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.Your band has since grown to include human companions:-Elle, the royal courier-Harriet and Janet, the twin scoutsand the twin golems you've freed from their questionable service to the old order, they've accepted names you've given them: Diana and Minerva.For some time now your quest has been keeping you in the Cathedral Fortress, heart of the human alliance against the darkness - and yet, beneath the veneer of worship current reincarnation of the goddess is ostensibly receiving, also locus of conspiracy, corruption and possibly a stage of something dramatic given the sheer amount of mercenaries bearing the colours of their charismatic leader and carrying the colours of the Black Dog.In face of such peril, it's none other that the Lady Celestine herself who took it upon herself to strike against the darkness in a way only she could be expected to - by power of her words, reaching to the hearts of both her friends and enemies.And you found yourself listening in, and observing the results of her efforts, from a nearby storeroom.Your team was in place, and you knew you can count on your allies should the situation deteriorate. You considered some last second maneuvering, but decided against it in the end. You were where you needed to be. Now it would be matter of staying on guard, and hopefully that would be the end of it.
"Children of the goddess. My beloved brothers and sisters in creation. And today in particular, you who have taken it upon yourselves to be the living force against the darkness. We all know the face of our enemy, do we not? Most of you have seen them for yourself, and everyone has heard the tales ever since the cradle. The tales of monsters, their cruelty, corruption and wickedness. We all know the image of the dark queen sitting in shadows of the dark citadel, orchestrating our suffering and death."There's an approving murmur from the crowd below, although closer to you a queen's champion hissed in annoyance."What is that sow saying?""I don't think she's done making her point." You calm the half-elf down."That is an image that seems easy to visualize, is it not?" Celestine offers a rhetorical question and the audience quiets down, unsure where she is going with this. "There are reasons for this that all of us are familiar with. But there is a danger, an enemy much more insidious, and many of you I know are intimately familiar that a concealed dagger can be no less deadly than straight blade of a knight's longsword." The elven hierarch makes a pause to allow the metaphor to sink in. "The enemy I speak of is the darkness that each of us carries within ourselves."While Celestine talked, you focused your attention on the crowd, trying to discern if there's any organized movements within. For now, everything looked more or less as you would expect, with majority simply drinking in words of the goddess, with some tardy arrivals trickling in from the side streets."This darkness within is an insidious thing, it is always with us, always tempting us with shortcuts and gratification, always urging us to take our joy in suffering of another. And when we indulge, we cast away the gifts and grace our divine mother has left us. To embrace this darkness is not only to lose in our struggle, it also means becoming a monster to those around us, making enemies out of our friends and those we would otherwise treat as our companions, brothers or loved ones." The preaching elf once again takes a moment to allow her words to be processed, and as far as you can tell, it at least appears that the gathered are putting some effort into that as the silence reigns over the grounds."This darkness within is the enemy that each of us is carrying with them at all times." Celestine reiterates. "My loved children. Especially those of you who have arrived on my request, you who have committed your life to the path of a warrior, what I am asking of you may seem an impossible task. How does one face an enemy within? Especially when the very same enemy can offer you aid - its own monstrous strength as a boon in battle. To become a monster in order to fight other monsters. After all, what good is clinging to principles or humanity when you fall in combat?""Sounds like she's not really helping her case." Chloe comments dryly.
"Children, warriors against the dark." Celestine carries on. "I ask of you this - do not allow yourselves to be tricked by this temptation. I am not conceited enough to speak to you of grim reality of war that you live in the midst of, but I have two more things to say to you. First one, is a warning. The strength that the darkness offers is twisting and corrupting in ways that are not immediately apparent. Even if you think yourself its masters, it will find a way to hurt those you care about in ways you have not anticipated. Be aware of that should you ever find yourself facing such temptation." Celestine's voice grows firm and solemn as she delivers her instruction, then allows it once again to sink in. The audience, for their part, as far as you can tell, seems receptive. Although you could tell that especially in the clusters of mercenaries there is some fidgeting.When Celestine picks up again, her voice is softer and somehow feels warmer again."The other, and final, message I'd like to offer is one of hope. Although the darkness we all carry with us tied to our own free choice, I also wish to remind you that each and every one of us is also carrying the light of the goddess with us. The light of love, kindness and compassion. Of temperance and righteousness. Of restraint and empathy. I beg of you, my loved friends, never allow that light inside of you die. Cherish it and keep it sheltered throughout the ravages of trials you go through. Allow it to remind you, and be nurtured by, the vision of the world where gloved fist and slaver's whip give way to lover's caress and mothers' embrace."Once again, and possibly for the last time, Celestine allows her word to settle in the minds of her subjects before picking up what were likely closing remarks."Thank you, brothers and sisters before goddess, for allowing me to share those words with you. Go now, with my blessing, and nurture your body with what the goddess's devoted have prepared. Although the struggle continues, for today, at least, allow those you protect to offer some hospitality and succour."And so it appears the sermon is concluded. There is some cheering, celebrating lady Celestine.Something is not right, though.You realize this now as the cheers seem somewhat lopsided, and the trickle of new mercenaries from the side streets never fully stopped during the speech, which could perhaps be explained by the mercenaries not being particularly interested in whatever the elven monarch had to say but rather in the feast afterwards, but you still couldn't shake suspicion that was not all there was to it.Suspicion that was promptly validated by a discordant tone breaking up the cheers.
"We will take much more than that, imposter harlot! Elven whore!"The call came from somewhere in the midst of the crowd, which just so happened to be a large cluster of men sporting mercenary colours. You couldn't quite make out the figure that spoke, though the very fact that the voice carried all this way suggested this was no spontaneous outburst.Celestine was first to respond amidst the general shock that quickly dissipated into outrage."Why? What makes you speak that way, child?" the elf responds with twinge of pain in tone of her voice.Your mind raced without waiting for further development of this challenge. Something was clearly going down, but what, and how should you react?>The temple guard was likely preparing to sally forth and apprehend the blasphemer. You could help them break through the mercenaries.>Stay exactly where you are. This stunt may be just a distraction, and Celestine remains both a valuable target and most exposed person here.>Between all the gathered forces Celestine should be fine whatever the mercenaries have planned. Perhaps you could take the chance to get into their rear.>other idea
>>5689351>>Stay exactly where you are. This stunt may be just a distraction, and Celestine remains both a valuable target and most exposed person here.
(how do these threads work I've never been on this board. And are they allowed to be lewd? That image is hot. )
>>5689351>The temple guard was likely preparing to sally forth and apprehend the blasphemer. You could help them break through the mercenaries.
>>5689351>Stay exactly where you are. This stunt may be just a distraction, and Celestine remains both a valuable target and most exposed person here.
>>5689351>The temple guard was likely preparing to sally forth and apprehend the blasphemer. You could help them break through the mercenaries.Best we pull this problem out by the roots before anything serious can happen, hm?
>>5689351>Stay exactly where you are. This stunt may be just a distraction, and Celestine remains both a valuable target and most exposed person here.QM, gotta ask how much of this is based on the lore and how much is your doing ? like since it's a quest a lot of it will be og, but how much comes from the lore ? never really seem much of this H besides a few scenes years ago
>>5690079I vaguely remember there was a scene where Celestine gets fucked in a similar setting. Just like that in public. Could be they are aiming for something like that.
>>5689389you can find previous threads here, friendhttps://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/archive.html?tags=Usurper>>5690079I'm afraid my concern for the original lore begins and ends with softness of Celestine's marvelous mammaries. The worldbuilding for this story is what I got from trying to fill in the gaps between the brief clips I've, ah, encountered on the internet. >>5690479I wouldn't get my hopes up too much, friend, this is a wholesome, mostly family friendly quest :)
This loud, attention grabbing action could have been nothing else but a distraction. The actual strike would soon follow, and Celestine remained a most obvious, and most exposed target. As the commotion outside escalated, you steeled yourself for imminent action and shifted stance to be able to spring into movement at any moment. Looking around you saw your companions responding in kind, be it to the development outside or your own reaction to it.Meanwhile, the cries of outrage grew, yet somehow could not drown out the shouts which at this point you were convinced must have been magically reinforced."Do you think you are blind? Do you think we cannot see how your noblewomen laugh behind our backs as men are sent to be slaughtered by orcs and demons? While you dumb, worthless bitches rest behind in largesse and comfort and bickering?"As much as you could take in without compromising your immediate situational awareness, it seemed the mercenaries around where the voice was coming from looked organized, clustered in an orderly manner, weapons drawn, clearly anticipating the force of temple guards that was already forming up against them. Things were going to get violent and the rest of the gathering looked aware of that to various degrees, you could make out the various house militaries nervously attempt to organize themselves, unsure where the enemy would appear, and you saw, in the corner, your princess friends reaching out to nearest of those groups in attempt to rally them to their side.Celestine, for her part, stood resolutely."Those are harsh accusations you level against those who have themselves borne sacrifices of the war, in ways you perhaps don't even imagine. Step forward, and bring your case before the law." The "You speak of sacrifice to us? Or that farce you call the law? No, harlot, you come down here and we will show you what real justice looks like!""Forward! Seize the blasphemer!" You could hear from closer by. It appeared the guards were making a move; and for you, that meant whatever this diversion was intended for, would be soon taking place...
You didn't have to wait for long. There's a rush of movement at the back of the terrace and several figures clad in white hooded robes some of the clergy had been wearing strode in - or at least attempted before getting interdicted by the guards standing on either side."Halt! What-" is what one of the guards managed to say, but the figure opposing him made it clear they were not interested in talking. Steel rang against steel and the remaining figures cast away their cloaks, revealing red and black of the mercenary army.The guardsman who was first attacked deflected the attack and followed up with a counter. The one still robed mercenary was too slow on his recovery and fell bleeding on the ground. It appeared the guards left behind some competent fighters to ensure Celestine's safety, yet the numbers were not exactly in their favour - or wouldn't be had you not chosen to stay.Celestine, who briefly turned to see what was going on behind, then turned back to the crowd and said:"My loved ones! Remember my words. Don't give in to the dark."And with that, she joined her hands and your skin began to crawl with the concentration of what you've come to recognize as light-aligned magical energy, followed quickly by sensation of warmth and peace at the back of your mind.Although you were vaguely aware of not having needed this sort of support, it did feel nice and reassuring; either way, you had more imminent matters to deal with. And so you propelled yourself forward, weapon in hand, just in time to break the infiltrating mercenaries' formation as they moved to overwhelm the guards. One of them dropped dead before you came close, bolt from Phineous's crossbow protruding from his chest. Another, furthest one from you, slid to the ground, his blood pouring from his throat and a pair of slender hands melting back into shadows in the corner of your vision. By the time you reached the melee range of the intruders only three of them were standing, and two of them were locked in combat with the two temple guards. The third one managed to muster a lackluster lunge against you as you arrived, one you easily deflected with your weapon - or at least would have had the attack not harmlessly slid off a previously invisible bubble of light enveloping you, which you instantly recognized as Sparky's doing. One strike of your arm later and your opponent was thrown against the wall, hitting it with a sound that showed both suffered some damage, leaving the body slide limply on the floor. The two remaining mercenaries were finished off by the guards shortly afterward.And just like that, this particular attack was over. Looking around the scene of carnage left after the entirely one sided encounter you saw the guards give you a grateful, respectful nod as they resumed their stance. Their role remained unchanged, as long as Celestine stood there, channeling her powers and glowing like a beacon for her faithful below.
