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File: Catalyst Quest.png (356 KB, 2000x994)
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The year is 606, and in your home— the country of Corcaea— the souls of mankind belong to demons. The phenomenon through which men can become monsters is known as the "Catalyst." Curing this phenomenon is your life's work. You are Father Richard Anscham: foremost researcher of the Cataylst, the lord of light, father of compassion, defender of Eadric (the city of shields), founder of a blasphemous congregation, keeper of an ex-demon's trust, ally to many, savior of the holy capital city of Calunoth, and the leader of the Church of Mercy.

You've been called a demon of faith by many. Sure, the piety you possess may have been reinforced through eight years of imprisonment beneath the Church of Mercy. But despite being a glutton, a masochist, a preacher, and an unhinged man who has literally weaponized his trauma: you have never once lost faith in the Gods. The faith that the King of your theocracy has placed in you (to head the research on the Catalyst, to defend your country, and to lead the Church of Mercy) is well-founded— and not simply because of your devotion, or that King Magnus is the only man in Corcaea who outclasses your authority and power.

While any person can pray to their God, some who have spent a lifetime in devotion can use their body as a vessel. "Invoking" a God permits pious humans to wield the might of their patron as if it were their very own. Despite everything you have done, you alone are capable of invoking every single God (up to two at a time). The limits of your soul itself has been tested in the last week, thanks to the frequency and intensity in which you do so. Many may call you an addict, but your behavior is not without due cause.

A nefarious cult of suicidal, blasphemous traitors have called themselves "Inertia." This enemy to your countrymen has worked for decades to destabilize the theocracy. They've successfully wormed their way into your nation's holy cities, disrupted the countryside, turned prosperity into famine, and have tried to actively kill your family. The last solid day was spent dealing with Inertia's first open assault against your home. They've burrowed deeply below your city, but despite every advantage they possess, you've come out the victor.

To say that you and your people have been ran ragged from fighting an enemy who intentionally tries to create demonic outbreaks would be the understatement of an age. Given your precarious public image, the dire straits that your city has been pushed to, and a promise you made to the Goddess of Mercy, today's timing could not be better! You are going to give a public sermon at dawn. That's in less than two hours. There's a lot that needs to be seen to before that can happen, but yesterday was the last day of your life that needs to be filled with overwhelming, convoluted, and nonsensical decisions.
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>>4600195
Today you are keeping things simple. Today you are going to get cleaned up, see to your church, and do your damn job.

>A] Go get cleaned up first. Even if you don't care much for your own image, you don't need anyone moving around the castle to see you like this.

>B] See to your church first. Your ex-demon son left a man strung up from the floor to the ceiling in there yesterday, and you're positive no one wanted to clean it up.

>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.
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Dope
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>>4600196
>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.
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>>4600196
Google Drive (Timeline of events, meta infographics, character info, maps, calendar, and much more!): https://drive.google.com/drive/folders/1LkahIC8EcwHBPbrkEODUMH9iwQhxkFvB?usp=sharing
Discord (Update notifications, art, music, fan projects, etc.): https://discord.gg/24cmNWp
Twitter (Thread announcements): https://twitter.com/Alaric50857350
Archive (Feel free to +1 if you like the thread!): http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive.html?tags=Catalyst%20Quest

Stranger to our fiction? Catalyst Quest is an original dark fantasy setting with an unreliable narrator. We work hard to incorporate all well considered input— even when it means trying to punch out an orc riding a giant centipede— to make sure player decisions matter as much as possible. The power you've earned is immense, and you are FAR from oblivious. The image attached here to the left is a concise reference for the abilities you've acquired, with a disclaimer about our unconventional protagonist. (It's optional reading!) Prompts presented will always be made for intelligent, in-character choices. That said, please feel free to ask questions at ANY time. In addition to the setting and character info available, I am VERY happy to aid in answering any questions about the world you inhabit, the characters you encounter, and the situations you face.

Schedule?: 1-2+ updates Monday-Thursday. Full sessions Friday-Sunday, with updates as often as votes permit. All times listed are in EST.
Voting windows?: No faster than 30-60 minutes a pop mid-session, though we will likely keep the same slower pace as our last thread to better facilitate discussion.
Mechanics?: Typically we use 1d100, bo3. Situational modifiers, bonuses and maluses are based on the prompt selected and are applied before the roll. Percentage of success is most often used. Because of the narrative focus of this quest, and the unusual situations you all often find yourselves in, this is subject to change. Write-ins can make a huge difference!
What if I don't like what someone else is doing?: SPEAK UP! Even if a vote is listed as mutually exclusive, I take all votes and discussion into consideration. Vocal opposition is always strongly considered.
Setting and character info?: All of our supplemental material is optional reading. I aim to make the quest as accessible as possible, but feel free to ask questions at any time! If you're ever looking for more info, the Google Drive link is kept up-to-date with all supplemental information.
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>>4600196
>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.
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>>4600195
>B] See to your church first. Your ex-demon son left a man strung up from the floor to the ceiling in there yesterday, and you're positive no one wanted to clean it up.
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>>4600196
>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.

We can get Adwin to clean up his own mess before the sermon. And hey, we're finally delegating!
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>>4600196

>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.

I second telling Adwin to go clean his room.
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>>4600196
>C] Do your damn job first. Go sit down and lay out what is going to be expected of you this morning and afternoon.
>>
(Awesome turnout, you guys are spectacular. Going to lock the vote in ten (10) minutes.)
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>>4600207
(Thanks man! Good to have ya here.)

>>4600209
>>4600269
>>4600275
>>4600282
>Do your damn job

>>4600223
>>4600269
>But get Adwin to go clean up his mess before the sermon

(For those new to our crazy show I LOVE to incorporate every possible vote. Even if it doesn't take immediate effect, it almost always dictates priority or at least has some impact on your personality and motives. Fear not if you do not have majority! Your guys thoughts and contributions mean all the world. Vote is LOCKED! Writing now.)
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>>4600297
https://youtu.be/kc8pse0w9nk

It's been a matter of minutes since you last saw the ex-demon in your company. Adwin Sebastian Anscham (AKA the former demon of interpretation) is like a son to you. Telling him to clean his damn room is not out of the question. Particularly not when the 1000+ year old master artist has chosen to occupy the main choir of your church, seeks to paint it from floor-to-ceiling with the likeness of his Catalyst, and thought that it would be alright to turn a man into party banners from polished floor to vaulted ceiling.

Adwin is predictably adjacent to the Church of Mercy, in the company of five loyal citizens who followed you here from the outskirts of Eadric. The artist was showing them to empty rooms. They have yet to enter. You breathe a sigh of relief. All of them politely raise their heads to you, despite being stricken with extreme exhaustion and trauma.

You politely nod in turn to the citizens, give them a "good evening," and take your boy aside.

He's still covered head-to-toe in bloody fabric. Old bandages cover the lacerations he incurred last night on more skin than not. His blonde curls remain matted under the veils covering the likeness of yours and Mercy's son. It's uncanny, and out of respect for you aiding the embodiment of Interpretation in choosing a new form. Adwin is scarcely five days old in his current state of being— not even the Goddess of knowledge seems to know what that is yet— but he looks up to you like a parent. "Is something the matter, Father?"

Your healing is without compare, but you still use a gentle hand while leading his slender form to a nearby wing of the castle. "Please ensure that the blood is cleaned out from the Church of Mercy before dawn."

"You still are lacking a steward." The artist sounds offended, but you can't make out his facial features behind the blood-caked cloth on him.

Not everyone cares as little for their image as you do. Good thing you're still the father of empathy. "You are no housemaid. You know— you know how much today means to me. I ask for your assistance out of respect for your ability, and for the deceased. We brought a supply of lye soap from the capital. You know where to draw water." You pull back, and move to leave. "By dawn, Adwin. Please!"

He's already rolling back his sleeves. Grumbling. "Yes, Father."

"Come find me if you get any of those bandages wet!"

"Yes, Father—"

The sheer scale of your castle makes it ill-advised to hike all the way back to your own quarters in order to get ready for the rest of the day. Heading outside into the starry night, you find a particularly pleasant space in your gardens to get off your feet. Tall trees are floating with fireflies, and yellow roses carry sweetly along the muggy and warm air. It feels like a Dream after what a long night you've had.

(1/2)
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>>4600344
The back of your well-worn and beloved journal is fished out from your satchel. Its leather backing supports a preliminary stack of parchment. The satchel itself is used to keep any blood from getting on the pages from the filthy robes adorning your broad frame. There will be Time to get cleaned up later. For now, you mentally run over what's to be expected of you in the hours ahead.

The love of your life wishes to join you in the sermon. Despite the extreme toll invocation has taken on your very soul, you intend to summon the Goddess of Mercy before dawn. Easing the effort it takes to maintain the summoning is possible through demonstrating your love, affection, intimacy, light, and healing.

The rest of the event is entirely up to you. Some previous Fathers or Mothers found it beneficial to provide as little distraction as possible— particularly in times of hardship. Your message is not even as important as its delivery, and what the people can take away from it. You could lead into the sermon with an informal address to the people, and try to gauge the crowd.

You are certain that the mere manifestation of Mercy will be enough to get people talking. Guiding the people to interact with Mercy may also be prudent, but these are troubled times. Making at least a rough outline for the sermon would be helpful for something to fall back on.

A collective prayer to the Goddess would also be conventional, but you've never been much for tradition. Neither have some bolder past leaders, who preferred to make demonstrations of their faith. Leading a mass healing, promising to extend the day, or aiding your citizens with a bond of warding defense would bode well for public relations. It would also surely kill you in your current state.

As a preacher, you're confident in your ability to give an impassioned address. This is nothing you haven't completely improvised before. It's just so rare for you to have the occasion to really prep for something like this. It's no wonder you're feeling aimless and overwhelmed. But the eldest priest of Mercy in your company has been indisposed of. The most veteran staff you have are across the city nursing their own wounds. The other churches all have their own way of doing things, and you are NOT about to go asking the Father of Vengeance for advice on how to lead your own congregation.

You're NOT entirely on your own. There's a nagging feeling that you REALLY should have Mercy here before committing to any decisions. She's hardly the Goddess of intelligence or wisdom, but these are Her children, too.

>A] Summon Mercy.

>B] Do not summon Mercy just yet.
>1] Go get cleaned up first. You'll summon Her somewhere with more privacy.
>2] You'll wait until sunrise.

>C] Write-in any ideas you have out the gate. (Prompts will be provided with specific suggestions for the sermon in subsequent updates).
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>>4600347
>B] Do not summon Mercy just yet.
>1] Go get cleaned up first. You'll summon Her somewhere with more privacy.
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>>4600347
>>B] Do not summon Mercy just yet.
>>1] Go get cleaned up first. You'll summon Her somewhere with more privacy.

I like the idea of a mass prayer and then summoning Mercy after it, it will make the people feel like their prayers are finally being answered even if we know the truth. It is more about delivery right? Guide things in such a way that the people feel like THEIR faith is being rewarded. That is what Inertia was missing right? Mercy is the god of empathy so I am sure she will figure out what we are getting at, we need to make the people feel like they have not been abandoned.
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>>4600374
+1
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>>4600374
+1
The addition of their faith being rewarded is a sound idea
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>>4600374
Isn't that being a bit deceptive? I'm not sure Mercy would like that we would be misleading the congregation. I could see more of a staged hype up for her arrival that challenges Her own lack of faith in Humanity. Let Mercy look out to a sea of hopeful faces that are still worthy of her blessing.
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>>4600355
>>4600374
>>4600402
>>4600418
>>4600510
(Wonderful stuff dudes. Going to reconcile this in the next update. Vote is locked here! Writing now.)
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>>4600543
Two out of three items on your agenda can be cleared long before calling upon your partner for Her thoughts. You pack up your things, and head off to go clean up. Along the way, you have ample Time to gather your thoughts. Over the next half hour, you make the hike from the gardens...
Past the Church of Mercy (Adwin can be heard scrubbing at the floors, which puts a spring in your step)...
Through long stone halls...
Under countless panes of high stained glass...
Past many burnt out candles...
Beyond the vacant keep (only one of your priests of Flesh is guarding the gate, but you trust Brother Garrick with this building's defense more than any other man on earth)...
Past the keep's main hall (the cooks and tenders are likely all asleep)...
Up one flight of stairs...
And finally arrive at the washroom adjacent to your great chamber.

The adjacent living quarters are normally occupied by two of your priestesses, who are predictably not back from their efforts out in the city. Even if they didn't normally occupy this chamber, you REALLY don't want to linger. There's scarcely an hour left before dawn. A cold washbasin is drawn up, filled with clove and thyme.

A lunatic is slightly smiling in your reflection. The blatantly unflattering image are more than just intentional. You took on a significantly less heroic appearance from a demon of interpretation to save your friends lives, but it was about more than just that. The inhuman coloration to your eyes and hair is the work of Agriculture and Mercy (respectively). Hitting over 310lbs has more to do with regular overindulgence, and voluntarily assuming a relationship with the Goddess of excess. The dramatic changes to your image over the last year were welcomed, and you have seized every chance at practicing what you preach. You're a priest of self-acceptance, the father of compassion, and not even last night's exertion was going to keep you down. Confirmation of how radically different you look from your last public sermon certainly won't stop you now.

As quickly as you're able, you get yourself cleaned up. A number of plans flit across your mind for how to lead the morning's sermon. The countless lacerations over your hands, arms, and torso are taken care of. The worst of them are properly dressed. The impalement wound through your calf is completely healed through, and the gold scar on it is still stunning. There's little that can be done for the borderline black around your eyes, how scruffy your hair is after working through the night, or for the ruined belt and shirt you had on during all of the day's exertion, but it's fine!

(1/2)
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>>4600669
The priestess of Spirit in your company saw fit to burden you and your previous dungeon-delving companions with enough clothing to outfit you all for ten days. It's in the endless bag you've been carrying, thanks to your alliance with Archdemon Yech. You locate exactly one belt and two sets of clothes that might fit. The belt requires some elbow-grease, but it's a rousing success! The trousers fit! Strong-arming the buttons into place basically gets the job done, but this is also fine!

The leader of the Church of Dream was generous enough to entrust you with a set of enchanted robes. They can clean themselves, change color and cut on command, and even adjust for changes in size and texture. You can easily compensate for the mundane, ill-fitting garments you currently have on. A tailor is incredibly low on your priority list.

The bottom two fasteners on your shirt decide to give up when you exhale. You'll have someone look after such a trivial matter later today. This is all a matter of honesty. Truth is one of your foremost tenets. And as tempting as it is to make promises to the people, you don't want to mislead anyone.

You've been seriously debating the merits of making a false promise to your congregation this morning, but the Goddess of truth would not take kindly to you manipulating the hearts and minds of your people. Especially not in the year 606. This is not the city of wisdom. You could tell almost anything to your congregation, and would have your word taken at face value. You're the lord of honesty. You of ALL men are expected to say precisely what you mean. To fetter your speech with falsehoods in the halls of Mercy's church is the greatest sin you could conceive of.

These are also incredibly dark times, and you haven't entertained the notion without giving it some serious consideration. The city is no longer literally on fire, but tensions are running high. Many of your enemies may be sitting in the pews. Many lives have been lost just in the last day, and almost every other element you can conceive of may be working against you. There is a famine. A few thoughts of rotten fruit being pelted at the Father of Temperance for preaching restraint in your current condition isn't too outlandish.

So is the dreadful thought of how garish you'd look in nothing but bright yellow-gold. You set a hand to the robes in your possession, and politely ask for the garment to clean itself. All of the blood and grime on the item vanishes. It would be respectable to wear the most formal attire expected of your station for this event. Appearances are important for a man of your (considerable) stature, no matter how much you dislike acknowledging it.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4600671
>A] It wouldn't be out of the question to wear less traditional attire. Gilded black robes have served you nicely this last week. You intend to help your people feel as if they have not been abandoned, while still remaining loyal to your creed of integrity. There's no need to sensationalize an already tragic situation. Especially not when Mercy's faith is already so stressed, you both are grieving, and you mean for this sermon to emphasize the REALITY OF HUMANITY'S PLIGHT.

>B] The most flattering garment possible needs to be utilized, and nothing less. You'll go in all black, despite the connotations with the Church of Vengeance. It's what your people are used to seeing you wear. You want the delivery of this sermon to be its focus. Giving the public a better image, and using a few tricks of the eye to mask your weight is TECHNICALLY NOT A LIE. Neither is leading your congregation to believe that Mercy has appeared thanks to their prayers. (Majority vote required. Please be advised that this is in direct violation of your tenets, and Mercy may take VERY poorly to the idea.)

>C] You'll suck it up, and wear the excessive ceremonial garments that are expected of the lord of gold. It's hopelessly tacky, and is going to be brutally unflattering, but that's alright. You're going to compensate for it by being as honest with your public as you are with your image. It's NOT GOING TO BE EASY. But by hyping up Mercy's arrival of your own accord, you'll be reinforcing your station, proving to Mercy that you have faith in HER ability, AND will reward legitimate faith in the people. You want to give them hope. Not lies.

>D] Write-in. (Please feel free to ask if you have any questions about what attire may be appropriate, or for further clarification on these prompts!)
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>>4600672
A; though if you lads want a C, we'll give you a C! I do like the thought of leading our people in mass prayer, as it'll help make them feel like apart of a community, and that they aren't alone in the struggles and prayers. Possibly after Mercy is summoned, as I think it'll go nicely as an end to our sermon.
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>>4600855
It'll certainly be a lovely ending, I mean.
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>>4600855
>>4600857
(Hell yeah bud. Looks like we had a bit of a dropoff in activity tonight, timezones sure are fun kek. I'm going to leave this open til morning! Appreciate you all so much, hope you guys have a great one. I'll be back for another session soon.)
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>>4600672
>A] It wouldn't be out of the question to wear less traditional attire. Gilded black robes have served you nicely this last week. You intend to help your people feel as if they have not been abandoned, while still remaining loyal to your creed of integrity. There's no need to sensationalize an already tragic situation. Especially not when Mercy's faith is already so stressed, you both are grieving, and you mean for this sermon to emphasize the REALITY OF HUMANITY'S PLIGHT.
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>>4600672

>>A] It wouldn't be out of the question to wear less traditional attire. Gilded black robes have served you nicely this last week. You intend to help your people feel as if they have not been abandoned, while still remaining loyal to your creed of integrity. There's no need to sensationalize an already tragic situation. Especially not when Mercy's faith is already so stressed, you both are grieving, and you mean for this sermon to emphasize the REALITY OF HUMANITY'S PLIGHT.

I also want the collective prayer. In such divisive times any sense of unity is going to be very important. Try to wear something that brings out the relic, perhaps something a bit more special for these trying times? Speaking of the relic, I wonder if we could use it to ally everyone with each other for a short amount of time. Nothing says unity like feeling the pain of your fellow and truly appreciating the efforts and sacrifices of your comrades. We could try this after we summon Mercy if spirits are high so more people would be onboard. Not sure what the limitation on the relic is BUT this is pretty much what we made it for all that time ago back in the abyss. Bringing the hearts of humanity together, to spark hope not in the gods or the future but in each other. Just an idea.
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>>4600672
>A] It wouldn't be out of the question to wear less traditional attire. Gilded black robes have served you nicely this last week. You intend to help your people feel as if they have not been abandoned, while still remaining loyal to your creed of integrity. There's no need to sensationalize an already tragic situation. Especially not when Mercy's faith is already so stressed, you both are grieving, and you mean for this sermon to emphasize the REALITY OF HUMANITY'S PLIGHT.
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>>4600672
I think it we should start out with A and switch to C once Mercy has arrived. Start with humanity's plight then move on to the hope for the future.
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>>4600855
>>4600857
>>4601103
>>4601108
>>4601192
>>4601198
(Good morning everyone! Don't see why we can't incorporate all of this! Vote is locked here. Writing now.)
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>>4601209
https://youtu.be/2XtvRB1mMWo

You're certain that simply thinking of lying isn't a sin— but you're an incredibly pious man, and feel a lot better for murmuring a request for forgiveness.

The tattered, slashed, and mistreated robes are shrugged on. One hand is placed to your chest. "Lend me an appearance befitting of the leader of the Church of Mercy. In these divisive, and most trying times, please keep it dignified. Make it a bit more special than gilded black. Something to bring out my Relic."

The cut on the garment rapidly changes. The length elongates almost to the floor, to accommodate the prestige of your station. The sleeves take on a substantially more refined shape and style, along with several layers underneath. All of the cloth lends significance to your motions. Along with the additional layers over your frame, a higher, v-neck collar takes form. It's draped with two cloaks that draw the eye down, and emphasize your height rather than your bulk. You grin, and turn slightly to see the fabric properly. It's spectacular.

All of the color on you slowly lightens. You're reminded of a diminishing solar flare. Around the collar, sleeves, and hem are deep golds that border on black. The bright promise ring on your left hand is a pop of color next to it. Though you're still holding your Relic, you can tell that the chain and locket will stand out clearly against the darker, and devastatingly tasteful hues. The rest of the item takes on a traditional gold, in gently fading shades. The center of the garment is slightly brighter than the rest, that would compliment the dawn itself.

It's all infinitely too refined for anything but a public sermon, the cloaks are fun, the length of your sleeves aren't obstructive, the layers totally conceal that your undershirt and pants don't fit, you probably look twenty pounds lighter, and it's absolutely perfect.

A few precious seconds are spent trying to tame the gold through your hair. There's no question in your mind that you don't want to sensationalize this sermon. You'll start with humanity's plight.

Grief is still sticking sickly into your heart and mind. In less than a week, you've buried thirty people. Twenty-eight of them were your own clergy. Many people who you'll be seeing today will surely have lost their own friends and family. You want them to know that they are not alone in their struggles or prayers. A collective prayer would be incredibly nice. It could be led by you, to tie into bringing Mercy before your gathering. The Goddess' faith in humanity may have faltered, but you both know that there is hope for the future. Everyone present will hopefully feel the same way.

(1/2)
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>>4601244
This isn't about the Gods, at the end of the day. The people are losing faith in themselves. They don't think that the things they care for will ever reach them. Not now, and certainly not in the future. They're turning to Inertia out of desperation for belonging.

You clutch your Relic all the tighter. You've been carrying it nonstop for almost two days now. It's been granting you complete relief from your pain, as in just the last day you've:
-Barely slept
-Crossed the entirety of Eadric twice (which is no small feat for a man your size)
-Performed surgery on the damn floor
-Went bouldering all through the night
-Incurred countless cuts and lacerations while climbing
-Fought hard enough to help your allies take down several dozen enemies without invoking in any given battle
-Got shot in your leg
-Plenty more that is temporarily escaping you due to aforementioned sleep deprivation

Normally your memory is immaculate, but the severity of your sleep deprivation is interfering with your cognition. There's a couple of things you've been forgetting, in all honesty.

Mercy explicitly asked you to summon Her just before the sermon. You came up here to do so in a more private capacity. The Goddess of Compassion would absolutely understand if you deviated from your original plan a little, given the severity of recent events. But it's worth thinking about.

You also practically forgot that you were still holding onto your Relic. If you want to use it to unite the hearts of your people— or even make the suggestion to the congregation— you need to take it out of your hand. You're a masochist, and should probably test the absence of pain (and what will no doubt be a sharp contrast to it) in private.

There's less than an hour left until dawn, and it will take half an hour just to get back to the Church of Mercy. However! You are one of the most efficient workers to have ever lived. The church has been seen to, you got cleaned up, and you've done your damn job. It's just a matter of getting things off the ground. People may already be arriving for the service. You shouldn't linger.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4601251
>A] The pain relief you've been granted has been keeping you sane and able to work. You're getting incredibly dependent on your Relic as a result. This is a problem.
>1] Just test taking it out of your hand, and see how bad things are. Immediately resume holding it if things are too grim.
>2] You're legitimately frightened that you're going to lose track of the Time or compromise your ability to think if you release your hold on the Relic. Keep it in hand. You'll play the sermon by ear, and see if people are even receptive to the idea of using the item before releasing it from your grasp.
>3] Take off the Relic, and wear it around your neck like usual. You'll steel yourself first, and do everything in your power to keep your composure. (Write-ins are welcome.)

>B] Summoning Mercy is not something you should do lightly. Especially not with the condition you're in. Your soul literally hurts.
>1] Stick to your current plan. It's going to be MUCH HARDER to keep the crowd under control by yourself, but you really like the agenda you've come up with, and Mercy should understand.
>2] Summon Mercy right now. She can do whatever it was that She wanted to with the church itself before making an appearance. It won't be nearly as dramatic, but you are willing to accommodate Her former request.

>C] Write-in (any additional comments, plans, information, or whatever else you might want to do in this rare moment of respite.)
>>
>>4601252
(Had some serious difficulty posting, don't know why the instructions got cut off.)

>Please choose one option from A, AND one option from B.
>>
>>4601252
A1
B1
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>>4601252

>A] The pain relief you've been granted has been keeping you sane and able to work. You're getting incredibly dependent on your Relic as a result. This is a problem.
>>1] Just test taking it out of your hand, and see how bad things are. Immediately resume holding it if things are too grim.

>B] Summoning Mercy is not something you should do lightly. Especially not with the condition you're in. Your soul literally hurts.
>1] Stick to your current plan. It's going to be MUCH HARDER to keep the crowd under control by yourself, but you really like the agenda you've come up with, and Mercy should understand.
>>
>>4601255
>>4601266
(Locking the unanimous vote for A1 and B1! Writing now.)
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>>4601429
Mercy should understand how hard you're trying to set things right. Delaying her appearance until later in the sermon is not only more reasonable. This should aid both of you in spreading the good word, and with instilling hope. The locket in hand was Her gift to you, too. This is your Relic. It was your hope when you first reshaped it that you could bring the hearts of humanity together.

You still hope that you can do so now. Your Relic thankfully has only a few limitations. The most cumbersome is that it can only perform one function at a Time.

Deep, red indentations are in the palm of your hand from clutching onto the item for hours on end, through combat, extreme exertion, and even surgery. There's no denying your dependency on the Gods to function, but the fact that you've come to rely on your Relic just to work unfettered is alarming beyond belief. You have to at least try to see if you're capable of getting by without it.

No one is nearby. The door is closed. The makeshift catch-and-release system you devised with its chain is unwound. You gently set your Relic down on the small table beside the wash bin, and preemptively grab a washcloth to bite into. The intent is to immediately resume holding it if things are too grim, so you keep your palm poised directly over the locket (just to be safe).

You release your Relic.

A battering ram might as well hit every joint in your body. Your breath catches, and with it is increased awareness of just how tight your chest feels. Explosive pain is all throughout your legs and shield arm, and pleasure all wrapped up into it. An ache in your core and throughout every limb has you want to pass out on the spot. There's no fewer than three dozen cuts on your arms, hands, and torso. Despite each one being cleaned and dressed, it's their pleasant stinging that tips you over the edge.

Rather than scream, or have any sort of sane reaction, you stand for a long minute with your nails digging into the wood underhand. Relishing it. Leaning into it. The washcloth is gently set aside. It feels like you must have a fever. The degree of exhaustion on you from lack of sleep has a sharp sting in your dry eyes, pressure in your skull, and a longing to rest that should have been heeded over one week ago. It's a miracle that you're alive.

The way you're breathing is absolutely indecent. The desire to moan or draw out more is almost irresistible. Every wound is begging for you to draw out more sensation from it.

Purely out of terror of wasting a single further second, your Relic is taken back into your hold. The pain stops instantly.

You gasp, and breathe hard for several moments. Your pupils remain dilated. The sweat on your brow, and the erratic way you've been fighting not to scream lingers with an intense need to get back to the pain.

(1/2)
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>>4601482
Frustration has you pull clean, cold water into a separate wash basin. Splashing your face with it barely helps. It's also sharply intense, and nearly as refreshing as hurting for several beautiful moments. It's taking you way longer to calm down that usual. You're certain that the lack of sleep, and the spiritual pain that your Relic can't relieve is mostly to blame.

There's no way you can risk being seen like this in front of your congregation. There would be no end to it.

>A] But you're going to try anyways. Use the remaining few minutes at your disposal to try take off your Relic, and keep it together. You're certain that you have the resilience to control your response to this on your own. (A VERY HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. A major success may make it easier for you to manage your response to pain in the future! Be advised that a catastrophic failure may run the risk of you rushing to your sermon, or worse. As always, write-ins may provide additional bonuses.)

>B] Don't risk anything on a day as important as today. Keep your Relic in hand, discard the notion of using it during the sermon, and get going. You have just a little over half an hour left.

>C] Write-in (anything additional you would like to add is welcome.)
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>>4601484
>B] Don't risk anything on a day as important as today. Keep your Relic in hand, discard the notion of using it during the sermon, and get going. You have just a little over half an hour left.
>>
>>4601484

>>B] Don't risk anything on a day as important as today. Keep your Relic in hand, discard the notion of using it during the sermon, and get going. You have just a little over half an hour left.

It was worth a try, maybe save it for another sermon.
>>
>>4601484
>B] Don't risk anything on a day as important as today. Keep your Relic in hand, discard the notion of using it during the sermon, and get going. You have just a little over half an hour left.

If we could safely practice existing
with the pain before the sermon and hold the relic during the sermon I'd go for it.
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>>4601484
Very intrigued by A, but this sermon is too important not to have B. I'd love to test our resilience, but I also don't wish to give our congregation a heart attack when we do it either.
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>>4601509
(That's absolutely an option.)
>>4601489
>>4601500
>>4601520
(With the insurance that you'll stop the effort before running out of time (it will give a small malus in addition to your other bonuses and maluses), would you guys want to utilize these few minutes to test your limits with your Relic? Or just go straight to the church? I'll assume anyone who doesn't reply of course is sticking purely to B as written, but wanted to stress the potential for the opportunity.)
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>>4601528
(Hadn't initially considered that you guys would want to do this now just to try and build on the skill, seems obvious in hindsight lol. But yeah I'll leave this open for another thirty (30) minutes just to be safe.)
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>>4601528

Can't risk any malus, this too important. Just go straight to the sermon.
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>>4601528
If we could have done it with no malus, sure. But I don't want us going into this with any more negatives. So just B.
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>>4601528
The temptation is strong, I will admit. If the other anons are on board, I would be willing to. If not, I do understand fully, as this sermon is very important not just for us, but for our people as well. I can understand restraint being exercised here. We can always try it after our sermon, and before we rest.
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>>4601489
>>4601500
>>4601509
>>4601520
>>4601539
>>4601560
>>4601572
(Appreciate your patience guys! Vote is locked here. Writing now!)
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>>4601636
It was worth a try. You'll save the event for another sermon. This event is infinitely too important for you to risk adding ANY extra difficulties. Testing your limits can maybe come later today. You have placed to be, and not a second to waste. The satchel, sword, and shield are safely left in the grand hall. There's no need for any of it where you're going.

Back downstairs.
Through the keep's main hall. (No one is in sight, but you hear footsteps down the corridor.)
Into a crowded hallway! There's a whopping three women from your castle's residence.

One particularly polite, fairly young, and battle-hardened tender realizes you're headed their way first. "Good morning, Father Anscham!" She elbows the woman next to her.

Her company all whip their heads around towards you. Everyone's got deep bags under their eyes, but look delighted to see you. A choir of, "good morning, Father Anscham!" follows from the other two.

"Good morning." You don't repress your grin. The brightest of the bunch is still a few minutes too early for her greeting. "Odd to see anyone heading this way, at this hour."

They're all wearing the nicest clothes they possess, have tidied up, and aren't equipped for work in the slightest. Every last one of the women seems particularly amused by your comment. The eldest of the group has the start of gray in her done-up hair, which she motions to smooth back as you all walk. "It's not every day that there's an event to attend. I hope we haven't kept you."

A slight nod of your head, and you politely excuse yourself.

There's chattering at your back, which you pray can only be good things. Silence carries through the rest of the vacant keep until you get to the exit to the building. Brother Garrick is still at his post.

The colossal priest of Flesh calls out in his husky voice as you stride towards the gate. "Morning, Father Anscham!"

"Good morning, Brother Garrick. You won't be attending....?"

You're only teasing, but he seems bothered. "Another Time. Best of luck."

The man held off a siege for you almost on his own less than two days past. It's understandable that he wouldn't want to leave the post for anything. "I'm certain that Flesh would look kindly on your commitment to the keep's protection. You know Mercy and I certainly do. Please look after yourself."

A sniff. Hopefully he isn't coming down with a cold. "Yeah."

As you head for the door, a call is made after you.

"Thanks for getting Oz out of there."

The two of them had to have talked when Brother Osmund came to help at the gate. You saved his fellow priest of action from overwhelming odds in a prison break. "I wish I could have helped sooner."

"You did plenty. Go on!" Brother Garrick motions to shoo you away, which you eagerly oblige.

Past many burnt out candles, and under countless panes of high stained glass, you catch the last of the night. Dawn should be breaking any moment.

(1/2)
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>>4601742
After hurrying down many long, stone halls, there are voices coming from the Church of Mercy. It's music to your ears. In addition to what must be one hundred people quietly chattering, three of your priestesses' nearly identical voices carry across the air. The triplets in your clergy— Agnes, Susan, and Tilda Willoughby— have gone to absurd lengths over the course of their career to be a safe, sane, and neutral party in your employ. Their loyalty is almost without compare, yet they get no end of trouble from your fellow clergy for using a lighter hand in war and chaos. It is precisely thanks to their efforts that you have three capable, respectable sets of hands to help today. They're directing people towards seats, and reassuring everyone that the service will begin shortly. Maintaining order.

Sister Tilda's bright, and slightly less professional demeanor is further reassurance. She's quietly talking to a few people nearest to the front door. Helping to remind everyone present that the Church of Vengeance cannot set foot within your church's high halls. That there's no danger, so long as everyone keeps their hands to themselves and remains civil. That everyone present is under the care of the Mother and Father of protection. That this is the city of defense. That their service will be honored, and respected.

