though, the goods on sale are stolen rather than salvaged. If things had gone any differently tonight, Freddy's purchases would likely have ended up here as well. The Iraklin glances around herself with both awe and caution, tension locking up her shoulders. Cunning eyes follow you as you walk through the low stalls, and soon Crowe himself is approaching you.“The good Captain Vaandemere, his young companion, and one of my boys!” the tall man announces, spreading his hands wide. Jewelled rings glitter on his fingers, while his ears sag under the weight of silver rings. As always, the gang leader openly wears a large dagger at his belt. Drawing it as he reaches you, he hides it behind his back and offers his other hand to shake. “It has been far too long since we met,” he gushes, “Too, too long!”“They shot me!” the thief cries out.“He robbed us!” Freddy counters.“Hush, hush. Softly now, Jacob,” Crowe purrs, reaching over to stroke the thief's hair, “I've told you this often enough before. If you can't make a clean getaway...”“Then I deserve everything I get...” the thief – Jacob – finishes in a sullen mutter. As if delighted by the act of an obedient pet, Crowe claps his hands together and laughs.[1/2]
>>2724531A while later, you find yourself sitting opposite Crowe with a tiny thimble full of some black, tar-like drink in your hand. It looks exactly like the sort of poison that you've imagined Doctor Barnum cooking up, and it has a smell to match. It can't be too dangerous, though, as Crowe has already thrown back a mouthful of his drink and refilled his cup from a silver kettle. “It was good of you to let Jacob off lightly. He's still new, still getting the hang of things. A wonderful runner, but still... new,” Crowe laughs, “I think he has a wonderful career ahead of him, if he can keep out of trouble. The last time one of the Morey's people caught a boy, they chopped the poor bastard's hands off.”“That sounds like Morey,” you agree, “Well, there was no harm done.” Reaching up, you touch your temple and feel tacky blood. “No real harm,” you correct yourself, wiping your fingers on your trousers, “One day, he'll look back on this and see it as a learning experience.”“Hmm,” Crowe muses, “A tough lesson, but those are the most important ones. But you know, Captain Vaandemere, one good turn deserves another – there's something you ought to know. You're a wanted man in these parts, and under fascinating circumstances.”“Let me guess,” closing your eyes, you think for a moment, “There's a rumour going around that I'm dead, and someone wants to know how true that is.”Laughing with delight, Crowe reaches forwards and grasps you by the shoulders. “Exactly so, my friend!” he declares, “They were so worried about you, asking if their friend was okay. How did they put it? Their “good friend and business partner”, I believe they called you. Got yourself wrapped up in something spicy, have you? It must be, if you've tried faking your death to get out of their business.”“So what did you tell them?” you ask slowly, your voice taut. Beside you, Freddy lowers her hand to the pistol holstered at her side.“I told them the truth – that I hadn't seen you for a long time,” Crowe shakes his head, “If I'm asked again, then I'll tell him that exact same thing – I understand how it is. Sometimes, a man needs a clean break. I shan't ruin that for you.”“This sounds too good to be true,” Freddy mutters, “What's the catch?”“No catch. Call this... a favour,” Crowe purrs, “But enough of that. Who might you be, the bodyguard?”“Fredrika Lhaus,” she replies simply, meeting Crowe's eyes, “His pilot... and friend.”Crowe considers this for a moment before letting out a flowery laugh. “How simply charming!” he gloats, “Well, Captain Vaandemere, I'll let you and your friend enjoy the rest of the night. Do have fun!”>I'll be sure to do that. Goodbye Crowe>I had some other things to discuss... (Write in)>Other
>>2724648>I heard you've tightened the security. Is Eishin making trouble?
>>2724648>I had some other things to discuss... (Write in)"Any news on Eishin?">I'll be sure to do that. Goodbye Crowe
“I hear you've tightened security later. All the gangs have done it,” you ask Crowe, “Is it Eishn? What have you heard about him?”“Well, as I understand it, the Morey's people found a man trying to stir up trouble, trying to get people riled up in Eishin's favour. People are already tense here, for all sorts of reasons, and it wouldn't take much to start a few fires. So, yes, we've all put a few extra bodies on the front lines,” Crowe answers with a whimsical nod, sighing as if all these mundane troubles are just too tiresome for him. “Believe it or not, we're actually working WITH the “proper authorities” this time. We don't want them getting the wrong idea, after all,” he chuckles at this, “What we don't know, however, is how many of Eishin's people might be here. Maybe he was just a lone agent, acting on his own without any kind of instructions. I certainly hope so!”“I've heard that there are others,” you suggest, “Morey's people questioned the man, and-”“Oh, I'm sure they asked him all sorts of things, and they took off a toe for every answer they didn't like,” Crowe waves a dismissive hand in front of his face, “A word of advice, my dear captain, if you ever choose to get interrogated by anyone... hope that it isn't the Morey. Not that I really need to tell YOU this.”“Why are people so tense?” Freddy asks, “You said there were all sorts of reasons. What are they?”“What aren't they?” the gang leader counters, “The land trembles beneath us, while violent storms batter us. If those weren't bad enough, some idiot of an airship captain – I don't recall his name, but his ship was the Steppenwolf – talked a fine story about seeing something in the storm. Some great beast, a wyrm of legend he claimed. It was flying off the northern coast in the middle of that terrible storm, and... well, I suspect that the young lad had been indulging in a spot of wine. Still, rumours spread quickly here...”The Steppenwolf... that was Tobias' ship, as you recall. He's young, true, but you'd call him reliable enough – if he saw a wyrm, then maybe there's something to it. Filing that information away for later use, you give Crowe a thankful nod. “I appreciate your discretion,” you tell the gang leader, “And I'll be sure to have some extra fun, just for you. I'll see you around.”“Take care,” Crowe finishes in a singsong voice, “You wouldn't want to end up dead for real, would you? I imagine that it's terribly inconvenient.”[1/2]
>>2724648>I'll be sure to do that. Goodbye CroweSome shopping, a brawl, and a run in with a crime boss. Seems like a successful Monotia date outing.
>>2724730When you return to the aerodrome, you make a few inquiries about Tobias. It seems that the young captain has left Monotia already, bound for Azimuth. You weren't able to learn anything more precise than that, just... Azimuth. Not exactly a small place, but you're in no desperate hurry to find the young captain. You're a little curious about his encounter with the wyrm – his potential encounter – but is there really much that he could tell you about it? For all you know, he may have already written it off as a hallucination.The Spirit of Helena seems very quiet when you return to it, most of the crew sleeping away peacefully. Even the background hum of the engines has stopped, and a quick glance into the engine room explains why – the arcane workings of the Pleonite core lie on a sheet, carefully spread out. Keziah lies nearby, curled up like a dog and snoring softly. Papers – the shield diagrams, you think – have been pinned up on the walls of the engine room. You'll have to make sure everything is put back together by tomorrow morning, you remind yourself. You won't be going anywhere if it's not done.Leaving the engine room in peace, you lead Freddy to your quarters. “Just a moment,” you tell her, “I've got a good bottle for you – although “good” isn't exactly what you'd call it. You wanted gutter liquor, and this is the real deal.”“Your emergency stash?” the Iraklin asks with a wry smile.“Something like that,” you agree. Opening up a cabinet, you skim through the various bottles there. Most of them are decent stuff – not great, but perfectly adequate for a quick drink in the evening... or any other time of day – but down at the bottom is a clay jug of... something. You're not even sure if it has a formal name. Once you've taken a few swigs of it, though, things like “names” stop seeming so important. Straightening up, you find Freddy standing a few scant paces away from you with a cloth in her hand.“Here,” she says softly, stepping closer and wiping at your forehead, “You're still covered in blood. In my old unit, if you showed up to inspection like this...”“You're not in the military now,” you murmur, wincing a little as Freddy dabs blood from your head.“No... I'm not,” Freddy agrees in a low whisper, leaning a little closer to inspect her work. Then, with a sudden jolt, she pulls back. “That seems to be all of it,” she continues, stepping back from you and gesturing vaguely towards the door, “I'm sorry, I... thank you for indulging me today, captain. I appreciate it. I... I should get some sleep. Bright and early this morning, correct?Saying this, she hesitates, lingering for a moment more at the edge of your quarters.>Bright and early, right. Get some sleep, Freddy>No, stay a while longer. I want you to stay>Other
>>2724817>Bright and early, right. Get some sleep, Freddy
>>2724817>OtherGo get a couple of glasses from the cabinet and something to drink. Not the gutter liquor obviously.
>>2724817>No, stay a while longer. I want you to stayOnly chance I'm going to get.
>>2724839>>2724817I'll second this.
>>2724817>>2724839This. She needs some talking too about the past it seems.
>>2724817>Bright and early, right. Get some sleep, FreddyFinally I'm available to vote>next post is last one for the day
>>2724901Work or timezone?
>>2724915Work. Usually I can sneak in some posts but today everyone is running around like headless chickens.
>>2724923I'm lucky in that my position doesn't have much oversight so I'm able to check the thread and phonepost pretty easily.
>>2724930Trade me your job
“Bright and early,” you agree, taking out a pair of glasses and a bottle of the good – well, better – stuff, “Here, a nightcap. Something to help you get some sleep.” Pouring out two glasses, you sit behind your desk and nod towards the empty chair opposite it. Freddy thinks for a moment then nods, sitting and taking an experimental sip of her drink. Nodding in approval, she drinks some more.“I enjoyed today. The markets, meeting Crowe, even the brawl,” she begins, “I never imagined that I'd do any of these things. After the military, I thought the life of a courier was all that I had to look forwards to – and then, it didn't seem like such a bad thing. Now, though? I don't know if I could go back to that kind of life.” Freddy takes another drink, leaning back and brushing a hand through her hair. It's still messed up from the brawl, stick up at all manner of angles. “It's like I said before,” she adds, “You're a bad influence of me.”“I get that a lot,” you chuckle, “I'm terrified about what Grace's old man might say when he sees her again.”“Grace?” Freddy asks with a sudden frown, “What... is there something wrong with her?”Inwardly wincing at your mistake, you cover up your sour expression with a drink. “Well, she's not exactly the quiet, obedient scholar that she used to be, is she?” you reply vaguely, “But that's for the better, I think. Remember when she first joined us? She felt almost... like she wasn't there half the time. We could have been talking to a shadow half of the time. Now that she's come out of her shell a little, I think she's a lot better off. You helped with that, I think.”“Playing dressing up games with that old crown,” laughing softly to herself, Freddy's expression warms at the memory. Looking down into her glass, she drinks the last of the liquor and sets it down on your desk, upside down so you can't refill it. “One drink is enough for me,” she tells you, “That stuff always puts me right to sleep. With your permission, captain, I'll take my leave now.”For a moment, you hesitate. There's something between you, something that could become something else entirely, but... it's not to be. In another lifetime, perhaps. “Permission granted,” you tell her, “Get some good sleep. Tomorrow, we're going to be hauling slime mould.”This causes her to stop halfway through leaving. “Slime... mould?” she repeats slowly, frowning at you.“Don't ask,” you warn her, “I never said that the Free Captain life was always glamorous, did I?”Smiling softly to herself, Freddy makes her way to the door. “Thank you, captain,” she finishes before leaving, “For the drink, I mean.”For the drink – and, you suspect, for a good deal more than that.[1/2]
>>2724945>There's something between you, something that could become something else entirely, but... it's not to be. In another lifetime, perhaps.RIP. New lifetime when?
>>2724945Good man Milos.
>>2724978I blew it. I'm sorry.
