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You had the dream again last night.

It isn’t normal for members of the Rpetilian Master Race to dream. For most of your life, you certainly didn't. Even in more recent days, the ‘dreams’ you have experienced have been more akin to divine visions, from the Dark Gods Beyond and Below, appearing to offer advice, issue commands, make bargains. This is something… Different.

The dreams vary in exact composition and structure. They seem vivid in the moment, but as soon as you wake, they grow hazy, disjointed, distant. But you remember… Yes, you remember.

You remember green armour, etched and engraved with effigies of dragons in flight, dragons in battle…

You remember the blade, similarly-engraved with images of a dragon in throes is ignoble death.

The Green Knight is coming. The last of the Yosefs, butcherer of your mother. Upon his brow sits a Diadem of Clarity, vital to restoring your spiritual brother’s shattered psyche.

You have been having the dream for two months now, intermittently. Nothing ahs yet come of it, such that you have long concluded it holds no specific or urgent meaning. You’ve told no one of it, unwilling to compromise your position by admitting to the likely root cause: your partial mammalian heritage, corrupting your mind in response to the pressures of command and the looming threat of the Knight.

You have made great strides in the Bloodrise mountain range, ancestral home of the Red Dragon King who is your father’s distant progenitor. With the aid of your allies, you have subjugated and vassalized the local kobold clan, allied yourselves with a secretive society of dark elves and a barbarian race of ‘bugbears’ (who, admittedly, you have not heard from for the better part of a season), forged a yet-more-intimate alliance with a race of sentient caterpillars, and you have enslaved to your will dozens and defeated dwarves! You worked for this. BLED for this. Lost valued allies and even a loyal lover to make it happen. You may dream of the Green Knight’s vengeful blade when you sleep, but when you are AWAKE, you dream also: you dream of a new Copper Dragon Kingdom, with yourself sitting at its top, adored and venerated, respected and loved. You have not told the Serpent Priesthood of this ambition, lest your already-skeptical superiors order a change-of-command. You will NOT show weakness now, and risk losing it all.

Instead, you focus on the work ahead. You are the DRAGONBORN ANTIPALADIN, and you have great deeds to accomplish if you are to earn that title, or the yet more auspicious one of Dragon King.
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>>5378858
You and your forces have left the two conquered dwarf-outposts to the Drow—the dark-skinned, dark-hearted elves who are your allies in this place. Their leader, the ‘Princess’ Jazkarmel (the title is less auspicious than you might expect) has returned to her people to negotiate further aid and a more concrete alliance with her queenly superior; in her absence, her forces largely defer to you. So too do the kobolds, and the cowed dwarven slaves who help to open the collapsed tunnels beneath the kobold caverns, exposing ancestral secrets of ancient days, when dragons ruled the earth. You have thus extracted a great deal of mineral wealth, as well as opened up the humble, primitive living spaces of the kobolds into a wider complex of grand-but-abandoned halls. You yourself have taken up residence in what looks to have once been some sort of meeting-room for delegates; you hear audiences in a throne-like stone chair no-doubt once intended for a chief representative of the Dragon King of Bloodrise.

In addition to this mineral wealth, a font of knowledge opens up to you. You had already extracted much of value from the private library intended for the Dragon King’s hatchlings, who died without being born. Well… That which was not lost when you collapsed the space to safeguard it from raiders, or stolen by a certain traitorous kobold. Now, though, you uncover new scholastic wings, much of the contents lost to the ages but still others ripe for translation, study, and exploitation! That which you CAN understand—or rather that which can be properly understood and conveyed by your close companion, the young Serpent Priestess who you know best as ‘The Novice’—helps to enrich your magic lessons, and that of your dwarven ‘apprentice’, Karz Throat-singer.
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>>5378862

That which your tutor is NOT suited to understand and utilize is transported to your expedition’s Translator, stationed in one of the Drow strongholds, or is sent back ‘home’ to your Reptilian Master Race’s northernmost forward base. Much of this transport is facilitated by your alliance with those sentient, oversized glow-worms, who now form a sort of secret supply train, taking away some of these finds to the distant base and bringing back food, medicine, and alchemical and military equipment. Only you, the Novice, and a select few Drow know the secret of the worms’ sapience, or their sinister first purpose as a replacement for your own race by one of the Dark Gods.

Despite all this progress, you and your forces live on fairly simple and spartan rations. You have no great artistic or technological works. Your numbers are few, in the grand scheme of things: barely a hundred kobolds, two dozen of the Reptilian Master Race, perhaps fifty Drow in permanent residence, and seven-dozen mammal slaves (almost all dwarves, most of them women and children). The actual share of the Bloodrise which you properly OWN is miniscule, in the grand scheme of things. You have no real trade relations, save your supply train. You are ever wary of detection by the dwarven corporations operating in the mountains, of the human settlements in the valleys below. Winter approaches, bringing a bone-chilling frost and sprinklings of snow to your realm—especially affecting to the cold-blooded races.

What great work has been your focus these last few months, in your waking hours? Choose one:

>Further raiding and conquest, opportunistically seizing territory and resources when you can while keeping your enemies on the back-foot
>The falsification of a new identity for your people as an offshoot dwarven corporation, facilitated with magical disguises and proven dwarven lieutenants, to facilitate trade for food and furs
>Studying the secrets of the ancients to strengthen your own understanding of Dragonhood, and of the realm as it once was
>Experimenting with orichalcum, that mystical iron-ore, which might allow you to unlock the secrets of advanced heating, cooling, and electrification of your mountain-hold
>Building and reinforcing unity, piety, and loyalty among your subjects and allies
>Write-in
>>
>>5378865
[Previous threads can be read at https://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=reptoidqm, as well as the predecessor quest (NOT necessary reading to follow Dragonborn Antipaladin). Consult >>5378862 for current statblock.]
>>
>>5378865
>Building and reinforcing unity, piety, and loyalty among your subjects and allies

That was a fast week! You're a champ, QM.
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>>5378865
>Building and reinforcing unity, piety, and loyalty among your subjects and allies
>>
>>5378865
>Building and reinforcing unity, piety, and loyalty among your subjects and allies
>>
>>5378865
>The falsification of a new identity for your people as an offshoot dwarven corporation, facilitated with magical disguises and proven dwarven lieutenants, to facilitate trade for food and furs
>>
>>5378865
>Building and reinforcing unity, piety, and loyalty among your subjects and allies

Internal stability first
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>>5378865
>>Experimenting with orichalcum, that mystical iron-ore, which might allow you to unlock the secrets of advanced heating, cooling, and electrification of your mountain-hold
>>
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>>5378992
>>5378984
>>5378958
>>5378924
>>5378870
>>5379048

You had a vision, once, and a revelation. The Master of the Insightful Eye, Dark God of Knowledge, brought it to you. It is not enough for you to be powerful, to be feared and placated. You desire to be respected. To be LOVED. You chassed this goal, it brought you to a peculiar end—one antithetical, in many ways, to the Serpent Priest’s orthodoxy. You recruited outcasts, thieves, low-born Reptilians, even Degenerates… Degenerates like your mother.

You met outcast elves not with condemnation or extermination, but with negotiation and religious proselytization. When you encountered a race of bug-folk created to supplant you, you did not immolate their princess—you befriended her first, and eventually impregnated her. When bugbears invaded your warrens, you fought them… But only to a draw, and then you recruited them as mercenaries. Even the dwarves, who you promised merciless conquest, did not receive the whole of your fury; they are slaves, but you blooded several of them as overseers of the rest—the so-called ‘Bloody Dwarves’, or ‘Duergar’.

So it is that you focus your efforts upon internal stability. This effort takes forms tender and brutal, in equal measures.

A rigid structure of hierarchy is established and enforced. Reptilians sit at the top, with those of the Master Race above kobolds. Drow are co-equal, within their sphere, and with the understanding that their parcels of Bloodrise were gifted (CONDITIONALLY) by you and your people; you retain dominion over their trade, especially of the area and valuable orichalcum. Dwarves and other, non-Drow mammals are beneath them, with the Duergar overseeing these lowly folk. Those who deviate from or defy this order are punished harshly, sometimes lethally; torture occurs frequently, torture-to-the-death is rarer but not unheard of.

However, you forbid your forces from consuming the dwarves as livestock, and you ensure all your people are given a share of the sparse rations, so they will not starve. You recognize the mammalian instinct towards close familial ties, and afford the children of the dwarves special educational privileges, alongside the ever-more-abundant kobold-spawn. It takes the form of sermons—propagandistic lessons, reinforcing the ‘salvation’ granted by the Dark Gods from the utter ruin you might have otherwise visited upon them. There are no Drow children in attendance—nor have you ever met one—but their adults are frequent attendees of such lessons; you gladly offer them more in-depth clarifications appropriate to their age and understanding afterwards.
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>>5379096

What language do you offer these lessons in? It won’t be dwarven, obviously—you hardly speak the guttural, clunky language of the slaves.
>Reptilian True Speech—let your language be THE language in your realm!
>Northern Common-tongue—let the lessons be tailored to the most commong tongue of this realm
>Dark Elven—the Drow-tongue is sufficiently elegant to convey the ideas, AND enforces separation from the outsiders AND from your own race

It is after one of these lessons that one of your lieutenants, the Pit-Guard, approaches you. A thick-bodied, middle-aged Steeltalon, the Pit-Guard spent over a decade keeping unauthorized males (such as yourself) from entering the breeding-pits during heat-seasons. He is naturally inclined to visit law and order upon even your own, righteously-privileged Master Race. Perhaps that is why he even bothers to report it.

“Superior One,” he addresses you, “the dwarven overseers report… A possible issue.”

“Oh?” you ask, pausing in your ritual meditations.

“The North-Merchant and the Drow have worked the slaves quite hard in the greater dwarf-fortress.”

“Hard toil will prove their mettle and merit,” you recite from one of your sermons, tailored to the already-extant work-ethic of the dwarf-race.

“Yes,” the Pit-Guard acknowledges, “but a dwarf died, and when the family protested, they were beaten quite badly. A dwarf-spawn perished from the punishment.”

“I see.”

“The other child and the female have subsequently been jailed and denied food. They now starve.”

“Do the dwarves rise up?” you ask. “Rebel?”

“They… Do not,” the Pit-Guard acknowledges. “They grumble, though. The overseers dare not, but… They report the grumbling, neutrally, rather than putting it down to save face.”

It implies the overseers—your Duergar—sympathize with the plight of the jailed. They hope you will address it in some way.

Will you?

>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
>Release the surviving family
>Forbid collective punishment of families in the future
>Punish the North-Merchant
>Punish the Drow
>Punish the dwarf overseers
>Ritually sacrifice the surviving family
>Do nothing

[Feel free to choose multiple, if compatible]
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>>5379099
>Northern Common-tongue—let the lessons be tailored to the most commong tongue of this realm

>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
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>>5379099
>Reptilian True Speech—let your language be THE language in your realm!
>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
>Forbid collective punishment of families in the future

It’s what Davora would want and should prevent needless riling up of the Dwarves in the future.
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>>5379099
>Northern Common-tongue—let the lessons be tailored to the most commong tongue of this realm

Only those privileged can know our language

>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
>Release the surviving family

Slaves are useful tools. To overwork them is not desirable. The family in this instance only complained about actual injustice - that’s fair enough

Collective punishment is important though.

If one member of a family rebels - then it could be said that treason runs in their blood, as no others reported the treason early. In that instance, all generations of the family are to be executed.
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>>5379099
>Northern Common-Tongue
Last thing we need is teaching mammals true speech. And using elven might give them extra influence over slaves, which we don't want.
>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
>Punish the dwarf overseers IF they continue being sympathetic with slaves
Nothing crazy, just cut their "wages" for a week and makea sure they know why.
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>>5379099
>Northern Common-tongue—let the lessons be tailored to the most commong tongue of this realm
>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this
>Release the surviving family
>Reserve collective punishment of families only for traitors
>>
>>5379099
>Northern Common-tongue—let the lessons be tailored to the most common tongue of this realm

>Institute a labour code to prevent such ‘abuses’ as led to this

>Release the surviving family
>>
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>>5379159
>>5379186
>>5379207
>>5379295
>>5379334
>>5379401
Your mind drifts, as it so often does, to Davora the Herbalist—your deceased slave, attendant, and lover. She paid for your successes with her life, to secure a future in which in her people could have dignity in even an Age of Darkness. What would serve her ambition, and yours?

You pay a visit to the North-Merchant and eh Translator (and the resident Drow) at the greater of the two captured dwarven company-towns. It is a three-day trek through the mountains, but one you’ve made before; it is becoming almost familiar. Once there, you hold an audience, another impromptu sermon.

“Dwarvesssm” you address them directly, in the same Northern Common-tongue in which you you’re your usual audiences, “Sslavesss are tools. YOU are toolsss. As craftsssmen and minersss, you know the value of a tool. A tool should be maintained, kept in good working order. To do otherwise isss wasteful.”

You pause.

“Work hoursss will henccceforth be reduced, and monitored, in all the Bloodrise. No dwarf shall be worked at hard labour for longer than ten hoursss without a break, nor at moderate labour for longer than fourteen.”

For a human, even a Reptilian or kobold, this might seem a punishment. For the dwarves, who you understand have been worked far harder and are TECHNCIALLY capable of far more if pressed, it seems a small but appreciable respite. The young and impressionable, in particular, praise the wisdom of the Dragonborn, guided as you must be by the Dark Gods’ own calculus.


Collective punishment is important, though. If one member of a family rebels, then it could be said that treason runs in their blood. You do not free the family of the deceased slave-miner—not until their punishment has concluded. In your Bloodrise, there is a right way and a wrong way to make an injustice known.

Your days become dominated by such cases. You hold trial as a judge beyond reproach, settling disputes between races, clans, and classes, and between individuals. Your judgement becomes the law of this land, each proclamation setting a precedent, and all of them seen as the will of the Dark Gods themselves. You may be more of a governor, but you truly begin to feel like a king here. To those dwarves and elves ignorant of the Grand Design of the Serpent Priesthood, you may as well be.

No peace holds forever, though. For you, disturbance comes in the form of three simultaneous events, each heralded by a messenger.
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>>5379612
“Dragonborn,” opens Ivno, your kobold retinue-member and a liaison to his people, “there have been… Disturbances, in the depths. Kobolds have gone missing, LONG-missing, and dwarf-slaves, also-too.”

“There are no shortage of predators in those places,” you note, recalling your menagerie of fire-lizards and basilisk, and the strange tongue-beast which you once wrestled into submission and slew with Ivno’s aid.

“Yes,” he acknowledges, “but there was a survivor from the last attack. And he reports… Bugbears.”

Your eyes widen. The bugbears, or ‘Bogbarri’, are a spiky, hairy race of goblinoids with a natural proclivity for stealth. They helped you take the first dwarf fortress, marshalled by the belligerent coercion of their ‘Boss’, a strong and especially magically-astute individual. You’ve not seen hide or hair of him—or any of his peculiar and barbaric breed, since then. Have they turned away from your alliance, to raid you instead? How should you respond to such provocation—if, indeed, it is the whole of the story?

Before you can make a decision, the second messenger approaches you: this time, an androgynous-looking dark-elf clad in alchemically-bleached silk, signifying a member or representative of their nobility.

“Myrymma of House Yvonlace, Queen-for-the-Season of the Elves, welcomes the Reptilian Race and their Dragonborn Champion ‘Copper’, to our ream,” they (he? she? You honestly cannot tell) say, in a rather absurdly-belated formality. “She would discuss your… Employment… with the Princess-of-the-Realm Jazkarmel, and the status of your two empires. As such, she issues a formal invitation to her Crystal Court.”

You’re not sure how you feel about some of this diplomatic phrasing. It implies a greater dominion here for the Drow than you perhaps would like. And ‘employment’, not ‘alliance’? Does this Queen Myrymma wish to distance herself from the events which have thus transpired—to make it clear they do not have her formal approval?

(Also, do they think you are named ‘Copper’? The Bugbear Boss made the same mistake, which you did not correct at the time. Is it catching on? You’re not sure how you feel about THAT, either.)
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>>5379616
The third messenger is a dwarf, one of your Duergar overseers, called Yothana the Sculptor. She is an ashen-haired older female, though like the elves and your own race, the dwarves do not show their dotage readily.

“The Blackmantle Company is seeking an explanation as to why shipments have stopped,” she informs you, straight and to the point. “They have sent a representative of the board to the remaining company-town. They have also sent two geological researchers, to examine and study the orichalcum formations—Karon Jeweleye, who is a quite respected, and his daughter. They request access to our… To the Drow’s holdings in Blodorise.”

You slump a little in your seat. Now, of all times? When so many other important demand your attention at the same time? This is the sort of event where, whether you deny, attack, or obfuscate, you’d normally monitor as closely and personally as possible. Likewise, the matter of a possible bugbear betrayal, or the forging of a formal alliance with the dark elves. You cannot be everywhere at once!

What matter do you view as most urgent, and address personally? Which can you trust your subordinates to manage in your absence?

>The Bugbear Betrayal—you are your newborn empire’s greatest martial champion, and best diplomat, and this sensitive matter will require your personal touch in either case
>The Elven Empire—the Drow are your first and foremost partners in this place, and you must secure their cooperation and aid if this entire effort is to function
>The Dwarven Delegation—if your shadow-conquest is uncovered by these dwarves, you could return to find yourself under full military assault, with your machinations revealed to the light

[Whichever you choose will be the focus of this quest; those which you don’t’ will have subsequent votes related to the specific instructions you leave your lackeys]
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>>5379623
>The Bugbear Betrayal—you are your newborn empire’s greatest martial champion, and best diplomat, and this sensitive matter will require your personal touch in either case

These motherfuckers. We need a good source of warriors/bodies for our next expansions, which the cowed bugbears may do well with.
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>>5379623
>The Elven Empire—the Drow are your first and foremost partners in this place, and you must secure their cooperation and aid if this entire effort is to function
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>>5379623
>>The Elven Empire—the Drow are your first and foremost partners in this place, and you must secure their cooperation and aid if this entire effort is to function
Bugbear can fuck off, although the demon kobold possibilities scare me...
Dwarves, well we need to delay them.
However, the elves are mandatory to our succes as they own a significant part of bloodrise...
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>>5379623
>>>The Elven Empire—the Drow are your first and foremost partners in this place, and you must secure their cooperation and aid if this entire effort is to function
>>
>>5379623
>The Dwarven Delegation—if your shadow-conquest is uncovered by these dwarves, you could return to find yourself under full military assault, with your machinations revealed to the light
our employment?
we'll see you at our leisure
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>>5379623
>The Dwarven Delegation—if your shadow-conquest is uncovered by these dwarves, you could return to find yourself under full military assault, with your machinations revealed to the light
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>>5379623
>The Dwarven Delegation—if your shadow-conquest is uncovered by these dwarves, you could return to find yourself under full military assault, with your machinations revealed to the light

The bugbears aren’t important and the formal invitation didn’t specify us coming urgently

This Dwarven request is time critical and an external military attack represents a true existential threat to our new empire
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>>5379629
>>5379665
>>5379684
>>5379780
>>5379789
>>5379853
>>5379855
[Looks like a tie so far! I'll check in later.]
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>>5379958
[Seems like a pretty big vote for me to roll for it and I'm having a bit of a personal thing, so I'll leave this up until tomorrow morning, and resolve it then if the tie remains unbroken.]

>>5379629
[drCbrPVA, may I humbly suggest you mention a second choice, if nobody else breaks the tie?]
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>>5379623
>The Bugbear Betrayal—you are your newborn empire’s greatest martial champion, and best diplomat, and this sensitive matter will require your personal touch in either case
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>5380424
>>5379629
>>5379665
>>5379684
>>5379780
>>5379789
>>5379853
>>5379855
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>>5380489
It’s a tough call. Each issue really does seem worth of your personal attention, involving allies and/or enemies of great significance. However, some are less urgent than others. A few rogue bugbears picking at your patrols—assuming that IS all that is happening—is something that can be handled without your personal intervention; you can always address it later, when more evidence emerges as to exactly what is happening. And the Drow… Well, they aren’t going anywhere, either. They’re IMPROTANT, but their importance is not (near as you can tell) time-sensitive.

The dwarves, however, are at your doorstep.
>Dragonborn Antipaladin Quest Volume 4: The Dwarven Delegation

You make the announcement to your trusted councillors the next day, and seek their advice on how to proceed.

“Kill them all,” the Pit-Guard says, quickly and without fanfare. “Or… Kill most, enslave those who remain—ideally not too many, given our current resources. But we should strike hard, fast, and first. Let none escape to tell of what has become of this place.”

“This has worked in the past,” the Thief acknowledges. He is a masked infiltrator and efficient assassin, once shamed and branded for crimes against the Master Race, but he has since found redemption in your service. “However… Assassinating or capturing an official delegate from their ‘headquarters’ will not go unnoticed. Unlike the others, this dwarf is expected to return and report in a certain timeframe.”

Ivno starts to speak up, but the kobold—regarded as a natural-born slave by your fellow higher Reptilians—hesitates. Instead, it is the Bastard who makes the next suggestion—the clanless, mixed-blood warrior who you placed as de facto overseer and wrangler of the kobolds here.

“We could frighten them off,” he says, “using the kobolds and elves as our ‘face’. They need never know our race was involved… Or that we exist… Only that their keeps are lost.”

“They will send reinforcements if we do that,” The Novice Fleshweaver points out, arms crossed. “Trust in my Amulets of Disguise. We can maintain the bluff, that these places yet belong to the dwarves.”

“It did not work out so well last time,” the Thief points out, drawing a glare from the Novice and prompting the Thief to add, swiftly and deferentially, “oh Holy One.”
“All so that this ‘Blackmantle Corporation’ can take the mountains’ wealth?” the Pit-Guard scoffs.

“It’s not ideal,” the Novice hisses in agreement. “But it is better than risking the Great Conspiracy.”

“Why hide and pretend at all?”

This is Ivno, who now draws all eyes.

“W-we serve a Dragon King, yes?” he stammers, turning his gaze down, “I am sorry, SORRY-sorry. Should not have spoken out of turn, but… Why hide from the dwarves at all?”
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>>5380513

You consider the options before you. It is no simple choice! You ultimately decide to…
>Attack the third and final Blackmantle company-town, following the template of your previous two attacks
>Invite the dwarven delegate to one of your keeps, to stage an ambush and kidnapping—you will engineer a plausible excuse after-the-fact
>Use the Amulets of Disguise to negotiate with the dwarves, allowing them to take some of your mineral wealth to maintain the illusion
>Interact with the dwarves via the Drow and kobolds, and stake their claim to this place
>Confront them directly, as the Copper Dragon King of Bloodrise, supreme and unafraid

And what of the other matters? How will you instruct your subordinates to handle the possible bugbear attacks below?
>Send the Hunter—your expert ranger—and his followers to track down the threat and drive it back into the dark
>Have the kobolds set traps, in the hopes of capturing one of the bugbears—or whatever is striking at you—alive
>Avoid those areas for now—no need to risk bad blood until you have time to investigate this personally

And the elven delegate?
>Send Oluawadamilare the Archer—a member of your retinue with an affinity for the dark elves—in your stead
>Promise to answer the summons in the near future, when matters are handled here
>Invite the Queen to visit YOUR court instead, since you cannot presently leave

[Write-ins are permitted for all of the above]
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>>5380516
>Attack the third and final Blackmantle company-town, following the template of your previous two attacks

Just finish them off, Dwarven companies are basically separated isolated nations so it’ll be much easier to disguise ourself after.

>Avoid those areas for now—no need to risk bad blood until you have time to investigate this personally

There’s got to be something afoot here. We made decent inroads with the Bogbarri boss in our meeting with him before.

>Invite the Queen to visit YOUR court instead, since you cannot presently leave

We’ll visit her court eventually, this is just some diplomatic maneuvering showing her we won’t respond to a summons that treats us like her vassals. Give her a taste of her own medicine.
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>>5380516
if >>5380534 is right about the isolationism of dwarven companies, I can back the attack. otherwise
>Use the Amulets of Disguise to negotiate with the dwarves, allowing them to take some of your mineral wealth to maintain the illusion

>Send the Hunter—your expert ranger—and his followers to track down the threat and drive it back into the dark
we got this big dick pro time to use him

>Invite the Queen to visit YOUR court instead, since you cannot presently leave
lel
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>>5380513
>Use the Amulets of Disguise to negotiate with the dwarves, allowing them to take some of your mineral wealth to maintain the illusion

We’re not ready to reveal our actions yet - we’re too weak. Maybe talk to our slave overseers or feared Dwarven sicknesses and explain the recent oddities and depopulation as the result of an outbreak of illness.

>Avoid those areas for now—no need to risk bad blood until you have time to investigate this personally

We don’t need to travel there atm

>Invite the Queen to visit YOUR court instead, since you cannot presently leave

Love some diplomatic games
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>>5380516
>Invite the dwarven delegate to one of your keeps, to stage an ambush and kidnapping—you will engineer a plausible excuse after-the-fact
>Have the kobolds set traps, in the hopes of capturing one of the bugbears—or whatever is striking at you—alive
>Send Oluawadamilare the Archer—a member of your retinue with an affinity for the dark elves—in your stead
>Promise to answer the summons in the near future, when matters are handled here
Traps are a passive defense, and we should really nip these attacks in the bud.
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>>5381082
>>5380864
>>5380606
>>5380534
[Vote locked, post incoming!]
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>>5381141
All indications—including the testimony of your Duergar—suggest that dwarven corporations are no inclined to share intelligence or resources, let alone to aid their competitors.

“Things are different in the heartlands and trade cities, sometimes,” Karz the Throat-singer tells you when you ask him to elaborate upon this. “There, it’s a matter of… Dwarves competing against humans, and elves, and whatever else… or dwarves working together to strengthen a trade hub—making the walls or gates stronger, enforcing the rules that let trade… Happen, really, and grow.”

“But now out here?” you ask.

“On the frontier, in leased land, with mineral rights on the line?” the Throat-Singer answers your question with a question, and scoffs. “Clans and coworkers stick together. Everyone else is just the competition.”

“Very well,” you murmur, your mind made up.

You instruct your kobold servants and dwarven slave-labourers to avoid the afflicted area of the tunnel complex, and to mark certain areas as off-limits. The Hunter and his troupe are instructed to monitor the area, and a few purely-defensive traps are set at the boundaries of those regions where workers have gone missing, nut you make no other move for now. You feel that there MUST be something afoot there, since you made decent inroads with the Bogbarri Boss relatively recently and see no reason for relations to have deteriorated since his departure… But you don’t need to travel there at this moment, and it can be addressed at a later date.

Speaking of ‘later dates’, you inform the emissary of the Elf Queen that you cannot presently leave your own lands unattended.

“SHE may pay a visit to ME, however,” you suggest.

Your tone is studiously neutral, but you feel a little cheeky as you speak the words. You’ll visit her court eventually, of course; this is just some diplomatic maneuvering, showing her that you won’t respond to a summons that treats you and your race like vassals. Diplomatic games are rather… Fun.

The emissary bows and, if they take offence, you cannot tell. They leave shortly thereafter, undetected in their departure. You return to matters at hand.

“It’s like you do not trust my amulets at all,” the Novice huffs, when you make your plan to attack official. “REALLY, what if your luck runs out? You barely survived that last attack!”

“This fortification is less impressive than the last,” you note, “and as for your amulets… Do not be melodramatic. Of course they are trustworthy. In fact, they are key to my plan.”

That gets her attention, and that of your whole council.
>>
>>5381152
You explain your plan: to use the amulets to invite the Blackmantle Delegate to meet with your assassination squad, only to capture him (and the geologists, if you can) before decapitating the leadership in tandem with your more direct assault! It is a slight variation on your previous strategies which, after all, both involved a two-pronged strategy of subterfuge and savagery. The underhandedness of it elicits rattles of sinister laughter from all your cohort.

The only quest is… What role will you play in proceedings?
>Maybe the Novice could see about modifying your amulet to allow you to disguise yourself? She’d mentioned the possibility before… Then, you could join the Infiltrator-Assassins!
>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!
>You will remain at the back, the mastermind of this grim proceeding, out of immediate danger in case things should go… Awry.
>Write-in
>>
>>5381153
>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!

>You will show your trust in Karz, particularly- perhaps the Novice can alter an amulet to work for him, inserting him with the assassination team and allowing him to prove himself
>>
>>5381153
>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!
>>
>>5381153
>>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!
>>You will show your trust in Karz, particularly- perhaps the Novice can alter an amulet to work for him, inserting him with the assassination team and allowing him to prove himself
>>
>>5381156
Supporting

Let’s see what he can do
>>
>>5381153
>Write-in
hand holding and spooning with the Novice
>>
>>5381153
>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!

Karz is still a child that knows mostly nothing so lets not send him in
>>
>>5381153
>Maybe the Novice could see about modifying your amulet to allow you to disguise yourself? She’d mentioned the possibility before… Then, you could join the Infiltrator-Assassins!
>>
>>5381153
>>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!
>>
>>5381153
>You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!
>>
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>>5381502
>>5381440
>>5381402
>>5381324
>>5381311
>>5381300
>>5381266
>>5381175
>>5381156

You are a Dragonborn Champion, and a (sort of) king here! You belong at the head of your army, leading the assault and issuing the orders amongst the warriors!

“Though if you wish to prove yourssself,” you tell the Throat-singer, “now is the time.”

Your apprentice blanches, saying: “No… You can’t… I don’t have any combat training!”

“Have you not been paying attention while I practicced my ssswordplay?”

You give him just long enough to stew in the idea that you might be serious, to really SWEAT in that peculiar way the hairy races do, and then you laugh.

“You will be with me,” you say more seriously, “using your bardic magic to ssspur usss on, and to wrangle the lesser reptiless.”

“…Yes, Dragonborn,” the Throat-singer sighs, with hidden irritation and relief in equal measures.

The Throat-singer bows his head and takes his leave. He may not show quite the same level of deference that your other slaves do, but you have no doubt of his value. His bardic music invigorations the mind and muscles, and his ability to summon and command even comparably mighty and sizeable creatures, such as you two pet fire-lizards, has the makings of a dragon-in-spirit, whatever weak mammalian flesh he might wear.

You turn your gaze upon the ceremonial-armour, copper-gold and black, which has long become like a second skin to you, and take up your two swords and your bow—all elven-crafted. To your dismay, you ran out of the elven alchemical concoction intended to preserve the ‘leafweave’ sheathe of living plants, or the dark wood arrows; you instead wrap your swords in…
>Cloth, tied tightly—simple, clean, frequently-changed
>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below Bloodrise
>The treated skin of fallen foes and rebellious slaves

As for your armour…
>You will wear it, for the extra protection it affords and its imposing appearance; it is a good thing you have such skilled smiths among your population, to continue to modify it
>You have outgrown it, literally, and not bothered to make the necessary modifications to accommodate the increased size and musculature of your <Lingering Dragonform>; your cloak and breeches are fine
>You will have a new suit of armour crafted, forged in part from orichalcum and studded with the gems of your realm, fit for a king [specify any stylistic or functional details you’d like to see]
>>
>>5381505
You send the assassin squad ahead, eld by the Thief in his Mask of Many faces—a gift from you, which affords him the truly-convincing ability to mimic an individual without the usual uncanny feeling of subtle wrongness that such specific mimicry can induce. Ideally, he would have assumed the identity of the ‘Regional Manager’ of this place… But that corporate leader found himself consumed by a fire elemental which you unleashed in a moment of desperation, and you have no reference for his features. The Thief instead adopts the form of an old dwarf who you keep prisoner—the so-called ‘Stonesniffer’, Kaizo. He is accompanied by the South-Merchant, and a Silkscale Infiltrator who you recruited on your lats visit to the northern forward base.

You frown. With the North-Merchant occupied, it is a small squad—much smaller than such squads in the past. But then, who else among your forces has the right frame to be disguised—even by magical amulets—as the small-and-stout dwarven-folk? Certainly no Serpent Priest or Steeltalon, not even a Dragonblooded One! Only the Potion of Diminution worked into your Amulet of Dragonshape made you entertain the idea that YOU could do this thing.