They're all a blessing, and you want to do your clergy proud.

There's only a few minutes left to spare.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4601744
>A] For your priestesses to be so calm and orderly, Adwin must have finished cleaning up the church before they arrived. You'll do their diligence justice, and make an equally professional entrance. Come in through a side wing, and get right up to the altar. You won't wait to address everyone. Don't give any hecklers the opportunity to rile up the crowd. Begin preaching right away. THIS is the time for it!
>1] You're keeping this beyond by-the-book. Give the most impassioned speech you can muster. You're going to stun these people into silence.
>2] Tie in your appearance to the start of the speech, to at least deal with any ruffians who might try to yell over you or disrupt the proceedings otherwise.

>B] Come in through the main entrance. Spend a minute sizing up the congregation as you walk up to the altar. The Church of Mercy is massive, and bright enough at dawn that you may have some difficulty seeing to the back of the crowd. It might be best to give everyone a minute to process just how extreme the change in your appearance is, too.

>C] Enter through a side wing, but wait a moment to get behind the altar. Make an informal address to everyone present before you begin.
>1] Do not even acknowledge how you look. Keep the subject off of you personally, and make this about the audience.
>2] You're sick and tired of having to deal with it, but tie in the change in your image with how many sacrifices have been made to get to where you are today. It should be as fine an opener as any.

>D] Write-in. (While there aren't too many other ways you can enter, feel free to write in as much or as little you specifically want to say or do upon entering the building. You'll have a few minutes before dawn. Your QM will keep things tasteful and respectable in any event.)
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>>4601746

>B] Come in through the main entrance. Spend a minute sizing up the congregation as you walk up to the altar. The Church of Mercy is massive, and bright enough at dawn that you may have some difficulty seeing to the back of the crowd. It might be best to give everyone a minute to process just how extreme the change in your appearance is, too.

It will also give the impression that we are walking our from among their own ranks, this is pretty hype.
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>>4601773
+1, we'll have to thank the Sisters and Adwin after this for helping us out.
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>>4601746
>B] Come in through the main entrance. Spend a minute sizing up the congregation as you walk up to the altar. The Church of Mercy is massive, and bright enough at dawn that you may have some difficulty seeing to the back of the crowd. It might be best to give everyone a minute to process just how extreme the change in your appearance is, too.
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>>4601746
>B] Come in through the main entrance. Spend a minute sizing up the congregation as you walk up to the altar. The Church of Mercy is massive, and bright enough at dawn that you may have some difficulty seeing to the back of the crowd. It might be best to give everyone a minute to process just how extreme the change in your appearance is, too.
>>
>>4601773
>>4601780
>>4601925
>>4601958
(Alright! Unanimous vote for B is locked! Writing now.)
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>>4601976
https://youtu.be/rBS-KTbgT8Q

The gilded stone and majestic double doors at the front of the Church of Mercy are calling to you. The beat of your heart easily outpaces your rapid steps as you stride over to the entrance, and swing both doors wide open.

Several hundred people fill every single seat of the packed pews, and simultaneously turn at the creak in the entrance.

As you move to close the doors behind you, the chatter redoubles nearest to the gilded altar. High peaks of gilded, physical worship towards Mercy reach for the sun in all of their beauty.

There's a few daring individuals on the second floor, leaning over the metal railings below gradually brightening stained glass. The vaulted ceilings echo with their commotion.

The center aisle has been cleared. A few people are standing in side wings, admiring the aureate paintings and statues that adorn the halls of your holiest institution. At the noise, they also file in. Leaning around high pillars, the number of eyes in the massive chamber are even greater than what you first expected.

From floor-to-ceiling, the entire building is practically sparkling in the last of the evening's light. The church of the sun will be practically blinding in a matter of moments, but even in the low light it makes your heart sing. You've never seen a turnout this enormous.

Sister Tilda rushes over, with her daisy-yellow skirts all aflutter. A nervous smile beams up at you from the fit young priestess. "Father Anscham!" Her gaze flits to the two other Sisters much further down the church for help. She whips her head back towards you and mouths, 'you look great!'

The eldest of them, Sister Agnes, seizes the moment. "It was my idea to leave the doors closed, Father Anscham! Please excuse the impropriety!"

You shake your head at her, and look for something to prop the entrance open with. Tilda helps you locate two substantial wedges of stone nearby, and that's that. You head down the aisle from the very rear of the congregation, and slowly assume a more mellow expression.

Countless faces in the crowd are familiar to you. The seats closest to the door have at least ten covert priests of the Church of Vengeance sitting around in plainclothes. James is among them, in the most normal attire you've seen the man in in all your life. No codpiece. No ridiculous hat. The middle aged minstrel has his hands folded in a mockery of prayer, and winks at you just as you realize you're staring at his face.

Further down the way are many of the men and women you've saved in days past. Some survivors of the riots and flame look like they haven't done so much as sat down since yesterday morning's fights in the street. Mixed in with them are the youngest of the impromptu guards you met up with last night, who retook the high walls of your city's outskirts.

(1/2)
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>>4602052
There's even more faces among them who are complete strangers. Plenty of them are confused. Several look outright offended. There's hushed whispers from neighbor to neighbor, all the way up to the front of the aisle. Everyone stays shockingly civil. There's no outbursts. Either they've been threatened, or the sheer amount of confidence you're carrying yourself with is quieting any protests or debasement.

A smirk crosses your features at the end of the lengthy procession. The elderly man who's confession you heard last night is sitting opposite Adwin. They're both front-and-center, just on opposing sides of the aisle. Your boy has completely cleaned himself up, but made the shroud over his face significantly more opaque. There's no nod towards you. He knows how important this is to you, and likely doesn't want to risk giving anyone fuel for further gossip. The artist must be oblivious to the sinner at his side, though.

The veteran with half of his face missing confessed last night to inviting heathens and cultists into his home. The traitor said he would be here today, after accepting your invitation to the sermon— and by all the Gods, did he keep his word. The only people sitting even remotely closer are a few elderly women, and several veterans who must also have impaired hearing.

A handful of young children can be seen with their parents in the balconies above. They, along with the entire rest of the congregation falls silent as you reach the front of the altar.

It is the dawn of war, and Eadric's defender has made himself known.

Your people will remember that the leader of the Church of Mercy has returned with the rising sun.

>A] Step up to the altar. Invite everyone to return a traditional greeting with something conventional. "Blessed be the day." Then launch into your sermon. (You're not going to sensationalize anything, but you really want to make this memorable.)

>B] Remain in front of the altar. Nerves are not going to get the best of you. You can address the public, and keep your cool. "Good morning." (Feel free to specify if you want to make the address to "everyone," "my children," etc.) Then open with some discourse about why you're all here today.

>C] Write-in. (Feel free to add virtually any details you want, or just the gist of what you'd like to convey. Your QM is happy to take direction such as "touch on the war effort without being too grimdark," "open with something lighter to try and set everyone's nerves at ease," "don't sound pompous," etc.)
>>
>>4602054
A; something lighter, to ease the nerves. We can touch onto the war effort and Inertia, without be being too grimdark. Talk of the struggles we face, not just individually, but as a city, and a nation. We can interweave Mercy into the sermon as it goes on.
>>
>>4602088
+1
>>
>>4602088
+1 but I would like us to move in front of the altar at some point so we can explain our appearance. It would also put us in a good position to invoke Mercy on top of the altar and gently help her down, with golden stairs if necessary.
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>>4602108
I like that kind of imagery, just make sure we move from behind the alter to in front of it with the confidence befitting of our station.
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>>4602088
>>4602096
>>4602108
>>4602117
(This is really nice guys. Super super nice. This one will probably take me a good while to write up to my standards. For obvious reasons, when I say the vote is locked I seriously cannot incorporate additional contributions into the post after this point! Writing now.)
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>>4602179
https://youtu.be/TOxJpPiFe0k

The morning light hits every window in the Church of Mercy as you step up to the altar. Color from thousands of pieces of painted glass reflects onto weary faces. The platform you move to stand on puts you heads and shoulders above every sitting citizen before you. Most people know you as soft-spoken, and gentle even at the worst of times.

The last of your nerves were left at the door. With your hands trailing over the gilded altar for only a moment, you keep your head held high before your audience. All the melody and resonance in your voice projects with the heart of a preacher, as you call out to the first congregation of your return. "Blessed be the day!"

Several hundred souls have their eyes to the bright gold of your frame. The objects of worship at your back. The holy Relic around your neck. All the rays of the sun peeling in through high windows from all around.

Several hundred voices reply, "blessed be the light."

The entire building resonates with each blessed word for many long moments after. You could sing. It's one of the loveliest things you've ever heard.

Only after the last of their voices have fallen do you speak once more. A sincere smile paints your features. You broadly gesture towards a stunning beam of sunshine that's pouring down into the aisle just in front of where you stand. "I was beginning to think morning would never come!"

A few nervous laughs agree somewhere in the back. Priests of Vengeance. Through many more voices in the center of the gathering. Men and women who lost families, fought, and nearly died to protect your city just hours past.

"She's even more stunning than I recall. What a relief. Even our days have felt dark as of late."

You pause, just to give everyone a moment to reflect.

No interruptions.

The pitch and tone of your voice softens considerably, while projecting all the way to the back of the building. "Which is why I have never been more grateful as I am today. Not only have we all risen to greet the dawn! Not only have we been blessed by the light of Mercy! But we all are here to witness this morning together."

Your smile falls. "The efforts of every last man, woman, and child here today is why we have been able to greet the dawn. I cannot hope to know all of your stories in one thousand ages— because not a SOUL here can EVER claim to know another as we know ourselves! Those sitting to your left and to your right may be a sister, a neighbor, or a friend. We cannot hope to understand the story of their lives in the same way that THEY know it! But."

Your eyes fall straight to the man who confessed to you this morning— who gives you a grim stare— before you sweep your view down the entire aisle. There must be two hundred people lined end-to-end in their seats. Most are looking to you with serious self-pity in their eyes.

(1/6)
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>>4602448
You've never sounded more convicted in all your life. "We still try. Every last one of us has known the tragedy of mankind. From the walls that have been built and REBUILT by our family's hands, to the toil of our hands in EVERY field, to the burdens that our mothers bear, AND TO EVERY LAST SOUL who has STOOD UP to FIGHT for what they believe in: you should be commended."

It's enough to make you cry, but you keep your voice as steady as your message. "The challenges we all face may be different. But we are all enduring. We are all able to look to our neighbors, to our loved ones, and to our own reflections to KNOW with ALL our hearts of the HUMAN CONDITION."

Another long moment passes in silence.

You move to get in front of the altar. "This is the city of empathy! Is it not?!"

A few particularly impassioned cries of, "YEAH!" from several people in the center and front aisles.

You get in front of the altar, and shout back at them, "I am still STUNNED that no one has thrown any rotten fruit at me! With the state of affairs?! Have you SEEN how ill-fitting my appearance is?!"

There's some serious laughter throughout the building. You holler to the loudest of them. "They have! It's a miracle! Mercy be praised!"

You wait a good minute or two for most of the laughter to die down.

Your smile persists. "Truly. Thank you all for behaving so civilly. This is precisely what I am speaking of. I can't begin to imagine how upset many of you must be with me, with our nation, and even with each other. And rightfully so."

Complete silence takes over the building, while you grimace. "As the lord of compassion— I wish to practice what I preach. I did not preach at you all just to make an excuse for my weight. You all know that this is a demonstration, but you did not come here knowing what, or why, or how I would go about sharing my tenets."

A gesture to yourself. "This is a demonstration of self-acceptance. Not denial, and never surrender."

Some confused glances go your way. Those who get it are at least slightly amused. You've got their interest, and gladly explain. "MY personal demons are ones I can not only confront! I don't have much choice but to share them all with you—" Some more agreeable laughter. You pause a moment, scowling, and continue. "—so you all can imagine that I am aware of what I face. I can accept the choices, mistakes, and every other difficult challenge that comes my way! I can demonstrate empathy towards myself, even if there is no guarantee that others may do the same in my place!"

The laughter completely stops. It gets them thinking significantly harder.

(2/6)
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>>4602450
You make another broad gesture towards everyone present. There's instantly uncomfortable shifting from the crowd, while you explain further. "The choices you have made, the mistakes you have lived with— whether you've wanted to, or not— and every other challenge you have OVERCOME to join us all here TODAY is PROOF that you— yes, you! All of you! That EVERY single soul gathered here today is JUST as capable of compassion! I do not ask that you love whoever is sitting beside you. I don't even ask that you love yourself."

You bring your hands together, and firmly call out to the congregation. "That's far and away the most difficult thing I could ask any of you for. Don't worry. We are all simply gathered here today in the hope of hearing something worthwhile. Possibly even just to see the Church of Mercy at dawn. And I can't blame you."

You can't help yourself, and gesture to another stunning window beside one of the high, vaulted arches. "She's beautiful. I do not need to remind you all that the doors of my home are to remain open. But no, I do not speak of the building. I speak of empathy. I speak of light. I speak of compassion, and the emotion that resides in us all."

Another long pause. This is too important.

"If you all please, I would like to propose something incredibly unusual."

There's some excited murmuring through the crowd.

With a smirk, you promise, "She will exceed your expectations."

The chatter stops.

You bow your head, and clasp your hands. "I'll ask Her to join us once we've finished."

The outburst of excitement from every pew threatens to become an uproar within a single second.

You lift your head, and call out clearly. "Let us pray! Not for the Goddess. Not for our church. Not for the theocracy, and not for the war!"

The crowd quiets down.

"Let us pray for our souls. For the hearts of humankind. Let us pray to one day feel as if we have a sense of belonging— and to know beyond any doubt that we are not alone. Not so long as we live. Let us begin. Merciful Goddess..."

The crowd follows you in a formal prayer, repeating after every pause in your speech. "Merciful Goddess." There's a few people obviously mumbling, simply mouthing the words, or who can't follow along. The simple fact that almost all of them are trying to make the effort is enormously encouraging.

(3/6)
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>>4602451
"...we ask that you listen. Listen to the struggles that we face as a city, and as a nation. Listen to the thanks we give to our family and friends. Listen to those of us who have had no one to turn to, but have spoken out today nonetheless. Listen to your people. Listen to our efforts. Listen to our sacrifices. WE are listening! We hear the spark in our fellow man. We hear the fighting in our streets. We hear our family and friends. We hear those who have had no one to turn to, and who have spoken out today! We are tired of division. There is no place for darkness in the city of Mercy. We pray to hear of hope from. Each. Other."

"...from each other."

It takes everything you have to keep it together, but you firmly close the prayer. "The Gods are Merciful."

Every last soul in the building that you can see gladly repeats it. "The Gods are Merciful."

Lifting your head, and unclasping your hands, you call out once more to the church. "I would like to ask that you all remain in your seats, and respectfully keep your voices down."

Nervous energy stirs through the crowd like a live wire. There's plenty of excited chatter despite your request, which is amplified both by the building's natural acoustics, and the sheer volume of people.

You stand, and patiently wait, and make it clear that you aren't moving a muscle until everyone quiets down.

They eventually do.

It's going to hurt, you know it's going to hurt, you tense, and turn, and brace yourself against the side of the altar. Both eyes closed. Deep breath. There's no need for you to speak in order to invoke your partner, but you want to be clear. The tone of your voice rings out in an instant with divinity, light, and the impression of gold at the back of the gathering's mind. "Mercy. We are gathered here today in respect, and devotion. We wish to share in all that you represent. The Father would like to share this beautiful morning with its Mother. Would you please join us?"

You can't see, let alone think. A surge of light, and comfort, and an incredibly soft finger that's pressed just slightly up against your lips halts any noise from escaping. There's a pain within your very soul that should kill you where you stand, but YOU practice what you preach. You stand. You endure. You look to the altar, and to the form that begins to rise from its surface as if She were made of the sun itself.

(4/6)
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>>4602452
https://youtu.be/TnoyRnGmnlI

A manifestation of your Goddess makes a serious show out of suddenly brightening the day. Every ray of light in the building redoubles in heat and intensity for a split second. Simultaneously, a stunning, elegant, and shapely female form rises in liquid metal from the altar before you. Your white knuckles part from the surface in an instant. No matter how much pain you're in, you can breathe deeply, and look to the love of your life without any fear in your heart.

She takes on a more human appearance with each passing moment. A shroud of immaculate gold-thread forms into a tasteful, modest dress that is entirely befitting of the Goddess of Temperance. Her sun-kissed skin is only visible across Her gorgeous face. No grieving veils. No illusions. Her smile dances with speckles of light, which is cast from the gown now shrouding a mother's form. Honey-coated eyes, copper-flushed cheeks, and the love of your life smiles sweetly at you. There's a bob to Mercy's sunflower-yellow curls, as She lets you take Her gently by the hand.

The two of you create a gilded staircase from the altar for Her to rise onto. Her significant height almost rivals yours, though She stands far above anyone else in the room before descending from the altar. Her gown has a train, which further emphasizes each step.

She comes around towards your side, and practically hangs off of your arm. There's a peck on your cheek that puts a skip in your heart. You try not to look too mortified, as a Goddess whispers in your ear, "good morning, Richard."

You masterfully keep your composure, and give her the biggest smile you can muster. She obviously wants to introduce Herself, and you don't mind giving the sun incarnate a little spotlight.

The crowd is slack-jawed, and utterly speechless.

Grace incarnate turns towards the city of Mercy, and calls out in a melodious, otherworldly tone. "Mankind is Merciful."

A few people look like they're going to cry. Several women break down completely. Mercy politely excuses Herself from hanging off of your arm, and leads you gently by the hand to walk up to the nearest lost soul. It's an elderly woman, who's completely beside herself.

Your partner kneels down beside her, and doesn't do anything to overwhelm the woman any further. Save for calling out to everyone present in the same light, and gentle tone, "We see the hands of Mercy on each and every soul gathered here today. You all have reached out to one another in the absence of Our light. Our love. Our hope."

The plural isn't pretentious in the slightest. She's literally referring to all of mankind's compassion. Most of the audience isn't going to pick up on the fact that She's making a dig at the people's inability to aid one another, too. It's probably for the best.

(5/6)
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>>4602457
A deeply alarming thought crosses your mind in the same instant. Mercy IS the embodiment of all of mankind's emotion. Parsing the way She speaks to you has been an ongoing ordeal for the entirety of your relationship. The two of you didn't even discuss if She's ever done anything like this before, let alone what you both might say. The common man is going to have a wildly difficult Time of making heads or tails of Mercy's speech at best.

Your partner is also visibly overwhelmed by how many people are present. She agreed to this appearance wholeheartedly, and insisted on joining you, but She may have not realized how taxing it would be to have several hundred individuals focused on Her.

>A] Politely ask Mercy to join you back at the altar, and for you both to resume the sermon together. You'll help to explain to the crowd anything particularly obtuse. She won't take offense, and would probably be delighted by the suggestion. This is a DEITY, and you are not about to let anyone try to drag Her down. Conversely, you don't want Mercy to get too carried away, as well.

>B] Let the Goddess of Compassion mingle for a few minutes. Back Her out the SECOND She seems to be getting too overwhelmed. No one's to blame for how delicate your partner is, and this would be a good opportunity to stress the merits of overextending empathy. The Gods do not need to be literally put on a pedestal, and this IS STILL the church of restraint. You could even segue into the changes you and Mercy wanted to instate in the near future.

>C] Write-in. (To say that this is a complex situation would be an understatement. Once more, please feel free to give any suggestions or guides to your QM on how to handle things. Even if it's in general terms, I'll be more than happy to work with it! E.g. additional subjects to segue into the sermon, things to watch out for in the crowd, things to watch out for in Mercy, etc.)
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>>4602464
>B] Let the Goddess of Compassion mingle for a few minutes. Back Her out the SECOND She seems to be getting too overwhelmed. No one's to blame for how delicate your partner is, and this would be a good opportunity to stress the merits of overextending empathy. The Gods do not need to be literally put on a pedestal, and this IS STILL the church of restraint. You could even segue into the changes you and Mercy wanted to instate in the near future.
>>
>>4602508
(Appreciate you man, and thank you all for the phenomenal kick off to the thread! You can expect 1-2+ updates Mondays-Thursdays. I usually manage more, but just wanted to give you all a heads up since more likely than not it will be around that number tomorrow. I'll still be around to answer any questions.)
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>>4602464
>B] Let the Goddess of Compassion mingle for a few minutes. Back Her out the SECOND She seems to be getting too overwhelmed. No one's to blame for how delicate your partner is, and this would be a good opportunity to stress the merits of overextending empathy. The Gods do not need to be literally put on a pedestal, and this IS STILL the church of restraint. You could even segue into the changes you and Mercy wanted to instate in the near future.

Have us be vigilant while doing this though. We don't actually know how vulnerable she is to getting hurt while invoked.
>>
>>4602464
B, and when she gets overwhelmed, A. Though showing Mercy overwhelmed and emotionally vulnerable will do wonders to giving the people empathy for the Goddess of Emotion, and may make them consider her plight in a more humane way. It'll certainly give them food for thought, and will hopefully allow them to be more considerate of not only themselves and their community, but their Goddess as well. There is a limit though, and I'd like to practice some restraint if she does feel too overwhelmed. Emotions are our strength, not a weakness. The same with kindness, and empathy.

>>4602546
I do support being vigilant, but I feel like I should mention this. Attacking the Goddess of Protection, in front of hundreds of worshippers and the Lord of Defense, in the heart of her Church? I know these cultists have a deathwish, but even that has it's limits.
>>
>>4602464

>>B] Let the Goddess of Compassion mingle for a few minutes. Back Her out the SECOND She seems to be getting too overwhelmed. No one's to blame for how delicate your partner is, and this would be a good opportunity to stress the merits of overextending empathy. The Gods do not need to be literally put on a pedestal, and this IS STILL the church of restraint. You could even segue into the changes you and Mercy wanted to instate in the near future.

I agree with the other anons, back out if things get too much.
>>
>>4602464
>B] Let the Goddess of Compassion mingle for a few minutes. Back Her out the SECOND She seems to be getting too overwhelmed. No one's to blame for how delicate your partner is, and this would be a good opportunity to stress the merits of overextending empathy. The Gods do not need to be literally put on a pedestal, and this IS STILL the church of restraint. You could even segue into the changes you and Mercy wanted to instate in the near future.
>>
>>4602508
>>4602546
>>4602631
>>4602709
>>4602712
(Thank you very much for all of your patience guys! As I expected, my morning was packed with stuff and I'm having to run off to work. The vote will remain open until I'm back so I can make the next update to my standards. ETA 8-9 hours. Really appreciate you all, thanks again for the stellar turnout for the thread! Hope you all are having a great day too.)
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>>4603000
Same to you, man. Good luck with the stuff happening in the real world!

Also holy shit, CHECKED.
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>>4603000
Same. Certainly hope you have a nice day!
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>>4603067
>>4603124
(Thanks so much guys. It was insanely hectic but I made it!)

>>4602508
>>4602546
>>4602631
>>4602709
>>4602712
(Locking the vote here! I will be home likely in less than an hour. Locking the vote early so I have some time to brainstorm beforehand. B then A, and noting all these write ins for sure! I'll let you guys know as soon as I can get to writing.)
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>>4603346
(Home at last and ready to rock. Writing now!)
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>>4603436
https://youtu.be/Kwvzd3tkTRk

The Goddess of emotion flits all the love in Her eyes across the massive crowd. They have all eyes on Her, while Mercy gets to Her feet.

She breaks immediately down into tears, is overwhelmed before She's even started, and smiles all through it. The elderly woman at the Goddess' side slowly gathers her own composure, while a VERY human looks passes wildly around the church. Your home. Your family.

Taking both of your hands in Her own, Mercy finds the right words to say.

"I am sorry."

If a pin dropped at the front door, you'd hear it as loudly as the beat of your heart. The hold you keep on a pair of the loveliest hands in all the world is kept all the tighter.

No one dares to breathe.

It's downright painful to try and process just how much emotion is moving across Her fair features. Mercy continues, couldn't look more overjoyed, has anger all through Her sorrow, and it's clear to every last person that can see Her that She's feeling for every last one of you here.

"For every heart that has not healed. For every falsehood ever spoken. For every drop of blood that Our fingers could not wipe away. For your tears, your sorrow, your pain, and for each and every moment you have felt We were apart. I'm sorry. And I will never ask for any one of you to forgive me."

She's going to completely collapse within seconds of seeing so many people gathered. Nervous laughter, and immediate horror mixes into Her symphony of sentimentality.

You gently take Mercy against your side, and lead Her back to the altar. She legitimately can't keep it together, and leans hard against your shoulder the moment you both come to a stand still. Her shoulders are wrecked with sobs, while that lovely, horrible, incredible smile persists. It's shredding your own heart to pieces.

There's plenty of people sitting in the crowd who look as if they're entertaining the prospect of killing the Goddess where She stands. Many more are fighting with themselves to not shout, or to get to their feet and demand explanations. Plenty more are crying, or look like they can't possibly have hoped to see something like this before they've died.

It's a lot to take in. Too much to leave them without any guidance. There's flecks of gold surfacing and sticking fast to your hands, but they're not budging from supporting your partner for an instant. The sheer intensity of the invocation is still intertwined with your speech. You mean every word as you call out to your congregation. "The Mother of CLEMENCY has demonstrated a valuable lesson: that the EXTENT to which we feel is JUST as important as our emotions themselves! Mankind possesses something which the Gods THEMSELVES lack! Something that I have failed to demonstrate to you all, and that Mercy cannot purely embody DESPITE it being an integral part of Her being! Do you know what this strength is?!"

(1/2)
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>>4603532
Hundreds of fascinated, and desperately curious faces look out to you in the dawn.

"I speak of RESTRAINT!" Mercy's sobs are all mixed into a broad smile, as She beams up to you. You smile straight back at Her, before turning once more to the crowd. "Respecting our limitations, and extending our hearts towards those we love! For KINDNESS IS NOT WEAKNESS! Emotion is our STRENGTH!"

A little mist comes to your eyes, while the Goddess at your side dries Her face. She follows right through with the message. "How you spend each and every moment is more than a choice. The way that the world impacts your mind, body, and soul is what shapes your hearts. Mankind strays towards what will heal their harm."

Her smile wilts. "To do so is the greatest kindness anyone could hope for. You all have made the choices that seemed best to you. Each, and every moment. Even if your choices have brought you pain... even if you have chosen to not act. That is what has brought you all here today. Not to wait. Not to listen. Not to learn. We are all feeling for ourselves. For each other. For those we hate, those we love, and those we have yet to even know."

Most of the angriest faces in the crowd are chastised enough to stay their hands and comments.

You're watching them like a hawk, but speak to everyone who cares to listen. So far as you can tell, every last soul in the building is hanging on yours and Mercy's every word. "It is human to suffer. But we must FIGHT the temptation to WALLOW in our sorrow! Do not spurn your grief."

You're not going to cry in front of several hundred people. You choke down the wave of agony, and look to your lover. "Do not turn from joy."

She gives you a broad smile, and turns towards the crowd. "Your Father is right. There is beauty to be had in temperance."

There's enough verve in your voice to fill an entire church. "DO NOT BE MISTAKEN! We cannot out-think our emotion! We should not repress them, and we should certainly never deny them to ourselves! But we— and I speak of ALL of mankind— WE possess the incredible ability to dictate our own actions! We can harness our strength of CHARACTER! We can MAKE THE MOST of the HUMAN CONDITION!"

You lower your tone, and let its divinity carry your message. "Not just for our Goddess. Not just for our community. Not even just for ourselves."

You're choking up. It's alright.

"We can all try to be more considerate."

The deity beside you shares a pained smile, as you take a minute to compose yourself.

Looking back out towards the crowd under the morning sun, you're greeted by thoughtful faces. They're actually thinking about what you and a Goddess have said.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4603535
>A] That's a DAMN FINE NOTE TO END ON. Close out the sermon.
>1] Keep it incredibly brief. This is the year 606, and it's actually a miracle no one has spoken out of turn yet. "The Gods are Merciful."
>2] Add a little more embellishment. (Write-in anything else you want to add. General direction for your QM is totally fine!)

>B] You would like to touch a little more on some HOPE FOR MANKIND. You've done a LOT of research in the last two weeks alone, and would like to incorporate some of your findings. It's the main reason you went into your dungeons, after all.
>1] Self-acceptance is what saved Adwin from an eternity of torment. Really drive home the theme of empathy towards oneself.
>2] Giving others a chance is what led to you befriending Praxilyos. Empathy towards others has incredible merits for closing the gap between mankind (and demons too, but you'll omit that for now).
>3] The only reason you survived your encounter with the demon of agony was because of Harvey's wisdom. Preach a little more about the importance of knowing when to NOT get caught up in emotion.
>4] Aldreda's plight brought out the best in your unruliest friend, helped bridge Harriet's and Sullivan's distance, got Walter some respect from the Father of Knowledge, and has challenged almost everything you knew about demons of Spirit. She's a testament to what a difference one person can make on a community. Share the lessons you've learned from the brief time you two shared together.

>C] Closing out the sermon by touching on the differences between mankind, Gods, and demons would not only highlight the most major revelation you made from your work beneath the Church of Mercy. It can serve as a cautionary tale to any enemies in the audience, humble those who are struggling to keep to themselves, and grant hope to the pious. You can tie in Mercy's behavior, your overall message, and what you all are fighting so hard for. It might not fit tonally, but THESE ARE DARK TIMES. You're willing to risk spoiling the mood and upsetting the more gentle souls in the crowd.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4603538
A1; we'll save the rest for other sermons. They need time to process and think about what we've said already, and I'd rather not confuse them now.

When should we commit our next sermon, lads? And what shall it be about?
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>>4603566
(You're a gift anon. Seriously appreciate the enthusiasm and thoughts.

Going to hit the hay early tonight and should be back by morning. Vote is open til then!)
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>>4603654
Thank you, and I could same the same for yourself. Hope you have a restful night!
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>>4603538
>D] Write-in.
QnA session?
An open dialog always helps people work out their doubts and mixed emotions.
Just have people line up and ask questions, fucking convention style.
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>>4603538
>>4603728

I fucking love this. Let Mercy sign their memorabilia too :^).
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>>4603728
Several hundred people, all trying to talk to a Goddess not known for her communication prowess?

*puts on Mercyglasses*

Let's do this! We faced worst odds before!
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>>4603662
Thank you very much!

>>4603728
>>4603731
>>4603754
>just have people line up
>and ask questions
This is the year 606, and there are exactly five people in this building capable of openly corralling several hundred individuals. You know there's a handful of covert priests of Vengeance at the very back, and Adwin up front. The majority of the crowd are strangers.
Are you all sure you want to do this?
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>>4604033

Have them raise their hand tho, one at a time. Easier logistics. Make it like a classroom, the class of Mercy.
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>>4603566
>>4603728
>>4603731
>>4603754
>>4604054
(Alright bois. You have faced worse odds before!

As always, dice are being used to represent the chance of something happening that may be out of your hands. Given the scope of what you're attempting, we're doing something a little different.)

>WHAT COULD GO WRONG?
>Roll 1d500. AVERAGE of 3 will be used.

>-80 OPEN DIALOGUE (There are hundreds of uneducated peasants gathered in this building who are going to want to speak to their Goddess. Under normal circumstances, this would be a disaster.)
>-55 SOUL ACHE (Now is an INCREDIBLY poor time for something to go awry.)
>-25 GODDESS OF EMOTION (Mercy is REALLY taken aback but the audience. There's probably a good reason why.)
>-24 SLEEP DEPRIVATION (Spotting a problem in your current state would practically be a miracle.)
>-20 INERTIA (They're everywhere.)
>-20 THE SOULS OF MANKIND... (...belong to demons. This large of a gathering is always a SERIOUS risk.)

>+100 MOTHER OF RESTRAINT (Under normal circumstances, your partner would have no issue handling a situation like this. That said, She's a little overwhelmed by the sheer size of the crowd.)
>+40 FAITH OF A GODDESS (This modifier is DOUBLED while in the halls of your church.)
>+30 INSPIRING LEADER (The idea of someone challenging your authority right now is almost unthinkable.)
>+25 SISTERS OF SECURITY (The Willoughby Sisters are on standby. Whether or not they can invoke right now isn't certain, but you know they're here to help.)
>+25 EYES OF VENGEANCE (The allies on your side will be quick to spot anyone who tries to cause trouble.)
>+25 BLASPHEMOUS CONGREGATION (You delegated security to the most ingenious minds in the nation.)
>+25 LORD OF DEFENSE (No one is getting hurt here if you have ANYTHING to say about it.)
>+25 FATHER OF COMPASSION (You'll be damned if anyone is pushing Mercy past Her limits, or doing a thing to cause anyone else in your church any trouble.)
>+10 EASIER LOGISTICS (There are no classrooms in Corcaea in the year 606, but you can hope everyone will understand and respect your request for civility!)

(The total for all modifiers is +81.)
>>
Rolled 488 (1d500)

>>4604112

MAY WE GAIN THE CHARISMA OF AN ARCHDEMON.
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>>4604117
(Holy shit n i c e)
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>>4604119

BIG BUCKS NO WHAMMIES.
>>
Rolled 246 (1d500)

>>4604112
POWAAAAA
>>
Rolled 129 (1d500)

>>4604112
I'll close up the dice rolls then.
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>>4604117
>>4604125
>>4604181
(Absolutely beautiful. With the modifier, averaged, and rounded up to the nearest decimal that is a 369 out of 500! Not bad at all. Vote is locked! I am utterly swamped once again despite today allegedly meant to be more chill. Going to plug away at this update nevertheless! Writing now.)
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>>4604210
(Been nonstop today. Despite by best efforts I haven't been able to write. Going to have to update when I'm back home. I'll try to make up for it with some more art tonight. ETA 3-4 hours on the post. Thanks for your patience everyone!)
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>>4604422
(FINALLY HOME! Writing now.)
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>>4604756
It's a damn fine note to end on. "The Gods are Merciful."

