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File: Catalyst Quest.png (2.13 MB, 1600x1190)
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Darkness has defined your existence. Humanity has been pushed to one, final, desperate position. Though the Gods are as real as you or I, the theocracy sworn to uphold Their will has failed you in every conceivable way. Only one holy capital city remains. It is surrounded by an unnatural bastion. Your country's leaders, and their churches— all eight of them— are stretched to the breaking point.

So many ruins cover the land, your ages are measured from the rise and fall of each one. It's all because of an enemy from within. The year is 605, and in your home— the country of Corcaea— the souls of mankind belong to demons.

The ruins reach far beyond the central fortifications of Corcaea. Having walked all your life amidst demons and sin, you didn't hesitate to leave humanity behind. Away from high walls, deep into the wilderness, you delved below the surface. Into sprawling tunnels, through catacombs, past hidden chambers, beyond labyrinths and waste, you found salvation.

Ostedholm, the city of light, has been your home for the last four years. It is written that its depths reach the bottom of the world. Its heights scrape the underside of Corcaea's western wilderness. Only the colossal library in-between contains any mention of the city's original name.

You're certain that no one else here can remember Ostedholm's name. Hiding amidst moss-speckled shelves, your quickened breath takes in the moist and unnaturally warm air. Insane laughter and screams are a near-constant reminder of how many lost souls have attempted the same venture as you. Other travelers, sinners, thrill-seekers, scholars and madmen leer from the shadows. The colossal structure conceals countless others, and they're dying by the day.

Every one of you has traveled deep within the ruins, with the strength to retain your humanity. Many more still have lost themselves completely, to the Catalyst. Countless demons linger among the halls. To venture out of hiding means certain death. Violence defines man and demon alike, along miles of shelving, winding stairs, abandoned churches, and in every last inch of the fallen city's architecture. It feels like every moment that passes in starvation and light is another second closer to insanity.

You haven't lost yourself. Not yet. You are Harvey Jay Algrith. Though your hair is an unnatural red, your freakishly pale skin is littered with scars, and you have been called a coward by many, you know what you stand for. You're cunning. Fleet of foot. Willing to kill for what you believe in.
>>
>>4313892
>What do you believe in?

>A] Self-preservation. The theocracy has failed. As a rogue with a heart of gold, you're certain that if your leaders won't do anything for the people on the surface, you will.

>B] The Gods. As a scholar, you believe with all your heart that you have not been forsaken. It is your mission to understand why demons have turned from Their works, why you all are made to suffer, and what the Catalyst really entails.

>C] Your fellow man. As a common man, you've never once seen anyone attempt to save a soul down here. No one will convince you that their souls are worth less than any other. EVERY human life is worth protecting.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4313893
Archive (Ruins Arc 1-6, Church of Flesh/Recovery 7-9, Investigation in Calunoth 10-15): http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Catalyst%20Quest
Discord (Art, an enormous music playlist, fan projects, etc.): https://discord.gg/24cmNWp
Father Anscham's Journal (High-res maps, Calendar, details on demons within the ruins, and a LOT more): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1r-yFdCSj0VJi63LsD3Vl9T0DWw4us6wn?usp=sharing

(Just a head's up, it's not necessary in any way to be caught up with the previous threads of Catalyst Quest to participate in this one! We're kicking off in a big flashback, but with a new protagonist and a totally different perspective. The only real consideration is that I might engage in some discussion for write-ins, as always!

Got a lot of fun stuff in store for you guys, and not just the different protagonist. When it's relevant, I'll have an aid or two to help anyone catch up [that doesn't want to read through 15 beefy threads] for some setting information and context. Sexy, spicy, assistive aids. With pictures. A spreadsheet or two may have been involved. Don't worry about it right now.

In the meantime, and as usual, we'll be having sessions every weekend! Regular updates will be every day of the week, usually in the afternoon and evening. Times provided are always EST if there's a window posted for voting.

It's great to be back. Let's get this crazy show on the road!)
>>
Yeet
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>>4313893
>C] Your fellow man. As a common man, you've never once seen anyone attempt to save a soul down here. No one will convince you that their souls are worth less than any other. EVERY human life is worth protecting.

The only reason gods forsake us is because we forsake ourselves first.
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>>4313892
>C] Your fellow man. As a common man, you've never once seen anyone attempt to save a soul down here. No one will convince you that their souls are worth less than any other. EVERY human life is worth protecting.
>>
>>4313893
>>C] Your fellow man. As a common man, you've never once seen anyone attempt to save a soul down here. No one will convince you that their souls are worth less than any other. EVERY human life is worth protecting.
>>
>>4313897
>>4313898
>>4313900
(Yeeee let's lock the vote here. Going to do 20 minute voting windows for the time being, unless we get ties/more people show up/etc. Writing!)
>>
>>4313903
(Shit nearly missed you. I gotchu man.)
>>
>>4313904
Your devotion is not to the Gods, yourself, or any petty material endeavor. Your creed, and mantra, is a prayer all its own.

Every human life is worth saving.

The hiding place you've carved out of a fallen bookshelf has been compromised. One of the lives you wish so desperately to save is in immediate danger, yet again. A young woman wanders, perilously, down the halls of Ostedholm's library. Her ratty hair and eerily pale skin is flecked with her own blood. Hunger gnaws at the sunken recesses of her face. Trickles of water from fallen stone leaks into the case above, as you carefully keep an eye out for danger. The moisture dampens the hems of your tattered and filthy cloak, from the stream running beside your feet. Its color and integrity should lost to time. The city of light still is a place of darkness.

At least, it should be. There's a golden light in your eyes. You blink several times, trying to be rid of it. There should be no sunlight below the earth. There should be no radiance coming from collapsed structures and decay. You're miles below ground, at best, but the hue is unmistakable.

It's expanding. The more you squint, the more certain you are. The sun is not merely in your eyes. Thin trails of golden thread are leading up from the woman's arms, legs, and the nape of her neck ahead. Her movement has been much more calm than what you're used to seeing down here— and if you weren't mistaken, you'd say that the strands were guiding her.

There's a delicate pull, along your shoulders. It's akin to having the hem of your sleeve pulled on, but you can see the beam of light clearly, now. It goes straight through the fabric upon your chest and arms.

Straight into your skin.

A book drops, from a shelf off in the distance. You're positive that one of the keepers of this place is the cause. Their carelessness does not stem from lack of motor control, or self-awareness. The demons that wander these halls feed off of your emotion.

Fear should be drenching the woman walking down the corridor up ahead, but you do not see her shoulders stiffen, nor her gait change in any way. The hem of her frayed skirt does not sway, as she moves to turn around the corner, and head towards the front of the building.

There's no fear on you, either. Why you're so close to the front of the building escapes you. It's hard to remember much of anything, but you're positive that you have yet to lose yourself. You're too sharp to let anything distract you.

>A] Create a distraction, to get the incoming demon's attention away from the woman. Run out of hiding the second you can, and urge her to get out of harm's way.

>B] Try to sneak behind her. If something is coming this way, you'd rather be between the monster and your charge. Quietly lead the woman to safety.

>C] You're unsettled to an extreme by the change in your vision. Risk hiding a moment longer. See if you can find the source.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4313915
>>A] Create a distraction, to get the incoming demon's attention away from the woman. Run out of hiding the second you can, and urge her to get out of harm's way.
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>>4313915
>A] Create a distraction, to get the incoming demon's attention away from the woman. Run out of hiding the second you can, and urge her to get out of harm's way
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>>4313915
>>A] Create a distraction, to get the incoming demon's attention away from the woman. Run out of hiding the second you can, and urge her to get out of harm's way.
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>>4313917
>>4313919
>>4313927
(Alright guys, unanimous vote for a distraction! Locked here, writing now.)
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>>4313928
A distraction is exactly what you need. Crouching down, hugging your damp robes against the adjacent bookcases, you creep from heel to toe amidst the shadows.

The radiance in your eyes cannot possibly be real. You're certain that there is no additional shadow cast from your frame, for all your years of stealth and subterfuge. With a steady hand, level breath, and not a sound from your cracked lips, you turn and look around the corner. Not a hair on your shrouded head should be visible, for the briefest second you hazard a glance into the winding and warped corridors beyond.

The passage is, blissfully, almost empty. The footsteps heard off in the distance must be from more people, as the imp in the passage beyond is flying. The creature must be seven feet tall, from end to end, and occupies most of the passage. From the tips of its leathery wings, to the grotesque protrusions from its head, upon entrails hanging from its distended gut, and onto the weapon in its hands, you can't stand to look another second. The scent of death is hot on the air. Resisting the gag in the back of your throat, and the urge to vomit, you put both hands to your nose and mouth. To engage it would mean certain death.

You pull three sodden books from a nearby shelf. As quickly as you can, you chuck one down the passage, as close to the floor as you can. In the opposite direction, you hurl one of the tomes as far behind you in the hall as humanly possible. The last book, for good measure, is rapped on several shelves, and then thrown down a far corridor. Before any one of the pages hits the stone floor, you're moving as fast as you can in the complete opposite direction.

Three thuds, flips, and thunks punctuate the relative silence behind you.

Peace never lasts for long. A nightmarish screech lances the air, as the confused demon peals down the hall towards the first book.

For all their size and violence, the creatures that plague your existence are utterly lacking in intelligence. The warped shelves all about you streak past, as you deftly wind around several corridors, and back into the shadows. Normally, you'd need to feel ahead, to navigate in the sparse lighting. It's almost a gift, that the unnatural sunlight in your vision is growing by the second.

You have to put a hand to your brow, to try and see the woman ahead. She's practically glowing. You take in a sharp breath. She had been heading for the exit, and to your dismay, there are countless others doing the same.

Stone steps, descending out from Ostedholm's libraries, stretch back into the ruins beyond. The area is incredibly difficult to navigate, and responsible for the weekly change in the building's structure. More so than any other man alive, you're confident in navigating the space. The dozens of men and women ahead are not. Even the sanest of them will likely fall to their deaths, if they're left unattended.

(1/2)
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>>4313950
Outside of the library, the highest peaks of the ruins are shrouded in spider webs and decay. Darkness looms above, and below. Miles of the abyss, descending beneath Ostedholm's architecture, can only be glimpsed through the pits in the floor and ruin. While the library itself is magnificent, impossible, and seemingly endless, it does have a beginning and end. Myriad holes punctuating the dilapidated space beyond. Some are merely illusion. Others are death traps, and several dozen people are approaching them by the second.

You tear out of the library, and for once, are not eclipsed in night. There's a light in your eyes, and in those of every person around you. It seems that the beams are extending out, towards a singular point in the distance. In the flat expanse of darkness, between ruins and decay, there is a faint, pale light. At its center seems to be a few figures, but the radiance in your vision is becoming more blinding by the second, and it's impossible to make out the details.

A screech behind you promises chaos. There's already commotion, in the halls beyond. There must be more people coming.

Everyone left behind is already as good as dead.

>A] Look after yourself. Get to the source of this nightmare, and try to find out what the fuck is going on as quickly as possible.

>B] Linger only long enough to close off the passage behind you. There's nothing that can be done for those deeper in the library, but you might be able to help the people still here.

>C] Get ahead of the group. Do your best to lead as many as you can away from certain death, and hope against hope that too many lives won't be lost behind.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4313953
>>C] Get ahead of the group. Do your best to lead as many as you can away from certain death, and hope against hope that too many lives won't be lost behind.
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>>4313953
>>C] Get ahead of the group. Do your best to lead as many as you can away from certain death, and hope against hope that too many lives won't be lost behind.
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>>4313956
>>4313963
(Be the leader. Alright. Locking the vote! Writing now.)
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>>4313964
You break into a run. There's a pit you're certain of that's opened this week. Surely enough, as the light in your eyes becomes utterly blinding, you find your purchase. Against the soles of your shoes is the edge of an abyss. The ground is open behind you. A breeze is coming up, from an endless fall. The crunch of your cloak and sweat-stained shirt is audible even over cries in the distance, as you have to put your arms out, to keep your balance, and avoid certain death.

Your heart stops for a moment, as you teeter, and right yourself. Your footing is firm once again. Light is all around you. It rises in streaks, ascending up towards the peak of the ruins. From the strands, you can see your fellow man.

Without care for your safety, you hold your ground, and shove three people aside from walking over the ledge. Their balance is suspended by the threads. They stay on their feet as well. In moments, they gently proceed towards an unseen force.

You're compelled to protect them. This is about more than your common man. Something has happened. There's no hesitation in your steps, as you flit from edge to edge, guiding each and every lost soul you can reach. With a shove, you keep another man from collapsing to his death. One drops from exhaustion completely. A voice rings out in the distance, over the sound of the collapse, and the wet thud of a skull cracking on stone.

https://youtu.be/FjG0ivBT4lQ

"I know you are lost."

It's a man. An ordinary man, who sounds like he's walked with death itself. You've never heard someone project their voice without fear, and sound so tired at the same time.

The light in your eyes clears, as you stagger over yet another ledge. It's perched just slightly to the edge of the stair. No fewer than fifty people have filtered out of the building. So many more are behind you. A cacophony of death can be heard from the library. Spears, spikes, instruments of death, and collapsing structures are in the halls beyond.

There's no question that each and every person that's left hiding will be killed on sight. From the top of the ledge, you feel rooted to the spot. There should be complete darkness in the ruins around you, but light is peaking off of every ledge. From strips of blood-stained cloth, to the tattered garments on the insane, up into the sky and back down onto a singular point, you can finally see.

"Do we not all stray," the priest of light asks. His voice is steady. Everything else about him is not. Blood slakes the entirety of his loose-hanging robes. He's dressed like a priest of Vengeance, yet carries with him the sign of a Goddess. There's a horrific tremor and twitch in his arms, as he clutches and fidgets with a holy symbol of Mercy.

(1/2)
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>>4313979
You've heard of him before. An elf— an elven woman, of all things— is clearly keeping the church leader from collapsing to his feet. The immaculate creature in his arms is a sorceress, and providing the light you see so clearly with. It's a pale shroud, casting over the further support of a beast. The dog perched behind both figures is littered with scars, and ragged, but firmly guarding his charge.

It may be a diplomatic mission that Father Anscham is on, but that's impossible. He's invoked a Goddess, to lead you all back into the light. He can't stand on his own, and doesn't know a fraction of the danger ahead, but continues to speak out.

"Is it not human— to turn from one another? There is no need to wander. My children— you have been blessed. You have been embraced by Mercy. She has guided you away from your madness, and into Her light. You need not stray from Her path. You need only accept Her into your heart—"

The priest of restraint interjects the sermon, as wet coughing weaves into his speech. He's hacking up more blood, enough that you wonder how he's still possibly alive. It explains a lot. You're rooted to the spot, and people are dying by the second.

He's still talking. There's so many lives you have to save.

Desperation is clawing at the invoker. It feels like he's staring right at you. "You need not practice Her tenets to feel her this day. You need not fear Her. There is nothing to fear more than the absence of Her light. There is nothing— no greater suffering— than to stray from Her path."

He is staring.

"The Gods are Merciful," he lamely finishes, obviously too weak to continue.

The elf staggers through the crowd, with her charge in tow. Father Anscham waves an arm, and like a puppeteer, manipulates the bulk of every person helplessly standing about. The crowd parts gently, as the strands along their sleeves, and under their skin pulls them out of harm's way.

The young man is already in front of you, supported by the elf and his dog. Time is moving erratically. Something is wrong with your senses. There's an intense scent of stale blood, death, and mildew. It's coming from the priest. His head is hanging, eyes unfocused. The viscera of demons slaughtered is in every wrinkle of his battle-worn robes. There's not a shred of fat on the man's body, as the light emanating from his holy symbol sinks into the pits under his eyes. There's something terribly wrong with everything about him.

With a herculean amount of effort, he stops coughing up blood, and speaks directly to you. Both of you are wasting precious moments, yet he states only the obvious.

"You are not afraid."

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>>
Rolled 15 (1d100)

>>4313985
>>
Rolled 92 (1d100)

>>4313985
>>
Rolled 13 (1d100)

>>4313985
>>
>>4313990
>>4313991
>>4313993
(Wew good thing it was bo3. That's a 92/100! Writing now.)
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>>4313994
It's getting increasingly difficult to focus. The light in your eyes is swimming. Anxiety is soaking into you.

You have a stutter. It's been excruciating to speak, for as long as you can remember, and this is too important for you to waste a single second. Every word you utter must be heard clearly. You still your breath. There's a pause, but only mentally. You won't dare to let it escape your lips.

Lives are on the line. There are footsteps, just off in the distance. The sermon was so loud, every demon on this level was bound to have heard it. Father Anscham must be dying, for how hard he's coughing. Wiping the blood from his chin, he painfully asks, "...what would you wish for yourself?"

He doesn't need to know your life story. You barely remember it yourself. He'll understand, you're sure of it. He wants to help others. He's trying to protect everyone down here, just like you are.

"Speak, my son." He's losing his patience, too. "There is little time for us here."

You know you can manage this much, even if you haven't spoken beyond a scream for your life in four years. Four words. One sentence. Deep breath. "I wish to learn."

"And what would you wish for another?"

He thinks you've lost your mind. Every man and woman around you may be insane, but you're not. There's no time to spare. You keep it together. He can know your ambition. "Mercy."

"Who are you?"

He's waxing philosophical. There's absolutely no time for this. You can't even say your name without stumbling over it. Algrith is a sadistic last name. You wince, picking each syllable carefully. "I do not recall."

"You seem to be far better off than many, here— do you know why?"

Your own patience runs out. "I hid." The footsteps are upon you all. You lean into the light, the hold on your soul, and manage to utter 'th' without complaint for the first time in your life. Panic won't drench you, but Father Anscham is about to know the meaning of fear. "They are coming."

It's not merely footsteps, now. You can hear the beat of wings. Spikes are being unsheathed, from bodies made of sin, concealed in the dark. The elf hears it as well, with her grotesquely extended ears. Panicked, she shoulders Father Anscham further. Nearly lifting the living corpse off the ground, an ethereal and blasphemous voice insists over the dog's vicious growling, "we don't have time for this, Father—"

Grief gnaws at the priest, as he hacks through the blood in his throat, "no—!"

The three struggle against one another. It's admirable, and one of the saddest things you've ever seen. He's desperate— as desperate as you are to save each and every life here.

(1/2)
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>>4314015
Father Anscham's brow is furrowed, as he wins out the fight with the elf through sheer resolution. You're seized by a command. It's exactly what you intended, anyways, though some of it makes little sense. "Lead these people away from here. Seek the surface to safety. Look for the spiders with bells. Tell them that Father Anscham is guiding you—"

The freakishly tall elf is firmly pulling him away. She can't risk every life present. The two set to arguing, while you silently nod in recognition. It's the least you can do, as the hold on your soul slips. It's just in time.

You don't flinch, but spears begin to streak through the air. You've felt the breeze before. The wind, of impending death.

They're not directed at you. Not yet.

One spear, made of congealed blood and bone, collides with the skull of a woman five feet away from you. The moist crunch of her skull being lanced is nearly as deafening as her collision with the floor.

A singular moment stretches out into infinity. The woman's face was impaled clean through. The spear is protruding from the back of her head, propping the corpse up at a slight angle.

She's immediately slack, as time speeds back up. A streak of blood got on your face, and your beard is likely going to smell like death for days to come. You strongly suspect you won't have any rest, in the days to come. Father Anscham is clearly too weak to do anything to aid the dozens of men and women that are still under his sway. Countless projectiles are streaking through the air. Demons are upon you all.

The Father of Mercy is looking to you, to fulfill both of your missions.

>A] Lead as many people as you physically can through the pits ahead, without making a sound. The demons here are so unintelligent, you suspect you can kite all but those that can fly (with any luck). (A high roll will be required, with the greatest chance of sparing the most lives.)

>B] Try and maneuver a route deeper into the ruins beyond, only taking those who seem healthy enough for the venture. You're insanely adept at hiding, but know the limits of your own ability. (A moderate roll will be required, with the greatest chance of lengthier survival.)

>C] Take only those who seem sane and healthier than most, if they'll follow you. You're no fool. This is your chance at truly getting help for the men and women in the ruins, and you won't throw it away now. (A low roll will be required, with the lowest risk of harm coming to yourself.)

>D] Write-in. (A roll may be required.)
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>>4314018
>C] Take only those who seem sane and healthier than most, if they'll follow you. You're no fool. This is your chance at truly getting help for the men and women in the ruins, and you won't throw it away now. (A low roll will be required, with the lowest risk of harm coming to yourself.)
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>>4314018
>>A] Lead as many people as you physically can through the pits ahead, without making a sound. The demons here are so unintelligent, you suspect you can kite all but those that can fly (with any luck). (A high roll will be required, with the greatest chance of sparing the most lives.)

EVERY life matters.
>>
(This vote is definitely mutually exclusive, so I'll be keeping it open for a few while I get some lunch! Be back soon.)
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>>4314018
>>C] Take only those who seem sane and healthier than most, if they'll follow you. You're no fool. This is your chance at truly getting help for the men and women in the ruins, and you won't throw it away now. (A low roll will be required, with the lowest risk of harm coming to yourself.)
>>
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>>4314023
>>4314033
>>4314131
(C it is!)

>CUNNING SURVIVOR
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
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Rolled 68 (1d100)

>>4314137
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Rolled 87 (1d100)

>>4314137
ERE WE GOO
>>
Rolled 47 (1d100)

>>4314137
>>
>>4314138
>>4314139
>>4314149
(87/100 definitely goes beyond a low roll. Okay! Almost re-situated. Will write shortly.)
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>>4314155
(Totally back and ready for action for the evening. Let's do this shit. Writing now.)
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>>4314186
https://youtu.be/f6QFfmwFT3k

With a single, merciful thought, the invocation leaves you: Every life matters.

Your pulse is immediately in your throat. Father Anscham starts screaming to the crowd to disperse, but it's as he said. They're lost. Restrained, subdued, and utterly insane at the best of times. They're dying rapidly. The sheer volume of people gathered outside has begged for slaughter from the moment you all emerged into the light.

Through the dark, a faint golden light has persisted in your vision. Though not everything is illuminated, from the impossible pits in the ground, to the tallest reaches of Ostedholm, you can clearly discern a number of demons from the interior of the library. The patrols are akin to cacti, and stick to the floor as their bladed legs puncture and scrape against stone. Serrated weapons protrude from their bodies, in all directions. With arms like swords, and faces obscured completely by knives, you know they are purely instruments of death.

The sheer organization of your captors has guaranteed no escape for any of you. Not for the common men and women all around. Spears and daggers are ripped clean from the demons by their own hand, from their own bodies. Their limbs, weapons, and lethal intent will not be tempered by any prayer to Mercy. More importantly, you just don't have the time to wait for anyone to save you.

You sprint through the crowd, and take every person by the hand who looks like they stand any chance at survival. One man, with a chest like a barrel, immediately responds as you turn him to face you. He's silent, but doesn't protest as you pull him and his companion aside. The wiry rogue adjacent, with a mop of auburn hair almost as red as your own, has somehow maintained his musculature through starvation. One man is practically hidden behind them, and to your joy, is tossing swords out to everyone in reach. Where he got so many you're unsure, but there's no time for questions.

Without the impending threat of being impaled or cut to ribbons, you all come to silent agreement to flee as quickly as you can. You gesture as clearly as possible to the closest, stable bridge you're aware of, while Father Anscham is baiting and screaming taunts to the demons beyond. You want to appreciate the insanity, or the elf that's launching a counter-attack without so much as a shield, but there's infinitely more important concerns.

You almost immediately skid to a stop, as a young woman, standing alone, is in horrific danger. Before you can lead her away, one of the demons recoils in on itself, in response to an unseen attacker. There's only a second to respond.

(1/2)
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>>4314308
The creature stands upright, and shoots out every last pin and needle protruding from its body. You throw yourself to the floor, and watch with horror as a woman you were approaching screams. Throwing her arms up to her face, her limbs are skewered. The blades impale straight though her skin, pinning her arms into her face.

It takes a moment for her to fall dead to the floor. Three dozen spikes must stick out of her body, from every angle that was close to the assault.

Crawling on the floor beside you, about fifteen feet away, is a bulbous-nosed man. He's laughing. It might be from stress, as he risked his life to protect someone else. His lanky frame is barely covering another companion at his side. The bald, snake-like figure was smart enough to get them both down.

Quickly, you all get to your feet. You nod towards a bridge on the horizon. They immediately move to run, looking disturbingly amused by the entire situation.

Staying low to the ground, you sneak through the shadows, to catch two young women just beside the punctured corpse. Both of them are in extreme distress, wearing a symbol of Mercy. You show them your open hands, which they take gladly, abandoning those they cannot save to run for their own lives.

Ahead is a veritable labyrinth of sink holes, and a shifting landscape. Your expertise.

The five men and two women you've gathered are leading several more individuals away. There must still be thirty of you, by a quick estimate, and more coming.

You look on in horror as the priestesses pull a pair of young lovers away from the edge of one of the pits, saving them from their own attempts at jumping. The source of the couple's distress is immediately clear. The demons that were pursuing you are falling fast, but there's countless figures off in the distance. You're positive that every imp in the lair beyond has heard the noise caused by this fiasco.

You'll have to go through, or around, and both prospects are equally grim.

>A] Take the priestesses, and sword-wielding men to the front. The shortest path into the lair beyond will likely be the fastest. Fuck the risks. (A VERY HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. Needless to say this may save an exorbitant amount of time.)

>B] You're using the environment like your life depends on it (because it does). Risk those in the rear losing their lives. You're making this work, and taking the most convoluted path out of here possible. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>C] Hide. You're taking these men and women through the safest routes you know. Without supplies or equipment, every second here is precious— but you are willing to take the additional time to stick to the shadows. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. Exhaustion, dehydration and hunger is a very real concern that will be accounted for in time.)

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4314309
>B] You're using the environment like your life depends on it (because it does). Risk those in the rear losing their lives. You're making this work, and taking the most convoluted path out of here possible. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

If they can't keep up now they won't be able to keep up after this either, they are doomed anyway.
>>
>B] You're using the environment like your life depends on it (because it does). Risk those in the rear losing their lives. You're making this work, and taking the most convoluted path out of here possible. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

The last thing you want right now is to be a part of the fleeing masses. If you want to use the sword-wielding men, make sure they're fighting a fight they could win
>>
>>4314309
>B] You're using the environment like your life depends on it (because it does). Risk those in the rear losing their lives. You're making this work, and taking the most convoluted path out of here possible. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
>>
>>4314322
>>4314326
>>4314330
(ALRIGHT BOIS)

>MAKE THE SURROUNDINGS YOUR BITCH
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+15 IN YOUR ELEMENT
>-15 THAT'S A LOT OF IMPS
>>
Rolled 92 (1d100)

>>4314339
>>
Rolled 84 (1d100)

>>4314339
>>
Rolled 80 (1d100)

>>4314339
>>
>>4314343
>>4314345
>>4314347
(These rolls are soo laaaarge alright! Writing now!)
>>
>>4314351
So many of the men and women with you are as good as dead.

That's not good enough.

A nearby pile of debris becomes a makeshift shield, for one of the men carrying swords. The priestesses of Mercy immediately catch onto your plan, and strip metal, wood, and demonic corpses from the ground littering the area. The cheap armor is rapidly outfitted onto your congregation, by everyone sane enough to lend a hand.

Meanwhile, you creep along the nearest bridge. It's still stable, though there's more blood slaking it than you last remember. You drag a few fingers into the stickiest portion of the viscera. A trail, for everyone to follow.

They're going to need it. The last of Father Anscham's torchlight fades from view. Darkness should shroud your vision entirely, as the priest and his unorthodox company is left completely behind.

The faint yellow-gold still persists in your vision. You have your own company to think of, and wave for everyone to follow your steps. Every convoluted motion taken into the shadow ahead is more confident than the last. The pattering of feet, and clang of metal, lingers just behind you.

You don't dare to take your eyes off of widening gaps in stone and ruin. Night looms immediately in front of you. You take an incredibly sharp turn, tossing aside a piece of shrapnel as the only indication of danger. Three men who have likely never bathed in their life are right on your heels. More quickly pick up the pace.

If they can't keep up now, they won't be able to keep up after this, either.

You're literally several steps ahead of everyone. With another weave, you keep your balance, from a sudden shift in the stone nearby. It indicates a stair, that's going to materialize beneath your feet. In seconds, under your rapid steps, it predictably drops you and the scoundrels at your back almost straight down.

A barrage of weaponry streaks overhead. Far more never hit their intended target.

There are screams in the dark.

You swallow, hard, and try to not think too much about the men and women bringing up the rear of the congregation. Your path becomes infinitely more erratic, as you break into a borderline sprint.

There's no telling exactly how long you moved through shadow and light, out of the shifting architecture. Thirst, hunger, and exhaustion on you puts your best estimates at several hours.

(1/2)
>>
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>>4314481
The slums stretch outward. They're far outside the shifting architecture on your heels. Haphazard buildings, tattered cloth, piles of debris and waste loom ahead.

There's no movement in the buildings beyond.

You hazard a glimpse behind. The priestesses of Mercy relocated themselves at the back of your congregation. There's almost no blood on any swords, in every readied hand. Far more is on makeshift armor, and tattered cloth. You estimate having lost half a dozen people in the rear. It's infinitely fewer casualties than you expected. Everyone clearly is prioritizing your flight, but the needless death has the sweat on you turn cold.

There's no movement in the buildings up ahead.

Every last imp you spotted on the horizon is likely now in hiding. Whether they're in decayed buildings, or concealed by the sheer volume of trash littering the lair, you're unsure. It's unusual to an extreme.

(When the vote is closed, EVERY SINGLE PROMPT CHOSEN will call for a roll. EACH ROLL WILL CARRY WEIGHT, AS WELL.)

>A] Risk speaking out. (These options are not mutually exclusive. As you have a severe speech impediment, and most of your company's faculties are compromised, a roll may still be required. Write-ins may definitely help with situational modifiers.)
>1] Ask if anyone absolutely needs to rest.
>2] Ask if anyone is familiar with the area, or this behavior.
>3] Get someone to scout ahead. (Specify if you'd like to say how many, or leave it to the congregation's judgement.)
>4] Try and gather ANY supplies, as quietly as possible.

>The following options are mutually exclusive. They may still be combined with any option from A.

>B] Stick to the shadows. Head for the route you took to get here.

>C] Something is horribly wrong. Risk taking a new path.

>D] Seek shelter, as carefully as possible.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>>4314486
>C] Something is horribly wrong. Risk taking a new path.

Signal with our hands for everyone to stick as close to us as possible and then blitz across, staying together means we can just trample any imp that gets in front of us and keep moving, people who can't keep up or dodge are gonna die anyway.
>>
>>4314486
>A] Risk speaking out. (These options are not mutually exclusive. As you have a severe speech impediment, and most of your company's faculties are compromised, a roll may still be required. Write-ins may definitely help with situational modifiers.)
>2] Ask if anyone is familiar with the area, or this behavior.
>>
>>4314501
>>4314536
>Roll 2d100. First three posts that roll will be used.

>First roll will be for blitzing!
>+5 TACTICS

>Second roll for information!
>>
Rolled 33, 5 = 38 (2d100)

>>4314559
>>
Rolled 39, 86 = 125 (2d100)

>>4314559
>>
Rolled 44, 7 = 51 (2d100)

>>4314559
>:3c
>>
>>4314572
>>4314725
>>4314759
>38, 44, and 49 to do the ballroom blitz
>5, 86, and 7 to risk gathering info
(That'll work. Alright! Writing now.)
>>
>>4314772
https://youtu.be/zsdSAzYfUnk

The risk of your group being seen is 100%. With broad, unmistakable gestures, you try to get everyone to move in closer. About half seem to even recognize what you're doing, and a few men present simply don't care to obey your motion. You're certain they'll be the first to die. Your nerves betray every attempt to speak out, and you really don't have time to mince words. Thirst, and the rasp of your unused voice makes for an almost incomprehensible, "is-s anyone here familiar withh th-the area, or th-this b-behavior?"

Silence.

The clown, with his over-sized nose, snickers.

You don't humor him with another word, and direct your attention towards the ruins ahead. There are burn marks all along the floor. Trails of decay snake off, into the distance. You're positive that some battle took place, strongly suspect that a suicidal priest and his weird company was to blame, and nearly jump out of your skin as a greasy young man taps you on the shoulder.

Long strands of unwashed hair wave towards the trail of scorch marks, with a nod. A nasally voice, with a rasp as intense as your own, wastes precious seconds on self-indulgence. He must be a scholar, to bother wasting your time in such a petty way. "Cause and effect."

A wordless demand for an explanation has the young man almost straighten upright. His nose is scrunching. You probably smell worse than you suspect, as he takes a step back, and quietly says, "something's died. Don't give me that look, not you. Someone was to blame. There's no greater demon here. Not literally! Listen—" you strongly suspect he's actually an idiot, "we follow the trail, we find the way they came from. The attacker. Whoever killed it had the force to get through here."

He clears his throat. You wince at the noise, and look frantically around to see if there's any movement. There isn't, as he quickly finishes, "the floors are hollow. They would have left path to the surface."

You nod. There's a cold sweat on you. You've lingered too long, already, and resume your long strides. Everyone around you has anything up on their person that can be used for defense. The majority of the women are shoved into the center of the mass. The grease-ball practically clings to your side, placing himself between one of the rogues that have been keeping on your heel.

He's shoved hard away by the largest of them, enough to stagger, but the scholar coughs out, "it's a terrible idea. We're all going to die, you know."

You're certain that anyone who can't keep up or dodge will die, regardless. The point is that you're making the attempt.

(1/2)
>>
>>4314926
You break into a run. Exhaustion is already drenching you. Sweat follows it, under your ratty cloak, and all through the hunger gnawing at your frame. The fucking famine feels like it's followed you all the way into the ruins, but the thought of respite is left in the dust. The mob of sinners in your company keeps as close as they dare, and it's insufficient for your collectively starved company. Several women have already fallen far behind.

There's a wet, slick sound behind you. It's akin to meat being chewed on.

They didn't even have time to scream.

