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Please find the prologue here, if you're interested in participating in the quest.

>http://suptg.thisisnotatrueending.com/qstarchive/4982368/

Good work has been hard to find since the boss went up and died a few weeks ago. Most of the gang wasn’t ready for it, and the complete lack of a leader caused all of you to head off to start a new mercenary crew, duke it out to be top dog, or find pedestrian work.

Not you. You’re not going to be like those other Elin that end up as a baker’s assistant or a florist. Well, you don’t know exactly what other Elins do for work, but you know that those weak-willed twerps would be eaten alive by the real world.

Your stomach growls in protest.

Speaking of eating, got to make some coin to get some food in you. Luckily, an offer for mercenary work has come by via a letter this morning, signed by one of your kind named Elewyn.

A meeting to take place in the “pegasus hutch” at one of the old towers on the eastern side of the city. You don’t know what the hell either of those things are, but it’s up high.

You start the long climb up the stairs.

[1/3]
>>
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>>4991642

Elewyn… You’ve seen her before. Flowing, silver hair almost as long as she is tall. A face that you can already imagine your old boss saying that it’s “blessed by the gods.” Eyes a deep amber, piercing. Prim and poised…

Annoying.

Looked like she’s never fought a battle in her whole life.

Anyway, she was eyeing you up last you were in the guild hall, so it seems that she at least knows a fighter when she sees one. You’re just here for the coin anyway, if she pays you enough you won’t care if she lifts a finger or not.

She’s going to have to pay extra for making you climb up all these stairs. And damn it’s dark and decrepit in here, might fall crack your head open.

You can tell that you’re finally nearing the top as light begins to peak through a broken hatch at the end of the stairwell. You toss open the splintered hatch, kicking up dust as it smacks into the floor above. After clearing your face of that awful dust, you’re able to take in your surroundings.

Birds scatter from the noise you create as you pop through the hatch. They fly toward the city that sprawls clearly before you, as you can see the roofed tops of houses, shops, and even smaller towers. The view mesmerizes you until you hear floor of the top landing creaks terribly as if ready to crack from under your weight. Scattered among the broken planks are piles of rotting hay and other types of decrepit bedding for some animals.
>>
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>>4991643

Yikes, it looks like no one has taken care of this place in years. A person could die up here, and there would be no one to take their rotting corpse away from all the other rot.

Feeling a bit of panic rise up, you reach back and place a firm grip on the handle of your great sword.

“Here.” A voice announces from an unknown location causing you to unsheathe your sword and search.

“Good that you were quick to react, but you need to open your eyes.” The voice continues as you pinpoint its source and turn to point your blade.

A singular Elin sits with her legs pulled to her chest. Her amber eyes watching you half amused, and half piercing. She somehow appeared just a few feet behind the hatch you pulled yourself through. She gives the impression of someone that's seen a lot of shit, but you chalk it up to some type of resting bitch face.

“When did you get there?” You press with your sword fixed right on her small frame.

“I’ve been here since you climbed through that hole.” She replies flatly.

“Uhhh.”

>Double down. No way she's been there the whole time.

>Lower your sword, ask why she brought you here.

>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.

>Write in
>>
>>4991646
>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.
I checked the prologue, but what's an Elin?
>>
>>4991690


https://todlore.fandom.com/wiki/Elin (For a good summary of the canon)

A race from an MMO that came out in Korea and the states about 10 years ago.

Essentially a race of fae creature created from a nature god that resemble young girls, and gain their power from their connection to nature/their god.

That said, creative liberties will be taken with personalities, setting, and lore. Let me know if I can explain more.
>>
>>4991646
>Double down. No way she's been there the whole time.
>>
>>4991646
>>Keep your sword up, ask why she brought you here.
>>
>>4991690
>>4991807
>>4991860

Writing these votes
>>
>>4991700
oh, so it was an MMO. I was wondering how a 600 year old person could get deleveled so bad that they can't instagib slimes.
>>
>>4991887

"Hmmmm" You express your doubts now only with your sword still raised, hoping that she will crack under intimidation.

She just sits there, staring at you as if waiting for you finish what you have to say. Dust continues to float around, itching your nose. The hustle and bustle of the city is only the faintest hum at this distance, leaving you in an uncomfortable silence.

A floorboard moans under your shifting weight. "Fine! Maybe you were there." You finally crack, but don't relent on pointing your sword at her. "Just tell me why you brought me here."

Much to your continued agitation, she continues to gaze at you like she was watching some kind of theater performance.

She finally breaks eye contact to fluidly stand, wipe off dust from her clothes, and pull out some kind of parchment from a small pouch. While noticing that she doesn't have any type of weapon on her beside some big fancy stick, you startle slightly as her eyes turn back to you.

"Hired work." Despite you following her, she sidesteps your sword with ease, and extends the parchment to you. "I'll need you to travel with me for approximately three days..." She pauses just for a moment. "Ruby."

Must've forgot your name for a moment, whatever. Guard work sounds simple enough. You've been on plenty dull details in your days as a merc. You shift to reach out for the parchment and glance over the details.

One day's escort to undisclosed town. One day within the town, and then the return trip. Combat possible. Exact details upon acceptance of contract.

"Well, shit. That's as simple as you made it sound." You hand the paper back to her and laugh. "If all you wanted was an armed body nearby while you do some sightseeing, you could hire a city guard dropout for way cheaper." You turn back to the open view of the city. "While I am...was a merc, I'm not the kind to that takes advantage of people."

You sigh to yourself. Looks like you'll need to keep looking for good work, this might be a good place to scout out locations.

"Seventy-five silver coins." She calls out behind you, snapping you back to reality.

You jump slightly at the quantity. That's what you would make in five days of good work! Damn, your mind and your stomach are more than tempted. Is she rich?... Must be. Well, if these rich types want to toss their money around, might as well let them toss it your way.

You turn too quickly and your foot loudly kicks over a rusted bucket. "Given my ten years of experience, i-it's a h-humble offer, Elewyn..."

>Graciously accept.

>Press for more coin

>Write in
>>
>>4991929
>>>Graciously accept.
>>
>>4991925
Deleveled is a good way of putting it, even so I wouldn't draw to many parallels between here and MMO levels. There you'd be able to take basically infinite hits from a dozen low level wolves, but that wouldn't apply here.

That said, there might be additional story factors at play here.
>>
>>4991929
>>Press for more coin
>>
>>4991938
>Graciously accept.

Oh, it's up ! I just noticed. So, what organization are you going with regarding multiple characters ?
>>
>>4991929
>Graciously accept.
>>
>>4991937
>>4991999
>>4991954

The quest will proceed via a handful of different character's perspectives all relating to the same events that are unfolding. Elewyn will still be the primary focus, but this way allows for additional story insight and more characters to manage.

>Graciously accept
Writing
>>
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>>4992091

Another one of the boss's sayings comes to mind; better not look a gift horse in the mouth.

You're not sure if the horse is the gift, or it's giving the gift, but looking into its mouth seems impolite regardless.

You straighten up, and mirror the way she holds herself. "I suppose that I can accept the offer. Seems that you're after quality, and that's what we- I provide! Uhh, anyway. I accept the contract" You give her a salute out of instinct.

Again she looks at your face like she's focused more on it than your response.

"What?" You ask indignantly. "I got eye crust or something?" You rub under your right eye, and find some to your surprise.

This gets the slightest of smirks out of her much to your continued surprise.

"A-anyway, where are we headed?" You press to change the subject. "The hot springs near the ruins of Castanica is where my boss would take us after a long mission." You're already thinking about when you'll take your next relaxing dip. Man, the grilled meat that they whipped up there...

She snaps you out of your day dream with a single word. "Tulufan."

Your mouth snaps open. "That sandy butthole of a town?" Your shoulders slump and you sigh as you think about the town that's hardly more than a desert merchant's hub. Whatever, at least you're being paid well, and as the boss said, not paid to complain. Your clear your throat and regain your composure. "It's a bit extreme if you're after a tan."

Hardly reacting to what you're saying, she walks to the edge of the tower and glances over. "If you're hoping for leisurely activities, you're going to be disappointed." She pauses. "I don't exactly know what you think it is that I do, but this is a proper mission, and I will be fighting along side you"

You scoff loudly at the prospect. "You got a weapon I don't know about? Cause you're not going to hurt much with that stick."

She glances back at you while still leaning over the edge. "I'll explain more on the ground." She pulls the stick off her back. "Meet you down there."

With those words, and a little graceful jump, she disappears from sight, plummeting to the ground.

"Shit!" You call out as you rush to the edge.

She's already near the ground as you watch her point her staff downward, and then gently land onto the hard ground some 80 ft below. She waves at you to come down.

"Uhhh. I'll take the stairs." You shout to her.