And on that note, you took the chance to examine the development in the square. There may have been a few surprised gasps when someone looked up and saw an ogre, but for the most part your presence took back seat to the chaotic situation on the ground level.The force of the temple guards that originally charged in the direction of the apparent agitator seemed to have been bogged down about halfway through, too busy repelling mercenaries from the side and front to progress further. Going by the commotion there had been an attempt to encircle them that failed, thanks to the support provided to the temple guards by house soldiers scattered around and rallied by the princess knights, but also, which you found somewhat more surprising, infighting among mercenaries themselves. Perhaps some of them did not agree with this coup?Whichever the case, there was one more force distinguishable among the crowds. The guild soldiers arranged around well dressed merchants and part of the noblemen were focused on guarding their clients, without taking sides between the knights and the mercenaries. Whether that was because they were focused on their usual employers, or because they were waiting for further developments, they remained another variable to be kept into consideration."Brothers! The time is now! Cast off the bindings of the phoney goddess! Come and seize what is rightfully yours by force!" The challenging voice speaks once more.There was a brief tension in the air at this signal, a moment of hesitation. You could not discern any immediate shifts, but your chance to analyze had been cut short."Boss! Watch out! Something bad from over there!" Sparky shrieked a warning. You turned to the side just in time to spot something that took you a moment to identify - a bolt of purplish black void careening towards the terrace. Not for you, specifically, but rather for Celestine who still was standing there, pouring her powers into the soothing spell effects of which you could still feel, keeping you warm and invigorated...
...and then it was gone. The moment the shadowy projectile reached the area covered by Celestine's spell, the enchantment shattered, causing a moment of distress in everyone who was relying on it. You too felt the sudden sense of loss as the source of warmth was abruptly torn away.But at the same time, looking there, you could see, and in a way, also feel, the actual source was still there.Celestine, her chant disrupted, was blinking, in confusion and concern, the dark projectile still on its way directly at her.You act on instinct. This is why you chose to stay here. There was only one thing to do, and only one thing you could do.The time is close. You make the one stride that is needed. You reach out, and your calloused, rugged fingers sink into the alabaster softness of the elven lady. You pull her towards you, and turn around, sheltering her with your bulk and your armor, making one last effort to pour enough strength into your momentum to get out of the way......but for that one last step you are a fraction of a breath too slow. Cold sensation spreads up and down your spine and darkness envelops you.Last sensations that cross the threshold are familiar voices shouting out in concern, a mixture of "Mouse!" and "Boss!", and a soft, tender, barely perceptible sigh.You let all of them reach your core, allowing them to comfort you like a friends' caress, ever as the darkness around you recedes.You find yourself in a landscape that has become familiar to you. The black against black, separated by something that may or may not be indicative of geography. But as lucid as you felt, you had little opportunity to pay attention to such fine details.Most of your attention was captivated by snout of the black beast, its jaws clenched around your arm, raised in instinctual defense of your throat.There was pain, but it was not physical, as neither was the attack, and it clearly didn't go according to the assailant's intention, as suddenly the beast yelped and let go, jumping back and eyeing you warily.The creature looking back at you was no simple animal. There was malevolent intelligence behind those eyes, and although no words were spoken, you felt as if an exchange had happened between you in that brief moment, one of an offer, your refusal, its incredulity and finally an angry, contemptuous snarl. As if it was something that had already happened in the past, and was now only reaffirmed.The phantom dog gave you one last look, one you interpreted as a warning, threat and a promise, and then it turned to leave.
You half expected to wake up at this point. But maybe there still was a choice you could make before you did?>You will follow the beast and find its lair.>You will search this dreary landscape for clues.>You will search this dreary landscape for someone else.>No. Let this place dissipate and return you to reality. You were in the middle of a fight.
>>5690777>You will search this dreary landscape for someone else>maia
>>5690779>>You will follow the beast and find its lair.Atlassia, we've seen it before in our dreams, now's our chance.
>>5690779>You will search this dreary landscape for clues.Don't worry Nameless, you are going to get neutered soon.
>>5690779>You will follow the beast and find its lair.
>>5690762>I'm afraid my concern for the original lore begins and ends with softness of Celestine's marvelous mammaries. The worldbuilding for this story is what I got from trying to fill in the gaps between the brief clips I've, ah, encountered on the internet.fair, makes me all the more amased at your work. btw is there a reason for why the mercs steamroll everyone in the H ? I remember vaguely a uber weapon of sorts with their leader but I'm not sure.
>>5690779>You will search this dreary landscape for clues.
This was definitely not a dream. Whatever this.. place? ...was, it was real, and it had tangible connection to the powers commanded by the cultists. Looking back at your encounter with the black beast, it didn't seem quite impressive enough to be an actual god, although it seemed likely it had some connection to it. Maybe this amount of a spectral dog amounted to the attack you took in Celestine's place? What sort of effect would it have on the elf, you wonder...Well, getting your thoughts back on track, your presence here offered you an opportunity to learn more. And you would not let it slip by.Looking around you took stock of what your senses offered you, if you could call them such. Being lucid now, compared to your previous forays through a dream, you had a better sense of self and it was quite distinct from how your physical body usually felt. Lighter, faster. Frustratingly, though, it seemed to defy examination. You felt like you had all your limbs and freedom of movement, but could not for some reason make out exact features of them, as if your sight refused to home in on yourself - although that may have also been another quirk of the environment. You could make out shape of the terrain, but light or colour seemed either not there, or defying categorisation. Was this what trying to explain colours to a colourblind was? Or indeed sense of vision to someone blind from birth?The beast was gone and you could feel no indication of its proximity. No smell, no hearing, nor any unfamiliar sense of foreboding. You did remember general direction it left in and pondered wisdom of heading in that direction, but ultimately you settled on a compromise - you would proceed carefully, looking around for any possible hints or helpful phenomena that could help you figure out more of workings of this strange environment.As you set yourself in motion, once again you note the darkness recede from your immediate surroundings, allowing you to see more details, like a torch illuminating the cavern floor - except the floor here was made of broken pavement, cracked tiles, faded mosaics, with occasional withered strands of indescribable plant life poking through the cracks.Was that too a feature of landscape elsewhere, perhaps the ruins of Atlassia? Perhaps you were making too many assumptions. But what else would this place be? These and other similar thoughts went through your head although you tried not to allow them to distract you as you navigated the gloomy landscape, looking for anything that would stand out, anything that could cast some light on your questions.
Brief, if systematic, survey revealed some more features of the landscape. Although at a glance the horizon was unobstructed save for the jagged silhouette of distant ridges - something you've now made active effort to at least partially remember, even though absence of any indication of cardinal directions would make whatever little you'd be confident in memorizing of dubious utility - careful study of the floor revealed by the circle of light as you made your way around eventually brought you to a strangely regular shape that had you puzzled for a few moments. It was only after you've fully focused your attention on trying to figure it out when, first as a glimmer, then as an outline, a structure came into existence before you and the strange shape revealed itself as a building that the shadowy environment kept initially concealed from you.Was it that you needed to notice some specific clues that would reveal this detail? Or, you thought as you allowed your mind to wander again and the structure once again dematerialized from before you, was your specific focus and attention required to bring it out for you to examine? What could you find in this landscape if you could maintain proper focus? How did your presence even allow things to be revealed in the first place? Was it your consciousness that was the key, or some other factor? Would it be possible to find a second opinion on this subject?This line of thought reminded you that if you counted your previous dream encounter, you had met two other entities in this strange place (?) - the beast, and the woman Celestine seemed to recognize.Could there be more?Could you bring with you more?Would that even help, or would it just be putting them at risk?You look around one more time. As before, in your dream, you could see, or perhaps feel, faint traces of where you've previously been. The shadows seemed thinner, if ever so slightly. Looking around the place, trying to find a similar phenomenon - perhaps even connection to your previous dreams...?However, there was nothing you could see, at least not for here, not for now.Was there something you could do to be able to see more? Would you even be able to return to this place on purpose? Should you?For all the exploration you were left with more new questions than answers.It was frustrating, and somewhat disheartening. Even so, at least you had some new pathways of study laid out before you. You took that spark of resolve to your heart and nurtured it.And as you did, you noticed a movement in the corner of your vision. In all corners, in fact. The radius where the darkness receded, had grown.Eager to look into this anomaly you shifted your attention - but that's about as far as you got.
"Come on, you dumb oaf... don't you dare..." You can hear a familiar voice before your vision returns amidst the blinding white light. There are other sounds, of pain and exertion, coming from the distance, but you can't quite place them."Please, stand back, I don't want to accidentally..." Another, gentler voice pleads."Shut up and do your thing! This is all your fault anyway!"There's a momentary pause and you take that as a chance to try and sort out your overloaded senses as a wave of power washes over you like a warm caress. As reality begins to make sense to you once again you realize it was some sort of healing spell, and as you take in a deep breath, you suddenly find it difficult to continue breathing as something small and chocolate coloured strangles you in what you gradually recognize as a tight embrace.One that ends up as abruptly as it started, followed by a quick, lackluster punch."What were you thinking, you stupid oaf?" Chloe asks angrily. "Anyway now's not time to lose, the fight is still ongoing. Phineous tried to take out the bastard." You look around the terrace, you were towards the back, currently, under vigilant and seemingly impassive gaze of the two guards and considerably more concerned and affectionate one of Celestine. Phineous was at the edge, his crossbow in hand, though he stepped back on hearing his name and gave you a salute, with Sparky hovering behind him."Boss! Good to see you on your feet." The orc says. "I tried to nab the fucker, Tithe and Sparky helped pinpoint him. Not sure if I got him though. I think it was the guy we met before.""The stinky caster escaped with magic." Sparky added."You did well." You commend them. Although it was unfortunate if the mercenary mage gave a slip again, at least he was out of the picture for this fight.Fight that seems to have progressed since you took the magical hit for Celestine. The mercenaries still seemed to have numerical advantage, but it was much smaller now, with the house soldiers rallied and the guild guards siding with them whereas the mercenaries seemed to be fraying at the edges, as you could occasionally spot a figure in red and black leaving the scene among the buildings. Although the tides of combat could yet shift, it seems this day was not to be the beast's."I'm sorry for worrying you." You turn to Chloe and Celestine, receiving an indignant pout and a warm smile for your troubles. "But it seems there's still work to be done." You continue before they can respond with words. "I'm going to-">...dive into the middle. You will help make a decisive push to reach the heart of mercenary formation to end this as quickly as possible.>...try and circle back around them, intercept the escapees and possibly whoever is in charge of this mess>...get in there and begin recovering the wounded, perhaps some of those mercenaries that turned against their leader are still rescuable>something else
>>5693864>...dive into the middle. You will help make a decisive push to reach the heart of mercenary formation to end this as quickly as possible.