Your pace impossibly picks up, as you run for your life. Buildings and shrapnel streaks past your vision, and a fire is under your heels. The scorch marks underfoot are intensifying. Something was taken by an unnatural flame. You strongly suspect that a large demon was slain, as there's movement up ahead.

The buildings are swarming. Every single one of them.

Thought escapes you. Breath escapes you. The sight and sound of your flight is painfully intense, and all that matters. The soft, blood-soaked soil and pockets of decaying stone underfoot are kicked back in a thunder of footsteps. Mounds of discarded building material fly by. Corpses stacked in piles, their bones picked clean by age, barely register in the pale light upon every surface. Fabric billows on buildings in all directions, giving the faintest hint of the nightmare that's surely to come.

The projectiles start. You're terribly familiar with them.

Bodies fall, one by one.

There's screaming in all directions.

You've been called a coward before, but your flight is at the front of the pack. You don't stray for an instant.

The only person in your company lucid enough to speak— the cursed brunette— is happy to drawl, "what did I tell you—?" He's breathless, with disproportionately long legs that have kept up with the most athletic among you. There's certainly no humor in the statement. It might be that he's come to terms with his own death, as he's immediately cut himself short in fear.

A pack of imps is dead ahead. Even if you could reply, you don't particularly care to. Were it not for their weapons, they'd look borderline comical. Every single one of the four, squat demons down the row is dripping with decay. Adorned in cookware, scraps of metal, and disjointed armor from another age, they're not even up to your knees. The trouble is that they're each fixed to wield a singular bow. The weapon is made of human sinew, stretched taut over decaying wood. The fixtures are attached to their own limbs, in a morbid extension of their violent intent.

They're a single demon. It's focused on you, as an arrow is snapped off of its own body. It rips one of the squat demons legs clear off, dripping with rot, and points the tip of the weapon right between your eyes.

More demons can be heard off in the distance. They might be watching the spectacle.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4314929
(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)

>A] Duck, and scream out to everyone else to get down.

>B] Trust in the hideously inept, makeshift armor on your congregation. Hope against hope that someone in the congregation has a better plan, but charge ahead.

>C] Change paths. This is suicide.
>1] Take a more convoluted route, but try to end where the trail of flame must have started.
>2] Go anywhere else.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4314934
>A] Duck, and scream out to everyone else to get down.
>>
>>4314934
>>A] Duck, and scream out to everyone else to get down.
>>
>>4314943
>>4315075
(Vote is locked here! Writing now.)
>>
>>4315114
https://youtu.be/CT14Bk9EdMA

You throw yourself to the floor. The breath leaves your lungs. It's a nightmare. You want to scream, and the words just won't come. "D-d—!"

By the second stutter, the twang of the colossal bow and arrow has soared through the air. It's over your head, faster and heavier than anything you could have expected. You can't see. There's shouts, and screams, as everyone with line of sight fails to realize what's happened. Two ducked of their own volition. Five more got down. You're hyperventilating, and hazard a glance over your shoulder.

Two men have been impaled straight through the chest. They're stuck together, and still alive. Neither one is screaming. They're too shocked to move.

The imps are coming.

>A] Run.
>1] Grab the scholar, and demand that he take you all to safety.
>2] Head anywhere but towards your original destination.

>B] Crawl towards a nearby building. You do not want to die.

>C] Take a second to register what the fuck is even happening.
>1] Put these men out of their misery. You're risking your life to do so, but you're certain no one else will have the guts to.
>2] CAREFULLY scream to everyone to get to cover. Barreling headfirst into demons might not be the brightest idea. (A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4314943
>>4315075
>>4315149
(I am so used to writing purely narrative threads that I forgot to call for a roll, jumped the gun, and made the post without even giving anyone a chance to reply. I fucked up, just want to own up to it. Let me know if you guys want to proceed differently, roll and see what happens and go from there, or anything else. My bad, seriously sorry.)
>>
>>4315149
>A] Run.
>1] Grab the scholar, and demand that he take you all to safety.
>>4315176
I'm fine with the result, but try to remember for next one
>>
>>4315259
+1
>>
>>4315259
>>4315272
(Appreciate it guys, thanks for being so understanding. Getting some sleep, going to leave the vote open til morning. Awesome awesome session! Looking forward to running more tomorrow.)
>>
>>4315259
+1
>>
>>4315259
>>4315272
>>4315377
(Good afternoon guys! I slept in insanely late but I'm up and back in action. Let's do this shit. Unanimous vote, locking and writing now!)
>>
>>4315856
Everything happens so quickly, you can still barely process what's going on.
The two men skewered together have no idea what to do with themselves.
The scholar is still directly next to you.
With as much strength as your burning arms can muster, you take hold of the unkempt man, and scramble to your feet.
You're running.
Everyone that's able to follow does.
The tightness in your chest is so absolute, you forget all about how to breathe.

More arrows.
More corpses.

You're screaming, right at the noncombatant at your side, who might actually know what to do, "AN EXIT! SAFET-TY! S-SOMETHING!"

Someone collapses behind you, falls forward, and hits your back. You don't dare to lose your balance, holding onto the man beside you even more tightly for support. He keeps you upright, and returns the tight hold you have on one arm. With a single hand, the brunette jerks you in a totally different direction than you were previously headed.

Back, behind a building. Thirty imps are in the alleyway. Your horror is so absolute, no one screams.

Back onto the main road, where you can at least see what's coming.

You all run for your lives, for longer than anyone in your condition should. There's no telling for how long, as more demons make themselves seen. It's still fewer than you expected. The bulk of their forces have been pulled away.

You've never felt so tired, but to stop is unthinkable.

The sound of bodies falling stopped quickly, despite the hot pursuit. Everyone that's survived is clearly capable enough to hold their own, and you have to worry about yourself.

The stone walls at the end of the slums finally come into view. They're pocketed with a thousand passages, many of which are well above ground. The networks of tunnels are there for the denizens of the ruins to traverse them freely. In a full sprint towards them, the ground underfoot is rapidly worsening. The decay and scorch marks intermingle with enormous volumes of blood. The liquid is no more than a day old, sticky, and threatens your stability with every step.

The brunette at your side points to the trail you've been following, and laughs like a madman. He's all smiles, and is so out of breath, he can't speak.

His gestures are towards a singular passage. It's enormous, at least thirty feet high, but shortens and narrows the deeper it goes. Streaks of blood are all along the walls from some creature barreling straight in. Shards of some insect's carapace cling to the edges of the stone, stuck fast with bits of blackened flesh. More pieces of the corpse litter the floor leading into the interior. Something absolutely died here, shredded to pieces by some unseen force, but the absence of any odor up ahead has your blood running cold.

You all barrel ahead, with your pursuers hot on your trail. To your utter horror, the man at your side breathlessly whispers, "we hide the second we're inside. The demons will fall in."

So will the people you're with.

(Options in next post.)
>>
File: Catacombs Passage.png (1.13 MB, 1348x1700)
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>>4315898
(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)

>A] Get ahead of everyone, and try to warn them. You are not leading anyone to their death. The scholar can hide himself.

>B] Veer off-course, and hope that at least some of the people you're with recognize the danger that they're in. There has to be another way.

>C] Trust in your guide, and heed his advice. You're past the point of taking blame for any further loss of life. Everyone here is just trying to survive.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4315900
>>B] Veer off-course, and hope that at least some of the people you're with recognize the danger that they're in. There has to be another way.

We have to at least try to save them, if it is not enough we still did something at least.
>>
>>4315900
>C] Trust in your guide, and heed his advice. You're past the point of taking blame for any further loss of life. Everyone here is just trying to survive.
>>
>>4315900
>>B] Veer off-course, and hope that at least some of the people you're with recognize the danger that they're in. There has to be another way.
>>
>>4315906
>>4315910
>>4315924
(Calling the vote here with the tie broken!)

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+10 YOUR ELEMENT IS TERRIFYING, AND THIS IS IT
>>
Rolled 45 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>4315931
>>
Rolled 36 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>4315931
Dabbin on demonlets
>>
Rolled 98 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>4315931
>>
>>4315961
>>4315995
>>4316096
(Wew that's a solid 108/100. Okay! Writing now.)
>>
>>4316102
https://youtu.be/cfTLvQ9TZhg

There's still over twenty people in your company. No matter how tempting it is, you will not forsake them.

Pushing yourself past all limits, you sprint, HARD, to pull ahead of the group. In the same direction you gesture with both arms, you shout, "RIGHT!"

To the right, you turn, and keep sprinting. The wall ahead closed in almost too fast. You have to pivot, to avoid colliding straight with the edge of the rock. As you nearly lose your footing, and duck down, an arrow shoots directly above you. The fwip nicks the top of your robes, the nape of your neck, and despite having to scramble back to your feet, you keep moving.

No one from the congregation dares to approach. Every person in your company turns, and looks to the source of your pursuit, as they follow your charge. It seems you've been identified as a leader, or a threat. Your pursuers are closing in, fast, and that it exactly what you want.

Looking frantically down countless corridors, you can clearly see with eyes of gold. Arrows are lancing and plinking off the stone, in all directions, but you locate a tunnel that's unmistakably solid. It's certainly narrow enough to still be intact, and to minimize casualties. To the most lucid members, you scream, and keep gesturing up ahead, "HERE!"

They get it.

Five imps are closing in, fast.

You had forsaken yourself a long time ago.

As your congregation runs into the corridor you indicated, you look out to the pack of a dozen monsters leering from buildings beyond. The tattered structures are teeming with movement, and are no longer just in the distance. Imps are peeking their heads out from nearby buildings, readying their weapons for a colossal volley.

To linger is to die, so you run, and bait every attack.

"HERE! COME ON!"

Thirty projectiles must fire straight towards you.

The speed you're moving in carries your forward momentum, as you leap clear ahead. Rather than go arms first, you land on both knees, and skid. The wind is out of your lungs, but it's exhilarating.

For every attack that's stuck in the stone directly behind you, there's another demon who's failed to take your life.

You must slide for twenty feet, for the time you have to see the counter attack. They anticipated a prone position, for every barbed arrow that's headed straight for the lower space ahead.

Your positioning could not have been more perfect. You kick off, and leap clear over the attack. A breathless laugh escapes you.

Landing back in a full sprint, certain that you've bought everyone enough time, you don't even glance back over your shoulder. Weaving, erratically leaping, and jumping clear over every incoming assault, you make a clear path straight into the tunnel beyond.

(1/2)
>>
>>4316170
There isn't a scratch on you.

Darkness should eclipse your sight fully, but there's no such hindrance. To your complete shock, the moment you enter the blackened corridor, three men streak past your sight. They're standing fast by the entrance, wielding swords, and shields. They show no indication of coming after you, as your breakneck pace lures several dozen demons into the chamber. What little light may filter in is closed off completely, by a human wall, the very moment you leave them all behind.

They're staying behind to fight. To buy everyone else moments to live. You're not a fighter, and have no weapon. Commanding them even from the shadows could compromise their sacrifice entirely. It's dangerous to have even glanced back to see their last stand.

>A] Risk your life, and stop for just a moment, to look for something identifying on one of these men. You won't forget them.

>B] Every second you leave the congregation up ahead could be their last. These soldiers know how much their actions will be appreciated, by at least one man among them. Let them go.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4316172
>B] Every second you leave the congregation up ahead could be their last. These soldiers know how much their actions will be appreciated, by at least one man among them. Let them go.
>>
>>4316181
Support.
>>
>>4316181
>>4316214
(Sounds good guys, locking the vote here. Writing now!)
>>
>>4316218
https://youtu.be/LsNinNA_O0I

You keep running, without ever looking back. The passages up ahead are a veritable labyrinth. Every second you leave your congregation up ahead may be their last. The clash of bone on steel resonates in the tunnel behind you. Cries from murderers, demons, and heroes fall on your listening ears.

Three more men have died, if only to buy you all more time.

Through the grit in your teeth, you struggle to breath, and press on. You will not waste their sacrifices.

Long after the sound of battle has faded, there is still no pursuit. The halls ahead are perilous. You strongly suspect the imps know of the danger beyond.

Your heavy footfalls come around another bend in the corridor. It must have taken an hour to catch up to the group, for how exhausted you are. Every weary face you see, staggering through the dark, turns to you with fear soaking into them. The slower pace of your steps, and a quiet call of, "no d-demons," is enough reassurance.

They're as good as blind, but they know you can see. You weave through the pack, unwilling to utter further words of reassurance, until you get to the front. It seems no one else had perished, thanks to your incredibly quick work outside of the catacombs.

Your work is far from over. As quickly as possible, (through a few miserable stutters,) you order everyone to get in a single file. The priestesses of Mercy take it upon themselves to enforce the command. The most exhausted of the men and women are shouldered or outright carried by those who can manage it.

The darkness about you is all encompassing. Only the faint sunlight that's persisted in your eyes dips into the various holes and traps littered about the floor. Ways to further ensnare prey litter the floor and walls, in all directions. Weaving a safe course is tedious to an extreme. Several more hours pass through the dark. Hunger and thirst eats away at your mind. With increasing frequency, you jolt back upright, or slap yourself clean across the face to stay alert.

After what feels like an eternity, you come across a break in the traps. There's something much more obvious, and nefarious.

You emerge from the winding passage, into the lair of something you thought was utter nonsense. Spiderwebs adorn the walls and floor in density and color that has your blood run cold.

The webs are all crimson, and are impossibly thick. It looks as though a tunnel was burned straight through the weakest points in the dense weave that works all throughout the lair. Though the narrow tunnel is tall enough for a man to walk through, it is occupied, and slowly being rebuilt.

(1/2)
>>
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>>4316293
The workers within are spiders, with bodies like bells. The center most bell of each demon's body is easily three feet tall, to say nothing of their stony legs. Though their size and shape varies, they're all nimbly weaving new webs in their home.

The strands they're producing are certainly made of coagulated blood, though you can't fathom how. There are no corpses littered about. The only other objects in view come from an abandoned campsite, off in the distance. It looks as if several dozen passages let out into this chamber, and many more stretch out, off on every far wall.

None of your compatriots can see in the absolute darkness ahead, and you know that to hesitate may mean the end of you all. You count no fewer than ten demons ahead, before one notices you.

It chimes. It skitters straight towards you. The bell tolls for your death.

WHAT THE FUCK DID FATHER ANSCHAM TELL ME?!

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>You can butcher your speak to minimize stuttering, for a +10 bonus. If anyone chooses to do so, their roll will take precedence in the event of a tie.
>If anyone can recall what you were instructed to relay to these spiders, a roll may not be required.
>>
Rolled 19 (1d100)

>>4316298
>>
Rolled 90 (1d100)

>>4316298
I'm using my good rolling hand for this one.
>>
Rolled 81 (1d100)

>>4316298
>>
>>4316304
>>4316320
>>4316334
(Hot damn you guys are on a roll :^). That 90, with the good hand, goes through! Writing now.)
>>
>>4316348
You hold your ground, and put out a single hand. Your palms are upturned, in the symbol of the church of Mercy. No fear is on you. With complete confidence, you assert, "Father Anscham is guiding us."

The spider stops. You don't dare to breathe.

Fear immediately drenches it. The creature skitters a bit, in place. The noise its bell makes is almost pleasant. The fact that it's obviously meant to alert every single demon within earshot of your presence is nauseating, to an extreme. Your pulse is going a mile a minute, as you glance over your shoulder to your congregation.

The hulking scoundrel that tailed you earlier is compulsively laughing, from the sheer stress of your situation. The portly man next to him punches him in the arm hard enough to silence the outburst. There's no other sound. No other word.

Everyone looks to you, as you keep a single hand outstretched, and kneel down to the demon's level before you. There's a ringing in your ears, and it's not from the bells. The speed of your pulse borders on vibration. You take several deep breaths, and lock eyes with the creature.

There's about nine, black, glossy, reflective eyes on the front of its bell. The demon tilts its head inquisitively, intentionally ringing its bell far louder than before.

A woman behind you lets out a small shout, before breaking down into hysterical sobs. You don't have time to reassure anyone. Multiple people attempt to shush her, anyways.

As firmly as you can muster, you say to the demon before you, "we won't harm anyone. Let us pass. Fath-ther Anscham is still here. He'll b-be b-back. He won't b-be happy." You stand, lean around your congregation, and point to the tunnels beyond. "Our numb-bers were much g-greater b-before. Th-three in the corrid-dor alone."

You drop your arm. The spider is salivating strands of thick blood. You confidently walk past it, muttering, "leave us."

No further bells chime, as ten demons quickly filter out, into the corridor beyond. Their movement is surreal. They nearly glide along the surface of their lair. Suspended in their own webs, it isn't until they touch down behind your frantically moving congregation that any further sound is made.

The woman that was sobbing hysterically before is verging on complete panic, and is taken into the arms of a nobleman beside her. The pair are at the center mass of your congregation, who have crowded themselves into the entryway of the cavern. They're all otherwise stunned into complete silence.

Everyone keeps on your trail, as you make your way through the carved out, and now empty tunnel. The man who had been handing out swords earlier commands in a hoarse voice— to everyone able— to cut a path out of the thinnest webs that have been put up.

(1/2)
>>
>>4316394
The strands are nearly as strong as metal. After a few feet of agonizing work, you all resolve to simply climb in and through the maze. It's exhausting work, for a group of men and women already on the verge of collapse. You move ahead of the pack as quickly as you can, hoping to save everyone some time.

You get to a decent vantage point, at the campsite, near the back of the chamber. There's evidence of days worth of fire. Blood is in dried pools along the floor. Paint in shades of white and blue is streaked through the viscera. A few flecks of some herbal remedy is in the nauseating blend, adjacent to several abandoned campfires.

Your heart lifts at the sight of the wood. The bald man you had seen nearest to the library is right on your tail, seeming incredibly adept at weaving between the webs behind you all. He begrudgingly goes along with your request to make use of the wood, without further supplies to make a fire. As everyone else you're with is bordering on blind in the meantime, your eyes scour the chamber for any more supplies.

The weirdest thing you've ever seen— and that's really saying something— is strung up in the webs ahead. It fills nearly the entire chamber, though you mistook the webs merely for a dense trap upon entry. From this angle you can clearly see a message. It's spun of the same bloody strands as all the rest, though chunks of rotten meat hang suspended in every word.

Dearest Richard,

Time trickles down my many webs, with the steady pace of ages long past. My children pass along them as well, bearing your word, conferring upon me this "blessing." Oh, Richard, as you have amused me once, you have done so again. I long to hear greater tales still of this naivete! This mission, this quest! To perceive your buxom complements, to be regaled once more of your daring! I thank you, Richard, for I laugh still. I titter not along my webs— but deeply, now, within my essence.

You have surely granted me another hundred ages. I grant you safe passage, in many thanks for this, my most mirthful diversion. Through the many ages, through the ruins, through laughter and tears,

Yours,
Malimos.


>A] "What the fuck?"

>B] No one needs to hear that Father Anscham is consorting with demons. Urge everyone to move, and conserve the firewood until you're somewhere safer.

>C] Speak up. Your company should know that the man who got you all out of the library is allied with the demons down here.
>1] This is extremely disturbing.
>2] This is extremely reassuring.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4316398
>A] "What the fuck?"
as an initial reaction, stifled

then

compose self and >B] No one needs to hear that Father Anscham is consorting with demons. Urge everyone to move, and conserve the firewood until you're somewhere safer.
>>
>>4316398
>>A] "What the fuck?"
>>B] No one needs to hear that Father Anscham is consorting with demons. Urge everyone to move, and conserve the firewood until you're somewhere safer.
>>
>>4316398
>B] No one needs to hear that Father Anscham is consorting with demons. Urge everyone to move, and conserve the firewood until you're somewhere safer.
>>
>>4316405
>>4316415
>>4316425
(We can definitely do all of this, noting those write-ins and comments for sure. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4316434
Under your breath, a stifled, "what th-the fuck?" barely escapes you.

No one needs to know that Father Anscham is consorting with demons. It's grounds for execution. To shelter someone at risk of the Catalyst is insanity beyond insanity. Speaking with one is unheard of. Your actions just now— not killing a demon on sight— is treason. For a church leader to be allied with one? For the Father of the Church of Mercy to be friends with one that has a name?

It takes a good, long minute to compose yourself. You take a few deep breaths, and urge the bald man beside you to conserve the firewood. He's more than happy to stop working at the absolute lack of kindling, and pawns off the firewood on the clown in your midst. The bulbous-nosed man climbs over, and pockets literally every piece of broken glass and speck of herbs in your midst, while you walk ahead.

The few stragglers in the rear of the congregation are clearly dying from exhaustion, and you want to give them time to catch up. You have to find somewhere safer, and the corridors beyond are anything but. Taking a few steps down, into the most arid space you can detect, only leads to further evidence of insanity.

Mounds of dirt sit on the floor, in the center of the passage, from a crumbled barrier. It's made of the surrounding stone and rock that once comprised the walls. The piles are in disarray, though there's enough to have filled the entire expanse. More alarmingly, vines snake up and around the walls. They're pitch black, having rotted away.

Despite how strange the vines and crumbled rock are, the fallen defense is not your concern. You're worried about what it was keeping out. The passage beyond is streaked from floor to ceiling with the same blue paint that was near the campsite. The volume of it is obscene. Fumes of some toxic, white-blue substance lingers near the floor. It's sitting only at the base of the descent, no more than a foot high. The smoke must be heavy, and you can almost smell it from dozens of feet away.

Even the acrid, sharp, and sour smell doesn't worry you the most. What lies beneath, in the stagnant air, are streaks of ice on the floor.

It looks perilous to an extreme. You have to wonder what kind of demon would inhabit such a toxic lair, but don't dare to linger. You double back to your congregation, who have climbed through the last of the webs.

The prospect of being so close to so much danger is horrific. Your sunken stomach is aching from hunger, and sand is on your tongue from thirst. There's no resources here to speak of, save for what little firewood you've gathered, and that surely should wait until you're far and away from the fumes in the rooms beyond.

Someone collapses from exhaustion. It's probably the scholar, given how little anyone around you cares.

This may be the only shot at respite you'll have for a very long time. You have another tough call to make.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4316484
>A] Stay put.
>1] Draw straw for who takes watch. The loser will decide how to proceed.
>2] Demand that whoever can stay up does so. Move before they need rest, and ensure they're looked after.
>3] Take the watch yourself. You'll make the call, for when it's time to go. (Write-in if you have any ideas off the bat.)

>B] There's no way you're resting in the lair of those spider demons.
>1] Press on, even if not everyone is fit to make it.
>2] Compromise your movement to accommodate anyone that's at their limit.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4316484
>>A] Stay put.
>3] Take the watch yourself. You'll make the call, for when it's time to go.

Service Time properly and count one hour.
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>>4316486
>A] Stay put.
>2] Demand that whoever can stay up does so. Move before they need rest, and ensure they're looked after.
Time to conserve energy so we may complete our task
>>
>>4316486
>A3
comin in with the tie breaker ;^)
>>
>>4316589
>>4316603
>>4316616
(Alright! Locking here with the tie broken. Serving Time duly noted as well! Writing ASAP.)
>>
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>>4316617
While conserving your own energy is imperative, you're certain that there are those among you who can barely stand. Being the only individual in your company with the ability to discreetly take a watch, you make yet another sacrifice. The very moment you suggest everyone take a rest, the entire congregation gets to the floor.

Without supplies, bedding, or so much as a sack to lie on, the furthest back wall has to make due. The abandoned campsite is free of webs, and as good a spot as any. You drop as well, sit upright, and lean against the furthest stone wall. Keeping your back against a firm surface is more comfort than you can hope for.

The majority of your company is asleep from the moment they're certain you're watching out for any danger. The more paranoid and traumatized of the bunch at least have the wits to keep down, and quiet. The woman that was crying hysterically is kept in the arms of the gentleman that was with her before. You can't help but note how fair her skin and hair is, but it could easily be from the lack of sunlight, rather than nobility.

When you're certain everyone's nerves have wound down, and are taking the time to properly rest, you begin counting. An hourglass would be preferable. You haven't seen glass or sand in years, and are usually terrible at this sort of thing. It's not that you don't have any respect for the Goddess of Ages— your life is simply too chaotic to always pay Time due respect.

One minute. One of the rogues that was closely following you might be masturbating. You resist the urge to go beat him to death. He's promptly kicked in the head, by someone laying next to him. Over significant complaints and grumbling, he completely stops, and is given a wide berth.

Five minutes. Everyone has resumed trying to sleep. The blood in the webs around you has been slowly dripping to the floor. There's puddles of it on the ground, that you hadn't quite noticed at first. Amidst the liquid are chunks of viscera. It's likely a product of the spiders, but you're no expert, and haven't the faintest idea for what purpose the meat might serve.

Ten minutes. The scholar that collapsed from exhaustion snores in his sleep. Everyone is irritated, and he's jostled awake so no one else is bothered.

Fifteen minutes. The greasy young man is fully awake, comes over, and sits next to you. Through a yawn, he nasally introduces himself. "Name's Walter."

You sigh, heavily. He smells nearly as bad as he looks, and you speculate you're in the same boat. "Harvey."

At least your first name doesn't give you any complaints.

"Sorry about the, you know..."

Still unable to see his own movements, the brunette gestures much more broadly than he needs to. "The whole, hole, thing. Wasn't trying to get anyone killed." In a whisper, he insists, "on the contrary!"

Sixteen minutes? Seventeen?

(1/2)
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>>4316650
He's staring at you. "You're quiet." Scrutinizing your silhouette through the shade, his eyes narrow unnecessarily. Walter clearly enjoys the sound of his own voice. "I don't mind the stutter, you know. It's fascinating."

Probably eighteen minutes. You scoot a few inches away from the pseudo-intellectual.

"Whatever you find worth saying means more than most, I'm sure."

Possibly intellectual.

>A] "I'm trying to keep watch. Get some rest."

>B] Ask Walter a little bit about himself. It's freakish that he's kept so much of his faculties, but you don't trust that he has all of his marbles.

>C] He's being way too personal, and that suits you just fine. Be just as intrusive. See what he's willing to divulge, when you all could die at any moment.

>D] You're actually seriously bothered that he nearly got multiple people killed. Say as much.

>E] You do appreciate the attempt to save everyone's life, even if it was misguided. Express some gratitude.

>F] Write-in.
>>
>>4316653
>B] Ask Walter a little bit about himself. It's freakish that he's kept so much of his faculties, but you don't trust that he has all of his marbles.
>>
>>4316653
>>B] Ask Walter a little bit about himself. It's freakish that he's kept so much of his faculties, but you don't trust that he has all of his marbles.
>E] You do appreciate the attempt to save everyone's life, even if it was misguided. Express some gratitude.
>>
>>4316657
>>4316667
(I think we can definitely do both of these. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4316711
Just to be safe, you glance around the rear of the cavern you're all in. There's no movement, and no indication that anyone but the two of you are awake.

This man did try to save all your lives. It's worth saying at least a few things, even if thirst makes every word more painful than usual. "You d-did g-get us closer to an exit. No one was hurt b-by your actions. I appreciate it, even if no one else d-does."

"Yes." He's particularly pleased with himself. "I did. You're welcome."

"What are you d-doing d-down here, Walter?"

"Studying," the legitimate scholar immediately replies. "It's funny, isn't it?"

You silently give him the time to ramble— exactly how you're sure he wants to.

"Compelling, even," he muses, in a distant and haughty fashion. "The company we've all kept, I mean. I couldn't do much reading, Harvey. Not in all the time I've been down here. Not for all the screaming. You'd think it would have been enough to have men— such as yourself, and I mean no offense—" You grunt quietly. It's sufficient. "—to look after me. But no. It's been insufficient."

Something ugly slips into his tone. "I didn't want to leave. There was so much more to learn."

He shifts, and turns to face you completely. The young man is definitely unaware of how twisted his facial features are, given the dark, and his immediate distress. You can clearly see that he's on the verge of tears, or screaming. His whisper is practically a hiss. "I take it you did."

"Yeah." You shift as well, another inch or two to the side. Likely twenty one minutes have passed. "Why would you want to stay?"

"I thought," he continues to seethe, "that my study would amount to something, given enough time. I realize now that it may be impossible. There's simply no way that I could have read it all."

Walter's eyes go wide. Wider than anyone's possibly should. "No one in their right mind could. Perhaps— yes. Definitely. Absolutely. This was the reason I was dragged away. I was to tell you—" he shifts, to get to his feet.

You put an arm to an emaciated shoulder, and slam the young man firmly back down to the floor. "Late. It is t-too late, W-Walt-ter." The name is an atrocity. You try to not let it get to you, but he's already talking again.

"This must be it. I'm certain. You were compelled too, weren't you? To leave? To do something?"

Your nerves are probably just as shot. Walter patiently waits for a reply, as you manage, "it w-was someth-thing I had alread-dy w-wanted t-to d-do. What were you att-tempt-ting?"

(1/2)
>>
>>4316736
Anger and conviction worms its way into his sneer. "I seek to obtain the answers to the questions we all are asking. I know that it lies with our people, Harvey. Everyone can call me a lunatic all they want." He literally turns up his nose. "I'm no fool. I'm a teacher, Harvey. I'm a fucking professor. I'm the only asshole brave enough to say that this is all a farce. The Gods, and their preachers, and all of this bullshit has been the death of us all. They have forsaken us." His nose goes higher. "I thought that I would find answers here. From untouched cities. But I can see clearly, Harvey."

He gets to his feet. "Holy shit. Holy shit."

The strands of nearly-wet hair upon his head wave towards you, as you get to your feet, and resist the urge to shake the young man. Walter is shaking all on his own, and puts a hand to his head. "Literally. That's it. He's holy shit, you know that? The fucking asshole—"

"What are you t-talking ab-bout?"

"That's it. I have to go back. They wouldn't have sent him down here. He came on his own. I couldn't think, with everything going on. It's clear to me, now. It's all so clear—" he tries to muffle a laugh, and fails. "He came for us. Don't you see?"

Concern has contorted your face into a particularly painful expression. "N-no."

"He might look it, but he's not. He's not here to die." His volume is increasing. "None of us are!"

"Keep your voice d-down."

His fervor is legitimately dangerous. A few bodies up ahead move, from the increased noise. "We're here to learn, Harvey— he's going to learn." You're patted on the shoulder, blindly. "Thank you for your assistance. I would like to meet you again, under better circumstances. There's still hope!"

You've completely lost track of the time, and are about to lose one of your charges. He's not making any sense. The lunatic actually tears off, and moves to run back the way you came.

"There's another question, Harvey—!"

Blindly. He's actually very adept at navigating without sight, and seems to deduce where to head without even looking where he's going.

"Haha! Another answer!"

By himself. He's triumphantly weaving around the bodies on the floor, back towards the webs.

You take a very deep breath.

>A] At least make an attempt to stop Walter.
>1] Try to physically restrain the mad scholar. It's a colossal waste of your already limited energy, but he's definitely weaker than you.
>2] Wake everyone up. See if you can get some help. It'll be easier to keep him in line if you have extra hands.

>B] Just let him go. He's a danger to literally everyone in your company. You do not have the time, energy, or patience for any of his lunacy.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4316739
>>A] At least make an attempt to stop Walter.
>>1] Try to physically restrain the mad scholar. It's a colossal waste of your already limited energy, but he's definitely weaker than you.
>>
>>4316739
>>A] At least make an attempt to stop Walter.
>>1] Try to physically restrain the mad scholar. It's a colossal waste of your already limited energy, but he's definitely weaker than you.
>>
>>4316739
>>A] At least make an attempt to stop Walter.
>>1] Try to physically restrain the mad scholar. It's a colossal waste of your already limited energy, but he's definitely weaker than you.
>>
>>4316747
>>4316748
>>4316910
(Got some extra time off of work today! Can do an impromptu session for the next like 10 hours lol. Locking the vote here, will write shortly!)
>>
>>4317293
(Coffee acquired! Writing now.)
>>
>>4317320
Thanks to your ability to actually see where you're walking, it takes only a few confident steps to reach Walter. Ensuring that he's clear and away from anyone sleeping on the floor, you position yourself right behind him, and deftly grab both of his wrists.

"The fuck do you think you're doing—?!" is the only expletive he manages. By the time the last word has left his lips, you've already crossed his arms, wrapped them firmly against his chest, and effortlessly have the man pinned back against you.

He tries kicking up, and back, and you try to not sigh too much as you begin walking him back towards the far wall. "You are g-going to g-get us all k-killed," you levelly assert, watching your step and curving away from everyone that's attempting to rest.

He's making a point of shouting now. "We're already dead!"

Several people on the floor grumble, and get up. It can't have been more than twenty-five minutes of rest for any of them.

The barrel-chested man who was the first to follow you is irate beyond measure, and moves to stand the second he registers what's being said. "The FUCK is going on—"

A body adjacent to him— the auburn-haired man— is up to his feet in seconds. "I'll kill him myself." He blindly tries walking towards you both, fists tense, and nearly trips over someone getting to their feet.

Walter continues to make a fool of himself. "WE'RE ALREADY DE—"
You tighten his arms so firmly against his chest, the air is completely taken from his lungs. "K-keep your voice d-down, W-walt-ter."
"No," he wheezes, "I will not. No one is silencing me! Never again! This is too fucking important! Let me GO!"

At least ten people are awake, and on their feet. Those who have remained on the floor are clearly either too upset to move, or are comforting those who have had enough conflict to last a lifetime. You have easily made your way to the back wall, and reposition Walter's arms just enough that he doesn't have any difficulty breathing. He's still wheezing, from the sheer force you used to get him out of harm's way. Your own arms are already on fire, but it's absolutely worth the effort to ensure no one else dies on your watch.

The auburn-haired man finds a way to stride over. He's got his fists clenched, at eye-level, and waves his imminent attack right towards where Walter's face is. Eye twitching, he scowls, "just say where, boss."

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4317390
>A] Ask him to knock Walter out, so you all can get moving.
>1] You're pissed, and do NOT have time for any of this.
>2] This is sad, to say the least. You don't have the heart to endure one more person's suffering.

>B] Ask him to get something to gag Walter with. Have one of the priestesses of Mercy restrain him properly. Let everyone get back to sleep for the rest of the hour. Hopefully that will be enough time for the madman to calm down.

