"There's definitely something wrong with my shoulder." You explain to Asche, shifting aside so Asche could get a better look. "I didn't really notice it last night, but it's more than soreness. I can barely move the thing without it hurting." You'd hate to think you wasted all your money getting your burns healed only to need more healing... That wasn't even an option at this point. You could feel Asche's gentle probing hands running along your shoulderblade and upper arm, her neutral demeanour betraying little of what she was finding."Understood." That was your only warning before Asche's soft touches along your upper arm and clavicle shortened their gap and you found yourself slamming face first into the library table you had been reading at not moments before. A scream rips out of your mouth unbidden, muffled by the hardwood surface that you had been so brutally introduced to. Your head wasn't what hurt, however, so much as the god awful pain in your right shoulder that was stabbing outward and forcing your knees to buckle under the sudden shock. Your mouth clamps shut as you twist the pain in your shoulder into a more containable form. You quickly scramble both of your hands onto the table-top to steady your shaking knees and press yourself back into some manner of respectable posture."Was that necessary...?" You hiss painfully, glaring at the flat expression of your maid. secretary. Was chiropractor on that list now? "Your shoulder has been relocated." she answered simply, and you're distantly aware that once the initial burst of agony had passed, it was beginning to feel much better. Nowhere near normal, not yet, but you could move it again without nearly whiting out. You are Irue Valen, a victim of medical violence. It was preferable to the alternative at the time, so you suppose you'll just have to live with it.
"When did you even learn to do that?" You mutter after a beat, taking great relish in the ability to roll your right shoulder without misery once more."Two days ago." She replied blandly. "Two days... I left two days ago." You tilt your head at the smaller girl across from you, "You just spontaneously decided to learn how to fix broken shoulders?""Dislocated." She corrected blandly, "In prediction that such skills would be beneficial in the future." "You expected this? Just what do you think I was going to town to do? I'm not a hooligan!" Your denial is met with a flat expression, but Asche does not dignify your indignant bewilderment with a response."Excuse me, but..." Rinnier breaks that stalemate, blinking in surprise as both you and Asche turn your attention towards her simultaneously. "What DID happen in town? You left to get a healer for your burns and came back..." She gestured vaguely, "There's a carving of a bear's rear filled with meat in the front yard-""The meat has been stored." Asche interrupted. "I am unable to move the carving." You nod in acknowledgement. "Good work, Asche." She blinks in acknowledgement as you continue. May as well get this over with since just about everyone was here. "There's a lot going on we weren't aware of..." You began to recap the story of what you had experienced in town, from the prejudice against Kara to the encounter at the Shrine of Mana and what came next. When everything was said and done, you summed up why you had returned and what you expected to come from here. No doubt the Attendant would be sending a formal complaint to your dear aunt and uncle soon, perhaps even today, and you had little idea as to how long it would take to reach them.
"And that's where we stand." You finish expectantly, looking over the assembled. Asche was as unreadable as ever, seemingly taking the entirety of the events in stride as she waited for your plan of action. The newly named Ari had spent most of your story trying to make herself as small as possible in the presence of Rinnier, but towards the end began to look on wide-eyed as your story progressed.And Rinnier..."Are you an idiot?!" Dammit, Rinnier.>Defend yourself, your actions were justified!>Agree with her, I am an idiot.>It seemed like a good idea at the time?>Blandly ignore the question and continue your planning session.
>>40650637>>Blandly ignore the question and continue your planning session.Nice a double feature
Previous Threads:https://archive.moe/tg/search/tripcode/!y56qKWqxyc/results/thread/http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?searchall=valen+questWhere things are said:https://twitter.com/Riz_QMPastebin Stuff:Kara's Day Out - http://pastebin.com/8ZbiSKLsMisc notes:I wonder if you'll regret naming the final Testament?BONUS: Thoughts on trying to run the quest through EST Daytime, as opposed to through the night?
>>40650637>Defend yourself, your actions were justified!Their disrespect could not be tolerated! They needed to be taught a lesson!Public executions and live burnings at stakes will need to be scheduled, to bring the populace into line.
>>40650637>>Defend yourself, your actions were justified!Rinnier won't stop questioning us unless we stand up once in a while.
>>40650660Moving right along.>>40650856>>40650861Look you.Writing!
>>40650940>>40650731Can we change our minds on naming her, i was asleep at the time and couldn't tell anons how stupid it was to name her after our dead sister.
>>40650731up to you, i think your main problem is that you take an hour for updates.
>>40651022I thought it was the second mystery box option, and chose it since it didn't sound like it would be as bad as Luna.
>>40651022As noted, it is actually possible to take the name from her if you are so inclined.However, you would need to be willing to accept the backlash it would cause to her. She will be crushed, in an absolute and painful manner.>>40651061Would the players be more interested in shorter replies that take less time?As it stands, I try to make most of my replies fit within a 45m time limit, with a minimum of two full posts. This can be changed, as it was simply my initial self-set parameter.
>>40651151I won't vote for it now, hell i probably will leave and come back later once my salt levels lower and my motivation to continue the story comes back.Here is hoping anons think thing through.Should have mentioned it was her dead sisters name.Later riz.
>>40651102I mean, there was literally just the one vote for it; it was just that there were only two other voters around at that point of time, they both voted for other things, and then then there was a die roll to break the tie. The spoilered bit in >>40650731 comes off as extraordinarily melodramatic when you consider it was effectively chosen by random chance. That said, it wouldn't be the first time Irue put her foot firmly in mouth while scrambling to figure out how to deal with The Despondent One-cum-Ari, so it's not like it's a totally out-of-character development. Don't feel like it's something worth agonizing over, regardless of any possible implications it might have down the line.
>>40651369Duly noted. The Misc notes are usually meant to be more humorous or thoughtful than anything else, though. It would have been the same thing regardless of what she got named - All the choices had their own perks and implications.There's never any clear sailing, but there's usually a silver lining as well.
"The conflict with the guard was unavoidable." You reply in no uncertain terms, "Given what I had learned in town, turning Kara over to them would have been a death sentence. Beyond that, letting the ignorant ponce have his way would be unbecoming of House Valen after he had so ham handedly declared his intent of aggression against us." "The demihuman isn't a noble, Irue." She shot back quickly, "You attacked an Attendant of the Shrine of Mana over a pet, at bes-!" "Kara is part of House Valen." You interrupt sharply, Rinnier's mouth clicking shut as you turned on her, "She is part of my Testament, and I will not tolerate a self-important official of any rank to demand recompense of her simply because she is a demihuman." "Even..." Rinnier started carefully, "Irue, even if that is your decision, the fact remains that she is less than human. This isn't just something you can brush off, it will be a major issue if restitution isn't provided agreeably." You had a rough feeling it would be something like that, but you had already made your choice. You wouldn't just be throwing Kara to the political wolves because some ponce decided they were going to be self-important that day. "I understand, it's not just going to go away." you sigh, "You all stopped being slaves, or demihumans, or whatever the moment you became my Testament. In Valen tradition, the Testament reflects the Initiate; Your actions are considered sanctioned by me, and in turn, actions against you are done against me in turn."Your arms crossed with finality, staring Rinnier down implacably. "I will not tolerate it. If they want a fight, they will get one.""...I understand." Rinnier broke the stare first, nodding reluctantly even though her voice showed she was still not entirely convinced. It seemed she was willing to accept your stance on it for the moment, which is as much as you could ask for. "Then how do you plan to handle it?"
>Interception. We can stop the messenger from ever reaching aunt and uncle.>Elimination. It might be possible to kill the Attendant, then there would be no one to bother with.>Negotiation. We can arrange a meeting with the Attendant and try to settle this privately.>Intimidation. House Valen isn't a minor noble family, we could try to throw some of that weight around.>Blackmail. There might be something we could find to... convince him to leave us alone?>Connections. You might be able to work around this, somehow. It's not like you can't send the matter to a judge biased to you, as opposed to him.>Other?
>>40651724>Intimidation. House Valen isn't a minor noble family, we could try to throw some of that weight around.>Blackmail. There might be something we could find to... convince him to leave us alone?
>>40651724>Blackmail. There might be something we could find to... convince him to leave us alone?>Connections. You might be able to work around this, somehow. It's not like you can't send the matter to a judge biased to you, as opposed to him.
>>40651742>>40651850Blackmail. He's probably got some secrets, right?>>40651742Intimidation. Does he know who he's dealing with?>>40651850Connections. You've got a few, it's not like he's the only one who can rely on a biased judgement.Writing!Will try shorter, faster posts. Please wait warmly.
>>40651724The attendant doesn't exactly have the backing of the whole shrine, after all. The attendant for Salamander seemed pretty much opposed to his reaction, for example, so I can't help but think his calling for the guards was trying to throw the Shrine's weight around despite not actually having all that much personal authority.>Negotiation. We can arrange a meeting with the Attendant and try to settle this privately.>Connections. You might be able to work around this, somehow. It's not like you can't send the matter to a judge biased to you, as opposed to him.Maybe use some of that clout to bring more influential Mana Shrine folks into said negotiation and have THEM handle smacking him down. After all, it wouldn't be too great for them for it to get out that they permit their attendants to assault pilgrims and then send the town guards to detain them when that doesn't work out. Bad for business.>Blackmail. There might be something we could find to... convince him to leave us alone?Worst case, if that doesn't work, we should have something prepared.
>>40651947Counting this vote, since my usual voting window is 15m, and I jumped the gun a little.Blackmail still wins.
>>40651947>~30 seconds latefug :DDDDDoesn't change much, I guess.
