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[CYOA] Ardor & Obligation (Epilogue.)

DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss.Registered User regular
edited September 15 in Critical Failures
Strong wind ripples the long grasses of the plain as stormclouds gather, darkening the afternoon sky. A lush tree sits atop a lonely hill. The rapidly turning weather slaps leaves and small limbs from its verdant bulk.

A young man crests the hill, sword in hand, and shields his face against the wind as he surveys the plain. A moment later, his sister comes into view. She carries a bundle in her arms, and her own weapon at her side.

SISTER: This was a mistake. The weather turns.
BROTHER: It'll be fine.
Ardor & Obligation OST Track 1
Brother looks at the bundle, and sister follows his gaze, adjusting her grip to get a better look.

What is it?
A. Long and narrow, a powerful artifact. Calamitous in the wrong hands, merely dangerous in the right ones.
B. About the shape and weight of a small child. It's... it's a small child. Neither of the siblings are the parent.
C. Bulky and squarish, a pannier full of strange reagents and several glass ampoules containing a cloudy mixture.
D. Heavy and round, a chunk of faintly glowing ore. Its value would be immeasurable to the right person.
SISTER: I hope you're right.

She turns and scans the direction they just came from.

BROTHER: We'll make the border before nightfall. Do you want me to take...
SISTER: Felathas.

She cuts him off, spitting the profanity through gritted teeth. His eyes flick towards the horizon.

The siblings are pursued. By whom, or what?
1. A savage beast. Either territorial or hungry, it probably matters little.
2. Hostile soldiers. Their colors are familiar, but not friendly.
3. The siblings' dauntless rival. A peer in age, but not temperament.
4. Undulating ripples of light. It seems drawn to the bundle.

———

Over the next few posts, we'll flesh out our POV characters. For now, provide NAMES and describe their OUTFITS, using as much or as little detail as you want. I may pick and choose elements from multiple posts! Remember, JRPGs are the order of the day.

Status
Brother
-Confident
-Has Sword

Sister
-Cautious
-Has ?Weapon
-Encumbered by ?

Inventory
-Heirloom Crest (Brother)

———

FAQ (Updated 8/9/21)
What is this?
This is a story I'm calling Ardor & Obligation, a JRPG-inspired Choose Your Own Adventure game about a brother and sister. If you're not familiar with the concept, you can take a peek at A Peaceful Time, which turned me on to this format of collaborative storytelling, and A Practical Guide to the Destruction of Angels, from which I cribbed a few more conventions. Simply put, I try to make a post every day that sets a scene and ends with one or more polls or prompts. You as players then vote or discuss the options presented and choose where you'd like the story to go next. The rules, such as they are, are flexible - I might prompt for player-provided options, give special roles or gifts to specific players as rewards for particularly interesting posts, or provide an opportunity for players to flesh out the world and lore.

Special thanks to @endless_serpents and @mojo_jojo!

What isn't this?
What this is not, is a traditional RPG campaign where each participant has an in-game character and outcomes are decided by individual dice rolls. The voting options direct the story, but are not guaranteed to succeed and may have unforeseen consequences. I'm also not bringing a lot of pre-existing lore into this. We've all played a bunch of these games and we know the tropes, let's see which ones we lean into and which we subvert together!

Who can participate?
Anyone! I assume everyone in Critical Failures will see this, but I'm also going to post a link to the SE++ JRPG thread. Feel free to invite anyone you think would enjoy it!

How do I participate?
Just declaring your vote is enough to make it count! In general I kinda like the bold+red voting convention used in mojo_jojo's cyoas for indicating a vote, but I know the vanilla editor sucks on mobile, so don't feel like you have to. If you want to provide your reasoning or make an argument for a certain option, please do! I'll allow vote changing - please edit your previous post and use the strikethrough on your old vote. At some point voting will close and I'll start writing the next post based on the outcome. This is usually once a day.

Can I give my own options?
If I provide a blank spot as an option, absolutely! But sometimes I'll want to force a dilemma. You can always call for use of something in the inventory, either in conjunction with your vote, or as an alternative. If I haven't provided a blank option and you feel very strongly that there's another course of action I haven't considered, make your case! I may add it to the voting options.

How does the inventory work?
There are two inventories. One is a list of key items. These can be examined at any time for more information, but usually represent "plot" items. The regular inventory is for consumable items. Generally, as this is a group resource, if someone suggests using an item, I'll apply its effects before or during the next update, unless someone argues against doing so. Some items are either held by, or only affect, a specific character. Those items can't be used unless the character is present in the party. Some items are also awarded to specific forum participants, to be used at their sole discretion!

