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/qst/ - Quests

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“A magician’s job isn’t just to beat her enemy.
It’s to give others the strength and courage to push forward no matter the obstacles,
And to show those who stand against the darkness that they never stand alone!”

The dark room is illuminated by the brilliant gold of the spell gathering at the girl’s garish wand.


A huge beam of light explodes from the magical focus, surging over a second black clothed magician who screams and yells her curses melodramatically as she’s overwhelmed.

Two girls, one Mika Myrri and one Suzu Sigilind, sit in their pajamas in front of the television, starry-eyed. Despite it being midnight the former has practically jumped on the latter in a hug, dragging her along as she sways back and forth with lively energy.

“Suzy, Suzy!! That was so cool!”

The second girl nods emphatically, her agreements muffled behind her friend’s arms.

The two girls are watching the season finale of ‘Magical Shining Solar’, a cartoon that dramatises the jobs that magicians undertake. Though initially aimed at children, the series turned out much more popular than expected even among teenaged and older audiences.

They stay enraptured by the screen for a minute before a door opens in the hallway behind them. Out walks another girl in pajamas with a white towel around her neck, her recently-dried dark brown hair loose and falling below her waist in length.

“Come on you two, go to sleep,” Alexis Aeron scolds, “we’re going early tomorrow.”

“Yes mum~”

“Call me that again Mika and I’ll shoot you,” she replies, with no hint of malice despite her words.

The energetic girl laughs and gets to her feet. The show is playing its slow ending theme so she turns off the television and drags her younger friend with her, and the three of them head to the bedroom.


Most of the jobs trainee teams can take or get assigned to involve dealing with small Fog Shards relatively close to the city safe zones. Whatever those dark purple pieces of crystal are made of emits the Fog, and over time even small ones become nests from which Fog-Creatures form. They’re pretty common, so there’s always a need for teams to get rid of them before they turn into bigger problems.

Give one more time and it’ll form a Fog-Barrier, which is a little piece of unreality with the Shard at its heart.

Barriers are odd things. The area within them doesn’t correspond with their size outside, and it’s normal for the inside of a Barrier to not be immediately hostile to a magician that enters. These spaces follow their own strange rules, and look very different from what you’d expect from something made of that dark mauve-coloured gloom.

The inside of this one, for instance, is a picturesque forest.
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Your sight is filled by the browns of tree trunks and roots and the rich greens of the leaves and the undergrowth at your feet. The four of you walk, craning your necks around wide-eyed at more plant-life than any of you have seen in your lives, ignoring the crunching and snapping from branches underfoot in favour of distant birdsong and rustling of unseen animals darting through bush.

“You know, when they aren’t just super weird, Barriers can be pretty cool,” Mika says absently.

You’ve had very little experience with this kind of thing, but you nod in agreement anyway.

This mission was for a medium-sized Barrier located not-very-close to the city’s safe zone so you expected something a little less peaceful. Though from what you’ve heard these spaces may as well actively defy expectation, so maybe you were being a little silly.

The four of you still have your Gears equipped and hold your weapons ready, but nothing accosts you while walking through the forest. The trees grow sparser and the undergrowth disappears readily, and soon you reach a large clearing.

In front of your group is the entrance to a wooden-walled town, an arched entryway with the top decorated by a symbol of a large, many-branched tree above a perfect circle. From past those walls come the sounds of cheer and revelry - a festival?

The symbol, at least, probably refers to the tree you can see from here; an absolutely huge trunk reaches up into the sky from somewhere in the town, making a leafy canopy all on its own.

Walking closer, you spy the figure standing by the entrance.

It’s a wooden doll, only a little shorter than your height and with stocky proportions. It’s wearing a multi-coloured dress that is more tassels than cloth and a flower wreath on its head. Your team approaches cautiously, and the doll turns its head towards the four of you.

“!Tivvgrmth slmlivw erhrglih! !Xlnv rm, vmqlb gsv Drogrmt Uvhgrezo zh blf kovzhv!”

You look to your left and see Suzu, looking as confused as you feel, and turn to your right to look at Alexis.

“... Let’s go inside. Just be ready in case something happens.”

The four of you move to enter the town slowly, but when passing the threshold all of your Gears disappear and are replaced with different outfits.

