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/qst/ - Quests

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Fire, Water, Earth, Air, Light and Dark. The 6 Spheres.

Long ago, in the Land of Roundina, peace and prosperity reigned. For Ten-Thousand years, the Great God, Spheros, ruled the Spheres of Creation. Mankind and her allies knew not war, or famine, or any great illness.

United, and protected by the 6 Dukes of the Circles, the greatest servants of Spheros, it was a utopia that many thought would last forever...

...until it didn't. For in the glory of the Age of Spheres, a black taint had set itself upon the souls of the Dukes. This shadow of pride was the Never-God, Flattok. In their ears he whispered, among the people he spread strife, and in the end, war came. The Dukes, together in their madness, did raise their hands up, and the 6 Spheres made war upon Spheros himself.

As the world shook and shattered in this epic battle, the Great God sacrificed himself to destroy that which he had created, and the 6 Dukes' had their powers sealed into the Orbz, one for each Primal Sphere. And it was the fate of the Great Spirits, the souls of the mighty, to hunt them and claim them.

And yet Flattok, the Never-God was not so easily broken. For the Flat One even now lurks at the edge of reality, watching...waiting...healing....

And in time, thousands of years later, Mortals now do battle for the Orbz...for the right to unseat the Primal Powers, as they themselves have unseated others...for the cycle moves on and on.
What are you?

>A Human from Circle City, delving in the ruins of Castle Rollstone for your own reasons. You can almost smell destiny...you think.

>an Elf, from Cycletree. Young for that ancient race, you are so close to your people's fallen history, here in the Rotwood.

>A Dwarf, from Spintop. You may be short, but that's how you got here, into the belly of Cavern Delvon to begin with.

>An Orc from Tusktown. Thousands of years ago, your kind served Flattos. Some may still, but you've sought your own glory, here in Mt. Ring.
>>an Elf, from Cycletree. Young for that ancient race, you are so close to your people's fallen history, here in the Rotwood
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>>an Elf, from Cycletree. Young for that ancient race, you are so close to your people's fallen history, here in the Rotwood

>As an Elf, you have some innate magical ability. Pew pew.

The Elders had said you were crazy, trekking all the way out here. Just gonna get yourself lost. Be eaten by some Flat-cursed monster. Something like that.

More accurately, of course, they had expressly forbidden it. 'Too dangerous', they said. 'Maybe next decade, when the signs are better.' Bah!

Ever since you'd been a child, you could not recall a single instance when Cycletree had taken any risks. Even as they'd nursed you on stories of the ancient elven wonders, the Elders had refused to actually go near the Rotwood, this sickly place that had once been at the heart of the sylvan realm. It was destroyed, infected and corrupted by Flattok's evil, even now. Accursed.

And you had come alone.

In a few weeks, you would be 100 years old. You did not plan on spending your centennial listening to Elder Stratos talk about how safe you were in Cycletree, gears grinding above you....

...no, you find the Temple of Sha'ball, and--erk!!


"Uhhh...", you groan. Spitting out a mouthful of muddy, grey soil, you take a moment to look upon yourself in a pool of greasy looking water. Your long, pointed ears marked you as kyndred, and the oak and gear-tat on your right eye as being of Cycletree, but the face...
>A woman's face of course. Willow Ashsong.

>obviously the face of a man. Pine Freehawk.

>[you can also make up your own name. Those are just my defaults.]
>>A woman's face of course. Willow Ashsong.
>>A woman's face of course. Willow Ashsong

"Nice one Willow...", you mumble, fingering a strand of your raven locks from your eyes, before lurching forward once more. Your lean legs carry you well. "Just think of the temple."

This is what you tell yourself, even as you swear a nearby mushroom winks at you.

The Temple of Sha'ball. Of the ancient elven temples, it had once been the greatest. There, the Epoch Kings of your people had paid homage(in person even, it was said!), to the Great God. What a sight that must have been! What an age.

Yet it's glory had drawn evil like moth to flame, and like the Rotwood around it, the Temple was long lost to decay and chaos. Flattok had seen to that, he and the 6 Dukes in their rebellion. But the ruins of what once were must still remain. This you knew, even if the Elders would not see. You would return in glory, having bested the Rotwood, and discovered much.

You were proud of being an Elf. Proud to have such a history, even if the present was...underwhelming? But a future? Your people were not one for adventure. The Flat One had torn everything from them. It reminded you of one of Elder Geese's favorite lines from the sagas.

'And the Peace of the Singing Wood was made into the Chaos of Silence, for never again would it sing.'

You stretch out a hand, to a shattered stone that bore the faint etching of runes. Worn down and covered in sticky slime, you wondered what it had once said.

To your shame, you could barely have read it anyways. Such was loss. Even in the libraries of the Cycletree, many manuscripts could not be read at all.

You hated it. Because in your heart you knew you were a sad people. You think of the humans in their city of twists and turns, and wire-cars and other things you'd read about but never seen. They dwelled in ruins while the elves did not, but the humans didn't hide. Man had taken stock of what was left and simply shrugged. They'd moved on.

There was something sad about that. Even as there was something sad about the state of the Elves, who clutched at anything and nothing.

Shaking yourself out of the melancholy, you carry on with your task. Unfolding the map you had...borrowed from Elder Stratos, your mind is afire with possibilities.
The map wasn't helping.

You have already been here a week.

No temple.

You find yourself sitting on the ornate, half submerged head of a king...you think. Between the mold and the wear, it could just as easily be a pig.

Your pack feels disturbingly light about your shoulders, and after a quick check, you grimace. No way had you snuck out of Cycletree just to starve out here.

Had this been any other forest, you would simply have FOUND food, but you dare not eat anything growing here. You'd be likely to wake up with weeds growing from your eyes.

"Rationing it is..", you grumble.

But as you are about to get moving again, your stomach gives a loud gurgle.
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"Just a nibble", you promise, before chomping down on the jerky. The salty meat is what it is, but as you start washing it down, you feel your royal seat start to shift. You stop drinking.

Wait. Not shifting, it was sinking!

"Nonono, gaaah!"

Even as you throw yourself forwards, the sour, stinking earth opens up beneath you, as if hungry. You and the stone face go crashing down together, you astride it like some obscene horse. All around you is roots and mud and shadow.

You land with a crash, and it is truly dark.
"Uhhh, my head", you moan, coming to. Your muscles scream as you pull yourself up."Where...wha..?"

The sight before you is one for the ages.

Or would have been you suppose. While it had clearly seen better days, all around you was the lost finery of the elves. Rune covered walls, great statues and rotten banners. And as it so happened, only one way to go! Across the room, a yawning door stood open, whatever hinges it may once have had long since shattered.

Looking up, you see the sickly white light of the moon filtering down the shaft you must have taken to get here. Such luck!

And you'd started the day thinking you'd need to eat your boots. Improvement!

Yet as you take a triumphant step forwards, a strange clacking sound erupts from past the door. Having had quite enough sudden and strange noises for today, you hold back...

And with good cause, for with a sudden hissss and a clicking, a horror from ages past scuttles into the room with you. It's razor jaws click again, in anger.

A centipede. A very, very big centipede. The beast is several times your length, and it's slimy antenna work the air about it, as if hunting you. You crouch behind a molded table, and think.

"OK Willow..."
>You have magic. Blast the Bug![3 charges remaining]

>Try and sneak past it?

>You really don't have time for this nonsense. Time to stab this thing.

>write in
>>You really don't have time for this nonsense. Time to stab this thing.
>You really don't have time for this nonsense. Time to stab this thing.
>Don't panic. You just need to show it that your meager flesh is not worth the effort of hunting you.
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Rolled 7 (1d20)


>>You really don't have time for this nonsense. Time to stab this thing.

Taking a deep breath, you slowly unsheathe your elven sword, the razor-sharp single edge ready for duty. Just a sword, but you didn't think wasting a fireball on a big bug was worth it.

[Click clack] [hissssssss]

The Giant Centipede crawls over a nearby statue, scuttling ever closer....

And then....you strike!!!


>roll 1d20+1
Rolled 1 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

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>Critical Fail

"Yaaaah!!!", you yell, vaulting the table, blade in hand, as the bug recoils in shock.


...just as your foot catches on the table edge, sending yourself crashing face first into the stone floor. You feel a wet pop as your nose breaks.

"Oww...come oooon..."

Chittering in triumph, the Centipede lunges, catching your leg in its jaws. The sharp teeth find flesh. As you give another yelp of pain, the bug tosses you, and you go crashing through the table that had been your shelter.

Finding your bearings, you stumble to your feet, woozy.


A pulsing pain in your calf hits you, and its then you notice the foul green juice leaking with blood from the wound. Not very deep but enough...

You nearly vomit.

>condition gained[POISONED, -1 to hit and dodge rolls until cured!]

You can only thank your stars the thing had reacted more on instinct than anything else....although now it senses your weaknesses, twisting and scuttling as it crosses the room.


Ok. Options. Options. THINK WILLOW.
>bad bug. Very bad bug! MAGIC ATTACK TIME[3 magic charges remaining.]

>Use your magic to heal the poison. Gotta stay focused![3 magic charges remaining.]

>2nd times the charm. Banzai sword attack!

>uhhh, run away? Gonna have to get past it though.

>write in
>bad bug. Very bad bug! MAGIC ATTACK TIME[3 magic charges remaining.]

>Use your magic to heal the poison. Gotta stay focused![3 magic charges remaining.]
Rolled 2 (1d2)

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Rolled 19 (1d20)

>>Use your magic to heal the poison. Gotta stay focused![3 magic charges remaining.]

First things first, you gotta cure this poison. You don't much charges fancy facing this thing while that gunk is flowing into your veins.

You rapidly mutter a cant in elven as a brief glow envelops you. It doesn't do much for your broken nose, but the relief from the venom is immediate.

>[2 Magic Charges Left]

Good to be an Elf.

Still....the Centipede isn't amused.

Though it pauses for a moment, perhaps frightened by the glow from your spell, it soon gives an angry chitter and rushes forth, jaws wide with hunger.


You lift your blade and prepare.

"Not this time"

>1d20+1 !
Rolled 2 (1d20)

Rolled 20 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

>Critical Success!

Just as the Centipede lunges forth, you roll to the side, and the insectoid beast slams into the wall behind you, with an eruption of hisses and clicks.

You swing the sword at the now exposed creature several times, scoring a number of hits as it twists and snaps around in confusion at the sudden reversal.

"That's what you get!", you growl, slicing off the Centipede's antenna as you dodge another bite. "Not so tough now!"


It scrambles forwards madly, in a tangle of twitching, clawed legs and snapping jaws. You tumble out of the way once more, and the monster bursts through an ornamental pillar. The sword is ready for another strike, but with a sudden crash of stone upon stone, and a dying screech, the top half of the column falls.

The Centipede is brained instantly, its head impaled by the sharp rubble.

You pant, blood dripping from your leg and nose alike. Jeez...the Rotwood really didn't play around did it?

Still, you are alive, and nobody witnessed that embarrassing fall of yours.

"Positive, Willow. Think positive thoughts", you mumble, before walking through the open door. Sword in hand, you look about the new chamber.

The decorations are more of the same. Although this room is several times the size of the first, with statues of Spheros the Great God at every corner. The gloom of the underground darkness gave them almost a sinister aspect, even if they represented the creator himself.

With one hand glowing like a torch, you carry on. You were here, at last. Now if only you could find the temple's heart. There, you knew, would be the holy altar, and hopefully, some sacred treasure you could take home as proof.

You couldn't help but grin. The Elders could never doubt you after this.
It takes several hours of poking around, but thankfully, there are no more giant centipedes. But the temple! Sha'ball was without doubt a place of glories. You were inside history now, and every destroyed chamber made you both excited and sad at the same time.

Then you'd come to this door. Unlike most of the others you'd come across, this one actually was still sealed. A great magical rune was etched over the doors, themselves solid marble.

You knew it's dual-meaning, at least roughly.

'Protection' 'Warning'

In other words, stay out.

"Let's see..."

You hazard a finger poke onto the rune, and for a moment, nothing happens.

Then it glows even brighter, green and blue, before a voice comes forth. It is rich in the accents of the old elves, yet it seems rushed to you.

Sealed in haste?

It's talking to you.


Oh. A riddle?

"Any hints?", you ask.


ok then.
>A snake?

>a tree?

>a mountain?

>Who cares? Try and overload the thing. [Two magic charges remaining.]
>>A snake?
>a mountain?
>a tree?
>a tree?
interesting quest and funny start
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>a tree


"A...tree?", you guess. "The blood would be sap. It stands but can't speak, and it sheds leaves or bark."


With a bright pulse, the rune vanishes, and the marble doors swing open.

They open not to a proper room, but to a vast, all encompassing blackness. A bridge stretches away into the distance, over some grand, eery gulf.

You cannot see the bottom. Oh well. You don't plan on falling anyways.

Still, you keep your feet about you as you step forth. It doesn't seem like you will have much to do, just crossing this thing in near total darkness, spell or no, so you take the time to reflect.

This was going to be big, you reminded yourself for the dozenth time. This could be what opened Cycletree's eyes. It was not that the Elves refused ANY contact with other races. There were even Half-Elves, apparently. Why, 20 years ago, you'd even met a human! An old merchant up from Circle City no less.

But Cycletree was an insular place even among an isolationist race. Even meetings with the other kyndred weren't super common. It was stupid.

You snort at a sudden thought.

"Oh no Willow!", you mumble in Elder Stratos's voice. "You see, we need to redraw the map again. We'll go do something in another 100 years!"

Heh. No, you were gonna knock their socks off. Willow Ashsong. Hero of Cycletree. That could work.
After about an hour of musing to yourself, you notice a pinprick of light in the distance. You keep going, and it expands.

Soon enough, you find the source.

A new chamber. The end of the road. This one blows the others way. The walls are pure white stone, that seem to glow subtly of their own accord. Banners untarnished by millennia hang proudly, one for each of the kyndred holds. Even those long lost are there.

Yet it is the treasure, the sacred treasure at the center of it all that nearly makes your knees give out.

Upon a dais of ebony and marble sits a crystal sphere of purest quality. Like the walls around, it glows, yet this glow is different. It CALLS to you.

Jackpot! You were right! This Flat-damned place held its secrets after all...

Sheathing your sword and wearing an enormous grin, you reach forth. As your fingers grace the crystal ball, you feel a tingly sensation. Huh.

"It's just magic. Just magic", your promise yourself. You are an Elf! When has a little magic ever scared you?

Now..to gently remove this thing...



"Stuck?", you wonder. No, fused, you think. Taking a closer look, the sphere seems almost melted to the display, as if some great discharge had run wild.

Well, you could hardly carry the whole stand out, right? Drastic action needed.

With some help from your sword, you leverage your weight, and feel the ball give a little. Yes! Nearly there.

You lean on your blade once more.


Victory! Triumph!

The crystal ball rolls forth into your hands. You peer into it, smirking at the way it warps your face.
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You can't look. Away.

You try looking away. You literally can't.

"What...hey, what hex is this?"

Try as you might, you can do nothing but stare into your own, orb-warped eyes. The tattoo on your face seems to take on a life of its own in the glass, twisting. Your face starts to swirl and twirl.

No, that's you.

You can't breathe.

And then you see only the orb.
Hours, months, seconds(?), later, you open your eyes with a gasp, as precious, delicious oxygen fills your lungs again.

You go stiff, as you realize that your surroundings have changed again. Drastically so. For you now stand not on an ancient temple, nor, you think, the Rotwood's fetid depths.

This is some new sorcery.

You look around. Clouds shaped like balls of fluffy thunder pulse with energy above. The soil feels...wrong. Too dry and too pale at the same time, as if you stand upon grey sand. Definitely a new place.

You realize the orb is missing. Damn it!

"Uh...hello?", you call out. You didn't see anything actually alive here. "Anyone out here? Besides me, I guess."

For a few seconds, there is just silence, and then very much the opposite.

A round tear in the sky erupts above you, and a large, skeletal creature floats out of it, bearing a pair of crystal balls.

"A MORTAL?!", it says. Taking a deep breath, the terrible thing descends ever so slightly, arms and orbs held wide.

"ANOTHER HAS COME!", it declares, staring you down. "WHAT SAY YOU?"