>C] You'll make the time for Walter to make his point heard. If nothing else, it should give everyone else who can speak the opportunity to vent to him. Keep an eye out for any danger, in the meantime, and demand that everyone keep their voices down.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4317393
>>B] Ask him to get something to gag Walter with. Have one of the priestesses of Mercy restrain him properly. Let everyone get back to sleep for the rest of the hour. Hopefully that will be enough time for the madman to calm down.
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>>4317396
>>B] Ask him to get something to gag Walter with. Have one of the priestesses of Mercy restrain him properly. Let everyone get back to sleep for the rest of the hour. Hopefully that will be enough time for the madman to calm down.
>>
>>4317393
C
>>
>>4317393
>C] You'll make the time for Walter to make his point heard. If nothing else, it should give everyone else who can speak the opportunity to vent to him. Keep an eye out for any danger, in the meantime, and demand that everyone keep their voices down.
>>
>>4317396
>>4317393

Ill change to C
>>
>>4317393
>C] You'll make the time for Walter to make his point heard. If nothing else, it should give everyone else who can speak the opportunity to vent to him. Keep an eye out for any danger, in the meantime, and demand that everyone keep their voices down.
>>
>>4317396
>>4317408
>>4317416
>>4317436
>>4317460
>>4317462
(C it is! Locking the vote here, writing now!)
>>
>>4317465
"W-wait." You shift your hold, to make sure Walter's kicking doesn't knock him out of your arms. "Hold on. W-Walter."

He's seething, and assumes a pompous tone. "What."

"You w-want to m-make yourself heard." A small crowd is forming, thanks to the sound of your discussion.

"No shit," he spits, turning up his nose again.

"G-go ahead," you offer.

He ignores it. "Let me go."

"N-no. You'll run."

He makes a point of kicking you. "Fuck you, Harvey."

"Fuck y-you t-too, W-Walt-ter." You tighten your hold, and promise, "I can have you g-gagged—"

"That isn't necessary," he wheezes.

You don't let up. "P-prove it, th-then."

The man standing before you keeps his fists up, but remains quiet. The small crowd that's formed is grumbling, but everyone seems too fed up with the situation to interject.

It's a miracle that so many of them look more alert than before.

You're all patience and discipline, but the sheer stress of the situation has your speech slipping. "D-don't w-waste y-your ener—" the g is too difficult to pronounce, you know it, and try, "sit d-down. All of y-you." You reassure them, "I'll b-be keeping an eye out."

To make a point, you get to the floor, Walter in tow. He huffs, despite the care you take to not injure either of you. Upon hearing the sound, "fuck you Harvey, they'd hear me better standing," the majority of the men and women around you begrudgingly do the same.

It's easier to get a vantage point of the cavern with so many heads down, and you can instantly tell two of the congregation are starting to nod off from sheer exhaustion. The auburn-haired man stays standing, seething.

You nudge your charge with the side of your leg. "Half an hour, W-Walt-ter. T-talk."

He clears his throat.

"Q-quiet-tly," you hiss.

He clears his throat as quietly as he can. He thinks he's hilarious. You elbow him in the side, hard.

"Alright!" He finally concedes. "Alright."

He seems nervous. There's a long pause. He actually, definitely is nervous. He's sweating, and you manage to murmur, "g-give a shit ab-bout n-nerves some oth-ther t-time."

There might be a smile, or a raised eyebrow in reply. He lets out a light laugh. You don't care what he thinks. Your eyes are fixed on the back of the cavern, the bloodied spiderwebs, the men and women shaking and fighting with exhaustion.

"Listen up," he finally snaps, in a whisper, to anyone that cares to listen. You can see about two people who actually give a shit. It's the priestesses of Mercy, who are holding hands, and definitely are holding back any any all desire to do harm. The rest are clearly looking for an excuse to beat him to death.

(1/2)
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>>4317541
"We're all doomed. You know it. I know it. Our King and our clergy, present company included, have no fucking intention of doing a thing about the Catalyst. I've known for years that there is an answer. We are the answer—" several people write him off as utterly insane, get up, and go to lay back down. He's unperturbed, and continues, "and there is one fucker alive who's actually trying to do something for us! Don't lie to me. Don't tell me you'd all given up."

No one dares to reply. The two nobles both look at each other simultaneously— the lovers, in the dark— with stars in their eyes. They get it. You're pretty sure you get it, too, but Walter really likes to hear the sound of his own, nasally voice.

"That fucker back there hasn't given up on us. I didn't want to go, and I'm sure plenty of you thought you wanted to stay, too. But that's the thing, isn't it? We all went off running. Not just for our lives. We've got something! There's something here."

He jerks hard against your hold, but you keep your arms firm. "Daddy Asscum back there," the clown chuckles, and is punched, "has something going for him. He wouldn't have come down here for the King. Sure as shit not for just any of us. He's got an answer. I'm sure of it. He tried to save our skins, despite whatever the fuck is going on— and I'm going to get that answer if it kills me."

He kicks harder against you. He's too weak for it to do much. "Let me go. You're not helping anyone. They aren't going to follow me—" he kicks harder, with his long and bony legs, "and I'm going to run my fucking mouth every second I can if you won't. You're obstructing my work. I'll come back if I get an answer, Harvey—"

The portly rogue, with his awful mustache, makes a point of moaning indecently as he rolls over. Clearly having faked sleep, from his position on the floor just a few feet away, he groans, "just let him go. He's not much fun at all, is he?"

In the dark, you can actually make out the split tongue on the bald man you saw earlier. He's not laughing, as he yawns, "we're not much better than any demon, to hold a man against his will." Something disgusting weaves into his narrow eyes. "Not that I'm complaining. He does have a point, though."

A few of the men grumble in agreement. One of the priestesses of Mercy— she has an average chest, and is fairly short, but is definitely the curvier of the two— falls back to the floor in exhaustion. While blindly looking to the ceiling, she groans, "this is all fucked. She—" you're sure she's speaking of her Goddess, "—wouldn't want this. Not even to save our skin. He's gone." She's referring to her church leader, for sure. "We're done for. He's got a point, yes, but you're a fool if you think for a moment that Father Anscham did this for our sake." You can practically hear her nose wrinkle. "And your sense of humor is repugnant."

(Barely over, 2/3)
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>>4317542
Several men agree wholeheartedly. The clown actually offers full criticism, fighting through a smile to not ruin his joke. "She's right." He loses it, exploding into giggles, fighting through it only to say, "Dick Asschum is much funnier."

He explodes into full-blown laughter. The bald man adjacent practically pins him to the floor, in a poor attempt to muffle his outburst. "Will you shut up—!"

There's still no movement in the cavern. The demons you sent out have been gone for a suspicious amount of time.

Walter turns up his nose further. "I do not have time to engage in petty insults with petty women" several men are outraged, "over the quality of my character! Let me go, Harvey." He's stopped kicking. He's furious. "Let me go."

>A] The gag and restraints would be good, now.

>B] The gag, restraints, and knocking him out would be preferable.

>C] You won't waste anymore of anyone's time, nor will you hold a man against his will. Let him go, but give him clear instructions on how to get back safely.

>D] Take the time to give Walter instructions on how to get back, and how to safely navigate the library. This lunatic is determined, and if you're going to release him, you want to give him a fighting chance at survival. You're not getting any rest, anyways.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>E] Write-in. Try to convince him to stay, and give the group back some of it's morale.

Whatever we came here for, we already had our chance and we failed, we can't risk it.
Whatever Anscham came here for, it wasn't us, yes, but he decided to save us. You saw in what state he was after he did, and you can't let his effort go to waste.
We never had seen anyone attempt to save a sould down here. The father gave the example, and the three men that blocked the entrance followed in his steps. You're not afraid to butt heads with this dumbass if it means you might save him.
If you have any chance to leave this place, you need your fellow men, and they need you.
>>
>>4317714
Support.
>>
>>4317714
>>4317722
(Sick double dubs. Very, very nice write-in. Going to lock the vote here! Writing now.)
>>
>>4317734
https://youtu.be/mDXWN5bAtCs

"W-we know w-what w-we came here for. W-we alread-dy had our chance, and we failed."

The twist in Walter's face is audible. He's so upset, he can't speak. You barely can, either, but this is too important to not say. "W-whatever Anscham came here for, it w-wasn't us, sure. B-but he d-decided to save us. You saw w-what state he was in, after w-what he d-did. You can't let his effort go to w-waste."

A number of the men and women in your congregation lift their heads, if only just slightly. One or two of them actually look back, over their shoulder. There's some muttering, asking if they think the priest is going to live. Walter's completely stopped struggling.

"W-we n-never—" you swallow hard. Speaking at such length is insanely uncomfortable, but you're a fighter. "I've never seen anyone even attempt t-to save a soul d-down here."

Everyone looks straight at you. They've seen someone who's tried.

You're still trying. "The Fath-ther g-gave us all an examp-ple. Th-three men," you take an arm off of Walter, to point to a corridor that should be lined with corpses, "that b-blocked th-that entrance, followed in his st-steps."

You let Walter totally out of your arms, and get to your feet. "Y-you have a chance to leave th-this place. I'm n-not afraid to b-butt heads with you, W-walt-ter. Not if it st-stands a chance at saving your d-dumbass."

"Hey," he huffs, getting back to his feet just as quickly.

"Y-you n-need your f-fellow men." You pause, and look out to your congregation.

They're all awake. Their eyes are wide, in the dark, but they're trying to look at you. To your charge. To answers, and someone willing to fight for them.

"Th-they n-need you," you quietly assert, putting a hand firmly to the slender scholar's shoulder. A bell tolls, far off in the distance. "C-come on," you mutter.

Grief is distorting the man's otherwise fair features. "You don't know what you're asking. I've lost everything, and not just for this."

"N-no." You shake him, by only one shoulder, and grab firmly onto the other. "Y-you haven't."

He looks like he's going to cry, and wipes at the side of his face just for the show of it. He knows full well that he hasn't lost everything.

You all have each other.

The tolling is getting louder. There's no panic running through the men and women with you. They've taken heart, and get to their feet. Those that still have makeshift armor, shields, or swords immediately grab them, despite having almost no rest to speak of.

You shrug off your hands from Walter's shoulders. He rubs at them, while miserably muttering, "we can't see shit, Harvey. What's happening?"

Daring to raise your tone, you warn, "ev-veryone c-cov-ver your faces, w-with w-whatever y-you can. Th-there's ice up ahead."

(1/2)
>>
>>4317815
The priestesses of Mercy immediately strip off swathes of the bottoms of their skirts, and blindly work towards covering as many faces as possible. Everyone else tries to do the same, with whatever cloaks or spare fabric they can find.

Two of the rogues that were tailing you earlier walk up to get your attention. It's the behemoth with the awful sense of humor, and the lecher. "We're going ahead," the fatter of the two whispers. "Came this way a few months back. I'm sure something's happened."

Looking with understandable fear back over his shoulder, the taller scoundrel snorts, "you think? These saps don't need to see whatever's causing it."

More apologetically, his compatriot nods to you, "we'll give you some fair warning, if we can."

"G-go," you quickly reply. "N-no flame. It's all p-paint. B-be careful."

(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING. Write-ins may provide situational modifiers, as always.)

>A] Proceed as quickly as possible, with everyone's weapons drawn. Balance is not nearly as important as speed. You trust everyone to look out for each other, if anyone slips.

>B] Ask everyone to prioritize keeping their footing, and proceed cautiously. Put anyone capable of fighting at the rear. Even if there's pursuit, you're more worried about the terrain than demons at this point.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4317818
>B] Ask everyone to prioritize keeping their footing, and proceed cautiously. Put anyone capable of fighting at the rear. Even if there's pursuit, you're more worried about the terrain than demons at this point.
>>
>4317818
>4317831
+1
>>
>B] Ask everyone to prioritize keeping their footing, and proceed cautiously. Put anyone capable of fighting at the rear. Even if there's pursuit, you're more worried about the terrain than demons at this point.
>>
>>4317831
>>4317832
>>4317866
(Alright guys, let's do this thing.)

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>>
Rolled 3 (1d100)

>>4317870
nat 100 incoming
>>
Rolled 88 (1d100)

>>4317870

>>4317875
step aside
>>
Rolled 84 (1d100)

>>4317870
TAKE MY ENERGY HARVEU
>>
>>4317875
>>4317876
>>4317878
(That 3 had me sweating jfc lol. 88 does the trick! Writing now.)
>>
File: Corridor.png (2.64 MB, 1773x1182)
2.64 MB
2.64 MB PNG
>>4317882
A group of five men take the initiative to keep their swords at the ready. You stride over to them, and ask as quickly as you can, "c-can you hold the line?"

A choir of reassurance is music to your ears.

https://youtu.be/vteCosE9qnM

It takes another full minute to get everyone into the descending passage. The priestesses of Mercy insist that everyone holds at least one other hand, to prevent any falls from taking down the weakest members of the group. You sprint to the head of the pack, pull your cloak over your nose and mouth, shove aside as much of the fallen barrier as possible, and try to not hyperventilate.

The spiders are unquestionably back. Everyone's nerves are already fried enough, without the light tinkling of the demon's bells alerting you all to their presence. From your position at the bottom of the corridor, you can't see what's happening in the rear, as everyone is moving once again in single-file.

They're trusting you to feel out the safest path possible. With a ragged breath, you turn your attention forward, and begin a slow, careful procession. The slicks of ice upon the floor are almost entirely shrouded in mist. The clouds of paint can be smelled even through the fabric upon your face. After only a minute, you can practically taste the sharp and sour substance. More alarming are the streaks of paint upon the walls. They thicken, the further you walk along, but you keep your eyes open.

As you move through the corridor, to your pleasant surprise, there's a few markings upon the wall. It seems that the rogues who ran ahead tried to leave a trail for you. Your close observation of your surroundings and the terrain makes identifying the markers very simple. Of course, they're all buttocks, and crude representations of male ejaculate, but you don't particularly mind. It's enough to lighten your mood, as you wander deeper into catacombs and sin.

There's a few falls, but everyone's incredibly cautious pace minimizes any damage. No one sounds as if they're seriously hurt. You're far more concerned with the clash of swords at the rear, but it seems only a single demon had the gall to pursue you all. It's held at bay, for quite some time after having caught up.

You shove down every instinct to run, and your patience is seriously rewarded. At the rear of the group, there's rejoicing. It sounds as if there are swords being stashed. No one dares to call out, but you hear whispers. Your focus is still on the network of winding and descending corridors ahead, but it's hard to not listen.

(1/2)
>>
>>4317954
A message passes down the line. It seems that someone at the back of your congregation wanted to send word, and had each person whisper it to the next. By the time it reaches the halfway point, between the two dozen of you, everyone seems in a slightly better mood. There's relieved mutters, and one of the women is softly crying from sheer relief. The last person to receive the message— Walter naturally stuck himself right behind you— is all smiles.

"Harvey," the lunatic whispers, "hey."

"Wh-what?"

"They ran. The demon. The guys in the back scared them off." He sniffs. "That's their message. I'm certain that the creatures didn't want to come any further, but don't tell them I said as much."

You won't. There's something much more pressing. The scrawl on the paint beside you is of a skull, as you turn yet another corner ahead. Your blood runs cold, and you stop dead in your tracks.

Everything is cold. The small room beyond is plastered with a forgotten flurry of ice. Flakes of the substance are upon the walls, and drift through the air in suspended animation. Crystallized paint is smeared in melted icicles upon the ceiling, all the way down in columns to the floor. At its center is a corpse. It's melted down, and is easily one of the most disturbing things you've ever laid eyes on. The figure's head is like a man's, wreathed with a crown of solidified paint. The orb of ice is swimming in a melted puddle of blue and black.

The issue, and source of what you suspect will be nightmares for many years to come, is that its body is glowing. The same strands of light that moved you earlier today are ensnared around the creature. It's nailed to the floor, punctured through its limbs in beams of solid gold. It's in a sterile, definitive way, that looks agonizing even in death.

The demon's blackened mouth is hanging open, its eyes having melted from its nonsensical, painted skull. It feels like it's staring at you. The scent of paint is sticking to the back of your throat, and your gag reflex is making itself known.

>A] Warn everyone to steer clear of the corpse. Vomit, get it out of your system, and take another route.

>B] Ask Walter if he can deduce if it's safe to proceed, and dry heave for a few moments. You can't remember the last time you ate, anyways.

>C] Boldly go where a psychopath likely went before. You'll move ahead, shove down your nausea, and try to steer as clear as possible from the body.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4317955
>A] Warn everyone to steer clear of the corpse. Vomit, get it out of your system, and take another route.
>>
>>4317955
>>B] Ask Walter if he can deduce if it's safe to proceed, and dry heave for a few moments. You can't remember the last time you ate, anyways.
>>
>>4318058
+1
>>
>>4317958
>>4318058
>>4318060
(Going to combine these slightly, leaning more towards B. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4318067
"What th-the fuck," you mutter, before briskly pulling back the rag on your face. Staggering a few feet to the side— to vomit away from the group— is the least you can do.

Walter is happy to whisper, "what?!"

It takes a few moments. The smell of rot and paint intensifies every second your nose and mouth isn't covered. A few waves of dry-heaving end the miserable experience, as the taste of sickness persists on your mouth. It's additional insult to every word, as you painstakingly describe to Walter what you're seeing. By the end of it, everyone is shifting very uncomfortably.

The scholar seems even more nervous than before. "I see. You're certain it's dead, then?"

Those damn eyes. "Positive."

"I've never heard of a demon so powerful being killed by another," he muses, in the haughtiest voice imaginable. "There is no indication of any flame, is there not?"

"N-no smoke, n-no scorch m-marks. Lots of ice."

"Magic, or a priest, then. We bore witness to a sorceress, and the very Father of the Church of Mercy just a few hours ago. I'm certain they were the ones responsible." He grumbles, "we're lucky to have come through in their wake. Can you see to the passages beyond?"

"N-no." It curves away, though it's level rather than descending. The little bit of the corridor you can make out seems to be just as slick with paint and ice.

"Are there any other rooms? Exits? Anything?"

There's more indication of an abandoned campsite, though the wood is utterly ruined. Immediately to your left and right, unmarked by the rogues, and also brimming with lethal material are two passages. They both arch back upwards. You let Walter know.

"Back-tracking seems unwise. Moving forward may lead us into whatever Father Anscham and the elf left in their wake." His frown is audible, as he sighs heavily. "I suppose we would be better off being mauled to death, than starving down here in the dark. I don't know what you expected."

A man just behind Walter, with a particularly deep voice, interjects, "these tunnels are full of 'em. Demons. We'll die either way. Let's get it over with."

Everyone behind you is shifting, and seems eager to move. It may be that they're simply too anxious to stay in one place, but you're positive that something needs to be done.

>(A ROLL MAY BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING. Write-ins and strategy may help enormously.)

>A] Proceed as cautiously as humanly possible.
>1] Ask everyone present how they would like to proceed. Trust in their collective strengths.
>2] You have a pretty good idea of how to handle this. (Write-in.)

>B] Back-tracking is probably worth it. This demon has your blood running cold.
>1] Take the leftmost passage. It veers steeply upwards, and may provide relief from the paint fumes.
>2] Take the rightmost passage. It's more level, and may not be a huge delay.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4318087
>>A] Proceed as cautiously as humanly possible.
>>1] Ask everyone present how they would like to proceed. Trust in their collective strengths.
>>
>>4318091
+1
>>
>>4318091
>>4318104
(Going to squeeze in one more update before bed! Should have a minimum of an update a day for the rest of the workweek after this, likely a lot more than that. Anyways. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4318175
Quietly, you set about the monumental task of identifying everyone's strengths.

It turns out that Walter is the only academically inclined soul among you. He happily leans against a far wall, getting paint all over himself while everyone else discusses how to proceed.

Another cerebral gentleman is shockingly the bald-headed man with the split tongue. It seems he's survived in the ruins through sheer manipulation, even of demons.

Despite how sharp he is, he can't remember his name. Most of the people among you can't.

"He's a snake," Walter sarcastically offers.

Everyone is amused. You collectively agree upon nicknames, for simplicity's sake. The snake prefers being called a serpent, and that suits you just fine. He sets to discussing a plan of action with Walter (who now is only answering to Professor), once they've figured out who can perform any sort of combative task.

Serpent's only ally is the damn clown. He confesses to have a problem with compulsively stealing, and thrill-seeking, under the premise that he'll be trusted to keep watch once you all can provide some light. Klepto is to stay at the front of the pack, just behind your brainier associates.

The man who doled out multiple swords— Claymore— is immediately identified as the most skilled combatant. He's sharper than Serpent's tongue, and was responsible for holding the line against the spider pursuing you all. He takes up the rear guard.

He has two friends. The hulking man who you first met is aptly labeled "Chesty." It's less of a mouthful than Clarence Chester Connelly. He's shockingly fast for his size, is friends with Claymore, and offers to take up a position near the center of your group, alongside another one of their compatriots.

You offer to call the auburn-haired man Irefist. Not only because you can say it without stuttering, but for the threats he's constantly dealt since meeting him. He's stronger than Chesty, and just as capable with a blade as Claymore. The man's got no sense to speak of, otherwise, but that's fine by you.

There's about ten other men in the same boat, who were all following Irefist. Leadfoot, Steelhand, Coppertongue, Goldenrod, and all the rest set about arguing over who gets what ridiculous nickname, while you properly meet the priestesses of Mercy.

They're both wearing a single gold earring as their holy symbol, and are easy enough to spot among the few women in your company. Sister Corbon— the one that's more akin to a broomstick than a woman— has a dour attitude. She's a pyromaniac, and the absence of any torches has her nerves on end almost as much as her fellow priestess.

Sister Tirel— the shorter one, with better hips— is infatuated with the gold of her church. Like Klepto, she's familiar with trinkets and baubles. Both women promise they have the capacity to heal, if necessary, and set to looking after the most disturbed of your group.

(1/2, just over.)
>>
>>4318205
Nobility. They're hopeless for each other, and came down to the ruins explicitly to die. They're still struggling to not turn back. They're both paler than you are. The woman— Lady Edith Douglas— has golden hair, and is objectively gorgeous. She thinks "Starlight" is poetic. Her lover, Sir Allan "Stardust" Douglas, is just as particular. He's dyed his hair black, though the roots of his yellow locks are peeking through thanks to weeks underground. Both are still wearing finery, that's tattered and filthy thanks to your present living conditions.

They're siblings.

>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on.

>B] You're judging.
>1] Keep it to yourself. (Write-in any complaints you may want to address, when you all aren't fleeing for your lives.)
>2] You really need to say something. (Write-in anything you wish to say to them, or anyone else.)
>>
>>4318206
>>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on.

Wew lad,interesting stuff but it isn't that relevant at the moment.
>>
>>4318206
>>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on.
Throwing stones in glass houses and all that
>>
>>4318206
>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on
>>
>>4318206
>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on.
I'll take Alabama over Ostedholm any day
>>
>>4318206
>A] You are not judging anyone down here. Move on.
>>
>>4318209
>>4318233
>>4318264
>>4318679
>>4318714
(Taking your wonderful comments and feedback into consideration! Vote is locked. Writing now.)
>>
>>4318743
"Wew. This is seriously not the time to even remotely approach this issue," you think to yourself. "Those who live in glass houses should not throw stones", you immediately rationalize. "By all the Gods, I would rather house with incestuous nobility before spending a minute longer in Ostedholm," you firmly decide.

You remain silent, and stoic, as Stardust and Starlight inform you that they both spent most of their youth training in combat, horse riding, diplomacy, various exotic languages, myriad instruments, know how to read and write, and other countless other privileges afforded to the highest class in Corcaea.

They stay firmly protected in the middle of the pack, alongside a skittish young man— Jitters— who's survived thanks to overwhelming paranoia. He's proficient with knives, and swears his aim is true enough to not threaten anyone's livelihood. Goldenrod, Bronzebeard, and Irefist all create a firm circle around them.

The flame-obsessed priestess wishes to be addressed as Spangle, and voices multiple complaints as everyone looks hopelessly in the dark. Further direction comes quickly.

Walter and Serpent are whispering to each other, in a heated argument, and the former declares himself the lead researcher of an echo chamber. Professor Echo continues to whisper, (now directly to you), "we'll move ahead, and keep the flame out. I don't give a rat's ass how much it bothers anyone. If they don't see us coming, we'll stand a much better chance at surviving."

"You're an imbecile,and a hypocrite," his compatriot hisses. Serpent continues, "but we've wasted more than enough time. At least you're willing to not put all of us at risk." He turns in the wrong direction, unable to even see you, and asks, "Harvey, was it?"

>A] Harvey is fine.

>B] You actually like your last name, and would like to be addressed as Algrith.

>C] This is a circus. You're amused, and would like to be called its ringleader.

>D] You're the damned master of ceremonies. For everything you're going through, you'd like some levity, too.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>>4318766
>>C] This is a circus. You're amused, and would like to be called its ringleader.
>>
>>4318766
>>C] This is a circus. You're amused, and would like to be called its ringleader.
>>
>>4318766
>C] This is a circus. You're amused, and would like to be called its ringleader.
>>
>ringleader
nah senpai

>E] Write-in. you'll see these people reach safety and guide them out of harm's way. You'll be called wrangler
>>
>>4318770
>>4318772
>>4318781
(Sweet deal guys. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4318766
>C] This is a circus. You're amused, and would like to be called its ringleader.
>>
>>4318797
(Oh fuck I missed you man. I'll find a way to incorporate this. Really though, locking the vote here.)
>>
>>4318802
(Missed several votes, just for the sake of clarity today I'll keep the voting window to half an hour to prevent future missed stuff. Thanks for bearing with me guys.)
>>
>>4318806
"We're all a circus," you smirk. With a considerable amount of focus, you breathe out with each enunciation, and manage to almost clearly say, "call me th-the ringleader."

Echo and Serpent can't hide their grins in the dark. The greasier of the two bows with a flourish. "Your generous, gilded cage suits me poorly, Ringleader. May I offer my expertise, on our merry band of freaks?"

He's flicked on the side of his head.

"I'll fucking kill you if you touch me again," he immediately snaps, going for Serpent's neck.

You wrangle them both behind you, with much less effort than before.

"Lead the way, then," the bald sinner sneers, rubbing at his throat.

Everyone is beyond high alert, as you cut a wide and sweeping path around the corpse. The scent is atrocious, even through your mask. The sheer amount of caution you all take prevents any disastrous falls.

The ascent into the corridor beyond is very welcome relief. Paint and mist persist upon the walls and floor, long after you leave the demon's body behind, but the toxin gets thinner by the minute.

The markings upon the wall switch after a time from the crude caricatures to simple arrows. It's not merely because of the lack of paint to sketch in. The walls and floor move from smooth stone into a rockier, rougher, and more natural surface. It's a labyrinth, pocketed with countless spaces to harbor more demons.

You all must travel for another hour, two, or three. Exhaustion has your limbs aching in ways you didn't think possible. Every drip of moisture off of the honeycombed caverns sends another shock through your spine. You're twitching at every sound, wondering if you could collect enough moisture to have something to drink, or if the moss that's barely visible between the cracks in the walls are completely poisonous.

The procession is faltering, and nerves are at a fever pitch. It's been hours without sight or sound of another creature, and every shadow your gifted eyes touch upon feels like another threat towards your life.

Something uncanny casts an actual shadow ahead. Finally devoid of paint, and mist, you heed Walter's counsel to keep the group in the dark.

The rogues that left you all behind are in the chamber ahead. It's their shadow upob the walls, but once again, it's bizarre to an extreme.

There are everlasting candles lining the entire corridor ahead. A collective gasp and sighs of relief come from every single member of your congregation, as the light comes into view. Gently arching stone beams— at least twenty feet high— capture the bulk of the shadow.

The gentle, golden light mercifully gives you some relief from the intense pools of blood coating the entire floor. A single skeleton is at its center, in a death shroud. The demon is easily ten feet tall from end to end, though you can't tell where its limbs begin or end. The odor of paint is well behind you, but everyone keeps their faces covered.

(1/2)
>>
File: Catacombs.jpg (87 KB, 900x1321)
87 KB
87 KB JPG
>>4318947
Decay hangs hot and heavy in the air. It's sweet in all the wrong ways, and clings to every surface. The hulking man and his portly companion are giving it a huge distance, and run right up to you in the low light. "You made it," the taller of the two whispers, over the sound of multiple people retching.

"Th-the m-markings helped," you whisper in return. "Why d-did you come b-back…?"

Smoothing his mustache nervously, the other scoundrel admits, "didn't want to get too far ahead. There's a problem."

The chambers beyond are allegedly packed with demons. They are not in the corridors and passages themselves, throughout the central levels. The issue is that they are in the walls. 'Randy' (the lecher) and 'Mick' (the prick) are scared shitless of them jumping out of the walls, of course, and suspect some sort of trap.

The highest levels of the catacombs clearly lead back to the spider's chambers. The demons unquestionably know you're here, though they seem to have only tolerated your presence momentarily.

The lowest levels have open chambers. Mick was bold enough to scout one, which contained a colossal demon. He says it was larger than the one in your current location, and seemingly at rest. He's no expert though, and doesn't want accountability if it gets loose.

You ask around, to see if anyone knows how to proceed. The two priestesses of Mercy only have experience with treating injuries from within their home, but save for a few outbreaks resolved by others (Father Anscham disturbingly resolved several immediately, and Father Edmund with before him), they have little in the way of knowledge on the weakness of mankind.

It's at least a small comfort to know that the paths in the catacombs weave around each other. Climbing may tax you all heavily, given everyone's exhaustion, but it at least leaves your options open.

>A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING. Options A, B and C are mutually exclusive.

>A] Start with the high route. You'll know what you're facing, even if it's likely going to get someone killed.

>B] Take the central paths. Try to give everyone some moral support, and head into the unknown.

>C] The lowest chambers may not be totally occupied. It's extremely dangerous, but you're too terrified of your other options to risk taking anything else.

>D] Strategy, in addition to your congregation's suggestions, could definitely help out with this situation. (Feel free to write in additional plans of attack or methods of approaching these routes, in addition to voting for A, B, or C.)
>>
>>4318952
>>C] The lowest chambers may not be totally occupied. It's extremely dangerous, but you're too terrified of your other options to risk taking anything else.

Have the professor have a look and see if it is dangerous, if not everyone should move at a snail's pace past it to make sure it doesn't wake up.
>>
>>4318952
>B] Take the central paths. Try to give everyone some moral support, and head into the unknown.
>>
>>4318986
Support
>>
>>4318986
>>4319033
>>4319563
(Sweet deal guys. Going to lock here with the tie broken for C but incorporate a little bit of B. Writing now!)
>>
>>4319571
>>4318986
>>4319033
>>4319563
(Once again I am so used to not having so many rolls in the thread, I jumped the gun!)

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+10 THINK SMARTER, NOT HARDER
>+5 CONTINUING A SNAIL'S PACE
>>
Rolled 60 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4319654
>>
Rolled 80 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4319654
gonna be a good one
>>
Rolled 52 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4319654
>>
>>4319663
>>4319667
>>4319709
(Hot damn that 95 wins out for the bo3. Okay! Writing now.)
>>
>>4319716
Anxiety is drenching you, nearly as much as the prospect of encountering a single one of those spiders again. While larger demons, and the lowest levels of the catacombs are intimidating, it's at least more agreeable than confronting certain death in any other level of the ruins. Why demons are trapped within the walls and lower chambers still escapes your wildest imaginings, so you turn to the professor. "I t-trust you to invest-tig-gate th-these d-demons b-below."

"No," he smiles.

"You are th-the only one of us smart en-nough to n-not g-get killed right away."

He frowns, particularly to Leadfoot picking at something in his ear. Several more minutes pass, as one of the other men at the rear of your congregation start picking a the walls, and on each other, out of sheer nervous energy. "You have a point," he concedes, frown deepening. "Alone?"

"Alone." You promised you'd butt heads with him, if necessary. Klepto is all smiles, the moment he realizes that he's evaded the first bit of a watch. You make a point of stressing, "we are all count-ting on your wit-ts."

The gangly, greasy young man is given a sword, a makeshift shield, and ties back his hair. From the time he snakes ahead, down, into the caverns below, you immediately begin counting the seconds.

About fifteen minutes pass by. You use them to reassure your company. Not only would Walter's death give the majority of the congregation what they're already hoping for, but it would narrow down one passage as certainly lethal. Everyone is completely confident that this is a win-win situation, and are almost chipper, until rapid footsteps are heard down the hall.

Everyone tenses. Only Professor Echo reappears from around the corner.

No pursuit. No injury.

https://youtu.be/4KGM-jmJBDU

He's white as a ghost, sweating like a pig, and shakes his head. "It's safe."

"What d-do you m-mean," you start, with legitimate worry. Looking over his shoulder, you confirm that no one is following him, save for an unmistakable scent of white lilies. It's weird, and makes every hair on the back of your neck stand on end.

"They're cells," he breathlessly mutters. "The holes in the walls. Someone— or something— is keeping them here. The demons in the walls." He looks like he's going to be ill. "They're jailing demons. This one is too large to be kept in-between the corridors. It's all fucked, though. I think it was all white," he mutters, voice shaking nearly as badly as he is.

"You don't think," Serpent spits, whispering, "what did you actually see?"

"The demon kept gesturing for me to come over," the brunette sneers back. "I ran. Don't give me that fucking look. The cell was in ruin. Don't think I'm being cute. The floor was all fucked, like a mirror." He wraps his arms around himself. "I'm positive it can't escape, but the whole thing was fucked.."

(1/2)
>>
>>4319804
"Th-then we had b-better b-be careful. Stay b-behind Serp-pent," you offer.

The scholar gets a good deal of his composure back at the very suggestion, and gladly keeps his slender frame almost entirely out of sight. Both men position themselves side-by-side, after some arguing, and that suits you just fine. It seems Walter's taken to the shield, but hands the sword with distaste off to Serpent.

Now that the lighting has improved, the majority of the congregation takes heart with at least one person beside them. Your terrified line of madmen begins to look more and more like a formation. There's miserable sobbing and screaming from the walls overhead, but it fades almost as soon as it came.