Alexis is in a perfect black and white tuxedo with red bowtie, her hair drawn back showing her forehead and her face partially covered by a silver ornate half mask.

Mika is in a horrifyingly flashy hawaiian shirt dominated by bright colours, large pitch black aviator sunglasses, and thankfully less absurd khaki shorts.

Suzu finds herself in a light green and white ballroom gown with a tiara on her head, the outfit’s skirt inconveniently long and dragging behind her over the dirt and grass.

> And Chris is in a

[ ] Court Jester’s Outfit
[ ] Japanese Kimono
[ ] Panda Costume
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>[ ] Court Jester’s Outfit
I am sure this will be a decision of absolutely no consequence whatsoever. Yep.

We're not going back to continue the train job, I see. Guess it really was uneventful, after all.
>[ ] Panda Costume
Bears are bad news! Those fog creatures will know not to mess with us.
Also, it's a shame there isn't a crossdress option. I was half expecting Chris to end up in something similar to what Suzu got.

(Ah, lemme clarify.

[ ] Japanese Kimono (female))
Changing my vote to this.
>[ ] Japanese Kimono
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You’re in blue-violet full-length robes that fall to your ankles. The beautiful decorated silk is patterned with flower petals, and moving your hands trail long, flowing sleeves gracefully through the air. Above your waist is a light red sash tied in a large ribbon at your back, and your hair is held by flower hairpins and tied into a very short, elegant ponytail.

It’s a Japanese kimono, and you’re about 100% certain it’s for girls.

Your face is burning red. The girl in yellow isn’t helping.

“Chris! You’re so pretty!!”


Alexis looks at you with raised eyebrows. She turns to Mika, then to her own outfit. “... Does the Barrier think Chris is more feminine than me?”

You’ve balled up, hiding your face behind your hands and trying very hard to turn invisible.


You hear Suzu’s voice come from behind you. “I- It’s okay, Chris! Y- You look really cute!”

The girl in the tuxedo walks up and places a hand on the girl in green’s shoulder. “Suzu, I don’t think that’s what he wants to hear,” she says softly.


“Don’t worry, we’ll find the Shard in no time,” Mika says from behind her huge sunglasses, patting you on the back reassuringly.

The Shard is rarely actually reachable from inside its Barrier, but finding and disrupting the heart of the Barrier will cause it to crumble. Then you’ll be outside again, back in your Gear, with an unshielded purple crystal to blow up.

You can feel the magic of your Gear though, and could probably force it over the outfit the Barrier’s given you. Not that you’ll ignore your team’s strategy, no matter how tempting. Just, you know, in case.
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Eventually, after a few failed attempts, your team convinces you to stop hiding behind your hands and stand up. You don’t have tears in your eyes, and your cheeks aren’t red. This is important.

Looking around past the walls shows dozens of wood dolls, same as the one by the entrance both in appearance and mostly-tassels attire, trotting around and seemingly enjoying themselves despite their total lack of facial features. Their strange chatter fills the air, foreign to you all.

There’s stalls lined up along the main dirt road, and further away to the side are quaint circular entrances to homes, their residents likely all out to play.

Much of what makes up the town is made from the same rich brown wood. Nothing looks carved however, as if the stalls, the chairs, the ‘people’ walking around were all grown into their shape.

Your sandals, the ‘geta’ you’re wearing, take a bit to get used to, making soft thumping sounds against the dirt as you walk. You’re trying to not pay attention to how the kimono’s cloth moves along with every step.

At least your outfit is not as inconvenient as Suzu’s gown. You think she’s in high heels as well, though it’s hard to tell, but walking for her looks so awkward that Mika has taken to holding her arm to help the girl keep balance.

“At least we’re all wearing stuff for a party,” the girl in the hawaiian shirt says, smiling as always. She seems to like her aviator glasses, seeing as how she hasn’t bothered to move them.

Alexis replies after a short pause. “Different from what those dolls are wearing, though.” She seems a little hesitant, thinking.

“We already stand out.”

For a moment, the ambience of the festivities seem a little more distant.