The light in your eyes lifts further at every reluctant, ecstatic, or reverent face. It must be over half of the church that echoes the conclusion to your sermon. "The Gods are Merciful."

There's a song in your heart, as you call out to each and every soul in the building. "Please remain seated!"

They do.

You love this. Every last soul. Every brick on every surface. From the vaulted ceilings, to the stunning stained glass reflecting onto the floor. There's no dust to be seen, despite the heat and beams of sunshine coming in from the day. You lean towards your partner, and say in the softest tone you can muster, "an open dialogue always helps— always helps people to work out their doubts. Their mixed emotions."

Terror shines through a smile just as excited as your own. "This would mean the world to you, would it not?"

"We can do this." You take her firmly by both hands. "We've faced worse odds before!"

The Mother of Feeling is not known for Her communication prowess— and neither are you. Both of you pause.

Everyone needs some time just to process everything that's been said. Mercy can't afford that luxury, and neither can you. Still, every passing second feels like it's taxing you more than the last. There's a strong urge to clutch at your chest, your stomach, or to be held by the lover at your side. It's almost as if the ache in your soul is reminding you of the desire for love. For light. Forcing yourself to stand even a foot or two away from your Goddess is only making the pressure worse from within. It's not suffocating, though. The pain is perfect.

Sweeping Mercy into your arms, She makes a sound of delight so precious that you could die on the spot. A force of personality that could rival an archdemon's carries from your voice into the sunlight on the air. "Thank you for your patience! Now: Let's make Our message clear!"

This should be fun. A mischievous tone is assumed, while exchanging sweet glances with the woman in your arms. She couldn't be happier to have your attention, while you call out to the congregation. "Listen closely, and repeat after me!"

The church falls silent. They're amused. Mercy smirks at you, and knows exactly what you're up to. You give her a look that says 'please be patient, I know this is silly, but thank you for entertaining me.'

(1/3)
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>>4604986
A light-hearted invitation for mimicry carries up to the second floor, and all the way to opposite end of the aisle. "This is the Church of Mercy!"

"This is the Church of Mercy," they repeat, with no amusement.

"The lord of defense can protect me!"

"The lord of defense can protect me." A little reassurance. Mild alarm from some. Serious gratitude from many others.

"But only if I respect his request..."

Many confused and worried looks pass through the church. A lot of people mumble. "But only if I respect his request...?"

"...to remain seated, and quiet."

Serious worry. "To remain seated, and quiet."

"...I will raise my hand if I have a question..."

They're starting to get it. "I will raise my hand if I have a question."

"For Mercy."

The cacophony of discussion that breaks out instantly threatens to become a deafening roar.

The Goddess at your side straightens upright, and breathes a single word. Its intensity drowns out all other noise, and brightens the sun itself. "Quiet."

Silence falls over the entire church once more. The majority of the crowd looks terrified.

Though Mercy still looks horribly distressed through the broad smile She gives to you, a light and mellow tone speaks out to the gathering. "Do not make Father Anscham repeat himself. Please quietly discuss among yourselves what you wish to ask."

While a choir of whispers erupts throughout the aisles, you realize through the pain and pressure within you that Mercy is leaning hard against your hold.

Gently parting an arm to lift Her chin, you try searching Her eyes for a moment. She couldn't be harder to read. It's a bed of chaos. You whisper, "what's wrong?"

"They hate me." It looks like She wants to die all over again.

(2/3)
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>>4604992
https://youtu.be/rOWxjBrrPvY

Fwip.

Every nerve in your body kicks into high-gear at the familiar sound of an incoming projectile. At least fifty people scream. Keeping your lover in your arms, you turn as quickly as you can into the line of fire.

An iron knife melts into liquid yellow-gold just an arm's reach away from your back.

All the gilded material slows in mid-air. It comes to a halt just inches from your robes.

The remains of the weapon splatters uselessly onto the ground.

Mercy leans even closer, though She's glowering over your shoulder. Anger is red-hot across Her features. You're not surprised that She melted down iron with a single glance.

At least fifteen priests of Vengeance instantly get up at the rear of the church to head straight over to the source of the attack. There's also thirty-something men who have gotten to their feet, and simultaneously move to follow up the dagger.

They all had weapons hidden on their person, and were clearly testing to see if they could even try to land a hit. Throwing knives, and several more small weapons are all unsheathed. In a flash, you realize that a cult would never be stupid enough to try and kill a Goddess. Inertia has a death wish, but this is something else.

They're seeking to do worse to you, your fellow church leaders, and the Gods Themselves than to simply take your lives.

They want to destroy humanity's faith in us.

Before you can make another move, there's a flash of radiance from within the form nestled against you. It's hardly blinding. Just a flash of the sun against the surface of a pond. A speck of light in your eye. A single voice that rings out with love in Her heart.

"Stay your hand."

Spots dance in your vision only for a moment longer. Panic doesn't seize you. No one has yet to scream. There's no injury, no damage, and no assault that you can tell.

At least not until you whip your head around, and stare in horror at thirty-something men who have been melted into puddles of gold. Some of their ankles are still slowly dissolving.

The citizens that were sitting and standing around two now-vacant pews could not look more terrified. Screams are building from many women and children in all directions.

Mercy has taken Herself from your grasp, and has backed up considerably. Not towards the altar. She looks like She wants to run from the entire gathering. She looks like She's going to panic. A breathless apology is made as the Goddess pulls further back, with bloody hands over Her heart. "I'm so sorry. They were aiming for me."

She's going to cut the invocation short. You can't leave Her like this.

You can't leave a slowly retreating, panicking crowd like this.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4604998
>A and B are mutually exclusive.
>Majority vote will decide.

>A] This is going to be a catastrophe if you can't get things under control. It's one thing for your own reputation to be in shambles, but you can't let Inertia try to destroy Mercy's image. Let Her go. Damage control has to be your #1 priority right now, and Mercy should know that you'll see each other again as soon as you're able. You'll crack down hard on keeping order. Leave the minutiae to your staff, and order everyone in the building to remain calm. (You'll do everything in your power to keep a handle on everyone's composure, if nothing else.)
>1] Don't take any risks with further action or orders. Wait a minute, and try to assess how your security team will tackle the problem.
>2] Buckle down, get into the crowd, and go investigate the metal that's left of these cultists. Make sure the priests of Vengeance don't give away their identity or go making matters worse, too.
>3] The lack of knowledge you have on what security procedure was developed is crippling your ability to handle it. Get to the back of the church with James, and try to discreetly discern what additional security measures he has in place. If at all possible, gather some information on if security wants to evacuate the church or keep everyone here.
>4] Write-in.

>B] Catch Mercy by the arm, and ask Her to stay just for a moment longer. She never should have been asked to deal with such a large gathering. Now you know. The two of you have to sort this out. The difficulty that Mercy has with humanity obviously has only been getting worse, and it feels like you're going to lose Her if you can't figure out what She's going through. Ask Her to talk with you somewhere safe. You love Her. There are FAR greater stakes here than just the reputation of this sermon, or your return, or even this gathering's opinion of Mercy. (There's also the matter of your Relic, that you CANNOT risk Mercy cutting off humanity from Her ability again, and that you're also pretty certain your security team kept you in the dark so you would have NO distractions if something like this happened.)
>1] You just need to say something to your congregation first. Point out that the Goddess of Defense has saved the lives of hundreds, and possibly prevented an outbreak from occurring. Apologize, and leave the rest to your priestesses.
>2] Don't sugar coat anything for the crowd. Simply call out to everyone to remain calm, and for your clergy to handle the situation until you return. Mercy needs you, and you are not about to let a bunch of traitors and heathens stop you from continuing to restore faith in mankind to a Goddess.
>3] Write-in.
>>
>>4604999
B; we're sorry that we've allowed violence to enter there sacred halls, no matter the scource. And we're sorry for failing to make all of loyal citizens feel distress and distraught in the halls of Mercy.

The same goes for Mercy. It was never our intent to panic and overwhelm you. The responsibility lies not with you, Mercy, but I.

Come Mercy, please preside over the final rites for those led astray from your light. I'm sure it may calm both Mercy and the crowd down if Mercy herself commences with the rites from those who refuse the warmth of her dawn, and fail to respect her tenets in our home.

This is not a disaster, only an opportunity for faith and goodwill to prevail on both sides, in spite of Inertia's actions on this day. The Gods *are* Merciful.
>>
>>4604999

>>B] Catch Mercy by the arm, and ask Her to stay just for a moment longer. She never should have been asked to deal with such a large gathering. Now you know. The two of you have to sort this out. The difficulty that Mercy has with humanity obviously has only been getting worse, and it feels like you're going to lose Her if you can't figure out what She's going through. Ask Her to talk with you somewhere safe. You love Her. There are FAR greater stakes here than just the reputation of this sermon, or your return, or even this gathering's opinion of Mercy. (There's also the matter of your Relic, that you CANNOT risk Mercy cutting off humanity from Her ability again, and that you're also pretty certain your security team kept you in the dark so you would have NO distractions if something like this happened.)
>>1] You just need to say something to your congregation first. Point out that the Goddess of Defense has saved the lives of hundreds, and possibly prevented an outbreak from occurring. Apologize, and leave the rest to your priestesses.

God dammit babe you need to STOP melting people!
>>
>>4605073
Our babe is a God, stop damning her! :^)
>>
>>4604999
>>B] Catch Mercy by the arm, and ask Her to stay just for a moment longer. She never should have been asked to deal with such a large gathering. Now you know. The two of you have to sort this out. The difficulty that Mercy has with humanity obviously has only been getting worse, and it feels like you're going to lose Her if you can't figure out what She's going through. Ask Her to talk with you somewhere safe. You love Her. There are FAR greater stakes here than just the reputation of this sermon, or your return, or even this gathering's opinion of Mercy. (There's also the matter of your Relic, that you CANNOT risk Mercy cutting off humanity from Her ability again, and that you're also pretty certain your security team kept you in the dark so you would have NO distractions if something like this happened.)
>>1] You just need to say something to your congregation first. Point out that the Goddess of Defense has saved the lives of hundreds, and possibly prevented an outbreak from occurring. Apologize, and leave the rest to your priestesses.

We all have those days, babe.
>>
>>4604999
2B
Signal the priests to surround the gold puddle. Out of sight, out of.. Well, a little less on the mind. Bring mercy by the hand, telling her to trust you so she doesn't freak out, and apologize for the gruesome display. It's not a nice thing to say, but the fear on her face might make them think twice about what happened. An attempt on your life is not a fun matter, and i'm sure it's a feeling a few audience members will know already. Just, be humble, try and comfort everyone including mercy, and don't let things get any more out of hand.
>>
>>4605345
Sorry, it's 1B. Phonepostin'
>>
>>4605049
>>4605073
>>4605078
>>4605152
>>4605345
>>4605346
(Hell yeah guys. Good morning! Going to lock the vote here, and will try to update before work. Writing now!)
>>
>>4605381
https://youtu.be/VU6XEqaghdc

You catch Mercy by the arm. A look of love, and pain, and complete trust passes between the two of you. There's no need for you to tell Her that everyone makes mistakes, or that you would sincerely like for Her to stop melting people. She wants to be near you. She's so frightened She could die, and it's not for the congregation. It's not for Herself. The look in Her eyes says that your partner is scared to death that She's ruined your life's work.

"Do you trust me," you whisper.

Tears part from Her long lashes with a shake up and down of those beautiful curls. "You never need to ask."

The instant you slide from Mercy's arm into one of Her hands, She returns the hold with a death grip. The two of you make an urgent procession down the aisle, cutting the screams in the crowd short. Everyone's getting to their feet to better see what's happening. Before security's view is completely obstructed, you make a gesture to the approaching priests of Vengeance to circle around the bodies.

Or rather, what's left of them. There's no evidence of humanity here. Gallons of liquid gold steams off from the heat that was applied to the forms of nearly thirty men. Their remnants are running down the aisle. It's no doubt gotten on the soles of multiple people's shoes. Hems of dresses. A few people are crying, and almost everyone is looking around in terror. No one knows who to trust.

Your voice rings out to the entire audience in humility, and agony. "I apologize for the gruesome display!"

The hold on your hand tightens even further. No physical pain registers, but your heart cracks at Mercy's expression.

Hopefully Her distress will reassure at least someone in the audience. The screams have already died down, at least. There's nothing in the world that the lover of comfort would rather do than to set everyone's mind at ease. You continue, "Mercy has saved the lives of HUNDREDS here today! This was not merely an attempt on Her person! Her quick action has potentially halted the weakness in our hearts from spreading! We cannot permit our enemies to bring the effects of the Catalyst, nor the presence of demons into the halls of our home!"

There's a loud clicking at the back of the chamber, as someone closes a door to a side wing.

Your conviction rings out over all of the church's distress. "This is not a disaster! THIS IS AN OPPORTUNITY for FAITH, and GOODWILL to prevail on BOTH sides of this conflict! In SPITE of Inertia's actions, THE GODS ARE MERCIFUL!"

(1/3)
>>
>>4605433
The church is silent as you lower the fever-pitch of your words to soft, sincere apology. "No matter the source, there is no excuse for violence to enter these sacred halls." In a far quieter tone— just to the woman at your side— you murmur, "I'm sorry for overwhelming you. You never should have been put in this position. This is my responsibility, and—"

"Richard." She's beside Herself. The sweetest smile in all the world begs you, "you do not need to apologize for anything."

"You'll want me to." You cast a miserable stare to the metal on the ground, as the covert operatives of Vengeance perfectly play the part of many overly-protective citizens.

"Excuse us!"
"Please get back."
"Mercy. Father Anscham. You shouldn't come anywhere near this."
"No disrespect meant, but please step aside. This can't be safe—"

There's further discussion on the perimeter of the church. There were many more agents working for your men scattered throughout the entire building. They're obviously searching every last soul throughout the gathering for obvious weapons, hostility, or signs of anyone trying to escape. Fortunately, almost all eyes are on you.

All you can look at is your partner, and the anguish swimming in Her gaze. The hold between you two is softer and sweeter than anything, but you redouble it by taking both of Mercy's hands in your own. "Could you please say a few words for the deceased?"

It destroys Her composure. A blonde and beautiful head of honey-scented hair is all you can see for a moment, as Mercy collapses against you, and cries hysterically. "Yes. Of course. You wonderful man. Of course I will. I am so sorry."

Leaning down to Her ear, you whisper, "this has not been easy on any of us. We understand. It's alright."

She hugs you tightly enough to take the air from your lungs. More nodding. A muffled, "I love you."

"I love you, too."

The two of you part. The Goddess sniffs, and wipes Her eyes. A fair voice calls out to the entire crowd that's gathered. "Father Anscham has made a noble, virtuous, and honorable proposition. One befitting of the lord of compassion: To say a few words for the fallen. Despite the threat that has been posed to the sanctity of Our home, we have still witnessed a great loss of life. I do not speak for only those lost here today. I weep for the anguish that has resulted from every voluntarily cause of pain. I weep for the children deprived of their mothers and fathers. I weep for those who are still grieving."

She's still crying, and chokes out, "I am so sorry for all of your loss. Be it by my hand, your own, from violence incited, or in the name of protection. Let us pray for a swift resolution to this conflict."

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4605439
>A and B are mutually exclusive.
>Majority vote will decide.

>A] You can't leave Mercy like this, and the crowd has been dead silent. You're certain the situation is handled, though. Tactfully and respectfully excuse yourself from the congregation, and go privately comfort your partner.
>1] Stay nearby, but find somewhere relatively safe. You don't want to walk anywhere right now.
>2] Take Mercy to the keep. It's obvious that She's actually extremely vulnerable in this form, and you aren't taking any more risks than necessary.
>3] Write-in.

>B] You seriously need to stay put. You'd be torturing Mercy to keep Her here any longer, so thank Her for everything, and release the invocation.
>1] Try to continue gauging the crowd, and explain the situation as best as you're able.
>2] Write-in.
>>
>>4605447
B1; we'll talk with Mercy before we rest.

Might as well finish this sermon in a way that may help the people make sense of this.

>Closing out the sermon by touching on the differences between mankind, Gods, and demons would not only highlight the most major revelation you made from your work beneath the Church of Mercy. It can serve as a cautionary tale to any enemies in the audience, humble those who are struggling to keep to themselves, and grant hope to the pious. You can tie in Mercy's behavior, your overall message, and what you all are fighting so hard for. It might not fit tonally, but THESE ARE DARK TIMES. You're willing to risk spoiling the mood and upsetting the more gentle souls in the crowd.

I'd say there's no risk of us spoiling the mood, and upsetting the more gentle souls in the crowd now.
>>
>>4605447

>>B] You seriously need to stay put. You'd be torturing Mercy to keep Her here any longer, so thank Her for everything, and release the invocation.
>>1] Try to continue gauging the crowd, and explain the situation as best as you're able.

Things are never simple, are they.
>>
>>4605645
To be fair, we did overreach a bit with the convention-style QnA. That wouldn't have been simple even if we did properly prepare for it.
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>>4605656

Look at the bright side, 30 less cultists and everyone know we want to let people talk to god while the cultists want to be dipshits. I think it was worth it. Also this sermon would have not ever been simple, especially after everything that happened so far.

But i digress, the statement was more for like, the general state of affairs. Can't ever catch a break right?
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>>4605658
>look at Mercy's side

I get you. At least the worst of the fighting is over with for now. We can focus on other less pressing yet still important stuff, like our health, the roads, the dungeons, food, etc. Which reminds me, we should ask for some volunteer cheese-makers relatively soon, so we can start trying to mass produce cheese with the help of our flask, and we're going to need to see to the scholar's home as well.
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>>4605675

Side note. This night is going to go down in history, i was thinking maybe we should give it a name. Something with the feel of "the night of broken glass" in nazi germany you know? Something evocative that permeates the scene but it also isn't partisan or over the top. I was think "The Night of Embers". from all the fires going up embers would have been flooding the city streets, the primarily stone houses would have kept the heat too. Any other suggestions? Think we can brainstorm something better.
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>>4605688
The Dawn of Gilded Gold?
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>>4605697

Way too over the top. Show some restraint anon :^)
>>
>>4605688
>>4605697
>>4605697
(This is such a touching idea holy shit you guys. I love it. Please feel free to throw out any other ideas you have. Will still be about three more hours before I can write.)

>>4605461
>>4605645
>>4605656
>>4605658
>>4605675
(And seriously appreciate all of the discussion and votes, thank you dudes! Vote will remain open for now.)
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>>4605740
("Throw out" sounds terrible lmao. Work is rotting my brain. Should say "share." You hopefully know what I mean.)
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>>4605703
The Twilight of Inertia? Night of Fallen Ash (Ashfall)? The Tempest? The Dawn of Dick?

Night of Smoldering (or Burning) Embers does have a nice ring to it though.
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>>4605745
Too late. Into the bin it goes :^)
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>>4605750
I had already done so, disowned.
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>>4605755
>rip my self-esteem

It was nice while it lasted.
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>>4605748
>>4605750
>>4605755
>>4605766
Over here wheezing from laughing so hard :^) 'The Night of Embers' is incredibly tasteful. Something like 'The Night of Golden Embers' or 'The Night of Ash' or even 'The Smoldering Night' could be nice too. I might put it to a vote a little later.)
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>>4605787
The Ashen Tempest?
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>>4605789
(That's really nice too man. I'm pretty sure I'll put up a vote with the suggestions so far with the next update! Should be less than two hours before I can write!)
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>>4605461
>>4605645
(Locking the unanimous vote for B1 here, along with all the discussion and write-ins. Wonderful stuff dudes. Writing now.)
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>>4605964
https://youtu.be/tVP-aWrFwXE

It's not as if there's any risk of you spoiling the mood of the crowd now, but it's with a heavy heart that you try to give Mercy a brief good-bye. "You need some space away from all of this."

Every illuminated inch of Her body is screaming that She wants to run. It's torturing your lover to keep Her here for a second longer. A feather-light touch takes Her fingers back between yours. The sobs that are distorting Mercy's speech threaten to worsen as She kills the urge to sprint away, holds onto you all the tighter, and gives a worried smile. "I promise we will see one another again soon."

"Before I rest."

The smile falters. She couldn't look more worried. "I am so sorry. You are going to be in so much pain."

"Please don't be." The rest of the world might as well not exist. You don't mind the thousand eyes staring as you lean a Goddess' head against your chest, and whisper in Her ear. "Things are never simple, are they?"

Miserable, nervous, adorable laughter falls from Her lips. "No. Never."

You're seized by a strong urge to kiss Her. It would be horribly tasteless given the bodies on the floor. A deeper hold suffices.

"Let's go back to the altar, love." Mercy's muffled reminder of just how poor your physical state is right now is sweet enough for the two of you to tactfully head down the aisle.

The instant you reach the metal structure, and a firm platform to stand on, your partner releases the invocation.

The world is blinding.

-----

Panicked, frequent repetitions of your name come from at least ten voices by your side, while an entire church waits in silent terror.

They probably think that Mercy killed you. You drag yourself upright with a ragged breath. The motion shouldn't be agony— you keep forgetting the Relic isn't around your neck, it's in one hand— but the pain is somehow worse than what you expected. Your free hand goes out to your side, as you say with a voice like death, "I'm fine."

Your abuse of Dream is something Mercy can't completely heal, and you wonder if you passed out purely from the severity of your sleep deprivation. It takes your vision as second to adjust, as you try to stop persisting with the residual effects of the invocation. All the gold and heat takes several moments to completely dissipate from the edges of your sight. Acclimating to the haze of fatigue on you once more is much easier.

The trouble is that the pain isn't physical. It isn't from the absence of a Goddess. Trying and failing to shift and adjust away from the unrelenting internal strain does nothing to alleviate the pressure.

(1/5)
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>>4606242
The sight of exactly as many bodies as who you've buried in under two weeks is not as painful as what you're currently experiencing, but it's not helping.
In just over one day, you have called upon Mercy and Agriculture a cumulative total of six times. You shouldn't be hurting. You should be dead.
In the last two weeks, you have invoked as often as you did during your entire descent through Ostedholm's ruins. You should not only be dead— your soul should be in pieces.

There's vague questions of concern for your health, if you need water, if everything is alright, if Mercy's hurt you, and so on.

"Just— just give me a minute."

You've had punctured lungs that weren't as severe. It doesn't feel like you're bleeding out. It's like you're bleeding in. As if the lingering fullness of soul that you know and love more than anything else in the world is still building.

It's terrifying, and one of the most beautiful sensations you've ever known. If you weren't mistaken, you could almost say you feel satisfied.

The thought is laughable. There's a war to win. A promise with Mercy to uphold later today. Questions to ask Agriculture. The work with your Relic. Meetings to attend. The dungeons. Roads. The confessions you heard to. A famine to treat. A scholar's research. Your health.

You try clearing your throat, and fish for a handkerchief in abject horror as a wet cough seizes you. It's not blood that comes up. It's gold.

You cough at least a few tablespoons full of liquid gold. The terror on your features is probably visible to the gathering of people on either side of the altar, who absolutely should not be up here. You accept a chair from someone nearby, scoot it away from the altar so you're clearly visible to the entire church, and try to gather your composure.

This is nothing. You gesture for everyone to sit back down. No words needed. The entirety of your congregation silently complies. There are no demands for answers. They know you will provide them.

As everyone settles back down into the pews, and the group of incredibly worried priests and citizens around you awkwardly sits on the floor, you call out clearly. There's enough exhaustion through your tone to calm Storm Himself. "I would like to help you all make sense of this."

Many worried and weary faces are begging for an explanation. Some reassurance. Anything.

"Today we have seen a Goddess. I would like to tell you more about the Gods, starting with Mercy. Mercy would never hurt me. I would also like to tell you more about humanity. My mistakes are a prime example of how not to conduct oneself."

Some nervous laughter from the congregation puts more light in your eyes, but does nothing for your scowl.

"I have brought myself to harm. I know it's a sin. But we all know that to err is human, do we not?"

(2/5)
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>>4606246
A low and quiet, "yes," and "yes, Father," carries throughout the congregation's murmurs.

Most of them are replying by now. It's incredibly encouraging. "Then you all know the key differences between mankind, and the Gods."

Pausing to give everyone a moment to process the implication, it seems that most people can't connect the dots. It's alright. This should help you piece out your thoughts just as well. "I would like for nothing more than to serve Mercy with the— with the same immaculate devotion that She has demonstrated towards us all today."

You give a knowing look to Adwin, who has not moved from his seat during the entire service. "We can justify our own interpretations of our Goddess' creed."

He's obviously had zero doubt for your ability the entire Time, and gives you a slight smile at the statement.

"As a mortal man—" You need to clarify. "No matter what station I hold— I strive to protect and heal my family. All of you. No matter what you may think of me, I want nothing but the best for all of you. Even if it comes at the cost of my personal protection and health. You all saw that I would have taken a blade on Mercy's behalf without question. I did not hesitate to call upon Her for our sermon, despite how exhausted I was before we even began the service. Both of these things are in violation of my tenets."

Taking a seriously more personal tone is helping to put a lot more people at ease. "We could dispute our personal definitions of these things until the sun has set once more on the church."

There's color coming back into faces— particularly at the premise of challenging your actions, and your own definitions of your tenets. They're excited, and thinking, and you couldn't be happier. "Mercy does not have this luxury. You saw that— despite the importance of this event, and how badly She wished to look after you all— Mercy could not stop Herself from feeling for us all. It brought Her intense distress. She made the grotesque display you all saw. She is at odds with Her very nature, but MUST embrace it, because that is. Who. She. Is."

You look around the entire church, from aisles, to balconies, to those sitting around you. "Mercy is our protection. She is our emotion. She is our sun, our gold, our light, our love, and the hands that heal. She is honesty. She is ALL of our empathy, and THAT is why She could not remain here with us."

(3/5)
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>>4606248
"I'm sorry for making you all a promise I could not immediately keep. But She will endure, and feel for all of us so long as She is permitted to. She can only be who She is. There is one, crucial, and final distinction I would like to make to you all. It's going to upset many of you, but I believe that with the— with the the severity of current events, that it is warranted. I hope you all understand now that I have told you all about the fundamental differences between Gods, and humans."

It's very simple. "We are obviously not Gods. I would like you all to know why no one here is a demon."

The entire church perceptibly leans in. A few particularly dramatic individuals gasp—especially James, who you hear all the way from the back.

"There is no need for fear," you tease. "Though King Magnus would likely not wish for me to share this information with you—" Everyone leans in a little closer. "—and Mercy may not appreciate me upsetting you all—" The collective frustration is building. "—we are not all gathered here in the Church of Mercy to see Father Anscham. You want answers, and..."

You lean back, with a twinge of bittersweet nostalgia. "...and I am here to tell you about the Catalyst."

No one dares to make a sound.

You habitually scan the crowd, and confirm that the priests of Vengeance in your employ have seen to all of the damage. If there were any trouble-makers lurking in the shadows, they would have made themselves apparent by now.

It's with a deep breath that you continue. "I've heard the rumors. I know! It's alright. I have been called a demon of faith— and I see the looks on your faces. Some of you may still believe it. But to call a man a demon should not be done so lightly. It comes from a place of misinformation. We do not simply become demons from loving something. We become demons from becoming consumed by something. This is not a healthy fixation that I speak of. This is not obsession. This is not devotion, and it is certainly not faith."

You couldn't be more passionate. It's your guiding principle. "Faith is what will guide us in these trying times. Demons do not speak of the Gods themselves as they have STRAYED from ALL that the Gods embody. They become something else. A monster. Devoid of our connection to light, and love. Devoid of all humanity."

Pouring your gaze over the crowd once more, you call out, "I know what you're thinking. You're thinking what your Catalyst might be, aren't you?"

At least half the crowd looks mortified. You grin at them. "But now you all know that I am no demon for making the suggestion! Isn't that right! I'm certainly not a demon of the mind!"

The majority of those who looked offended sigh, or laugh a little.

(4/5)
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>>4606251
Some sour faces remain, to which you call out, "these are incredibly dark times. I promise you all, the doors of my home will remain open. This conflict will not be resolved in a day, but our decisive actions are precisely what has helped to deescalate the violence. You all have been fighting valiantly. Please continue to serve yourselves and your families— just as much as I wish to continue to serve you, my family, our King, and our country. This IS the city of empathy."

Everyone quiets down.

"I know we are all significantly more considerate of ourselves and of our neighbors for what has transpired here this morning. This is a cautionary tale. One of humility. I want nothing more than to bring you all hope for our home, and for our future. I would like to close on one final note to you all: The greatest result of my recent findings."

The Church of Mercy is as quiet as a sunrise.

"We are not confined by the same trappings as Gods or demons. It's as Mercy said. We ARE the choices that we make. That is our potential. Not one aspect. Not what we think we are. Not our Gods. Not even our Catalyst. We are the embodiment of ALL that is."

It's rough, but you get to your feet, and give a stiff grin to the crowd.

"It is what we can be that makes us human. Have a blessed day."

The entire group that's been sitting beside you quietly gets to their feet— along with several hundred other individuals. Your priestesses shift into high-gear, and start badgering the crowd that the service is over, to give you space, and to make an orderly exit from the church if they do not intend to stay for prayer or shelter.

You're down thirty cultists, and the people know that you're willing to facilitate discourse about the Gods while Inertia makes a fool out of their cause. It was seriously overreaching things to try and hold a Q&A with this large of a crowd, but this wasn't going to be easy no matter how much you planned for. At least two hundred people are now all mildly calling out their thanks, including every single soul that rushed to make sure you were alright.

You are NOT going to cry in front of several hundred people, but it's one of the sweetest things you've heard in your life. A few people are even helping to hold doors open for one another at the end of the aisle. You quickly reassure everyone present (you don't recognize a single one of these men, and are sure they must all be priests of Vengeance or kind citizens,) that you're alright.

You'd consider this a success.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4606263
>A] Go back to the keep (probably with some help. Ray will be at the keep for further assistance, surely.) You still have a LOT you want to do today, and can get a little choked up on the way out. It'll feel great. There's a lot to plan and to think about along the way, too. The day has only JUST started.
>1] You'll invoke Mercy first thing when you get somewhere safe and quiet. Regardless of whether you speak to Her about all of this first, or work with your Relic, you want Her there.
>2] Try to find a way to deal with your Relic first. Mercy should be able to help with after-care better than anyone, and you don't want to distress Her if it doesn't go over well.

>B] Linger. You're going to get SWAMPED with questions and this could drag out for HOURS and there's NO HUMANLY POSSIBLE WAY to answer every question your congregation is going to have, but make it clear that you'll STILL try to talk. (Specify a time frame for a more personal discourse, e.g. a few minutes, an hour, until nightfall, etc. A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED even for a brief pause due to the size of the crowd.)

>C] Go find James and the Willoughby Sisters. Thank them sincerely for all of their help, get sentimental, and make sure Claymore, Walter, and Father Pevrel are alright too. You can also try to help them keep things orderly. It's the least you can do. Just make it CLEAR to the congregation that there will be no further questions.

>D] Write-in.

-

>The following is a purely optional prompt.
>Your declaration of war on the cult of Inertia will go down in history. (It also spanned threads 22-24. To say it was one of the longest days of your life would be an understatement.) If you would like to coin a respectful name for yesterday's events, please feel free to vote from any of the following. MAJORITY VOTE WILL DECIDE:
>"The Night of Embers"
>"The Night of Golden Embers"
>"The Smoldering Night"
>"The Night of Fallen Ash"
>"The Ashen Tempest"
>"Ashfall"
>(Write-in.)
>>
>>4606273
C, then A2. We can at least say thank you before we leave, and make sure our other friends are alright as well. Then we make a Beeline for the Keep. After our talk with Mercy, we will give Dream his due, for all of our negligence to his creed.

Even though I helped suggest some of the names, I'm terrible at choosing things like this in general. How can I not be indecisive, with such a bounty of wonderful choices? :^)
>>
>>4606273

>>C] Go find James and the Willoughby Sisters. Thank them sincerely for all of their help, get sentimental, and make sure Claymore, Walter, and Father Pevrel are alright too. You can also try to help them keep things orderly. It's the least you can do. Just make it CLEAR to the congregation that there will be no further questions.

>A] Go back to the keep (probably with some help. Ray will be at the keep for further assistance, surely.) You still have a LOT you want to do today, and can get a little choked up on the way out. It'll feel great. There's a lot to plan and to think about along the way, too. The day has only JUST started.
>2] Try to find a way to deal with your Relic first. Mercy should be able to help with after-care better than anyone, and you don't want to distress Her if it doesn't go over well.

No more invoking until we fix the roads. This is going to get really bad really fast, that debuff is going to be over 100 by now.


>"The Night of Embers"
Or
>"Ashfall"

I like both, whichever is fine for me.
>>
>>4606273
>>4606537
I'll second this. It is time to rest and Dream.

>"The Night of Embers"
>>
>>4606537
>>4606565
>>4606782
(Vote is locked here. Writing now!)
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>>4607034
https://youtu.be/QL9_rPPyCMQ

It's easiest to find Susan Willoughby first, thanks to her incredibly high and clear voice. She's ushering everyone out from a side wing, and masterfully keeping things from becoming too congested. Conversely, the main aisle is completely occupied.

You inch your way over to your priestess, keeping to side wings, while being bombarded with dozens of questions. Countless kind souls ask if you're alright. You repeatedly reassure them that you're fine. Thoughtful young men want to know more about Gods, demons, and mankind. You swear up and down that more answers will come, but that to consider what's been said will serve Mercy, Spirit, and Time well. Harmless inquiries are made as to when your next public service will be. You can't give a date, but tell everyone that it was on your mind even as the sermon was ongoing.