Proceeding through the passage in silence becomes increasingly difficult. The stone underfoot gradually deepens, until it becomes a steep decline. No one has rope, but the metal and corpses you scavenged make for better holds on the walls and floor than just your worn soles. The passage winds as it descends, and is ultimately so disorienting you have no idea which direction you're headed. The rogues among you are making a point to leave trails, in rocks, etchings on the wall, and are constantly muttering notes on where you're headed and how.

Echo pulls hard on the back of your shoulder, after what feels like an eternity of wandering through low candlelight and paranoia. You wave your arms as broadly as you can, and signal for everyone behind you to come to a full stop.

There's water on the floor, about a hundred feet ahead. The surface is reflective. With extreme caution, you're the first to approach it. Swiping a pebble off the floor, you toss it into the water. It doesn't sink. The rock stays on top of the liquid, as it ripples.

You continue, fearing staying another instant in these ruins more than anything that could lie ahead. Keeping as low to the ground as possible without crawling, you move with utter silence. The liquid has no temperature, and has no reflection to speak of. It feels as if reality shifts, the very second you step upon it.

There is no color to speak of, save for the sweat and heat on every inch of you. Your pulse is so loud, you're certain that the prison beyond will be alerted to your presence. There is only an expanse of white, and it feels as if you're pulled straight into it. The walls are lower than any other you've seen thus far in the ruins. Without crouching, you'd have knocked your head on the ceiling, which is flat, and lined with insect carapaces. The water upon the floor stops rippling, though it's speckled with rocks. If you didn't know any better, you'd say that the demon less than five feet away from you had been trying to escape.

(Underestimated, 2/3)
>>
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>>4319807
The wall in which the demon is perched stretches out, impossibly, to accommodate a beast that is no shorter than fifteen feet tall. It has no face. It has no body. It is immaterial, but you're certain that where a face should be is an endless void. Where its hands should be, at the end of nonexistent arms, is a shifting form.

It's unmistakably waving right at you, and is nearly in arm's distance. It laughs.

The demon starts to crawl out of the completely open window, that should be holding it at bay. You can't tell if anyone is behind you.

Everything smells like flowers. It's very quiet.

You've never felt so alone.

>(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)

>A] RUN
>1] FORWARD, AND AWAY. You're panicking too much to see what lies ahead, and you DON'T care.
>2] BACK, BACK THE WAY YOU CAME. Surely you can backtrack?!

>B] Keep it together. Continue your slow movement. Motion for everyone to follow you. If you die, you at least won't be known as a coward.

>C] Stop entirely. Don't panic.
>1] Try to make out exactly what this chamber is.
>2] Stop long enough to look ahead.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4319811
>B] Keep it together. Continue your slow movement. Motion for everyone to follow you. If you die, you at least won't be known as a coward.
The demon's probably trying to fuck with your head. Try and ignore how it's affecting your senses, and hold out your hand backwards to the person behind you, encouraging them to do the same (so you can at least keep going pulling foward when someone else starts feeling this dread and goes batshit insane)
>>
>>4319811
>>B] Keep it together. Continue your slow movement. Motion for everyone to follow you. If you die, you at least won't be known as a coward.
>>
>>4319831
>>4319836
>KEEP IT TOGETHER

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+5 NATURAL LEADER
>+5 STRENGTH IN NUMBERS
>+10 THIS ISN'T YOUR FIRST RODEO
>>
Rolled 12 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4319846
T A R D
W R A N G L I N '
>>
Rolled 41 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4319846
>>
Rolled 85 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4319846
>>
>>4319847
>>4319869
>>4319923
(Mercy. That's 105/100. Writing now!)
>>
>>4319927
https://youtu.be/4mPh9BY0Njo

Your breath is shallow, your eyes are wider than humanly possible, and there's so much sweat on you that your palms are slick. The demon rapidly crawls out of the window, on hands and feet, upon only three limbs. The movement is erratic. It's moving faster.

It's on you.

It's on you, and it's happened so fast that when you reach your hand backwards, you practically scream, "D-DO TH-THE SAME!"

There's a hold on you. Four holds on you. The demon is leering at you, with a face that's slowly pressing out from the interior of its once-concave face. Its features make no sense, as if the creature has forgotten what a human looks like.

It makes your face. The smooth expanse is shifting, as a scream is being loosed straight into the side of your left ear, from a face that looks exactly like yours. You can't hear, but you can see, as an impossible hand coils out. It comes from the depths of its immaterial arms. One is on your chin, lifting your head up and towards the nightmare's face. Its other hand is on your shoulder, pulling you towards the window across the chamber.

The third hand is on your eye. It's pressing. Deeper.

You cannot breathe, and half of you can't see. You want to vomit, from the scent of sickly sweet flowers that you will not forget for the rest of your life. You do not scream.

The last hand is clutching onto yours with such an intense grip, its nails have dug straight into your skin. It's the most beautiful thing you've felt in your entire life. You do not scream, as you hyperventilate, and take the most fearless steps forward you've ever mustered. You're not a coward, as you drag Serpent fully into the chamber, and mutter to him over and over again to keep moving forward.

It's licking your eye. The fucking demon has invented a tongue, explicitly for licking your eye, while you try and ignore it. It doesn't feel like anything, but you can see it, in your mind's eye. It's somehow worse than feeling it.

It's like it's wrapped its tongue inside the socket, up, into your brain.

"Forward," you choke out, unable to breathe, or to look back. "K-keep hold-ding on. All of you!"

You can't see your congregation, but you can feel them. That has to be enough.

It's impossible to stand fully upright in the chamber, and as hard as you can, you pull Serpent with you. He's not screaming. The man is absolutely in shock of some sort, but you don't care. The demon isn't screaming. It's whispering incoherently to you, as it remembers language, and begins to mimic your tone. The laughter was so thin, you couldn't decipher a tone from it, but here one is. The demon picks up on the distress in your voice, shaping mere words into something obscene.

(1/2)
>>
>>4319997
"Ah, ah— ah-ah— ah— aaaaaaaaaahhhh—"

This time you do scream, as you heave your ally forward with every last ounce of strength left in your exhausted limbs. You wrench yourself away from the demon's grasp on your shoulders, and taking every bit of care you can to not let anyone slip out of another's grasp, you make it out of the other side of the chamber.

Serpent is holding onto Walter, who is holding onto Klepto, who in turn was leading the rest of the chain of your congregation. There's over twenty of you, and it seems any one person touching the room affects the rest. When you finally stagger out of the lair, there's still no light in your eyes. There's no color. The twenty odd men and women behind you remain connected, and most of them are panicking. You can see clearly into the room, now, and bark for them to stay together, as all the life leaves you.

Up ahead is another chamber. It's connected by a thin tunnel, which is no more than ten feet long. The passage you're currently in is barely wide enough for you to stretch an arm out in, let alone for someone else to comfortably stand beside you. It's clearly a bottleneck— to keep the demons imprisoned here from leaking out— while giving their jailers room to move.

You try to not hyperventilate.

Their jailers are somewhere down here, too.

The path ahead curves hard to the right, and almost straight up. It's sadistic, but you're positive it will lead you all closer to the surface.

>(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)
>(Your remarkable leadership will grant a +10 flat bonus to future endeavors you bring your congregation on, if you take the point.)

>A] Press on. Ostedholm hasn't done wonders for your sanity, and these people are counting on you.

>B] Back the fuck up. There were other routes you could take, and you're no maniac.

>C] Order someone specific to move up to the front with you. (Specify who, or what function you need filled if the particular individual doesn't matter! e.g. any man with combat proficiency other than Claymore, one of the priestesses of Mercy, Irefist, etc.)

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4320001
>>A] Press on. Ostedholm hasn't done wonders for your sanity, and these people are counting on you.

Fortune favors the bold, if this entire section is a jail it means we can afford to hurry it the fuck up, maintain the human chain and fucking run out of here as fast as possible.
>>
>>4320005
+1
>>
>>4320001
>A] Press on. Ostedholm hasn't done wonders for your sanity, and these people are counting on you.
>>
>>4320001
>>A] Press on. Ostedholm hasn't done wonders for your sanity, and these people are counting on you.
>>
>>4320005
>>4320017
>>4320088
>>4320091
>FORTUNE FAVORS THE BOLD

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+10 INSPIRING LEADER
>>
Rolled 93 (1d100)

>>4320301
>>
Rolled 82 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>4320301
Yeet
>>
Rolled 9 + 10 (1d100 + 10)

>>4320301
>>
These rolls
>>
>>4320305

I told you fortune favors the bold :^)
>>
>>4320302
>>4320303
>>4320304
>>4320305
>>4320308
(hahaha oh wow. Nice 103/100. will write ASAP.)
>>
>>4320323
https://youtu.be/5LP_Ww5BdVk

Ostedholm hasn't done wonders for your sanity. It's not madness that's wormed its way into your speech, however.

It's bravery.

"FORTUNE FAV-VORS THE B-BOLD! RUN! ST-TICK T-TOGETH-THER! N-NO MATTER TH-THE ODDS!"

It's not necessary to drag anyone, as you all collectively make a mad dash through a living nightmare. Those at the rear can be heard screaming. You and Serpent dig in blades and heels, to scale up the highest slope ahead of you. Every man and woman behind follows suit, as fast as they're able. They've taken heart, but are surely fighting with everything they have to not lose their minds.

You are the first to emerge in the next cell, which is comprised entirely of canine teeth. Immediately, your hands are shredded to pieces on the ledge up.

Recoiling is not an option. You fight through the instinct. Despite the grotesque lacerations, there's no pain. It may be adrenaline, or an illusion, but you CANNOT linger.

The small, rounded room houses a singular, razor-sharp cage at its center. Within the cage unfolds a behemoth, pressed so tightly up against the bars that it's bursting out from every space. Its face is made of mouths. Its eyes are teeth. It has no limbs, no nose, no ears. The entire creature is a mass of cuspids and decaying molars, shaped into orifices. They all are screaming hysterically.

The demons sobs in such a human fashion, you wonder if it may have retained thought or coherency.

The thought leaves as soon as it came. As it screams, the demon's mouth opens, and another face rapidly exits, more decayed than the first. It's as if there are multiple monsters housed within the maw of the first one, and they keep coming. The pasty, pale, plaque-encrusted teeth keep gnashing, as you drag yourself up with only a single arm into the chamber.

Hoisting Serpent up with a grunt, you fire him a look that says he'll have worse things than demons to worry about if he turns back. Walter is deathly silent behind him, gasping as he shreds his unscarred palms.

You boldly sprint ahead, teeth flying out underfoot, and practically drag everyone after you. The screams behind you are growing, and you bellow over it, sprinting as hard as you can dead ahead.

"WE'RE HEAD-DING OUT! KEEP M-MOVING! ALL OF YOU!"

Walter hands off the useless piece of metal for a shield to Serpent, screaming, "HE'LL NEED IT!"

The item is thrust to you, before you even exit the chamber. "Don't stop," Serpent demands, "even if the whole thing collapses."

Everyone just behind you can see that the narrow corridor beyond is lined floor-to-ceiling with pressure plates.

Behind you, there's definitely someone in the last room who's lost their mind, or has been eaten, or suffered a fate worse than death. Those entering the canine prison with you can't afford to linger, as the demon within is expanding by the second. There's so much screaming.

You grit your teeth, and charge.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4320440
>(A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)

>A] Dive, shield first, and try to not activate a single trap for as far as you can leap. Even if no one else makes it out of here alive, you're living to tell this story.

>B] Intentionally activate a straight line of traps, to grant your congregation a clear path ahead. Prioritize protecting your face, if nothing else.

>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4320443
>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.
>>
>>4320443
>>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.
>>
>>4320443
>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.
>>
>>4320443
>>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.

Also pray to mercy for protection, maybe she is more likely to grant us favor after me met the father of her church.
>>
>>4320443
i wanted b but fuck it
>C] You're praying to Flesh for some fucking strength, and barreling straight in. Look after the people behind you, if you can. The time for caution is over.
tho i don't think a god would set foot on this cursed passage
>>
>>4320445
>>4320449
>>4320455
>>4320456
>>4320457
>FLESH AND MERCY MIGHT HEAR YOU DOWN HERE
>CHARGE

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+10 INSPIRING LEADER
>+10 THE GODS ARE MERCIFUL
>>
Rolled 17 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4320458
>>
Rolled 41 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4320458
THIS ONE'S FOR TIME
>>
Rolled 63 (1d100)

>>4320458

THE GODS ARE MERCIFUL, FATHER HEAR MY PRAYER
>>
>>4320459
>>4320460
>>4320461
(ALRIGHT BOIS that 83 does it. Writing now!)
>>
>>4320490
https://youtu.be/pN5gw2DYqwk

You're not normally a religious man. Skepticism has you wondering what God would enter this cursed passage, but there's no time for questions.

In fact, you're scared shitless of wasting another second. Keeping the bulk of your makeshift shield over Serpent and Echo, you charge straight into certain death. Leaving screams behind, you bellow over the gnashing of teeth, "F-Flesh! Lend m-me your strength!"

The prayer is bungled by your speech impediment, but you seriously can't care.
The first series of steps sets off a barrage of projectiles. It happens so fast, all you register is
THUNK
PLINK
"HARVEY?!"
THUNK
THUNKPLINKTHUNKTHUNK

As your shield eats and deflects at least thirty missiles, you're pushed back a full foot from the sheer force of the impact. Serpent and Walter continue to shout, right behind you, and keep you on your feet by leaning into you with the limited strength they have. Some of the projectiles are harmless as fast-moving pebbles. Others are barbed, and stick straight through your defense. One pierces straight into your arm, pinning your Flesh to your shield as you scream, "FUCK!"

The corridor is hopelessly narrow, but you don't stop for an instant. Likely due to the agonizing pain and blood dripping straight from your forearm, your left foot catches on one of the dozens of plates.

"T-Time!" It practically stops. Something in the wall clicks. "F-For T-TIME!"

The device within the walls is so ancient, only a mist of sand and dust ejects from what should have been arrows straight into your face.

No breath is in your lungs to cough with.

There's an opening ahead.

Something impossibly heavy is moving overhead. The grating of stone is unmistakable. Desperation soaks into you. You charge down the passage, screaming, "FOR TH-THE M-MOTHER! M-MERCY! G-GRANT US YOUR P-PROT-TECTION!"

A colossal shift in the rock overhead cna be heard, closest to the exit. Suspecting that it's meant to seal the entire passage, your own scream joins that of everyone behind you. You are heard, over them all, "FOR TH-THE F-FATH-THER! HEAR MY PRAYER—! SH-SHIT!"

Emerging onto the other side of the rock and stone is less of a sprint, and more if a squeeze. The chamber is impossibly narrow. Your sprinting might as well be suspended in a single moment. Your eyes go so wide, you should take in every speck of light in the room, but you've ascended and turned into a pitch-black passage. Devoid of all candle light, only the persistent sun in your vision grants you view of two behemoths.

The first freely persists within the walls. In that singular instant, you understand that it *is* the walls. The grating sound, closing in on your congregation, is of the jailer. It's a demon composed of stone, and lips. They're all female, and quivering with such extreme fear that you have to question everything you know. They're painted with blood, slick with decay, speckled with dirt.

She's screaming.

(1/2)
>>
>>4320579
In that one moment, the screams behind you are seemingly endless, while the monster before you falls completely silent. Its lips creep from within the walls, without shape or function. It is clearly hiding in the shadow of a larger demon, that it was in the process of releasing.

Everything should be black as night about you. The jailer is releasing a form akin to a human. The second demon's upper body is shaped like a scale. Each arm is balanced in tandem, and its mouthless head comes to an inanimate point. You're reminded of a blade. A fountain of endless, blackened blood is pooling from the tip of the imprisoned demon's face. The substance is swirling along its body. Upon the flat surface of its outstretched hands is a void.

One is reflecting your shadow, in an unmistakably human form.

The other is intertwining with the demon comprised of mouths.

They look like they're embracing. Possibly comforting one another. They are devoid of eyes or faces, but you know these monsters have stopped whatever they were doing, and are looking straight at you.

Your sanity is threatening to slip, as the moment passes, with unstoppable momentum. Every surviving soul behind you is being dragged into horror upon literal horror.

>A] Keep running, as hard and as fast as you can. Go straight around the spectacle.
>1] Keep quiet. Pray to Spirit that everyone does the same.
>2] Scream at the top of your lungs to everyone what's happening, and try to guide them around both demons.

>B] What the FUCK (Write-in any way you might wish to engage this scene, or to cope with what's happening.)
>>
>>4320584
>>A] Keep running, as hard and as fast as you can. Go straight around the spectacle.
>>1] Keep quiet. Pray to Spirit that everyone does the same.

Scream inside our head, if at all possible. Death grip whoever is touching us into complete silence.
>>
>>4320597
+1
>>
>>4320597
+1 also
>>
>>4320597
Support
>>
(May be too swamped at work to update again until I'm home. Will likely be 2-3 hours, vote is open until then!)
>>
>>4320770
(False alarm. No brakes on the crazy train.)

>>4320597
>>4320605
>>4320656
>>4320708
(Unanimous vote and a dope write-in! Got it. Vote is locked. Writing now!)
>>
>>4320826
https://youtu.be/iJtVDEx2HSk

The prison has become so narrow, you have to turn sideways to continue moving forward. Behind you is a choir of terror. There are clearly members of your congregation being skewered alive, in the steep and narrow passage you've exited. The squish and squelch of meat being chewed on is unmistakable. Bones crack. Further behind them is hysterical sobbing, of someone who's completely lost their grip on reality.

You can't blame them. You're a quiet man, so as you run, you scream internally, and pray to Spirit with every last fiber of your soul that they will do the same.

The Mother and Father of Mercy truly listed to your prayers, to have shrouded this cell in darkness. Only you can see the room itself moving. Coated as it is in orifices, lips, mouths, and teeth, it is no jail. You are inside of a demon, who is housing many others. Tendrils of the stony monster undulate from the walls, stretching out into makeshift limbs. Only you can tell that the demon in the center of the chamber is being unshackled from its restraints.

You have been screaming internally, and bite down on your tongue hard enough to draw blood. Only you can witness a pair of manacles, bearing the weight of some unknown sin. They are opened from the demon's impossible wrists. The leaden cuffs collapse to the floor with such weight that it crushes the stone beneath.

Everyone collectively jumps out of their skin. Someone's going through an experience worse than a panic attack, at the entrance to the chamber, unable to identify what's happening. Your prayer intensifies, though you're rapidly losing the ability to think.

The freed demon rolls its shoulders stiffly back. It has no face, so the demon of mouths wraps itself with one of the tendrils onto the face of its prisoner. One of the mouths parts from the main mass. The tendril draws back. Upon the sharpened, eyeless visage is now a pair of lips.

It smiles at you. It knows you can see, as you run for your life. You're screaming to yourself, still. The teeth upon the creature are white, and piercing. The grip you keep on Serpent's hand is that of death itself. You might be breaking his fingers. You are gritting your teeth hard enough to make them crack.

You are a quiet man. A brave man. You haven't lost yourself.

Not yet. You can only keep praying that everyone follows suit. Out of the chamber, up a flight of winding stairs, you ascend out of the opposite side of the chamber. It is not carved out of the ruins. You have to remember how to breathe. Your head is light from exhaustion, and nausea is hot on you from the prolonged stress of your situation. The stair levels. The walls are so narrow, you can no longer run. You turn sideways, suffocating, and try to not scream out loud. You think of a Goddess, and Her blessing, and it takes every last ounce of strength left in you.

(Barely over, 1/2)
>>
>>4320897
The mouths are all along the walls. They're everywhere. The beat of your heart is nearly louder than the screams and hysterical sobs behind you, but you press on. By all the Gods, you do not falter.

Despite the ache in every inch of your Flesh. Without fear of how much Time it may take, writhing in the dark. Knowing that there is light, at the end of this tunnel, you remember to breathe, you scream to yourself, and you stagger OUT from the demon's hold.

Right back into another corridor within the ruins. A plea leaves the lips of every man behind you, who emerges to the same sight. They are still alive, panicking, pale, vomiting or in the throes of insanity.

You're in a barren cavern, next to an incredibly steep incline. You're positive it leads away from the madness behind you. Up, towards the light. The surface. Hope. Humanity.

You stagger forward, in absolute darkness, trying to not vomit. "Mercy," you hear, from less than twenty people behind you. "Mercy."

>A] Lead a prayer to Mercy, while you all move ahead. You need some form of relief.

>B] Explicitly pray to Father Anscham. You've seen him work more miracles, even on you all, than the Goddess ever has.

>C] You're probably cracking, but have a better idea of how to boost morale. (Write-in.)
>>
>>4320899
>>A] Lead a prayer to Mercy, while you all move ahead. You need some form of relief.
Give the people what they want.
>>
>>4320899
>C] You're probably cracking, but have a better idea of how to boost morale.

Talk to the congregation about how far they've come and how we've almost made it. Lead a prayer to Mercy, Flesh and hope to any decent diety that Father Anscham has survived his encounter with the sin incarnate.
>>
>>4320917
I like this, support it instead. +1

>>4320899
>>
>>4320917
>>4320957
(Good shit bois. We can totally do this. Locking the vote here, writing now!)
>>
>>4321012
Swallowing pain, pride, and a brief surge of sickness, you keep staggering forward. The hold you've kept on Serpent's hand was so crushing, it takes a full minute of active effort to unstick your joints, peel each other's nails out of the other's skin, and stiffly wring out your fingers. There's crescents dug deep into your palm, and the fucking dart is still jammed through the shield, straight into your arm.

You ignore all of it, and dare to raise your voice enough that even those still within the demon should be able to hear you. "Hey."

The normalcy of your tone disarms almost everyone who's made it out. Klepto, in particular, seems totally fine. The maniac has a broad grin plastered across his face, and beams up to you like he's enjoying himself. "Yeah?"

You nod to the steep slope, leading away from sin incarnate, but keep your eyes on weary faces. Everyone is lined with grief and stress, but they're a lot more alert. A lot more sane, despite everything. "We've m-made a lot of p-prog-gress," you point out.

Starlight pulls her hair back, the second she gets into the cavern, and throws herself against a wall to retch so violently that blood comes up.

"Alm-most m-made it," you shout, over Stardust's compulsive reassurance that his sister will be alright. "You've all come from th-the surface. It's really n-not m-much farth-ther. You kn-know how d-deep we've d-dived." Her puking is really worrying. It's a lot of blood, and smells like death, but you continue shouting, "th-the G-Gods are M-Mercif-ful!"

You make a note to avoid the phrase in the future. Claymore pulls up the rear, alongside Irefist. They're dragging the legless corpse of Goldenrod out of the demon, and refuse to let the man go.

Everyone collectively panics, for a second time, but there's no one on the other end. No pursuit. Claymore spits a wad of blood at the passage, the moment they're all in the cavern. He drops the body, and sets to punching the wall so violently he breaks his hand. You all hear the snap, and everyone completely understands.

By your count, there's 18 of you left. No one is in pursuit. With complete determination, you turn your back, and keep walking ahead.

Something worse has to lie even further beyond, for anyone to not be chasing you further. You look up, to the steep slope leading out of the catacombs. It's nearly vertical, about thirty feet tall, but rough enough to be traversable.

Some lunatic seems to have chased several imps just off the ledge. One of the corpses is completely blackened, and you know better than to get remotely near it. Everyone is shifting nervously in place, too shaken to press on, and far too scared to retreat.

"We've m-made it th-this far," you assert. "It was th-thanks to our own m-merit. Our own skill! You can b-be afraid, but w-we can't st-stop n-now. W-we w-will all d-die, if w-we st-stop now."

You turn towards the ascent, resolving to lead an actual prayer. "M-Mercy—?"

(1/2)
>>
>>4321117
Jitters runs up to you, and pulls so hard on your shoulder that you're nearly knocked off your feet. Even Sister Corbon has more meat on her than he does, but fear is giving him strength. It's soaking into the deep pits of his pale gray eyes, beneath his frayed and blackened hair. "Get away from there." More nervously still, he waves to Mick and Randy, and reassures you, "we'll check it first."

The scoundrels run over, and make excessively quick work of testing the area. You encourage everyone else to "g-get the fuck away from th-the walls!".

You whisper the prayer to Mercy, as you all come closer together. The priestesses are both alive, and are feverishly praying under their breath as they see to bite marks, lacerations, and missing appendages.

Neither can invoke their Goddess. You pray to Flesh. Chesty has an arrow sticking straight out of his right shoulder, and snaps the item off right next to his skin. He's easily the best off out those in the rear of the procession, who all got the worst of it. Your wounds are seen to, and your soul goes out to someone in worse shape.

You pray for Father Anscham. He's still somewhere below these Gods-forsaken ruins, flirting with blasphemy and terror. You all ask for his survival, from any God who will listen.

The scoundrels come back, away from the wall. They're all heathens, and don't give a shit about the Gods, but they'll accept your word. "Th-thank you all."

"Don't thank us just yet," Mick spits, jerking a shaking thumb at the ledge. He's not embarrassed by how fried his nerves are, and mentions, "there's some cinder up there."

"Wh-what?"

"Flame," Randy helpfully offers. Spangle practically jumps out of her skin. You fire her a warning glance. She seems to like it, and so does Randy, who more happily continues, "seen it before, down here. Nasty stuff." He's grinning, and looks green around the edges. "Magic."

"We're all going to die," Walter bemoans behind you, "and I no longer care how."

You all climb. Exhaustion threatens to kill anyone who dares to rest, but no one among you is stopping now.

At the peak, you actually pause, upon seeing the cavernous chambers ahead. There's still candles. Scorch marks decorate one of the walls, as evidence of some sudden, violent flame. There is fortunately no trace of smoke, or paint. Only natural stone, with countless pillars and pockets between them. Over a dozen corpses are nestled in hiding. Most of them have the eyes burned out of their skulls, and the rest are beaten to death wherever they were hiding.

Echo helpfully asks, from next to your shoulder, "what the fuck," but even he has to pause.

The imps are all wearing gear. Weapons. Actual armor. Most have pouches. Pouches that might have food. Skins that might have water.

Klepto sniffs next to you, in a terribly excited way. "It's definitely bait. Doubt there's any coin."

"I'm going for it," Mick grins.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4321119
>A] "No looting, for the love of Vengeance." You'll throw them both off this ledge before anyone's life is put in unnecessary risk.

>B] "Just don't get anyone killed." Let the rogues do what they do best. Defer to Jitters on how to keep everyone safe.

>C] "EVERYONE TAKE COVER!" You aren't taking ANY chances.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4321120
>A] "No looting, for the love of Vengeance." You'll throw them both off this ledge before anyone's life is put in unnecessary risk.
>C] "EVERYONE TAKE COVER!" You aren't taking ANY chances.

Can we combine the two?
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>>4321122
Absolutely.
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>>4321122
Support.
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>>4321122
>>4321178
(Awesome guys, going to lock here! Writing now.)
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>>4321235
You twitch, duck, and instinctively shout to every other member of your congregation, "EV-VERYONE—" they're already crouching, flinching, and clinging onto each other for dear life, "T-TAKE C-COV-VER!"

From your vantage point at the top of the ledge, heart thrumming, you simply can't stand the loss of one more life. Your nerves aren't dying down, looking to the perilous slope beneath you. The narrow corridor, comprised of a single demon.

A freed monster, lurking within its shadows.

The moment Mick and Klepto commit to scaling over the wall, you hurl yourself up with them. There's a scuffle. It's pointless, for how tired everyone is. The three of you barely scramble on the ground for a moment, already seriously injured, before you settle on grabbing them both by the collar.

You all get to your feet. The scoundrel is easily twice as broad as you are, and the compulsive thief twice as insane, but you don't care. "N-no loot-ting." You feel sick to your stomach. There's a nightmare on the loose, in the demonic corridors beneath your feet, and you'll throw these men off this ledge before they risk one more life. "For th-the love of Veng-geance."

Mick shrugs you away immediately, intentionally shoving your injured arm. "Fuck off."

You shoot daggers with your eyes, and he seems to actually respect the challenge.

Sniffing again, Klepto doesn't move to take your hand off of him. He's obviously thrilled, and leans in. "What are you going to do about it?"

Someone over the ledge moans like a dying thing. It's probably Stardust. "No. No. No—!"

There's frantic scrambling, for everyone to climb up all at once. Your congregation is legitimately too frightened to speak coherently, save for Echo. His voice is distant, and high, as he rasps, "the demon. It waited. It waited. Run."

Spangle is the first one over the top of the ledge. She's laughing compulsively, grinning ear to ear, and is trying to hoist Randall's fat ass out of harm's way. "Where," she demands, pointing to the corpses strewn about the cavern. "Which ones? Which ones have the fucking cinders?!"

You try to not laugh, too. You want to vomit, or die, and can still see the monstrosity in your mind's eye.

Meanwhile, a priestess of Mercy wants to use these demons against each other.

At least they live up to their reputation.

>A] Help Randy and Mick identify which imps contain magical flame. (A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>B] Help Spangle launch an attack against the demon pursuing you all. (A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>C] Keep Klepto from getting anyone killed.

>D] Get the rest of your congregation as far away from the impending chaos as humanly possible.

>E] Write-in. (A roll may be required.)
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>>4321318
>>E] Write-in. (A roll may be required.)
Take a sword and a shield and plunge heroically into that cunt.
YOU HAVE THE HIGH GROUND, ANAKIN
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>>4321318
>>D] Get the rest of your congregation as far away from the impending chaos as humanly possible.
FUBAR, just get out
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>>4321318
>>D] Get the rest of your congregation as far away from the impending chaos as humanly possible.

The 3 of them can find the cinders on their own, we need to look after the rest because apparently no one else will, including themselves.
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>>4321318
>>D] Get the rest of your congregation as far away from the impending chaos as humanly possible.
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>>4321401
(Appreciate the gesture my dude but unlike our usual protagonist, Harvey is not suicidal, masochistic, or utterly insane. Yet. The thread is still young.)
>>4321409
>>4321446
>>4321470
(Going with majority! Vote is locked here. Getting some late night waffles and coffee, will update just as soon as I can.)
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>>4321525
(Back in action for an update before bed. Writing now!)
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>>4321556
(Naturally missed the spoiler box on the post, after going through all the trouble for the text. Apologies if it spoils anyone's fun.

A voter brought to my attention that I've been VERY scant on descriptions of the congregation members this thread! The premise here is that no one needs to be caught up on the archive to participate, so I'll try to be better about it. For anyone that has not read through thread 15, proceed with a spoiler warning. The image and following are an aid for the congregation. High resolution version can be found in our Discord, as well. You can safely assume this is the rough appearance of most of the congregation! This thread is, of course, a flashback, told from the perspective of Harvey in present-day. Attached is a picture of Father Anscham's view of the congregation, as of the beginning of the 14th thread. It is not current with the events of the quest in present day, nor as of this thread, but might be helpful due to the sheer volume of characters.

Update will be out shortly.)
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>>4321556
Walter continues to challenge your position as the most intellectual man in the group. He's right, of course. This situation is beyond salvaging. These people are insane, and no one is going to look after themselves if you don't.

As you help to pull up the last of your congregation from the ledge, it seems Chesty is still badly injured. He seriously appreciates the assistance, even if you're too worn out to be of much physical use, to get another three injured souls to safety. You scream to them, and to everyone who's still able, to keep running.

You don't need to tell them twice. Walter and Serpent continue to take the point, and tear off into the corridors beyond, with almost everyone is in tow.

The thunder of everyone's collective footsteps drowns out the approach of Electrum. She can't help but huff, skidding to a stop beside you, "need a hand?"

You don't bother replying, while the priestess helps you heave the largest member of your congregation back onto a level surface. All three of you pale. Chesty doesn't linger a moment longer, fleeing faster than you can even register what's happening. While Spangle continues to laugh like a mad thing, and the crackle of flame picks up on the edges of your hearing, there is a nightmare below.

Vertigo and horror threatens to take the world out from under you. Over thirty feet down, at the base of the catacombs, comes something darker than shadow. The demon from before, with its pitch-black body, and arms like scales, slinks out from the narrow corridor that once imprisoned it.

The monster shifts and slides adjacent to the walls. Its approach completely obscures the floor beneath it. It takes its time. It takes in all light around it. It takes a long moment to wait at the base of the ruins.

It's planning something.

Claymore runs to your side, staring the demon down, with two swords drawn while you holler to everyone to keep sprinting. You entertain staying with him, for the briefest of seconds. It would be a noble way to die. A valiant last stand. A story worth telling! One of taking your demons head-on, with nothing but your own two hands.

You did not come to the ruins to die, and run for your life.

Randy has already taken off running. His and Mick's silhouette veers around a corner, having already done their duty. They're far off in the distance, with Klepto in tow. Rather than run, the blonde is lingering around a nearby corridor. He's frantically making something, with a few baubles in his hands, but the lunatic can't take his eyes off of something behind you.

You make the mistake of glancing back over your shoulder. Electrum, Spangle, Claymore, and Irefist are all launching an assault. The men are holding the line, at the ledge, while the demon has stretched its body from the base of the cavern.

It has kept the base of its body on the floor, easily thirty feet below, and has effortlessly expanded to fill the entirety of the catacombs beneath it.

(1/2)
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>>4321629
Spangle laughs, screaming, "FOR THE GODDESS OF LIGHT," and moves to hurl something straight at the creature.

You turn away from the sight of madness, and run. Through winding caverns, and corridors, as fast as your exhausted legs will carry you. It takes seconds to catch up to the group. It takes only one more to eclipse them all, and to scream, "RUN! IF YOU V-VALUE YOUR LIVES, D-DON'T LOOK B-BACK—"

There is a massive explosion, from the corridor behind you. It feels as if the walls are going to collapse, for the sheer devastation reverberating through the floor.

You're an expert navigator, and keep your footing. Mick's swearing is audible throughout the passage, while everyone else screams.

You do everything in your power to keep them moving. "G-GO," is punctuated with shoving Echo ahead, with—

There's another shake, and another explosion. Chunks of rock and ruin drop from above.

