[a / b / c / d / e / f / g / gif / h / hr / k / m / o / p / r / s / t / u / v / vg / w / wg] [i / ic] [r9k] [cm / hm / y] [3 / adv / an / cgl / ck / co / diy / fa / fit / hc / int / jp / lit / mlp / mu / n / po / pol / sci / soc / sp / tg / toy / trv / tv / vp / x] [rs] [status / ? / @] [Settings] [Home]
Settings   Home
/qst/ - Quests

You are Mouse, the ogre. Although raised by humans you found yourself in service of the dark elven queen - and with her blessing you have embarked on a quest to purge the corruption plaguing the very world you live in.

You are not alone. Your mission is shared by an eclectic band of companions:
-Phineous, the sophisticated orc of culture.
-Smutkin, the formerly depraved bard who took your mission for his own
-Sparky, the warped imp that took on affinity to holy magic
-Tithe, the diminutive yet vigilant gargoyle
-Chloe, the shadow of the queen sent to safeguard you and your mission.
-Diana and Minerva, the guardian golems that found you and your cause to be a worthy one
-Elle, the royal courier
-Harriet and Janet, the twin scouts

Most of them are not with you right now, as you enter into a banquet hall of a particularly opulent mansion in the merchant quarter of the cathedral fortress. Right now it's just you and Chloe.

You are going to a party.

Your gaze lingers on your half elven plus one for this occasion, taking in the elegant nonchalance with which she carried herself and the dark silk dress that flowed around her silhouette.

"Is something wrong?" She asked, her voice deliberately relaxed and condescending. You couldn't be entirely sure, but from the glint behind her glare you got the feeling that her enjoyment of the role at least partially eclipsed her frustration at being required to remain in the open rather than sneaking in, at request of princesses Claudia and Alicia she chose to honour.

"I hope not." You replied, even while mulling over the current circumstances.

After you concluded your business in the warehouse basement it was already getting late and you were worried you wouldn't make it to the banquet the human princesses arranged an invitation for you to attend. So you decided to leave most of your companions to do a more thorough search of the hideout for clues alongside the temple guards (Celestine ensured the guards would be cooperative) while leaving Elle to accompany her friend to the courier barracks. The man looked shaken enough from his ordeal.

In the end it fell just to you and Chloe to make your way back to the cathedral compound and your suites. Lady Celestine accompanied you herself, riding atop an alicorn that was waiting for her outside the warehouse, causing evening traffic to die along your route, citizens pausing whatever they were doing to watch and gawk and speculate.

A surprise awaits you as you seek to make do to make yourself presentable for the social event - the outfits you and Chloe are now wearing, apparently courtesy of Celestine herself. Whether it was something she had planned before or something prompted by her precognition would remain a question you'd have to ask her later. In the meantime you were grateful, as the garments likely contributed to the polite treatment you've received from the doorman of the guild owned mansion you've just entered.
The building was lavishly decorated, as one could expect from a structure built for express purpose of giving impression of wealth and prosperity. Tangentially to that, the place was also quite heavily guarded by soldiers dressed in the same colours as the guards you fought just hours ago. That prompted some unease in you, not helped by the fact that the guards themselves seemed on edge for some reason. Small comfort could be found that their apparent anxiety was not (yet) directed specifically at you, though you suspected it may have had to do with word reaching them of the incident at the warehouse.

Well, whatever the fallout from this would be, you'd have to deal with it. In fact it was probably better that you were there, in case the corruption you fought extended here (which didn't seem far fetched at all), considering people you've come to view as your friends - princesses Alicia, Claudia and her husband Klaus - may be caught unaware.

"Mouse, you came!" A familiar voice welcomed you shortly after you entered a dining hall, before you could properly take in the diverse array of personages clustered around the tables laden heavy with delicacies, wines and liquors, or the gentle sound of music coming from a band performing in the corner of the hall.

"Princess Alicia." You gave a small bow in greeting. "Princess Prim is not with you?" You asked, having gotten used to the pink haired bundle of cheer being joined at the hip with her more stern blonde relative.

"She decided to spar with Charlotte some more instead when I told her what this banquet would be like. This is not really the kind of party she's enjoying." Alicia explains. "Although I must say, the mood surprised even me. I believe every invited guest has arrived already and the host is yet to make an appearance. Something feels off..."

"Yes, I believe I have an idea-" You begin but are interrupted by a ringing sound, presumably of glass being struck to attract assembly's attention.
"Ahem." A noble steps forward and clears his throat. A man of fairly powerful build, clad in fine garments with a cuirass and a sword at his hip giving him a martial look. "Thank you all, honoured guests, for coming."

"That's knight-commander Stephanos, brother of the host." Alicia whispers an explanation.

"Unfortunately urgent affairs of the temple have called my brother away so he can't greet you and express his gratitude at your attendance in person, but I'm convinced he will come as soon as he is able. In the meantime, him and me both would like to invite you to partake in hospitality befitting the Guild and the nobility of the alliance alike. Please, enjoy yourselves and have a delightful evening."

In the murmur that arose among the gathered guests, Stephanos turned around and strode out of the hall, gesturing at the musicians to resume performing, apparently having decided to let the guests entertain each other instead of mingling with them. Although you can already see several individuals weaving their way in pursuit.

"I should go after him." Alicia says. "After all he's the one I wanted to talk to. But it seems others had the same idea." She adds, having made the same observation. "I'm sorry, Mouse, I'd love to talk more, but I better get going before the others badger him out. See you later, and lady Chloe, you look absolutely stunning."

And with that the princess turned around and left, joining in pursuit of the knight-commander.

"W-why would she say something like that?!" Chloe hissed.

"I think it's something people just say to their friends or peers." You guess. "Although it's fair to say you do look really good in it."

Chloe's look of partially content indignance redirects at you. "Hmpf. Thanks, I suppose. Anyway, what are we going to do now? It looks like the temple goons are being busy."

That was a good question, actually. You considered your options...

>Head after the knight-commander and Alicia yourself. Although you didn't really know enough to determine whether your presence would be a boon or a hindrance.
>Klaus and Claudia should be in attendance somewhere as well, perhaps reconvening with them might be helpful. Look for the couple now.
>A possibility has been mentioned that a dwarf delegation may be around - you should look and ask among the guests for them.
>Maybe you could step aside and observe and get a better picture of who's around before approaching anyone else...
>In fact with the guests busy with each other and their absent host, perhaps you could leave the main banquet hall and look around. Wouldn't be first time someone got lost looking for a garderobe, no?
>other plan
is this called dogbusters because the goddess takes dog dicks?
>Klaus and Claudia should be in attendance somewhere as well, perhaps reconvening with them might be helpful. Look for the couple now.
>A possibility has been mentioned that a dwarf delegation may be around - you should look and ask among the guests for them.
>Klaus and Claudia should be in attendance somewhere as well, perhaps reconvening with them might be helpful. Look for the couple now.
>A possibility has been mentioned that a dwarf delegation may be around - you should look and ask among the guests for them.
Meeting the dwarfs should go better if we are accompanied by the noble couple
>A possibility has been mentioned that a dwarf delegation may be around - you should look and ask among the guests for them.
As you watched Alicia disappear among the shuffling of the guests, you considered your options. As far as your mission was concerned, the path most worthy of pursuit was trying to find the dwarves, so that's what you'd do. However, your mind drifted once again to the noble couple, Claudia and Klaus - they were likely around for a while now and may be able to point you in the right direction. Additionally, fancy outfit or not, you were still an ogre which did little to help you make good first impressions. If your friends could introduce you, your interaction with the dwarves would likely get off with a better start.

You relay your reasoning to Chloe and with that the two of you set out to search the room for more familiar faces.

It doesn't take long to spot the two nobles, you find them at one of the buffet tables, Klaus engaged in discussion with another man while Claudia listened by, chewing on a morsel. When they see you approach, they both acknowledge you with a nod and a smile, Klaus's interlocutor with a more reserved look. Not fearful, though, rather just wary. Something in his stance told you this was no pampered noble, even though he was dressed in what probably passed as appropriate manner for this feast.

"Mouse! Good to see you." Klaus turned back to the man. "See, this Mouse, champion of the dark queen and the noble ogre I've been telling you about. Mouse, this is Benjamin, a friend of mine from the academy."

"Delighted." You exchange pleasantries.

"We used to study together, but our fates took us separate paths."

"That's a nice and roundabout way of referring to my exile."

"Ben..." Klaus's expression fell. "I recognize it was unfair, but at least you got to leave with your sweetheart. Wasn't it, in the end-"

The man gives Klaus a vicious glare that quickly wilts when it is met only with confusion and hurt. "...you don't know?"

"Don't know what?"

"I never saw her after that day. If I can call anything from that time a lucky break it was me waking up in that ditch at all, although it sure as hell hadn't felt that way back then."

"Goddess... I honestly had no idea..." Klaus said, aghast, his expression mirrored by Claudia.

"Let's not dwell on that. I've come to accept that this is how the world works."

"It should not." Klaus murmurs with a frown. "Mouse. I didn't see you in the library. Have you found some leads elsewhere?"
"You could say that. I may have some materials for you to take a look at, if you're willing." You respond, thinking back to the mad mage's manual, and any other possible evidence your companions may yet find in that lair.

"Absolutely. But I apologise, you probably had something in mind when you approached us? You can trust Ben here, I'll vouch for him, even though I admit I've been thoughtless before. Please, forgive me, Ben."

Ben just slowly shakes his head in dismissal of the concern and the attention shifts onto you.

"I was hoping to meet with the dwarven delegation here, if there's anyone like that in attendance." You explain.

"Oh! I see. Yes, I believe you mentioned something like that before? Well, you're in luck." Klaus looks at Ben.