>>2724945After Freddy leaves you on your own, you pour yourself a fresh drink and stare into it for a moment. A faint ripple runs through it as the land beneath you shudders slightly – such a fine motion that you wouldn't notice it if not for the drink in front of you. Raising the glass to your lips, you shiver a little. The warmth of the day has quickly faded, and now the ship feels uncomfortably cold. Good news for Dwight, you suppose, but...Throwing back your drink, you grab a blanket from your bed and amble down to the engine room. Keziah is still snoring when you arrive, and you gently drape the blanket over her hunched form. Leaving her to sleep, you slip back to your own quarters.-The engines are back online when you wake up the next morning, humming away with a healthy tone. A captain gets an ear for these things, and you can tell that the Spirit of Helena is in good shape this morning. Thinking back to the prayers that Jayesh and the rest of Bhaskar's men performed, you allow yourself a wan smile. Maybe there's something to all that stuff after all. Yawning and stretching, you wander through the corridors until you arrive down in the cargo hold. There, you see Mara waiting patiently outside the airship.“Loitering again?” you call out to her, “Someone might think you're up to no good!”“How rude!” she replies, standing up off of the large case she has with her, “I'm perfectly innocent!” Dragging the case behind her, she lets herself onto the ship. “The arrangements have been made,” the little monster continues once she stands directly in front of her, digging in the deep pockets of her filthy smock and pulling out a leather notebook. As she flips through it, you note that the cover actually has teeth marks in it. Before you can dwell on that odd little notion, she jabs you in the chest with one finger and clears her throat. “You will be going to a small down called Brightpool. Lovely place really, lovely,” she explains, “There, you will await delivery of the cargo. The meeting place will be an old house on the waterfront, one of the Morey's many properties. He has graciously allowed you to use it.”“Downright generous of him,” you agree, “Although I'm not sure what the alternative is. Pitch a tent on the beach and wait there? Wait, is there a beach in this place?”“A lovely one, so I'm told. Once, it attracted wealthy nobles from across the land,” Mara leers at you, “But then it fell out of fashion. So sad. Now, all that remains are grand old houses and a little village clinging to life. No aerodrome, but there's a stretch of flat land that will serve as a landing pad. The local tavern serves a lovely mead, I'm told.”“They don't make it with the slime mould, do they?” you ask cautiously. Mara actually thinks about that for a moment before shaking her head.[2/3]
>>2725093“Now. Code words,” Mara continues, switching between flipping through the pages of her book and scratching at her hair. “Ah. A man will come to the house, and he will ask if you're looking to buy some fish,” she says slowly, stressing each word, “You will tell him that-”“We want to buy some slime mould?” you finish for her. Mara stares blankly at you for a moment, not blinking even as the moment stretching out longer and longer. “That was a joke,” you add at last, hoping to get her to look away or at least blink, “Go on, what do we tell him?”“You will tell him that you do not eat meat,” she finishes eventually, “Then he will know that you are who you say you are, and the deal can continue. Do you understand?”“Not really,” you admit, “I'm still not sure why you're going to all this trouble. I mean, code words and secret meetings? Why is any of this...”“It's fun,” Mara states simply, letting out one of her usual toneless laughs. Pushing her case slightly further inside the ship, she leans back against it and pockets her book again. “So?” she concludes, “We may be gone a few days. Is there anything you want to do, to ask, before we begin?”>No, I'm ready to go>There's something I need to take care of... (Write in)>I had some more questions for you... (Write in)>Other
>>2725175>No, I'm ready to go
>>2725175>>No, I'm ready to go
>>2725175>No, I'm ready to goWait, before "we" begin? She's not coming with, is she?
>>2725175>I had some more questions for you... Where's the money to buy the mould?
“No, I'm ready to go now,” you tell Mara, “I know everything I need to know, and I've got everything I need to... wait.” Frowning suddenly, you give the little woman a long, studious look, looking her up and down. Something just doesn't seem right about her, about any of this. “What's, uh, what's in there?” you ask her, gesturing to the case, “Are you paying me in advance? In... loose change?” A smile slowly spreads across Mara's face as you ask your questions, and that smile causes warning bells to start ringing in your head.“Oh, this?” Mara laughs again, pronouncing each syllable as its own word, “You don't need to worry about this. It's just a little luggage, that's all. The funds required to buy the product, mostly, and a little something extra.”Luggage, she says. Another thing she said – at one point, she stopped talking about “you” and started using “we” instead. “It wouldn't be your luggage, would it?” you ask hastily, “Because you're not coming with us... right?”“Of course I'm coming with you,” Mara stresses, acting as if she was talking to a simpleton, “The Morey has other interested in the area, and I will be making sure that everything is up to standard. Besides, it is exactly as you said – I want some time off as well, and this is the perfect place for it. So, yes, I will be coming with you. I'm sure we're going to have a lot of fun together!”Maybe it's the ship, some bit of the engine rumbling away to itself or something of that ilk, but... you could swear that you just heard Caliban groaning.>Okay, I'm going to pause things here for today. Into the Skies will continue tomorrow!>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!
>>2725266>Mara's joining us for the beach episode.Perfect.Thanks for running.
>>2725266Thanks for running!Why did she give us the codes if she's coming with us? Now we know her system!
>>2725266Thanks for running!Will Kez let Caliban hide in the engine room all day?
>>2725276>Why did she give us the codes if she's coming with us?Because she anticipates being too busy with Caliban to answer the door.
>>2725281I hope she's prepared for disappointment.I wonder how she'll react when she finds out the other woman we told her about is a stone hand.
>>2725300>I wonder how she'll react when she finds out the other woman we told her about is a stone hand.I am sure she'll enjoy her company regardless.
>>2725277I don't know about that, the last time someone hid in the engine room things didn't work out so well!>>2725276The serious answer would be so that we can cover things if she's busy elsewhere. The real answer is that she's so hyped for playing spy that she couldn't help bragging about it
>>2725318How old is Mara?
>>2725388"Ambiguous"More accurately, it's hard to tell from how she looks and behaves. I see her as being about twenty, although she really doesn't act her age.
>>2724945Wait a minute, didn't stay win? Or is my interpretation of >>2724839 as a 'stay and get drunk with your girl in your room' wrong? Or was this a mix of all the votes like you've done sometimes and this was the result?Damn timezones. I wanted Milos make her the princess she reads about.
>>2726709Until Freddy explicitly admits the Annexation War was wrong she is not waifu material.And after that as well.
>>2726709Your interpretation is not wrong for me. Can't say the same for the people that seconded it though.>>2726765If you don't think a tough fighter pilot girl that watches your back and gets into brawls with you, who starts out stiff and then begins to relax as she spends time with you, who has a sweet feminine side under the gruff exterior isn't waifu material then sir you might actually be gay.Try not to act too smug Kez fan. You have 99.9% of victory now. With the .1% being if Miriam suddenly revives, then all bets are off.
>>2726709This is probably going to say a lot about me as a person, but I didn't interpret that write-in as being especially romantic. In retrospect, I now know that I should have asked for clarification. A mistake on my end, definitely.I'm still #TeamMaeve
Brightpool is one of those places that could be called a well-kept secret. Or, if you want to be less charitable than that, you could say that it's been forgotten by the rest of the world. It's not quite either of these things, but those are the first impressions you get from looking at it. An early morning gloom still hangs over the land, and you see the fluttering glow of gas lanterns coming from the village beneath you. The village itself sits wedged precariously between the ocean and a patch of forest. Not the Deep Forest, thankfully, but something more... safe. Not exactly welcoming, but not overtly hostile either.“That's the place? Taking us down now,” Dwight mutters, rubbing sleep from his eyes as he guides the Helena towards a flat patch of soil, “Couldn't even spring for a concrete square, damn. I hope they have somewhere here that sells cigarettes, I'm almost out. Too busy sleeping to stock up in Monotia.”“There should be a shop,” Mara announces, speaking up as she idly spins her chair around in circles, “They sell all sorts of things – sometimes even things you want to buy!”“Well ain't that something,” Dwight drawls, glancing across at you, “So, chief, how do you and this thing know each other?”“Well,” you begin, “That's-”“I've been his secret lover for five years now,” Mara interrupts, “But now we're running away together. This is going to be our new life, our new home by the ocean. Ah, it's so wonderful, I think I could... AH!” She yelps as you pick her up by the scruff of the neck and start to carry her off the bridge, but soon her cries turn to jagged giggles. “See?” she gloats, “He can't keep his hands off of me!”This is going to be a long couple of days.-“I always thought that flying in an airship would be more dramatic,” your guest muses as you carry her back down to the cargo bay, “I thought that... oof!” Her words are cut off as you drop her down to the deck, sending her collapsing into an ungainly heap. “Well now!” she pouts, “What was that for?”“Distracting my pilot while he was landing the ship, for one thing. Landing an airship is a very delicate procedure, especially on an improvised pad like this,” you answer, “Also, you're irritating me. Finally, I'm the captain here, so I can basically do whatever I like. If you don't like that, you can walk home.”Looking up at you, Mara bares her teeth in something that is neither a smile nor a snarl, but something with aspects of both. Then, scrabbling to her feet, she scuttles back down towards the cargo hold.This really is going to be a long couple of days – too long, perhaps.[1/2]
>>2727061“I wonder,” Grace thinks aloud as you walk through the lonesome streets, “Why is this place called Brightpool?”“I am told that the forest here has a lake – the pool itself,” Mara answers, “Why it's so bright, I couldn't say. Never asked any of the locals, never cared much about it. Hah!” She adds a single, curt laugh at the end of this. “Asking them might be useless,” she continues, “They might not know themselves. Sometimes, people can have very short memories. I try talking to a lot of people, but they always seem to forget me.”You can tell that Caliban is on the verge of making a sarcastic comment – although really, he usually is – but Mara cuts him off with a flat cry of happiness. “There we are,” she announces, pointing to a looming ruin on the waterfront, “That will be our home for now. Far more comfortable than some stuff old airship!”“Dinnae you say that about Helena!” Keziah scolds, “You'll hurt her feelings!”-The house you've been provided with is nicer than you might have been expecting. Large and mostly empty, but in good condition despite the obvious age. “We need to have one person here at all times. At least one person,” you announce to the group, “To keep an eye out for our contact. Other than that, we've got some leeway in what we can do. So essentially, if you're going out somewhere, make sure that you're not the only person in the house before you go. Understood?”A chorus of agreements greets this. Before the sound has even finished, Caliban is moving towards the door. “I'm going to take a look around town,” he calls back over his shoulder, “Maybe do a little shopping – if there's anything worth buying here.”“Gonna check out those woods nearby,” Keziah adds, following him out, “See if there's anythin' interestin' out there.”“I have duties to attend to,” Mara agrees, wiggling her fingers at you as she leaves, “The Morey wishes for a full report on the village.”“Wait, you guys!” Grace groans as the others swan out, “Weren't we supposed to be staying here? Guys?” Sighing heavily, she shrugs and gestures towards a large staircase. “Well, captain, I'm going to find somewhere to settle in. I'll be upstairs if you need to find me. There was something that I wanted to...” pausing, she shakes her head, “You're busy. I'll leave you to it.”“I can watch the house if you want to go out,” Freddy assures you, before looking around at Blessings. “You should go out for some training,” she tells him, “I've read that running on sand is good exercise.”“Ah, right, I think I'll do just that,” the boy nods. With everyone set to go their separate ways, you're left wondering what to do first.>Stay back at the house>Head into town for a while>Explore the nearby forest>Take a walk along the beach>Other
>>2727063>Head into town for a while
>>2727063>>Head into town for a while
>>2727063>Head into town for a whileMara is the cutest ever, and I love her.