Your team leader continues in a quieter voice. “Maybe we shouldn’t talk much, if we don’t have to.”
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Continuing onwards takes your team to one of the closest stalls to the entrance. It’s a shooting game, where a variety of things are lined up on shelves as both targets and prizes. There’s a bunch of odd animal plushies of different sizes and shapes, boxes of sweets, packs of playing cards, and other knickknacks.

“That’s… kinda normal-looking,” Mika says with a frown. “Don’t know what I was expecting.”

For your part, you’re a little glad it’s not all made of wood. Brown and green are going to get very tiring soon.

One of the doll sits behind the shooting game stall with toy rifles on the counter and corks in a basket, all the same monochrome wood-brown. Other dolls approach and hand over some coins from pockets they don’t have, and start playing the game with varying levels of success.

The wood doll looks up at your group and speaks gibberish to your ears: “!Xlnv fk, orggov trioh! !Trev rg z hslg, gdl vuurh gsivv girvh!”

You’re not here to play though, you think to yourself.

But with the four of you here, looking at and wondering about the game, standing in front of the stall

Can you walk away?

You shiver from a tingling at the back of your neck.

Suzu glances at the doll before speaking softly to the rest of you.

“Do we have money for this?”

“Mmmm…” Mika roots around in her pocket for a second and withdraws a pouch, and from it she grabs a handful of wooden coins. She looks around surreptitiously, then puts back all but two of them and holds them out to the doll in the stall. It looks up with a pause, as if thinking, before taking two of the coins and pushing forward one of the wooden rifles and handing over three of the cork projectiles.

“!Tllw ofxp!”

You look to Alexis, who you think is the obvious choice for this kind of game, but she returns your gaze and shakes her head.

“You give it a try, Chris.”

Well ...


[ ] You’ve got pretty good aim. You could win one of the bigger prizes here.
[ ] Other?
>[ ] You’ve got pretty good aim. You could win one of the bigger prizes here.
Sure, why not? Hopefully we're good enough that we won't need luck.

Can we test out the gun before taking our actual shots to check its alignment?
>[ ] You’ve got pretty good aim. You could win one of the bigger prizes here.

(You just have the rifle and three projectiles. I don't think you can?)
Fair enough. We'll just have to adapt on the fly, then.
You pick up the rifle and stuff one of the bullets into the end of its barrel. Holding it up under eye level, you decide to aim for a big animal plushie sitting on the top shelf.

The toy rifle actually has a pair of wooden sights. You line them up and pull the trigger, and the cork projectile shoots out with a ‘pop’ and hits the plushie, which wobbles a little bit but doesn’t fall.

That went a little bit to the left, you think while stuffing another bullet into the rifle. You take aim, adjusting that little bit before firing again. The bullet hits the plushie above its center and it topples over backwards, falling off to the ground behind the shelf.

“?Sfs, rm gdl hslgh? Wrwm'g gsrmp blf szw rg rm blf,” the wood doll behind the counter comments.

You fire your third shot at another plushie which fails to fall over, but you don’t think much of it since you’ve already hit your target.

The wood doll goes behind the shelves and retrieves your prize, a fluffy cloth doll the shape of… some kind of chimera? It’s a fat lizard with a snake’s tongue sticking out of its mouth and bat-like wings, coloured in different shades of orange. It has wide googly eyes with small black dots for pupils that look in two different directions at once.

You turn back to your team holding the weird chimera thing. Mika seems pleased to examine the toy up close, but you notice Alexis isn’t quite looking at you.

“Did something happen, Alexis?”

Behind her half mask the girl in red’s gaze has shifted to the side, and you follow and notice some of the wood dolls in the forest village's streets have stopped. Their heads have turned towards you.

they have no eyes yet turn to look

You blink and look forward again at the girl in red. Apparently the worry is evident in your face, since she shakes her head before speaking.

“I had a hunch, and I was kinda hoping this happened so we could confirm it. We stand out too much.”

You almost jump when you notice a very short wood doll - a child? - standing next to you and looking up at your chimera plushie. There’s an odd pause, then you hold out the plushie and the doll’s head shifts up to look at you. You smile gently, or at least try to, then place your prize in the little doll’s hands.

It looks happy, as far as you can tell, then bounds off back into the festival crowds.

“... Let’s keep going,” Alexis says.