"I'm accompanying them on the mission to Cathedral City, in my capacity as a senior member of the Surveyor Guild." The man says. "Although I'm more of a guild attache so if you want to discuss something specifically dwarf related, I'll have to point you to the man himself. Shaper Olaf has been on a fool's errand on his own, accompanying the halfling princess. I believe they're both around."

"Could I impose on you to introduce me?"

"Well, Klaus has been notoriously horrible judge of character in the past so I can introduce you as a kindred spirit to the old man." Benjamin nods. "Although I'm sure endorsement of a peer would go a longer way, especially with her highness."

"Let's go." Claudia speaks, and swipes up one last snack the surveyor nods and heads out to a particular group of guests in a different part of the banquet hall with you in tow.

The guests part ways before your group, not giving you any grief especially after they notice the martial princess and you found yourself grateful once again, even if this time for a relatively petty reason, that you were able to find friends like these on your travel.
"-for the last time, honoured Shaper, that's simply impossible. I don't have authority to make such a decision, and I'd be run out of office for making it even if I had. I admire boldness of the request, I admit, but that's all I can do in the matter." The noble was speaking with still polite, but clearly exasperated, slightly weary tone.

"Boldness? Councilor Rainer, are you perhaps mistaking my suggestions for some manner of play?" A venerable looking dwarf replied.

"How can I not? It seems obvious that it is the Surveyors' guild monopoly and the mountainhome's interest that is at heart of the matter. We can be open about it, there are no scribes taking minutes in this place. A brazen move your kind is, respectfully, not known to be making, inspiring even more sympathy in me for your cause. Alas, as I said before, it is a vain effort. The guild will not relinquish the claims for no story, embellished or not."

"Are ye daft? Are you that corrupted by the greed and intrigue that you can't recognize genuine concern and very real threat?"

The human grumbled before formulating a reply.

"Of course not. It's rather that I'm confronted with much too many real threats to dismiss other, political, financial and personal threats that give me a better vantage point to judge shortcomings of a narrow perspective of someone who thinks to punch above their stature. Good day to you, honoured Shaper."

With that the man turned to leave. Before he succeeds in doing so he is stopped in his tracks by a new voice speaking up.

"Hey! Are you being rude to my uncle?"

A small, but energetic figure emerged at the older dwarf's side, she could be mistaken for a child if not for the massive axe she held that could almost eclipse her silhouette from some angles. This was without a doubt the halfling princess.

"Ahem, your highness..."

"Let him be, little Lulu. I did kind of lost me temper a bit."

"Hmm." The princess mumbles, the man wisely keeping quiet and taking the chance to disappear. And with that matter resolved, the halfling and the dwarf focus their attention on your group.

"Claudia! What are you doing on this boring party? I thought you'd be in your keep. Oh, and mr. Klaus." Her gaze falls on you. "Don't even think about making trouble for my friends, ogre!"
Claudia takes initiative before you can respond.

"It's good to see you too, Lulu. This is Mouse; you don't need to worry about him, he's a friend that helped us a lot already."

"A friend?" The halfling girl sizes you up and down. "Well, if you're friend of Claudia then you're friend of mine!" She extends her hand for you to shake. She's obviously unable to envelop your hand in hers, but you can tell the muscles bundled in her small frame are well honed if her hand is of any indication. Stands to reason with the size of her weapon, after all.

"Ahem. I better go after the councilor to clear some things up. See you guys around." Benjamin announces and takes his leave.

As the rest of you acknowledge the man's choice the elderly dwarf steps forward.

"Olaf Quartzenslab, Shaper, at your service. Or at least I used to be. I seem to spend most time on vain musings recently it appears."

"Don't speak like that, uncle. The elders would never have sent you if they didn't take your research seriously." Lulu objects.

"I suppose you are right, little one." The dwarf said and looks at you, briefly trading looks with Claudia and Klaus. "So, an ogre friend... and a dark elf, too. Curious. And ye were looking to speak with me?"

>Ask about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.
>Ask about the danger he was discussing with the guild representative just now, it looked like something he was invested in personally.
>Ask about the state of dwarves and the threat posed by rogue mercenary forces
>Ask about himself, dwarves and halflings
>Ask about something else
>Ask about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.
>Ask about the danger he was discussing with the guild representative just now, it looked like something he was invested in personally.

>"If I may ask, what are you research and musings? I have been studying in Klaus library about the nature of magic and the world, and the perspective of the dwarves have greatly interested us."
>Ask about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.
>Ask about the danger he was discussing with the guild representative just now, it looked like something he was invested in personally.
>>about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.

>Ask about himself, dwarves and halflings

>Ask about the state of dwarves and the threat posed by rogue mercenary forces
>>Ask about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.
>>Ask about the danger he was discussing with the guild representative just now, it looked like something he was invested in personally.
>Ask about the theological dispute with the eastern kingdoms. That one seemed to be closely linked to central point of your mission.
"Very much so, especially if you are of the scholarly persuasion. I've been studying texts in lord Levantine's library and were especially intrigued on dwarven perspective on magic and workings of the world."

"Is that so?" the dwarf looks you in the eye, as if to measure your sincerity. "That is a noble pursuit, and a very ambitious one. But also a topic much too wide for a single conversation."

"I do have a way of narrowing it down. I understand one statement in particular has recently led to a theological conflict with the clergy of eastern realms?"

"That..." The dwarf frowns and takes in air...

"Oh goddess..." Lulu groaned. "Claudia, this is gonna take a while. Care to talk about some of the moves I've been practicing?"

As the two women step slightly off to the side to talk shop you return your attention back to the old dwarf.

"Where do I even start? It's so tiresome and frustrating. I and my apprentices have spent weeks on each of the analyses and the conclusion is irrefutable and undeniable. Of course, as a dwarf of science I'm open to questioning my method, my evidence, my assumptions, every logical element of the process. What I wouldn't give for a respectful, meritorious debate, challenge issued by the kindred mind! What I wouldn't love more than being proven wrong..."

The dwarf sighs.

"I'm sorry, I must have gotten carried away a bit. Let me go back to the core of the subject matter. How much do you know?"

"My understanding," You reply carefully. "...is that a dwarven scholar, perhaps yourself?" You venture a guess, the dwarf waves dismissively, urging you to continue. "...have suggested the world is universally, inexplicably biased in favour of evil, which angered believers of dogma that fundamental nature of universal order is good."

"That's very simplified understanding, but illustrates essence of this absurd conflict well." The dwarf nods. "Indeed, the facts we've gathered and calculations we've performed, many times over and with multiple sets of data, all point to the same conclusion - the bias shows up every time without fail." The dwarf strokes his beard. "In honesty I did anticipate there would be a pushback. Our findings are a bitter pill to swallow, especially to those who devoted entirety of their existence to well meaning ideals. But the reality of the world cares naught for how we feel about it." He hesitates. "At least, that's one of the assumptions we take for granted. Regardless, I'd like nothing else to have my findings challenged, an error pointed out that would invalidate them." He sighs again. "What I get instead is insults and demands that I forfeit my work because they don't like it."

"What were origins of the data that you have been studying?" Klaus asks.
"Everything we could get our hands on. Everything in our libraries, in libraries of associated cities, entire stock of records and knowledge we could access."

"Could the bias you've discovered emerged not in reflection of the world itself but rather the material you have studied?"

"Aye, that is a possibility we have considered. We've done many analyses across wide range of samples to minimize the risk. At the end of the day it could be not the world but just our society that is corrupt. Obviously, those conclusions are no more palatable."

Klaus looks at you. "The good dwarves may have well put a finger at the object of your quest, Mouse."

"That is indeed what it sounds like to me as well." You find yourself agreeing. "The Taint..."

"Taint, you say?" The dwarf asks. "That term seems vaguely familiar... I'll need to go through my notes to remember. If you are raising it in relation to our findings, then it suggests it's a mystic concept, yet too obscure to be prominently featured in a mainstream model..." The dwarf trails his musings off.

"Perhaps this is a topic we would be better served discussing in a more private setting." Klaus remarks. It was true that you were still in a banquet hall, and although some of the guests seem to have given up when it became apparent the host is attending to some non-standard business and would not be attending, many others chose to stay and take advantage of this opportunity to network and intrigue, or whatever it was notables were doing in such events.

"That would be probably for the best." You nod at the suggestion. "In the meantime, there was another thing I meant to ask... pardon me if we intruded on your debate earlier, but you mentioned a danger to that guild person. What manner of danger did you mean? Could it be related to the... well, the research we discussed earlier?"

"Hm? Oh, that. Yes. Actually, I'm not certain of that, although I suppose it is a distinct possibility, perhaps worth of further inquiry..." The dwarf trails off again.

"Um, Shaper?" Klaus prompts him.

"Ah, aye, I haven't told you yet. You see, there have been... incidents, among the miners. In the mountainhomes as well as in reports from elsewhere, with similar symptoms, entire crews showing symptoms of inexplicable violence and ferocity. A working theory we have is some hitherto unknown substance being released in sufficiently deep excavations. It's research I've been directed to following the political mess that followed my previous work." The dwarf sighed once again. "As you can see, this one is taking me in the same direction."

"I take it you've been proposing prudential measures?" You ask. "Expensive ones?"
"Indeed. Protective equipment, exploratory protocols, regulation of working hours and volume. Unfortunately, the surveyors' guild sees those measures as an attempt to give dwarven miners an advantage by imposing unreasonable administrative burden." The dwarf shakes his head. "The fools are so fixated on immediate gain and their cutthroat competition that they throw away lives and sanity of their workers."

"Those symptoms... where have we heard that before?" Klaus mutters. Then he snaps his fingers. "Aha! Alicia mentioned something of the sort, has she not? And specifically in a mine operated by the cultists."