Nothing more needs to be said. The entirety of your remaining congregation tears off, away from the heat and smoke. Away from Spangle's manic laughter. Rough rock, and hollowed out caverns leer and pitch in the shadow.

The corpses of imps are left behind you. Every shape in the dark feels like it's grinning, with white teeth, as you flinch away from everlasting candlelight.

After what could be seconds, or minutes— and is likely no more than an hour— you start to feel your body again. The floor, before long, grows damp. There's a red light that should be leering ahead, for the glow cast upon the worn and weary faces of your company. In silence, too shocked to speak, too frightened to turn back, you all move ahead. There's so much heat up ahead, the water upon the ground is rising in a mist. There's sweat on your brow, and you've never felt so tired in all your life.

You hazard a glance back. Walter is still right behind you. The sickly sheen upon his pale skin is not your biggest concern. There's a yellow tinge to Echo's eyes, and for all the grease in the strands upon his head, there's something more concerning.

The yellow hue is upon his irises.

You blink some of the sunlight out of your vision, and realize that the color is upon everyone's eyes. It's not a trick of the light. Serpent's eyes may be nearly shut, in a perpetual sneer, and particularly when he realizes you're scrutinizing him. You try to not think too much about it. Not about the scars lacing the side of his exposed scalp, or the gash that divides his tongue.

More than enough of your company is unwillingly injured. Chesty is shouldered by Irefist, who is being closely tailed by Jitters, who has been the only one speaking for some time. He's tearing into Klepto for threatening everyone's life, while the freak tries to not laugh.

There's footsteps rapidly approaching from down the corridor, and the sound of Electrum calling ahead, "don't kill us. Please. We're just around the corner. No one's chasing us."

She sounds hurt.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4321633
>A] Stick to the front. The company you keep might kill you before the ruins gets the chance to. You're not giving anyone an inch, from here on out, and word can get to you if necessary.

>B] Klepto can have the honor of scouting ahead, as intended, while you see to the priestess. Send Jitters and Serpent with him, for accountability, while you're at it.

>C] You're not micromanaging. Run to the rear of the group, and see what's happened. You're legitimately too exhausted to tell anyone else what to do right now.

>D] You're so paranoid at this point, you don't even trust the sound of the priestesses' voice. Get everyone to keep running. If she's actually catching up, trust that she'll make it to the group when you have line of sight.

>E] Write-in.
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>>4321633
>C] You're not micromanaging. Run to the rear of the group, and see what's happened. You're legitimately too exhausted to tell anyone else what to do right now.
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>>4321635
>>C] You're not micromanaging. Run to the rear of the group, and see what's happened. You're legitimately too exhausted to tell anyone else what to do right now.
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>>4321635
>C
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>>4321644
>>4321718
>>4321719
(Good afternoon lads! Hope you're all doing well. Locking the vote. Writing now.)
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>>4322008
Without hesitation, you run to the rear of the procession. The lot of you are too exhausted to care about tricks, traps, or any further despair. While the rest of the congregation filters out of the catacombs, you weave past their limping and twitching forms to the back. Turning the corner, leaving the group to their own devices, the only thing left to ache is your heart.

There's a blessed sight. All three of your congregation members are alive, and are covered in the spoils of battle. Electrum is breathing hard, slumped over Claymore's shoulder, and has horrific burns covering the lower right half of her body. Wincing, she offers you a pained smile. "The Gods are Merciful, right?"

Claymore has also acquired a nasty burn, running along the right side of his face. The short, middle-aged fighter shows absolutely no indication of pain, despite blood dripping onto the pauldrons he's slapped on. Throwing a flask to you, with a straight face, he takes a second to adjust a set of bracers and to wipe some of the blood off of his cheek.

Vials clink inside the pouchesall along his frame with each movement. The ache in your arms is so extreme, you almost drop the flask before getting a good hold. Wary of even uncapping the item, you give it a wary look.

"Oil," the swordsman mutters, in a rustic accent. He runs a free hand over his widow's peak, that will probably be gray before any of you get out of here alive. "No food, unless Klepto took it all fer himself."

Spangle is bringing up the rear, walking backwards with a sword in hand. The broomstick of a woman dares to fire a glance over her shoulder. Psychotic energy has her spine straight, and a fire in her eyes. "We got him, Harvey. With Magic to spare."

You slow to a walk, placing yourself alongside the three victors. There's a few gasps up ahead, but no screams, and you're certain this is more important. "Wh-what was it?"

"A demon of Vengeance," Electrum rasps. "It may be unkillable."

Whatever color was left in your face drains away completely. You wonder if even your freckles will survive the ruins, as Spangle insists, "if it isn't dead, it'll be wishing it was."

Claymore spits a wad of blood, and shoots another out of his nose with a sniff. "Nothing left of it."

It's clear that Electrum is too hurt to even care about propriety, as she's shifted upright. "Not that we could tell."

Her support nods to the cavern ahead. "They've all been quiet."

>A] Take an extra second to thank them all for risking their lives.
>1] Briefly.
>2] Try to convey how much this means to you. They're legends.

>B] You're seriously stunned, and need a further explanation.

>C] You're probably going into shock of some sort. Hang back with the three most competent fighters among you, and quietly proceed ahead.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4322049
>>A] Take an extra second to thank them all for risking their lives.
>>1] Briefly.
>>
>>4322049
>>A] Take an extra second to thank them all for risking their lives.
>>1] Briefly.
>>
>>4322049
>C] You're probably going into shock of some sort. Hang back with the three most competent fighters among you, and quietly proceed ahead.
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>>4322049
>A] Take an extra second to thank them all for risking their lives.
>1] Briefly.
>>
>>4322049
>A] Take an extra second to thank them all for risking their lives.
>1] Briefly.
And
>C] You're probably going into shock of some sort. Hang back with the three most competent fighters among you, and quietly proceed ahead.

>>4322049
What's our progress on our journey to the surface
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>>4322075
(Based purely off of what Harvey knows from his descent into the ruins: Above the catacombs is the lair of a colossal demon, with a heated and watery lair. It houses the runoff of a vast waterway, which is another labyrinth above that. The very top of the ruins is further beyond, in the home of the demon that looks over all of the bell spiders. The surface of the ruins of Ostedholm are deep within Corcaea's wilderness.

Geographically you guys are actually damn close. The catacombs are monstrously large, but cutting through the prison beneath it either had an illogical space or was a gigantic shortcut. You've made a ton of progress!)
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>>4322055
>>4322057
>>4322070
>>4322075
(Okay guys, locking the vote here! I know it's only been twenty minutes but this is pretty unanimous, can definitely incorporate everything. Writing now.)
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>>4322089
You're just about at your mental limit. Hanging back with the only three members of your congregation that seem capable of looking after anyone, (including themselves,) you briefly mutter, "you risked your lives. Th-thank you."

You glance up to the corridor ahead, wondering how Irefist escaped so quickly. Nothing more needs to be said. The four of you share a few moments of mutual respect, and gratitude, as you walk in silence.

Coming around the corner, it feels as if the humidity about you all will never relent. Clouds of steam are rising from the water upon the floor. It keeps rising, until you're sloshing— ankle-deep— towards a disturbingly well-lit chamber. There are torches upon the walls of the corridor, rising up towards increasingly high ceilings. The walls must stretch fifty feet ahead, by the time you all filter out, into a massive lair beyond.

The source of the gasping you heard is immediately clear. The expansive chamber ahead is obviously man-made. Or rather, demon-made. Dozens of dizzyingly tall pillars rise above. They're supporting a flat ceiling, illuminated by what should be a red glow. The chamber isn't quite how you remember it.

There's still sun in your eyes, and the hue is starting to bother you. You might be going into shock of some sort. It's getting increasingly harder to think, or focus, and you're merely getting snippets of what's passing by. Multiple people wave to your entrance with legitimate relief.

Your congregation is not passing by. The chamber is several hundred feet across, by any measure. You can see Echo and Serpent in a heated argument, far ahead, though they're nearly obscured. The thing that your mind wants to shut out, and positively can't, is concealing almost everyone in the distance.

You slowly approach it. It is not water that you're walking in. It's blood. The blood of the largest demon you've ever laid eyes on. The creature has a single torso, like a horse. Its four legs are shaped like the muscular arms of a man, with hands for feet. Upon the torso are no less than ten more torsos, of armless men. None of the men have eyes, or arms. Their bald faces are smeared over, as if someone had burned the eyes out of their skull. The unsettling stretches of smooth skin upon their shoulders is mottled, and rotten.

Each humanoid torso is easily twenty feet long, but the bulk of its body must be forty feet across. Its alabaster skin is laces with burns, in disturbing patterns akin to lightning. There's pools of water trickling out of the beast's ten lips, like a fountain out of some nightmare.

It was killed, you think to yourself. It was killed by something, or someone. This demon was *killed*, despite its size, and your congregation is so stunned by the sight that a few of them have sat down in the blood, just to try and collect themselves.

(1/2)
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>>4322130
Serpent runs over to you. Echo trails behind him, in a daze. Claymore, Spangle, and Electrum actually lift their horrified gazes to the bald man, just as he approaches. The self-mutilator is relieved beyond measure to see you. In a whisper, he proposes, "there's no movement in any of the blood. It's well lit, here. If anyone is coming, we'd see them from a mile away. I can't imagine anyone making it home at this rate. We should rest."

Echo catches up, hands to his knees, out of breath and clearly scared out of his mind. Ignoring Serpent entirely, he nods to Spangle, Claymore, and Electrum. "Good work."

Serpent blinks. "Thank you."

They all barely respond. Claymore manages to wince, "yeah. Yer welcome."

The scholar nods towards Spangle, the countless clinking pouches upon all three fighters, and begs, "destroy it. Please. We can't take any chances."

Electrum winces. The burns on her arm and sides are still bleeding freely. "Can we not."

>A] Rest here, and leave the demon be.
>1] Serpent can have the first watch, if he's so desperate to get everyone some rest.
>2] There's no conceivable way you can stay still. Offer to look after everyone, even if you're definitely going on two days without sleep.

>B] Kill it. Kill it with fire.
>1] But get everyone else as far away as possible, first.
>2] Try and stick around, to see if you can use this space to rest.

>C] For the love of all the Gods, keep moving.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4322134
>>A] Rest here, and leave the demon be.
>2] There's no conceivable way you can stay still. Offer to look after everyone, even if you're definitely going on two days without sleep.

Count heads, check the injured, ask the Sisters if they can help heal any of them. Remember the sun.
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(Another visual aid, from an old thread. Pic of the demon in life.)
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>>4322148
Support
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>>4322148
>>4322179
(Cool cool. Write-in should totally work. Writing now!)
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>>4322276
https://youtu.be/pXrjMaVoTy0

Without sleep for two days, you look again to the inert and graying corpse. The demon isn't going anywhere. You're sure of it.

You're also certain that you won't ever sleep soundly again. Through a haze of exhaustion, you give everyone a weary smile. "Rem-memb-ber the sun?"

Both priestesses beside you lift their eyes, and smile in turn. Echo straightens up, just a little, and scoffs. "Naturally."

You ignore his pompous attitude, and immediately ask both sisters of Mercy, "is th-there any way you can attend to th-the wound-ded?" Serpent gives you a pained smile, too, as you insist, "I'll keep watch."

It's a small matter to staunch the bleeding on Electrum and Claymore. The priestess is incredibly resilient, and the swordsman is psychotically devoted to combat. Once you're certain that they aren't on death's door, Serpent goes to inform everyone that you're all finally getting some rest. He relays your comment about the sunlight, too, and it seriously helps.

The bloody lair is far from ideal, but everyone props themselves up against one another. To sleep, to pray, to look over their wounds, you're given some thanks as you run a head count.

"Thanks for going ahead. Idiot." Walter "Professor Echo" Middleton is coming around. His fair hands are lacerated, and there's something wrong with his health, but he's otherwise fine.

"You made the right call. I'm certain that this is the most rest we'll see for some time." Serpent is almost totally unscathed, and confesses he was using you as a human shield. You can't blame him. The man at least lends you a hand, to check on his friends.

"Should have seen it coming! Thanks for keepin' an eye out." Chesty is keeping the arrow in his shoulder, until you get to the surface. The priestesses are worried about it turning foul.

"Yeah." Irefist escaped from the explosion, in time to salvage a huge haul of supplies from the cavern, and to drag Klepto to safety. Both men collectively picked up five flasks of oil, a pouch of 80 (incredibly rare) solid gold coins, and a silver locket. The gaunt and auburn-haired man has kept a wide berth from the clown, and seriously appreciates your company. "Just say the word. We'll kill him twice over."

"Brilliant. Imagine what we can do with all of this!" Electrum is certain you all will divide their findings, to get everyone some shelter and care on the surface. She pilfered as much as she could during the fight. The priestess has at least second degree burns on her lower body, and severe wounds on her right arm, but she still takes the time to count out 300 silver pieces for bartering.

(1/2)
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>>4322384
You're more concerned with Spangle. The priestess has fashioned bandoliers of pouches. The clinking you heard is confirmed as vials of explosive material. She, along with Claymore, have outfitted themselves with thirty "cinders of the occult," (the flame Randy pointed out,) five flasks of "abyssal tar," (allegedly much more powerful, but has to be applied in advance) and one transparent, orange liquid within a bottle. It has no name.

"Wh-what d-does it d-do…?"

Spangle flashes her teeth at you, like a wild animal, as she puts the item deep within a cushioned bag. "I'm looking forward to finding out, Mr. Ringleader."

"I'll rest when I'm dead. You should probably get some sleep, though." Claymore is sharpening four swords, and takes the time to equip every other able-bodied man with whatever scrap metal he found.

Randy stayed so close to Mick, he's completely unharmed. "We're not all heroes." The former pilfered a singular flask of water, which is desperately shared among you all. The latter grabbed a gemstone, which may be enchanted, but he refused to part with it for further inspection. "Piss off. ...can't believe you tried to stop me."

Jitters is trying to not fall asleep, propped up against Starlight and Stardust. They're all talking in low voices, and you don't want to intrude. They're already discussing some plan for escape, once they get out of the ruins, and it seems extremely complicated.

Bronzebeard has discovered that Klepto is immune to all forms of intimidation. The brute's patchwork facial hair and beady eyes are laced with blood, from beating the clown the moment he had the chance. "Get off of me, Harvey. I'll make him shut the fuck up if it kills me!"

His own abrasions and wounds are treated by Spangle, while you see to the psychopath.

Klepto found several trinkets. They're obviously enchanted, and priceless. You realize that even under threat of imminent death, he was toying with them, rather than running for his life. "Please. You thought the flame collapsed the passage? I'm not just a pretty face. Hehe."

There are 15 members in your congregation, including yourself. You slump to the floor, on the edge of the group, after ensuring everyone else's needs are attended to. Looking out to the cavern beyond, you finally get a moment to consider your own agenda.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4322386
>A] Your need for retribution is great. Armor, swords, and an actual shield will suit you fine. You're a common man, have been wronged in every way, and are going to set things right with your own two hands.

>B] Spangle has the right idea. You want to learn from the powerful priestess. Even if her pursuit of Magic is blasphemous, you can't blame her. Getting to the bottom of her inability to invoke is alarming, to an extreme, and deserves your attention.

>C] Electrum's practical concerns are yours, too. You want to help her track the coin and valuables in your possession, and ensure that they're used wisely. She easily seems like the sanest of the bunch, and you could use the emotional support.

>D] Whatever Klepto is up to, you want in.

>E] Nobility is no joke. Neither is disgracing their family line, in treason, escape, or suicide. You want to learn more, when there's actually an appropriate time.

>F] It's going to kill you, but you're starting to think you can do it all. Shadow everyone. The welfare of these men and women could not mean more to you, even if it comes at great cost to yourself.

>G] Write-in.
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>>4322388
>A] Your need for retribution is great. Armor, swords, and an actual shield will suit you fine. You're a common man, have been wronged in every way, and are going to set things right with your own two hands.

Need equipment and some armour for the rest of the journey
>>
>>4322388
>>F] It's going to kill you, but you're starting to think you can do it all. Shadow everyone. The welfare of these men and women could not mean more to you, even if it comes at great cost to yourself.
>>
>>4322411
>>4322426
Support.
>>
>>4322411
>>4322426
>>4322538
(We absolutely can do both of these. I'm off of work for a 3 day weekend, hoping to rock and roll for the next few days! Vote is locked. Writing now!)
>>
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>>4322966
Looking out to the still water, the currents of blood, and the fifteen lives in your hands, you decide to keep your thoughts to yourself, for now. They need to rest, and their welfare means more to you than you could possibly say, anyways.

Getting up with a groan, you cringe at the disgusting sensation of your cloak and pants sticking to your legs. Shrugging off the treated wounds on your arm, ignoring exhaustion, and defeating hunger, you look for everything you need to finish this journey.

"Claym-more," you whisper, walking right over to the fighter.

He's still pacing, clearly too on edge from the fight to sleep. "Yeah?" The edge of his beard picks up, happy to see you, but is far too stressed to truly show it.

"I n-need some g-gear. A sword and sh-shield. An-ny arm-mour you've found."

He's worried, but doesn't say a word. The fighter instantly sets about showing you all the scavenged supplies he can. You're both smiling, a few minutes later, as he gestures to a pile of weapons and gear. "Best I could find."

You don't need to be told how substantial this find is. There's a pile of goods. It usually falls to scavenging, in Corcaea, to obtain anything in the way of weaponry. There are no mining operations that you're aware of. Copper is used widely, if only because smiths usually know how to use it. Tin and lead gets repurposed, sure, but in such small amounts it's hardly worth mentioning. Ironwork is only done by master craftsmen, under the King's command.

The ruins are a resource. This may be the only opportunity for you to get a decent weapon, for good, long while. You've heard of masterwork weapons made in Calunoth, given to priests of Flesh before being sent out to battle, but they're practically myths to simple men like yourself. The church of Flesh seizes and distributes anything located, anyways. Its leader— Father Friedrich— seems to think that only his forces and any civilians working under him rate more than haphazard pole arms, or whatever wooden instruments you can make.

"Sh-shame, really," you nod, towards multiple broken shields.

"Not that Father Fred isn't a blood-thirsty, hot-blooded, complete fuckin' lunatic," Claymore scowls. "Respectable, by any measure." You both smirk. "But we all need armor, too. It's a load of shit. Here, try this."

Claymore happily points out an iron sword. "It's almost pure. No question it could take a beating. Gonna raise eyebrows on any street, but I doubt you give a shit."

Its durability and weight is comforting. You know you could beat anything to death with it that isn't killed outright. "Yeah."

A more traditional blade catches your eye, thanks to the gold plated upon its hilt. Silver is inlaid all along the blade, which has been carved out slightly to make it much lighter than a usual weapon. "The make is fine," Claymore shrugs. He almost seems offended. "You fancy takin' over for Anscham?"

(1/2)
>>
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>>4323227
Only the Father of the Church of Mercy rates wearing gold. The metal is so scarce, it's only used for his holy symbol, and a few ceremonial robes. You're certain that both priestesses of Mercy have the usual imitations, for the holy symbol and robes of their station. It's tacky, of course. The silver is more elegant, in your opinion.

It's fitting, that silver is only worn by nobility. The King's children. A metal second only to His gold.

Claymore sniffs, bothered, and nods to direct your attention to an even more audacious item. "Demon-make. Might be more our speed."

It's a short sword, with a handle far more ornate than you're used to. It's still a simple shape, but the metal is glossy, and looks incredibly thin. Picking up the exotic sword proves it's almost weightless. You hold up the blade, and can slice a hair off the back of your hand effortlessly. "N-new kn-knives are d-duller."

You take a few swings, relishing the sound of air singing past the item. It's your only indication of wielding it at all.

"Made for close combat. Would be piss-easy to use in the city," the former resident of the capital notes.

After the swords are set aside, you're reassured that there's a number of more mundane daggers and short swords, if you're really interested. More importantly, two shields were found intact. One is the standard, round affair, with bands of iron. The other is made of the same, odd, incredibly light metal as the exotic sword.

It's smaller than the round shield, and would offer less coverage, but you're confident you could move faster with it. The veteran obliges you, as you hold up the item, and steel yourself for a kick right towards your chest. The shield holds, but the emblems of thread upon its face are odd, and you're not certain of its long-term stability.

What Claymore has done to wind up down here escapes you. The obviously retired, master blacksmith smirks, while you both mull over the haphazard pieces of armor. You'll be lucky to get anything that remotely fits you, but even a single bracer would be worthwhile.

"What's it gonna be?"

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4323234
>Your congregation is using or bartering with everything not put to immediate use. The following are mutually exclusive. Majority vote will decide.

>A] You're strong, and can easily wield a weapon.
>1] Take the iron sword. It's weightier, hardier, and can make the most of your build.
>2] Go with the exotic, shorter sword, for ease with street-level combat. It might come in handy in narrow ruins, too.
>3] You can't resist the gold-hilted sword. It's practical now, and may sell for a small fortune to a bold (or treasonous) buyer later.

>B] You need all the protection you can get.
>1] You'll favor the basic, round, larger shield. It's flexible, and you've got plenty of experience using them.
>2] Try the triangular shield. It may grant you more protection, though you're uncertain of how reliable its ornamental face and metal will be.

>C] Armor is a shot in the dark. You'll take what you can get. (Once the vote is locked, the DC will be made transparent for the majority vote. If the DC is met, you are guaranteed to get that item. The higher above the DC you go, the higher quality/better fit the item will be. If the DC is not met, you're out of luck, and will only have your shield. Best of 3 will be used.)
>1] You'll take anything. (NO DC MYSTERY BOX. Your QM will roll, and determine the parameters. You're guaranteed something!)
>2] Bracers would be nice, at the very least. (VERY LOW DC.)
>3] You want something more substantial for your shield arm. (LOW DC.)
>4] A helmet is priceless. (MODERATE DC.)
>5] You'd kill for something to cover your legs with. (HIGH DC.)
>6] A fitted piece of segmented armor would be a Godsend. (VERY HIGH DC.)
>7] You were told a story, as a young boy, about a hero in plated armor. You really want to believe that your story will be as fantastic. (HIGHEST DC.)
>>
>>4323235
>C7
plate boii
>>
>>4323235
>A2
>B2
>C1
demon-mistery nibbas
>>
>>4323235
>C7
>>
>>4323256
>>4323270
(Apologies if this was confusing . You guys can vote in each category. A, B, and C. Within each option, the prompts are mutually exclusive.)
>>4323268
(This is a perfect example!)
>>
>>4323270
>>4323281
>A1
>B1
>C7
there we go
>>
>>4323291
+1>>4323256
fixing my vote to this then
>>
You have a hope. A dream.

>>4323268
(Appreciate you man. Majority vote is locked!)
>>4323291
>>4323309
>PLATE ARMOR OR BUST
>You are guaranteed your iron sword, and large shield.
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used. If the DC is not met, you find nothing further worth using.

>For a scavenged suit of plate armor that fits well enough for use, in the year 605, in the country of Corcaea:

DC 95.

>Each point above 95 will represent one part of the suit being a VERY high quality item:
>96 - helm
>97 - arms
>98 - legs
>99 - breastplate
>100 - the entire suit

>When you roll, you can specify one of the following attributes (this is optional):
>Perfect fit
>Extreme durability
>Exotic metal
>Ridiculously cool design

>If a 100 is rolled, all characteristics voted on by all voters will be assigned to the entire suit.
(Good luck!)
>>
Rolled 28 (1d100)

>>4323317
>>
Rolled 67 (1d100)

>>4323317
>>
Rolled 10 (1d100)

>>4323317
>>
Rolled 12 (1d100)

>>4323317
>>
Rolled 35 (1d100)

>>4323317
my grandpa's deck has no pathetic cards, Alaric!

>Extreme durability
>>
Rolled 76 (1d100)

>>4323317
does this quest do bo3?

my dick hurts
>>
>>4323319
>>4323320
>>4323321
>>4323322
(You hate to see it. Writing now!)
>>
Rolled 100 (1d100)

>>4323317
>>
>>4323328
F
>>
>>4323328
OWQ ID
Such a meme, I find a quest rolling see all the anons suck ass and get a 100 roll. Which don't count since bo3. Well, got to update my quest.
>>
>>4323328
checked
>>
>>4323328
please scratch my dick itch
PLEASE
>>
>>4323325
>>4323328
>>4323329
>>4323330
>>4323331
>>4323332
As you get on your hands and knees, up to your wrists in the bloodied water of a demon's lair, you think back. Not to the lacerations along your wrists, the stab wound in your arm, or the unmistakable scent of rot stuck in your beard. Not to the nightmares behind you, and not of the ones you imagine ahead.

You think back, to a story you were told as a little boy. Laying in an actual bed, buried in the linen sheets up to your nose. To your mother, and the smell of barley, as she tucked you in and recounted an old tale. She said it was passed down from her mother. The seamstress always loved to Dream, and had a knack for silly voices. You remember them all clearly.

"There was once a great castle, that covered all the land. It stretched from the bottom of the world, up to the very tips of the sky! In the castle's highest tower, up, hiiiigh up on the tallest peak, there was a beautiful princess.

She was guarded by a terrible demon. The icicles of its eyes, the blizzard of its breath, and the chill of its voice was more fearsome than the howl of the wind! It was more fearsome than the might of the Storm! The mountains themselves trembled, in its wake!

One day, a prince, with hair like fire, set out to rescue the princess. He was trusted with the mightiest steed in all the land. In one hand, he carried his father's sword. In the other, he took up his village's shield. And upon his brow, he wore something greater than the very King's crown.

The prince wore a suit of armor. The flame upon his brow shone brightly, reflecting high off of its polished surfaces. From the spikes upon his shoulders, to the plated gloves upon his hands, the prince painted a gallant picture.

He rode up to the castle, and slayed countless foes. They fell beneath his steed, they fell upon his shield, and they fell beneath his sword. Neither man nor demon could lay a scratch upon him!

The road was long, and full of peril. At long last, the prince confronted the demon! There, upon the highest peak, up, at the tallest tower, he saw it:

The demon was the mountains. The demon was the icicles upon his armor, the blizzard of his breath, the chill in his voice, and the howl of the wind.

The princess came to her champion, and took him by the hand. She had been waiting, to tell him that, the real demon he faced..."


"...was the j-journ-ney."

The year is 605. You live in the country of Corcaea. No matter how badly you want to find an entire suit of armor, upon imps, at the bottom of the world, you have to face reality. There's nothing. It's all junk. Claymore absolutely went through the trouble of looking for the best gear he could, but it's sodden.

"Harvey?"

(Barely over, 1/2)
>>
>>4323351
You pick up the iron sword, and get to your feet. The weight in the palm of your hand, tugging at your arm, and weighing at your shoulder feels excellent. Its balance is superb. You feel like you could kill someone just from moving at them too quickly with the item in hand. In the other, you pick up the large, wooden, banded shield. It nearly covers you from shoulder to knee, even though you're a little above average height. The ancient piece of defense is still solid. The wood isn't rotten in the slightest. It could even be used offensively, if you really threw your weight into the metal edges.

"Th-thanks," you manage, nodding towards the blacksmith.

Claymore gives you a frown, and sets to clearing away all the gear he painstakingly gathered. "No problem."

>A] Stay a minute, and talk to Claymore, as best as you can. He seems like an alright guy, and you could do with being a little more grounded right now.

>B] Starlight and Stardust are still talking. Go see what it's about.

>C] Go distract Electrum. She's compulsively counting, and might appreciate the company.

>D] You never thought you'd say it, but you wouldn't mind Klepto right now.

>E] Take some time to yourself, and go finish the rest of the watch alone.
>1] You're pretty upset.
>2] You just need some time to think.

>F] Write-in.
>>
>>4323352
>>B] Starlight and Stardust are still talking. Go see what it's about.
>>
>>4323352
>C] Go distract Electrum. She's compulsively counting, and might appreciate the company.
>>
>F] Write-in.

You didn't rest on our last stop, goofbrain. you should do it this time
>>
>>4323364
+1
>>
>>4323364
+1
>>4323352
Here you go Alaric, some art if the MC got that suit of armor. Tried to kept your style when doing the head. Liked how it turned out hope you like it.
>>
>>4323389
(Absolutely adore it man. Thank you so much! Floored right now, guess you guys are going to have to make it happen :^)

It's a little past 4AM right now so I'm heading off to bed, going to leave the vote open. Look forward to a proper session tomorrow guys!)
>>
>>4323364
+1
>>
>>4323364
Support
>>
>>4323361
>>4323362
(As previous votes were explicitly to stay up and take watch, going to touch on these first)
>>4323364
>>4323373
>>4323572
>>4323613
(And we'll get straight to this. Vote is locked! Can run a proper session! Writing now.)
>>
(Extremely minor name correction, please refresh/F5 if old post is still displaying!)

>>4323649
The urge to distract yourself is as unshakable as your need for rest. With a quick glance around the bloody camp, you confirm that a number of your congregation are still awake. Just to be safe, you nod to Claymore. "Could you take th-the next w-watch?"

"'Course." He still looks worried. "Go get some sleep. Or try to."

You offer him the straightest face you can muster, and nod towards Electrum (who is compulsively, repeatedly counting the several hundred coins you've all acquired), Starlight (who is practically transparent, for how pale she is), and Stardust (still talking). "I'll b-be ch-checking on th-them all, first."

A firm slam on your back later, "get some rest if you can, then," and you're staggering back over to the curvy priestess. Blinking a few spots of sunlight out of your eyes, it's easily enough to see that she looks as tired as you feel. The piles of coin and the few valuables you've all collected are stacked neatly upon a broken shield . She's repurposed the fractured metal into a makeshift table, to keep the items out of the blood and water around you all.

Squinting in the low light, smiling slightly, you'd almost say she's taking a little comfort in the eerily neat piles of ancient currency. The extreme anxiety running through her, and the fact that the woman doesn't so much as raise her head when you approach is enough cause for concern. "Electrum," you quickly snip, enough to snap her attention away. "Come w-with m-me."

Briskly walking away wrests the priestess from her neurosis, straight to her feet. It would seem that Sister Corbon is merely so tall and gangly in comparison, the woman before you always looks shorter than she really is. She's actually much taller than average, and barely has to look up to you. "Harvey? Is something wrong?"

At the edge of the group— backs propped up against Jitters' sleeping frame— both nobles in your company stop their low whispering upon seeing you approach. They look far too exhausted to even stand, but Stardust holds out a hand. It's the symbol of Mercy, and you're seized with the desire to complete the gesture.

As you both clasp hands, for a brief moment, the lord gives you a pained smile. His features are just as fair as his sister's, save for his strong jaw, and the breadth of his shoulders. The grip he gives is crushing, but a level, resonant, and confident, "name's actually Allan. Thanks," disarms you almost completely.

He nudges the woman leaning against him, just as Electrum closes in on you all. The golden-haired lady jolts back upright. You've only heard her scream or sob hysterically, in over a full day, so it makes perfect sense that her voice isn't much more than a rasp. It's still as delicate as the rest of her. "Lady Edith. We owe you our lives, ser...?"

You wince. "Alg-grith."

They wince, offer a pair of condescending smiles, and in unison say, "pleasure."

(1/2)
>>
>>4323681
Electrum doesn't wince, but appreciates the distraction enough to politely excuse herself. You're given a slight pat on your shoulder, and a low, "thanks for looking out," before she walks off.

By the time Sister Tirel collapses next to Spangle, and immediately falls asleep, the nobles before you have resumed their incredibly low tones. The two speak almost in unison, completing each other's train of thought, while Stardust seems to prefer leading.

"Listen," Allan tries, with a more sincere smile.
Edith's tone is even softer than before. "Harvey."
"We cannot return to Calunoth."
"Father will have Allan killed."
"If I'm going to die, it's going to be on our," they squeeze hands, "terms."
"And seeing as how Father Anscham has conveniently intervened..."

They both gesture for you to sit down. You give up on sleep for just a minute longer, and accept the audience with royalty. The damp conditions in here are beyond miserable. The stone underfoot is soft with chunks of viscera, from forgotten monsters. The torchlight on the walls is searing, the heat is unrelenting, but you're a fighter. It all is, at the very least, keeping you awake a moment longer.

In incredibly hushed tones, enough that you all have to lean in (realizing how terrible everyone smells, you all then promptly lean back another inch), you all try to whisper to one another to not wake Jitters.

"The Church of Mercy cannot refuse anyone from their doorstep," Stardust firmly reminds you.
"It could give us a little extra time," Starlight muses, "and ensure that everyone is given the chance to heal."
"To think." The faux-brunette stresses. "Magnus will eat us alive if we go straight back."
"I'm certain that plenty of us here would suffer the same fate."

You can't help but catch Mick and Randy out of the corner of your eye. "Th-they d-don't know wh-what th-they're d-doing. It could b-be w-worse."

The actual logistics of getting everyone to Eadric— the most heavily fortified city in Corcaea, weeks away by foot in the best of conditions— is far more complex than any of you need to elaborate on. It's as good a plan as any. Odds are most of your congregation are a lot smarter than they let on.

Most of you likely have nowhere else to go.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4323684
>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.

>B] Talk for a little while longer. They're being unreasonably kind, and seem much more level-headed than you suspect. (Each of the following will eat into the time you have to rest. Any prompts selected will be cumulative. Needless to say, you may not get any sleep if you pursue them all. 3+ prompts, or possibly write-ins, will require a roll to stay awake!)
>1] The King is supposed to be Merciful. This is bullshit. Say as much.
>2] Reassure the twins that you're going to do everything you can to look after them, until you all get to safety.
>3] Ask Starlight and Stardust about their combative skill. You haven't seen them do a whole lot of fighting, and you seriously need everyone to pull their weight.
>4] This is the first time you've talked to nobility, and you're honestly a little curious. Ask a few harmless, casual, lighter questions about them.
>5] Write-in.
>>
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>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.
>>
>>4323684
>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.
dreaming about godly plates
>>
>>4323686
>>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.
>>
>>4323686
>>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.
>>
>>4323692
>>4323693
>>4323696
>>4323697
(Hell yeah guys. Vote is locked here! Going to keep to pretty short voting windows if we stay this active! Writing now.)
>>
>>4323686
>A] Leave the twins to their business, get some rest, and encourage them to do the same. You all seriously need to sleep.
>>
>>4323709
(Aaa I gotchu bro. Just to help me avoid missing any further votes, I'll keep the window to 30 minutes today until we slow down! [or take a break]. Really though, writing now.)
>>
Really liking our journey soo far
>>
>>4323722
(You guys are the best.)