"Uh...", you take a step back. Nowhere to hide, nowhere to hide. Uhhhh

>"Um, hello? Nice plane you have here?"

>No. No. You aren't dealing with this. Fireball. To the flat-hell with this. [2 charges remaining.]

>Run awaaaaaay

>write in
>"Um, hello? Nice plane you have here?"
fucking kek

>"Um, hello? Nice plane you have here?"
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>"Um, hello? Nice plane you have here?"

You scramble for something to say. Anything to say. Seconds pass. Long, awful seconds as this big skeletal thing just peers onto your soul.

"Um, hello? Nice plane you have here?"

The words ring out before you can even process them. Several more seconds pass, and you nearly faint from tension.

Then the thing actually BOWS.

"THANK YOU, AND WELL MET!", it replies.

You blink. That...worked?


Ok, now he's lost you.

Doing your best to stop gaping, you squeeze out a question.

"My...my destiny? No offense, but I kind of was already at my destiny. Temple Sha'ball?"

Graf Hoop nods.


He raises his globes up.


Your mind short circuits.

"O-orb Master?!?", you shout, shaking your head. "I don't, well I do but--you must be mistaken!"

An Orb Master! The great heroes and villains of the world! Those who fought for the power of THE Orbz...with a Z! The power of divinity at stake...

Which could only mean...

"A War of the Spheres?", you wonder. The last one had been a catastrophe, it had...taken things from you. Bad memories. Very bad. You grimace.

Graf Hoop bows once more.


"This is a lot to take in, Graf Zoop."


"And you are...what, a god?"

He actually looks hurt, if you can believe it.


Uhuh. The sacred birthplace of the very spheres did not look like much. The aftermath of Flattok's corruption?

You sigh.

"Do I even have a choice in this?"


The air around you starts to warp as he smacks his orbs together.


"Hey wait, I haven't--"


"...--agreed to this...."

Your protest trails off as the BallPit stops warping around you. A quick glance at your surroundings reveals two brand new structures. Or, landmarks as it were?

To your left is an enormous mountain. It is made up of the same dry, colorless dirt and stone as the ground here, and seems to rise above the very clouds. A set of ornate steps leads to the summit, which glows with six familiar colors.

And to the right...you see a graveyard, for that unmistakably is what it is. Filled with crypts and tombs, and its gate engraved with the symbols of the 6 Spheres.

And between them both, Graf Hoop.


Man, he was really worked up about this.

"So...where do you want me to go?"


You rub your chin.

"Ok...but what will I be DOING?"

His rictus grin spreads wide and toothy.


You nod. The Great Spirits. There was always one who "ruled" each elemental sphere. THOSE were the Primal Powers, virtual gods. It was the goal and obsession of every Great Spirit to unseat a Power, and take their spot.

And the Orb Master was their bonded mortal, who chased their own dream...

"Understood. But why are there two paths? Is there a difference?"

Graf Hoop now floats only a few yards away from you, intent in his words.


At his words, the summit of Challanger Mount seems to erupt.

He gestures to your right.


At this statement, a low series of wails and cries for aid come forth.

You cock a brow.

"Which are the strongest?"


He stretches out his arms.



>You will ascend The Mount. You've had enough grime for today, thank you.

>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.

>Refuse both. He can't make you choose, right? The Sphere Wars are a bane on Roundina, even if the reward...
>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.
Better to learn from the past so that it does not repeat itself.
>>You will ascend The Mount. You've had enough grime for today, thank you
>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.
>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.
>>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.
>>>You will visit the The Yard. Those poor souls will surely be grateful.

The Mount catches your eye first. The way it rises to the sky, the delicately carved steps leading up it, the sheer DIGNITY of the thing...


Another set of wails and whispers sings through the gates of the The Yard, and beside that solemn place, the Mount seems an almost tacky thing. Trying to hard to be obvious?

Overwrought as it were.

The Yard was a place of depressive honesty, not glitter. Cold iron. Besides, if you were being roped into this, you were hardly going to pick the 'obvious' choice.

You point to it.

"I'm visiting the Yard then", you say. "A visitor could do it some good, no?"

Graf Hoop nods to you sagely.


He clangs his balls together once more, and the The Mount vanishes. Only The Yard of the Forsaken remains, it's eery gloom now taking up the scene.

You stand before its skeletal gates. The great skull at the center yawns wide as you approach, ichor dripping from it.

"Charming", you mutter.


In a flash of black light, Graf is gone.

Just you then.

"Uh..open?", you ask the gate.

"Yes...Orb Master..."

The eyes of the skull glow balefully, and it obeys. Swinging inwards, they creak and moan with the decay of ages, and the path before you is now open.

And what a path.

Thousands of tombs and grave stones litter the area, most bearing no mark at all. Yet there is but one road here, leading down, down, and still down. And, of course, it is paved in bones. Lots and lots of bleached, cracked bones.

You do have to wonder if Graf Hoop did not design the place. Food for thought.

Steeling yourself, you enter.


And the gate shuts behind you.

"No going back Willow", you sigh.

The descent is about as unnerving as you'd expect. Miles upon miles of the same, doom and gloom scenery. Every now and then, you swore, there was a flicker on the edge of your vision. But they'd always vanish right before you could get a good look. Ghosts?

You have your suspicions confirmed while passing a particularly ruinous sections of graves. To your surprise, a pair of phantoms sit openly on top of a large stone crypt, weeping loudly. Their tears are pale white. Their cries sour.

You'd never seen a real ghost before.

Most, you knew, were bitter, wrathful things back on Roundina, haunting places of catastrophe and loss-of which there were plenty. But these...were just sad?

"Ohhhhhh! How black is our existence!", cries one, a dead human in a vest of mail and plate, if his rounded ears were any measure. "How cruel and cold! To breathe again!"

His companion, an Orc woman, to your surprise, just moans. Her arms bled white from dozens of arm scars, the kind you knew the Orcs used to mark battle kills.
Naturally, they are right in your path.

They haven't noticed you yet, probably...

Although those flickers in the corner of your eye are back again. You have the sudden thought of ghostly hands peeling over the tomb stones, reaching....

You shiver.
>"Excuse me? Can I squeeze by?"

>Go around them? You'd need to leave the road though.

>FIREBALL![2 magic charges remaining]

>Just walk through them.

>write in
>"Excuse me? Can I squeeze by?"
>Engage in conversation with them.
who they are, who they were and then if they bid you safe passage
>Just walk through them.
>>Just walk through them.
>Just Walk through them

Honestly, the sight of them moved you to pity. And fear. Both at once, honestly.

But compared to Graf Hoop, these ghosts were pretty mundane. Best, perhaps, to leave them to their brooding?

Having settled on a simple solution, you merely carry on. As you come closer, the ghosts cease their sobbing. Instead, they look upon you with hollow, fixed gazes.

Shock, or outrage?

You keep your eyes straight ahead as you pass through them.

Rolled 11 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

Rolled 14 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

Rolled 2 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

>17 success!!!

For a half second, a feeling like passing through a curtain of pale smoke, and then you by them. Still, you shudder, if only by instinct. It had been cold. You breathe.

You'd expected worse, for some reason.

Behind you, the male ghost is sputtering, clearly having trouble with his composure. Having a time of it too.

"H-h-how rude!", he declares, shaking a spectral fist. "The youth of today have no respect! Bah!"

The orc sniffs, clearly insulted as well. But like her friend, all she does is that.

"Bloody elf", she grumbles. "Who do you think you are?"

You keep going, but shrug in resignation.

"An Orb Master, apparently"

"Hah! Welcome to the club, knife-ear."

That stops you in your tracks, not so much the slur as the first part. It sends you spinning back around.

"What do you...mean?"

They are gone. Nice.

"Good job Willow. Making friends."

It could be your imagination, but you think a few chuckles of spiteful laughter come from around the graveyard. Damn ghosts.

For the rest of your journey, you keep an eye out for the two ghosts, but they never come back. Every now and then, some inexplicable sound or sight draws your attention, but that's all.

Are you being tooled with? Possible, but the place was creepy enough on it own. You doubted it was personal.

A while later, you find yourself overlooking what must be the last stretch of the path. At the end, a ways off, is what resembles a ruined shrine of sorts.

Even from here, you can tell the roof is missing, what pillars it once had fallen. If it had ever been beautiful, it wasn't now.

But as you draw closer, it becomes clear that this MUST be your end goal. The sigils of the 6 Spheres are everywhere in evidence upon its battered surface.

And the feeling...

It had been very feint, farther off, but this place pulses with doom. Not the doom of evil, but an older, more sure thing. Like a candle burnt low on both ends. You look up, and an etching whispers to you.

'The Grey Chapel'

And the candle could feel it's death come.

No guardian rises to meet you, and the yawning entry lay itself in pieces, so you pick your way over stone and bone alike.

And there they sit.

Gathered in a circle, atop biers in the shape of skeletal hands, sit 6 Spheres.

In a way, they remind you of the..what had Graf called it? The Orb Declarant. But they were smaller, could fit in one hand. And each was a different shade or color.

Burning Red, you realized, for fire.

Deep Blue, for water.

Off White for Air

A golden Yellow for Light

The Green of spring for Earth

And Black, like a night of no stars.

Six colors. The 6 elements. The 6 Spheres. And each and every one with the power to destroy a god.

The Sphere War seems real at last.

As did the voices that assailed you.

Six souls. Great Spirits, you know. Those who would gamble themselves to take the place of a Primal Power. To seize a Primal Sphere!
It is overwhelming.

You fall to your knees as a mix of pleas, bargains, threats...it washes over you.

The pressure builds until--


At your command, silence.

Exasperated, sweat on your brow and your nose crooked from the break, you know you must look an utter mess.

But Graf Hoop had been very clear this must be your choice. You would not be influenced. With a grimace, you shoved pity aside, and considered.

Each Sphere War throughout history had 6 'contestants'. To your knowledge, there had never been more than one Master for an element battling at once.

None had been claimed, and going by Graf Hoop's words, you must be the first to be chosen this time.

Spoiled for choice, as it were.

Lucky you.

It was very hard for you to picture yourself waging war upon five strangers, all for some vague promise. More than most, you had little reason to love the Wars as they stood. You cast a wondering eye over the Spheres.

These had once stood tall, Graf Hoop had said. Did any of them regret anything that had led them here? Or only the fact they had lost? Been thrown down?

From the pinnacle to the abyss.

And here you were. With them.

You were an Elf, and something about that comparison brought a chuckle up.

No reason not to take your time.

You visit each orb in term...

But only one can be chosen.

You shall be the Master of...
>The Orb of Fire! The soul within burns hot with rage. Anger. Revenge. Revenge is the feeling that presses upon your thoughts. And shame? You sense shame, beneath shaking magma. VOLCANA, it cries out. VOLCANA, THE TYRANT SALAMANDER!

>The Orb of Water! Drowning. Always drowning. A cloying weight upon this soul. Blind resentment, like the unforgiving waves. And yet depth too, under the far, inky deep. KARKAROS, it sings, KARKAROS, SHADOW OF THE DEEP!

>The Orb of Air. Freedom. Like the wind that blows to the four corners. Yet beneath that desire is vanity and spite. Like a tornado, this spirit does as it whilt, beneath the open sky. GALE, it blows, GALE, SCION OF STORMS.

>The Orb of Earth. Unmoving stubbornness. This is what you feel. Solid like stone, yet perverted by wrath. He shall break before he bends, like a mountain. PRIMOS, it rumbles, PRIMOS, EMPEROR OF EARTHQUAKES!

>The Orb of Light. Brightly it shines, yet blinded by its own glow. You sense arrogance. Pride, far too much pride. But beneath it..a noble aspect? Yes. Like a sword gone to rust. BRIGHTROAR, it growls, BRIGHTROAR, THE LION OF LIGHT!

>The Orb of Darkness. Resignation and sadness. Bitter as only the dark can be bitter, in absence of warmth. Yet there is duty here, duty unceasing. And hope. GRIMM, it whispers, GRIMM, THE SILVER SCYTHE!
>>The Orb of Air. Freedom. Like the wind that blows to the four corners. Yet beneath that desire is vanity and spite. Like a tornado, this spirit does as it whilt, beneath the open sky. GALE, it blows, GALE, SCION OF STORMS.
>The Orb of Darkness. Resignation and sadness. Bitter as only the dark can be bitter, in absence of warmth. Yet there is duty here, duty unceasing. And hope. GRIMM, it whispers, GRIMM, THE SILVER SCYTHE!

Let's goooo
>The Orb of Water! Drowning. Always drowning. A cloying weight upon this soul. Blind resentment, like the unforgiving waves. And yet depth too, under the far, inky deep. KARKAROS, it sings, KARKAROS, SHADOW OF THE DEEP!
Will probably be last post today. It's a big decision so I'd like to give it plenty of time. :)

Sleep tight OP
>The Orb of Air. Freedom. Like the wind that blows to the four corners. Yet beneath that desire is vanity and spite. Like a tornado, this spirit does as it whilt, beneath the open sky. GALE, it blows, GALE, SCION OF STORMS.
>>The Orb of Earth. Unmoving stubbornness. This is what you feel. Solid like stone, yet perverted by wrath. He shall break before he bends, like a mountain. PRIMOS, it rumbles, PRIMOS, EMPEROR OF EARTHQUAKES!
>>The Orb of Air. Freedom. Like the wind that blows to the four corners. Yet beneath that desire is vanity and spite. Like a tornado, this spirit does as it whilt, beneath the open sky. GALE, it blows, GALE, SCION OF STORMS.

Inexorably, you find yourself drawn to stand at last before the Orb of Air. As you draw your fingers over it, your skin feels both brushed with the kiss of the wind and the tingling of static.

Freedom. You had lived 99 years in Cycletree, stifled by the cautions of others. What had you done by coming here if not thrown caution to the winds?

Was that a pun? It was.

But it spoke to you. And you will answer.

Gingerly at first, and then all at once, you remove the cloudy white orb from its bier. Sparks of electricity are thrown from the thing. The interior promises many things. The storm. The thunderhead. The sky.

Now then...

Unsure of how the next step works, you decide to simply hold the Orb aloft. You take a deep breath, and speak clearly.

"I am Willow Ashsong. I claim the Orb of Air! I shall be your Master. GALE, Scion of Storms, I call upon you! Hear me now!"

As the words come forth, whisps of fog and a rumble like distant thunder pick up around you, the sparks intensifying.

This is wild.


And so he does.

A plume of twisting wind like a tornado blasts from the Orb, filling the air above you. It begins to take shape, lines of flashing lightning like veins of blood, a body that rolls and blows this way and that, and eyes that spark with energy.

Huffing, sharp laughter, thick with victory, starts to fill your ears. It's coming from the great man of wind before you. Raising his vaporous arms up, he gives a shout.

"YES!", he laughs. "I.AM.FRREEEEE!"

Yet even as Gale soars upwards, an invisible pull seems to direct him back down, and after yanking against it for a few moments, he descends.

He doesn't seem happy about it.

Crackling and wheezing with frustration, the Scion of Storms finally notices you.

He crosses his arms and looks you over.

"Hello?", you try. Gale shakes his head.

"An Elf", he mutters. "Are you meant to be my mortal then?"

Besides the weird blowy static, his tone carries a vague hint of disdain. His sparky eyes seem to examine every inch of you, thoroughly unimpressed.

You puff your chest.

"I am Willow--ak!"

"Willow Ashsong, yes, yes", Gale interrupts, sending a harmless blast of wind down your gullet. How rude!

Pleased with himself, Gale actually lays back and reclines in mid air, like some grandee from distant Bowlarabia.
Combined with the aristocratic tenor of his accent, and the image is striking.

"Your name is unimportant, mortal. I am not your friend. We both have our agendas here...although aren't you very young for an Elf?"
You flinch at the implication. Ouch.

"I am old enough to be chosen!", you protest, heatedly. "I am an Orb Master! Your--"


The blast at your feet makes you yelp.

"You presume much, Mortal", Gale remarks, wagging an airy finger. "We are not bonded yet. I have played the War before, Elf, and masters have failed me before..."

He looks down at you, and if he had a nose, you'd think he'd be looking down it.

"Including Elves. So tell me, my most recent mortal, why I should accept any pact with you? An elven 'girl?' "

Girl. Not woman. You grind you teeth.