"There was a new case?" Dwarf asks. "When was that? Where?"

"Around a week ago, and near the Arcturus castle." Klaus said. "Circumstances hint that it may be something much more sinister than just a mining accident."

"What do you mean, lad?"

"The excavation was not a commercial enterprise, it was operated by cultists that worship the... well, here we are again."

"Remarkable. I am going to need to learn more about this. You said her highness Alicia knows more? I must absolutely speak with her. Is she around?"

"She went to see sir Stephanos after his short speech." You said.

"Oh. That's probably going to take a while. Well, you've gotten me a lot to think about, my good ogre. Very well. I'll consult my notes again so I'm better prepared to discuss... that affair with you."

"When the time comes, I'd be grateful to be included." Klaus said. "I and Claudia should be available in the cathedral library throughout the day."

"It's agreed, then." The dwarf said. "In that case, perhaps I'd be better served going to examine my notes straight away... unless there was anything else you wished to talk about?"

>Stay and talk with the dwarf some more.
>Let the dwarves go and talk with Claudia and Klaus some more
>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
>Maybe you could try and use the chance to snoop around the building now
>Perhaps that's enough of this party, you could also head to your suites and reconvene with your companions
>other plan
>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
>>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
>Maybe you should try and check on whether Alicia was successful in reaching this Stephanos fellow...
Words of parting are exchanged and the dwarves make way for exit, as the old shaper resolved to make good on his word. The princess Lulu was probably just as relieved to escape from the banquet if her expression was of any indication. As your new acquaintances leave, you turn to the noble couple.

"I'm a bit worried for lady Alicia and intend to check on her."

"Worried?" Claudia inclines her head. "I don't think she should be in much danger right in the shadow of the cathedral. Surely the cultists should not be bold enough to make a move on such a well guarded event."

Right, you did not yet tell the two of your most recent adventure.

"I'm afraid I have good reasons to question allegiance of guild guards." You speak quietly. "There's more to be said, but for now it should suffice we had a fight with them relating to cultist affairs. Lady Celestine helped deal with the outcome; absence of host of the party is likely connected to that event."

"What?" Klaus frowned. "But in that case..."

"No question about that. Let's go see sir Stephanos at once." Claudia nodded. "Although I doubt he'd be personally involved. He is known to be a devout, if aloof, knight and officer that stays out of his brother's guild business. Nonetheless, I suppose we're overdue having a word with him as well."

And so your group of four makes your way through the banquet hall and onto the corridor. You pass a few notables heading in opposite direction, their sour expression at odds with their fine garments. You can make out some of the grumbling:

"...waste of time..."
"...damn princess knights thinking they're better than everyone..."
"...since when does temple get in the way of business...?"

None of you care enough to confront the disgruntled guests under current circumstances and so eventually you reached the study with entrance flanked by two guards. These two did not bear livery of the guild, rather they wore colours, leaving you to conclude they must be house guards. The revelation gave you a small amount of relief.

"Halt." One of the knights said. "Captain Stephanos is busy. Princess knight business..." He explains, tone of his voice somewhat unsure as he measures up the company walking up to him and trailing off as he recognizes lady Claudia. It's not too surprising it took him a while to recognize her considering not just distraction posed by the ogre and the dark elf in her company but also because she was wearing a dress gown rather than her usual armour (although she still carried a sword at her side).
"We understand. We wanted to check on our friend." Claudia explains with a kind smile. "Could you be so kind and ask sir Stephanos if we could intrude?"

"Of course, your highness." The knight saluted and entered the study.

"Mouse, can you tell us what-" Klaus probably suspected you'd be left to wait longer than you ended up having as the guard re-emerges almost immediately, waving you in.

Claudia and Klaus are first to go, you and Chloe file in after them; the study is reminiscent of what you've seen in Alicia or Levantines' castle, its decor perhaps slightly more lavish than Alicia's. The latter was currently seated across from a desk from the knight who gave courteous nod to the Levantine couple and one of curt acknowledgment to yourself and Chloe, then returned his attention to Alicia.

"...so, in conclusion, I can personally vouch for my men to be true to our Lady under any circumstances. And frankly, had I not known of the incident lady Prim has been subjected to, I'd be touch offended for the suggestion. Of course, matters as there are, I understand such experiences can raise concerns elsewhere."

"I welcome and thank you for your assurances, sir Stephanos... but with all due respect to your service, I'm given impression that you are not taking the matter seriously enough. I'm not seeing you to calm my panicked heart, I'm here to make sure that you've got a handle on forces under your command."

Stephanos pinches bridge of his nose and keeps silence for a few seconds before he responds. "Your highness, it was not my intention to belittle your valour and I apologise if that's how it came across. I've only just recently reviewed reports submitted by my lieutenants and I assure you my men can be held to highest standards of training and integrity."

"Reports?" Claudia speaks up. "What is your personal impression from the drills?"

"I hold my lieutenants to high standards when it comes to reporting and delegation." Stephanos replied. "Their information is more reliable than any biased gut feeling I may have gotten if I had personally involved myself."

"If you had... sir Stephanos, when was last time you took part in training with your men?" Claudia seemed taken aback.

"It must have been about..." He leaned back, thinking, then refocused abruptly. "Wait, that's not important. Lady Levantine, your prowess in single combat is legendary, but my men are my responsibility, and so is my choice of how to approach their training."

"What had you so busy you can't attend to it personally?"

"If you must know, I was researching a new technique I could incorporate into the training later. I need to perfect it myself before passing it on, lest my attempts could lead to bad practices proliferating."

"Can you show me?"

"I'd like to see that technique you consider more valuable than your personal involvement in leading your troops. Surely you would not deny me a brief spar?"

"What? Here? Now? In your dress?"

"Certainly." Claudia said, resting her hand on hilt of her sword.

"Love?" Klaus asks, concerned. She smiles at him, squeezing his hand.

"Just trust me. Captain?"

"Here? In the study?"

"We can go outside if you wish. But in combat setting, enemy is seldom courteous enough to comply in creation of your dream engagement."

"Very well, then. I can't really back down after all this, can I? Let us at least move the desk for some room."

With you volunteering your assistance the offending furniture is easily relocated and before long the beautiful princess knight and the noble captain face off against each other, the rest of you scattered against sides of the wall as spectators.

Stephanos is the first one to make a move. His careful probing thrust is easily parried by Claudia and then the duel begins in earnest.

To his credit, the knight-captain did manage to not embarrass himself entirely. He evaded Claudia's riposte and even succeeded in deflecting her probing attacks. The last one he tried to segue into a counter of his own and even managed to cut into some billowing element of Claudia's dress but princess was more nimble than he gave her credit for, dodging the strike and delivering a firm one of her own, knocking the blade out of Stephanos's hand.

As the captain's sword clanged against the ground, the male knight rose his hands in a gesture of surrender.

"Um, sir, there are - hey, what's going on here?" A guard comes into the room to see Claudia pointing a sword at his captain.

"Just a friendly spar, soldier." Stephanos says, moving to retrieve his blade as Claudia sheathes hers. "What is it?"

"Ahem. Intruders, sir! Quite a lot of them, they spooked the housemaid in your brother's room!"

"What? How did they get past the guards? Have they been subdued?"

"We don't know yet, and, uh, not exactly. They demand to see you."

"Demand? Do they have hostage?"

"There's temple guards and temple golems with them..." The guard says, prompting you to raise your eyebrows.

"They have all those as hostages?"

"No, no, they are actually... er, it might be easier to just talk to them, sir."

"Fine. Where are they?"

"In the corridor outside."
"Leader!" The scouts are the ones to greet you audibly, as Diana, Minerva and Smutkin just nod in recognition. The temple knights don't acknowledge you at all, instead waiting for the host to notice them in the eclectic bunch, which takes a few moments despite their relatively gaudy armour.

"What is the meaning of this? How did you get in here, and what were you doing in my brother's study?"

"I believe," One of the guardians said dryly, "a better question would be why did your brother have in his study a concealed passage connecting to a heretic's unholy laboratory."

Stephanos opens his mouth, then closes it again, then repeats the sequence once more. "...brother, just what is it that you got yourself into...?" He ended up muttering to himself.

"Before we tell you more on that, you'll be asked to share with an inquisitor what you know." The guardian, possibly sir Frederick, asserted.

"Of course. Truth is the only path to Lady's grace." Stephanos said. "I'll go with you right away."

"I think that could wait until morning, actually." A new voice comes from behind you. You turn to see a tired looking nobleman flanked by two more temple guards.

"Brother! You're back. What is going on?" Stephanos says.

"All in good time. For now suffice it to say that I and our Lady Celestine have reached an... understanding."

"What is that supposed to mean?"

"I'll tell you more after your talk with cathedral authorities, wouldn't want to upset them."

"That would be unwise." Frederick nodded menacingly.

"In the meantime, what a delight to see all you highnesses... and a sophisticated ogre." The noble looks across the small crowd in the corridor, gracing the princesses with a courteous smile that falters somewhat when his gaze reaches you. "I'm terribly sorry I could not treat you with the courtesy and hospitality you deserve tonight. Perhaps you will all find small comfort in hearing it from me now: Lady Celestine is holding a grand celebration two days for now. I hope we will get chance to make up for this sordid affair when we meet there, together. I, for now, am looking forward to it very much."

"Lady Celestine arranged a celebration... with you?" Klaus narrows his eyes.

"Indeed! There has been a... misunderstanding, I'm sure, and I'll be happy to have it cleared up at Lady Celestine's suggestion, with an event to raise spirits of the common folk."
"It's good that you're so enthusiastic, lord Lucian, in the meantime there seems to be a new 'misunderstanding' for you to explain, so I'm afraid I'll have to impose on you to come right back with us." Frederick says.