[1/2]
>>
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>>4992197

~~~

"You tracked down a slave transport that's bound for across the sea, and you want us to stop it?" You whisper back to Elewyn incredulously.

"I want to free the cargo before they head out." Elewyn clarifies as you walk down the isolated city alley. "Ideally, the fighting with the slavers would be minimal. Sneak in and out in the dead of night, free the cargo, and gather as much information about who they are in the process."

Not at all what you expected, but this isn't out of your line of work. However, you would have a whole squad to back you up.

"And we're supposed to get this done, just the two of us?" You glance around to make sure you're not being tailed like she requested.

She peers around a corner before you exit the alleyway. "There will be to more of us." Satisfied, she nods for you to continue following her. "Before we meet with them, we'll need to pick up all of our disguises. We'll stick out otherwise when we head to Tulafan." She hardly whispers the last few words as the city folk going about their business start to appear.

In a complete change of tone, and with vibrant eyes she turns back to you with a smile. "You think outfits will fit well, Ruby?" She asks cheerfully and loudly.

Your brow furrows deeply. "Uhhh..."

"Maybe some accessories to go along with." She taps her fist into her open palm. "Oh that's right! The three of us had different ideas for outfits, so you're going to have to break the tie, Ruby." She giggles and twirls back to face forward. "It's between student uniforms, maid outfits, and being magician assistants. Which should we do for our play?"

After a pause, she stops walking and stares at you with expectant and friendly eyes. It's kind of making you really uneasy.

>"What the hell has gotten into you?"

>"Student uniforms, I guess."

>"Maid outfits, I guess."

>"Magician assistant outfits, I guess."

>Write in
>>
>>4992205
>>"Maid outfits, I guess."
>>
>>4992205
>>"Student uniforms, I guess."
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

>>4992234
>>4992237
The vote window has been open for a couple of hours, so for the sake of getting more updates out, I'll roll to decide the winning choice.
>>4992234
Is 1
>>4992237
Is 2

>Writing
>>
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>>4992475

Like hell that you would ever be caught in a revealing magician assistant outfit. But, you couldn't definitively choose what you'd wear so you went with whatever first came to mind.

"Student uniforms, I guess." You shrug noncommittally.

You're still not sure what's gotten into her all of a sudden, but you choose not to ask.

"Oh, that's my choice!" Elewyn responds cheerfully. "Let's go!"

She tightly grabs your hand, and begins leading you through the crowd. Her path is strange, often doubling back, heading off in random locations, stopping suddenly and then suddenly restarting. Getting jostled around by so many of those annoyingly tall humans makes your head ache. You never understood why they had to be so tall.

"Where the hell are we going?" You ask after being pulled around for what feels like forever. The crowd has thinned out a lot, as you were pulled to an alley in the north of the city. The tall city walls cast these roads in shade even in afternoon, leaving this area a bit of hotspot for seedy characters. The area has a damp and musty feel to it.

She relinquishes your clammy hand just as quickly as she grabbed it in the first place. "We're here." She states flatly and motions to a signboard above a shop entrance. "Not followed."

She's back to normal, you guess?

"A-Aldo's Pah-Pawnbroker?" You squint at the faded sign. "Wouldn't a tailor be better?"

"If we wanted to wait a week for four outfits to be ready." She rifles through her bag to pull out a small pouch, and tosses it your way. "Here's thirty up front. Get yourself ready to head out, and then meet us at the west gate in at noon."

"Us?" You inquire, counting the coins. "You mean the rest of our crew?"

She clips her bag closed. "That's exactly right, so don't be late."

You finish counting all thirty of the coins, and grin. "You're pretty confident that I'm not going to run off with this."

She shakes her head and sighs. "I'm pretty confident that you wouldn't get far...Ruby. I'll be getting the outfits that you requested now." With only that, she turns into the shop leaving you alone in this back alley.

Whatever. You know better than to break a contract after you've accepted it. The boss would rise from his grave and ring your head if you did. You toss the coins up and catch them repeatedly. Where to spend your new found wealth?

>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.

>The plaza bazaar has all sorts of shops. Let's see what you can find there.

>What the hell is a pawnbroker anyway? Head inside.

>Write in
>>
>>4992635
>>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.
>>
>>4992635
>Food! Head to a guild hall and fill your stomach well before you leave.
whatever conspiracies she's worried there are, best to deal with it all without after a full stomach
>>
>>4992804
>>4992810
Can't fight on an empty stomach.

>Writing
>>
>>4992817

Who knows how long you'll be on the road, you better get some food in you before you stomach hightails it out of your body.

Hmm, you've only ever heard about this guild hall, but you've never been, so it takes you a bit of time to find it. After a bit of searching you come across what you searching for and head in.

Seems that the morning rush for requests has passed already as there are only a handful of drunk deadbeats scattered about.

Gosh, these places are all the exact same.

One of them is chomping away at food that looks halfway decent, so you head to the serving counter to ask for what he's having.

You take a seat at one of the dusty tables and look over your only piece of gear in the meantime.

Your greatsword, Carver, given to you by your boss when you were taken in to his merc company and you had not even a name. Since then, you've made good use of it, and even put a couple of personal touches on it's heavy blade. Even still he's a mean looking beast with a jagged toothed base and razor sharp edge above it. For that reason, you keep him wrapped up in a cloth when you're in town. When he's allowed to run wild he's meant to carve through big bastards, and luckily for you, practically everyone is a big bastard in your eyes.

Sharp and clean, and ready to go for yet another mission.

As you hear the kitchen door open, you stow away Carver back into his cloth

"Yay!" You exclaim as your meal, and a mug of some drink is placed in front of you on the table. You're quick to clear your throat. "I mean, thanks for the grub."

Your server smirks and walks away. You choose to ignore him and focus on your food.

[1/2]
>>
>>4992858
The first few bites smother your tongue in a pleasant taste. Man it's been too long since you've had decent food. While you scarf down your breakfast with haste, you reach over and take a large gulp of what you thought was water.

A deep bitter flavor washes over all the good food, and you barely manage to gulp it down. "What the hell is this crap?!" You call out to the server who just popped back into the kitchen holding your mug in the air.

He barely pops out of the doorway to see what you're talking about "Ale." He states flatly. "You said that you wanted what that guy was having."

"It tastes awful!" You call back, eliciting some laughs from the other patrons. "Bring me some water!"

"You don't drink it for the taste." He replies as he walks back into the kitchen to fetch your water.

For some reason you expect a voice nearby to say something, but instead an excruciating pain pierces your head, practically blinding you in that moment

"What the..."You're finally able to groan out once the pain begins to recede.

"Are you alright?" The server asks as he places your water nearby.

"I-I'm fine." You wave him away, and push away the ale.

Afterwards, you finish as much of the meal that you can still stomach, wash down with the water, and get up to pay off your meal. You're down a half a silver coin thanks to the ale.

Once your out of the dusty guild hall you begin to feel a bit better. In the distance you hear that the hustle of the town has gotten stronger as the day goes on, all sorts of humans out and about now. You figure that you have the time to hit up one more place before its time to head to the west gate.

>Nah, forget it. Head to the west gate.

>The plaza bazaar is on the way, might as well stop there.

>Double back to the pawnbroker. Might cut it a bit close on time.

>Write in.
>>
>>4992859
>Stock up on healing and books. May as well pick out something you wouldn't be embarrassed to pretend to study.
>>
>>4992859
>>The plaza bazaar is on the way, might as well stop there.
>>
>>4992905
>>4992987
These two can be choices can be synthesized.

>Writing
>>
>>4993021
Just caught up after reading through the prologue and this thread. Really interested to see where this goes, QM.
>>
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>>4993065
I'm very glad to have your interest, and I hope you have the opportunity to participate as well


>>4993021

The bazaar is on way anyway, and you feel the need to clear your head for some reason. You give your coin pouch a good toss and catch, and then head off.

The western plaza is actually the less busy of the two main plazas in the city, but with the crowds passing by shoulder to should you wouldn't have ever guessed. Merchants shout through all the noise, trying to attract customers to their stalls and storefronts which number in the dozens. Boss told you once that the money that floats around here in one day is way more than any merc would make in their life.

You make sure to keep a tight grip around your coin, and make through the crowd getting jostled around an annoying amount. First to catch your eye is a rather neat storefront selling all sorts of potions, balms, and ointments.

"A-adventurer's Apoth...Apothalch-chemy" You barely finish sounding out the writing on the storefront sign when the door flings open.

"That's exactly right, young customer!" A boisterous voice shouts above you before actually being directed at you. A very excited young woman smiles widely. "Welcome to the Adventurer's Apothalchemy. Where medicine and magic come together to help you!" Her voice easily cuts through the roar of the bazaar.

Damn, she's loud. You'd never think by looking at her.

"What is an apothal-" You barely have the chance to ask.

"I'm so glad you asked, so allow me to show you!" She pulls you into the store with unexpected force. "My name is Emma, and only at our store have the apothecaries unlocked the secrets of the ancient alchemists to synthesize better medicine at more affordable prices than our competitors."

"Alchemist?" You stare at her for clarification.

"Ahh, yes." She dusts off the front of her dress and bows quickly. "Apologies for not taking the time to explain." She pulls a book out of somewhere and almost instantly flips to the page that she was looking for. "The alchemists of old imbued their magic with a well designed catalyst, and high quality ingredients to synthesize concoctions that you could hardly even begin to imagine. Some to make you taller!..." She stands at attention for just an instant. "Some to make you more voluptuous." She winks as she traces generous curves around her body. "Some to tame even the most wild of beasts, and some say some to even raise the dead..." She whispers the last few words as she leans in close.

"BUT!" She shouts causing you to startle. "Their magic is gone. Maybe it wasn't ever there to begin with. But!" She wags her finger. "We've, and only we, have discovered the secrets of their catalysts. So, healing potions, antidotes, virility potions, hair growth potions. We've got whatever you could need!" She pulls in close yet again. "I suppose we can start with healing potions, as you don't seem like the type to be poisoned, sexually impotent, or balding. Right?"

[1/2]
>>
>>4993079

W-what the hell are you even saying?" You demand while feeling your ears turn hot.

"One? Two? If you buy a dozen you get one for free!" She pulls a crate of healing potions from somewhere. "That's an apothecary's dozen in case you didn't know."

At this point, you very much regret coming into here. "How much for two then?" You ask impatiently.

"That's on sale today actually! Two for two silver coins." She emphasizes two with her fingers wildly. "But, if you also buy-"

"Just the two!" You hold up your hands to stop her. "I just want the two."

She smiles without losing a beat. "Excellent choice."

~

You feel terribly winded by the time you walk out of there. Humans are weird sometimes. While you were paying she mentioned that her store would pay generously for any old tomes on potion making that you might come across in your travels. You don't really get what the fuss is about some dusty old books, but you've never really given them a chance. Maybe one to read on the road won't be so bad? The boss always had some laying around.

Knowing that time is short, you quickly glance around for your target, and find an unassuming stand with a number of books stacked high. The merchant gazes at you, as you return a hesitant stare back fearful to activate him like you did with Sarah the apotheclem...whatever.

He lazily motions for you to take a look at his stock, which conveniently has the prices labeled on each book. Most look horribly boring, but a few catch your eye.

>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?

>"Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.

>"The Ignoble, Lascivious, and Tragic Romances of Princess Priscilla III" Twelve silver coins. Uh...you'd probably want to read this one in private.

Ruby currently has 27.5 silver coins.
>>
>>4993083

Forgot to add the option:

>Pass on all of them
>>
>>4993083
>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?
>>
>>4993083
>>"Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.
Based on her interactions with the signage so far, I take it Ruby isn't exactly illiterate, but isn't a very strong reader either? Is there anything with more pictures and less words?
>>
>>4993083
>>>"The Wrath of Vergos, the First Dragon" Seven silver coins. Can't go wrong with a book about dragons, right?
>>
>>4993104
Good on you for catching that detail. The first two books are directed toward young readers, so they're just within her reading level. The third is a bit beyond it, but interest can serve to fill in the gaps in knowledge.
>>
I'm a bit more sleepy than usual at this time, so I'm going to pick this up tomorrow.

The vote will stay open, so feel free to choose if you haven't done so already.

Also, in the meantime. Here are the current combat rules for the quest:

https://pastebin.com/CwLtdXZ0

Character sheets will be forthcoming. Any questions or constructive comments will be addressed so go ahead and post them if you'd like.
>>
>>4993133
Link doesn't work, might still be private
>>
>>4993137
Hmm, it was on unlisted before, so I'm not sure why it wasn't working. I've switched it to public. Please let me know if it's still not working.
>>
>>4993141
weird. It worked when I switched to a different browser. Maybe some new interactions between pastebin and adblockers
>>
>>4993133
Not much to say about mechanics. I'm more interested in the particular choices we can make, which looks like is going to wait for magic or the martial equivalent.

Not sure how you're going to tackle 4 equipment slots for multiple members when it comes the shopping, though. That could take a while.
>>
>>4993083
>Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends." Nine silver coins. The title is kinda catchy and sounds cool.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Picking up again!

>>4993151
The open equipment slots will be taken care of gradually, and some are already filled with equipment such as weapons. Shopping for equipment will have to be balanced with other costs that may occur.

We're at a tie, so rolling for the choice

>>4993086
>>4993106
Will be 1

>>4993104
>>4993207
Will be 2

Writing the winner
>>
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>>4993790
You eventually reach out for the newer looking "Death of the Gods. Myth and Legends" as the merchant perks to attention.

"That's a new one that's been popular around the city." He nods toward the book in your hands. "Each copy that I get has been selling out by the end of the day."

Books can be popular? Maybe this is a good start to see what the fuss is all about.

"I-I'll take it then." You begin to reach for your coin pouch and count out the necessary coin.

He motions for you to hand the book to him as he pulls out a piece of parchment to wrap it. "Haven't had the chance to read it myself. My backlog is way too big as is."

Backlog? You lean to look toward his back, which appears normal for a human.

Once he finishes the wrapping, he takes the coin, and then hands you the book. "Let me know if it's worth the read." He smiles gently.

"What do you mean?" You ask as you tuck the book under your arm.

Without hesitation he responds. "When you finish reading it, come back here and tell me what you thought about it. I'll give you a discount on your next book if you do." He taps the other books that you were considering.

So humans talk about the books they read too? The boss never seemed to do so, and no one else in your former gang ever seemed to pick up a book other than to chuck it at someone.

"Okay..." You respond, not sure what else to say.

He seems pretty satisfied with that. After a small nod, he returns to the book that he was reading before you arrived.

You don't know why he seems so confident that you'll finish the whole thing without getting bored.

Wait. Crap, you better get going! Damn humans and their chit-chat...

~

The west gate is busy, not with shops and shoppers, but with huge horse-drawn carriages kicking up clouds of dust and dirt. Piles of cargo lay by the sides of the roads as exasperated traders wait for the city guard to give them clearance to come or go.

As you arrive at the west gate, breathing heavily, you spot your target nearby what appears to be a merchant caravan off to the side of the main road, and with two other Elin in tow. The three of them are already sporting matching white blazers with dark skirts. From a distance they appear to be nothing more than young girls from some prissy academy.

Elewyn is the first to notice you as you approach. "Gosh, Ruby! They would've left without us, you know?" Her voice shouting with that weird brightness once again, her piercing eyes betraying that voice.

"Ah, oh...ah! So this is Ruby?" A cheerful, flaxen-haired of your kind, with a kind smile giggles to herself. "Right? Wait yeah, you said so." She pauses in thought, eyes gazing upward. "Eh? Oh right!" Another laugh. " I'm Aloé. It's very nice to meet you." She gives you a deep bow.

Her laugh and smile are disarming as the cheerfulness seems the real deal with her.

[1/3]
>>
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>>4994028


You barely have time to return her bow when the other approaches you. Her deep indigo eyes gaze deeply at your own. Despite her being dressed in a student uniform she has a strange, peaceful aura to her. Your mind begins to swim in the deep azure of her gaze when she finally snaps you back to reality. "Tell me one thing..." Her voice like fine silk.

You can't help but stay stuck in her gaze.

"Why not maid outfits?" Her brow furrows. "Are they not popular? Are they not enchanting to you as well? Surely you can feel the deep yearning of your nature within you to wear something so delicate yet refined? Why deny that calling?"

"Wha?" You have trouble arguing with her. "I guess I picked it on a whim. I didn't really care-"

"A whim?" She looks on the verge of tears which somehow makes her all the more memorizing. She turns to Elewyn. "Surely you could've let her know my desire to-"

"That's quite enough, Philia." Elewyn easily brushes her aside and hands you a student uniform. "Here, this is yours, Ruby." She smirks as she points to a nearby alley. "Now, go change."

You're thankful for her interrupting, but not at all thankful for her suggesting you change in some dusty alley. You begin to protest when a lumbering human approaches suddenly.

[2/3]
>>
>>4994033

Already scowling as he approaches, he turns to Elewyn. "Four subhumans... You didn't say anything about their being four of you."

He seems kinda familiar...

Elewyn replies without hesitation. "No one asked. We paid for our fare already, so you can leave us alone."

"You're awfully uppity for someone that needs passage in our caravan." He looms over her easily, and begins to take in you three. "I'm not the only one that here feels this way, and the way I see it..."