"There are rules about this", you say. "You can't just ignore me!"

"Rules are for those who can't break them", Gale replies, seemingly content to just float around you at his leisure.

You aren't getting anywhere.
>This guy sure talks awfully big for someone trapped in Losertown. Maybe remind him where he is.

>Try begging. Puppy Eyes sob story.

>This is a farce. Blast him with magic and remind him who's in charge. [2 magic charges remaining.]

>To the Flat-cursed Hell with this! Turn around and leave. You swear...[mumble]

>write in
>This is a farce. Blast him with magic and remind him who's in charge. [2 magic charges remaining.]
>"Listen to me! I am not your mortal to pick. You are MY spirit to choose."
>"I had my pick out of all the six Spheres, which means I am the first Orb Master in this war. I'll be the one who has the most time to prepare and accumulate power."
>"But you can always go last too. Maybe I should make a pact with someone who understands and won't squander this strategic advantage."
>>Try begging. Puppy Eyes sob story.
>>This guy sure talks awfully big for someone trapped in Losertown. Maybe remind him where he is.
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Rolled 19 (1d20)

>>"Listen to me! I am not your mortal to pick. You are MY spirit to choose."
>"I had my pick out of all the six Spheres, which means I am the first Orb Master in this war. I'll be the one who has the most time to prepare and accumulate power."
>"But you can always go last too. Maybe I should make a pact with someone who understands and won't squander this strategic advantage."
Half of you wants to blast the guy in the face, and the other half just wants you to berate him. Give him the old Elder Stratos treatment. But no. He wasn't going to be moved with more yelling.

Nor you think, with simpering tears.

"Listen to me!", you demand. Gale waves his hand at you, and raises a brow, but maintains his lax posture.

"I've already been picked" you say, adding some steel to your tone. "Picked by a power much greater than you. Am I happy about it? Not really. But Graf Hoop said it was MY choice. And I choose you!"

You thrust a finger at him. Your nail is crusted with grave soil and blood, like much of your clothing.

"So listen up, and look around you, Gale. Six orbs. SIX. You know what that means?"

The Scion looks about in mock shock, as if only now noticing the Chapel's contents. He shrugs dramatically.

"That the Elves can do arithmetic?"

You ignore the jab, and shake your head.

"No. It means that I'm the first Orb Master in this war. I have my pick. I could have chosen any of these..."

You search for the term...

"Lost souls. I picked you. That's a big advantage I'd think. We'll have time to get a scheme together. Prepare. I don't plan on dying in this thing."

Gale's Misty form twists about, breaking his pose for the first time. Without any bones, he can contort something fierce.

"Nobody ever does, little Mortal. What makes you so different, eh? First on the chopping block in this wretched circus? Color me thrilled. The whole spectrum."

Now it's your turn to shrug.

"You can always go last too", you remark, your tone sly. "Could be I was wrong. Maybe I should make a pact with someone who understands and won't squander such an advantage?"

A glint of something in those sparky blue eyes. Anger? Or...fear?

Scared to be left here, you wonder?

The Scion of Storms floats very close, until you are forced to withdraw you accusing finger. He hums, more with latent electricity than anything else.

You can feel your hair stand on end.

"Do we have an understanding?", you ask, trying not to sound nervous at staring down a Great Spirit.
Rolled 20 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

Rolled 5 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

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>Nat 20
>Critical Success!

"Hah!", Gale barks at last, a fresh show of bravado. Little tears run from his eyes as he laughs."Hahaha!"

"Hah...haha...?", you nervously copy.

"You realize, I could fry you? Tear the air from your lungs? Something like that?"

You hold your ground.

"Then do it. If you can. Like I said. I plan on living through the War. No exceptions."

More staring.

For a moment, the tension is back, and then just seems to dissipate.

Gale places his hands on his 'hips'.

"You'll die for SURE if you choose one of these others", he scoffs, giving a disdainful poke behind him. "Whereas I might be able to keep you alive for a while. Not bad huh?"

"That's...comforting, I guess."

Gale nods.

"It should be. Without my help you'll die first. And where would I be then? Poor Gale here wondering why that silly Elf didn't choose to live longer...."

You hold up the Orb, hopeful.

"So, about that pact thing."

With a crackle and a hum of resignation, Gale reaches out his hands, fingers coiling into claws of tiny lightning.

He stops, just before contact. Suspicious eyes flicker over your own dark ones.

"I'm not going to call you 'Mistress'. Or 'Master'", he shivers. "I am not a butler."

You suppress a chuckle.

"Bad experience?", you wonder.

"The gall of some Mortals..."

With that, he reaches forth, and your hands seem to overlap on the Orb. The feeling is nothing like when you'd touched the ghosts earlier. That had been chilly and damp. This was like sticking your arms into a twister of shock spells.

It didn't hurt, oddly enough.

Quickly, he runs you through the paces, before the real show begins. Oh boy.

"Repeat after me", Gale intones, all vanity or edge forgotten for a moment.

The two of you speak as one, in this.

"A Pact shall be made!"

"By the Orb we hold"

"The Orb of Air"

"We accept our oaths. The oaths of the Pact. The Oaths of the Sphere!"

A localized storm kicks up around the Grey Chapel, the pair of you at the epicenter, as you continue on.

"I am Gale, Scion of Storms"

"I am Willow Ashsong, of Cycletree! An Orb Master...I would claim the Orb of Air!"

"And I accept her claim", Gale replies. He is perfectly at home in this storm. "I accept her as my Master of Air."

You smirk internally. Even if you never got him to say it again, it's a little victory.

The wind picks up again, and you both have to raise your voices up--and the Orb.

"The Battle Comes!"


You both rise up, Orb still in your grip, and to your shock, the veins in your arm start to glow and pulse with electric blue. You feel the storm rage inside you. You feel every gust of Air. Pulse of Wind.

"Wh-what's happening???!"

Gale seems just as shocked as you are.

Heh. Shocked. Another pun.

Within seconds, you are almost WEARING him, before levitating back to the ground.

And you think as one.
[Ability Unlocked: Master Form.]
Gale's shrill scream erupts inside your head. Your very mind. You hear what he says but as thoughts parallel to your own. Unmistakably, it is him.

*You...how have you done this already?! Release me, you damned Elf! Get out!*

"Get out?!", you protest. "YOU get out! Sparks issue forth from your mouth. You feel your hair-now whisps of stormy cloud, whip and strike with anger. "What just happened?!"

Something big, you think.

You float an inch or so off the ground almost by accident, taking yourself in. Cloudy hair, sparky breath, general whispiness...far from normal. Blue electric shocky-ish..veins too.

*This..this is a Master Form!*, Gale thunders. *But we just met! Absurd!*

You feel your arm start to twitch on its own, before holding it in place. That's not you moving it. Not entirely.

"Hey...hey! Quit it!"

*This isn't right. Mortal, think of a word. Any word. Make it powerful. Apply all your force to it!*

You decide to cooperate. This was way too weird for you as well.

"Ok ok!", you snap. "Geeze. Let me think..."

*Now, Mortal!*


With a clap of thunder, you find yourself sprawling on the floor of the Chapel. Ro your relief, the Orb is in your hands. Gale is hovering above you, freshly enraged.

"Obscene! I...how..."

With a groan, you stand up.

"Mind explaining what just happened there, Gale? You could have warned me!"

He gives you an incredulous look.

"Warned you? Mortal, that was a Master Form. That is something that doesn't happen without a very strong bond between Master and Spirit. And I don't even like you!"

>[Master Form]: Willow and Gale can fuse, briefly, for a large power boost. It is...unpredictable as it stands.

"And here I thought we were such good buddies...", you muse. You curl your nose.

By Spheros, AND you smell like Ozone.

And mud...and ghosts...and lots of things. A bath really sounded good.

But before the two of you can keep tearing into each other, trumpets sound.


Very big trumpets. As if everything you've seen today was only a prelude, big, fat babies with oversized trumpets start blowing a triumphal song.

You give up. You don't question it.

A familiar tear in the sky opens up, and through it floats Graf Hoop. The giant floating skeleton man seems absurdly pleased with himself. He lifts his pair of orbs high into the air.


He bows to you and Gale.


Beside you, Gale actually growls. Yeesh.




He claps his orbs together, and to your horror, the other Spheres in the Grey Chapel start to disintegrate.

"Hey, what are you doing!?"

One by one, the others turn to dust. A gentle breeze-not one of Gale's-sends them on their way. From The Mount as well, a single lightning strike sounds.
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"Bah!", Gale spits. "A circus...like I said."

You are speechless.

Had you..had you just acted as executioner? The thought revolted you.

Steady Willow. Steady.

"The other air Orb...."

Graf waves that concern away.


It did little to calm your beating heart.

"The Pact is made!", Gale howls. "Send us to the mortal plane. This one sickens me."

His toothy grin wide, Graf Hoop slams his Spheres together once more.


A flash of light, like before.

You are in the Orb, all inside it. The orb--


You awake to the sound of reeking, fetid trees and soil. Ah, the Rotwood.

Gale is nowhere to be seen....wait.

Had that been a dream? No, it could--

"Mffff!! MFFFFAL!!"

A sudden Zap to your behind sends you scrambling with a squeak.

"Hey what the hell!"

"You were sitting on me!", Gale snaps. Or, Gale....the Orb? Huh. Wait. You tap it.

"Are you...stuck in there?", you ask. It seems to have gotten smaller...

" 'Are you stuck in--' No, Mortal. Not exactly.", Gale says. "But my true power is limited on this plane. I cannot manifest consistently yet. At least in no way fit for battle. An hour per day perhaps. Maybe two...."

The Orb floats up from the ground a few feet, level with your face.

"What about that Master Form thing?"

You can almost feel him scowling.

"That...is a truly bizzare matter. Never have I heard of it being unlocked so quickly. Most disturbing."

A thought occurs to you.

"Maybe it means we make a good team?"

He does not deign to respond.

You wonder if all spirits were this cranky.

Oh. The other Great Spirits in the Yard.

Acid in your gut rises.

A hand shoots to your mouth.

"What are you--no wait, MORTAL!"
>1d20 vomit check!
Rolled 15 (1d20)

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Gale's shrieking protest snaps you out of it. There is the unpleasant experience of having to swallow-literally-your sickness before turning away, gagging. It's foul.

"Gah! Nasty. Jeez."

Gale is unamused.

"Fantastic", he muses. "A weak stomach. Just what we need in a warrior. What's the matter with you! You act like you've never...killed anyone...before."

You wipe your mouth, with distaste. Whatever else, you won't start bawling. You need to be tough.

"Not a person", you reply, not looking at him. "Not someone that could think for itself properly like you or I can."

"Welcome to the Circus, fellow clown", Gale states, deadpan. "Honk-Honk."

That brings you twirling, eyes angry.

"That's awful!", you reply. "How can you say that? Doesn't it bother you?"

"Mortal", Gale chuckles, dangerously. "I have played this game before. Killed and been killed. I have lost and won. We all die sometime. They are at peace."

"They could have had a chance...", you mumble, feebly. "They.."

"Could have killed you?", he interrupts. "And their future Masters?" The orb hovers right up to your face. "They would have also. Without question."

"Maybe they would have killed each other, and spared us all the trouble", you say.

"You waste pity on enemies. Learn to live with bloody hands Mortal, your destiny is gore."

"And yours", you retort.

"....Yes", he replies, tightly, after a second. "And mine. We both face oblivion, Elf. The War is here. War means killing. There can be only one victorious Master."

Or none, you supposed. It had happened before, even to the logical extreme. The last War had ended in such a manner, everyone dead. No winners. Pointless.

The memory made you clench a fist.

"You are just filled with heartwarming advice aren't you?", you sigh, as you start unfolding your map. "Real sunshine guy."

The Orb floats over your shoulder.

"If we are to travel together, I would not have you grope around, ignorant..."

A questioning pulse.

"Where are we going?"

"Not going to boss me around?", you ask, honestly a little shocked. "Complain?"

He sparks in frustration.

"It has..been a while since I was here. I will defer to you on this, barring insanity."

Well, that was a start.

Ok Willow, destination one....
>Straight back to Cycletree you'll go. That's the direct route. You have to tell the Elders about this. Such news! The Elves need to know! No time to lose!

>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.

>Honestly, it may not be a good idea to head home at all right now. The Elders will freak(probably), and you'd hate to put anyone at risk...Circle City then? A big trek. Easy place to hide though. Maybe regroup there. Send a letter.
>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.
>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.
>>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.

What's always odd in long livved species is, even if at a 100 years old and they are considered young.
But in terms of experience, if we learned a craft, wouldn't we be a master craftsman by human standards?
Do we know any crafts?
>>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.
>>Honestly, it may not be a good idea to head home at all right now. The Elders will freak(probably), and you'd hate to put anyone at risk...Circle City then? A big trek. Easy place to hide though. Maybe regroup there. Send a letter.
>>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.
>There was a human town that you avoided before. Littledot you think. Restocking your [belly rumble], very thin food could be nice. And a bed. Then we can see about heading home.
It had been about a week since the events back in Temple Sha'ball. On that chaotic day, you had become an Orb Master. Willow Ashsong, Master of Air. First Chosen of the 666th Sphere War.

Big stuff.

Of course, the next few days or so had been spent slogging your way out of the Rotwood. Leaving felt quicker than coming, thank Spheros, but the smell...

To your immense displeasure, Gale's presence had not helped much.

Oh, to be sure, it was theoretically nice to have an ancient and powerful Great Spirit at your call. In theory. In practice, you got the feeling Gale disliked this entire enterprise. Or maybe just you.

You asked him about it, at one point.

His Orb, which floated alongside you most of the time, had sparked in anger.

"I am bound like some infernal genie to a glorified fishbowl, and you expect me to be 'happy' about it, Mortal?"

He still refused to use your name. It annoyed you. Were you so unlikable?

"Nobody made you live like this.", was your heated reply. "You sealed yourself. Don't get mad at me about it."

That was true enough, you knew. Imprisonment for power. Limits for possibilities. Gale had, for whatever reason at some point, made that bargain in hopes of claiming a Primal Sphere.

It was how the rules worked.

He'd responded only with scorn.

"As the elves seal themselves? That is a choice too."

That had stung, more than you'd shown.

"I'm trying to change that...."

"Ah yes", he snorted, with a static pulse. "You are the NOBLE one here. I forgot. Hand forced by destiny. My apologies. I am sure absolute power appeals to you none at all. Sorry."

You'd traded only a few words since.

Still, apart from a handful of minor gribblies here and there, you had avoided any real danger. A small miracle.

So too, had you'd run through the last of your precious jerky, so when you passed near the border netween Cycletree's influence(such as it was), and the nearby human zones, you have a sigh of relief.


And hunger, you admit.

Littledot was a border town. Not much, you think, compared to the great Circle City. Maybe a few hundred people.

A few hundred humans, of course.

It was mostly open country here, the occasional hill and patch of wood.

You sat, criss-cross on top of one such low hill, looking down at the town. The last of the herbal tea you'd brewed in joy after leaving the Rotwood was a treat. Ahhh, the simple things in life.

You still smelled really bad though.

Gale floats up to your side, which is the most interaction he's shown in days.

"Humans...", he mused. "My last mortal was human, did you know?"

You drain the wooden cup, frowning.


The Orb flickers.

"A fickle race", he explains, for once, without belligerence. "What is your plan?"
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"...plan?", you ask. "Well, uh. I was going to get a bed, maybe a bath..."


"You are an Elf"

You give him the side eye.

"I am aware of that, Gale."

"This is not Circle City", he warns. "Consider this. How often have these humans seen an elf?"

You HAD considered it, quite often. But he had a point, you admitted.

"They know Cycletree exists", you respond, tapping your tattoo. "What, you think they are gonna break out the pitchforks because of my ears?"

"The Wars...you know of The Amber Prince, surely. Sap Briarbone? Hollyhew?"

"Of course I know them", you grimace. As a student of your history, how could you not? He'd just named three of the most infamous Elven Orb Masters of all time.

They'd made themselves monsters. The Amber Prince hadn't even played the game properly. He'd raised legions and used the Earth Orb to assail whole nations. Human nations.

You cut him off. All of that was a long time ago, by any standard.

"The Sphere Wars involve everyone. They always have. The bad apples don't change that. We are going down."