>>5693864>>...get in there and begin recovering the wounded, perhaps some of those mercenaries that turned against their leader are still rescuable
>>5693864>...get in there and begin recovering the wounded, perhaps some of those mercenaries that turned against their leader are still rescuable
"-get down there and help the push." You announce. Then you remember something. "And maybe help some of the wounded trapped in there. Sparky, you've got my back.""Of course, boss!" The imp bobs excitedly."Phineous, you're on the overwatch." You tell the orc, who grunts acknowledgment with a nod. "Chloe, I'd like you to stick around and ensure no more surprises arrive from behind.""...alright." The dark elf says, but hopefully she understood Phineous would need to be focused on the situation below and would need support if more cultists arrived trying to salvage the situation.Either way, with roles distributed-"Please be careful, Mouse..." Celestine urges you before resuming her prayer stance. As you launch yourself from the terrace edge, you already begin to feel the mental warmth of the supportive light aura emanating from her.There's not really time to bask in the feeling or contemplate nature of light and darkness as you make contact with the pavement, cracking it on impact and frightening nearby combatants. You experience a moment of unease as one of the distracted soldiers nearby almost gets taken advantage of by an opportunistic mercenary, but luckily a bolt from Phineous's crossbow puts a stop to that. You don't waste a moment more and propel yourself onward, into the thick of the battle before you, allowing your fighter instincts process the noise from all around, allowing it to categorize itself into threats or opportunities, using your weapon to carve out a path for yourself.With your noble friends in different part of the battlefield, Human soldiers at first do their best to actively avoid you, unsure of your allegiance or outright fearing you as an enemy, but that quickly changes as you continue to prove which side you as mercenaries continue to fall under your onslaught.Your advance, however, remains slow. The reason for that being your care as you step forward, looking for fallen that still have some life in them. Knights or mercenaries, you take a moment to pause and clear an immediate area when you spot one, allowing Sparky to quickly examine and stabilize them, then commanding the soldiers that took to follow in the path you carved out to bring the wounded out of harm's way.Understandably, the soldiers are much more eager to retrieve their own than those clad in red and black, but you stifle any opposition by saying simply: "Do it for her."That seems to work well enough and you continue to make your way through the fight.As you progress, it is made clear for you that the battle is effectively already won. The mercenaries that continue fighting look both desperate and exhausted and there's no rallying cry behind them, the voice that challenged Celestine earlier is nowhere to be heard. You and the soldiers around you are simply beating remnants of a fight left in those who were unable or for whatever reason unwilling to make their exit when the tide turned against them.
At one point you are met with familiar face from the side. Just as you raise your weapon to intercept a lunge of a particularly angry looking mercenary, your opponent's expression briefly flashes with surprise before his body falls to the ground, revealing a blonde woman with a sword dripping with blood."Sir Mouse! You're here. Lady Celestine is secure?" Alicia asks, looking out for any other imminent threats."She should be." You answer and look around at the state of the fight. That you managed to reunite with Alicia and, looking behind her, Prim flanked by the knights Charlotte and Brigitte, meant rest of your friends were likely not far behind; more importantly, it seemed likely you were close to the center of mercenary formation, if the knights hadn't reached it already.As if in response to your musings a clear voice rings out above you."That's enough! Stay your hands, children of the goddess. Enough blood has been shed. The one who urged you to fight has fled and left you behind. There is no reason for any more to die today."And as the sound of words had faded, so did, with some reluctance, the sound of battle. Within a minute, the only sounds to be heard were breathing, moaning of the wounded... and a song that you recognized. It was a finale that shortly culminated and then Smutkin's flute too went silent.The battle was over."Thank you, my dear brothers and sisters. Please, allow church servants to assist the wounded. This day was meant to be a day of joy and hope. And my hope is that it can still at least be day of reconciliation. Banish the darkness from yourselves, so that you may shelter the others from it as well."You turned to look at the terrace just in time to see Celestine raise her hand and call forth her power. As the light grew, you think you could see it reflect and glint on stream of points running down her face, but before you could focus on that detail the light grew powerful enough to drown out her features, emanating not just radiant energy but also rejuvenating and healing one."I want to be able to make such a big heal." Sparky says at your side and you absently reach out to scratch him between wings. "Thank you for your assistance, Ogre. Again." Another voice you heard before speaks. It's the temple guardian, Frederick. "We will take it from here. Lady Celestine may be forgiving, but we still need to restore order."It seemed you were being politely asked to make yourself scarce. Which was just as well as there were more people you wanted to check on. Luckily, they seemed to share the sentiment."Leader." Smutkin nods as he approaches, Elle and the twin scouts in tow. These offer their own military salutes. "We made it through without a scratch. We did get in a tight spot for a moment, but we made a new-""You!"
An energetic, red haired tomboy pushes through between your companions. "It's you!" She glares at you at first, then wilts down. "It appears I owe you an apology, ogre. It seems that I was the fool. But not now. There's someone else I need to see, first." Princess Maia says and turns back to Smutkin. "Thank you, bard, for your assistance. I'll be sure to seek you out later."And then she was gone, disappeared among the traffic that emerged between soldiers seeking treatment, clerics administering it, guards and knights securing the area or looking for someone, or others leaving or passing through."...as I was saying, we made a new friend." Smutkin concluded in amused tone. "We saw her among the mercenaries. She seemed to be with them, but a scuffle broke out when the fighting started. I figured you'd have wanted us to step in, and Elle probably would have gone on her own regardless.""Hey, I know where to be discreet." Elle argues. "But she is one of the princess knights.""It's all good. You all did well." You tell them. "Tithe, have you seen anything worthwhile?" You turn around, the gargoyle would be ready to answer, you knew. And surely enough, the flyer descended among you as soon as you finished speaking."Leader. I beg forgiveness, but the mage escaped through teleportation, I know not how to track him.""Don't worry about it. If we need to, we will find a way." You say with perhaps a slightly more confidence than you feel. The mage giving you a slip second time was somewhat frustrating and depending on his role in the cult you felt like you hadn't seen the last of him. Even if you were able to thwart him twice now, it was an adage your father taught you that one of your foes only needs to get lucky once whereas you should put effort to ensure fortune favours you every time.Still, that was a matter for another day. Right now you could be content that the cultist ploy has failed - and decide on your next move.>Back to the library. You are almost certain you were on the brink of a breakthrough, and with what you recall from your recent dreamlike-land experience, you should be able to push through.>On the note of that strange place taking the magical attack for Celestine took you in, perhaps there's someone you could talk about, like Celestine, Kaguya or perhaps Klaus?>Perhaps you could help clean up after the fight. There's enough work to go about even though the knights hinted that they have it handled. Perhaps you could chance upon some clues by looking at the site of battle more closely?>That was enough stress for now and the food prepared for the feast should still be around, perhaps you could help yourself to some refreshments...?>Track down and talk with someone specific (who?) >other plan
>>5697508>>On the note of that strange place taking the magical attack for Celestine took you in, perhaps there's someone you could talk about, like Celestine, Kaguya or perhaps Klaus?Klaus is pretty reliable but any of them will do
>>5697508>On the note of that strange place taking the magical attack for Celestine took you in, perhaps there's someone you could talk about, like Celestine, Kaguya or perhaps Klaus?Klausa and the dwarf master, maybe it can help narrow it down.And maybe Celestine? She could have had visions too.
>>5697508>On the note of that strange place taking the magical attack for Celestine took you in, perhaps there's someone you could talk about, like Celestine
>>5697508>On the note of that strange place taking the magical attack for Celestine took you in, perhaps there's someone you could talk about, like Celestine, Kaguya or perhaps Klaus?
Considering your options, with the rush of combat all but gone, your thoughts turn back to the magical attack you shielded Celestine from and the experience that followed. Whatever exactly happened could prove to be crucial, and now you had within your reach several of the people that could offer valuable insights. But first things first."Smutkin, Elle, Janet, Harriet, the guards should be fine with you helping around. Be on your watch, in case the mercenaries still want to try something." You tell the bard and the other humans who all nod in acknowledgment, then turn to the gargoyle. "Tithe, get up there and watch, report if you spot anything of relevance.""As you command." The stone flier salutes and darts up into the sky.Then you turn to your imp companion."Sparky, I know you probably want to help in healing, but at this point you'd be likely making people nervous. Stick with me.""Okay, boss." The imp responds.With the immediate delegation taken care of you scan the area around you for other familiar figures, your size proving an advantage in the effort. And sure enough, looking towards the sector where monks had prepared the feast, an area that now doubled as an inpromptu clinic for those tho didn't immediately need to be brought into the cathedral for more extensive care, you spot a cluster of characters that stood out among the clergy and commoners. Without wasting a moment longer you make your way towards them.In doing so, once again the people are quick to get out of your way. However, something feels slightly different now. Many look at you with caution, of course. But this time, you can also see individual cases of admiration, perhaps even awe. And you catch occasional exchange to explain the reason."That's the ogre that shielded lady Celestine!""Our lady redeemed even an ogre? And... an imp? Her grace knows no bounds.""What a day, our mercenaries betray us and monsters join our defense..."It's a strange kind of satisfaction to hear some of these things. But there is much work ahead of you, as you know - luckily you are not alone in shouldering it.Eventually, as a line of stationary gawkers takes note of your approach and parts to allow you passage, an intimate scene unfolds before you.