>>4323708
It occurs to you that the hold you and Allan started has not stopped. The lord also seems to realize the awkward position, releasing the iron grip to rub at his own wrist at the same time as you. Both of your wrists and hands are poorly wrapped with makeshift bandages from the priestesses of Mercy, and the cloth practically peels apart as you let go.

The shredded skin is stinging, and you are both probably too tired and traumatized to have really registered it at all. You get back to your feet, tactfully offering, "I'm g-going to sleep."

A pair of grateful, equally tired smiles are fired to you. "Sleep well," "Harvey."

There's a decent spot, slightly elevated out of the water and chunks of sodden demon flesh, that offers you an almost-dry vantage point. You drop your shield to the floor, make sure your sword isn't getting soaked, and watch the torchlight for a few more moments. There's no movement in the colossal chamber. Not a single fly is to be found on the corpse of the gigantic, fallen demon. Mist dances in your eyes, from the humid atmosphere, and from an old hope that's gone unfulfilled.

You dream of plated armor, in the dark.

Full plate. Glossy, gallant, ceremonial plate. Worn with battle, tested with time! Something befitting of a hero. Something your mother would have been proud for you to wear. One day.

-----

Your eyes drift open of their own accord, likely no more than an hour later. More movement on the edge of your senses has you yawn, stretch, regret moving so much, and stiffly get back to your feet. You're still exhausted. Everything aches, the cavern is just as miserable, and most of your congregation is still at rest. Still, about ten people are restlessly moving to leave, and clearly want to wait for everyone to be back on their feet before moving forward.

To your absolute astonishment, even a short period of rest seems to have done wonders for everyone's faculties. Mick, Randy, and Jitters are all trying to patiently explain something to Serpent and Echo. You ignore the creak in every joint of your body, sweep up your sword and shield, and make your way over.

"It's flooded," Randy says with exasperation. "I've said it twenty times. I'll say it again. There's no way through."

Serpent yawns, twisting the disgusting split in his tongue to emphasize it. He seems to take extreme satisfaction in the look he's given from Randall, and leers, "and I'm telling you, that makes no sense."

"It has to filter out somewhere," Walter plainly states. "This ruin is too large, too ancient, and infinitely too shitty to have anything air-tight. It's a trick, or a trap."

Jitters nods to you, as you approach. "Harvey." You nod back. "We scouted ahead. Everything's flooded down there. Something must've happened. There's a couple dry tunnels leading out, but you're not gonna like it."

"Try m-me."

(1/2)
>>
>>4323773
Mick spits, and successfully launches a wad of phlegm about twenty feet away, and laughs triumphantly. The missile lands directly on top of Klepto's (formerly sleeping) forehead. The clown immediately begins laughing, upon awakening, which completely ruins the hulking rogue's mood. He scowls, "no going back. Don't know why nothing's followed us. Somethin's fishy."

Randy smirks. "Is that supposed to be a joke?"

"Stop," Jitters immediately fires back. "For the last time. We're not swimming through there. No way." The short, slender young man gestures to a far-off corridor. "The only other passages we found were trapped," Serpent gives you a knowing look, "but it looks like someone's been off that way before. Dry as a bone. Could come out up top? Everything that leads down, and definitely out, is totally flooded, though."

"There's light in the water," Serpent nods to you, with a cheshire-grin, "like the sun. I'm not getting in the water, though."

Randy gets infinitely too close, and walks two fingers along your shoulder, leering, "there's leeeeeches, Harvey. All aglow. Must be hundreds of 'em." The urge to burn your clothes is immediate, as you shrug him off. He continues, nonplussed, "they're not moving. We could be. Could figure something out."

"Will you stop," Jitters snaps.

Echo sighs. In a distant fashion, to the ceiling, he muses, "it is, at the very least, a more pleasant view than our present company." Straight to you, more levelly, he manages, "we could test it. It could take some time, but I'm sure I could think of something."

>A] Chance the dry corridors that you know are trapped. It's your comfort zone, no matter how nightmarish or dangerous it may seem.
>1] Leave everyone you can here, and only take the men you know are adept with this environment. You'll double back when there's a clear path. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED, and more time will definitely be taken.)
>2] Everyone is starving to death. You're all going, even if it complicates things. (A VERY HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>B] Inspect the flooded passages, and invite everyone to help you brainstorm. There MUST be something you can do. (Feel free to write-in any ideas you may have off the bat!)

>C] Wait for Walter to come up with something, and give everyone else a little more time to rest. He works best alone, and you could use a little extra time, too.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4323775
>>B] Inspect the flooded passages, and invite everyone to help you brainstorm. There MUST be something you can do. (Feel free to write-in any ideas you may have off the bat!)

We could always use our clothes to tie someone and send them to feel out a route, pull them back if something goes fucky and if not they can tie the end on the other side and everyone can use it as a guide.
>>
>>4323775
>B] Inspect the flooded passages, and invite everyone to help you brainstorm. There MUST be something you can do. (Feel free to write-in any ideas you may have off the bat!)

We still have a few boom-booms. If we can find a frail support, or a wall slim enough, water pressure could do the rest and give us some more maneuverability
>>
>>4323789
>>4323800
Support the brainstorming idea, let those write-ins be our contributions to the brainstorming and we can see what they think.
>>
>>4323806
Forgot to link to >>4323775
>>
>>4323789
>>4323800
>>4323806
>>4323809
(Brainstorm! Alright. As previously stated, gonna keep these half hour voting windows. Vote is locked. Writing now!)
>>
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>>4323837
"Let's th-think of someth-thing," you immediately suggest.

It's a short matter to wring out, tie up, and create a pseudo rope out of spare cloaks and skirts. As most of you have holes in your tattered clothing, the heat within the demon's chamber is actually welcome.

No one wants to dip into the water, to brave the passages beyond.

The most obvious point of exit is a narrow tunnel, at the farthest end of the chamber. It slants almost straight down, is flooded to the brim, and is filled with a huge quantity of luminescent leeches. If you stand back far enough, you can see almost clear to the end, before it takes a sharp bend. Water is distorting whatever is in the distance.

Walter sniffs, and nudges you with the side of his elbow. Starlight and Stardust seem to be taken with the corridor, looking to the faint orange light with stars in their eyes. You can't help but share the sentiment that it's almost beautiful. The parasitic worms are grotesquely over-sized, but their radiance masks all but the vaguest outline of their forms. It casts a glow through the water, showing that the corridor continues far off into the distance, and clearly opens up somewhere. Be it another incline, a trick of the light, or some kind of sorcerery is uncertain.

You know that there's no leverage to speak of, within the chamber. You optimistically suggest looking to the other flooded passageways, wondering if you could create a pocket of air. Wondering if anyone could even find something to hold onto, wanting for any tools at all, you lean over to Spangle.

A small, singular whisper, and an expansive motion with your hands is all she needs to hear. "B-boom," you smirk, nodding to the bandolier upon her bosom.

Sister Corbon's eyes light up. The same, horrific, manic energy is immediately back upon her. "The tar could certainly create enough heat to maintain an explosion, even while submerged." She's grinning like a maniac. "It would normally be impossible to light underwater, but with what we have at our disposal? Harvey. Harvey, our lovely Ringleader. It might take all of them," she looks like she might cry, "but we could absolutely create a trail. It's possible. It's possible! Harvey, you genius—!"

The priestess is practically vibrating with enthusiasm, until Klepto fires her a disparaging frown. "What do you suppose you'd do, once it's started?" She blinks, and obviously hadn't thought farther than the possibility of flame outlasting water. He keeps frowning. "Women. Not much fun to be had if we're all boiled alive." A nod is given to you, without missing a beat. "I wouldn't mind trying it, though."

You blink. "Wh-what."

"You want to create an outlet, is that right?"

"N-not n-necessarily."

"Then what the fuck do you mean, Harvey. We can't just make a dead end."

Something strikes him as hilarious, and totally derails the man's train of thought. He breaks down, into a fit of giggles, as you try to not lose your patience.

(1/2)
>>
>>4323902
Klepto buckles in half, wheezing. You stare for a moment, dumbfounded, until the psychopath totally loses his composure. "It needs—"

He's clutching at his sides, trying to not cry. You patiently stand, and wait, until he declares, "a STORM drain! AHAHAHA—!"

The priestesses of Mercy are both wide-eyed, look to each other, and back to the lunatic. Electrum quietly notes, "he might be onto something." She jerks a thumb back, to the monstrous corpse behind you all. "Could have done something to seal off its lair. Demon of Storm?"

Spangle twitches. "Sure is enough fire around here. And water. Not so sure about the rest. I still say we blow it up."

Serpent leans around, seemingly materializing from right behind the priestess, to assert, "if there is a blockage, I don't see how it can be removed. Even if it's melted down. And we'll be wasting our best weaponry."

Clearing his throat, taking a broad step forward, Echo places himself between you and Spangle. She's taller than he is. The priestess scowls down at the scholar, while he tries to pull you into a hold, around you shoulder. "Ringy. Harvey. Really." He whispers, "if you send them in, they were going to get us all killed, anyways." He leans back, as if he hasn't just suggested a suicide run. "It might be worth looking into, though."

Mick is already tying the rope around his broad waist. He's taking several pouches, of the cinders, from Spangle. "Yep."

Klepto is right behind him, doing the same. He's fussing with one of the devices he fashioned, from the fallen imps. It looks like an over-sized pair of metal scissors. "You tell him, Echo."

>A] Grab the rope, and take the lead. You know enough about maneuvering in shitty spaces, without speaking, to handle this. "Sure thing, Walter."

>B] "Wait. Wait just a minute." Take the explosives and whatever demonic device Klepto's fashioned away from both men. Implore them to merely investigate.

>C] Demand that Spangle come with you, to supervise whatever operation might be necessary.

>D] There HAS to be a better way to do this. (Write-in.)
>>
>>4323909
>>B] "Wait. Wait just a minute." Take the explosives and whatever demonic device Klepto's fashioned away from both men. Implore them to merely investigate.
>>
(I have an appointment to get to in about ten minutes. Won't take long, no more than an hour, but just a heads up that the vote will be open until I get back.)
>>
>>4323909
>>B] "Wait. Wait just a minute." Take the explosives and whatever demonic device Klepto's fashioned away from both men. Implore them to merely investigate.
>>
>>4323909
>C] Demand that Spangle come with you, to supervise whatever operation might be necessary.
>>
>>4323909
>B] "Wait. Wait just a minute." Take the explosives and whatever demonic device Klepto's fashioned away from both men. Implore them to merely investigate.
>>
(predictably got pulled away for longer. Ty for your patience guys! Will resume the session when I'm back )
>>
>>4324080
No problem, thanks for running so often.

>>4323909
>B] "Wait. Wait just a minute." Take the explosives and whatever demonic device Klepto's fashioned away from both men. Implore them to merely investigate.
>>
>>4324174
(Absolutely dude, it's a pleasure.)

>>4323936
>>4323944
>>4323955
>>4323962
(Positive we can do both of these! Vote is locked, back at my desk, writing now.)
>>
File: Corcaea Map (Out of Date).jpg (2.69 MB, 2402x3200)
2.69 MB
2.69 MB JPG
>>4324259
(Attached map for all your reference, as written by our usual protagonist. Even an expert can be fallible, so take any notes here with a grain of salt.)

>>4324259
"W-we g-go in," you nod, to both men, and to Spangle, "and inv-vestig-gate." Taking the explosives from Mick, with a warning glare, you continue, "th-the walls." The cinders are handed back to the priestess. "G-grates." You cautiously extract the demonic item from Klepto's hands. "Any outlets, b-before anyone d-drowns. Come right b-back, and w-we'll make a plan of attack."

Mick goes in. "FUCK it's SLIMY—" Klepto is tied right behind him. "AHahahaha." The length of rope is kept held with Irefist in front, Claymore behind, and Chesty as a human anchor at the very back. The rest of you filter in-between, keeping a reasonably loose hold to allow the makeshift rope some slack.

Deep breaths, from both. They go under.

A few seconds pass. There's only a slight pull, as their silhouettes get further, and deeper into the watery corridor. They're both obviously proficient swimmers. Corcaea's villages are entirely centralized around its two largest rivers (Eventide and Morinburn), and you're hard pressed to think of anyone you've ever met who can't navigate even a fast-moving stream.

You can't remember the last time you drank from a clear stream, and practically salivate over the pool ahead, until there's a rough tug on the rope. Everyone immediately, collectively, pulls both men back as fast as humanly possible. It takes less than five seconds of shouting and mild chaos, to drag the two lunatics back out of what should be certain death.

Spluttering, Mick cursing, they're covered head-to-toe in leeches. Klepto scrambles onto solid ground, and retches, clearly having inhaled one while laughing. The larger of the two simply rolls onto the floor, coughing up water, as Electrum runs over to peel the parasites off of him.

You stride over to the better off of the two. The rest of your congregation promptly drops the rope. Several run to the edge of the water, looking suspiciously with fists and swords at the parasites. The rest form a perimeter around you, and those brave enough to have ventured forth. Mick doesn't quite look to you, nodding, "thanks, babe," to the unamused priestess at your side.

"What happened," she scowls, as everyone else keeps an incredibly wide berth. The leeches are disgustingly bloated, and at least half a foot long by any measure. Their luminescence has persisted out of the water, and you have to wince to look at the two men they're clinging to.

Electrum begrudgingly runs over, to help out Klepto. His sandy hair is promptly brushed out of his face, as he's rid of the worm he inhaled, and chokes out, "it lets out, alright. Really long swim. We could see to the end. It's, heh. Heh. There's actually a drain." The priestess beside him looks impressed, as he continues, "up, into a big cavern. Comes right out at the waterway."

(1/2)
>>
>>4324422
The bite marks on both men look disgusting. You try to not recoil, as Mick is rolled over, to have a series of them pulled off his back. The creatures bit straight through his clothing. He groans, "something fucked up the walls, all through it. Same marks as what's on the demon over there." He waves, weakly, to the grotesque burns marks all along the monster behind you. "It actually looks weak enough to blow out. The walls. Probably a bad idea, though."

Serpent was eavesdropping, and chimes in from the perimeter around you all, "it could collapse the entire exit."

With a nod beside him, Jitters snips, "there's a few other passages, without any bugs."

"I'm not doin' this shit all day," Mick snaps. "You get your scrawny ass in there, if you think it's such a good idea."

The junkie beside him giggles. "As much as I'd like to," Randy winks at him, from across the way, "thank you, Randall. It would be better to keep moving. There's nothing in the way of water we can use here. We're far too close to the surface to waste our precious time. Isn't that right, Walter?"

The professor is thinking intensely about something. His attention is snapped, out of the reverie, to distantly mutter, "hmm? Oh. Oh. Yes. Sure."

Irefist elbows the scholar hard enough to send him staggering. "Out with it."

"You son of a bitch—" he starts, and you're already striding over, putting yourself right between the two men. "Oh, don't give me that face. Gods. Fine. Fine, Harvey. I was just thinking— there were plenty of tunnels past here. If I remember correctly. This doesn't make much sense." The intellectual looks around, and plainly asks everyone, "who came down here most recently?"

To no one's surprise, the majority of you can't remember. The priestesses of Mercy are the best bet, having left their church only a few months past.

Something's seriously bothering them. "Father Anscham," they both mutter to each other, almost simultaneously.

Spangle scowls, getting the last of the leeches off of Mick. "You don't think...?"

"It's possible," Electrum bemoans, looking like someone's got a noose to her throat.

You give both women a questioning glance.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4324426
>A] You really don't have time for politics, religion, or anything more complicated than your immediate survival. Tell them to voice their concerns, or to get out of the way.

>B] There's something going on here that could have placed all of your lives in jeopardy. Try to be patient, and give them some time to speak.

>C] Go send someone else to investigate the other passages, and leave this affair to the more cerebral members of your congregation. You're seriously worried about how much time you've all spent here, and want to get moving.

>D] This all seems extremely suspicious. You have your own thoughts on the church of Mercy, and are happy to voice them.
>1] King Magnus is an oppressive monster, and his theocracy has been the downfall of humanity. If he's sent someone down here on his behalf, you want to know.
>2] Father Anscham is practically still a child, yet has proved a more capable defender of your people than any of his seniors. If he's intentionally placed you all in harm's way, you want to know.
>3] You'd really like to know why both priestesses are down here. Now.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>>4324427
>E] Write-in.

Tell the congregation that all the stuff we been through to get out of here cant be jeopardised by any theory's or creeds. In turn, we should voice any suspicions or concerns.

>B] There's something going on here that could have placed all of your lives in jeopardy. Try to be patient, and give them some time to speak.
>>
>>4324520
Support.
>>
>>4324520
>>4324558
(Awesome guys. Working on a big project atm, can definitely get another update or two out tonight though. Locking the vote here, writing now!)
>>
>>4324940
https://youtu.be/mDXWN5bAtCs

They're reluctant to speak. You aren't, even if it's infinitely harder. "W-we've lost a lot. N-not only d-dozens of lives. M-more th-than th-that." You frown to Serpent and Walter, "your th-theories," and frown more deeply still to the priestesses, "or your creeds? Th-they're g-getting in th-the way."

Everyone gets a lot quieter. You look to them all, expectantly. "All of us sh-should v-voice an-ny susp-picions, or concerns. Th-this is ab-bout m-more than any one of us."

Electrum grimaces so intensely, you think she might hurt herself. She's too furious to say a word, but her fellow Sister manages. "We left the church, the moment we found out what was going on." She looks around, to all of you. It's not that she wants to preach, but you suspect the woman can't help herself. "They've always kept demons in Eadric. Always. For restraint. For study." She's bitter. "It shouldn't have surprised me." Resentful. "I should have realized it, sooner."

You catch Spangle digging her nails into the palm of her hand. You realize that it's not just anger that's soaking her. A little blood drops into the water below, and from her lips. It's from compassion. "They'd been keeping Father Anscham, for years, down there. With them. Demons." She looks like she could vomit. "I'm sure that's what he's been treated as. I'd heard rumors. Whispers. And I've been lying to myself." She's shaking. "I wanted to ask. I did want to know what was wrong with him."

She stares straight at you. Her eyes are red. "It was too easy to find out. He's been nothing but honest with us. He always has been. We disgraced our church, the Mother, and the Father, Harvey." A hand comes to her lips, trying to restrain something ugly. "To lie is to sin, you know. I don't think there's a soul left, back at home. Not a single one of us that had done a thing about it. To really help him."

Everyone is shifting very uncomfortably. "How do you know this," Walter asks.

Desperation cracks Sister Tirel's voice. "I asked. Brother Dalton knew. He'd known for years, and was worried for his sons. Can you believe it? But they knew. Most of them."

Spangle twitches. She's fighting back something hideous. "We left, the moment we realized. There was nothing we could do. Not for him. Not for Her."

A sideways glance from Serpent is infinitely nastier than anything you'd ever want to lay eyes on. "He didn't come down here for you."

"No," Sister Corbon spits.

"He isn't here for us," Allan grimaces. He's holding tightly onto Edith, and they both look like they're going to be ill.

"He's been hurt," Electrum winces. "Badly." She sounds like she's going to cry. "I doubt he'd remember my name, let alone my face. They've done worse things than work him into an early grave."

Lady Edith murmurs, distantly, "he's seeking one."

(1/2)
>>
>>4324979
With a little more horror, you all look to the colossal demon, felled by an obvious invocation of the Gods themselves.
To the flooded passageway ahead.
To the wounds and scars of battle, lacing all of your figures.
From a chase away from a small army of imps, most of whom were called away.
To smears of blood, along countless walls.
To the exhaustion slaking you all, from a chase out of nightmares.
Demons, who were frightened into submission, cowed into retreat, just at the sight of more humans.
Pursuit. Flight. Away from certain death. Out, to the surface, compelled by a force greater than something you care to understand.

Everyone is talking in low voices, together. It's mostly about the few rumors they'd heard. The odd behavior of the priest. The terror and subservience of those who have worked under him.

His obsessive, all-consuming fixation. The man is said to be preoccupied with the Catalyst. To put his passion before any human life.

You know better. You all are still together. You still have each other.

You can't help but feel your skin crawl. There's just a dog, and some elf leading a young man to the bottom of the world. He's going deeper, while Spangle grits her teeth, and with more fury than you thought a woman capable of demonstrating, she snaps, "I am NOT going to let his sacrifices go unheard."

She hikes up her skirt, and goes to wade into the corridor beyond. "Come on. All of you. I don't care where you're all going." Looking to the ruins, the flame, and to unknown danger ahead, she sneers, "I don't care if Mercy's left me. He hasn't left us." The priestess is too angry to cry, and snaps to you all, "not yet! Let's make it count for something."

Jitters can't help but protest. "That's all well and good, but the passage is flooded, Sister."

"Fuck you. I'm swimming," she snaps. With a look around the room, wide-eyed, baring her teeth, Sister Corbon sneers, "are you coming, or not?"

>A] You don't even know where to start. Follow your congregation's lead on this one. You can ask more questions later.

>B] Hold on. Seriously. Before anyone gets themselves killed, you need a proper explanation. Not conjecture. Not speculation. You need to get at least get a few answers, before you lose anyone else.

>C] This is REALLY bigger than any of you, but you're not losing focus. See who the strongest swimmer is, to go ahead immediately with Spangle. Implore everyone else to wait. If the passage does collapse, you can't stand the thought of losing anyone else.

>D] No matter how distraught these priestesses are over their leader, you have your own people to worry about. Search through one of the other corridors. It may take more time. Spangle might not listen, but you're willing to try.
>1] Beg her, if you have to.
>2] Let her go.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>>4324984
>C] This is REALLY bigger than any of you, but you're not losing focus. See who the strongest swimmer is, to go ahead immediately with Spangle. Implore everyone else to wait. If the passage does collapse, you can't stand the thought of losing anyone else.
>>
>>4324984
>>C] This is REALLY bigger than any of you, but you're not losing focus. See who the strongest swimmer is, to go ahead immediately with Spangle. Implore everyone else to wait. If the passage does collapse, you can't stand the thought of losing anyone else.

Stay safe, for Father Anscham.
>>
>>4324984
>C] This is REALLY bigger than any of you, but you're not losing focus. See who the strongest swimmer is, to go ahead immediately with Spangle. Implore everyone else to wait. If the passage does collapse, you can't stand the thought of losing anyone else.
>>
>A] You don't even know where to start. Follow your congregation's lead on this one. You can ask more questions later.
no hogging the spotlight
>>
>>4325059
>>4325062
>>4325065
>>4325098
(Going to heavily favor C, can work this all together though. Nice comments too dudes. Let's rock and roll! Vote is locked. Writing now.)
>>
>>4325634
Klepto is right after Sister Corbon, without a moment's hesitation. The rest of you have understandable reservations, about getting back into the suspiciously clear water, swimming with parasites, without a nearby outlet. "Who's th-the strong-gest swimm-mer here," you frantically ask.

It's not that you want to steal the spotlight. The thought of anything happening to your people is simply unbearable. Irefist sniffs, insulted. "Worked on the coast for a year or two. Could drown a fish, if I put my mind to it."

"S-P-PANGLE," you bark, as she takes a quick breath in, already about to go under.

The woman actually pauses. She's tied her holy vestments behind her, the yellow-gold fabric in such tatters that she could easily make several knots. Klepto's lingering in the water just behind her, now without the rope. He's been saddled with a huge quantity of explosives, acquired a dagger from somewhere, and isn't grinning.

Worry knits your brow. "St-stay safe. For Fath-ther Anscham."

The priestess' breath catches. She chokes down a sob, and nods to you with more red in her eyes before. "I will." To all of you, eyes to the water, she murmurs, "the Gods are Merciful."

Sister Corbon goes under. Klepto is right behind. You turn to Irefist, "please g-go after her."

He sprints, and without question, leaps from the edge of the water, to dive in head-first. Before he even hits the water, you look to everyone, desperately. "Wait. Pl-please." There's a huge splash. "G-give th-them Time."

They listen. Electrum stays at the edge of the water, and backs out, to pull several leeches off of her legs on the (relatively) dry land. You give them Time, and it's agony. You try holding your own breath, just to guess when to go after them. If they'll still be alive.

Ten seconds pass.

Twenty.

Thirty. Your lungs are burning, but you force the hold on your breath. It's hard to not wonder how much worse it is, to fight instinct, while bitten by parasites in the dark.

Forty. There's still no movement.

Fifty. Everyone has come up to the edge of the tunnel, to try and see what's happening. You have to take in a sharp breath. The sheer discomfort, and pain, is more than your already exhausted body can handle. It dawns on you that all three of your swimmers have gotten much more rest than you have, and hope for the best.

A minute. It's been a full minute, and there's nothing. No movement in the water, nothing on dry land. Nothing but the curvier priestess of Mercy, staring intently into the passage, visibly shaking, hands clasped together. She's been praying feverishly under her breath, and is probably beating herself up for not going straight in after her fellow Sister.

Lady Edith manages to go over to the woman to console her. "Have faith."

You all take a little heart.

Seventy seconds.

Sister Tirel asks you all to pray with her. You don't really know how, but she assures you that just the thought means something.

Eighty.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4325714
>A] Go in after them.

>B] Wait.

>C] Ask someone else to at least see what's happened.
>1] Mick. He's at least demonstrated he can handle the passage.
>2] Electrum. She's obviously dying to go after Spangle, anyways.
>3] You're probably forgetting someone. (Specify who.)

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4325714
>>B] Wait.
If they found a way out they might be resting on the other side before coming back to us.
>>
>>4325721
>Bee waitful
>>
>>4325725
>>4325741
Support

>>4325714
>>
>>4325725
>>4325741
>>4325765
(Great! Locking the vote here, writing now.)
>>
>>4325784
Ninety seconds have passed by. Everyone is shifting, and you try to speak out to them. There has to be an explanation. You have to wait. To trust in your friends.

"If th-they found a way out, th-they m-might b-be resting on th-the oth-ther side, b-before com-ming b-back to us."

A few nods are given to you. "He's right," Walter quietly agrees, "and we'd be fools to go after them. You'd think the imbeciles would have let us know what they were planning, before tearing off."

From behind the scholar, Serpent reluctantly agrees, "give them a few more minutes, at least. They may have needed to swim much further, to find any passages that would be useful. Safety may not have waited, on the other side."

Electrum fires him a look that could kill. "I know she'll be fine. We'll wait."

Two full minutes have gone by, with no movement.

Three.

Four.

Five full minutes. Electrum looks like she might cry, but she keeps her hands clasped, knuckles white, and stares at the damn water. Jitters keeps a watch out, parting from the group to patrol the cavern while you all stand, looking to the leeches and shadow. It's less beautiful by the second.

Six minutes.

Seven. You realize you've been clenching your teeth, and move your jaw a little, to alleviate the pressure.

Eight. The humidity is not the reason for the sweat on every inch of you.

Nine. You wonder if there's some way to clean the fucking water. If the demon behind you all might be edible, in some capacity. You've never been so tired. The buzz in the back of your mind, of exhaustion and fear, has every one of your nerves on end.

It's been ten solid minutes, when the water around all of your feet starts to ripple. Everyone staggers back, most of you holding onto someone else. Claymore gets out two weapons, you can't help but draw your sword and shield, Chesty takes out his short sword, and everyone else looks like they want to die all over again.

Looking around the cavern, wildly, you realize that the tremor is coming from below your feet.

The ripple becomes an erratic, violent shake.

The water within the tunnel is frothing. The leeches are disappearing from view, pulled off by some unseen force.

A violent heave practically explodes, from under the ground, somewhere far off in the distance. The noise is muffled, but it's unmistakable. A groan below the earth hits you, so deep and resonant that you wonder if the world itself is screaming.

There's a hurl, from within the tunnel, that rapidly starts to filter the water into some unseen direction. The blood all around your ankles is pulled in an immediate, violent shift.

Most of you scream. Everyone staggers.

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used. Write-ins may help.
>>
Rolled 65 (1d100)

>>4325819
>>
Rolled 42 (1d100)

>>4325819

Grab the closest person to us and tell them to do the same, if we form a human chain and dig our heels in it should be fine. Stabbing our sword into the ground might also help.
>>
Rolled 35 (1d100)

>>4325819
>>
File: group hug monsters.png (86 KB, 902x509)
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86 KB PNG
>>4325822
>>4325825
>>4325827
>65/100
>DIG IN YOUR HEELS
(Alright lads, in lieu of the write-in:)

>Please roll 4d100. A total of 3 voter's rolls are needed, for a total of 12d100.
>To be clear, each voter please ONLY roll 4d100.
>Every roll will count. The additional +15 will apply to each roll individually. You do not need to add the modifier yourself, as I will add everything when the rolls are finished.

>+10 INSPIRING LEADER
>+5 CAST-IRON FRIENDSHIP
>>
Rolled 28, 28, 15, 9 = 80 (4d100)

>>4325842
>>
Rolled 30, 70, 16, 55 = 171 (4d100)

>>4325842
>>
Rolled 5, 98, 68, 50 = 221 (4d100)

>>4325842
Invoking big dick energy
>>
>>4325844
>>4325845
>>4325863
>HUMAN CHAIN
>KEEP IT TOGETHER

>All rolls in this quest are based on degrees of success. DC was 50 to stay standing, reduced to 40 from your permanent bonus to leading the congregation.

Ringleader - 43 + 15 (fighter, with an iron anchor) = 58
Professor Echo - 43 - 10 (non-combatant with a health issue) = 33
Serpent - 30
Electrum - 24
Starlight - 45 - 5 (seriously traumatized woman) = 40
Stardust - 85 + 5 (nobleman, with combat training) = 90
Randy - 31
Mick - 70 + 10 (huge scoundrel) = 80
Bronzebeard - 20 + 10 (hardened fighter) = 30
Claymore - 113 + 10 (veteran blacksmith) = 123
Chesty - 83 + 15 (have you seen how built this guy is) = 98
Jitters - 65 - 5 (out on patrol) = 60

(Vote and rolls are locked in. Writing now.)
>>
>>4325960
https://youtu.be/qKEOKZI-5hI

With a scream, you slam your sword into the sodden ground at your feet, and hold on for dear life. "HOLD ON!" You have to flex, to keep hold on the hilt of your weapon, while you reach out to the closest person. Of course, Walter is right next to you. "TOG-GETHER!" The scholar is infinitely too weak, and lets out a shout as the water underfoot dramatically intensifies in its pull. "EV-VERYONE!"

The hairline space between the tips of your fingers, and the back of Echo's shirt, is just enough for him to slip out from your hold. "T-TAKE EACH OTH-THERS HANDS—" Beyond your best hope, he digs in his heels as he slides, shifts his weight toward you as you shout, and grabs back on your hand.

Gratitude soaks into Walter more than the foam kicking up around you all. The vice of his grip, upon your sliced palms and fingers, is as a tight as your hold on Serpent just a few hours past. "You son of a bitch—! FUCK—"

With his other, outstretched, yellowed fingers, the non-combatant starts a chain reaction, and grabs onto the next closest person. It's impossible for everyone to keep their footing in the chaos. A tide of surging water is coursing from the entire, colossal chamber you reside in. You try to not think about your congregation at the other end of the disaster, as Serpent slips completely, and is dragged screaming into the corridor beyond. Electrum screams, "MERCY—" and leaps clear after him.

You try to not marvel at the psychotic devotion to a Goddess that's left her. Claymore, at the very back of your group, hears their shouts as well. He's scowling, weapons drawn, and you barely catch his telegraphed intent.

Kneeling down slightly, bending your knees, and pushing your feet into the soil underfoot, you brace yourself with all the strength you can muster.

It grants enough space for the veteran to run towards the opening. Claymore charges past all of you, and leaps into the water, with a knife between his teeth.

The splash nearly drowns out the sound of Bronzebeard losing his footing, "FER FUCK'S SAKE—" and is swiftly sliding against all of your feet. The fighter lets out another shout— and likely all the air in his lungs— right before being submerged.

Randy is dragged under, right after him, as Mick legitimately screams after the other rogue. "DON'T YOU DARE DIE ON ME—"

You look on in horror, as the brute scrambles to not let his compatriot slips from his hands. It's useless, and the rogue goes completely under the tide.

It is a tide. The cavern you all are in was flooded up to your ankles. Attempting to drain or divert the sheer amount of liquid here was a suicide mission. There's fibers of muscle burning in the back of your legs that you didn't even know you had.

(1/2)
>>
>>4326037
Jitters, who was walking near the opposite end of the cavern, has already been dragged towards you all by the tide. He seems to intentionally keep his footing, and tries to rejoin everyone. It's only as Chesty picks up the slender rogue by the back of his shirt, concerned of him slipping, that he barks, "DID YOU SEE ANYTHING?!"

There's a huge gasp, and a splash, from the surface of the water. At the entrance to the corridor, Claymore resurfaces, with Serpent in one arm. He stabs a bloodied dagger straight into the wall, using the weapon as makeshift climbing gear with his free arm. The bald and bleeding manipulator in his hold isn't smirking for once. Coughing up a huge volume of water, bleeding from the side of his head, he looks to be on the verge of unconsciousness.

The blacksmith gets them both onto flat ground. Jitters is looking around frantically, obviously sweating more than the surge of foam kicking up beneath his feet. "They're all going to hear this. There's nothing yet, but Gods, we need to move."

Stardust was keeping Starlight in place long enough to help with her footing, but he expertly slides through the water, to help Serpent and Claymore totally back to their feet. Everyone is soaked in blood, sodden chunks of viscera, and water well up to their knees. The current has been violent, but there's another rumble, off in the distance.

Claymore bends his knees, and follows your lead. Wading forward in the water with Serpent now over his shoulder, the veteran slams a heavy iron sword into the ground beside you. Side by side, you form a slight barrier, to keep anyone else from sliding straight in.