The Orb dips, in surrender.

"You trust too easily."

Better, you think, than trusting none at all.

Still, maybe some caution is prudent?
>Gale be damned. You are walking right into the tavern. Let them stare.

>Hmmm...stuff Gale into your pack. Alarm bells going off in people's heads isn't what you need right now.

>Spec Ops Willow! You will put on your best human disguise, it cannot fail!
>>Hmmm...stuff Gale into your pack. Alarm bells going off in people's heads isn't what you need right now.
>>Hmmm...stuff Gale into your pack. Alarm bells going off in people's heads isn't what you need right now
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>Hmmm...stuff Gale into your pack. Alarm bells going off in people's heads isn't what you need right now.

Anyone who wasn't a buffoon would get suspicious if a talking magic orb got spotted. Best not to freak people out. Lots of folks had reasons to hate the Masters and Wars, Elf or no.

The reaction could be...poor.

You reach a hand over.

"Alright Gale. Compromise. Into the pack with you, ok?"

He hums in agreement. You nestle the glass sphere among your bedroll, and carry on down the hill. You do your best to put on a confident front. The image was perhaps ruined by the current state of your hygiene, but that's the brakes.

As expected, you do start to turn heads once in Littledot proper. A stare here, looks of utter surprise there. An Elf come into town was, as you thought, not common. And the beards! So many beards. Scandalous to be honest.

"You haven't been lynched", Gale mutters, muffled by the leather pack. "Good start."

It is your first time in a human town, and the differences with Cycletree are stark. Where the great gear-tree of your kyndred is built up, like a twisting vertical spear-Littledot has built wide. Where Cycletree's great mechanical limbs turn and pop around the day, here it's open sky.

A simple place. Maybe underwhelming. But what had you expected? Wire-Cars and Meks? Urban luxuries. Not here.

There is only one building that rises above two stories that you can see, and judging by the sounds of laughter and smell of food, it must be the tavern.

Indeed, a sign hangs above the door. On it, is the symbol of a red tankard. Nearby, a drunken farmer gawks at you. He scratches his gray beard and mumbles something about fairies.

'The Ruby Tap'

"Ok Willow", you tell yourself. Sword at side, polite smile on face, you enter.

Now, Littledot is a small town, and all, but the smell of baking bread and beer or ail assail you. It is thick here. Twitching your little Elf nose, you almost sneeze.

The tavern is fairly full, with plenty of humans sitting or standing about, having themselves a drink or meal. Several give you looks, although most are not hostile.


One man, a big musclebound type with a nasty facial scar, stares you down. The curve of it makes you think of an elven sword. Nervously, you sit yourself at a table, avoiding his steely gaze.

"That one is trouble", Gale advises.

You almost chastise him for speaking up, but you hold your tongue. Nobody could have heard him, but talking to yourself would look really damn weird.

Subtle. Be subtle, but firm!


You are broken from your thoughts by the form of a fat, sweaty human in aprons. Bald and bearded, with a worried face.

The owner? To be sure, a few patrons cut off their own conversations to watch.

"Hello", you respond simply. "Lovely place."

He nods, eyeing you cautiously. His brows scrunch together, in thought.
"Indeed. Indeed. Hmm, it has been...been some time since an Elf came here. Let it not be said be said the Ruby Tap has ever turned out a customer! But..er..what I mean to say is..."

He wrings his sweaty hands again.

"I have money", you add. Not much, but what you could scrounge before leaving home. Surely enough for this.

"...elven money?", he asks, skeptical. You produce one of the silver marbles. With a quick glance over your shoulder, he shrugs. The marble vanishes.

"I will be wanting a bath and room too", you add. The inkeep nods, absently.

"Your money is as good as anyone else's, I suppose...", he states. "Ahem. Very well. Someone will bring the meal."

He pauses.

"You will be wanting drink. There is...well, beer. Uh, or would you prefer something less...human? That is to say, we have some honey and milk.."

He carries on. The man strikes you as genuinely trying to be helpful, but nervous. At you? Maybe.

Another glance over your shoulder.
>Beer!. Alcohol is virtually banned in Cycletree. You are genuinely curious. What could possibly go wrong?

>Milk. You need your wits.

>Water is fine. After Rotwood, water you can actually not be scared of sounds nice.
>>Beer!. Alcohol is virtually banned in Cycletree. You are genuinely curious. What could possibly go wrong?
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>>Beer!. Alcohol is virtually banned in Cycletree. You are genuinely curious. What could possibly go wrong?

It is a petty thing, perhaps, but with no Elder here to naysay you, why not indulge a little? Traditionally, your kyndred didn't drink, barring special ceremonies.

Something about 'clouding the mind', or what have you. Nonsense, surely.

You find your curiosity peaked.

"I will just have Beer, thank you", you say, finally interrupting the inkeep's continued bumbling. The man seems grateful.

Gale hums knowingly.

"Right", the human says, relieved. "It will not be long. Er, stay put. Please."

After his retreat, most of the others in the tavern lose interest, apart from the occasional peak. Tolerable, honestly.

You don't check, but you would guess the scarred human behind you is still staring. Oh well. Best to wait him out, you guess.

A girl passes by, mouths some niceties about your facial tattoo, and then carries on past with rapid skill. She leaves behind a bowl of stew, and a large tankard.

The food is good enough, mostly some colorless meat and chopped veggies. It is of course, the drink that interests you.

Inside is a brown brew. Fascinating.

Thirsty after all your hard work, you take a large gulp, thrilled by your defiance.

>Water is fine. After Rotwood, water you can actually not be scared of sounds nice.
Rolled 7 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 11 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 20 - 1 (1d20 - 1)

time to chug
>another 20

Lol. Da. Stronk Booze Elf.

>20 Critical Success!!
You blink.


This....the taste...the body...the beauty..

"THIS IS AMAZING!!!", you squeal. Your sudden enthusiasm gets the attention of nearly the entire tavern. The humans watch as you rapidly down the mug.
Within a moment, it is dry.

"Ahhhhh...!", you exclaim, with a blush. The humans kept this stuff to themselves? Horror! Travesty!

You can't help yourself. The Elders didn't know what they were missing! This stuff was awesome!

You paw at a passing waitress.

"More, please!"

"Um, ok. How--"

"Just keep them coming", you grin. "Oh, oh. An ale too!"

You can hear Gale snort in the bag, and mumble something snarky, but you are too pre occupied with the next beer before you. Hah! Elder Stratos would die.

You start drinking.


Almost there....


Face red with triumph, and to the cheers of the assembled crowd, you drop the comically large horn of ale, empty. A few moams of defeat, and exchanges of cpin follow, as the inkeep slaps your back.

"HAHAH", he booms. "You see lass I never doubted you! What did I say? Never turned away a customer, never!"

More well wishes and toasts follow, adding onto the impressive pile before your table. You feel like a god! Goddess Willow is triumphant! Hahaha.

"By the flat-cursed hell, she did it!"

"I thought she was an Elf, not a dwarf!"

"It wash *hiccup*, nothing...", you laugh, waving away the praise of your adoring subjects. "Well *hiccup*. No. No it wash. Haha. Was. I meant was. Damnit...*hiccup.*"

Gale is giving a muffled warning of some kind, from the pack, but who cares about that silly billy? He's a golf ball!

You give him a little poke through the fabric. Poke. Poke. Poke.

"Heh, ball."

You are groping for a mug when you feel an iron grip on your shoulder.


Rolling your head back, you are staring straight into the eyes of the big scary man from before. Was he here to celebrate your glorious victory?


"Well hello friend!", you grin, pawing at his beard. He looks deeply unamused. Some of the people nearby also stop and watch. What? No fun!

"Am I interrupting, 'Elf?' ", the man growls. He puts an emphasis on your race, to your bafflement. He needs a drink!

"Here", you say, shaking a mug under his nose. "My name is Willow, what's yours?"

Gale hums furiously. You expect he's cranky about something.

The big man knocks the mug out of your hand, and it flies across the room.

"You aren't welcome here"

"Are you...the *hiccup* mayor?"

His mouth is a tight line.

"Oh leave the woman al--"

"No!", he barks. "Elves have never brought anything but trouble. She needs to leave."

He scowls at the innkeeper, which flinches away. You notice that the angry man is wearing a sword. His hand is on it.

"I won't say it again, Go", he says to you. "Before you find trouble."
"Trouble?", you place a finger on your chin. "Are you the type of man to invite... ..trouble?"

He narrows his eyes. They are like flakes of flint. Combined with his scar and scraggly red beard, it's intimidating.

Or would be, normally.

"I am Cordwayne, and you--"

"Need another beer? Yes!"

You take a sip. His ears grow red.

"How dare you--"

You have a revelation.

"Oh!", you interrupt. "Is this about your face?"

He stares in shock for a moment.

The next few seconds are crazy.

Cordwayne goes for his sword.

A subtle zap from Gale sends you scrambling back, chair and all.

Given the angle, you plummet straight into Cordwayne's gut, sending him sprawling over the table behind you.


Then of course, the panicking waitress, whose plate of beers goes flying. Conveniently, as it happens, onto Cordwayne's thick head. Hah! Jerk.


1, 2, 3!

Staggered, the big man flops down, defeated. A round of laughter erupts anew. Hahaha, niiiiice.

"I win!", you declare, from your back. A single fist pumps the air.

In a huff, the inkeep has Cordwayne carried out, and you escorted to the baths by one of the bigger, meaner barmaids.

"...Accident...come on!!", you protest. The woman is having none of it, and after handing you some soap and a brush, leaves you to scrub down in the tub.

No running water? Sad!

In any case, you place Gale(still in the bag, no way are you showing off your elfy bits to the jerk), before sliding in.

"Ahhh.....", you moan. Your head is swimming with all kinds of stuff right now, namely how brown the water instantly gets. Yikes.

SPHEROS this was nice.

Humming a tune to yourself, you set about lazily scrubbing. After a few minutes of silence, Gale does something.

"Was that entirely necessary?", he asks. "I thought he was going to gut you, Mortal."

You blow some bubbles.

"Ahhh, you DO care!"

He sparks.

"In the sense that if you die, I'm without a mortal? Yes, I do care. I thought Elves didn't drink anyways...."

"Hah!", you giggle. "This one doooes."

"An honest accomplishment", he replies, and is that some mirth in his tone? "Convention should not hold us back. Ever. Still."

"I don't plan on...*hiccup*, dying", you repeat, as you had a hundred times already. Slinging your feet over the tub, you just float for a moment. Peace.

"The fool learned his place", Gale adds, unbidden. "He won't trouble you again. Probably. Mortals are stupid."

Nope! Not biting that bait.

Humming a new tune, you just...soak.

Gale pulses silently.
>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"

>"If you are gonna keep calling me mortal, you need a nickname too!"

>See if he floats! Science :)
>>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"
>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"
>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"
>>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"
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>>"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"

Scrub, scrub scrub.

"Sooo Gale"


"So like, *hiccup*, do you have a house in there or something? What's that like?"

He is silent for a moment. A pulse.

"It is...difficult to describe. I see and hear from within the Orb. You know that much. But inside it, it is... thin. "

"Thin?", you reply.

"Dreamlike. This shell is not its own plane. Not properly. I...exist. I am inside my own mind, but seperate from it. I am within a living dream. The orb is everything. Even outside it, I cannot escape. Not really."

There's that bitterness again. Such a sad little storm...wind..cloud..man..thing!

"Sounds rough"

Scrub scrub scrub!

A dark chuckle.

"I cannot travel far from the orb, even when I manifest. I am like a genie to his lamp, like I said before. Shackled."

You mumble something kindly as you slip further into lethargy. A slight yawn.

"Do you know what that is like? I am an EAGLE, with clipped wings. When I was free, I could tear across the Sphere of Air..not the glass object, but the elemental plane! It was....glorious."

Scrub...scrub...this was nice.
"OHhhh", you groan, the next morning. "What...my head!"

A pair of now washed hands clutch at your scalp. Downstairs, the Ruby Tap is mostly abandoned, apart from employees.

And you. Jeeeeez. Your heaaad.

"I believe the mortals call this a hangover", Gale provides. "The wages of your liberation, Elf."

Mumbling, you help yourself to the eggs and beer anyways, impossible to pass up. The inkeep had advised it. Nice of him.

"All roses have thorns", you reply, with a wince. "Beer is no different."

That sounds very sage to you, although the Elders would be appalled. Oh well. More to drink for you!

"I didn't do anything super embarrassing last night, right?", you ask, now massaging your temples. "There was some kind of fight....I won?"

Gale sparks.

"That you did Mortal. That you did."

"I'll say", the Inkeep mutters nearby. "Cordwayne is with the 9Ball Knights. You know em?"

With a frown, you stare into your mug. The name sounded familiar.

"Mercenaries?", you say. There had been some trouble near Circle City a decade ago. Soldiers had been hired. Of course, that was fourth hand knowledge by the time it reached Cycletree.

The Innkeep wiggles his hand. He leans in conspiratorialy. Brows raised, you listen.

"Eh. Once, sure. A lot of folks say it's 9Ball runs Circle City these days. Led by a real nasty fellow named Snooker. I'd keep away from em Missy."

"A bit late for that...", Gale mumbles.

Jabbing him with your knee, you smile, and place a fist over your heart.

"I appreciate the advice sir. Don't worry about me, I can handle myself."

He shrugs.

"I'm an honest fellow. Got nothing against the other races, you understand. All made by the Great Round God and all..."

A few bites of egg and pleasantries later, and you are ready to go!
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As you leave, you notice that your purse seems to be rattling more than usual. Pass through the doors, you open it. A wide grin splits your face, and for a moment, the hangover is forgotten.

"Wow. Drinking is great! This is real human money!"

Flat coins, bearing the 6 layered circle of Circle City stamped on them. Neat.

From your backpack, a scoff.

"Pocket change. I once slew a mortal who was a king, do you know? All the money in the world didn't save him."

Sunshine and rainbows.

A few awkward greetings pass your way, including one fellow who loudly(and painfully, in your current state) hails you as "The Tavern Goddess Willow".

"You should not have given them your name", Gale scolds. "It's dangerous."

You shake your head, passing by a stall of old men selling onions and beets.

"I don't see how. Nobody knows the War has started yet except for us. And I'm hardly the only elf named Willow."

Of course, a small worry niggles the back of your mind. Your kyn tat. Then again, how many humans knew the differences?

You are happily munching on a crisp apple, near the limits of town, when Gale alerts you with a tiny zap.

"We have company"

Grimacing, you turn around.

Sword in hand, Cordwayne stands with a group of three other humans, all nasty pieces of work by the look. He now sports a yellow headband with a hastily scratched '9' on it. Same as the rest.

"Hey!", he barks, shaking a fist. "Where do you think you're going, Pointy!"

You wince more at his volume than his choice of words. A sigh.

"I'm leaving, isn't that what you wanted?"

He raises his sword.

"Nobody messes with the 9Ball Knights!"

His thugs echo him, spreading out.

"You got lucky last night!", Cordwayne remarks. "That was cheating."

4 vs 1, that wasn't very fair...

A few townsfolk start edging away, clearly not willing to intervene.

"Trash", Gale mumbles. "But armed trash."

You weigh your chances.
>"This is cheating too, big guy. You need all your buddies to beat up one girl? Lame, honestly."

>Pew Pew.[3 Magic Charges Remaining]

>Pull out your Orb and have Gale wipe the floor with them. [Gale is Stable]

>The sword shall suffice for these losers.
>>"This is cheating too, big guy. You need all your buddies to beat up one girl? Lame, honestly."
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Rolled 1 (1d20)

>"This is cheating too, big guy. You need all your buddies to beat up one girl? Lame, honestly."


You keep a hand near your sword, but don't draw it. Instead, you give a solemn look at Cordwayne. He stares back.

"This is cheating too, big guy", you chide. "You need all your buddies to beat up one girl? Lame, honestly."

That stops the big human short.

"What are you implying Elf?"

You shrug innocently, flicking a black strand of hair over your shoulder.

"I'm just saying. Are those arms all for show? Only one of me and four of you? I'd be embarrassed is all. Tough guy."

He narrows those grey eyes at you, and starts to say something, before his minions actually interject.

"Yeh boss! Kick her ass!"