"It's fine already... you can let go now." Alicia says laboriously, being squeezed by the red haired mercenary princess from the front and her pink haired cousin who probably just joined in on impulse from the side."Look, I'm, eh, I just wanted to... I'm sorry, okay?" Maia relents and says. "I honestly... ah, screw it. I can't believe I got played against my friends, so hard." The tomboy princess shakes her head. "I just couldn't believe, that... I mean, I still can't! What if it's all some Kin's trickery? Maybe he's got Vult fooled as well!""Maia..." Claudia stands apart and shakes her head. "I think you're allowing your admiration of the man to colour your impressions, even now.""I'm not! It's just..."At this point your input would likely be unhelpful so rather than getting involved you direct your gaze at Klaus, standing next to his wife, and when he acknowledges by looking back, you gesture for him to step aside."Mouse." Klaus says as you get close enough to each other to be able to talk without interfering with the princesses' reunion. "What you did was heroic, but also a foolhardy risk. By all rights, Lady Celestine should be powerful enough that any attack from a dark mage should be shrugged off..." He looks to the side. "At least, that's what I would have thought in the past. Something isn't right with this interaction between light and dark here, and I'm worried... ah, sorry, I'm ranting. You wanted to talk to me about something?""That's right. About the same thing, actually." You tell the scholarly prince. "You noticed it too, haven't you? How effortlessly that attack dispelled lady Celestine's spell." You tell Klaus, who looks back at you with serious expression. That was not what you originally wanted to discuss, but you might as well share your experiences while you're here. "This is not the first time something similar happened. I read about it in your library, and then saw it myself during fight with the two fiends in that mages' dungeon when their assaults effortlessly pierced the barrier of light one of my companions had created. I suspect that is the Taint at work.""I see. That is grim news, as light magic has always been thought our trump card when dealing with the darkness. I'm aware of the observations you refer to, but I was hoping they were rather product of observers' bias. What you say is, however, well in line with our developing knowledge of the Taint... Regardless, that begs a question of what effect the attack had on you?""That's the thing." You say, finally getting to reason why you looked Klaus up in the first place. "The attack knocked me out, and before I got up again, I found myself, feeling lucid, in what seemed like a dream."
"A dream?" Klaus frowns in confusion.You respond by recounting to the friendly mage your most recent impressions of the shadowy landscape, both in sleep and after interaction with the dark magic attack, the vision, the darkness, the black dog - and the woman Celestine seemed to recognize. You are careful to keep your voice low, but people passing by, or stopping to watch, show more interest in the princesses than in you two."Interesting, interesting..." Klaus muttered. "And lady Celestine recognized her as the progenitor Goddess..." The noble locks gazes with you. "Current thoughts about dreams are split. The religious sometimes view dreams as means of communication of the divine, though even they don't usually treat every dream with such importance. General consensus is that dreams are simply product of our mind resting, images and impressions pieced together at random from what we hear or see or live during waking hours. But there were also daring ideas among the scholars, that the dream state is the only time when human mind is not restrained with demands of tangible body and it is free to transcend our material reality. Now, I'm not saying this is necessarily what that is, just trying to think up possibilities..." He trails off. "Are you sure that this 'dark landscape' the attack threw you in was the same as the one in your dreams?"Of that there could be no doubt, the similarities were too uncanny."Fascinating. Well, for now, there's not much I can do but comment. We don't know the exact nature of the attack, what effect it was supposed to have on the Lady, or what was different for you... I will need to spend some time with the books trying to figure this out." Klaus rubbed his chin, lost in thought. "I think shaper Olaf and lady Kaguya may both have valuable insights. I'll ask them when I see them, and we can discuss further in the library. Yes..." The prince snaps attention back straight at you. "Mouse, I believe you should also talk to Lady Celestine. Not because of her powers, those are already shown to be dangerous to her. But she may have insights or ideas how to act on that vision of yours, too. After all, she was right there, so perhaps she also noticed something... ah, I was beating myself up over being unable to intercept the attack, but if what you did will end up in further revelation, perhaps it will have been for the best."
"Love! And Sir Mouse." Claudia approaches. "Mouse, I'm greatly thankful for what you did." The martial princess says with a slight bow and a smile. "I was too busy fighting at the time, so forgive me if I'm only saying it now.""Indeed, I've come to expect no less for you, sir Mouse." Alicia says. "I've only just heard. And also, for reuniting us with our friend." The blonde princess indicates Maia who for now has no words to share, just an awkward smile."I believe credit for that lies with my companions." You shrug it off."I'll be sure to thank them properly. I think I already have an idea." Alicia says with a smile."Yaaay!" Prim cheers, no doubt having made a guess what Alicia had in mind."Well, there will be time for all this later." Claudia speaks up again. "Love, you wanted to see where the mage attacked from, right? Do you want to check out the place now?""Yes, yes, that would be great." The scholar turns to you. "I'm going to try and look for traces of magic or other clues. I'll be sure to let you know if we find anything, Mouse.""Works for me." You shrug. And so you exchange some parting courtesies and you move on to do as Klaus suggested - see Celestine; after all, you had to pick up Chloe and Phineous as well, and the golems as well.With that in mind you looked around. Your next destination became quite easy to determine - in the direction of the main cathedral building, below the terrace, was a pavilion with gathering of people outside and influx of more, especially of wounded being carried on improvised stretchers. You head towards it, most people getting out of your way without issue, until you reach a line of knights holding a defensive formation. The knights look hesitant at first, until one of them steps aside to let you through. You realize it's one of the guards that was watching over Celestine during her sermon.
With nothing more in the way you step into the shade of the pavilion and find yourself in area decorated with flowers and statues, two of which turned out to actually be Diana and Minerva; on the far side, against the wall of cathedral, a dais. Celestine was hunched below, over a stretcher with a wounded mercenary moaning in pain, but gradually calming down, feeling of warmth and softness that went beyond material radiating from the elven idol as she channeled her powers.There were several benches around, rearranged and with resting and recovering men in both house and mercenary uniforms, tended to by robed clerics and under watch of several knights. Off to the side you saw Phineous and Chloe standing around and watching it all. They nodded at you as your eyes met, which you reciprocated."Mouse!" Celestine approached you, having finished treating the mercenary as a pair of monks carried the stretched towards one of the vacant benches. "Father Willows, would you kindly take over?" She says to a man standing on the side."Of course, your holiness." The elderly cleric you've met before nods and goes to where Celestine was tending to the wounded as another stretcher is brought in."Mouse, in the rush of the fighting, I didn't have chance to properly acknowledge heroism." The elf turns back to you. "You offered your very life for mine. I... am beyond thankful that worst did not come to pass. But nonetheless I must urge you to... to not do this again. Your mission you have taken upon yourself, it is more important than me. Please, keep that in mind. When you fell, I thought... I feared..."You're glad that the priest was so quick to follow Celestine's command as you imagine he'd protest violently."I acted on instinct." You explain yourself. "And I have no regrets.""Mouse..." The elf inclines her head and seems on verge of tears again. Not now, you still have something important to talk about..."As a matter of fact, there was something important that I hoped to talk about, after that attack hit us. Something I needed to hear your insight on.""Yes?"And so once again you recount your experiences to the eagerly listening Celestine."So, a landscape of shadows, just like in your dream... Did you see the Progenitor around? Ah, sorry, that is my selfishness speaking.""It could be important, right?" You reassure her. "Well, not at this time. There was only me, and the beast. Although I think I felt support from my friends, somehow. But nobody present as a person.""I see... I see." The elven lady hummed in thought. "Mouse. I'd like for you, when you next intend to sleep, to visit my bedchamber."
"What?""What?!"The second voice was Chloe's. The half elf materialized next to you, glaring at the fair skinned beauty. Her exclamation was a hiss, silent enough not to attract attention from others, but sharp enough to express her shock and dismay. There's a moment of awkward silence before Celestine recovers."I didn't mean anything strange by that." The elven idol says innocently. "I simply hoped I'd be able to try something. Please allow me to explain. My attunement with mother's divine light allows me to sense, on spiritual level, shifts of this plane. Such as when a life is brought into this world, or passes away. The reason I was shocked when Mouse has been struck in my stead is because I felt something similar.""So you want to try something that got Mouse killed" Chloe hisses angrily."No, no, I said, similar! It was different. I was afraid, at first, but... but it was distinctive, something I haven't felt before. I believe that what Mouse experienced was that his soul somehow absorbed the power of the attack and somehow... I believe lady Kaguya mentioned something called 'transcendence'. And I think, given what happened, I think I could help Mouse navigate it with power of the light.""You think? As in, you want to pour so much of your powers into him until he almost dies?""My powers are not malignant... I assure you, there would be no danger to him.""Is that so? I was there when you blew that machine to high heavens!""And the captives within were completely unharmed...""Alright, that's enough." You decide it's time to bring this argument to a stop. "I believe I've heard enough to make my judgement on the matter.""You're not considering...?" Chloe looks at you."I hear your concerns and thank you for them, Chloe. I'll weigh my options accordingly.""That's all I ask." Celestine says."Hmpf." Chloe vocalizes. "Just remember," your dark elf companion turns to Celestine. "that Mouse is already a champion of an elven lady."Celestine's eyes widen. "Oh! You mean, you...?"Chloe blinks, as she deciphers the unspoken question. "What? No, nononono! I mean, lady Olga!" The half elf blurts in panic, her ears tense and cheeks darkened."Ah, I'm sorry, I apologise," Celestine is quick to say, though you can tell she's suppressing a giggle at your dark skinned friend's expense. Even so, her voice sounds sincere as she continues: "I didn't mean to suggest anything to compromise your or Mouse's trust or loyalties." She looks back at you and her next words are backed with resolve. "I just intend to do everything I can to help."
"Um, boss, can I go help the old guy? He seems to be quite tired." Sparky interjects. You've almost forgotten about him."Oh my, father Willows..." Celestine exclaims. "Mouse, I need to go back to my duties. Will you...?"Regarding Celestine's invitation...>agree to Celestine's proposal>decline, you will explore other optionsAs the conversation is now over, you need to decide where to go next...>Take your team and head back to the suites>...is that Kaguya tending to the wounded over there...?>Maybe you could track down the dwarf and talk to him.>You have some free time now, perhaps you could allow yourself some time to hang out with someone in particular>other idea
>>5702147>>agree to Celestine's proposal>Take your team and head back to the suites
>>5702147>agree to Celestine's proposalCelestine route let's go>...is that Kaguya tending to the wounded over there...?>As for sparky allow him to stay here and help
>>5702147>agree to Celestine's proposal>...is that Kaguya tending to the wounded over there...?Transcendence you say?
>>5702147>agree to Celestine's proposal>...is that Kaguya tending to the wounded over there...?