“Keep an eye on things here, I'm heading into town for a bit,” you tell Freddy, “Remember, if someone comes here asking if you want to buy some fish...”“We don't eat meat,” the Iraklin replies smartly, “I remember, captain. Let me know if you see anything interesting in town.” Draping her jacket down over the back of a chair, Freddy sits at one of the long tables and begins to disassemble her pistol. “Oh, there was a note in the entrance hall. There isn't much food in stock, apparently,” she adds, still stripping her pistol even though her eyes are on you, “You might want to pick some up while you're out.”Nodding, you head out of the old house and check the entrance hall – true enough, there's that note – before ambling out into the early morning light. A short distance away, Caliban and Mara walk side by side and talk quietly amongst themselves. Chuckling softly to yourself, you hasten to catch up to them and call out a greeting. Almost immediately, Caliban moves a little further away from the young woman, allowing you to stand between them. “Nice day for a stroll,” you begin, shielding your eyes against the rising sun and looking around you, “Romantic, almost.”“And here he is,” Mara teases, sticking her tongue out at Caliban, “Without his other woman. He's lucky that I'm here to keep him company.”“What happened to your duties?” Caliban asks waspishly, “Shouldn't you be examining the town?”“On my own? Who knows what might happen!” she gasps. Pronouncing a short laugh, Mara then takes out her notebook and begins to scribble down a note for every building you pass. Sometimes she reads these aloud, pointing out the various shops or mentioning some vague fact about them. There's a general store for all kind of sundries, and another shop specifically for clothing – local clothing, Mara says with a special emphasis. You're a little surprised to learn that the village has a Carth church in it, and somewhat less surprised to learn that it's in a woeful state.“A private chapel, built by one of the fancy types who had a house here. Our house, actually,” Mara explains, “He vanished, so the story goes, so he won't be asking for it back.”“Vanished, sure. I've heard that story before,” Caliban grunts, “Do you think they buried his body in the forest or dumped it in the ocean?”“That sounds like an accusation. Are you accusing us of anything?” the young mutant asks slyly, smirking a little before shaking her head, “But no. He was gone long before we came here. Maybe he simply tired of this place and went home – after all, this is the kind of place that can become tiresome oh so easily. You see the ocean once, you've seen everything it has to offer you.”Not everything. As you well know, the ocean keeps a few secrets hidden away from curious eyes.[1/2]
>>2727150“No way,” Caliban argues as he peers into the dirty shop window, “People don't actually wear that stuff, do they?”“For swimming, I think,” Mara muses, sounding equally dubious, “I don't know why. I'd just go naked. Why bother wearing clothes that are just going to get wet?”You're not sure what to make of them. The garments seem to be made of thin wool, clinging tightly to the crude wooden dummies put on display. Some of them are like breeches, covering the upper half of a man's legs, while others seem like little more than a strip of cloth for a woman's bust. “I guess some people didn't want to strip naked in front of other people,” you suggest to Mara, “Strange, I know, but there you go. Maybe it's a Carth thing.”“The Carths have public baths, though,” Caliban points out, “Why would this be any different?”Shrugging, you bend down and pick your sacks of food back up again. Most of what you have is dried or canned, food meant to be kept in storage for a long, long time. Still, it's not all that different from what you're used to eating. “Who cares? Let's get this stuff back,” you remark, nodding back towards the waterfront before glancing at Mara, “Will you be joining us?”“I think I'll take another look around,” she decides with a sly smile, “You boys go on without me.”“Gladly,” Caliban mutters, already marching off ahead. Chuckling to yourself, you hurry after him and thrust some of your burden at him. As he takes his share of the bags, he speaks up in a low voice. “I found something you might be interested in,” he murmurs, “Back when we were in Monotia. An apothecary with some herbs. Special herbs – I believe I mentioned them before, if you recall.”He did mention a potion like this, back in Firebase Alpha – a drug to stir up memories that might otherwise be lost. At the time, you hadn't thought much of it. After all, if you sat up and took notice every time that Caliban mentioned some Nadir drug or another...“A potion for aiding someone's memory,” you reply slowly, cautiously, “And potentially poisoning someone, if I remember correctly.”“No risk, no reward,” the hunter remarks with a dismissive shake of his head, “So what do you say, captain? I think I have everything that I need to cook up a potion – fancy being my test subject?”>Sounds dangerous. Count me out>Sounds good. I'll do it>Other
>>2727309>Sounds dangerous. Count me outMurderous statues we can handle. Ingesting drugs that might as well be poison is not something I'm not super comfortable with.
>>2727309>Sounds good. I'll do itWhat's the worst that could happen? We've snagged the thread of fate that leads to opening the vault. No way we'll die here.
>>2727309>Sounds good. I'll do it>inb4 hallucination hijinks
>>2727309>>Sounds good. I'll do itThis is potentially too fun of an option to skip.
Frowning to yourself, you try and think for a moment before letting out an irritated sigh. With a bag of canned food weighing you down, there's no way you can properly think about this. “Later,” you tell Caliban, “Let's get this stuff back to the house, then we can talk properly.”“Suit yourself,” he replies, shrugging despite his burden. Walking together for a while more, Caliban glances over at the ocean. “Good fishing here, apparently. If we catch something, we'll have a chance to get something fresher than this canned trash,” the hunter muses, “Then again, I'm not exactly an expert at fishing. I've done it once or twice, but... don't ask me to do it if your life depends on it. Mara mentioned fishing, so maybe she can catch us something.”“Just ask her to give you some advice,” you suggest with a laugh, “I'm sure she'd be all too happy to help.”“Oh, I'm sure she would,” he grumbles, “And I shouldn't refuse a chance to learn a useful skill, but if I asked her... well, she might mistake it for me being friendly.”“Amazing,” you sigh, “Grace and Blessings are more mature than the two of you.”-“I'll do it,” you announce as you set the bag of supplies down in the pantry, “This drug of yours. So long as you're reasonably sure that it won't kill me, I'll do it.”“I can't imagine that it'll kill you, no,” Caliban assures you, “...But that's about all I can claim. Well, it'll be a learning experience for the both of us.” Dusting off his hands, he strolls into the kitchen and rummages through the various cupboards for a few moments, taking out a small metal kettle. Water gurgles out of a vast steel cistern as he fills the kettle, and you light up the gas burner he gestures towards. Hurrying upstairs, Caliban soon returns with a small paper envelope of herbs that he empties into the now boiling water. As an acrid stench fills the kitchen, Freddy sticks her head around the empty doorway.“What's that smell?” she asks, “What are you two up to?”“Making drugs,” Caliban replies, prodding at the bubbling mixture with a narrow wooden spoon.“Right you are then,” the Iraklin sighs, “I'll keep watching for that delivery of slime mould.”Caliban shoots you a dubious look at that, but you just shake your head. Better not to ask about such things, your expression tells him. Shrugging, the hunter takes out a smaller bowl and begins to shave off slivers of a tarry black resin with his hunting knife. “There isn't one single herb that'll help you here,” he explains in a low voice, “So you need to mix up a few different things. Delicate work, this. You need to get the ratios just right, or things might get a little... strange.”“Oh boy,” you mutter to yourself. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all.[1/2]
>>2727536>"You need to get the ratios just right, or things might get a little... strange.”>“Oh boy,” you mutter to yourself. Maybe this wasn't such a great idea after all.More like it's an even greater idea. Hallucinations ahoy!
>>2727536The gently steaming kettle sits on a low table before you as Caliban sets out two small cups. The room he's chosen for his “experiment” is empty other than the single table and two cushions that sit either side of it. There had been a few faded watercolour paintings hanging on one wall, but he had removed them immediately. “What we need is a blank canvas,” the hunter explains, “You don't want anything to distract you. I've asked the others to stay away unless they hear any screaming or gunfire, so we should have some peace and quiet.”“That's good, but...” you reply, “Should both of us be trying this at once?”“What, you think I'm missing out on this?” Caliban snorts, pouring two cups of the vile smelling tea. The liquid looks like piss, quickly darkening as the hunter tips some of the resin into each cup. “Looks good enough to me,” he mutters, lifting the cup to his lips, “Down in one, captain!”Throwing back the tea, Caliban lets out a low groan. “So?” you ask as he shudders, “Do you feel like you're dying?”“Tastes awful,” he replies, “But no worse than Keziah's cooking. Go on, you next.”Bracing yourself for the worst, you follow Caliban's example by draining your cup in a single swallow. It's exactly as bad as the look and smell suggested – an astringent, medicinal taste with a burn that lingers in your throat. As soon as you've forced down the awful tea you feel yourself growing dizzy, although you don't know whether to blame the drug or the taste for that. Closing your eyes, you focus hard on the memories of your lost childhood. Holding that imagine in your mind, you hear--“Adventures, is it?” the cloaked woman muses, amusement in your voice, “Then, he's left you all on your own?”Opening your eyes, you look around yourself and see the entrance hall of your family home, coursing lightning crackling around the makeshift altar and the woman's hands. A young Milos Vaandemere stands before her, his eyes wide with innocent wonder. There's a little fear there, but it's buried beneath an eager excitement. The image before you isn't exactly as it should be, though – it looks distorted, the angles and distances of the hall twisting and shifting. It feels like you're standing on the bridge of airship during a wild storm, the decking rocking and pitching beneath your feet. Even so, even with these aberrations, you know this scene. You know what happens next – the young Milos replies to the witch, asking her all sorts of childish questions.Except... that's not what happens. The witch breaks her gaze away from the young boy and turns around, looking about the entrance hall.Looking directly into your eyes.[2/3]
It begins. We bad trip now.
>>2727657I feel bad for young Milos. He's never going to get his questions answered now.
>>2726989Consider the following.Keziah:>Accepted her witch heritage, which she was running away from her whole life - for us.>Sacrificed the purity of her body, which she was proud of and which made possible her dream to be a Guild engineer - for us.>Multiple times faced her mother, who scares her shitless and is prophesized to literally kill her - for us.Freddy:>Had a sparring match with a suggestive scene.>>2727061I didn't think Mara was this cute.>>2727640We should've taken Brookmeier along.They're all staying in the ship anyway, right?
>>2727716>not liking lizard grill Kezfag
>>2727694You know I could list a bunch of stuff that Freddy has done for us too that you conveniently excluded, but I'm not going to get dragged into an argument. Also if your basis for all relationships is just self sacrifice it's going be an unhealthy relationship.Take your win (on a misinterpretation) with grace.
>>2727694I feel like you're incapable of respecting other people's preferences and practically ignore stuff to fit your narrative. Freddy has done plenty of stuff 'for us' too. Prior enemies turned lovers is way more interesting than 'path of least resistance, childhood friend-esque' route. Enjoy your doormat.
In my head it's the classic >Childhood friend with years of history and understanding between the two VS>The new girl that is had developed and equally valid relationship over the course of the story proper, and is thematically fitting.>>2727694They have both have plenty of precedence for a relationship.You really can't blow Freddy off like that, it's straight up disingenuous. >>2727750>Kez>DoormatI don't see how she is a doormat in a way that Freddy isn't. They both hold the MC with the same amount of reverence. Any talk of this reverence somehow being unhealthy would apply to either really.If we are being fair, both girls are pretty equally great. It's just about what themes and character traits you enjoy more. I personally, am really fond of Kez, but I really can't take away form Freddyfags.Now GraceFags and MaeveFags, those niggas can jump ship.
>>2727830Well said.>Now GraceFags and MaeveFags, those niggas can jump ship.But if Moloch leaves who will write the quest!?
>>2727061>that pic>that's MaraWhat the fuck I thought she was a hideous mutant, she's a little qt.
>>2727858I think the random art is a lot cuter than the reality.
>>2727865TOO LATE, IT'S CANON NOW.