He nods to you, blood pouring from a cut on the side of his mouth. Seconds later, the current intensifies. You nod back, grit your teeth, legs searing in complaint, and try to endure. Walter's grip on your hand is agonizing, but he's found a stable stance, and is trying to help Edith stay up with everything he has.

Mick is happy to scream, "THIS IS BULLSHIT," while Echo sneers to him, "we'll drown all three of them."

The breath in your lungs threatens to give out. There's actually a slight opening of air, in the corridor beneath your feet. The gap can't be more than a foot between the top of the corridor, and a heavy current of frothing water beneath. You're not sure how, but the water filtering out is going somewhere, FAST.

(A ROLL MAY BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.)

>A] Go in. All of you. Now. The only thing worse in this place than the ruins are the demons that inhabit it.

>B] Try your luck, and wait until there's a bigger opening. The walls are coarse, those leeches are still in there, and some of you are badly hurt.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4326038
>B] Try your luck, and wait until there's a bigger opening. The walls are coarse, those leeches are still in there, and some of you are badly hurt.
>>
>>4326038
>>B] Try your luck, and wait until there's a bigger opening. The walls are coarse, those leeches are still in there, and some of you are badly hurt.

Tell everyone to be ready to jump in at a moments notice, have jitters look for demons while still on his friends shoulders. The second anything that looks even remotely like a demon is sighted everyone hauls ass, the water will keep draining with people in it. Maintain the chain if at all possible and if not use the buddy system.
>>
>>4326046
>>4326141
(Fuck yes dudes, good stuff.)

>TRY YOUR LUCK AND HAUL ASS
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.

>+10 INSPIRING LEADER
>+5 PARANOID HUMANOID
>+5 BUDDY SYSTEM
>>
Rolled 61 (1d100)

>>4326170
>>
Rolled 46 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

look at this plate-looting tier roll
>>
Rolled 26 + 20 (1d100 + 20)

>>4326170
>>
>>4326171
>>4326177
>>4326178
(I believe bro. One day. For now, 81 is the bo3! Writing now.)
>>
>>4326209
https://youtu.be/Jktmaqvza70

"EV-VERYONE, KEEP T-TOG-GETHER. J-JITT-TERS!" His name is more painful than the burn in your sword arm, "KEEP AN EYE OUT!"

Claymore grunts, from the weight of Serpent losing consciousness for a moment. Echo happily reaches over, to flick his forehead and get him awake, while you continue to shout, "B-BE READ-DY TO J-JUMP! W-WE'LL HAUL ASS TH-THE SECOND ANYTH-THING COMES OUR WAY!"

Clutching onto you even tighter, Walter grits out, "if we wait for something to show up, it's going to get dragged in with us, Harvey."

"I kn-now."

The gap in the cavern below is increasing by the second. The decline is incredibly steep, and the rock revealed is far more ragged than a flooded passage had any right to be. Either it was very recently flooded, it's enchanted, or the ruins are more sadistic than you initially thought.

There's a scream, from the far end of the cavern, that is distinctly inhuman. Jitters immediately gets off of Chesty's shoulders, hollering, "move! MOVE! SIX IN THE NORTHERN WING, THEY'VE GOT—" a few stray projectiles sing through the air, fwipping past everyone's head, "—ARROWS?!" The weapons look more like severed horns, ripped clean off the demon's bodies. "There's more coming. Gods." More screams. "FUCK IT! JUST GO! GO!"

Claymore rips his sword out from the ground, and readjusts his hold on Serpent. Chesty immediately runs over, to take the (possibly) dying man out from the blacksmith's arms. Using one of the broken shields for a brace, Chesty slings the bent wood under his back, gets them both down, and intentionally lets the current take him into the jagged darkness below.

The leeches are out of sight. Countless projectiles streak past. Claymore throws his shield up, sprinting off to try and deflect as much as possible from the group. You all scramble, frantically, to try and protect yourselves from the onslaught. In the flurry of moving bodies, "GET DOWN!" the foam of water, "GO!" the sound of pained laughter, "WAIT UNTIL KLEPTO HEARS THIS," someone screaming in agony, "WHY?!" and your own efforts to stay on your feet, "KEEP M-MOVING," it's almost impossible to tell what's even happening.

You focus on getting your sword, protecting Echo as best as you can, and making sure everyone gets down. Shield aloft, you kneel, and keep almost all of yourself protected. A bitter clink nearly knocks you back, as some monstrous arrow flies off of the metal upon your defense.

The burn in your arms matches the heat in the room, the warmth of the water positively soaking you, and the fever in Electrum's speech. She stayed back, with you and Echo, with the metal shield you had ignored during the watch. "Let's go," she spits, putting a hand to your shoulder in an attempt to brace you against something.

(1/2)
>>
>>4326332
There's three more thunks against your shield, straight into the wood. The froth, and specks of water in your eyes, get wiped away on your shoulder in a frantic attempt to see. You look around wide-eyed, confirming that everyone else has escaped.

You turn, grabbing Walter as he breathes, "finally."

Both of you get fully to the ground. Snapping the arrows upon your shield, slamming your shield beneath you, you get ready to move.

It's instantly enough to get the momentum you need, and you're practically pulled under the second you pick up your footing. You and Echo cling onto each other, both holding tighter still to the shield at your back. It's the only thing keeping you both from being ripped to shreds.

The current is moving fast enough to take you clear under, into the corridor, and to be taken into complete darkness. Water gets straight up your nose, and into the back of your throat. Coughing through the sour, sharp, slimy mixture, you're reminded of blood and copper. The breath in your lungs all but leaves. There's still sun in your eyes, illuminating the steep descent, but the rapidly draining passage is moving by you so fast that almost all the details are escaping.

As you skid, and force a sharp breath, fearing you're getting water in your lungs, the water continues to descend. The floor is leveling out, and you're falling by the second. It can't be any more than six feet tall, in any direction. All along the ever-rising ceiling are scorch marks.

You take in a breath that absolutely gets water into your lungs. Walter plainly gasps beside you, trying to not vomit all of the water he's clearly swallowed. There's thousands of streaks, in the shape of lightning, seared right into the stone. It's nightmarish, for the outline of hundreds of the parasites burned straight into the walls. It's not human. It's not demonic. The burns are glowing faintly orange, deep within the recesses, and only a God would be capable of unleashing the sheer length that the obvious invocation lasts for. It doesn't light the passage.

You don't dare to loosen your hold, feeling the light burning straight into your eyes, and whip your attention away. There's a scream from directly behind you, closing in fast.

Electrum is trying to not cry, shouting, "THEY'RE COMING!"

It's almost comical, to see her still using the heavy iron shield at her side, while sliding on another, and keeping a third slung over her back. The woman has enough balance to stay kneeling upon the tenuously floating wood beneath her.

Appropriately, she's begging her Goddess for protection.

(Baaaaaaaaarely over the character limit, 2/3)
>>
>>4326339
You're certain that no one is listening. From the top of the corridor behind you, you can almost catch the silhouette of a few imps. Their reddened, spiky forms are almost akin to small children. Their small size has enabled them to snake into the passage, and to crawl along the ceiling straight towards you at a breakneck pace. They seem hurt, somehow, as various holes along their bodies are dripping more blood into the water below.

You whip your head back around, against all instinct, to look ahead. The runoff that you've been sliding on is draining faster by the second. You have absolutely no idea where you're going, but there's an obscene amount of terrain to work with, just up ahead. You're confident that this outlet leads back into a colossal waterway. One with more corridors than anyone could hope to explore in a lifetime. It's your comfort zone, your element, and you're confident than no man alive could outpace you there.

The question remains: if no man can catch you, could a demon?

>A] Make sure Echo is safe with Electrum, and tell them to run ahead. You're going to try and kite these imps away from your congregation. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>B] Have faith in the priestess of Mercy. Get ahead with Walter, and pray that she can catch up. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>C] Do everything in your power to meet back up with the rest of your men and women, with everyone in tow. (A VERY HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>D] Write-in. (A ROLL MAY BE REQUIRED.)
>>
>>4326344
>A] Make sure Echo is safe with Electrum, and tell them to run ahead. You're going to try and kite these imps away from your congregation. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
>>
>>4326344
>A] Make sure Echo is safe with Electrum, and tell them to run ahead. You're going to try and kite these imps away from your congregation. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
>>
>>4326355
>>4326531
>KITE FOR THEIR LIVES

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+5 CUNNING
>+5 FLEET OF FOOT
>+5 WILLING TO KILL ANYONE WHO STANDS IN YOUR WAY
>>
Rolled 60 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4326605
>>
Rolled 95 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4326605
>>
Rolled 26 + 15 (1d100 + 15)

>>4326605
>>
>>4326610
>>4326655
>>4326778
(Well that is 110/100. Going to update tomorrow after getting some good sleep to do the update justice! Thanks for your patience guys.)
>>
>>4326824
(I'm up, back, and ready to rock and roll. Writing now!)
>>
>>4327604
https://youtu.be/9vezdHgf_mM

Snapping a priestess out of prayer doesn't come easily.

It's a good thing you're a heathen. "W-we're all g-going to d-die if you stay! Take Echo—"

"I'm NOT leaving you," Electrum screams, eating two more missiles into the shield at her back.

"YOU'RE N-NOT L-LEAVING ME—" you bark, as Walter gives you an understanding and terrified nod in agreement. He's shaking, as the water descends enough for you to all get to your feet. The scholar already knows what you want to attempt. You all stagger to your feet, into a run, as fast as any of you can manage. Echo breaks to the right, staggering over to Electrum. As a shield is thrust into his hands, he shouts, "meet us up top!"

The corridor opens just head. "I w-will! G-GO!"

You turn, shield in hand, skidding through the water to face the imps behind you. The last two members of your congregation tear off from your sight, out into the passage beyond. The imps don't slow their procession for a second, thinking you the easier target.

Their attention on you is as razor-sharp as their weapons. The monsters are ripping the spikes off of their bodies, leaving enormous, gaping wounds in their wake without any indication of pain. You bend at the knee, taking two more hits straight into your shield. Skidding back slightly, you barely have a moment to get any traction to jump.

You have to jump, straight back, at the very last moment. It keeps you from being impaled by four more weapons, straight into your legs, right under your shield.

There's no fewer than ten imps crawling down the halls. They're skittering along the walls, the ceiling, and the floor, on all four limbs. It's clearly for speed, not necessity. Some of them rip an entire limb clean off— possibly for the thrill of it— and let loose a choir of screams.

You baited that attack. They HAVE to take another second to fire, being far too stupid to wait and stagger their attacks with any consistency. You're off running, turn your back the second you're able, and scream, "COME ON!" Your pulse is pounding so hard, you forget all trace of exhaustion. "LET'S G-GO!"

The cavern has been blissfully emptied. Spangle, Klepto, and Irefist should be heralded as Gods among men, you think. Whatever they did has worked, to drain the vast majority of the water. Any demons, (leeches, imps, or otherwise,) are nowhere in sight. The high, rocky ceilings are unlit, but you can see clearly. Without missing a step, you frantically veer HARD to the furthest tunnel. It's away from the ripples in the water, where Echo and Electrum are surely headed. The cavern is enormous, and there's only a single clear exit.

(1/2)
>>
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>>4327719
You know better, and can make out countless recesses in the walls. "The fucking spid-der d-dem-mons," you huff, predicting an attack from behind. The tell-take fwip-fwipfwip of objects hurling through the air, straight behind your line-of-sight, gives you half a second to dive, roll, and escape with your life. The sword and shield in hand are not barriers. You've gotten your hands dirty before. You're a fighter, and use every tool at your disposal to your advantage.

Upon landing, getting to your feet, you're unable to shake the sight of ratty webs. They're cobwebs, still moist from the cavern, but in disuse from the state of these passages. They'll suit you just fine, as you spin on a heel, to swing down your sword, and knock a missile straight from the air.

You grin, and pick out the best route. Ducking, below the next volley. The imps are fast, and lethal, but cripplingly stupid. You've lived down here for nearly half a decade, and have learned a thing or two about surviving on your own.

Into the next tunnel. It's steep. Through another pitch-black, narrow, short and featureless corridor. It's a labyrinth. Down the first corridor, there's a hole directly ahead.

Good.

You jump straight into it. The fall is just as short as you predicted. The spiders would need to travel vertically, but why waste space? Gaining momentum, back into a run, you immediately slide feet-first. Gliding along the ground, you keep yourself low, to duck and weave under fifty solid feet of winding caverns. Your sword gets put to use, slicing down and batting away any webs necessary, with its heft and satisfying weight.

The burn in your arms and legs means you're alive. You're back, out, and into the waterway within minutes. Your sense of direction is phenomenal.

The imps can't say the same. You look around frantically, with the sunlight in your eyes, to the high, man-made, stone walls. The suspiciously blood-lined, corpse-riddled walls. There's so much moisture here, you can't fathom anything but an incredibly recent fight having taken place.

A scream behind you whips your attention back to your own pursuers. Three particularly sadistic imps have used the corpses of their brethren as swords. A glance over your shoulder reveals them hacking their way out. Fear for your congregation spurs you to take an illogical direction, screaming to the imps behind you, "HERE!"

They catch onto the sound of your voice instantly, as your rapid footsteps splash through MUCH higher water than you remember before. It's filtering out, pouring in huge quantities from drains in all directions, but it's enough to put resistance in every step. There are small waterfalls from gaps in the floor, which you gladly make a beeline for.

Jumping straight over one.

A satisfying screech trails behind you. One of the imps can't stop in time, and skids straight into the deadly fall. Its cry lasts long, long before it ever hits the bottom of the world.

(JUST over 2/3)
>>
>>4327724
You try to not laugh. You need the air, for how hard you're running. Diving hard off from the central waterway, away from chains, grates, and rocks, you navigate into one of hundreds of alleyways and tunnels. They're so thin, you have to forgo your defense entirely, and keep your shield to your side.

The tunnels have pitfalls and holes in all directions. You erratically leap over the first four, stick the last landing, and duck to let a volley of projectiles impale the wall ahead. Shifting direction the second you land, the screams of two imps behind you is like music to your ears.

Both demons can't stop their momentum, and impale themselves straight onto their own weapon.

>A] Laugh, and continue.

>B] Focus, and get the fuck out of here.

>C] You can do better than this. Try to kill them all. (A VERY HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
>>
>B] Focus, and get the fuck out of here.

Make a note to laugh later.
>>
>>4327728
B
>>
>>4327728
>B]
>>
>>4327728
>>B] Focus, and get the fuck out of here.
>>
>>4327741
>>4327747
>>4327864
>>4327870
(Leave now, laugh later. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4327893
(Got dragged off to eat the moment I locked the vote. Back, at my desk, and actually writing now!)
>>
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>>4327981
There will be time to laugh later, when you aren't running for your life. You're an optimist, despite everything, and remind yourself to do so as soon as you get the chance.

Over pitfalls, through the winding alleys, through every narrow stone passages. The sound of your pursuers grows weaker by the second, drowned out by the rush of water beneath your feet.

You run. Thirst, hunger, and exhaustion makes each and every step agony, after mere minutes.

You run for what must be hours. Through the winding passages, creating the most erratic path you can muster, it's almost impossible to keep on your feet. The burn in your chest feels like it's never going to leave. A searing pain lances your skull, likely from dehydration, but you keep moving. Focusing on your steps. Focusing on your form. Keeping the momentum.

Don't get complacent. Don't get distracted. Focus.

Thousands of murals have passed you by. You're so tired, you could barely even see them. The writing is in a script forgotten by time, further adding to the background noise. As you hone your vision, it's clear that the carvings are embedded straight into the wall. Not a single image repeats. They may be a blur, at a glance, but you know every illustration is different.

The odd script is short, beneath each image. It's likely a memorial. You hazard a glance, to the stone underfoot, and can make out more writing still.

It's not that the water underfoot is dirty, necessarily. There are simply so many names carved into the stone, their shadows distort the water.

Around the tightest corridor yet, you squeeze through the wall at the last moment. Letting out a shout, as your cloak catches on the ragged wall, you're positive you're running yourself to death. You're getting sloppy, but emerge back into the center of the waterway.

In its main passage, and the sight of infinitely more blood. There's actually streaks of blackened viscera swimming in the water ahead. It's freakishly heavy, resting at the base of the stream, and unmoving from the steady tide. All the water is flooding back the way you came, into the lowest portions of the ruins.

Behind you is a massive obstruction in the waterway. A totally collapsed passage seems to have landed recently. It's devoid of blood, fills the tall cavern floor-to-ceiling, and is devoid of any grates. It looks as if your congregation blew an opening clear through the central mass, but your heart stops dead in your throat.

There's trip wire up ahead. Thousands of feet of it, strung precariously in and around the corridors. Flecks of blood, and a little skin, can be easily seen at neck-level right at the start. Trying to not hyperventilate, you slow to a walk, and dart your gaze back from the way you came. The sound of pursuit is so far in the distance, you're certain you can risk a moment of caution.

(1/2)
>>
>>4328028
Surely enough, the blood and gore upon the razor-wire does not continue down the passage. The work is far too delicate, and too intelligent for a demon to have constructed. It's not made to slow down a pursuer at all. There's intentional, massive redundancy: to kill anyone running this way as fast as possible.

Nervous laughter spills over your lips. You laugh, and laugh, and try to not pass out.

You feel a little ill. Someone in your congregation is badly hurt, and there's only a few ways back up from here that you're certain of. A steep ascent, no more than an hour's walk ahead, would need to be scaled in order to get to the highest level of the ruins. It's perilous, and all of you are likely too exhausted to manage it, but it's the most obvious.

There's also additional ducts in the waterway. They're impossibly narrow. If you're pursued into them, it could mean certain death— but they may be easier to scale.

There's also a passage you ignored, your first time coming down here. The space was nonsensical, obviously enchanted, and was crumbling into nothingness. It would be a nightmare to traverse, and none of your congregation would have risked it, but it could be your fastest route.

>A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.
>Your only tools at your disposal are an iron sword, your large shield, a rotten leather belt, and the tattered cloak upon your back. Shoes are not optional for this mission.
>Write-ins may help.

>A] Head for the rocky, straight ascent. Rejoining your congregation is probably your best bet for survival.

>B] Trust in your men and women. Risk going for the highest water ducts, to save your energy.

>C] You're not wasting another second, if you can help it. Chance the odd passages you never walked, in hopes of beating your congregation to the top of the ruins.
>>
>>4328032
>B] Trust in your men and women. Risk going for the highest water ducts, to save your energy.
>>
>>4328061
+1

>>4328032
>>
>>4328061
>>4328116
>TRUST IN YOUR PEOPLE

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
>+15 IN YOUR ELEMENT
>-5 ABOUT AN HOUR OF SLEEP IN TWO DAYS
>-5 STARVING
>-5 PROBABLY DYING OF DEHYDRATION
>>
>>4328168
welp
>>
Rolled 96 (1d100)

>>4328168
Used the wrong command, woops.
>>
Rolled 86 (1d100)

>>4328168
>>4328237
/thread
>>
Rolled 44 (1d100)

>>4328168
>>
>>4328237
>>4328502
>>4328591
(Well needless to say that 96 is bo3. Will write shortly!)
>>
>>4328595
(Still working on that monstrous project. 2/3rd's of the way done! Thanks for bearing with me. Writing now.)
>>
File: Calendar for the Year 605.png (2.31 MB, 1306x1446)
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>>4328613
The sound of imps screaming in the distance is faint. Between the hunger, exhaustion, thirst, filthy water, sweat, blood, and sin drenching you— it's a lot. Too much for you to linger. You trust in your allies, and run clear away from where your congregation is likely headed. Away from the obvious exit to the waterway. Away from any ascent, or Magic, or anything else that might obviously reconnect you all.

No one could rightfully accuse you of cowardice, as you unsling your shield, and angle it precariously to fit into one of the nearly-vertical ducts leading to the top of the ruins. No one could shame you for taking the shortest possible path, as you jump up, and have to brace your shoulders and back against the wall.

No one could fault you, for beginning the arduous climb, almost straight up, to head back to sanity.

You think of the sun, as you keep your eyes up, and ignore the ache in your chest. The burn in your legs might as well be the heat of your favorite season. Sure, you have no idea if it's actually Devotion on the surface, but that doesn't matter! It could be a different year entirely, for all you care. You look up, to the perilous climb, and you laugh. It's not a suffocatingly narrow, pitch-black, slick death-trap.

The ascent is filled with a faint yellow light. As light as the thought of the First Reaping. Of barley, in the fields all around Wearmoor. Forget the famine! Forget that you might not get any food where you're going. You aren't starving to death. You aren't dying of thirst. There's sun in your eyes, and an imp right behind you.

Welp, you think.

Your footing slips. The rock beneath your feet crumbles. You scramble, and climb up, and away, as fast as humanly possible. Clinging to find another surface takes half a second, for how tight the passage is.

The entire chamber beneath you utterly crushes in the eye and skull of the demon just below you, as it collapses beneath your desperate climb. It happens so fast, the imp barely rasps in its last moment of life. You can't tell if there were any others, before the rest of the duct closes in on itself behind you.

You're almost too stunned to pause. To stop here is absolutely to die, so you keep moving, and try to not worry too much that the walls all around you continue to shake for many long minutes after.

It's been about ten minutes of climbing, almost straight up. The trembling within the stone all around you somehow intensifies, the higher you climb.

It takes a while. You feel like you're dying. Movement is almost worse than death, but you keep going.

With all the caution you can muster, shifting your shield overhead, you agonize through the last of the ascent. The duct splits off, into a flatter runoff, and there's no sight or sound of anything at the break. You hurl your upper body onto the ledge, too tired to pull yourself up with proper form, and muffle a groan from the effort.

(1/2)
>>
>>4328689
A few pebbles drop from the ceiling, followed by trails of dirt, from the steady quake.

Dirt. Not water. Not mud. Not blood, and not stone. Dry dirt. You're so relieved you could cry. The split in the duct ascends, with no water in it to speak of. Dragging yourself to your feet, you almost lurch immediately back into the pit behind you. The iron sword in hand gets slammed into the ground, for you to keep your balance.

Something is off, and you can't pin what, but you have to keep moving forward. Though the corridor you're in ascends, it's pitch-black ahead. Were it not for the blessing that's persisted upon your vision, it would be utterly impossible to see, no matter how long you took to let your eyes adjust.

Fear for your congregation soaks into you, in the quake, and the last stretch before the surface. What's up ahead makes your blood run cold.

There are spider webs. They're coated in blood— the thickest you've ever seen— and they are everywhere.

>A] Start cutting down a path as quickly as you can. You aren't lingering a second longer than necessary.

>B] Proceed with caution, but call out the minute you hear anyone.

>C] Sneak ahead, as you can effortlessly do, and try to stay concealed at least long enough to determine if you're the first one to have made it this far.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4328692
>C] Sneak ahead, as you can effortlessly do, and try to stay concealed at least long enough to determine if you're the first one to have made it this far.
>>
>>4328692
>B] Proceed with caution, but call out the minute you hear anyone.
>>
>>4328700
>>4328707
(Going to fuse these together a bit. Vote is locked here, last update of the night! Writing now.)
>>
>>4328725
The shield goes back up, your sword in hand, as you move almost-flush against the side of the wall. Sneaking ahead in virtual darkness is almost effortless. It's fortunate that you're by yourself, with no one to look out for. Weariness is on you with such intensity, you have to jolt your gaze back upright several times.

From the dry floor beneath, to the dense webs ahead, it's cut a cautious path that you travel. Glancing back over your shoulder almost constantly confirms that there is no further pursuit. It seems that the collapsed passage completely blocked off the demons on your trail.

It's possible that the constant tremor in the walls is what scared them into submission, too. There's no time to dwell on it.

The webs are disastrously thick. You confirm it, the moment you reach them. Your sword is rapidly made into a sort of scythe, to move aside any strands you can't step over or weave through. The blood upon them is wet. Crimson slakes your weapon within seconds of proceeding forward.

The shaking is only getting stronger, for every minute that passes you by. It's definitely not from the ducts you left behind. In total darkness, your divine sight pores over the strands of webbing all about you, looking for some structural flaw. Some incoming collapse. They're familiar. Terribly familiar, and as you reach the top of the ascent, into a broad cavern beyond, you see exactly why.

A shout escapes you, and you put your hands to your mouth in horror. It takes an impossible moment to register everything in full.

The cavern beyond is brimming with a dense weave of crimson. The hundreds of red strands are thick, with the blood and gore of fallen men and women. They're wound up, into little bundles. It's certainly the corpses of a few stray travelers. They are still. As still as your congregation, on the opposite side of the cavern, who are mostly walking with makeshift torches. They've stopped completely, looking around frantically for the sound of your voice. Their faces are worn, and weary. Klepto has a huge swathe of bandages wrapped around his neck, packed with as much blood as what's upon the webs. Spangle's and Irefist's hair and faces are blackened with soot. Everyone else is soaked to the bone, upon every other inch of them, with the myriad substances you yourself are plagued by.

At the front of the pack, with hope against hope, Lady Edith calls out, "Harvey?!"

They can't possibly have hoped to see you, in the utter darkness you're walking in, but your shout was a dead giveaway.

There's another rumble, deep within the walls, and closer than before. All of you whip your heads, towards a rush of wind. The actual source of the commotion. Swords, shields, and screams fly up, all in unison.

No one moves. You all know that you're stronger together, but this is something beyond any of you.

(1/2)
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>>4328738
It comes from the shadows. A behemoth, that seems to peel itself out of the very stone around you all. The demon's visage is crushed, like a man's face pressed into the eyes of a spider. The stony, rictus, and split grin upon its face tilts, and teeters, as all eight of its spider-like legs skitter with monstrous speed along the webs before you all. Its body is as broad as the entire cavern. The blackened and bloodied rock upon its legs cover the rest.

Everyone screams. The rush of wind is purely from the way it's glided right into the cavern, filling the entire space almost instantaneously. This is its lair. The rumble within the walls was its laughter. The monster is laughing, as the vertical divide in its jaw grates together in a deafening roar. It's as if an avalanche has entered the chamber, that is simply delighted to greet you with impending death.

This is probably the master of webs.

You clutch onto your ears, to try and block out the awful, sickeningly sweet, and decidedly sadistic leer that follows. "Harvey. Our crimson..."

It smiles. Demons should not be able to smile. "Coated..."

Several rocks fall from the ceiling. It's moving faster. "Confidant."

It knows you didn't tell anyone present about its message. You don't know how, or why, but there it is.

One of the corpses is crushed, from the boulder that fell from overhead. The squelch of its rotten flesh being destroyed cannot be heard over the commotion. The demon laughs again, harder than before, and you wonder if your heart might stop from the sheer volume of it. The scent of rot is clinging to the back of your throat. The sword in your hand is iron. The sweat on you is worse than anything you've ever felt, and this behemoth seems to be carved from something older and stronger than the mountains themselves.

The demon has skittered straight over towards you, before you could even get your footing. It's drooling mounds of blood, from between its moss and bone-speckled teeth. One strand lands on your shoulder, as it perches along its webs, and hovers mere feet from your face.

"Leaving so soon?"

>A] "Yes." Run.

>B] "Yes." Back away. Very, very slowly.

>C] "Yes." Gesture for your congregation to flee for their lives. You'll have died for something.

>D] "Yes." (Write-in.)

>E] "No." (Write-in.)

>F] You seriously can't think with this thing in your face. Pray to all of the Gods that someone in your congregation thinks faster than you can.
>>
>>4328739
>>C] "Yes." Gesture for your congregation to flee for their lives. You'll have died for something.

Father Anscham sends his regards.
>>
>>4328742
+1
>>
>>4328742
>>4329014
(Great guys, going to lock the vote here. Definitely noting that write in. Writing now!)
>>
>>4329034
"Y-yes."

The demon's laughter stops, completely. Clicking its teeth together, lolling its head to one side, Malimos leans in a mere foot from your face. "Tell me, Harvey. Tell me what makes you think anyone…"

It's hard to know if the demon needs air, but it takes in a deep breath, leaning along your shoulder. Another strand of blood drips onto the frayed fabric, burning straight though. "...will suffer you to live."

Malimos is exactly close enough that you can discreetly gesture for your congregation to flee for their lives. They immediately, quickly, and quietly comply.

You ignore the burn on your shoulder and all fear of death.

You lean in. "Fath-ther Anscham sends his reg-ards."

With another sharp breath, Malimos draws back. He's tittering. Amused beyond all comprehension. "You fancy yourself to have strayed? To be a bedfellow to sin? Will your merry band of blasphemers," they're slipping out of the corridor, "and belligerents," they're out of sight, but you keep the straightest face possible, "tarnish your souls even further? Each and every moment you tarry may bring you further from your LIGHT, Harvey."

You frown, "wh-what?"

An exasperated sigh escapes from the demon. It smells like moss, and blood. "Your Father has kept the company of murderers, liars, thieves and insanity for longer than you can imagine." The distance between you both evaporates. "Hours. Days. Weeks." The demon is at your ear, impossibly whispering, "he's still alive, you know. There. Down, at the bottom of the world."

>A] You'll send for help for the Father of Mercy the second you can. Try to leave, now, and think of yourself.

>B] Why the fuck is this demon capable of speech? Not that it's very capable, let alone sane, but you're legitimately too stunned to flee.
>1] Say or ask something. (Write-in.)
>2] It clearly loves to run its mouth. Linger, to buy your congregation more time.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4329079
>>B] Why the fuck is this demon capable of speech? Not that it's very capable, let alone sane, but you're legitimately too stunned to flee.
>1] Say or ask something. (Write-in.)

I know. Could you think of anything that could stop him?
>>
>>4329095
+1, hows the ping
>>
>>4329095
+1

>>4329079
>>
>>4329095
Sure
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>>4329095
+1
He's not trapped in there, they're all trapped with him
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>>4329095
>>4329118
>>4329125
>>4329132
>>4329133
(Noting all the write-ins. Awesome stuff. Writing now!)
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>>4329192
"I kn-know," you laugh back.

The demon looks at you with more amusement than humanly possible. "OooOooh?"

"He's n-not t-trapped d-down th-there with th-them. Th-they are all…"

You and the demon say in unison:

"...t-trapped w-with him."
"Ensnared, within his web."

All the humor leaves both of you. The sweat on your brow drips with almost as much intensity as the demon's salivating, which it wipes away with the side of a stony leg. You try to not vomit, as Malimos gives you a few inches of space out of sheer respect. "Honed to an edge, sharper than the most indecent blade. Wilier than a fox, and redder still. The world is your stage. 'Leader of the ring,' was it?"

"Y-yes."

"You see the strings, do you not, and the ways with which he pulls them? The binds upon the soul. The cracks and crevasses, through which he slips?"

In a much quieter tone, certain that your congregation is being bought precious seconds to flee, you reply with a question of your own. "Could you th-think of anyth-thing th-that could st-top him?"

Stone cold silence is the only reply.

An eternity might as well pass, amidst glistening blood, and webs in the dark.

At last, you're given a strained answer. It sounds like every word is actively hurting the monster. "That which he covets most. Healing. Protection. *Compassion,* and that which I cannot speak."

"M-Mercy."

"In a different form. Yes." Like a female gossip, Malimos perches his head upon his two front-most limbs. "Whence I heard last, our dear priest has been most *intimate* with the obscene obsession. The fixation, upon which our fates may rest." The demon gasps, obscenely, "passion, through pain, and pleasure, most foul. Harvey. He has embraced it, with an unholy devotion that even I must admire."

In a deep tone, deeper and fouler than the depths of the earth, Malimos decrees, "the obsession will break him, long before any of my kin will seize upon his weakness." He leans in, just enough to drawl at you, "do you wish to aid him?"

>A] "What do you have in mind?"

>B] "Yes."

>C] "No."

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4329239
>B] "Yes."
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>>4329239
>>B] "Yes."
>>
>>4329239
>>B] "Yes."
>>
>>4329246
>>4329249
>>4329256
(Unanimous! Vote is locked. Writing now.)
>>
>>4329323
The stony spider removes his head from the bends in both frontmost legs. One wraps itself delicately behind your back, as if he was trying to pull you in as a sane human would. The touch is like granite, slick with blood, and nauseating to an extreme.

You've never been more certain of anything in your life. "Yes."

"Never before— in all the ages I have weathered— has a more favorable wind blown this way. Heed this warning, Ringleader. Heed it, and hold it dear:

The debauched denizens within the halls of this home know NOTHING of restraint. They will snatch it, from our dearest Richard. They will take from him his light, and his healing— but they cannot take his hope. YOU, and your gaggle of sinners, must illuminate the world above. If you truly wish to aid Father Anscham, it falls upon YOUR shoulders, to bring the sun back to the surface."

He pulls away. "Leave this place. Richard is naive, and may yet lose himself to our demons and despair. His compassion is his weakness. Take your strength. That which no man can take from you. Be his pillar. Be the ruins within the darkness. Be his foundation. Be his knife in the shadow, the steel upon his shield. Go where he cannot. Speak where he is not heard.

Malimos whispers, "that you may give us all another age."

>A] Wew. (Write-in anything you want to say in reply.)

>B] Go.
>1] Thank the demon for his counsel.
>2] A deal with a demon will never leave your lips, but you'll heed his warning.

>C] Write-in.
>>
>>4329351
>>B] Go.
>>1] Thank the demon for his counsel.

If only every demon was like you.
>>
>>4329351
>B] Go.
>1] Thank the demon for his counsel.
>>
>>4329351
>Go.
>1] Thank the demon for his counsel.
>>
>>4329360
>>4329374
>>4329383
(Another totally unanimous vote. That'll do. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
>>4329412
This feels like a dream. Like some horrible nightmare that's come to an end. You move to leave, and can't believe the words that fall from your lips. "Th-thank you for th-the counsel, M-Malim-mos."

"My dearest Harvey. May we meet again, upon a brighter day." He backs up, clearly unblocking himself from the corridor beyond.

"If only ev-very dem-mon were the same."

The corridor ahead is a gentle ascent. Effortlessly, the master of webs sweeps aside enough to permit you to freely exit. It's clear that your congregation painstakingly hacked away just enough strands to escape.