Then again… Perhaps kobolds, or Drow, or Suergar (albeit not the Trhoat-singer) could bolster their numbers?
>Let this small squad of three infiltrate alone
>Assign some trusted kobold warriors Amulets of Disguise
>Allow the Drow use of the (deliberately flawed) amulets which the Novice experimented in crafting them
>Trust some of your Duergar dwarf-overseers to help infiltrate and usurp their former corporate coworkers

[Write-ins are always allowed, unless explicitly stated otherwise, for those who don’t recall!]
>>
>>5381505
>>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below Bloodrise
>You have outgrown it, literally, and not bothered to make the necessary modifications to accommodate the increased size and musculature of your <Lingering Dragonform>; your cloak and breeches are fine.
>Better keep orichalcum as base material for magic device, instead of armors. Growing better food in the underground cities of yours will make a stronger backline, and feed numerous reptilian for the Great War.
>Trust some of your Duergar dwarf-overseers to help infiltrate and usurp their former corporate coworkers
We have too many dwarves, slaves and overseer alike, for our Kobolds.
>>
>>5381507
>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below Bloodrise

>You have outgrown it, literally, and not bothered to make the necessary modifications to accommodate the increased size and musculature of your <Lingering Dragonform>; your cloak and breeches are fine.

>Trust some of your Duergar dwarf-overseers to help infiltrate and usurp their former corporate coworkers
>Assign some trusted kobold warriors Amulets of Disguise

Assuming we can do both, I'd like to send both duergar and kobolds. We know the kobolds are more or less all in on our dream for Bloodrise, so they're a good insurance policy for the question mark of the duregar.

Also, discarding our armor for pure Dragonshape is Serpent Ascendant chadliness at its peak, though we should see if we can get some way to store mana in orichalum to have a backup source of mana..
>>
>>5381505
>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below Bloodrise
>You will have a new suit of armour crafted, forged in part from orichalcum and studded with the gems of your realm, fit for a king [specify any stylistic or functional details you’d like to see]
dragon heads everywhere

>Assign some trusted kobold warriors Amulets of Disguise
>Allow the Drow use of the (deliberately flawed) amulets which the Novice experimented in crafting them
>>
>>5381507
>Assign some trusted kobold warriors Amulets of Disguise
>>5381505
>The treated skin of fallen foes and rebellious slaves.

It will strike fear in the hearts of our enemies, goes good thematically with our hexblade skills.


>You have outgrown it, literally, and not bothered to make the necessary modifications to accommodate the increased size and musculature of your <Lingering Dragonform>; your cloak and breeches are fine.

Our dragonshape spell combined with our amulet, means we keep getting larger. Untill we can find amour that can grow with us we probably have to get used to not wearing it.
>>
>>5381505
>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below Bloodrise
>You will have a new suit of armour crafted, forged in part from orichalcum and studded with the gems of your realm, fit for a king [specify any stylistic or functional details you’d like to see]
See if we can get some of that stretchy form fitting leather from the drow to hold plating together that will expand/detach using clasps and buttons when we use dragonshape
>Trust some of your Duergar dwarf-overseers to help infiltrate and usurp their former corporate coworkers
>>
>>5381507
>Assign some trusted kobold warriors Amulets of Disguise
>Leather from hunted animals in the valleys below
>Modify
>>
>>5381687
Forgot to put last part of vote
>>
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>>5381687
>>5381622
>>5381574
>>5381551
>>5381530
>>5381513

[Vote locked, posting soon!]
>>
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Rolled 10, 16, 19, 5, 1 = 51 (5d20)

>>5381729
You and your forces march out into the mountains, braving the cold of the late season. You have no armour—you think perhaps you will wait to see how much larger you become, or if perhaps the leather strapping of the Drow might provide a template for something which can be easily expanded to fit your frame over time, but that will have to wait. The leather taken from the ungulates of the forest below is suitable to sheathe your blades, as the wood of the forest and the iron and copper of the miens makes for fine enough arrows, but your armour needs to be… SPECIAL.

For now, the lack of metal against your scales is actually something of a godsend; your own ability to regulate body temperature is more limited than a true mammal’s, after all, so your cloak is the more practical choice. You supplement this with occasional puffs of firebreath. Many of your other warriors, especially the kobolds, huddle close to your fire-lizards to similar effect.

In advance of your arrival, you sent not just the Thief and his fellow Silkscales, but also Agno and Ivno—the two kobold warriors who you best know—and a single dwarf to serve as cultural interpreter. You chose a young, angry male with a curious darkness in him, who you had noticed earlier—Kargon, you think his name was? Korgan? Something like that, anyway. He is one of your Duergar, and seems to revel in brutality and subjugation of his own kind, and you have little concern that he will turn against your race, with the promise of female dwarves and extra rations awaiting him if he but follows his own malevolent impulses.

First, though, they must fulfill their initial objective: infiltrating the Blackmantle Corporation's last foothold in your mountain range, capturing the Delegate from their headquarters and their geologists, and neutralizing as much of the leadership as possible

[Rolling for infiltration and assassination results, DC 14/16/18, reduced for decisions and good planning.]
>>
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>>5381742

It takes you several days to reach the final Blackmantle company-town. It is much the same as the two you took earlier, albeit not so impressive is size or defensibility as the second… Nor, you must admit, so precariously-placed as the first, where a single clever utilization of your <Earth Tremor> allowed you to lay waste to the entire fort.

>19: Total success

Luckily, you do not necessarily NEED to. You find it in quiet chaos, its hirsute and bearded residents shouting out unfamiliar names—and, among them, that of the delegate (Vekel) and the geologists (Karon and Noelle). You feel a grim sense of satisfaction fill you from where you and your forces encamp, avoiding direct observation, to await a rendezvous with the Thief and his squadron.

They do not disappoint: the Thief and his forces, all still disguises as dwarves until they are safely among you, bring with them three bound-and-gagged prisoners: a black-bearded, proud-features dwarf who even now manages to look haughty (though you can smell a uric acidity that reveals it is a mask for terror); a bald-headed male with a brown-grey beard and cool blue eyes; a female, younger of features, with dark brown hair, the same blue eyes, and fury and fear writ across her features in a way that contrasts to the curious calm of her obvious progenitor.

“The leadership is decapitated,” the Thief reports, in Nortehr Cmoon-tongue so all your forces may understand.

“Hrrr hrrr… Literally!” the Duergar Brute of Uncertain Nomenclature adds, pulling a grey-bearded, blood-drenched head from a leather sack and dangling it like a trophy, upside down, by its beaded beard.

“What is our next move?” asks Ivno, evidently nervous. “There are still many soldiers. We were not able to set the stores to burning as readily—not and capture these three at once.

“We should take the town,” the Pit-Guard declares. “Shock and awe! They will panic!”

“Or lure them out with our hostages, and bombard those who emerge with spells, slings, and arrows,” the Novice Fleshweaver suggests more pragmatically. “It would soften up defences and allow us to take the fort’s contents with less… Damage, thank in the last two attempts.”

You suppose you can see her point—burning and collapsing one company-town in on itself destroyed many trade-goods and records, while unleashing a fire elemental in the next melted at least one magical axe and armour set to slag and did untold damage to the managerial office which held still more records. This could be a chance to seize not just valuables, but valuable INTELLIGENCE.
>>
>>5381749

What do you do?
>Storm the fort full-force, unleashing hell upon this place with no mind for preserving lives or records
>Attempt to lure out some of the defenders for a ranged bombardment and a more measured assault on those inside
>Besiege them and cut them off from all escape; hold fast and force a surrender, for however long it takes
>Destroy the fort as utterly as you are able with magic—you don’t only not care about preserving any of these dwarves or their belongings, you WANT this final fort to be wiped away from the map, as a final triumph and to hide the exact nature of your attackers
>Leave now—you have your valuable captives, the dwarves here are leaderless, and you have no fear of retaliation since they have no earthly idea who or what is responsible
>Write-in
>>
>>5381749
>Attempt to lure out some of the defenders for a ranged bombardment and a more measured assault on those inside

Good strategy from the Novice. We don't have the bodies to just throw at fortresses over and over again.
>>
>>5381750
>Besiege them and cut them off from all escape; hold fast and force a surrender, for however long it takes

No escape is the priority. None.
>>
>>5381757
My thoughts on that option were that we don't want to get pinned in by some dwarven convoy showing up with a bunch of guards, or the like. The sooner this is over, the better; we even have a whole hunter squad we can send after any runaways.
>>
>>5381750
>Attempt to lure out some of the defenders for a ranged bombardment and a more measured assault on those inside
>>
>>5381750
>Attempt to lure out some of the defenders for a ranged bombardment and a more measured assault on those inside
>>
>>5381750
>Attempt to lure out some of the defenders for a ranged bombardment and a more measured assault on those inside

We don’t have the time or supplies for a siege that may take many months.

Paint our forces as petty criminals out for gold - hide our true numbers.

Before we do the exchange though, wait a few days and get our strike team to re-infiltrate the fortress. They will be our blade in the dark.
>>
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Rolled 5, 14, 7, 19, 17, 8, 19, 13, 5 = 107 (9d20)

>>5381754
>>5381757
>>5381845
>>5381855
>>5381898
You instruct most of your forces to hold back, while you advance primarily with your kobolds and Drow—the lone member of the Master Race among them. With any lcuk, should worse come to worst, you will (as in the past) be msiatken for some over-large kobold by the ignorance mole-apes.

You are forced to approach from below, granting your foes the high-ground and ample time to fire upon you… Before, before you, you push your captives—dwarf-shapes shields, struggling fruitlessly against their bonds.

“Dwarvesss of the Blackmantle Corporation!” you bellow out. “Your leadersss are dead, your diplomat and chiefmossst alchemistss are captured! Come out to parley! Bring your gold, and you may yet sssave their miserable livesss!”

The captive Delegate nods frantically, while the Geologist's Daughter shakes her head so furiously that the 'beard-bead' tying her braided pigtails together beneath her chin starts to slip loose; her father, the Geologist, continues to observe as if detached even comatose.

[5d20 for diplomacy/intimidation to see if you lure anyone out, 3d20 for your forces' ranged attack, 1d20 for the enemy's response.]
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>>5381967
The response is halting, with dwarves peering warily over battlements and out from under helmets fit more for miners than for warriors. Eventually, the gate rolls open, and a sizeable group of dwarves march forward, armed with pickaxes, war-axes, and kitchen utensils. All are male, while crossbow-wielding dwarves of either sex stand behind them, hands steady but faces pale. At the head of them all: an old, wizened dwarf male. Behind him, you see a disgusted and disgruntled-looking younger specimen, a female, holding a sizeable bag.

>19

“We have little gold,” the old dwarf says croakily, “but if you release your captievs and leave us in peace, you can have what wealthw e have—gems, ore, heirlooms.”

You tip the spikes upon your chin with a claw, as if considering…

>19 vs. 5

…But ACTUALLY as a signal for the Hunter, Oluwadamilare, and the other archers and slingers of your forces to unleash all the Hells upon these would-be diplomats. They scream in horror, pain, and anger, and their crossbowmen turn upon your forces. They scarcely manage to lick off a shot before the concentrated fire manages to slay most, and send the remainder scrambling for cover.

Those survivors of the assault—about a half-dozen, in fighting form, from the original twenty-odd dwarves—begin to move back towards their gate. Those inside are already, in a prudent-but-merciless fashion, sealing it shut as swiftly as they can.

What do you do?

>Use your Firebreath and your bow to mop up the survivors outside the fortification, and then settle in for a prologed siege
>Use a horizontal <Jump> to leap in under the descending gate, and wreak havoc in a glorious solo charge
>Attempt to freeze the mechanism with your Ring of Elemental Command [negligible mana cost, higher DC]
>Try to wedge the gate ajar with a Wall of Stone [higher mana cost, lower DC]
>Blast the dam gate off of its hinges with a Moonblast! [higher mana cost, higher DC, but if successful there will be no barring your forces]
>Write-in
>>
>>5381971
>Use a horizontal <Jump> to leap in under the descending gate, and wreak havoc in a glorious solo charge
>>
>>5381971
>Try to wedge the gate ajar with a Wall of Stone [higher mana cost, lower DC]

Seems like the most likely to succeed out of the option's.
>>
>>5381971
>Blast the dam gate off of its hinges with a Moonblast! [higher mana cost, higher DC, but if successful there will be no barring your forces]
>>
>>5381971
>Attempt to freeze the mechanism with your Ring of Elemental Command [negligible mana cost, higher DC]
>>
>>5381971
>Blast the dam gate off of its hinges with a Moonblast! [higher mana cost, higher DC, but if successful there will be no barring your forces]

>Have Karz sing his strange song, empowering your attempt
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>>5381971
>Try to wedge the gate ajar with a Wall of Stone [higher mana cost, lower DC]
>>
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>>5382155
>>5382082
>>5382077
>>5382046
>>5381992
>>5381975
[Two things: The Rehearsal is a fever-dream of a show; we have a close vote with no clear majority or plurality, so I'll wait until morning to post in case someone else votes.]
>>
>>5381971
>Try to wedge the gate ajar with a Wall of Stone [higher mana cost, lower DC]

Well that went well!!
>>
>>5381971
>Use a horizontal <Jump> to leap in under the descending gate, and wreak havoc in a glorious solo charge
>>
>>5381971
>Use your Firebreath and your bow to mop up the survivors outside the fortification, and then settle in for a prologed siege
>>
Rolled 2, 13 = 15 (2d20)

>>5382398
>>5382325
>>5382301
>>5382155
>>5382082
>>5382077
>>5382046
>>5381992
>>5381975
You advance towards the closing gate, following the retreating dwarves at a more leisurely pace. You beckon to the Throat-singer, and he falls in alongside you, still humming his eerie, vibrating song. The two fire-lizards trailing him, and Agno trailing them not long-after; Karz Throat-singer may summon them, even direct them, but he is not so skilled as the kobold at wrangling them and keeping them on ‘best behaviour’ when the magic ceases to flow.

Empowered and focused by the bardic music, you draw up mana from within. You speak the words of power, stride forward the requisite number of steps, move your hands in the forceful, purposeful movements necessary for the spell’s somatic component, and raise a <Wall of Stone> up from the very earth beneath the closing gate.

[DC 12, thanks to Karz's song and circumstance]
>>
>>5382464

In truth, the use of elemental magic in combat conditions—except your inherent firebreath—has taken something of a back-seat to other magics and combat focuses. Divination, the manipulation of your own biology through fleshweaving, and brutal, debilitating swordplay have long taken centre-stage. The wall of stone you hastily erect cracks beneath the weight of the gate and the force of the sturdy mechanism which forces it down. It buckles, crumbles, threatens to break.

>13

Only the focus afforded by Karz’s own, musical spellcraft reinforces it long enough for you, he, Agno, and the fire-lizards to make it through… Or, HOPEFULLY long enough to do so. There is still one obstacle: the dwarves, formerly fleeing. They cannot miss the stone wall which has erupted spontaneously from the earth before them to hold the gate. Two continue to flee anyway, determined to reach the illusory safety of the keep’s interior. Three others of the five who you can see know the truth: if they don’t stop you here, that place will be no sanctuary. They turn upon you and, with courage born of desperation, they charge.

What do you do?
>Draw your moon-blade and charge to meet them head-on
>Attempt to intercept them with Firebreath
>Blast at their feet with the Ring of Elemental Command to (hopefully) non-lethal effect
>Use your Ring of Protection to shield yourself and your allies
>Send your allies to deal with them while you <Jump> over them and through the gate
>Write-in
>>
>>5382469
>Send your allies to deal with them while you <Jump> over them and through the gate

We gotta get in there and stop the dwarves from holding the gate.
>>
>>5382469
>Attempt to intercept them with Firebreath

Dragons breathe fire
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>>5382469
>Jump
>>
>>5382469
>Send your allies to deal with them while you <Jump> over them and through the gate.

We don't want to turn this into a siege battle.
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>>5382469
>Attempt to intercept them with Firebreath
PK Fire!
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>>5382469
>Send your allies to deal with them while you <Jump> over them and through the gate

Need to keep that gate open

Use dragonshape when we land
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>>5382469
>Send your allies to deal with them while you <Jump> over them and through the gate
>Firebreath them
We honestly don’t use firebreath enough.
>>
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Rolled 4, 9, 1, 8, 12, 11, 11, 1 = 57 (8d20)

>>5383101
>>5382779
>>5382646
>>5382614
>>5382514
>>5382512
>>5382474
The gate is wedges, well-enough that there is no problem with your army marching right through to fill the halls and capture or kill every cowering mammal therein… But only if it remains such. Every delay here at the portal offers a fresh risk. What are dwarves best at, after all, if not moving and shaping stone?

“Throat-sssinger, Kobold Sslave, these onesss are yoursss,” you announce abruptly.

“W-what?” Karz stammers, his ong broken. “I can’t—Dragonborn, I’m not a WARRIOR!”

Agno, for his part, twirls his pick-axe and war-knife and shrieks a shrill battle-cry—overconfident, but eager to prove himself worthy of the implicit vote of confidence.

The Throat-singer, though he cringes and grimaces, cannot shrink and be shown up by this upstart. Kobolds are higher in the pecking order which you have established than dwarves, but among your personal slaves, none is blind to the special place the Throat-singer occupies—certainly not Karz himself. Perhaps he fears losing it, should he lose face. Whatever his unknowable internal calculus, he begins his song again, driving the fire-lizards forward with a gesture and a rising rhythm.

With the Blackmantle forces thus engaged, you <Jump>, leaping in a great arc over and beyond them, and through the gate.

[4d20 for your forces (DC 11/13/15), 3d20 Athleticism (DC 14 for use of magic), 1d20 enemy/environmental dice (lower is better)]
>>
>>5383180
Holy fucking shit those dice.
>>
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>>5383180
>>5383184
>>5383180
>12
To your dismay, you realize only in midair that you missed one of those half-dozen surviving dwarves in your charge—or perhaps there was a seventh? A crossbow-wielding female of the species, ducked behind a rock, rises and lifts her armament to open fire upon you. Were you capable of true flight—if only!—you could have veered to avoid it… But you are not She accurately predicts your arc and, as in your last such assault on a company-town, you enter the fortifications only after being thus-bloodied. You land awkwardly, and in pain.

>4, 9, 1, 8
Behind you, you heard clashing steel and a high, trembling hiss which ends in a gurgle. You wince, feeling it somehow without turning to see it—a fie-lizard has been slain, dying in pain. One of your pets—albeit not a creature you ever really thought to name. It is still a thing of yours—a reptile to which you were bonded by your natural empathy. It stings as badly as the bolt. Worse, you can feel fear and weakness rising in those who remain—your other fire-lizard driven to flight, Agno pushed back. You cannot tell what has become of the Throat-singer for the moment his song is shattered by fear or injury your more tenuous connection to his mammal-essence is likewise broken.

>1
The one blessing is that your sudden appearance, tremendous stature, and the sneer of pain and dismay on your face seem to lend you a gargoylish first impression. The dwarves who were working the gate stop what they are doing to stare in horror, and flee their posts… Only to find themselves incinerated in a furious flash of your firebreath.

You press on, determined to…
>Find the non-combatants—females, offspring, elderly—and to use them to force a surrender
>Slaughter every remaining defender who does not immediately lay down arms, that the dwarves will know who you are and that where you go, Death follows
>Seize any valuables of particular note herein before they can be destroyed by enemy sabotage or siege-born accident
>Find and close off any possible escape route, before any canny and craven dwarf can sue it
>Write-in
>>
>>5383185
>Bellow a dominant roar, cowing the remaining dwarves into submission (Intimidate)
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>>5383188
[Solid write-in option, worthy of the commission which just completed of the new, shirtless, increasingly-draconic look of the MC]

art by noixle
>>
>>5383185
Yeah now that I think about it jumping into the middle of enemy forces may no longer be viable since we voted to forgo armor for the time being.

>Find and close off any possible escape route, before any canny and craven dwarf can use it
>>
>>5383185
>>Find and close off any possible escape route, before any canny and craven dwarf can sue it
>>
>>5383185
>Find and close off any possible escape route, before any canny and craven dwarf can sue it

>Bellow a dominant roar, cowing the remaining dwarves into submission (Intimidate)

I would assume the rest of our previously hidden army will be rushing to the entrance and the combat with Karz…
>>
>>5383185
>Bellow a dominant roar, cowing the remaining dwarves into submission (Intimidate)
>Slaughter every remaining defender who does not immediately lay down arms, that the dwarves will know who you are and that where you go, Death follows
If we find something shiny, take it.
>>
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Rolled 17, 10, 18, 15, 6, 16, 9, 6, 11 = 108 (9d20)

>>5383358
>>5383354
>>5383285
>>5383205
>>5383188
You have by this point invaded and occupied enough of these Blackmantle company-towns to know something of what to expect inside. The dwarves are skilled craftsmen, even a member of the Master Race must admit, but none would accuse of them of being beasts of incredible imagination. You stomp your way steadily through faintly-familiar halls, following the same sorts of twists and turns, passing almost the same latrine in almost the same location, until you reach the first of what you all-but-know will be three back exits down steep mountain apses, for emergency departure or expelling the waste of their industry.

And there it is. With grim satisfaction, you summon an <Earth Tremor> to collapse it. With a roar of triumph, you announce to all who shelter herein—all who might seek to flee, as well, that there is to be no escape.

[5d20 Sword Mastery; 2d20 Intimidation, 1d20 probability die for your forces and theirs (yours have a notably lower DC)]
>>
>>5383185
>Bellow a dominant roar, cowing the remaining dwarves into submission (Intimidate)
>Seize any valuables of particular note herein before they can be destroyed by enemy sabotage or siege-born accident
>>
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>>5383428
>>5383430
>>5383428
>18 for Hexblade Sword Mastery
As you methodically make your way through the interior of this semi-subterranean little castle-town, you find few defenders. Most who see you coming flee. They are fools to do so—your legs are longer, you are swifter than they. Those who stand and fight are even less astute than the cowards, for you are not here to fight honourable duels, but to make examples. You cut them down, killing them or leaving them in crippled agony as you stride past them. Their wails of death and dismembered dismay permeate the structure, so that after the third or fourth such encounter, the dwarves begin to lay down their arms in trembling surrender.

Eventually, one such defeated specimen shamefacedly leads you to the final of the dwarven escape-routes, in exchange for his life. There, you find the expected support staff, elders, females, and their spawn clustered. They hear you coming, behold you with frightened eyes. A few break to run, but another draconic bellow ends that notion.

>6 (your forces) vs. 11 (theirs); superior readiness, leadership, armament, and numbers render them equivalent

You must give credit where it is due to these last free Blackmantle miners, though—they fight fiercely against your forces. Were they to meet your own army openly on the field of battle, or had a prolonged siege been the outcome, you’re not sure who would have won. Even now—surprised, leaderless, invaded, gates broken and wedged open to allow your dark force to pour into their keep—they drag the fighting out. They hold the line.

…But then, some of their forces fall back, to investigate the dragon roaring in the depths of their own keep. They find you. They find your blade.

>17,15

They find no mercy. With each life you take, each body you break, you send shockwaves through the morale of the survivors. Half the remaining defenders fall to your army at the front. A quarter fall to your blade at their back. A final fourth fall to fear.

The dwarves submit. No great warrior rises to the occasion to challenge you this time, to your relief. The Blackmantle Corporation is no more, not in Bloodrise. You have won!
>>
>>5383437

You survey your forces. A smattering of kobolds were lost. A pair of dark elves died. Your fire-lizard is indeed lost; the other is injured. Agno cannot tend to it, for he is being tended by those with medical knowledge, marshalled to action by the Novice Fleshweaver—prodigy that she is, in spite of her name, in matters of weaving and mending flesh. The Throat-singer is there, too, unconscious and bloodied, missing several fingers on one hand, with which he looks to have shielded his face from an axe-blow.

…Unfortunate.

Those who remain on their feet begin to extract what valuables they can but (alas) the defenders seem to have put many of the records to the fire, and smashed or disabled their most cunning mechanisms from back home. You find no shortage of more conventional loot, though, among the would-be refugees who you seized in their escape. You add their every bead, gem, coin, and heirloom to your growing coffers.

Now, there is only the matter of what to do with this place… And with its inhabitants.

To incorporate all of these survivors would make the dwarves almost an equal contingent to your kobolds… A difficult situation if you wish to keep their race utterly subordinate in the long run, but not IMPOSSIBLE, if you maintain your current regime of fearsome discipline and social engineering.

What of the bulk of the dwarves?
>Spare those who submit, and enslave them
>Kill them all, and let the Dark Gods sort them out
>Spare only the women and children—less productive, but less rebellious
>Spare only the men—you need labourers, not dependents

And what will become of the keep? This third fortification is most distant from the kobolds’ own caverns, several days’ trek from your main base of operation. The two previously-conquered forts—one collapsed and smaller, one large but mostly-Intact—were given as tribute to the Drow to pay for their aid and to win their continued loyalty; suitable waystations, so long as racial relations remain intact. And, of course, you have that meeting with the Queen of Elves ahead…

What do you do with this company-town?
>Keep it for yourself—your first true surface-outpost, albeit an inconveniently-located one
>Give it to the Drow
>Trade it to the Drow for the small, mostly-collapsed fort which you took in your first raid
>Loot and raze it; you need no such distant holding, nor will you let it fall back into dwarven hands
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>>5383438
And lastly… The ‘guests of honour’, who you went to so much trouble to extract intact. You refer, of course, to the Blackmantle Delegate, the Geologist, and the Geologist’s Daughter—or, you suppose, to Vekel, Karon, and Noelle, more properly.

What to do with THEM?
>Interrogate and torture them for valuable information, in exchange for mercy and membership in your slave-force
>Execute these worthies in a torturous ritual sacrifice, and hold a great revel to celebrate your ultimate victory over their corporate nation
>Study and dissect them, that you might make convincing disguises of them to infiltrate wider dwarven society
>No need for brutality, when you’re feeling so magnanimous in your triumph—simply ‘invite’ them for a frank-but-polite conversation about the new way of the world and the coming age

[Write-ins are allowed for all]
>>
>>5383438
>Allow the Duregar to counsel you on this matter, giving their voice weight on what happens to their kin

>Keep it for yourself—your first true surface-outpost, albeit an inconveniently-located one; make it into an unassailable base for logistics and mustering of forces

>Interrogate and torture them for valuable information, in exchange for the promise of mercy- give them no such mercy unless they are willing to execute a more stubborn kinsman. You will see to their loyalty by staining their hands with blood.

>See if the Novice can grow Karz's appendages back.. perhaps he can be enhanced with talons or something more Reptillian, befitting his station and courage in this battle
>>
>>5383438
>Allow the Duregar to counsel you on this matter, giving their voice weight on what happens to their kin
>Keep it for yourself—your first true surface-outpost, albeit an inconveniently-located one; make it into an unassailable base for logistics and mustering of forces

>Interrogate and torture them for valuable information, in exchange for the promise of mercy- give them no such mercy unless they are willing to execute a more stubborn kinsman. You will see to their loyalty by staining their hands with blood.

>See if the Novice can grow Karz's appendages back.. perhaps he can be enhanced with talons or something more Reptillian, befitting his station and courage in this battle

>>5383467
Easier to count to QM as a bland +1
>>
>>5383467
+1. Some of the shorties seem to have proven themselves worthy
>>
>>5383438
>Spare those who submit, and enslave them
>Trade it to the Drow for the small, mostly-collapsed fort which you took in your first raid
>No need for brutality, when you’re feeling so magnanimous in your triumph—simply ‘invite’ them for a frank-but-polite conversation about the new way of the world and the coming age
>>
>>5383438
>Allow the Duregar to counsel you on this matter, giving their voice weight on what happens to their kin

I’m leaning towards only keeping women and children though

>Keep it for yourself—your first true surface-outpost, albeit an inconveniently-located one; make it into an unassailable base for logistics and mustering of forces

Place one of the master race (not the Bastard) in charge and give them some kobolds

>Interrogate and torture them for valuable information. Provide them mercy if they are willing to execute a more stubborn kinsman. You will see to their loyalty by staining their hands with blood.

Maybe also check out that Dwarven female a new bed mate after Agee is broken mentally…

>See if the Novice can grow Karz's appendages back.. perhaps he can be enhanced with talons or something more Reptillian, befitting his station and courage in this battle
>>
>>5383438
>Spare only the women and children—less productive, but less rebellious

>Give it to the Drow

>No need for brutality, when you’re feeling so magnanimous in your triumph—simply ‘invite’ them for a frank-but-polite conversation about the new way of the world and the coming age

Why not just give it to the Drow? It's a pretty negligible outpost compared to what we've already given them and would be a much better cover story if any investigation happens. To any outsider it would just look like the Drow decided conquer that particular Dwarf Corporation. We're going to be seeing the Drow Queen pretty soon so we should stack as much favor with her as possible.
>>
>>5383438
>Spare those who submit, and enslave them
>Trade it to the Drow for the small, mostly-collapsed fort which you took in your first raid
>>5383439
>No need for brutality, when you’re feeling so magnanimous in your triumph—simply ‘invite’ them for a frank-but-polite conversation about the new way of the world and the coming age

>>5384088
Better to trade it for a kobold stronghold, we need to give them something in this too.
>>
>>5383439
>Allow the Duregar to counsel you on this matter, giving their voice weight on what happens to their kin

>Keep it for yourself—your first true surface-outpost, albeit an inconveniently-located one


>Interrogate and torture them for valuable information, in exchange for the promise of mercy- give them no such mercy unless they are willing to execute a more stubborn kinsman. You will see to their loyalty by staining their hands with blood.
>>
>>5384109
Blacklisting, since my IP reset I guess.

>>5383188
>>
>>5384111
*backlinking, stupid ass autocorrect shit.

>>5384088
I think we've given them enough. The Drow haven't even given enough into the alliance to justify what they have already.
>>
>>5383439
>Allow the Duregar to counsel you on this matter, giving their voice weight on what happens to their kin.

Some of our duregar dwarf's seem somewhat demoralized, letting them decide the fate of our new captives. Might help them adjust to their new lifestyle. And demonstrate the new found power they have over their en-serfed kin.

>Trade it to the Drow for the small, mostly-collapsed fort which you took in your first raid

The first captured fortress is closer to our blood ridge base, and thus easier for us to defend.


>No need for brutality, when you’re feeling so magnanimous in your triumph—simply ‘invite’ them for a frank-but-polite conversation about the new way of the world and the coming age.

We need to learn more about Oricalcum and the geologist we captured is a primer expert on it.
>>
>>5384113
I think the fortess closer to bloodrise is superior to this one.

A forts main purpose is to deny traffic in a area, or to defend a chokehold. We have to go through dark territory to reach and resupply this fort, which makes us too dependant on them strategically.
>>
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>>5384122
>>5384109
>>5384101
>>5384088
>>5383950
>>5383778
>>5383593
>>5383518
>>5383467
[Vote locked. Writing!]
>>
>>5384131
This last raid leads you to a few conclusions a bout your allies an acolytes. The kobolds have given much—including Agno’s life, very nearly—and have gotten little for it in deference to your Drow allies. As they are fellow Reptilians, this cannot stand… But nor can you afford to offend the Drow, with the meeting with the Elf Queen so close, whatever their relative lack of savagery. Besides, they HAVE been useful burglars and assassins…

And as for the dwarves (or the bloody-minded Duergar at least), they’ve certainly prove themselves capable. You begin to think it might be worth asking their counsel.

You assemble a group of the Duergar, including two grizzled, hollow-eyed older males, the Brute, a stern and ashen-blonde female of middling age… And the young Throat-singer, babyfaced but clutching his mutilated hand and biting back pain to attend. As he is both blooded in battle and favoured as your personal attendant, none of these seniors question his presence there, though you can tell many would like to.

“We have an issssue before usss,” you explain, from you seat in the captured stronghold. “Two, in fact. One: what to do with the dwarvesss we have captured. Two: what to do with their home.”

None of the Duergar are swift to answer. They look to one another questioning, afraid even to whisper. At first you are confused, but then you thin you begin to understand: they think this is a test.

“We will all comply with your desires, sir,” says one of the males.

“I will personally see to it that your orders are carried out to the letter, whatever they may be!” announces the second; the eyes of the first to speak up widen in response, as if fearful he was too tepid in his support.

The female scoffs, tugging at her beard-of-braids… But when your gaze turns to her, she shrinks as well, keeping her thoughts to herself and instead complying with the two toadies. Only the Throat-sinegr speaks frankly, and what eh says surprises you:

“We have too many elderly,” he says. “Food stores run low. Winter has only begun. Kill the old. Spare the young, to work.”

“And what of the infantsss?” you ask, as much to test his mettle as out of actual curiosity. “They who are two ssmall to work?”