Ah! Now you recall! A few years back your boss spotted his caravan being mugged by a group of bandits. Those bandits were mostly non-humans from what you recall. You guys stepped in, and kept him from losing his miserable life. He was sobbing and had pissed himself at the time. So, he owes you, well, at least he owes your former gang.

"What the fuck are you looking at, you rat?" He notices your gaze.

No, he didn't just call you a rat. No. He. Did. Not.

You finger begin to itch to reach back for Carver.

Elewyn nods at Aloé who quickly places a hand on your shoulder and begins leading you away. "Cmon, Ruby I'll help you get changed." She whispers.

>"I'm staring at you, you stinking coward!" Get him to shut up by exposing him.

>"Ugh, fine!" Let Elewyn handle it.

>Write in
>>
>>4994036
>>"I'm staring at you, you stinking coward!" Get him to shut up by exposing him.
>>
>>4994036
>>"Ugh, fine!" Let Elewyn handle it.
>>
Rolled 2 (1d2)

Would've preferred not to roll for this choice, but for the sake of progress, I will.

>>4994099
Is 1
>>4994248
Is 2

Writing the winner
>>
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>>4994529

You're just the hired merc, you're just the hired merc...

"Ugh, fine!" You huff and turn from the pig-headed human and head off with Aloé.

She squeezes your shoulder reassuringly. "He's an idiot. I would've liked to tell him off myself, but Ell would handle the situation the best."

The two of you head for a nearby alley with several highly stacked crates. Aloé adjusts nearby boxes for added privacy. "There you go." She dusts her hands. "I'll keep watch."

"Ugh..." You complain quietly as you hand off Carver and your book for her to hold, and you begin undressing from your usual outfit.

"It's been so long since I've worn such a thing." Your companion says with an airy laugh while holding the side of her skirt. "I'm glad to have the chance again."

You take in how the outfit looks on her, and you wouldn't ever guess that she wasn't wearing that thing everyday with how natural she seems.

She pauses as she watches you try to make sense of your own skirt. "Did you not attend the academy?"

Ahh, crap. This again.

The words are a bit hard to find. "I don't know?" You grunt as you adjust the skirt. "I don't think so anyway. I've never been good with numbers or letters. That being how it is, I would've had to cheat to keep from dropping out."

She doesn't try to hide her perplexed expression. "Huh? Wait. Am I missing something?" She scratches her cheek lightly. "Sometimes I need things to be explained to me twice."

"No. That's not it." You look down as you kick your feet. "Uhh.. I don't really like to...I mean." You sigh and shuffle a bit more. "I don't remember-"

"Tell me more about it when you feel like." She quick to say and nods. "Ah, and maybe when you're not half undressed."

Oh, right.

~

[1/2]
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>>4994640

The caravan finally gets clearance to leave, and moves into position. Elewyn leads your student group to the back of the trade caravan where a huge cart packed with crates lies. "In order to keep us from having to pay extra fees, this is where we'll be for the trip."

Not that you're not used to being uncomfortable during travel, but looks like you'll have to squeeze yourselves wherever you can with how many crates are in there.

"Bringing up the rear will keep anyone from watching us with their ears" Philia nods to herself knowingly.

What?

"My thoughts exactly." Elewyn replies as she already begins to hoist herself into the back of the cart.

With Carver and your other belongings in tow, you're about to do the same when her open hand reaches out to you. Her amber eyes already gazing at you impatiently when you meet them. You're caught off guard, but you eventually reach for her hand. Her delicate hand helps pull you into the cart in one smooth motion. She does the same for Aloé and Philia, and the four of you settle uncomfortably into whatever space you can find.

After a few more minutes of the humans shouting at one another, your caravan finally sets off. The stone buildings and high walls of the city no longer surround you. Instead, the open air of the farmlands provides a cool, lazy breeze as your caravan rolls down the paved road. The hilly open land stretches for miles.

"It will take about six hours for us to reach Chebika." Elewyn announces to the three of you. "Once we get passed the checkpoint there, we can head off on our own to Tulafan."

Which means hoofing it for the rest of the way. Oh well, better enjoy the free ride while it lasts, and kill some time.

>You got that book, don't 'cha?

>Chat up Aloé, she seems easy to talk to.

>Chat up Philia, best to get to know everyone here.

>Chat up Elewyn, learn a bit more about the mission, maybe.

>Write in
>>
>>4994642
>>You got that book, don't 'cha?
She 'doesn't know' if she attended school or not? Does Ruby have amnesia?
>>
>>4994664
Her words certainly suggest her having trouble remembering things. Perhaps, you could try to explore that thought in the future?
>>
>>4994642
>You got that book, don't 'cha?
Yeah not being sure is a bit off.
>>
>>4994642
>You got that book, don't 'cha?
>>
Stopping here for tonight, since I got work in the morning. We'll keep the vote open.

Thankfully, I should be able be able to post in my downtime at work, so there will be at least one update during the daytime tomorrow.

The character sheets are actively being made, I'm just taking a bit of extra time to consider properly balanced stats and skills. Elewyn's and Ruby's sheets will be the first to be linked (before any combat) since you've taken control of both of them so far.

I'll probably switch over to having everything in google docs as the amount of information on the combat rules and character sheets are just easier to digest there.

I really appreciate the participation thus far, and the attention paid toward the smaller details. Here's hoping we can continue to make good progress throughout this upcoming week
>>
>>4994664
>>4994676
>>4994684
Writing
>>
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>>4995046

You did buy the book after all, this seems like as good time as any to start it.

Finding a nook where you can kind of sit and lean against the crates, you peel off the parchment, position the book how you recall your boss would always one, and then crack it open. Immediately, you're overwhelmed by the amount of words in one place, but push through.

You start with the words that are the biggest on the first page. "D-death of the Gods. My-MYth and Le...gends." You mouth the words aloud.

Wait a sec, you already read that before. Why is it here again? You flip the page in annoyance..

>"As the legends go, the lands as far as they may stretch, the seas as deep as they are, and the skies however high they may reach, all of this world was the dominion of the gods. Such was the reach of their power, and nothing was out of their reach. They tended to their domain as the covetous tend to their land, and they tended to us as farmers tend to their cattle. But the one thing they could not contend with was each other. This world was too small for all of their designs, and envy and frustration eventually caused them to turn their terrifying weapons on each other."

The Boss said that infighting is how most merc units go out. Makes sense that they did each other in.

You can't help but wonder what kind of weapons they could have.

>"Myth states that upon creation of this world the twelve original gods were dreamt into existence at the same instant, all opposed in nature as light and dark, cold and hot, empty and filled. However it is from their disparity with one another that all new existence is said to originate. Thus their nature was an endless cycle of creation and destruction, one could never gain the upper hand so long as their opposite existed. They then turned toward their children, and the children of their children to fight their battles for them. Emboldened them as champions and heroes, and vilified their cousins as monsters and fiends, the gods set their soldiers loose with legendary weapons. Dragons and demons and their terrible hellfire. Creatures of the deep that could swallow ships whole. For eons they fought, shattering mountains, scorching forests and cities, and boiling oceans, much in the same way as their parents, balanced in eternal conflict. For eons they acted in this farce, this comedy, until finally something changed the balance."

You flip the page, engrossed, losing track of time and the space around you. Quite content, you imagine these awesome battles in all their glory.

[1/2]
>>
>>4995367

>"If you are wondering what this upsetting force may be, you need not look any further than yourself. You, us, us humans came about. We were the driving force to end the eternal conflict, and the weapons and land left behind are our inheritance. We take it upon ourselves to better the world that the gods and their creations ran amok. Because it is in our nature to build, innovate, and learn. They, those creations that still dwell in these lands, are opposed to us, and our noble goals. Find in these pages stories of our triumphs, of desperate battles to cast off the yoke of the gods and come into our own. Find legends of terrifying weapons, and where they may lie today. Most of all, learn of the great potential that lies in all of us, and what we can hope to accomplish once we are free from those that noble spirit does not exist within."

Oh.

After much effort, you finally make it through the opening pages. You're not quite sure what you feel, but your chest and stomach ache a bit. Would they put something in a book that's not true? Then again, some of the words were new to you, so maybe you're just reading it wrong? It would be pretty embarrassing to ask one of the others to explain the words to you.

Somehow you can't help but think of that merchant that called you a rat...

>Ah, whatever. Suck it up for now.

>Ask Aloé to explain what you didn't understand.

>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.

>Ask Philia to explain what you didn't understand.

>Write in.
>>
>>4995371
>>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
What a model of restraint, it took the author a whole 3 paragraphs before they started race-wanking.
>>
>>4995432
Let's assume that the general feeling of those paragraphs went on for several opening pages, because I'm not prepared to write a full length book within a quest.
>>
>>4995371
>>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
>>
>>4995432
>>4995465
Writing

Also!
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

It should work for anyone with the link, but let me know if you run into any issues.
>>
>>4995622
And here i thought it's from TERA Online. Or was it?
>>
>>4995646
The quest is indeed based off the game for the most part. The very fast paced mechanics of the game don't lend themselves well to a direct translation into a quest format, so I've simplified them significantly.

Let me know if you'd like me to answer any other questions
>>
>>4995655
oh nothing, it's just that its been too long since i played the game. I once an Elin Lancer and trolling people in Castle Siege by pushing them away from ladders when they get up.

Killian Server (I dunno if it exist now)
>>
>>4995664

It's been a few years for me as well, but I thought that I'd like to revisit the setting. PVP was always solid and very competitive. I can remember hoping not to be killed climbing those ladders as well. Most servers, including the one that I played on (Tempest Reach) were merged over the years.

If you'd like, I hope that you take the chance to participate here
>>
>>4995669
Sure, i forgot the main lore of TERA Online especially the Elin lore but i can only remember bits and pieces of the Vampire quest line, Alemantheia region, and the Ork invasion.
>>
>>4995371
>Ask Elewyn to explain what you didn't understand.
how old is Ruby again?
>>
>>4995672
I've taken plenty of liberties with the lore, so don't worry about remembering all of it.

>>4995622
>>4995622

Screw this, you probably need some help from someone that actually understands books. You don't really know the other three well, but you get the feeling that Elewyn would be able to help you. All you need is the courag-

You're not afraid.

Taking a moment to stretch your sore limbs after scooching out of your nook, you notice that the scenery around you has changed significantly. The sowed fields of wheat and other crops have now given way to more untamed expanses of terrain. Only the tallest towers are still visible above the rolling hills.

You squeeze your way through the cramped cart until you find your target who's seems to have her hands filled looking through a number of parchments. As she sits in such a small space in her uniform, you find it a bit easier to approach as she just looks so harmless. However, she notices almost immediately that you're there, and looks at you expectantly with her normal piercing gaze.

Aww crap.

"There's uh..." You point to the book in your hand. "Umm, some stuff in here that was a bit, uhh, confusing..." She's not making this easy by just looking at you. "I was hoping that you could help me understand it." You trail off the last few words.

Elewyn gazes at you long enough to make you start wanting to leave, but in that moment she reaches out her hand. "Hand it here, then."

You comply and watch as she starts the book. "Just the first few pages, until it does that big break."

In that moment, when her hard gaze is directed at the book and not at you, you see things that maybe you wouldn't otherwise. Long strands of soft hair that she has yet to pull away from her face, the occasional slight twitch in her animal ears as they remain constantly aware, and for very small moments in time flashes of amusement and also annoyance. You lose track of time.

[1/3]
>>
>>4995782
I can tell you that Ruby isn't going to know that.

>>4995792

"Is this what they're writing these days?" She asks, snapping you back to reality. She closes her eyes for a moment to think. "Have you ever met someone that claimed to be a great fighter when in reality they weren't?" She opens her eyes again near the end of her question.

You think back to several examples of that happening. "Yeah, loads of times. They usually ended up dead or deserting."

"But they said otherwise." She follows. "They said that because it made them appear better, braver, stronger. The said these things so that you would think that they were better, braver, or stronger than they actually were."

You nod in agreement. "That's true, but most of the time when they yak like that, you know it's bullshit. You just know, ya know?"

"Exactly." She replies, and is quiet for another moment. "People can write words in the same manner. If they have even the slightest bit of talent they can write books such that more and more people will read those words."

You sit down without really noticing. "But wouldn't it be obvious that they're lying? Why would lots of people take the time to read it if it's bullshit?"

She smirks slightly. "Because just as much as people lie to others, they lie to themselves." She flips the book over. "And as much as people lie, people want to be lied to."

"Huh..." You're not sure what to say to that.

"Here." She leans and places the book back in your lap. "I won't tell you any more about what to think about it, but read it again while remembering those people who lied about being a good fighter. You could probably use the practice anyway."

Ugh, you recall reading the sign to the pawnbroker in front of her. You adjust yourself into a more comfortable position and comply by reading the words quietly near her.

~
>>
>>4995804

You sigh at the red-headed mess that's currently drooling on your leg. Not long after Ruby resumed reading that propaganda did she fall asleep. As much as you'd like to get up and check where you are, you're quite pinned down. However, based off the general time that has passed, you say that you're just over halfway there.

The details of the mission pass through your mind again. Slave trading was once completely outlawed, but in the past century it has worked its way to being tacitly decriminalized.

So long as what you're trading isn't human.

Most slaves traded in this part of the continent are Amani bound for mines in Ostgarath. However, taking an outbound shipment to Tulufan implies that they want to take them across the sea. Not much purpose taking an Amani across the sea, as what remains of their former strength is concentrated over there. Castanic pleasure slaves are the next biggest trade, but they don't take well to captivity at all. Your sources have only a relatively small retinue accompanying the slave baron, which would be unwise with such cargo.

You look around at the highly stacked crates you four have squeezed yourselves between and appreciate the irony.

You know what the slave traders are carrying with them.

Philia slides into view from behind a crate. "A moment, Elewyn?" She looks down at the sleeping figure shackling you.

"Don't worry about her." You respond quietly with a wave of your hand. "It will be very obvious if she wakes. But we can make it quick."

She nods in acceptance and settles across from you, and sighs with much emotion. "The birds carry songs of trouble."

You shake your head. "It's been a long time since I could make out what they were saying. Enlighten me."

"A new checkpoint ahead." Her ears twitch as her sage eyes close. "An uncouth set of fellows inspecting all those headed into the area. They seem quite keen on knowing whose approaching Chebika and by extension, Tulufan."

You sigh quietly. "At least this tells me my information was likely correct. The circumstances sure seem to point that way."

They'll have the only safe road into the area blocked off. If you decide to stay with the caravan until you reach the outskirts of Chebika, you will absolutely have convince these new guards that you four are just simple students or risk ruining your mission entirely. Otherwise, if the four of you decide to sneak off, you'll have to pass through the wildlands surrounding Chebika, aptly named Basilisk Crag.

The choice is on your shoulders.

>Stick with the caravan the whole way.

>Sneak off before you reach the checkpoint and head through Basilisk Crag.

>Write in.
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
it'll be suspicious if the caravan mentions a bunch of students getting off in the middle of nowhere
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.

>>4995829
It'd probably also put behind on time anyways, if we spend too long fighting our way through the wilderness the slavers might be gone by the time we arrive.
>>
>>4995815
>>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
>>
>>4995815
>Stick with the caravan the whole way.
I don't suppose we have illusion magic, do we ? The ears are going to be a problem if we don't. But push come to shove, better fight humans over basilisks, though only as a last resort.
>>
>>4995864
No illusion magic, but there are other simpler ways to hide those ears that you will have at your disposal.

>>4995829
>>4995856
>>4995863

Thank you for the votes so far, and for the commentary behind your vote choices. I would normally try to squeeze one more update in, but I got to be up early for an eye appointment.

If you haven't done so, check out Elewyn's and Ruby's character sheets, along with the combat rules (now in a more easily read google doc) as there's a very good chance they will be used soon.

(Character sheets)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

(Combat Rules)
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1peKn2-vZzeDmAXhy_ZlifFA9nOMlaEs3PK7hgKSel3M/edit?usp=sharing
>>
>>4995815
I was gonna suggest sneaking away but >>4995829 made a good point so staying with the caravan it is, but take the time to make sure everyone has a decent cover story in case you're questioned.

Also what does LP stand for on the characters sheets?
>>
>>4995958
And the combat rules explained LP so no need for that anymore.
>>
>>4995829
>>4995856
>>4995863
>>4995864

Picking up again, and writing
>>
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>>4996542

You whisper to Aloé about the upcoming checkpoint, and your plans to remain with the caravan through it. To her credit, she remains unfazed about the news.

"Hmm, as much as I'd like to give the whole lot some royal guard justice..." She punches the air for emphasis. "There's a time and place for everything, right~?" She looks to both you and Philia for approval. "Eh? Did I get that phrase wrong again?"

For a moment, you're distracted by her rapidly twitching animal ears. "No, you're fine. Except that we ought to cover all of these up." You emphasize by pointing toward your own, before heading back through the tight crates to retrieve the last parts of your disguises. You return with four dark berets in your arms. "This is why I suggested the student uniform." You say as you pass one of the berets to Philia.