"Is there?" The noble frowns. "But of course, I'm always at our lady's disposal." He adds, though you could say his heart was not really in it. Then he sighs. "I suppose I'm condemned to not attend my own party at all after all. Oh well. You, my guests, are of course welcome to keep taking advantage of my hospitality even in my absence. The serving staff is not going anywhere."

>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and find a suitable place to contact queen Olga, it's been a while since you reported in
>Go back to the banquet hall, perhaps there's someone interesting for you to meet still.
>Perhaps you could get away with some snooping around the estate now after the guards take both of the siblings back for questioning...
>Claudia, Klaus and Alicia look just about done, perhaps you can talk to them before they leave
>other plan
>Claudia, Klaus and Alicia look just about done, perhaps you can talk to them before they leave
>>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and find a suitable place to contact queen Olga, it's been a while since you reported in
Hopefully we can do both.
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and debrief your companions on what they found in the cultist lair after your departure
>Your work here is done. Go back to the suites and find a suitable place to contact queen Olga, it's been a while since you reported in
With the party host being accompanied by the temple guards out you look over the remaining gathering and determine that you've done what you could at this social event and were interested on what Smutkin and others would be able to share from their findings. The princesses may not have gotten exactly what they wanted from this party, but at the end of the day if both of the siblings were involved, it would probably be for the best not to end up relying on their word. Although... that Stephanos did seem rather surprised by his brothers' antics and his previous behaviour did not make him look like a master of intrigue.

"Mouse?" Klaus addresses you. "I take it your men's presence here ties to what you were mentioning earlier?"

"That's right. I can go into details, but I was hoping to speak with them as soon as possible." You say.

"That's fine, for now at least it seems the matter is in capable hands. Although I'd be glad to hear your recount eventually, just to be sure."

"Of course." You nod.

With that the noble returns to the two princesses who were discussing something and you turn back to your crew.

"Alright, let's return to our lodgings for now. I'd like to hear what you found."

There's a chorus of acknowledgments and with that you head out down the corridor and out of the manor, your now sizeably grown entourage drawing some additional glances. That some of your companions bore markings of combat - pristine white of the golems marred by dirt and blood stood out perhaps more than wear shown on the scouts' uniforms - made for some contrast with your and Chloe's finery.

However, it was already late and anyone you encountered knew better than to pick a fight with such a spectacle. You made it back to the guest suites without incident.

When you arrive you gather once again in the common room of the suite Smutkin and Phineous have taken. Chloe vanishes briefly, before reappearing clad in her signature outfit - although you can't honestly say it would offer much more protection than her new dress, you could understand she felt more at ease in it, especially after she was required to play part of a helpless captive earlier today.

You found Sparky where you left him after returning from the dungeon, resting in his pillow fort from exertion of the fight. Phineous also made his appearance, looking well composed, with an expression of resolve you've never seen him sport for too long.

Tithe, who must have gleaned your intent at some point, also landed on the windowsill, looking outside for now.

And when the scouts emerged from the bathroom, having freshened up a bit, only Elle was missing, though you did not expect her to show up tonight.

"All right, then, let's hear it." You prompted your team.
Smutkin and Phineous, who recognize themselves as your lieutenants, exchange glances and nods. Smutkin takes the vote.

"I'll start, then. After you left, we scoured rest of the hideout, below the ground as well as above, alongside the temple guards; I made no effort to hide anything from them or hamper them in any way, so we may assume they learned about as much as we have."

You nod in acknowledgment and prompt him to continue.

"So, first thing that may interest you is the second caster we fought. The masked one. Frederick identified him - apparently he was a wanted man, an outcast from the eastern church."

"Say again?" Phineous interrupted.

"I anticipated that might interest you. Apparently it was some sort of sorcerous heretic that had a bone to pick with princess Kaguya. I suppose that's one less point of hazard for us, although not learning what he knew may be a-"

"Nah. I don't think anything of value was lost." Phineous said. "If it's the same person lady Kaguya mentioned to me, we'd probably have to fight him at some point. He seemed like the sort that would work with the dogshitters. Boss, thank you for taking care of him."

"...Hmm." Smutkin considered for a moment, then shrugged. "Moving on, I and the golems took on searching rest of the underground. There was not too much, just a few rooms for the guards to pass time and keep a prisoner or two, like miss Elle's missing friend, and more interestingly, wizard's quarters."

Smutkin reached into his knapsack to produce three books. One of them you already recognized, it was the possible manual to the infernal machine Celestine had annihilated.

"This one you know, it may be a dead end, but possibly worth looking into." Smutkin put the book aside. You'd get Klaus to look at it later. "These two we found in the study, among several arcane grimoires the temple guards were adamant on securing themselves. I did not wish to get into a pointless fight so I didn't object, especially as these two are likely more interesting for us. This one," The bard raises a tome, it is a well worn book with a picture on its cover depicting a male figure sitting on a throne surrounded by naked or shackled women. "...as you may guess by looking at it is intended for entertainment of a specific kind. I didn't have time to do more than quickly leaf through it yet, but a certain term comes up frequently enough to warrant investigation."

"Atlassia?" You guess.

"You got it, boss." Smutkin grins. "Indeed, this is what passed for belletristic literature before the purges. Of course it may turn out to be a novelty trash with no use, but it may also offer some clues."

"Let's hope so." You nod. "The other book?"

"This one... is potentially most useful, although it is also undeniably the most vile. See for yourself."
The bard handed the book to you. Unlike the previous one, it had no colorful illustration on its cover, only a title: "The Breaking". Opening it revealed pages written in cursive, in style of writing that changed every few pages, with a title and a signature marking the boundary. You realize you're looking at a book of stories written each by a different author. In some, there was a sporadic hand drawn illustration, of nature lewd, gruesome or a combination of both, depicting without exception a suffering of an elf.

A nimble hand snatches the volume from yours.

"How much of that did you read?" Chloe asks the bard, her voice ringing with more violence than you recall hearing in it, steely like a blade... and shaking ever so slightly at the edges.

"I only skimmed through to discern its nature. And honestly, the content is not as interesting-"

"...interesting? That... this... this thing... someone was writing and reading this, passing it along, like... like..." The half elf steadied herself. "What." She fixes her gaze with Smutkin's. "Are. You hoping. To find. In it."

"The authors." The bard says. There's a moment of tense silence where the bard and the Shadow of the Dark Queen look each other in the eye. Chloe looks like she's struggling to keep herself in check, whereas Smutkin looks calm, if not quite relaxed.

"I'll handle it." Chloe says.

"Are you sure? It's-"

"I. And I alone. I will... I will write you a list. But..." She glances at you. "...If we ever meet someone from that list, I want to be there."

>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>Ask Chloe to let Smutkin handle the book. She doesn't need to expose herself to this.
>other suggestion

It's also getting rather late... your companions probably have more to share, but should you drag this on for much longer?
>Wrap up the meeting and go to sleep. You are likely to have another busy day ahead of you. (optional: assign tasks/errands)
>Wrap up the meeting and try to contact the Dark Queen. Chloe will join you, probably.
>Stay a bit longer to talk with your companions (optional: suggest topics)
>other plan

Happy Easter frens
>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>"I'll trust you Chloe, but don't be afraid to ask for help if you ever need it. Be careful not to open old wounds while trying to heal them."
>Wrap up the meeting and try to contact the Dark Queen. Chloe will join you, probably.
>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>Wrap up the meeting and try to contact the Dark Queen. Chloe will join you, probably.
>>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>Wrap up the meeting and go to sleep. You are likely to have another busy day ahead of you
>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>Wrap up the meeting and try to contact the Dark Queen. Chloe will join you, probably.
>Let Chloe have the book and agree to her request. She is likely most hurt by its existence than anyone else you can imagine.
>Wrap up the meeting and try to contact the Dark Queen. Chloe will join you, probably.
Also supporting the extra bit >>5634139 added
"Very well." You decide after looking your half-elven friend in the eye for a moment. She acknowledges your choice with a nod and a barest hint of a smile, that nonetheless has no mirth at all behind it. "Chloe..." You reach out and squeeze her shoulder in what you hope comes across as reassuring gesture. "...I trust you, and I respect your strength. But please, don't hesitate to ask for support should you ever need it. You are not alone."

"Noted." Chloe says simply, her expression controlled. She closes the book and turns to Smutkin. "Did you find anything else of interest?" She asked, making it clear she considers this point a closed one for now.

"Ahem. Well, between this and the other documents temple guardians have seized for their own investigations I believe we found all there was to be found in the hideout. There may be more relevant information in what the guards have taken but we'd need more time to go through them, perhaps it's a thing we can ask lady Celestine to allow us to do later. That being said, I'll pass the floor to the twins who were searching above ground."

Harriet and Janet exchange looks, perhaps settling who would speak. It seems it falls upon Harriet.

"We've gone through the administrative offices with another of the guards. They've already taken the clerk or two that may have been there in by the time we arrived so we couldn't get a read on those. There was nothing much out of ordinary for what you'd expect in a warehouse office, so the most interesting thing there were probably ledgers and archived manifests."

"The guards took those as well, but I was allowed to leaf through them before and I have some notes that we can go over." Janet says.

"That's right. And while he was busy with that, I rifled through supervisor's correspondence. It's clear that the guild was involved in underhanded dealings with the Slavers' guild. But for more detailed information, we'd have to sit and pore over the papers some more."

"Excellent job." You commend the scouts. Well, perhaps a bit prematurely before seeing what information they gathered, but you could see they're eager to see their work done and that's enough for you. "And that goes for everyone. We made it through another day."

"Indeed an accomplishment, in this den of vipers." Chloe remarked.