The Throat-singer’s eyes widen, and he chokes a little—even now, unable to commit to infanticide, and yet struggling to justify their survival on pragmatic grounds.

“They… They will be good workers in time, and good leverage to sue against their parents!” the Female Duergar blurts out.

“Babies go squish real nice, though,” the brute chimes in, his first words since the council of dwarves assembles.

All the others stare at him in horror.

“Hrrr hrrr,” he laughs, darkly. “Only joking. Can’t nobody take a joke?”
>>
>>5384154
You… Aren’t sure that he is, but you nod slowly.

“None of you have any issssue with sslaughtering the old to sspare the young?” you ask.

No dwarf speaks against you, though you can tell that—except for the Brute—it bothers all of them at least a little. Still, none will speak against you, and all are afraid to seem soft. What will happen tot hem, to their loved ones, if they displease you? If they suggest that more mouths be fed, will THEY be the first to have rations cut in a famine—or to be TURNED to rations themselves?

Ultimately, you decide to...
>Follow Karz's recommendation
>Kill both the elderly and those too young to work
>Show mercy to all
>Show mercy to none
>Write-in

“What of the ssettlement?” you ask, pivoting away from this clearly-troubling subject to one which they may be more inclined to speak openly and honestly about, and explaining your difficulty in deciding what to do with the fort.

“I believe your instincts are good, sir,” says one of the old males. “Having access to some of the minerals that we—that Blackmantle came here for would be… Useful. This fort is fine… But far from the kobold caves. If you gave it to the Drow in exchange for the… The furthest eastward one…”

He means the ruined fort, collapsed and with all its working-and-soldiering population crushed or burned to death, many fed to bugbears.

“Yes,” the other older male adds, “but THIS fort is still intact.”

The first old male grins darkly, sensing an opportunity to supplant the second in your estimation, saying: “Then I and the dwarves who I oversee shall make it whole again—better, even. Purpose-built for the Dragonborn… Though I will need more dwarves assigned to me, to make this work.”

An interesting power-play, you note… And an enticing proposition. It will certainly be better for allocation of resources (especially slave labour) and coordinated defence with the nearer-by kobold caverns. You dismiss the Duergar Councillors, and notify the Drow of the arrangement—careful to spin it as another magnanimous offering to their own empire. They seem to accept the arrangement as fair.
>>
>>5384155
You next attend to your high-value captives: the Delegate and the Geologists. You have been denying them food and water, save smallest morsels, for several days now. When they speak without permission, especially to complain to bargain, you have instructed the Pit-Guard’s Apprentice—the young, mighty Steeltalon who often serves as enforcer and warden—to beat them or to inflict small-but-stinging cuts along their flesh. From the way they appear upon your arrival, the Delegate and especially the Daughter have been slower to understand the way of things than the Geologist, who hardly seems to have acquired a scratch.

“I hope you are enjoying the amenitiesss?” you ask drolly.

None of them reply to your mocking ice-breaker, though the Blackmantle Delegate is swift to speak up, saying:

“Listen! I am valuable to my corporation. The President will pay for my freedom—I’m his neph-YAAAH!”

The Pit-Guard’s Apprentice interrupts him with hand smack to the face which slams him into the stone, and then hauls him up by his dark hair. His lip is bleeding, and his once-haughty features now look as if he might burst into tears—though he manages not to, and to thus maintain his feeble façade of dignity-in-captivity.

“We will forsake this place,” he promises. “It will be yours, and more—all the gold you want, or gems, or… Furs? Blankets?”

You narrow your eyes a little. As the cold has worsened outside, your cold-blooded reptilians and scantily-clad elf friends alike have begun to shake and shiver. It clearly hasn’t gone unnoticed by this perceptive plutocrat.

How do you respond to his offer?
>Demand information on the Blackmantle Corporation and their rivals, or you’ll strip his clothes and throw him into the snow to see how he fares
>Very well, let’s see about this ransom… Maybe you can extract some value from his captivity, and decide whether to ACTUALLY return him later?
>You can’t make contact with other dwarves without revealing your presence or drawing attention… So you won’t, and you’ll ignore him for now and move onto the other two
>Ply him for personal information that the Thief can exploit to impersonate him, then make the Geologist or his Daughter kill the Delegate to earn their own mercy
>Write-in
>>
>>5384155
>Follow Karz's recommendation
>You can’t make contact with other dwarves without revealing your presence or drawing attention… So you won’t, and you’ll ignore him for now and move onto the other two

Can we please trade this city of gift it's in such a bad spot. Why do we want this?
>>
>>5384176
*or gift
>>
>>5384176
>>5384178
>Can we please trade this city of gift it's in such a bad spot. Why do we want this?
Sorry, if it wasn't clear, that's exactly what you did.

>An interesting power-play, you note… And an enticing proposition. It will certainly be better for allocation of resources (especially slave labour) and coordinated defence with the nearer-by kobold caverns. You dismiss the Duergar Councillors, and notify the Drow of the arrangement—careful to spin it as another magnanimous offering to their own empire. They seem to accept the arrangement as fair.
>>
>>5384155
>Follow Karz's recommendation
any dwarf that survives to old age is a dwarf that didn't work hard enough when they were young

>Demand information on the Blackmantle Corporation and their rivals, or you’ll strip his clothes and throw him into the snow to see how he fares
>>
>>5384215
Supporting.

There is no way that we’re letting him leave - as it would reveal our existence.

We might as well get information though
>>
>>5384157
>Follow Karz's recommendation
>Heal Karz
>You can’t make contact with other dwarves without revealing your presence or drawing attention… So you won’t, and you’ll ignore him for now and move onto the other two
>>
>>5384155
>Show mercy to all
>Demand information on the Blackmantle Corporation and their rivals, or you’ll strip his clothes and throw him into the snow to see how he fares
>Ply him for personal information that the Thief can exploit to impersonate him
>>
>>5384381
Support
>>
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>>5384458
>>5384381
>>5384348
>>5384346
>>5384215
>>5384176

“Tell me more about the Blackmantle Corporation, and the other corproationsss here in Bloodrise,” you demand, “or I will sstrip away your own furss and throw you into the ssnow, to ssee how YOU fare, dwarf.”

He gulps, but nods, and begins rattling off a number of facts and figures about his uncle’s corporate holdings. They apparently include a number foe lases such as they exploited here, as well as more permanent land-holdings and a complex international banking apparatus in a placed called ‘Lastcastle’, a heavily-fortified city which the Delegate describes as ‘the last great city entirely owned by the dwarven peoples’ with a certain amount of pride.

Another race in decline, then, like the elves? Like your own? You ask, leaving out the second part, and he scowls.

“Disenfranchised, but NOT in decline,” he insists. “Humans and damnable orcs drove us out of many of our ancestral homes, but dwarves adapt and endure! That’s what the corporatiosn are for—more flexible and open than a clan, less geographically-centralized than a country, but it keeps us together, and keeps us all working towards the good of all.”

“What other corporationsss have invaded my home?” you ask.

“Besides Blackmantle… There’ll be Gems-B-We, who are specialists in finding, cutting, and setting rare jewels for the wealthiest humans… Graphite-Grey, who are more about land acquisitions and long-term investments, especially debt-acquisition, but also dip their toes in mercenary-work and politics… and Treasuretrove Incorporated, who are more an ‘adventurer’s guild’ than a proper company. Pah, even letting in halflings, these days…”

A lot of what he explains to you beyond this goes over your head our lands squarely outside your intersecting fields of interest and competence. Perhaps it would make sense to have the Delegate speak more with the South-Merchant later, who is better equipped to understand such matters? Or maybe this puffed-up merchant-noble has served his purpose?
>>
>>5384461
“You two,” you next address the Geologist and his daughter, not even bothering to finish listening to the Delegate, “Why should I let you live?”

“Damned if I know,” the Daughter says. “Maybe you’ve got yourself a death-wish?”

You stare, a little startled at her implicit threat.

“What sssort of posssition do you think you’re in, to be sspeaking thisss way to me?”

“Not the most enviable sort,” she admits, “but damned if I’m going to let you milk us for information before you just kill us anyway.”

She glares at the Delegate as she says this, who looks away. You take the time to take in her features. All dwarves have eyes that, by their curious lustres and shine, cannot help but evoke jewels or stones. Her blue eyes, like her father’s, are reminiscent of nothing so much as an aquamarine beryl—you have a few such treasures in your growing hoard, not yet traded away. She lacks the exceptional figure of the late Herbalist, Davora… But there’s a certain matching appeal between her more lithe (for a dwarf) frame, her obvious attention to physical fitness which this belies, and the fierce defiance which she so readily displays.

On the subject of her father, he seems to watch you watching his progeny, and finally speaks up—the first words he has spoken since you took him captive, at least in your presence:

“Please forgive me silly girl, ‘Dragonborn’,” he says, using your correct title—and in True Speech, no less! He instantly seizes your attention in this way, and silences his daughter, who watches him quietly now as well, with beryl-blue eyes narrowed.

“I worked out that this was your name or rank from how your men spoke it,” the Geologist answers your unspoken question. “I and my daughter are not Blackmantle, nor are we affiliated with any other corporation. We are independent contractors, hired contractually to research the orichalcum deposits here and to determine their usefulness, and that of any other such exotic materials.”

You try to hide the obvious interest this elicits. You remember hearing tell of dwarven schemes to create subterranean megastructures with clever orichalchum engineering and enchantment. Still… A geologist is not an enchanter, nor an engineer. You know that much.

“My daughter is an architect-in-the-making, though,” the Geologist says, voice as icy-calm as his eyes.

“Father!” his Daughter cries out in outrage.

“Quiet, please, Noelle,” he says, not looking away from you.

“Sso I should sspare the two of you to sserve as conssstruction-sslavess?” you ask.

“You should HIRE us,” the Geologist corrects gently, “as contracted experts.”

“Traitor!” the Blackmantle Delegate snaps, earning him a beating at the hands of the Pit-Guard’s Apprentice, and the return of his gag.
>>
>>5384471
“Sslavery sseemss the ssimpler sssolution,” you note.

“But will you get the same calibre of work?” he asks. “I am old—I do not fear death. My daughter is proud, as you can hear—she fears more for her dignity than death, herself. And anyway, you will need access to the sciences and magic beyond these mountains, to get the most out of us.”

“You think we lack the meansss to develop these sskilsss without MAMMALIAN help?” you hiss.

“If you didn’t find your own personnel lacking in that area,” the Geologist surmises, “you wouldn’t even be speaking with me right now.”

“I will not work for this… This THING, Father,” his Daughter spits.

“You will,” he assures her, a bit more sternly than he had spoken before.

To you, the Geologist affirms: “She will. We both will. But not as slaves.”

You consider his offer—surprising and initially-absurd as it sounds. Is there anything to it?
>Agree to employ the Geologist and his Daughter as free contractors, with privileges beyond the slaves here—maybe more even than the Duerger
>No, you think you would prefer them as slaves—even if it means you must take some time to break them in before they are useful
>These two are too cunning and defiant by half—kill them both
>Make them prove themselves—you’re going to be culling the old and feeble anyway, so make the Geologist and Daughter perform a few executions of their kinfolk to prove their willingness to serve
>Write-in

Note: options regarding healing Karz, a vote on whether to bed the Geologist's Daughter, and the fallout of your elder-cull are forthcoming.
>>
>>5384473
>>Make them prove themselves—you’re going to be culling the old and feeble anyway, so make the Geologist and Daughter perform a few executions of their kinfolk to prove their willingness to serve. Given their usefulness, they can take a place amongst the Duregar Blooded (with similar perks), if they can prove their loyalty
>>
>>5384473
>These two are too cunning and defiant by half—kill them both
>>
>>5384508
Setting this precedent is a good way to have idiotic yes-men serving us for the rest of the existence of the Duregar, imo. I'd be interested to hear your reasoning anon.
>>
>>5384473
>>Agree to employ the Geologist and his Daughter as free contractors, with privileges beyond the slaves here—maybe more even than the Duerger
>>
>>5384473
>Agree to employ the Geologist and his Daughter as free contractors, with privileges beyond the slaves here—maybe more even than the Duerger
>These two are too cunning and defiant by half—kill them both

Fine with either really
>>
>>5384473
>>5384473
>No, you think you would prefer them as slaves—even if it means you must take some time to break them in before they are useful
It’ll be fun to break them in.
>>
>>5384473
>No, you think you would prefer them as slaves—even if it means you must take some time to break them in before they are useful
>>
>>5384473
>Agree to employ the Geologist and his Daughter as free contractors, with privileges beyond the slaves here
A spitfire, eh?
>>
>>5384473
>Agree to employ the Geologist and his Daughter as free contractors, with privileges beyond the slaves here—maybe more even than the Duerger

we're keeping the old man - he's a genius
even if his daughter is completely worthless he alone is worth keeping her around
>>
>>5384473
>Make them prove themselves—you’re going to be culling the old and feeble anyway, so make the Geologist and Daughter perform a few executions of their kinfolk to prove their willingness to serve. Given their usefulness, they can take a place amongst the Duregar Blooded (with similar perks), if they can prove their loyalty

>No, you think you would prefer them as slaves—even if it means you must take some time to break them in before they are useful

Supporting either of these - we need to maintain our new social order
>>
[Update delayed on account of my body deciding to get super sick very suddenly right at the end of my Friday shift, like a goddamn asshole.]
>>
>>5384927
Get well soon!
>>
>>5384927
Best wishes, QM!
>>
>>5384927
Good luck on your recovery RQM
>>
>>5385001
>>5385217
>>5385294
[Thanks, all! I'll tey to post when I can, but... Just got back frommthe hospital, with a bad case of Covid. Lapsing in and out of consciousness, and pretty delirious.]
>>
>>5385458
Get well, RQM...
>>
>>5385458
Get well, don't take more jabs!
>>
>>5385458
Hey, you focus on you, alright? We can wait, just focus on getting well.
>>
>>5385458
Get well soon, RQM.
It's the reptilians, I tell you. They've caught the wind of this quest and they're trying to stop their dirty lizard secrets from being exposed!
>>5384473
>Make them prove themselves—you’re going to be culling the old and feeble anyway, so make the Geologist and Daughter perform a few executions of their kinfolk to prove their willingness to serve. Given their usefulness, they can take a place amongst the Duregar Blooded (with similar perks), if they can prove their loyalty
From there they can work their way up to a contract of sorts, if they prove useful.
>>
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>>5385548
>>5384896
>>5384742
>>5384663
>>5384610
>>5384601
>>5384570
>>5384547
>>5384508
>>5384479
[Post incoming! May take me a bit longer -- still very out-of-it.]
>>
>>5386440
>>5386440
You take a moment to think. This arrangement has potential, if you can ‘corrupt’ these two as you did Davor and Karz… But even the Herbalist and Throat-singer remained slaves. What these two are requesting is instant promotion over and above what you have granted any other dwarf unwillingly in your employ.

Still, are they not more valuable this way? Perhaps this can be a good object lesson for the others in why it is better to submit to your rule without the rigmarole of war. Bah, whatever results from this decision is immaterial, a matter for future-you. Right now, you must secure this opportunity before it slips away.

“Very well,” you reply at long last. “You two are free.”

The Pit-Guard’s Apprentice looks uncertain, but unshackles the two of them. The Geologist rises slowly, painstakingly, aided by his Daughter. She glares daggers at you the entire time.

“You remain free ONLY ssso long asss I have no reasson to revoke thisss privilege, and consssign you to the mines… or to the ‘freedom’ of death.”

“Yes,” the Geologist says, nodding as if it makes perfect sense to him. “Of course.”

“You won’t get away with this,” the Daughter hisses.

The Geologist snaps something at her in dwarf-tongue, and she straight up and goes silent. This spitfire of a female, suddenly cowed… Is not an unappealing sight to behold.

Such matters must wait, though. First, there is the culling of the elderly to attend to. Beginning with the most recently-acquired dwarves, you summon those too old or enfeebled to work before you… And their families. You explain to them the sacrifice that these old dwarves are about to make, and why it must be done—to spare and preserve the young.

“I… I see,” says one, slowly lowering to his knees and bowing his head. “If this is how it must be…”
“I will not go quietly!” another bellows, evincing strength of lungs far in excess of the strength which long left his arms and back, judging by his performance. “These hardships are brought on by YOU, you damned skink!”

This dwarf’s head is the first one removed from his body, while his children and grandchildren wail in horror. One by one, the other elders join him. Some rise to fight, but al this proves is that they are indeed well past their physical prime. You force the Duergar to take part, and the Geologist and his Daughter to watch; this is so all involved might see the extent to which dwarves will loyally serve you, and to what extent your brutality can extend when needs must.

The snow outside the fortress is stained deep crimson.
>>
>>5386461

“Now, bring the eldersss of the other fortsss,” you command, eventually, when this orderly carnage is wrought.

“We… Cannot, Superior One.”

You look to the Pit-Guard’s Apprentice, but cringes a little under your scrutiny, but points to the crimson snow—already almost covered by white again.

“A snowstorm is taking place,” he points out, a tad unnecessarily, “and we will not make it there and back with so many elderly dwarves.

You feel an existential dread in the depths of you—that of a cold-blooded animal beset by the cruel vagaries of winter weather. You decide…
>You must hurry, to make it back to the geothermal warmth of the kobolds’ caverns immediately, braving this early stage of the storm
>You will hunker down here, protected by your new fortifications and the dwarven forges’ warmth, until such time as the storm lets up
>You will send the Geologist’s Daughter to bargain with one of the other dwarven corporations for winter provisions—with her father your hostage, to ensure compliance
>Write-in
>>
>>5386464
>You will hunker down here, protected by your new fortifications and the dwarven forges’ warmth, until such time as the storm lets up
>Have the thief shadow one of the Dwarves to learn their mannerisms and their culture, the way they act so that he may impersonate them in the future.
>>
>>5386464
>You will hunker down here, protected by your new fortifications and the dwarven forges’ warmth, until such time as the storm lets up

I mean, the elderly dwarves don't need to make it back
>>
>>5386464
>>You will hunker down here, protected by your new fortifications and the dwarven forges’ warmth, until such time as the storm lets up
>>
>>5386556
Supporting

Also, I still think it’s a mistake to free those two… they should at least have a ‘bodyguard’ who follows them around.
>>
>>5386464
>You must hurry, to make it back to the geothermal warmth of the kobolds’ caverns immediately, braving this early stage of the storm
>>
>>5386464
>You will hunker down here, protected by your new fortifications and the dwarven forges’ warmth, until such time as the storm lets up

Feel better RQM. Don't stress yourself too overmuch with updates man, get some rest.
>>
>>5386464
>>5386556
+1
>>
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>>5386981
>>5386967
>>5386931
>>5386888
>>5386670
>>5386665
>>5386556
“Well, it’s not as if the elderly dwarves need to make it back ALIVE…”

You pause in your musings to clarify to the concerned-looking Apprentice: “I am only considering options.”

After all, you can’t imagine defrosting evidence of a dwarven death-march in the spring would bode well for your low profile among the surface-races. No, your forces to the east will have to make do without you for a time. You and your invasion-force will have to remain where you are for the time being, waiting out the storm. You draw your cloak around yourself, gather up the bodies of the slain elders, and return to the forge-heated interior of the captured keep to notify the others.

The next few days pass relatively uneventfully, all things considered. There are grumblings among the dwarves, especially those not yet ‘broken in’ to your way of life; you and your enforcers put these abortive rebellions down swiftly and brutally, until they stop pursuing these dangerous ideas. This affords you a bit more time to look in on your retinue. In particular, you are curious to see the Throat-singer’s recovery.

“What recovery?” he scoffs, holding up his gnarled, now two-fingers hand with bitter humour. “I don’t know about you lizard-men, but we dwarves don’t grow back fingers.”

This actually gives you an idea, though… One you run by the Novice Fleshweaver later that day.

“Growing the dwarf a new hand?” she repeats, a titch incredulous. “You cannot be serious.”

“And why not?” you ask.

She gestures around at the quarters which have been assigned to her—and to the distinct lack of laboratory therein.

“I have no equipment, no materials… I’m trapped in here with the likes of you, Oh Meatheaded One, and apart from my much MORE important experiments back at our main base of operations.”

“Surely between the two of us, and with the living and dead here, we could accomplish SOMETHING better than what he presently has?”

“Why do you CARE?” the Novice asks pointedly. “It is just a dwarf, after all, and his fingers aren’t necessary to sing.”

“He showed courage in battle, and it is important that the dwarves see that there are rewards for compliance.”

The Novice huff haughtily, but eventually concedes that such a thing is possible, potentially.
>>
>>5387603
“But why not make use of your new not-slave?” she asks.

“The Geologist?” you ask, a little confused.

“The Daughter,” she clarifies. “She is architect and engineer, yes? A prothesis has a lot less potential for dangerous failure. A graft which fails to take could cost the Throat-singer his entire arm.”

It’s a notion which hadn’t occurred to you… But then, a mechanical prosthesis could take longer to produce, and will never have sensation or the same level of control as one woven of flesh. And anyway, she doesn’t seem much inclined to serve you… Or even to suffer you presence longer than she must.

What do you do?
>Help the Novice to replace the Throat-singer’s missing digits with new ones, grown from his flesh or from that of ‘donors’
>Approach the Geologist’s Daughter, to broach better relations and to ask for her aid in this matter
>Ask Karz Throat-singer what he would prefer
>Forget this whole enterprise, and focus on other matters
>Write-in
>>
>>5387604
>>Ask Karz Throat-singer what he would prefer
>>
>>5387604
>Approach the Geologist’s Daughter, to broach better relations and to ask for her aid in this matter
I’m partially curious if she is even capable of such a feat, and a cyborg dwarf is funny as fuck.
>>
>>5387604
>Ask Karz Throat-singer what he would prefer.
>>
>>5387604
>Approach the Geologist’s Daughter, to broach better relations and to ask for her aid in this matter
he's gonna get a cannon arm
>>
>>5387624
Supporting
>>
>>5387611
>>5387629
>>5387624
>>5387675
>>5387782

You decide to pay a visit to the Geologist’s Daughter… or, perhaps more appropriately, the Engineer? You’re actually a little surprised to hear that a so-called ‘architect-in-the-making’ (as her father called her) is capable of making a workable prosthesis. Your imagination wanders. What wonders or horrors might she construct for your war-effort? Perhaps some sort of… Cannon-arm?

“Absolute nonsense.”

The Engineer’s response, when you find her in her technically-not-a-cell quarters, gives you pause. Her father is presently cataloguing and appraising the ores and elements accessible through this fortification, and going over some of the reports from the other company-towns with the South-Merchant and the Blackmantle Delegate, leaving only the two of you and her technically-not-jailers.

“My Fleshweaver ssugessted otherwisse,” you note.

“And what does that creature know of my work?” the Engineer counters. “If you want a new hand for your Duergar butcher to hold his traitor’s blade, you’ll have to find someone else to do it.”

You aren’t certain, in fairness, but it would be quite unlike the Novice Fleshweaver to send you on a wild goose-chase. There is your usual back-and-forth teasing, and then there’s INEFFICIANCY, which the Novice abhors on principle. Indeed, you see around her quarters various small mechanical apparatuses, albeit mostly small models of mining and construction devices if you are any judge.

By her words and prickly demeanour, you infer that it is more likely that this dwarf is feigning ignorance in this field to avoid helping the Throat-singer, who she views as a race traitor… Or you, who she openly detests as a monster.

Well, you suppose that makes sense.

The question is what to do about it. You cannot force her hand without giving lie to your arrangement—that she and her father are contracted employees, alchemical mercenaries, rather than salves, and likely getting an inferior grade of work from them in the future. Then again, can you really allow her to get away with this sort of brazen undermining of your authority?

What will you do?
>Attempt to reason with her, logically and philosophically [how?]
>Threaten her father’s life, and her own freedom, should she continue this pitiful rebellion
>Go through her father—who seems much more amenable to your will—and get HIM to get HER to do as you ask
>Give up on asking for anything more just now—instead, attempt to build a rapport, and to better understand her
>Let the matter lie—you and the Novice will fleshweave a replacement limb for the Throat-singer instead
>Write-in
>>
>>5388010
>Give up on asking for anything more just now—instead, attempt to build a rapport, and to better understand her
We’ll put Operation Robodwarf on ice until morale improves.
>>
>>5388010
>Let the matter lie—you and the Novice will fleshweave a replacement limb for the Throat-singer instead
>>
>>5388010
>Give up on asking for anything more just now—instead, attempt to build a rapport, and to better understand her
>>
>>5388010
>Go through her father—who seems much more amenable to your will—and get HIM to get HER to do as you ask

If she will not work on the projects we ask - then why does she have freedom?

Freedom comes with responsibilities and duties, he knows that
>>
>>5388010
>>Go through her father—who seems much more amenable to your will—and get HIM to get HER to do as you ask
exactly as >>5388164 says. They are contractors. We employ them. They go to work, or get sacked.
>>
>>5388030
>>5388068
>>5388089
>>5388164
>>5388221
[I have a splitting headache and we have a tie game, so I'll leave this vote open a little longer.]
>>
>>5388477
Hey, take a day or two to get better. It’s not like taking a break is gonna kill anyone.
>>
>>5388477
Yeah, take care QM
>>
>>5388030
>>5388068
>>5388089
>>5388164
>>5388221
You realize you aren’t getting anywhere with this spitfire of a dwarf. Instead, you pivot to asking the Engineer where her interests and specialties ACTUALLY lie, if not in prosthesis.

“In other words, what good am I to you?” she incisively clarifies.

“That isss the idea of a contractual relationship, yess?”

“You have my father’s expertise at your employ,” the Engineer notes. “Is that not all you require? Am I not here simply as a condition of HIS employment?”

“Do you resssent that?” you ask.

“Do you always answer questions with more questions, lizard?” she snaps.

“Do you?”

She goes silent. You sense you’ve struck a nerve.

“I do not bother with ssmall-talk, becausse I can tell you have no appetite for it,” you say after a time, adjusting your cloak as you prepare to leave. “Nor will I bother asking ssuch pointlesss empty questions as ‘what iss your isssue with me?’ or ‘how are you adjussting to your accomodationsss?’ We both know well what the ccircumstanccess here are. I ssuggesst you take a bit more time to internalissse them, Engineer.”

The dwarf in question seems a bit taken aback by the term of address, but says nothing more until after you have left, and instructed the guard to keep a close eye on her activities lest she do anything foolish. You, meanwhile, seek out her father, the Geologist.
>>
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>>5388955

“Yes, that sounds like Noelle,” agrees her Father, when you relay the gist of this tête-à-tête to him.

He does not look up from the curious monocular spyglass, which he uses for his work. Before him are small flakes, shavings, and broken fragments of various metals and ores. Most of them being samples of iron; by their black colour and curious lustre, you can tell that they are in varying parts orichalcum-alloyed, infused with the bled-out magic of the Red Dragon King who ruled the Bloodrise eons hence.

“If she will not work on the projectss we ask, then by what right does she have freedom?” you demand, perhaps a touch impetuously—at least, that’s how it sounds to your ear, after you say the words.

“Among our people, freedom is considered the default state,” he replies casually, apparently cool-headed even when faced with the implicit threat of his daughter’s enslavement. “It is not regarded as a special privilege, to be earned. We motivate primarily with carrot, not stick.”

“Carrot?” you ask, lost. “What?”

The Geologist pauses in his work for a moment, then returns to it, clarifying: “Steak, then. A reward, not a punishment.”

“Freedom comess with ressponsibilities and dutiess,” you affirm, unwilling to humour this nonsensical ‘advice’ from a being who is VERY NEARLY your slave. “Make her ssee ssenssse.”

The old dwarf unrolls a grubby-looking fabric handkerchief, and gently sets his monocle upon it, then turns his chilly gaze upon you at long last.

“I can be your chief geological alchemist OR I can mind Noelle,” he says, smiling ruefully and perhaps a bit wearily, “but I cannot possibly muster the energy to do both.”

This family is too defiant by half! You begin to question the wisom of their ‘employment’.

“If you will not reward my daughter, challenge her,” the geologist suggests, after a time.

He picks up his monocle and turning away once again, moving to the next set of samples down the line—this time, chips and flecks of red and greyish gemstones.

“She need not like you—Mountain King knows I don’t much care for you or your lot myself, as only makes sense—but that just makes it all the more likely she’ll go above and beyond to prove you wrong.”

The Geologist seems to have little else to offer you in regards to wrangling his uncooperative progeny. He doesn’t dismiss you—even this altogether-too-confident dwarf wouldn’t dare—but you get the distinct feeling he has little else to offer.

What do you do?
>You’ve had enough of this farcical arrangement—punish them both brutally, and enslave them for their hubris
>Offer a reward beyond mere freedom to sweeten the pot, if the Engineer should produce a suitable prosthetic for the Throat-singer
>Attempt to goad the Engineer into action with reverse psychology
>You know, you’ve had some success with SEDUCING cooperation out of female dwarves in the past…
>Write-in
>>
>>5388564
>>5388640
I appreciate it, but I gotta' have something to do.
>>
>>5388957
>You know, you’ve had some success with SEDUCING cooperation out of female dwarves in the past…
Imagine the old man's face if this works
>>
>>5388957
>You know, you’ve had some success with SEDUCING cooperation out of female dwarves in the past…
>>
>>5388957
>Attempt to goad the Engineer into action with reverse psychology

she stands no chance against our SUPERIOR reptilian brainpower
>>
>>5388957
>Attempt to goad the Engineer into action with reverse psychology
>You know, you’ve had some success with SEDUCING cooperation out of female dwarves in the past…
This is going to be hilarious.
>>
>>5388957
>Attempt to goad the Engineer into action with reverse psychology

Please no seducing, please. We're making inroads with the Novice.
>>
>>5388957
>Attempt to goad the Engineer into action with reverse psychology
>You know, you’ve had some success with SEDUCING cooperation out of female dwarves in the past…

Both - she can hate fuck us, haha
>>
>>5389119
Support. I don't want to stick my hemipenises into shortstacks anymore.
>>
[Vote locked, writing!]
>>
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>>5389579
>>5389270
>>5389263
>>5389119
>>5389032
>>5389029
>>5388978
>>5388970
You indulge yourself in a bit of idle speculation about the possible efficacy of simply seducing compliance out of the uncooperative dwarf, as you did with the Herbalist. She is certainly differently-built, physically and psychologically, but that merely lends the notion a different sort of allure. It is quite… Amusing… To consider at length.

But, no. No. You shake off the haze of lust. What would the Novice Fleshweaver think, to see you in the grip of mammalian hormones again? Did such indulgences end well for you the last time? You see another, far more practical, path forward.

“Engineer,” you greet her.

She grunts, not looking up from the contraption of springs and gears she is fine-tuning with a peculiar little screwdriver-device. AT that moment, she indeed very much resembles her father.

“Heard you coming,” she notes. “Thought lizards were supposed to be stealthy. Must be those silly-ass boots you insist on wearing, huh?”

You ignore the jibe—you’re well-practiced at such, at least, thanks to your youth as the sole member of your age-cohort with hair.

“I jusst came back from an enlightening converssation with your father,” you begin.

The Engineer scoffs, continuing to work.

“Whatever he said, I still do NOT make prosthetics.”

“Cannot.”

Her screwdriver slips, whirring angrily as it spins in open air, under its own power. Fascinating!

“What?” she barks.

“You CANnot make prostheticsss,” you correct her again. “He made me underssstand that what I wass asking wass sssimply beyond your capabilitiesss… That I wass exxpecting too much from you. It wass my misstake.”

The Engineers sets down the screwdriver and trembles as if she’d very much like to lob the unknown contraption in her other hand at you.

“Father did NOT say that,” she asserts.

“Oh, maybe not in sso many wordsss,” you say with a shrug. “I underssstood, though.”

You turn to leave.

“W-wait!”

You pause, and try not to give away your smug satisfaction.

“Send your little toady down here, lizard. You’ll see what my ‘capabilities’ are!”

Over the next few days, the Throat-singer spends much of his time down in the not-exactly-dungeon with the Engineer. She apparently requires the access to his afflicted hand and arm not just for measurements, but to get a sense for the level of INTERNAL damage he has suffered, and to gauge the extent to which it has affected his grip strength and dexterity with his remaining digits. To your amusement, the beardless dwarf-male has clearly never spent so long in the extremely close physical proximity to a young female of his species which this process requires; he is ruby-red upon your visits to observe the proceedings.
>>
>>5389609
“And how is the new limb, Throat-sssinger?” you ask him one day, during his meditations with you, when the limb seems all but complete.