"...A man like that probably has things in his past he'd rather forget." You suggest after some thought, "He's the type who has to be in good public standing, people's opinions mean a lot to him. If we can find something he's done, then we can use that against him?" Your mind was already turning as you try to think of how you could unearth something. You had his name, and the location of the Shrine he attended, which meant you could probably gain access to some manner of public record... But he was unlikely to have something besmirching him to the public in a place the public could already see. "I thought you only just met the man?" Rinnier interjected doubtfully, "How can you be so sure that he's so fragile about his image like this? Or that he's actually done anything?""When it comes to reading people, it's probably my specialty." you answer absently, "That's undoubtedly the kind of man he is, but whether he's done anything bad enough for me to use is the problem. We may not have a whole lot of time to go digging through his past, and given his position, I'm not certain it would even be that easy." A frown works its way across your lips. "I might know some people who could help in that regard, but getting them involved is...""Favours?" Rinnier concludes sourly, "We could try to work on our own, I never liked having to owe other members of my court anything. It always came back to bite me later." You hum in agreement, feeling a dark rapport with Rinnier over a Noble's Peril.
You had the contact with the First Royal Cousin, and you know he had offered to get you copies of some texts buried in your family's main archives - The offer hadn't been entirely charitable, though. He had undoubtedly had something to gain from it. You could get in contact with him to try and get his help in this regard? If he could get access to House Valen's archives, then a lesser Attendant would probably be an open book to him.There was cousin Caylen as well. You're decently certain you could 'convince' him to help his dear childhood friend. Caylen himself may be useless, but he had a way of networking that meant he could probably extend your reach to someone more capable. However... Caylen had a strong sense of obligation. He was very sensitive to abuse of privilege, which could be an uncertain wild card if he decided that your attempts to blackmail an Attendant was unacceptable, as opposed to Roderik's actions. He had pride as a member of House Valen, and was honor-bound to you as a member of the branch house which you technically presided over as Heir... But he was also stupid and good natured. You somehow doubt that would stop him if he got it in his head he was doing the right thing.Besides Caylen, there was also.... Contacting your aunt and uncle directly. They have no reason to help you personally as far as you know, but this matter was legally an opposition of the Shrine to House Valen due to how the Testaments were your own responsibility. If you made your case to them convincingly enough, they could become your allies for the sheer purpose of preserving the face of House Valen....They could also just as soon throw you under the bus, though. No matter which happened, you were going to owe them a favor.
>Handle it yourself, you can't afford to extend your reach so readily.>You can make a deal with the First Royal Cousin, maybe even come out on top?>Caylen is a childhood friend and the closest family you have, he might be able to help.>Aunt and uncle were a terrifying force to be reckoned with. For once, maybe that could be beneficial to you?
>>40652361>Aunt and uncle were a terrifying force to be reckoned with. For once, maybe that could be beneficial to you?Just a matter of Phrasing Her knew who we were and assaulted us anyways. Kara was defending us as a testament should. The guard's bias on her nature and blatant disregard to who we were was insulting and rebellious against the entire line.
>>40652361>>Caylen is a childhood friend and the closest family you have, he might be able to help.I don't quite trust the First Royal Cousin, especially if we're asking for something like this. And asking Aunt and Uncle for help is like admitting defeat.Handling it ourselves would be fine and all, but why not see if cousin Caylen might take a stand against inequality for our sake?
>Handle it yourself, you can't afford to extend your reach so readily.I believe in Asche,
>>40652361>Caylen is a childhood friend and the closest family you have, he might be able to help.Catlen is an idiot and the easiest to manipulate out of our assistance options, and we need help as we have no contacts of our own. Aunt and uncle want the estate - while the aunt may help us due to honor, the uncle is certain to throw us under the metaphorical bus - and even then they can make it even worse, using it as a pretext for failing us immediately. And the Prince WANTS that access to the archives - he is from a rival family after all, and by gaining access to our records he may find damning evidence of treason or the like performed in the past - all an excuse to wipe a competitor to the throne off the map.tl;dr - can't do shit alone, family will bus us, prince potentially bus the entire family.
>>40652361>>Caylen is a childhood friend and the closest family you have, he might be able to help.Our aunt and uncle are the people the attendant WANTS to get this 'scandal' reported to. Doing it first just so we get the first spin on it seems pretty silly.Sure, maybe he gets nervous over thinking we're going to browbeat him into helping us, but ultimately we're actually in the right here, and I suspect he would recognize it.Not sure on how antsy he is about demihumans, which might enter into how reluctant/gung ho he is, but I feel like he's enough of a bleeding heart that he'll see it our way.
>>40652449>>40652535>>40652539Dear Caylen, we need to talk. Like old times, yes?>>40652414House Valen stands united against self-important ponces.>>40652476We can do it ourself, this is part of our Rite, isn't it? Writing!
"I can get in touch with Caylen." You decide finally. "Is he influential?" Rinnier asked, "Do you think he may be able to find something?" You can't help yourself, you snort at the thought of Caylen being able to even remotely help you with this. "No, no. Caylen is a good natured idiot." You explain with a smile, "He has an uncanny kind of luck with people, though, so we can probably rely on him to know someone else who can help.""...This doesn't sound like a good idea." Rinnier hedges uneasily. "What if his allies are less reliable? If this gets found out, it could very well trace back to your house, then to you." She frowned as the list of potential problems went on, "Are you perhaps on friendly terms with this cousin? Do you know them well enough that this will not come back to you later?""They're a childhood friend, and the closest family I have." You confirm, "Besides, if its Caylen then I may not need to owe him a favour, which means free help." You shrug, gloriously noting you didn't need to scream out in agony now. "And even if I do, there are probably worse things I could do than to owe the adorable idiot something here or there. I can probably get him to pull it out for something minor, like leaving him to his fencing or some such."Rinnier was giving you a strange look as you folded the book in front of you back up and finally stood up. "Just what kind relationship do you have with this man...?""We're friends." You blink innocently, tilting your head in confusion, "Why?""Nevermind." She shook her head dismissively, "So how long will it take to get in touch with your cousin?"
Ah. You... Don't actually know where he lived. You KNEW where he lived, which was near your aunt and uncle, but that had been some time ago. Not for the first time, you realize just how badly this isolation had cut you off from the world - It was a gilded cage you had been blissfully unaware of for nearly a decade. "Carona is a day's travel away, and the Attendant said we were in La'Fiel." You mention aside to Asche, "Find out where we are, see if you can figure out where Caylen might be, and..." You try to think back, piecing together anything you knew about Caylen that was recent. Current."Some daughters of the Tier family have recently become acquaintances of my dear cousin." you slowly mutter, grasping onto a faint lead. "They're beast tamers for House Valen, which means they should be fairly prestigious. Someone in Carona might be able to point us towards them, and then we can see if they can point us to Caylen."Of course you could also just... Ask your aunt and uncle where he was. They would undoubtedly know where their son was, and it would be much quicker than the other way. It would also potentially make them suspicious of why you suddenly wanted to meet with him, though.You don't know how long that message will take to reach aunt and uncle, though. Rousing their attention may be worth the direct route...>Ask aunt and uncle, time is of the essence.>You're keeping this quiet, you've got a good idea on how to find him.>You should drop by where he lived last, nobles don't 'move' a whole lot.>Other?
>>40652993Does he live in a different direction than Carona? If not, both>You're keeping this quiet, you've got a good idea on how to find him.Go to town for info, and then>You should drop by where he lived last, nobles don't 'move' a whole lot.
>>40652993>You're keeping this quiet, you've got a good idea on how to find him.>You should drop by where he lived last, nobles don't 'move' a whole lot.
>>40653218>>40653315Keep quiet, you have ideas.>>40653315>>40653218You'll check where he lived last.Writing!Eating.
You can probably do both, can't you? Or rather, you'd probably have to. Showing your face in town again would be a decidedly bad idea this soon, which meant you'd the person who searched out the Tiers to be someone you could trust to gathering information and talk their way through things. You know for certain that Kara can't enter the town herself, and asking Ari to do that... You look towards the timid Testament, who had sat rather meekly during your planning session rather than speak up on her own. You suspect she would have tried to hide behind you again, had she the opportunity before the rest of the house had assembled at the table.No, she was definitely not capable of that. This left you looking between Rinnier and Asche. You knew Asche would get the job done, you'd rely on her for just about anything if you were being honest with yourself... But you had only been away from her for two days and came back a bloody, beaten mess with a political scandal hanging over your head. The very one you were now trying to resolve, for that matter! Did you really want to send her away again? You're not even sure what kind of support you'll need on your trip to visit Caylen's last known residence.Rinnier, despite your differences, was a former princess of a royal family. She knew etiquette and diplomacy like the back of her hand if given the chance, a fact you had been forced to confront several times in the short span of time you knew her. The two of you often clashed, but there was an agreement there concerning your willingness to help her locate and salvage her dispersed countrymen. You were confident that she could manage to find the Tiers if they could be tracked down in Carona, if only because doing any less would speak badly about how well she had matched you so far.