>>2727640White eyes. That's the first thing that you notice about her. White eyes, a thin curtain of silvery hair slipping out from under her hood, and a diaphanous veil that covers the rest of her face. The lightning dies as she removes her hands from the altar, delicately brushing them together before pushing back her hood. Her hands are gloved, you note distantly, almost every inch of her skin hidden from view. What little of her bare flesh you can see glitters as if dusted with powdered glass.Your eyes remain locked together for a moment more, a very long moment. Dimly, you see the young boy hesitating out of the corner of your eye. This, you think to yourself, is going to be very confusing for him, you, whatever.“He won't remember any of this,” the witch whispers, “Because this isn't really happening. Not in the real world, at least.”“Then this is...” you manage, speaking through a dry throat, “The Nightlands?”“Neither dream nor memory, neither reality nor delusion,” the witch confirms with a soft nod, “We now reside within the shadow of all things. We can speak here... for a while.” Reaching up to her face, she unhooks the veil and lets it slip away. Without it, her face seems... off, but not in a way you can exactly name. Her mouth is a shade too wide, perhaps, and her teeth seem unnaturally pointed. The lower half of her face has a delicate shimmer of scales clinging to her skin, soft and supple.“Nothing I do here will change the real world, will it?” you ask, your mind still lagging a few steps behind. The woman gives you a sad nod, and you feel something within you ease up. Relief, though, or resignation? “I want to know your name,” you continue, “Can you tell me your-”“Caoimhe,” she answers, leaning on the makeshift altar, “A witch of Nadir, as you have guessed, but it has been a long time since I returned to the land of my birth. I miss it sometimes, for there is great beauty to be found there, but there is a great ugliness there too – an ugliness that I am happy to have left behind. You understand that I speak of, do you not?”This time, you're the one who nods silently. Caoimhe hesitates for a moment, looking up towards the ceiling. “We do not have long,” she whispers, “Even here, events must proceed along their determined path. I have so much that I wish to say to you, Milos, but... neither of us can escape from what is coming.”Then you'll have to make the most of the time you have left. You'll...>(Write in)>>2727858>>2727865>It's closer to Mara as she imagines herself
>>2727875>"Why were you here? How did you know my father?"Maybe better questions to ask, but I'm curious, and this is what we wondered about in the first place.
>>2727875>(Write in)"Then tell me what you can right here and now while we have the chance.""What was the ritual you were doing outside my house and why?"
>>2727830I don't know man. We're reading the same quest and seeing different things.I, personally, have never seen anything I percieved as relationship development from Freddy, except that sparring match that came absolutely from the left field for me, and now this vote which came from a field no less left. It came as a complete surprise for me that there is a waifu competition.>>2727875>"If you have so much to say, say it"
>>2727875Ask her how she knows us and our family, and why it matters.Get right down to the point if things, we have no time for pleasantries as much as id want so spare them.
“Then... then say what you have to say!” you urge her, cutting straight to the heart of the matter, “Why are you here, what is this... ritual?”“There will be a terrible storm this night, capable of ripping even the strongest of man's works from the skies,” Caoimhe answers, breaking her gaze away from you as she glances over towards the front door, “Tonight, your father sails into the teeth of this monstrosity, driven by some urge that I cannot name – an urge towards self-destruction, to annihilation, perhaps. This rite I perform will soothe the storm, and he will survive his voyage.”“That's right...” you mutter, “He told me that story, about flying through some terrible storm. I always thought it was just another one of his lies.” Closing your eyes tightly together, you fight off another wave of dizziness. Somewhere distant, you hear a heavy thump like the beating of some vast heart. “You're trying to keep him safe,” you spit, the words coming out as an accusation, “Why? How do you know my father?”“I remember. We used to be the talk of the town for a time,” Caoimhe muses, her voice growing vague and indistinct as she pulls her veil back into place, “The dashing Captain Vaandemere, and his eccentric young bride. So strange, how she always sought to cover her face. There were rumours, of course, about how he would only ever visit her bedchambers by the dark of night. Do you see now, Milos?”Again that echoing thump, from somewhere closer this time. You barely notice it at all. “You're my...” you begin, the idea taking shape in your mind. Every picture you had of her, the face had been scratched out. Every memory you ever had left of her, you never saw her directly. This woman, this witch, is-A blast of sound, felt rather than heard, blasts you from your feet. Falling, you twist around to see the front door – now looming high above you as all sense and reason begins to flee this place – exploding open, a deformed club of a hand reaching inside to clutch at the empty frame. The creature that pulls itself inside the hall is a giant, an ogre that would tower over even Segharl. Steam hisses from its nose and mouth, while the ragged flaps of some heavy coat spread out behind it like wings.“He has returned,” Caoimhe whispers, turning back to the altar as new arcs of lightning begin to crackle through the air. Lurching closer to you, the ogre stoops down and bellows, grabbing at the witch with its oversized paw. She cries out and pulls away as it clutches at her, her veil falling away as she collapses down against the altar. Looking up, she points her bare face towards the young Milos for the first time.“Mother!” the boy screams, “No father, don't-”Roaring, the ogre swipes clumsily at Caoimhe. Meeting your eyes for one last time, she scrabbles to her feet and runs, fleeing out through the shattered front door. Heart hammering within your chest, you chase after her and-[1/2]
>>2728005>“No father, don't-”Wait I thought our father was in a storm right now. I guess I shouldn't expect this to make too much sense.
>>2728032Inb4 repressed parental abuse
>>2728059Might be. Seeing our father as an ogre that beats his wife isn't very good.
>>2728005And you strike something solid, feeling a moment of resistance before you tumble forwards once more. The tattered remnants of the illusion still cling to you for a moment more, and the sound of hastily approaching footsteps causes your nerves to cry out a warning. You're on your feet again quickly, raising your fists to fight off the attackers. Not hesitating for a moment, you fling a wild punch at the first shape to round the corner ahead of you.Crying out, Grace ducks low at the last moment, leaving your fist to whistle over her head and smash a lump of crumbling plaster out of the wall. Pain surges through your fist, and it is that pain that clears your head. Feeling the strength seep out of your body, you collapse sideways against the wall and slide down low. Grace, her features pinched with fear, slowly picks herself up and dusts herself off.“Are you...” she whispers, half-reaching out as if afraid to touch you.“I'm okay now,” you croak, not sure if you really believe that. Looking down at her hand, you see that she wears no glove and the silver scales that glimmer on her skin bring the illusion flooding back. Recoiling from the young scholar, you slowly pick yourself up and wipe sweat off of your skin. Right now, what you need is... actually, you don't know what you need right now. A drink maybe, or a lie down. Maybe a thousand years of sleep.-“It all comes down to one thing,” you murmur, simply opening your mouth and letting your thoughts spill out, “He came back too early. Maybe he left sooner than she had anticipated or flew faster than she thought possible. Maybe he didn't stop anywhere on the way back home. Maybe... a thousand things could have happened, but that hardly matters now. He came home too soon, and he found her there. His noble young wife, performing Nadir rituals...”“Um,” Grace begins, only to fall silent soon afterwards. She has no idea what to say, and you can't really blame her for that.“The worst part of it is, she was trying to keep him safe,” you lament, “But he was never the sort to stop and ask questions, my old man. Act first, and ask questions later... if ever.”“Um,” Grace repeats, “Are you sure that what you saw was... accurate?”The drug, of course. Caliban is still dozing peacefully, a satisfied smirk on his face, so you have no chance of getting any answers out of him for a while yet. It's true that an improper dosage of some ingredient could have caused hallucinations – worse hallucinations than expected, that is – but... the base details of the scene you saw feel right to you. In your gut, you know that what you saw really happened. At long last, you know what happened to your mother.And where has it really gotten you? Your father is already long gone, and any hope of catharsis has vanished along with him.All that you've really gained is her name – Caoimhe.[2/3]
>>2728171“So,” Blessings asks, “What did you all do today?”His question hangs in the air for a long time, lingering over the table like a bad smell. A few hours have passed since you indulged Caliban in his little experiment, and your head is still pounding like the hangover to end all hangovers. Mara is still out, Grace is taking a walk along the beach, and Freddy has gone into town to – in her words – scout out the area. Scouting out the tavern would be your guess, to get a taste of the mildly famous local mead.Keziah has a few scraps of paper with her, rubbings taken from something she found out in the nearby forest apparently, and most of her attention is focused on the savage symbols scrawled down there. As far as you're aware Caliban is still up in the empty room, smoking one cigarette after another. He's not spoken much since waking up, and the lethargic smile hasn't left his face either. Masque is back at the Spirit of Helena, and some part of you suspects that he has the right idea.When nobody answers his question, Blessing tries again. “This meal is quite good, for something that came out of a can,” he offers, looking around, “Gunny, it was you who cooked it, wasn't it?”“Sure was, little brother,” Gunny agrees cheerfully, apparently oblivious to the ill mood, “Although I don't reckon you could call much of it cooking. Just slopping stuff out and heating it up. Speaking of, captain, there was an odd smell in the kitchen. Something get burned in there or something?”“Something like that, sure,” you reply vaguely. Whenever you close your eyes, you still see that looming ogre and its hideous face. It feels like you won't be able to shake that image for a long while yet. Abruptly pushing your chair back, you stand up and step back from the table. “I'm done here,” you announce, “I've got to go...”What, you think to yourself, what do you have to do?>Head out. It doesn't matter where, just out>Go and give Caliban a piece of your mind. This is all his fault!>Head back to the Spirit of Helena. You'll feel better there... probably>Something else... (Write in)>Other>Sorry for the delay. There was a holdup on my end
>>2728364>Head back to the Spirit of Helena. You'll feel better there... probably
>>2728364>Head out. It doesn't matter where, just outTake a walk
>>2728364>Head out. It doesn't matter where, just outDon't want to yell at Caliban, and Masque is creepy.
>>2728364>Head out. It doesn't matter where, just out
>>2728364>>Head back to the Spirit of Helena. You'll feel better there... probably
>>2728364>Head back to the Spirit of Helena. You'll feel better there... probablyWe really need a drink. We should also talk about what happened to Keziah when we get the chance. Maybe Maeve or one of her witch buddies can tell us more about our mother.On the topic of the waifu war, I don't really care either way though Keziah will probably win with all we've done for eachother.
“I've got to go out,” you finish vaguely. Blessings calls your name as you march out the front door, but Gunny adds something – his voice is low, muffled enough that you can't make out the individual words – and that stops the boy from chasing after you. Leaving the house behind, you pick a direction at random and forge on ahead. All the while you walk, the pounding in your head seems to get worse and worse.It seems that Caliban's little experiment isn't finished with you quite yet. Shielding your eyes with a trembling hand, you look up at the sky and recoil, shrinking back from the hideous brightness of a sun rendered a hundred times larger than any you've ever seen before. It looms overhead, blotting out the islands of Azimuth above – no, burning them out, burning them into a hail of ashes that falls like rain to-Jerking your head away, you break the illusion's hold on you. When you look back to the sky, the sun is back to normal – distant and lonesome, just barely visible through a haze of cloud. Shivering despite the midday heat, you look down at the ground beneath you and focus on putting one foot in front of the other. So long as you can keep moving, you'll be okay. Without looking, without caring, where you walk, you walk.-It's only when a sly voice calls out to you that you shake yourself from your trance. Looking around, you realise that your wanderings took you into the town. Mara sits atop the remains of a high wall, an equally ruined manor lurking behind her. “Hello there!” she calls out, waving excitedly to you, “That's a fine scowl you're pulling. Bad news?”“My mother is dead,” you reply, speaking before ever thinking.“So's mine. Life sucks, doesn't it?” Mara replies, sticking her tongue out at you, “Was she sick, or was it something juicy?”There's a decent sized rock at your feet. Even with the occasional tremor gripping you, you're pretty sure that a good throw could knock Mara off her perch. Forcing back the temptation, you shake your head and meet her eyes once more. “I don't think it was clean,” you tell her slowly, “And that's all I'm going to tell you about it. This conversation is over.”“Hey, wait!” Mara snaps, hopping down from the wall and marching over to you, “I'm paying you to be here, you don't get to talk to me like that!”“You're not paying me very much,” you shoot back, glaring down at the short woman, “Not enough to put up with this.”Mara holds your glare for a long moment, stubbornly crossing her arms across her chest. Anger crackles between you like lightning, and then...And then she kicks you in the shin, the tiny jolt of pain doing wonders to clear your head. All of a sudden, you realise how much of an ass you've been. “Thanks,” you mutter, “I guess I needed that.”“Really?” Mara perks up, “So I can kick you again?”“Don't push your luck,” you warn.[1/2]
>>2728510Can't stay up anymore.Thanks for running, and happy birthday.