"I accept."Celestine gave you a warm, beaming smile, in contrast to Chloe's sullen look."I'm glad. I'll be waiting for you."And with that she turned and returned to her earlier post, relieving the elderly priest."Do you really think it's a good idea?" Chloe asks. She looks like she wants to continue talking, but ends up just looking at you for an answer."I do. You've seen as well as I have that she's eager to help us, and I believe her idea has merit."The dark elf looks you in the eyes for a while."Is that all? The goddess reborn has just invited you to her bedroom." Chloe carefully keeps her voice quiet. "I am not blind, Mouse. I can see that the naive kindness she treats others with is to your liking. And I understand you haven't had much of that in the Black Citadel."With a sigh you turn to Sparky. "You can help around before we go. Just be careful not to upset someone.""Yay, boss!" The imp bolts away and you turn back to Chloe."You're not wrong, Chloe. Celestine has been nothing but delightful towards not just me but all of us. Perhaps it would also be unfair to say that my willingness to trust her on this would be unaffected by this warmth. However," You raise a finger before Chloe can argue back. "If you're still worried about me abandoning her majesty, don't be. I still mean what I told you earlier. And our mission is at the end of the day for her majesty as well as for Celestine - and also for yourself.""Don't twist this against me like that!" Chloe argues half-heartedly."I'm not. I'm just saying how it is. If my loyalty to our queen is your only concern then all I can ask of you is to put some more faith in me."Chloe's expression softened somewhat. She looked at you with some hesitation for a moment."Alright, Mouse." She said eventually, ears drooping. "I trust you."Somehow, her tone didn't feel too reassuring when she turned away and withdrew into the shadows.
It was probably not her only concern. She was worried that you were getting too close with Celestine. Were you, though? She was without a hint of a doubt a marvelous being: kind, selfless, soft spoken, radiant with both power and personality and of course supernaturally beautiful; in those traits she also exuded fragility that spurred instinctual desire to protect and shelter this precious flower from elements - or, conversely, as the Taint would have it, to ravage, break, corrupt and soil into a perversion of itself.You would not allow that to happen.You would not allow that smile, that gentle touch, that light behind the emerald eyes to be taken from this world.Does that count as too close?Your mind takes you back to happier times. And within, the moments where you witnessed intimate moments between your parents. Tender embraces, fleeting touches of reassurance, casual smiles or impromptu gifts or gestures. Moments of closeness, sometimes prompted by a period of separation, sometimes shared to banish tears of a dark recollection, or to soothe anger of a recent argument. There were times where you imagined such things in your own life.When that happened, just looking down at your form reminded you of the impossibility. Your form was not made for giving caress, its purpose was to break and destroy.It was most you could do put it to use on a different path. One your parents would surely have endorsed. At least of that you could be certain."Boss, you alright?"Sparky seems to have finished treating someone and saw you standing there, lost in thought. Well, when an imp is worried for you then you know you've spent enough time in vain pursuits."Yes. Let's pick up Phineous and..." You trail off as you turn your attention to the orc and realize he's been casting furtive glances in a particular direction. Following that clue your gaze fall in a shadowy corner where a robed woman is seated, her hands joined in a ritualistic prayer. Behind her an elderly bodyguard was overlooking the room. How fortuitous. You decide to take the chance and move to approach them.
As you walk over you exchange nods with the princess's knight. You think there was a qualitative change in how he views you. There was an air of sincerity and respect in his gaze as he acknowledged you."Lady Kagu-" You begin."The lady is praying. Please, do not disturb her." Hayato stops you with voice quiet, but firm. However, it seems the exotic princess-priestess has different plans."Sir Mouse!" She opens her eyes and treats you with a smile. "We saw you protect lady Celestine, that was very noble of you. Did you need something from me? As you can see, I was praying for the spirits departed this day.""As a matter of fact, there was something I wanted to ask about, and lady Celestine pointed me specifically in your direction. I'd like to learn more about something called 'transcendence'".The raven haired princess gave you a surprised, curious look. "Transcendence? I see..." She said after a while. "Yes, I believe I mentioned it to her before. It is an exotic technique that ancient masters of legend were told to have mastered, an ability to detach their very self from their mortal coil and traverse the world freely, in spiritual form. I'm afraid I don't know of anyone who would have been successful in accomplishing such a feat, and my order is discouraged from attempting it, saying that it skirts on trespassing on the domain of the divine." Kaguya explains. "I have wondered if it might be something worth pursuing in relation to your quest, but so far it seemed too far fetched. Do you know what prompted lady Celestine to mention it?""I do. It has to do with what happened during the fight..." You say and recount the story to the priestess. She listens attentively, nodding along as she is brought around Celestine's reasons."So that is what happened. I see..." Kaguya leans back and forth in thought. "Yes. Very well, then. I agree, you should try it. I don't know to what extent power infusion will help, or if the light element would be more of an aid or a hindrance. But from what I understood, the important factor is a state of mind. Normally, I'd suspect years, maybe decades of meditation and spiritual exercise were needed, but considering you already have an idea of what you need to achieve, I believe your effort in that direction is not without hope.""Thank... you?""Not yet, sir Mouse." Kaguya smiled. "I think what you need is to try to meditate. If you would like, I'll show you how.""I'd like that.""Excellent. Then please, have a seat."
Following Kaguya's instructions you settle yourself in a position that's just comfortable enough to allow you to sit motionlessly without building up tensions, yet not allowing you to entirely relax and requesting a measure of focus from you. Then comes the challenging part."You need to focus entirely inwards, into your very self, free yourself from any worldly distractions that would keep you anchored in the material body."It goes against every instinct you've built during your training. Surrendering your awareness of immediate physical surroundings could amount to suicide assisted by enemy, or as was often case among the regular orcish forces, even a supposed friend. Still, you had some advantage here as well - your style of leadership allowing you to place trust and faith in your companions.With that knowledge, after some convincing yourself, you are able to, at least to some extent, let go..."Perfect." Kaguya's voice shatters the illusion. "I believe you are capable of reaching state that could, with some further refinement, allow you do what you seek to do. I'm sorry for disturbing you, but it is time for me to perform a ritual I can't do in this setting and I didn't want to leave without parting. Additionally, this is not ideal place for you to meditate. In any case, I'm glad to have helped.""Thank you, lady Kaguya." You nod at her and you exchange some parting pleasantries before she and her bodyguard leave. You, in turn, are then approached by Phineous."Boss. What's the plan?"Right, that was a question. You already had a date for tonight, but afternoon had not yet turned into evening and so you have some time to spend...>You still had work to do that you could finish in a mundane manner, or rather with what you already knew - to the library!>You could head to the suites, there you should be able to try and practice this meditation thing without distractions.>You could go on a walk around the ceremony grounds and take a look at the aftermath. Perhaps there was still something to learn there. >Track down and spend time with someone specific>other plan
>>5706012>You could go on a walk around the ceremony grounds and take a look at the aftermath. Perhaps there was still something to learn there.
>>5706012>>You still had work to do that you could finish in a mundane manner, or rather with what you already knew - to the library!
>>5706012>>You could go on a walk around the ceremony grounds and take a look at the aftermath. Perhaps there was still something to learn there.
>>5706012>You still had work to do that you could finish in a mundane manner, or rather with what you already knew - to the library!
"We're going back to the library. We may have won the day, but we still have work to do.""Got it, boss."You look around, gesturing at the golems to follow you; the two alabaster warriors obey without delay. You look for Sparky next, but upon seeing the satisfied expression the little creature has while working his unexpected abilities, and gratified grin when the surprised recipients realize an imp is helping them, you decide to leave him at it, with only an instruction to direct Smutkin your way once bard's group reaches this place. You look for Chloe, but she's nowhere to be seen. You have to trust she'd follow you from the shadows.Finally, you spare one last glance to Celestine. The elf, as busy as she is soothing the people brought before her, seems to sense your gaze and returns it with a warm smile.With that you head to the depths of the cathedral. Your trip through the corridors is uneventful, and although there's more traffic at this time of day, it seems your presence has become well known enough that nobody gives you any grief. In fact, you are somewhat taken aback when a few individuals actually give you a respectful nod or, in case of military personnel, a salute.Before you reach the library - you have to actually stop and ask for directions at some point, something the cleric you interrupt politely provides - you actually meet with a familiar couple in the corridor."Mouse! I had a feeling we may run into each other here. No rest for the wicked, hm?" Klaus grins at you."Mhm." You grumble noncommittally. "Did you find out something?" You ask him, noting his good mood."As a matter of fact, I have." He nods. "Well, it's probably not too groundbreaking; I was unable to trace the teleportation spell as I hoped might be possible. Perhaps it is, but well beyond my current ability." Scholarly prince's expression briefly sours slightly, but cheers back up quickly again. "But I am confident that I was able to discern a general direction of the spell. Which arguably doesn't need to mean much, not only have we no idea how exactly teleportation magic works, there's a possibility that first escape was performed in a random direction without deeper meaning, either in panic or to deliberately confuse us."
"That's actually impressive." You say. You had no idea such analysis would even be possible, at least not without calling on Celestine's clairvoyance, which after how her recent attemps ended you'd rather avoid."Eh, heheh, thanks." Klaus laughs awkwardly. "I'm afraid it's not much, but it's at least something to check out.""Don't put yourself down, love." Claudia tenderly touches her husband's arm. "I wish you saw him, commanding the scene when he investigated the location." The princess tells you. "I wish his father saw him. It was like he's a completely new person when he's dealing with his area of expertise.""Ah, dear, please...""No buts, love. I'm just happy that-"You decide to step away and give the two some privacy, but noting your movement Klaus momentarily shifts his attention to you. "Ah, Mouse, one other thing. There were signs of a backlash on the site that I believe had nothing to do with the escape, but rather the attack that you intercepted. Whether it happened when it was being launched or after it struck, that I cannot tell.""Interesting. Thank you." You acknowledge the information and then proceed to head to the library with Phineous and the golems (and presumably Chloe) in tow, leaving the couple to each other for a bit.The tidbit Klaus had shared was in fact interesting, but there were too many unknowns to be certain of its interpretation. If mage's attack resulted in some sort of backfire, what could it mean? Was he weakened and botched the spell? Or was the power he was using not under his control to begin with? Or, if the reaction came from you - how did it come about? Would it be the same power that allowed you to withstand Beast's whispers? Would it be something intrinsic to you, or some result of your choices, or some other power you were unaware of?You realize you allowed your mind to divert itself down the path of wild speculation and put a stop to it. Perhaps in time you'd be able to make sense of this phenomenon. For now, you were reasonably confident, as you walked to the shelf where your previous research had been stored away, that you'd at very least be able to make some sense of the geography you've been spending time on deciphering.