"9ball! 9ball!"

Incredulous, he looks around.

"We HAVE her!", Cordwayne protests.

"You said it yourself, she's just an elf!"

"Yeh, get her!"

"By the--fine!", he growls, before pointing at you. "Prepare to beg for mercy!"

With one last spit into the dirt, he lifts the blade and charges at you.

Rolled 19 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

try and dodge under him and straight up cut a tendon in his leg. Let him collapse behind us
folded like a lawn chair
Rolled 18 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

he rolled a 1, kek. big guy can't catch a break lol
File: 0e6.gif (3.21 MB, 480x270)
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3.21 MB GIF
>21 Success
>natural 1 for Cordwayne(critical Fail!)

Cordwayne's approach is not subtle. The cheers of his men as motivation, he seems intent on just rushing you.

"Should I scour him?", Gale asks. "Mild electrocution? MAJOR electrocution?"

"No", you sigh, gripping your sword. "I think I've got it. This won't take long."

"TAKE THIS", the human shouts, swinging wildly at you, caution abandoned. It's a strong strike, but careless. You would hardly consider yourself a swordmaster, despite Elder Geese's efforts.

But the opening is clear.

Rolling beneath his strike, you lash out smoothly with your sword while doing so, aiming for the man's leg. Metal finds meat, and the blade scores him.


Elves make their swords sharp indeed, and the single razor edge slices deep into the tendons behind his left knee. That should put an end to this. You come to a stop, still crouched, sword red.

"Ahhhh!", Cordwayne yelps. Just as he registers the pain, his leg buckles beneath him, and he collapses, sword flying from his hands. You hear the
familiar crunch of a broken nose.

You flick his blood from your sword as his goons look on in disbelief. How had the big bug been harder than this?

Walking over to Cordwayne, who is now cradling his leg, you place the curved tip beneath his chin.

While his eyes are singing pain, the man doesn't beg, which is, you assume, something. His attempt at defiance is ruined by the blood streaming down from his nostrils.

"You lose", you say. "Can we stop this now?"

"You...bitch! You crippled me!"

Your head shakes.

"You'll heal. Find a mage, or something. I'm not wasting a spell on you. Are you going to keep fighting?"

Cordwayne's eyes flick to his sword laying in the dirt, then back to his men, and finally end up on you. Uneasy.

You sincerely hoped he wasn't stupid. For his sake and your own. For a long moment, he studies your face.

Then he spits blood at your feet.

"Fine. Go. Bitch."

You step away, sheathing your sword.

The other 9ball members rush over, helping him to his feet, and failing that, carrying him awkwardly down the road.

"This isn't over Pointy Girl!", Cordwayne shouts, once at a safe distance. You can only shake your head and sigh. What was this guy's problem?

"That one would serve us better dead", Gale puts forth, once you are out of town. He floats freely once more at your side. "He is a simple man, and simple men with grudges are dangerous."

You accept the advice, but shrug.

"I beat him twice."

A pulse.

"True. Once inebriated, and the other with a pounding skull. I do think I prefer your alcoholic side, Mortal."

You don't know how to take that. But if it was an olive branch, you would take it.

You clear your throat.

"Gale, if you want to spend a while, uh, manifested every now and then, I don't think we'd die. Just, you know, ration."

A suspicious flurry of wind kicks up inside the orb, crackling and popping.
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"You are foolish to waste even a minute shade of my power", he states, after a moment. But with a shocking burst, a line of fog emerges from the Orb, coalescing into the Scion of Storms, albeit much diminished. He's...lesser.

Though he has no neck to pop, he makes the movements, swirling in place. After building up static, he discharges it.

"Thank you", he nods.

"Don't mention it", you reply. "I can't have you all cramped when we meet the Elders. Do you get cramped?"

Gale scoffs.

"So we proceed to Cycletree?"

"We do", you nod.

Going home at last. You might even make it in time for your 100th birthday! Would that be nice?
You made good progress.

Of course, while the way back to Cycletree was-thank Spheros-totally lacking in the Rotwood or deranged bar patron categories, it was not without its own...particularities.

The Elder River was the longest in this region of Roundina, certainly the longest that you'd ever seen. When leaving Cycletree, you'd thought it very beautiful.

Even here, at a fairly narrow point, it was pretty damn wide.

Known for its rapid, strong waters, a bridge was necessary to cross, if one did not have a boat. As, of course, you could hardly carry a 'boat', you'd opted for the former option. The bridge was old and strong, made by dwarven hands.

It was also, unlike last time, blocked.

To your astonishment, some kind of checkpoint seems to have been set up. A goodly number of Human soldiers in the pointed red helmets of Circle City's militia were standing behind a set of roadblocks.

Judging by the lack of real quality(apart from the helmets, most wear only simple jerkins and swords), these must be a provincial unit.

A couple of wagons, also crewed by humans, had been halted, and the head driver up front was angrily conversing with an officer, going by his cape. The man didn't seem very nice at all.

Several things were wrong with this picture. For one thing, Circle City didn't even own this stretch of land, some petty lord did. These men were a long way from home. For another, while you highly doubted these folks were headed to Cycletree, you really didn't appreciate how rough the soldiers were being.

You stare long and hard from a bush.

"Circle City?", Gale guesses, his Orb peaking over the leaves. "Here?"

"I know, right?", you reply. "What do you think about this?"

He thinks for a few seconds.

"These little ducks wear false feathers...", he starts slowly. "The whole flock."

Fakes? It's possible, although why would they be so obvious about it? Why Circle City? You shake your head, and focus.
>You will just avoid the bridge entirely. At some point you'll find someone with a boat, right?

>Use magic to try and float across.[3 magic charges remaining]

>Just take the bridge and see what all the hullabaloo is about.

>write in
>Just take the bridge and see what all the hullabaloo is about.
>>Just take the bridge and see what all the hullabaloo is about.
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>Just take the bridge and see what all the hullabaloo is about.

"Finding a new boat will take too long", you decide. "We are going direct."

"If you plan on fighting them--"

"Only if I have to", you assure Gale. "Who knows? Maybe they are good guys."

With that small hope in mind, you proceed openly down the path, as Gale slips into your pack. Doing your best to look non threatening, you approach the cluster of wagons.

The officer is still arguing with a driver. Nearby, the rest of the wagon crews look nearly as frustrated. And angry.

"No--I'm telling you, that's how it is.", the officer states. He is young and clean shaven, but there's a certain roughness about his aspect. Actually, all of them.

Now that you're up close, most of their uniforms are mismatched or in need of repair, and the men are mostly haggard.

"Absolutely not!", the head driver responds. A dozen times I have told you. There is no such--"

"Hello, what have we here?"

One of the soldiers emerges from behind a wagon, sword on shoulder. He isn't aiming it at you, but does block your path.

He takes you in, crudely.

"Oy! Sir!", he calls over his shoulder. The officer, seemingly happy to be distracted from his dispute, nudges past the driver and walks up, a brow raised. Several of the other troopers tune in as well.

"An Elf.", he states, glancing at your ears. "Crossing the bridge then?"

You nod, cautiously.

"I am. May I ask who you are?"

He gives a little smile.

"Soldiers of Circle City, miss."

"Long way from home, no?"

The footman scowls at you, but the officer gives an apologetic shrug. His hand rests on his sword, lazily.

"It is a very strange bussiness I admit. But the City Council has reached an accord with the local lords. We are merely here to enforce this accord. It was not thought that local men would be reliable. "

He strikes you as the kind of man who likes to hear himself speak. And that smile never leaves his face.

"And can I also ask what the accord is?"

"Hah! Certainly, since you will also be participating, apparently."

You narrow your eyes.

"You see, crossings over the Elder in this area will now be taxed....for mutual benefit..", he looks over happily to the wagons. "By weight of goods."

A toll? Or extortion, you suppose.

The merchant driver throws his hands up.

"It's ludicrous. Passage has always been free! My lord would never agree. This will harm commerce. Trade!"

The officer rolls his eyes.

"Nevertheless...Miss Elf, I would not unduly rush a lady, of course, but your fee, please? Thank you."

This smelled rotten. The idea didn't even make sense. Even if the local lords had gotten greedy, why share profits at all?

"How much...?"

He names a sum. It's a lot, but given that he's got twenty men surrounding the checkpoint, less than he could have asked. And you did win the extra coin via your drinking.

The merchant driver crosses his arms.


"Oy, now you be quiet", a grunt demands.
"Miss?", the officer presses. He holds out an open hand.

"Don't give the bully a dime, young lady!"

"What did I JUST say?"

The driver gets shoved off, grumbling.

Ok Willow. What's the plan here?
>Just pay the toll. This is clearly a scam, but there's no way you can take all of them without revealing Gale.

>Refuse outright. This is a joke.

>Try and swindle HIM. See how he likes it!

>SMOKESCREEN ATTACK! Pow! You will escape past them in the chaos. [3 magic charges remaining.]

>write in
>Try and swindle HIM. See how he likes it!
>>Try and swindle HIM. See how he likes it!
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>Try and swindle HIM. See how he likes it!


If you were reading this guy right....yes. Possibilities. Possibilities indeed.


Rolled 8 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 10 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 5 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

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>11 (FAIL!)

Self importance, that was the key.

"Well I am also on a special mission!", you say haughtily. "Too important for the ears of your...rabble."

"Oy, what you mean rabb-"

The officer holds up a hand.

"Go on?"

You tug at the man's cape, and with a suspicious look, he follows you to one side of the bridge. Ok, smooth time.

" 'Secret mission? ' ", he says, dryly.

You nod, hands on hips.

"Indeed. From, uh, Tanglejade. My Elders have tasked me with it. There is rich rewards for those who help me."

Tanglejade was a very distant kyn hold. Even if you weren't lying through your teeth, he'd never be able to collect without your help. Genius!

"Tanglejade", he nods. "Ok. And the mission...?"

You wink, dramatically.

"To find lost elven treasure! I'm on my way back to tell them what I found."

This was sort of true...

"And surely they would reward you, if you assist in my easy passage..."

He seems skeptical. His eyes narrow.

"Uhuh. And why exactly should I believe you? Begging your pardon, but a coin in hand is worth a dozen prospective."

Ok Willow. Go for gold!

"Well", you say, leaning in. "I'm just one woman. Lots of scary things out there for a girl to deal with you know? All kinds of things...could happen? Maybe a big strong soldier like you would be welcome.."

God that sounded lame.

"That so?", the human remarks, also leaning in. For a moment, you actually think he's buying it, before you feel a pressure at your hip.

"Wh--hey!", you recoil. "Hands off!"

"Barking up the wrong tree, Miss", he laughs, his purse in your hand. "Take some acting classes yeh?"

Before you can protest, he shoves you. A quick yelp, and you go tumbling over.

You take a mouthful of river water, before a quick breaker catches you in your face. As the current starts to rapidly carry you away, the soldiers start laughing.

"Thank you for your patronage, Miss!", the Officer calls down. "Just following orders!"

"ASSHOLE!", you scream, doing your best to recover your bearings. You could swim, but nobody smart swimmed in the Elder.

"Oh Well played!", Gale laughs over the roar of the rapids. "A genuine succubus!"

"Grrr..can it!", you can almost spit.

For a minute or so, you actually try to swim against the current, but the struggle quickly proves futile. Damnit!

Soon after, you barely avoid collision with a solid rock, and judging by what you can see down-river(when you can actually bob for more than a few moments), there's plenty more coming.

Not great. Not great at all. If you can work a spell maybe...or find something to cling to, catch your breath...
>A bit late now, but try and use your magic.[3 charges left]

>Try and find a handhold on one of the rocks. Maybe you can climb up it?

>Gale! Get out here and do something! [Gale is Stable]

>Just try and dodge the things. Go with the flow as it were.
>A bit late now, but try and use your magic.[3 charges left]
alright, seems like our lucky streak ended
>A bit late now, but try and use your magic.

>[2 Magic Charges Remaining]

No time to lose.

Big rocks getting closer.

Magic it is.

You for your best to work a spell, trying to carry yourself from the raging waters...

"You'll want to hurry"

"I know!", you snap. "Come on..."

A light feeling envelops you..., but the river continues to tug and knock and pull. It was gonna be a bit tougher getting out than in, you imagine.
Rolled 8 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 4 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 19 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

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>19+1=20, Success!
You feel the magic course through your body as the spell goes off, lifting, lifting and pulling, until you are floating about an inch or two above the lapping river. And not a moment too soon.

Of course, you are still soaked. But at least you aren't drowning.

The levitation spell won't last forever, so you hover slowly, to preserve energy.

"Resourceful", Gale remarks. The orb slips out of your bag, and floats up. "Though perhaps we shouldn't be so close. Until you dry, at least. The results could be... "

"Shocking?", you offer, trying to find some humor in this crappy situation.

"Indeed. Though I have a solution."

You touch down on the far bank, wringing some water from your hair in distaste.

"It will blow you away"

Manifesting from his Orb, Gale starts hitting you with waves of air, enough to expedite the process as you walk along, with the sun doing the rest. The resulting look is a rather frazzled elf, but you'd take it over feeling like a fish.

Once the pair of you find a suitable spot, he retreats back into the sphere, and you try to take stock. Let's see.

Money gone. Not great.

Map? Ruined, although you were pretty sure at least roughly of the way home.

Pride? Soaked through.

Throwing yourself back onto the grass, you let out a groan of frustration. If people were gonna try and kill you this often WITHOUT knowing who you were, what was the proper War gonna be like?

Hopefully less wet.

"I've had enough for one day.", you announce. "We'll pick back up tommorow. Cycletree isn't...that much farther."

Gale, amusing as he may find your misfortune, is pretty useful for lighting fires. A few zaps of his electricity, and a pair of dry logs erupt into flame.

It is after one such display that he stumbled upon some touchy territory. The conversation began innocently enough.

"So you've never actually been to Cycletree, right? In a prior War?", you are asking. The two of you had been conversing for a bit on his actual experience with Elves.

Mostly, a disappointing experience. He had vivid(and mostly unflattering), recollections of a few Elves who had made pacts with him.

"There was one, Bristle. A stupid man. From Cedarsept, across the continent. He died brave, I'll admit, but foolishly. An idiot like most mortals."

"What happened?"

His orb snorts, with a sudden flurry of air.

"The Master of the Water Orb tried to flood a whole valley to kill us, and was willing to wipe out several towns. Bristle decided to play paladin. Our powers held back the waters until all the valley folk had escaped. We didn't survive."

"That was very heroic of you both", you say. "I didn't know you had it in you!"

"Under protest", Gale corrects. "I never understood it. There was so much more at stake than some strangers lives..."

Gale was always careful to leave exactly how old he was vague, for whatever reason, but apparently he was getting up there from what you gleaned.
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There were in fact very few mortals that Gale actually DID seem to like, regardless or creed, morality, or race. Like the Sphere War itself, he seemed to regard them with equal parts bitterness and spite. Your traveling companion had issues, certainly. And he never divulged much.

On the topic of his most recent partner(before you), he was completely tight lipped. After trying to get some details, all you'd managed was a repeat of what you already knew, they were human.

You resisted broaching the subject of the Master Form totally once it was clear he was getting nasty again.

Apparently annoyed by your prodding, he had now begun questioning you.

"And what of you, hmm?", he asked. "Can we expect a warm welcome from your doddering Elders?"

You frown at him. Yes, you considered them hidebound and endlessly frustrating, but still...

"I hope you won't call them that to their faces. They are giant sticks in the mud, but Elder Geese practically raised me."

Gale scoffs.

"What, were your parents too busy comparing the mold on scrolls? Something dreadfully important I'm sure."

Appalled, you feel a surge of anger.

"What is your DEAL, Gale?", you demand, and you actually turn away. "Why are you always so mean?"

"MEAN?", the Orb shakes. "What, did your father sweep the floors or something? Is that why you were chosen for this great farce? Astonishing."

You want to smack him. Even worse, you feel an actual tear under one dark eye.

>"My parents are dead, you gigantic ass."

>"UGHhhh! I can't deal with you right now. I'm taking a walk."

>[Throw a stick at him]
>"My parents are dead, you gigantic ass."
c'mon Gale, you've lived enough to know orphans exist
>"My parents are dead, you gigantic ass."