>>2728510Walking together, you and Mara amble back towards the Spirit of Helena. It's not something you could explain to a woman like her, but just seeing the airship is enough to soothe your ailing spirit. Dwight is in the cargo hold when you arrive, lying down on a stack of crates and leisurely smoking. “Hey,” you call up to him, “It's strange seeing you down here. Shouldn't you be on the bridge?”“I do take a walk about every now and then,” he replies slowly, “Besides, your scary friend is up there now, pacing back and forth like he's got a bug up his ass. It was getting on my nerves, you know? Well... whatever. Something I can do for you, chief?”“No, I just felt like seeing the old girl again,” you tell him, “It's been so long, after all.” Leaving Dwight to laugh at that, you start to wander towards your quarters before stopping yourself. You can't remember what sort of confidential information you left on display in there, but you'd rather not let Mara take a peek around. “Go and fetch a bottle of something from the kitchen,” you tell her, “Three cups, as well. You can do that, right?”“Yes captain!” Mara declares, giving you a passable impression of an Iraklin salute before hurrying away. As she's leaving, you feel the prickle of eyes boring into your back. Turning suddenly, you see a girl standing in the corridor – a girl of pure white, save for the brilliant blue glow of her eyes. She mouths something that you can't understand, and then-“Hey,” Mara shouts from around the corner, her voice causing you to jolt around, “You want a bottle of something good or something rough?”Blinking rapidly, you shake your head. “Something rough,” you tell her, “I'm not wasting the good stuff on you.”With Mara's laughter ringing in your ears, you look back down to where you saw the girl. She's gone, as is to be expected from a hallucination. Rubbing your eyes, you let out a low growl. “That damn potion,” you mutter, “Never had this problem with good, honest liquor...”-You make a strange group, the three of you – Dwight, with his lazy gestures and drawling voice; Mara, with her freakish Nadir looks; and you, with more emotional baggage that you could fit in a cargo skiff. Still, after a few cups of strong wine, you're getting along like a house on fire.“Caliban said that you know how to fish,” you tell Mara, gesturing at her with your cup, “That true?”“Yes. Learned it when I was young,” she replies, hesitating a moment before adding: “The Morey taught me. He got out and about a lot more back in those days.”“Huh, cute,” Dwight murmurs, “He your old man, or what?”All of a sudden, the air around you seems to grow very cold.[2/3]
>>2728667There's an unspoken rule in Morey's territory, and that's never to ask about him and Mara. You've never actually heard of anyone being punished for breaking that rule, but... you've never heard of anyone actually breaking it in the first place. Now Dwight, an outsider to the arcane workings of the Monotia underworld, has gone and stepped into dangerous waters. Even he can sense that he's said something wrong, as he very carefully stubs out his cigarette before casting an overly casual glance at the exit.What could Mara do to a man's throat, you wonder, with teeth like those?“He raised me,” she says slowly, “That's all I know. End of story.”Dwight takes the hint. Pushing away his cup of wine – almost completely full, save for a few polite sips – he rises to his feet. “I ought to check on the bridge,” he announces, gesturing towards the exit, “Make sure our scary friend hasn't hit anything with that sword of his. Peace out, you two – don't go doing anything rash.”“You scared him off,” you remark, watching Dwight hurry away, “Poor innocent Dwight. He never did anything to anyone, and now he's traumatised for life.”“Seems like I leave a mark on all the men I meet,” Mara leers, taking Dwight's cup of wine and drinking it down without breaking eye contact with you. Then, pushing away the cup, she seems to get serious. “There is another job,” she announces, “The Morey wished for me to tell you this. You know why we're here, yes, why you're here to escort the cargo?”“The last shipment got intercepted,” you recall, “By a couple of dumb locals looking to make a few extra coins.”“Yes,” Mara nods slowly, “And in doing so, they disrespected the Morey. Now, he wishes for them to be taught a lesson. We know who they are, and I was able to find them. Four men, here at the outskirts of this town. Tell me, Vaandemere... how do you feel about one last job, for old time's sake?”Breaking one more set of legs, she means. Thug work, the kind of work that you couldn't afford to refuse back in the day. Now, though?“No deaths,” Mara continues, “But an example must be made, yes? You will, of course, be given an additional payment...”Mission: Punish the opportunistic thievesFunds earned: 1>Accept the mission>Decline the mission
>>2728737For one fund? Naaah. Maybe if she bumps it up to two, or even higher. We're a big important guy now, we can take more profitable jobs.>Haggle for more, if she doesn't increase the reward then decline.
>>2728737>Accept the missionMight as wellEven if they are somehow in the right, nothing says we can't help them out once Mara turns her back given we aren't killing em.And we really do need the money.
>>2728737>>Accept the mission
>>2728737>no, we honest now.>stop laughin, me promise
>>2728737>Decline the mission
>>2728737>>Decline the mission
“I'm an honest man now,” you tell her slowly, “Maybe not a good man, but I'm trying my best.”“And these are thieves,” Mara counters, “Not good people. You won't be making the world any worse by reminding them of their place. Better that they learn a lesson now and live, see? Otherwise, they might make the same mistake again and... well, it won't be nearly so easy for them then. You'll be doing them a favour, really.”Sighing, you pour a small measure of wine into your cup. “What I'm saying,” you stress, “Is that I'm not just some cheap thug now. I'm an expensive thug at the very least – double the pay and you'll have a deal. If not, then you'll have to get some other heavies out here... and you can't exactly spare the manpower, can you?”Frowning a little, Mara runs the numbers through her head. “No good,” she says at last, “The Morey wants a lesson sent, yes, but I cannot make a deal like this. I simply don't have the authority.”“Then it looks like it's not getting done,” you conclude with a sad shrug, “Lucky for those local men, I guess.”“But that's the thing about luck,” Mara murmurs, running her tongue along her jagged teeth, “It doesn't last forever.”-You never like to see money slipping through your fingers, but this feels... good. This feels like you're leaving behind an ugly part of yourself, a part that you were never quite comfortable with. In truth, you often enjoyed the kind of work you did for Morey, but it had always been a sickly kind of pleasure. Like drinking too much strong wine, you would savour it at the time and regret it the morning after. This time, you're not going to fall back into repeating those old mistakes.Mara, for her part, seems unconcerned with your decision. This wasn't her main errand here, just a little extra, and the Morey surely has more important things to worry about right now. Chances are, these foolish young men won't ever face the gang leader's wrath. So long as they don't make another stupid mistake, they might actually get away with this. Holding your head up high, you stroll back to your borrowed house on the waterfront and greet the others.“Feeling better now, brother?” Gunny asks, studying you with a look of mingled amusement and concern, “You look better, at least. Got some colour in your cheeks, at least.”“Oh yes,” Mara teases, “A bottle of wine will do that to a man.”Tutting to himself, Gunny shakes his head and flashes you a rueful smile. “I'll make a clean-living man out of you yet, brother,” he promises, “Just you wait.”[1/2]
>>2728851“Oh, right, while I've got hold of you,” Gunny continues, slapping you roughly on the arm, “Cal and I, we wanted to show you something. It's about that thing you brought me.” Looking over at Mara, he reaches down and ruffles her hair. “Hey, little one, how about you give us a moment alone?” he asks, “Got to have a word with the captain here. Important airship business.”“I'm not a child!” Mara spits, her cheeks becoming a darker shade of grey. Pouting, she turns away from you and storms off.“Cute,” Gunny murmurs to himself as he leads you upstairs. There, in the empty room, you find Caliban sitting at the low table. His empty cup is overflowing with cigarette ends, and the Abrahad rod sits in front of him. “I figured out pretty quickly that it was a weapon. They've got sort of a... a taste to them. No, a smell. Or maybe a... well, brother, you get the idea,” the large man explains, delicately picking up the rod and holding it out away from him, “Now... Buzion!”As the strange word – a somehow angular word – leaves his lips, white light bleeds out from both ends of the rod. Flowing like water, the light curves out until the rod has formed the primitive shape of a bow. Still taking great care with the piece, Gunny hooks his fingers behind the arch of the bow and catches onto something that only he can see. As he pulls back, you see a shaft of light – an arrow – forming. “Something special, huh?” he remarks, looking around at you, “Seems like it could could really come in handy for Cal.”“I know how to handle a bow and arrow, after all,” Caliban agrees, “But I'm much less sure about that trigger word. Calling out my attacks like that... it's dumb as hell, being honest.”“They wouldn't usually shout it,” Gunny corrects him in a vague voice, the voice of a man talking in his sleep, “They'd whisper it, so the secret would be shared between them and their weapon. They...” Pausing suddenly, he blinks a few times before laughing. “Looks like this old man got lost in thought!” he chuckles, “I ought to take a good lie down, maybe a nap. The way I see it, if it can't be solved with a few hours of sleep, you need a doctor or a preacher.”“I don't know about a preacher, but there's an old chapel in town,” Caliban remarks as Gunny sends the weapon back to sleep, “And there's Barnum back on the ship.”“That there is,” Gunny agrees, “What more could a man ask for?”“I can think of a few things,” you sigh, “Money, fame and power to name just a few.”“I'll pass on that stuff,” the hunter chuckles darkly, “Just give me something to try this bow out on, and I'd be happy.”That blade-thin smile of his.>I think I'm going to close things here for today. I'll continue this tomorrow, starting at the usual sort of time>Thank you for your patience today!
>>2728940Thanks for running Moloch.So why did Milos' dad kill Caoimhe? Is he just a violent drunken idiot or something more sinister?
>>2728940Thanks for running, and happy birthday!Gunny has Alma's staff, Freddy has the Pierrot's glaive, and now Caliban has a Abrahad bow. How long until the rest of the crew is fully outfitted with Abrahad weapons? Is there a set of Abrahad armor? What will Keziah's weapon be?
>>2728940aw yeah, another ancient weapon for the armory!Happy birthday, Moloch, by the way.
>>2728958Well. I have a version of events worked out, but I'll post it under spoilers just in case. It's not what I'd call a huge secret, but you never know.Ragnar Vaandemere was very proud of what his unblemished heritage, and so realising that his wife was not the pure maiden he thought she was, he reacted violently. Her death wasn't deliberate, however. He chased her out into the woods behind the estate, and they ended up in the stone circle deep within. They fought, Caoimhe hit her head badly, and that was the end of it. An ugly affair, but I don't see it as being especially "sinister" as such.>>2728969Well, the others might not be so useful with ancient weapons. We wouldn't want anyone shooting their own feet off, now would we?Armour, though? I could see that being possible, although maybe a bit difficult to move in. Pretty awkward if your suit of divine power armour decided to go walkabout by itself!
>>2729067How did he not see the scales and such while they were having sex to conceive Milos?
>>2729069It was always dark, by her own insistence, and he tended to be very drunk - Caoimhe made sure of that. A few drops of something special in his evening drink, and he didn't remember a thing!
>>2729111Sounds like Caoimhe didn't marry out of love. Something special about Ragnar's blood then?
>>2729067I'm much more concerned about the dad appearing like an ogre, and Milos' own rather bulky arm...
Should we buy some armour for milos' thicc arm? I mean it seems resistant to blunt force to some level so just plain steel might suffice.
>>2728969It's interesting that we're amassing an arsenal of holy weaponry, but leading with our profane charm and blasphemy sword.