She crosses her arms and pouts. "Don't disparage my vision any more than you already have. Surely, the maid outfits would have worked!"

"Perhaps if you actually were willing to wear a bonnet along with it." You add, adjusting the beret over your animal ears.

"That is not part of [i]my[/i] vision." She begrudgingly fits the beret over her animal ears, and sighs. "I suppose it can't be helped, but it's lamentable that we now need to hide who we are."

"Isn't that because this is a covert mission?" Aloé asks after she finishes placing the beret on her head.

Philia turns to her and adjusts the beret so that it fits better over Aloé's ears. "Not quite what I meant, young one."

"Eh??" Aloé goes wide eyed. "Aren't we going to sneak in there to free the captured before they get sold off?"
>>
>>4996650

"That's exactly what we're going to do." You raise your eyebrows at Philia to let her know not to confuse Aloé. "First we need to get through this checkpoint, and since they’re going to be on their guard, that means we need to go over our cover story." You pull out the sheets of folded parchment that you were working on at the beginning of your journey and hand them to the other two. "We're on a field study for our natural science course, under an Instructor Barrow." You turn to Aloé, who nods affirmatively while unfolding the parchment. "These are our permission forms from the Velika Academy. We will be there for two days to collect mycological samples of the local caves in the vicinity north of Tulufan, which are indeed jointly owned by various academies."

Aloé repeats the information back to you to the letter. She's never incorrect with information as important as this, despite what she may think.

“My, my, you are an artist!” Philia examines her form. “This penmanship is a stellar representation of tired academic who could hardly be bothered to fill out the form.” Her azure gaze turns back to you. “Do go on.”

"We met about two months ago because we all live in the same dormitory, under the care of a Mistress Addams. We're all without siblings, except for Philia, who has a younger brother who visits often." She claps lightly at you adding the flair of detail she requested. "If they happen to ask you any other questions about yourself, answer how you see fit. If they happen to ask about one of us, say that you're not sure. To them, you’re nothing more than a young girl. So, overall..." You straighten out your blouse and skirt. "Act as if you're actually afraid of them."

“Got it!” Aloé beams at you. “Wait, uhhh. Ah! Shouldn’t we wake Ruby to tell her all of this too?”

Initially, your plan was to leave her sleeping in the cart just for this checkpoint, and say as much if anyone else asks about your fourth companion. Once through, you can more easily coach her on what you went over with Aloé and Philia. It’s getting past what are likely to be wary guards which will require a good bit of acting. Given what you’ve seen so far, your red-headed guard doesn’t seem to take to all that well. But, you’d run the risk of her being caught by surprise if they decide to question her as well.

>Cover her animal ears with a beret, and let her continue sleeping.

>Wake her and go over the cover story.

>Wake her, tell her the cover story, but have her pretend to sleep through the checkpoint.

>Write in.
>>
>>4996655
>Wake her and go over the cover story.
>Let her decide if she wants to pretend to stay asleep or not.

If I remember right Elewyn could use stupor to put someone to sleep in rhe first thread, we could potentially do that to make the sleeping cover story more convincing. We could also try to help Ruby sell the school girl angle by pretending to (or maybe actually in her case) help her with her reading/writing if she comes under scrutiny.
>>
>>4996709
Support
>>
>>4996709
You are absolutely correct that Elewyn has spell that induces a stupor state. Just for future reference, if cast on an ally it will still render them quite unconscious rather than simply asleep.
>>
>>4996655
>>Wake her and go over the cover story.
>>
>>4996655
support >>4996709
>>
>>4996709
>>4996789
>>4996819
>>4996824

Getting Ruby in on the plan
>Writing
>>
>>4996848

Thinking on your options, it would be too much of a risk to completely leave her in the dark.

You nod in assent. "Alright, we'll wake her, and try to break down the plan as simply as possible."

The three of you squeeze back to find your red-headed companion sprawled out as much as she can, mouth agape, and very much still asleep.

Aloé gently shakes her shoulder. "Ruby~ Ruby...Time to get up sleepy-head."

After a moment of fussing, she suddenly bolts up into a sitting position while slurping up the drool that was making its way out the side of her mouth. "Ehuhgh huh?!" Her hair veers off in numerous directions, her uniform twisted to reveal one of her shoulders, and she then wipes her mouth with her sleeve. "We there?" Her hands settle between her thighs as she wobbles unsteadily. She stares at the three of you vacantly.

"Truly a lovely world, with truly lovely sights." Philia murmurs quietly.

~

You finish taking a turn to explain the plan after Aloé first attempted it. Slight consternation appears on your red-headed companions face as she mouths all the details to over to herself. Her expression suddenly brightens after a few moments. "What if we just take them all out? That way there's no one left to tell the slavers!"

You cross your arms. "Then, what do you suppose we would have to do with all of these merchants to keep them from spreading word that all of those guards were killed?"

"Kill them too...Ahh..." Her excitement shot down as quickly as her plan. "Nevermind..."

You sigh quietly as you try to think of solution to all of this. Shouting from the front of the caravan is followed by an abrupt stop, shaking the four of you around. "Alright, Ruby." You grab her by the shoulders as you're forced into a decision, and stare directly at her. "We're out of time, so now you have to choose. Pretend you're asleep, or if you think you've got the details sorted you come out there with us."

After some mental deliberation, she leans back onto the floor of the large cart, and curls into a more comfortable position. "Boss said to always play to your strengths." She finally answers with her eyes closed.

[1/3]
>>
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>>4997007

Well, you suppose that's settled. The sky over the arid expanse around you has begun to darken and take on an orange color as evening approaches. You lean out of the cart to watch several guards getting off horses, followed by them dispersing to question everyone in the caravan. You thankfully paid for that loudmouthed human to be assigned elsewhere. You sigh again. Running these missions sure does exhaust a lot of coin.

Finally your turn has arrived, three armored guards casually saunter toward the final cart. You look back to the corner where your companion feigns sleep.

"Philia places her hand on your shoulder. "I'll remain with our exquisite sleeper, and make sure no one looks where out weapons are stowed away. You can tell them I've been enduring a spell of nausea."

Given the number of guards, it should be fine. You nod to her in agreement. "Just remember, simpler words."

She winks at you cheekily. "Kay."

~

"Well, well, well. Looks like they were telling the truth." The leader of the three leans back. "Cute ones to boot. You two, try to be a gentleman for a change." He guffaws with his other guards, and then beckons you and Aloé with his gloved hand.

"Cmon down now, we won't hurt ya'." He laughs to himself.

Taking a measured moment before you grab the side of the cart, you clamber off, and drop off making sure to let your knees buckle under you as you do. Aloé follows with a much more playful hop. You pull yourself up, and approach the guardsmen while keeping your eyes on your feet.

"We're here on a field study, sir." You explain with a quiet voice while extending your fabricated permission slip.

"I can barely here you, girl." He scolds not yet taking your paper. "Look up at me."

Another moment, then you comply, locking your eyes with him.

He's quiet for longer than you would've anticipated, but eventually reaches for your paper, only glancing at it for a few moments. "My...Aren't you a sight for sore eyes." He turns to Aloé. "Oh, and you too, young lady. Dontcha worry." He turns back to his two companions. "And you two were complaining about having to come all the way back here. They had their best stuff back here!" They hoot and laugh among themselves before settling down again. "But, I heard there were four of ya. Where're friends?"

"They're not feeling well from all the travel so they're inside resting." Aloé beams shyly at the guard.

The lead guard places his hands on his hips. "Oh, that is a shame." He turns back to one of his lackeys. "Go in there and check it out. And for fucks sake, if you don't mind yourself I'll stomp your head in."

With an annoyed glance his companion climbs into the cart, and with much effort squeezes his way inside.

"You." He speaks to his remaining guard. "Talk to this doll over here." He smirks at Aloé. "This one can actually be polite without threats." He whispers loudly. He faces you, with a wide toothy smile. "I'll take care of you."

[2/3]
>>
Computer crashed, and I couldn't recover the last update. So, writing again....damn it.
>>
>>4997036
notepad++ is your friend
>>
>>4997036
RIP bro.

>>4997048
Google Docs is also an option
>>
>>4997010
>>4997062
Thanks for the suggestions. It's long overdue that I switch to a word processor with a reliable autosave.


~

After an extensive line of questioning who you are and what business you have in Tulufan, the guard seems quite relaxed, and seems to greatly enjoy the act you're playing.

He sighs heavily while scratching his facial scruff. "You know. It's damn shame that this how we have to get on with such lovely girls." He motions to the long line of carts behind him. "Questioning these old farts all day leaves us a little on edge you know? A little wound up..."His hand comes to rest on his codpiece, and the two of you stand in silence for a moment.

This isn't entirely unexpected, you only hope that your two companions inside the cart aren't having to deal with the same.... Thankfully Philia is with her.

"I imagine wherever they have you staying is going to be some rat's nest that won't do the four of you any good." He finally continues. "After all that traveling you deserve to unwind as well." He rests his gloved hand on your shoulder. "I wouldn't normally do this, but you seem like a smart girl that can keep a secret. I feel like I can trust you." He glances around to make sure he's out of earshot. "The three of us been sneaking into our bosses hideout seeing as they're out of town and all. It's where they do all their business so they got the good stuff there."

Both set of your ears perk up at his mention of the slaver's hideout.

"Good food, drinks, baths...comfy beds." He's squeezing now both himself and you. "You come all this way, just the four of you, no one here knows you, and that's a good thing! Means you can do whatever you want, even be as bad as you want. Drink alcohol, stay up late...I swear you won't get into any trouble. I bet you're tired of being good all the time." He finally moves away from you, and crosses one arm across his chest. "You come with us, you'll have fun. I promise. After that, we'll get you to that cave, and hell, I'll do whatever you need in there. You'll be in control...After that, all you get to head back home with the best stories that your other friends will be dying to here. Honestly, you won't get a chance like this again."

His last statement speaks volumes if he's telling the truth. As much as this is a rescue mission, this is also an information gathering mission. Finding the slaver's hideout could mean vital information about who's buying the captured Elins, and where they're planning on taking them you may not get otherwise. That is if there's any truth to what he's saying. Who knows what he could be leading you into, and you're not the only one involved. However, going alone is another option, not without it's obvious risks, however.

>Shyly, but definitively reject his offer.

>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.

>Tell him you'll try to get the others to come with you as well.

>Write in.
>>
>>4997074
>>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
go for it
>>
>>4997074
>>Shyly, but definitively reject his offer.
>>
>>4997074
>Tell him you'll go along with them alone.
Good to have confirmation that the shipment is Elins.
Also, I sense potential castration in our future. How old does Ewelyn look, anyway ?
>>
Wrapping up here for tonight, guys. Please feel free to vote if you haven't already.

Now that the story is starting to take off more, it's pretty interesting to see where you guys want to take it. I'll keep trying to give you guys at least a few updates each weekday, so keep an eye out!
>>
>>4997162

The shipment contents were implied earlier, but writing it out explicitly felt important for this vote. To answer your other question, and specify to humans, 12.
>>
>>4997168
>To answer your other question, and specify to humans, 12.
Ohhh yeah we are definitely castrating any survivors
>>
>>4997074
>>
>>4997083
>>4997130
>>4997131
>>4997162
Picking up and writing
>>
>>4997616
After weighing the options, considering the balance between the added risk of going off the planned mission, and the reward of valuable information about the captured Elin, you make a decision.

This is something you will do alone. By going in alone, you add an incredible element of perceived vulnerability.

He doesn't see you as a smart and trustworthy girl, he doesn't see you as an equal, he doesn't want to. With the blasé method he went about trying to convince you to be his victim, you know that this isn't the first time he leveraged his power for sex.

That's fine. Caution is raised only with perceived threats, and by offering only yourself, you give the slaver guard's no reason to be on edge. This forced perspective of a staggering imbalance of power will engorge their carnal desires, and starve any reservations they may have about sharing what they know. That's when you will strike, after they've let their guard down, after the divulged what they know.

No need to put the younger ones directly in harms way. But perhaps they could support in some way?

"B-but that won't work." You finally reply keeping your eyes locked on your fidgeting feet.

"And why the hell not?" His voice already laced with anger.

"Because...Philia's dad is deputy consul." You point at the cart with concern. "She'll tell him for sure, and we'll get into loads of trouble at school." Your voice pleads.

"Ahhgh." He groans quietly as the fear of reprisal begins to rise over him.

You fidget a bit more. "But, maybe could I just go alone? You can tell my friends that you're pulling me in for questioning, and...No, that's dumb. Forget it."

"No wait. Wait." His voice easily betraying his relief and excitement. "That can work. That will work. We'll just be doing our jobs." He pulls your chin up to look him into the eyes. His aging face is covered with countless scars and weathered from the sun. "Where are the four of you lodging?"

Meekly, you inform him of the inn you reserved as part of your cover story.

His wide toothy smile unravels yet again. "Perfect. You just stay put there late tonight, and we'll come get you. No need to worry about what to do or say, we'll take care of it. By the way, you can call me Sario."

In one smooth motion he gives your chin one final squeeze before banging on the side of the cart. "Voldt, Briggs! We're done here."

[1/2]
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>>4997694

~

The sun begins to make its final descent behind the horizon, painting its trail deep reds, yellows, and even purples far behind it. After finally passing through the mountain range that separates the lush lands of the Freeholds, the dry expanse of the Val Aureum desert stretches far out in front of you, terminating at western coast of this continent. The hot air brushes against the skin with its dusty touch, and during the height of the day desperately it makes you want to seek shelter.

The mountains, the sky, the heat, they're all the same as the first time you came into these lands. However, the sprawling desert city oasis of Chebika that towers over the rolling dunes was little more than a few thatched huts, and a stout watchtower. You've watched as trade and the inevitable march of time have carved out a towering bastion of wealth and power. Even as late in the day as it is now, caravans come and go.

Tulufan is barely just visible over its shoulder, far in the distance. A stark contrast, and hardly worth calling a town, but an integral staging point for all imports and exports in this land. The wealth it generates is thoroughly funneled into Chebika, leaving it humble in comparison.

No one remembers the primal cults that used to plague this land. Since their eradication, and the death of their god, they exist only now as the thoughts you breathe life into. The occult refuge that you helped storm so long ago surely has been consumed by the sands by now.

A key victory for the forgotten Federation. In the celebration that followed, that's when you first saw [i]her[/i].

"Uuuhgghhhh" Ruby vocalizes quite loudly while stretching, snapping you back to reality. "Now we gotta walk through the desert, huh?"

Aloé approaches, dusting off the back of her skirt. "I know a place in Chebika where we could get something to drink before heading off. All sorts of fruit drinks too." She announces much to Ruby and Philia's delight, and then turns to you. "It's not too out of the way. But ahh." She looks toward the horizon. "It is starting to get dark."

You sigh to yourself. Honestly, your mind keeps going back to old memories. It might do you some good to allow them to take this break to help you focus as well. It will also give you the chance to discuss any potential involvement the others may have in your plan for tonight.

On the other hand, creatures are more likely to strike after the sun has set. It will make the trip to Tulufan more hazardous, and potentially more time consuming as well.

It is currently early evening. Under normal conditions it would be an hour and a half walk from Chebika to Tulufan. You estimate that you have around three hours until Sario and his companions show up to fetch you.

>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.

>Head straight to Tulufan while some of the sun is still out.

>Write in.
>>
>>4997699
>Leave some backup supplies here before heading to Tulufan.
How are we getting all the slaves out again? Do we need to jump the border with a LOT more people?
>>
>>4997318
Great minds think alike.
>>4997699
>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.
Let them indulge. Catch them up on the plan. Still, we'd better keep it short. Less than an hour, as I suppose nightfall will lengthen the trip, even without surprises.
>>
>>4997713
Good question. For now, I will say look to the geography. If you can't leave by land...
>>
>>4997724
Are the four of us going to commandeer the slave ship ? Big endeavor. What kind of intel do we have on it ? Who in the group even knows how to sail ?
>>
>>4997750
While trying to keep as much in the story writing as possible: There are reasons for picking who you did for this mission, and there are all sorts of ships docked in those ports.

I didn't get around to elaborating about the return trip in the updates so far, so I'll be sure to address that in the next one.
>>
>>4997699
>>Take a break inside of Chebika before heading off.
>>
>>4997720
>>4997823

Heading into the city for a quick break.

>Writing
>>
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The update that just kept going..

>>4998025


You nod your head in approval, instantly exciting the other three. They truly were prepared to skip out on their break if you gave the order.

Aloé leads the way through the stark white city gates, animatedly chatting with Ruby. You and Philia follow a few feet behind. Each of you lug around a large school rucksack that stows away your belongings. Ruby weapon and yours stick out from the knapsacks you use to stow your belongings. But, with hers being wrapped in its heavy cloth and yours not identifiable to most as a weapon, they hide in plain sight.

Once past the gatehouse, you're greeted with a wash of colors as varied as the sky overhead, and the lively roar of a city coming alive with the passing of the heat of the day. Strung lanterns bob overhead lighting the streets and overhanging balconies filled with inhabitants delighting in the evening. There's a palpable animation to the air, but it's more of a languid flavor than anything you would experience in Velika.