"...however, we've also made an undeniable progress and have multiple new avenues to pursue. Tomorrow we'll have our work cut out for us as well. Make sure to take some rest." You decide to bring this gathering to a close as it was getting late and there was one more thing you wanted to do. "Chloe, you may want to keep me company before we retire. I'd like to try and contact her majesty."

This got your elfin companion's ears to perk up. "Of course."
After you bid your companions good night you head to your own suite, having decided it's probably the best spot to do what you intend to do. Chloe comes with you, the twin golems take their station outside as they did before.

Chloe stands to the side with an expectant look as you take out the Queen's necklace to activate it. Before long, the haze of the shadowy magic, and its chilling touch that somehow doesn't do much to bother you anymore, covers the room.

Your mind wanders to hoping that whoever is on the watch for use of dark magic here won't come knocking. Then again, the mercenary mage went clearly unbothered until you intruded on him - does that mean that magical surveillance in the Cathedral city was weak, or that it was compromised? Neither seemed particularly reassuring.

Wisps of ominous light coalesce into an image. Image of your Queen.

"Mouse. It has been a while." Olga is seen sitting on her throne in a relaxed pose.

"Indeed. Please, forgive me, majesty. This is the first opportunity that warranted the attempt."

"Your quest proceeding not as quickly as you'd like?"

"Were it accomplished yesterday, it would still be years late for those I care for."

"Fair enough." Olga says with a humourless smirk. "Very well, let us not waste this chance. Speak."

And so you do. You relay to the queen all that you recall since your arrival to the Cathedral Fortress, both in terms of relevance to your quest and in regards to the web of intrigue and corruption that seems to always come back to the Black Dog mercenaries.

It takes some time, and Chloe occasionally steps forward to provide her perspective or remind you of a detail you would have otherwise forgotten to mention. Her stance is somewhat less forced, you think, now that she is able to see Olga seems to have matters well in hand on her end.

Eventually you reach the end of your report and let the silence settle in as the dark queen ponders.

"So that is how it is. I did expect you'd come across rot, but I admit it surprises even me how thickly does it run just beneath the fine veneer the human alliance is presenting."

"It is exactly as you say, your majesty." Chloe nods eagerly.

"We have however met a large number of earnest hearts." You object. "The princesses, and lady Celestine herself, have been nothing but kind and helpful."

"Did she make a good impression on you, my champion?" Olga asks with a teasing tone, though while her image does not show her eyes as well as you'd like, you think the smirk she's currently showing is not a cruel one.
"She did." You admit. "Although for all her power she is quite vulnerable. She reminded me of you in that respect, your majesty."

"Mouse!" Chloe hisses.

"Ah, Mouse. It's a good thing I am guarding my privacy, lest I'd be compelled to strike you down for such words." The Queen says, her smirk turning bemused. "...but I suppose I'm also to blame for being too frank with you in the past." She looks to the side. "so, her precognition is also her weakness..." She thinks aloud. "That was to be expected. I wonder..." She falls silent. "...well, for now I cannot say I'm displeased with your progress, Mouse."

"Thank you, majesty." You respond. "In the meantime, have you been safe in our absence?"

You ignore Chloe's disapproving look and keep your focus on Olga as she lets out a sigh and seems to deflate a bit in the process.

"What is safety, especially in this world of ours?" She asks. "More often than not, a setup for a trap. Thank you for your concern, Mouse," Her tone grows somewhat bitter, although you get impression - perhaps you're lying to yourself - that it's towards general circumstances rather than your person. "...but I've been doing well enough. Although I regret being forced to summarily execute one of my rare semi-competent warbosses in order to maintain discipline." She locks her gaze with yours. "Although I've come to recognize your assessment of where the true threat lies, and your recent experiences only serve to reinforce this, that still doesn't mean we can grow complacent. Mouse. I require you to continue as you were, without dragging your feet. It is good you've managed to safeguard the relic, but it seems our enemy has other possible pathways to pursue and you may not be able to thwart each of them in time. You may need to strike at heart before one of those schemes slips through. I understand you have some leads on the seat of beast's operations - it is crucial that you contact me before you embark to move against it. Do you understand?"

"I do, and I will, majesty." You pledge without hesitation.

"Very well. In that case I believe we've stretched the reincarnation's hospitality enough. Unless is there something else you feel need to ask?"

>Yes, there's this thing... (submit a topic)
>No, it is time for you to retire
>No, and although it is very late, you still need to do something... (what?)

apologies for the delay, caused for once by illness rather than sloth or lack of inspiration, at least I feel a bit better now.
>No, it is time for you to retire
>No, it is time for you to retire
>No, it is time for you to retire
>No, it is time for you to retire
"Everything is clear, majesty. Thank you for the audience." You tell the apparition with a bow, and are rewarded for it with a barest hint of a kind smile quickly refreezing into Olga's regal mask of authority and dominance. Chloe next to you has taken a knee and only begins to rise after queen's image had dissipated and the room was once again only barely illuminated by a stray beam of moonlight.

"Thank you for having me along, Mouse. Although I still think you should not be so careless with her majesty! She deserves better than that."

"Thank you for your input, Chloe." You reply. "However, I feel I'd be doing her majesty a greater disservice if I gave her anything but honesty and candor." You add with a shrug.

Chloe gives you a bemused smirk before making a "Hmpf." and melting into the shadows in a movement that is too abrupt for you to follow.

Well, maybe you could if you really wanted to, but as it stood you were assured both by elf's presence and her ability to limit detection. And so when you finally laid yourself to rest, you were at peace. You had barely time to experience the fluff of the bed embrace you before the darkness engulfed you.

And darkness it was, and it was complete. You could even go so far as to call it suffocating...

...except that it wasn't.

You got the vague impression it was trying very hard to be, in vain. Your imminent surroundings felt unrestrained and free. And as you took not of that, the darkness began to thin and shapes started to emerge from it.

You were in your room. Wait. Did you already awaken? Why? Was there danger abound?

There was.

Flitting shadow crept just outside your field of vision. Chloe? The name surfaced unbidden. No, that's not her... answer came just as fast. You watched around warily, both for the shadowy movement and for whatever else may have been relying on it for distraction.

The shadow lunged at you. It was definitely not Chloe, it was a dark thing, leaving trail of oily blackness in its wake. It had a toothed maw, which you can't say how you determined as it was black against black. It flew at you, intending to close around your throat.

You swatted it aside. It gave little resistance - you got impression of a bruised fur coat, somehow, but there was no softness. No fluff. Just vague sensation of a strike being delivered, and then a pained animal yelp as it fell out of your field of vision. The room flared up with blackness, and in the next moment you were elsewhere.
The darkness was back, but as you examined it, it resolved itself into two distinct categories - the black void above, and a surface covered by a layer of blackness below. Gradually, more details emerged - the horizon, the skyline. You could not make out the geography, but the landscape was clearly articulated beneath its dark coating.

You realized the darkness is not complete. There was a dim haze around you, and looking down you realized you are standing on polished stone pavement, in a circular area free of the black coat.

You made a step... and the darkness retreated, revealing more of the pavement. You made another step and looked back, seeing that the darkness closed itself where you left.

Turning back around, you began to walk. It's not that you could see anything particularly interesting in the almost literally monochrome world, it just felt natural to walk. And as you did, a structure gradually took form among the shadows. You began climbing stairs, for long enough that you lost count - were you ever keeping one in the first place? - but ultimately you reached a platform, lined with pillars, with a rectangular shape in the middle.

A temple? An altar?

Feeling drawn to it, you advanced. The ring of light around you widened. You paused momentarily, to look around. It didn't reveal much more than the smooth stone surface you were now walking on, but looking back you realize the darkness that covered your tracks did not do so entirely seamlessly. There was an echo. A disturbance. Your steps did leave a mark the dark coating was unable to fully cover.

This revelation left you with a warm and pleasant feeling. Was it vanity? No, it didn't feel like...

Putting that aside for now you head towards the altar in the middle. The altar itself looks like a simple slab, but atop it was resting something much more complex. The shape, the curves, bore some familiarity that became clear as soon as your "aura" reached the object.

The person. A woman, laying atop the altar. As the blackness withdrew, revealing her body, she gasped for air and lifted herself up, locking eyes with yours.

It was a beautiful woman. Your first thought went to Celestine, but this was not her. You couldn't put a finger on it, but you knew this is a wholly distinct person.

"What are you?" She asks in a soft, melodious voice. "Why are you here? How...?"
You are not given a chance to respond, even if you knew how. There's a rush of movement that you feel without actually sensing it with any of the physical senses. In a blink of an eye, the woman is once again covered by the coating of pure darkness and slumped on the altar. Past it, eclipsing even the absence of light you thought was there, was a shape of a monster. With a snarl and a growl it launched itself against you.

The size looked wrong. Unreal. It was larger than this... temple that you stood in. Why didn't it already crush you?

You had a weapon in hand, standing in a defensive posture, for what good might it do against a colossal shape flitting behind the pillars, as if deciding on an angle from which to pounce. After circling the temple maybe twice, your instinct warned you of something rapidly approaching. You raised your weapon...

Something cracked and shattered.

You wake up with a start. Was it a nightmare? Did the monster get you?

Looking around you recognize you're in your suite. Sunlight and wind play with the window curtains. There is no sign of combat - that must have been also part of the dream.

Still, something is different. You feel... lighter. More at ease. As if a shadow that has been following has been suddenly dispelled. As if you could afford yourself to relax, ever so slightly...

That's nonsense, you chide yourself. You need to remain vigilant, at least until your quest is brought to completion. Where could these thought be coming from? Unless...