Karz pauses in his signature musical stylings, and hesitatingly holds his gauntlet-like metal hand aloft. A few of the inner mechanisms are not yet fully-encased, so that you can see the piston-tendons of this false-limb—really more of a cast over the existing, mostly-intact arm-and-hand, you suppose—shift in response to a flex of his muscles. His fake fingers close and clench, forming a fist as swiftly and nearly as naturally as his flesh-and-blood ones.

“That’s all they do,” he admits. “No picking up an instrument for me…”

He looks a little perturbed for a moment, and so you ask: “The Engineer’sss work iss… Unsssatisfactory, then?”

“Wh-no! No! Noelle’s work is excellent.”

“Noelle, isss it? On a firssst name basssiss?” you tease, eliciting a scarlet blush from your bard.

“It’s just…” he pauses. “It’s only, somatic components are important to magic, right? How am I meant to learn and cast more complex spells like… Like this?”

Hm. Well, that IS something to consider. You suppose you’d do better to avoid losing any limbs until the field of medical prosthesis advances a little further! But how to assuage the Throat-singer’s concerns?
>He needn’t worry—he knows all the magic you planned to teach him, anyway
>You’re actually left-handed yourself—you can teach him one of your spells, as you cats it [which one?]
>Encourage him to focus upon the path of the bard—they cast with music, rather than through gestures and key-words, and he’s already well-suited to such
>Instruct the Throat-singer and Engineer to continue meeting until she can improve the prosthesis to the extent that it allows one to cast
>Write-in
>>
>>5389612
Karz Throat-singer’s new mechanical augmentation does not go unnoticed among your other retinue-members, either. In particular, the South-Merchant is enamoured with it.

“There are many slaves injured in our mining operations or from the battles who we had planned to execute,” he notes, “but with this, we could make them productive again!”

“Waste these wonders? On SLAVES?” the Pit-Guard’s Apprentice scoffs. “We’ll still need to feed them through these damned surface ‘winters’, and now we also will make them new arms and hands from materials we could be using for weapons and armour?”

“We have enough raw materials for both,” the Thief notes.

“But only one Engineer,” the South-Merchant jumps back in.

“All the more reason she should be made to focus on more useful matters!” the Pit-Guard’s Apprentice protests.

“Such as… Weapons and armour?” asks the South-Merchant, with a certain condescending skepticism that makes the young Steeltalon halt. “Anyone who can forge can do this. We have other dwarves for such tasks.”

“Well… Hers would obviously be BETTER. Just look at this grub’s fingers! Show them, do the thing!”

The Pit-Guard’s Apprentice grabs hold of the Throat-Singer and dangles him by his augmented limb. Without understanding the conversation, which is held in True Speech, the dwarf understands what is expected of him. With a bitter grimace, he clenches and unclenches to metal fist.

What do you make of all this? How should the Engineer’s efforts be focused?
>Prostheses for injured labourers—and warriors—are actually a very good idea
>Military force multipliers are always welcome, and you think you see some potential in the ideas of the Apprentice
>Her specialty seems to mining and constructions technologies… Maybe you should ask her (or her father) where she would best be of use?
>Write-in
>>
>>5389612
>Tell him you plan on regenerating his limb fully, when facilities are available- this is only a holdover, temporary measure
>>
>>5389613
>Her specialty seems to mining and constructions technologies… Maybe you should ask her (or her father) where she would best be of use? Perhaps in defensive fortifications or the manufacture of siege weapons.
>>
>>5389613
>Encourage him to focus upon the path of the bard—they cast with music, rather than through gestures and key-words, and he’s already well-suited to such

>Her specialty seems to mining and constructions technologies… Maybe you should ask her (or her father) where she would best be of use?
>>
>>5389612
>Encourage him to focus upon the path of the bard—they cast with music, rather than through gestures and key-words, and he’s already well-suited to such

>Her specialty seems to mining and constructions technologies… Maybe you should ask her (or her father) where she would best be of use?
definitely giving prosthetics out to everyone is going to be a full time job for her, and she wouldn't even get through a significant number most likely
>>
>>5389624
Supporting
>>
>>5389612
>You’re actually left-handed yourself—you can teach him one of your spells, as you cats it [Danger Sense, Wall of Stone]
>Encourage him to focus upon the path of the bard—they cast with music, rather than through gestures and key-words, and he’s already well-suited to such

>>5389613
>Her specialty seems to mining and constructions technologies… Maybe you should ask her (or her father) where she would best be of use?
>>
>>5389844
+1

He should at least learn Danger Sense.
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>>5389844
>>5389759
>>5389642
>>5389624
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>>5389980

You give some thought to these two issues, and decide to first address the Throat-singer’s more personal one, which seems the more straight-forward:

“Jussst sstudy the bardic artsss,” you suggest. “Paeriss… An Infiltrator who sserved me… He played an inssstrument, eyss, but hiss magic, ass with yoursss, ssemed to make little use of hiss ahndsss beyond that. Your insstrument iss your voice, sso perhapss handss will prove unnecccesssary?”

The Throat-singer nods slowly, then asks: “And this Paeris… He can teach me how to get better at bardic magic?”

You shake your head.

“He perished,” you explain, “when we captured your former home.”

The Throat-singer stares at you with confusion, slowly morphing to a silent frustration as he realizes what you have also come to understand: this solution to his new physical challenge is, in fact, a second and different challenge. How is he to grow in skill as a bard with no instructor or aid?

You’re no bard, and even your command of more somatic spellcraft is that of a skilled amateur, buoyed mainly by a surprising native skill and by rote practice of forms and theories from manuals and Novice-taught lessons—not by actual studied expertise. He does not raise his voice in protest or complaint as you finish the daily meditation session, but he does not attend your later magic-lesson with the Novice, and you do not force the issue. You feel your youthful inexperience in that moment.

Turning your attention from this matter, you focus upon the Geologist and Engineer once more. Specifically, through wheedling and roundabout conversation, you hope to uncover exactly how the latter could best be of use to you. Militarizing her aptitudes is still first and foremost at the fore of your mind—if no arm-cannons are forthcoming, perhaps then siege weaponry?—but you will settle for major advances in resource extraction and underground construction, in a pinch.

Now that you know how to manage the Engineer, the entire process is easier than your first attempt to thus finagle results from her.
>>
>>5389984
“You did good work on the Throat-singer’sss hand,” you acknowledge, on your next visit to her.

“Of course,” the Engineer snorts.

“I thought it perhapsss bessst to focuss your effortsss on prostheticsss, moving forward,” you lie.

She looks up at you sharply, but you play it cool.

“Many warriorsss and workersss lose limbsss, after all.”

“That is NOT my specialty,” she snaps, “and do you have any idea how much TIME that would take, to fit every single invalid your warmongering and reckless misuse of dwarven labour produces?”

You shrug expansively.

“Ssince there iss nothing that can be done to reduccce the hazardsss… What elsse am I to do?”

She glowers darkly, and rolls up the papers she had been scribbling upon. Instead, she unrolls a fresh sheet of paper and take out a collapsible ruler of some description, beginning to trace a neat, geometric grid over which to begin new plans.

“Well?” she demands of you, when she sees you’re still there. “Leave me be, tyrant. I’ll solve your ‘unsolvable problem’, if it means I don’t need to play nursemaid for your slaves every waking hour.”

“How?” you ask, genuinely curious and even a little excited.

“With a big enough lever—and some hinges, maybe a rudimentary pulley system—I will move this whole bloody mountain range, and without nearly so many cave-ins or wall-collapses. I draw the line at helping you kill more dwarves, but I’ll gladly prevent you mangling the poor sods you’ve already imprisoned in this hell. Give me time, and you’ll be digging twice as deep in half the time, and with only half as many injuries.”

Her father had suggested a boring-and-extraction apparatus was well within her technical purview. So too had he volunteered her specialty—structural reinforcement of stacked tunnel systems with a minimum of timber. You’re glad to see it wasn’t all empty paternal pride.

As the blizzard begins to abate, the Geologist also volunteers something else: the preliminary results of his appraisal of your territory’s mineral resources, compiled from his sample-analyses, the scant survey reports which you were able to retrieve undamaged, and your ancient historical maps, as well as discussion with the Blackmantle Delegate and South-Merchant.

The short version is the version you best understand. It is as follows:
>>
>>5389985
The first company-town, the one which you collapses with an Earth Tremor and now have unfettered ownership of, is atop the richest reserve of orichalcum, which is easily the most valuable resources in thee mountains. There are smaller veins of iron and copper there as well, and lead, with small clusters of gems; some of those gems, too, may be host of magical energies seeped into the ground from ancient wars and dying dragons, though their tendency is to explode if overcharged with such raw and untamed powers.

The second fortification has some deposits of similar composition, though far less of the most-valuable, fully-impregnated orichalcum, instead having a larger abundance of partly-tainted iron and copper, and a richer array of other, more common resources, such as clay. It is also the only area of your holdings at all suitable for surface agriculture, and the best served a trading-post for logistical purpose, being situated in a wide river-valley, shielded from extreme winds and unlikely to be completely blocked by a wayward rockslide. This is, after all, why the Blackmantle Corporation was using it for such purposes.

The third settlement, where you currently shelter-in-place against the dithering, dying snowstorm, is actually the richest in terms of sheer mineral deposits… Or, rather, the Geologist hypothesizes it to be so, based on location relative to the others, soil-types, and preliminary surveys, but very little of it is magical. Many gems, gold and silver veins of considerable value, but little orichalcum.

“Probably a mite more gold and silver sprawling out from here, too, underneath the holdings of the other corporations,” the Geologists surmises, running hi fingers through his beard in an idle bit of ape-like personal grooming that draws mocking rattles of laughter from the Reptilians in attendance.

You consider all this information, trying not to feel the pang of stifled greed at knowing you relinquished the silver and gold of this outpost to the Drow. There is more to be seized beyond this territory, after all!
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>>5389987
…But then, speaking of the Drow, there are also other matters to be organized with the dark elves. You have been hunkered down here for weeks now, following your conquest of the place, and this has been the first break in the damnable white hell outside. Maybe it is time to return to yoru holdings in the kobold’s caverns, and perhaps to reach out diplomatically to the Queen of Elves?

If you are not to risk being entrapped here for the remainder of this icy season, you’ll certainly need to do SOMETHING… And you can ill afford inaction, with food stores here running low.

How will you prioritize your Geologist’s and miners’ efforts?
>Tradeable wealth acquisition—you will need to trade for food and furs to avoid famine or freezing in the future, be it with Drow or surfacers, and you’ll need boring-but-practical resources for this
>Exotic and magical materials—these will be the backbone of your glorious Dark Empire in Bloodrise, and prove the absolute value of this enterprise to the Serpent priesthood, so you should focus on acquiring and making sue of the first and foremost!
>Expand the underground living space in your existing holdings, and built up their fortifications on the surface for maximum defence—against Dwarves or any Green Knights who might come calling
>Write-in

Where will you and your forces go next?
>Continue the expansion! Scout the remaining Dwarven corporations in Bloodrise, and plan your next move against them
>Return home to check in on affairs at your main base, and begin preparation for your diplomatic envoy to the dark elves, and to see what has come of the Bogbarri matter—anything to escape this alpine winter!
>Travel down into the agricultural lands below, and seek resources to shore up your larder and wardrobes—be it by raid or by trade
>Write-in
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>>5389989
>Expand the underground living space in your existing holdings, and built up their fortifications on the surface for maximum defence—against Dwarves or any Green Knights who might come calling

Secure it first

>Return home to check in on affairs at your main base, and begin preparation for your diplomatic envoy to the dark elves, and to see what has come of the Bogbarri matter—anything to escape this alpine winter!

Hopefully the Bogbarri are on the way to the Drow, that way we can deal with them and then go see the queen in short succession.
>>
>>5389989
>Tradeable wealth acquisition—you will need to trade for food and furs to avoid famine or freezing in the future, be it with Drow or surfacers, and you’ll need boring-but-practical resources for this

This is even more basic than defences - food and warmth

>Return home to check in on affairs at your main base, and begin preparation for your diplomatic envoy to the dark elves, and to see what has come of the Bogbarri matter—anything to escape this alpine winter!

Make sure the Novice and two freed dwarves accompany us
>>
>>5389989
>>Expand the underground living space in your existing holdings, and built up their fortifications on the surface for maximum defence—against Dwarves or any Green Knights who might come calling

>Return home to check in on affairs at your main base, and begin preparation for your diplomatic envoy to the dark elves, and to see what has come of the Bogbarri matter—anything to escape this alpine winter!
>>
>>5389989
>Exotic and magical materials—these will be the backbone of your glorious Dark Empire in Bloodrise, and prove the absolute value of this enterprise to the Serpent priesthood, so you should focus on acquiring and making sue of the first and foremost!
>Travel down into the agricultural lands below, and seek resources to shore up your larder and wardrobes—be it by raid or by trade
>>
>>5389989

>Tradeable wealth acquisition—you will need to trade for food and furs to avoid famine or freezing in the future, be it with Drow or surfacers, and you’ll need boring-but-practical resources for this

starvation is no fun

>Travel down into the agricultural lands below, and seek resources to shore up your larder and wardrobes—be it by raid or by trade

all the food
we farmers now
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>>5390449
>>5390321
>>5390135
>>5390092
>>5390036
[I'm gonna' have a shower and some coffee while I wait to see if this tie will be resolved; otherwise, I'll handle it.]
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>>5390449
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>>5390036
You swaddle yourself and your ectothermic companions in as much fabric as you can collect from the dwarves and their supplies without leaving your Drow allies’ captive workforce utterly nude and unprotected themselves. It does less good for most of your kind than for the mammals, anyway, serving only to slow heat exchange with the environment; apart from yourself, thanks to your internal store of ancestral dragonfire, the amount of body-heat your fellows produce and could retain is negligible.

The snow has died down, but not entirely ceased its descent. The sky is turbulent and grey, and drifts of the accursed ice-particles partly fill the harsh crags and crevices of the Bloodrise. You leave at sunrise, finding the sheets of pristine white painted with a warm red that, while somehow psychologically-comforting, fails to reverse the chill deep in your bones. You endeavour to hurry home with your train of looted materials and your new servants and contractors… But the sheer depth of the snow, and lack of appropriate footwear, makes it slow-going. Worse, it’s treacherous—the snow hides many natural hazards of mountain-life from your eyes, and without familiar visual markers, the course you chart is difficult even with your recent journey here and the Cartographer’s aid. Only your <Danger Sense> and <Guidance> see you and your company through to the relative warmth and safety of the kobold caverns, and even then only after a soggy and frigid week. You deplete much of your rations and find your teeth chattering, your body numb, and your stomach knotted with hunger.

You think you’ve had enough of this ‘winter’.

You retreat to the depths of your mountain-home to rest, warm yourself by the geothermal vents, and to issue your marching-orders for the enterprise. When your mind clears, you again consider the Geologist’s report. In light of your recent death-march (and the sadly-spartan conditions to which you returns, relative warmth aside), you think some trade is of vital necessity. You need fabrics, furs, food… Enough to ensure you are shielded against these seasonal vagaries next year! But then… With enemies on every side, and the Green Knight ever hovering at the periphery of your thoughts, you know that annual frosts are not the ONLY thing you need to shield yourself against. You order the extraction of as many gems and as much mundane ore as possible from beneath the collapsed company-town, and for each mine thus hollowed out to be expanded, fortified, and insulated to serve as barracks and living-quarters. On the surface, you command the construction of a keep—better-situated and more sturdily-built, to avoid the fate which befell the original at your own hands.

(The Engineer grumbles something about ‘micro-management’, but begins hastily adjusting her designs.)
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>>5390688
This having all be settled, you hear the reports of the Bastard, the Hunter, and the Pit-Guard, as to how things have proceeded in your absence.

“Still no hide nor hair of that Bugbear Boss,” the Dragonborn confirms. “Several of the kobolds’ traps have been triggered, though we have not lost another worker to predations, nor have we captured a bugbear.”

“My hunters loosed arrows upon several of the loping apes in the dark,” the Hunter notes, having completed his own debrief of his personal fellowship. “According to them, they struck true repeatedly… But the bugbears didn’t even flinch. They took the arrows in like pincushions, and kept moving just the same, as if nothing happened… Though they did retreat.”

“It sounds like your warriors missed their mark and wish to save face,” the Pit-Guard scoffs. “Or maybe they jumped at shadows?”

The Hunter glowers darkly, and shakes his head. “My hunters are better trained than that… And they ARE missing arrows, while I spied none lying upon the tunnel floors where they say they fought the monsters off, as you’d expect if they’d shot at nothing, or missed.”

Troubling news… But then, everything else seems to be running smoothly, according to the bastard and Pit-Guard. The cavern’s living-space grows, with more and more of the well-hewn, ancient ruins opening up to habitation and study every day. Progress may slow somewhat as you focus upon matters of defence and resource extraction, but that just means less chance for direct conflict with this… Unsettling new breed of Bogbarri. But what has become of these creatures, and why do they attack you after all the diplomatic progress you earlier made? And where is their fearsome Boss?
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>>5390689
You also received word from the Drow. It is another invitation, this time to some sort of ‘winter solstice festival’—a formal affair tied to the dark elves’ obsession with seasonal changes. They seem to be a few months off, by the judge of the weather outside and your own, superior Reptilian star-charts… But after centuries or even millennia belowground, you suppose some temporal drift makes sense.

“The messenger communicated that there was some urgency to this matter as well,” the Bastard notes, a touch uncertain. “He… She… The elf… They were unclear as to why. They only said that the one they call ‘Jazkarkmel’ said you would probably find it ‘politically and personally’ important to visit soon, to ‘best honour the feminine’.”

…Whatever that means. It isn’t like the elf leader to be so cryptic. Odd.

What do you do?
>The matter of bugbear hostility can be postponed no longer—you must put an end to these probing attacks, and demand an explanation and recompense from the Bogbarri Boss
>This dark elf festival sounds very officious, and urgent (apparently?)… And you DO need to forge a proper alliance and trade deal to secure your place here… So you’ll attend to this first
>You’ve traveled enough—forget the Drow and the Bogbarri both, you’re staying home where it’s cozy and attending to domestic matters! Send hunters and diplomats to handle the other races in your stead
>Write-in
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>>5390691
>This dark elf festival sounds very officious, and urgent (apparently?)… And you DO need to forge a proper alliance and trade deal to secure your place here… So you’ll attend to this first
>>
>>5390691
>>This dark elf festival sounds very officious, and urgent (apparently?)… And you DO need to forge a proper alliance and trade deal to secure your place here… So you’ll attend to this first
>>
>>5390691
>This dark elf festival sounds very officious, and urgent (apparently?)… And you DO need to forge a proper alliance and trade deal to secure your place here… So you’ll attend to this first
>>
>>5390691
>This dark elf festival sounds very officious, and urgent (apparently?)… And you DO need to forge a proper alliance and trade deal to secure your place here… So you’ll attend to this first

Make sure we take a retinue with us. A few academic and combat members of the Master Race and maybe some knobs
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>>5390702
The Drow’s invitation strikes you as the more time-sensitive matter. After all, you are no longer losing minions nor materials to this bugbear banditry, and you have not required their aid for either of your most recent conquests. What matter, then, are they? Oh, they’ll probably request redress at SOME point, but the dark elves are the more pressing allies to secure.

The next week is spent in preparation for the journey ahead, and the diplomatic rigors which await you at journey’s end. You take some time to secure some glow-worm silk, and it joins the extracted gems, plundered gold and silver, and ore samples from your mines. You gather some of your most up-to-date maps and star-charts, should discussions turn to matters of warfare and borders or religion and divination—whatever comes, you will not be found empty-handed!

But speaking of that which your hands possess, and which you might bring to bear… There is the sword. Your trusty moon-blade, ancient elven sabre, found in the gullet of the Devourer—terror of the subterranean realm of the Drow, inherited from one of their ancestor-gods (or, at least, modeled upon a blade which was said to have been divine) and hewn from an untarnished white stone which radiates with an awesome power when held aloft and charged with lunar light… or that of your <Moonblast>.

It is a blade fit for a king, yes… But perhaps also for a queen? You have held it for many months now, since you seized it as a trophy of your victory, but you know it will attract attention and provoke conversation if you wear it upon your hip when you meet this ‘Queen Myrymma’.

What will you do?
>Wear it proudly and openly—let the Elf-Queen see your victorious splendour and recognizable reptile supremacy!
>Bring it—but intended as a gift, tribute to secure her lasting alliance and that of her people, and to demonstrate and forever symbolize Reptilian generosity and patronage of her house
>Bind it tightly in glow-worm silk, and use your other, less-mystical elven sword to settle any disputes which arise for now
>Leave it behind, in trusted hands—why risk a diplomatic incident, OR your favourite sword, by courting controversy?
>Write-in
>>
>>5390921
And what of your retinue? You surely won’t be traveling alone, but as your holdings grow and the stock of servants swell, each of your trusted and loyal companions grows ever busier with other duties. The bastard manages your kobolds; the pit-Guard is slave-driver for the dwarves and chief lieutenant, the Thief organizes your communications network, the Hunter and his forces patrol your borders. Oluwadamilare, the Degenerate Archer, seems an obvious choice—he has been lover to ‘Princess’ Jazkarmel and is well-respected among her company of dark elves. The Elf Specialist already awaits you there, busy preaching and counseling faith among your elven converts to the True Faith. But who else will you bring?

>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>The Cartographer—to better interpret his maps, and the ensure the journey there and back goes as swiftly and smoothly as possible
>Agno the Kobold—aggressive and bold penal-slave, still recovering from the most recent battle but reliable in a fight
>Ivno the Kobold—quiet, cautious, methodical, competent, but not too assertive or opinionated
>The Thief—he can leave someone else in charge of soft-power for a time, for you need his Mask of Many Faces and aptitude for impersonation and infiltration
>The Hunter—if things get dicey, you want your best warrior on hand
>The South-Merchant—others can oversee ledgers and inventories for a time, for you would have his keen mercantile mind and strong instincts at your call
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>Write-in
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>>5390921
>Bring it—but intended as a gift, tribute to secure her lasting alliance and that of her people, and to demonstrate and forever symbolize Reptilian generosity and patronage of her house

>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>Oluwadamilare
>The Hunter—if things get dicey, you want your best warrior on hand
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>>5390924
>The Thief—he can leave someone else in charge of soft-power for a time, for you need his Mask of Many Faces and aptitude for impersonation and infiltration
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>>
>>5390921
>Bind it tightly in glow-worm silk, and use your other, less-mystical elven sword to settle any disputes which arise for now
I’m not giving up our nat 100 sword.

>>5390924
>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>The Cartographer—to better interpret his maps, and the ensure the journey there and back goes as swiftly and smoothly as possible
>Ivno the Kobold—quiet, cautious, methodical, competent, but not too assertive or opinionated
>The Thief—he can leave someone else in charge of soft-power for a time, for you need his Mask of Many Faces and aptitude for impersonation and infiltration
>The South-Merchant—others can oversee ledgers and inventories for a time, for you would have his keen mercantile mind and strong instincts at your call
>>
>>5390921
>Leave it behind, in trusted hands—why risk a diplomatic incident, OR your favourite sword, by courting controversy?

>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>The Cartographer—to better interpret his maps, and the ensure the journey there and back goes as swiftly and smoothly as possible
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>>
>>5390998
[You forgot a part of the vote, anon!]
>>
>>5390924
>>Bind it tightly in glow-worm silk, and use your other, less-mystical elven sword to settle any disputes which arise for now

>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>The South-Merchant—others can oversee ledgers and inventories for a time, for you would have his keen mercantile mind and strong instincts at your call
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>The novice Junior. He packs muscles.


I don't want to take the Hunter. Else boogbariman will haunt the dreams of everybody
>>
>>5390924

>>Bind it tightly in glow-worm silk, and use your other, less-mystical elven sword to settle any disputes which arise for now

>The Throat-singer—elves teach bardic music, and he needs a tutor…
>Agno the Kobold—aggressive and bold penal-slave, still recovering from the most recent battle but reliable in a fight
>Ivno the Kobold—quiet, cautious, methodical, competent, but not too assertive or opinionated
>The Novice Fleshweaver—though she will lament being pulled away from her experiments and studies, you think you would quite like to bring her to a ‘ball’
>The novice Junior. He packs muscles
>>
>>5391009
Supporting this
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>>5391378
>>5391288
>>5391284
>>5391150
>>5391009
>>5390998
>>5390996
[Vote locked, results incoming!]
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>>5391488
As you wrap and bind the moon-sword, to hide it from covetous eyes, you make your final deliberations as to who shall accompany you. You hardly need a war party for such a mission, nor do you wish to take TOO many experts and thus leave your settlement’s leadership… INexpert.

But then, the good thing about having skilled and experienced mapmakers and merchants is that you don’t NEED to bring them, to bring their expertise! You have the Cartographer make a duplicate of his earlier map of the Underdark passages between your territory and Jazkarmel’s encampment, while the South-Merchant and Oluwadamilare work together to produce an elven-language version of the Geologist’s resource report (redacted, edited, and compiled in such a way as to frame the situation exactly as you desire). You may bring neither the merchant himself, nor the maker of the map, but you trust in their craft.

Olu the Archer is, as you’d previously noted, and obvious choice. In particular, if you are not bringing the Hunter (skilled archer and melee warrior that he is), some muscle is advisable, and your Archer has little in the way of administrative duties regardless.

You also bring Ivno, the kobold. You finally trust Agno enough to leave him ‘unsupervised’, satisfied that he will not incite a riot in your absence, and Ivno is the more level-headed and subservient of the pair and thus the better-suited to serve as an envoy of your ‘kobold council’ in these affairs.

And then there are the last two…
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>>5391518
“You wish to bring the… The…”

“The Junior Novice, yes.”

The Novice stares at you in horror, though whether at the proposition or at the name you insistently stick to, you cannot be sure—she certainly cannot bring herself to speak the insulting demonym.

“WHY?” she demands

“Why not?” you shrug. “He is a showcase of our alchemical and mystical might. He is added muscle. He is—”

“A moody, mutated monster, composed of unstable material!”

“Which is why I’m bringing his architect,” you point out.

The Novice crosses her arms and glares.

“You have become altogether too clingy,” she points out after a moment. “Do you realize this?”

It is true that the amount of your downtime which you spend seeking advice or studying with the Novice Fleshweaver has increased quite a bit over these last few months. There are extenuating circumstances, of course—you have the Throat-singer who you promised tutelage, and your <Dragonshape> to further improve, and being snowed in together for nearly a month left little other option during THAT period… But it would be false to say you don’t enjoy it, and that the prospect of bringing her to a ‘ball’ didn’t have some inherent appeal. If you were to say there was no personal component, that would be a lie.

“There is no personal component,” you lie, easily. “I am also bringing the Throat-singer, to advance his bardic training, and he will benefit from consulting with a Serpent Priestess as well.”

The Novice narrows her eyes suspiciously, but you do not flinch.

“If I become injured, I will require a medic,” you add.

She continues to stare, tail lashing.

You sigh.

“It will give you a chance to test out your refined Amulet of Eleven Guise,” you note.

This brightens the experimental female’s demeanour, and she immediately begins packing up what of her research she can, for the journey ahead.

“Perhaps I can see how Glowie and your brood of bug-bastards are coming along, also,” she acquiesces, ceding at last that there might be SOME points of interest in the trip.
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>>5391523
Glowie… Yes, you wonder how the glow-worm woman’s pupation (and pregnancy) ARE developing? You suppose that’s one more matter to consider…

At long last, you and your retinue for the trip ahead are ready! Your crew is, dare you say it, motley: yourself, a young female Serpent Priestess, Olu the Degenerate Archer, a dwarf with no beard and a metal hand, a nervous-looking kobold scout, and… The Junior Novice, however you wish to describe THAT abomination, with his whiskered face, increasingly hunched back, and (envy of envies!) his folded dragon-wings.

How will you proceed?
>Follow the safest, but longest, route—skirt the known ‘danger zones’ of bugbear territory AND the dangers of the unknown
>Take a straight shot through bugbear territory, formerly that of the Devourer—perhaps you’ll learn something of their ‘issue’ as well?
>Do some exploring of unknown areas while you’re down there anyway—why not? Exploring is fun, and sometimes profitable!
>You know, you might just stop by that cursed spring along the way… You have some unfinished business there
>Write-in
>>
>>5391523
*Amulet of Elven Guise

>>5381749
*the Thief reports, in Northern Common-tongue so all your forces may understand.
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>>5391524
>Take a straight shot through bugbear territory, formerly that of the Devourer—perhaps you’ll learn something of their ‘issue’ as well?
>>
>>5391524
>>Take a straight shot through bugbear territory, formerly that of the Devourer—perhaps you’ll learn something of their ‘issue’ as well?
That.
>>
>>5391524
>Take a straight shot through bugbear territory, formerly that of the Devourer—perhaps you’ll learn something of their ‘issue’ as well?
>>
>>5391524
>You know, you might just stop by that cursed spring along the way… You have some unfinished business there

We should have brought a steel-talon bodyguard and the Thief…

Especially if we were going to cross dangerous areas
>>
>>5391524
>Do some exploring of unknown areas while you’re down there anyway—why not? Exploring is fun, and sometimes profitable!
>You know, you might just stop by that cursed spring along the way… You have some unfinished business there
I’m up for a bit of fun.
>>
[I'll either post later tonight or tomorrow, but I think I overdid it a little today, and I'm not feeling so good. Pardon the delay!]
>>
>>5392048
Hey, don’t push yourself RQM. Recover your strength in peace, alright?
>>
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>>5391857
>>5391856
>>5391688
>>5391644
>>5391604
You opt to take the straightest and surest course—even though, or perhaps rather BECAUSE, it cuts a path through ’bugbear country’. While you’ve not brought any Steeltalons or expert scouts of the Master Race, you HAVE brought Ivno, Olu, and the Junior Novice, so you don’t feel helpless by any means. Besides them, of course, there’s also YOU—these days, taller, stronger, and better armed and armoured than ever!

…Well, except perhaps when you had actual ARMOUR, you suppose, but your thickened scales make up for that somewhat, and you’re certainly FEELING at the top of your game, now that the chill is finally out of your bones.

The first few days of the journey go fairly uneventfully: slow but steady travel, broken up by rest-stops at increasingly-familiar grottos, underground creeks, or defensible locales. Each time you trace these tunnels back and forth between Bloodrise and the Drow, or your birthplace even further beyond, you feel you know them a little better. This is even aside from the ever-improving specificity of the Cartographer’s maps of the region.

This makes it all the more troubling when you come upon something which was not there before.

“A natural rock-slide, perhaps?” Olu the Archer hypothesizes aloud.

The Junior Novice makes a whining, bleating sounds unbefitting a creature part-dragon, and you know this is not so.

You and your companions survey a section of natural stone ramp—or, rather, a fallen-away portion, and the darkness and air which now bridge two portions of this familiar path. You all have darkvision, of course, so it’s not as if you are going to be surprised by any lurking shadow-dweller on the other side, but any attempts to erect a bridge will take time, make noise, draw attention…

And only you, with you spellborn ability to <See Invisibility>, will spy a creeping bugbear (or a whole pack-platoon of them), lurking in wait.

What do you do?
>Send the Junior Novice forwards—he is large and strong now, and can fly, and this makes him a good scout… Even if he can’t necessarily communicate exactly what he finds
>Assign Ivno—small and agile creature that he is—to quickly and stealthily scout ahead and return with a report
>You’re not afraid—<Jump> the gap yourself, sword drawn and ready and eyes enchanted to <See> what dwells in the dark
>Take is slowly and methodically—gather materials, build a bridge, and watch each other’s backs
>Forget this—this is an obvious trap, and you will backpedal and adjust your route to avoid it
>Write-in
>>
>>5392129
>Take is slowly and methodically—gather materials, build a bridge, and watch each other’s backs
>>
>>5392129
>>Take is slowly and methodically—gather materials, build a bridge, and watch each other’s backs
>>
>>5392129
>Forget this—this is an obvious trap, and you will backpedal and adjust your route to avoid it
We are NOT STUPID, right anons? Riight?
>>
>>5392129
>You’re not afraid—<Jump> the gap yourself, sword drawn and ready and eyes enchanted to <See> what dwells in the dark
>>
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>>5392146
>>5392242
>>5392260
>>5392287
You decide to take it slow and steady. There’s no vegetation to build a bridge from, not down in the underdark, but with concerted effort your group is able to find suitable stone slabs to begin to bridge the gap. Aided by your <Wall of Stone> spell, and binding the construction together, you are able to crawl your way through by feet and inches.