Then there was Kara herself. She couldn't go to Carona, but the "day's travel" to Carona hinged almost entirely on her ridiculous speed. There was always the risk that she would wander off hunting if you weren't there to keep an eye on her. She was easily distracted, and you had no idea if she would respect someone that wasn't you enough to wait outside town and not just run off. All of this would be a complete waste of effort if you managed to get Roderik's complaints overturned, only for your most survival-capable Testament to have gone rogue. If you brought her with you, you'd be able to keep an eye on her still, and the trip to Caylen's residence likely wouldn't take very long at all... But that also meant whoever you sent to Carona would take much longer to arrive, and given what you had encountered in that forest, the fact it would leave them unprotected was almost more troubling than anything. However... You don't know that you would be able to leave Ari here this time, if you sent everyone else out. You had just made progress towards curbing those breakdowns of hers. Leaving her here would keep her safe physically, but you don't know how she would be when you returned. If you brought her with you - And it likely had to be with you, personally - She'd... be a burden, really. The trip would be slow, and it would be another head you needed to look after where ever you ended up; Especially if you sent Kara to Carona with Asche or Rinnier.You look between the group, biting your lip in thought. If you handled this in pieces, then...>Take Ari with you. You don't know if leaving her alone after you just got back would be good.>Leave Ari at home. She'll be safe here, and won't slow you down.
>>40653771>Take Ari with you. You don't know if leaving her alone after you just got back would be good.So, when do we get the road trip with the walking fire hazard?
>>40653910Taking her with you is an option, if you decide to send Asche to Carona.
>>40653771>Leave Ari at home. She'll be safe here, and won't slow you down.
Rolled 1 (1d2)>>40653910Taking Ari with you.>>40653963She'll be safer at home.1. Ari with us2. Ari at home.Writing the will of the dicegods.At this point I'm starting to wonder if Anon just likes having the dice make choices...For those wondering, I tend to close voting windows after 15m, unless I am afk for whatever reason.
There was no helping it then, you weren't going to run the risk of having her regress after everything you had to do today to get this far. You get the feeling that a backward slide now would be pretty demoralizing. For her, and for you. Mostly for you. Even interacting with her when she was having an episode made you exhausted, and you don't want to see what other kind of mistakes you can blurt out next time. "Ari will come with me to Caylen's residence." You announce finally, motioning towards the Testament who had nearly jumped out of her chair when her name got brought up. "Are you sure that's a good idea?" Rinnier asked sceptically, "She's..." Rinnier trailed off, looking between you and her as she seemed to try and find some way to word it that didn't come off badly. "Fragile." You don't think it really mattered, considering Ari shrunk in on herself anyway. Honestly she probably would have done that no matter what was said. "I think she'll be fine." You are lying through your teeth. "I'll keep an eye on her, though. It's better than leaving her here alone, again.""I suppose that's true, but..." The rest of your statement seemed to catch up to the spitfire princess, "Alone? Asche and I will be here, won't we?"You shake your head, stepping forward to place Ari slightly beside you so she would stop fidgeting so much. "Showing my face in Carona again this soon would probably be bad, which means someone else will have to go and collect information about the Tiers in case Caylen doesn't live where I remember any longer.""Someone else being...?" Rinnier wasn't stupid, she was already glancing at Asche. "I'll be in the library, still. I can keep an eye on her."You roll that around in your mind. You don't think Ari would react well to that, and Rinnier was evidently trying to find something related to the apparitions still.
>I need you to go to Carona and look for information on the Tiers.>I want you to come with me this time. You can try to keep me from punching more guards.>On second thought, you should probably stay here. I can send Asche to Carona.>Ari probably won't like it, but she would be safer here, and if you're going to be here anyway...
>>40654361>I want you to come with me this time. You can try to keep me from punching more guards.
>I need you to go to Carona and look for information on the Tiers.
>>40654373>>I want you to come with me this time. You can try to keep me from punching more guards.We probably need support from someone else competent, since we'd have to be watching out for Ari too.Before we leave though, can we figure out where exactly Kara is?
>>40654373>I want you to come with me this time. You can try to keep me from punching more guards.Also, where the fuck is Kara?
>>40654384>>40654442>>40654490Nah, you're coming with me.>>40654419Off to Carona with you.Anon, remember to quote the post.Writing!
"You'll be coming with me." You correct her, "While I maintain that what I did was justified, the incident in Carona was still troublesome. If you think you can help me navigate future things like that, then I want you with me when we show up at Caylen's place." You were still curious about those apparitions, but dealing with Roderik took precedence right now. Further, bringing Rinnier along would help you keep an eye on Ari in case something bad happened. Having back up who could act on a political level comparable to you was a relieving thought, considering you all but went to pieces when Ari did.... Actually, you wonder if Rinnier could handle one of Ari's breakdowns instead of you. That would be helpful, too."What about the apparitions?" Rinnier's thoughts evidently mirrored yours as she seemed reluctant to follow through. "I don't mind helping you, but is it really okay to flit between things so quickly?""This is more pressing. If we don't handle this properly, we're going to be putting off investigating those apparitions for a lot longer." "I suppose that's true..." She murmurs. "I'll make some notes of my leads before we leave, then." She glances at the books in her arms, "How will we be travelling there?" In other words, 'Will I be able to read on the way?'That was the last problem you had to figure out. By order of elimination, you would be sending Asche to Carona. You didn't even need to say as such, given how the stoic maid-secretary had been there for the planning so far. By saying Rinnier was coming with you, she understood the implicit request that she go to Carona simply by subtext and familiarity.
Your problem came after that. As Rinnier had asked: How would you be travelling? You didn't have a carriage, or the horses to pull one even if you did. The trip to Caylen would be at least as far as the one to Carona, meaning the easy 'one day of travel' would be extended who knows how long. Really, who did know how long? You had never made the trip out since you arrived over ten years ago, except for that one time on Kara, and you had no idea how she compared to carriage or horse.... Well you knew she was likely faster, but by how much?If she came with you, the trip to Caylen's residence would be a cinch. You'd be able to clear any kind of threat you ran into without needing to worry, which would be a boon considering you were taking Ari with you this time. On the other hand, taking a demihuman into town had resulted badly; You could only imagine what kind of reaction you would receive if you showed up to a noble's house with one. If Caylen didn't live there anymore, then the residence had likely been transferred to another family either in the branch of House Valen - one of the ideal cases - Or to an unaffiliated family that your aunt and uncle had wagered off property to in a bid to gain support.That could end... badly. It would also mean you were sending Asche alone through the trip to Carona, with all the dangers inherent in the woods on the way there and back. Not even counting banditry, as you have little idea of its activity in the region, but it was a possibility all the same. You're just more concerned about Oakenbear.Or whatever else lived in the forest that had simply been avoided or scared off by Kara's presence before.
If you did send Kara with Asche though, your trip to Caylen's would be slower. You'd have numb... You'd have Rinnier there to support you if you ran into trouble on the way. As royalty she likely had some measure of combat skill, if only from formal training, but the two of you would be looking after Ari as well. On the upside, Kara wouldn't cause another big scene by rushing the gates of a noble's house....But she might just wander off hunting while Asche went into Carona. That's assuming she didn't just follow Asche in, and make more trouble. Did you really want to send her back to a town that had tried to kill her once already?Did you want to take the risk of leaving Asche to go alone? >Send Kara with Asche, you refuse to take risks with Asche.>Take Kara with you, you trust Asche. She's never failed you before.>... Where is Kara?
>>40654896>>... Where is Kara?First of all.
>>40654896>>Send Kara with Asche, you refuse to take risks with Asche.>... Where is Kara?Asche's new title Equerry
>>40654896>... Where is Kara?Further, is it possible to send Kara to take Asche to town, then meet back up with us to go to Caylen's? It'd take her twice as long, but even that might be shorter than splitting up and having us make the full journey.We can even head back towards town to pick up Asche on the way back, assuming our stay doesn't take too long.
>>40654977You can certainly try.If you think leaving Kara to her own devices across large stretches of free wilderness and forest is really a good idea.It is an option i will be willing to put to a vote, however.
>>40654977>>40654907>>40654903Has anyone seen Kara?>>40654907Send with AscheWriting!
>>40655025Yeah, that sounds like a bad idea. Let's not do this >>40654896Send her with Asche
>>40655025>>40655127Wouldn't we have a similar issue if Kara does anything besides come with us though? We'd be leaving her unsupervised for a long period of time.
"I had planned to send Kara with Asche, so we would be going by foot." You admit, "So we would probably be walking there." "What." Rinnier coughed, "How far away is this place that we can just walk there?" "...Probably about as far away as Carona was?" You wager idly, "I made it there with Kara in a day, so I figure maybe two or three days of walking?" You were bad at context, but that sounded about right, didn't it?Several minutes later, Rinnier had pinned down the distance on a map in front of you with an incredulous look on her face. "This is a week away on HORSE." She shouted. "We'd be walking for a month!""...Eh, two weeks at most? Better us than sending Asche to walk to Carona for a month on her own." You shrug. "We'd probably be cutting it close to the message getting to aunt and uncle, though..." You ignored Rinnier's growing dread at the prospect of being dragged out of the library to go for an enthusastic walk through the woods for the next two weeks or so, and instead try and focus on your options. That notice was going to get to aunt and uncle within the month, there was no way around that, which meant you'd need to dig up dirt on Roderik and have him dealt with before they had time to get around to dealing with it. You're not sure how long that normally took, but aunt and uncle were stewarding for the entirety of House Valen, so you were willing to assume it wouldn't be immediate... No, you had maybe two months. MAYBE. By then, they'd have definitely reached out to you in some manner to drag you into a resolution of some sort. You had to have everything prepared by then....You still had no idea what the time limit on your Rite was, either. Was sending Kara with one person the best option?