Your steps quicken with every stride, but at the mouth of Malimos' lair, you hazard one last glance behind. He has a few of his bell spiders at the rear of the cave. They were waiting for you to falter, and die, but you can fear almost nothing these ruins contain.

They're behind you. Looking ahead, you head up, and out, of the rocky and natural tunnel. It has no outlets on any side. There are no impossible spaces. No slums. Not a single pitfall, prison, or painted wall is in sight. The walls are dry, and devoid of any leeches or floods.

Before long, the webbing gives way to a clear passage, worn with *wind.* It must have been an hour of solid climbing. Your very soul is aching, but at long last, you see it:

The sun.

https://youtu.be/u1S5slbaHGY[/spoiler

"M-Mercy," you stammer, fighting to not fall to your knees.

Using your sword to get enough support, just to stay upon your feet, you try to not buckle down or collapse on the spot. The sight is majestic, in all its simplicity. It's late afternoon. A light breeze carries the scent of dried leaves on the air, and rustles the piles scattered beneath every bare tree. Shades of crimson and amber catch on every shrub and remakning flower of Corcaea's western wilderness. The ruins open. They *open,* and *end.*

You stagger out. Dried grass crunches underfoot. There's a chill on the air, that shakes the dampness on you to the bone, and it's wonderful. The fresh air could not smell sweeter. There are birds chirping, off in the distance. The fallen stone that lingers a few feet ahead is so worn with time, it holds no threat whatsoever.

You made it out.

It takes several long minutes to gather your composure.

One of your congregation members is scouting, in the trees ahead. They all clearly split up just to look for you.

It's Professor Echo, of course. He hasn't noticed you yet, and has his arms around his shoulder, shivering as he tries to wring more water out of his hair.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4329482
>A] Cry. Gods, you never thought you would see the sun again. Go run over and give him a hug.

>B] Keep it together. You have a mission, and need to get everyone together to figure out where to go next.

>C] You're positive everyone is going to want to seek the Church of Mercy. Get together with Spangle and Electrum. Say a prayer before hitting the road.
>1] For everyone who couldn't be here with you today.
>2] For everyone among you who had the will to survive.
>3] For Father Anscham.

>D] "FUCK, WHO SURVIVED??" Drop everything, and make sure everyone is okay.

>E] Write-in.
>>
>>4329487
>>D] "FUCK, WHO SURVIVED??" Drop everything, and make sure everyone is okay.

Our work has just begun.
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>>4329487
>C] You're positive everyone is going to want to seek the Church of Mercy. Get together with Spangle and Electrum. Say a prayer before hitting the road.
>1] For everyone who couldn't be here with you today.
>>
>>4329497
>>4329613
Supporting both of these, in any order.

>>4329487
>>
>>4329497
>>4329613
(Thanks for your patience guys. Wrapping up at work so it may be a little while longer before I can update. Leaving the vote open in the meantime.)
>>
>>4329731
(What timing lmao. Got you too mate.)
>>
>>4329497
>>4329613
>>4329731
(Okay! Let's do this thing. Vote is locked. Writing now.)
>>
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>>4329892
Panic drenches you. "Echo?"

He sprints straight your way. "HARVEY!"

The scholar skids to a stop, a few feet from you, to put his hands in his sodden pockets. There's red spiderwebs in his hair, creases upon his young face, yellow in his skin, and gold in his eyes. He gestures to you with one arm in disbelief, while running the other through the mop of grease on his head. "You're okay. Holy shit. What happened—"

"Who surv-vived."

He smiles.

A good deal of your panic fades, as the two of you walk away from the ruins. Beneath the canopy of forgotten woods, under the light of Mercy, everything feels like it's illuminated.

There's a stream, just around the way. You practically dive face-first into it. It doesn't matter how badly you cloud the bend with dirt and decay. It's like ecstasy, and the blessing of a God, to feel fresh water on your face. To slake your thirst, and to actually look at everyone else in your congregation— who's doing the exact same thing— feels even better.

Commotion breaks out instantly. You're swept up into a hug by Randall ("g-get off of m-me") ("don't be shy!") while everyone else registers that you're alive.

Lady Edith has her hair down ("Harvey!") right alongside Spangle and Electrum.

The two priestesses seem extremely worse for the wear. Electrum's burns are horrific, clearly turning from the foul water you all waded through for nearly two days. "The Gods are Merciful. I knew you would make it."

Spangle seems fine physically, but she's twitching at every snap of the twigs on the riverbanks. She simply sniffs, and offers you a small quirk of her lips through a hard frown.

Sir Allan is right beside them, keeping watch from the bank with a sword and shield in hand. He nods, as Claymore, Irefist, Chesty, Serpent, and Klepto grin to you. The majority of the men's clothes are practically in tatters, and can't seem to set their weapons down. The thick bandages around Klepto's neck are absolutely clotted straight onto his skin, but he offers you a broad grin.

Mick pulls Randy off of you, grumbling, and gives you a nod. "Glad you made it out. Thanks."

Almost everyone mutters some form of gratitude. It's overwhelming, as you spin in place, sweating. "Wh-where are J-jitt-ters—" there's no sign of the slender, shorter rogue, "and B-bronzeb-beard...?"

"Gone," Serpent calls from the bank. He's too exhausted to stand, but he gestures to the forest, and up to the north. "Said they were making for the Church of Vengeance, of all things."

Mick spits. "Good riddance. Kid had a stick up his ass nearly as big as yer balls, Harvey."

Leering, Randy happily grins, "you would know."

Honking sounds ensue. You shove them both aside, as Irefist fires the scoundrels a look that could kill. "Shut up, both of you." With a milder frown to you, he insists, "they'll be alright. Bronze has some family up north."

You breathe. "Sist-ters." They both snap upright. "Could you d-do us all a fav-vor?"

(1/2)
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>>4330105
Electrum flashes the palms of her hands to you. "Of course."
Spangle's grimace relents, if only slightly. "Say the word."

"B-before w-we g-go anywhere. To th-the Church of M-Mercy," you look around, and see virtually no one complain, "or oth-therwise. Can we p-pray?"

They're both stunned. A few slender strips of wood become makeshift candles, placed in the last of the sunlight, right along the riverbed. No one could count exactly how many men and women were lost in Ostedholm. You make sure that there's at least three, as you all bow your heads, and pay your respects.

"For th-those who could n-not b-be here with us tod-day."

-----

All of you had voluntarily left for the ruins. Despite legend of the danger within, many men and women go missing in them each year. The few who have returned are usually scarred, and traumatized beyond all recognition. It's common knowledge in Corcaea, that anyone who comes back from their venture is to be brought immediately to the Church of Spirit.

Your work had only just begun. The Church of Mercy is located in Eadric, and the venture on foot was grueling. Scavening in the wilds, defending your congregation from stray imps, and keeping everyone's morale high enough to keep anyone from turning to the Catalyst pushed everyone well past their breaking point.

You all arrived in Father Anscham's home at least a week later. Farmland and wilderness alike was hostile, to an extreme. It was impossible to track the time. Exhaustion was your bedfellow. Starvation was your mistress. Thirst was no longer your master, but the high walls of Corcaea's most defended city were a blur. The procession of your congregation, straight up to the steps of the church, are fuzzy.

You distinctly remember one thing. You finally collapsed from exhaustion, at the steps of the Church. Barely able to see the priests who ran out to greet you, or the robe that you took hold of to impart a single message.

To uphold your mission. To bring the sun to the surface. To be there where the Father of the Church could not speak, you had asked for one thing:

>A] Mercy.

>B] Shelter.

>C] For the love of all the Gods, send a rescue party for Father Anscham.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4330108
>C] For the love of all the Gods, send a rescue party for Father Anscham.
>>
>>4330108
>>A] Mercy.
>>
>>4330108
>>C] For the love of all the Gods, send a rescue party for Father Anscham.
>>
>>4330181
>>4330728
>>4330746
(Vote is locked. Writing now!)
>>
>>4330884
"M-Mercy. For th-the love of all th-the G-Gods. Send a r-rescue party, for F-Father Anscham."

The robes you clutched onto shifted, just slightly, as a balding priest kneeled down. He took hold of your own tattered cloak, with a hand missing its index finger. A hulking arm pulled you in, tightly enough to take the breath from your lungs.

Brother Theobald Stace, the current leader of the Church of Mercy, brought you right up to his lips. The sadist waved away anyone approaching from the front of the building. All appearances as smiles, he whispered to you four, terrible words. One sentence. No breath.

"He's not coming back."

-----

>You've been walking for hours, retelling your tale, and there's a lot more left to say.
>Father Anscham specifically requested that your experiences within the Church of Mercy be glossed over.
>Ultimately, this is your decision to make.

>A] Respect Richard's previous request. Gloss over the events that transpired in the Church of Mercy, and get to your activity on the congregation's behalf.

>B] This is horrifically important, if he hopes to one day return to Eadric. Don't skip out on any details. (THIS FLASHBACK MAY CONTINUE INTO THE NEXT THREAD, IF THIS OPTION IS CHOSEN.)

>C] You're honestly exhausted. Your venture into the ruins was easily the most traumatic experience of your life. Come back to the present, and end your retelling here. Respectfully ask the Father of Mercy if he would like to participate in the conversation, while you briefly touch on your more recent affairs.
>>
>>4330893
>>A] Respect Richard's previous request. Gloss over the events that transpired in the Church of Mercy, and get to your activity on the congregation's behalf.
>>
>>4330893
>>A] Respect Richard's previous request. Gloss over the events that transpired in the Church of Mercy, and get to your activity on the congregation's behalf.
>>
>>4330893
>A] Respect Richard's previous request. Gloss over the events that transpired in the Church of Mercy, and get to your activity on the congregation's behalf.
>>
>>4330893
>>A] Respect Richard's previous request. Gloss over the events that transpired in the Church of Mercy, and get to your activity on the congregation's behalf.
>>
>>4330894
>>4331035
>>4331153
>>4331187
(All he's askin is for a little respect. You're unanimously giving it. Lovely stuff. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
>>
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>>4331247
The Church of Mercy is a place of restraint. Father Anscham specifically asked that you refrain from going into detail about any of your time spent there. You understand completely. He's been through a lot, and primarily at the hands of the sadists running his former home. The least you can do is show the priest your respect, and cover your movement in the capital city.

It's hardly a sin, to withhold information from Richard. He's used to it. This is all overwhelming enough as it is. He does *not* need to know what happened. Not yet. Possibly never. Not even if it's the reason you're still fighting for him today.

There's no need to get to how quickly you and your congregation were addressed. How quickly you all were pushed to silence. The immediate call for the Church of Spirit, to have you all put away. You were to be studied, exiled, or worse. It would take a few weeks for them to answer, and they were long. You rested, and recovered slightly, in isolation.

It was a struggle to get even a single honest answer. They wanted to keep everyone quiet. No rescue party would be sent. Brother Stace was nothing more than a figurehead, enabling the Church of Truth to propogate more blasphemy than even you could stand. It was said countless times that Father Anscham abandoned his position, his home, his family, and all the Gods.

The man really running Eadric— Brother Adrian Morris— wielded no sword. The man watched, and waited, and whispered.

Lies. "His behavior was a threat to the lives of our King and country. Richard was a compassionate soul, but he could not share his gift with others. We are all safer, and sounder of mind, without such a compulsive, erratic, and unrestrained influence in these hallowed halls."

Deceit. "The boy's Spirit was broken beyond all compare. He refused Father Sullivan's aid. He never made a single attempt to send aid to Murgate, on the cusp of disaster. Look at where it's led us now. His proclivities and sin were forgivable— under my care— but this is one venture he could not be saved from."

Slander. "Sending any one of our sane, healthy, and devout clergy after him is, quite frankly, an insult. Our resources are stretched excruciatingly thin. The Church of Mercy is expected to answer to every outbreak in Corcaea, and the Goddess has not heeded our prayers in some time. King Magnus suspects that the very Father of Mercy SPURNING Her works is to blame. I fear the worst, without jeopardizing one more life on his behalf."

Brother Stace was somehow worse. "It was a blessing. For him to have found peace, in his own way."

You had to do something.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4331303
>A] You would not be silenced. You would take the GOOD word to the streets, and fight this injustice with the actual tenets of Mercy: truth, compassion, light, protection, and healing.

>B] You straight up tried to kill these bastards. (Feel free to write in how!)
>1] Theobald.
>2] Morris.
>3] It was more like several very real threats, to both of them, that they took very seriously.

>C] You accepted a steep bribe, to protect your congregation, and to quietly relocate to Calunoth. You're hardly a coward. The priests wanted you all to disappear into the crowds, and fade from the picture. Joke's on them.

>D] Write-in.
>>
>>4331308
>>A] You would not be silenced. You would take the GOOD word to the streets, and fight this injustice with the actual tenets of Mercy: truth, compassion, light, protection, and healing.

I don't doubt for a second that the rogues in our company tried to kill them or get an assassin to do it tho.
>>
>>4331308
>C] You accepted a steep bribe, to protect your congregation, and to quietly relocate to Calunoth. You're hardly a coward. The priests wanted you all to disappear into the crowds, and fade from the picture. Joke's on them.
>>
>>4331308
>C] You accepted a steep bribe, to protect your congregation, and to quietly relocate to Calunoth. You're hardly a coward. The priests wanted you all to disappear into the crowds, and fade from the picture. Joke's on them.
>>
>>4331330
>>4331353
>>4331358
(We can work all of these together for sure. Vote is locked. Writing now!)
>>
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>>4331552
You're cunning, and accepted an incredibly steep bribe from the priests of gold. Without saying a word, you were granted horses, coin, and ample supplies to relocate your entire congregation to Calunoth. The pretense was that you all would slip into the crowds, quietly live out your lives, and never worry Brother Stace or Morris again.

Klepto appreciates you. The joke was on them. You all laughed, riding on horseback out of Eadric. Mick informed you of five assassins he had hired, with Morris' own coin, to kill him. Randall was beside himself, as he had done the same.

The pursuit on your heels lasted every one of the nine days you rode across the country. Beyond farmland, winding rivers, clear skies, and countless fortifications. The ruins that cover the land are truly an asset. Most buildings in Corcaea are built upon the crumbling stone foundations, with more rudimentary wooden structures built as needed. They provided glorious cover, beautiful respite, and felt like a home away from your demonic home.

https://youtu.be/tQsC5IEXDag

Calunoth is always the exception. The sprawling hive of stone and activity is built up, and out, from every skilled laborer left to mankind. It sits upon ruins, but the city is a testament to survival. New, segmented districts are designed to keep in outbreaks. The most formidable walls in Corcaea reside in and around an entire cathedral ward, with a monumental castle at its center. The barricades run all through the city, with constant checkpoints to deter the spread of outbreaks even further. It's a necessary precaution, for the densely packed population.

Upon almost every building are their stories. It's custom, for citizens of the capital, to paint upon their homes and places of business. It's an ancient tradition, from a prior King of Dream. You would learn of these stories, and your people, but the first concern on your mind was a mission:

You had to spread the GOOD word. You owed your lives to Father Anscham's sacrifice. It had been well over two weeks since your escape from the ruins, without any word of his survival. Hope remained in your heart. The men and women who swore to aid your cause were just as determined, to bring light to the painted city, and to expose rampant injustice.

You're a Ringleader, and have several elements of your circus to track. You said to yourself that you would shadow every one of your congregation members, in darkness and sin. The time presented itself, to follow through.

(1/6. Lots of pictures. Get comfy.)
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>>4331759
Professor Echo was bent with an unholy obsession. There was no talking him out of it. The man's mission was to break into the royal library. It's nestled deep inside of King Magnus' castle. The most heavily fortified structure in the country houses countless secrets, and your scholar is focused on nothing but the truth. He's stopped sleeping, barely eats, and has probably bathed once since exiting the ruins.

"I don't want anything to do with murderers or thieves. Let them wallow in the gutters, like rats, while we all lose ourselves. It's idiocy. People are going to die. We're all dying, and help isn't going to come. I'm going to find a way. There's an answer. If anyone has it, He will. You wouldn't let me go back. I won't stop moving forward. I'll kill you if you try to stop me again. Don't give me that face! I'm more than a genius, Harvey. I'm your expert. ...so let me help you."

(2/6)
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>>4331762
Randy and Mick were inseparable, positive that the streets would bring nothing but death. Their brilliant strategy was to utilize the worst of the ruins beneath the city: for transportation, shelter, and spreading the good word.

"Fleas, Harvey. We're the fleas on your back, and the bugs in their bed. There's too many sick fucks who need some light out here! We all need it." Mick never stopped surprising you, as he laughed, like he wasn't trying to take responsibility for the worst of mankind. "I'll look after em. Give 'em something to sleep on, if you can get a damn soul away from all this mess up top."

"We're not running," Randy stressed. "Everyone needs somewhere to lie down. You do what you need to do, and we'll take care of the rest. I've got a few old flings up north, and who knows? We'll see if I can get anyone else to turn up."

(3/6)
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>>4331764
The Sisters of Mercy were all fire. Spangle was determined to lay waste to Brother Morris and Brother Stace. The broomstick was probably incapable of it, but nothing could stop her from trying to rally as many clergy members as possible. Upholding her duties, as a proper priestess of Mercy, were put on standby.

"I'm killing them from the inside, Harvey. Just you wait. Father Anscham left so few of us in Eadric. His kindness will NOT go unheard. There's hundreds of us in the capital. Something has gone horribly wrong. Mercy may not be listening, but they will. I'm going to make them listen. We're getting the truth out there, and I'd like to see anyone try and stop me."

Electrum was elated beyond all measure to handle supply and finance. While her talents as a priestess are substantial, her mind seemed to be her primary asset.

"Give me a week. We'll have shelter, and enough weapons to outfit an army."

"P-plate?"

"I'll see what I can do."

(4/6)
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>>4331768
Starlight and Stardust were rightfully terrified. Edith was almost inconsolable. "Father will have Allan's head, if we're found. I won't stand for any more bloodshed. I've seen enough. We want to live, Harvey, but never under His rule. Never again."

"I want to help," Allan emphasized. "But we need to let this blow over. I know Father Anscham will sort out his affairs. We have to think of ourselves, Harvey. You're welcome in our company any time, but please, don't ask anything more of us. We only want peace. Bring us that sun. I'll come out of the shade, when our whole world isn't on fire."

(5/6)
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>>4331770
The remainder of your congregation was a unit of raw power. They're easily the most terrifying combatants you've ever witnessed. By far and away, they're the most respectable men you've ever known. Sure, they're all a bunch of freaks. But they are *your* freaks, and have sworn to help you in any way they can.

Claymore and Electrum were inseparable, every time they reconvened. The two were making an armory, to outfit what they suspected would be countless wanted men and women. Anyone who would hear your message. Anyone who might need to fight for their lives. The King's fury was that of legend, and your newest enemies are incredibly powerful. Claymore was rightfully agitated. "The armor isn't feasible. Sorry. I'll get you something as soon as I can. Metal is scarce, but we aren't. Let's get every hand we can take, Harvey. I'll give them all somethin' to hold onto."

Klepto swore up and down to literally sing any praises you needed to spread. His pursuit of adrenaline was ignited to an extreme, at the thought of speaking out against the theocracy. The clown was easily the most enthusiastic about your endeavor. "I've been working on a routine. A ballad, a few poems. Real catchy. Nothing explicit. It's going to knock them right into your ring, Harvey!"

Chesty and Irefist were ready and willing to go along with whatever Serpent had planned. "The professor wants to bury himself alive," the manipulator hissed. "It's fine." You know he actually cared deeply for Echo, and the two of them kept in close contact. "One of us needs to be your eyes on the ground. I'll tail anyone suspicious. Keep us a step ahead. You'll be the first to know if there's any word of the Father's survival."

(Options in next post.)
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>>4331771
The start of your work was easily the most influential. You had a scarce two weeks before things escalated completely out of control, and you had to make them count.

>A] You helped Walter break into the castle.

>B] You gave Spangle the support she needed, to recruit clergy to your cause.

>C] The finances of your congregation had to be sorted first. You got some quality time with Electrum.

>D] You investigated the routes, shelter, and plan that Mick and Randy formed.

>E] You got the twins to safety, with hope for the future of your country.

>F] You hit the pavement with the freak show.
>1] Claymore, in battle.
>2] Klepto, in spreading legend and myth.
>3] Serpent, Chesty, and Irefist in subterfuge.
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>>4331774
>>A] You helped Walter break into the castle.

Knowledge is power, everyone else seems to be capable of doing their tasks by themselves, echo isn't the most subtle man.
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>>4331774
>D] You investigated the routes, shelter, and plan that Mick and Randy formed.
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>>4331774
>>A] You helped Walter break into the castle.
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>>4331778
>>4331789
>>4331845
(Done with some errands and dinner! Locking the vote here. Writing now.)
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>>4332199
Keeping in contact with Mick and Randy was top priority. They at least had the decency to fill you in on their plan, before descending beneath the city. You caught them under a decaying bridge, as you all shivered in the miserable weather.

"You know I can work a tunnel better than anyone, Harvey," Randy winks. Mick laughs, hard. The lecher continues, "honestly. We all know this shit is going to go south. I'm not getting caught in the thick of it. We'll get to a few of my old haunts, clean up the place. You swing on by if you need anything."

A snort of general agreement, from Mick. "Don't go dragging any guard in. I mean it. You'll get us all killed. We'll keep this nice and low. Let the sisters do their thing, if anyone gets hurt, right?"

"Th-they have th-their own p-plans, M-Mick."

"Shit. Well. There's enough space to work with. I can't imagine anyone tracking us down. Might even work for," he chuckles, wiggling his eyebrows, "you know."

The twins immediately took both scoundrels up on their offer, when you suggested it the next day. Without any care for the fact that they would be in ancient sewers, or the company they'd keep, your suspicions were confirmed that everyone could handle themselves well enough.

Save for one man. Your attention was really fixed on Walter. The greasy, pompous, genius of a man, who thought that breaking into the King's castle was the best course of action.

Over a mug of beer, you both settled into Electrum's first safe house, and developed a plan of attack.

"T-to M-Morris," you grinned.

"Cheers," Echo laughed, hard enough to not immediately drink.

"Kn-nowledge is p-power," you frowned, through too much foam, and the extremely watered down brew.

"Cheap-skates," Walter muttered. "I'll have words with Electrum. Don't mind me, Harvey, I'm just rambling. Go on."

"H-how d-did you p-plan on ent-tering th-the castle?"

A few airs come into the pseudo-intellectual's voice. "A rudimentary hypothesis is insufficient, for the experiment I endeavor to pursue. Further research is necessary, before I embark on any tests of the guard or castle grounds."

"A hyp-p— a wh-what?"

He gives you a shit-eating grin. "I don't have a plan."

"G-good. I w-want in."

Echo slams his mug on the table. "I knew I could count on you."

"It w-won't b-be easy."

"Nothing ever is. ...except Randy." He looks over his shoulder, like the lecher would honk at him at any second. "Don't tell him I said that."

"I w-won't."

You pause, and decide it's better to honor Father Anscham's tenets. Honesty can sometimes be the best policy. "Y-you are n-not th-the m-most su-" this is going to be impossible, "y-you sp-peak p-plainly, Echo."

"Yes. Only an imbecile would waste anyone's time with anything less."

"Y-you m-move p-plainly."

"I move confidently!" He takes a large drink. "With purpose."

The beer isn't helping, but gives you time to offer, "how ab-bout a sugg-ggest-tion?"

"Go ahead."

(Options in next post.)
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>>4332312
>A] You'll stake out the castle, and gather as much intel as you can, for as long as you safely can, before going in.

>B] The sooner you do this, the less time anyone has to predict the attempt.
>1] You'll go in with Echo, and create the biggest distraction possible for him. Maybe several. It's going to make it nearly impossible to see him again anytime soon, but he's worth the effort, and you do actually trust his capabilities.
>2] Offer point-blank to escort Echo into the castle, with as much stealth as you can muster. He'll need to hug your ass, and could still catastrophically mess up the effort, but it's the simplest.

>C] Before you know anything about the home of the King, you're certain that there's probably some convoluted and utterly ridiculous plan that would get this accomplished faster. Or, at least, with far less risk. (Write-in.)

>D] Get drunk, and enjoy one night of normalcy with a friend on the surface. Brainstorm as many stupid or ingenious ideas as you can fathom. Maybe one will stick. (A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. Write-ins may help.)
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>>4332314
>A] You'll stake out the castle, and gather as much intel as you can, for as long as you safely can, before going in.
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>>4332637
>>A] You'll stake out the castle, and gather as much intel as you can, for as long as you safely can, before going in.
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>>4332314
>>A] You'll stake out the castle, and gather as much intel as you can, for as long as you safely can, before going in.
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>>4332314
>A] You'll stake out the castle, and gather as much intel as you can, for as long as you safely can, before going in.
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>>4332637
>>4332687
>>4332690
>>4333360
(Alright guys, locking the vote here. Should be able to update a bit more today if votes come in. Writing now!)
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>>4333485
"Lets d-do some research."

"You know I can't say no to that."

"I kn-know."

Taking your time to thoroughly stake out the castle was worth a few precious, additional moments with the most resourceful members of your congregation.

The next day was spent being saddled with explosives from Electrum.

"We had a few left over from the ruins. You're going to need it a lot more than I will, where you're going. Try to not worry about the clergy *out here*, and focus on anyone that can invoke *in there*. Really. We can handle ourselves. Just stay safe, alright? The Gods are Merciful."

Weapons, from Claymore.

"Don't let him take any throwing knives. He's too happy to run his mouth. I can't imagine the damage the lunatic could do with a blade, but here. A dagger or two is at least enough to get him out of rope. Maybe give it off before you split. Your call. He's probably better off not being *seen* rollin' heads, is all. You get me?"

"You n-need m-me to d-do th-the d-dirty work. In case he can't g-get out. Th-they could b-blame any d-deaths on m-me."

"Yeah. Well. I don't need you to do anything. He sure will. Just take the fucking armor, Harvey. I know it's not plate, but I'm not lettin' you get yerself killed. We'd rather have you out here, and I need you back in one piece. ...not letting these cunts rest that easy."

The segmented, full-sleeve armor fit like a dream. Sure, it was iron, but the weight felt remarkable. It was barely a burden, once it was worn and fully in place. On your shield arm, and under your cloak, you felt closer to a walking fortress than a man, during your last trip of the night.

A priestess of gold thrust an obscene amount of coin into your hands, later that evening.

"I'm not taking 'no' for an answer." Electrum was practically sweating, for how nervous she clearly was at the idea of your mission. "We'll get more. It's nothing."

"W-Walter n-needs you t-to know, Electrum."

"What's his problem, now?"

"He hated th-the b-beer."

"He's lucky I haven't abandoned every last one of my vows." The priestess of compassion couldn't help but look upset.

"A j-joke."

"Pfft. Sure. We have to cut corners somewhere. He'll be thanking me, when you don't have to deal with half the city guard. You don't want to take any chances, okay? We've all been through too much to lose anyone."

"I w-won't let anyth-thing happen."

"Don't take any chances, Harvey. The Gods aren't Merciful. Neither is the King. We need to get out there who actually is, if no one else will."

Regrettably, getting past countless checkpoints almost amounted to chance. Electrum's safehouse was in the outskirts of the slums, nestled amidst whorehouses and sin. As far from royalty as one could safely hope for. You still needed to get into the city proper, through the gardens encompassing the mercantile districts, and beyond the cathedral ward to even *see* the base of the castle.
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>>4333531
>Roll 1d100. The first three rolls will be used. Each roll will be counted, with degrees of success. A critical success may reveal critical information.
>Any strategy to bribe, coerce, sneak past, or otherwise get through security to the districts before the castle may grant positive modifiers.
>Any tactics to keep Echo from mouthing off may also help.
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Rolled 63 (1d100)

>>4333534
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Rolled 34 (1d100)

>>4333534
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Rolled 56 (1d100)

>>4333534
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>>4333584
>>4333739
>>4333948
(Alright lads, that'll do it! Locked, writing now.)
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>>4333952
Compared to exiting the ruins, escaping clutches of the Church of Restraint, and avoiding capture for the last nine days, it was almost too easy to get into the city. Though word of multiple assassination attempts in Eadric had certainly already reached the holy capital, there was too much bustle for you and Walter to both to not slip through undetected.

Cramped buildings nearly put the dense crowds to shame. Vagrants, pickpockets, merchants, guards, clergy, and innocent citizens alike packed the streets in all directions. The last of humanity took some comfort in the King's protection, while the rest took complete advantage of it.

You and Walter were no exception. Getting to the center-most, mercantile districts quickly became an ordeal. Keeping you both from losing anything on your person was one thing. Greasing the palms of the guard, to convince them you actually were entering the central wards for business, was another. You'd rather not think too much about what Electrum's hard work went to— let alone how the priestess even acquired so much coin— and try to think of the gardens.

Actual greenery. The fucking famine had ended, thanks to a martyr. The land had been cursed, for as long as you had known it, but no longer. There's legend that Father Anscham cultivated a flower that can cure any illness, under tutelage of the last Mother of the Church of Agriculture, and her work had become something of legend. While Mother Bethaea may be dead, and her home in Wearmoor is still in disarray, there's still plenty of evidence of her work. The fucking famine had ended, thanks to her sacrifice.

The streets were packed with wares, and enough distraction to get up to the cathedral ward without further incident. Even from a great distance, the peaks of the King's home could be seen scraping the sky. Painted glass reflected countless hues, upon high walls, across broad streets, and upon every onlooker below. You wrestled your way through the crowds, barely got through the intense security, and strong-armed Walter into keeping quiet as you approached the base of the castle.

The next week was spent camped out, moving position as frequently as possible. Ample cover was provided. Aside from the enormous iron fences, myriad lamps, ever-lit torches, hundreds of moving fountains, and bustling gardens, there was cover in the form of gold. Disturbingly similar to the King's children, statues of traitorous nobility littered the courtyard. There's rumor that "the Merciful" turns any opponent to his authority into solid metal, if they so much as look at him the wrong way. You're not sure how much validity there is to it, but unmistakably, life-size and life-like figures were an enormous asset as you trailed each and every guard you could.

(1/2)
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>>4334107
Eavesdropping revealed that the castle is primarily staffed by clergy of Mercy. In direct service to the King, and ALL unable of invoking Mercy, they had largely been stationed within the church's walls for their own (immediate) protection. Whatever had happened with Mercy completely escapes you, as a common man. You know that the majority of the women within the castle walls are in direct service to the King, and are at least at work to try and propagate the royal bloodline. Each one of his descendants is marked as nobility, and every one of them within Calunoth requires further guard, still.

The most populace force in the country is meant to be directed by Father Friedrich, leader of the Church of Flesh. It would seem he's been stretched thinner than anyone rightfully should, as his forces have been largely pulled away to the capital. Every corner, hallway, and narrow street felt like it was packed with clergy of Flesh. Rumors of a demonic outbreak, and your congregation's presence in the capital, ensured that a curfew was imposed before you even began your observation.

Nastier rumors surfaced, that you and your congregation were to blame for the demons themselves. The church of Spirit had organized an impossibly erratic schedule for the guard (rather than the church of Time,) which was meant to confuse you. The man responsible— Father Henry Sullivan— was smearing more than just your company's good name. He was launching a full-blown campaign to bring you out of hiding, and smeared Father Anscham's reputation with everything he had.

Walter assured you, repeatedly, that Klepto would have the situation under control.

You both poured your efforts into identifying a few weak entry points. The front of the castle was out of the question, but there were a number of high towers that were largely unguarded. The lowest levels were only accessible via ducts and grates below the city, which you both laughed at, happily traversed, and found multiple outlets into the library itself.

Further rumors that Father Wilhelm had been pulled away from his home in Somerilde proved fruitful. His clergy, from church of Dream, was pleasantly absent from the night watch. Echo surmised that sneaking into one of the lower levels of the library, under cover of night, would be your safest bet to get him into the library unscathed.

That night, there was no moon in the sky. Slicing through a window of painted glass, dropping Walter off, and leaving the scholar in one of the lowest levels of the royal archive took only a matter of moments. The guard was sparse, given your extreme caution.

The amount of time you took away from the rest of your congregation had paid off.

Professor Echo gave you a firm embrace.

>Feel free to write in any parting words you give to Professor Echo.

No matter what, you swore to see each other again.

The ultimate question was how you were getting out.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4334118
>A] With sword and shield. You'd stay on the defensive, and try to take as few lives as possible. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>B] With the explosives Electrum provided you with. People will die, and she might benefit from the items later, but you and Walter will live *now*. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)

>C] With your wits. (Write-in.)
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>A] With sword and shield. You'd stay on the defensive, and try to take as few lives as possible. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
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>>4334121
>B] With the explosives Electrum provided you with. People will die, and she might benefit from the items later, but you and Walter will live *now*. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
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>>4334121
>A] With sword and shield. You'd stay on the defensive, and try to take as few lives as possible. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED.)
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>>4334324
>>4334437
>>4334439
(Hell yes. Let's do this thing. Vote is locked.)

>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.
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Rolled 95 (1d100)

>>4334107
Granny a cute. CUUUUUTE
>>4334449
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Rolled 96 (1d100)

>>4334449
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>>4334493
>>4334502
(Holy fuck just when I thought a higher roll wasn't possible. Do either of you want to do anything particularly badass?

Still need one more roll, it's getting really late here though so I'll update tomorrow.)
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Rolled 39 (1d100)

>>4334449
>>4334528

Don't know what my roll is gonna be but I think it would be fucking hilarious if we started the biggest game of tag in history.

Find King Magnus, get past his guard, tap him on the shoulder and say "tag youre it" and then get the fuck out of the castle asap.

Not only would we be mocking the fuck out of him it will give echo more wiggle room as everyone would be busy looking for Harvey.
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>>4334538
that would indeed be hilarious , and we have the rolls to back it up...
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>>4334121
>A] With sword and shield. You'd stay on the defensive, and try to take as few lives as possible.
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>>4334538
>>4334676
(Oh yeah. We can make that happen. And with this amount of backup?)
>>4334324
>>4334437
>>4334439
>>4334493
>>4334502
>>4334863
(Writing now.)
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