Turning away from the shooting game stall, the four of you continue on through the town. You think the festivities are a note quieter now, but that could be your imagination.

“The heart would be that big tree, right?” You wonder.

It’s the obvious center of the town, and the tree-over-circle symbols that show up on the various structures reinforces that. The others seem to agree.

“... But I don’t think we can just walk straight there,” Suzu adds quietly.

At the edges of your vision you can see the slow turning of the heads of the wood dolls, tracking you as you walk through the festival. You keep your own eyes forward.

Mika has moved in front of you. “We can always check out another stall,” she says with her usual cheer and smile. A familiar, comforting tone.


[ ] House of mirrors.
[ ] Fortune tellers.
[ ] Food stalls.
>[ ] Fortune tellers.
Can't say no to foreshadowing.
>[ ] Fortune tellers.
Could be interesting. Also, there's a chance eating the food would be a bad idea. It usually is in these types of scenarios.
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The dirt road ahead branches, and along the left path you notice a small stall covered in brown, wilting leaves. You think it’s lit on the inside by a candle, and you can barely make out a figure in a dark green robe sitting at a table with a crystal ball on it.

You point the stall out and your other team members, seemingly lacking better ideas, follows.

The taps of the black dress shoes of your uniform against the stone at your feet are lost in the clattering and chattering of the crowd around you. Paper lanterns light up the evening sky, and you and your friends enjoy the festival ambience. The people around you laugh in their own little worlds, meaningless bits and pieces of conversation reaching you from all around.

The space around the raised square center of the city square, where that large tree branches over the crowds, is wide enough to easily accommodate stalls of all sorts of attractions. Food and drink, silly festival games. You see a shop with an array of masks lined on the wall and colourful souvenirs being sold.

One of your friends pulls you along to a stall that’s covered in a velvety cloth, the inside dark and decorated with stars and vaguely mystical symbols. You’ve not really been one for fortune telling, but it might be fun. You’ll humour her.

Your geta thumps lightly on the dirt ground. The small stocky wood dolls move past you in both directions, though the crowd is sparse enough so that your way isn’t hindered. You’re walking along a branching road that turns in towards the big tree in the center of the village, past the dark stall covered in wilting leaves.

You continue along with your team, because nothing happened.
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You look behind you and see Suzu trying to get your attention, her tiara glimmering in the sunlight that filters through the one-tree canopy as she moves.

In the corner of your eye you see an odd orange plushie with silly eyes, but you focus on the girl in green offering you a cloud-like bunch of pink fairy floss at the end of a stick. She’s already torn off a piece, eating it in small bites.

When did she get that, you find yourself wondering.


[ ] Have a bit of fairy floss.
[ ] Decline.
[ ] Wait, is that safe? (Do something?)
(My down under is showing. Fairy floss is cotton candy.

I'm going to pause this for today and pick it up at the same time tomorrow.

See ya then!)
>[ ] Decline.

This update feels a little weird. It seems like Chris experienced it twice. Once where he was dressed in his normal uniform and saw all of the dolls as people and once in the kimono and seeing the dolls for qhat they are.
>[ ] Decline.

Never eat anything in fae realms, in underworld, basically anywhere weird.
And this is becoming weirder and weirder.
>[ ] Wait, is that safe?
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You shake your head, and the girl in green draws the candy back. A part of you wants to knock it out of her hand, but you’re a little hesitant about acting rashly.

Continuing down the path, the four of you come up to an arched entryway, decorated by the symbol of a tree over a circle just like the town’s entrance is. You’re starting to notice the tree in the image isn’t always consistent for some reason.

Beyond is an open field, the left half of which has long tables and benches seating lines of wood dolls of varying sizes all in that same tasselled dress and flower wreath outfit. It’s a feast, judging by the dishes of leafy greens and fruits placed atop the tables, and the air is filled with foreign joy and laughter from the dolls stuffing the food into their mouthless faces.

Some of them start to get up and walk off to the other end of the field while you watch, to another arched entryway that seems to lead straight to the huge tree. The town’s, and likely the Barrier’s, heart.

The right half of the field has a large square of low wooden fencing. More wooden dolls occupy the area sparsely in pairs, holding each other’s hands and dancing to upbeat folk music played by the flutes and drums of a nearby band.