More smiling faces are left behind you, as you finally reach Sister Susan. She's as composed as can be, but looks up to you with a haggard face. Her fondness for fasting extends even to a famine. It's seriously alarming, but adult women are one of the lowest priorities for supplies. She surely knows what she's doing.

The two of you frown at one another. "Father Anscham." A slight bow of her head, shrouded in the deep-yellow hood of her traditional robes. "Thank you for the service."

The frown on your face lifts. She's openly wearing her holy symbol. It's a simple pair of outstretched hands, hung on a simple yellow ribbon around her neck. The symbol is made of painted metal rather than gold. You've never seen anyone ever openly wear a traditional holy symbol of their church other than yourself, or a fellow church leader.

It puts a skip in your heart. "Thank you for all of your service. The order you maintained on the outskirts of our church could be felt by the entire congregation. I'm certain that we all have you to thank for maintaining our home's dignity throughout— throughout such a trying experience."

The tension through the exhausted young woman's body softens. Another, simple bow reveals brunette, and neatly-pinned hair. You catch the edges of her lips quirk up. "To live is to serve, Father."

There will be more time another day to really get to know her. "To live is to serve."

You promptly excuse yourself, and go to find Tilda. It looks like the youngest of the triplets is just down the side wing, nearest to the front door. She's accompanied by Agnes.

The younger of the two has her narrow brown eyes light up— and she practically catapults herself towards you. While a running start towards a hug is a terrible idea, you brace yourself, and try not to laugh as the priestess expertly stops just a foot away from you.

"Gotcha."

"Two can play at this game!"

A big hug ensues.

(1/4)
>>
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>>4607114
She's delighted. The contrast between her musculature and just how soft you are is particularly pleasant. "That was wonderful! And Mercy? Bless the borders, Father Anscham. I don't think I've ever heard of a preacher who's willing to share so much with the people! What an impression! What a sermon! People will be talking about this for an age..."

Most bystanders snicker, or silently look on with amusement at your clergywoman's lack of propriety. She goes on, while Agnes calls over to you both.

"Please excuse her." The eldest of the triplets stays firmly at the door. A daffodil pair of gloves gesture for Tilda to get going, which the spritely young priestess pays no mind to.

Ruffling her scruffy, shortly-cropped head of hair (which Tilda is beyond delighted by), you part just enough to appease Sister Agnes' request. "Thank you both so much, for— for all of your efforts."

Agnes snips. "You are very welcome."
"Was a huge pain in the rear, Father Anscham, but you're welcome!" A cheeky grin passes from Tilda, to her sister, to you.

The mortification on Sister Agnes' face says she's about to go on a tirade.

You beam at both of them, and happily cut Sister Agnes off. "I can't thank you both enough. Please look after each other, and to the rest of the crowd. I will be indisposed for some Time. If there is ANYTHING in the way of an emergency, you can find me in the keep. Please do not interrupt my rest for anything less than a matter of life or death."

The melody of their similar voices replies in unison. "Yes, Father."

You and Tilda grin at each other, and engage in one more bear hug before parting ways.

Somewhere up on the second floor, you catch James leering over the balcony to the crowd below. Getting to him takes at least ten minutes thanks to the crowd on the stairs, but you eventually manage. It's stunning to see that the top floor has already been cleared out. It's just you, and the minstrel. He must have chosen the spot to have a little more privacy, while still keeping an eye on affairs.

Walking to his side, you only barely lean on the rail next to your ruins-hopping friend. "Quieter up here."

Klepto's voice is as vibrant as the incoming day. "Wouldn't want to miss a thing." A glance pours over you. "Looked real messed up for a few minutes back there. Scared everyone straight. Did you mean to do it on purpose...?"

"No." You couldn't look more horrified. "No. Never. I have— I have been pushing myself harder than anyone rightfully should."

The two of you assume whispers. Returning James' scrutiny doesn't bother him too much. It odd to see such a flashy individual in only a brown tunic, leggings, and a few bags. "I almost didn't recognize you."

(2/4)
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>>4607118
A smirk passes over your tamed hair, the extravagant garments you're wearing, and all of your height and bulk. "Could say the same for you." The man's light falls as quickly as it came. "Not sure which extreme is doing you worse, but we're worried. You know. Everyone?"

"Are Walter, Claymore, and Father Pevrel alright...?"

His scowl could kill. "Don't deflect. I'm serious. And they're fine. Just outside of the church. Walter's with Cardew. Claymore and edgy old rot-eye didn't want to come in for obvious reasons."

Claymore couldn't disguise his appearance even if he tried, and Father Pevrel's reputation in the city would have been bound to upset many people. You frown harder than even your minstrel can manage. "I can't tell you how much I've needed the support." It's fine to get a little choked up. "Thank you so much."

"Don't hug me, Richard." He's only teasing, but makes a show of taking a step to the side.

You make a show of shoving your hands in your pockets. "I'm about to go and get some rest. Actual rest. If there is a legitimate emergency, please come and get me from the keep. I'll be in the quarters beside Spangle's and Electrum's room."

The jester's frown somehow deepens. "That's not what I was referring to, Dick."

The frown you've been offering back softens. "I know. I am only so ragged from just how much I have been doing to push myself." You've sworn up and down that you're done discussing your appearance. "Now is really not the Time."

A single poke is made towards your waist, though he doesn't make contact. "You can do better than this."

You move to leave. "Thank you again for everything."

He calls down the walkway, as you head back the way you came. "You owe me!"

With a wave over your shoulder, you gladly insist, "we will figure something out. I promise!"

Heading down to the first floor, your eyes light up half the building having already cleared out. There was no need to assist with maintaining any order, despite you having every intention of doing so.

A prompt, discreet, and Timely departure is made down a side aisle...
You take a number of hidden corridors...
Snake around the back of an herb garden...
Circumvent the main gate with a back door...
And take a favorite secret staircase within the keep to avoid all detection.

Exiting from the supply closet on the keep's second floor, you head to the vacant great chamber. Ray was nowhere in sight, and you strongly suspect that he's with Walter to comfort Sister Cardew.

It's alright. Everything will be fine.

You look to the small, golden locket that hasn't left your hand through all the dawn. There's a small trail of dried blood along your palm that you never felt, thanks to the total absence of pain that the item provides. Fallen ash is stuck to the edges of your skin where you haven't properly cleaned off evidence of yesterday's events.

(3/4)
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>>4607121
It was the Night of Embers.

The pain in you is not going anywhere. You're terrified of just how severe things are going to be when you have to work on the roads later today, or early tomorrow.

However long you rest for, Mercy will have to understand why you're waiting to speak with Her again. This is actually killing you.

You go gather your shield, Piety, and the satchel containing the rest of your most valued possessions. It's all dragged with you across the nice wooden floor, under the comfortably paneled ceiling, adjacent to a large canopied bed. An absurdly comfortable chair is found. You conjure some water, and get situated beside a nice end table. A short prayer is made to Dream, while you eye up the bed beside you.

Only one thing stands between you, and getting some proper sleep: You have to find a way to deal with your Relic.

>A] Set it down and do nothing else to assist with the pain. You're going to overcome this issue through sheer force of will, faith, and respect for your image. Stay as detached from this as you can. (This is to try and eliminate all associated bonuses AND maluses associated with pain.)

>B] This is a sickness that's been inflicted on you. A large part of you resents having masochism. It's uncomfortable, it's weird, it's destroyed your reputation with many people, it makes combat embarrassing, and injuries are becoming unmanageable. (This is to try and remove all bonuses associated with pain, to have normal maluses, and to keep your mind clearer.)

>C] You sincerely enjoy your borderline immunity to pain. It's not something that bothers you. It's just become a burden. You want to be able to control this part of you, so that what you enjoy through your body is no longer a barrier for your mind. (This is to try and remove all maluses associated with pain, to retain the bonuses, and to keep your mind clearer.)

>D] There's probably a lot that can be done to help this process. (Write-in any additional measures you would like to take to make this easier. They can and will cause an effect! The subsequent update will have a roll, and your strategy may provide bonuses as well!)
>>
>>4607127

>>C] You sincerely enjoy your borderline immunity to pain. It's not something that bothers you. It's just become a burden. You want to be able to control this part of you, so that what you enjoy through your body is no longer a barrier for your mind. (This is to try and remove all maluses associated with pain, to retain the bonuses, and to keep your mind clearer.)

Not trying to make the most of this would be an insult to Agri as the god of excess. We are going to have our cake and eat it too.
>>
>>4607127
>C] You sincerely enjoy your borderline immunity to pain. It's not something that bothers you. It's just become a burden. You want to be able to control this part of you, so that what you enjoy through your body is no longer a barrier for your mind. (This is to try and remove all maluses associated with pain, to retain the bonuses, and to keep your mind clearer.)
>>
>>4607127
C; it may be a sickness, but one that will serve us well in the future. I have no doubt that there will be times where we will be working through great pain, and not everyone has the chance to weaponize it like we do. I will suggest restraint in the future, as the point of pain is to tell your body when it's reasonable to stop hurting yourself, not to encourage further harm. There is a limit to the masochism that we will handle.

A prayer to all the Gods would help ease the nerves, and have the flask at the ready, to numb the pain if needed. Maybe a muscle relaxer beforehand so we don't tense our muscles as much, and lessen the strain on them when the pain hits.
>>
> A]
We're stronger than this. We can get through this by sheer willpower alone. Our pride won't let us down.
>>
>>4607127
>>A] Set it down and do nothing else to assist with the pain. You're going to overcome this issue through sheer force of will, faith, and respect for your image. Stay as detached from this as you can. (This is to try and eliminate all associated bonuses AND maluses associated with pain.)
PUSH IT TO THE LIMIT
WALK ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE
>>
>>4607131
>>4607165
>>4607181
>>4607232
>>4607234
(Wonderful dudes. As previously stated, these votes will be incorporated into bonuses for a roll that will be called in the following post. Vote is locked. Also I'm home for the weekend! Should be able to run quite a few sessions. Writing now!)
>>
>>4607256
>>4607256
https://youtu.be/i1nGx4DX83U

You are going to have your cake and eat it too.

A prayer is made to all of the Gods. A few special words are given to the Goddess of excess.

From an endless flask of an archdemon you request, "something to lessen the strain when agony hits. To relax the muscle, and to numb the pain if needed." The humble item is uncapped. Chamomile, berries, spice, black seed, and a pungent herb you've yet to try fills the air with a thrilling scent.

You set it aside.

Pushing yourself to your absolute limit could not feel sweeter. It's a sickness, of course. You know there's something that's warped in your mind, body, and soul. But it will serve you well in the coming war. The holy Relic you've been gifted is still a blessing. It always has been. So is your borderline immunity to pain.

This is not necessarily trauma that you want to weaponize.

It's pleasure.

Setting your Relic on the end table at your side, you take a deep breath, and part your hand from the item. It's been held for so long, it sticks momentarily to your skin. You have to pry it off from the dried blood and ash underneath.

The crunch of cultist's gore peeling off the skin from the palm of your hand finally registers.

A scream instantly builds in your throat. The noise is utterly indecent. So are the dozens of lacerations all over your body that were only recently cleaned and treated.

You're going to try and stay detached. Mercy was not capable of healing you through anything during the sermon. You register the assault of a dozen arrows, blows from swords against your defense, and the sting in your joints from climbing for hours.

A hitch in your breath has you turn around to frantically check that the door behind you is shut. It's closed. There's no one here to hear you bite down on the side of your knuckle, and groan through the building tension.

An ache is through your shoulders, back, and core. It's not a healthy burn. At your weight and height, you've still been eating and drinking more than you should. Carrying over 310lbs would be bad enough had you only hiked across the entire city multiple times in the last whole day. As it is, the large volume of tea, rations, protein-filled whey, imports from your hideout, and every bizarre drink you've ingested in the last day is still not enough for your needs. It feels like you're starving.

Yet acute hunger pains are the least of it. Your positive response to the sensation is the least of it. It's fine. You're ill. You know that you have a problem, and it's fine.

Getting shot in your leg destroyed most of the sensation in your left calf. Mercy's work to save your life left a gold-filled scar. The skin around it and all the muscle within is tingling from severed nerves, and hours of activity after the fact.

You want to make the most of this.

What you would I have to do to get a sensation out of the wound?

(1/2)
>>
>>4607321
Performing surgery TWICE on the floor in under twelve hours has your neck stiff, and your hands aching.

Your fingers are twitching over the end table. You draw a little blood out from your hand from trying to repress a scream. Forcing yourself to relax feels impossible. The urge to lick at the blood trickling down the side of your knuckle is overwhelming.

I'm stronger than this.

There's lingering pain in your jaw from Father Pevrel socking you across the face. A familiar, accompanying ache is also in your gut from the other blow he landed.

Your feet ache in the best of ways.
Your head is killing you exactly how you like it.
Your eyes are sorer than they've ever been, and you'd like to keep going.
You should ABSOLUTELY have died from exhaustion at any given point in the last day, and you are STRONGER than the unbelievable urge to scream, and dig down, and draw out MORE.

For the Goddess of Indulgence.

For the joy that's building in every agonized fiber of your body.

Temptation is sitting right there on the table beside you.

But you're not going to binge, or break, or inflict any more harm on yourself.

Right?

>WALK ALONG THE RAZOR'S EDGE
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used for your OVERALL success, but ALL THREE DICE will be used to determine exactly how you keep your composure.
>VERY HIGH ROLLS may permanently increase your ability to handle pain!
>VERY LOW ROLLS may have catastrophic results!
>HAVE FUN!

>+10 SHEER WILLPOWER (You can do this!)
>+10 FATHER OF RESTRAINT (This is not the first time you've tried putting limits on yourself.)
>+20 MASOCHISM TANGO (Pleasure from pain isn't always such a bad thing!)
>-31 PRIEST OF EXCESS (Despite your best efforts, you are notorious for having poor impulse control.)
>-26 SLEEP DEPRIVATION (There is a LOT working against you.)
>(All modifiers add up to -17 to each roll.)
>>
Rolled 64 (1d100)

>>4607322
I have faith.
>>
Rolled 27 (1d100)

>>4607322
Keep it together Dick!
>>
>>4607322
Obi Wan Cannoli, you're our only hope!

Both to break the tension and because I'm hungry :^)
>>
Rolled 71 (1d100)

>>4607322
Rollan
>>
>>4607428
My man!
>>
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>>4607325
>>4607328
>>4607400
>>4607428
>>4607441
(My duuuuudes! Alright. After modifiers that leaves us with a 47, 10, and 54! 54 being the best of 3. Could have been far worse. Vote is locked here. Will write in just a few. Have a retro Catalyst meme edit in the meantime.)
>>
>>4607475
(Writing now!)
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>>4607502
https://youtu.be/hTcBnxxuAls?t=2

Both hands grip the edge of the end-table, to keep your teeth away from the new injury. Your nails dig into the wood, and scrape off a few splinters under your nails. It's perfect. The pain and pressure feels like everything you need, and more. One hundred praises fall from your lips to all the Gods, and you gasp through it, and fight with everything you have to not bite on your lip.

Keep it together.

The flask you set aside is swept up. A shaking hand kicks back warm, filling, numbing, liquid relief. It's bitter, and sweet, and you can't stop yourself from having more.

Have some faith in yourself.

At least a minute must have passed by before you come up for air. The container is breathlessly slammed down to the table, and shoved away. It's going to take at least a few minutes to get any pain relief. Nothing hurts more than the sight of mistreating a gift from one of your best friends, but you legitimately do not trust yourself to inspect the container. Wiping at your lips— it's impossible to resist.

Before you can hesitate or regret a thing, the bite wound on your knuckle is sucked at. Consuming blood in any form is terrible for the human body, but you can't stop yourself.

The invocation you made to Flesh and Vengeance late last year flashes into your mind. It mixes with the bitter taste of copper. The urge to take on more injury is an internal battle that you want to desperately win. Biting at and teasing away bits of your own skin shouldn't feel so good. The texture and taste is

I shouldn't be doing this at all.

There's something horribly wrong.


The ache in your chest is not from any physical pain, as you slowly part your lips from the top of your hand. It comes from a place of ecstasy, and deep concern. The odd taste of the exotic herbs and spices from whatever you just drank is a poor mix with your own blood. The ragged injury reflects the deep indentation on your palm from the Relic you'd been holding onto for hours to not risk something like this from occurring.

It's going to scar. You feel sick.

Deep breaths.

The edge is coming off of the worst of your pain. It's more than enough to risk getting up to go clean and dress a new wound.

You hesitate to move.

There's no reason to panic. You can control yourself. You're not going to break down. This is something you are going to work on.

Moving in any capacity redoubles the piercing sensation in every last one of your joints, but you can do this. Getting to your feet is manageable. So is getting to a nearby wash basin, getting clean water, and dousing the injury with far more force than necessary.

The world goes red.

(1/2)
>>
>>4607539
Dressing the site of the wound comes with a steady hand, despite not remembering what you may have just done or said or your irregular breath. Not too much pressure. There's enough of it through every inch of you.

A few desperate prayers of gratitude are made towards Agriculture, before you slump down onto the bed fully dressed. On top of the sheets. With your hands where you can see them. Biting into the sheets and pillows to scream can't hurt.

Your throat is sore from giving a twenty-minute sermon without having any water. It does still hurt to scream. You can't bring yourself to hold anything back, and try not to cry through it.

It helps.

Rolling onto your back and staring at the canopy above isn't nearly as painful as you were expecting. Whatever you drank is finally kicking in. The obscene gasps gradually lessen. So does the pressure behind your eyes, the burn on your knuckles, and all the rest of your pain.

It's with a clearer mind that you try to reassure yourself. No one was around to see a thing. You didn't try choking yourself, and barely binged. The minor injury you incurred on yourself should heal in a couple of days. What you did drink was medicinal, and can't kill you. There's been no catastrophic damage. No sprains. No breaks. You kept it together, and worked out some frustration.

A comfortable haze settles around the edges of your mind. The pain relief ramped up rapidly. It did nothing for your hunger— which is so painful, you curl in on yourself to try and get some relief— but it's a major improvement.

It was an invocation to Mercy and Flesh that pushed my threshold for pleasure and pain past its breaking point.
An invocation to Flesh and Vengeance may have done the same for my taste for blood and gore.


You've preached to hundreds that the Gods can only be what They are. You've told some of your nearest and dearest friends that the way that the Gods work through you is a reflection of that very same fact.

That this is a blessing.

The urge to crawl under the sheets is almost unbearable. Everything feels fantastic.

This is not exactly progress, but it's a start.

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4607545
>A] Get some rest, even if going to sleep hungry will cut into your rest. (A1, A2, and A3 are mutually exclusive. Majority vote will decide.)
>1] Put up a "do not disturb" sign on the door. You trust that you'll be woken up if there's an emergency— even if it's days from now. You lost a LOT of blood recently, and need rest to recover.
>2] Leave a note to be woken up in exactly one day. It will give you actual rest and recovery, though you run the risk of the situation to your northern borders worsening before seeing to the roads.
>3] Post a CLEAR message that you need to be roused well before sunset. You will try to get some proper sleep again after the roads are seen to. It will feel terrible to only get a few hours of rest, and it will compromise your healing, but you're willing to make the temporary sacrifice for the city's security.

>B] Listen to your body. The famine has seriously taxed resources, but you DO have some rations still stored from your venture into the dungeons. It's already portioned out, and you know you won't overeat. You'll bring everything else to be stored with the rest of the keep's supplies just as soon as you can.
>1] You'll eat only enough for an average man's requirements, even if it's nowhere near what you actually need. The sick and injured are not eligible for special treatment in this crisis, and you are no exception.
>2] The amount of distress you're in from what you've just dealt with, and the work you need to do with the city's roads rates more than a standard supply of provisions. Have enough to meet your actual caloric needs. Even at a deficit for weight loss, you still require almost double what an average man at your activity level needs.

>C] Stay up just for a few minutes longer, and inspect the drink you chugged much more carefully. You hate treating anything Yech gave to you poorly, and trust yourself to not have any more.

>D] This is a blessing that will require further research. It should be easy enough to incorporate this sort of thing into your regular schedule.
>1] But resolve to not undertake something like this again without supervision. (A separate prompt will be provided at a later point in time to determine who, if no one is specified.)
>2] You can do this, will not back down so easily, and won't have anyone else involved. This is a personal mission of compassion.
>3] Thank Agriculture for everything. You're confident that the strides you've made in grounding yourself are what made this possible at all.

>E] You're still incredibly upset.
>1] Make a formal prayer to Mercy to ask for forgiveness for bringing yourself harm. Ask for restraint in the days ahead.
>2] Make a formal prayer to Dream for restful sleep. (You know you're going to have nightmares either way.)
>3] Take the exorbitant amount of Time required to make a formal prayer to all of the Gods. It will cut into your sleep, but it will make you feel substantially better. (It always does.)

>F] Write-in.
>>
>>4607547
(This prompt will remain open for at least the next 7 hours.)
>>
>>4607547
>C] Stay up just for a few minutes longer, and inspect the drink you chugged much more carefully. You hate treating anything Yech gave to you poorly, and trust yourself to not have any more.
>>
>>4607547
A2, when we finally get to it. Best take advantage of the rest, we'll need all the energy and recovery we can get for the roads ahead.

B2, but supplement heavily with liquid rations from the flask, and maybe something extra to aid in recovery.

D2,3; E1,2. We can do a formal prayer to all the Gods when we wake up and on our way to see to the road, to try and not waste further Time.
>>
>>4607547
A1, we've done a monumental amount of work and we have neglected rest for too long. Our SOUL hurts. I don't want to sleep endlessly, but 1 day is too little Time. 3 days seems a fair max.

B2, eat at a weight deficit, but make our rations supplemented with the flask, see if we can make a thick chowder or chicken soup, something we can test to use in the days ahead to feed our people with the flask if necessary.

D2, can't rely on the gods for everything

E1 And E2, we love our Lady, and Dream daddy is looking out for our wellbeing even if he sends us nightmares.
>>
>>4607581
Hydration is important, so if others vote for A1 then I advise a large gulp of water is in order.
>>
>>4607547
>>A] Get some rest, even if going to sleep hungry will cut into your rest. (A1, A2, and A3 are mutually exclusive. Majority vote will decide.)
>>1] Put up a "do not disturb" sign on the door. You trust that you'll be woken up if there's an emergency— even if it's days from now. You lost a LOT of blood recently, and need rest to recover.

We are dead ass gonna fucking die if we invoke anything again, especially with the intensity needed to fix the roads. Take a BIG break, the worst of it is over. Everyone else can handle it. have faith.

>D] This is a blessing that will require further research. It should be easy enough to incorporate this sort of thing into your regular schedule.
>2] You can do this, will not back down so easily, and won't have anyone else involved. This is a personal mission of compassion.

We are gonna do it guys, neutralize the feeling of pain.

>E] You're still incredibly upset.
>1] Make a formal prayer to Mercy to ask for forgiveness for bringing yourself harm. Ask for restraint in the days ahead.
>2] Make a formal prayer to Dream for restful sleep. (You know you're going to have nightmares either way.)

Dream my man I know we did you dirty so many times but what can you do. Some cool visions to prepare us for everything would have helped, dipshit. (don't say that last part)
>>
>>4607581
After sleeping on it, I would like to make an adjustment to my vote. 3 days rest and reassess if we need more once we are woken up. Real hard cap of a week's rest.
>>
>>4607691
I would like to remind people that we promised to fix the roads soon. I remember the man being antsy about it being more than the day of the sermon. Plus, we are on a time limit with trying to avert as much of the famine as possible.
>>
>>4607581
>>4607703
>>4607691
Damn, you are right about the road thing. Then we should rest for the day, fix the road, and go back to resting for the rest week. We still need to take care of ourself, since we can't save our country if we run on fumes all the time.
>>
>>4607547
>C
>>
>>4607549
>>4607566
>>4607581
>>4607609
>>4607632
>>4607691
>>4607703
>>4607723
>>4607735
(Absolutely spectacular turnout guys, good morning/afternoon/evening (whatever it is where you are)! I have a very brief doctor's appointment in a few minutes and will be back to write shortly. Vote is locked here for:

>A1 (majority vote, though get back to resting for the rest of the week ASAP)
>B2 (but heavily supplement with your flask)
>C
>D2
>D3
>E1
>E2

My total notes for the vote comes out to 2,994 characters so needless to say I have all of your write-ins written down and will incorporate them! I'll let you mad lads know when I start writing. see ya soon.)
>>
>>4607811
That reminds me, I was meaning to ask you how you compile your notes. I'm very curious about it how you do it.
>>
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>>4607825
(Ask and ye shall receive. Basically I record EVERYTHING you guys provide for feedback. Majority vote is rarely used, I do legitimately try to incorporate all of your feedback. Whether or not something is immediately implemented, I keep it organized between either my master spreadsheet (the tabs at the top show the biggest categories) or in notepad++. The notepad documents are more for temporary notes for the current arc, that will be implemented ASAP. The spreadsheet is more for overarching stuff or complex movement like tracking the 12 members of your congregation, political stuff in the BG, dates, etc.

Done with my appointment, going to go write!)
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>>4607836
(Also probably worth mentioning that I keep a sorted list in order of priority of virtually everything you guys want to do with all related notes. It's a monster, but is insanely helpful.)
>>
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>>4607836
>>4607853
(Last little bit of transparency since I had to take a phone call and have been delayed from writing til now. Also usually wind up ultimately structuring the notes with all the prompt info as well, in the order I intend to address it in the post to help keep things even straighter. But I digress. Finally hopping to it, thank you for your patience today lads.)
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>>4607870
>>4607549
>>4607566
>>4607581
>>4607609
>>4607632
>>4607691
>>4607703
>>4607723
>>4607735
https://youtu.be/4NrkA4vYIrQ

No one else needs to get involved. Not even the Gods should be relied on to neutralize the distress that pain has caused you. Not now, not in the past, and not in the future. This is something you CAN do yourself. A blessing. A personal mission of compassion.

That said, you're still incredibly upset. Dragging yourself out of bed only lasts until you're on the floor, on your knees, and at the side of the mattress. There's a comfortable numbness to your tone. Whatever you drank is killing most of your distress, but a crack in your voice starts at with a formal prayer.

"Merciful Goddess—"

It's fine to get choked up. This is your lady. She understands that collapsing against your clasped hands, and struggling not to break down crying is every indication of your strength.

"I have disregarded all that we both know, and— and love. I love you. Your tenets. Your creed. Please, forgive— forgive me. Forgive my transgressions. Please forgive my failure to heal. The pain and harm that I have inflicted on the altar of your devotion is— I—" A horrible twinge of pleasure, and shame, and agony brings sobs into your speech. The pretense of formality drops as soon as it came. "—I have failed in every conceivable way to exhibit restraint. My dishonesty, and inability to temper my urges will drive me into an early grave. Please guide me. I love you. I'm so sorry."

A few exhausting moments are spent composing yourself.

It's hard not to wonder why Dream hadn't brought you visions of the trials and tribulations you've had to face. You would never curse him out loud, but you bitterly, distinctly recall barrels of liquor tumbling down stairs. Red curtains. Mutilated bodies stacked to the ceiling. Black veiled men without eyes, drifting towards your home. Countless other useless visions of what to expect. It's possible that your understanding of Dream is sorely lacking from absolutely no training whatsoever in His mechanisms of devotion. It's quite possible that serving the God of Visions takes more than practical knowledge to fully utilize.

You have to wonder just how much intelligence or creativity Father Wilhelm is hiding, or what may have transpired if you took up his offer for lessons all those many months ago in his summer home. But that's neither here, nor there. You HAVE abused Dream more than any other.

A serious, formal prayer is made to the patron of nightmares. You know you're going to have them while you rest, and it's fine. Dream IS looking out for your well-being, even if you're crying all over again by the end of it.

"...blessed be the night."

(1/3)
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>>4607985
You're not sure if it's from the memory of your last series of nightmares helping you reconcile with Father Friedrich, or just how devastated you were when you woke up yesterday morning. But the amount of distress that you're in warrants getting to your feet, and dragging yourself over to the (soothing, comfortable, and welcome) armchair beside the (splintered and abused) end table.

The flask that one of your best friends gave to you was cast aside like it was filled with poison. It's another stab in your chest. You reach over, and gently inspect the item. Thirty-four tally marks are still on its underside for every invocation you've made to Vengeance.

The reminder of someone treating you unquestionably with respect has so much mist come to your eyes, you can't see for several moments. You won't blink away the memories of good company, or the reminder that you should love yourself just as much as an archdemon could love you.

You're going to KEEP making Yech proud.

You completely break down, and spend several long minutes reflecting. Having already chugged a serious volume of the odd blend within the flask, you really don't need to do any more than spend the few minutes with its scent and residual taste to discern the item's properties. The fresh, herbal, slightly-sweet chamomile has mellow notes of apple. It's gentle, soothing, and would have done the most work to relax your muscles from what you can recognize. A tart berry is in the mix, that you suspect would help with inflammation. There's also an incredibly hot pepper you've had once or twice, from exotic imports. It can be integrated into balms or salves to be rubbed directly onto areas affected by spasming muscle. In your case, it's likely to help with the tortured nerves that resulted from the impalement injury you incurred days past.

The assessment of so much familiar, wholesome, and healthy reminders of the land helps enormously. There's something here that keeps perplexing you, and is a welcome distraction from your distress. It's a potent, pungent, and slightly nutty oil through the whole blend that's throwing you for a loop. It's clear that the peppermint all through the mixture is less for its mild pain-relieving properties, and more to offset the taste of this particular substance. You are probably the last man on earth to mind something leafy, grassy, or earthy, but the concentration of the golden-colored blend indicates that it was perfectly filtered. For it to still possess an odor is remarkable.

You're yearning to distill it, or to get a sample of the original substance for closer study. There's no need, though. It's obviously a medicinal herb that's put your body and mind at greater ease— and that exacerbated your already-substantial appetite.

(2/3)
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>>4607989
A loud growl from your stomach has you look to the closed door once again. This substance is probably something you should avoid if only for this reason alone, but you're sick of ignoring what your body is telling you. Particularly when you intend to sleep for at least the next day solid, and have a LOT to rest and recover from.

A murmur is made to the flask. "Let's see what you're capable of. Chicken soup?"

A small tuft of black smoke poofs out from the top of the item. You scowl. "Please don't. I don't need any attitude right now. Chowder? Any kind. As thick, filling, and healthy as you can make it."

Corn chowder instantly floods to the top of the container. There's whole pieces of parsley, bits of mixed vegetables, and a trail of potent steam rising from the top. A smattering of black pepper and rosemary can be seen in pieces on the surface. It ramps your hunger up tenfold just from how incredibly sweet and savory it smells. Your flask seems to be incapable of producing animal products, but the dense cream-based broth within the container certainly still qualifies as a liquid.

Bending the rules lifts your mood completely. Still, while the soup you've conjured might be enough to keep a scholar on his feet, you have nearly double the needs of any working man. Dried grains, meat, fruits, and legumes are left over from your expedition into your castle's dungeons. An adequate amount is set aside from your satchel. The rest is immediately replaced in your bag. It will rejoin the keep's limited stores the instant you're able to hand off the materials. You'll supplement the solid goods with enough of your flask's material to meet your body's actual needs.

Rather than make a prayer to Agriculture before eating, an incredibly informal address is made to your Goddess.

"I can't imagine getting through this without— without everything that you've done for me. Thank you."

The whole process of having a decent meal decompresses your nerves even further. Adwin's and Sister Cardew's advice gets put to use. You take a few moments to sketch while you eat. Having one hand bandaged slows things down, but it's worth taking a few extra moments to actually taste everything. The rations are dry, but it's all spectacular, and the sheer amount of hunger on you is eased substantially.

The chowder is switched out for water, which you try to drink as much of as humanly possible. A note is drafted for any kind (and literate) soul who passes by the door.

Except in the event of emergency— or if the city is on fire (again)— DO NOT DISTURB for the next 1-3 DAYS.
DO NOT permit me to sleep for any longer than this. Please use any measures necessary to wake me after AT LEAST one day has elapsed, so that I can attend to our northern roads. Any measures that can be taken before then to make the process easier would be greatly appreciated. I have the utmost faith in all of you while I get some much needed rest.


(Just over 3/4)
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>>4607995
The note is pinned to the door that leads out into the main hall. No one is around, so you close the door behind you, and gladly head straight back to the bed. The king-sized mattress and silk sheets could not feel sweeter. The pillows are fluffy. Sleep comes over you in a matter of seconds.

You've earned some rest.

-----

Deep in the darkness, the God of Nightmares has been spurned.
Dream has heard your prayers, your demands, and has accepted all the challenges that your service presents.
Do you accept His questions?


>The following are all mutually exclusive.
>Write-ins will not be accepted for this vote.
>Majority vote will decide.

>A] You wished to receive visions for the roads ahead. Refusing to interpret the visions already granted to you is an affront to Dream, but He is Merciful. Will you accept an answer to your prayers, and receive even MORE than what you have already been given?

>B] Dream is offended by your inability to seek out questions of your own volition, but your search for the Catalyst is the ULTIMATE test of His ability. Will you accept a response to your demands of a God, and be granted the question to your answer?

>C] This will not be true rest, though it will provide a solution for the challenges you present the God of Recovery.
>1] Would you like complete respite for your body?
>2] Or would you like complete respite for your soul?

>D] The Gods are truly Merciful. To serve this deity is to know how to Dream. You will recognize Dream's kindness, and ask only to serve as He best sees fit. It will not bring you new revelations. It will not grant you a miracle. You'll accept your nightmares, and make the most of them— knowing that you have spurned the God of Reverie for far too long. After all: To sleep is to serve.
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>>4607996
C2
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>>4607996
>D] The Gods are truly Merciful. To serve this deity is to know how to Dream. You will recognize Dream's kindness, and ask only to serve as He best sees fit. It will not bring you new revelations. It will not grant you a miracle. You'll accept your nightmares, and make the most of them— knowing that you have spurned the God of Reverie for far too long. After all: To sleep is to serve.
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>>4607996
>The Gods are truly Merciful. To serve this deity is to know how to Dream. You will recognize Dream's kindness, and ask only to serve as He best sees fit. It will not bring you new revelations. It will not grant you a miracle. You'll accept your nightmares, and make the most of them— knowing that you have spurned the God of Reverie for far too long. After all: To sleep is to serve.