Philia playfully greets the occasional passerby who almost always returns the favor. "You should take residence here, instead of that oppressive capital. They've built too high and too extensively there. It's not a place meant for our kind anymore. The air has grown quite....perilous for us. While this air isn't a substitute for the forest, you can still sense nature here."

The two of you stop abruptly as three wild children run past giggling into the night. "It's too isolated when it comes to information. All types of business will make its way through Velika." You reply quietly. "I've lived there a very long time, Philia. I don't mind the air there or hazards it brings, and I'm committed to uncovering why it's changing."

Philia gazes at you with her azure eyes, color undampened by the reduced light. "Is that so?" She seems a bit disappointed. "Forgive me for trying, for likely trying again, and for any future attempts to try with those two young ones."

"You're not much different than those two in my eyes." You give her a slight smile. "Fresh out of the lake, all three of you."

"Hurry up, you two!" Ruby shouts back to you, a considerable distance further than at first start. "It's right here!"

~

[1/3]
>>
>>4998270


"Mmmmm, that's so good!" Aloé exclaims, getting a grin from the elderly man serving you. She turns to your red-headed companion. "Ah! Ruby, slow down! You're not going to taste it."

Ruby had already begun to down her drink like it was a contest of speed. "Iffsh cohld!" She beams in surprise. "And sweet!"

You allow them to continue like this for a few carefree minutes before finally bringing up the mission. "I understand that this is a break, but there's new details about the mission I'd like to share." You announce once they've settled down.

You divulge your plan to head off alone with the guards to the slaver's hideout to gather information, and why you decided to head off alone. Their expressions are an easily read mixture of concern and frustration.

"All that said..." You take a slow sip from your drink, it's a bit much on the sweet side for you. "I'm going to need you to follow me there when I do get escorted. I'll do the talking, but upon my signal of late we will dispatch them however we see fit, making sure they're out of the picture for at least a day after. But, I need all of you to understand the importance of this move. Not only could we find out more about who these slavers are, we could find out who they plan on targeting, and if they have anyone else besides this shipment." You take turns looking at each of your three companions. "If our cover is lost tonight, then it will be impossible to achieve what we came out here to do."

They take some time to digest what you say before one of them finally decides to speak up.
>>
>>4998271


"I will put my faith in Elewyn." Philia nods to herself. "Especially if it means rescuing our kin and any others they may possess."

Aloé chooses to cross her arms and think for a moment longer. "I kinda don't agree with the plan, seeing how risky it is and all but, hmm yeah, I know how capable you are, and I will put trust in that."

Ruby leans back scraping out the last of her drink into her mouth with her finger. "You're paying me so I'll carry out the job. That's what good mercs do."

You slide the remainder of your drink to your red-headed companion, much to her delight. "If that's settled, then we will go through the rest of the mission like this. Tomorrow we will lay low in Tulufan until the evening, all the while keeping a lookout. Then we will supposedly head out to the northern caves for our field study, where we will be spending the night, and then heading back to Chebika the following morning. In reality, after the sun has fully set tomorrow, that's when we'll depart from the caves and head toward the western docks under the cover of darkness."

"And we will stay out of sight while securing all captured Elin they have on their ship." Aloé follows up. "From there, we will meet my contact in the royal guard at the dock who will have a unmarked vessel offshore for us to leave in before sunrise."

"We'll dock temporarily in the Freeholds, from which Aloé and her friend will continue on to ensure the rest of us aren't followed. From there, we will scatter for a time, and I'll escort our rescued kin to the woods north of there and to safety." Philia finishes.

The four of you seem satisfied with the plan as it stands, and its been a little less than an hour. Your companions each order more drinks.

You raise your eyebrows when your red-headed companion is still able to chug through her third drink.

"What?" She responds when she notices. "I like sweet drinks."

You've noticed. You choose not to say anything on that thought.

"Oh, I know all the best places in Velika!" Aloé jumps in. "Not only drinks, but desserts too! There's a bakery that lets you practice making some cakes. It's the best after a long week of training to just make a big batch of whatever you'd like."

"Baking?" Your red-headed companion finishes her drink. "Now why would you want to do something as lame as that?" She laughs scornfully.

You're not quite sure why she has such a strong opinion against it.

"Lame?" Aloé exclaims. "Now I won't stand for that. No way." She says as she stands.

Sensing a long argument brewing, you stand as well. "Alright, time to go."

[3/4]
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>>4998275

~

The two of them are still going at it as you walk the sandy path from Chebika to Tulufan. The sky is entirely a dark blue as all of you march ahead in the low light. You illuminate the tip of your staff at a dull, warm glow to appear similar to a torch to a distant observer. For about thirty minutes you march forward with the only the sound of both your companions still in heated argument and the nearby insects chirping. Suddenly the whine of the desert insect ceases as you hear a loud crunching from behind a nearby sand dune.

You immediately turn to your three companions. "Get your weapons out!"

To their credit, they perk up quickly and all reach for their weapons as the source of the crunching noise rises above the dune.

A massive reptilian creature turns its snout in your direction as it takes deep whiffs of the air. Blind as it may be, it has no issue picking up your scent and salivating at the prospect of a new meal.

...
>>
>>4998277

So I had planned to write the first round of combat tonight, but I don't think I'm up for continuing any more before bed. So, we'll pick up sometime tomorrow.

This is going to be a straightforward encounter to get us used to combat in general. Still, I suppose if the dice rolls are cruel enough something bad may happen. Combat rules and character sheets for Elewyn and Ruby are here:

>>4995889

In the meantime, I'll be around for a little while longer to answer any questions.
>>
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Let's get this battle started shall we?

This will be a learning experience for me as much as it will for you guys. I'm almost certain that things will need to be tweaked, and there will be hiccups. So, thanks for your patience in advance.

Also there has been an update to the Combat rules to explain how actions will be performed on player/QM sides, check it out.
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1peKn2-vZzeDmAXhy_ZlifFA9nOMlaEs3PK7hgKSel3M/edit?usp=sharing

Reference character sheets here:
https://docs.google.com/document/d/1o_UUxh62Gj5_fMjlaRr5cn1BHBB3P8uLpnMy15XcJak/edit?usp=sharing

>>4998277

Aloé with a short sword and buckler pulls into the vanguard with a planted stance. "Alright! I'll take on its hits while you guys finish it off."

Philia's bow and arrow materializes from thin air with an ethereal azure glow surrounding it. "It seems to be searching for us with scent. It might change the target of its attacks accordingly."

Ruby has a wide and bold stance toward the front with her greatsword at the ready. "Finally! Let's cut him up!"

You note the height difference of the raptor standing on the high dune. It flexes its large thighs as it pinpoints the source of your scents "It will probably charge us, and it's first hit will be brutal."

Almost on cue, the raptor snarls, stamps its legs, and begins a trot down the dune straight at the four of you. Without any actions to change, it will impact into Aloé first.

__________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Ruby and Elewyns actions.

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 30

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

The massive raptor is wildly charging at your vanguard, and appears in perfect health.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4998736
>Ewelyn casts Dawn's blessing on Aloé before impact.
>Ruby waits for impact on Aloé to use Gnaw on the raptor.

What size is the raptor ? Is it dependent on our size or a general classification,anyway ?
>>
>>4998736
>Ewelyn casts Dawn's blessing on Aloé before impact.
>Ruby waits for impact on Aloé to use Gnaw on the raptor.
This seems like a good course of action to me too, we reduce the pressure on our tank and we have a decent chance of inflicting bleed early on. I'm curious how much HP enemies are going to have, because depending on how things are balanced, the DoT from bleed (15% total HP per turn) could be pretty OP. Admittedly, that would be against a single oponent, maybe not so much when fighting groups of enemies.
>>
>>4998801
The size of the raptor is large, which you can consider to be a general classification. Everyone in the team is small, and adult humans would be medium

>>4998806
Enemies HP will be varied, and the exact amount will be unknown to you most of the time. (I can tell you after each battle if you'd like.) But a general rule of thumb would be that the larger the enemy the more HP.
>>
Rolled 10, 3 = 13 (2d10)

>>4998801
>>4998806
To keep things rolling, we'll go ahead with this set of choices.

>Elewyn to cast Dawn's Blessing before the impact.
MP Cost: 3

>Ruby to wait for first impact on Aloé, then use Gnaw on the raptor.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 6)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7+3=15
Bleed Chance if Connected: 100%
>>
>>4998806
>>4998811
And with that confirmation, Gnaw indeed gives us a guaranteed bleed on a hit.
Does bleed expire ? What if we inflict it two times in a row ? Will it last longer, become more potent, or have no effect ?
>>
Rolled 2 (1d3)

>>4998828
Bleed does not expire without outside influence, and it does not stack.


>>4998827
Ruby's Gnaw will connect

Aloé is planted to absorb impact, so rolling for raptor bleed chance:
1d3, 3 = bleed

>Writing the outcome
>>
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>>4998830

You immediately raise your staff high in the air and evoke Dawn's Blessing to help shield your companions from attacks. An aura of protection radiates from you, making your companions feel more robust.

Aloé plants herself firmly before the impact. A slight glow emits from her hands and feet as she braces herself behind her shield.

Stomping down the sand dune with great speed, the raptor crashes immediately against Aloé's augmented guards, crunching and snarling brutally upon impact.

Aloé feet slide back into the sand as the blow to her chest sends her flat on her rear. She reaches back to prop herself up again.

Angered, Ruby immediately slams the length of her blade against the raptors chest and twists it against its flesh. Ruby snarls as the skin easily yields under her blade, oozing crimson fluid onto the ground and onto Aloé, causing the raptor to shriek and twist away in pain.

After a quick incantation, the glow of Philia's weapon intensifies as she pulls back a heavy enchanted arrow and takes aim at the raptor. "If you'd be so kind to keep it occupied for a little while longer..." She calls out with slight strain in her voice.

The collision was savage, but of all four of you Aloé can takes those hits the best. "Ahhh~. That hurt." A little unsteadily she begins to rise to her feet again, her lower half slick with the raptors blood.

The raptor huffs and sniffs the air deeply. Drool and hot breath emanating from its mouth. The bite of your red-headed companion's weapon did some damage, but the raptor still has plenty of fight left in it. It sniffs wildly, seemingly undecided which of you to target.

After breaking Aloé's guard, the raptor stands amongst the four of you, while Philia is currently locked down charging her next heavy shot.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 27

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 19
MP: 2

The raptor is wildly searching for its next target, and bleeds from its injury.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4998877
It's trying to figure out which one to attack, but I'm not sure if it will avoid or target the ones covered in blood(Aloe and Ruby's weapon)

I'm gonna assume Philia for now.

Ruby
>Slide under and brace your weapon against its legs, trying to prevent it from moving.

Elewyn
>Stellar Gale on its nose, confusing its senses for a moment longer
>>
>>4999088

To let you know, the blood will lead to ignoring as it will be different from your original scents that it picked up.
>>
I'm a little busy tonight, so there might not be an update until tomorrow. That said, we're at one response, so there's plenty of room for more votes.

I'll be sure to post when I start writing again.
>>
>>4999088
I'll support this
>>
>>4999088
Ruby
>Wait for Aloé to take the hit, then Heavy Slash
We already have bleed. More phys amp= more dmg.
Elewyn
>Sundowning
I don't think Stellar Gale will work here. If anything, it would push it out of Ruby's range and throw off Phillia's aim. I'm worried about mana regen out of combat, though. That's a third of our max going into a single target stun.
>>
>>4999559
It's too big to rely on the push effect, but I'm wondering if the wind itself can mess with the smell.

Stun is the other option, of course.
>>
>>4999560
Could we blow sand into its nose?
>>
>>4999564
dirt maybe, or chucking some sort of ice or fire at it.
>>
Rolled 9, 9, 1, 8 = 27 (4d10)

>>4999088
>>4999522
>>4999559

>Ruby to lock down the raptors movement with her blade.
Stamina Cost: 4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 6, the first 2 dice)
Total Physical Amplification if connected: 5+9+3=17

>>4999088
>>4999559
Elewyn to use Stellar Gale on the raptor's nose area.
MP Cost: 2
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8, the last 2 dice)
>>
>>4999602
Both Ruby's and Elewyn's actions will connect.

Rolling for the raptor's next action.
Rolling 2d10 (CR 7)

>Writing outcome
>>
Rolled 10, 7 = 17 (2d10)

>>4999605
It would help if I actually rolled.
>>
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>>4999605
Sensing that the raptor is panting heavily in an effort to taste the air in order to find a new target, you immediate aim your staff at its head. A concentrated blast of wind shoots forth from its tip, with a blast of wind directed behind you to stabilize the recoil. Sand whips up in your wake as the wind blast smacks into the raptors snout, kicking its head back roughly.

The resulting blow causes the raptor extend high on its legs, its search temporarily disrupted.

Ruby jumps forward to lock down the raptor from rearing back any further. With a mighty lunge forward, she drives the tip of her sword into the raptors foot, crunching through and shattering the bone within.

"Much appreciated!” Philia shouts to Ruby as she lets loose the heavy arrow. It shrieks as it speeds through the air making a dramatic impact of azure flames as it pierces straight into the raptor’s torso, causing heavy damage.

Aloé now has the time to find her footing again, and rushes to plant herself in between Ruby and the desperate raptor’s next blow. The raptors claws come down with a flurry of quick slashes as it panics, bleeding heavily from the gory wound that Ruby carved earlier. Its claws come against Aloé and her buckler which has sprouted thick woody spines that shatter and stick into the raptors claws. She takes some cuts from the onslaught, but her guard holds.

Sensing the futility of continuing its current assault the raptor quite literally tears itself free from Ruby’s greatsword, and slams back into the sand, thrashing, and staining the sand heavily with its blood. It pants heavily on its side, grave injuries quite clear to all around, its tail smacks against the ground as it calls out into the dark with a strange unexpected chirping noise.

It’s calling out to something in the dark. You need to move fast to finish it off before its heard, but you’re also aware of how dangerous an animal on its last legs can be.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 25

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 15
MP: 2

The raptor is downed on its side, and heavily wounded. It's calling out to the darkness for help.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>4999696
Kill it, kill it now !
Ruby
>Slash
Finish it off this turn hopefully.

Ewelyn
>Healing light on Aloé
Better do this in case we get further company.
>>
>>4999716
This.
>>
>>4999696
Supporting >>4999716
I guess it shouldn't be a surprise that raptors would hunt in packs. Too bad we don't have some sort of Silence or Muffle spell
>>
>>4999758
We had stupor in the intro. Now we don't. How strange.
>>
>>4999799
Elewyn does have stupor via Sundowning. I didn't use it earlier because the vote leaned toward using Stellar Gale last round instead.
>>
Rolled 3, 5 = 8 (2d10)

>>4999716
>>4999744
>>4999758

>Ruby to attack it with a slash.
Stamina Cost:4
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 3)
Total Physical Amplification if connected: 5+9+3=17

Elewyn to cast Healing Light on Aloé
MP Cost:6
(Will roll in a following post for healing range)
>>
Rolled 1 (1d3)

>>5000147
Rolling for healing range (1d3, 3=greatest heal)

No need to roll for this raptor anymore.

>Writing
>>
>>5000150

While you focus healing energy upon Aloé, you shout to your companions. "Finish it off, before it can call for more help!"

Ruby dutifully responds to your command and dashes quickly to the fallen raptor. She holds her large blade to the side while she slices through the backside of the beast, pouring out hot blood in her wake.

By now, the raptor has hardly the energy to let out more than a few more whimpers into the darkness before slumping its head onto the sand.

Aloé catches up after Ruby has carved through, and noticing that the beast has no fight left in it, mercifully puts it out of its misery with a quick stab to the back of the neck. "Shhh..." She whispers softly to the corpse. "Sleep, alright?."

The raptor has been slain. The scene of the battle is stained dark with its blood, and the once smooth dune has been carved into itself by the raptor in its final death throes.

Philia loosed a glowing arrow far into the distance, faintly illuminating an agitated raptor searching for the lost calls of its companion. "We should depart before it manages to locate us." She announces as she walks up to you.

"Aww man." Ruby whines as she supports a battered Aloé. "These tough monsters always have something valuable to carve off."

"Another time." You pull Aloé arm around you and lead your group away from the battle scene.

[1/2]
>>
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>>5000301


The four of you made it to your lodging without any further incident on the road. After initially getting settled, Ruby and Phillia quickly went off to get bandages and other essential supplies. There's probably just under an hour until Sario and his guards arrive to take you off to the slaver's hideout.

You ease Aloé into the warm bath water, supporting her under her armpits, as she winces in pain. "Almost there. It will stop stinging once you're fully in there."

The bath reddens with the raptor's rehydrated blood as she's lowered into it.

"Ah, ahhh. Ow!" She cries out, and then suddenly furrows her brow. "Ah! Eh, haha. I mean, it doesn't hurt all that much at all!..." Her clearly body shakes slightly from fatigue and pain.

"Sure, sure." You reply softly as you finish getting her settled. "You know..." You start as you fill a small bucket with the bathwater. "You are brave. You are strong. You have all the qualities one could ever want to be a royal guardsmen." Her ears already redden as you begin to softly pour the water through her sand caked hair. You wait a moment for it to roll off her head. "Showing what you're feeling isn't going to take away from that."