Suzu hops forward, giggling as she pulls a confused Mika along with her to the dance floor. A shock of cold runs through your chest when you catch a glimpse of her dazed expression. Where did her fairy floss go?

You’re turned away from the pair by the girl in red. Alexis stands in front of you and offers her hand with a faint, gentle smile. Her crimson eyes are clouded behind her half mask, and you feel like she’s not quite looking at you.


[ ] Take her hand. She might lead you the right way.
[ ] Snap her out of it immediately.
[ ] Other?
[ ] Take her hand. She might lead you the right way.
Ah, why the hell not.
>[ ] Snap her out of it immediately.
If we're to dance with her, let's do it while she's sober.
Rolled 2 (1d2)


You reach out, bringing both your hands up to her cheeks, and squeeze hard.

Alexis cries out in pain, tearing away and bringing a palm up to her face. She blinks her cloudy eyes clear, but your team captain still looks disoriented. Some distance away you see Mika’s made the same decision and has grabbed Suzu by the shoulders and is shaking the girl in green back and forth rapidly, much to the younger girl’s distress.

Then, a tingling feeling at the back of your neck. The music has stopped, and you notice all the wood dolls are staring at you.

You share a look with Mika. Time to go.

Longer steps feel difficult in your blue-violet kimono and geta sandals but you hesitate to bring out your Gear; you stand out, you definitely stand out, but you’re not being attacked. You’re not being attacked yet.

You grab Alexis’ hand and drag her along, running as quickly as you can. The great tree looms as you cross the open field, past the wood dolls frozen except for their tracking heads, past the arch heading for the base of the tree.

High up on the branches you can make out small the figures of the wood dolls along the edges of upturned bowl-like leaves holding water, ponds and lakes held far above ground. Many of the leaves are yellow or brown, wilting, the water they held pouring down in streams and miniature waterfalls to the ground, leaving droplets in the air shining against the beams of sunlight.

To your side Mika has picked up a dazed Suzu into her arms, and the two of you draw closer to the great tree’s trunk. Crowds of wood dolls cover the path, all of them stopped and staring.

Ignore their attention, focus.

A wide open entryway leads into a vast space inside the tree's trunk, where balls of floating yellow light hang in the air illuminating little of the darkness. Looking inside, even from a fair distance, feels like looking into a separate reality or a part of a dream.

There’s wood dolls all over the entrance.

Drawing closer you can see a circular path twisting through the inside of the tree trunk being used to climb up its height. The path winds down into the earth below as well, but that way is empty of the forest’s inhabitants.

Alexis pulls on your hand and you stop. “I’m fine, Chris.” She looks strained, but speaks with her usual strength. “Either way, I think we need all four of us right now.”

The crowd is in motion. Time’s up.
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Mika has let Suzu down, and with flashes of light the four of you force your Gear’s outfits and weapons through the Barrier’s reality. The wood dolls aren’t particularly fast so the four of you rush through while the way isn’t completely blocked, the girl in yellow taking the lead with her twin orbs of liquid metal forming spikes on her gauntlets.

Through the arch, into the barely lit space, dashing down the spiralling wood path into the earth. Your surroundings grow darker, the fewer floating orbs of light casting shadows that fan out across the insides of the tree’s trunk.

The path sticks to the circular edges of the space, and below what looks like thick roots have come together to form a massive dome in the earth. You feel more than hear a sense of buzzing from the structure; the heart of the Barrier has to be there. The path makes you circle the structure’s perimeter half way until the four of you reach level ground, the path terminating into clay-like flat earth where a huge figure waits.

It’s a hulking giant of mossy bark and twisting roots, its humanoid form thick and stocky with long trunk-like arms. It growls with a monstrous mockery of a face on its head, and stands easily over five metres tall and fills the path ahead.

With the sound of a thousand tiny footsteps thrumming above, you don’t feel like there’s time to waste.