The mystery box option is always tantalizing. We want Dream to be happy with us, so we should do what he wants otherwise we are abusing his blessing.
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>>4608009
>>4608024
>>4608039
(Calling the vote here! Writing now.)
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>>4608077
https://youtu.be/IekIY9aprks

You smile through all the blood in your teeth. The prospect of seizing a divine opportunity is downright tantalizing. "I want Dream to be happy with me. We should do what He wants— otherwise, we— we are abusing His blessing."

"Come on, get up Richard!" The boy standing over you sounds playful enough, though the back of his heel is pressing down on your back. "What's a matter? Scared that Mercy is going to hurt you if you do? Ahahahha!"

The voices of three other children call out to mock you. "Mercy! Mercy!"

Thin, long, and lanky limbs startle you so badly in your response to push yourself up from the ground, you nearly collapse again. They're awkward and too long for a boy your age— but there they are. They're enough to right yourself on the ground.

The children's taunting redoubles. One of the other boys comes over, and kneels down. "Yeah? Are you gonna tell on us? Are you gonna beg?"

Another shooting pain courses through your skull. You nearly collapse. The boy seizes the opportunity to spit in your face. One of the girls croons over everyone else's laughter. "Ooooh, is Richie scaaared?"

The boy in front of you boasts. "He should be!"

He turns as if to leave you in peace, but then turns pivots to kick you in the face. There's a sickening crack as your nose breaks.

You can't help but let out a moan as blood bursts forward from the break. The boy takes a step back.

Your hands are shaking terribly from the pain. You try to brush some of the blood aside, but there's so much that it's just smearing. Your muttering is barely audible. "Leave me alone."

There's another kick.

Another. This time in the ribs, with a disgusting CRACK that makes you recoil into yourself.

Droplets of blood fall from your broken nose into a nearby puddle. Your reflection is that of a teenager. Scrawny and awkward, with ill-fitting stolen clothes. Your hair is a mess, and your skin is as pale as anyone could expect from eight years in the dark.

It was the first night you ran away from the Church of Mercy. The circles under your eyes soak in nearly as much moonlight as the gaunt recesses and myriad scars of visible abuse. Rapid footsteps carry down Anson's alleyways, as the woman you bumped into takes off running into the night. The blood coming from your nose completely obstructs your words. "I didn'd mean do— you don'd undersdand—"

The figure above you kicks you soundly in the chest, knocking you onto your back. He takes all the air from your lungs. "Shut up."

Your soul leaves your body as he notices the golden chain around your neck, and snatches at it. "What's this?"

You try wheezing. Leave it. I'll kill you. Don't you DARE touch Her symbol.

It's useless. The wind is completely knocked out of you, and he pulls your holy symbol cleanly off of your neck.

(1/7)
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>>4608280
In a flash of recognition, the symbol is dropped to the floor as if it was put to a flame. The inebriated, hulking farmer rapidly steps backwards. "You...!"

You manage to grasp the small, gilded, outstretched, golden hands out of the dirt. Clutching onto your symbol of Mercy may have actually saved your life.

The man is frantically looking around him to see if you're with anyone. He seems to recognize you as he steps back over you. A foot is raised over your face. "I haven't forgotten what you've done, Richard. Edwin wouldn't have forgotten, either."

Crunch.

You recognized your childhood bully a few minutes too late. It's understandable. You'd spent the entire evening drowning yourself in liquor and sin.

Crunch.

Your nose never properly healed. It's getting harder to breathe. He goes for your throat.

Snap.

It's as if there's static on the edges of everything. You keep your wooden, blood-soaked shield high. Backing up against a nearby wall for better protection does nothing against the form that materializes next to you. He's freakishly tall, grotesquely emaciated, and covered head-to-toe in grime. His scruffy, overgrown mop of hair is slick from weeks of underground exploration. There's blood caked onto his jet-black robes, gore streaked across his hands, and black viscera muddying a duplicate of the holy symbol you were just clawing out from the dirt. More scars are across his face and hands— which is the only skin visible on the twitchy, unhinged, blatantly suicidal young man. A toothy grin and bright green eyes coyly drag over your matching form.

The demon whispers in your own soft, sweet, and indecent voice, "want to have some fuuun, Father?"

Your stomach flips. You try to take hold of your holy symbol, but your fingers seem to be phasing in and out of existence. The digits are as intangible as the grainy appearance of the demon.

The doppelganger calls out to your allies first. "The demon took my form! Come quickly! Now's our chance!"

Your voice is trembling as you call out, "wait! He's lying!"

An equally blood and gore soaked figure comes running, and skids to a stop before you. The woman's immaculate features are totally inhuman, and remain as unreadable as you remember them. Paint and ice has scarred her from her daintily clad feet, up along her curvaceous legs, and all the way beyond what's exposed of her long thighs. The towering elf is barely shrouded in scraps of pastel, enchanted cloth. Her full bust is heaving from contending with this demon alone, and buying you enough Time to try and provide assistance in the fight. Clouds and mist swim in her hair, just as much as the stars in her purple-tinged eyes, and the congealing space that's warping at the end of her staff.

(2/7)
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>>4608281
You always tried to keep a clinical approach to Celegwen's appearance. The ridiculous length of those pointed ears always bordered on grotesque, and her detachment from your own suffering was always deeply alarming. She is a massive distraction, and rarely responded promptly. It may have had to do with the woman being several hundred years older than you, but that's no excuse.

The demon's voice is wrought with convincing worry. He puts up his hands, pretending that you're about to strike him. "Stop!"

You raise your hands in prayer. He tackles you.

The two of you wrestle to the floor in a bitter tangle of bones and neglected Flesh. He's not used to being so weak. You are. The struggle lasts a matter of seconds before you throw him off.

"Mercy—!"

The doppelganger's body tumbles along the ground. He lays inert for a moment, before drags himself upright with a bloody and bleeding lip.

It's touched at, to look at the crimson, and back to Celegwen with horror. "You have to help me. Please." Pretending to struggle as if he's badly injured, the demon crawls towards you on hands and knees. "I won't let you take my friends. I won't let you hurt anyone else!"

You're tackled. He straddles you with inhuman speed and precision, pinning your wrists and legs to the floor. The horrifically neglected skin and bone of your forms is an unmistakable reminder of what lows you brought yourself to. He's grating against your ribs as he pins you, driving the sharp edges of his knees into your sides.

Trying to kick up and to gain any leverage is impossible. You're exhausted already, and can't manage to escape a disastrous hold on your arm. The two of you roll into a nightmare of a position, with your limb being bent at an angle it should never be at. Blood drips from his lip onto the side of your cheek at a steady rate. Sadism drips off of every syllable whispered right into your ear. "Freak. I'm going to do things to her you couldn't even imagine. She'll die thinking it was you."

You shoot the demon a grin with far worse intent than the one he gave you moments ago, but your words are cut short by another groan. The pain coursing through your shoulder is quickly becoming unbearable, while he twists. "Mercy."

The demon pulls harder on your arm, muting the twisted smile he's been giving you.

Your bone is pulled clean out of the socket.

You can't bury your face in your sleeve, and the thought of touching the demon any further is utterly revolting. You settle on having to scream into the open air.

The demon's voice carries over the tail end of your agony. "I'm sorry. I'm sorry! I can't imagine what you're thinking." He's talking to Celegwen again. "Please trust me. Please. You know I would never hurt anyone unless our lives were in danger. I need you to trust me. Please—"

(3/7)
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>>4608283
Sweat drips down your back, as you press into the moss and old wooden floor of Ostedholm's library. You make no attempt to pull away from the demon as your pulse skyrockets. The nerves around your dislocated shoulder cry out in response to the slightest movement, but you lean in.

Terror looks back at you. "The demon's insane! You know I wouldn't be able to do that! Please! Help!" He shoots you another grin, trying to twist your arm further.

Your nerves are already overworked, and tingle as severe damage takes hold. Your body may respond with another moan, and you may writhe against the attack- but your mind is elsewhere. Your words drip with divinity, as you feverishly utter a litany.

"In everlasting pain,
this mortal vessel is made fit to serve You,
behold your Father, prostrate before You,
give unto us Mercy."

You do not fear this demon. You have felt far worse pain.

Lightning falls from the sky. It collapses onto the heft of your shield. The current is absorbed by the enormous burst of dark light coursing forth from your defense— but your defense can only take so much. Light explodes from the edges of your vision, in a devastating rupture so loud you cannot hope to ever hear again. At some point, Beatrice grabbed onto you. She's clutching with one arm so tightly to your chest that you cannot breathe. The world is charred, blackened, and seized with electricity. There is no scent of blood, or decay. There is no seizure, and no pause in your heart. Fire licks at the edges of the flowers at your feet. Raw bone and exposed muscle knits itself back together, while your priestess and Goddess put Flesh's healing to shame.

Another lightning strike bears down.

Another lightning strike bears down.

Another lightning strike bears down.

Ecstasy is glazing your eyes over. "I know you are afraid."

You can't help but groan as the demon continues to twist. He's terrified. "Stop."

"Though ceaseless,
the suffering of Our children will not go unheard,
their Mother will not turn from them, their prayers will be answered,
blessed as they are by Mercy."

Take it like a fucking man. The church didn't raise me to be a coward. I set myself on this path. Take it like a fucking man.

"Do it. Show me what you want from me. Let me help you."

There's no suppressing your scream. It tears through the roar of the audience, and the sickening snap of the bone. Gold bursts before your eyes. Bruises blossom. Every ragged breath from your chest is deeper and heavier than the drugs resting in your swollen gut. Every heave of your scarred and bare chest is another surge of pain that crashes into you.

Remigius simply leans back and watches the fruits of her labor. Your hitching breath, your struggle to maintain your composure.

(4/7)
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>>4608284
Through gritted teeth, through blood and the inescapable release, you drag your head along the floor to try and get up. To keep up the fight. The crowd somehow becomes even more wild.

Grinning to you broadly, a partially satisfied succubus pulls you up onto your knees. There aren't enough drugs in all of Corcaea to dull the momentum. The sudden movement elicits another scream, as the bone shifts and the break moves freely. "MERCY—!"

You're jerked again harder, up and onto your feet. You can't speak coherently, but scream all the louder. A cacophony of haphazard gasps and pleas to your Goddess are falling from you like so much blood from your lips. You can't think. You clutch instinctively to the site of the break. There's a hope of steadying it, or to reduce as much permanent damage as you possibly can.

A look of depravity is cast at you with enough perversion that you instinctively pull back.

You instantly savor the motion. The world is slipping out from under you.

Unable to still yourself, you're taken back into Remigius' emaciated grasp in an instant. The allegedly-harmless demon moves to raise your arm above your head. "Take a bow, Daddy, and I'll go get you patched up. Just like I promised."

None of the justification in the world could have mattered. Not now. Not ever.

"Do it, Remigius! Do it— do it, do it, drive it in! FINISH! Show me how wrong I've been—! SO I CAN BE BETTER, FOR ONCE IN MY LIFE—! MERCY—! MERCY!"

"STOP!" The doppelganger finally releases your arm.

Celegwen rushes forward, rapidly uttering an incantation as the imposter turns to flee. Ofelia leaps from the shadows the moment the demon is off of you. Their maneuver pins the demon in place. It doesn't drop its disguise. It holds onto your form as you continue to preach.

It wanted to die after taking on your form.

Your voices carry over one another in a discordant chorus- one divine, and the other decidedly sacrilegious.

"I'LL KILL YOU ALL! STAY AWAY FROM ME!"

"You've lost more weight." Ofelia frowns, looking your skeletal frame up and down. "I don't mean no offense, but this Goddess of yours really is gettin' on my nerves, Richard. She's not treatin' you right."

You return her frown, wrapping your arms around yourself. You can feel your elbows poking the edges of your sleeves, which are hanging more loosely now than ever. You're terribly hungry. "I'll be alright."

"GET OFF OF ME! NO! PLEASE!"

While you find a way to tactfully loosen your belt below your shirt— to try and look less like you're carrying seven pounds of beer— you can't help but do everything in your power to not breathe too deeply. "You really wanted to— to make tonight memorable, didn't you?"

"Gluttony has been my foremost lover, Father. Even a demon of generosity was impressed by my capacity for indulgence."

(5/7)
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>>4608285
You skewer another slice of meat, digging into it greedily as you finish the story. The demon lord just stares, and stares. You swallow your satisfaction and catharsis of finally being able to voice the entire tale. "I've never been— been able to talk about thish before. For obvioussh reasssonsh. I mentioned it— I mentioned to Malimossh, but he didn't sheem to care. My friendsh— Gwen asshked why they hadn't killed me outright. People hhave been trying, Yech— ever shince. People don't forget— people don't forget Vengeanshe."

Picking his feet back off the table, Yech slowly gets up, comes around, and sits in the chair adjacent to you. He's looking at you with something you've never seen before.

It's admiration. "That's— that's incredible. You're fucking incredible. Seriously? Just like that— as a fucking kid?"

Another swig of wine. You're way past the point of restraining yourself. "It wash a long time c-coming, Yech. I had sshuffered a lot."

"So you— you don't regret it? I mean, how could you, you survived the fucking Catalyst— and—" The demon lord splutters. He can't finish the sentence.

You finish it for him. "...and Vengeanshe, yeah. I don't. I wisssh more people would undershtand." Slinging an arm around Yech again, you lean forward so full and intoxicated that you can barely stay upright. "Thanksh fer bein' sho undershtanding."

The rain is unrelenting. The grimace on Father Pevrel's face could cut the nearby stained glass.

You smile. "That's the truth of it all, isn't it? The embodiment of my innermost being ACCENTED my scars. I confess: I am a glutton for punishment, and I have plenty more guts to spill."

"YOU'RE NO BETTER THAN I AM! STAY AWAY! STOP—!"

This is something to be embraced. As your lover works through you— and sets to mending your newest scars just as quickly as they came— you feverishly seize the singular moment of respite. It's a few syllables. You try closing your eyes. To close out the relief working through your lower body.

A haze of poor justification worms itself into the softening edges of your mind.

There's no public here.

"Ah— aahn—! AAaahhhhh—" you can barely breathe, let alone speak, and swallow hard. One word. Just a few syllables. "Aah, Aagriculture—!"

"YOU FILTHY SLUTS! I'LL TEAR YOU ALL TO PIECES!"

You pull Her in as close as you can. The sly smile Agriculture first greeted you with is utterly eclipsed. She gulps, and is rendered speechless as you grin, "I have already given you so much." She's so soft, you could die. It's not too much to slyly ask, "what if I want more in return?"

"You want more?" Her laughter is more refreshing than the forest air after a hard rain. It's so enthusiastic, another field of flowers might as well bloom. "Why am I not surprised?"

(6/7)
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>>4608288
You tease with a flash of your teeth, "I'm starved for information. For life. For love. Let me be the change you wish to see. Tell me more. Tell me everything. Make it happen for our world, Agriculture. For everyone who is lost, and can be found."

Interpretation eagerly replies, "you have embraced your Catalyst. We are beneath the bedrock of a reverie. I have awoken, but the trappings of a nightmare remain." He nods towards your Relic. "It is truth, and gold that is your lover. You are one with the earth. This is your touchstone. I am the stimulus. The explanation. Yet you are the answer. You know these elements far better than any of us could ever hope to profess. We have provided you with questions..."

The effort of maintaining a shield of pure light and energy is legitimately too much to sustain. The effort to do anything further with the barrier puts sweat on your brow, and an ache in your soul, but you manage. Your body fused with the earth. A hand is outstretched in Mercy. Both Goddesses work in tandem, through your sheer force of faith. You carefully shift all of the light, the rock, and the shrapnel. The most you can do to warn your allies is to dart your eyes to the left, and try not to gasp or moan.

They dive. In a deafening roar, you bring down the entire collection of debris. Gritting your teeth, biting your tongue, and stifling any and all sound takes every ounce of strength you have. Waves of ecstasy crash into you. A dust cloud billows.

Before it even clears, both of your friends have put their backs nearest to the door. The water has flooded up to everyone's ankles. The red lion could not look paler, but remains silent. Interpretation politely claps. "Excellent work."

He wants a little.

Something in you snaps.

You persisted with that invocation for four days.

Temptation?

Finally.

I might as well

dig in

They know I would love to try it all.

Fuck it.


>A] Stay asleep. You trust Dream to offer a clearer closing message for all of this.

>B] Wake up. You're incredibly worried about how long you've been with Dream for.

>C] Stop, reflect, and interpret. (Write-in.)

(This vote will remain open for at least the next five hours.)
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>>4608290
A, but I'd like to try my hand at C, if you don't mind. My thoughts are many, and very entangled with one another, so I'll try to be brief, and I apologize in advance if it doesn't make much sense.

In the first portion of our Dream, a running theme is of being harmed, often by our noteworthy antagonists we faced in the beginnings of our life, and us often just accepting it as our due. We lack a love of ourselves, and just as often suppress our self-compassion. Our feelings are just as valid as any other soul, and we've been ignoring our innermost self's feelings, our validity as an individual with needs, for a long time.

A side note; we'll need to go to meet Edwin eventually, to ask for forgiveness and Mercy from him. While our Vengeance on him was justified, it doesn't excuse our mishandling of the situation, and this is more about giving us a chance to forgive ourselves if nothing else.

Another side note; a demon assumed our form, an imitation of both our body and soul, and wished to die. This is something to think more about. Same with Yech's admiration of our accomplishments, in spite of our hardships.

The second portion of this Dream is about not only self-acceptance, but embracing ourselves, especially our faults, and to live our life to the best of our ability, on our terms, unencumbered by the past. It is about encouragement in the face of hardship, and a reminder of all we've accomplished.

An unrelated note; Ofelia may be ecstatic to see how much weight we gained, considering our past problems with proper nutrition and enjoyment of meals.

Dream may be fine with us overindulging a bit as well, though that may be a faulty interpretation.

Adwin is the stimulus, the explanation to us, the answer. Embracing our Catalyst may be the key, though that may require further interpretation for us to be sure.

The last couple of disjointed statements are an endorsement to continue as we were, with Dream's blessings, though the blessings may be an assumption on my part. We'll certainly need to rest more often, and properly, but otherwise?

Temptation? Finally; I might as well dig in, They know I would love to try it all. Fuck it.

I may be missing the finer details, but this is my general interpretation of this Dream. It certainly is a hot take :^)
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>>4608496
(You're an absolute joy of a reader and voter anon, thank you so much for your thoughts and for the lengthy analysis. I think you made perfect sense.

I'm leaving the vote open til morning, and will see you guys then!)
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>>4608559
You a joy of a writer, and a QM. I thank you for creating such a wonderful quest.
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>>4608290
>C] Stop, reflect, and interpret.
Dick realizes he is dense as fuck
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>>4608633
In all honesty, there's a large chance that I'm wrong on all accounts. But hey, Dream wanted us to try and interpret his meaning, so I figured I'd give it a shot. After all, you miss all the shots you don't take.

And having a dense Dick does have it's advantages :^)
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>>4608290

>A] Stay asleep. You trust Dream to offer a clearer closing message for all of this.

I did ask for some more useful visions so.

>>4608496

This makes sense.
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>>4608629
Gonna make me cry bro, thank you so much.

>>4608496
>>4608633
>>4608653
>>4608701
(Noting all of your guys comments and suggestions, unanimous vote for A is locked as well. Going to grab some more coffee and get an early morning session on the road!)
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>>4608713
https://youtu.be/91MTUXla-lE

To say that your perception has been unreliable would be the understatement of a lifetime. This all couldn't be clearer. So is the deeply, darkly repressed memory of the interior of your cell.

You have a lot of Time to think on the cold stone floor. Eight years to think. Eight years shackled to the wall by gore-caked iron bonds around your neck, wrists, and ankles.

Your own blood and flayed skin coats the interior of the chamber from the chains about the floor, to the high stone ceiling. Each streak of agony dates the Time of your captivity. Judging by the absence of almost any unmarred stone in the entire square cell, this is likely near the end of your torment.

You were accused of being a demon only as a child. What you did to Edwin was not retribution. He may have broken your bones, and threatened to rob you of mobility. But you took his life. He's crippled, and may have died from complications, weakness, illness, or the famine. Everyone who heard of your retribution thought you were a demon for it. They've hunted you, hounded you, and a part of you has always known that the Church of Mercy DID grant you clemency.

Brother Theobald Stace was more than your jailer. He starved you, fed you, beat you, healed you, tortured you night and day for years, and was your only source of human company for most of the nightmare. He is a sadist, an unrepentant monster, and deserves to know nothing short of the agony you've faced— but he understood at least a part of your problem. The hulking, bitter, balding priest of Mercy slowly opens the door to your cell.

The light is blinding. The sensory deprivation you've been subject to for weeks on end puts a spike through your brain at the first words that leave his lips. It always starts the same way. The noise is unbearably loud. The shackles on your limbs are too much to keep your hands to your ears, or to stop the violent twitch that nearly has you slam your head onto the floor.

"Richard."

Tears spring to your eyes. This man who fancied calling himself 'Father' to you always granted you a chance for forgiveness. The door closes behind him. There's no lock. There's never been a lock. THERE ARE NO LOCKS on ANY of the cells in the Church of Mercy. Anyone who is brought down to those prisons is a demon. It is a permanent holding place for creatures too dangerous or volatile to attempt to kill. They're meant to be imprisoned by their OWN volition.

You didn't run from your bullies in Pontos. You didn't fight back against any of the strangers who beat you into the dirt. You have leaned into, and LOVED the agony that's been inflicted on you LONG before Mercy or Flesh granted you true immunity to pain. It's miserable, yes. But you don't view yourself as a freak. You view the potential to completely destroy any negative response to pain as a blessing. It's one more challenge to overcome.

(1/3)
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>>4608735
You lashed out at Stace only once. He never forgave you for biting off his finger.

"Richard. I'm setting something on the floor. It's not going to hurt you yet."

The doppelganger who assumed your broken form had a glimpse of your psyche. There's no telling precisely what led the demon to an early death, but you can guess.

Yech saw how gluttonous you are. He's a demon of Agriculture. It's easy to forget that your best friend is also a monster. But he loves you for your sin. He encouraged you to ruin your body, and to while away the last days of Idonea's life in hedonism. He gambled on passing days on end over-indulging.

He never loved you for your potential. A demon swore his allegiance to you because of the man he saw THEN. Because of who you are.

"Richard. I know you can get up. Don't make me force-feed you again."

Two bowls are slid across the floor. Gruel has never smelled so heavenly. It's been four weeks since you last had a wedge of bread. It's hard to remember the taste of water, or when you last looked after any basic human need.

"There's glass in the one to your left, Richard. I'm asking you once again. You can abstain, and ask for Mercy. I know that you're better than this. We're in a famine, and have almost nothing to spare, but so help me—"

There are so many people in your life who have loved you exactly as you are.

"—I will stand here and watch you eat this entire miserable thing if it means teaching you a lesson. I know you would just love to try it all. Demon. Glutton! Get up! Last warning!"

Dream is fine with you overindulging. He truly wants you to rest. Everything else is a secondary concern to you going days on end without sleep, and staying down for many more.

"I'm not letting you die on us, Richard. Do you hear me?"

You confessed to Father Pevrel above all other things that you have sought to punish yourself. That the driving force behind almost everything you do is not to service the Gods.

"I'm not saying it again. Belts speak louder than words, and you clearly aren't listening."

Adwin reminded you that you have embraced your Catalyst. You've been hurting yourself, and loving yourself. Seeking pleasure through pain. Gorging on anything you can reach, in the hopes of coping with the world you inhabit. Yet you continue to ignore your many accomplishments. The lives you've saved. You keep moving forward, seeking another disaster. Another fixation. Another kindness.

Mercy.

Is it faith that you're truly pursuing? Is it faith in yourself? Or have you been so blind to your own self-inflicted harm that you've forgotten where your motivations truly lie? You wanted a vision of clarity from the God of Interpretation.

(2/3)
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>>4608738
The ex-demon you call a son explicitly told you that you have already been provided with questions:
What were your caretakers in the Church of Mercy trying to accomplish? Did they truly wish to offer you a chance at redemption?
Were they manipulating the Gods?
Can a demon be saved?
Why shouldn't Agriculture hear the repentant?
Why is it that the Goddess of excess is the only one to make this offer to you?
Why are you both so close, despite everything you and Mercy have been through?
Why can't you turn from your Catalyst?

You provide answers over and over again, without fully understanding the mechanism behind them. It's tiresome.

There's a bowl of cooked grains on the floor filled with broken glass. You've seen this ritual before, and have repressed all memory of what came before and after until now. This was not the first or the last Time that this happened. But you've repressed the memory as deep down as you've shoved away all hope of self-awareness.

Tonight is a good night for change. For answers. For visions. To know what it is to Dream.

>A] Abstain, and beg for Mercy. You were taken into Eadric's dungeons as a chance for redemption. You're tired of forcing yourself to be in pain. Mercy has begged you to look after yourself. You'd like to get some catharsis, even if it's only through a nightmare. Ask your captor for forgiveness. You know that Edwin had every bone in his body broken, and likely didn't live past his childhood. This is probably the best shot at some temporary wish fulfillment that you can hope to get.

>B] Abstain, and ask Theobald what he thinks your Catalyst is. He knows your sin better than any other man alive. Refuse to comply with his orders until he answers. He's going to be a monster about it, and that's precisely what you want to unearth from this memory. This has been buried for far too long.

>C] Fuck it. Eat the damn bowl of glass, and the rest of what he's brought too. You don't need to ask. You'd bitten off his finger before. Not only is this nothing— you WANT to dig into temptation. Own your darkest desires. See if this has anything to do with your immunity to a Catalyst of gluttony. See WHY you were experimented on. Your jailer will tell you. You know in your heart of hearts why he will.

>D] Your masochism is a response to complex, underlying issues. Overindulgence is one core component of why you struggle so badly with invocation, relationships, work, rest, and your absence of a personal life. But simply reflecting on these problems will not mend your mind, body, or soul in a day. This is a GOLDEN opportunity for change. (Write-in any other action you might wish to take on the floor of your cell in the Church of Mercy's prisons, or anything that you wish to ask Brother Stace.)
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>>4608740
>>C] Fuck it. Eat the damn bowl of glass, and the rest of what he's brought too. You don't need to ask. You'd bitten off his finger before. Not only is this nothing— you WANT to dig into temptation. Own your darkest desires. See if this has anything to do with your immunity to a Catalyst of gluttony. See WHY you were experimented on. Your jailer will tell you. You know in your heart of hearts why he will.
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>>4608740
>C

I'm going with C because I think Dream actually told us C was the best way forward in his last statement. We might as well dig in and see what Brother Stace has to say about this poor sinner.
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>>4608763
>>4608765
(Alright lads, going to lock the unanimous vote here and keep this show on the road. Writing now!)
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>>4608778
https://youtu.be/L4YqMctCuC8

With the voice of a man who has gone without food or water for days or weeks on end, you rasp as best as you're able. "This poor sinner is listening, father."

A bitter stare bores down at you, the shackles, the chains, and every scar on your battered body. "What do you have to say for yourself?"

There's no denying that the weight on your limbs feels right. Crawling towards your captor and a bowl of broken memories is the best way forward. It's agony to move any one of your bruised and beaten limbs, but both iron-shackled arms sweep up the bowls set out on the floor. Forcing yourself upright is the reminder of an overstretched spine. The crick in your neck from laying on the floor for days on end is worth staring up to Stace with wide eyes. You knew in your heart of hearts how this would go. "I might as well dig in."

You tear into the food set out, knowing it's going to be agony. There's actually glass. It's ground in different consistencies throughout the grain. A man possessed doesn't care about the blood between his teeth, or the pain that will follow. It's more to consume. More to indulge in. More pain. More pleasure. An ecstatic, miserable, desperate, and resigned sob leaves you. It's borderline inhuman. You just want answers.

Your jailer sits on the floor beside you. His lower lip is quivering. He hates you, and loves you, and has wanted nothing more than to break you. This priest of Mercy has also tried for years to reach you.

He's also insane. Stace slaps the wooden bowl out from your trembling hands. "Get a hold of yourself!"

You know that you've moved past this. A priest of Agriculture who has owned his desires pays no further heed to the threat of abuse. You don't have to fear this man. You are not the boy who was left weeping at the bottom of this cell. You quietly ignore the hand poised to strike you, and tear into the rest of the gruel that was brought, too. The start of a smile peeks through mouthfuls of sanity.

The miserable, broken shell of a man beside you hangs his head between all nine of his fingers. "Do you even care?"

A polite nod of your head suffices, while you pick a sliver of glass out from one of your teeth.

The shackle on your wrist makes the motion almost impossible, and it's all the sweeter for it. The strain. The pressure. Sharp, blessed relief. You can't help but press some of the shards deeper.

The man at your side smacks your hand away from your mouth. The sting isn't nearby as fantastic as all the rest of your agony.

"Are you listening to me, Richard?"

An indecent sigh gets the better of your answer. "Yes."

(1/2)
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>>4608817
Neither of you care. "I haven't thrown away years of my life on you. You've been worse. You'll be worse, if I have anything to say about it. But this—" The curl of his lip contrasts sharply with you resuming stuffing your face. It could be the last physical relief you have in weeks. "This is all you. I know you take every word I say to heart. I'm not calling you a demon of gluttony for my health. I'm TRYING to make you AWARE of what a problem you have."

His head is still hung. Steely, narrow eyes screw themselves shut. "We call you a demon of faith. Did you know that? Faith. You've been telling me for seven years now." The nastiest tone you've ever heard him use drips, "'The Gods are Merciful.' You're in my head." He literally spits at you. No flinching. You're over it, and casually wipe the spittle away from your cheek while cleaning the rest of the gruel. "I hate you. I hate what you've done to me. I'll make sure that you never leave this cell the same way you came into it. But I don't want you to go out into the world, and have it ruin you."

Delight creeps over Stace's features. He can bear to look at you with manic light in his eyes, if only to say this. "I'm going to make you ruin yourself, and you're going to give me the answers I'm looking for first. We're going to keep pushing you until the day you die. I know you won't break. You can't! Isn't that GREAT?"

A handful of the gruel on the cell floor is swept up into one hand, as the priest beside you slams a knee to your shoulder, pins you to the ground, and mashes his palm against your mouth. There's no use trying to breathe.

The sheer number of years that this memory has been repressed for hits you. A knife is taken out from the back of the priest's robes, even as you're struggling to not choke to death.

"I don't care if your Catalyst is gluttony. I think it could be faith, but we won't ever find out. I know you won't turn! I can keep you down here for another whole year, Richard. Maybe ten. Maybe more! You're in my head? I'm going to ruin yours. Go ahead. Dig in. We're going to test the Gods. We'll see just how Merciful even VENGEANCE can be. You're going to be a different kind of Catalyst. Not a demon. Something that's going to change the world."

The blade is pointed towards your throat. It's Atonement. It's the same damn knife you picked up off the floor just yesterday, when you resolved to move past all of this torment and insanity. To look after yourself. To weaponize your trauma, to set a better example for your boy, and to live your best life.

"Open wiiiide. I've got more out in the hall, and we're starting with the knife."

(Options in next post.)
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>>4608821
>A] You know how the rest of this goes. Wake up. Get on with your life. This is ALL in the past.
>1] That said, you're understandably upset by all of this, and seriously need a few minutes to decompress. Sort out your thoughts further. Journal. Do something nice for yourself before getting back to work. You can learn from this, and want to take better care of yourself moving forward.
>2] Take a good, long, hard look in a mirror. Remind yourself of your accomplishments, and try to be honest about what's seriously cause for concern in your life in the present day. You needed this as a reality check, if nothing else.

>B] No, fuck this, you are getting some catharsis and making something of this nightmare. You set out today to preach despite your destroyed public image, and to conquer your problems with pain. COMMIT.
>1] He's right! Faith IS your Catalyst. You know for a fact that Mercy wouldn't let you die from even the worst Stace could dish out. Preach every second you're able. Invite him to test your piety. The Gods ARE Merciful, and you will never beg another man for the blessings that your patrons freely give.
>2] He's right! Gluttony IS your Catalyst. You know how this goes, and you're going to love every SECOND of it. Rub it in Stace's face that there is NOTHING he can do to you that would make you crack. This is not only your element, but something that you have completely accepted about yourself. He's not traumatizing you. This is something that has elevated your highs, redeemed your lows, and will only become a greater strength for the lord of compassion.

>C] The gloves are off. This man has shown you no Mercy. (Write-in any other way you would like to approach this situation. Dream is offering an opportunity for self-improvement and reflection in a particularly vindictive way, but that doesn't mean you can't get catharsis AND learn something in the process.)
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>>4608822
>B] No, fuck this, you are getting some catharsis and making something of this nightmare. You set out today to preach despite your destroyed public image, and to conquer your problems with pain. COMMIT.
>1] He's right! Faith IS your Catalyst. You know for a fact that Mercy wouldn't let you die from even the worst Stace could dish out. Preach every second you're able. Invite him to test your piety. The Gods ARE Merciful, and you will never beg another man for the blessings that your patrons freely give.

Stace is reaping what he has sown. We are his crop, and he will forever find us hard to swallow.
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>>4608822

>C] The gloves are off. This man has shown you no Mercy. (Write-in any other way you would like to approach this situation. Dream is offering an opportunity for self-improvement and reflection in a particularly vindictive way, but that doesn't mean you can't get catharsis AND learn something in the process.)