You reach towards the pouch you keep always close and well guarded. The relic you're carrying, the trace of the Nameless beast. Now you realize what did the blackness in your dream remind you of. Mentally preparing yourself for being mocked by the voice of the beast that kept you company since that adventure in the ruins, as quiet as it had been recently, and turn the pouch upside down to let the relic fall onto your palm so you can confirm...

...that it broke. The black substance within was gone, or transparent to the point of being undistinguishable between cracks of the glass. Fighting back panic you turn the pouch inside out and look around to confirm the casing didn't simply break and let its content out. But there was nothing of the sort.

"Chloe." You speak, and sure enough, it doesn't take long for a tan coloured half elf walk leisurely into your field of view.
"Hm?" She inquires.

"Do you know if there was anyone here while I slept?"

"As far as I'm aware, no. Why not ask the golems, though?"

"I figured you'd be close by." You shrugged, to which Chloe gave a smug smirk. Still, her suggestion bore merit so you opened the door and asked the golems. They answered in the negative and walked inside, determined to examine your suite for signs or traces of someone who could have bypassed their watch. As they sweep the room, Chloe asks:

"What's the matter? Bad dream? I thought you're not having those anymore."

"That's perhaps part of it. I can tell you more, if you wish." You tell her. "But more important is this." You toss her the relic.

She catches it, and her eyes widen when she realizes what it is. "W-what are you doing? That thing is dangerous... oh." She closes on a surprised tone as she notices the state of the item. "Wait, did you break it? Did whatever was inside get loose?"

"I thought about that too, but it doesn't seem so. It looks like it was just... neutralized. I can't feel the Beast's immediate presence, either."

The elf looks thoughtful. "Maybe it broke when Celestine was showing off yesterday?"

"I don't think it happened then, the sensation is new. But I suppose it could be linked..."

There's a moment of silence as you both think on other possibilities. Eventually it's Chloe who breaks it first.

"Well, good riddance. It's probably not worth spending all day on just thinking about it. What did you want to do today?"

That was actually a good question...

>Klaus and Claudia should be in the archives, studying, and thanks to your recent networking, probably not alone. You should go pay them a visit.
>You didn't have much time to catch up with others yesterday. Check in on Smutkin and Phineous next door, maybe they have something interesting there was no time to discuss in the evening.
>Relic's sudden breaking may have been connected to Celestine's display, perhaps she could tell you more about it?
>The temple guards have been rather cooperative yesterday, perhaps you could talk to them about the investigation, maybe even see if they managed to get something out of the prisoner...
>other plan
>>Relic's sudden breaking may have been connected to Celestine's display, perhaps she could tell you more about it?
>Relic's sudden breaking may have been connected to Celestine's display, perhaps she could tell you more about it?
>"Whatever cleansed the relic could be key to to ending the taint and completing our quest."
>Relic's sudden breaking may have been connected to Celestine's display, perhaps she could tell you more about it?
>Relic's sudden breaking may have been connected to Celestine's display, perhaps she could tell you more about it?
It appears quite clear that this event deserves your immediate attention. After all, whatever it was that cleansed the relic could be instrumental to your quest!

"We're going to see lady Celestine about this."

Chloe gives you a thoughtful look, head inclined ever so slightly as she did when she was doubtful of something. However, in absence of any better ideas she chose to stay silent and instead offer a slow nod. "Alright."

With the course settled you step into the bathroom to ensure you're as presentable as circumstances allow, then head out in the general direction of where you hope to be able to find the elven idol based on your previous encounters. The golems join you as escorts, with Diana assuring you that no evidence of an intruder has been found; you took that to mean that your fight was just a part of the dream...

You replay the events of the night in your mind as you navigate the corridors, assuring yourself that you haven't forgotten anything important. As is usually the case with dreams, some details slip frustratingly out of your mind's grip as you try to focus on them, leaving you to wonder if you already forgot something, or if it was just your waking mind trying to figure out some aspect that dreamscape never offered in the first place.

And so before you even realize it, you find yourself in front of the garden atrium where Celestine had previously received you.

It was empty. That much was rather clear when you saw no guards around, but it was still slightly disappointing that you'd have to keep looking.


Or maybe you won't. Turning away from the empty atrium into the corridor you see a group of people, the elven hierarch in their midst. She was accompanied by a few men and women dressed in clergy garb of varied level of adornment. Most of them were looking at you with some degree of suspicion or fear, although some of the tension eased when it became clear Celestine was offering a sincere smile and didn't seem concerned at all.

"Lady Celestine." You greet her. "Please, forgive my sudden appearance, but there was an urgent matter in which I would like to seek your counsel."
"Sir Ogre, her divine grace extended plentiful courtesy to you as her guest, but it is highly presumptuous-" One of the more richly dressed priests took initiative.

"Thank you, father Willows, for your consideration." Celestine interrupted him with a raised hand. "Circumstances may be outside of regular protocol, but I'll be happy to hear what sir Mouse has to say."

"My lady-" The priest hasn't given up.

"Did you hear about the exorcism I had to personally oversee yesterday, so close to the sanctified walls of our temple?"

"..." Whatever the context was that you were unaware of, seemed clear enough to the priest. "...I understand. I didn't realize..." the man looks at you and sizes you up again, this time with more gravitas. "...in that case, I'd be thankful for opportunity to speak with you, sir... Mouse, for your own words regarding the incident."

"You are welcome to seek our guest out later, father, but for now I'd appreciate if you carried out your duties while I settle the affair that seem to be burdening him." Celestine said, sending her entourage off with a gentle gesture.

"As you wish, my lady." The priest says with a bow.

As the others resume their walk down the corridor, the elven lady ushers you into the atrium. The golems take up their positions as guards.

"I'm sorry about the way you are treated, Mouse."

"It's fine. I've been in fact treated very well thanks to your word and that of the princesses. Besides, the caution is not unwarranted." You add, banishing thought on what other ogres would likely be doing should they find their way to this place. You have work to do. "Regarding the matter I needed to talk to you about." You take out the cleansed relic. "Do you recognize this item?" You ask.

Celestine's eyes widened in surprise. "I do! But... Is that...?"

"This was the relic of the Nameless, the one I retrieved at her majesty's request. The one I've been safeguarding. Today I found it in this state."

"Please, tell me more."
Celestine listens attentively as you recount to her the events of your dream. When you get to the part where you are describing the woman on the altar, she is visibly shaken and grips your hand with hers.

"Mouse, I need to see. May I...?"

You nod your consent and the elven woman closes her eyes and her brow furrows in concentration.

Moments later, she lets out a gasp and lets go of you, her eyes snapping wide open. "It's really her. The progenitor... in your dream, or vision. But..." She rubs her temples, gaze looking somewhere past the horizon. "...what could it... why is she..."

You give the contemplating elf some time and space. In response, her attention shifts back onto you.

"I'm sorry, Mouse, it's just... it makes no sense to me. I feel mother's touch... she is the source of my power, my hope, my faith, my..." She shakes her head. "And yet in your vision she is captured. Is that the manifestation of what you call Taint, reaching over everything? Or was that a vision of a future, somehow even darker than the present?" Celestine raises one hand and focuses her gaze on her palm. Several wisps of light coalesce into existence, barely visible, flitting in shadows of the morning light. "She is still with us." Celestine says, hint of relief to her voice.

"And the relic? Is it truly neutralized?" Chloe asks from the side where she is leaning leisurely against the wall with unimpressed expression in her face.

"Right. Can I?" Celestine nods and reaches for the item you are still holding in your hands. As her fingers approach, she hesitates for a moment, but eventually allows herself to touch it.

When nothing happens, she takes it in hand and brings it closer to her eyes.

"Whatever it may have held, it appears like a perfectly mundane item now. I can't sense any power in it, dark or otherwise... I wonder, if-" She says, her gaze narrowing. "Wa- unnhhh..."

It's only your quick reflex that allows you to catch and stabilize the elven woman as she becomes weak in the knees in the next moment, cheeks aflush and breathing laboured.

"Celestine...?" You ask as you navigate her to the bench, but she regains footing before that becomes necessary.

"Fine, I'm... fine." She shakes her head and steadies her breath. "That was horribly reckless of me."

"What happened? Is that thing still dangerous?"

"No. Not anymore." She says.

"Did quite a number on you for how harmless it is." Chloe comments.

"I've only myself to blame. I thought to view the item with my powers. It took me... tried to take me, somewhere, somewhen... I shut it off soon enough, I hope. But that was vision from another time. I assure you, it's completely benign now, even if it wasn't before." Celestine paused. "I think, I think I know what happened now." She looks at you. "The presence in that relic, it was haunting you, wasn't it?"

"It tried." You admit.
"I'm thankful that it failed." the elf smiles, but her face quickly grows somber again. "I believe that your suspicion that events of previous day are relevant here is correct. The creature haunting this item must have been frustrated beyond words by your rejection - its fusion with soul of someone ready to accept its gift would be a frightening sight to behold, especially if the recipient was already powerful to begin with." Celestine looks to the side. "Yesterday, you fought directly against some of the enemy's powerful lieutenants, and you were exposed to the power of the goddess in a form that has not been channelled in recent history, and it resonated with you. I could tell. And the presence in the relic must have as well. It probably decided for a desperate gamble, to try and take hold of your soul as you laid yourself to rest, through force." She looks you straight in the eye again. "That was what you dreamed. The beast's attack was very real, and you weathered and defeated it. It must have committed all of its strength to the attempt, and so when it was repelled, there was nothing left to keep it tethered to the relic."

There was a moment of silence in which you tried to digest what you heard.

"So I've beat the voice... just like that? In my dreams?"

"I cannot be certain, but that's what I believe had transpired based on what I've seen and felt. As I said, it would have been a desperate move from the presence, and it obviously does not represent entirety of force of the entity that you know as the Nameless, or the Beast, just that fragment you were carrying."