Without further delay you split the stack of notes and immediately hand half to Phineous. And then, as you remembered something, you stopped him and dumped the other half on him as well, prompting a groan from the orc."Actually, give these all an once over. I need to check something out." You tell him and head towards the library index. After a few minutes of perusing you move on to the other index, pertaining to the heretic texts Klaus requested brought to the library from the archives a few days back - and eventually, after browbeating a junior monk into fetching a more senior cleric that could unlock the coffer for you, you finally get your hands on some texts related to forbidden ruins of the old faith.It takes a while to find the texts and even more to actually discern something of use in them. It would have been a fool's errand if you hadn't already spent hours poring over possibilities and clues. Luckily you now had a general sense for what you were looking for and so it was well before afternoon began to recede into evening that you could walk over to the map and use the available stones and flag pins to divine a pattern of human settlement in the suspiciously unpopulated valley.And there, in a bend of a river, nestled below a promontory of the valley mouth, you placed the final piece, an artfully carved miniature castle."Are you certain?" Klaus asked at your side. He had been enthusiastically digging through tomes clad in arcane symbols, but put his work aside when he saw you interact with the map."Of course not." You reply. "But I can't find a location that would better fit the criteria. Do you?""No, and what I wanted to add is this..." The scholarly prince indicates location on the map which you recognize as the cathedral city. "The trace I was telling you about earlier lines up almost perfectly. Go sufficiently far in this direction and you could easily end up here." He indicates the castle piece. "Mouse, I believe you did it. You found Atlassia, and now we can be virtually certain of the connection between it and the mercenaries." Klaus's voice picks up in volume and, to some extent, pitch as he internalizes the implication. "We have them now!"
To some extent, you share the elation. However, it's quite subdued for the moment. You had succeeded in finding the seat of cult power - another look at the terrain around brought up hauntingly familiar images you remembered from your dreams - that was still only a portion of what you needed. Many new issues became pressing now.Such as how would you get there, and what would you do when you eventually did.Looking over the terrain separating you from the presumed Atlassia you estimated that the "two weeks" timeframe you had overheard in front of the councillor's office seemed realistic for a mercenary force that travelled unopposed. Your troop could probably cover the distance in half that time. But what then? Infiltrating such a place would be a dangerous prospect, and you've made yourself well known to the enemy. It didn't sound impossible, but what difference would you even be able to make? Assassinating the leader seemed feasible, but ultimately your goal went beyond fate of a single cultist, however powerful or charismatic."That's great news, love!" Claudia came over in the meantime, as did Phineous and Smutkin who arrived not long ago."...of course, we still need to figure out what to do with this information." Klaus came to the same realization you have, dulling his enthusiasm some."With the immediate threat neutralized, lady Celestine could be able to muster a force to march to siege the city... if there's a city." Claudia thinks aloud. "But that might not be enough to assure victory. And what's worse, doing so would empty this entire region from forces that might be needed to... well, repel dark Queen's forces. No offence.""None taken." You said. You already asked her majesty to refrain from making a move when Claudia took the fight to the rogue mercenaries before. You knew you couldn't possibly ask her for an even greater act of restraint now. "I realize that's not going to happen.""I think you underestimate how committed lady Celestine seems to be to your quest now, Mouse." Claudia shakes her head. "I'm positive if you asked her, and believed it would help, she would do it. But the costs could be disastrous for the citizens."You don't have a response to that. Except maybe that you could never make a request that would endanger so many people - so many families, like yours was.Or would you?If there was a real possibility to end the taint with one decisive strike, how much would you be willing to sacrifice?
That was a question for another time, though. One that would hopefully never come. Regardless, you still had other things that needed to be resolved, first.>Well, no point in putting it off. Hit the books again, this time looking for possible avenues of countering the Taint. Perhaps there's a magical insight you've missed earlier?>That was enough nerd stuff for now. Go spar and practice, clear your head.>Although there's still much more to learn, figuring out location of Atlassia seems important enough to warrant contacting Olga.>Look for the dwarves, maybe they found out something new.>Maybe you could reward yourself with some free time. Go hang out with someone (who?)>other idea
>>5710734>>Although there's still much more to learn, figuring out location of Atlassia seems important enough to warrant contacting Olga.also, she doesn't know about what happened to the artifact
>>5710734>Although there's still much more to learn, figuring out location of Atlassia seems important enough to warrant contacting Olga.And like the other anon said, there's the thing about the artifact purification too, and the open mercenary rebellion.
>>5710734>Although there's still much more to learn, figuring out location of Atlassia seems important enough to warrant contacting Olga.
>>5710734>Look for the dwarves, maybe they found out something new.
It was time to contact your queen. Although perhaps a bit prematurely, considering your still not clearly defined task, and location of Atlassia not quite confirmed, this revelation was definitely actionable and it would behoove you to share it with her majesty.Thinking back to all that happened since you talked, you realize there was more she might be interested in. Starting off right after you've last contacted her, actually... the relic. The very item that spurred you on this journey. Rendered into a harmless curio overnight, as if on a whim of fate.Except you're sure fate had nothing to do with it. If anything, going by what you learned so far, fate would see the force the relic represented destroy everything you held dear.Did you defy fate? Was it simply your choice that sent you down a different path?You humour thoughts like these as you head towards your suites, having traded some parting courtesies with rest of your friends that stayed in the library - Klaus especially emphasized his intent to delve into mysteries of the dark magic and phenomenon you had discussed with him.When you arrive to the guest chambers that served as your lodgings recently you step in, followed by Chloe who naturally opted to accompany you over staying in library with her gruesome research topic. Diana and Minerva took up their guard posture outside, ensuring your privacy. And with that you bring out Queen's artifact and wait for the by now familiar magic work its illusions around you. Before long, you stood once again before shadowy image of her majesty, the dark elven queen.She was reclining on her throne which also partially manifested in the illusion. Her stance was carefully nonchalant, as ever, and her expression as regal and condescending as you remembered. Even so, something in her posture, or perhaps her visage, bothered you, although you couldn't quite put finger on it. It was as if there was something... artificial about it. Could it be simply because you spent so much of your focus on lady Celestine, that her earnest warmth brought forth such contrast to the facade of invincibility that Olga was required to project on top of her otherwise formidable strength, in both magic and personality?"Mouse. Chloe. I did not expect you to request an audience this soon." The queen said in a matter of fact tone as she looked at you and the elf kneeling next to you."There have been developments that I found warranting keeping you notified, my queen.""Very well. Proceed."
"In order, then. The very night that I last contacted you, I had a dream...""Do you think your dream worth the time?" Olga asked with a hint of annoyance."I believe so," You decide to get straight to the point. "as upon its conclusion, that saw me attacked by a beast, I awoke to find the relic of the Nameless rendered inert.""What?" The dark elven queen asked, with a shocked expression. "How can you be certain? The Nameless embodies not only corruption, but also deceit." She adds when she quickly recovers her composure. Even so, you could tell the revelation shook her."Well, first there was damage on the casing and changes to substance held within. The dark... stuff... was gone, leaving only specks of dust behind. Furthermore, I could not feel the presence that was with me ever since I picked the thing up." You explain. "With that I also sought out counsel from lady Celestine on the matter.""You brought the relic to her?" Olga stands up. "Are you insane? What if it were a trap? And I'm sure you asked her to use her clairvoyance for good measure.""Er..." You hesitate. "She did volunteer...""Unbelievable." Olga hisses in exasperation. You're somewhat taken aback by reactions of the usually aloof queen of monsters. "Do you have any idea what risk you've undergone? What you've exposed the goddess's reincarnation to? I don't even dare imagine what possible outcomes could come from exposing her to the relic had your assessment been wrong."Although she just admitted you ended up being right, you were unsure what to answer. Did you really underestimate the beast's cleverness so badly? Or was this Olga's fear overriding her judgement, and faith in yours? It was not like you could allow yourself be entirely paralyzed by the cosmic power you were up against."My queen... I have failed you." Chloe said, staring intently into the floor. "I was present, and I did not stop Mouse from this course of action." She hesitates, then adds, with shaking voice. "I... have also thought asking Celestine to examine the relic was a good idea."Olga's features soften as her gaze falls on her elfin retainer. But not entirely."You disappoint me, my shadow.""My queen-""However," The queen interrupts whatever self-recriminating plea Chloe was about to offer. "I am reassured by your limitless loyalty and faith. In that respect you have not once failed me, therefore I'm willing to overlook this lapse in judgment.""My queen..." Chloe raises her head. "Thank you."Queen offers her shadow a brief kind smile before turning to you.
"Mouse." She sighs, and with the air, remainder of the iron in her gaze is gone. "I'm relieved that things turned out as they did. But please, try to be careful. Your faith in your cause is no less impressive than Chloe's, but I fear where it might lead you if it relies on ignorance." "Where can I look, to banish this ignorance?" You ask earnestly, prompting a worried look from Chloe. Olga, though, just deflates. "Were that I could offer you a simple answer, Mouse." The elven monarch shakes her head. "I apologize. I may have overreacted. In any event, we are fortunate that things didn't turn poorly... otherwise you would be unlike to be in position to speak of the affair so casually. Regardless, we've wasted enough time. Continue your recount.""Certainly, my queen." You nod and do as you're asked, recounting highlights of the dream, Celestine's response and conclusion."I see. Yes, I believe her conclusion to be plausible. Powerful discharge of light-aligned magic could indeed have spurred the fragment of the beast into an action. What is a mystery to me, and she seems to naively pass by, is how you managed to repel the attack." The dark queen, or more precisely, her image, fixes eyes with yours, as if her gaze could penetrate all the way through your very self. "Well, let's put that aside for now. Was there more for you to report?"With a nod you tell Olga about following events. The dark queen accepted your recount of research human nobles carried out with the dwarven shaper with grim expression."It is as I have thought, the followers of the Nameless are at work reaching for more of his power." The queen says. "If they are successful..." She trails off, but picks up before you react. "...you may find yourself losing many of your current allies." She finished ominously.You realize she is talking not just about your human friends, but also about herself.You shake off discomfort of the mental image provided by cultists empowered by their vile god running rampant and continue with your report."The mercenaries have already made a move, and were defeated."