“I do not like it,” the Novice hisses as you work—she perhaps less than many of the others.

“Well, your caste and sex are not much used to physical exertion, I suppose,” you note, grunting slightly from your own labours.

She hisses and swats at you with her tail.

“Not THAT,” she snaps. “We are exposed! We are surely being watched.”

“Maybe,” you acknowledge, “but we are together, a united front. The bugbears would need to be quite bold, to the point of recklessness, to strike at us now.”

But the bugbears must, indeed, be bold to the point of recklessness, for the Novice’s anxieties prove prophetic. You are very nearly done the bridge when you hear the quiet sound of shifting pebbles and padlike leather moccasin brushing stone. It comes not from ahead, but from behind, and above—higher up the rockface.

“Move slowly,” you whisper-hiss to your party. “Forward.”

They begin to advance, Ivno and the Novice going first, then the Throat-singer. Olu draws his body, prepared to cover them if any beastly Bogbarri decides to leap to tear, while you guard the rear with the snarling, yammering Junior Novice.

“Look out! From above!”

You expect an attack, corralled and directed as you now are, but none of you could have expected the method and direction by which the attack comes: a bugbear leaps down from the stone above, hurling himself bodily at your crossing compatriots! Ivno, warned by Olu’s shout, manages to step back and narrowly avoid being grabbed and grappled, and the offending bugbear catches an arrow from the Archer in response… But reacts with stoic silence, continuing to flail and tumble without so much as a warcry or shriek of pain down into the darkness below.
>>
>>5392508
“By the Dark Gods’ most forbidden names…” The Novice whispers, staring after the mammal’s descent.

“Another!” Ivno now screeches, pointing and drawing his pickaxe and knife. “More! Again-again!”

He is correct. To your utter bewilderment and alarm, several more bugbears now drop down from above in a wingless, suicidal falcon plunge, eyes staring and jagged teeth clenched in wordless, soundless fury as they fall upon your fellows in an attempt to snatch them up in long, ape-like embrace and pull them down to be smashed and battered upon the rocks far below. Your allies scamper forward, but are slowed by the precariousness of your position. You look behind you, and find several more bugbears advancing from the edge of your effective darkvision, clasping the crude implements of their butchery and driving you forward—denying you the safety fo easy retreat.

What do you do?
>Use your <Moonblast> spell to knock the descending belligerents out of the air—focus on saving the Novice and Throat-singer!
>Assuming your <Dragonshape> and turn your Fearsome Presence and your Firebreath upon the bugbears behind you—protect yourself and clear an escape route!
>Jump over and past your allies—you must reach other side yourself, before the situation worsens, and strengthen the bridge with your <Wall of Stone> spell to facilitate their crossing
>Though it risks the Novice and the others, an <Earth Tremor> is the surest way to dislodge the bugbears above and save your expedition as a whole; shout a warning to hold on, and cast the spell!
>Write-in

You have about half your mana, thanks to needing to use some to support your bridge
>>
>>5392513
>>Use your <Moonblast> spell to knock the descending belligerents out of the air—focus on saving the Novice and Throat-singer!
Protect novice
>>
>>5392513
>Use your <Moonblast> spell to knock the descending belligerents out of the air—focus on saving the Novice and Throat-singer!
>Fearsome Presence some motherfuckers
>>
>>5392513
>Use your <Moonblast> spell to knock the descending belligerents out of the air—focus on saving the Novice and Throat-singer!

I'm thinking they got mindflayered or something?
>>
>>5392660
I really enjoyed Mindflayer Quest, I wish it’d come back.
>>
>>5392513
>Jump over and past your allies—you must reach other side yourself, before the situation worsens, and strengthen the bridge with your <Wall of Stone> spell to facilitate their crossing
>>
>>5392513
>Assuming your <Dragonshape> and turn your Fearsome Presence and your Firebreath upon the bugbears behind you—protect yourself and clear an escape route!
>>
Rolled 12, 9, 5 = 26 (3d20)

>>5392527
>>5392600
>>5392660
>>5392708
>>5392750
You speak the word too cast your lunar ray spell, and then draw in a deep breath. You shift your stance, draw waning-to-waxing series of gestures in the air with your hands, and release the breath from your fire-lung. What emerges is not flame, though, but a blast of <Moonbeam>, charged with the radiant white light of the full moon! With this magical blast, you quite immediately and dramatically invigorate one of the bugbears with energy, sending it careening sideways before bursting quiet colourfully into a spectromatic explosion of light.
>>
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>>5392902

>12 (injury sustained, spell broken and more mana lost)

However, in spite of this blast being channeled through your open maw as a sort of “Moonblast”, you currently cast it, the energies are not so native to you as your own firebreath. It takes quite the expenditure of mana to focus the blast. This admittedly carries a lot less potential for collateral damage or catastrophic failure than dragonfire, but it also takes your attention away from the bugbears which now set upon you and the Junior Novice!

‘Junior’ fights them off valiantly, of course, taking full advantage of his increased size and ferocity to repel them with tooth and claw, tail and wing. This is all in service of himself and his own safety, though, not yours. He may cringe away from you, kowtow to your will, but he is no trained and loyal guard-dogbold, leaping to his master’s defence. Instead, using his strength to shuck them and his wings to glide away, the Junior Novice is quite eager to abandon this battle, as if sensing something subtly wrong with the foes. It isn’t long thereafter that you’re given the personal opportunity to assess this ‘wrongness’ more closely, yourself.

You’ve never before had the displeasure to wrestle one of the Bogbarri without a protective suit of armour. As two of them now tackle and grab for you, you are painfully reminded of the first name which your people devised for these mammals: barbed devils, for their keratinous spikes and bristles, hidden amongst their hair and bundled-fabric attire. Several of these barbs now puncture you like a pincushion engrappled with a porcupine. You are sent tumbling end over end as the grasp and cling to you, further skewering your vulnerable flesh—your natural armour can only do so much to protect you from their own.

You watch as the Novice Fleshweaver, Throat-singer, and Ivno all flee to safer ground at the opposite end of your constructed bridge. For your part, you leverage your greater size and mighty musculature to climb to your feet, shoving back your aggressors before they can club or cut at you with their weapons. This grants you a welcome reprieve from the stench of them. Bugbears are foul-smelling creatures at the best of times, but these examples of the race are possessed of a truly foul odour, the strength of which matches their uncanny strength of arms!

Wait, that smell…
>>
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>>5392921
You realize what it is as the bugbears rise and eye you up with indifferent, slack-jawed faces. Th odour you detect wafting from them in unpleasant plumes is that of decay. These creatures are UNDEAD! No wonder, then, they do not flinch at pain or fear for their lives—their lives are forfeit, gone, and some dark purpose not their own now animates their husks!

An arrow flies over your shoulder, embedding itself in the head of one of the Bogbarri before you. The bugbear’s face snaps back at the impact, then slowly lowers. It stares at you with the same eerily-palcid expression as before, unbothered by the arrowhead embedded in its brain of the thin trickle of rotten blood which pours forth from the wound.

“Dragonborn,” Olu harshly whispers, “I know this one. This bugbear… He was part of Paeris’ assassination squad! He died prior to our first assault!”

You’ll have to take the Archer’s word for it, as most of these mammals look quite alike to you, even when you are not distracted by a dozen biting stab-wounds. But the entire scenario is rather troubling. You opt to…

>Flee, as quickly as you can, with a <Jump> and all the athleticism you and your party can muster
>Draw your own bow and join Olu in repelling the undead while you beat a fighting retreat
>Use the last of your mana to assume <Dragonshape> and let loose a torrent of Firebreath to cleanse this place
>Charge and attack, with a mighty roar and a warrior’s heart—you are the nightmare which THEY should fear!
>Write-in
>>
>>5392923
i see
instead of mindflayed they got zombified
thought we'd notice sooner than that

>Charge and attack, with a mighty roar and a warrior’s heart—you are the nightmare which THEY should fear!

Only 2 left that didn't throw themselves off the cliff, right? We can take em. Gotta show the necromancer that they'll lose too many bodies tangling with us, it's not cost effective.
>>
>>5392923
>Draw your own bow and join Olu in repelling the undead while you beat a fighting retreat

We don’t need to fight this battle

This is the work of that knob who fled…forget his name
>>
>>5392923
>Draw your own bow and join Olu in repelling the undead while you beat a fighting retreat
>>
>>5392923
>Charge and attack, with a mighty roar and a warrior’s heart—you are the nightmare which THEY should fear!
>>
>>5392923
>Draw your own bow and join Olu in repelling the undead while you beat a fighting retreat
So we're using the abandoned bow now?
>>
Rolled 14, 14, 20 = 48 (3d20)

>>5393394
>>5393341
>>5393239
>>5393142
>>5393064

This isn’t a fight you need to be fighting right now. You’ve uncovered the mystery of the bugbears’ disappearance and subsequent hostility… You even think you have a good idea who the necromancer behind it is… But you brought no army with you, and you have a ball to attend. You sheathe your blade, draw your bow, and notch an arrow; Olu the Archer covers you while you do so, and even the Novice hurls a bolt of disfiguring energy past you. His arrow provides only momentary delay; her magic does not even manage that, fizzling out in the face of unlife.

You join their volley, backing up as you do so, relying on your <Danger Sense> and <Guidance> to keep you on the correct path and out of the yawning abyss below. You focus your conscious mind on repelling the undead bugbears who lunge for you, firing arrows to intercept their arcs.
>>
>>5393468

>20

<Guidance> proves useful here, too, alerting you to the most opportune moments to let your arrows fly. Better yet, divination or intuition guide your aim to maximal effect. You do not aim for head or chest, as you might on a living opponent—you strike for hands, joints, points where an arrow can force a weapon to be dropped or impede further movement. It occurs to you that the mind is no longer in use by these bugbears, the vital functions of the organs halted, but their limbs do not float freely. They move as they did in life, and they can be stopped by impeding that same movement!

Fighting through the pain of your injuries, riding high on a wave of intellectual and martial triumph, you loose arrow after arrow. When you are done, the three bugbears who neither plunged to their doom nor faltered and feel stand still, staring, squirming slightly but otherwise akin to mere scarecrows. They mark your passage, a warning to Hapo—or whoever else he might be behind this undead abomination—of the high resource cost which accompanies an assault on the Copper King of Bloodrise.

When the adrenaline dies down and you are well away, you allow yourself to feel the pain of your injuries properly. You remove your robe and find yourself stabbed-shallowly, thank the Dark Gods—and lacerated all across your hands, arms, chest, and stomach. Worse, the wounds burn and blister. Poison? Infection? Who can say, when grappling with the living dead?

Your allies are all unharmed—well, mostly. The Junior Novice has sustained injuries similar to yours, but he is less an ally and more a prisoner-pet, a slave of even more dire circumstances and lower station than the Throat-singer.

The longer you stay out in the wild places, the more likely the undead bugbears are to regroup and assault you again. The Drow’s numbers and fortifications mean safety. But will you make it there without complications?

What do you do?
>Make camp in these untamed and dangerous places, and ask the Novice to attend to your injuries with fleshcraft and alchemy
>Hurry on the Jazkarmel’s camp, fighting through what discomfort may come, so you ad your less-martial allies can rest and recover in safety
>Send your allies ahead—you’re going deeper into the dark, into the belly of the beast, to end this once and for all!
>Write-in
>>
>>5393478

>Make camp in these untamed and dangerous places, and ask the Novice to attend to your injuries with fleshcraft and alchemy

just in case Hapo? discovered how to make infectious zombies
>>
>>5393478
>>Make camp in these untamed and dangerous places, and ask the Novice to attend to your injuries with fleshcraft and alchemy
>>
>>5393646
>>5393487
The necromancer of these bugbears, might be waiting nearby in ambush. Since i doubt the zombie's planed jumping us at this broken crevice by themselves.

Its probably not safe to rest here.


>Hurry on the Jazkarmel’s camp, fighting through what discomfort may come, so you ad your less-martial allies can rest and recover in safety
>>
>>5393478
>Hurry on the Jazkarmel’s camp, fighting through what discomfort may come, so you ad your less-martial allies can rest and recover in safety
>>5393487
>>5393646
Why are you two trying to get us all killed?
>>
>>5393478
>Hurry on the Jazkarmel’s camp, fighting through what discomfort may come, so you ad your less-martial allies can rest and recover in safety

It’s not safe to wait
>>
Rolled 20, 20, 8 = 48 (3d20)

>>5393691
>>5393674
>>5393664
>>5393646
>>5393487

It isn’t safe here—not just for you, but for your party. Had it not been for your judicious use of <Moonbeam>, the bugbears would have tackled the Novice Fleshweaver and Throat-singer right off of your makeshift bridge and carried them away to their deaths. You doubt that such seemingly simple undead were directing these activities without oversight, either. You can feel eyes on you, out in the dark.

You press on, gnashing your teeth against the pain and staunching the bleeding by holding you cloak close to the wounds.
>>
>>5393771

>20
You press on, determined to avoid anymore incidents. The pain grows agonizing, the rash around your words spreading out. Your mana is depleted, and your physical energy begins to seep out and away as well, but you do not stop. The pain and discomfort drives you forward faster, so that your allies actually struggle to equal your pace. You hear breathless pursuit in the darkness, hear padded footfalls whenever you pause, and you cease to make such stops. You sense wicked intent in the eternal night of the below-realm, and resolve to outrace it. You do not stop to rest, not even when you otherwise would have without injury—Drow territory will be sanctuary, salvation!

>20 AGAIN

A fire burns within you, pushing the poison out, baking it away. You categorically REFUSE to fall to such an ignoble and pathetic cause as this grave-toxin. You are a Dragonborn, damnit, and you are BEYOND such petty assassins as these!

>Gained: Poison Resistance

By the time you reach the encampment of the dark elves—or, rather, draw close enough for their unseen scouts and their arthropod allies to lower themselves from their hidden crevices above and to come meet you—your allies are flagging, barely on their feet. You, in spite of the dizziness and nausea which you feel even now, stand tall and unbroken.

“I am the Copper Dragonborn, of Bloodrise, here to see Princess Jazkarmel,” you declare to them, with stiff formality to hide the pained break in your voice. It’s not as if these elves wouldn’t recognize you, or could conceivably mistake you for anyone else. “I come at her invitation, and that of your Queen.”

Only once the elves acknowledge your arrival and agree to guide you to their settlement do you allow yourself to feel your pain in earnest. The fight slowly leaves you, and blackness fills your vision. You and your allies ll unconscious.

While you slumber, sleeping ff the poison and your extreme exertion, you shamefully dream once again. You dream of…
>A hidden danger among your elven allies
>The scheming pretender who brought you low
>The will of the Dark Gods
>The Green Knight, as you so often do
>>
>>5393777
>A hidden danger among your elven allies
>The will of the Dark Gods
>>
>>5393777
>The will of the Dark Gods

Good thing >>5393674 didn't get us killed by trying to walk off poison instead of getting treated. Who knows how bad it could have been if we didn't roll a double 20.
>>
>>5393832
more zombie bug bears were chasing us. We were almost out of mana, and Olu and novices attacks were ineffective against them.

if we had stayed we would have had to fight an entire bug bear band practically by ourselves.
>>
>>5393883
>entire band
big assumption there

also no faith in novice or Olu
Olu is an archer, he could have copied our joint shots
Even if Novice didn't figure out anything to do in combat, which isn't a guarantee, she could have kept us in top form
>>
>>5393777
>A hidden danger among your elven allies

A white blade in the darkness…
>>
>>5393777
>The will of the Dark Gods
Give me my antipaladin in my antipaladin quest
>>
>>5393777
>The will of the Dark Gods
>The Green Knight, as you so often do
>>5393832
Says the one who decided a group of 4 should walk into an obvious trap (as stated) and then camp in enemy territory while growing weak from unknown poison instead of running for shelter.
>>5393897
>big assumption here
>starts assuming things favourable to his headcanon instead of questioning his choices
why am I even surprised
>>
>>5393777
>The will of the Dark Gods
>>
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>>5393823
>>5393832
>>5393921
>>5393998
>>5394004
>>5394231
You feel your fit slip out from under you, and you fall. However, even as you brace for the impact of the stone below, it never comes. You fall down, and down, and down, and down… Into a space Beyond and Below.

“…admit that I thought The Judgemental One would have returned to the fold by now.”

>WHAT FOLD? THERE IS NO ‘FOLD’. I THOUGHT YOU WERE MEANT TO SEE TRUTHS.

“We’re better off without him, anyway. He had his time, his prominence, and where did it get any of us?”

>HIS NEW ‘PROJECT’ IS PROMISING ENOUGH, I SUPPOSE.

“I remain unconvinced… But I will wait, and watch, and see.”

“Of course you will. What else are you good for?”

You recognize the voices—especially the unmistakable and booming inflection of The Serpent Ascendant, reverberating through the unseen spaces. You are surrounded by a sea of blackness, and yet you think you see… Something. Like distant stars, but darker still, like points of negative-light against the mundane dark. Your dream-eyes struggle to make sense of that which your waking ones never could.

Three points. Three Dark Gods. The Serpent Ascendant, The Master of the Insightful Eye, and The Lady of the Rookery.

“You all should be focusing on the violation before your very eyes.”

You recognize this voice, too, as a fourth pinpoint appears, gradually drifting from the bleak infinity around you (and those distant not-lights) and floating closer. It is a voice like scouring winds, shifting the sand of distant epochs across the stones of fallen empire. It is the voice of Death Himself.

“I fail to see the problem,” the Master of the Insightful Eye says.

“Forbidden knowledge unearthed and used with such recklessness…”

“That is YOUR problem, Lord of Endings,” the Lady of the Rookery replies.

“It threatens the very order of things. The cosmic eddies will stagnate, swirling ever in place, until there is no flow of spirit or life. Our realms will wither and die.”

>PERSONALLY, I RESPECT THE NECROMANCER’S EFFORT. THIS SHALL BE A WORTHY PROVING-GROUND FOR THE COPPER ONE.

“If his ambition weakens us all, will you still show such respect?”

“Where was your concern when WE grew weak and hungry, Lord of Gluttony? You who partners with enemies, against his own kin, to further your eternal feast… Now you lecture US about priorities?!”

>YOU, WHO SPAWNS AND FORGETS ABOUT AS MANY CHIDLREN IN A DAY AS A MILLION MORTAL MOTEHRS MIGHT IN A MILLENIUM, HAVE LITTLE ROOM TO CRITICIZE.

“You side with the traitor, now, so-called God of Honour?!”

>HA. NO, OBVIOUSLY NOT. HE IS A COWARD! BEGONE, DEATH. NOBODY INVITED YOU.

“He did,” the Master of the Insightful Eye speaks up.

Suddenly, you feel a strange sensation, and you feel as if four great lights—or pits of deepest, cosmic darkness—have focused their beams upon you.
>>
>>5394254

“And who invited HIM?” the Mother of Dragons hisses—a sound like a snake, like a roach, like steam escaping a planet’s core through cracking crust.

“I did,” answers Death, Lord of Endings, and you fill a chill creep up your soul-self.

“How convenient,” the Master of the Insightful Eye notes ruefully, “you invite him, so he may invite you.”

The Master turns the full force of his scrutiny upon you and reminds you, with that all-piercing and transfixing beam of invisible and unknowable light, why he is also called The Baleful Beholder. You cannot even cry out or squirm.

“I own a part of this one,” Death says of you. “He owes me a debt.”

“We all own a part of him,” the Baleful Beholder notes.

“I own his legacy. I do not need the rest of him,” the Mother of Dragons says dismissively, though then a curious and unsettling hunger creeps into her tone, and she adds: “Unless…”

>LISTEN TO YOU WEAKLINGS, PRATTLING ON ABOUT DEBTS AND OWNERSHIP. I WILL STAKE NO CLAIM TO HIM—HE FOLLOWS MY EDICTS AND IDEALS BECAUSE HE KNOWS IT IS THE WAY OF THE STRONG.

“Enough,” the Lord of Endings intones, and his fractious siblings—those who despite his betrayal, but fear him even still, listen.

“You have served your purpose,” Death tells you pushing back the other Dark Gods from your consciousness, so that the rasp of a billion final breaths is like an ocean around you, and the scent of grave-mould fills your senses. “I will call upon you soon. Heed me then, Copper Dragonborn.”

You feel the waking world of material reality creeping back into your mind, the sensation of your physical form returning. Sore muscles, the tightness of bandages, the soft cushioning of something beneath you, a familiar and not-unpleasant scent…

>Wake up
>No, wait! I beseech... [request a personal audience with one of the Dark Gods, specify which]
>Please, I must know... [request the answer to one question, about the Dark Gods or their will; may incur a debt]
>>
>>5394257
>>No, wait! I beseech... [request a personal audience with one of the Dark Gods, specify which]
>Serpent Ascendant
>Put my Serpent ascendant antipaladin in the antipaladin quest as i don't want to be death's lackey
How are you RQM? Better?
>>
>>5394257
>Wake up
>>
>>5394257
>Please, I must know... [Unless what?]
>No, wait! I beseech... [The Prosecutor]
I want our Pantheon united. The Grand Design divided cannot stand, after all.
>>
>>5394265
I doubt the Ascendant will make us an anti-paladin since his entire schtick is for us to go seize it ourselves. I like that we have three gods in at least somewhat in our favor right now anyways, let’s not ruin that with a failed oath of loyalty.

>>5394271
No. He hates us anon and I don’t see how this would accomplish anything except causing the other gods to argue with him about some godly shit.
>>
>>5394004
camping to treat poison beats running while poisoned, and your headcannon is no better than mine

>Wake up
not a good time to request, we need to be fresh off a triumph, maybe after we've killed the necromancer
>>
>>5394281
He stayed with the Master Race when the other Gods abandoned them, he deserves a second chance.
>>
>>5394257
>Wake up
Death being based as always.
>>5394299
>Walking into a trap cause muh powertrip is better than taking a path around it
>Dying on enemy territory is better than fighting for survival
Yeah sure. Whatever you say, Einstein.
>>
>>5394323
what gods abandoned us, other than kinda bugmom

>>5394438
>out of legitimate arguments, anon is forced to resort to a double strawman
poor anon
>>
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>>5394438
>>5394299
>>5394271
>>5394268
>>5394265
You open your mouth to beseech the gods, to ask vital questions of your cosmic overlords… But they die in your throat. BY what right would you ask them? You are coming off of no great triumph, and the price of such a direct request is more than you are prepared to pay.

The moment passes. The memories fade, growing hazy and indistinct. You wake.

“Wh-where am I?” you murmur, shifting slightly.

“Do NOT,” the Novice says, with dangerous inflection, “say a WORD.”

You slowly become aware of the firm-but pliable cushioning under your head, and the sensation of shifting fat and muscle beneath a thin layer of fabric. You look up, to see the scowling face of your childhood rival turned alchemical and magical tutor. You realize your head is rested upon her thick thighs, cradled in her lap.

You are briefly at a loss.

“Who else was going to take care of your Oh-So-Kingly Self, when your stupid death-march plunged you into a gods-damned coma, you absolute nincompoop?” she demands, as if sensing your thoughts.

She drops your head on the hard stone, standing up.

“You’re obviously feeling better,” she notes brusquely. “I took the liberty of bandaging you.”

So she did. You lift your cloak, finding a sort of gauze of (presumably-sterilized) spider-silk beneath it. A brownish-red staining, tinted yellow at the edges, belies the extent of the injuries beneath, which these wrappings seek to abate and keep clean.

“You will live,” the Novice notes stuffily. “You honestly seem to have built up a resistance of sorts… The Dark Gods must smile on your foul and tainted bloodline, for reasons beyond MY understanding.”

“They must,” you acknowledge, faintly recalling a dream to that effect.

“Speaking of failed and outcast bloodlines,” the Novice mockingly segues, “the leader of these outcast elves requests your presence.”

“Jazkarmel?” you clarify, receiving a nod. “Very well.”

“Are you feeling well enough?” the Novice Fleshweaver asks, unable to hide some concern from her voice.

“I am,” you affirm, unwilling to admit otherwise—and, admittedly, you do feel better than one might expect.
>>
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>>5394476
When you find Jazkarmel, ‘Princess’ of these Drow, she is in her quarters. You aren’t entirely clear how long you’ve been unconscious, or what time it is in relation to the now-distant sun, but the old-but-ageless elf is quietly imbibing some of the red-brown mushroom wine of her people when you come upon her.

“Princess,” you greet her.

“King,” she returns the favour.

You hesitate. You will soon be meeting the queen of the dark elves. To impress and intimidate the bugbears—and, to a lesser extent, the Drow—you have affected the title of Dragon King at time. But… It is a lieu. In truth, you are a temporary regent, ruling the Bloodrise temporarily and in service to the Serpent Priests. You are not even a true Dragonborn—merely a half-blooded Dragonblooded Reptilian, like the Bastard, but with the further demerit of human admixture thanks to your Degenerate mother. You know that your claim to kingship is weak, if one were to go by bloodline alone, and that the Chaplain is unlikely to rgant it.

What style of address will you affect?
>Dragonborn Champion will suffice—it is true, without unearned, unappointed gradiosity
>Antipaladin of the Dark Gods seems appropriate, and perhaps more accurate
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it
>Write-in
>>
>>5394477
When you find Jazkarmel, ‘Princess’ of these Drow, she is in her quarters. You aren’t entirely clear how long you’ve been unconscious, or what time it is in relation to the now-distant sun, but the old-but-ageless elf is quietly imbibing some of the red-brown mushroom wine of her people when you come upon her.

“Princess,” you greet her.

“King,” she returns the favour.

You hesitate. You will soon be meeting the queen of the dark elves. To impress and intimidate the bugbears—and, to a lesser extent, the Drow—you have affected the title of Dragon King at time. But… It is a lieu. In truth, you are a temporary regent, ruling the Bloodrise temporarily and in service to the Serpent Priests. You are not even a true Dragonborn—merely a half-blooded Dragonblooded Reptilian, like the Bastard, but with the further demerit of human admixture thanks to your Degenerate mother. You know that your claim to kingship is weak, if one were to go by bloodline alone, and that the Chaplain is unlikely to rgant it.

What style of address will you affect?
>Dragonborn Champion will suffice—it is true, without unearned, unappointed gradiosity
>Antipaladin of the Dark Gods seems appropriate, and perhaps more accurate
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it
>Write-in
>>
>>5394477
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it

There are no other claimants and we must look strong to create lasting alliances
>>
>>5394265
Mostly recovered!
>>
>>5394478
>Dragonborn Champion will suffice—it is true, without unearned, unappointed gradiosity

>tfw still not an antipaladin
>>
>>5394477
>>5394478
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it
>>
>>5394478
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it
>>
>>5394478
>Copper King of Bloodrise IS accurate, insofar as these mammals need be concerned—and, as far as you’re concerned, you’ve earned it.
>>
>>5394549
>>5394627
>>5394687
>>5394703
>>5394727
“Yes,” you agree. “The Copper King of Bloodrise.”

It’s the truth, more or less. Perhaps, one day,in some fashion, it will be yet MORE accurate than it is now.

The two of you discuss recent events—the trade of the company towns, the ‘betrayal’ of the bugbears and subsequent discovery of their undead enslavement. Among the topics of discussion, though, one takes pre-eminence.

“Why the urgency?” you inquire, unable to hold back your curiosity. “The last missive I received implied a time-sensitivity.”

Jazkarmel hesitates, as if uncertain whether to trust you with this information.

“Queen Myrymma will wish to meet with you before…” she pauses. “She’ll wish to meet with you soon.”

You begin to speak up, to ask why, but Jazkarmel cuts you off.

“You don’t plan to meet with my queen like THIS, do you?” she asks, bemused and incredulous.

“I am still healing,” you note, a little defensively. “I will recover before we arrive. MY physician tells me I have quite the resilience against poison.”

“Not that,” she waves you off, and then gestures to… The rest of you.


“…What are you getting at?” you ask.

“These clothes. This hair!” Jazkarmel exclaims, reaching out to flip your hair with her dark, elegant fingers. “You look like… Barbarian! Shaggy mountain-man, bare-chested and unkempt.”

You narrow your eyes, and she grins a little mischievously.

“Could do with proper makeover, to meet a royal,” she suggests.

>You are perfect fine to meet with any lowly mammal-monarch, thank you very much
>Very well, allow the Drow to give you a ‘makeover’ of hair and dress
>Actually, you have a hairstyle and attire in mind, and the plundered riches to pay for exactly what you had in mind… [Please specify, with visual aids if applicable]
>Oh no, she won’t distract you that easily—press Jazkarmel for information on the winter ball and the queen’s urgency of meeting
>Write-in

>>5394478
That feel when you realize several hours later that you accidentally double-posted, rather than posting the final part of your two-part vote, and yet it still flows pretty alright
>>
>>5394743
>Very well, allow the Drow to give you a ‘makeover’ of hair and dress

I trust elf fashion sense over anything we can manage
>>
>>5394743
>Very well, allow the Drow to give you a ‘makeover’ of hair and dress

You need a proper makeover to get elf pussy (for political reasons)
>>
>>5394743
>Oh no, she won’t distract you that easily—press Jazkarmel for information on the winter ball and the queen’s urgency of meeting
>Very well, allow the Drow to give you a ‘makeover’ of hair and dress
>>
>>5394763
Supporting
>>
>>5394763
Support
>>
>>5394743
>Very well, allow the Drow to give you a ‘makeover’ of hair and dress
Now we will have an edgy leather-and-metal garnements with girl-with-problems-with-her-father haircut.
>>
>>5394743
>Oh no, she won’t distract you that easily—press Jazkarmel for information on the winter ball and the queen’s urgency of meeting
>Actually, you have a hairstyle and attire in mind, and the plundered riches to pay for exactly what you had in mind
Get royal armor like we had in the beginning. Last thing we need is getting done like Geralt when meeting the king in some emasculating tight faggot clothes.
>Shave your gross monkey hair
We really gotta ask Novice to clean our lizard scalp for good.
>>5394477
Picrel doesn't have spiky ears!
>>
[Early staff meeting today, so the update will have to wait until after work!]
>>
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>>5394757
>>5394761
>>5394763
>>5394840
>>5394883
>>5394943
>>5394964
You idly run your talons through your accursed monkey hair, suddenly a little self-conscious of your appearance. Would that you could get rid of the shock of hair completely, you would… But no. Perhaps one day, with the Novice’s help, you can eliminate I t completely. Simply shaving it is a fruitless endeavor, though—you know that much from your embarrassing childhood attempts. It grew it too swiftly, too thickly, a bristly layer that simple served to accentuate the attempt to conceal your defect, and thus embarrassed you further by highlighting your emotional vulnerability. Even now, you cringe to recall the taunts of the Novice Fleshweaver—back when she was simply Chaplains’ Daughter—and her cadre of young Serpents.

Still… When among the Drow, perhaps it is best to do as the Drow do? Certainly, it can’t hurt to make the best imrpesison possible upon the Queen fo Elves.

“Very well,” you graciously allow, and Jazkarmel’s smirk extends.

“Don’t think you’ve distracted me, though,” you add. “I would hear the reason for this urgent call to action, Princess.”

That dashes her mirth upon the rocks of your persistence, breaking her smile. She sighs, and nods.

“We will speak of this after you are sized for armour,” she says, “and while your hair is washed and styled.”

“You would speak so freely of… Sensitive matters, in front of your servants?” you ask, as much out of genuine curiosity as to angle for a hint as to the hidden purpose behind her insistent summons.

“In True Speech,” she suggests, in the tongue of your own people. “Few Drow speak it, so far.”

The process of being measured for armour is awkward. Elves—elf-men, you think—encircle you with knotted silken threads, this way and that, touching you freely and moving your limbs about without a word. You instinctively ush against their gentle, guiding hands, tail lashing in discomfort at how freely they invade your personal space. Jazkarmel’s expression is reassuring and affirming, though; it holds the assurance that all this is normal, and amusement at how you fidget. You force yourself to stop, to simply endure the process until completion.

“The winter solstice is an important time,” Jazkarmel tells you, as the elven tailors attend to their business, pressing segments of leather and chitin to your body at various points and marking out contours and measurements in chalk upon their materials. “It is… End of a season.”

“Yes,” you acknowledge, a little uncertainly. “Well, the middle of a season, traditionally.”