Resisting, the urge to pummel the floating jerk, you just sigh, poking at the fire. One finger flashes up to wipe your eye. No way are you letting him see you cry.

"My parents are dead, you gigantic ass."

For a moment, silence.

Gale sparks.


You curl up your legs, hugging the knees.

"It happened when I was very little", you say. "During the last War of Spheres. 90 years ago, by human reckoning, I think."

He pulses with interest.

"Neither of them were...Masters..?"

You shake your head. These memories were painful, hard to talk about. But you found you couldn't stop.

"No. Nothing like that. They uh, they actually did work in the archives. That part about moldy old scrolls..not far off."

You sniffle, and carry on.

"It was near the tail end of the war. Already lasted five years. Not as long as some, not as short as others. Certainly not long for the Elves. They went out."

"Out? Out of Cycletree you mean?"

"Yeh. Elder Stratos was against it, but they were supposed to meet with a group of human tomb-robbers. Elven Artifacts from long lost eras, or something. Too good to pass up, and so they went."

Your eyes study the flames.

"We'd heard there were only three Masters left. The others were all dead. What were the chances of the war being relevant...You ever heard of Brighthill?"

A crackle and a pop.

"Yes. Somewhere on the way to Circle City, offroad. A decent little town when last I saw it. By mortal standards."

Your laugh is fully of irony.

"It was on its way to being a real city. How many of those pop up anymore?"


"Was. My parents were there, meeting with the artifact dealers. Pieces of our history. Then it happened."

The Orb floats around the fire.

"The Masters", Gale states, flatly.

You give him a sad smile.

"Who would have thought? They just had bad luck. All three remaining masters. In one place. Why? Nobody ever figured it out. Fate, I guess. But they fought, they fought for a whole day."

"And Brighthill paid the price", Gale guesses. If only he knew.

"They called it The Doom of Brighthill", your remark, softly. "Some people made it out. A lot didn't. There wasn't any order to it, just chaos. Just Orbz. They destroyed everything. My parents included."

Gale listens intently.

"Then they destroyed each other. Poof!", you clap your hands together. "Nobody won. Everyone lost. Just like that. Five years, all those dead people. And for what? Nobody even won...."

You realize that you are already crying.

"Elder Geese took me in. She didn't have to. Taught me how to fight. She's...a real warrior poet, you know? Lives our history through her sword, she once told me."

A nervous crackle answers you.

"And I guess...I don't know. My parents died because they believed that we could be great again. That we didn't have to hide to be safe. As you can imagine, after that, the Elders locked down pretty tight, even compared to before."
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Rolled 3 (1d20)

A sniffle.

"I didn't ask for this. My parents are dead because of the Wars. A lot of people's parents are. All I wanted was to find proof to open the eyes of the Elders. Now I'm a Master. I don't think I'm the same as most of the others. I don't want to be."


"Do you think", you interrupt. "It's the power of the Orbz that makes us willing to do terrible things? Getting our hearts desire at the end? Or are Masters bad from the start, and that's all?"

An arc of static strikes near your foot. When the Scion speaks again, his voice is measured. A rare moment for him.

"The Wars make monsters of us all", Gale says. "It's the game you play. We play. At some point, you'll be forced to choose. Do you want to win? Or want to die?"

The big question wasn't it?

"I don't even know what I want. But..but what if I fight a Master who isn't evil? How can I kill them over power? It's...wrong. It's murder, Gale!"

"Yes. But if not you, it would be them. You must be strong. Strong, Elf."

"But what if it's someone I know?", you ask, suddenly horrified. "Someone I care ab--"



Gales sudden fury actually sends you sprawling, as you stare in awe. His full, gaseous form looms over the fire, practically a rolling thunderstorm with claws and sparking eyes.


After a few moments, he gets a hold of himself, and almost bashfully retreats back into his Orb. It trembles.

"No. No exceptions...", he says, suddenly sounding very tired. Defeated. "There can only be one winner. Remember that."

The air orb drops into your pack, out of sight. What the hell just happened?

You don't get much sleep that night.

The next morning, you did not press Gale, nor the Morning after that. By day 3, you had resumed occasionally speaking. But only occasionally. Ups and downs defined your entire relationship.

At this point, you weren't even mad.

You do hope that he would at least try at Cycletree, though. About another day or so, and you should be there! Once you announce your--



You feel a pressure under your foot.
Rolled 19 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

c'mon now
Rolled 1 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

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Oh just a tidbit, but this is basically what Willow's tattoo looks like, but it would be done in black. All the Cycletree elves have one.

Also yikes nat 1. Let's hope for a 20 to cancel that out!
Rolled 3 + 2 (1d20 + 2)


probably not gonna happen
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>nat 1 sad!!!
For a moment you don't react, and it costs you. What the--


The ground beneath you erupts, as a jumble of armored skin and gaping jaws bursts outwards, sending you flying.



Before you know what's happening, the beast has you by the waste, shaking and snapping and then tosses you to the side via a great bear hug. You go rolling, and land awkwardly on your head. Doing your best, you don't black out. Barely. But you feel a terrible sense of unbalance. Your ears are ringing too.

>[Status Acquired: DISORIENTED, -1 to hit and dodge, for two rounds.]

Seeing stars, you focus on the wrathful monster before you. About twice the size of a large bear, claws like some demented anteater and a twisted temper.

Bullete. Your mind realizes. They tended to avoid the forests, but this one apparently had different ideas. As it huffles and snorts at you, your shaky eyes focus on a burning green rune upon its side, elven make clearly.

It meant something along the lines of either command or request, you can't think clearly right now.

The Bullete claws the earth, snarling.

>Bad monster! Bad! Magic Missile![2 magic charges remaining]

>Uh, try and dispel the Rune? That might be pretty hard...[2 magic charges remaining]

>Sword! Stab it! Hiyah!

>Gale, do your thing![Gale is Stable]

>write in
>Gale, do your thing![Gale is Stable]
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Rolled 14 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

>[Willow is disoriented for 1 more round, she is -1 to hit/dodge]
>Gale, Do your thing

As it stands, you don't think you are in a state to properly fight. Option two.

You reach out a hand.

"GALE!", you cry out. "DO YOUR THING!"


Tumbling from your pack, the air orb flashes with a burst of lightning, and the Scion of Storms bursts into view.

Taken off guard, the Bullete turns to face this new foe, before snarling.

Quickly, it leaps forth, claws extended and jaws clamped like a pointed vice....

"Foolish beast!", Gale shouts, lifting his cloudy arms high. "Face my wrath!"

With a crackle of energy, a howling tornado blows forth from his hands.

You watch, as....
Rolled 14 + 4 (1d20 + 4)

Rolled 19 + 4 (1d20 + 4)

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>23 success!
...the tornado slams into the Bullete, throwing the astonished beast up into the air, twirling about and about as the monster howls in rage and disbelief. The scene is almost comical in a way.


The Bullete goes crashing through a nearby tree, clearly wounded. But its strong armor has held, and while it is somewhat battered, it gets back up. It'll take more than some wind to kill.

As it rises, the rune on its side pulses, and it opens its jaws wide. It's pissed.


With a flick of its tail, the Bullete jumps into the air once more, but just as Gale sends a bolt of lightning towards it, the beast crashes to earth like some unholy shovel, and is gone from sight. In its place, a hole of soil and forest litter.

The lightning misses, and topples another tree nearby.

"Cowardly wretch", Gale spits. He scans the area around you, as you do your best to steady yourself. Normally, you knew, these things would leave a trail you could follow...but with all this undergrowth..

"Keep an eye out!", you tell him. "That monster isn't done yet."

Gale nods.

"Let it come"

The forest is oddly calm, as you think.
>You need to get off the ground. Your sword will be of little use here. You can climb a tree!

>Gale can't do all the work. Make this thing eat a spell when it pops.[2 magic charges remaining]

>Shelter behind Gale! Teamwork?[Gale is Stable]

>Write in
>>You need to get off the ground. Your sword will be of little use here. You can climb a tree!
Rolled 2 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

>>You need to get off the ground. Your sword will be of little use here. You can climb a tree!

Thinking quickly, you decide that getting off the ground is most important. Need to watch your feet!

Turning around, you grip a low hanging branch and haul up...just as you real a slight rumbling.

Quiiiick climb! Climb!

Rolled 19 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

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>Status Cured
>19+2=21 pass!!!
Just in time, as your head clears, you notice the Bullete headed your way. The floor of the forest splits a few yards away, and the creature bursts forth, snarling.


Thankfully, your elven grace pays off. You swing atop a branch, and the beastie misses entirely, slamming awkwardly into the tree, belly first. Great splinters carve into its soft bottom, and it yelps in pain.


The tree tips over, and you are unceremoniously dumped onto a nearby substitute, but the strategy has worked.

Below, the Bullete is thoroughly out of sorts, and bleeding. Yet rather than retreat, it seems to have a fatalistic resolve. The rune on its side keeps glowing, and it can't seem to choose a target between you and Gale.

The spirit hovers nearby, buffetting the creature with winds, delaying any decision. It struggles to find a proper charge, and Gale is now wise to its digging maneuvers.


With you looming above in the tree and Gale in the air, you have the advantage.

Time to finish this?
>FATALITY[2 Magic Charges Left]

>Have Gale finish this! Storm Twister Attack![Gale is Stable!]

>Try and dispel that Rune. Something is fishy here![2 magic Charges remaining]

>Flying sword strike attack!
>>Have Gale finish this! Storm Twister Attack![Gale is Stable!]
Rolled 12 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

>Have Gale finish this! Storm Twister Attack![Gale is Stable!]

Glaring down at the hissing and snapping Bullete, you call out to Gale.

"Finish him!", you shout, as the monster finally works up the confidence to break loose and attack once more. "Make it a good one this time!"

A howling wind picks up.

Gale's hands charge with blue static, and he rubs them together almost gently. Energy builds up rapidly. His eyes fall upon the encroaching Bullete.

"Yes!", he shouts, crackling. "Die, now. STORM TWISTER!"

At Gales command, he thrusts his arms out, and another tornado bursts forth, a dark, cloudy thing guided by his palms. It twists wildly as it bellows forth, savage electricity wrapped within, a fusion of wind and lightning.

The Bullete leaps....
Rolled 19 + 4 (1d20 + 4)

Three 19s in a row, what are the odds
Rolled 8 + 4 (1d20 + 4)

finishing blow

im not gonna roll, im content with the 19 and don't want to risk a 1
Rolled 3 (1d20)

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>23 Success!


....and is immediately engulfed by the sparking tornado. As you shield your eyes from debris being thrown about, Gale lets out a triumphant shout, swirling around.

No such for the Bullete. Instead, it seems to know this fight is over. Though it howls and screeches and fights the wind and the lightning, it soon succumbs, and goes crashing about, clearing another stretch of trees thin and thick. No escape.

By the time the storm is over, the Bullete is dead, it's skin flayed with a thousand tearing hands, it's armor rent, it's corpse still sparking with static. Gale breathes in and out, the sound airy and thin.

"You never stood a chance"

At his words, the elven rune on the beast's side flickers and dies.

It is a few moments before the birds start to sing again, in the aftermath of Gale's rage. Such power! You leap down from your branch, sticking the landing.

"Nice one Gale. You really showed him!"

The Scion crackles with pride.

"It was nothing...but I should return to the Orb. I may have over-undulged. This thing was hardly worthy of such effort."

"Uhuh. In you go Gale."

You hold up the Orb for him, and the Scion dissipates, his smoky form crawling back into his vessel. A light glow pulses from the surface afterwards, apparently quite satisfied.

"I will be...available. Do avoid death."

He drops into your pack, with a sigh.

Sparing one last look at the fallen Bullete, you dust yourself off, and carry on.

Home wasn't far now..
It was hard to describe exactly when you drew into the core of your people's forest. But you simply knew. Near a century of familiarity, of escapades and whispered adventures, had trained you. It was something like an old friend.

Of course, even old friends could be treacherous. Hold secrets. Sooner or later, you thought, one of the patrols would stumble across you, or you them. Bound to happen.

But to be so surprised!!!

You had been collecting water from a pretty little stream, and enjoying some good human bread, when a loud snap drew your attention away.

A deer, probably. But with your recent experience of the Bullete, you aren't taking any chances. Drawing your sword, you peer into the woods.

Beside you, floating comfortably, Gale sparks, ready for battle.

His orb drops dead into your pack, just as a slight swishing sound--


There's a sword at your neck. For a moment, you just stare at it, before tracing the gentle curve. The single edge. An elven blade. A good one.

You grimace. To be caught so easily.

"What's this? A thief returned?"

The voice is not hostile, but neither is it particularly warm. Glancing up, you are met with the face of Commander Coon. He directly reported to Elder Geese, although you'd never thought him very fond of you. Behind him, on the slight rise near the brook, are about four other rangers.

"If you wanted the map back" you say, "It's a total loss"

Coon grimaces, but sheathes his sword, and you rise.
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"Elder Stratos will be furious", Coon sighs. "MORE furious. This entire stunt of yours had him raving for days. We feared his health, truth be told."

You suppress a snort(Stratos dying from something as generic as a heart attack was absurd to you), and try your best to look appropriately sheepish.

"I didn't mean to worry him. Honest."

Coon snorts.

" 'Worry him'. But yes, tell us Willow, did you find whatever ruin you were looking for? I trust your curiosity is satisfied."

His tone is more resigned than mocking, but you can tell he obviously thinks you've failed. Come back defeated. They all do.

"Actually, I found Temple Sha'ball", you remark. A few murmurs break out. Coon even seems surprised, if skeptical. He was an elf of the traditional school, you knew. Safety came first. And safety meant sticking close to Cycletree.

"Do you have....proof?", he asks. His eyes flicker over to your pack, where the vague lump of Gale's silent form stretched leather. The spirit was playing dead, you supposed, to prevent a panic.

"I do not think you would lie about this", Coon adds. "But your...eccentricities will do you no favors, you understand."

Well, you did have proof, of a sorts. Gale himself was indirect proof, and if he added his word to yours, his mere existence would be enough. A few judgmental glanced are leveled at you.

Of course, the plan going in was to reserve Gale for the Elders. The absolute last thing you needed was a fight because someone thought you'd come back mad with power. Allowing a Orb Master into sacred Cycletree was enough to make even liberal minds swoon.

Coon's eyes continue to study the pack, and while he's more warrior than scholar, the Commander isn't stupid. And if he plans on searching it, as he well might out of habit, it wouldn't be great.

"You taking me back to Cycletree?"


Rapidly, your mind searched for options.
>Try and distract him with subtle magic. You need his mind on something else.[2 magic charges remaining.]

>It will go worse if he catches you lying to him. Admit what happened....carefully.

>Redirect him. He doesn't like you. Think of something to put him out of sorts.

>write in
why do we feel the need for secrecy?
Is it possible to have the orb stolen from us and them becoming its master?
>why do we feel the need for secrecy?Is it possible to have the orb stolen from us and them becoming its master?

For clarification, because the rules are a bit autistic I admit. Ahem.

1. No, they can't really steal it's loyalty from you in that sense. Your pact is irrevocable while you are alive. If Gale "dies"(ie his orb is shattered, which isn't easy. Think of it a bit like burning the books in Zatch Bell), you are effectively out of the War. It wouldn't kill 'you', but given that the person likely doing the breaking would be another Master mid battle, you'd be screwed. Generally speaking, it's very common for a Master and Spirit to go down together if they go down at all. If something is strong enough to kill one in sight of the other, it's probably a grave situation.

2. If Gale dies but you survive, you theoretically could form a new pact with another Great Spirit, but it would HAVE TO BE one of the specific 6 selected for the war. So no second air orb. Again, rare, since a Master with no orb is an obvious target for rapid elimination.

3. If YOU die but Gale doesn't, he'd have a brief window(he can't stay on this plane without a tether)to form a pact with a Master who's already lost their orb, it can't be a random nobody. It has to be one of the initial Chosen. So these elves are a no go.

4. As for why you prefer secrecy, the Sphere Wars aren't popular. They inevitably result in mass death even in the less crazy ones. Mix this with the head in the sand philosophy of your people, and not a great mix for panic. The Elders are hidebound conservatives, but you'd rather not have to be marched in under de facto arrest or shed elf blood before laying everything out to them. Up to you oc.
>Redirect him. He doesn't like you. Think of something to put him out of sorts.
>>Redirect him. He doesn't like you. Think of something to put him out of sorts.
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>Redirect him. He doesn't like you. Think of something to put him out of sorts.