The queen nods attentively as you tell her about events of Celestine's ceremony and actions of the various actors involved."Your previous actions have borne fruit. Celestine's initiative forced their hand and they overestimated their strength. Well done, Mouse."They are simple words, but they still manage to warm your heart. Is it because such praise reminds you of days past, or perhaps because of the contrast to Olga's usually stern presence? Now's not time for such musings. There was still one critical detail you have yet to mention..."During the fighting, there was a dark magic attack directed against lady Celestine. In attempt to save her, I got struck instead."Perhaps because she had already vented enough when you surprised her earlier, Olga spent a few seconds simply staring at you blankly."Don't do that again." She says. "Even if it were me.""Lady Olga!" Chloe says with abject horror at that command."I'm serious. Whatever reasons that allowed you to endure what you have may be critical for your mission, but you should not push your luck.""That's not something I can promise." You respond. "I'm not deliberately seeking our risk, but I can't completely avoid it, especially not when it contradicts the purpose of my mission in the first place." You assert and immediately continue. "Besides, the incident had an unexpected benefit." You say and describe the brief transcendent experience, not entirely unlike the dream vision earlier."Intriguing." Olga said. "Although it bothers me how you came across this knowledge, I won't deny it holds promise.""I intend to pursue this path." You assure the queen. "In the meantime, the last time I wished to report is that I'm confident that we've figured out location of Atlassia, and with it, the seat of cultist power.""Is that so?" The elven queen raises her eyebrow. "Tell me more."Obediently you tell Olga of your research and the variety of clues that ultimately guided you towards the particular location, finishing off with Klaus's estimation of the mercenary mage's escape vector."I see. Assuming you are not mistaken, that is a task well done, Mouse." Olga nods. "But remember what I told you the last time. It is imperative that you contact me before you embark on your way to deliver the fatal blow.""That may take a while. I still have very little idea of what I could actually accomplish.""Then I recommend that you figure it out quickly. You may have seemed confident when you announced your mission to me, but by now I'm sure you've realized what's aligned against you - and the enemy is not passive.""I will not fail you, my queen." You assure her, and for the moment, you honestly believe so.
"Chloe." Olga turns to her slender retainer."My queen?""The task for which I've originally sent you to accompany is no longer valid.""I..." The half elf seemed at a loss of words. She already realized that, you were sure. "However, your mission remains unchanged. You are to continue accompany Mouse and support him in his quest. Is that clear?""Your will is my command, my queen." Chloe responds meekly."Good. Should he fall, you are to retrieve the enchanted necklace and contact me.""I won't let that come to pass." The half elf assures."Very well. In that case I believe this audience has taken long enough." Olga says and begins to fade. "Don't fail me, my knights. I'm counting on you both." She manages to say before the illusion disperses.As the spell fades, the darkness lingers. Walking across the room to the curtain into the atrium you find it shrouded by darkness, lit only by starlight from above and some echoes of warm light cast by a lantern somewhere outside your line of sight. You spent quite a lot of time on this talk... it was time to go. Celestine would be waiting for you.Your gaze falls on Chloe, the elf was looking back at you pensively, probably thinking just as you were of your appointment with the high elven hierarch.If left to her own devices, you don't doubt she will follow you under cover of darkness. You've grown accustomed to relying on her presence, but would Celestine appreciate having her around as well? For Chloe's part, for as abrasive as she occasionally was to the elf figurehead of the human faith, you were fairly certain she didn't harbour any actual malice towards her.>Say nothing, leave Chloe's actions to her own discretion.>Ask Chloe explicitly to give you privacy when the time comes.>Ask Chloe to accompany you openly>something else
>>5716611>>Ask Chloe to accompany you openlyletting Celestine see the relic was bad but we were supposed to let her get dogblasted? make up your mind
>>5716611>Ask Chloe explicitly to give you privacy when the time comes.soon as I get a chance i'm voting for route locking Celestine
>>5716611>Ask Chloe to accompany you openly
>>5716611>Ask Chloe explicitly to give you privacy when the time comes.I'll bite>>5716679we have a bold anon here
>>5716611>Ask Chloe to accompany you openlyI'm for Chloe
>>5716772Damn right I am.
>>5716611>Say nothing, leave Chloe's actions to her own discretion.I trust her
"Chloe, I'd like you to come with me, without hiding yourself."This request seems to have surprised the half elf."What? Why - what do you have in mind?""Because I trust you and count you as a friend, and what lady Celestine intends may require support of a friend."Chloe inclined her head and looked at you for a moment. "You're serious, aren't you... well, I suppose it can't be helped. I... did intend to look after you regardless. After all, her majesty only just commanded me.""Good. I'll be counting on you, as I have before. Come, let's go." You tell the elf and turn to leave. As you depart from the suites, the golems fall in formation and follow the two of you. Briefly you consider instructing them to stay behind, but in the end decide it will be good to have them. They are not going to look out of place around Celestine's quarters, you're sure, and if your body is left helpless during whatever exercise you are going to be undertaking, it would be better to have the tireless guardians watch over you and both your elfin friends.As you traversed the labyrinthine corridors of cathedral compound you come to realization you are not actually sure where exactly you should be going. There were a few places you already knew were favoured by Celestine, but it still felt a bit awkward to just ask a random passerby where to find the goddess's bedroom at this time of night.For now you opt to head towards heart of the building, and up towards more prominent sections. It stood to reason a lynchpin of human faith would have her chambers in some exceptional part of the cathedral.Your guess turned out to be correct as after climbing several stories and passing through progressively more elaborately decorated passages you reach a crossroads guarded by a pair of temple guards, one of which you recognize."Sir Ogre." Frederick doesn't look pleased to see you at all. "The lady awaits you for purpose of the ritual." He glares at you. Before you have chance to thank him or otherwise acknowledge him he continues. "Pay attention to what I will tell you. Although I appreciate your assistance earlier, and recognize that our Lady seems to trust you, know that we love our Lady dearly. If you hurt her in any way, we will end you. Is that clear?""It is. Thank you for your loyalty, sir knight." You respond with what you hope comes across as respectful nod which if he acknowledged, it was by continuing to stare in your direction as you passed by.
Arriving in front of luxurious, richly engraved door Diana and Minerva automatically took on their guard stances on either side and you reached out to knock."Please, come in, Mouse. And lady Chloe." Comes from the other side before your knuckles make contact."Showoff..." Chloe mumbles under her breath. You push the door open and enter.When you resolved to accept Celestine's invitation, at some point you caught yourself wondering how her quarters would compare to those of queen Olga, her dark counterpart. You only caught a brief glimpse back in dark citadel, but you recall her majesty did appreciate finer things in life, although even then you were slightly surprised that her preferred style was somewhat subdued compared to remnants of some of the more lavish dwellings you've come across in human lands. In any case, Olga's standards set a sort of benchmark for you and you were curious about contrast Celestine's chambers would offer.Somehow you ended surprised, yet not. Celestine's quarters were simple and relatively humble. Although it was not readily apparent in the night as the relatively voluminous central chamber was only lit by a few lamps, with a chandelier hanging over a desk at the far end, surrounded by large clear windows that currently let star and moonlight in, you're sure that during the day the room would be brightly lit by the sun, something that must have been well appreciated by a number of potted plants ranging from flowerbeds through small bushes to a small fruit tree you couldn't identify. Soft babble of running water could be heard, illustrating one of few features that put this room apart from what you could find in any of the merchant homes in the city below."I'm so happy that you decided to accept my proposal." Celestine greeted them. The elven lady was for once not wearing her ceremonial ribbons but instead a simple, silken gown. Soft fabric covered much of what her official outfit revealed, though the way it flowed around her curves did leave little to imagination either. Even so it seems like she was wearing something she deemed comfortable rather than traditional. "And I'm glad to see you as well, miss Chloe." She gave the half elven champion a slight bow.Chloe gave a noncommital grumble, but returned the gesture with a nod.It appeared Celestine was neither surprised nor disappointed at your choice to take Chloe with you. Presumably that was at least partly due to her clairvoyance, but still, you felt a slightly uncomfortable emotion at the back of your mind. This was fine, after all, you were here about your quest. Why would taking your companion along be a point of contention?Still, a small part of you - one you could no longer exculpate by pointing at the corrupted relic, was perhaps ever so slightly disappointed at Celestine being entirely unbothered that it's not just two of you here.You shake the feeling off."And I'm grateful for your help, lady Celestine."
"Don't mention it. Anyway, if you're ready to begin, we can start immediately. Unless you would prefer some refreshment first?""I see no reason to put it off. Let's get down to it." You reply."Very well. Please, follow me." The elf spins around and walks to nearby door. Opening them reveals a bedroom, furnished much in the same style as the main chamber. There's a bed, not unlike the one in your suite, armoire, some more plants and bookshelves. "Make yourself comfortable." Celestine points at the bed."W-what are you going to do on the bed?" Chloe asks."The experience likely renders sir Mouse insensate to the material world. It would probably be fine if he sat on the floor for instance, but I don't want him be needlessly bruised.""I appreciate the concern, even though it's not necessary. This hardly registers as discomfort to me." You say. "In fact, I believe it would be best if I simply sit on the ground. Less risk for your furniture this way." You say."Oh. Well, as you wish, sir Mouse."And so in the end you decide to set yourself down in the middle of the central chamber. Celestine then insists to at least bringing some cushions for you and for herself before she sits down opposite of you. Chloe observes these procedures, leaning against the wall, skeptical expression in her face."Alright. Sir Mouse, have you meditated before? I believe I've seen you talk to lady Kaguya earlier...?""That's right, she gave me some pointers." You nod."Good, in that case I need not repeat her words. Let's begin. Close your eyes and relax. Try to find your focus. In the meantime, I'll prepare to channel progenitor's light to aid you."You do as you're asked and close your eyes, and try to repeat the exercise Kaguya taught you, image of warmly smiling elven hierarch last one before your eyes."Can I do something to help?" you hear Chloe's voice."Your presence here, and Mouse's awareness of your closeness, should be enough for you to be of help. You can try physical contact if you feel it appropriate, but please try to avoid distracting him."Then there's silence, allowing your other senses to take over. You become aware of the gentle fragrance, some of it coming from the plants, some from the fresh night air, some undeniably from both of your companions. There's some background noise from the town, or perhaps elsewhere in the cathedral. There's... footsteps? And a warm feeling of touch at your side, then back.Chloe must have sit down, leaning with her back against yours, you realize as her rich ponytail brushes against you.You can almost imagine pout she'd be making if you were watching her. Maybe she's making it regardless. You can also imagine Celestine's own smile if she's watching and not too focused on handling her powers...