The gluttony isn't a core aspect of us, it never was and I don't think it isn't something we can't shake off. Faith, combined with our indomitable willpower has ALWAYS been present, our motivation isn't pain itself. Above it all is the *need* to endure, not only for our own sake but for the the sake of everyone else too, gluttony is a vehicle for it, a means to an end. It is a shield, against EVERYTHING the world has to throw at us. Soaking in all the pain and suffering the world has to give and finding the strength to rise again and again is HOPE, hope that there is life after suffering, hope that pain isn't meaningless. Hope that keeps us here, that stops us from turning. Hope that everyone else sees and is inspired by. We are the living proof that humanity can make ANYTHING out of it's circumstances. Pleasure from pain, hope from *nothing*. In a way isn't that what temperance is? Self control, when the world seeks to take everything away. The control to not give in to despair, to not turn. After a certain point it only makes sense to give up, to stop.

It is not the gods that are merciful here, it's Richard being himself. That knife could strip away every piece of Flesh, but never who he was.
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>>4608822
>C] The gloves are off. This man has shown you no Mercy. (Write-in any other way you would like to approach this situation. Dream is offering an opportunity for self-improvement and reflection in a particularly vindictive way, but that doesn't mean you can't get catharsis AND learn something in the process.)
Uwah, being a priest is too easy like, physical torture? please. Its not even creattive at all. We should show Stace how to torture us real proper with wax and candles, blindfolds and ASMRs.
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>>4608881
>>4608882
>>4608901
(Good shit guys. You all never fail to exceed my expectations lol. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
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>>4609000
https://youtu.be/LUth0YplJR4

For now— while the edges of your lips quirk up— you tease by opening your mouth wide. It'll be used to preach every second you're able, but this is too much to refuse. "Please?"

The mild request makes way for screams, as a filthy and exquisitely sharp blade is slipped down your throat. Hatred twists Theobald's features. He doesn't keep his eyes off of you for an instant. Thin slits are made in places there never should be any. It's a deeper series of wounds than what a man should feel, and trying even once to swallow slices every side of the soft and sensitive tissue.

Blood pools hot and fast, further exacerbating your gag reflex. Extreme care somehow keeps the knife away from anything that would kill you outright.

This is the year 606, and this priest of restraint works quickly— but you can talk far faster. The moment he withdraws the blade from over the edge of your lips, you're back to talking. Every word is another rush of adrenaline. There are only so many ways you can harm a man in eight solid years of anguish. "You think my motivation is pleasure from pain alone?" Laughter spills a wave of blood over your lips, as you buck your hips just slightly from the ground. This is nothing compared to what the Gods have put you through. "Soaking in all the pain and suffering that the WORLD has to give—"

Stace gets up, and swiftly kicks you in your stomach.

Flowers and gold sparks in a hot miasma that drenches every inch of you. Clutching onto your waist is impossible, despite how badly you want to. There's no use trying to see either, so you keep speaking. "Finding the strength to rise—" Your tone and a hitch in your breath soars with each following word. Choking on all the blood gathering in the back of your throat is sickeningly sweet. "Again, and, aaahhn, AGAIN—!"

The sound of the door opening, then promptly slamming shut interrupts the indecent reverie. Relief accompanies the prickle of something jagged sticking right up against your ribs.

"It's hope from nothing," you say.

A knife is slipped between your ribs.

You gasp. It's worse than all the air leaving you. It's better.

He draws it out. The pain is so intense, your side runs cold. Shock only keeps the slow, dragging motions from registering for a second. You'd like to scream, but the pain and breathlessness on you is infinitely too intense. At some point the blade stops— nestled precariously close to your lungs.

Preaching is worth risking death. "Hope keeps me from turning. Humanity can make anything out of its circumstances. You are right."

The last word is interjected by the knife being swiftly removed. "Nnnhhh—!"

Both of your arms are pinned once again, no matter how badly you want to hold onto the profusely bleeding wound. Hot breath sneers an inch away from the blood on your cheek. "What was that?"

(1/3)
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>>4609119
"You're right," you whisper. "Faith is my Catalyst."

Tinkling glass shards are swooped up from a nearby bag, as you stare to the blood on the ceiling. "Don't think that I can't shake off what you've put on me."

Stace's mutter warps into a snarl. "When I'm through with you, you won't be able to put on anything ever again."

A single handful of the razor-sharp substance is waved before your lips. "You have no idea." You smirk, and laugh in his face, and put up absolutely no resistance.

Leaning into what's meant to be torment only makes him angrier. "You'll suffocate if I gag you like this, Richard."

You drag your tongue over the hand that's rarely fed you.

Glass shards fall over your torso as Stace snaps his entire arm back like you've burnt him. Some of the fragments land in the excruciating wound on your side.

You arch your back, and gasp just to draw out more of the sensation. "Do you think we could do this properly? Wax? Candles? This is TEMPERANCE, in a way~!"

A crushing grip snaps around your throat. The arm of restraint uses the side of his thumb to coax your reflex to swallow, and starts forcing you to choke down some acrid, thick, and bitter substance. The slits all along your throat should guarantee that you won't be able to do more than sob, or scream.

Several minutes pass in a haze of euphoria. Blood is pooling in a new, warm addition to the cell's decor.

After a certain point, it would have made sense to give up. To stop.

The instant you think you can handle more, you politely wave one of your pinned hands. The gesture is so calm, and so unusual, Theobald actually lets up. Maybe he thinks that seeing you try to speak further would be an additional form of torture. "What," the priest snaps.

It takes several moments of choking down more of the filth and blood to produce the words as clearly as you like. Your voice becomes level, despite everything you know he's still going to put you through. "That knife could strip away every piece of my Flesh, but it will never take away who I am. You're reaping what YOU have sown. I'm your crop, Stace— and you will forever find me hard to swallow."

The torture that followed was worth it just to see the look on his face.

Your jailer never looked so self-conscious.

-----

(2/3)
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>>4609128
You wake up of your own volition under a canary-yellow canopy, in a soft king sized bed, just as dawn rises over the Church of Mercy. Birds are chirping. A beam of sunshine pours through a nearby window. The pain relieving herbs you had before going to sleep have worn off, but you're in substantially less pain. Even while laying on your back, the swell of your belly and the sharp hunger on you is hardly a reliable measure of accuracy, recovery, or Time either. Maybe it's just in stark contrast to the nightmare.

It's hard not to mull over it, while staring at the warmly lit, and completely harmless bedroom within your castle. You keep trying to swallow, and there's no pain. No lacerations. No evidence of recent torture.

Dream is obviously upset with you. The convoluted and sadistic way He's gone about these nightmares was not conducive to clear-minded reflection. It was downright excessive— but maybe that was the point.

Sitting upright, and looking to the intense scars all along your thick wrists and calloused hands has never felt sweeter. You did want the evidence of your abuse to be accentuated by a demon. You did tell the demon of interpretation that excess and lust are the lesser of all evils. In your hands, gluttony and masochism can be tools of indomitable willpower. Pain and indulgence has been more than your shield.

The lord of light will not hide from his innermost darkness.

>Permanent +10 modifier acquired: INDOMITABLE.
>All rolls to CONTROL your response to pain or indulgence will now benefit from this bonus.
>The God of Visions is happy to accommodate a BROAD range of applications for your strengths.

>A] Have some tea, a decent breakfast, figure out the day and Time, and try to take stock of your condition before getting involved with any additional work. Going for a walk to figure out the day and Time would be a good start. You absolutely need to start carving out some self-care from now on. Sleeping for this long should not be a regular occurrence.

>B] You feel ready to take on the fucking world. Go seize the day!
>1] Find Sister Miramond. Those roads aren't going to build themselves and... you may have forgotten to ask the priestess of Storm if she would be willing to assist you with the affair.
>2] Track down Father Pevrel. You do seriously need some muscle for the work ahead, his men should have reported to you, he badly wants to help with the venture, and he'll be an invaluable source of intelligence on what's happened in the city while you were asleep.
>3] Go check on Walter and Sister Cardew, and drop off those rations. Your research team is probably still in the keep, and you want to know what's going on with your blasphemous allies before anything else.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4609138

>>A] Have some tea, a decent breakfast, figure out the day and Time, and try to take stock of your condition before getting involved with any additional work. Going for a walk to figure out the day and Time would be a good start. You absolutely need to start carving out some self-care from now on. Sleeping for this long should not be a regular occurrence.

Blessed be the fucking day. We conquered the night, time to rule today too.
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>>4609153
+1
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>>4609138
A; the absence of all that made life worth living has only allowed our faith to flourish. It is a shame we conflate showing the depth of it with extreme abuse and sacrifice on part of ourselves. We will not get better in a day, but Time was always our ally.

And speaking of Time spent in Mercy's dungeons, it's about Time we interact with our Inertia assassin, over some breakfast and tea perhaps?
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>>4609153
>>4609155
>>4609173
(Hell yeah guys. We can definitely work with all this. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
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>>4609268
https://youtu.be/P6EtZkbZRAU

Getting ready to greet the dawn comes with a spring in your step. Cold water on your face is a beautiful contrast to warm blood on tortured skin. The absence of all that made life worth living has only allowed your faith to flourish.

You shift a little. It's abundantly clear that Dream did almost nothing to heal the acute, aching, phenomenal pressure within your soul. There's is some relief! There's not necessarily the sensation like you're going to burst. It doesn't feel like you're going to go puking up gold!

You've been trying to be as kind to yourself as possible about your image, but the state of your body could be better. It's a miracle you were able to climb and get around town as much as you did. There's still a dull throb in all of your joints. You're positive it won't fade until you've lost a substantial amount of weight. It might be another year before you're slim enough to really run like you used to again. You can't even ride your horse safely like this. The reflection swimming at you from the wash basin is scarcely recognizable from the amount of fat on your face, and the curve of your stomach that's constantly on the periphery of your vision.

The weight isn't so bad, really. It's more that the indecent tilt to every expression you pull in your pocket mirror might not ever truly fade. The effects of your venture into the demon of interpretation's lair were taken on voluntarily, but the intent was to make you come across as a lecher, and a glutton.

You try to not to get too bothered by the reminder that you were seen like this by hundreds of people after nearly a year of absence. It's a shame that showing the depth of your devotion usually equates to extreme abuse and sacrifice. But you DID take on ADDITIONAL severity to your scars VOLUNTARILY. The consequences of your coping mechanisms are ones you are willing to live with. The pain that they're treating will not heal in a day, and that suits you just fine.

You conquered the night, and will rule today. Time is on your side.

Sister Cardew can never forgive you for how neat you are, but it really only extends to living quarters. The bed is neatly made. The wrinkled garments you fell asleep in can be seen to just as easily. The borderline regal attire is poor fare for today's events.

"Something befitting of the leader of the Church of Mercy, with work to be done on behalf of a prisoner, and for all of Agriculture's land."

A new, dirt-friendly fabric replaces the yellow-gold. The dark greens look black in all but the morning light. It's not exactly ironed, but is meant to be worked in. A tasteful gold trim is around the border of the sleeves. It fits like a Dream, looks outstanding against your skin tone, and has a similar cut to your old favorite garments to go out drinking in.

(1/3)
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>>4609400
Having gotten cleaned up, tamed your hair, stashed everything from the great chamber in your satchel, grabbed Piety, and snatched up your shield, it's with a whistle that you depart from the great chamber.

The dawn in your castle is another blessing. There's no one in the hall, down the stairs, or all the way along the corridor. Taking a peek out a nearby window reveals that dawn has only just broken out over Eadric. Almost everyone should be asleep— which grants you plenty of Time to conjure some tea ("something bright!") while heading for the dungeons. You descend many flights of stairs into the lowest stone recesses of the castle. Multiple long passageways are traversed. The lack of cries for blood, the absence of any sounds of battle, a clear sky, and no tremor under the earth couldn't be lovelier.

The angular foundations of Eadric come into view before long. Your heart skips a beat, and your face starts to hurt from smiling so hard.

At the entrance to your dungeons is a new door. Claymore must have stopped by the castle recently. There's a lock! It's mundane, obviously a place holder, and one of the loveliest pieces of scrap metal you've ever seen. You could kiss it. You rap melodically on the humble wooden door now blocking you from descending into the prisons!

"Good morning! Can anyone hear me? It's Father Anscham!"

About five minutes of progressively louder, steadily more optimistic knocking doesn't phase you in the slightest. Admiring the door all the while is a joy. It looks like it was recently made! The iron on the lock has no rust to speak of. Sure it could be easily picked, but there's a door!

Someone does eventually holler back. "Rich-chard? Th-the fuck are you in such a g-good mood for?"

It's the red lion. Your valorous knight. One of the most loyal friends to have ever fought bitterly by your side. The bravest man you've ever known. You saved Harvey Jay Algrith's life for a third Time this week, and are grinning ear-to-ear once he wrests the blessed door to the dungeons completely open.

The red-headed fighter is only slightly shorter than you are, and easily twice as strong. He's still clad head-to-toe in the masterwork, spiked, sinewstone armor you pilfered from the lair of a demon of Time on his behalf. The sight of it takes your breath away. Harvey's hygiene leaves something to be desired on his best days, but the man not only looks like he's recently bathed— his armor has been cleaned.

A toothy smile stretches the smattering of freckles across his impossibly pale skin. His gauntlets reluctantly open, and he gestures with both hands for a hug. "Alright, g-go on th-then. G-get it ov-ver with."

You couldn't be happier to return the gesture. The spikes adorning his stony frame are a treasure. He's a treasure. The day is a treasure. "It is so good to see you."

"Same. Heard th-the sermon went swell."

(2/3)
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>>4609404
The two of you part before descending into the dungeons proper. "Do you mind if I ask what day it is?"

This is likely the worst person conceivable to get a reliable date from, but the amnesiac pauses for a long minute to think about it. "You had th-the serv-vice the day before yesterd-day, right?"

A deep sigh of relief escapes you. It's only the second day of the First Reaping, then. You slept for just a little under two days. "That sounds about right."

"Yep." A jerk of his thumb, towards the sprawling catacombs and stone corridors you're both rapidly passing through. "Here to see the girl?"

"I thought some breakfast and tea was long overdue."

He snorts. "You're j-joking."

You waggle your flask at him, and raise your eyebrows. "Do you think I would joke about tea?"

The height of seriousness takes over a killer's features. "N-no. Of course n-not." The act drops as soon as it came, and he's grinning at you all over again. "So long as you have en-nough to g-go around."

A few more minutes are spent in relative quiet.

The red lion interjects the silence with a gentle rap on your arm. "G-glad to see you're up and at 'em. Th-thinking of taking a few m-more d-days off? We've had th-things pretty well und-der control. Least so far as Walter can tell."

>A] You're too relieved to see Harvey alive and well— let alone to hear that things have been stable— to give a straight answer. Getting your knight some beer and another hug should suffice. Try to have a little normal conversation before seeing the prisoner, too. (Feel free to write-in anything else you'd like to add.)

>B] Be honest, and let him know you're taking the day to go work on the northern roads. Ask if there's any way you two could get some coverage for your prisoner's security so he can join you.
>1] Harvey's combative prowess is the stuff of legend.
>2] You really just want Harvey's company.

>C] Let Harvey know you're going to work on the roads, but stress that you're going to try and get some more rest after this. You seriously trust your allies to handle affairs while you patch yourself back up.

>D] Let him know you're going to work on the roads, and ask Harvey if he can spend the day getting EVERYONE together for a big meeting. He'll be unavailable to help you on the city's outskirts, but this is the best man in the nation to wrangle together your blasphemous friends and clergy for a serious report on what's transpired while you've been resting. You'll find Sister Miramond and Father Pevrel on your own.

>E] Write-in.
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(Calling the session here for today, quality is dipping from the all-nighter I pulled and I'd hate to have any other posts with silly grammar errors. Thanks so much for hanging in there through this absolutely wild ride guys. Looking forward to being back tomorrow!)
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>>4609408
A; I'll let the others decide what to do after.

It's nice to see that he's taking proper care of himself as well.

>>4609416
Good night, and have blessed Dreams as well!
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>>4609408

>>D] Let him know you're going to work on the roads, and ask Harvey if he can spend the day getting EVERYONE together for a big meeting. He'll be unavailable to help you on the city's outskirts, but this is the best man in the nation to wrangle together your blasphemous friends and clergy for a serious report on what's transpired while you've been resting. You'll find Sister Miramond and Father Pevrel on your own.

We need a proper report after sleeping for 2 days, if we have to invoke today it should ONLY be for the roads. Really try to hand off any other difficulties to Miramond, doing the bare minimum now means we will be ready to do some proper work if the Inerts want to pull any shit again.

>A] You're too relieved to see Harvey alive and well— let alone to hear that things have been stable— to give a straight answer. Getting your knight some beer and another hug should suffice. Try to have a little normal conversation before seeing the prisoner, too. (Feel free to write-in anything else you'd like to add.)

Would you mind coming with me later to inspect a scholars home?
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>>4609416
Was listening to this, figured I'd share it. I hope you all will enjoy it as much as I have.

https://m.youtube.com/watch?v=dpCJ430DUlg
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>>4610140
+1
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>>4610186
(Damn this is unbelievably good. Ty for sharing!)

>>4609519
>>4610140
>>4610412
(I overslept so badly, just now getting to my desk and making some coffee. Wonderful stuff guys. Vote is locked here!)
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>>4610428
(Finally back in the saddle. Writing now.)
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>>4610493
Giving Harvey another hug is is in order. He's harder than rocks, and the avalanche of his laughter falls over your sentimental declarations. "I can't say enough how good it is to see you alive, and— and well. And things are going well? I knew that I could count on all of you."

A hearty pat on your back feels just as good having a hug returned in full. "Least we could d-do."

You both break apart. Beer is conjured. "...the best you can manage." You wave a full flask at him. "Here. I insist." He's all smiles, and accepts the offer without question. "I'm afraid I don't have the luxury of taking the whole day off, Harvey. At least not until a few other things are seen to. Would you mind coming with me later to inspect a scholar's home?"

Pretending to glance over his shoulder in paranoia, your research partner's body guard hisses, "what d-did Walter d-do th-this time?"

The two of you laugh at each other. "I would love to know what he has yet to do. No, Harvey. Walter is not so tired of my company as to have taken shelter outside of the halls of protection."

Both of you resume your walk towards the prisoner. "Yet?"

"Mercy," you drawl, all through a sincere grin.

There's practically a skip in your steps. "Of course I'll g-go. Could use some fresh air."

The lord of the day couldn't sound happier to praise the sentiment. "Mercy has graced us with a truly blessed morning. It is—" You don't want to be insensitive. "—well. It is not necessarily a shame to be spending it down here—"

Harvey raises the flask to you in a mock toast. He's pleased as punch just to have some decent beer and your company. "N-not a shame at all." The two of you trade off the flask to drink to one another."G-good shit."

Kicking back a single mouthful, it seems that the brew is the exact same as...

"Yech's best." Your smile redoubles, and a little mist is blinked away at the bitter blend. A nod is made to Harvey's clean, braided, beard while you tease him. "You look great. Is there something I should know about?"

He sweeps your flask back into one hand, and smirks all through another long pull at the drink. You're elbowed hard on your side. "Taking b-better care of what's b-been g-given to me. It isn't so b-bad!" A significantly more thoughtful look passes between you, and the flask in hand. "It's a whole l-lot easier to rememb-ber what matters right after you nearly lose it. When you see oth-ther people lose it. You kn-know?"

The dig at your appearance isn't being made maliciously. He's just being honest, and wants to stay sharp. The liquor is handed back to you without more than half a pint's worth being put away. You gladly take the item back, and cap it. "The Gods are Merciful. I can't tell you just how good it is to see you."

A few more moments pass with Harvey's clanking steps, and the near silent footfalls of your worn leather shoes.

(1/3)
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>>4610583
"I'm sure you've been keeping busy, but is there any way you could get together everyone for a proper meeting?"

A feigned groan replies. "What's so g-great ab-bout ev-veryone talking, an-nyways...?"

"I've been asleep for two solid days, Harvey."

He reigns in the tomfoolery at once. Sincerity is all through his smile. "Sounds g-great."

"The meeting? Or sleeping?"

He yawns. "Sleep."

"Yes. Well." You run a hand through your hair.

"It's hard-dly a surprise. You okay?"

"I will be. I could use a proper report. My soul can't take much more of this."

The smile falters. "And you still want to g-go see th-this scholar's place ton-night?"

"There is simply no way I can do more than the bare minimum right now."

"How far away is th-this place?"

"Halfway across the city— don't give me that look, you said you would help me burn this off!"

"I d-did!"

"Hopefully Sister Miramond can shoulder the brunt of any other work that falls my way. There's no telling if these layabout, filthy—" The grin directed at you is only further encouragement. You dig into it. "—blaspheming, cowardly, good-for-nothing cultists that have crawled and nested under my city will try to disturb the sanctity of my home once again."

"Is th-that all?"

The two of you give a few pained smiles to one another. "You know I would like to say worse."

"I've b-been calling 'em 'cuntists,' b-but you d-do you."

Your mutual chuckling echoes down the progressively darker passageway. Harvey opens the hood on his lantern, while you try to explain. "If I could have gone sooner, I would have. If I am doing anything today, it will be work for our roads. To get the help that we need here, and to start to undo the damage that's been caused."

A firm pat on your back. "Yep. I g-got you."

"Have my clergy been able to return to the Church of Mercy as well? I do mean I need to hear from everyone—"

The forgetful knight frowns. "Fuck it. B-be specific. If th-they're n-not here, I'll find 'em."

You run down the roster of your humble clergy, available allies in the city, everyone who was meant to report to you in the last week, and a reminder that this is as urgent as any other matter your congregation would want to see to otherwise. You have a thing for meetings. He understands completely.

"...and I will find Sister Miramond and Father Pevrel on my own."

"Sounds g-good."

The two of you reach the first main level of the dungeons beneath the Church of Mercy. There is no natural lightning down here. Shadows cling into the jagged ceiling's recesses, between the blood-caked bars of countless cages, and along well-worn racks and implements of torture. Your heart is racing from how familiar many of them are, but the response is managed well enough with a few level breaths.

(2/3)
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>>4610588
The bodies have all been cleared from the battles waged over freeing this assassin from her bonds, but dried viscera is still smeared across the floor in all directions. Multiple tufts of poison ivy remain piled into a nearby corner from your first assault against the cultists who threatened your knight's life. The tension through Harvey's shoulders and back is intensifying with each progressive step. "Sh-she's b-been a real b-bitch ab-bout all th-this."

The singular lantern that Harvey's been carrying to light the way has a match. Both low sources of warmth and illumination cast onto a young woman, shackled by iron and gold bonds. You can't totally remember why Mercy added onto the killer's restraints in the heat of battle, but the divine choker and manacles are in addition to an already excessive contraption that the woman has been fastened into. It's all certainly in the hope of reducing any attempts at taking her own life. Your heart sinks as you come close enough to see the extent of her captivity.

"Mercy—"

There's been no one attending to the wounds on her. Your clergy couldn't have possibly been down this way in at least a day. The bandages adorning her frame are disgusting, and it's clear that the extent of the assassin's self-inflicted injury has been interfering with everyone's attempts to keep her clean or fed. There's fresh blood around the raven haired killer's gag. She likely has had nothing to eat or drink in at least two days, and by the looks of it, is still trying to bite her own tongue off. She has no ability to do so, but you rush over to her side, drop your things, and instantly go to get her some water.

The assassin's gaze is unfocused as you approach. Dull, flickering hatred registers across her features at the sound of you coming, but she makes no motion to move. She's unresponsive to any light that moves before her eyes, and doesn't make any sudden motions at Harvey's speech. "Sh-she's tried killing herself ev-very sing-gle ch-chance sh-she's had. I've manag-ged to g-get her water d-daily, b-but keeping her clean and fed has b-been almost impossib-ble."

(Options in next post.)
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>>4610591
>A] It's not going to be easy, but it won't take too long. You have to get the prisoner's wounds cleaned and properly dressed. It's unpleasant, and she'll fight you tooth and nail to have any injury dressed, but you need your hands free to work. Ask Harvey for help. Your prisoner is weak enough that keeping her down will be easy.

>B] You're not forcing this woman to have anything to eat or drink. Especially not in a famine, and especially not when this killer already had it explained to her that she will only receive the help she's willing to accept.
>1] This is an incredibly sore spot for you, and your enemies have an INCREDIBLY sick agenda. Tea and breakfast can be had with Harvey, and your prisoner is welcome to join you both on civil terms if she likes. That's it. This doesn't need to be made into a big deal. You're not playing Stace's game.
>2] You know exactly what kind of predicament your enemies have orchestrated for you, and you're not about to let it get the better of you. Since you last saw this woman, you've made strides in how well you can handle your former captivity. The lord of empathy can understand where this prisoner is coming from better than most. Try to make an appeal for compassion's sake. (Write-ins welcome.)

>C] You swore to treat this woman with civility and compassion. It's a miracle that she's even still alive, given how much difficulty she's provided for everyone else that's attempted to honor your requests for her care. Still, there's enough hope and kindness in your heart for mankind to turn this situation entirely around. (Write-in any other actions you'd like to take with your prisoner's care. She's currently unresponsive.)
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>>4610596

>>A] It's not going to be easy, but it won't take too long. You have to get the prisoner's wounds cleaned and properly dressed. It's unpleasant, and she'll fight you tooth and nail to have any injury dressed, but you need your hands free to work. Ask Harvey for help. Your prisoner is weak enough that keeping her down will be easy.

Give her only stuff that we can make from our flask, no wasting rations on her.
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>>4610596
A; well, if you wanted Mercy to visit you again, needn't have struggled against our help. Dying to meet Her reflects poorly on both our parts. I do hope she'll avoid self-harming when we're around, if only for the fact that we can replace any limbs lost.

B1-2; we too have been a guest in these dungeons. We are determined to treat you better than we ourselves have been treated.

If anybody else has other good ideas for C, I'm all ears.
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>>4610637
>>4610641
(Wonderful stuff guys, vote is locked here! Writing now.)
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>>4611004
Distaste and disappointment has you abandon the idea of water immediately. Unshouldering your satchel and digging for clean bandages, herbs, and some items to help get the prisoner cleaned up is far more prudent. "Harvey. I'll need my hands free to dress these injuries properly. If you could. Please."

The instant your red knight approaches the slender, horrifically weak woman, she violently thrashes against her bonds. Screams escape from the edges of her gag. A few bubbles of blood come up with her shrieking.

You've been there before. Keeping a low and level voice, you hold out an arm to Harvey. "Wait just a moment."

He backs up, palms out. The man couldn't sound more relieved to put this off for another second. "S-sure."

Leaning slightly into the prisoner's view, you keep the same, soft, and steady tone. "I've been in these same bonds before. These same dungeons."

A bitter, hateful stare sharply and suddenly focuses onto you. She goes silent.

"Do you remember what I told you would happen— if you tried to take part of your body?"

There's a slight nod of the woman's head. The redness of her eyes is every indication that she's going to cry, but she simply stares. A little drool runs down the side of her mouth from the gag.

You sigh. Brow knitted in distress, the back of your sleeve is used to wipe the mess away. "I'm determined to treat you better than I was treated. I know you have your reasons. It's alright. But you do not have to suffer, regardless of what perceived need it's for." A harder line comes into your speech. "I would like to remind you that you are welcome to join Harvey and I for breakfast, or for some tea. Even if Stace was the one who put you up to this, I don't need to remind you that you helped orchestrate a famine. I can still get you something, if you like."

A redoubled effort to thrash against her bonds is made.

You sigh, and ask Harvey to assist you in getting her stable so you can see to getting her cleaned up, and the bandages seen to. It's uncomfortable. She's battered from self-inflicted bruising, and has opened and re-opened countless lacerations on her body. She's been intentionally grating her wrists, neck, and ankles against the manacles that were holding her down. Blood is pooling in places from sitting for extreme lengths of Time without moving. It's horribly familiar. Skin peels adjacent to the iron and gold from lack of air, and too much sweat. Some of the tissue is already starting to darken from days on end of abuse. The worst of it is around her mouth, where she's been forcing blood and drool to gather. It must be agony to have a gag pressed against her face with how tender and swollen most of the surrounding area has become.

"I can pray all I like that you will not harm yourself when I'm not here, but these choices are ultimately yours to make."

(1/2)
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>>4611071
You and Harvey go through the excruciating process of getting the entire item unfastened, her face dried, and the worst of the scabbing treated. There's a lot of screaming. She tries biting Harvey's fingers off plenty, and cuts the interior of her mouth on his gauntlets plenty more.

It's clear that your enemies orchestrated a scenario purely to push at your sore spots. As she's situated back in a her bonds, you try to ensure she's in a position that will aid circulation, and lessen the chances of long-term damage.

Inhaling breakfast a few feet away, and out of sight from the prisoner is absurdly cathartic. The intent is to hopefully get her to come around from the smell of something to eat. Harvey casts a few silent, concerned glances to you while he picks at the dried meat and fruit you've given him. Between heavily supplementing the meal with your flask, and your own body composition, you're still rapidly having twice what he's consuming. Not that you need to remind him that it's been two days since you last ate anything, or that you're certain you've dropped five pounds of weight since he last saw you. It's not the sheer amount of activity in your life, and the unintentional fasting that has you eating like a man possessed.

It's recalling what lows you sank to just to retaliate against your own captor. The lengthy nightmares you had are still fresh in your mind, and being surrounded by physical reminders of captivity is not helping matters any. There are a LOT of other things you have to attend to, and MANY other people to hear from before the day is over, but people were willing to fight and die to get to this killer.

There has to be a better way to approach her care.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4611074
>A] One of the only things that kept you sane during your own confinement was repetition. This woman needs to be provided with sanity on a regular, predictable basis. If the sheer humanity of considering her daily needs while she's down here won't change your prisoner's mind, telling her what methods you'll take on her behalf will hopefully give her a better mental state when you next meet.

>B] It's a fool's errand to try and breach the gap between the two of you with fleeting, irregular meetings. This woman has to be your top priority. No matter how desperately you want to get back to sleeping for days on end, if NOTHING else, try to come down here every morning at dawn.

>C] You are not a jailer. You were a nightmare of a prisoner, and don't know the first thing about what kind of care might help this woman's sanity, let alone to help increase her trust in you. It will reflect poorly on your judgement and character, but you'll bring this matter up at the meeting tonight. Make no promises, and take no further action until then.

>D] It was never kindness from your captors that got you to comply with their demands. It was the promise of escape from the pain and confinement you had been placed in. Tell this woman right here, right now that you're willing to bargain for her release. Drive the hardest argument you can manage, so this heathen at least has something to think over.
>1] Appeal to her behavior and quality of life, and how it could be improved.
>2] Appeal to her cause, and how she can do nothing to aid Inertia if she's dead.

>E] Write-in.
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>>4611076
B would put us back on a schedule, and may help us start a routine.

C]ould always use more advice as well :^)

D will prevent her from actively harming herself in the meantime, and would make her more suggestible to our influence if she isn't actively fighting against us.

Adwin may be of help, and it may help him to have to care and watch over the prisoner. We could also spend some time tending to the gardens if she wishes, despite the risk of escaping. Gardening always did help us in the end.

Of course, I'd like some of the other anons here to think on it some more before coming to a decision on the matter. Who knows, maybe y'all have better ideas about this than I do!
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>>4611076
>>B] It's a fool's errand to try and breach the gap between the two of you with fleeting, irregular meetings. This woman has to be your top priority. No matter how desperately you want to get back to sleeping for days on end, if NOTHING else, try to come down here every morning at dawn.
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>>4611076
>B] It's a fool's errand to try and breach the gap between the two of you with fleeting, irregular meetings. This woman has to be your top priority. No matter how desperately you want to get back to sleeping for days on end, if NOTHING else, try to come down here every morning at dawn.
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>>4611104
>>4611190
>>4611190
(Good afternoon gentlemen! We're back to our weekday schedule. That said, I'm making the time to update lol. Vote is locked here! Writing now.)
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>>4611641
Ruminating over remaining rations, and sharing hot tea with a friend is a welcome reminder of sanity. Dried biscuits and dandelion tea with vanilla and relief from madness is everything you need to gather your thoughts. Truly. You are no jailer. Not in the sense that you should be. You were a violent, miserable prisoner that drove your own captor to madness.

There's no way you know the first thing about how to salvage this woman's sanity, let alone to keep her from self-harm. Insanity and self-harm are your bread and butter. You could probably coach her on how to get worse. But you have counsel! You have friends. You have powerful, wise allies, who you will consult with this very evening.

In the meantime, this woman doesn't need to do anything. She surely hates you and everything you represent. Cleaning up the area you and Harvey have been breakfasting in takes only a moment. Positioning yourself beside the assassin so she doesn't have to struggle to see you takes just another. Your knight instinctively tenses, but keeps his distance out of respect.

Weary, miserable disgust stares at you with black eyes. The assassin makes a show of drooling at you.

Kindness and insanity replies, "I'm willing to bargain for your release."

Harvey's jaw falls open. The assassin stops making a scene, and sits, and listens.

"It's morning, you know. I'm not sure if you've ever gardened, but it is a kindness to oneself to feel warm soil. To tend to the earth at dawn. To see the sun shining through the trees."

You can almost imagine the scent of dew on yellow rose petals, and damp earth as it's tilled.

Smiling slightly to the woman before you is met with complete silence. The dry, copper-tinged air of the dungeons is a hard contrast to the reverie.

"My captors never needed to show me kindness. But they never needed to torture me, either. I would like to offer you a chance at honesty, and relief from your turmoil. You are just as much a part of this world as any one of my children. There is *nothing* that I would like more than for us to speak under an open sky."

There's muffled speech. Your heart sings. Harvey twitches. The killer gestures hard with her gag towards you.

You nod to your armored knight to remove the wood and cloth around her lips, with a warning. "I don't need to remind you that if you harm yourself, I will only mend what you take."