"Look, what if... What if Kara takes Asche, then they come back, and we all go?" Rinnier tried a second option. You tried to imagine Kara carrying literally everyone in the house as she raced through the forest... No, she could probably do that with one arm, but that would be pretty dangerous. Someone was going to fall off.You still had that slave wagon in your backyard, though..."Or what if she took Asche, and then came back on her own to get us while Asche handled things in Carona?" That was another convenient suggestion... But had the same issues with Kara bounding up on a noble's house. You could have her stop some ways off and approach by foot, though? Maybe leave someone to keep an eye on her in the meantime. That could work too, if you could trust Kara to not just run off once she dropped Asche off. You really have no idea how willing Kara is to be doing this much, when her agreement to stay with you was tenuous at best. And even if she did agree... What if she just got distracted and ended up forgetting the whole thing?"We can ask her, I guess." You finally decide, looking off to the side. "Where is she?"..."I thought you knew where she was?" Rinnier admitted, "You didn't seem too concerned when we found you.""Irue and the kill were the only things in the yard that I saw." Asche offered flatly.The three of you exchange looks for a moment more before Rinnier starts speaking sharply in some exotic language you couldn't quite follow. "Asche, check the house again." You rub your temple to stave off the growing headache. "I'll...">Check the forest, she probably went hunting. >Check the backyard, she may have just wandered off after dropping you on the lawn.>Look for fire. She had seemed excited about that back in Carona.>Cook food, try to lure her back with her nose.
>>40655533>>Cook food, try to lure her back with her nose.We haven't eaten in a while and neither has Ari. Kill two birds with one stone.
>>40655596Shit, hold on. Amending that.>Have Asche cook food
>>40655596Cooking food!>Make Asche do it...Writing!
>>40655524>an enthusastic walk through the woodsAs long as we don't stumble on a guy wearing a red coat, we should be ok
"On second thought, Asche I want you to make lunch. I haven't eaten in at least two days, and..." You press your hand against Ari's shoulder and start poking her to stand up. "I don't believe Ari has, either." If Asche had a reaction to the name, she didn't show it as she nodded placidly and turned to leave. "The demihuman is missing and you're making lunch?" Rinnier broke her string of what you imagined to be expletives as helped Ari to her feet. It was much easier to hold her up now that your shoulder was fixed, so this wasn't too bad; Just the usual aching pains of the bruises across your upper body. "Don't look at me like that, I have an idea." You defend yourself from the incredulous spitfire. "Kara's nose is pretty strong, we can maybe lure her back to us if we start cooking."You pause at the strange expression that crosses Rinnier's face."If Asche starts cooking and we stay well away." You correct yourself after a moment. "In the meantime, do you have any experience in a fight?""I have some training." Rinnier reluctantly admitted, "Polearms. Rapiers. I was expected to sufficient in the traditional arms of royalty." Your brow raises, "Polearms? Spears and lances?""Halberds as well." She confirmed. "Why?""You said traditional. Isn't it normally some type of sword, and the bow?" At least it was in La'Fiel. You had a difficult time coinciding the image of a polearm with royalty. "Teranford is a primarily desert-based region." Rinnier smirked, "Polearms are more economical when the primary resource of your land is metal, instead of-"
"Wood." You finish with a dawning understanding, "Right, that makes sense. What about the shafts, though? A polearm is still mostly wood. Unless...?" You looked Rinnier over, trying to fit the image of her to one of the spearwielding guards you had encountered in Carona. It wasn't working. "The entire shaft is made of metal, usually. We lighten them sometimes by filling a hollowed interior with something else." "Else...?" You ask as the three of you left the library, taking Rinnier's good mood as a chance to soak up information about her homeland without needing to press for it. "Flint sometimes. Lighter weighted metals, or reinforced glass from the desert. Some of the royal guard even lined theirs with blackwater.""...What?" "Blackwater. It's kind of like cooking oil but... Not for cooking. And toxic. It's sensitive to combustion, but remains liquid while aflame. The guard could coax apparitions of it to wrap about their halberd blades and help them strike things." She smiled fondly as she casually chatted about the customs of her home. You didn't think you had any blackwater here- No, you were sure you didn't. You don't even think you had heard of it before now. Not like Rinnier could make much use of it, anyway. Well, you had time to waste as Asche got to cooking, so...>See if you can find a sword for Rinnier to use, if she's coming with you.>See if you can find a polearm of some sort for Rinnier. >Talk about what she may have thought of regarding the apparitions.>Ask if she had thought of anything that could have caused Salamander to oust them.>Go looking for Kara anyway, can't hurt. (specify how?)
>>40656122>See if you can find a polearm of some sort for Rinnier. >Go looking for Kara anyway, can't hurt. Ask if Asche knows if there's any rivers nearby, Kara may have gone there to clean her wounds.
>>40656122>See if you can find a polearm of some sort for Rinnier.More likely to find a long stick to use than an actual weapon - plus it'd be more comfortable for her.While you're at it,>Go looking for Kara anyway, can't hurt.Might as well check the nearby woods for signs/tracks?
>>40656189>>40656244Polearm get. You have something like that around here, right?>>40656189>>40656244Off to find Kara in the mean time.Writing!
Rinnier parted ways with you after you had left the library, saying something about needing to prepare. She still wasn't terribly enthusiastic about this walking thing.Since Kara was probably going to be with Asche for at least a day or so, you should probably make sure Rinnier could defend herself on the road to Caylen's. It didn't exactly hurt that you figure giving her a polearm of some sort, a reminder of her heritage, would likely go a ways towards making her feel a bit more at ease in her new circumstances. You don't know that you had any polearms in this place, though- The weapon had never explicitly interested you.Probably for the best, considering your brief attempt at wielding one back in Carona had met with... Disturbing results. Now that you had time to look back on it, your forced to wonder if you had made a mistake in the heat of battle. You couldn't recall each individual move you had made, but the feeling of the spear being flung from your hands was unmistakable to you. Had it been ripped away? You don't think you had been injured until well after that, so you couldn't have just dropped it. Well, the polearm would be for Rinnier anyway, not you. It's not like your own skill with one mattered in this regard. If she could manage with a spear or lance, then even just a simple staff would probably do her good. All long things were roughly the same, right?Something tells you they weren't, but needs necessitate musts; The longer you wandered the halls with Ari trying to think of where you would even have a polearm in the estate, the more you were starting to feel like you would need to compromise. Even just a decently sized length of sturdy wood would be enough... You could always try a sword, of course. There were at least two in the main hall that you knew of.
Glancing out one of the windows as you passed, you realized that if you were looking for a sturdy length of wood, you'd probably be better served looking through the woods around your house than for one miraculously in your house. You had been the last decade or so being a scholar, not a fighter. For that matter, just because Asche was in the process of putting together your plan for luring Kara back doesn't necessarily mean you had to just wait around. You could look for a decent stick and Kara at the same time.You look down at Ari, who had evidently taken ownership of your left hand as you walked, and are happy to note that she seemed much less fearful than she had several hours ago. She was still jumping at the slightest sound, and letting her attention wander to every little thing she passed, sure, but she didn't look like death was inevitably baring down on her from just behind a corner. These were undebatable improvements!The look on her face when you actually stepped outside with her though... That was enough to give you pause. She had frozen in the doorway, looking out into the surrounding forest as her mouth slowly parted in awe. How long had it been since she had even seen the outside, much less been outside? The slavemaster had said she remained on their roster for almost as long as you had lived here. Had they ever let her out? Did she stay underground, or in chains the entire time?"Stay with me, Ari." You call out after a moment, causing the Testament to flinch and quickly step after you with a soft apology already slipping past her lips. "It's okay, but there's nothing but forest out here. I don't want you wandering off and getting lost." You sigh, looking out past the lush grass of your backyard, a small haven of civilization in the otherwise dense woodland. You already had one Testament who was apt to simply wander off in the woods, and while you doubted Ari would get very far, you weren't keen for another one.
>Only one choice is applicable.>Focus on trying to find Kara. (1d100)>Focus on trying to find a decent stick for Rinnier. (1d100)>Just show Ari around the woods. You're relatively familiar with a bit of the ones directly around your house.
Rolled 10 (1d100)>>40656515>Focus on trying to find Kara. (1d100)captcha....
Rolled 52 (1d100)>>40656515>>Focus on trying to find Kara. (1d100)Is Rinnier with us? She can appraise her own sticks while we look.
Rolled 55 (1d100)>>40656707Fuck it I'll samefag the 3rd roll, not that it'll do any good.
You shake your head as you step through the grass and make a direct line towards the forest line. Your goal here was finding Kara, even though you couldn't too far out. With any luck, the demihuman would have left an easy to follow trail in the woods... Or just hadn't gone very far at all. These thoughts fill your mind as you step off the kept grass and into the darker shade of the root-infested forest floor. Your memory of the Oakenbear comes to mind as you travel through the woods with Ari, using her own curiosity as an excuse for you to stop and inspect marks and signs you hadn't noticed before- Or rather, hadn't known to look for. Small scratches at the base of trees, pieces of bark that had been torn away. Little signs of wear and tear on the trunks of trees which you hadn't even realized were relevant until a few days ago.Well, it wasn't as if you were a trained hunter even now. This wasn't even on the level of wildlife survival, so much as... paranoia, maybe. You were quick to notice certain trees that had been pawed at more than others, but nothing in the area was even remotely as torn up as that Oakenbear's pass had been. What was here was probably just a result of wild animals that had passed near your house during the night.A particularly deep gouge in one tree catches your attention just as you the thought finishes in your mind, and the hairs on the back of your neck start to prickle as you realize that whatever had caused THAT one had nearly clawed clean through the center of the trunk as it had drug the thing down it's trunk. The mark was about as high as your chest, and if the splintered wood still sticking out was any indication, it had been in the last few days at least.Suddenly you start to wonder if maybe you didn't know these woods as well as you had thought. Before the Oakenbear, finding something like this may have made you curious to find out more, but now... Your gaze shifts to Ari as she timidly tracks a songbird up above.