She nods and laughs lightly while you repeat pouring the warm water over her hair, rubbing away the sand that sticks. Your hand settles on the top of her head for a long time, as the two of you sit in silence. As the water drips off her brow, and back into the bath, her chest begins to hiccup with a suppressed sob. Embarrassed, she drops her mouth beneath the water line, but her reddened eyes give her away.

"Ahhh..." You sigh lightly. "I didn't mean to make you upset." You soak a thin washcloth and begin cleaning her chest and back. "Maybe, I'm not good at giving advice." You muse in this quiet moment. "There's been so many times. So many of you all, that I think I'm just giving advice while seeing you all as the same person. Not thinking about what... what would be best to say for each of you." You stop and smile slightly at her. "You did good out there."

Her eyes widen and her chest heaves more with several compressed sobs.

[2/3]
>>
>>5000303

You give her a time to compose herself as you delicately wash the bruises around her chest and stomach.

"Elewyn?" She finally says after some time. "Why...Hmmm... Why are we good at that? I mean why can we fight when we're so much smaller? Why can I take those hits...and not die?" She looks at her hands as the lightly glow with the same light she had as she guarded against the raptor. "I've been able to do this for as long as I can remember. But, no one back home could ever tell me why. 'That's just how it is.' Is what they always said."

You stop and stare at the turbid water.

What good would there be in telling her? Telling any of them? Is there anyone left old enough to refute the truth that you decide?

Being fragments of god affords your kind the various powers they hold. Being fragments of a god kept those powers robust, and allowed them to grow. Being fragments of a god kept all of your kind deeply tied to nature. Being fragments of a god kept your kind in the infinite cycle of rebirth.

Your god has been dead for a long time. They think her sleeping. A lie that was told because the truth was too unbearable that morphed into a false reality. The powers have slowly waned, with no way to reverse the course. The voices of nature are mute to most of you.

There hasn't been a single Elin pulled from the Lake in decades.

>Lie "Your powers are who you are, Aloé. Just as much as your ears, eyes, or nose. But you don't question why you have those."

>Write in.
>>
>>5000305
>Half Truths are enough for the middle of the mission
>It is a small blessing from the goddess, afforded to all Elin. But don't let that be an excuse to rest on your laurels.
>>
>>5000307
Sure.
>Special link to the goddess, comes with blessings. Don't let your head get too big about it.
Let's not hit them with the heavy stuff the night before an op. She's handling it well, best keep it that way.
>>
>>5000305
>Special link to the goddess, comes with blessings. Don't let your head get too big about it.
>>
>>5000307
>>5000662
>>5000744
Place and time

>Writing
>>
>>5001178

You finally look up and give her a light smile. "You know of the goddess, don't you? Our powers are our link to her, special to only our kind. The blessings that link affords us is why we can fight as we do, and why I think we must continue to fight as we do. I can tell that the duty that you have chosen is important to you. What you think is just and right, is important to you. What you want to protect is important to you. So, fight for those things, let your gifts help you fight for those things."

While taking a second to think on the time, you lean back sigh. You ought to wrap this up. "Just don't ever forget that no matter how strong your gifts make you, it can all be taken away..."

No. That's not for her.

"Just...don't let those things go to your head." You quickly follow up.

In that instant, she stands and boldly crosses her arm across her chest in the standard royal guard pose. "Never. I will always be the vanguard that guides and protects."

She recites a line from the royal guard creed, seemingly forgotten about her soreness in that moment. Among other things.

"Ah!" She suddenly realizes the bold level of exposure she displays her front side to you, and then plunges back into the bath.

The story of how she became a member of the royal guard is certainly something you'd like to hear. Perhaps soon, after all this is said and done?

~

As the hour approaches the four of you make a show of acting as four rambunctious youths on a trip might, at least, you allow the other three to go about as they normally would. The dingy room the inn gave you seems all the smaller with their voices filling it up.

You've already gone over the plan once again after Ruby and Philia returned. All that remains is to wait for Sario's arrival, act the part of a vulnerable girl to extract as much information as you can, and then take care of them.

There are three pieces of information that you'd most like to know:

Why capture a group of only Elin?
Who is the one purchasing this shipment?
Are there any other captured Elin?

[1/3]
>>
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>>5001307

There's surely to be at least some piece of information in the hideout itself. Any other hidden information that may out of sight or rumors privy to the guards will be more than what's easily found at the hideout. At any point, you need only emit a flash of light and you and your companions will put a thorough end to the questioning.

At that moment, a ruckus could be heard from the entrance of the inn. Namely, a loud Sario argues with innkeeper that he needs to search the premises for a person of interest.

His voice becomes more clear as he moves closer. "We're just here to pull a person of interest in for questioning...don't get in the way of official business if ya know what's good for you." The sounds of a confrontation can be heard from beyond your door, as well as a hard thud to the ground.

With a simple nod to your companions you pick up your bag and sheepishly step out into the hall partially hiding behind your pack.

His eyes fix on you. "There you are, you little brat! You think I wouldn't notice the little trick you played on us earlier?" His two companions lurk behind him standing over the incapacitated innkeeper. "You're coming with us."

He wrenches you forward by the upper arm and then shoves you toward the entrance, during which your companions make a show of screaming and protesting your capture. "Ah, shut up the lot of you, and don't get in the way of guard business unless you want to end up like this idiot" After a solid kick to the downed innkeeper, he turns back to you and smacks you across the back of the head. "Move."

Once outside, the four of you walk in silence until out of earshot of the inn. Tulufan lacks the relaxed air that Chebika had. The streets are poorly lit at night, and most people out seem in a hurry to get where they're going rather than enjoying the night, especially as they see the group of three guards walking through the streets.

[2/3]
>>
>>5001309

Sario finally breaks the silence "Damn, innkeeper making a fuss. I wouldn't had to make such a a scene if he just minded his own business. He rests his arm around your shoulder. "Sorry about roughing you up, it was all for show. I hope you can forgive me, and if not, then I'll spend the night making you feel better. A matter of fact, we all will. Isn't that right boys?"

"Course." One of the others replies, while both of them laugh to themselves.

He laughs to himself about their inside joke. "There you go. Now don't think of us guards hauling you off. We're all equal here, and we're all just here to have some adult fun. Now little..." He leans down to look at you.

"Elly..." You responds quietly

"Elly. We might be a little rough around the edges, but given that you decided to come out here with us, I'm guessing you'd like to be a little wild as well. Now you're a smart girl, so you go ahead and think about what that would mean to you. While we're getting to where we're going, let's just get to know each other a little bit more." He pulls you in a little bit closer to his side much to your disgust. "How old are ya Elly?"

"Twelve." You answer plainly.

He sighs deeply in his chest, breath shaky from excitement. "Now that's a fine age for such a fine girl. We never get to hang out with anyone as cute as you here, and especially not when we're forced to get shipped off across the sea. Ugh, everyone there are strange ones. " He takes a moment to regain his composure. "Anyway, enough about that. You ever do something like this before, Elly?"

You craft your answer carefully. "...No. But, some of the older girls told me about going out with some of the guards near the academy and..."

He smiles widely "Got ya interested? Well, we're sure as hell not going to disappoint." His breathing hastens as he's eager to get to the hideout. "Now it's only fair that you get to know us too. Go on, ask away."

After hearing him go on as he does, you somehow doubt that these simple-minded deviants were directly privy to any valuable information. Perhaps they know more than they can appreciate. But how would three rule breaking enforcers come across information that's valuable to you?

>Remain quiet, entice him further with the shy act.

>Write in
>>
>>5001312
>Ask them what it's like on a ship, or where they go.
>Stick to the curious angle, let them brag about the outside world
>>
I'm going to let the vote stay open until the morning, and write what we have then. Have a good one, guys
>>
>>5001619
Yeah try to coax him into bragging about his job
>>
>>5001619
Sure.
Maybe don't ask what ships are like if our cover story has us traveling by boat to here, though. But yeah, stroke his ego and absolutely nothing else !
>>
>>5001619
>>5001964
>>5002006
Continuing the questioning

>Writing
>>
>>5002138

You decide that the best way to gather information is to coax them into doing all the talking.

You hug your pack tightly. "Being a guard means that you have to deal with monsters and criminals...Is it dangerous?"

This elicits a jovial laugh from all three of them. Sario finally speaks up once they settle down. "Course it is! You think we carry these swords and armor around for show? All sorts of creatures out there all to ready to bite into a tasty snack like yourself, and that's not even mentioning the monsters. But, I go out there with a few good men at my back, and the problem is always taken care of."

A dark cat bolts out from the darkness in front of the four of you. Sario's subordinates begin to unsheathe their swords when he raises his hand to stop them.

"How's it going to make me look now, if you lot go jumping at shadows." He points to the cat as it stares at all of you warily. "You're not the only one out on the town...Save it for the real work, boys. You'll scare off the pussy."

You subtly take a glance behind you to see the briefest glimpse of a small shadow disappearing from sight. Your companions still need to practice tailing without being noticed.

The cat takes its leave into the dark night, and you resume your trip. "Real work?" You're quick to follow up on that phrase. "Like overseas?...I've never been."

He smirks as his hand shifts slightly to rest more on your collarbone than shoulder. "That's right. That's where the real dangerous work is. We only ever dock in one place, one cursed little place hidden by the ash of a huge volcano. Loads of men lost after spending a night off in the town. Better to stay away if you know what's good for you. There's plenty to watch erupt here if that's what you're after."

Docked near a volcano?.....Ah. You can see how it might seem like a volcano to the uninformed. You now know generally where their ships dock across the sea.

Lorcada.
>>
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>>5002268
The four of you have drifted toward the outskirts of town, where you climb up a steep hill. At the crest of which lies an unassuming lot of buildings guarded by tall walls. The guards go about unlocking the imposing gate, after which you're led inside.

The true luxury of the building is well shielded by the tall walls, as when you pass through you're greeted with a courtyard with a tall marble fountain flanked by small fruiting trees. Ornate frescos come to life as the guards go about lighting the torches of the small plaza.

Sario leads you past the fountain and inside. "We'll take a dip later tonight. After we get to know each other a bit more."

~

The three guards had you settle into an alcove that looks over the courtyard. The air is heavy with lit incense and the smell of liquor. Thick cushions line the carved stone floors, which the guards splay out upon, with most of their armor removed at this point. Sario and his guards chat away, taking huge swigs of dark liquor and smoking from a long pipe. He keeps you very close with his thighs gripping your sides and his arms crossed in front of you.

You're sure the mood is quite relaxed for them, as they look forward to what they think will come soon. Some time passes with them talking among themselves.

"We're being bad hosts, boys." Sario announces with the strong liquor already affecting his speech. "Here, Elly. A toast to new friends." He announces as places a small cup of liquor in your hands.

"To new friends!" The other two follow.

You meekly raise your cup, make sure to take a tentative glance at it, before taking a sip. It's on the stronger side, but several complex flavors still comes through and evolve into each other quite nicely. It certainly is a quality liquor, but you make a show of coughing and panting for air.

Once their laughter has settled, Sario wraps himself more tightly around you and slides a greedy hand down your blouse. "Friends right? Let's keep chatting...My, you're a straight line from nose to toe aren't you?"

In another time...He probably would've beat him Sario unconscious and then some...In another time...she probably would've just cut off his limbs. But...you only belong to yourself now.

Your bag and staff are easily in reach. Signaling the others would be quick at this point, and frankly you're ready to scrub off every part of you that Sario even looked at. You've found the slaver's hideout, and managed to extract some valuable information about where they dock across the sea. That said, information spills forth from drunk lips the easiest. If there's anything else worth knowing, they'd share it with little resistance.

>Signal your companions for the ambush.

>Hold off for now. See if there's any other information to extract.

>Write in.
>>
>>5002271

As irked as Ewelyn is, I figure we have a shot at getting intel on who's hired them. If not the leader at least the next rung on the ladder. It could be worth it so long as he doesn't move past fondling, at which point we will have to cut info gathering short and move on to our regularly scheduled emasculation.
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
No more needs to be said
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
They might be talkative with a boot on their chests and a sword at their throats too.
>>
>>5002271
>Signal your companions for the ambush.
I doubt that what they know is completely true anyway. We've got what we came here for, and we can get rid of them without armor.
>>
>>5002506
>>5002549
>>5002554
Signaling the ambush. Get ready for combat.

>Writin
>>
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>>5002271

They've settled down with drink, lowered their guard, and taken off their armor. You've got what you wanted from them, so no more needs to be said.

With one smooth motion, you reach for your bag and pull out you staff.

"Whoa there, girl. That's one fancy stick you've got there." Sario replies in surprise, reaching out for your staff.

"Don't ever touch it." Your voice cold as you slide out of his lascivious grasp and raise your staff high in the air to invoke a bright arc of Brilliance from your staff.

The smoky warm night is torn asunder as the light of a small star emitted from the tip of your staff shines, signaling your companions.

"Aw, fuck! I can't see" You hear one of the call out as the stumble drunkenly and blinded.

Once you hear the rapid footfalls of your companions making their way through the courtyard, you release the spell to allow them to see where you are.

"UGH! You pigs!" Aloé calls out into the night as she runs around one side of the large fountain. "You'll get yours!"

Ruby dashes along the other side of the fountain rushing to your aid as well. "Yup, you're not going to like what Carver can do you, creeps!"

Philia follows closely behind her. "Uncouth and shameful, treating a girl like that!"

The guards are just starting to assess the situation, but don't have their weapons drawn yet.
__________________________________________

For this encounter, you will control: Elewyn and Ruby

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 30

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

Two trained guards, and one guard captain surround Elewyn, all unarmored. The ambush and alcohol cause them to be unprepared attack this round, but they will make it very difficult for Elewyn to reach her allies. Ruby is out of reach for attack this round, so her action will be skipped.

>Write in movement/actions for Elewyn
>>
>>5002594
Do we have a knife in that bag? If not, I'm perfectly willing to ram the staff up or down any orifices
>>
>>5002636
No knife, but there are swords lying around. Be warned, however, Elewyn isn't trained to use one at all. There is always after the battle, if you'd like. (Provided things go well.)

The staff is completely off limits for that.
>>
>>5002594
>>5002636
Wait, we can use the wind recoil. Assuming we've only got the staff to work with:
>Jam the staff in one of the guard's mouth or ass.
>Point the staff away from your party and use the Gale Winds to push the two of you towards your party
>>
>>5002650
Fine, fine. Sword is a bad idea, so stick to using our own body as a wind-powered battering ram?
>>
>>5002650
Dropped trip, but to clarify: not opposed to the insertion of weapons into the guards orifices as an action, only the staff is off-limits.

>>5002651
Also, this would be two actions.
>>
>>5002655
Completely valid
>>
>>5002658
>>5002651
If we can, then take the captain with us towards the party with the Gale. If not, use it to reposition. As a last resort, we should target the captain with it, as he is clearly the bigger threat.
>>
>>5002948
I'll summarize with using Gale to move yourself and Sario toward your party would be extremely difficult given the current positions and the extra two guards. If you wanted to use it on yourself, you'd have to maneuver around the guards to get out of being surrounded.


>>5002651
>>5002948
It seems to me the votes are circling around using Gale to gain a more advantaged position for Elewyn. I'll leave the vote open for a while longer for anyone else, and for any additional questions.
>>
Rolled 3, 9 = 12 (2d10)

I think I got a decent combination of what's been suggested.

>Elewyn to use Stellar Gale on Sario to simultaneously knock him down, and push herself out of flanking position.
MP Cost:2
Rolling 2d10 to see if the jump back clears the other two guards. (CR 10)
>>
Also, I've been considering using twitter to notify when updates are posted here for the sake of facilitating participation as much as I can. If that's something you'd like implemented, and/or you have alternatives please let me know.

>>5003405
Elewyn will clear the two guards unscathed.

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5003408

Before they have the chance to even recover their weapons, you quickly aim your staff at Sario's legs, and unleash a gale of wind, making sure that you don't counterbalance the recoil.

Caught off guard, his legs are easily swept out from underneath him, causing him to slam hard on the ornate marble tile. "You fucking bitch!" He shouts in pure rage on his back.

The reaction force propels you past his two subordinates, who attempt to grab you, but you manage to slip through. After missing their chance to grab you, they pick up their weapons off the ground and rush after you.

For a brief moment you soar through the smoky air, your clothes rippling as you land gracefully near the foot of the stairs. Your dark beret falls to the ground. At the same time your companions rush forth, with Ruby and Aloé acting as the vanguard against the approaching two guards.

"Holy hell!" Ruby exclaims as you suddenly land near her. Not skipping a beat she grins cheekily at the guard approaching her and she twists her greatsword to show off its wicked teeth. "Too bad for you that you get to meet me and Carver. He likes the dangly bits."

Once she sees you've landed alright, Aloé turns her attention back to the guardsman looming over her and confidently raises her sword and shield. "I have half a mind to turn all of you in for horribly violating your positions. But. I'm. Off. Duty." Her hands and feet illuminate with the familiar glow, readying her for battle.