The red lion hesitantly takes away the gag, and stares in disbelief. The assassin as she makes no effort to thrash, or bite.

The rasp of her voice is sandpaper over broken glass. The pain she's in mirrors just how broken her speech is. "Kill me." Dry, red eyes stare hard at you. "Just kill me."

She's tearing up. As your expression softens, and you move to speak, she practically panics. The woman's tone is more like an animal's. You can't even imagine what she normally sounds like, but her speech is as human as you could hope for. "I watched you kill dozens of our men. Kill me. Do it. Let me die."

(1/2)
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>>4611742
The whisper you assume is far softer than your reply. "Do you sincerely think Inertia will benefit from your death? Delaying me is serving your cause with more efficiency and diligence than any one of the men that I killed this week."

Her dry, cracked lips part.

She's speechless.

You give her a smile, and keep the same quiet, soft tone. "I don't expect you to do anything! I would like to waste more of my Time here with you. Seeing as how you're such a commendable example of your cause."

A sludge of hatred and respect twists the assassin's features. "You don't know anything."

"I know that I would sincerely like to get these bonds off of you, and for you to move freely." You get to your feet. "It's a disservice to both of our causes to see one another so infrequently. I hate to make promises I can't keep, so please know just how sincerely I mean this: I will return tomorrow morning, at dawn."

The two of you hold each other's gaze for a long minute. Harvey cannot believe what he's seeing or hearing, and stays only a few inches away from the prisoner. He obviously doesn't trust her to not try to harm herself, even for an instant.

Her twisted smile beams up at you, with bloody teeth and pointed promises. "Fine."

Harvey hands one of the lanterns off to you. "See you ton-night."

A nearly inaudible whisper is assumed. "Have you seen Irefist recently?"

"He's b-been holing up around th-the curtain wall. Found himself a place outside of th-the castle too. It's across th-the street from Claym-more's place."

There's even more light in your eyes as you accept the lantern from your resourceful friend. Raising your tone, you speak to everyone present. "Blessed be the day. May both of you have a fair one."

You head off, as the prisoner and guard look to you with disbelief. A wave over your shoulder. "I'll see you tomorrow!"

There's a song in your heart as you head out from your dungeons. This cultist has to be your top priority. She's hiding something. There's no reason why so many people would have fought and died to free her if her captivity wasn't cause for concern.

With roads to pave, gardening to be done, and two of your most powerful allies in the city to find, you try to keep a fair pace while parting ways from your knight. Harvey is far and away the most capable man in the city to locate and gather your entire clergy and congregation. You can handle rounding up two people. Father Pevrel is itching to join you for the job this afternoon, so you are not nearly as concerned about locating him first. It's probably best to start with Sister Miramond. She may get tied up with some affair once the day gets started, and you have a sneaking suspicion where she might be.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4611748
>A ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED FOR ALL OF THE FOLLOWING.

>A] Check the curtain wall. The search may take a while, but you'll be afforded a view of the city, too! It could help deduce the scope of your work for the roads as well.

>B] Go to Irefist's house.
>1] You can swing by Claymore's place and sincerely thank him for the lock and door on your dungeons. Maybe even talk about "the door."
>2] This is all business. Go straight to Irefist's house, and make it clear that you are only requesting Sister Miramond's time and energy for a matter of your city's integrity.
>>
>>4611750

>>B] Go to Irefist's house.
>>1] You can swing by Claymore's place and sincerely thank him for the lock and door on your dungeons. Maybe even talk about "the door."

We aren't really on a time limit, try to take it easy up until we inevitably will fuck up our soul more again.
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>>4611755
Support.
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>>4611755
>>4611765
(Vote is locked!)

>MISSION OBJECTIVE: TAKE IT EASY
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.

>-20 INERTIA (They're everywhere.)
>-10 FAME (You're a magnet for attention.)
>+15 DEFENDER OF EADRIC (Your city has your back!)
>+15 INSPIRING LEADER (The sermon went really well.)
>+10 PRIEST OF AGRICULTURE (The Goddess of gardening, tea, and decent breakfasts could not be happier with you.)
>+5 PRIEST OF DREAM (To rest is to serve!)

(That's a total +15 modifier to the roll.)
>>
Rolled 88 (1d100)

>>4611809
Malimos, I know this isn't your domain, but I was wondering...
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Rolled 9 (1d100)

>>4611809
By the power invested in me by the dice god stud
This roll shall not be a whimpering dead dud!
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>>4611894
And he was gone, never to be seen again. Mocked by his high rolling peers...
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>>4611896
(Have faith in your fellow man anon! We use bo3!)
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Rolled 36 (1d100)

>>4611809
>>
>>4611896
*hug*
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>>4611817
>>4611894
>>4611896
>>4611963
>>4611965
(Incredibly wholesome. That's a 103 after all modifiers for some damn fine easy-going city trekking. I will be home from work in a little over an hour. Any requests for some well-deserved comfiness in the update?)
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>>4611974
Some sunshine from our flask, if you will.
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>>4611994
(Comfy af. I'm back home, and writing now!)
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>>4611755
>>4611765
>>4611817
>>4611894
>>4611963
https://youtu.be/FeaZu3nSn9A

Irefist's house is your destination. Claymore's house is right across the street. You have to thank him, and you MUST take it easy on the way there. The morning is too fair. Your mood is too spectacular. There is a door at the entrance to your dungeons.

Ascending from said dungeons has never felt sweeter. A sweeping path is taken up the minimal number of stairs, to lead out straight into your gardens. The fresh air. The open sky! Baby-blue, with thin white clouds. No rain in sight. A scattering of birds is on the horizon, as you keep a hand to your brow, and grin at the light of day.

"Mercy."

The sun is pouring through countless boughs overhead. Puffs of clematis climb and sweep around trellises and stone archways everywhere you walk. Outcroppings of jasmine trail along the ground. Life is in the air.

If you could bottle sunshine, you would. But wait.

You blink. The flask. Of course. It's so simple. "Sunshine."

Curiosity has you immediately uncap the container, and peek inside. A slurry of juiced fruits and vegetables creates a fine layer of micro-foam at the surface. The scent hits you like the First Reaping's morning breeze. You're reminded of the lily-of-the-valley in Agriculture's hair. The petals of her lips.

You look around the gardens, and take a sip of the bright beverage. It's spectacular. Probably the healthiest thing you've had in years. You're hit with tart citrus (fresh grapefruit and orange, and both couldn't be better). An exotic red apple. You love apple, and take a proper drink. There's cucumber, an unexpected undercurrent of ginger, and the odd choice of carrot. The mixture is greater than the sum of its parts. No one could blame you for sipping at it while enjoying the rest of the walk out from the castle, and into the city.

A roundabout path is taken. By the end of it, you're comfortably stuffed, and stash the flask in an interior coat pocket. Having such a substantial breakfast is practically a religious experience. Whistling an old hymn to Mercy takes you away from the keep's main gate, along hidden corridors, and down empty hallways. Emerging outside the drawbridge, away from the moat, and out into the streets takes no Time at all.

Your heart soars. There are people in the streets. Not cultists intentionally starting demonic outbreaks! Peddlers of fine and humble wares alike are just beginning to set up shop for the day. The dead bodies of your enemies are not on pikes. Blasphemous blood has been washed clean from the cobblestone pavement. Your city is up, and alive. A few polite citizens call out to you as you head down the road.

"Good morning, Father Anscham!" You've never seen the rosy-cheeked housewife in your life, but she sounds sweeter than the roses she's watering.

(1/2)
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>>4612152
"Good morning, ma'am." You couldn't smile harder. The two of you politely nod to one another, as you continue heading down the road without any delay.

The mild breeze kicks up laundry strung between stone homes. The sound of children playing down the street rises with the roar of hearths being stoked. Spare grain is stretched thin in cauldrons and pots, rising up in steam from the center of most surrounding homes. Stew, dew on morning grass, and damp soil is a medley of the morning on the air. A stray cat eyes you curiously from across the drawbridge, as you leave the castle and its surrounding homes completely behind.

As much as you want to stay on your guard, there's seriously no need. Father Pevrel has delegated the guard duty at the wall to his men. Exactly two priests of Vengeance hail you from the top of a high tower, long before you reach the barrier between your home's district and Claymore's.

Both young Brothers are scowling. One has a rasp of a voice, and darkly calls out, "traveling without any guard, Father?"

You're more than happy to grin in return. "Who do you suppose I'm speaking to?"

Approaching the gate, you're greeted by a sheepish, and disgruntled young man. His fellow priest is snickering at him, and mocks formality as you enter the gate. The man's slicked hair, nasally tone, and hunched demeanor is exactly like Father Pevrel's impersonation of a younger priest of Vengeance. You realize that the lord of judgement was actually impersonating this man, who whines towards you. "The Gods are Meeerciful..." A silly, slight bow. "Father Anschaaam."

His compatriot elbows him hard in the side, rolling his eyes. "We've been keeping an eye on things just fine. Father."

Neither man minds you chuckling at them. They think they're being cute. You pat the one who bowed on his shoulder hard enough to nearly knock him to the ground. "Keep up the fine work, then!"

"You don't want us to—" The more defensive of the two watches in disbelief as you don't even pause to give an order, and keep walking to the other side of the checkpoint.

A wave over your shoulder, as you exit the gate. "I wouldn't dare take you away from your post. Besides— the Gods are Merciful! Have a good morning!"

Quietly laughing to yourself into the next district over, you're greeted by Claymore's home district. It's entirely mercantile, and bustling. Clinking jewelry and shifting cloth couldn't sound sweeter. Household goods, and countless bright pigments are on display across every cart and banner. No food is being traded, of course. No grain. No drink.

Something needs to be done about the situation. You also really want to take it easy this morning. Though the security of the northern roads is paramount, no one is going to die if you take the morning for some healthy, sane, and normal activity.

(Options in next post.)
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>>4612154
>A] Peruse the open market...
>1] For business. An appearance out in town can help boost public relations, and help you to take stock of how people are currently coping with the famine and road situation. (Feel free to specify any news you want to listen out for.)
>1] For pleasure. You also carry a good deal of items to trade, and have a little bit of coin. Given your current reputation, it's probably best to only approach someone that you intend to give your business to. (Feel free to write-in anything you're keeping an eye out for. E.g. art supplies for Adwin, new clothes for yourself, a hat for James, something to send to Ofelia and Cyril, etc.)

>B] Make your way to Claymore's house. Politely ask if you could keep his company for a few minutes this morning.
>1] Thank him for the castle's improved security, share some sunshine(tm), and keep things casual. You want to talk about THE door.
>2] That arrowhead you surgically removed from your leg should have been thoroughly inspected by now. Ask him about it! You need answers!

>C] You can take it easy during the long walk outside the city, and while you search for Father Pevrel. Keep things brief with Claymore, and go straight to Irefist's house. You'll size up the situation when you get there.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4612155
A; why not both? Pleasure can be mixed with business, and I'd like to circulate a bit of coin to help spur the economy. I like all your suggestions, I just wouldn't know what to get Ofelia and Cyril. Maybe some of the other anons have an idea on what to gift them?
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>>4612240

SHOPPING EPISODEEEEEE.

Get a cute new apron for Ofelia and something to help Cyril with his new duties as Father, maybe a journal of his own! Get James the FANCIEST hat imaginable, maybe a cod piece bc we know he likes those. Get Harvey some golden rings or something to put in his beard, all dwarf like. Get Cardew something nice too, I can't think of what right now but she deserves something nice.

Ok now here is the BIG one. Buy something for Sister Miramond, but pretend Irefist asked us to do it. Show up and be like "HEY CARL I GOT YOU THAT THING FOR THE SISTER" boom 2 gifts in one. FATHER OF LOVE BABY, GOTTA BRING THAT POPULATION BACK UP.
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>>4612321
+1, gotta love these shopping episodes. Maybe we can get a fresh journal for Cardew, and write some of more interesting or useful tidbits and gems of information we got from Beltoro, and a hard puzzle box for Walter, try and make it nigh unsolvable.
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>>4612331

We already have a fresh journal, it was a gift from Cardew. I want to keep it. Not sure if they make puzzles in the year 606 but not a bad idea. What if we ask Adwin to make one for Walter? That would be incredibly fun to witness, imagination versus intelligence. He would lose sleep over it lmao.
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>>4612336
Yes! It would drive him utterly madder, and it'll be glorious to witness his attempts to solve it.

And we'll keep using our journal, the one we'll get we can just write something for Cardew to ruminate about in her spare time. I think she may appreciate that more than any physical object (besides Walter's brain teaser ;^).
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>>4612365

The brain teaser might actually be a gift for the both of them to bond over, the solution should be that you need a second person to solve it. FATHER OF LOVE STRIKES AGAIN.
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>>4612372
Make Ofelia's cute apron sexy on the other side, and Cyril won't need a gift. BOOM THREE STRIKES WE'RE OUT!
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>>4612394

Man we need to get everyone laid. Ray needs a good bitch and Harvey has been a lonely boi for too long. There HAS to be a flesh priestess that is into him, the man is a fucking avatar of strength after all AND has red hair! Petition to talk to Cyril about transferring some extra womanpower to Eadric when he can. :^)

Durville is a bit young but maybe a qt runner gf to go jogging with in the morning would do him some good. I am at a loss of who would be into James considering his very *unique* personality. He needs a jester gf or something. Claymore is such a badass I don't think we have met anyone that deserves him yet.

Circling back to jules and irefist, if we want them to stay together we should probably try to recruit her even harder. Give them a house by the river or something, cute little Storm family. Richard can visit when he want to go fishing, Ray can play with the future kids. All is well in Eadric. Maybe we can get some Storm invoking lessons from Miramond too. This is very much wishful thinking at this point and they have only met 3 days ago but you know what they say, trauma makes the heart grow fonder.

Am I forgetting anyone? I think that is everyone.
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>>4612411
I'm sure we'll get to everyone eventually. Time is on our side, after all.
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>>4612411
I wonder, is Harvey descended from the family line of a King of Flesh? The Lovers have golden hair like Magnus does, could be a similar thing to happen with other Kings' families. It would also explain the natural physical prowess.
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>>4612590

His lineage is certainly something we should look into when we get the chance, first we should probably talk to Willhelm to help with his memories. Another option would be to ask Sullivan to check the archive for any notable "Algriths" in history.
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>>4612240
>>4612321
>>4612334
>>4612336
>>4612365
>>4612372
>>4612394
>>4612411
>>4612417
>>4612590
>>4612592
(This discussion oh my gawwwwd thank you guys so much for being so wonderful. Shopping episode is on lock. Writing now.)
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>>4612621
https://youtu.be/Iife8qwn1f8

Business is pleasure for a man who can materialize gold with his bare hands. Yet not only is it hard to remember the last chance you had to help stimulate the economy— this is the first opportunity you've ever had to really splurge on the people you care for.

The fresh air, clear skies, and hawker's shouts has light all through your eyes while you confirm that you have enough on your person for the mental shopping list that's accruing. Last you checked, you're equipped with lock-picks, jimmes, hammers, shovels, pick-axes, spades, funerary materials, an entire ladder, about three beeswax candles (you've been formally praying regularly!), about 10 remaining tallow candles, ample items for utilitarian use, parchment, ink, quills, pens, charcoal, chalk, about eight sets of clothing in various sizes and styles, and a little coin.

You can't bear to part with anything else, but this is more than enough to trade with. Finding Ray a mate will have to come another day, but by all the Gods will you spoil him at every opportunity. You set out with your possessions secured, having never been more grateful for an endless carrying space.

Regrettably, there's not even a spare bone in sight. A little questioning reveals that the famine is severe enough that even bones are being stretched for soups and the like. A few disturbing remarks are made about guard dogs and stray animals being caught and killed for meat.

You count your blessings, and promptly excuse yourself from the dark gossip. The day is too beautiful to ruminate over what's transpired during your absence. This matter will be seen to, and the world will not end if you take the rest of the morning for the people you love.

Adwin is the very next individual on your mind. A nearby vendor has a gorgeous collection of exotic pigments. There's shades of lavender. Only the coin can suffice for this. You gladly pick up a new brush for your boy, to go along with the incredibly rare painting materials. The handle is carved to be more comfortable for the artist's hand to hold, tinted with a false gold.

The merchant catches you admiring the item, and hams it up. "That there's weasels's hair! Tough as nails to gather, but the hair is softer than silk! See that one can catch their reflection in the polish of this black-wood handle? It is nowhere near as luxurious as the metals laid over it. The mines this ore was derived from comes from the far east. If I may be so bold, Father, you will find nothing so light here."

A polite smile. "I see."

"Note that the hairs are tipped with the hue as well? This is a union of Mercy, and Vengeance! If I only knew how appropriate it would be, in these trying times! Ha-ha! It will accept any pigment, and release it onto hide just the same!"

(1/4)
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>>4612693
You go to pay for the materials. "Your craftsmanship is remarkable. A gift to our city— particularly in such trying times. I take it that without any recent traffic coming into Eadric...?"

He's a little embarrassed, and promptly confesses. "Naturally, the metallic import is from months past! I rarely receive shipments of such an exotic supply so frequently. Particularly not in days of late." Muttering. "One wonders for the security of our businesses, Father."

"Then I'll take three." The sincerity of your smile matches the man's across from you, as he energetically hops to tying up the assortment of art supplies in a beautiful sheet of blue parchment. "For the road—" He couldn't look happier, as you lay out your plan. "—which will be seen to today."

"You are a blessing, Father." His grin has a gold-capped tooth in it.

A ludicrous quantity of copper and silver is exchanged for the items. Adwin is worth it. "My prayers will go out to your continued prosperity. Blessed be the day."

Your smiles are nearly as broad as this man's coin purse. "And mine to yours! Blessed be the day."

The roster of other items you acquire through trade includes:
A stunning series of white-gold links and rings for Harvey to adorn his beard with. (The metal is incredibly difficult to produce, will contrast nicely against his hair, AND should complement his armor.)
The largest cod piece you can find for James. It's boiled red leather in the shape of an exotic fruit, carved with imagery for devotion to Flesh all along it. (The vendor could not be more amused at your insistence that it's for a friend.)
Sister Miramond isn't exactly the type for combs or painted lips. A rigging knife catches your eye. It looks horribly lethal, is practical to an extreme, and you can imagine Irefist picking it out as a gift. You could cry, it's so perfect. The sheathe has a series of waves and a little boat on it. (You buy it immediately, and have it tied up with an orange bow.)

You make a mental note to ask Adwin for a puzzle to give to Walter and Sister Cardew (he can definitely make something more imaginative than anyone else here), and that leaves just a few more things on your mental shopping list. A few people are staring at you as you proceed alone through the market, but no one gives you any trouble. There's been enough conflict lately to sate anyone's need for gossip and calamity. Most of the murmurs that you catch are simply from people who recognize you, or are surprised to.

(2/4)
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>>4612697
To your delight, a member of your caravan is present just down the way. Laurence Taylor has his wares set up on the very same wagon you all brought from Calunoth. It's an impressive display, thanks to the materials that he's solely been capable of importing from the capital. The man (a generous statement for his lithe frame, small height, long hair, feminine gestures, and distinctly gentle speech) promptly extracts himself from the exchange he's been making.

The two of you scarcely spoke during your month-long venture to Eadric, but he strides over, and sweeps you into a hug as if you were dear friends. "Father Anscham! By the stars—" He's a devotee to Dream! You grin, and return the hug. "—you're alive, and well!"

"It's good to see you as well." The two of you part after just a second. "I have several requests, and wouldn't trust anyone else with them." A nod towards the other customer. "I am in no rush. Please."

The tailor excuses himself, and sees to the mildly amused man standing to the side. It gives you a minute to peruse the wares. Nothing here is going to fit you or Ofelia, which is fine. A sheer veil is located for Sister Cardew. It's swirling with transparent, ornate embroidery. It's far and away one of the most delicate items you've ever laid hands on, and the priestess of thread will certainly appreciate it.

"Oh, my. A beautiful choice, Father Anscham." Laurence has already wrapped up the transaction beside you.

"There's a few other things I had in mind." You look over your shoulder, and confirm no one is eavesdropping. Whispering is still necessary. "I'm looking to congratulate a colleague, with a gift for his partner. She's certainly a gift for him. I was thinking of an apron. Something to emphasize her beauty, and charm as she comes— and to emphasize her partner's appreciation for her figure as she goes."

The back of Laurence's hand is purely put before his mouth for drama, as he lightly laughs. "The Father of Love indeed! Do you know her size?"

"She's a baker, with a chest that could do things for a demon. Halfling." You think for a moment, and put a hand to the side of your upper thigh. "About yea high." A top-heavy hourglass shape is discreetly made with your hands. "I trust your eye for these matters."

His eyes light up. "I have just the thing. It was made for a woman of similar proportions. Give me ten minutes to bring up the hem."

You try not to laugh. "I have one more order." A general nod towards yourself. "If you're up to the challenge."

"Father Anscham." He's almost as touchy-feely as you are, sounds like he could cry, and takes you by both hands.

You don't draw away. "Yes...?"

(3/4)
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>>4612699
"It would be an honor to outfit a man of your stature." There's stars in his eyes. He's floored. "Tunics are in fashion, and a man of your station should have only the longest of surcoats." Laurence looks wistfully to the sky. "But you are so often on the move." Back to you. "A shorter cloak, or practical shirts would be far more appropriate. We could make them in only the most befitting of cuts, of course. I could readily commission something for you to leave here with within minutes, but this opportunity is unprecedented! Perhaps an order for ceremonial dress? The grandeur of this undertaking would be unparalleled. Would you prefer silks? Gold thread? Embroidery, with devotion paid to all of the Gods?"

He has yet to let go of your hands. The endorsement of the leader of the Church of Mercy is an incredibly big deal for any working man. You'll be charged an arm and a leg for anything extravagant. You also seriously need an entirely new wardrobe.

Might as well.

>A] Practical hunting and battle-ready clothing will suit you just fine. You're happy with it still being fairly elaborate. You should look the part of your position in at least some capacity, and this is a nice middle-ground between what you're expected to wear, and what your lifestyle entails.

>B] It's never too late to try and improve your image. With the amount of alliances you have, the volume of people you engage with on a daily basis, the meetings you have to attend, the audiences you hold, the public speeches you give, the damage done to your reputation, the places you have to be... your daily dress should make use of silks, furs, and embroidery. Your authority and power rivals the King's. Own it.

>C] Granted the cost of the fabric alone will be exorbitant (given your height and size), but you can afford everything this man is willing to make. Get a variety of items, so you can seriously start looking the part of your position. Electrum is going to kill you for it, but this is LONG overdue.

>D] You have some particular tastes. (Bear in mind that you could literally wear jewels and fur cloaks and not be overstepping your boundaries. Conversely, you've also been seen in public dressed in traditional farming/working attire as a priest of Agriculture. Write-in any specifics you'd like to include!)
>>
>>4612702

I would honestly prefer to skip this prompt, Richard is absolutely huge and we already have the magic robes. I feel like it would be a waste of this mans talent. HOWEVER. Now that the traitors are mostly dead we should try to reward those loyal to us and also fix the imagine of the city a bit. I say we commission this man to design and produce new uniforms for the Eadric guard, that way we are stimulating the economy and also getting some cool fucking soldier fits out of it. He can feel free to collect as many other aides as needed, the city needs a new look! Rise from the night of embers, IN STYLE.
>>
>>4612702
>C] Granted the cost of the fabric alone will be exorbitant (given your height and size), but you can afford everything this man is willing to make. Get a variety of items, so you can seriously start looking the part of your position. Electrum is going to kill you for it, but this is LONG overdue
>>
>>4612745

In addition, challenge him to make some dapper looking coats for Ray. I want my snazzy personal guard dog goddammit. MAKE IT MATCH THE GUARD OUTFITS.
>>
>>4612702
>>4612745
>>4612753
I will totally second this. This a great way to unify the city and to represent new purpose and faith for a disenfranchised people.
>>
>>4612796
I would also like to add that this will show we are invested in the people rather than ourselves. The Dreamcoat already makes us look incredible and with how much and quickly our body changes it might be troublesome to keep clothes that fit. This is an oportunity to make our people look incredible too.
>>
>>4612745
>>4612746
>>4612753
>>4612796
>>4612816
(You guys are wonderful. Got everything noted. Vote is locked! Writing now.)
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>>4612702
A or B, not because we need the clothes (though undershirts and trousers would've be nice), but so he can boast that the Father of Mercy personally came to him for his services. I think it'll be a lovely gift for the merchant.

I agree with >>4612745 sentiment, and support, with the precondition that we get something nice for Electrum and Spangle, to shave off the killing :^)
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>>4612860
Oh. Uhhh, post, what post? There is nothing behind these curtains!

(I didn't realize I took so long with >>4612868, so you shouldn't mind my input ;^)
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>>4612868
>>4612870
(Good timing honestly, I got majorly tied up at work and was able to catch this! Seriously though vote is now locked lol)
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>>4612879
https://youtu.be/Ob8-XDKdKKI

The Dream of a coat you're wearing does wonders for your figure. Its fit, style, texture, and accents are frankly stunning. No one would be able to tell that you're in garments made for a man fifty pounds lighter. But as sensitive and excellent as it feels to have so much weight on you, it's simply impractical. The borderline-painful-fullness in your soul, the weight in your gut, and even your undershirt losing two buttons at the start of the day is not what has you wanting to skip this entire endeavor.

The trouble is that your body type has changed so often, so frequently, and with such extremes that it's become impractical to keep clothes that fit. And for better or for worse, you feel absolutely huge. "I would hate to waste your talent."

Concern furrows Laurence's brow. "I don't believe I take your meaning, Father Anscham."

Forcing yourself not to pick at or tease the hems of your fantastic, flattering, deep-green coat has you admiring that it is perfectly disguising the missing buttons, your gut bulging far over an ill-fitting belt, and the fraying on your trousers from hours of bouldering. You're the father of self-acceptance, and confidently reply! "My financier is going to kill me for this. I need to replace my entire wardrobe. You've seen how much weight I've put on since we left for the capital—"

"Garments that can be adjusted would be a trifle."

You're getting this over with quickly. "Anything you are willing to make would be spectacular. Black is preferable. Something befitting of all the Gods would be even better. Muted colors. Please keep it tasteful. Gold thread is not out of the question, but I— I trust your ability to gauge appropriate fare for battle, hunting, and my work in the fields."

The side of the wagon is a fair view, while you ignore the urge to adjust any buttons. "Even a few undershirts and trousers would be a blessing."

The hold on your hand parts. Laurence flips his mahogany bangs, and gives you a white smile. "Only the most refined and dignified materials should be used for this endeavor. Leave everything to me! Permit me a few grains of sand this morning, Father. Before you leave the market— or if there are any other matters you have to attend to— I can set aside all other affairs to meet your humblest of requests post-haste. The other garments will warrant my full attention, and a little more Time! But before I determine my priority for this order, there are other matters you'd like to address." A broad smile. "Please, do go on."

You match the smile in turn. "Our city needs a new look."

"Oh. I see." He practically vibrates with excitement. A shaking hand feels along a nearby table for a quill. It's joined with some parchment, ready to draft up a list of supplies.

(1/2)
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>>4613048
"A commission, Mr. Taylor: Design and produce new uniforms for Eadric's guard. Revitalize the image of my fair city, with a reward for those loyal to the church. Feel free to collect as many aides as you require for the endeavor. You will carry the endorsement of King, church, and country."

You've never seen someone look so happy about clothing. "Bless you, Father. Bless your heart. Do you have any specific requests?"

"I want to unify our city, represent our new purpose, restore their faith, and rise from the Night of Embers in style."

"Commendable."

"Make my people look incredible."

A twirl of the quill. He sticks it behind his ear. "Very well then."

"That's not all. I have a challenge for you."

The thin line of Laurence's lips becomes completely straight. "That remains to be seen."

Now you're the one smirking. "You remember Ray?"

"He is valiant. I could *never* forget our caravan's pack leader."

"He is Eadric's foremost defender. My guard dog should be outfitted just as any other one of my soldiers will be."

The man beside you can't keep up the facade, and laughs along with you. The ponce wipes a tear from his eye. "Is the pouch he carries insufficient?"

Your insistence is hushed, secretive, and your face hurts from smiling so hard. "He needs to look dapper! A coat, at minimum. He must match the guard, Mr. Taylor. This is non-negotiable."

"It will be done." Both of you straighten up, and resume a calmer demeanor. "I cannot provide an estimate for the completion of this work, given the present scarcity of supplies and hands. I'll send an estimate for the endeavor once I know the number of men you wish to outfit. Your own materials, the apron, and Ray's materials will come out to—"

"There's one other thing."

"I'm going to cry, Father Anscham. 'The lord of generosity' would be a more befitting title for you."

"Thank you. I was actually wondering if you had a suggestion on something to get for Spangle and Electrum, to keep— to keep them out of trouble."

Laurence keeps on hand to his chin, and gestures flamboyantly with the other. "There's a shop a little ways down the road. Take the second alley. You'll find a staircase down to the entrance. There is a pink and red emblem on the wall beside the door."

"An underground…?"

"A 'toy' shop." He winks. "It should keep them busy."

It's particularly warm today. "I see."

A roll of his eyes. "If that's too saucy for you, there's a nice cobbler and hatter at the end of the market. I'm certain that they'd both enjoy an excuse to get out on the town normally." A seriously more professional demeanor overtakes the merchant. "I can have the apron, shirts, and trousers finished by the Time you return."

Your resemblance to a lecher must be potent for a near-stranger to make such a suggestion. Not that it's unfounded. Given that you've satisfied a succubus, impressed an incubus, can be called the lord of love, have bedded a Goddess, challenge excess...

(Options in next post.)
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>>4613055
>A] Get something nice and wholesome here in the market for the girls, and linger for long enough to get the materials Laurence is making. You can probably try it all on once you get to Claymore's place, and make a nicer impression when you get to see Julian and Irefist.

>B] You can't pass up the chance to see something seedier in town. It sounds like no one should see you going in either, so you won't have to necessarily worry about your image taking a further hit.

>C] Don't linger, and head straight over to Claymore's house. You'll double back here to get the things you've ordered when you're done.

>D] You are enjoying this morning come hell or high water. There's plenty more to see and do in this area, lots of friends and allies you could look after, and plenty of little things to attend to that you've been putting off. (Write-in if you'd like to take a minute to catch up on writing letters, anyone else you want to shop for, or even if you just want to continue taking it easy for a little while.)
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>>4613068
C; after we get something wholesome for the girls of course. We have a busy day ahead.
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>>4613068
>>C] Don't linger, and head straight over to Claymore's house. You'll double back here to get the things you've ordered when you're done.
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>>4613068
Is that the way we stand, where you lying all the time? Is this just a game to you? But I am in so deep, you know I am such a fool for you. You got me wrapped around your finger~

Do you have to let it linger, do you have to, do you have to?
But yeah, C
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>>4613126
>>4613231
>>4613240
(Unanimous vote for C! Beautiful. Vote is locked here. Writing now.)
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>>4613306
https://youtu.be/1XtD4bgz7A0

You have a busy day ahead. One in which you will not linger! Promptly excusing yourself from Mr. Taylor's company takes you down to the end of the market.

The cobbler is right where he said they'd be. A new pair of shoes for yourself is LONG overdue. The polite, soft-spoken woman who runs the business informs you that her husband was out fighting during the Night of Embers, but that while he recovers, she's familiar enough with their family's wares to help out. You're entrusted with a pair of dark leather boots. They look like they'll hold up to your intense lifestyle, and will match with everything.

Upon requesting a recommendation for Electrum, you get a classy, and well-decorated pair of 'high heels'. The strappy item should be easy enough to adjust, but they look like a hybrid between torture devices and riding shoes. It's probably fine. The clergywoman favors equally sadistic upper body attire (she never takes off the damn 'corset'), you're pretty sure she's 5'10'' (her and Spangle have always been quite tall), and you're positive she's going to love the jewel-decorated item.

The hatter across the way has attire that would make even Yech's cold heart sing. You locate a fitted hat that will match James' new codpiece. It's adorned with a demon's feathers, and should be wickedly handsome with his face shape and structure.

A similarly nefarious headpiece is located for Spangle. It's a fire-resistant shawl. The item is meant to cover a woman's hair, which will lend well for her appearance at formal events. (Given that the pyromaniac burnt off most of her hair taming a forest fire last month, this should prevent further incident as well!) It's modest, in a lovely shade of marigold, will emphasize her elegant features, and couldn't be more perfect.

With the last few wholesome gifts stashed in your satchel, you head off to Claymore's smithy. It's adjacent to the man's house, and only a short walk in your new shoes. They feel phenomenal. So does the open air, the heat of a roaring furnace, and seeing your most heroic craftsman with sweat on his brow.

Beneath the open-air structure's high roof, beneath your banners, and across from the roaring furnace, you can see Eckard "Claymore" Sollers' shredded muscle working at a lock. You venture closer to the countless tools fastened at the rear wall, the broad wooden table he's hunched over, and neat rows of identical locks on the table alongside more that your blacksmith has created. Their owner has his well-worn leather apron on. Matching, heavy leather gloves are set aside. You resist the urge to go inspect the myriad swords and hammers scattered about, and the start of a suit of armor at the side of the smithy.

(1/3)
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>>4613487
The complex contraptions he's working on must require a delicate hand, even with the assistance of several fine tools beside him. The respectable, middle-aged man is hard at work. The oldest member of your congregation (not counting James' demonic aging) came out from the depths of the world at your urging. It must be strange to be back in society, taking care of himself, and obviously working to help secure the Church of Mercy.

Judging by the heraldry of your caravan that's on every item he's crafted, he must feel right at home. You politely wait just outside the covering over the smithy, while trying not to stare at the metal covering the missing half of his face. He might be a little grateful for you saving his life, and finishing off the demon of illumination that robbed him of much of his skin.