If you encountered something out here now, you'd have Ari to deal with. She wasn't in the kind of shape where she could walk without help, much less run on her own- You'd end up having to fight whatever you found if it came down to it. A quick look around didn't even seem to produce any half-way decent sticks you could use to help arm yourself or bring back to Rinnier, either. There was a creek a little further in, though. You remember it being maybe twenty or thirty minutes of walking from your house the last time you and Asche had found it. With Ari it might take a little longer, but you might be able to find a better stick there.It was also fresh running water, so Kara may have wandered towards it. You have no idea if she had gotten hurt during the fight, but that was the kind of place animals went to lick their wounds, wasn't it?Or... Was it that they holed up somewhere? You studied magic, not woodlore.>Proceed further to the creek. You might end up a little late for lunch.>Return to the house. You're empty handed, so this was a failure.>Continue wandering this area of the woods.>Other? (write-in)
>>40656981>>Proceed further to the creek. You might end up a little late for lunch.
Rolled 95 (1d100)>>40656981>>Continue wandering this area of the woods.Can we roll to find a stick this time at least? Rolling anyway just in case.
>>40657034To the creek!>>40657072Staying put!Stick searching is a go.Writing!
Rolled 2 (1d2)Completely forgot to roll, though.Dicegods guide us.1. creek2. stay put
You shake your head. Going further into the forest was probably a bad idea given the size of the mark you had just seen on the tree. Even if you weren't proceeding further in though, that doesn't mean you were just going to let yourself walk back empty handed. You were in a forest, which meant you were surrounded by wood. Somewhere in an entire forest of wood, there had to be at least one good stick!With this thought in mind, you shifted your attention from Kara to stick searching. Most of the ground was relatively free of any fallen debris, and since the trees around you had likely been growing here for... Much longer than you had been alive at any rate, you doubted you would be finding any young, flexible saplings to grab from. If you couldn't find any on the ground, then... Above? Your eyes drift up to the branches overhead, catching a stray midday breeze that whispered cooly through the woods. You could smell something cooking, meaning Asche had been hard at work doing her job while you went searching.More importantly, you had a revelation. Any sticks you would have found on the ground were just inferior existences that couldn't make it in the sky!You rolled your right shoulder experimentally, filing away the light wince of pain as low enough to be acceptable. "Ari, can you stay here for a second?" You ask absently, eyes shifting from the tree tops to the trunks around you as an idea starts to form in your head. "I'm not going anywhere far, but I can't climb very well with you hanging on." You're not sure what her answer had been exactly, but given that she had reluctantly let go of your sleeve and stumbled towards a nearby tree, you assume she was okay with it. "Alright..." You crack your knuckles in anticipation, running one hand across the rough bark of your chosen tree.Time to leave the ground of mortals behind and ascend to Eleafyium.Time to get Vertical.
Climbing the tree hadn't been difficult. Climbing the tree had taken you a few minutes, and you had nearly fallen off a couple times due to weak bark, and weak arms, and also weak bark, but eventually you made it to... Not the top, but the lowest sturdy branch. Your hands were red from scraping and graping the jagged bark, but you were finally to a point where you could stand atop one of the bows and look out into the foliage.There were definitely some decently sized branches up here, but if your logic was going to hold true, the even better stuff was further up. You could probably make your out on this one and try to break off something up here, though.>Climb higher>Make due
>>40657431The higher up the tree you go the smaller the branches get Irue. Dammit, just give the princess a log.>Climb higher
>>40657431>Climb higherWe are the manliest little girl ever.Our aunt would be proud. I think.
>>40657431>Climb higherNever settle for less!!
>>40657451>>40657489>>40657497Getting Vertical. Er.Writing!
While these branches were pretty solid, the fact you could easily walk up and down them meant that they were probably a little too large for Rinnier to use. Even the lesser ones branching off of it tended to be as wide around as your head - There was no way that was going to work, if you couldn't even wrap your hands around the shaft.You start to forge your way higher, hoping the branches got a bit more slender the further up you went. You weren't sure just how high you had gotten before noticing the branches beneath you had started to obscure the forest floor, but given that nothing you had seen so far satisfied your standards, the only other option was to keep going up.Eventually your attempts to climb started to meet resistance in the form of stray branches and twigs snaring at your hair as you tried to climb. Nothing was quite as infuriating, you realized after having blindly lashed out at the fourth or fifth creeping strand, as having your hair pulled. It hurt, but not exactly in a 'I can't move' way, so much as a 'swiftly kill and dismember the offender' way. The short, biting pain in your scalp had singularly been the cause of you nearly falling out of this tree- "Augh!"-six times now, right hand frantically latching onto another limb as tilted backwards from the trunk in an effort to snap the little wooden tips that had snagged you that time. You glare at the innocently swaying foliage around you, snorting in disdain as you go back to trying to climb the blasted tree-"Salamander burn your damn roots!" You twist around again, the back of your hand slapping into an unexpectedly close cluttering of swaying, leaf covered switches. You had just swiped that trash away! You reach, gathering a handful of it and jerking your arm back to rip the irritating things away. The snapping and cracking of young, green wood was only slightly less therapeutic than you had expected it to be, but you gave the trees an imperious glare all the same.
You had only just turned around to try climbing again when your neck jerked back violently, nearly ripping you from the trunk you had been climbing in the process. You screamed furiously as you tried to smack away whatever else the damn trees had deigned to drop into your hair, but came up short when the back of your hand slammed into something hard and rough, rather than the flexible switches from before. Your head jerked around quickly, only to come face to face with a wood carving of yourself half-emerged from the underside of a branch behind you, your hair replicated in a thick blanket of leaves and whip-like switch branches.It looked just about as peeved as you had felt for the last ten minutes or so, but it had the tips of your hair still clutched in its rough, bark covered fingers. ...So it hadn't just been bad luck. This bitch had been pulling your hair the entire time! No, wait, before that... What the hell was this thing?Your thoughts are thrown off track as seemed to finally allow gravity to take ahold of it, dropping out of the wooden branch above it as easily as if it had been water, and pointedly tugged on your hair again with narrowed eyes, holding up a broken and leaf-stripped strand of its own. >Serves her right, don't touch my hair!>Can it even talk? Ask what it is.>Ask what it wants. It's been bugging you for the past ten minute, evidently.>Apologize to whatever it is for having yanked its hair.
>>40657790>Ask what it wants. It's been bugging you for the past ten minute, evidently.
>>40657790>Apologize to whatever it is for having yanked its hair.She most definitely looks nice.>Ask what it wants. It's been bugging you for the past ten minute, evidently.
>>40657825Seconding this. The fuck were we supposed to know this tree was sentient
>>40657802>>40657825>>40657854Whatcha want.>>40657825>>40657854...Sorry about your hair, though. Writing!
You take a moment to make sure your grasp on the tree is good and strong before slowly easing onto a nearby branch so you weren't just hanging off the side of a tree while you... Talked to a tree, you guess. Its wooden eyes seemed to follow you as you did so, watching with its rough caricature of your face as you managed to find a decent place to turn and address it.You'd say the frown it wore was carved into its face, if you weren't literally talking about a logperson. It seemed more naturally molded, which was kind of disturbing. You're not even sure what this thing was supposed to be... It kind of reminded you of a golem, the traditional apparition of Gnome, but its material was decidedly not made of earth. "Sorry." You finally start, unsure as to whether or not it could even understand you or not- It had already made a point to express its displeasure at your hair pulling.That was justified though, it had pulled yours, but you didn't really want make the tree-mimic angry while you were still IN a tree. "I didn't realize you were the one who had been pulling at my hair. I thought it was just-" ...The tree? "-Stray branches."Wood-you stared back, and you realize that it didn't actually have eyeballs. It was almost exactly like a carving, where the eyes were just an image shaped upon the surface. The skin was mostly smooth wood that had long since shed its bark, but that smoothness ended there as its neck faded into a long-sleeve 'shirt' bark not unlike the tree you had been climbing. Even further down, its legs - if it had them - were almost entirely obscured a rough wooden copy of your long skirt. You have no idea if your apology had been received, its wooden face removing thoroughly set in the same frown you had seen it have initially. It was a little unnerving for you, the unmoving face making the entire experience feel as if you were conversing with a statue instead of a sentient thing.
Its complete lack of body language as it hung suspended from the branches by its hair was not helping put you at ease, any... Nor did the fact that it still hadn't let go of the tips of your hair. "So if it was you that's been grabbing at my hair for a while now," you continue speaking slowly, keeping a close watch on the immobile thing, "What did you want my attention for?"It continued to stare at you, frozen in a way that no amount of fleshy human would be able to imitate. "...You have my attention now?" you try again, raising your right hand slowly to see if it would react. Nothing. "Can you let go of my hair, then?" ...A breeze rustled the leaves of the tree, but that was the only answer you were getting out of the thing. Had it just gone into stasis or something?"...Hello?">It's not doing anything now. Try touching it?>Maybe it's distracted? Try and pull your hair free of its fingers and go back to climbing.>That's enough trees for one day, time to go home.>... Why did this seem so unnervingly familiar. (Write-in)
>>40658050>It's not doing anything now. Try touching it?Maybe pinch it's cheeks?