"What would have happened if it won?" Chloe asks, her voice carefully neutral.

"I'd rather not think about such possibility. The person that would awaken would not have anything in common with sir Mouse, aside from maybe fragments of his memories." Chill runs down your spine at that description. "...but that's purely hypothetical, I don't think it's even possible for such a possession to take place without at least partial consent from the host. As I said, the move seemed utterly desperate." Celestine hurriedly added, seeing your discomfort.

Silence that ensued did little to reassure any of you. Eventually you decided to break it yourself.

"That only explains first part of the dream, though. The fight. What about the temple, and the woman you recognized?"

"The progenitor, the one whose soul I carry..." Celestine says. "I'm afraid I'm not sure about that, Mouse. It may have been continuation of the fight. The actual attack may have only happened at the very end, and you fended it off. But why Mother was there like so... that's something I'll need to think on further, myself..."
"Well... don't get yourself hurt when you do the thinking." Chloe says, and you feel a little bit guilty when you find yourself surprised that her tone seems at least partially sincere, even though your half elven companion does make attempt to keep her expression indifferent.

"I'll be careful. Thank you, lady Chloe." Celestine must have picked up on it as well as she answers with a kind smile of her own. Then she turns back to you. "I'm sorry I could not give you a clearer insight, Mouse. Was there anything else you wanted to discuss?"

>Yes, on topic of yesterday's events, what was that about the celebration that guild person mentioned?
>Yes, in fact, there was something else... (what?)
>No, but you'd like to see and talk to the captured mage
>No, you are now ready to move on to the library where your other friends are likely already at work
>No, you intend to head back to the suites and make some plans with your followers
>other course of action
>Yes, on topic of yesterday's events, what was that about the celebration that guild person mentioned?
>Yes, in fact, there was something else... (what?)
About Stephanos and his brother the party's host, and the "understanding" he said he came with her.
>Yes, on topic of yesterday's events, what was that about the celebration that guild person mentioned?
"As a matter of fact, there is." You say. "We've run across a guild representative by name of Lucian who mentioned having reached an agreement with you regarding the upcoming feast. I'd like to know more about that."

Celestine's smile shifted subtly away from warm kindness towards a slightly bemused benevolence. "Ah, yes. Indeed, I had him summoned immediately after we returned from that horrid dungeon. He was very apologetic about the horrible misconduct of Guild employees and made assurances that the incident would be thoroughly investigated and any conspirators that may have escaped brought to justice."

"And you bought that?" Chloe asks incredulously.

"Do you mean, did I consider him sincere?" Celestine sighed. "I must admit I would have liked to be able to, but no. Even though I'm always trying to look for the best in people, sir Lucian put little effort into his facade. Even so, he seemed receptive and I saw an opportunity to get him to help my word to reach more of his men by including him in my plan for the ceremonial service we've discussed earlier."

"You want him to use his influence to attract more of the mercenaries to the event?" You ask to assure yourself you understood elf's intentions correctly.

"That's right. I was worried that just the announcement of the feast may not attract many of the mercenaries, especially not those who might stand to gain most from hearing the sermon."

"Huh, you're more devious than I gave you credit for." Chloe remarks.

"Thank you." Celestine looks downcast as she accepts what is probably a compliment from your companion. "At any rate, that was back when there was only indirect connection between the atrocities taking place below that warehouse. With this secret corridor guards have told me about, the connection is much more damning so fate of this arrangement is unclear. Both he and his brother will have a lot to explain to the inquisitors."

"What can happen to them?" You ask.

"Should either or both of them be found as masterminds behind the unholy experiments, they could be condemned to burning. But burning of someone of such status is unheard of, usually when blasphemies of such order are uncovered in such circles the guilds are quick to suggest an alternative resolution through repentance and commitments to prevention... and many of the clergy are similarly quick to accept those suggestion."

"So you let such animals buy themselves free so they can keep hurting people." Chloe scoffs.

Celestine is silent for a moment before looking at Chloe. "That may be often the case, lady Chloe." She says. "But what if there is a chance that the repentance is sincere?"

"I take it back. You really are hopeless." The dark elf replies and looks at you, signaling that as far as she's concerned, nothing more needs to be said, leaving the three of you in a somewhat awkward silence.
Perhaps it's time to go. Do you have anything else to add?
>No, there's nothing more to say at this time.
>Urge Celestine to put the boot down and see the noble(s?) punished. She was there and she saw what the mage was doing. Although... wouldn't such approach go against the message she originally wanted to convey?
>Urge Celestine to follow her heart. Whatever her stance, it should be one she will not regret.
>Urge Celestine to not get personally involved and let the legal aftermath play itself out however it may. Her involvement could only harm her in her role as someone to be looked up to
>Urge Celestine to double down on her original idea, in his current circumstance Lucian should be even more 'receptive' than before. Although... you feel a bit dirty for even considering this.

And with that matter resolved...
>There was another topic you wanted to raise...
>Head to the library where your noble friends are likely already at work
>Head to the suites, there was still something you wanted to talk about with your companions
>other plan
>Urge Celestine to double down on her original idea, in his current circumstance Lucian should be even more 'receptive' than before. Although... you feel a bit dirty for even considering this.
Is it really dirty though? I think it's just extending his penitence even further, by giving the chance to others before they damn themselves. As long as he is punished as well. Remove him from any position of power. Get rid of his noble title. Keep an eye on him.
I think Mouse might not really like the idea of burning people because of his past. But giving them the right to skip punishment just because of their position is not only wrong, but invites even more taint, by giving special treatment to those that seek power and letting the ambitious be free.

>Head to the library where your noble friends are likely already at work
>>No, there's nothing more to say at this time.
>Head to the library where your noble friends are likely already at work
>Urge Celestine to follow her heart. Whatever her stance, it should be one she will not regret.

>Head to the library where your noble friends are likely already at work
>Urge Celestine to follow her heart. Whatever her stance, it should be one she will not regret.
>Head to the library where your noble friends are likely already at work
Seeing as you've likely discussed what you needed to with the elven idol, it was time to leave - the friends you've made along the way were likely already at work in the library and you'd do well to join them. Still, leaving at such a melancholic note doesn't sit quite well with you. Celestine seems distraught or perhaps conflicted, and it's a look that just seems wrong for her.

"Lady Celestine..." You speak. "I haven't known you for very long, but from what I've seen I can tell your heart is earnest and pure, despite the pressure all around us."

"Mouse?" Celestine looks at you. Whether it was your words, or tone of your voice, something seems to have surprised her.

"I just wish to say, I trust you will be able to pick out the right path, and although it may be presumptuous of me, I just want to ask that you pursue that path so you aren't left with regrets. I feel that this world would lose something precious if you were to embrace its ruthlessness."

Celestine's eyes widen and she is at loss for words for a moment. Then she approaches you and take your hand in hers.

"Oh, Mouse. My faithful are looking to me for guidance and succour, how is it that it ended up being you that would end up comforting and reassuring me?" She says, looking at you. "Thank you for your words. I believe I'll find in them a source of strength in the days to come."

Melodious voice of the elven hierarch, and content of her speech, leave you slightly aflush, as you didn't expect your expression of concern to leave quite such an impact. You quickly collect yourself, however, aided in part by sight of Chloe who in the corner of your eye is covering her face with her hand, shaking head slowly and voicelessly muttering to herself.

"Ahem. I just wish for you to take care of yourself, lady Celestine."

"I will. Thank you." She lets go.

You take that chance to bow and withdraw.
After you leave the atrium, the twin golems automatically fall in step behind you as you make your way towards your next destination. It didn't take much to decide on that one - several threads worth pursuing would by now be for sure pursued in the library by the noble friends you made over course of your adventure in the human lands. Considering what was your quest's objective in the first place, it was only fair that you'd go join them.

As you walk, you turn to the dark half-elf silently accompanying you. "Chloe, is something wrong?"

She sighs. "Not really. I've gotten used to your antics, I think." She shakes her head. "Something precious? Seriously?" She looks at you. "Did you forget that she's the one who called - or at least is figurehead for - this alliance crusade against her majesty? Was she following her heart, then?"

You take several steps in silence, thinking this over. Chloe sincerely confided in you and you could not hold it against her that she held a grudge, and she wasn't wrong. At the same time, was Celestine? Hatred humans felt against the monstrous races did not come out of nowhere.

"Was she?" You respond with a question. "She was following her vision."

"Which we know is corrupted. Where was her heart back then?" Chloe asks.

"Indeed. If she had put her faith into her heart rather than her power, would her choice have been the same?"

Now it was Chloe's turn to pause and digest. "Well, whatever could have been, we now have to deal with what it ended up being." She says.

"And we have to make sure that our present choices will end up being the right ones." is your response. When it goes unchallenged, you add: "Thank you for accompanying me in this, Chloe."

You catch brief flicker of a smile from her before she reverts to one of her resting expressions of smug resolve.
Before long you make it to the cathedral library. Entrance is guarded, but the men must have been briefed on you as they don't question your presence as you pass them and into the reading room. Well, reading room... the vaulted hall you enter rival some of the temples you've visited (admittedly, most of them have been already ruined by the time you reached them), walls lined with shelves three stories tall, accessible with movable ladders, and additional shelves and cabinets between pillars supporting the vaulted roof.

Center of the hall however was given to tables and benches. You could almost visualise how under normal circumstances hooded monks would be shuffling between the shelves or hunched over the tables, studying ancient texts, making notes or contemplating. Currently, that was not the case, as the room was rather lively with voices of your friends.