You'll have to wait to see what an arrow from this uncanny bow does to flesh and bone, but it certainly does a good job of destroying trees. He demonstrated it to you, sending a shaft of killing light into one of the dead trees on the outskirts of the forest. The arrow pierced the outside of the tree as if the bark had been made of mist, then exploded a heartbeat later. Exploded a little too violently, actually – some of the flying splinters nearly took one of his eyes out.“So I'm still getting the hang of it,” he grumbles as you mop blood from his forehead, “I think if you pull back harder, you can make it even more... explosive.”“Well, that might be true, but I think we've harmed the local forest enough for one day,” you suggest, hesitating for a moment before asking the question that's been on your mind all this time. “So what did you see?” you ask, “I saw that look on your face, it must have something good. Better than what I saw, at least...”Holding his hand up in front of his face, Caliban shows you the old scars just barely visible there. “I went back to when I faced that totem beast,” he explains, “Except this time, I wasn't some defenceless child. I was a man, and I wasn't afraid of it.” A slow smile spreads across his face as he thinks back to the vision. “I killed it,” he continues, “As much as a man can kill a creature like that, at least. Killed it, then ate its flesh.”“I don't think you can eat daemons,” you point out, “Maybe we should ask Keziah, she probably knows more about this than I do.”-“No, you cannae just eat a daemon!” Keziah states, looking up from her papers and giving you an exasperated sigh, “Honestly, what sort of crap did you lads get up to while I was away? Dinnae tell me that you tried to do...” Stopping short here, she pauses while thinking of something suitably awful. “Somethin' bad!” the witch concludes at last, throwing up her hands in disgust, “Somethin' really bad!”“No,” you protest, “Nothing like that!”“Perish the thought!” Caliban adds, giving her a bright smile that is miles away from his earlier, colder expression.Frowning at you both for a moment, Keziah looks over at Grace who simply shrugs. The two of them were busy studying the rubbings taken from the forest before you and Caliban distracted them, and they'd likely prefer to get back to their work. Caliban soon takes the hint and leaves, but only after promising to find one daemon that he CAN eat.“He gets fixated on these things, doesn't he?” Grace muses, “If it's not training a hand to talk, it's eating a daemon. I suppose it's good to have life goals, but...”“Maybe keep things realistic,” you agree, “Keep them in perspective.”“Aye, realistic goals,” Keziah muses, “Like stealin' an ancient treasure sealed away by the gods themselves. Realistic like that, boss?”“Sure,” you confirm, “Exactly like that.”[1/2]
>>2732314A moment passes, and then Grace clears her throat. “Were you interested in this?” she asks, lightly tapping the papers with one gloved finger, “I'm afraid that we don't have a tremendous amount to share with you. No unlocking the secrets of the universe here, I'm afraid, but we did find this...” Humming softly to herself, she scans the papers for a certain character. “Ah, here. A name,” she announces, “Nuada of the Axe. Sound familiar?”“Nuada?” you repeat, “Saint Nuada?”“One and the same. He wasnae born here, but we think maybe he visited this place at some point,” Keziah continues, “Probably right before he died, like. So, we got talkin', and we've got ourselves a little theory. The guy who owned this house was a churchman, right? Must have been, if he built himself a chapel here. We got to thinkin' that maybe he was here because of Nuada.”“Like he was part of the Brotherhood of Saint N,” Grace suggests, “I don't know if you've noticed, but there's a decorative stone above the front door – it has an axe design.”“This is interesting,” you agree, “But I don't quite see the point of it all. Are you suggesting that this house has some amazing secret hidden away somewhere inside it?”“Er, well, no,” Keziah admits, “We havenae really got that far.”“But Saint Nuada's tomb might be nearby. Correct me if I'm wrong, captain, but the puzzle box we found in Coteaz's tower had a crude map of the coast. If we could get a better map and compare the two, then...” Grace thinks for a moment more, “I wonder if some of the locals might have a map we could look at. I suppose the best thing to do would be to ask around a little.”Grace waits a moment for your reaction, but you just frown – you're trying very hard to look like you hadn't forgotten all about Nuada, but the young scholar misreads your frown. “That is, with your permission captain,” she quickly adds, “I wasn't meaning to give out any orders.”Very respectful of her. Now, if only the rest of your crew could follow her example...>That sounds like a good plan. Let's go and see what we can dig up>You go on ahead, I have some things to discuss with Keziah>Don't waste your time. We're not here to chase after old stories>Other
>>2732317>That sounds like a good plan. Let's go and see what we can dig up>Kez have you ever heard of the name 'Caoimhe'?
>>2732317>That sounds like a good plan. Let's go and see what we can dig up
>>2732332>>2732317Seconding.>inb4 Alexander parachutes down from Carth to stop us.
>>2732317Thirding >>2732332Too bad we can't ask Mauve with a demon, she'd know for sure
>>2732317>That sounds like a good plan. Let's go and see what we can dig upNuada, we totally remember this guy. Totally.
“That sounds like a good plan,” you agree, “Let's go and see what we can dig up. Go and tell the others that we're going out for a bit – they can watch the house for a bit.” Grace nods, rising and delicately smoothing out her clothes before hurrying away. As she goes, you look back around to Keziah. “Got a question for you,” you tell her, “Have you ever heard the name “Caoimhe” before?”“Sounds like an old Nadir name to me,” the witch muses, “But I cannae say any more than that. Dinnae recognise it from anywhere, I mean. Why were you askin'?”Hesitating for a moment, you quickly lay out the details of what you saw. Keziah listens carefully, her eyes widening a little as she takes in your story. “Aye, I see what you're gettin' at,” she murmurs, “But I cannae help you – me mam never mentioned the name around me. Now, that doesnae mean she never knew this Caoimhe. Just means she never mentioned her to me, see? You'd need to ask her personally. I can call up a wee daemon and-”“Don't,” you warn her, “We're supposed to be dead, remember?”“Oh, aye. Awfully inconvenient, bein' dead,” Keziah laments, “Ah well. Worst comes to the worst, we can always drop by at some point. Bit out of the way, but it's nae like we've got to sail for a week to get there.”“Hello!” Grace calls out as she returns, “Caliban said he can watch the house. Are we ready to go?”“Sure seems that way,” you decide, meeting Keziah's eyes and nodding briefly.-Finding a local map proves to be harder than you expected. Neither the general store nor the clothes shop can help you, although the wizened old tailor can offer a vague suggestion of where to try next. One of the very old folk living out on the edge of town might know, the tailor claimed, they're supposed to be the closest thing to a scholar that the town has to offer. Unfortunately, he couldn't remember which house you had to check.So it looks like you're knocking on doors again, asking questions that the cautious locals seem unwilling to answer. It's not that they seem hostile, just that they seem reluctant to share too much with you. You're outsiders here, and they make sure you know that in their own vague ways.“What a pain!” Grace groans as one more door closes in your face, “How many homes do we have left to check?”“Looks like three on this end of town,” Keziah replies, glancing around, “Cannae say how much there might be on the other side. It's a pain in the ass alright!”“Stop complaining you two,” you chide, “A bit of legwork is all part of the job. It wouldn't be nearly so fun if we just found the answers right away, would it?”“I don't know about that,” Grace sighs, “It might make a nice change, actually...”[1/2]
>>2732402“It's been a very long time since I heard anyone mentioning that name to me,” the stooped old man muses, leaning heavily on his cane as he mops his brow with a rag. There's something wrong with his ears – in fact, that was the first thing you noticed about him – but he wears a flat hide hood that covers most of them up. Just the usual Nadir disfigurements, you assume, but it's still vaguely distracting.“Nuada of the Axe,” Grace presses, “A close associate of Saint Alma herself, and known to the church as Saint Nuada. Do you-”“The last man who asked me about him vanished,” the old man continues, talking over Grace without a care, “Disappeared. Went looking for something what ought not to be found.”“And... what would that be?” you ask, “Nuada's tomb?”“Aye,” he agrees, turning his back on you and ambling back into his home. Shrugging to yourself, you follow the man inside. “Odhran. My name,” he continues, sluggishly opening one drawer after the other as he searches through his cluttered home, “Won't ask for yours. Wouldn't remember it, I don't reckon. Faces come and go, but the land doesn't change... much. Ah, here – my own father drew this map.”The scroll of paper that Odhran passes over to you is so old and yellowed with age that it seems like it could crumble to dust at any minute. Tentatively spreading it out, you find the ink to be faded but still legible. Leaning down and taking the puzzle box out of her bag, Grace studies the winding line of the coastline to compare it with the crude scratchings left in the wood. “Here,” she whispers, stopping just short of touching the map for fear of damaging it, “This mark here means...”“Cave. Good place to hide a tomb,” Keziah confirms, glancing up at Odhran, “But it also means “lair”. Doesnae exactly sound like the most welcoming place, does it?”“Well, if the last person to go out there never came back...” you reply slowly.“Looks like the cave is about... an hour away on foot. An easy enough walk, if I'm reading this map right,” Grace murmurs to herself, “I don't think we really need to worry about losing our way either. So long as we keep heading north and following the coastline, we should find it easily enough. We could be there and back in time for dinner if we leave now.”Nodding to her, you step back from the map. “Thank you for your help,” you tell Odhran as he rolls the paper back up again. As he nods sullenly – his expression telling you that in his eyes, you're already a dead man – you consider your next move. Should you just head out right away, or is there anything else to do first? Or, maybe you should just follow the old man's unspoken advice and let this one go. After all, you're supposed to be taking some time off.>Head straight to Nuada's tomb>Leave the tomb alone and enjoy your time off>Do some preparations first... (Write in)>Other
>>2732454>Do some preparations first... (Write in)Get some torches, ropes, iron spikes, ten foot poles, rope and flasks of oil.
>>2732454>Do some preparations first... (Write in)Let's come back with a mostly full team. Doesn't sound like we'll need much human killing weapons, so Gunny. Grace too, I suppose. Do we bring Blessings? He hasn't gotten much experience from these sort of things. We could leave Caliban if the risk of cave-ins from explosions is too great.Some rope or countermeasures incase someone falls into the ocean might be nice. A float might be too bulky, though.
>>2732454>Do some preparations first... (Write in)Go grab an extra body, probably a fighter. Caliban is out trying to eat a daemon so either Freddy or Masque. Probably Freddy cause she'd actually try to protect Grace and Kez without orders.
>>2732454>Do some preparations first... (Write in)Backing >>2732468except why not grab both Freddy and Masque?
>>2732481Tombs can get cramped. Unless it's one of those really nice ones. I don't mind bringing both if there is room though.
>>2732454>Do some preparations firstGrab Gunny, Grace, Caliban, Freddy, Masque. Leave Keziah on the ship as a means of calling in air support.