>>40658050>It's not doing anything now. Try touching it?There's no goddamn way that it's distracted. Maybe we need to touch the carving of ourselves to talk to it. If it didn't have business with us one would think that it would just let go of Irue's hair.
A bit of an explanation in quest mechanic:At times you'll notice that options such as "I feel I'm forgetting something" or "why does this seem familiar", etc. appear.They are always write-ins.Voting for them is free, and will not interfere with any other vote that is made. They are prompts for players to try and remember an ulterior goal, or piece together information they may have learned in order to give Irue a jab in the right direction.If even one person is successful, then something beneficial will occur. Or at least the opportunity for such things will be made possible.Being incorrect has no affect. Irue will dismiss wrong answers as being unable to remember.None of these will ever be huge things that make or break a scene, but serve to be more as interesting tid-bits that can help you/Irue succeed in the world.
>>40658050>... Why did this seem so unnervingly familiar. (Write-in)Ari?
>>40658050Am >>40658084Going back to when we were at the temple this was said:>Gnome - The Mana of Earth. Ancient and steady, with a calm endurance that surpassed all others.I'm willing to bet the tree is of Gnome so the correct choice would be to sit there patiently for it to act, so maybe we're supposed to wait a bit before touching the tree?
>>40658063>>40658084Touching things usually solves mysteries, right?>>40658143You actually needed to have thought a little further back, but Gnome was also Irue's first guess.Writing!
It wasn't reacting to anything you had done, but the mystery of what it was or why it had been bugging you was still painfully unsolved. You take a deep breath and slowly begin to move towards it, keeping a careful watch on the wooden statue of you as you approached. Only a few steps closer and its head tilted up to stare at you once again, a rustle of leaves in its hair alerting you to the fact that it was slowly beginning hold up its right hand towards you. Though its expression hadn't changed any. It could still be upset with you, but you're beginning to wonder if it was even capable of changing that. Its arms seemed mobile enough, but something about the way it moved them was distinctly unnatural. The entire experience was a dip into an uncanny valley that was setting you a little on edge, truth be told, but Irue Valen was not the type to just run away. If anything, you found yourself getting curious.You raise your left hand towards it, instantly drawing the full attention of creature as its entire body jerked back from your action. "Alright..." You mutter slowly, noticing its right hand was still extended even as it had jerked away from you. "...Take my hand?" You shift your grip on an overhanging branch to your other hand, reaching out with your own right hand to try and touch it. It didn't jerk back this time, and you felt the smooth wood that made up its skin as your own fingers brushed across its hand lightly. Its fingers slowly start to come alive under your own, as you feel it begin to gently mimic your light stroking of its skin on your own. You offer it a small smile out of habit as you slowly edge closer towards the hanging wooden replica of you and begin to look over it a little more closely. What passed for 'clothes' were bark, probably the same bark of the tree. Its expression hadn't even remotely changed, and it seemed... Lazy wasn't a good word for it. It wasn't fully here? what it had chosen to react to so far had been unexpected.
You carefully balance yourself on the branch beneath you, slowly extending your other hand towards it. While its head swiftly turns towards its movement, it doesn't draw away again, allowing you to steady yourself on its shoulder as you leaned forward over the gap in branches beneath it. "Good... tree?" You mutter in what you hope is a soothing tone to a tree. "Not going to hurt you..." It was frowning at you. It was always frowning at you, really, but the exact mimicry of your face made the expression all too human. It was throwing you off, because you're not sure if it was okay with this or not.>Run your hand through its leafhair.>Try and pry your hair free, you don't like people touching your hair.>Tell it why you were up here. Who knows if it understands you or not?>Inspect the branch it came from, above you.
>>40658353>Tell it why you were up here. Who knows if it understands you or not?
>>40658353>Tell it why you were up here. Who knows if it understands you or not?While>Run your hand through its leafhair
>>40658359>>40658447so I am looking for a stick.>>40658447Also you have nice hair.Writing!
>>40658503Just woke up, is the thing trying to learn to be us from mimicking? Like an oaken bear mimics a bear?
"I climbed up here looking for a stick." You start, realizing belatedly that the plan in your head was not as amazing when said aloud. "Something about as long as I am? That I can wrap my hands around. It needs to be sturdy." you kept explaining though, if anything in this forest knew where you were going to find a stick, it was going to be a tree. Whether it could understand you or not was another matter entirely, and you were left talking to a literal wooden sculpture of a frowning-you as it tilted its head back to direct its scowl directly at you as you spoke.Just to spite the thing, you smiled a little wider. Your left hand slowly reached over its head, brushing into the cool bed of green leaves that made up the thing's hair as you kept talking. "It's for someone else, though. They can make better use of it than I can." You see its left hand rise out of the corner of your eye, a curiously thick ring of moss encircling it at the wrist with a drop of crystallized amber at the top, as it began to stroke your hair in turn. You wince slightly when the wooden fingers tug accidentally at your hair, but otherwise try not to react to the rising desire to get away from the thing so it would just stop touching your mana damned hair. The two of you had formed some disturbing kind of reverse-symmetry in the branches as you tried to figure out what to do next. You kind of wanted to take a closer look at the amber bracelet it was wearing, but at the same time you had come here looking for sticks and Kara. You hadn't found Kara, and the stick you found was... Well, you were staring it down. You don't think you could take this back to Rinnier. You don't have the time to stay here with it all day, though; Curious as you are as to what it is, you don't WANT to stay here all day, either.
Still, one last try couldn't hurt."Can you give me a stick like that? Something strong?" You ask slowly, slowly starting to pull your right hand out of its grip so you could re-steady yourself on the branch.It continued to frown at you, drawing towards you as you tried to lean back. In the end you had managed to stand upright again, but hadn't created any distance between it and you. Whatever lack of interest the had had before, it was very riveted on you now.>Try and push it away, and you want your hair back now.>See if you can get a look at the moss and amber on its wrist.>Call out to Ari, you don't know how long you've been busy up here.>Other? (write-in)
>>40658540This anon got me thinking, so I went back and> "Animals can learn, ya' know? They gotta, to... Adapt." the word rolled unnaturally off her tongue, a taste of disdain, as if she had heard it before and found the premise a waste of time. "The smarta ones, they learn ta... do like? They see others, and...">"they do tha same if it's workin. They kinda figure it out, and if it works, then it works, ye?">"...Thing is, most of 'em don' ever realize what ey're doin. What it means. Tha..." She trails off, weight shifting on the branch as the bear came to a halt beneath the two of you; Its great muzzle lifting to the air much as Kara's had not long ago. "That reas'n behind it."All this stuff came up on the way to Carona, which was before they got to the shrine thing, like QM said.I think we've made a mistake, guys.
>See if you can get a look at the moss and amber on its wrist.
>>40658799>See if you can get a look at the moss and amber on its wrist.
>>40658799>Try and push it away, and you want your hair back now.>Call out to Ari, you don't know how long you've been busy up here.Carefully, though, in case it protests. Also, test how it reacts to you calling out - in case we need to call Asche or Rinnier.
>>40658799>>See if you can get a look at the moss and amber on its wrist.>Call out to Ari, you don't know how long you've been busy up here.
>>40658895>>40658898Time to get a closer look.>>40658903Time to not get a closer look.>>40658903You hope Ari didn't get eaten while you were up here.Writing!
>>40658934Counting this one.You beat me by 4 seconds.
You very carefully reach the hand not preoccupied with rubbing the thing's hair over to grab the one it was using to rub yours, watching it begin to do the same a few seconds afterwards. Trying to move the hand closer to you was like literally pulling at a tree, or it was until it had pulled you in turn. You led it pull your hand out of its hair on a hunch, discovering that it let its own begin to move shortly afterwards.Its appearance had set you on edge, but this more or less confirmed that whatever this thing was, it was primarily concerned with mimicking you. You suppose even the initial violence had just been a rough reaction to you having lashed out at it accidentally. It didn't seem to have any problems with larger motions, since as your arms and hands moving about, but its face had remained stubbornly set in - presumably - the same scowl you had directed at it initially. Maybe facial expressions were difficult for it? Or it couldn't properly change its details that finely? Thinking back, it wasn't uncommon for Gnome apparitions, the Golem, to often harden its features into a particular expression when they were not expressly featureless. The people who coaxed Golems into existence would often pre-shape the face of the medium for the apparition, based on what they had in mind for its purpose. You're not sure if the Mana understand the meaning behind the expression, or if they simply soaked in the intent of the sculpture as it was being made, but it was said to be helpful towards raising them.This most definitely was not something related to Gnome, though. You'd never heard the earth mana inhabiting a tree, and for that matter, you weren't particularly favored by Gnome in the first place. Beyond that, you hadn't been the one to sculpt this thing. While you had seen it drop out of the tree itself, that didn't necessarily mean it had NOT been sculpted by someone, but it still left the question of what it was.
So on one hand: Someone, somewhere, may have sculpted a perfect replica of you for reasons beyond you. That was disturbing, and even more so since you had no idea who would have done that or, more importantly, why. On the other hand, it could have been spontaneously born from the tree as you had initially thought. While not as personally disturbing as the first, it was unusual enough that it left you unnerved about the woods you had been living in for the past ten years or so."Ari...!" You called out carefully, peeking over the edge of the branch towards the forest floor. "Are you okay down there?"You raised your own bracelet bearing hand in order to get a close look at your replica's, noting the cool feel of the very thick, fine moss that encircled its wrist in a rough copy of your own cross-hooped jewelry, even down to the little gem set at the top. The moss shuddered under your fingertips, visibly rippling at the touch as it strained upwards towards your skin and brushed across it softly.Ari hadn't responded yet, which while a little worrying wasn't necessarily unexpected. She couldn't speak very loudly in the first place, so you may have just not heard her.For several seconds you simply let the moss continue to do as it pleased, your own finger tracing around it curiously. The amber was right there, and seemed to almost glow in the shade now that you had a closer look at it.>Touch it>You're done here, you need to get back>Call out to Ari again>It wasn't going to bother you, right? Back to stick-searching.