"...yes, yes... this goes way beyond a simple coincidence, there must be a shared cause, perhaps even a direct connection." Olaf, the dwarf was prominent, rising above his physical stature by standing on the bench while others - Klaus, Claudia, Alicia and Smutkin - were standing around the table with a map of the continent rolled out amidst stacks of notes, papers and books. As you approached the group, you could make out finer details such as clusters of coloured stones, possibly from some board game, laid out on the map. If the colours were meant to represent different phenomena, it was immediately apparent that at least geographically there was a clear overlap given their distribution.

"However, we're still only scratching the surface here." Smutkin said, prompting a gruff chuckle from the dwarf. "We didn't exactly have much time to go through the records, so we are still far from having the full picture."

"It's clearly an avenue worth pursuing." Klaus said. "I was not having much success in learning anything new, save for confirming what we've already guessed."

"Don't sell yourself short, dear. Making sure we're on the right path is no less valuable than trailblazing. What if we made some error early on?" Claudia tells her husband, running her hand down his back in a gesture of closeness.

"Be that as it may, it is clear I need to go back to my theories and look for the possible links." Olaf says. "Oh, good morning, mr. Mouse was it?" He adds as he notices you, initiating a round of greetings and acknowledging nods between you and the others.

"What have you found?" You ask once the pleasantries are dealt with.
The dwarf gestures at the map and confirms what you managed to glean from the glance and the overheard exchange.

"With the help of the princesses and the esteemed bard," Olaf says, Smutkin briefly grimacing at being called 'esteemed', "We've put together what we know of the mining anomalies I was talking about yesterday, and some of the more egregious cases that we attribute to what you call 'the Taint' and looked at them from geographic perspective. As you can see, there is an undeniable correlation."

The dwarf indicates several clusters of stones where both used colours are represented side by side. All of them are located near large or moderately sized settlements placed at prominent trade junctions or rivers and coasts.

"I wonder..." Klaus murmurs and points at one of the cities. "I believe slavers' guild has significant presence in this city, I think I read something to that effect..."

"I try not to think about them too much," Claudia says (there's a barely perceptible snort from behind you) "but I think I heard about that. And these two as well." She indicates two other highlighted cities.

"The overlap is not complete, though." Alicia points out. You notice her own fortress has a token placed where the mercenaries had their mining operation, alongside several other coloured tokens in the city itself. "Here, and here." She points at a cluster of single coloured stones on essentially opposite sides of the map.

"Ah, I'm afraid that's just bias of our data, lass. The further we go down that there direction, the less reports reach the mountainhome as the mining operation over there is handled exclusively by human guilds with no connection to us. Conversely, our elders are not eager to share the kind of lurid tales to see the light of day if they ever get written down in the first place. I believe I could fill this part up right well with my own older research if I had it with me."


"Don't be discouraged, princess, you did good to point it out, and you could easily have spotted something that escaped others' attention."

"You are most kind, Shaper." Alicia smiled at the dwarf.

"At any rate, I believe mr. Smutkin is correct and we've gotten what we could with the information we currently have. We need to do more research for a more meaningful pattern to emerge." Olaf said.

"I intend to make use of the material recovered yesterday to look for more geographic clues." Smutkin announces.

"I think I'll delve further into the older records to try and fill in the map." Klaus says. "I'll help him." Claudia adds.

"Good, good. Then I suppose I'll go back to my own materials. Hmpf. What I wouldn't give for someone from those easterners to bounce ideas off..."

"I'm not sure if my peers would appreciate this turn of phrase, but I'll help as I'm able." A new, slightly less familiar voice speaks from behind you. Turning around you recognize princess Kaguya, flanked by her bodyguard Hayato and Phineous.
As the group once again turns to exchange of greetings, you get a brief moment to decide how to best use your time. As you weigh your option, you take note that Alicia mentions intent to head to gymnasium where Prim, Charlotte and Lulu before heading to find another military commander to talk to, while Chloe had slinked off to a separate table, reading the tome Smutkin recovered earlier.

>Well, you made it to the library - it's time to hit the books. (subject suggestions welcome)
>Perhaps you could use this moment to catch the nobles up with what happened yesterday - on top of whatever they may have learned from other sources.
>Join Smutkin in his effort to find for clues on location of Atlassia
>Join Klaus and Claudia in parsing the records, trying to figure out pattern of the corruption
>Join Olaf and Kaguya in their cosmological debate
>Leave the nerds to the books and go with Alicia to the gymnasium
>other plan
>Perhaps you could use this moment to catch the nobles up with what happened yesterday - on top of whatever they may have learned from other sources.
>Leave the nerds to the books and go with Alicia to the gymnasium
>>Join Smutkin in his effort to find for clues on location of Atlassia
hasn't Smutkin caught them up on the new events?
>Well, you made it to the library - it's time to hit the books.
Deciding to take this chance when you have all these friends gathered together, you speak up before Alicia departs.

"Ahem. Before you go, lady Alicia, has everyone heard about yesterday's events?" You turn to Smutkin. "Did you have chance to talk about it?"

"Not in detail. I did mention that we got into a fight with Guild people that are virtually guaranteed to have been linked to that party you went to. Then I said we recovered some potential intel regarding Atlassia and from there we went over the maps."

"I had a talk with a temple guard yesterday. I understand that lady Celestine herself was cleansing a den of depravity - with unlikely help from her ogre guest and his troupe." Klaus says. "In either case, it appears the mercenaries and the Guilds are more in bed together than what I had feared, especially when you showed up at the reception later." The nobleman nods at Smutkin.

"Indeed. I propose to take this chance to get everyone on the same page regarding the incident." You say and the suggestion is met with assent.

And so you spend next few minutes recounting the events of your yesterday's adventure, how you set out to help Elle find her companion while Smutkin and Chloe went to bait someone with unhealthy interest in Elven physiology - only to end up meeting each other, and a depraved mercenary mage, in the guild warehouse basement.

You note that Kaguya doesn't show surprise but rather nods along as you reveal that the mercenary was meeting the eastern heretic, which tells you that Phineous has already shared that information with her.

Otherwise, the princesses (and Klaus) take on expression of solemn outrage by the time your tale is concluded.

"Unbelievable. Summoning devilish creatures almost underneath the Cathedral. And those poor women... how abominable." Alicia growls. "And Lucian had direct access to that dungeon? And to think I was going to ask his brother for help!"

"I wouldn't be so quick to condemn Stephanos." Claudia says. "He seemed genuinely surprised by what took place. Furthermore, when we fought... he didn't fight like a duplicitous person. Lord Levantine taught me, the way someone fights is a good reflection of their personality."

"You think Stephanos is innocent, oblivious of his brothers' actions?" Alicia asks.

"I don't know, but I believe it's possible."

"I suppose. But in either case, he will be facing the inquisition now. In any case I am still going to need to seek out other commanders." Alicia sighs. "Thank you for sharing the story, sir Mouse. I suppose I should better get going then. If the enemy is this active already... I dread to think what they could plan for that feast lady Celestine has planned."
Klaus raps his fingers against the table. "It's infuriating. Month ago I had thought the divide between friend and foe is as clear as a line on the map. And now... now we know better, and yet the uncertainty is only greater, and amount of work we need to do even more so."

His wife looks at him with a sentimental smile and embraces him from behind. "Do not be worried, my love. Because the one thing we know for sure, it's that whatever comes, we'll get to face it together."

That seemed to ease Klaus's expression somewhat as his frown melted into a relaxed smile. Although, not for very long.

"Erm. Excuse me, I'll be right back." The martial princess says, and then she's off, leaving Klaus to sigh after her.

"Well then. We owe it to ourselves, and those who come after, to give it our best. So. let's get to work."

With Alicia turning to leave and Klaus turning to his pile of books, you notice Olaf has been alternating between scribbling something down and rifling the stacks of paper he had next to him. Before you get to choose what to do next, the exotic priestess speaks to you.

"Sir Mouse, your companion has told me what you did for my benefit. As much as I would have preferred this wayward soul returned to the path of righteousness, I'm deeply grateful that you foiled whatever nefarious plans he may have been cooking."

"It's not like he gave us a choice, given the circumstances." You say.

"Of course. Even so, I wonder if it was his work that this ritual the mage had apparently been working on escaped notice of the magically gifted clergy."

"It would be probably better if he did. 'Cause else that would mean..." Phineous left the implication unspoken.

"In any case, I'm glad for the chance to be of help in this quest of yours. I'd help regardless, but now I'm doubly obligated to do my best. On that note, I better get to it." The priestess bows and heads towards where the dwarf is studying, leaving you with choice of where to best use the time you're given...

>There's a wealth of knowledge around, you can look for something that will help (specific lookup term recommended)
>Join Smutkin in trying to find location of the Atlassia
>Join Klaus (and when she returns, Klaudia) in going through historical records for additional data
>Join Olaf and Kaguya discussing esoteric matters
>Join Alicia who is going to pick up/check on Prim before going to look for military officers
>Talk to / seek out / do something with someone else
>other idea
>>Join Smutkin in trying to find location of the Atlassia
>Join Smutkin in trying to find location of the Atlassia
>Join Smutkin in trying to find location of the Atlassia
>Join Smutkin in trying to find location of the Atlassia
I had hoped I'd be able to squeeze one more update into this thread, but we're already on page 10 so I suppose it will have to wait for new thread, hopefully tomorrow.

Mouse and his team will return.

In the meantime, feel free to share or reiterate or update your preferences on who the best girl is. Thanks for bearing with me Anons.

[Advertise on 4chan]

Delete Post: [File Only] Style:
[Disable Mobile View / Use Desktop Site]

[Enable Mobile View / Use Mobile Site]

All trademarks and copyrights on this page are owned by their respective parties. Images uploaded are the responsibility of the Poster. Comments are owned by the Poster.