Giving into the urge to pick at the edge of your sleeve is acceptable, until he's finished with the most delicate of the work. It only takes a minute or two. A big smile and a hearty voice accompanies a wave for you to come inside. "Richard! Richard, get over here."

You exceed the intensity of his smile. "Claymore. You are a demon of security. The door. My dungeons—"

"—it's an embarrassment. I know." He's rolling his eyes, and leans back on a wooden stool with expert precision. The man's the most capable combatant you've ever met, and effortlessly uses only one foot to keep the stool perched on two hind legs. "I'm working on the replacement locks as we speak." The sweat is wiped from his brow, though more is in droplets along most of his clean-shaven face. "Figured you could use something that would bite back."

There's visible teeth and spikes within the items. Your eyes light up. "Mick and Randy would be impressed."

The back of a small tool is used to poke at the lock in frustration. "I'd have killed to have them here to test these."

You gulp, though not because you know Claymore could kill greater demons through swords and grit alone. You may have completely forgotten to inform your congregation that Mick and Randy have been found, are alive, and have been working for months to help restore your reputation in the north. Both men are also likely being manipulated by Father Sullivan to retake control of the Church of Spirit. It's even more likely that both lechers are in the process of exacting revenge on Victor "Mad Dog" Bonamy, after the spy infiltrated your blasphemous congregation, and stabbed you all in the back.

It's hard to say if your friends hate Sullivan or Victor more, but you're certain everyone would be relieved just to know that Mick and Randy haven't been killed.

(Overestimated. Options in next post.)
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>>4613489
>A] You are not a liar, can't keep this secret, and Claymore deserves to know that Mick and Randy are alive. The security of the Church of Mercy, and the whereabouts of two of the most wanted scoundrels in the nation probably shouldn't be discussed in the open air anyways. Ask your blacksmith if you can talk inside his house.

>B] The Church of Knowledge has a reputation for having ears and eyes EVERYWHERE. As Mick and Randy are DEEPLY entrenched in Father Sullivan's subterfuge, have their plot to save your reputation, and are actively trying to unseat someone from the Church of Spirit, you REALLY don't want to risk ANYTHING. Don't breathe a word to Claymore, or to anyone else in your congregation. It's for your friend's ultimate safety, even if it's uncomfortable. You pray everyone will one day understand.

>C] You're a miserable liar, but know how much your friends mean to one another. Simply tell Claymore that you look forward to seeing your friends again, then PROMPTLY change the subject to the castle's security. He's sharp enough to get it.
>1] You'll consult with Sister Cardew, and see what she thinks is safe to tell anyone about Mick and Randy (if anything).
>2] You'll break the full news to everyone you KNOW you can trust at your meeting tonight, regardless of what's safe or not. They deserve to know that their friends are alive.

>D] The lore of the door can wait just another minute. (Write-in how you might want to approach the news about Mick and Randy. Bear in mind that Sister Cardew is the only person in Eadric who heard your conversation with Father Sullivan, and is likely the only other person in the nation who knows your scoundrels are even alive.)
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>>4613491
>>C] You're a miserable liar, but know how much your friends mean to one another. Simply tell Claymore that you look forward to seeing your friends again, then PROMPTLY change the subject to the castle's security. He's sharp enough to get it.
>>1] You'll consult with Sister Cardew, and see what she thinks is safe to tell anyone about Mick and Randy (if anything).
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>>4613491
>>C] You're a miserable liar, but know how much your friends mean to one another. Simply tell Claymore that you look forward to seeing your friends again, then PROMPTLY change the subject to the castle's security. He's sharp enough to get it.

The holy >See vote
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>>4613491
C1, because B makes a lot of sense. We won't keep the news from them forever, but caution may be warranted.
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>>4613491

>>C] You're a miserable liar, but know how much your friends mean to one another. Simply tell Claymore that you look forward to seeing your friends again, then PROMPTLY change the subject to the castle's security. He's sharp enough to get it.
>>1] You'll consult with Sister Cardew, and see what she thinks is safe to tell anyone about Mick and Randy (if anything).

If anyone knows about opsec it should be Cardew, and if didn't say anything to guarantee the safety of Mick and Randy I am sure everyone would be thankful.
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>>4613503
>>4613542
>>4613558
>>4613604
(Good afternoon guys! Unanimous vote for C1 is locked! Writing now.)
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>>4613948
The Church of Spirit has a reputation for having ears and eyes everywhere. Much like how the Church of Mercy is rumored to keep and torture demons beneath its bright halls, you know there must be a GREAT deal of truth to the legend surrounding Father Sullivan's own clergy and home. Sister Cardew needs to be consulted before talking to anyone. And given that Mick and Randy are deeply entrenched in Sullivan's subterfuge, have been working for months to salvage your reputation, and are engaged in some plot to unseat Marjorie Cardew and all of her supporters from the Church of Spirit (and all its associated power)...

You're a miserable liar, and can only pray that a rapid change of the subject will suffice. "I will continue looking forward to seeing them again. Much like the door, Claymore."

"The door." There's instantly a manic light in his eye. The lock-making tools are set aside. "You're a madman, you know that?"

"Yes." The two of you grin at each other for a good, long moment. "Do you think it's possible?"

"Possible? Did Walter manage to even screw up getting you a shopping list?"

You frown. "No. But acquiring the materials—"

"You're resourceful. I know you can make it happen." He crosses his arms, and fishes out the arrowhead you were stabbed with from his apron's front pocket. The barbed item is waved at you. "Not that I should worry about you going out into the woods. You can take a hit! This should have killed you!"

You both continue to grin at each other like lunatics.

Claymore leans a little further back, as he sets the sharpened stone onto the table. "Mind showing me sometime? You know. How to get shot and live. You madman."

"If it were that simple, I would have— I would have *significantly* less to do." Damaged nerves through your entire left calf are comfortably numb, compared to the fear this small piece of rock put in you just a few days past. You pick the item up, and take care not to prick your fingers on its honed edges. "Is there anything you can tell me about it?"

Your blacksmith looks more disturbed than usual. "Thought you'd recognize it."

Though your sensitivity to Agriculture's domains is extreme, you still don't have an eye as trained as a master. The green dahlia you were gifted by the Goddess has yet to grant you the same degree of inherent ability as She's capable of, it seems. Fidgeting with the strap on your satchel does nothing to relieve the nagging reminder that the flower you were gifted will wilt, and that you still would like to do something special with it, and Her.

Claymore's harsh tone snaps you out of the musing. "It's made of the same stone as your city, Richard. They made weapons out of what they were digging up. Why get new metal or rock from outside the city when Eadric is made of the stuff?"

You are not going to have your blood boil, or scream, or get sick. "I see."

"There was poison on it too, right?"

"Yes."

"It's the same stuff they were using in Calunoth, isn't it?"

(1/3)
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>>4614045
"It's more advanced. Significantly more. This variety burns to the touch. It devours Flesh, slows the blood, and will cause the heart to falter."

"Yeesh." A glance over Claymore shoulder, to the street. A few busybody neighbors across the way are whispering to themselves, while staring at you standing around and talking to your craftsman.

His stool is leaned back to a normal position. A survivor of the ruins whispers, "I don't trust a damn thing around here. No one does. The food shortage wouldn't be so bad as it's been if people weren't hoarding everything they already had. No one who's heard of what happened in the capital trusts any wares given out. I don't blame them." Fear wrinkles his brow. "They know it can stick to food. This poison can't get into the water, right?"

"Right."

The memory of licking aforementioned poison off of a corpse pops into the forefront of your mind like a welcome burst of sunshine in a cloudy conversation. The slick, acrid taste. Resistance to death itself.

You blink it away. "The Church of Vengeance has requisitioned a great deal of supply, but none of it was tainted. Do you think…?"

"The dead can harbor it just as well. There are a few mass graves that were dug. ...after what happened the other night."

"The Night of Embers."

Both of you stare at the nearby furnace for several minutes.

Claymore mutters, "Spangle's alright, by the way." A deep sigh of relief escapes you. "She got the worst of it, but Electrum's been working on keeping her together. Girl's chest and lungs got smoked. Bad."

It's impossible to help yourself, as you whisper in return. "Where are they?"

"Don't mean any offense Father—" The sudden use of your title already is enough to make your heart sink. "—but they asked for me to not tell anyone where they're at. They know you want to help— but they both are still both priestesses. Healers. They were pissed enough already that they couldn't do more, and wanted me to ask you to help out in the *city*. To look after things." He swallows hard, and sweeps up the arrowhead from the table. "You lost a lot of good men. Women and children, too. The streets are emptier. People want to get back to their lives, and we're safer here under the church than most. But they're scared. There's sickness. The dead carry it, too. From what I hear, plenty of Pevrel's men died too. Burying 'em. Guarding graves."

Anger twists his features. "They're trying to dig up the dead in places. Scattering their efforts. Petty, small, miserable wretches. They're counting on you fucking up, and fucking you up. On you getting distracted, and wasting your damn Time on things other people should manage." A look passes around the smithy. "You see any spare hands here?"

"No."

"Because they're at home, asleep. I won't have my boys run themselves ragged, even if I'll stay up half the night writing up how to make you a door."

Guilty and terribly grateful looks pass between the two of you.

(2/3)
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>>4614048
"Richard, I don't know shit about shit about how to run a city, or a church, or a country. But I know that we're all counting on you to do *what you do best*. That includes trusting your people to do the same. Don't worry about the girls." A glance goes to one of the banners hanging from the eaves. "You've got enough to keep even a Goddess' hands full. Let us all give you a hand some of the Time, too."

>A] You're worried sick about Spangle and Electrum, and the Father of Protection would rather break the trust of those he loves than to risk anything happening to them.
>1] Beg Claymore to tell you where they are. Call on life-debts and stress every pity card in the book if necessary.
>2] Demand to know where they are. Pull rank and get intimidating if necessary.

>B] These matters need to wait to be addressed until your meeting tonight. Don't make any promises to Claymore, but thank him for his counsel. Ask him if he'll come to the castle this evening, and leave it at that. You should go see Sister Miramond and Irefist, and get the day on the road (literally).

>C] Your friends are a treasure, Claymore deserves another hug, and you can spare a minute to talk.
>1] The DOOR (Feel free to write-in any specifics you want to question Claymore about. Otherwise you'll just ask for a breakdown on what materials he's asked for you to requisition for this insane project.)
>2] Ask about these mass gravesites. You know they're being closely guarded, but you have a budding, morbid fixation with death. (Feel free to write in if you're simply curious, are legitimately upset about how many people have died, etc.)
>3] Is that a suit of ARMOR in the corner?! Make some wholesome conversation about Claymore's work here in Eadric, and the apprentices under his masterful eye.

>D] Write-in.
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>>4614050

>>2] Ask about these mass gravesites. You know they're being closely guarded, but you have a budding, morbid fixation with death. (Feel free to write in if you're simply curious, are legitimately upset about how many people have died, etc.)

They are vectors for illness and something we should at least know more about, don't need an epidemic break out after everything.

>3] Is that a suit of ARMOR in the corner?! Make some wholesome conversation about Claymore's work here in Eadric, and the apprentices under his masterful eye.

How could we not ask. I wonder who it is for.
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>>4614062
Supporting these votes.
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>>4614062
+1, a hug is warranted.
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(Work has been beyond insane today. Next update when I return home for sure! ETA 2-3 hours.)
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>>4614062
>>4614133
>>4614135
(Unanimous vote is locked here. Got all those write-ins. Writing now!)
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>>4614328
A hug is warranted. Claymore gives you a look the instant you shift to pull him into one. You give him a sad smile in return. "I can't imagine what I would do without you all."

He begrudgingly accepts you wrapping an arm around him. "Alright. Alright. Go ahead." It's like hugging granite. Sweaty, soot-scented, metal-plated granite. He pats you on the back. "You don't need to worry about that. We're not going anywhere. Neither are you."

You pull back almost immediately, and dry your hands on the sides of your coat. "No. Thank you. You— all of you are a treasure."

More eye rolling. He grins despite himself. "I know."

You stay standing straight, and settle on running a hand through your hair instead of dropping your elbows to the table. It doesn't do much for how exasperated you are. "I am at a loss. Trying to fathom a breakout of more illness and death is— it's too much for me to bear, Claymore. But I need to at least know what is happening in and around my city. These gravesites...?"

One, deep, apologetic sigh. "That poison's been eating people from the inside out. Everyone's scared to touch it— except for Pevrel's guys. They gathered up the dead from both sides, and didn't seem to care that most people would want their loved ones buried respectfully. Said it was for everyone's safety." He's getting progressively angrier. "From what Echo heard, they put your people in plots far from the river. Stone graves, here in the city. The cultists, though? They at least weren't burned—" Panic hits you like a knife in your back. "—thanks to us getting word out in Time."

Ragged relief leaves you in a single breath. The thought of Brother Murdac poisoning half of Calunoth by burning this toxin is still fresh in all your minds. "By all the Gods. Thank you."

"Don't gotta' thank me. Was all Walter. I just got the word out. Spangle scared 'em straight too, when she needed to. We were all working at it from dawn 'til dusk, and pretty long after. The cultists were buried past the city outskirts. I guess it's been pretty hard to protect the graves. Disposing of the dead doesn't exactly take priority in this sort of thing, does it?"

"No. No, it does not." You drag the hand that's been fussing with your hair down the side of your face, and nervously laugh. A nod towards the corner of the smithy. You need a change of subject. This is something you might be able to investigate later, but not now. "I don't suppose that armor is for anyone I would know?"

"Come on." The blacksmith is delighted by a saner change in conversation, and leads you over.

(1/2)
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>>4614442

Though the chest is flat, and it's standing taller than most of your countrymen, you can instantly tell by how slender the rest of the armor is that it's for a woman. Not much has been constructed yet for the lower body, but the pauldrons are adorned with carvings of flame, and speckles of deep umber create the impression of ash and cinder along the entire suit. Every inch has strange ridges, weeping with crimson metal. It's not quite copper, and looks more delicate than basin obsidian. You have to wonder if the odd shape of each individual piece is intended to make up for what looks to be a weak and thin material.

A rap on the breastplate makes a thin, high sound. "Fluting. Seen it in the ruins. Crazy stuff. Made the whole set out of bleeding bronze, just to see if I could. Pevrel's men brought plenty for trade."

"This is remarkable. ...and you bought them all out?"

All of Claymore's teeth are flashed. "Our girl's worth it."

The two of you admire the suit for a few moments.

"It's lovely." A glance is cast to the miscellaneous tools, weapons, and mundane items neatly stored and stacked around the smithy. "I can't begin to imagine how lucky your apprentices must feel."

"You really need to stop that." He's somehow grinning harder.

"What?"

"Being so damn nice."

He's asking for it now. "You're telling me that they've been ungrateful?"

"No." A sudden frown. He almost laughs. "You bastard!"

A hand goes to your chest. "What a relief." An innocent glance towards the armor. "They haven't had the opportunity to work on this, then, have they?"

"Of course they have. Might be the only opportunity they get in their lives to touch the stuff. I have them work on damn near everything with me—" A nod towards the locks. "—save for anything to do with the castle. Can't be too careful."

All pretense of innocence gives way to a cheeky grin. "That is an incredibly Merciful gesture, Claymore."

Both of his hands are up. A goofy voice is assumed. You've never seen him so embarrassed. "Stop. Staahp."

The man must actually be incredibly modest about his work. Excellent. "You'll have to tell me another Time about their skill, then!"

"Well, actually—"

"—thanks to your masterful eye—"

"—alright! Alright, that's it! Out!"

You laugh as he gets up, and moves to start shoving you out of the smithy. Claymore is actually strong enough to manage to get you to budge, and he laughs triumphantly the moment he realizes it. "Out!!"

>A] Continue teasing Claymore on your way out. He deserves to hear it.

>B] Reluctantly ease up on the teasing, and bid a fond farewell. You'll see each other later tonight.

>C] Ease up on the teasing. There was seriously something else you wanted to say or do before you go. (Write-in.)
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>>4614454
A :^)
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>>4614454

>>A] Continue teasing Claymore on your way out. He deserves to hear it.

Master fighter AND blacksmith? Is there something this man CANNOT do?
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>>4614454
>A] Continue teasing Claymore on your way out. He deserves to hear it.
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>>4614454
>A] Continue teasing Claymore on your way out. He deserves to hear it.
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>>4614516
>>4614993
>>4615149
>>4615170
(Thank you for your patience guys. Having one hell of a day at work. Will update as soon as I can, may be awhile. Vote is open until then.)
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>>4615436
I'm sorry to hear that. I hope it gets better.
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>>4615498
(Thank you very much my man. Things are smoothing out! Still very busy, so I'm estimating that I'll be able to update soon as I'm back home. ETA 2.5-3 hours.)
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>>4614516
>>4614993
>>4615149
>>4615170
(Home from work! Three day weekend! Vote is locked! Writing nooowwwww aaaaaa)
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>>4615781
https://youtu.be/Yzs9WSyZKTg

On your way out, just enough resistance is given to slow down your friend— but the teasing cannot falter. You must be relentless. "And with how much strength you possess?"

"Don't make me bully you, Richard—!"

You lean a little further back against the brutally strong fighter, trying hard not to laugh. His arms bend slightly from the additional weight, as you smirk. "Of course. You're far too honorable for something like that."

"Honor this!" With a flex and a heave of his arms, you're scooted a few more inches towards the other side of the smithy.

"Gladly!" You take a single step forwards. "A master fighter AND blacksmith deserves nothing less—"

"—shove it!" He literally keeps shoving you. It's probably a decent workout. The blacksmith couldn't look more amused, but is completely red-faced from embarrassment. "I mean it."

You make a show of calling out a little more loudly. Enough that the neighbors can probably hear. "Is there something this man CANNOT do?"

"No! I mean— fuck, RICHARD, WILL YOU GET OUT—"

Both of you are in fits of giggles by the time you arrive outside in the streets. Claymore breathlessly waves at you. "Out!"

"As you wish," you bow. A turn towards the street. "Thank you for the counsel, and all your hospitality!"

He can't stop laughing. "I never want to hear from you again!"

"See you tonight!" Your own chuckling carries all the way out to the cobblestone, and the cool morning air.

A call from within the smithy drifts out to the streets as you depart. "Yeah, yeah!"

It's a short walk to Irefist's home. The ex-sailor is outside in the yard. Sword on his shoulder, he's already dressed for the guard. Your eyes shine at the thought of the uniforms that are being drafted, as the fit fighter makes ready to get out for the day. There's deep bags under golden eyes that still reflect the invocation you influenced your blasphemous congregation with. The metallic orbs flit repeatedly from locking the front door to the low, flat, stone abode, over to the priestess at his side.

Sister Julian Miramond is in the same tangerine robes that she's surely been adorned in since leaving the Church of Storm (however many weeks past). They've been cleaned from demon's bile, human's blood, and soot from the lightning she can conjure from her fingertips. The light morning breeze lifts the woman's wild, stark-white clouds of hair to and fro. It seems to masterfully stay away from the middle-aged woman's face, which turns towards you with an immediate frown. Her voice is high and a little haughty, but kept quiet enough to not disturb any of the other citizens coming and going along the streets. "Father Anscham? They weren't expecting you to be up for another day, at least. What's happened?"

(1/2)
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>>4615859
You clear your throat, and get Irefist's attention immediately. "I had hoped to run into you this morning, Sister. There's something incredibly important—" You make an exaggerated wink at the man behind her. He immediately looks nervous. The grin you assume could not be more pleased, with a finger out on one hand, and the other going to get the tied and packaged gift from your satchel. "—if you'll give me just a moment, there was something I needed to give to you."

With a huff, Julian rolls her eyes, and lolls her head back. She and Irefist have taken down demons comprised of over fifty cultists, held off a siege at the gates to your castle, cleaned out tunnels deep beneath your city, and stuck by each other's sides almost continuously since they first met. You know beyond any doubt she appreciates the gesture, but there's no humor in her voice as she drawls. "You put him up to what?"

Irefist starts to stammer.

"He didn't put me up to anything." It's an innocent and honest reply. A cute, bright orange ribbon is tied around the mysteriously shaped present in hand. You politely give a slight bow of your head, finish crossing over to your allies, and hand the gift over.

The fire in her eyes throws daggers at Carlisle. He's still trying to articulate a response. The instant she takes her eyes off both of you to snatch up the gift, Irefist mouths 'what?!'

'You're welcome,' is your delighted, and discreet reply.

The packaging on the rigging knife is torn off in one motion. The grown woman standing beside you both lets out a small shriek, and doesn't realize how exaggerated her reaction is until a moment too late.

Mischief is all over your guard's face. Irefist sweeps the woman into his arms, dips her with a hand at her back, and gives her a peck on the lips.

Julian feigns a gasp. "How dare you."

"Don't go stabbing me with that."

She pecks him back, and bares her teeth. "No promises. Will you let go of me?"

"Nope."

The two of them put up a mock fight to wrestle away.

Sister Miramond wins out, stands upright, and uselessly tries slicking back her hair. Blushing. She spits, "thank you, Father Anscham."

It's never been a greater struggle to not laugh in all your life. "No need to thank me."

Irefist snorts, and finishes locking the door at his back. He's elbowed hard by Julian. "Thanks."

"Don't thank me," he snickers.

The priestess groans, and crosses her arms at you. "So? What's wrong?"

(Options in next post.)
>>
>>4615862
>A] Nothing. It's a beautiful day, and the northern roads are not worth killing yourself over. Ask Sister Miramond if she'll accompany you to the market before you locate Father Pevrel. You'd really like to get into some better fitting clothes, IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP with a priestess of Storm, and might be able to steal a little conversation with Irefist. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take a moderate amount of time.)

>B] There's a HEALTH ISSUE in your city, and you're rightfully worried about it. You'll make a quick stop through the market, and would like to look into the mass grave on the city's outskirts.
>1] Ask Irefist if he'll accompany you both, even though he's surely busy. You all made an absurdly effective team before. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED, with an added positive modifier. This could take the longest amount of time.)
>2] You trust Sister Miramond's abilities completely, and don't want to perpetually pull your guards away from their duty. Don't invite Irefist to join you. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This could take the longest amount of time.)

>C] The ROADS need to be seen to at once. You're enjoying the morning, but really don't want to dither. Stop by the market, go find Father Pevrel, and be on your way to the work outside Eadric's walls.
>1] Ask Irefist if he'll accompany you both, even though he's surely busy. You all made an absurdly effective team before. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED, with an added positive modifier. This could take the shortest amount of time.)
>2] You trust Sister Miramond's abilities completely, and don't want to perpetually pull your guards away from their duty. Don't invite Irefist to join you. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This could take the shortest amount of time.)

>D] Write-in. (A roll may be required.)
>>
>>4615866
A; though the roads are important, the other anons may appreciate going easy for the moment. We will see to the graves later.
>>
>>4615866

>>A] Nothing. It's a beautiful day, and the northern roads are not worth killing yourself over. Ask Sister Miramond if she'll accompany you to the market before you locate Father Pevrel. You'd really like to get into some better fitting clothes, IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP with a priestess of Storm, and might be able to steal a little conversation with Irefist. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take a moderate amount of time.)

We need to convince her to become part of our retinue so we can have Storm babies dammit.
>>
>>4615866
>A] Nothing. It's a beautiful day, and the northern roads are not worth killing yourself over. Ask Sister Miramond if she'll accompany you to the market before you locate Father Pevrel. You'd really like to get into some better fitting clothes, IMPROVE YOUR RELATIONSHIP with a priestess of Storm, and might be able to steal a little conversation with Irefist. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take a moderate amount of time.)
>>
>>4615920
>>4616020
>>4616189
(Good afternoon guys! Vote is locked.)

>MISSION OBJECTIVE: TAKE IT EASY (PART II)
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.

>-20 INERTIA (They're everywhere.)
>-10 FAME (You're a magnet for attention.)
>-5 APPEARANCES TO KEEP (Sister Miramond and Irefist are a little full of themselves.)
>+15 DEFENDER OF EADRIC (Your city has your back!)
>+15 INSPIRING LEADER (The sermon went really well.)
>+10 PRIEST OF AGRICULTURE (The Goddess of gardening, tea, and decent breakfasts could not be happier with you.)
>+5 PRIEST OF DREAM (To relax is to serve!)
>+5 FATHER OF LOVE (You're an expert on the hearts of mankind.)

(The total bonus to the roll is +15. A special event will trigger if the roll (after modifiers) is over 100.)
>>
Rolled 51 (1d100)

>>4616437

ROLL FOR THE POWER OF LOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOOVE
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Rolled 14 (1d100)

>>4616437
Rollan
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Rolled 13 (1d100)

>>4616437
Everyone knows it takes a spider to weave the Webs of Love...
>>
>>4616440
>>4616462
>>4616477
(Bo3 after modifiers is 66! Writing now.)
>>
>>4616600
https://youtu.be/1EcZW_SgFTI

"Nothing." You smile to the fluffy clouds overhead. "Before I locate Father Pevrel, I was hoping— I was hoping that you both could accompany me to the market."

Your blasphemous congregation member grumbles first. "You need the guard?"

Your smiles intensifies. "It's a beautiful day. One befitting of excellent company."

"Mhm." Julian starts walking off towards the market, smirking at the ex-mariner. "Sounds fair enough to me."

Her long strides are matched by the skip in your step, and Irefist is quickly left behind. He hollers after you both. "Hey!"

Given your substantial presence, and downright demonic demeanor, most people are content to leave you to your own devices when alone. But with the company of a priestess of Storm, and one of the most troublesome tempers in the city, the small retinue you've formed draws some stares and murmurs from nearby neighbors. Irefist is immediately irritated— but might be keeping himself in check in thanks for the gift you've given Julian. He leans over towards her, with the exchange of a few whispers.

You catch something about asking if she needs anything from the market. It's too wholesome for you to not comment. "I'll just be picking up a small commission from Mr. Taylor, if you two need anything."

The man beside you lifts his scowl. "He's holding up alright?"

"I'm surprised that you haven't seen him." You nod towards Julian. "The two of you have been working so diligently— I suppose it's understandable."

A slight puff of her modest chest. She's a sucker for flattery. "If I had known of how much opportunity lies here in Eadric, I'd have left Rimilde ages ago."

The three of you are rapidly closing the distance towards the market. Irefist barks out a laugh, and narrowly avoids stepping in a pothole. "Opportunity? Is that what you call it?"

"Yes," Julian snips. She bares her teeth at both of you. "Opportunity for mayhem, or carnage, or whatever you please."

Your alternative suggestion is made with an equally wide grin. "Devotion."

Sincerely laughing, Sister Miramond elbows Irefist. "Aha! See? He gets it. Devotion!" She murmurs towards you. "Demon of faith, is it?"

More grumbling from the sailor. "Load of crock, that is."

With a softer smile, you lean towards the couple. "These opportunities for devotion need not be for the Gods alone. I also speak of our family, and friends. Those who we care for, and wish to protect."

All grumpiness fades from both of their faces. A begrudging, "alright," from Irefist is music to your ears. He raises his head towards the market square. "Go on ahead. We'll stick around for a minute."

You can't hide your grin. "Of course. I'll be just a moment."

(1/3)
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>>4616699
The two lovebirds are left to their own devices. Crossing over to Laurence's wagon only takes a minute. He's delighted to entrust you with a pastel-pink apron for Ofelia. Ruffles adorn the bosom, which will emphasize her substantial curves. The back is bare, and adorned with a fluffy ribbon. The tails would be quite long, and you're informed it's to lead the eye where it's needed most. It's a gift befitting of a new Father.

The heat in your face rivals that of the incoming day, which creeps on at a steady pace. There's no need to rush. The bodies at the city's outskirts will be seen to. The roads can wait.

You're given three newly fitted shirts. They're all in deep shades of black, green, and a midnight blue. Gold trim is along the sleeves, and tasteful varieties of fabric accent their high collars. Lace is at the sides, so they can be let out or in effortlessly. Similar fasteners are on two pairs of trousers. They're both all in black, and are made of fabrics that could stand the test of time. Laurence invites you to try everything on in the wagon, which has accommodations for this sort of venture.

You oblige only for the black shirt and matching pants, which fit like a dream. Both garments are exceptionally slimming, and compliment the cut of the enchanted outer-garment you've been sporting today. The overall impression is infinitely more respectable. The torn and frayed items you were previously wearing are thrown away, and you're greeted with a whistle as you emerge back into the market.

Irefist and Julian are standing outside. The former is merely teasing you with the sound. The latter elbows him hard, and hisses to you and the merchant responsible for your more befitting appearance. "Not bad."

"Not bad?" Laurence huffs, and sweeps up the extravagant quantity of coin requested for the entire order. "Not bad?"

You're taking a minute to draft a written request for additional payment on behalf of the Church of Mercy, with stamps and signatures for the rest. While you pen the elaborate note to Electrum, it's effortless to express some gratitude. "The swiftness of your craft is only exceeded by your skill, Mr. Taylor. Everything is phenomenal." You hand off an envelope bearing a yellow wax seal. "Sister Superior Tirel will be happy to aid you— along with any additional members of your employ— for the rest of this venture."

The item changes hands. Laurence sneers towards both your friends. "Thank you."

"It really is wonderful," you insist. Having something on that properly fits is a massive relief. "Truly. Thank you."

Your craftsman gives you a reluctant smile. "Alright. Alright. Off with you, then."

Everyone sets out. Mischief has you teasing the members of your company all the way out from the market. "What were the two of you discussing...?"

Irefist is not a clever man. "Nothing!"

The face you make at him is skeptical enough to elicit a laugh of an answer.

(2/3)
>>
>>4616701
"For fuck's sake, Richard. You should see your face. Alright." A glance to the sky. To the checkpoint you all are approaching. To the woman at his side. "You know. Stuff. About the future."

"Stuff," you repeat.

"You know," Julian echoes. Demons can't match how smug her smile is. "About the future. This madness is far from at its end, Father. It would be a travesty for me to ignore a city in peril."

A fake frown from Irefist. "Yep. Real irresponsible, that."

It's impossible to contain your enthusiasm. "We can use any help our nation can afford, Sister Miramond. With or without madness and peril, your company is most welcome."

The three of you smile at the sky above for many long moments.

"Don't think I'm committing to anything just yet," she notes.

You shove down the urge to sigh. "Not at all."

The walk towards the checkpoint slows. It's clear none of you have any idea what direction you're headed. There's a significantly greater volume of people in the streets. The prisoner in your dungeons nearly stabbed Irefist, thanks to hiding in a crowd. All of you are far from tense, but the threat of danger is ever-present.

A gesture is made towards the checkpoint, as you sigh. "None of us have any idea where Father Pevrel is, do we...?"

"Not a clue," Irefist grimaces.

"I can guess." Irritation flits across Sister Miramond's features. "He's been haunting a number of bars throughout the city. Avoiding the Church of Mercy, naturally. We were meant to report to Irefist's home once you were in need of our services. The building has been utilized as a discreet meeting location for the last several days. But if I'm not mistaken, he may still be out patrolling the roads."

Bless his rotten heart.

This is still cause for concern. "Still...?"

Your guard sniffs, and hawks up a wad of spit on the side of the road. "You think he'd pass up on a chance to get his hands dirty? I doubt the twisted shit's gotten any sleep since he showed up."

Julian lifts her chin. "There's rumor that he doesn't need to. ...but you didn't hear it from me."

(Options in next post.)
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>>4616702
>A] If any man would be drinking at dawn, it's Father Pevrel. Go hit up one of the many bars in Eadric. There's one in particular that you think he's going to be haunting. Worst-case scenario, you can spend some time talking to your allies along the way. (A MODERATE ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take a moderate amount of time.)

>B] Propose staying at Irefist's home until Father Pevrel swings by. It's against every fiber of your being to linger anywhere, but you cannot pass up the opportunity for tea and wholesome conversation. (A LOW ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take the most amount of time.)

>C] Hit the streets. Go out to the roads. Get to business. (A HIGH ROLL WILL BE REQUIRED. This will take the least amount of time.)
>1] If you don't run into Father Pevrel, you can get this venture started without him.
>2] You'll actively search for Father Pevrel.
>3] You'll wait for Father Pevrel, come what may.

>D] Write-in. (A roll may be required.)
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>>4616703
A; offer them some Sunshine (from our flask) while we're at it.
>>
>>4616703
>>4616759
Support
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>>4616703
>Take off clothes
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>>4617030
Uhhh? Opposing, at least until I know some context.
>>
>>4616759
>>4617025
(Unanimous vote is locked! Noting the write-in as well.)

>DRINKS AT DAWN
>Roll 1d100. Best of 3 will be used.

>-20 INERTIA (They're everywhere.)
>-10 FAME (You're a magnet for attention.)
>-15 LEADER OF THE CHURCH OF RESTRAINT (Most people won't take kindly to you showing up at a bar.)
>+20 GREEN DAHLIA (Drinks are kind of Agriculture's thing.)
>+15 LORD OF EXCESS (It's also kind of your thing.)
>+10 DEFENDER OF EADRIC (You know your city well.)
>+10 SEA SALT (Both sailors in your midst can certaily handle an early morning bar crawl.)

(That's a +20 to the roll after all modifiers.)
>>
Rolled 85 (1d100)

>>4617173
Come on Yech, this is your domain! Grant us your blessings!
>>
>>4617173
>>
Rolled 98 (1d100)

>>4617305
The embarrassment

>>4617173
>>
>>4617307
*hug*

My hero!
>>
>>4617225
>>4617307
(Holy shit these rolls. No embarrassment my friends.)
>>
Rolled 99 (1d100)

>>4617173

WE HAVE ALREADY BEEN BLESSED BY YECH.
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>>4617391
>>4617307
>>4617225

Where were these rolls yesterday?
>>
>>4617225
>>4617307
>>4617313
>>4617391
>>4617417
(WHAT
SERIOUSLY
Lol but for real these rolls are crazy. Amazing stuff guys. Hope you're having a nice weekend. Writing now.)





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