[ ] It might take a bit out of them, but have someone clear the way (Chris/Alexis/Mika?)
[ ] Rush it with everyone.
>[ ] Rush it with everyone.
(Bah, something's come up.
Sorry, my updates are going to have to be sporadic for the rest of this.)
No worries mate. Do it when you can.
>[ ] Rush it with everyone.
>[ ] Rush it with everyone.
You hear a loud popping sound and see Suzu flinching away from her own errant magic. She’s holding a loose palm in the air and trying to weave together what you think is a blasting spell, but it’s not coming together.

You’ve been told that Suzu doesn’t have any blasting spells registered to her magical focus because she can’t use them; the girl in green simply has no talent for offensive magic.


The younger girl jumps at Alexis’ call. “R-Right!”

She brandishes her bell hoop, spells aimed at the giant wooden golem. The effect of the first ring is unnoticeable, so Suzu swings her bell again and again as battle is joined.

Mika is the first to rush forward, her form surrounded by crackling electricity that builds with each bounding step. The forest guardian raises a fist and swings at the girl in yellow, smashing into the earth as she dodges to the side. A lightning-clad gauntlet lashes out, striking the forearm of the giant and it staggers.

You take the opportunity to advance further, your spear blade bursting into existence and with a flash of violet light you carve deep wounds into the wooden golem’s legs, diving and tumbling behind your opponent in the motion. You pick yourself up and sear a hole through the giant’s chest with a lance of energy, and within a second another lance bursts through the air.

It twists its stocky torso, shifting so your shot grazes its side. Its lumbering form is still hard to miss, but you aren’t sure if making a few extra holes is particularly damaging. With its now awkward posture though, the golem of roots and bark has no leeway to dodge your ally’s attacks.

Blinding shockwaves of lightning and sonorous booms burst out with each of the girl in yellow’s punches. With accompaniment by the harsh cracks of Alexis’ double-barreled shotgun the forest guardian is quickly torn apart, the ground quaking when each of its limbs and torso fall to the earth.

Your teammates jump and vault over the dying golem to stand next to you, facing the massive dome structure. Seeing no opening you point your staff at the overlapping roots and blast them apart, carving a hole into the dome’s walls.

The thick wooden tendrils start to regrow immediately, one of them lashing out at your feet. A swing of your spear blade slashes it apart, and you hear Alexis’ double-barreled shotgun crack overhead at another grasping root.

Okay, that didn’t quite work.

> Force a way through with

[ ] Chris
[ ] Alexis
[ ] Mika
>[ ] Alexis
I'm willing to bet that minigun of hers will chew this tree right up, assuming the rest of the group can keep her covered.
>[ ] Alexis
As good a choice as any.
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Alexis places a hand on your shoulder and pulls lightly. “Keep those things from coming too close,” she says, jerking her head back. Hordes of wood dolls are flooding over the spiral path down to where the four of you stand, and Suzu is already casting her magic to slow them down.

The clay-like ground circles around the dome and leaves, at a guess, four metres of distance between the structure and the inner walls of the great tree’s trunk. Alexis gives herself as much distance as she can from the dome without pressing against the wall and covers her weapon in the crimson energy of her magic.

[Judgement’s Decree]

The weapon takes the shape of her gatling gun, but rather than fading the light of her spell intensifies and the firearm grows. Alexis’ usual tri-barrel gun expands to a huge rotary cannon with two sets of six barrels each wrapped around by recoil compensators, the entire weapon easily over two metres in length.

You have no idea how she carries the gun. The girl in red heaves it up and catches the front handle with her left hand, aiming it at the thick twisting roots of the dome in the center of the space, and squeezes down the trigger.

The result is a thunderous hailstorm of shots, great bolts of power smashing into the roots while the weapon sounds a continuous ear-splitting roar. The onslaught devours its way through the wooden shelter and in a few seconds you can see it.

The buzzing feeling grows harsh, piercing through all other sensations and vibrating through your bones. Inside is a grooved spherical thing floating in the air, bathed in gentle golden light that fades into darkness at the edges. Strange shadows play against the inside of the structure, giving the scene an eerie beauty.

Which lasts about one second, because Alexis didn’t let go of the trigger.

The world around you shatters with the heart of the Barrier. The fallen golem, the encroaching mass of wood dolls, the distant floating orbs of light, everything within the Fog-born unreality crumbles into glass-like pieces, true sunlight shining through the cracks and blinding your unprepared sight.