>>40659221>>Touch it>Call out to Ari again
You finally give in to your curiosity, running your finger over the hardened tree sap. You feel a steady pulse thrumming from within as you gently inspect it while keeping an eye on your replica. You're not sure how much importance it placed on this thing, but having your late-sister's bracelet that close to someone you weren't actively engaged in violence with was... If it wasn't necessary for you see this thing, you'd prefer it not happen at all. Still, the warmth of the amber was a stark contrast to the rest of the wooden surface of the tree, and you could feel the beating pattern growing stronger - More established - as you looked it over. Its pacing was growing a little erratic, as if alternating between its natural rhythm and some other pattern. You glance towards your own bracelet, watching wood-replica of you drawing its scowling face nearer to it in an almost timid manner. It was one of the few actions it had made that wasn't a direct copy of your own, and you found your heartrate pick up as you restrained the urge to simply push it away.Your thoughts are interrupted as you feel your finger tip split open, a smear of blood escaping the wound to paint the amber core you had been absently caressing. Your hand jerked back, giving you just a glimpse of a series of raised bloody teeth sinking back into the amber as your blood is drawn into the not-so-crystallized sap, swirling further into its depths and beginning to twist the emerald green circle of moss into a brighter shade of red.You quickly pushed the replica of you back, forcibly creating space between you as you staggered back towards the main trunk of the tree. A heartbeat thundered in your ears, a sickening feeling of another rhythm slightly out of synch with your own veins. It was fluttering erratically, even as the replica tried to once more close the distance between you, but it was slowly starting to reproduce your own rhythm.
"Ari....!?" You call out again, slightly more concerned this time as the wooden replica of you slid closer to you with outstretched arms, "Ari, get away from the tree!"Besides your own pulse, the forest was almost entirely silent. You should have heard something by now, even if she was just talking. You're not that far up, are you?"Ari!" Your eyes narrow, it was getting closer.>Jump off, we're abandoning this tree ASAP. >Try to climb down the tree, hope the thing doesn't stop you.>You've had about enough of this thing, time to set it straight!>Other? (write-in)
>>40659580NOPE.>>Jump off, we're abandoning this tree ASAP.>>Other? (write-in)Call Asche and/or Rinnier - if we're close enough to smell the cooking, maybe they're close enough to hear us.
>>40659580>>Try to climb down the tree, hope the thing doesn't stop you.If it tries>Jump off, we're abandoning this tree ASAP.
>>40659734Also this stuff.Are you the same anon who beat me by 4s last time?
You look at the trunk behind you, quickly grasping hold of it as you make to drop down the trunk to a branch below while trying to keep an eye on your replica. It started to move faster, as if sensing your intent, and you decide that you had spent enough time being discrete here as you throw caution from the wind and step clean off the bow. Gravity takes its toll almost immediately as the air starts to rush past you for the sparse few seconds it takes you to drop onto the branches beneath the one you had been on.You change a look above you, seeing your own face staring back down from over the edge as its bracelet bearing hand reaches out towards you, the bloodied amber sending out a pulse that sang through your blood as it passed. Your teeth grit, and the sudden movement of the switches around you are enough encouragement for you to start making air-tracks again. Without further prodding, you started to drop down the tree from branch canopy to branch canopy. Vine-like branches slowly twisted towards you as you fell, intercepting your advance with each jump, and getting closer and closer to catching up to you as your hurried rush to descend became sloppier with each landing.A shock of pain rain up your legs as you crashed onto another branch. The jarring impact, one of many in the past few seconds, causing your weakened knees to finally buckle. Your hand went to your ankle reactively, noting with a little moment of triumph that you hadn't sprained anything yet... But getting back up was proving a little difficult.You had just gotten out of that fight with the guards, which had come right after being burned. Couldn't you catch a break for one week to heal?!"Asche!" You call out sharply, hoping she could hear you from where ever she was. "We've got a problem!"You've had a lot of problems, lately, and as you look over the edge, then back up into the canopy above you, you come face to face with your latest one.
A wooden replica of your own smiling face is hanging out of the branches above you, only just far enough for its neck and shoulders to have emerged. You'd have taken the moment to appreciate the fact it had evidently learned expressions, if a familiar copy of your scowling face didn't also peek over the edge of a branch from further up as its vine-like hair began to lash onto branches to prevent a free fall when its body tipped over the edge into open air.Even from here, the bright yellow tree sap that had begun to seep out of its bark-clothes and encase its hand and neck were highly visible. Anyone's guess was as good as yours as to what the hell was going with it, but the fact there were two of them now was not putting you at ease."Hello?" The smiling one echoed your own distorted voice at you as it began to slowly melt from the branch, one mossy hand extending towards you. "...Take my hand?">Oh hell no. We're not jumping fast enough, just dive off!>...Well, it seemed friendly enough? Maybe you could trust it?>Asche! Asche, we have more problems!>Tell it to stop, try to talk it down. It can speak now, right?>Try to struggle to your feet again, this is going to come down to violence.
>>40660006>>Tell it to stop, try to talk it down. It can speak now, right?>>Try to struggle to your feet again, this is going to come down to violence.
>>40660006>Try to struggle to your feet again, this is going to come down to violence.>Asche! Asche, we have more problems!There's no way it will actually understand us, and I don't want it to learn how to yell "stop."Just how fucking far up the tree are we?
>>40660035>>40660097To your feet, this is about to get messy.>>40660035Talk it down.>>40660097Aaaaaasche!Writing!
Your eyes widen as they both start to descend towards you, and you scramble against the trunk to get to your feet again. The familiar pressure of your fingers curling into a fist only serving to heighten your senses as you stamp one foot against the bow beneath you to shake out the feeling of numb soreness in them. "Asche! Problems are getting worse! Help!" You shout, drawing yourself up as you prepare for the worst case scenario and turn towards the descending wooden dopplegangers. You have no idea whether she can hear you, but you're finally far enough down to see the forest floor through the remaining smattering of branches switches beneath you. It was a nasty fall at this height, but nothing that would kill you outright. The fact you didn't see Ari at the base of the tree where you had left here was both a a relief and a little worrying, since you had no idea where she had gotten to in the meantime. For now, you'd just have to trust that she got away when you told her to; You needed to handle these things before you could try and find Ari."No further!" You brace yourself, raising your arms as you try and figure out how you're going to handle this if they decide to drop on you. "Don't you dare come any closer!"You're already preparing to dodge out of the way when you notice that both of them had frozen entirely at your command."..." You stood there for several more seconds, and neither of them seemed to start moving again. You shuffled slightly towards the trunk, watching the their heads simultaneously twist to follow your cautious movements. "...Can you understand me now?" You try tentatively, one foot already resting against the trunk in case they decided to resume their descent. Their continued silence is the only answer you get. At the very least they hadn't started moving again, but that didn't really fill you with confidence about the situation.
>Climb down the tree, keep an eye on them.>Jump off, the landing will hurt, but you want out now.>Sit tight, hope Asche heard you and is on her way.>Try and give them another command. (write-in?)
>>40660594>>Try and give them another command. (write-in?)Explain what you are and your interest in me.
>>40660594>Climb down the tree, keep an eye on them.No more sudden movements or bodily harm.
>>40660696Why are you here?>>40660718Answer me while I climb down this tree.Writing!
They listened to you once, so maybe you could get a repeat performance. Luna knows you've got a lot of questions about just what was going on, and a dire shortage of answers. "What are you?" You ask testily, slowly testing a foot hold on the trunk with one foot as you keep an eye on them. Neither had reacted thus far, but they hadn't answered you either. Maybe you needed to be more demanding? "Tell me what you are!""Good tree."You make a face at the smiling one as it parrots your own voice back at you promptly. You don't know why you hadn't expected that, you feel kind of ridiculous now. "Tell me why you keep coming after me." You try a slightly different direction. It stood to reason that even they didn't know what they were, and so gave you that only answer they could. Something like this was different though, they had to know this."looking for a stick." The smiling replica of you twisted its head in a manner that was painful to look at as it hovered half-emerged from the branch above you. "You give me a stick? About as me. Need sturdy. Strong."Its fingers flex outward, its arms starting to slowly spread out in what would otherwise resemble you inviting someone for a hug... If it wasn't a wooden doll half-melted from a tree. "I can wrap my hands around...?" You guess that's as good a cue to start climbing as any. One foot catches on the trunk and you're quickly navigating your way down the trunk while keeping an eye on the gradually unfreezing replicas above you. The frowning one had slowly begun to resume its descent as the vine-like hair of leaves and switches curled about the branches to support its implacable, if decidedly unhurried, advance after you. Even as unsteadily as you were making it down the trunk, you had little doubt you'd manage to get to the forest floor before it caught up to you. The smiling one had remained half-merged with the tree however, its arms still spread open towards you as you climbed down the trunk.