Jazkarmel shakes her head, clarifying: “The end of… a SEASON.”

You stare, and she sighs.

“Your tongue lacks the words,” she laments. “It is the end of the season of female rule, and the beginning to the season of transition. It is when the Queen and Princesses relinquish leadership, in stages, to a King and Princes.”
>>
>>5395842
Ah. You nod, slowly. This is, of course, the right way of things. Males are superior to females, better suited to rational and decisive leadership. This is ESPECIALLY true in military matters and outward-facing diplomacy, which are naturally the purview of the male mind. Still, you can see why this would be troubling to PRINCESS Jazkarmel… And it is not lost on you that your invitation came from the QUEEN of Elves. The relationship between your peoples has, to this point, been entirely the province of females. You have no experience whatsoever with their male leadership.

After you are sized and measured for your armour, you are next stripped down to your breeches. Your protests are muted, however, for the elf-men are gone, and in their place is a lithe and beauteous elf-maid, with long white hair not unlike finely-separated silk, scented with an uncanny odour of spice and sweetness and with a coolly-intrigued expression. She lacks the definitive thickness of, for instance, dwarven females… But elves have a charm all their own, which makes the process by which she manoeuvres your head and tilts your head backwards into a basin filled with cooled water more enjoyable than it would otherwise be.

It’s almost—but not QUITE—enough to put you at ease, even in light of the deadly knife which she produces to slice, shave, and style your hair in some elven fashion.

“You have brought the Sword of Endymion,” Jazkarmel notes, drawing a brief, sharp looking from her hair-stylist at the mention of the name, though she still speaks in your tongue apart from this.

“The moon-blade, yes,” you acknowledge warily.

You have bound it in silk, but still she recognizes it—well she might, since you showed it to her before.

“It is a powerful symbol,” she notes, pausing. “If you were to present it to the Queen—”

“It is MINE,” you interrupt, in a tone which broaches no argument.

“The greed of dragons,” she laughs. “I have heard of this.”

“I earned this blade,” you reply levelly, trying not to shift too much lest your barber nick your scalp, “by slaying your ancient enemy, where your people could not.”

Jazkarmel narrows her eyes, but nods, acquiescing.

“The support of the hero who did this thing, and the ally who has helped us to conquer territory aboveground… It is still a powerful thing. In the winter-turning-springtime, that ‘season’, it is a time when things are… In flux. They can progress swiftly, or slowly, from female to male. It is not until spring when bucks must parade for does, and establish their dominance in a grand tournament. Only in springtime-turning-summer do the Kings and Princes assert full dominion, without question. You could… Extend the current season of rule, hold the elf-men at bay until our alliance is strengthened.”
>>
>>5395844
The elf-maiden rinses your remaining, thinned-and-cropped hair with a perfumed substance. Her fingers linger, her body hovers close to you. Her scent enters your nostrils, fills them with that sweet-spice. Slowly, face impassive but eyes curious, she settles into your lap, straddling you.

“There is much we are prepared to offer,” Princess Jazkarmel whispers, narrowing her eyes and smiling slyly. “To a steady and reliable ally.”

How do you reply?
>Accept this offer—an elven courtesan, a reliable ally in Jazkarmel, and the backing of the Elf Queen
>Agree to aid Jazkarmel in this power-play for her fairer sex… But refuse the courtesan, to make it clear you are not so easily manipulated
>Refuse the offer—you will hear out the Elf Queen AND her kingly counterpart, and settle upon an ally when you have heard both offers
>Refuse categorically—if it is the season for male sovereignty, more is the better, since that is the natural order of things among civilized races
>Make a counter-offer, if Jazkarmel wants your backing so badly [specify what you want]
>Write-in
>>
>>5395846
>Make a counter-offer

Not voting for this (yet) - but what is something we could realistically demand with our in-game knowledge QM?

The she-elves seem pretty desperate…
>>
>>5395883
[If you can't think of anything you really, really want, perhaps there's nothing else you need. I believe that some of you clever anons will think of something...]
>>
>>5395846
>Accept this offer—an elven courtesan, a reliable ally in Jazkarmel, and the backing of the Elf Queen

we can take the deal to make her think we're easily manipulated, only to not be easily manipulated later
200 IQ play
>>
>>5395846
>>5395846
>Make a counter-offer, if Jazkarmel wants your backing so badly
>Request a formal religious conversion from the Queen, we do not sup with unbelievers lest they poison the mushroom sins.
>Request a princely ward, preferably one who is an underdog in the Drow succession, if he were to return and win the Drow tournament praising The Serpent Ascendant, and wielding the moon-blade (temporarily) perhaps many pf his peers would soon join him in worship of The Sun-Eater.

Gotta get the female and male leaders converted. I’m sure we could manage training one of the Drow to be good enough fighter to win an elf tournament. Gotta prepare for when the queen retires.
>>
>>5396042
*poison the mushroom wine

hate phoneposting
>>
>>5396042
Sir, you have my support.
>>
>>5396042
Not sure if we can swing a ward and conversion - but I like the gumption

Plus, we don’t need some elves slut
>>
>>5395846
>Accept this offer—an elven courtesan, a reliable ally in Jazkarmel, and the backing of the Elf Queen
>>
>>5395846
>Accept this offer—an elven courtesan, a reliable ally in Jazkarmel, and the backing of the Elf Queen
The conversion may happen (and should be encouraged), but the princely ward may prove counterproductive, especially if you explain the reasoning (ie beating the female season), and the ward may not even be a contender in the King’s succession (we don’t know Drow politics or traditions, it all seems Byzantine at best). Better to accept the deal now and then work out way into them accepting a joining of two kingdoms later.

Either that, or some of their land. More land would be nice.
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>>5396198
>>5396186
>>5396172
>>5396139
>>5396042
>>5396025
[By my count, we seem to have a tie! I'll leave the vote open until after work, and check in then.]

Backlink your 1-post ID votes!
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>>5396042
+1 to this. Seems well thought out to me.
>>
>>5396139
I Am >>5394943, the jumpiest IP-hopper phoneposter of the board
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>>5395846
Don’t cuck my dawg Olu
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>>5396042
+1 to avoid cucking
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>>5395846
>Accept this offer—an elven courtesan, a reliable ally in Jazkarmel, and the backing of the Elf Queen
>>
>>5396515
>>5396517
Uhh, that’s just the elven courtesan lad. Jaz is there for political support. There’s no mention of cucking Olu.
>>
>>5396198
How would the ward be counterproductive? The females are eventually going to be displaced in favor of the males because of Drow culture, we aren’t accelerating their resign, we’re in fact delaying it. All we’re doing is getting our own contender for the male throne ready.

He doesn’t even need to win, all he needs to do is show impressive improvement that the Drow will associate with his new worship of the Dark gods. That way their will be at least some concerts on the male side of things.

I see at least asking for conversion and a ward better than basically taking the queen’s words (she hasn’t actually promised us anything concrete) and a courtesan to fuck. Accepting the deal as is, is terrible. We gave the Drow so much territory and all we get back is their words?! Unacceptable. I want conversion.
>>
>>5395846
>Refuse the offer—you will hear out the Elf Queen AND her kingly counterpart, and settle upon an ally when you have heard both offers
t.>>5394964
>>
>>5396314

This vote here >>5396172 is back-linked to here >>5395883
>>
>>5396637
Counterproductive to them, I mean. Why give your ally control of the opposition party’s future, when you’re going to need them to maintain power? If you explain the plan, they will sabotage it.

Second, as funny as it would be to groom a elf older than us to become a Dark God puppet, they’ll have older leaders that will take the position of King. At best, it’s a long term strategy that’ll bear fruit long after we’re dead.

I can agree to the conversation attempt, hell, maybe it’ll force the males to convert to try a court our support, I just don’t see the ward thing working out. Besides, we still have enormous leverage, and taking the deal doesn’t mean we have to keep it if someone else offers a better one.

It should be something like
>Then I accept your offer… if the Queen converts.
Not
>Your unbeliever Queen must convert or else I’ll be poisoned, and I want a ward from your largest rival faction to groom as your replacement.
Like, come on. We have more tact than that.
>>
>>5396807
I think you’re taking the flavor text in my vote too literally. Also why are you assuming that the factions are solely divided along gender lines? You don’t think that there’s a single male out there that shares the queen’s political interests? One that she would rather have in charge than the current kingly successor? A king is an eventuality, not a possibility. Im sure the Queen has a preference to who she wants to rule as king and would send them to us,
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>>5396852
>Also why are you assuming that the factions are solely divided along gender lines?
Because it’s been described that way. They’re gender obsessed mate.
>You don’t think that there’s a single male out there that shares the queen’s political interests? One that she would rather have in charge than the current kingly successor?
If that was true they’d be more focused on getting him into power than trying to obstruct the natural flow of their succession for their own benefit. Occam's razor lad.
>A king is an eventuality, not a possibility.
Then why try to usurp the process with a third party? With us in the picture, it isn’t an eventuality anymore.
>Im sure the Queen has a preference to who she wants to rule as king and would send them to us,
I don’t think that’s true at all, but even if it was, why allow us to do it? Why not herself or her faction groom the new King? It just doesn’t make much sense.
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>>5396697
>>5396592
>>5396517
>>5396319
>>5396198
>>5396186
>>5396172
>>5396139
>>5396042
>>5396025

You eye the offering placed before you appraisingly. The courtesan—for whatever role this female placed before you normally holds, this is clearly the role which she presently fills—regards you in-kind. She does not shrink away when you place your claws upon her hips, but not does she demure or melt, as Davora the herbalist would have. This interaction is not repulsive to her, evidently, but she also seems to regard it with a detached professionalism, as a transaction.

She frowns only slightly when you lift her up and set her down on her feet, and stand to face her master.

“It is tempting,” you admit, perhaps underselling the degree to which you’d been genuinely considering this, “but I am here for state business, not… Trifling pleasure.”

You speak the words in the True Speech, and so the hair stylist-turned-courtesan regards her commanding noble with a quizzical look. Jazkarmel nods to her, assuring her subordinate that all is well, and dismisses her.

“I had thought I knew your weakness,” Jazkarmel admits, when you are alone.

You say nothing.

“Queen Myrymma is… Eager to secure an alliance.”

“We have given the Drow much already… Territory and more.”

“We have paid for it with our swords, our arrows, and our blood,” Jazkarmel notes.

“So has my race,” you retort, ‘and we have seen little land as a result.”

“But ample treasure,” she quickly counters.

“More than ample to maintain the current terms of our working alliance,” you say, “but the Serpent Priests will want more than words.”

“Are you not King of the Mountains, then, making your own deals?” the Drow princess inquires.

“I, too, will want more than words.”

She sighs and nods, accepting the situation.

“What are your terms?”

“I wish to secure our alliance lastingly,” you say, “consecrated beneath the all-seeing eyes and eternal memory of the Dark Gods.”

Jazkarmel hesitates.

“To accept gods, any gods, in a formal capacity… It may be seen as weak, if the Queen of Elves does this,” she says slowly.

“Do you think the Dark Gods weak?” you ask, seriously. “What of me, their servant?”

Jazkarmel shakes her head, and shrugs.

“No, but what one leader of a small border patrol does and what the Queen of Elves does… These are very different things.”

“I understand, but this is what I and the Priesthood will require… From Queen Myrymma, or whoever succeeds her as leader of the elves. That your people embrace the True Faith is more important than who leads you, in the end.”

Jazkarmel cringes at that, but nods. She is a political creature, as well, and seems to understands the decision without taking personal offence.
>>
>>5397057

“It sounds as if the transition between female and male rule is not a possibility, but an eventuality,” you note, changing subjects for a moment. “Does your queen have a favoured successor?”

Jazkarmel narrows her eyes, and nods.

“There are Princes in her house, Yvonlace, considered worthy.”

“Sons?” you ask, curious to better understand the workings of this dark court.

Jazkarmel shakes her head, clarifying: “Brothers, cousins. Age is respected, and direct passing of rule to… Young elf, easy puppet… Is not. But there are males in her—our house—which may be a suitable fit."

"Then why involve me at all?" you ask.

Jazkarmel cringes, and you sense the answer: the males who they favour, who they feel are most manipulable, have weak claims. Hence the desire to delay, you’d wager—a convenient puppet would be best but, failing that, there is no guarantee that this Queen Myrymma can secure a favourable replacement from among her male relations without designs of his own. Perhaps she wishes more time to select and secure the debt of worthy successor, or to prop up a weaker candidate?

“If one of those who the Queen favours were to convert as well, and commit to our holy cause, perhaps he might ‘discover’ the Moon-sword of Endymion, in time for that tournament you spoke of.”

The implications are not lost on Jazkarmel, who grins and laughs at your daring,and at the possibilities.

“I did not know dragons were such clever schemers,” she notes.

Jazkarmel cannot make such high-level decisions on her queen’s behalf—she makes that clear enough. However, she seems intrigued, and you gain her assurance that she will petition Queen Myrymma on your behalf, and speak favourably of the proposal. You share a drink, and retire for a time.
>>
>>5397059

The next day, the Drow tailor-armourers bring you the fruits of their labours. It is your first time donning such equipment, but with the elves’ aid, you come to understand how to elaborate confabulation of leather straps and insect-chitin components fit together.

Your elven attire exposes altogether more skin than you expected, though a sleeveless tunic of rough, thick-woven silk backs it to avoid chafing; hardly necessary for one such as you, but you suppose it is a sensible precaution for thin-skinned, scaleless elves. Your forearms and talons are reinforced by gauntlets which, upon closer inspection, seem more ornamental than functional—they will guard you from small weapons, glancing blows from blades, but would hardly deflect the direct impact of a blunt weapon like a mace or maul with any effectiveness. Your thighs and the back of your calves are mostly bare, too, though greaves and boots protect the front of your legs, and a codpiece guards your genital slit with a rather unnecessary bulge and gap—a stylistic touch that seems to crudely imply perpetually-external mammalian genitals. Perhaps they simply couldn’t figure out how to shape that piece without something like that, or feared it would imply femininity?

The armour is flexible, at least, allowing room for future growth—through <Dragonshape> transformation or more permanent transfigurations; it seems your changed appearance since your last visit was not lost of Jazkarmel or her servants. Lending the whole affair a touch of personal livery, the chitin has been engraved and stained with some yellowish ochre, as if to simulate the gold-and-black colour scheme which you wore upon your first visit to these people; the engravings are winding, serpentine designs, clearly meant to evoke a great snake or dragon. The chest-piece is sturdy, as well, multilayered and thick; it bares a fearsome, fanged visage with draconic horns.

As a finishing touch, the stylist-courtesan (now wearing the same light armour as the males, and as you) joins her male counterparts. She steps close—close enough for you to get a whiff of that enticing aroma one more time—and pins your hair in place, in an elaborate arrangement of braids and bun.

“It is good,” Jazkarmel notes, looking you up and down with clear approval.

Do you concur?

>Yes, it’s actually what you had in mind when you forsook the heavier plate
>No, but you will wear it for now—until you can replace it properly, for the sake of politeness
>No, you feel ridiculous. You’re shaving your head, putting your cloak back on, and forgetting this whole embarrassing escapade
>>
>>5397061

Following the make-over, the elves begin to prepare to escort you deeper—literally and figuratively, for the route leads down—to their hidden capitol. You wonder what to expect of such a place. It occurs to you that you have only ever seen the most distant outpost of this reclusive race, but you have heard of the beauteous and elaborate courts of their surface cousins, deep in the verdant and magical forests which host their highest echelons. Can you expect similar from the Drow?

While the elves attend to their preparations, you make ready for the journey ahead in your own way: you attend to matters here in the camp. For you, that means…

>Speaking with the Elf-Specialist, your liaison who you left here last time, to inquire with him about the elves [what do you wish to know?]
>Assembling some of the loyal, religiously-converted elves, to form an entourage of your own
>Practicing your swordplay and archery with Olu, to keep your skills sharp and impress your strength upon the elves here
>Studying magic with the Novice Fleshweaver and the Throat-singer—perhaps Jazkarmel could attend, as well, and teach you something of elven magic?
>Paying a visit to Glowie—after all, the worm-princess’ pupation and brooding must be nearing their final phases, and it has been too long since you have last communed with your first mate

[Please select only one or two of these, as you have a limited time before you depart]

[Write-ins are allowed for both votes.]
>>
>>5397061
>No, but you will wear it for now—until you can replace it properly, for the sake of politeness
heavy plate is BASED

>Assembling some of the loyal, religiously-converted elves, to form an entourage of your own
They can give us better info than even the elf specialist

>Paying a visit to Glowie—after all, the worm-princess’ pupation and brooding must be nearing their final phases, and it has been too long since you have last communed with your first mate
if we have time
>>
>>5397162
Supporting.

The armour sounds good - but I just feel that we’re a heavy plate kinda guy…
>>
>>5397061
>Yes, it’s actually what you had in mind when you forsook the heavier plate

>Assembling some of the loyal, religiously-converted elves, to form an entourage of your own

>Studying magic with the Novice Fleshweaver and the Throat-singer—perhaps Jazkarmel could attend, as well, and teach you something of elven magic?

I want to learn more moon magic
>>
>>5397061
>Yes, but can they make heavy plate version for future combat use?
>Speaking with the Elf-Specialist, your liaison who you left here last time, to inquire with him about the elves [what do you wish to know?]
The elites, maybe he's heard more about the queen and her favorites.
>Assembling some of the loyal, religiously-converted elves, to form an entourage of your own

So are we giving the nat100 Moonblade away to them? Maybe we could make this a behind-curtains deal where we give the favored prince the real thing for the show, but then they forge a 1:1 replica and return the original thing to us, at least?
>>
>>5397062
>>Studying magic with the Novice Fleshweaver and the Throat-singer—perhaps Jazkarmel could attend, as well, and teach you something of elven magic?
>>Paying a visit to Glowie—after all, the worm-princess’ pupation and brooding must be nearing their final phases, and it has been too long since you have last communed with your first mate
>>
>>5397061
>Yes, it’s actually what you had in mind when you forsook the heavier plate

>>5397062
>Studying magic with the Novice Fleshweaver and the Throat-singer—perhaps Jazkarmel could attend, as well, and teach you something of elven magic?
>Paying a visit to Glowie—after all, the worm-princess’ pupation and brooding must be nearing their final phases, and it has been too long since you have last communed with your first mate
>>
[Dogging it a little today, so I think it's going to be a one-update day again. Sorry! Will write after work.]
>>
>>5397062
>No, but you will wear it for now—until you can replace it properly, for the sake of politeness

>Assembling some of the loyal, religiously-converted elves, to form an entourage of your own

>Paying a visit to Glowie—after all, the worm-princess’ pupation and brooding must be nearing their final phases, and it has been too long since you have last communed with your first mate
>>
>>5397328
Support

>>5397230
I’m not giving the Moonblade up unless it allows us to control the Drow in totality. No half measures, no alliance, no puppets, de facto and de jure control.
>>
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>>5398053
>>5397522
>>5397328
>>5397250
>>5397230
>>5397187
>>5397180
>>5397162

To your surprise, you find the elven armour increasingly comfortable, the longer you wear it. While you can’t deny you miss the weight and protection of your old suit of armour, this new, lighter set offers infinitely more mobility. You’re lighter on your feet, quieter when you walk. While you might no longer cut the same terrifying and imposing figure beneath the mystery of your helm, this leather armour afford you the full benefit of your agility and athleticism. You feel faster, freer… And honestly, quiet debonair.

“You look ridiculous!” The Novice Fleshweaver cackles when she sees you. “What is this attire? And WHAT did you do with your fur?”

“It is dark elf regalia, custom-designed,” you sniff.

“Are you going to a diplomatic summit, or a breeding pit?” she mocks.

“So when you see me in this suit, your mind immediately turns to coitus?” you ask.

That shuts her up, and you hold back a chuckle of your own.

The Drow who you earlier converted prove a more receptive audience. The young males—well, perhaps ‘young’ might be overstating things, given how elves age—regard your new ornamented armour with respect, one quietly whistling in appreciation.

“I am going to the capitol,” you tell them in their own tongue, “to meet with the Queen of Elves, and I wish to be accompanied by elf-men who have witnessed the glory of the Gods of Darkness. Who here will join me?”

You have no shortage of recruits from among your admiring acolytes. These disciples, who bore witness to the vision in the cave those months ago, have apparently attended the sermons of your Elf-Specialist with increased dedication and fervor. They leap at the opportunity to display their piety now, and eagerly take in your tales of conquest and conversion of the dwarves. The Drow scoff and mock at the Throat-singer as the sole present representative of that defeated race, but luckily they do so in their own tongue; still, he seems to sense the insult to some degree, and sullenly avoids subsequent conferences with these elf-men.

Well worth it, regardless. Let the elven court see the influence you and your gods already wield! They should know that their own people see the depth of value in your alliance, ad the superiority of your faith to their dejected atheism.
>>
>>5398097
There is one other whom you owe a visit, though—one more important even than elves, perhaps. You ask Jazkarmel how Glowie is doing. When you last left the glow-worm, she was early in her metamorphic process, embedded in the heart of a great cocoon, transforming from ‘princess’ to a proper insectoid empress… And preparing to lay the eggs which contain your offspring.

“This was the other reason I asked for you to hurry,” Jazkarmel explains. “The elves attending to her say she is soon to emerge.”

That IS big news—even if perhaps it is silly and sentimental of you to think of it as such. You can’t help it. You travel with brisk footfalls to the hidden silk-filled grotto where the two slim elven androgenes (skilled in the peculiarities of arthropod midwifery in service to the spiders, centipedes, and beetles who often accompany darke-lf scouts) attend to Glowie’s needs. They attempt to slow your approach, explaining the need for care and quiet, for she is apparently emerged, and resting.

“Her shell yet hardens,” one of the twin-like elves explains. “Her booklungs are still filling with fresh air, after so long in transformation.”

“She requires sleep,” the other explains. “You should only visit sparingly, until she—”

You shove past them, as politely as you can manage, assuring them that you will take all due precautions and cause the worm-woman no undue upset… But you desires to see her, and so you WILL see her.

And see her you do—ALL of her.

Glowie had warned you of the scope of her transformation, and her mother’s own titanic form had given you some idea of what to expect. Still, it is quite the a shock in spite of this. She lacks her mother’s tendinous, trailing egg-sack, though you can see the beginnings of one developing—even at its current ‘small’ size easily as large and heavy as two of you. Her body proper, one almost serpentine in shape, is now rigidly segmented coated in a thin, carapace of spines , spikes, and rolling domed shell. Her exterior coating, still hardening, is semi-transparent; behind its translucency, you can see the dark shapes of new, enlarged organs swelling and contracting in motion alternatingly rhythmic and spasmatic. Her head and limbs remain thin, gracile, but still longer and more heavily-armoured than once they were; where before she stood almost as tall as you, she now towers at twice your height, enough to fill much of the small space which she has been allocated…


Or she would, if she were not shrinking to the far edge of the room, grasping and tugging the remnants of her silken cocoon as if it were a blanket to cover her modesty. She says nothing—cannot form words, you suspect, in this form. Her Amulet of Disguise, useless now to transform and hide so fundamentally different a form, is clutched weakly to what passes for the insectoid behemoth’s chest.

“…Sorry.”
>>
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>>5398099

You hear the voice in your bones, in your mind, accompanied by that uncanny, unsettling hum which characterizes the communication you have exchanged with Glowie’s mother in the past. At first, you’re not sure what she is apologizing for—being unprepared for you, not being fully developed into her final form in time for your arrival, perhaps for the briefness of this visit which her attendants so insist upon? Then, you recall her confession of love to you those months ago, the enthusiasm with which she would cling, cuddle, caress… And you realize what she means:

‘Sorry I’m a monster.’

She trembles silently, her segmented compound eyes seemingly avoiding your own, looking as if she’d like nothing better than to crawl back in her cocoon and avoid your gaze.

How do you feel about this development?
>You feel awkward, uncertain what is expected of you, but wish to be polite to a friend and ally
>You feel embarrassed that you have bred with such a thing, and a little disgusted, though you do your best to hide it
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay
>Your heart hurts to see her like this, and you wish to bring her comfort and affection
>Write-in
>>
>>5398111
damn gurl u xbox hueg
>>
>>5398111
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay

>Remind her she is still your confidant and ally, and your 'queen'..and a friend
>>
>>5398111
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay
>Drum a rousing tune on her belly so our kids grow up to be strong
>>
>>5398111
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay

Only possible option
>>
>>5398111
>You feel embarrassed that you have bred with such a thing, and a little disgusted, though you do your best to hide it
repent
>>
>>5398111
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay

You're not a monster. Monster are defined by what they do, like the rust monster or the necromancer kobold, not their appearance. You are strong, and evolved, and still a dear friend, bearer of our children.
>>
>>5398111
>Your heart hurts to see her like this, and you wish to bring her comfort and affection
>>
>>5398111
>You empathize, as a being who grew up 'different' as well, and want her to be okay
>Your heart hurts to see her like this, and you wish to bring her comfort and affection
>>
Rolled 5 + 4 (1d8 + 4)

>>5398440
>>5398410
>>5398382
>>5398304
>>5398226
>>5398224
>>5398205
>>5398198

“By the Dark Gods, you have… Grown!”

The faint internal glow of the worm-princess dims slightly further. You recall your own difficult childhood, whereby you once suffered the fate of the transformed outcast. Your pubescence only brought yet more ‘difference’, more ostracization, until finally you were large and imposing enough that even the Serpent Priestlings and high-born clan heirs dares not openly mock you… Well, save the Novice. Glowie’s transformation is more dramatic, but you think you understand her fear of rejection.

You hastily amend your faux pas: “You have grown STRONG. Evolved! I am impressed.”

You probingly approach and, when none of her unsettling segmented appendages lashes out at you, you part the curtain of silk and reach out to take Glowie’s strange hand in yours. The fingers are weirdly shaped, oddly proportioned, but still modeled after a Reptilian talon; compared to much of the rest of her body, thick and swollen, they are thin, gracile, almost delicate. Her fingers instinctively intertwine with yours, and she squeezes your hand with hers and meets your eyes nervously.

“You… Still like me?” Glowie asks, in that psychic vibrato.

“Of course,” you reply. “You are a dear friend, and the mother of my children.”

Glowie emits a small, surprisingly-cute chirping hum, accompanied by a strobing of her bioluminescence. Refracted through her gem-like, half-hardened shell, it is a rather pretty effect. You stand there with her, hands clasped, appreciating the light-show. Gradually, Glowie’s elongated and engorged body unfurls, and she presses her thorax and head segments closer to you, attempting to emulate your height and simulate standing by your side by holding much of her voluminous form in reserve, curled around the edge of the cave. Eventually, her trembling seems to calm, and she rests her head against your shoulder.

“You look different, too,” she notes, the vibration now quieter, and more intimate.

Ah, the new armour, and the haircut. You explain the situation, and tell her of the upcoming diplomatic mission.

“You look nice,” she chirps happily, nuzzling closer, seemingly savouring your warmth and scent. “My king…”
>>
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>>5398497
The cavern thrums with the quiet melody of Glowie’s apparently favourite tune: that ‘love song’ which she so frequently hums in your presence. You begin to grow nervous, and lightly pat her flank to signal the need for space, which she grants.

“And what of the eggs?” you ask.

Glowie chirps excitedly, and beckons you towards her truncated, bloated egg-sack. Curling in on herself so as to keep her head and torso by your side, ‘walking’ with you, she curls in upon herself so as to encircle you. Then, the worm-woman contracts some unknown sphincter, flexes a series of squirming muscles, and the egg-sack retracts to reveal a gooey, luminous clump of strange, oblong ovoids.

>Rolled 5 + 4

You recognize them for what they are: eggs. Nine eggs! They are unlike your own race’s, unlike the egg from which you hatched (well, you presume at least, for you ARE a hybrid with a half-human mother). They more resemble strange, exotic fruits: ridged, oblong, pointy-capped constructions of chitinous shell. Like Glowie’s own developed exoskeleton, the eggs are translucent; you can SEE your sons developing! To your consternation, they resemble nothing so much as strange, wriggling grubs at present, carrying no evident sign of draconic might or Reptilian mastery in their form, but Glowie reassures you that they are still quite embryonic, and far from their final stages of development.

“When will they hatch?” you ask.

Glowie hesitates to answer, admitting ignorance of how the Novice fleshweaver’s meddling might affect the gestation process.

“And our sons are the FIRST warriors like this to ever be born!” the new mother enthuses. “They will conquer and consume all who oppose them!... But first, they must be fed, feast. They must grow.”

That could be problematic, here in this place. The Drow are not exactly ‘food secure’, from what you have seen. Their rations are spartan, their diets limited, their size shrunken relative to the surface elves you have seen and heard tell of. Can they afford to properly feed your developing brood of monstrous children, so that they might grow to their fullest draconic potential? Then again, they offer security…

>Suggest to Glowie that she should take the eggs to hatch and develop in the Devourer’s old territory—though she’ll have to beware the zombie-Bogbarri, potentially
>Propose that Glowie come with you back to the Bloodrise, so she may raise her young on the abundant nutrition of the surface-forests below the mountains
>Advise that Glowie should remain here, but keep the young fed sparingly, so they all survive but do not outgrow their confines here too quickly and thus starve themselves
>Warn that some of your sons must likely be sacrificed, so that the others can grow to their full potential without laving the security of the Drow-realms
>Write-in
>>
>>5398507
>>Propose that Glowie come with you back to the Bloodrise, so she may raise her young on the abundant nutrition of the surface-forests below the mountains
Full commit to the dracon-worm scion gambit.
>>
>>5398507
>Propose that you take some of the eggs back with you to Bloodrise, so you can feed them there and the Drow are not overburdened.
Hopefully we can retain stealth this way. Funny though, I thought we were short on food everywhere. Did the farming choices pay off already?
>>
>>5398507
>Propose that Glowie come with you back to the Bloodrise, so she may raise her young on the abundant nutrition of the surface-forests below the mountains

Glowie's spooky, but she's also a scion of the Dark Gods like us. Might be a good time to reveal our insectoid allies and how crucial they've been to keeping everyone fed and provided the construction materials needed for shelter, when we return.
>>
>>5398563
[The holdings in Bloodrise are also short on food, but have a clearer path to prosperity (culling all the unproductive and elderly slaves, trading surplus ore and gems with mammalian civilziations via disguised agents or your great-worm supply chain). The Drow forward encampment seems to have very limited food production, and the Drow you've met all show signs of poor nutrition. If they have easy ways to remedy that, besides growing their own Bloodrise settlements, you're not aware of them.]
>>
>>5398507
>Suggest to Glowie that she should take the eggs to hatch and develop in the Devourer’s old territory—though she’ll have to beware the zombie-Bogbarri, potentially

We’ll deal with the bogbarri on the way back. I’d rather Glowie form her own colony so she doesn’t sap our food resources.
>>
>>5398507
>Suggest to Glowie that she should take the eggs to hatch and develop in the Devourer’s old territory—though she’ll have to beware the zombie-Bogbarri, potentially
>>
>>5398507
>Propose that Glowie come with you back to the Bloodrise, so she may raise her young on the abundant nutrition of the surface-forests below the mountains

We need to give the children a strong father figure bros
>>
Rolled 100 (1d100)

>>5399157
>>5398799
>>5398747
>>5398576
>>5398563
>>5398509
The decision is a difficult one. Glowie is unsettling. Her new form is impressive, and not as off-putting as she or you might have expected, but her very nature and purpose makes her… Spooky. More importantly, your own settlement’s food security situation is hardly better than that of the Drow. However, you have plans in motion to rectify that, and it is vital that your sons understand their legacy and purpose as allies—scions, even—of the Master Race, and not as hostile replacements.

“When I return from this diplomatic visit, you should return to Bloodrise with me,” you tell Glowie.

Her humming grows louder, and despite her best efforts to remain unobtrusive and to not draw attention to her bulging and bulbous rear extremities, the newly-minted worm-queen begins to sway and wiggle in that pendulous dance which characterizes her kind’s celeberations. You swear you can see the growing grubs do likewise, in the shining mucous-membranes beneath their rubbery shells.

You leave Glowie on that pleasant note, departing her chambers and returning to the dark elves and to your entourage. They are waiting for you, eager to begin the journey to the Drow heartlands, and the court of the Queen-for-the-Season. Jazkarmel’s personal retainers regard your newly-expanded roster with open curiosity, even suspicion; however, Jazkarmel herself says nothing, and none of her subordinates are bold enough to raise the issue without her backing. Your combined party, numbering nearly just under two dozen members (depending on if one counts the Throat-singer or Junior Novice), sets out as one.