Ok ok, calm down. Let's think this through. He isn't your biggest fan, so it shouldn't be hard to make him focus on you rather than the satchel. Uhh...


You think you've got it. Aim for the morals. That's the ticket.

You do your best to sound casual, although you hope your comment will be scandalous enough to draw his outrage.

"So, Coon..."

Rolled 20 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

>22(Nat 20) critical success!!!
"...Beer? It's amazing!"

Your enthusiasm is genuine(what an elixir!), and so is the sudden, dramatic horror across Coon's face. It is shared by most of his troops as well. If they had pearls, they would have clutched them.

For a second or two, he gapes like a fish sucking air, unsure what to say.

"B-beer? Willow! You know the strictures are very clear on that! Forbidden!"

Innocently, you carry on, undisturbed.

"Oh but I was outside Cycletree! The Ale, oh the ale too! I even got..."

You pause for dramatic effect.

"Drunk! Right and proper drunk too!"

"You W-what?!"

The Commander seems to have forgotten entirely about the pack, as he turns his full attention to you, stricken. The entire effect is almost to the point of parody.

No doubt this scandal would be all over Cycletree by tommorow. You remember a few decades ago, one of the rangers had been caught with several skins of wine. That had been a fun lecture from Stratos.

"This...this isn't ok! Elves shouldn't drink. It clouds our minds and--"

"Then they got a huge horn of ale, and I won a bunch of money drinking it! They were shouting, Chug Chug Chug!"

You think he's gonna faint.

"Or was it Mug Mug Mug? Either makes sense really. Are you ok, Commander?"

One of his men actually scoffs.


"Silence!", Goose barks, shaking his head. He turns back to you, frowning. Frowns came naturally to him, although his skills spoke for themselves.

"I just..I can't....Bah! Just move out."

As did his rebukes.

"Then I won a fight against some big burly guy. Twice!"

"Willow, I really don't need--"

"I knocked him out with mugs. While drunk you know. Neat huh?"

Suppressing a response, Commander Coon just points south.

"We are leaving."

"You aren't arresting me?", you inquire. Plan = success! Go Willow!

"No. Your foolish actions are arrest enough", Coon replies. "I'm sure Elder Stratos will wish to hear of it!"

"I'll be sure to tell him", you nod.

Collecting your pack, you give Gale a wink through the opening as you sling it across your back. You give Coon a thumbs up.

Grumbling, he takes you and your new squad on the way. Coon isn't done complaining about your lax standards yet either. Boy you really got in his head huh? Rent free.

"Seriously", he is saying now. "I do not know why we even try. Why can't you do more to follow the example of Elder Geese? I mean really now."

Now that was hardly fair.

"But I am!", you reply, continuing to poke at your escort verbally. "I've killed several things over the last few weeks."

"Including your dignity", he sighs. "I am taking you straight to the Elders when we arrive. If I were you, I would begin practicing my apologies!"

Your apology would be sufficient, you think. Assuming they didn't all die of heart attacks. That wouldn't be nice.

"You are lucky It was me who found you", Coon says. "And that something else didn't first..."

"Such as?"
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"Elder Azalea has been working on the old control runes. I'm not entirely sure how, but she's been testing it on guard beasts. To cut patrols times, I believe."

"Guard beasts....?"

"There was a Bullete, but something killed it yesterday. It...wait, Willow!"

Your look of recognition betrays you.

"Hey it was self defense! It attacked first!"

He keeps walking, but Coon shakes his head in confusion. A frown.

"That's not right. They are attuned to prioritize magical--"

He stares at you.

"You killed that thing by yourself???"

"Lucky shot!"

He gives you an odd look, but doesn't press any further. No doubt he is play by playing your scolding at the hold.

Speaking of...

...Cycletree. A proud and ancient hold of the kyndred, your home for 99 years. In a matter of days,100, in fact. You understood that it was popular to call your kind tree-huggers in foreign lands, and to an extent, yes.

But Cycletree was no mere tree.

Your group passes the outer defenses and hidden rangers, weaves their way over one of the woven bridges leading past said defenses, and finally, you are in the deepest grove. And there, towering above every other tree, as old as Roundina itself, the Cycletree.

It's always been a sight.

Though it bears vague resemblance to a mundane Oak, it is so much more. On its outer shell, bark and iron-gear are fused as one, living in tandem. Veins of steel run like grey sap. Cycletree is as much ancient machine as it is plant.

And of course, the reason for its name.

At the summit, high above, an immense cog-within-cog sits at a jaunty angle, almost like a hat. There, it turns, never ceasing, never resting. It is the source of power, a clock, and much more.

You have heard that once, even the trunk was capable of movement, though you've never seen it for yourself.

Once inside, you feel instantly cozy. Though Cycletree was basically one giant house, it was normal for you. How could the humans abide those tiny structures?

Of course, everyone that passes by on some task is also either ignoring or giving you a sour look. It was not everyday a runaway returned. Eccentricities indeed.

Coon directs you to one of the internal escalators, although you would just as soon have walked. He steps in, although his rangers remain outside in the lobby.

"I would bow", he advises. "Low"

You know that much already.


You stop

The doors open to an opulent hall, and as you step out, Coon places a hand on your shoulder.

"I will announce you", he promises, Making his way across the hall, past the quadruple set of archers, through the beautifully carved doors.

You are left with silence. Except, of course, for the soft, ever present noise of the great gears, high above. All Cycletree kyn enjoyed it. You were no exception.

How do you plan on handling this?
>Play it respectfully. You can build up slow to your reveal.

>You aren't scraping. This is no time for protocol. Be assertive.

>Simple enough. Open with Gale:)
>Play it respectfully. You can build up slow to your reveal.
>>Play it respectfully. You can build up slow to your reveal.
>Play it respectfully. You can build up slow to your reveal.
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>>Play it respectfully. You can build up slow to your reveal.

"Let me do the talking", you say to Gale. A quick look at the guards confirm they aren't close enough to hear. "I'd rather not tick them off more than I can help it."

A buzz of static on your back.

"What, am I not a people person?"

"You can be...", you search for the term. "Abrasive. Just hold back till I say, ok?"

"I am an acquired taste...", he murmurs. "But, as you wish. Please enjoy groveling."

Quickly enough, Commander Coon pokes his head out of the door, and waves you in. Brushing your hair back, and straightening your posture, you go forth.

The Chamber of Elders is, effectively, the source of rule for Cycletree. While not the highest level of the hold, it is one of the most beautiful. Vast carvings and wood paintings of lost elven glory cover the walls. Windows of stained glass, showing the idealized 6 Elemental Spheres let in a variety of rainbow light. And at the very back, hangs the banner of Cycletree, woven, it is said, from the very hair of the first elves to live here. Fascinating.

This wasn't your first time here either.

Scanning the room, you note that not everyone is in their assigned seat. Six thrones of sorts were raised around the chamber, each of which was meant for a ruling Elder. Yet it seems in his haste following your conversation, Commander Coon has given you something of an unexpected advantage.

Only four elders are actually here: Stratos, of course, the first among equals, was fixing you with a look of grave disapproval, Elder Azalea, whose green hair framed a curious face, Elder Pine, who as usual was squinting, over a pair of glasses, and finally, Elder Geese, who wore a mix of relief and discomfort.

She nods gently, as you take your place.

This...is better than expected. Stratos had always thought you very foolish, but Azalea cared only for magic, Pine was just boring and half blind-with Geese here too, you found a surge of confidence.

Stratos was old enough that his hair had actually gone a grey-white, and it was his raspy voice that broke the quiet.

"Willow...Ashsong", he remarks. How many times had you heard that tone? Stratos was very fond of giving lectures to virtually anyone and everyone when a rule was broken, and you'd broken plenty.

Still, you bow, low, doing your best to appear appropriately supplicant.

"Elder Stratos. I have returned."

"So I see", he replies, curtly. "Might I enquire as to the condition of my map? It would seem it has been misplaced."

You flinch.

"Unfortunately, Elder Stratos, it was ruined. I..uh, I fell into the Elder River. There was difficulty with humans."

Stratos adopted now an expression of distaste. He leans forwards, hand raised.

"Hmph. Yes, we know of these new tolls. An outrageous affair, if truth be told, but Cycletree shall endure. We always have. The kyndred need nobody else."
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"There is, of course, the matter of the actual theft", he continues. "Really young lady, your disobedience is one thing, but to steal from your Elder...for an..an ADVENTURE of all things!"

He makes the word a curse.

Elder Geese clears her throat.

"I'm sure she understands the gravity of her actions", she begins, more to you than at Stratos. "And that she put her life at great risk in the doing."

It had always been worth the risk, but you keep that comment to yourself. Instead, you again bow, in clear submission.

"My actions were drastic", you allow.

"Drastic...", Elder Azalea speaks up, savoring the term. "I am told that you killed my Bullete, most dramatically. You surprise me. My wards were not secure. You have done well with your magic."

She was actually complementing Gale, by proxy, but you merely smile and accept it.

But Elder Stratos was not cowed.

"Oh by all means", he croaks, "Let us speak more on what she has 'done'."

The ancient elf actually starts listing offenses off by his fingers, one by one.

"Intoxicating yourself with the foul human mixtures..."

Gasp! At least that's what your soul shouts. If only Stratos knew the wonders.

"...going on a drunken rampage in Littledot. The aforementioned theft. The breaking of protocol by leaving without permission. A general disregard for custom! Need I go on?"

"Most discomforting", Elder Pine announces. "Discomforting indeed, yes."

Elder Geese rises to your defense.

"You don't seriously mean to levy punishment over drunkenness. She wasn't in our borders, the strictures are...optional, in that case."

Your mentor seems deeply unsettled by her own comment, being the type of elf who actually would hold to the book even if she ever ventured out.

Though he grumbles, when it is clear that Elder Azalea favors Geese's views on this, and that Elder Pine isn't going to go on the offensive, he waves the offense away.

"Fine, fine. But I hope you understand that you belittle yourself with that poison. We kyndred must be stoic in our passions."

"I will keep that in mind, Elder"

He rolls his eyes.

"As for this theft...what madness possessed you? Temple Sha'ball? The Rotwood is off limits, young Ashsong!"

Everything was off limits, you think.

"I merely acted out of love for our people..."

"I do not doubt that", Elder Geese comments, evenly. "But this was unworthy. There are those who would call you a...a perpetual troublemaker?"

She glances to the side, where Elder Stratos is mumbling his assent.

"...regardless of intentions. But to actively flee the hold, as a bandit. Do you SEEK exile, Willow? What do you have to show for this quest? Scars and bruises."

Her voice is not unkind, but a line of disappointment is there throughout.

"Indeed", Elder Pine nods. "Indeed, scars and bruises. Always scars and bruises."
"Yet she has learned something", Elder Azalea suggests, scanning you. "I see no defeat in her manner. A treasure?"

Commander Coon suddenly jolts.

"I...my apologies Elders, I neglected to search her belongings. I felt it best she come right before you..."

He gives you a sour look, and you wink.

The faces of all the Elders turn to you from atop their high thrones.

"...Willow?", Geese prods. "Did you find something after all?"

"Yes!", Stratos urges. "If there is something, put it before us. Or elsewise repent of this folly."

Elder Pine just keeps squinting.

You breathe deep. Ok, big reveal.
>Awe them. Have Gale manifest.Honored Elders, the Scion of Storms. Scion of Storms, the Honored Elders.

>"I have claimed the Orb of Air. A new War of Spheres has begun." Direct and to the point! Less spooky.

>Let Gale handle first impressions on his own? He hardly needs a hype-woman.

>write in
>>"I have claimed the Orb of Air. A new War of Spheres has begun." Direct and to the point! Less spooky.

If they react negatively we can tell them that we are going to leave for good, we won't let the war reach Cycletree if it's support is not behind us.
>>"I have claimed the Orb of Air. A new War of Spheres has begun." Direct and to the point! Less spooky.

You decide that continuing your calm, collected strategy is best. Worst comes to worse, surely you can talk your way out of this?

And so, you speak the words.

"I have claimed the Orb of Air. A new War of Spheres has begun."

[we love the bonuses folks. The best bonuses. The best.]
Rolled 9 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

Rolled 11 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

I wanted to bring Gale straight out, but ok
Rolled 4 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

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>14[Success!, yay for messing with Coon]

Dead silence. You don't move.

The Elders are stunned cold.

Coon has a hand on his sword, but only backs up slowly. He scans your pack, a bead of sweat now on his forehead.

Finally, Elder Stratos recovers enough to speak a few, soft words. There is fear, in his old eyes, desperate fear. A raised hand comes up, a finger crooks.

"Show us the Orb, child", he commands. "Prove this dread claim to us."

Nodding, you slowly, and deliberately place your pack on the ground, before reaching in for Gale.

"Don't do anything crazy...", you whisper.

He responds with a spark.

Holding up the Orb, for all to see causes a number of reactions. Elder Pine actually faints for a moment, his glasses dropping to the floor. Azalea and Geese can only look on, while Stratos frowns, grimly.

"Speak, then, Great Spirit. For there are many crystal balls in this world."

Gale floats up from your hand, ringlets of air and static like ribbons about him.

"None like me, Stratos of Cycletree. I am Gale, I am the Scion of Storms. I have come to claim the Primal Sphere of Air"

His noble, windy tone commands respect

"Then it is true...", Stratos says, slumping back into his throne. He suddenly seems to grow even older in your eyes. "Another War has come. The 666th. I had hoped..dared to hope..."

"What is hope against reality?", Elder Azalea interrupts. "One of Cycletree stands chosen...and what a choice! Gale, Willow IS your Master no?"

A spark of consternation.

"We have a pact, yes."

Elder Geese now looks very worried.

"You have...no problem with this?", she asks you. The silent question goes unsaid. Everyone here knows what happened to your parents.

"I have...concerns", you admit. "But better me than someone who would use the Air Orb for evil. I am sworn the Master of Air."

Coon, who has been gaping, in a mix of horror and indignation, almost throws himself to his knees in a fit.

"I beg forgiveness, Honored Elders! To allow such a being past my watch...I shall resign immediately! I must!"

Geese sighs deeply.

"Denied. We aren't firing you", she says. "Willow can be...crafty, believe me."

Stratos, now with half his face covered by his palm, speaks once more.

"Oh Flattok! Cursed Flattok! Does your treachery know no end? Spheros save us all...", he moans. "We are cursed!"

Elder Azalea prefers to pry Gale.

"Reveal yourself", she requests. "Let us see who our kyn has bound herself too."

"Elder Azalea, I must protest!", Coon calls out. "His power is muted within the Orb, outside, he--"

Azalea holds up a hand.

"Is still lesser than he might be. I am not without my own magic. Nor am I ignorant...he will not risk his mistress so randomly. Young Willow, may we see him?"

Gale was hardly your dog, but you shrug. They had been "calmed" sufficiently enough where you didn't fear immediate chaos. You motion towards Gale.

"You heard the Elder"

"I do not disappoint", Gale states.
With a popping burst, Gale emerges from the orb, all twisting air and sizzling static, a rolling storm made un-flesh. He spreads his arms wide, eyes bright.

"By Spheros...", Coon gasps. "It's true."

Azalea nods.

"That accounts for the Bullete. I did not think Willow so proficient in such spells."

You let that backhand slide.

"We have not yet seen the Cacaphony yet either...", Azalea muses. "We can assume at least some orbz remain unclaimed."

The Cacaphony, Gale had drilled into you, was the "sign" that all the orbz now had a Master. That the true trial had begun. You vaguely remember the last Cacaphony as a banner of lights and sounds, erupting across the horizon. A signal. A call.

No doubt Graf Hoop and his band of winged trumpet babies, you suppose.

"What is your intention towards us?", Geese asks Gale. The spirit shrugs.

"I have no quarrel with the Cycletree. The mortal wished to warn you. My only intention is to depose Nimbus, The Hurricrowned. His Sphere will be mine."

Judging by how little Gale actually seemed to think of "the Circus", you had doubts it was that simple, but you shut it.

"And you, young Willow?", Stratos demands. "What goal have you in mind?"