"What an exquisite courtyard you have here, and what beautiful trees." Philia calls out to the guardsmen as her weapon materializes with a bright azure light. "Not very many get to perish in such luxury."

"Stop being useless idiots, and fucking kill them!" Sario commands as he rises to his feet, gripping at his long sword.

__________________________________________

You now have control of both Elewyn and Ruby:

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 28

Ruby:
HP: 12
LP: 6
Stamina: 25
MP: 2

One guard is poised to strike at Aloé with a heavy mace, as the other looks ready to lunge at Ruby with his sword. Due to your spell, Sario remains out of range for an attack this round.

>Write in movement/actions for Elewyn and Ruby.
>>
>>5003449
Elewyn
>Get Dawn's Blessing up

Ruby
>Gore
>Slash into him, sword or no sword. You don't need a lot of momentum to scratch a naked man up with Carver
>>
Heyo /qst/, I'm going to take a slight pause in the quest to communicate some thoughts with you.

It seems that participation has relaxed a good bit the past few days with getting enough votes for a definitive choice taking longer. If it weren't for the combat, this wouldn't be too much of an issue, I would instead focus on writing fewer, but more lengthy updates. Often, on my end, I find myself ready to write/answer questions, but waiting for posts.

Life does happen, and this could a temporary lull. It could be the updates not being properly announced. Or, it could be interest waning. Not sure.

If it's the first, then we can always wait it out and keep going. The second can also be easily addressed with something like a twitter account, but the third is obviously more difficult to tackle.

Regardless of what it is, I will do what I can to facilitate the quest proceeding. But before I do anything hasty, I'd like to know if any of you have thoughts on this. Be as candid as you'd like, I'm a big boy or at least I'd like to think.

Still, I thank all of you still participating/reading, and for letting me tell this story.
>>
>>5003556
Supporting
>>
>>5004093
From what I've seen open votes tend to slow down things usually.
>>
>>5004142

This is very true from what I've seen in other quests as well. Adding more laid out choices for story beats will be something I'll work on. About implementing that into combat, perhaps displaying the skills available to each character, but I don't know how cluttered that would appear. I'll have to do some testing.
>>
>>5004093
I'm not to sure about qst these days, but I think part of it is that Character Actions are described as distinct skills. That's useful in MMOs, but in quests it's one step longer in figuring out what we can have the characters do.

For Elewyn it's not so bad since I've been improvising the wind spell beyond the default description, but Ruby spends 3 different skills to say "she swords good" without me really knowing if she knows how to clash or how her aggressive style works on creatures that know how to block.
>>
>>5004154

I see, I see. This seems to be partially a matter of point of reference. I want to emphasize fragility and high evasion for these characters (Aloé being the exception), but this has to be relative to something. I've included the base stats that I have for the desert raptor as a start, and I will also release the stats of enemies for every successful encounter. Note the high physical amplification and HP.

Skill development is something that I had in mind for this quest, especially as means to flesh out growth. This was going to come soon, but I think I will bump it to occur even sooner, at least partially. Ruby will likely be first, as she is thematically less experienced, and has been a POV character already. Clashing for her is plenty viable, she's not as fragile as Elewyn, and can be healed in a pinch. That said, she would rely more on her evasion for damage mitigation. Her high offense would help with any blocks, and while either character or enemy is blocking their offensive capabilities would be limited for that round.


(Past Encounter Desert Raptor):
HP:40
Stamina:20
Physical Amplification:15
Physical Resistance: 9
Evasion:5
>>
>>5004093
I still have interest in the quest, but I live in a different timezone. You update mostly when I sleep, and most mornings I don't get on my computer before I leave home. So I can only answer in a very short window in the morning or in the evening, provided there even is a vote going on.
I've been reluctant to post on mobile due to not wanting to screw with my id, and even if I did, timezones would still be an issue.
>>
>>5003556
Mostly support, provided Gore is Gnaw. Bleeding OP, pls don't nerf.
Also because I assume we can't maneuver to Wide Slice both guards, given Aloé's presence and the fact that one is technically blocking us.
>>
Rolled 10, 2 = 12 (2d10)

>>5004196
Thanks for keeping up with the quest despite the timezone difference. The weekend times will hopefully bleed a bit more into when you're awake.

And thank you all for your thoughtful input, I will keep going trying to address the issues you brought up.

>>5003556
>>5004140
>>5004209

>Elewyn to use Dawn's Blessing
MP Cost: 3


>Ruby to use Gnaw on adjacent guard.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 3 (1d4)

>>5004268
Gnaw Connects!
Rolling for Ruby's bleed chance on guard
1d4, 4 = no bleed
>>
Rolled 10, 5, 6, 7 = 28 (4d10)

>>5004273
Bleed will be active.

Rolling for guards actions.
Rolling 2d10 (first 2 dice) for attack on Aloé (CR 7)
Rolling 2d10 (last 2 dice) for attack on Ruby (CR 11)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5004279

You decide that protecting Ruby and Aloé from the guards experienced hits is the most prudent course of action. You evoke your aura of protection before they have a chance to strike.

With a swift lunge forward, Ruby crouches and introduces the nearby guard to Carver by raking its teeth along his flank, shredding the skin like paper, and causing a deep bleed to trail down his side.

In response, he growls in pain and thrusts his sword forth at the small assailant, managing to slice a long cut into her shoulder before she can slide back. Ruby winces in pain, but the wound doesn't impede her movements.

Philia covers Ruby as she regains her stance with a sudden arrow, sinking into the guard's thigh. He falters in agony for a moment, before barely managing to compose himself with gritted teeth.

Aloé is immediately greeted with a flurry of blows from the guard's heavy mace. She does her best to time her shield to deflect the strikes. Seeing an opening, she returns the favor with an expert thrust to the guard's shoulder. Before she can press the advantage, her enemy rallies with a heavy blow directly to her hip. Her blade retreats as she repositions.

Sario finally catches up and glares directly at you. "I'm going to kill you and your friends. But first, I'm going to rape all your holes, and the holes I stab into you!" His heavy sword at the ready, eyes wild with anger, he seems intent on pursuing you first. He's positioned right next to his subordinates.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 25

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 19
MP: 2

The guard that Ruby exchanged blows stands very unsteadily, he wouldn't be able to withstand another round of attacks like that. The other guard, while injured still appears to be in good fighting shape. Sario is intent on attacking Elewyn, and his rage fuels his expert hand.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>5004354
Alright. Can Ruby step in front of Sario to slice him and the unsteady guard ? Could she also reasonably get the third guy ?
Let's also have Elewyn use Sundowning on Sario to try and help Ruby get her strike off. Also takes the biggest threat out of the fight, hopefully long enough.

The aura is nice, but it isn't enough to be worth wasting a turn maintaining.
>>
>>5004425

Ruby could make that move, and reach the 3rd guard as well. But just so you know, that would put her in range of additional attacks from the guards (assuming they are unimpeded)
>>
>>5004449

Dropped trip once again from posting in other threads.
>>
>>5004453
Okay. Then how about:
Ruby hits all 3.
Elewyn Sundowns Sario
Aloé attack her guard.

If successful:
Wounded guard routed or about to be.
Sario blinded.
Last guard tangled by Aloé.

Would that work like that ? Though I guess Sario/Last guard could still hit Ruby before Elewyn and Aloé get a turn.
>>
>>5004465

It definitely could work like that, provided the rolls work out for Ruby. Also, your team takes priority in terms of actions to help balance fragility (for most cases)
>>
>>5004487
Very well. I'll go with that and stop for tonight (and pray the dice gods before going to sleep).
>>
>>5004354
Elewyn Sundowns the leader

Ruby does a wide swing to hit them all at once
>>
Rolled 1, 7 = 8 (2d10)

Just got off a busy night, but ready to get writing.

>>5004494
>>5004688
>Elewyn to cast Sundowning on Sario
MP Cost: 10

>Ruby to use Wide slice on all three guards
Stamina Cost: 7
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 8 for guards, No CR for Sario, stunned)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: (5+7)*0.75= 9
>>
Rolled 10, 5 = 15 (2d10)

>>5004931
Wide swing connects to all three enemies.

Rolling for guard action.
Rolling 2d10 for attack on Aloé (CR 7)

>Writing Outcome
>>
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>>5004932

Taking on three armed guards is a risk that you need to mitigate. Not to mention that despite his lascivious nature, you can tell that Sario is a veteran of numerous battles.

To you it's worth the personal mana cost, so you point your staff at his chest and run the incantation in your head. Flickers of light form around him like a swarm of fireflies, and he slumps on his feet. You can sense the impotent frustration building in him from how you've managed to keep him from the battle so far.

Seizing on the opportunity that having all three enemies so conveniently lined up provides, Ruby shifts one thigh into the air, and slams it hard into the ground to twist into a brutal arc. It carves into all three guardsmen. The nearest falters to his knees as gore begins to slip from his opened belly. He's barely able to keep up the fight from his profuse bleeding, but clutches his weapon for one final strike.

To ensure that he won't be an issue an longer, Philia looses a final arrow into his upper chest. He slips from the impact, and falls hard onto his back with a thud that resounds into the courtyard. He's finished.

Sario takes a wide cut to his chest, adding a fresh red line to the many scars that brazenly show.

Ruby's arc terminates in the final guard's left shoulder, slicing into an already wounded area. His arm droops uselessly, and he slips away to turn his attention to the young Elin relentlessly pressing him with quick slices and thrusts.

As the guard repositions, Aloé pursues tenaciously slipping in quick cuts while deflecting potentially devastating mace blows. However, the guard fakes another heavy blow from overhead, but shifts instead to catch Aloé square in her stomach with an impact that immediately stops her attacks. You immediately check to see if she needs rescue, but with gritted teeth she stands firm. A thin trickle of blood leaks from her mouth, as she's beginning to feel the effects of the hits.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 15

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 12
MP: 2

One guard lies dying on the ground, unable to fight any further. The other presses Aloé after his last attack, causing her to fall back slightly. Sario remains stunned, but you sense he unleash his expert fury as soon as he's able.

>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
>>5004954
Elewyn
>Heal duty

Ruby
>Sweep Sario's legs, knock him on the ground to gang up on at your leisure
>>
>>5004967
Elewyn
>Heal Aloé

Ruby
>Gnaw Sario

I'm glad that worked. Let's see about the 50% on Sundowning, though.
>>
Rolled 1 (1d2)

>>5004967
>>5004992

I can synthesize these actions. First off, rolling to see if Sundowning on Sario continues. Rolling 1d2, 2 = Sundowning continues for upcoming round
>>
Rolled 2, 2 = 4 (2d10)

>>5005049

Alright, Sundowning ends. Sario will have an action this round. For our team:

>Elewyn to cast Healing Light on Aloé
MP Cost: 6
Healing Range: Magical Amplification/[Range:6-4]; (Will roll 1d3 to determine healing, 3 = greatest heal.)

>Ruby to target Sario's legs with Gnaw, specifically for knockdown.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit, CR 13 for knockdown)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 2 (1d3)

>>5005050

Ruby's hit will not connect.

Rolling for healing light, 1d3
>>
Rolled 3, 2, 4, 10 = 19 (4d10)

>>5005053

Healing Light HP recovery equals: 20/5 = 4

Enemy Rolls:
Rolling 4d10 for attacks on Aloé (CR 7, first two dice)
and for attack on Elewyn (CR 15, last two dice)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5005060

With the amount of abuse that Aloé has taken from the guards heavy mace, you turn your attention toward aiming healing light toward her. The light washes over her and soothes her wounds. She may still be bruised, but the trickle of blood from her mouth stops for the moment. With renewed vigor, she bashes a spiked shield into the remaining guardsman stomach. Despite his attempts to club his way free, Aloé deflects each hit with her sword, twisting her magically produced spikes into his entrails.

He barely has enough time to vomit blood and bile over his own chest before Philia sinks an expert arrow through the side of his neck, downing him instantly.

Through sheer anger and force of will, Sario finally breaks free from his stupor, and begins a direct pursuit for your head.

Before he dashes far, Ruby slides towards his legs with Carver's devastating teeth pointed outward. Unfortunately, Sario manages to leap over both your small companion and her large blade, and lands unscathed.

You carefully watch as he leaps again toward you, cleaving his heavy sword down in a hopes to carve you in half. With a single elegant sidestep, you easily evade his strike as it crashes brutally into the marble tile. He glares at you with equal measure anger and surprise, which you return with a smug smirk. "Good try..."

It only takes a moment for Sario to understand that cutting you down won't be as easy as he first thought. He glances back at his fallen companions, and at yours ready for their next strike. With a deep breath he steadies himself. "What the hell are all of you after?... Ah, who fucking cares. When I win I'll beat that out of you, and I get to rape all of you. If that ain't motivation enough..." His laugh bellows through the blood stained courtyard.

__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 9

Ruby:
HP: 7
LP: 6
Stamina: 6
MP: 2

Sario remains the last enemy standing, and besides the long cut on his chest, looks in good fighting form. He eyes all four of you equally, contemplating his next target.


>Write in movement/actions for both Elewyn and Ruby
>>
This will be the last update for tonight. More to come tomorrow, so keep on voting. Have a good day/night, everyone
>>
>>5005099
Not enough mp for stun, huh.

Can we use a weakened Gale between Ruby and Philia? Not enough to push a human, but enough to trip if he pursues the archer while also giving us distance.
>>
>>5005160

The strength of the Gale can definitely be adjusted as you suggest. However, Gale won't completely cancel his velocity vector unless he's charging directly at Elewyn/her staff. In the other case a trip may occur, but he will still be moving forward for a time.
>>
>>5005181
That's fine, Philia can take care of the rest from there. As long as he can't do a tackle to escape being flanked.
>>
The vote is still ongoing. I'd want 1 or 2 more people to post before proceeding with more writing
>>
>>5005435
>>5005160
Way too fucking tired tonight, so I'm just supporting. I'd also like Ruby to try Gnaw again since he's not bleeding.
Besides that Phillia has been on point with her shooting so far.
>>
Rolled 3, 8, 8, 4 = 23 (4d10)

>>5005160
>>5005571
Moving forward with a combination of these two:

>Elewyn to cast Stellar Gale to disrupt Sario's movement
MP Cost: 2
Rolling 2d10 (first two) to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit)

>Ruby to pursue Sario with another Gnaw attempt.
Stamina Cost: 6
Rolling 2d10 (last two) to see if hit connects (CR 9 for hit)
Total Physical Amplification if Connected: 5+7=12
Bleed Chance if Connected: 75%
>>
Rolled 3 (1d4)

>>5005602
Both Stellar Gale and Gnaw will connect
Rolling for bleed chance 1d4, 4= no bleed
>>
Rolled 9, 8 = 17 (2d10)

>>5005609
Finally rolling 2d10 for Sario's attack (CR 11+2 = 13, for stumble)

>Writing outcome
>>
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>>5005611

Without warning, Sario pivots his focus from you to Ruby. His longsword held to his side in a mad dash, he aims to cleave your red-headed companion instead. She has much less experience dodging dangerous or even lethal hits, so you immediately evoke a gust a wind to impede his charge. With careful aim, you manage to clip one of his legs. Unbalanced, he begins to tumble, but with sword still at the ready to strike.

Ruby aims to meet his charge halfway and rushes forth with Carver’s teeth outstretched. Its teeth rake against the front of his thighs, easily peeling away the skin to reveal the pink flesh underneath. At the same moment. Sario barely manages to twist his sword in such a way that it awkwardly catches Ruby from belly to chest. The slice is weakened, but her blouse tears open with a stream of blood, as both Ruby and Sario slam into the ground. She cries out in serious pain, and then shakily begins to push herself up.

Sario coming away less scathed of the two begins to rise to his feet quickly, but finds an arrow embedded into his upper back before he can even fully stand. Vitriol and blood spills forth from his mouth, but he still presses on to attack Ruby once again. One unsteady step is a far as he gets before Aloé tackles him square in the lower back with her spiked shield. With heavy breaths, she grapples with him striking blow after blow with the pommel of her sword, in a desperate attempt to keep him from reaching Ruby.
__________________________________________

Elewyn:
HP: 8
LP: 15
Stamina: 15
MP: 7

Ruby:
HP: 1
LP: 6
Stamina: 0
MP: 2

Sario slowly claws his bloody and battered body forward, intent on finishing an injured and exhausted Ruby. He wouldn’t be able to take much more abuse before he’s dead. Ruby starts to push herself off the ground, but she’s out of breath. Thinking on what you want to do him before his demise, you consider the next course of actions.

>Philia to finish him off with one last arrow.

>Aloé to attempt to stop him by constricting his neck.

>Stand in between him and Ruby, press his head to the ground with your shoe.

>Write in.
>>
>>5005733
>>Aloé to attempt to stop him by constricting his neck.
can't we just blow him away with a full power gale to bleed out?
>>
>>5005899
Yup, that's definitely an option.
>>
>>5005899
>>5005932
Well do both I guess, the push gets distance, while aloe either defends Ruby or pins Sario if she gets caught up in the gale.
>>
Votes still open!
>>
>>5005950
Yeah, he's on a 5 turn timer now, assuming he has taken a tick of poison. A successful gale will force him to take more, and get pelted by Philia.
>>
Finally a lull in work, so I can get back to writing.

>>5005950
>>5006576
These choices don't require any rolls, so writing!
>>
>>5006758

In spite of Aloé's efforts, Sario continues to drag his beaten body toward Ruby intent on finishing her off. To ensure that doesn't happen, you unleash a strong gale of wind from your staff. Both Aloé and Sario slam into one of the ornate pillars, far from Ruby. Their weapons clatter to the ground as well.

Not relenting, Aloé rushes to lock her arm tightly around his neck. He claws deep into her arm, drawing blood. She holds. He punches hard into the her cheek. She holds. He gurgles violently and foamy blood spews forth from his clenched teeth. She holds.

You quietly approach the fallen weapons, and switch your staff for his longsword. Despite Ruby's blood staining it, you can tell it's quite well made. Someone has a great interest in keeping him well-equipped.

Making a show of dragging the sword along the marble tile, the sharp scraping accompanying his gurgling death rattle, the heavy smell of blood, the deep purples and reds of the spilled viscera, all of it brings back memories of terrible battles long past. By the time you reach him, his bloody and beaten body has hardly any noise left to emit. You motion for Aloé to let go.

She releases him and he falls chin first to the ground, teeth smacking hard against each other. His heavy bleeding has drained him of all but the very last vestiges of his strength.