The journey is no short jaunt, as it turns out. This elven camp is nearly as far from their homeland as it is from your kind’s northern forward base—a week, by foot. Like your own race, the dark elves keep their true heartlands dep in the earth. However, unlike the span between your forward base and the nearest true Reptilian enclave, the Drow do not seem to routinely patrol and clear the underground road, nor to maintain it; perhaps they cannot, or perhaps they consider the wild, rough-hewn state to be beneficial in the way of camouflage against outsiders’ trespass.

Regardless, it also proves a liability in other ways, even to experienced deep-rangers, for it proves to be home to all manner of menaces.
>>
>>5399294
OH BOY
>>
>>5399294
Nice roll.
>>
>>5399294
>>5399316
>>5399318

At first, your elven guides seem untroubled by the disturbances, such that your hardly register them as such. It begins with brief pauses, during which the Drow furtively whisper amongst themselves, then seem to abruptly reorient and change directions.

“Cave-ins and earthquakes sometimes shift and change the paths,” Jazkarmel explains, seemingly untroubled.

Her demeanour remains just as relaxed when the first few oozes appear. They are black, slime mould-like blobs of protoplasmic gelatin, moving with sluglike locomotion towards you. One manages to drop from the ceiling and to splatter upon one a ranger’s jumping spider companion, paralyzing and encasing it; the ambushing slime-being is skewered and stomped, but the spider is written off as a lost cause—dead upon impact, as its handler sadly notes.

“Slimes are venomous,” the elf explains. “Paralyze, cause hallucinations… Many effects, none good.”

Relatively unarmoured as you are, you make note to avoid direct contact, even as the Novice Fleshweaver muses over the useful extraction of such properties—and, with a certain grim glee, speculates upon the knowledge she could glean from treating you if you were to be thus affected.

You sense a change in the elves as the journey continues, though. You begin to pay closer attention at each waypoint where they stop, picking up harshly-hissed words of disorientation and disagreement. You are no experienced explorer of the unknown yourself, but you have now traversed the underdark’s routs enough times to tell that something is wrong—that your journey is taking longer than expected, provisions are running low, and that your guides are losing confidence with their mental maps. Normally, you might chalk this up to mammalian incompetence, but you can’t imagine the Drow have survived this long, in such a harsh environment, if they are easily misled and waylaid on a familiar route through their own lands…

“And there’s something WRONG about the stone here,” the Trhoat-singer intimates darkly, during one rest-stop.

The Novice sniffs dismissively, but Olu asks him to elaborate, and the beardless dwarf-bard does, as best he can.

“I’m not sure,” he says, “but we dwarves NOW rock and stone… Its formation, its natural patterns… How it eroades, grows, shifts, schisms. This place… Feels WRONG, like it’s been… I don’t know. Warped. Broken, reformed, moulded… Like a child playing with clay.”

The ooze attacks grow more and more frequent, claiming first the lives of more bugs, and then a Drow scout, who leaves your immediate company to relieve himself and never returns; his fellows find his corpse, mostly-digested, meat rendered into yet more slimes. They slay them efficiently, but even the component globules still seem to wobble and writhe in a way that uncannily resembles continued life. You morbidly wonder if they have merely helped the odd organisms to reproduce by fission.
>>
>>5398652
Are we able to set some orders relating to food production before we leave to see the Queen?

This is a big issue we should try and remedy

As for the vote:
>Suggest to Glowie that she should take the eggs to hatch and develop in the Devourer’s old territory—though she’ll have to beware the zombie-Bogbarri, potentially
>>
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>>5399320

The situation comes to a head when you are awoken from your uneasy and hungry sleep, over a week into your journey, to the sound of the rattling yaps and plaintive wails of the Junior Novice. Your new armour is comfortable enough to sleep in, so you are quick to rush to his aid, as are several elves and Olu as well… But once there, you find the Novice’s experimental hybrid half-drenched in blacking, brackish jelly. For all his dragonblooded augmentations, his flapping wings and flailing limbs are helpless to do more than further entangle him into the expanding, consuming ooze’s rubbery membranes. He hurls handfuls of the sludge away, only to find still more in its place—as his flesh is eaten away, his nerves attacked by the slime-thing’s venom, it gathers and converts his organic matter to grow its own amorphous essence. You see hard shapes form in the secretions: shapes like floating eyes, organs or organelles, even teeth and claws in twisted parodies of malformed limbs.

“By the Dark Gods,” Oluwadamilare whispers, staring in horror.

>100

“This is not just slime,” Jazkarmel murmurs, suddenly at your side, projecting an eerie, purplish light from her ancestral mage-staff to illuminate the grisly scene. “This is… S̵̡̟̻̎̈́h̸͚͒ǒ̷̢g̸̬̪̓ǵ̷͖ö̶͙̙́͠ţ̶̭̒͛̈́h̵̰͆.”

The Drow shiver as one, as if a chill wind has passed through their ranks.

What do you do?
>Rush in to shop and scrape the ‘shoggoth’ slime from your pet/slave, before it consumes him!
>Let loose a blast of firebreath—it may injure the Junior Novice, but not so badly as inaction!
>Use one of your magic items or spells [which one?]
>Ask for more details on the so-called ‘shoggoth’—time is of the essence, and this will mean delay, but you need to know your enemy before you can act
>Flee this wretched place, letting the Junior Novice serve as a distracting repast for the monstrous ooze
>Write-in

>>5399322
Sorry, a half hour too late for that vote.
>>
>>5399323
>Let loose a blast of firebreath—it may injure the Junior Novice, but not so badly as inaction!

our boi HP lovecraft comin in with the FISH PEOPLE
>>
>>5399328
Fire purifies any infection.

Burn away the rot
>>
>>5399324
>Rush in to shop and scrape the ‘shoggoth’ slime from your pet/slave, before it consumes him!
>>
>>5399324
>Let loose a blast of firebreath—it may injure the Junior Novice, but not so badly as inaction!
>>
>>5399324
>Let loose a blast of firebreath—it may injure the Junior Novice, but not so badly as inaction!
BURN BABY BURN
>>
>>5399324
>Let loose a blast of firebreath—it may injure the Junior Novice, but not so badly as inaction!
>Use one of your magic items or spells [Ice]
Let’s create a Song of Ice and Fire.
>>
Rolled 7, 13, 9, 18 = 47 (4d20)

>>5399654
>>5399604
>>5399586
>>5399538
>>5399336
>>5399328
The Junior Novice is part-dragon himself, thanks to the machinations of you and the Novice Fleshweaver. For you, greater attunement to all things Dragon has come with increased resistance to the elements, ESPECIALLY to fire… So perhaps the same will hold true for Junior? Regardless, you’ve seen how chopping and lopping at this ‘shoggoth’ slime goes. Firebreath is the safest bet to end this threat for good!

You inhale, exhale, spray, and pray.

[DC 15/17]
>>
>>5399802
>18 vs. 17

The twisted, oozing abomination produces no audible response to your flames—no scream or wail, no roar or bellow. However, the poppin,g bubbling, and sloshing as it slides away from the Junior Novice’s agonized form to escape your dragonfire sounds like victory to you! You press your advantage, marching after the fleeing shoggoth and keeping the heat of your breath weapon on it until you are forced to stop to refill your lungs—fire and otherwise. By that time, all that is left is a greasy streak of char upon the ground.

You turn around, and see that the Junior Novice is not so badly off as that… But also not great. He may or may not be fire-resistant, but he is certainly not fire-IMMUNE, judging by the state of him. He struggles to his feet, indicating that the underlying damage is not so severe as the surface injuries would indicate, but that surface is NOT a pretty sight. He’s had patches of skin and flesh dissolved away, and is covered in a fine char and in reddening burns. Blood seeps off of him, leaving a trail as he limps away from the site of the attack, in a random direction and without any apparent plan aside from escaping the pain. He doesn’t get far before he doubles over, stopped by a spasm of agony.

Your other companions, by now roused by the commotion, see the results of this attack and quickly gather round—except the Novice, who rushes to Junior to attend to his injuries as best she can.

“Do you know how much time and IRREPLACEABLE material has been invested in this thing?!” she snarls. “I will not lose all this research to some… Slug!”

“What are we facing?” you demand of Jazkarmel, for you know it is no mere slug.

“Shoggoth,” she answers. “I have never encountered them, but there are… Tales. A mother-and-father of slimes… A creature with a thousand mouths and a million limbs, which oozes out from deepest places to consume any traveler it finds. Its limbs detach, squirm through crevices, capture prey and drag them back to the body in a hidden place.”

“What place?” Ivno asks nervously. “Where does it come from?”

Jazkarmel shakes her head, and answers: “Nobody knows. Few survive a shoggoth attack. Only one Drow that my people know of has ever survived being dragged to a shoggoth’s main body, and escaped to tell the tale… And she was mad, babbling. Her directions led to empty tunnels and caverns but… Wrong. We had scouts who knew this area, but the cave system there did not match those maps any more.”

“What do you mean?” you ask.

“Where the shoggoths go, things… Change. The stone shifts and wraps with their passage. Old tunnels seal, new tunnels open, and the minerals change.”

You recall the wary words of warning of the Throat-singer.
>>
>>5399818
“How do we kill it?” Olu the Archer asks, voice steady. Is he affecting confidence to impress his elven lover?

“We don’t,” Jazkarmel laments. “We escape, if we can.”

Her fatalism seems unwarranted. This ‘appendage’ of the shoggoth seems vulnerable to dragonfire, at least… But this grim diagnosis seems to be shared by all the Drow. Are they merely being superstitious, or is the main body of this ooze-monster so terrible?

“Rations are running low-low,” Ivno informs you, in private council. “Even with half-rations each day, we will last another week.”

“Our experiment is stabilized,” the Novice informs you, “but to make him suitable for a sustained fight would require several more days of treatment.”

“Imagine the glory if we kill another monster of elven legend?” Oluwadamilare enthuses, with that mad grin of his—the same one he wore when the two of you slew the Devourer.

“Imagine taking such a stupid risk to impress some monkeys?” the Novice jeers, silencing the Degenerate Archer before she turns back to you. “Do not be a fool, Dragonborn.”

Ivno and the Throat-singer remain silent, both well-aware their input is of lesser importance… But both obviously sharing the anxiety of the elves.

What do you do?
>Stay put for a time, long enough to fully mend the Junior Novice and to assess the threat; maybe you can scout the local area, do some light hunting and foraging to restock supplies and orient yourself?
>Get out of here with greatest haste—avoid conflict, and escape the zone of the shoggoth’s influence, before you are lost forevermore [use <Guidance?]
>Seek out the shoggoth’s main body, and end this threat forever—a True Dragon does not flee in fear, but finds and fries his foes! [use <Guidance?]
>Write-in
>>
>>5399819
>Seek out the shoggoth’s main body, and end this threat forever—a True Dragon does not flee in fear, but finds and fries his foes! [use Guidance if it doesn’t lock out Dragonshape]

Worst come to worst we have our divine favor that’ll act as a last resort. This is a nat 100 enemy which means nat 100 loot.
>>
>>5399819
>>Seek out the shoggoth’s main body, and end this threat forever—a True Dragon does not flee in fear, but finds and fries his foes! [use Guidance]

What he said
>>5399877
>>
>>5399819
>Get out of here with greatest haste—avoid conflict, and escape the zone of the shoggoth’s influence, before you are lost forevermore [use <Guidance?]
We get the FUCK out of "here". And coming back without fucking gasoline.
>>
>>5399819
My dawg olu is such a chad he ready
>>
>>5399819
>Seek out the shoggoth’s main body, and end this threat forever—a True Dragon does not flee in fear, but finds and fries his foes! [use <Guidance?]

forget vote
>>
>>5399819
>Stay put for a time, long enough to fully mend the Junior Novice and to assess the threat; maybe you can scout the local area, do some light hunting and foraging to restock supplies and orient yourself?
>>
>>5399877
+1
>>
>>5399877
Supporting + say a quick prayer with our followers before setting off

Serpent Ascendant Guide Us!
>>
File: maxresdefault.jpg (194 KB, 1280x720)
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Rolled 12, 3, 3 = 18 (3d20)

>>5400077
>>5400043
>>5399978
>>5399973
>>5399956
>>5399924
>>5399877
Your mana reserves are ample, and you are well-rested. Most importantly, you are a DRAGON. Dragons do not flee their foes, but meet them, conquer and dominate them, and take what is theirs to fill their hoards. The ex-Infiltrator called Oluwadamilare is right: this is the path of glory. You will show these elves the might of you and your Dark Gods. You utter a quiet prayer, and step forward.

“We will seek out this ‘shoggoth’,” you announce to all those assembled who can understand the elven-tongue, “and end it, once and for all.”

“Dragonborn, this is folly,” Jazkarmel warns, quietly.

“Far be it for me to agree with mammals,” the Novice notes, when you reiterate your point in the True Speech, “but is diversion really profitable or productive? Or are you simply risking all our safety, AND our mission, to further inflate your overlarge ego?”

“Are you telling me that the biochemistry of these entities is of no interest to you, oh Prodigy-Among-Fleshweavers?”

“…Fine, you have roused my interest,” she admits haughtily, crossing her arms. “Only a little. It is still a foolhardy notion.”

You decide to make the notion LESS foolhardy with the benefit of your divination magic. A bit of <Guidance> is welcome, when invading an ever-shifting territory of alien angles and subtly-wrong stonework. You crouch by the steamy smear of immolated muck which was once an aspect of the greater shoggoth, and enter the meditative state by which you may follow its path through time and space, backward and forward, to the source of this blobbish belligerent.
>>
>>5400177
>12

Unfortunately, you find yourself stymied. At first, the process seems to be working, but as you follow the trheads of fate and fortune back to the source of the shoggoths, it is not only stone and earth which shift and warp. Rather, the nature of space and time THEMSELVES seem to become fluid and malleable, like the slimes which you and your forces must hold at bay with sword, spell, and torch.

A worst-case scenario occurs many hours into your ill-fated hunt when, while pursuing a retreating remnant of sentient sludge in an effort to track it back to its origin, you find yourself separated from your companions. Normally, this would be no real issue—if you were to lose the shoggoth-spawn, you could easily trace your way back. Unfortunately, it is while you are in the midst of this dogged chase that you feel something… Shift.

Perception enters a state of flux. Without ever seeing or feeling it happen, you can tell the stone has moved, shifted—that the WORLD has altered in some imperceptible way, beneath your feet and above your head, behind you and in front of you, so hat these terms hardly seem to hold meaning. Dizziness overwhelms you, breaking your concentration and shattering your already-disrupted <Guidance> spell. You plant your feet and brace against the wall while you wait for your shocked senses to return to some semblance of normalcy.

Even when it returns, your senses feel... off. Colour is always strange in your darkvision, muted and imprecise, but the oily sheen which coats every surface and fills your vision is... Wrong. You can give no name to it, not even a description. it reminds you of the appearance of magic in your sixth-sense, of the sight of invisibility-cloaked bugbears, and yet... It differs. It fills you with a subtle disgust and horror, like a foul and fetid odour which fills not nose but mind.

“Dragonborn!”

“Master!”

“Superior One!”

“That damned, fatheaded fool!”

Your friends and allies call out for you to one side. To the other side, you see the blackish, brackish slime-thing crawling through a chasm in the stone. You sense that you are nearing the source of this madness, the shoggoth-core… But just as surely, you sense that the disturbances will only grow worse, approaching madness, if you delve deeper. There is no amount of <Guidance> that can make sense of this strange, afflicted region of reality.

What do you do?
>Chase the shoggoth, and face the heart of this unearthly darkness… Alone
>Return to the relative safety of your group, though it likely means never destroying the shoggoth or seizing glory and treasure at the heart of its domain
>Stay put, assume <Dragonshape>, and roar a challenge [summons one ally of your choosing, and bring the shoggoth to you]
>Use the <DIVINE FAVOUR> to guide you, expending it forever in exchange to immunity to the shoggoth-madness and the freezing of its reality-distorting abilities
>Write-in
>>
>>5400192
>Use the <DIVINE FAVOUR> to guide you, expending it forever in exchange to immunity to the shoggoth-madness and the freezing of its reality-distorting abilities

fish people 2 scary
>>
>>5400192
>Stay put, assume <Dragonshape>, and roar a challenge [summons one ally of your choosing, and bring the shoggoth to you]

>Call Karz to your side; his chant may make the difference
>>
>>5400192
>Stay put, assume <Dragonshape>, and roar a challenge [summons one ally of your choosing, and bring the shoggoth to you]


>Call Karz to your side; his chant may make the difference

We’re going to need the full power of the moon sword to be brought out by Karz here. Hopefully because it’s so enchanted and cool and godly it can cut the shoggoth. It’s an ancient elf enemy the sword should be happy to slay if.
>>
>>5400192
>Stay put, assume <Dragonshape>, and roar a challenge [summons one ally of your choosing, and bring the shoggoth to you]

>Call Karz to your side; his chant may make the difference
>>
>>5400192
You think we’ll get another ancient elf artifact? We got the sword from the devourer who was also an ancient drow enemy.
>>
>>5400204
Supporting
>>
>>5400299
imagine if there was no loot
>>
>>5400204
>>5400208
>>5400218
This.
>>
[I may post later, or take a day off. Having a bit of a rough patch. Sorry!]
>>
>>5400192
>Stay put, assume <Dragonshape>, and roar a challenge [summons one ally of your choosing, and bring the shoggoth to you]
Get someone that can use fire to fight one way or another.
>>
>>5400719
Hope you feel better QM
>>
File: Predator Ooze.jpg (32 KB, 223x310)
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Rolled 18, 8, 10, 2, 11, 7, 1, 8 = 65 (8d20)

>>5400828
>>5400494
>>5400311
>>5400218
>>5400208
>>5400204
>>5400203
You are not so foolhardy (whatever the others may think of this hunt) as to charge in alone to the belly of a beast which can so distort flesh, stone, and perception itself. Your mind has not been changed, though, your resolve has not wavered. A True Dragon does not flinch and flee. And you… You will be a True Dragon!

You expend much of your mana to ascend to <Dragonshape III>. The roof of the cavern grows closer, your stature increasing and head rising to meet it. You feel strength fill your expanding limbs, as rebounding courage fills your heart. Still, the environmental distortions do not cease, even if that soul-deep revulsion is no longer so afflicting. You roar, a summons and a challenge at once, and let the aura of your expanded Fearsome Presence shine like a beacon.

Karz the Throat-singer finds you first, before the others, or even the shoggoth to whom you issued this challenge.

“Where are the othersss?” you ask him, in your heavily-accented Norther Common-tongue.

“I don’t know,” he says, working hard to catch his breath between words. “The caves… Shifted. We were separated.”

A troubling notion, with such a deadly foe present, and in unknown territory. Still, it is good that the Throat-singer found you—his mystically-charge song may make the difference, and as he is no skilled warrior, it is best to be within range of one who can guard him.

This ability to protect the Throat-singer is soon put to the test. Your challenge is met, or perhaps the shoggoth are simply drawn to the warmth of two bodies, or the surging of your magic to transform. Whatever calls to them, the black slime oozes from cracks and crevices in the underdark, emerging from deep and unseen places of the earth to converge on you.

“Begin the sssong,” you command.

The Throat-singer begins his rhythmic, wordless chant, and you feel further enervated. You draw your sword—your first elven blade, unmagical but well-crafted, for the moon-blade remains bound and hidden. You and the Throat-singer back up as far as you can go before the rock seems to close in around you. You confirm that there is still an exit—there is, though its exact location has changed—and then return your attention to the foe before you. Multiple shoggoth-slimes are present, but as they approach, many coalesce. Bubbling orbs, like hundred of eyes haphazardly scattered about the dark fluids, rise to the surface to fix you with their vile glare. From the shapeless mass arise limbs somewhere between tentacles and the segmented limbs of arthropods. Their shapes are wrong, barely-functional, breaking hideously even as they reach out to seize and grasp you.


[5 dice for sword mastery, 3 for spellcraft; DC 13/15/17]
>>
>>5401061
>>5401061
You raise your Ring of Protection, forming a shield of energy to deflect the blow, and then with another roar you lunge forward lash out, and hack at the limb. You remove it, scattering it to smash and dissolve upon the floor. Another forms in its place, another, and another. From a dozen oozes emerges a singular foe, and from that mass of tar-like muck, a veritable army of attacking implements.

You do not shrink from the challenge.

>18

The shoggoth was mistaken to converge into a single manifestation. For all the strength and reach that this grants, it renders it vulnerable to you viciously-hexed blade. Each blow you land weakens it, so that you can more easily reflect or redirect the next. It grows slower, sluggish. The openings you cleave in its gelatinous exterior begin to take longer to seal, with the sickly substance which you assume is its lifeblood pooling around it. It sizzles the stone, reshapes the rock; you wisely step back from it, and with a few strategic plumes of your firebreath, you cleanse it from your immediate vicinity.

>1

Still, this abhorrent entity lands several blows—you simply cannot block them all—and its entangling grasp sears and singes your flesh and sends spasms of paralyzing pain through the whole of you when it does so. Maintaining <Dragonshape> under such conditions becomes impossible, even with the bard’s song behind you. You feel the magic break, the spell lost. You do not shrink immediately, but your metallic sheen begins to dull as you feel you temporary skin begin to loosen, to shed. Your muscles begin to ache, you strength to abandon you…

“No!”

You push through it with a roar, plunging your sword deep into the heart of the thing and, with a roar, slicing it cleanly in two. Each half of the horrid shoggoth splatters on impact, and its separating components shrink and flee from you. Even as you weaken, the shoggoth is weaker still. Many of its fragments seem to be too badly savaged to immediately constitute and escape, if ever they will—rather, only a few larger globules are able to slither to escape you.
>>
>>5401077
“You did it!” Karz gasps, taking a break from his song to refill his lungs. “We’re alive!”

But so is the shoggoth, or part of it. Your violence hurt it, forced it back… But did not kill it, not the core of the thing. You look around, and sense the stone fixing itself into place, some of the distorting effects of this ancient entity ended with its apparent retreat.

What do you do?
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all
>Use your Ring of Elemental Command to freeze a sample of the ooze, so that the Novice can study it, and regroup with the others
>Destroy the shoggoth-remains utterly, purging them with firebreath and wiping their accursed influence from this area as thoroughly as you can
>Use <Earth Tremor> and <Wall of Stone> to close off the openings to whatever dread pit these things emerged from, so you need not deal with them again
>Write-in

>>5400319
Never fear, there will be
>>
>>5401078
>>5401078
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all.

>We did it, Karz. Do not trivialize your part in this and besmirch your honor. You are a warrior, a DRAGON. Don’t forget that.

If he’s ever going to be a true dragon he needs to get some confidence and start believing he is a dragon himself.
>>
>>5401078
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all

It is badly weakened and we are only lightly wounded

Chase it down and purge it with sword and flame
>>
>>5401078
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all
>>
>>5401078
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all
>Use your Ring of Elemental Command to freeze a sample of the ooze, so that the Novice can study it
Gotta keep the bae happy, right?
>>
>>5401078

>>5401155
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all
>>Use your Ring of Elemental Command to freeze a sample of the ooze, so that the Novice can study it

Sure, I'll +1 this.
>>
>>5401164
>>5401089
+1
>>
>>5401155
Support
>>
>>5401078
>Use your Ring of Elemental Command to freeze a sample of the ooze, so that the Novice can study it, and regroup with the others
>>
>>5401078
>Pursue the surviving components with Karz, chasing the shoggoth back to its lair to end the threat of it once and for all
Can't wait to see our codpiece armor immortalized on image, lmao. Who made >>5381505?
>>
>>5401155
Supportin'
>>
Rolled 8, 4, 5, 16 = 33 (4d20)

>>5401089
>>5401091
>>5401135
>>5401155
>>5401164
>>5401195
>>5401368
>>5401444
>>5401485
>>5401490

“WE did it, Throat-ssinger,” you correct your slave, for victory makes you feel magnanimous. “Do not trivialize your part in thisss triumph.”

“Uh… Yes. Right. Thank you, Dragonborn.”

He seems a little taken-aback by the sharing of the credit, uncertain how to react or interpret it. You have no more time to offer guidance, however. Glory calls, and your success is not yet total. With your Ring of Elemental Command’s blue gem, you freeze a sample of the escaping shoggoth. It is a gradual process, though, to fully encase the thing and to ensure it cannot move or attack; the last thing you want is for it to reanimate en route to the elven capital, before it can be properly imprisoned.

Your eyes flit between this captive-in-the-making and the rest of the ooze, even now making its escape. You fear that, in it current cowardice, the shoggoth might hide away and use its spatial distortion abilities to prevent your pursuit. You need to work faster!

[DC 16 Spellcraft/Elementalism DC, to freeze a sample solid before the rest of the shoggoth can escape.]
>>
>>5401716

You force as much mana into the process as you can safely marshall to the task. A magical item is often like a bottleneck for your power output—well, except for the moon-blade, which seems at times to have a power capacity in excess of anything you can produce. When using the Ring of Elemental Command, the problem is further exacerbated by the elemental spirits trapped in the remaining two gems: too much power at once risks breaking another gem and freeing the being within, with unpredictable results.

>16

It works, though—the shoggoth-slime is frozen solid!

“Pick that up and bring it with usss,” you command the Throat-singer.

“We aren’t going to turn back and rejoin the others?” he asks, paling a little bit.

“Our work iss not yet done.”

The Throat-singer cautiously extracts the sample, wisely employing his prosthetic hand as much as possible to avoid touching it directly with his own flesh and blood. You, for your part, have depleted about two-thirds of your mystical energy, your muscles ache, your skin steams and stings, and your fire-lung feels roughly at half-capacity—enough for a single targeted blast of intense flame, or several smaller ones. You’re feeling more than up to the task before you, but with your <Dragonshape> nearly depleted, you know you cannot rely on brute force alone.

As you and your bard descend once more into the unknown, you…

>Draw your bow and notch an arrow, to maintain maximum distance
>Ready your magic ring to serve as your primary weapon [Lightning? Ice?]
>Take up your sword once more, and draw your dagger to dual-wield
>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!
>Write-in
>>
>>5401733
>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!

Striding in with Shoggoth-blood on its blade is an inimitable display of our power and might. We need to not get eaten by the shoggoth, to show it off.
>>
>>5401733
>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!
>>
>>5401485
>Who made >>5381505?
[nina_kittie on Twitter]
>>
>>5401733
>>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!
>>
>>5401733
>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!

Not having the elves around is actually a benefit here. We can use the moon-blade without them seeing.
>>
>>5401848
we might not be able to rewrap it though

getting it out in time to use before shoggy escapes will likely require us to damage the silk
>>
>>5401733
>Draw your bow and notch an arrow, to maintain maximum distance
>>
>>5401733
>Unwrap the moon-blade—to the Hells with keeping it secret, you need its power!

Immediate problems first
>>
>>5401733
>Ready your magic ring to serve as your primary weapon [Both]
Might be smart not to reveal the sword just yet.
>>
>>5401733
>Firebreath the motherfucka
>>
>>5402366
>>5402344
>>5402125
>>5402046
>>5401848
>>5401799
>>5401738
>>5401736
Immediate problems must be addressed first. There are no elves here now, and while unwrapping and rewrapping the blade from its silken sheathe properly are time-consuming tasks, you need the moon-sword’s power to finish this properly.

Whether it is because you are so distant from the sky above or due to the unknown, unseen phase of the moon IN that sky, the blade is dim and dark as you delve deeper. More’s the better – you hardly wish to tip off your many-eyed adversary, and give the shoggoth the chance to stage an ambush or escape. You plan to end this, decisively and for all time, and to thus arrive before the elven court as a living legend—Destroyer of the Devourer, Slay of the Shoggoth!

It is only when you exit the narrow confines of the winding tunnel-system, arcane and oddly-angled, that you understand how much deadlier the latter monster is than the former.

You emerge, and are stunned into a brief pause. The Throat-singer so close on your heels that he bumps into you, nearly dropping the frozen shoggoth-sample. His gasp of terror and awe mirrors your own feelings. You have entered into a realm beyond natural philosophy as you know it—a cavern like another world. It is a vast, hollowed-out place, but it is not empty. The earth and stone, the bones of a thousand victims, the oozing protoplasm of the entity you hunted to this place, all combine to form something approaching an orb or ovoid, hovering at the centre on it all.

You grip to the wall, feeling yourself drawn towards it, as if the gravitational force which once pulled DOWN now pulls towards the shoggoth-core. Its surface is studded with ever shifting, splitting eyes, with stabbing and grasping limbs, with teeth and fang and hand and tentacle-trunks which remind you of Southland tales of mammalian mammoths as much as deep-sea cephalopods. All things here focus upon this half-biological singularity, this living cauldron of alchemical processes beyond the known bounds of the Fleshweavers’ discipline.

You cannot pull your focus away… And, the longer you meet its horrid gaze, the more you come to understand the sheer scale and completeness of this abyssal creation, the less you feel separate from it. No, you do not want to be apart from it, to battle it. In the shoggoth are all things—all potentials, all pasts and futures. Even a dragon is a small and simple creature, compared to such an entity. You begin to release you grip on the stone, and to let the dreadful gravity of this living planetoid pull you into its orbit…

Then, the song begins.
>>
Rolled 9, 1, 2, 3, 19 = 34 (5d20)

>>5402453
>>
>>5402455
>19
Let's go, Dragonbros. No way that fails.
>>
>>5402455
>>5402462
The sound of the Throat-singer’s song snaps you out of your trance, just in time to defend yourself against a reaching, crab-clawed tendril-limb. You channel your mana and to utter the moon-blade’s elven control-word, your voice instinctively matching the pitch and timbre of the Throat-singer’s warbling rumble in a strange duet, and you lash out with shining sword.

>19

The crab claw is smashed, the tendril bisected and scattered. The gaze of the shoggoth-core, before now darting about or focusing blankly upon stone, now seems to fully recognize your presence. A hundred eyes of a dozen sizes drift towards you, focusing upon you and your luminescent blade, merging into a peculiar compound structure.

“Good!” you roar, allowing yourself to descend to meet its furious curiosity. “At last, you stop your retreat and trickery!”

>19

The shoggoth, though perhaps a hundred times your weight and with powers beyond your comprehension, can gain no purchase on you. Each wound you inflict with your hexed, moonstone sword is a stigmata upon it, a weeping wound that oozes unearthly ichor. The sickly, oil-slick black of its cannot mend, severed by the lashing of unblemished white light, wielded with draconic cruelty. You draw ever deeper into its fear, your muscles aching with the recoil of your wrath, but you do not ceases shopping and cutting at this thing. All around you are eyes—fascinated eyes, horrified eyes, angry eyes, all staring down into the pit you carve, appearing like a screaming maw upon the face of this mouthless horror.

For a moment, under the dread gaze of this incomprehensible monster, you find yourself strangely reminded of the Master of the Insightful Eye, called Baleful Beholder. This gaze… It feels not unlike that of the Dark God of Knowledge. Is this thing something of his? Does it matter, now that limbs like tentacles, like trunks, like branching tree-limbs or fractal patterns reach towards you from every side, to extract you like a tick, and to crush, dismember, and subsume you?

>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]
>Trust in the Dark God of Knowledge, and utter a prayer to he that may tell you the secrets of this place and its master, so that You may master IT! [you feel the threads of fate thrum here; unlock more divination magic]
>Trust in Death, the Lord of Endings, to bring this immortal thing to a its final rest and end the story of the shoggoth forevermore! [definite and absolute success, unlock a powerful entropic magic, but you will incur a deeper debt to the God of Death]
>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward]
>Write-in [???]
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward]

In for a penny, in for a pound.
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]

I think the Moon-magic has the highest chance of success. It synergizes best with the bardic song and our sword-mastery with the Moon-Sword.

I don't want to test fate against a foe of this magnitude, we have proved ourselves enough slaying this beast with only a child-dwarf supporting us. We'll get cool moon-magic anyways.
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in the Dark God of Knowledge, and utter a prayer to he that may tell you the secrets of this place and its master, so that You may master IT! [you feel the threads of fate thrum here; unlock more divination magic]

eldritch divination lets gooooo
>>
>>5402604
>child-dwarf
[While the triumph would still be very impressive for two young men, the Dragonborn and Karz are both essentially late-teens or twenty-somethings at this point standards of their races. Reptoids mature quickly, dwarves mature slowly, but they're roughly the same level of maturity.]