“Let's get a move on,” you tell the others, pointing to Grace in particular, “You go on ahead to the house and get the others ready. I want Gunny with us at the very least, and maybe Freddy as well. This is a technically a church site, so... Blessings can come along too, if he wants to. Just make sure he knows that it might be dangerous. You take care of that, and I'll be along to meet up with you later. Keziah, I want you to stay on the ship and await my orders.”“Okay boss,” the witch replies dubiously, “But what are you expecting?”“Anything,” you answer simply, “Does everyone understand their orders?”“Yes captain,” Grace replies firmly, “What are you going to be doing?”“Me?” you ask, “I'm going to do a spot of shopping.”-The young woman at the general store doesn't blink when you give her your list of supplies. She doesn't blink at all, actually, not once during the entire time you spend shopping. It's quite the haul you've got, with a bulky spool of rope and some climbing gear making up most of the weight. With a electric lantern for light in addition to Freddy's flashlight, you feel just about ready to take on anything that comes your way. When you return to the house, you find the others waiting for you – Masque included.“Are you sure you have everything you need?” the daemon remarks as he sees you, “Nothing else you need to bring along?”“Won't this be awfully... cramped?” Grace asks, looking around at your large group, “Perhaps I'm wrong about this, but aren't caves usually... narrow?”“I'd rather take everyone along and be safe. We can decide what to do once we know exactly what we're looking at – if the cave is too narrow for a larger group, some of us can remain outside,” you explain, “It's an hour there and another hour back, so I'd rather not waste time on a return trip. Where's Caliban?”“I, ah, explained the situation to him and he asked to sit this one out,” Grace says hesitantly, “He said that he's not entirely over his... tea... and he was concerned about what an ancient tomb might do to him. It would be dangerous if he started to act, ah, impulsively, so...”“Probably for the best, then,” you agree sagely, “He can keep an eye on things here... and he can keep Mara company. Everyone ready to go?”Your answer to this is an enthusiastic cry of agreement. In your experience, nothing gets a crew hyped up like the idea of robbing something ancient.-The march towards the tomb is a cheerful one, surprisingly cheerful under the circumstances. Freddy occasionally breaks out into an Iraklin marching song, and Blessings joins in after taking a moment to learn the words. Gunny is silent and contemplative, Saint Alma's staff resting in his calm grasp. Behind him, Masque holds his terrible sword like a mother clutching her child.[1/2]
>>2732539What starts off as an uphill path very quickly fades into almost complete wilderness, leaving you to stride through tall grass as the ocean crashes against the cliffs beneath you. It's a scenic view, but you don't dwell on it for long. After walking for about an hour – just as Grace predicted – you see a gentle slope splitting off from the meagre remains of the path. While the path continues along the cliff side, this slope leads down towards... something.“Single file,” you announce, “And don't look down.”Edging along the crumbling path, you hear pebbles rattling as they tumble free and bounce off the cliffs below you. Fighting back a groan of dismay, you force yourself to keep moving forwards. A few paces more, and you see the rock opening up into a narrow crack. Taking the flashlight that Freddy passes your way, you peer inside. The first few feet of the tunnel are so narrow that the larger members of your group might struggle to pass through, but after that the tunnel seems to open up. “I think we're okay,” you call out, “Follow me, but be careful about it!”With sharp stone edges pressing in on you every step of the way, you squeeze through the narrow passage and – eventually – emerge into the open tunnel. Here, the cave is wide enough for three men to stand side by side. Breathing a sigh of relief, you look around you with the flashlight as you wait for the others to emerge. Most of what you see is just natural rock, craggy and unworked, but some surfaces bear the faded remnants of paint. Human – or mostly human – figures brandish weapons at beasts and each other, their crude faces ugly when they show any expression at all.“I smell daemons,” Masque growls as he emerges into the tunnel, “We are not alone here.”Looking cautiously around you, you draw Feanor's ruined sword and see the blade of killing light unfold. It you do run across any daemons, you'll be ready to take them on. Freddy takes out her glaive, igniting its blade with a whisper as he gestures for Grace and Blessings to stay behind her. Gunny readies his staff, preparing to unleash its protective aura at the first sign of trouble. From this entrance, there's only one way to go – down a gentle slope, deeper into the guts of the land.After a few paces, you hear the distant splash of water. Frowning, you pan the flashlight around again and see signs of stonework – a primitive archway has been carved into the rock, with even cruder letters hacked into the archway.“Anyone know what that means?” you ask the group, “Anyone?”“Hold that light steady,” Grace tells you, studying the letters for a moment before letting out a giggle. “It's a warning,” she explains, “I don't know how to translate it exactly, but the general idea is...” Trailing off here, she whispers something to Blessings and they both laugh.“What?” you press, “What does it say?”“Beware of the dog,” Blessings answers.[2/3]
>>2732581That is no laughing matter
>>2732581Continuing on through the tunnel, you see something up ahead. A plinth of some kind, the dull gleam of metal reflecting back at you when the light pans across it. A bronze mask of some kind, or perhaps a helmet, sits atop the plinth. Carved into the shape of a beast's snarling muzzle, you find yourself wondering if this is the “dog” you were warned about. The idea of approaching it doesn't exactly appeal to you, but with no other path ahead of you... what choice do you have?“Stay close to me,” Freddy murmurs to her young charges as you step cautiously closer to the mask. As you approach it, black smoke begins to boil out of the eyeholes and pools around the floor.“Oh no, no!” you gasp, recognising that fearful sight, “Gunny!”Crying out a prayer to Saint Alma herself, Gunny steps forwards and prepares to unleash the power bound within his staff. Before he can cry out the trigger word, however, the smoke... changes. It draws back and concentrates around the plinth, rising up like a pillar of black ink and twisting into the rough approximation of a human shape. The bronze mask serves as a head, while it clutches a sword of liquid blackness in one shapeless fist. Squatting atop the stone plinth, it points the sword at you.“You, who possess the maiden's power,” a voice rumbles, seeming to come from all around you, “Have you come to defile this place?”Technically, you suppose you have. Before you can say that, though, Gunny steps forwards. “We have come to inherit Saint Nuada's legacy,” he announces boldly, although his expression tells you that he's making this up as he goes along, “And we have come to honour his memory.”The daemon considers this for a moment. “You speak true,” the voice admits, “But such a legacy cannot simply be given away – it must be earned. Send forth a champion that I might duel, or leave this place. Make your choice.”Gunny glances around at you, an imploring look in his eyes. Behind you, Freddy raises her glaive and Masque hefts his weighty sword. Your own sword is lit and ready for a fight. Between the potent weapons you all possess, you could doubtless vanquish this single daemon, but... that wouldn't exactly be proper, would it?>Fight the guardian daemon yourself>Order everyone to attack the daemon>Leave the tomb in peace>Nominate a champion... (Who?)>Other
>>2732610Are we all 4 equally good at vanquishing daemons? I think it might be better to nominate either Gunny or Masque as our champion.
>>2732610Masque is up. He's probably the strongest fighter out of all of us.
>>2732610>Nominate a champion... (Who?)Masque
>>2732610Bless-haha just kiddingDoesn't seem right to use Alma's staff, so unless Gunny gets the glaive we should do it.
>>2732610Masque's sword is effective against demons right?If so, him.If not, us.
“Masque,” you murmur to Gunny. The daemon seems to have decided that he's your leader, and for now you're content to let it believe what it likes. Gunny nods, gesturing for the familiar to step forwards.“I nominate, er, this guy as my champion,” Gunny announces, stepping away to give the two fighters room to eye each other up. “And I want a good, clean fight you two,” he adds, “No biting or pulling hair, you hear?”With a hint of an arrogant swagger about him, Masque approaches and eyes up the watchdog. It's strange, seeing these two masked faces fixing each other – the dark glass lenses of Masque's iron mask versus the empty holes of the guardian's bronze helm. Neither of them makes any move to begin the fight for a long moment, simply staring each other down. “What are they doing?” Blessings whispers as the moment draws out even longer, “Are they...”“I think they're talking,” Grace whispers back, “Or... communicating in some way. Ah, I wish I could hear what they were saying.”“So be it,” the guardian announces at last, reaching out and touching its ink-black blade to Masque's cleaver, “Your cutter of impure beasts against my ordained blade. It will be my honour to fight another one of my kind.”Masque doesn't return the guardian's tired dignity, simply letting out a growl as he hefts the deadly blade up and brings it down like a hammer. Diving back, the guardian's strangely liquid form slips away as the sword crashes down to shatter the stone plinth. Turning its dive into a powerful lunge, the guardian launches itself at Masque. Batting the smaller daemon away with a casual swipe, Masque swings his sword around and clashes it against the guardian's black blade. When the two blades connect, it makes a sound like thick glass being struck by a fist, a kind of echoing chime that aches in your ears. Even before the ringing sound has faded, the weapons have recoiled back away from each other. Staggered, Masque falls back.The guardian recovers quicker, its fluid form granting it the advantage. Its sword melts and reforms into a narrow spear as it leaps to its feet, launching itself as Masque. The narrow blade pierces clean through the familiar's cold, dead flesh, and Masque lets out a terrible sound.Not a scream of pain, but a laugh. Grabbing the guardian's bronze mask with his empty hand, Masque spins around and bodily slams the smaller daemon down into the stone floor. Then, hefting his cleaver in both hands, he brings it slamming down on the guardian.“Stop!” the guardian cries out, “I yield, I-”Metal screams against metal as Masque's blade falls like the executioner's axe, splitting the bronze helm clean in two.[1/2]
>>2732681Man, Masque is a bit too hardcore. Now I remember why we never take him anywhere.
>>2732681Note to self: In the future don't let Masque fight anything that isn't a fight to the death.
>>2732719masque is like that one friend that you don't bring to a bar cause he'll end up smashing a bottle over someones head.
>>2732681Nobody says anything for a long moment. It's only when Masque wrenches his blade out of the shattered stone floor and turns to face you that you feel able to speak again. Before you can say something, though, Blessings gets the first word in. “Excuse me,” he asks quietly, pointing down at the black-stained rip in Masque's torso, “Are you... okay?”Masque looks down at his wound, then dismisses it from thought. “I do not bleed,” he remarks, “No medical attention is required.”“You didn't need to...” Gunny begins, before sighing heavily and giving up. Some debates just aren't worth getting into. Shaking his head, he holds his staff a little closer to himself and walks off ahead.-“Um...” Blessings murmurs, tentatively tapping Masque on the arm, “You might not need a doctor, but I think... I think your sword is bleeding.”You all pause and look down at the heavy blade. True enough, it drips a sticky black filth that seems to bubbling out of the metal itself. Fascinated, Masque lifts the weapon to take a closer look. “Daemon blood can do strange things to a weapon,” you think aloud, “Like my revolver. It'll be even more dangerous now, but... does that mean that it's never spilled daemon blood before?”“I... he used it on men,” Masque explains, dredging up the memories of the blade's original owner, “That was what he called it – the cutter of impure beasts. By using it to shed the blood of my own kind, I distance myself from HIS path.” Thinking on that for a moment more, he gives you a deep nod. “I thank you, Milos Vaandemere,” he rumbles, “I will hold onto the memory of this moment.”“Yeah...” you reply slowly, “I don't think any of us are going to forget about this.”-The path leads steadily downhill for a while longer, with the slope changing into carved steps at one point. Taking that as encouragement that you're getting close, you put a bit of pace in your steps. The sound of rushing water gets louder as you descend, and then the tunnel opens out into a wide chamber. Sitting at the centre of the chamber is a stone throne, a mummified corpse sitting atop it. For a moment, nobody dares take a step closer.“I guess that's Nuada,” Freddy remarks at last, “There's something sitting in his lap. You see?”You do see. Another gleam of metal winks back at you when you pan the flashlight lower, a crude piece of beaten iron forming the head of an axe – the axe that Saint Nuada was known for. Tearing your eyes away from the weapon, you pan the flashlight beam across the walls. There are more paintings here, far more detailed than the crude scrawlings at the entrance. “Grace,” you whisper, looking around at her, “Did you remember to bring the-”Grace is already creeping towards the outer wall, the Imago device held ready for use.[2/3]
>>2732799As Grace and Gunny are taking pictures of the paintings around you, you approach the throne itself and reach out to touch the axe. Before you actually pick it up, though, you draw your hand back and listen. The sound of water is close now, but the cave is as dry as a bone. Circling around behind the throne, you spot a crack in the floor. The smell of damp stone rises up from it, and the flashlight reveals water beneath you. Setting down the rope and climbing gear, you take a closer look.“There's another cavern down here,” you announce, “Something older – much older. I can't see a way down though...”“Stand aside,” Masque growls, approaching the cracked floor and studying it closely. As he prepares to swing his sword again, you hastily retreat. Once, twice, three times the daemon slams his blade into the stone floor, and finally the rock sunders and falls away. The splash from below doesn't sound far, and your cautious look down shows the chunks of fallen rock jutting up from the water. By your guess, it's about knee deep at the worst. Something glimmers in the slowly flowing water – glimmering with the unmistakable sheen of gold.“Good choice bringing that climbing gear,” Freddy remarks as she looks down, “How did you know?”“Be prepared for any eventuality,” you reply, “A good life lesson, that.”“I'll keep that in mind,” she assures you, “Are you going down there? Grace thinks that we might be able to make a bit of money just from the pictures of this place – the church would certainly be interested in learning about it. Between the pictures and the axe – that is, if you want it – we should have a decent haul here.”Maybe true. Then again, that glint of gold down there is awfully tempting...>Let's just take some extra pictures and get out of here. I don't want to ransack this place>We'll grab the axe as well, but that's good enough for me>Get the climbing gear ready, I'm going down there to take a look>Other
>>2732900>Get the climbing gear ready, I'm going down there to take a look"I'm too curious to not at least take a look."