You decide to be honest.

"Right now? Survival..if you want to know what I plan on doing if I win, my answer is that I don't know. Nothing bad."

His eyes glaze over.

"Nothing bad, she says...one moment...th-thank you, if you would."

Shakily, Stratos gathers the other three elders(including a shaken Pine) into something of a huddle. Absent Elders Fawn and Summer, still missing, they eventually reach a consensus.

"We have decided....", Elder Stratos begins, hands wringing together, "That this matter is too grave to avoid including our fellow Elders. This may take a few days..."

He glances nervously at Gale.

"But while we deliberate, you may remain here. Upon the condition of course, that your..er, companion, behave himself. I will not have him flaunting about like this."

Gale narrows his eyes in annoyance.

"Agreed", you say.

"AND...and, you will speak of this to nobody yet. We will inform the others as soon as feasible. We must first find a lasting solution to your...situation."

You frown, but nod assent.

"Very well...I..I need to lie down a while..."

He stumbles past you, followed by Azalea, Coon and Pine. You are watching Gale absorb himself back into the orb, when you feel a weight around your shoulders. A hug.

"It is good to have you back, Willow", Elder Geese says. She playfully wacks you on the head. "You had me very worried, you know!"

"Sorry...", you apologize. "But its good to be back. Honestly." Pulling back from her warm attentions, her beauty still strikes you. While hardly young(she WAS an Elder), Geese had never lost her looks.
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Chestnut hair to your crow black, brown eyes to your dark pools...nobody would mistake her for your mother. Or even close family, to be honest.

But then again, what was family if not those who raised you?

"I will have you know", she begins, in faux seriousness, "That the Cycletree almost broke in two, such was the wailing at your escapade. Such cheek!"

You rub the back of your neck, chuckling.

"Yeh...should I have told you first..?"

She puts a hand on your shoulder, and her playfulness has real grievance.

"Yes, though I would have stopped you.."

No doubt. Which is why you'd just fled.

"The vaunted Elder Geese", Gale says, once he floats over to the two of you. "You taught this mortal how to fight?"

She is clearly wary of Gale, even as an Orb. Almost imperceptibly, she shuffles.

"Yes. My finest student. And more", she replies. "I trust she did not disappoint?"

Gale sparks in bemusment.

"She has ups and downs"

No. You weren't going to allow some kind of unholy alliance here! But before you can say anything, Geese turns back to you, smile bright on her face.

"Then I must see what the wilds have taught you! Let us spar, Willow. It's been a while. Unless you fear an old lady?"

She was baiting you, blatantly. She hated whenever anyone called her old.

Still, while that sounded fun, you also could take the time to do something else?
>Accept. It has indeed been far too long. The Swordmaster shall face the student!

>Decline. Try and pump her for information instead. Maybe on those bridge tolls? Stratos knew what they were.

>Decline, you will try and run down Elder Azalea. That control rune seems neat...
>>Accept. It has indeed been far too long. The Swordmaster shall face the student!
>Accept. It has indeed been far too long. The Swordmaster shall face the student!
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>Accept. It has indeed been far too long. The Swordmaster shall face the student!

Ah, why not?

"Sure!", you agree, happily. It would be good to let off some steam without the threat of a terrible death. And you were curious about your skills...

A flicker of delight is in Geese's eyes.

She claps her hands together.

"Delightful! No time like the present. Let's head down to the Arena!"

Gale drops himself into your pack(with some nudging, of course), and you are ready to get your warrior face on.

The "Arena", was another sub-level of the great tree, part barracks, part training room, part dwelling of Elder Geese.

She had apparently once lived like any other Elf at one point, but with her dedication like it was, nothing would do but to sleep next to her dojo. You had gotten more bruises and memories here than anywhere else. Glancing over to the far corner, you note with a smile that your own bed remains as messy as the day you left it. No doubt Geese expected you to make it yourself.

Always steady, Geese Greyfeather.

The floor itself is already occupied.

A few other elves, a mix of actual rangers and pupils both, look up with surprise. They are in various states of combat.

Geese wraps a slender arm about you.

"Look who came back? And she's volunteered for a demonstration! I will be fighting Willow myself. Dull steel."

Some nervous chuckles. It was not every day the master faced down a student in real(albeit non lethal), combat, even with blunted weapons. Of course, Geese has always taken great pride in humbling those who think they already knew what it meant to fight, so there's that.

"So...clear the floor, please."

As the others move out, either to corners to watch the duel or towards the exits, you place your bag in a good spot, with a gap to let Gale watch. Hopefully all attention is on you and Geese.

"Don't shock her", you say, softly.

He pulses in response.

When you turn back, the Elder is weighing a sword, and then looks you in the eye.

"There is no tutor like experience", she states, citing some work, "And there is no experience like steel at work."

Warrior poet, like you said.

"I've got steel here too", you reply, choosing a sword from the rack. It was virtually identical to your normal one. "And I know how to use it."

As you level the sword at her, she gives a spirited laugh, from the belly.

"How not? You are my own. But...."

She goes into a stance. It's rather high and tight, which is her preference. The blade catches the artificial lights, shining.

"Can you teach ME something too?"

Well, let's hope so.

Ok Willow. What's your opening here?
>She technically didn't say you couldn't use magic. Loophole! [2 charges remaining.]

>Be aggressive. If you let her set the tempo you might never get a pace set.

>Be defensive. Make her come to you, and force her to make an opening.

>Try and be unconventional? Uh....bar fight technique, go!
>Be aggressive. If you let her set the tempo you might never get a pace set.
>Be aggressive. If you let her set the tempo you might never get a pace set.
Rolled 11 + 4 (1d20 + 4)

>Be aggressive. If you let her set the tempo you might never get a pace set

You know from experience that letting Geese get the drop on you was a bad idea. She could do real nasty things if given enough time to work. You needed to deny her the chance to set the tempo.

With that in mind, you advance rapidly, doing your best to dodge and weave.

Serpentine! Serpentine!

Sword raised....

"Come on then!", Geese barks. Her own blade hasn't moved an inch. Her feet though..ever so slightly.

You go for the strike!

Rolled 17 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

Rolled 9 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

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>19 success!

Just as you enter her circle of control, Geese swings, in a low, sweeping strike.

But she's a second too slow. Taking advantage of her high guard, you pull roughly the same trick you did on Cordwayne, albeit with less blood.

Rolling forth, beneath her sword, you lash out, cracking her in the back of the knee-albeit without the benefit of an edge-as you emerge past her, sword up.

She gives a grunt of pain, and almost buckles, but this IS Elder Geese you are talking about. It wasn't that easy. Your hit had made her feel the sting but she wasn't down, far from it. She immediately spins about as you attack once more.

Her next block is expert and smoothe, as you leap up from your crouch. Your thrust is easily battered aside, and a solid kick to your rump sends you stumbling.


Your swords impact again and again.

You keep up your aggressive push, doing what you can to keep her on her toes. A look of both pleasure and determination crosses her face, and she laughs. You also smile cheerily.

Across your locked swords, she speaks.

"Not bad!!"


You land a few more light blows here and there, and your confidence grows, but none of them would likely have counted for much in the field...flesh wounds.

Still, you are feeling good about this! You have the tactical advantage....such as the case. At a certain point, the flurry of strikes and parties is a blur.

Then, Geese does something unexpected.

Rather rather than meet your next strike sword to sword, or simply try to outpace it, she actually leans 'into' you, smashing aside the previous swing, stance near sideways. It's quick, but her twisting shoulder nears your chest as your blade descends....

QUICK! Rapid plan!
>Finish the swing! You can outspeed her!...maybe!

>Oh no. Two can play at this game. Willow uses Pommel! End this rightly!

>Dodge. Dodge!

>Magic Flashbang attack! Totally not cheating. No sir.[2 charges remaining]
>Oh no. Two can play at this game. Willow uses Pommel! End this rightly!
>Oh no. Two can play at this game. Willow uses Pommel! End this rightly!
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Rolled 17 + 3 (1d20 + 3)


Oh no. No! Not happening Geese.

With a loud battlecry, you stop swinging, and instead redirect your arm. The pommel of your sword will make a nice weapon! At the very least, it will be better than eating whatever Geese is planning.

And her noggin is a nice target.

The sword comes crashing down, pommel first....

But Geese's shoulder touches you too...
Rolled 5 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

holy moly, that'll be a hard roll to beat
Rolled 7 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

Rolled 14 + 2 (1d20 + 2)

>16 fail!! Sad!
Your pommel comes swinging down with as much forces as you can put behind it, but a split second too late!


Geese's charge sends you scrambling for more secure footing, as your blow lands harmlessly upon her shoulder. She doesn't miss the opportunity. With a sudden sweep, measured so as to stun, the flat of her sword smacks into your leg. Ouch. Not nice.

Undercut, you flop onto your back, hard, but just in time, you avoid being checkmated, rolling away from a stab. You do your best, kicking away another slash before standing once more.


You see stars, and a sudden flurry of blows from the other Elf very nearly sees you disarmed. But gritting your teeth, you do your best to meet her attack, and find that your former blow to her knee may be messing with her more than expected...

Of course, that solid thwack to your own leg wasn't exactly a love tap either. These were still solid steel swords, if no edges.

After this, the two of you both search for an opening to bring this to a decisive finish. While your opening attack gave you an initial advantage, you feel yourself tiring now, and know that Geese, who lived and breathed this stuff, would be able to hold out longer. You needed a solution to end the fight.


"Always with a cunning plan Willow! You neglect your fundamentals!"

She breaks away, avoiding a slash aimed at her neck, and paces around you, sword tapping her shoulder. You keep steady, not put off by her sudden laxity.

"Ever a school swordsman, ma'am?"

Geese stops, and adopts her initial stance once more, unusually high and inviting, but with a tiger's hunger in her brown eyes. Uh oh. She's pumped.

"SwordMASTER, my dear apprentice. Here is one final lesson, for today!!"

She charges, light on her toes, fast...and you can see that gap in her defense from a mile away, but that's probably a trap.

What's the strategy here?
>Bait or no, you'll take it. Maybe she won't expect such an obvious gamble?

>Meet her blade to blade. Breathe. You can play zone defense too!

>sliding dropkick. Not exactly subtle, if she wants low cunning, you'll give her low cunning. Go for the legs again.

>Magic Flashbang Attack. It's not breaking the rules if they were never established.[2 charges remaining]
>Meet her blade to blade. Breathe. You can play zone defense too!
>Meet her blade to blade. Breathe. You can play zone defense too!
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Rolled 18 + 3 (1d20 + 3)

>Obvious trap is obvious! Willow called her bluff. Catastrophe avoided.
>Meet her blade to blade. Breathe. You can play zone defense too!

Deciding that you will not be easily shaken, you stand your ground. You breathe. Breathe Willow.

She expects you to break.

You won't. Boldness, then.

Feet planted but ready to react, sword leveled at your enemy, you accept her charge. That big gap is too much a trap to risk, and you would rather play to the sword. She is better, but better isn't invincible. You knew that much. You were tired, not defeated.


Here you stand!!!

Rolled 8 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 7 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

Rolled 11 + 1 (1d20 + 1)

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119 KB JPG
>12 FAIL
>Elder Geese wins!

Of course, things are never so simple. No plan survives contact with the enemy. Something like that, you think.

Geese reacts rapidly to your decision, or maybe this was her plan all along. Hard to say honestly. Just before point of contact, she bends and leaps, twisting as she does....going clear over your intercept and landing behind.

You spin, as quick as you--


The first hit scores across your collarbone, throwing you off balance.



The second is a jab to your gut, taking the wind from your sails. Geese is relentless, and moves for the coup de grace before there is any chance to recover. Her sword is like a living thing in her hand.


A desperate lunge is redirected, your sword flying across the room. Before you can move away, you feel a boot at the back of your leg, forcing you down to your knees, helpless. Yikes.

With a flourish, Geese twirls once more, bringing her blade's imaginary edge to your tender throat. A moment of silence.

"Yield", you breathe, gasping for air.

The remaining audience claps respectfully. You have lost. In an actual fight, you'd be gutted and dead already. Oh well, can't win them all you guess.

With one quick motion, Geese drops her sword, before offering you a hand. You take it, gladly, and find your feet once more. At the effort, your muscles almost groan in open revolt. Gonna be sore, this little body of yours.

Geese is beaming.

"Excellent, Willow!", she says. "Why, you nearly had me. All you need is experience. I merely gambled."

You thought she was underselling herself, honestly. That last part of the fight had felt more humbling than mutually desperate, but you accept the praise.

"As always, Elder Geese, you are my superior", you acknowledge. But the brunette waves it off. She thumbs up.

"Chin up. Defeat is the breakfast of champions. If we always win, we never learn. Invincibility breeds arrogance."

She was just full of those today, huh.

"It is good that you didn't resort to magic", Geese adds. "It is a powerful thing for any elf, but you don't wish to breed dependence on it."

This you agreed with. You'd done your best so far to not exhaust your reserves whenever possible. Prudent spending!

As you converse with Geese, you can tell that maybe you would actually enjoy these next few days in Cycletree. Surely, nothing could possibly spoil your birthday?

>This was the last choice today, since I have to handle some stuff in town. Stand by for a brief tangent...
*Somewhere in the heart of Circle City...*

Cordwayne was not having a good day.

Ever since that bitch Elf had humiliated him back in Littledot, he was running a solid string of bad days. His leg was still stiff, and his insistence on refusing a cane hadn't helped the healing, but what use had Cordwayne for that?

Cordwayne wasn't weak.

Nobody messed with him. He was one of the tough ones. His whole life he'd solved issues simply. That Elf was a fluke. It had just been a bad day. It wasn't fair.

A lot of things weren't fair in Cordwayne's life right now. Never had been.

The building rumbled, as a wire-train passed below. Above, the metal roof pitter-pattered with the rain drops.

He sighed. Looking out a window, he could see the thing chug along, long metal strands pulling and pushing, amid the tumult of the city.

It wasn't fair. He'd been recalled. That was never a good thing, for any 9ball.

He reached his destination. Two, solid doors of ebony, guarded by a pair of beefy orcs. Like him, they wore yellow headbands, with the 9ball. One of them even gave Cordwayne a look of smug knowing, before snorting.

Fucking greenpig tusk.

"I'm here to see the boss"

The smug orc(how Cordwayne would have loved to punch him), nodded.

"Go right in", the pig snorts, grinning.

With as much patience as he can muster, Cordwayne passes those doors. They slam shut as soon as he does. The room is rich and opulent, as always. Expensive paintings are on the walls, themselves painted a grim, mustard hue. It was big, bigger than a mere office. And while the lights were on, the storm had reduced them to a sickly, feeble output. In the corner, a gilded pool-table sat, empty.

The Yellow Room.

Cordwayne turned his attention to the four others here with him. One does little but stand by, glaring. The other files her nails, lazily. The bird preens itself.

Of course, only one man matters. The fellow sitting in the back, mostly in shadow. A lone cigar gave glow.

"You disappoint me", the boss says. His voice is steady, but deadly. "I hear you got run out of town. No money. No payment."

Cordwayne gulps.

"Snooker, it-it wasn't my fault!", he swears. "Honest boss!"

Snooker passes a hand over the bird's feathers, rubbing at it's head. It qourks in pleasure, before snapping it's beak. The thing's eyes are like burning coals.

Cordwayne steps back.

"Excuses. I hear a lot of excuses everyday.", Snooker mumbles. "Why should I care about yours?"

Fuck it. To hell with it!

"A girl!", Cordwayne shouts


"Yes!", Cordwayne nods, quickly. "She was crazy. Jumped me! Took out my men. An Elf! Fucking knife eared--"

"Watch it", one of the others says. The woman. She goes back to filing.

Cordwayne carries on.

"She...the Elf I mean. It was her fault. I had so much bad luck. It wasn't natural!"

Snooker leans back, obscured. His hand keeps stroking the bird, while Cordwayne starts to sweat even more.

"Tell me about this Elf"
OP ?
C'mon man, this quest is good. At least give us the reason you're away.
I wasn't worried at first as it seemed like a bit of a natural point for an intermission and break, but QM did just go full radio silent...
yup, it's often bad news
Such is life, this was nice and funny at least.
*sadly ponders orb*
Here's the archive, hope OP comes back later on.

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