DB just grew too much hair, and Karz too little
>>
>>5402464
>>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward]

whole reason we deiced to fight the shogoth, was so we could get rewards. this option has the best rewards.
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]
>Trust in Death, the Lord of Endings, to bring this immortal thing to a its final rest and end the story of the shoggoth forevermore! [definite and absolute success, unlock a powerful entropic magic, but you will incur a deeper debt to the God of Death]

Win win win
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]

The big dawg reward is tempting but i like moon shit i want to get a big daddy elf god to sponsor us
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward]

We are a TRUE dragon
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward]
You had me at great reward
>>
If we roll badly and get mind-fucked by a nat-100 enemy who was described as being a more complex creature than a literal dragon I'm going to say I told you so.
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]
>Trust in the Dark God of Knowledge, and utter a prayer to he that may tell you the secrets of this place and its master, so that You may master IT! [you feel the threads of fate thrum here; unlock more divination magic]
I just want the moon and the stars baby
>>
[Slept quite poorly, so I'm afraid we're looking at a one post day. May do a bit more of those, honestly, until my energy levels improve. Never fear, though: after over a year of QMing, there will be no flakery now.]
>>
>>5402901
You're a champ dude, go at whatever pace you need.
>>
>>5402604
Moon magic is mediocre in comparison to, following the serpent ascendant instructions in becoming a dragon via the path of trusting in yourself and self actualization.
>>
>>5402901
Good wishes and hopefully get better qm.
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in your sword, in the Throat-singer, and in moon-magic—use a <Moonbeam>, augmented by bardic song, channeled through your blade of legend! [higher chance of success, unlock more moon magic]
Moon magic and Hexblade curses are kino. We should really put points into this.
>Remember to wrap the blade quickly after the fight, tell Karz to not mention it if anyone asks what happened here.
>>
>>5402901
No worries mate. Best wishes on you sleep cycle!
>>
>>5402464
>Trust in yourself, as the Serpent Ascendant would—in your own strength, and the fire within your chest! [lower chance of success, brutal consequences for failure, but if you triumph you will gain a great reward
>>
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Rolled 19, 18, 7, 16, 7, 2, 9 = 78 (7d20)

>>5403543
>>5403333
>>5402774
>>5402673
>>5402647
>>5402628
>>5402625
>>5402622
>>5402612
>>5402604
>>5402466
[Vote locked, rolling 4d20 for firebreath (DC 15), 3d20 to escape (DC 17)]
>>
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>>5403605
You know, with the sword to channel your moon-magic and the Throat-singer to augment it, you could end this threat utterly, and at minimal risk to yourself… But you know, in your dragon’s heart, that this is not the true path to ultimate victory. An elven blade, even one seized through conquest; a slave’s song; elemental magic, learned from a human tome and mastered with a human-descendant’s affinity. Is this why you came all this way, transformed your body and spirit in the crucible of the Bloodrise conquests? To drift further from the true draconic way?

“No,” you speak aloud.

“NO!” you roar, still louder, in defiance of that which comes easily, of the aid of others, of half-measures and shortcuts.

You remember the Serpent Ascendant, his words and his ways, and with a True Dragon’s roar, you let loose your every ember of your natural flame into the very heart of your foe’s oily, ever-shifting body.

>19

The flame that burst forth from you blasts it like a scouring wind. What passes for the shoggoth’s flesh and blood shrink back with a gasp of rushing air it is hurry to escape you. The fire licks at the edges of its abyss, illuminating the cavernous wound you have carved with your descent. The dragonfire clings to it, fills it up. You marvel at the carnage you have wrought, feeling a true, earned pride in your chest…

And then you see the dozens, hundreds of titanic and twig-like limbs all reaching down into the behemoth from above, reaching to rip, tear, and rend you asunder.

Again, the pragmatic part of you says to deflect with your Ring of Protection, to summon forth your mana and to cleave the crushing tide of misshapen appendages asunder like splitting a sea. You begin to… But something deep in your soul stop you, instead, perhaps in defiance of common sense and cold Reptilian logic, you tuck your blade into your belt and meet claw with claw and tooth with tooth.

>9

It is not enough.
>>
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>>5403648
Despite your swelling, soaring pride, you immediately recognize your error. The shoggoth is dying, but a dying titan is still hundreds of tons of semi-solid sludge collapsing down upon you. Your hold it back—by the Dark Gods, by the Dragon King of Bloodrise, you hold it back!—but within seconds you feel the agony of incoming doom. Whatever strength has filled you begins to crack and crumble. You cease this foolish push-back against the wounded shoggoth’s limbs, and attempt to disengage this ill-conceived grapple…

>2

…But it won’t allow it. The shoggoth, though dying, is not dead. Like an army of ghouls pulling you into a mass grave, its myriad and half-conceived limbs enwrap and grip at you, sinking in jagged talon-teeth and coiling you like spiny snakes. Your roar of triumph turns to one of pain as more and more weight crashes down upon you from above, smothering you. Air and flame alike are forced from your lungs, as your ribs crack and back breaks—or, at least, it FEELS like it. You can barely move…

But you CAN move. You CAN breathe. You ARE alive. You half-crawl, half-tunnel your way out from the limbs and appendages, now flailing in confused agony at the spreading fire. The toxic acid of your enemy eats at you, but slowly; you are resistant to poisons. Your own fire, still raging, does not harm you even THAT much; you are essentially immune to fire, and the fire’s disruptive spread provides your only avenue for escape.
You burst forth like a half-drowned swimmer escaping the depths of a dark and acrid ocean. The shoggoth has explodes, no longer a single sphere but a splattered canvass of gelatinous ooze, crawling away from itself into a thousand directions to duffer and die in the corners of creation. If any of this thing survives, it will be in a diminished form; you feel, with almost divine certainty, that the shoggoth will again be as it once was.

“Dragonborn!”

It is the Throat-singer, gazing down in horror and wonder at what you have wrought, and at your state. You imagine you do not look a pretty thing, covered in the muck of your slaughtered enemy, half-crushed and half-drowned, eaten away at. He is high above you, in a gallery of this curiously-angled architecture, this city-of-one built in spherical symmetries unsuited to conventional biology or physics.

Without thinking, you unfurl your wings. His eyes widen still further as, with two great beats of your powerful appendages, you rise to meet him, and alight upon his gallery. He stumbles back, falling upon his padded dwarven rear, and looks at you like a sinner before an avenging angel.

Only then do you realize…

“Wait,” you mumble, “do I have wingsss?”

>2

Your injuries catch up with you, before you can hear the answer or fully comprehend what has happened. Then, there is only pain, and a darkness more complete even than the guts of the shoggoth.
>>
>>5403679
When you awaken, you are still in nondescript, dark caves… But not in pitch black. Your darkvision rapidly adjusts, sped by the dim light cast by the ancestral staff of your elven ‘counterpart’, Jazkarmel.

“You found me,” you note in elven.

“SHE found you, technically,” Jazkarmel replies.

Jazkarmel is smiling at the realization that you are awake—alive, even, which by the pain suffusing your limbs and filling your chest must be a bit of a shock. The Novice, the ‘she’ in question, is not so pleased of countenance.

“You absolute, UTTER buffoon!” she wails, too close to your ear for comfort. “You WRESTLED an ancient abomination? With your BARE HANDS? And set it on fire… FROM THE INSIDE?!”

She is leaned over you, you suppose. Your armour has been shucked from you like a crustacean’s shell even the elven leathers and chitin-carapace casing too much obstruction for the fleshweaving work she must perform.

“How did you find—”

“Do you THINK,” the Novice interrupts you, “that I am incapable of learning any of the Divination which YOUR feeble, addled mind can grasp?!”

“Ah.”

You suppose, with the shoggoth too dead or devastated to warp and shift the space around it, from there it was regular dungeoneering ability that carried the party down to rescue yourself and the Throat-singer from being lost forevermore. And there is the Throat-singer, now that you look for him, watching this spectacle with a vexed expression.

“Stop talking!” she snaps at you. “Stop moving! Stop BREATHING, you, YOU….”

The Novice stops, and you realize that her methodical, medical massaging of muscle-groups and weaving of tactile spells has slowed, ceased, and turned to a sort of… Clinging. She holds fast to you, a half-mad and utterly out-of-character embrace.

How do you break the silence?
>Tease the Fleshweaver for this outburst and display
>Apologize to the Novice Fleshweaver for troubling her
>Thank the Throat-singer for helping you to vanquish the foe
>Ask about LOOT, damnit!
>Ask if you have, uh, wings
>Write-in
>>
>>5403701
>Apologize to the Novice Fleshweaver for troubling her
>Thank the Throat-singer for helping you to vanquish the foe
>Ask about LOOT, damnit!

In that order.
>>
>>5403701
>Ask if you have, uh, wings
wow, I was expecting way worse from that escape failure
lucky us
>>
>>5403701
>Ask if you have, uh, wings

Whenever we travel to meet the Drow we always seem to get beaten up.

Also just curious what would have happened if we failed the firebreath roll?
>>
>>5403701
>Thank the Throat-singer for helping you to vanquish the foe.

>Ask about LOOT, damnit
>>
>>5403804
>Also just curious what would have happened if we failed the firebreath roll?
[You would have had to expend your Divine Favour or, most likely, [REDACTED]]
>>
>>5403701
>Apologize to the Novice Fleshweaver for troubling her

>Ask if you have, uh, wings

WINGS!
>>
>>5403701
>Apologize to the Novice Fleshweaver for troubling her
>Ask about LOOT, damnit!
>Ask if you have, uh, wings
"I think I went under a biological change. You are the one knowing my body the most, maybe even more than myself. Can you tell me what changed?"
>>
>>5403701
>Tease the Fleshweaver for this outburst and display
>Ask about LOOT, damnit!
>>
>>5403701
>Ask about LOOT, damnit!
>Tell Novice, that for someone cold and calculated, she sure gets emotional whenever a minor misfortune happens to you
She's annoying
>>
>>5404337
>Tell Novice, that for someone cold and calculated, she sure gets emotional whenever a minor misfortune happens to you

that actually seems true for all reptilians
>>
>>5404342
Unrelated, but this made me realize that MC is really similar to his father, except Roth had more brains than this suicidal psychopath.
>>
File: tallied.png (7 KB, 853x100)
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Rolled 540 (1d1000)

>>5404342
>>5404337
>>5403983
>>5403875
>>5403849
>>5403818
>>5403807
>>5403804
>>5403742
>>5403712
You are torn between warring urges to tease and appease, to taunt or apologize. Uncertain how best to response to this uncharacteristic show of affection from your tutor, advisor, and one-time bully, you… Ignore it.

“What became of the loot?” you ask instead.

Jazkarmel, understanding True Speech, bursts out into her sparkling laughter, drawing looks from all the others present—yourself included.

“You truly are a dragon, Copper King,” she remarks with evident amusement at your priorities.

“Most of it is worthless,” the Novice replies dourly.

“Not… Exactly,” Ivno corrects, flinching at the Novice Fleshweaver’s glare.

“It is tarnished crushed, corroded and molten,” she corrects. “It is as good as worthless. But the sample you secured…”

>+affection

The Novice releases her iron grip on you, belatedly, giving you room to breathe but also leaving you strangely disappointed. She looks at you with a curious expression, almost… Admiring.

“THAT has value. It was… Thoughtful of you, to secure it.”

You look urgently to the Throat-singer, who catches you meaning, and nods. The ‘sample’ is still frozen, or otherwise contained.

“The magical taint left on the metals and minerals secures from the wreckage-remains of the big-big shoggoth,” Ivno interrupts. “They may still be valuable, in a strange-weird way.”

“It is outside my discipline,” the Novice admits, with a tone as if to imply it is as good as worthless if SHE cannot find the value in it, immediately and without aid.

“There was one more thing,” the Throat-singer chimes in.

You all look to him, most surprised. The Novice and Ivno, in particular, seem to glare with grave offence. The Throat-singer offers no explanation for keeping the secret to anyone else, instead producing the relic and presenting it to you and you alone without words.

It is…
>>
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>>5404646

“A dagger?” you ask.

You try to lean forwards, and prop yourself up upon your elbows to examine it more closely, but the severity of your injuries precludes this. From what you can see, though, it is a crumbling, grey-purple dagger of peculiar lustre but no obvious value.

“Not… quite,” the Throat-singer replies.

He hums his thrumming song. The dagger shifts in uncanny ways, unfolding and expanding, and an oozing slime surges forth from within to fill the gaps. Again, you feel the urge to move—this time, to leap back—but you cannot. Whatever her feelings may be towards you, the Novice is not so attached as to throw herself between you and the possible threat, either; she instead leaps to the side with an undignified shriek and thump.

No assassin’s blade strikes, however. Instead, the ‘dagger’ balloons into a sword—so large that even YOU would need to wield it two-handed, too large for the Throat-singer to continue to hold aloft. He drops it before you, staggering back, as spines, teeth, and protoplasmic eyes bubbles and ripple across the oily-metallic surface of this oblong weapon. Eventually, the slime-coatings eems to smooth the jagged and uneven metal (is it even metal?) into something approximating a cutting edge, and then to harden.

“What is it?” you ask, to break the uneasy silence which follows.

The Throat0singer shakes his head. He has no answer.

“Powerful,” he replies.

You all continue to stare at the shoggoth-sword. It, to you dismay, stares back… But it does not move, neither to shrink or flee nor to lunge and kill.

What do you do?
>Accept the blade, to one day wield… Maybe
>Destroy the monstrous thing—it is shoggoth!
>Attempt to attune to the blade, through concerted effort
>Offer the cursed-looking implement to the elves
>Write-in
>>
[Wings will be addressed next update]
>>
>>5404665
>Offer the blade to the Baleful Beholder at a later time, in a more appropriate setting

It'd be nice to bank some favor instead of a debt, and this sword seems pretty legit, if cursed as shit.
>>
>>5404665
>Accept the blade, to one day wield… Maybe

LOOT GET!
>>
>>5404665
>Accept the blade, to one day wield… Maybe

This thing is a nat 100 enemy drop no way are we giving this away. I see it as a weapon that can be wielded once we get the clarity amulet or something similar to oppose any shoggoth mindfuckery. Maybe our brother could use it. Does he have thumbs?
>>
>>5404665
>>Attempt to attune to the blade, through concerted effort
If it outmatch the elven moonblade, we might even gift it to elves for favor.
>>
>>5404665
>Accept the blade, to one day wield… Maybe

We’re too weak to attune at the moment…but one day!
>>
>>5404665
>Attempt to attune to the blade, through concerted effort
Based as fuck, we need to hoard more unique weapons for each occassion.
>>
>>5404665
>Attempt to attune to the blade, through concerted effort
Duel wield it with the Moonblade, we can become the pre-sidequest Akule when we build up the strength to wield it with one hand.

Either way, we should wear both blades openly, to convert the Drow to our cause.
>>
>>5404665
>Accept the blade, to one day wield… Maybe

Don't attempt to attune now, we're so wounded we can't even sit up

but damn we got a dark souls ultra greatsword

>>5404677
I like this idea too
>>
>>5404937
>Duel wield it with the Moonblade
This
>>
>>5404665
>Attempt to attune to the blade, through concerted effort
Me likey
>>
>>5404677
>>5404807
>>5404817
>>5404846
>>5404873
>>5404912
>>5404937
>>5405042
>>5405315
>>5405501
The blade is far too heavy to dual-wield it with your moon-sword. Obviously. That’s OBVIOUS.

…And YET…

“We will bring the sword with us,” you announce. “Place it with my things.”

It WOULD be very impressive, if you could one day accomplish such a feat. At any rate, you aren’t about to relinquish such a rare and potentially-powerful relic, cursed-looking though it may be. You have a more urgent matter to attend to than the blade at this moment, though.

“Earlier, in the cavern where I faced the main body of the shoggoth…”

You trail off, realizing what you are doing , with some embarrassment. You are hedging your bets. You were about to say ‘for a moment, it felt as IF I had wings,’ and you were going to phrase it that way because, flex and strain though you might, you cannot feel any wings on your back, flapping or unfurling at your command. You are childishly afraid to face the very real possibility that the entire thing was some feverish fantasy brought on by pain and bloodloss.

“Does my back look any different?” you ask the Novice Fleshweaver.

She looks at you strangely, then beckons Ivno and the Throat-singer over. Together, they roll you over as gently as they can; it still hurts. You attempt to aid them; it hurts WORSE.

“…You are badly bruised, “ she notes. Your scales are… split, bleeding somewhat, around these ‘fins’ you’ve lately developed.”

Then does that mean… Damnit, flight has ALWAYS been the aspect of dragonhood you’ve most coveted! Wings to take you high, to view the world from the pinnacle of a creation as a true Dragon king must… That ahs been your dream. Is a dream all it will ever be? How much longer must you wait.

“The wings are gone.”

Several faces turn to face the Throat-singer again, who spoke up in the Northern common-tongue. The Drow may not speak it or understand it well, but kobolds and Reptilians from the northern forward base do. You see in their wide eyes your own surprise.

“Then I… That isss to ssay, I… Flew?”

The Throat-singer nods.

Maybe your dream is not so far away after all! Your body may be too broken to even walk just now, but you feel your spirit soar.
>>
Rolled 15, 2, 9 = 26 (3d20)

>>5405535
Your rations running low as they are, and this area of the underdark having been seemingly scoured of game by the shoggoth horde, your recovery is unglamorous and arduous. Your party is forced to keep moving towards their hidden civilization, for to linger too longer is to starve. Your meals are no hardy feast to help replenish your strength; rather, for the next few days, you (and all your allies) subsist on a thin broth of rationed meat, sprinkled salt and spice, and foraged, bitter-black mushrooms which barely qualify as food and stick between your sharp teeth so that you cannot even easily flick them free with forked tongue.

At each brief rest-stop, you find your focus upon the shoggoth-sword. You meet its eye fearlessly, hiding discomfort and disgust so it cannot see. You are at first wary that it is affecting your mind, with how fixated you become… But no, ‘Nurse’ Novice clears you of such sinister influence.

“You are just another meatheaded lump of fat and muscle, occupied with phallic weapons and seeking escape from your own self-inflicted impotence,” she diagnoses you.

“You are merely bitter I have been having the Junior Novice help support me, rather than allowing you more opportunity to clasp me as you did when I—”

“You would WISH it so, Dragondick!”

You laugh, but only briefly. Laughing HURTS. You focus upon the sword again, instead.

[Spellcraft]
>>
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>>5405539
>15

It takes a great deal of focus, but the Novice Fleshweaver is right about one thing: you have little else to occupy your attention. Eventually, in the midst of a staring contest with the odd and alien eyes upon the blade’s crossguard… One of them blinks. You are startled, but maintain your focus. Another blinks, and another. One by one, the eyes shut, sealing as utterly as if they were never there. It is as if the shoggoth-sword has grown weary and surrendered…

And just like that, the heavy blade shrinks back to its dagger-size, appropriate to use as a sidearm once more. You laugh again, triumphantly.

This time, it hurts a little less.

“The city of Wevenore approaches,” Jazkarmel informs you foreigners, not long after this victory. “The City of the Drow! The Oasis of Crystal and Silk!”

“You make it sound quite grand,” the Novice notes, hiding her interest quite poorly.

She had long speculated of such a place after all. She must be feeling quite smug. The Princess’ crimson-dark lips quirk up at the corner, though, and the Novice narrows her eyes. You do the same.

“Not so?” you ask.

“There are crystals,” she acknowledges. “And silk… Yes, we have silk. The ‘oasis’ part, though… Water is precious here, especially clean water. There could stand to be more of that.”

Olu smiles reassuringly, and rests a hand semi-subtly upon her back.

“I am sure it is a wonderful place,” he says.

You exchange a glance with the Novice, and tap the Junior Novice. The dragon-melded ‘dogbold’ continues to limp you along. You hope you’ll at least have the necessary strength to stand tall when you meet the Queen of Dark Elves.

>+1 Athleticism
>Gained Spell: Dragon’s Wings (Lesser)
>Gained: Shoggoth-Sword (attuned, exact properties unknown)
>Temporary Condition: Crippled

Before you arrive at the city of the elves, is there anyone else you would speak with?
>Jazkarmel—to learn more of her people, her culture, and her sovereign
>The Novice Fleshweaver—you would heal more before your arrival, if she can manage, and discuss the shoggoth sample
>The Throat-singer—you wish to discuss your battel against the shoggoth, your wings, and how his own magic is coming along
>Olu the Archer—some practice at ranged combat may be a good way to prepare yourself for less-direct battle while you heal, and you wish to get a sense of how he feels about this upcoming meeting
>Other [???]
>No-one; there are no more words to waste, nor time

Concert tomorrow with friend and an expo thereafter, so I may be absent for a couple days... But I'll either continue this thread or start a new one when I return! Thanks for playing, and for tolerating my downturn in output quantity and/or quality.
>>
>>5405558
>The Throat-singer—you wish to discuss your battel against the shoggoth, your wings, and how his own magic is coming along

>Ensure to thank him properly- he is your apprentice, and has shown his commitment to the cause repetetively

Let's not make a Jedi Council mistake with our little Anakin here.
>>
>>5405558
>The Throat-singer—you wish to discuss your battel against the shoggoth, your wings, and how his own magic is coming along
>>
>>5405558
>The Novice Fleshweaver—you would heal more before your arrival, if she can manage, and discuss the shoggoth sample

let's try and uncripple ourselves
>>
>>5405558
>The Throat-singer—you wish to discuss your battel against the shoggoth, your wings, and how his own magic is coming along
>>
>>5405558
>The Novice Fleshweaver—you would heal more before your arrival, if she can manage, and discuss the shoggoth sample
>>
>>5405558
>The Novice Fleshweaver—you would heal more before your arrival, if she can manage, and discuss the shoggoth sample
Heal
>The Throat-singer—you wish to discuss your battel against the shoggoth, your wings, and how his own magic is coming along
and bond with this mammal I guess. If we can transform into a dragon, then maybe he can grow to a normal size one day!
>>
>>5405558
>Jazkarmel—to learn more of her people, her culture, and her sovereign
>The Novice Fleshweaver—you would heal more before your arrival, if she can manage, and discuss the shoggoth sample
Going in uncrippled is gonna send a big message, and more information is always welcome.
>>
>>5405666
Supporting

Healing + educating our dark padawan
>>
>>5405736
+1
>>
>>5405569
>>5405570
>>5405584
>>5405598
>>5405651
>>5405666
>>5405736
>>5406139
>>5406143
[Looks like we'll be spending some time with a tsundere lizard nurse and a gloomy one-handed dwarf apprentice. I'll write it up tonight or tomorrow, depending when I get home! We may have one or two more vites this thread before I start a new one.]

[How is everyone liking the quest? Have any input about things you'd like to see continue, or thibgs you'd like to see added, removed, or changed? Elements of the narrative or writing style that don't work for you? Characters you want to see more of? Opportunities you want to be offered? Now's a good time to chime in!]
>>
>>5406515
>Opoprtunities you want to be offered
Have we done enough for daddy to gift us paladinship?
>>
>>5406515
>see continue, or thibgs you'd like to see added, removed, or changed?
Personally, I'd like to move on from taking fortresses and slaves to adventuring. Lowkey feel like we should finally decide what god to follow and what skillset to use (we've got plenty of those, some kinda flavor of the month), but I also don't wanna do that cause choosing could take away things I personally like, lol.
>Characters you want to see more of?
Death, Ismena, Roth(?) and that dastardly Yosefag. Also that one kobold necrodancer.
>Elements of the narrative or writing style that don't work for you?
Not enough swords on our back, tbdesu. We need them backup blades.
>Opportunities you want to be offered?
Bringing back Davora? Big sad.
>>
>>5406515
>see continue, or thibgs you'd like to see added, removed, or changed?
I love conquering fortresses and taking slaves, more of that please. Maybe the drow will need us to conquer a fortress? Less adventuring though, I've been playing baldur's gate, I'm all adventured out.

>Characters you want to see more of?
Novice's dad, THE HUNTER, The Geologist, Ivno. Also the Pit Guard.

>Elements of the narrative or writing style that don't work for you?
We have like 3 swords now? That's too many, we only have 2 hands.

>Opportunities you want to be offered?
The opportunity to see Davora burning in dwarf hell for eternity, knowing there's nothing we or anyone else can do to save her.
>>
>>5406515
I’d like to see Iri again and get on the Prosecutor's good side. Also, I think it’s time we stop avoiding Davora’s death and confirm that she’s in Dark God Heaven. We should’ve done it sooner, but it was too fresh really focus our attention on.
>>
>>5406515
>>5405569
>>5405570
>>5405584
>>5405598
>>5405651
>>5405666
>>5405736
>>5406139
>>5406143
The thought of your first meeting with the queen of the outcast elves being one in which you are held aloft by your allies for the failure of your own strength is… Unappealing. The injuries inflicted by the shoggoth are severe, too severe to entirely remedy in the time you have left, but you are determined to lessen them. As such, you dedicate every scrap of your remaining downtime to repairing the damage dealt by your duel with the deadly depth-dweller.

“On the subject of the shoggoth,” the Novice says, “I have made some progress with the sample you collected.”

You and she are in relative privacy, inasmuch as you can get any when you are traveling in a group and dare not separate too great a distance. The Novice Fleshweaver is massaging and alchemical solution into your bruised muscles and surface lacerations, and weaving spells to seep deeper into deeper tissues and cracked bones. It’s a testament to the degree to which you two have become comfortable with one another—or perhaps the sheer frequency with which you are injured—that the experience is no longer an embarrassing one for her, nor even especially arousing for you… Though the pain is certainly a factor in the latter, as well.

“You whine like an infant,” the Novice chides you, though you sense some sadistic mirth in your reaction. “I should know: I heard enough of that mewling when we were young.”

“You were saying, about the sample?” you ask, to change the subject.

The Novice rattles with laughter, but obliges you.
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>>5407233
“I have been carefully defrosting segments of it, and bottling them. It seems that only the globules surrounding the thicker, more organ-like material—organelles, perhaps—can take action independent of the main body. However, the other residues are not ‘lifeless’. Exposed to stimuli which are deleterious to the shoggoth—certain alkaline substances, fire, aggressive magical interference—the residue flinches, writhes, crawls away.”

“And what of the ‘organelles’? How do they react?”

“More aggressively, and more intelligently,” she replies excitedly, the enthusiasm of her medical attentions unconsciously increasing as the conversation grows more stimulating to her unorthodox interests. “And there is more to it than that, for even though these sections were frozen while I was experimenting on the residue, the sentient portions seem to recognize the implements and solutions I used—as if they were able to ‘observe’ the experiment from stasis, perhaps even sense the pain of the mindless residue!”

“So they have a connection to their disparate parts…”

“But NOT to one another!” she adds. “Two organelles, thus defrosted, stored separately, and experimented upon independently, seem to develop and independence from one another, no longer registering the trauma to one as a part of the whole… Until rejoined. Then, separated anew, the psychic split begins again, but anything which affected any of the composite parts becomes part of the shared ‘memory’ of the thing!”

Trust the Novice to learn so much in only a few days of experimentation, though concerted cruelty. You bite back a yelp of pain as she extracts some data from YOU by similarly-sadistic methodology.

“You’re doing that on purpose,” you accuse her.

“Absolutely,” she hisses softly, with a rattle of amusement. “But it is also necessary to speed your recovery, as you have requested. Knitting bone together with such speed could not be painless even if I DIDN’T enjoy the sound of your prideless whimpering.”

“You were saying,” you sigh, “about the shoggoth?”

“The separate blobs are all part of an original entity—experimental organs, like limbs or sensory apparatuses, which only become separate individuals temporarily as a function of time! Further, even in a state of stasis or death, they still ‘perceive’, and they can pass experiences remotely over short distances or be separating, experiencing separate events, and recombining! Imagine what we could do if we were to use such abilities for surveillance or scouting… Leaving a sample in one location, frozen to serve as a node, while other frozen or controlled samples entered an area to observe and ‘report’ back?”

“Has any of this taught you about the nature of my shoggoth-sword?” you ask.

The Novice sighs, and sits down upon your back with more force than necessary, before really laying into your twisted and bruised spinal column.
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>>5407237
“Of COURSE your one-track mind returns to your personal melee weapons, you vapid, vainglorious...”

You steadfastly resist the urge to cry out, which just seems to annoy her further.

“Fine,” she snaps. “I suspect that the swords is actually a captured, forcibly-reshaped aspect of the whole, ‘frozen’ by magically bonding it to a mineral—maybe and form of orichalcum, actually. As such, it COULD serve well as a main ‘node’ for such a network… And maybe could even be used to influence other shoggoth-segments, to induce fear…”

“…Or obedience?” you ask.

The Novice says nothing, but her touch grows more exploratory than punishing again, implying an excitement that you can understand… And even potentially share. You're not as excited as she evidently is, though, to ignore the dangers posed by repeatedly torturing a gestalt mind with unknown age and origin and capable of becoming something so monstrously powerful as the shoggoth-core who so maimed you.

Maybe she could just grant you greater control over the blade's shapeshifting?

What do you instruct her to do?
>Continue her experimentation, even accelerate it, to maximize results
>Use greater caution, and focus on containment and threat-reduction, at least for now
>Work with the Throat-singer, whose bard-song seemed to have some influence as well
>Focus efforts on the sword, so you can maximize your sweet loot ASAP
>Write-in
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>>5407238
>Work with the Throat-singer, whose bard-song seemed to have some influence as well
>Encourage the Novice to pray to and make offerings to the Baleful Beholder, when possible- it may well aid her research
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>>5407238
>Continue her experimentation, even accelerate it, to maximize results
what could possibly go wrong

>>5407273
>Make those BB offerings ourself
don't really want to push religion on her
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>>5407238
>Work with the Throat-singer, whose bard-song seemed to have some influence as well
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>>5407238
>>Work with the Throat-singer, whose bard-song seemed to have some influence as well
>>
>>5407238
>Work with the Throat-singer, whose bard-song seemed to have some influence as well

But with caution - there is no need to rush this or risk contamination.
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>>5407238
QM, we hid the moon sword back in silk before arriving, right?
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>>5407288
Her dad is the Chaplain of the forward base, but I'm definitely not against making the offerings ourselves. We are (kinda) the anti paladin, after all.
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>>5407808
>>5407681
>>5407665
>>5407633
>>5407288
>>5407273
You encourage the Novice to work with the Throat-singer on this matter. The sword reacted to his song, after all. Perhaps the sample will do likewise? If he can awake a shoggoth-sword, can he command a single shoggoth-slime, as he can command lesser reptiles? It is worth some consideration.

On the subject of Karz Throat-singer, you have not had a chance to speak with him alone for some time. In the next twelve to eighteen hours, you have been told that you will arrive at Wevenore, the City of the Drow. Before then, you would have words with him.

“Ivno said you wished to speak with me, Dragonborn,” the sullen, babyfaced dwarf man announces himself, upon his arrival at the stone which you have claimed as throne-for-the-moment.

You look to the young dwarf, and again are struck by the odd roles you two have taken. You, whose invasion killed his father and enslaved his people, and who now serve as mentor and guide in some capacity—a kind of ‘dragon shaman’ on his journey. He, alone and bitter, helping to oppress his race as he becomes more and more like you… And yet, you still see the core of hatred in his eyes, when he sets them upon you. You, half his age in actual years, thrice his height, monstrous by his race’s standards… What does he actually think of you?

“How iss your training coming along?” you ask instead. “We have not had time to practiccce.”

“Fine, I s’pose,” he says.

There is an awkward silence.

“You wrapped the moon-ssword up,” you note, for indeed he did.

“You’ve been being weird about it since we got back,” he says, shrugging. “Figured you were keeping it hidden for a reason, yeah?”

“Yesss,” you reply. “Thank you.”

“You don’t need to do that, you know,” he mumbles.

“Do what?”

“Thank me,” he answers. “Pretend to be grateful, or friendly. I told you, I’m not like Davora.”

He certainly doesn’t have nearly the rear end… Nor the softness, the tenderness, the affection. And you don’t just mean for you—this dwarf is hardened to the world. YOU have hardened him. You must take a different tack.

“Tell me how your sspellcraft progresssessss,” you command, not harshly but with an inflection making it clear that this is a report to his master, not idle morale-boosting chit-chat.

“Not a lot of lizards and snakes to sing to down here,” he notes.

“What of ssslimess?”

That gets his attention.

“What, like with the sword?”
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