...and on that topic, the eerie sensation of feeling the magical energy gather and swirl around you definitely begins to overwhelm your other senses. Be it due to your meditative stance, or because of Celestine's deliberate effort, the force you feel pervading the space around you feels orders of magnitude stronger than what you had witnessed in the magician's basement.It's honestly kind of intimidating......And yet......you can tell that for all the power being moved around, the intent behind is entirely benevolent. The touch of this power is warm, nurturing, exhilarating even. You can easily conceptualize it as a powerful wave of healing magic meant to be cast upon a gathered wounded to mend their injuries, or a congregation of faithful, to rejuvenate their spirits.But for now, it's for you.You know who you're currently with. You know that you can trust them with your life. And presently, you let go. Of your concerns. Of your fears. Of your worries.Deluge washes over you. You allow yourself to be carried with it, to ride it. And just as it comes into a contact, you have scant moment of revelation when, at the very back, yet woven into its entirety, there's something black, something oily roiling around just outside scope of your senses. In that moment you want to cry - but before you can even conceptualize your reaction, the moment is gone, and so are you.And then, then you come to your senses - elsewhere. The blackness parts before you and you find yourself in setting that is slowly becoming familiar to you.You are without a doubt in a dreamscape of similar nature as the one you've been recently trespassing. But this time, things are different. First difference is rather obvious, it's colour. Although the sky and the ground is still the same blackness, the radiant sphere around you seems to have grown, and the area within it more vibrant. You feel stronger, your movements easier, if you can even call them such. The sensation seems natural, yet different from moving around in your own hulk of a body.Examining yourself yields another difference, or rather an entire array of them. You are clad in armour, shining, but not blinding you. You feel odd combination of satisfaction and burden at this revelation. Further, you carry a weapon. It feels distinctly familiar for some reason, but it's not the mace you usually carry - it's a massive sword, its design offering a stark contrast between masterfully crafted blade and guard, the blade shining with light of midday sun, and crude hilt that nonetheless feels impossibly comfortable to hold and wield. Something also compels you to reach to your side where you find holster with a vicious dagger, its blade black like the night and handle similarly pleasing to the touch. You carefully place the elegant weapon back into its sheath.
Provisionally done with examining changes to yourself you set out to search your immediate surroundings. As previously, and it's easier to tell thanks to the wider sphere of light around you, you seem to find yourself in some sort of man-altered landscape, with tile pavement and shadows of structures cautiously lurking at the edge of your vision. But again, something is different this time. The pavement is not cracked, in fact it feels and looks like the same pavement used in current human cities. Additionally, the skyline, that line between one blackness and another, is different - and yet you have no issues recognizing it.It's the promotory around which the Cathedral City was built.Whatever the reason, this time you found yourself nowhere near the presumed Atlassia, but rather near the place where your physical body was located. Or perhaps that was all just another illusion? Could you honestly expect the dreamscape to mirror the material world in any exact manner?Whatever the case, at least you had some frame of reference, even if it could be misguiding. You had weapons, possibly connected to the means by which you manifested yourself in this place. And you heard distant baying of the hounds. It was time to decide on your next steps.>You don't recall hearing the hounds before, but it might be a worthwhile clue. Follow the sound, and be ready for a confrontation.>You were in the shadow of cathedral city, but not exactly in Celestine's chambers. Maybe you could try and reach that location and check on your physical body from this perspective?>Was it by chance, that you appeared in this exact location, or was there a reason? Make a more thorough search of the immediate area.>If this is a dreamscape, and you're no longer bound by limitations of the flesh, you should be able to fly...>other idea
>>5719245>You don't recall hearing the hounds before, but it might be a worthwhile clue. Follow the sound, and be ready for a confrontation.
>>5719245>>You don't recall hearing the hounds before, but it might be a worthwhile clue. Follow the sound, and be ready for a confrontation.
>>5719245>You were in the shadow of cathedral city, but not exactly in Celestine's chambers. Maybe you could try and reach that location and check on your physical body from this perspective?
>>5719245>Was it by chance, that you appeared in this exact location, or was there a reason? Make a more thorough search of the immediate area.
Baying of the hounds. That was something new. Something you don't recall from your previous ventures into this... dreamscape. You do remember a particular hound, however... what would it mean there's multiple now?You give a test swing to your radiant blade. It takes virtually no effort, and the comfortable grip gives you good control of the weapon. You've already determined you'd be investigating the sound, and now you felt confident about a possible confrontation. If your hunch was right, and these entities represented manifestation of the Taint, then you'd be leaving at least this part of the shadowy realm a little bit cleaner than you found it.So resolved you head in direction from which you perceive the sound. You traverse the landscape that looks featureless at a glance, but as before, you find you can make out shapes taking form that solidify further when you focus on them. Although this phenomenon seems to limit your perceptions somewhat, you can't deny it allows you to travel freely, without having to navigate streets and alleys of the cathedral city - assuming, of course, that this is what the ghosts of structures would be resolving into.It's difficult to keep track of time, perhaps impossible even, but you're confident you didn't travel far before reaching point where the clue you are following becomes somewhat confusing, as in abruptly growing distant again.Luckily, this puzzle becomes easy enough to solve. As soon as you direct your focus onto the immediate surroundings, the sound resumes at heightened intensity - straight from a manor that materialized in front of you.You approach the structure carefully; the sound of hounds makes no response to your presence, hinting that whatever entity is behind them remains oblivious of you, or perhaps just doesn't care. In the event of it being the former you see no reason to give up on your advantage and rather than heading straight for the portal you navigate around it, waiting for other potential points of ingress.Or at least, that is the idea. Before you make a step to the side, mansion's massive door swing open noiselessly. You freeze, weapon at the ready, prepared to face whatever emerges, but nothing does. Eventually, you allow yourself a mental shrug and head inside, light on your feet.
For once, perhaps for the first time in your life, that phrase doesn't feel absurdly stretched by your bulk. Whether it's just illusion, nature of this place or perhaps some manner of your intent manifesting itself, your own movement feels much less hulking than what you're accustomed to. The sensation gives you some reassurance as you enter the building and the inside resolves itself into a dimly, eerily lit labyrinth of lavishly decorated corridors and luxurious doors, strongly evocative of the merchant mansion you had recently visited. It was not the same building, of that you were reasonably sure, the layout and trappings were completely different. Of course, there would have to be more such buildings in a city of this size. Perhaps you'd find some clues to hint at its inhabitants later on.For now you proceed, your luminous blade casting light amidst shadows, bringing out contrast from decorative items, statues, engravings, pictures. You give them passing glance but none seem familiar; the baying of the hounds, growing ever louder ahead, took most of your attention still. Eventually you reach a point where the corridor ends by widening into a hall lined with benches and pillars, currently empty.No, wait. That wasn't right. There was a presence here, very, very faintly familiar. You're unsure how you even felt it, but when you focused on one of the benches in the corner, shadows coalesced into shapes of a person - no, two people. Briefly you got worried you might be spotted, but it seemed your concern was misplaced. The shapes receded, and only regained form as you resumed your focus, frozen in time. It seemed they were not here as active agents, but rather as elements of this shadowy landscape.Emboldened by this revelation you approached them to look more closely. The figures filled out, emerging wholly from the shadows, and you recognized them. They were the two knights that you sparred with a few days ago. If you remembered the interaction well, their commander intended to send them to guard a city official that another one was planning to have assassinated. Perhaps they had received new instruction in the meantime, but you figured chances were this to mean this was mansion of the assassination target.
There was something else that momentarily distracted you from the repetitive call of the hounds that was now clearly nearby. The two knights, their bodies, may well have been statues in this current state, if not for a meaningful distinction - they seemed to possess some inner light that elevated them among representations of inanimate objects in this shadowy realm. This inner light was probably what allowed you to see slow flow, as if smoke was rolling around inside the human shaped vessels. But that was not what caught your attentions. That would be strands of darkness so deep and complete that they stood out even in the umbral ambience. For the male knight, these manifested as a cluster binding, constraining the dim inner light in the chest area. For his female companion, the clump was denser, and located lower.There were two more, from corners of her eyes. Where tears would flow, you figure.Perhaps it was just as well that you couldn't naturally see more representations of people.Either way, you had work to do. Turning to the large door at the end of the hall you strode forward towards the sound of the hounds, your grip on your weapon ever so slightly tighter.As before, the door opens for you. Or perhaps dematerializes. You're unsure, and have no time to look further into the matter. This time, your presence is noticed.Not by another figure that coalesces into existence before you, near an open window - you recognize it instantly as a councilor.Not by yet another figure that stands across the room, clad in gown, defenseless except for a candle held in one hand, and unfamiliar to you. They both have some strands of blackness woven within, but neither seems to pay attention to you, or indeed, move at all.No, the ones that immediately snap towards you, are the hounds. They are wholly black, and vaguely similar to the beast you had fought off before. They are arrayed around the councillor. Unless they somehow manifested in this location only in the moment you entered the room, you would have to conclude their baying was putting some pressure on the councillor. Could it be that they were what brought the man here?You could kind of guess why he came, by the drawn weapon, a rapier, in his hand. Although why an official would do make such an appearance in person, that was a different story.
And a story that would have to be told later. For now, the hounds pounced, hurling themselves in your direction. You suppressed a grin as you brought your weapon to bear. It was just a bunch of dogs and your weapon looked perfectly suited for slicing them up. This fight would be over quickly.As if to confirm your throughts, first of the dogs threw himself onto blade of your sword and burst into flames as its form was rent asunder, its screams reverberating through the chamber with no apparent effect on the two humans, even as its body - or parts of it - disintegrated into wisps of smoke.You grunt with satisfaction as the remaining three beasts take a more cautious stance, glaring with you with what you take to be looks of pure hatred, they begin to circle you instead, growling ominously, dodging your occasional probing swing. Just as you're about done estimating their maneuvrability and shift your stance to take out another one, a different hound jumps at you. You swing your weapon......and the dog catches it in his teeth. Unlike the last one, this time contact with the radiant blade seems to not harm the beast, instead it latches on firmly and chomps down.The sword shatters, splinters of light falling around you. Only the comfortable, rugged handle remains your hand, and the dog gives you a manic grin, as if mocking you and asking - what now?Indeed, what now? The two other hounds also look at you with derision. Well, you're not done yet, either...>They are just dogs and you're an ogre. You can take them safely enough, mano a mano. Or mano a canine, as it were.>The sword was manifestation of the power of light Celestine had granted you. It may look broken, but perhaps all it took was figuring out how to reconstitute the blade. >There was also the dagger, one representing trust Chloe placed in you. If it was based around the darkness, it was unlikely to be as fragile...>Perhaps there was another source of support you could call upon...? You had faith in all your companions after all...>other ideaAlso, it seems next update will be in a new thread. Feel free to share your thoughts and preferences in what remains of this one. Thank you for bearing with me.
>>5724861>Perhaps there was another source of support you could call upon...? You had faith in all your companions after all...Channel the confidence of our entire troop into a club. We saved them and they have saved us.
>>5724878Or mace instead of a club, our good ol' reliable.It has smashed the faces of demons before.
>>5724861>>They are just dogs and you're an ogre. You can take them safely enough, mano a mano. Or mano a canine, as it were.
>>5724861>The sword was manifestation of the power of light Celestine had granted you. It may look broken, but perhaps all it took was figuring out how to reconstitute the blade.the plot hooked me, specially the astral projections. now Celestine started to look more as an waifu for me, but it's tied with chloe.
>>5724861>There was also the dagger, one representing trust Chloe placed in you. If it was based around the darkness, it was unlikely to be as fragile...