You blink, and around you is the familiar half-ruined buildings and skyscrapers of the dead cityscape.

You’re standing in the center of a town square, on a raised center carrying a wide and featureless bed of dirt rather than the gray stone of the footpaths and open space around it. You hear Alexis panting heavily, falling to the ground behind you while she reverts her firearm into its shotgun form.

Mika and Suzu are closer to you, both still standing though the former looks drained, lightning sparking across her body quickly fading to nothingness. You look around and spot your mission’s objective, a Fog Shard sitting unshielded in the center of the bed of dirt, and you all share a relieved smile.
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You hear soft, slow footsteps, light taps against stone.

A young girl, probably your age, walks towards the four of you. A dress; a hood closed below her neck by a large ribbon; long, flowing sleeves covering her hands; whispy hair tied in low, thin pigtails.

All as white as snow. Pure, unblemished against the broken landscape.

She steps up onto the bed of dirt, stops in front of the Fog Shard, and picks it up.

“I will be taking this,” she says as if it were natural. She speaks softly and with a slight accent, blunt but melodic.

Alexis blinks. “Who- Wait.” She scrambles up onto her feet, her exhaustion very evident. “What do you mean? Are you a magician trainee as well?”

“Do I need to answer?”

Your leader is at a loss. So are the rest of you.

“Destroying that is our mission,” the girl in red states, “you can’t just have it. Who are you, and why do you want it?”

The stranger pauses, then seems to decide something.

“I don’t need to answer.”

This may be the least productive conversation you’ve heard.

The girl in snow white turns to leave, the dark crystal in hand


[ ] Destroy the Shard. Forcefully, if you have to.
[ ] Leave it. None of you know how to deal with this, and you don’t want to misstep.
[ ] (Say something?)
>[ ] Say something?
That our mission obliges us to stop her, if we don't know what she's going to do with it. That surely an answer is no great inconvenience to her.

Try to get an reply out of her diplomatically, before resorting to force.

Oh, and introduce ourselves. It's only polite.
>Command Suzu to debuff her
>Destroy the Shard. Forcefully, if you have to.

She was impolite first.
Also she's clearly an antagonist.

She ignores you, stepping off the dirt, down from the raised area, walking away.

“You can’t have the Shard. Not if we don’t know why you want it.”

Tap, tap, tap.

“If you’re a trainee like us, then please say so. Otherwise-” you hesitate. You’ve never heard of something like this happening. This isn’t something you’ve ever been taught or briefed on. What are you supposed to do?

Your spear blade still hums with magic.

“-Otherwise, we’ll treat you like an enemy. We’ll have to stop you.”

The stranger stops, then speaks.

“Do you live here? Away from the city?”

Away… from the city? That’s… not what you were expecting. Not what you were expecting at all.


The moment stretches.

The girl in white turns to you.

“Then we are enemies.”

… Oh.
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You bolt to your right, leaping off the raised center of the town square and thudding onto the stone flooring not a moment before a trio of projectiles, thick blades of frost, sing through the air at your back. The distance between you and the girl is fairly short, maybe only ten metres. The Fog Shard is in her left hand, and you snap your staff to it and fire a violet lance.

A sweep of her right hand calls forth a thin shielding spell that shatters under your magic. The girl in white brings the same hand downwards and the stone at her feet crackles and freezes over, her chilling spell surging through the ground towards you.

You dive away, tumbling and picking yourself up as the distinctive ring of Suzu’s bell echoes through the town square. The girl in white staggers, then brandishes her hand upward, the long sleeves of her robe trailing along. A huge wall of ice erupts from the ground wide enough to block almost the entire way forward, reaching far taller than you can jump.

You’ve lost line of sight. No, not quite. You can still somewhat see through the translucent wall, and you remember what the area looks like well enough.

You [Step] through the void, tearing through colourless nothing to reappear next to the girl in white. Swinging your staff to the side with your right hand and catching it with your left you push the weapon into a diagonal sweep- and your breath catches, faltering before the blade reaches the Shard held in her hand.

Then, with a flash of power, half your body is encased in ice. You’re no longer able to move.

Your prison is bone-chilling.

The stranger breathes out slowly, then meets your gaze.