The fact it wasn't pursuing you as well probably meant something, but you were too far done with this to try and figure out what it was right now. You're just lucky that whatever these things had been, didn't seem to outright want you dead.Or if they did, they weren't very good at it.You hopped off the trunk entirely about half way down, dropping to the ground proper with a grunt as you tumbled forward over the gnarled roots of the tree and quickly jerked your head back up to make sure the dolls had remained in the tree where you left them.The sight of yourself frowning down at you, wreathed in a veil of flowering hair like some tree-angel was another thing you were adding to the list of 'things you weren't going to be forgetting any time soon'.A quick look around told you that Ari wasn't anywhere near by. You're not sure where she had gotten to, either. >Look for Ari>Get out of the forest. Now.>Call for Asche>Call for Ari>Give a last command. (write-in?)
>>40661313>>Look for Ari>>Give a last command. (write-in?)Stay!
>>40661313>>Look for Ari>Call for Ari
>>40661313>>Call for Ari>Look for Ari
>>40661406>>40661432>>40661516Looking for Ari!>>40661516>>40661432Calling for Ari!>>40661406Stay! Good tree.Writing!Eating
You start to poke around the forest floor in search of Ari, keeping a careful eye on the still hovering tree-angel version of you that had taken to glowering at you from just below the branches since you had escaped the tree. Looking around the trees isn't getting you any closer to finding your missing Testament, which is becoming increasingly more worrying as your search continues to turn up no results. You had told her to get away from the tree, sure, but you'd spent most of the day helping her walk around - You know damn well she can barely walk on her own. So why couldn't you find her?"Ari!" You twist your head around, listening for some kind of reply. You had come out here looking for a missing Testament, and in the process somehow lost another one. If you didn't want to cry so much right now, you'd have laughed. "Ari! Answer me, we need to leave!"You vaguely hear a 'hello' echo from further up in the branches, but pointedly ignore that as you grit your teeth and continue your search. The rustle of branches alerts you to the fact that the dolls were evidently following you from above as you quickly roamed the area in search of your timid Testament. After the sixth time it had tried to say 'hello' when you called for Ari, you had finally whirled on the thing and commanded the them to Stay. You don't know if they listened this time or not, since the smiling one had already shown signs of being willing, or able, to disobey that strange whim they followed so far, but at the least you didn't hear them following you anymore. "Ari!""...Coming!" Your head twists towards the familiar raspy voice so fast your neck cracked in the process, and you found yourself racing through the root covered forest floor towards it. "Ari! Where are you!?" You jump over a raised root, grasping onto the bark of the tree to halt your momentum as you catch the now unfortunately recognizable washed out grays of the slavegarb that your Testaments still wore.
>Help her up, time to get out of here.>Pick her up, we're getting the hell out of here.>Check her over, make sure she's okay.>Ask her how she managed to get this far.
>>40661862>Pick her up, we're getting the hell out of here.Questions and talking later, we need to leave now.Also, why the hell do we keep talking around the wood clones? It's like you guys want to teach them new phrases so they can lure in people to kill and eat.
>>40661862>Pick her up, we're getting the hell out of here.>Ask her how she managed to get this far.
>>40661850>>Pick her up, we're getting the hell out of here.>>Check her over, make sure she's okay
>>40661902>>40661905>>40662004Up, up, and Ari!>>40662004Is she okay?>>40661905How did she even get this far?Writing!
You quickly drop down next to the struggling Testament as she attempts to stand, propping herself against the tree she had been sitting behind. "hold on, don't move so much." You tell her in a hushed town, eyes briefly straying towards the canopy above you before refocusing on her as you look over the Testament for anything wrong. There were deep bruises across her upper thigh and stretching around your midrift and back. She had several deep cuts along her forearms and hands, and from the dirt covering most of her front you imagine she had hit the ground often since you had last seen her.The bruises were old news though, she had those since you had met her a few days ago and it was actually looking better now than they had. The rest, though..."Are you okay, Ari?" You look over her quickly, finally looking directly at her face as she averted her eyes and tried to stutter out an answer bashfully. "How did you get this far? Was something chasing you?"She shook her head quickly, "I...You told me to get away, so I..." She trailed off uncertainly, "Was I not supposed to go this far?" She asked quietly, "I'm sorry, I didn't-" No time for this, she could have a breakdown later. You were getting out of this forest right now. Before she could properly start into an apology, you scooped her into your arms with a grunt, stumbling backwards from the tree in an effort to regain your balance when the Testament nearly flew off the ground. The only other thing you had carried recently was Kara, so you had expected the load to be heavy - Not for her to barely be noticeable at all. You get the feeling that if you weren't so tired already, you could just carry Ari around on your shoulders without worrying about it."Not now, we'll talk more when we're out of here." You breath out tersely, cutting off any opposition the wide eyed and flushed Testament may have had as you start running as quickly as you dare to through the woods.
The moment you finally broke the woodline and re-entered the lush grass that marked your backyard was one of the most relieving moments of your life, and you gasp heavily for fresh air to get sucked into your burning lungs. You had thought carrying Ari wouldn't be a problem, but that had been proven wrong after the first few minutes passed and your body reminded you that you were not a practised weight lifter.No matter how much you seemed to have disagreed with it the past couple of days.Of course in response to this, you had duly ignored its reminder and continued to run. You couldn't see them, but the occasional sound of rustling branches set your nerves on edge. It could have been the wind, or maybe some lesser, not unknown forest-born mimicking abomination. Like a squirrel. Or it could have been them.You hadn't been keen to stop and find out which, and you sure as hell were not going to slow down to help Ari stumble forward when you could just carry her and run.If one good fortune had fallen to you, it was that Ari had been blessedly silent for the trip. Not a single apology or peep came out of the timid Testament, though you had occasionally felt her fingers entangling themselves into your shirt as you ran. Now that you had made it back to your yard, though, you were nearly home free.>Call for Asche, you're definitely close enough now.>Keep carrying Ari. Run towards the mansion, you're still not far enough from the woodline.>Set Ari down, you're probably safe to have her walk on her own now. >Tell Ari to run to the house, turn and watch the woodline as she goes.
>>40662540>Keep carrying Ari. Run towards the mansion, you're still not far enough from the woodline.No talking until we're sure the wood clones can't hear us
>>40662540>>Keep carrying Ari. Run towards the mansion, you're still not far enough from the woodline.
>>40662540>>Keep carrying Ari. Run towards the mansion, you're still not far enough from the woodline.Don't look back or pause, that's like rule #1 when running away from unknown horrors
>>40662584>>40662612>>40662621Not safe yet, gotta keep moving. Writing!
You suck in a much needed breath of air, willing yourself back into an exhausted run towards the house. Just because you had broke the wood line didn't necessarily mean you were safe. If you let your guard down now, you had no one to blame but yourself; With Ari still in your arms, you couldn't even say it was only you would be risking like that. None the less, what you had meant to be a run was turning out more and more to resemble some kind of haggard, shambling march through the grass.You're partially glad no one is there to see it, because this is a state of tired you hadn't experienced since... Yesterday. Night.God, if everyday was going to be like this, maybe just getting married wouldn't have been so bad.You shake your head quickly, stumbling over the dirt on your way towards the back door. Thoughts like those were for quitters, peasants, lesser nobles, and a variety of other people that were not Irue Valen. Not the heir to House Valen. Once you ushered Ari through the back door, you twisted around to survey the space behind you. Your backyard was vast, and save for the slavewagon slowly entrenching itself in your backyard for the last few days, was entirely empty. The green, kept grass serving as a bubble of civilization against the solid tree line, which remained conspicuously empty no matter how hard you strained your eyes into the shadows and foliage.You hastily shut the door, shaking hands sliding its locks into place after having carefully deposited Ari against the far wall. Only when it was well and truly shut did you finally allow yourself to slump forward, forehead knocking against the cool wood of the door as you try and catch your breath and work through the burning fatigue in your arms and legs. Your stomach lurched, reminding you with a nauseatingly poignant twist that you still hadn't eaten, and that your abs had taken more of a work out in two days than in ten years.
"Asche!" You call hoarsely, pressing yourself from the door as you gather the dregs of your stamina just to keep from collapsing back against the door and sliding to the floor. This close, you know that she had to have heard you. It was only a matter of waiting for her to arrive, now."Irue...?" Rinnier poked her head around the corner quickly, her voice colored in surprise, "Where've you been, the food's been ready for almost an hour." She looked you over, your haggard breathing and bark-covered clothes evidently not painting an impressive picture to the former princess. "Why are there so many leaves in your hair?" She stepped into the hall, sparing a glance at Ari as she knelt down to inspect you. "What were you doing...?" She muttered incredulously, "I just saw you not even three hours ago, and you're already a mess.">We have a problem. >Did Kara ever come for the food?>Don't go outside. Don't answer doors. Stay away from windows.>I was making new friends.
>>40663243>>We have a problem.>>I was making new friends.
>>40663243>We have a problem. >Don't go outside. Don't answer doors. Stay away from windows.>I made new friends.
>>40663243>>We have a problem. >>Did Kara ever come for the food?>>I was making new friends.
>>40663400>>40663531We have problems.>>40663400>>40663531But I made new friends!>>40663531In related news, don't answer doors for strangers.---http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=Valen+QuestAnd we are archived.The earliest we will be able to run again is Thursday. If I cannot do it by then, expect it to happen sometime after Saturday.I'll lurk the thread for a bit to try and answer some questions if I can.Apologies to all anons who participated in Valen Quest but died at their keyboards wondering when QM would finally stop.To those who did not make it to the end, we will never forget your sacrifice.
>>40663618Your vote will also be counted, since you beat me to the post.
>>406637103rd time today