"What a peculiar idea of a fun night." You take little time to rest the tip of his own sword against the base of his eye socket.

"Fuck. You." He sputters out with pure honest fury.

Fine, let those be his final words.

"Here...enjoy this hole." With a quick thrust, you plunge his sword through his eye, and let it come to rest embedded deep within his skull. As you let it fall to the ground, it carves a new gory opening that leaks the contents of head.

Taking only a moment to sigh, you quickly walk over to Ruby and begin the process of healing her wounds.

"He dead?" She winces as her wounds close.

You nod. "Thoroughly."

She laughs in spite of her pain, and pulls her greatsword close to her. "Wish I could've."

She passes out immediately after that.

"You fight much better with that than a bow..."

[1/2]
>>
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>>5006876

~

After finishing up with Ruby and covering up the unsightly corpses, the four of you retire to the inside of the villa. The interior is no less impressive with wide open halls that let the warm night breeze flow through. A lot of attention and effort has gone into making this a hidden oasis among the sandy town of Tulufan. It's wealth of paintings, comfortable furniture, a wide blue pool, and carved marble interior would stick out obviously, especially high on the hill it rests if it weren't for its imposing walls. The gates that protect all this wealth are well secured, leaving you comfortable to spend the night here. Meanwhile, your three companions have taken to passing the night in their own way here, while you collect a thick stack of possibly noteworthy documents from the office of whoever owns this hideout. Meticulous records, of trades, meetings, and agreements sit in your hands as you return to the courtyard to fetch that delicious liquor you had earlier.

The night is very late, but there's much reading to be done to get through all of these papers. Ten years have past since you started investigating this mess. Alys...and who knows how many others have been lost. These slavers are connected to it all, and you intend to find out how.

"I don't presume to know more than you." Philia calls out as you head back into the villa. "But, I believe that you would benefit from a break."

You lift the bottle of liquor higher. "That's why I have this."

She crosses her arms. "Come now, Elewyn...I'm well aware of the importance of this assignment, but the papers will still be there tomorrow." She sighs. "You three come to be in a luxurious villa, and you don't make the most of it. Ruby, in spite of her injuries was discussing something about coming up with a new combat technique. Aloé, bless her heart, was insisting on burying our fallen enemies. How's this, you go help one, and I'll help the other. Once that's done, all four of us come back to the pool to swim, talk, and enjoy ourselves? Please?" She gives a coy smile.

>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Ruby."

>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."

>"I'll pass. I'm going to look through these papers, so that you three can enjoy yourselves."

>Write in.
>>
>>5006879
>"I'll pass. I'm going to look through these papers, so that you three can enjoy yourselves."
>>
10 years is a long time, even for one who nears 600. If this is the closest she’s come to progress, I doubt she would be willing to take a break.
>>
>>5006958
You do bring up a very valid point, and I think it'd be a good opportunity to note that Elewyn's perception of the flow of time is the same as a normal humans. So, indeed, 10 years is a long time. But by that same merit a night is still a night.

Not at all disagreeing with you, just wanted to give equal reasoning behind the choice options. I do really appreciate your explanation.
>>
>>5006879
>>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."
we can take the papers if we have to run, but if there's anything among their personal effects it would take too long if we don't search now.
>>
>>5007206
>>5006879
>>"Fine, fine. I'll go find Aloé."
I figure Elewyn would still care about group morale, and there may well be something of value on the bodies.
>>
Combat is fun and all, but I'm looking forward to switching gears for a bit for some dialogue/story choices. (But, who knows when it might switch back.) I think I'll try to make the updates posted today lengthier, as I mentioned I would earlier.

>>5007206
>>5007299
Helping Aloé with the bodies

>Writing
>>
>>5007363

Despite your insistence that it'd be taken care of in the morning, Aloé is already trying to deal with the bodies, and all by herself. The papers are enticing given how long you've traveled and searched for leads. But, you figure that after helping your companions make sure that they don't wear themselves out, you'll still be able to read through them tonight.

You raise the papers and the liquor. "I'll find a safe place for these, then help Aloé with the bodies. See to it that Ruby doesn't injure herself"

"Naturally. We'll look forward to both of you joining us when you're done." Philia marches off with glee.

Once out of sight, you sneak and search for an appropriate place to stow away the stack of documents. Perhaps one may call it paranoia, but you take the extra abundance of caution to hide the papers in a closet, well out of sight. You intentionally take the bottle of liquor back to the office where the papers originated, and leave it there. Far too much has gone into getting you here for you to slip up now. Coin, time, and risk were all invested for this mission. To that end, it would be helpful if the slavers had some silver hidden away here. There will be time tomorrow to search for that.

Heading into the courtyard, you can already hear Aloé straining with something, and sure enough upon descending the stairs, you catch her already dragging one of the guards onto a cloth sheet. It was the fellow that took the arrow to the neck. She's already tactfully removed the arrow from his body, and tugs his legs with all her strength, stopping often to catch her breath and readjust. The body is easily twice her weight, but she persists in the way she always does.

She spots you as she lowers the legs once again. "Ah, Elewyn!" She huffs, out of breath. "Don't worry, I'll make sure that the gate is closed when I head out."

[1/?]
>>
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>>5007839

You sigh as you cross the courtyard toward her. "I know better than to tell you to wait to the morning now."

"Ah...Eh. Uh... Thanks for that." She lets out a small bashful laugh.

"Here..." You grab one of the fallen guard's legs. "It would take you all night at that rate."

She pauses in surprise as you adjust your grip, but then quickly gives a confident nod. "Thanks!" She pulls the body with renewed vigor. "I was thinking of burying them here...in the courtyard...near the trees...but I figured that...someone might dig them back up...and who knows what after that." Her words punctuated with each straining tug.

Aloé makes a good point. There’s no way that you’d be able to bury the bodies here without making an unsightly mess in the manicured greenery of the courtyard. The owners would likely exhume the bodies, and probably let the desert wildlife take care of the rest.

“Then, we’ll take their bodies down the hill, and off the main path. Search them, clean them off, and bury them there.” You announce as you reach the gate and begin working it open.

This time she gives a solemn nod as she seems to be remembering the fact that this was a living, breathing body just a few hours ago. “Was it alright…for us to do this?”

You turn back after getting the gate open, and motion for her to focus on the task at hand. “That’s not an easy question to answer. What’s alright would be different for me and you, I’m sure.”

The body scrapes against the gravel path as you clear the gate. Aloé closes the gate and the two of you resume your task under the desert night sky.

“Yes, in that moment we had to fight back otherwise we would’ve wished ourselves dead. Yes, they were enforcers of a practice that you and I both find horribly repugnant. Yes, they abused their positions of power to terrorize and harm those who couldn’t fight back.” You stop to catch your breath. “But no, we didn’t have the authority to be the ones to sentence and execute their deaths.”

She wipes a stained hand across her brow, clearly deep in thought. “So, it wasn’t justified? What we did? Was it unjust?”

“Yes, but if that’s the case then let’s at least be consistent and forgot about burying their bodies…” You reply a little frustrated. You take a breath to calm yourself. “Listen Aloé, I’m not going to lose any sleep because of what happened to them.”

Plenty of other things to do that already.

“I’ve seen regimes come and go, and the laws they deemed justified along with them. At one time, we would’ve been rewarded for doing what we did. So, it doesn’t matter to me if the suffering these men caused was just by these laws, and what we did unjust. I don’t care. They caused suffering for our kind. They would’ve continued to cause suffering our kind. My perspective might be unsustainable for everyone to carry, and therefore unjust, but I’m alone now, so pick up that leg…”
>>
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>>5007845

For some time, the two of you drag the body with only straining breathes breaking the silence of the dark night. You find a small clearing off the main path to the villa, concealed by tall shrubs, and settle the body there.

Aloé finally breaks the silence. “I think I would’ve wanted to find a way to arrest them instead… I let myself get angry...and I don’t know. I did something that I feel like I both should have and shouldn’t have done… I don’t think I could discard everything our laws are trying to maintain, and I will always believe in the creed of the royal guard. But right now, I’m glad that we’re safe. I’m glad that they’re not going to hurt anyone else. I need to think about all of it, but you’re not alone, Elewyn.”

You smirk and begin walking off to retrieve the next body. “Oh, and does that mean you’re here to arrest me?”

“Do you think I could?” She asks as she rushes to catch up to you.
“Not a chance.” You immediately shoot back.

“Hmmmmmmmmm? And what if I grab you like this!-“ She suddenly tries to grab you from behind, but you easily duck and evade, causing her to slip to the ground. “Owwwww.”

You laugh as you extend a hand to help Aloé to her feet. You know exactly how capable she is, but in this moment you can’t help but be curious as to how she came to be a royal guard recruit. “I warned you, you know.” You brush pieces of gravel from her hair. “I want to know now, how an Elin came to be in the royal guard. How you came to be a royal guard trainee.”

“Aha!” She lunges again at your stomach, which you don’t bother to dodge. She laughs as she catches you, but then suddenly stands and clears her throat, remembering her position. “Ahem, yeah, right I can tell you about that….”

When the two of you reach the courtyard it’s the subordinate guard’s turn. You have Aloé fetch a bedsheet, which you wrap around his midsection to contain the spilling viscera. Once again, the two of you set off dragging the body to the outskirts of the villa.

She takes a moment to gaze upon the fallen guard’s face. This one she didn’t have to fight. She’s quiet, thinking, remembering. Flashes of sadness and contentment wash over her, before she finally speaks. “I remember myself, young and eager. After my studies, I wanted to leave Pora Elinu, the same as everyone else, you know? You spend all that time learning, being in nature, you get bored. So, just like everyone else, I just left one day.”

Most do it without saying a word. They’re just gone. It’s a strange instinct for your kind, to simply wander. No matter how many centuries pass, that’s always been the same. Well, for most of you…
>>
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>>5007849

“It wasn’t long before I was in Velika. Ahh, I didn’t know anyone, I didn’t know where to go, but I stayed there. I don’t know why; you know? Maybe I thought it’d be fun? I had heard that Velika had so many more things to do than Pora Elinu” The two of you stop again to open gate before making your way through. “It was hard…” She says softly. “Work was hard to find, so I did all sorts of things. Courier, stable attendant, street cleaner. The pay was bad, and I think I was paid worse than the humans. So, food…. Food, Food. So many years went by that was all I could think about. I was so hungry. “She laughs bitterly, she pauses to catch her breath, eventually looking ready to continue, but then crouches down hugging her knees. “I don’t want to talk about that part too much, but a lot of other bad things happened then too.”

You stop and crouch down near her. “Then don’t. I understand, really…”

It’s not the same for them as when you first went to Velika. At that time, every fighting pair of hands was welcomed with open arms. Even if you couldn’t fight there was always a means to secure food and shelter.

After much sniffling, but to her credit, no crying, she picks herself up and continues with the laborious task. “Cause of luck, I was able to find work in a bakery. I was good at it. I didn’t mind the early mornings because it was fun to bake, but I was hungrier than ever. They watched me like a hawk to make sure that I wouldn’t sneak any food.”

“I can understand why you might want to work there in the first place, but why would you stay there if they couldn’t even feed you?” You pause your tugging and stare at her.

“The smells…they couldn’t keep that away from me, and I will never forget how strong they seemed to me at the time.” She smiles to herself.

It seems more of a punishment than anything being forced to work in a bakery under such hunger, but the tone in her voice lets you know that she looks upon that time fondly somehow. She's quite different than you...

The two of you slide the body next to his companion and make your way back to retrieve Sario’s body.

“Well, since you’re focusing on it, I’m assuming that being at this bakery led you to where you are now?” You ask as you set off.

“Yup! One day…a normal day at work at first, but everything turned upside down.” Aloé’s voice is clear with excitement. “Princess Cecelia and her escort of royal guards came into our bakery wanting to sample our food. Our food! My food! I peeked to see what the commotion was about, and she was so beautiful, I thought I was going to cry. Her flowing blue and white dress, the gold trim, and her jewels… Her guards, Sir Elliot and Sir Klaus, they stood regal, unshakable, tall and strong. All of it, it was like seeing color for the first time.”
>>
>>5007855

The two of you stop underneath the light of the stars to finish, giving this part of her tale the time it deserves.

“The first thing The Princess asked was if we let customers make their own pastries like a bakery across the city.” She shakes her head with a gleeful grin. “We had never done that before! But in that moment it was ‘Of course! Of course, that’s our specialty, Your Highness,’ from the owner. I immediately cleared our prep table and cleaned what I could.” She rapidly motions with her hands the act of moving objects and wiping down counters. “Her Highness, and the bakery owner come to the back, and I’m standing there like an idiot. Then finally I remember how to bow, The Princess smiles at me, and then we get started.” She holds up one finger. “A simple apple tart, that was all that was requested.”

The two of you rest for a moment against the walls of the villa.

“I helped make them dozens of times before, but that would be the very last one, you know? Everything was coming along fine, I was fetching the ingredients, attending to the royal guard to make sure that they didn’t want anything, making sure that any customers were promptly handled while the owner was helping Her Highness actually make the tart. Finally, it goes into the oven, and then we promise to have it delivered the second it finishes baking. Everyone was smiles and bows, all until The Princess scoops up a little bit of spilled sugar that went into the tart.”

“It’s salt.”

“I don’t know how it happened, the owner and I must’ve been too distracted by Her Highness to pay attention. But, I was left alone in the back… the owner apologizing like crazy. I remember wanting to shrivel up and die in that moment. I knew I was going to lose my job there, if not just be beaten death. But on top of all of that, I was always going to be that idiot Elin that couldn’t even get a tart right.

“Surely that wasn’t it then?” You press, wanting to understand how such an unfortunate circumstance could lead to her becoming a royal guard trainee.

“Uhhhh…well.” She hesitates. “Then I lost my cool in that moment. I think it was all of the stress of what happened, and the hunger…definitely the hunger, because I started eating every pastry I could find. I stole them with no remorse and stuffed them right in my greedy mouth. Everything, and way more than I would’ve ever been able to eat normally. I remember crying, hard. Then…somehow I grabbed flour and was trying to shovel that in my mouth too.”
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>>5007861

“Flour?” You interject.

“It didn’t go well, I started coughing and gagging and crying all at the same time. I couldn’t catch my breath, then I puked horribly all over myself and the floor of bakery. I was on the floor like that, gasping for air, hoping that someone would seriously just kill me.” She speaks on as if she can see the scene unfolding right before her eyes. “Then, I was grabbed…and then held, and then cradled. I open my eyes, and the first thing I saw was her eyes. I remember looking up her and seeing her deep blue eyes, and thinking that I actually might have died. Then I saw her wonderful dress covered in my vomit and flour and all I could say was ‘I’m so sorry. I was so hungry.’ and I couldn’t stop sobbing, and trying to escape… But she held me close to her chest.”

You let the quiet sit between you for a while before you speak up. “So, did you die?” You ask, trying to lighten the mood.

She laughs and shakes her head. “No… I was in her care for several days after that. That’s when I asked if I could be part of her royal guard. The Princess said no, so I asked again the next day. She said no again. I then went to Sir Elliot and asked if I could be a trainee. He said no, much less politely. Then I asked again the next day. He said no again. So then…I challenged him to a duel.”

“To which I’m sure he said no.” You laugh lightly.

“Yes. Until the fifth time I asked.” She stands up and begins heading back to the courtyard to finish the job. “Even without a weapon, he thrashed me almost instantly. But, I got up. He thrashed me again, that time uppercutting me square in the jaw.” She makes the motion with her fist. “So, I got up again. After about the eighth time, he called me a ‘the absolute biggest little idiot,’ much less politely, and said to come to training the next morning.”

“Then we met two years after that.” You add while looking down at Sario’s defeated corpse. You’re sure that he died as violently as he lived. “Thank you for telling me that story. Even back then, you were a tenacious one, weren't you? I’m sure his story would’ve been less noble.”
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>>5007884

“Hmmm, ah, yeah…” She agrees as the two of you look at the gore of his remains. “Despite that, I think, given the right circumstances he could’ve redeemed himself. Our laws might be imperfect, I still think they allow for fair redemption to occur. I’m here, and many of the past royal guard had a rough history. People just need to be given that chance, to be held when no one in their right mind would want to hold them…Even someone like him deserves that, even with the terrible things that did and surely did.” She motions to Sario's corpse before she turns to you. “What do you think?”

Her words resonate in your mind along with the event of this night, and so many others. This matters to her, your response will matter to her.

>Evade the question. "It's getting late, why don't you find a shovel so we can finish this work?"

>Accept the premise. "Perhaps redemption may be possible for anyone, but if it comes down to life or death, you should still protect yourself."

>Deny the premise. "What he did was vile, and irredeemable. That sort of naiveté will get you hurt or worse one day.

>Write in.
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>>5007885
>Deny the premise. "People can change. But few have as many opportunities as us. As one approaches the latter stages of ones' lifespan, change becomes very rare indeed. He made his choice, and even we do not have an infinite time to entertain the choices of others.'





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