Sleepy, half-lidded, cornflower-blue eyes.


The girl in snow white takes a silent moment, pondering the word. Before walking away, she responds.

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Thanks for participating and reading! The update schedule got a bit weird, but hopefully it turned out okay.

I'm not sure when I'll try running again, though you can keep track of me via https://twitter.com/boxofmithril

As always I do want to hear what you think about the thread, especially because this episode had a completely different tone for much of it, so don't hesitate to comment.
>and your breath catches, faltering before the blade reaches the Shard

WTF has happened?

Also WTF is the rest of the team doing? They have a mega gatling and a punch-crazy girl!
The festival was exquisitely weird btw. Good job.
It was fun, and I have no objections with the tone. Perhaps you might have played the subtle creepiness up a little more rather than have us go full paranoia, but it isn't terribly important.

Though, for the purposes of a combat(?) mission, it didn't really feel like our decisions had much influence on the outcome. It did appear like there was supposed to be some significance to our actions, but nothing seems to have come of it in the end. Whatever we did, it seemed we were going to eventually reach that tree while being chased by a ton of dolls, and fight that golem.

While this sort of thing isn't much of an issue in slice-of-life sections, where the effects of choices are seen more in the interactions between characters rather than any sort of narrative consequences, you kind of expect choices to carry more weight when on missions.

Or did our decisions really have consequences that we just aren't privy to?
Thanks! I really do like trying weirder writing. I was trying to keep it slightly more on the subtle side until the 'Snap her out of it' choice though. Eh, practice.


Chris stopped because he's a 12 year old who's never thought of using his magic against another person.

Alexis was out of magic, and Mika was blocked off by the wall which Chris teleported past. Mika was also drained from Thunderclad, which she used in the Barrier. Though that spell was never explained...

Ha ha ha.


I have no idea how to portray less-than-obvious consequences, unfortunately. It feels like I have to be more explicit, but then some sentences would read like 'because you fuqd up earlier this shit is happening' and I'm not sure what to think about that. Partially because from the character's point of view it's not that clear cut either.

Combat in the barrier, the fight with the golem in particular, was completely avoidable, and choices affected the team's state after breaking out and whether or not Chris vs Katya would lead to the Shard being destroyed.

What happened depended on whether it sounded like votes were being made while keeping in mind the rule of the barrier, which was "don't stand out". It's not so much the actual choices (though with the rule in mind some, like playing the shooting game seriously and winning a big prize, were in a sense 'wrong'), more whether or not I saw comments that seemed to understand the nature of the barrier.
Fair enough. You did lampshade us standing out several times, so there's no real fault there.

This is all in hindsight, of course. Looking back, unless I'm forgetting something, we basically had three decision points in this regard.

The first one was the shooting gallery, which was deliberate, to establish the rules of the Barrier.

The second was the cotton candy, which we were paranoid about eating but ultimately allowed to continue. I assume this was at worst a neutral choice.

The third was the dancing, which we had a 50/50 split on. To me, the fact that our teammates had become hypnotized - in particular Suzu, who had just eaten some festival food - seemed to indicate that fitting in was potentially a bad thing, regardless of how much notice we drew, but apparently I was mistaken there.

Perhaps since we didn't seem to experience any overt methods of attack, the logical conclusion was that we should be watching out for more subtle ones. I suppose it just seemed a little odd that the 'best' course of action would be to do exactly what the Barrier wants us to do.

In the end, I guess the thing is that you can never rely on players to understand the intended solution to a puzzle, and there should always be a backup plan in case we don't get it, which there clearly was in this case.

I'm not sure what could have been done to make it more clear that not standing out was in fact the better option. Perhaps have more time to wander around the festival, and describe more clearly lasting changes in the atmosphere as the decisions we made influenced how much the Barrier rejected our presence? "You notice more heads turning to look at you after that last exchange" or "The lights around you seem brighter afterwards, and the festival-goers more enthusiastically going about their business", that sort of thing?
> playing the shooting game seriously and winning a big prize, were in a sense 'wrong'
Wait, you aren't supposed to win in games at festivals? Of course they're often rigged, but we were wrong to honestly try to win?
I think the fact that we won drew attention to us? Thus working against the whole keeping a low profile thing.

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