>>2732900>Get the climbing gear ready, I'm going down there to take a lookI'd rather take the gold than the axe, it feels less like desecrating the place. The axe is literally in a corpses lap, while the gold is in some flooded cavern.
>>2732900>Get the climbing gear ready, I'm going down there to take a lookLooting time.
“Get the climbing gear ready,” you tell Freddy, “I'm going down there to take a look. If there's a good bit of treasure down there, we might not need to take the axe. Call me superstitious, but I'd rather not take it right out of old Nuada's lap like that.” Freddy accepts your reasoning with a nod and gets to work, breaking out some iron pegs and a hammer. Tamping the spike down into solid rock, she begins to tie the rope down.“I'll keep hold of it as well, but this should keep things doubly secure,” she says, hesitating for a moment before adding: “I think. I've never actually done this before.”“Looks secure enough to me,” you reply, “Keep an eye on things up here. I don't expect any trouble, but I'll feel better knowing I've got someone reliable on watch.”“Understood, captain,” Freddy assures you, “I won't let you down.”-With the rope tied around your waist, Freddy lowers you down into the dark pit beneath. Getting down isn't particularly difficult, but you're more concerned with getting back up. Cross that bridge when you get to it, you tell yourself as you guide the flashlight beam around you. This lower cavern is far smaller than the upper chamber, and utterly unadorned. No paintings or carven thrones here. Loose rocks shift under your armoured boots as you take a step forwards, a sudden movement causing you to blurt out a curse.“Are you okay?” Freddy calls down, “Anything down there?”“I'm okay. Just thought I was going to lose my footing for a moment,” you reply, looking down at the water pooling around your knees. Oily black shapes flit here and there, darting about too quickly for you to get a close look at them. Even so, you don't need to get a close look to know what they are. “Leeches,” you call up to her, “There are leeches down here.”“Oh, that's disgusting,” the Iraklin mutters,”If you get any stuck on you, don't just rip them off. You'll get an infection if you do.”Sounds like an old wives tale to you, but you murmur your thanks regardless. Looking away from the leech-filled water, you take another look at the cavern. Water flows from one end, seeping through the cracks in some fallen rocks, and it rushes out... somewhere. You can't see where it's going, but it has to be getting out somehow. One glance at the source of the water is enough to convince you to leave well alone – even if you could shift the fallen rocks away, you'd only end up filling the hollow up with water. Considering that you're down here as well, you'd rather avoid that if at all possible.Reaching down into the cold water, you dig out that glint of gold and hold it up to the light. A battered, misshapen gold coin, the markings almost completely worn away by age. Not all that valuable by itself, but...[1/2]
>>2733070If the coin is part of some large hoard, you think to yourself, you could be sitting on some serious treasure. Eagerly looking about for another glint of gold, you see a trail of white scum floating on the top of the water. Freezing in place, you draw back your hand and slowly follow the greasy white stain with the flashlight. It grows larger as follow it, thickening as it connects to a larger mass of pulpy white flesh. Hidden up against the far wall, the mass is... it's not something you can really describe.It doesn't look like a fish, as it has no scales or gills. It's no land animal, nothing with limbs or a discernible head. The blunt nub of flesh that might serve as a head is almost completely featureless, without eyes or anything other than an uneven slit of a mouth. A short distance away, you see a crack beneath the water. The ragged edges of the rock have streamers of torn white flesh caught in it, waving sluggishly in the current. Swallowing back the taste of bile, you look back up to the... fleshy mass.Movement. It pulses, heaving like a wounded beast struggling to draw breath. The thought that such a thing could live sickens you as much as it confuses you. It doesn't appear to have any means of living, and yet...Rocks shift underfoot as you take a step closer, one of your knives finding its way into your hand before you even realise you've drawn it. Feeling as though some other force is guiding your hand, you watch yourself sink the blade into that pulpy white flesh, feeling no resistance at all as you slit it open from one end to the other. Brackish water bubbles out as the split flesh draws back, and you see something dark within. Carefully setting the flashlight down on a lump of broken rock, you push your hands into the greasy mass and touch hard stone. Slowly, steadily, you pull the object out.Even in this gloom, your eye can follow the inhuman carvings etched into the rough slab of stone.-“Hold on. Run that past me one more time,” Freddy asks, a confused note in her voice, “There was something down there, something that you think pushed its way up from deep within the bowels of... somewhere... and you found THAT inside it?”You look down at the stone slab again and nod. A nod is about all you can manage – an actual explanation is far beyond you right now. Approaching you, Grace peers down at the stone slab. “Consul Hess had an object very much like that in his possession,” she recalls, “He might be willing – eager, even – to buy it off of us. Of course, I think Keziah should take a look at it first.”“Right,” you agree, glancing across at Gunny. He's sitting in front of Nuada's mummified remains, gazing at the ancient body. “Hey, Gunny,” you call out, “Come on...”>Grab that axe and then we can get out of here>Leave the axe and let's go. We're leaving it here>Other
>>2733220>Leave the axe and let's go. We're leaving it hereOh hey. We found something from Nothern Beasts Quest. Must've gotten lost.
>>2733220>Grab that axe and then we can get out of here
>>2733220>>Leave the axe and let's go. We're leaving it here
>>2733220>Get back down there and look around for more gold.Cmon, are we gonna let some hideous abyssal mutant distract us from riches?In the case that we did already look around for more gold and it was futile:>Leave the axe and let's go. We're leaving it here
>>2733220>Leave the axe and let's go. We're leaving it heredon't get too greedy
Gunny doesn't look up at the sound of your voice, and it takes you shouting his name out to break him from his trance. Jolting up, he looks around at you in confusion. “Oh, huh, when did you...” he replies slowly, “Hey brother, I thought you were down below. You know, looking for gold and all that.”“Over and done with. One single gold piece,” you lament, “For all I know, someone must of dropped it in a river somewhere and it got carried here. So much for our wealthy retirement, I guess.”“As if you'd ever retire,” Gunny snorts, “You'd be bored rigid by the end of the first week! I guess that's that then. What are we doing now?”“We're getting out of here,” you tell him, nodding towards the exit, “Leave the axe here. We're not taking it with us. I don't... we don't need it.” Gunny's eyes widen as he hears this, and you see his expression change as a wave of relief washing over him. Turning away from the mummified remains, he begins to amble out in the direction of the exit. Before you follow him, you tap Grace on the shoulder. “Get a good shot of Nuada and the axe,” you order her quietly, “If we do take these to the church, they'll likely want to see it.”Nodding, she raises the Imago device to take a parting shot.-The fresh air feels good. Breathing deeply, you savour the smell of salt that carries to you on an ocean breeze. Compared with the dank gloom of the cavern, this feels like being reborn. You might not have pockets bulging with gold coins, but right now that doesn't even bother you – plenty of time for that later, after all. Passing the heavy stone slab to Masque, you begin to creep back along the cliff side path. It's a little early yet to be relaxing.When you get back to the house, the daylight is starting to fail. By the light of a gas lantern, you see two figures sitting out on the edge of a long jetty with fishing rods in their hands. Sending a brief thought to Keziah, you order her to join you – you want to know what the carvings on this stone slab say, and she's your best bet at translating it. When you notice Blessings looking at you, you realise that he was talking to you.“Oh, no, right,” he stammers when you gesture for him to repeat himself, “I was just saying that I'm glad I didn't have to go down there. Leeches are... they're really rather disgusting, aren't they? You didn't get any of them stuck to you, did you? Freddy said-”“Don't just rip them off,” you finish for him, “I know. I think I got off safely. Let that be a lesson to you – a stout pair of boots can be invaluable.”“I'll check the shops at the very next opportunity,” the boy answers, his voice deadly serious.[1/2]
>>2733339Even now that the sun is sinking below the horizon, the sand retains the warmth of the day. Feeling its heat through your thin shirt, you lie back and listen to the sound of the waves, the crackle of fire. Showing an intuitive ability that surprised all of you, Mara has built a firepit on the beach and the fish she caught with Caliban are now cooking cheerfully away. The whole gang is here, your entire inner circle sitting on the beach and relaxing at long last. You'll be back in action soon enough but for now...For now, you can sit back and relax.“Dinner smells good,” Caliban murmurs as he sits next to you, “Fresh fish has to be better than something out of a can, right?”“And Mara knows how to cook it just right,” you agree, “Some people might call that wife material.”“Don't even start,” the hunter sighs. He's about to say something else when he pauses, tensing up and looking back towards the house. A group of figures are approaching it, drawing closer with the covert air of men up to no good. Meeting Caliban's eyes, you share a nod. Checking to see that your weapons are close at hand – even now, when you're relaxing on the beach, you don't go unarmed – you rise and creep closer to them.A dull knock echoes out as the leader of the group pounds his fist on the door. Calling out a measured greeting from behind them, you watch as the men jolt up and turn around. For a moment, they look torn between fight or flight... and then their leader steps forth.“Gentlemen!” he begins, greeting you warmly, “Are you interested in buying some fish, perhaps?”>I'm going to have to close things here for today. I'm aiming to continue Into the Skies next Friday as normal, but you never know. Updates on twitter as usual>Thanks to everyone who contributed today!
>>2733436Thanks for running Moloch.
>>2733436thanks for running!
>>2733436Thanks for running!
>>2733436Thanks for running!Are we going to reply with "No, we actually want slime mold"? How would the men react? How would Mara react?
>>2733540I think they'd probably be relieved to deal with someone sensible for once. Mara, on the other hand, would be terribly angry for us spoiling her fun
>>2733579That just means we have to do it.
>>2727875Well hello, Milos' mother.
>>2733436For some reason THIS expedition of all expeditions has made me realize just how fucking weird and motley our little group of adventurers is.
>>2734888We upped our weirdness level by 3 when we recruited Masque though. It was eccentric before but now it's 'no matter where we go, someone in our group probably isn't welcome'
>>2734906Yeah, Masque definitely skyrocketed the "weirdness" factor.
>>2734913>>2734906We're going to have to leave him on the ship for anything social. Or normal. I'd feel bad, but he probably prefers that too and only wants to come out when there is something to fuck up.
>>2734955We could've talked to that Daemon and maybe learn what the fuck nuada and Alma were doing. No way they were just going around nadir to murder and plunder in the name of the rising light
>>2735566about that. With the guardian dead, there's nobody really there to protect the axe. I wonder how big a favor the tomb would be to the brotherhood. Enough to get an in on the prison?
>>2735647We already have a in with the prison and Graverobber Barrows because of Trice.
>>2735650I'm wondering more if we can collect enough favors to literally waltz in and take the key. The Brotherhood might be good at covering up our true purpose for coming, anyway.
>>2735673The key isn't actually in the prison. It's in a location that only Barrows knows, which is why we worked with Trice to get a meeting with him.
>>2735707>>2735673Though, here is an idea. I think we can safely assume that Barrows is going to want something in exchange for the fragment's information and we can assume that what we wants is something only Carth can provide.We could use the Tomb's location to get Carth to do what Barrow asks for.
>>2733436Hey Moloch, when are we getting our rest and relaxation beach episode? Us and the girls can show off our SICK NASTY mutations and compare.