How does combat work?
Combat has evolved significantly over the course of the story, and will likely continue to do so. As of right now, when the party enters a combat encounter, you can provide commands for a round of combat - choosing three distinct commands from a pool of 4, and which characters you want to execute those commands. The command options are ATTACK (attempt to deal direct damage to your target), DEFEND (attempt to resist damage and restore HP), TECH (a special attack that cancels defense but is cancelled by regular attacks), and MOVE (attempt to gain an advantage in the form of party buffs/enemy debuffs). There's a combat engine that randomizes (seeded by the thread's inputs) the outcome, which is how I determine the events and outcome of the battle. Example: Tia>Attack, Hilda>Tech, Atma>Defend. The characters who act in combat gain XP, and if the party achieves victory during your round, you specifically will earn loot!

Are there minigames?
Fuck yeah, there are. A few posts into the story someone suggests a postal sim element, so I worked that in. I've also worked in a card game, though time will tell whether it catches on.

Can I jump in even if I haven't been following along?
Absolutely! Here's a plot recap covering events up to here:
Mercenary brother and sister Alexei and Tia, under the aliases Whisper and Sleet, have been working as part of an investment scheme by a mercenary company owner named Durandal. But a job goes awry when they realize two things - they've slain the mother of an infant, and a ghostly entity is pursuing them. They manage to escape the entity, it seems, and they turn the infant over into Durandal's care. Durandal asks them to take another job, along with a veteran named Hilda and a rookie named Stafford. The four of them escort a caravan to its destination, but along the way they uncover evidence of two separate plots. Durandal has betrayed them, and someone is attempting to start a way by assassinating the imperial prince.

Resolving to put their misdeeds behind them, Alexei and Tia convince Hilda and Stafford to aid them in warning the people along the border of the imminent danger. However, Durandal's one-time client Count Aldove seeks revenge for the death of his sister-in-law and presumed death of his nephew. He has hired a quartet of mercenaries to pursue Alexei and Tia.

Along the way to the border, the party happens across a strange young girl in an ancient ruin, trapped by a mechanical guardian. They free her and she joins the party, although she cannot speak the native tongue to explain her situation beyond her name, Atma.

Aldove's mercenaries catch up with the party in the foothills of the mountains near the border, and the party suffers a grave defeat. Alexei is captured, but the ghostly entity following the party, a weakened god named Hollos, intercedes. Unknown to the rest of the party, Stafford refuses the gods' gift, insisting that it use its power to help Atma, who he witnessed take a near fatal blow. Stafford is left comatose in the care of a hunters' village, and Tia now pursues her brother's captors. To that end she has hired a tracker named Gandry, and his faithful hound Royal. What dangers await them on the road...?

Delzhand on
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Posts

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    B3
    We stole our rival's kid

    Steam Community page: http://steamcommunity.com/id/discrider/
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  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    D. Heavy and round, a chunk of faintly glowing ore. Its value would be immeasurable to the right person.
    4. Undulating ripples of light. It seems drawn to the bundle.

    We carry an ancient artifact of an eldritch power, and the power wants it back.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    C 4

    And my point of view on the names and descriptions

    The Brother is known as Whisper and he's dressed in a dusty, old poncho with a confusing number of straps webbed across it holding a very large number of pouches and pockets. His good eye is a faded green and the other is hidden under a strap which holds his bandana in position. His face is heavily bruised, but it's nothing too serious.

    The Sister is known as Sleet, both of her hands and forearms look blackened and burnt but closely inspection reveals they're actually clad in slick, black armoured gauntlets with no obvious closures or fastenings. The rest of her clothing is high quality but unremarkable and suggests a life as a senior servant to the highest tiers of society.

    Both are keeping their real names quiet, even from each other, for now. DUN DUN DUN

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    D 2

    The brother is wearing a flashy, top of the line leather jacket with an angelic insignia on the back made out of sequins. Beneath this he’s got a striped t-shirt, what looks like a weight lifting belt and cargo pants. His boots are steel capped and almost worn out. Let’s call him Mat.

    The sister is wearing a wide brimmed hat and a long red cloak. Under that she’s got a silver pinstripe suit on with matching silver shoes. Her black silk tie is currently being used to bandage a thin cut on her arm. On each ear is an earring depicting some tiny black goddess. Let’s call her Tia

  • PolaritiePolaritie Sleepy Registered User regular

    B 2


    Let's make this silly.

    Steam: Polaritie
    3DS: 0473-8507-2652
    Switch: SW-5185-4991-5118
    PSN: AbEntropy
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Whoever they are, and whatever they're wearing, both Brother's and Sister's outfits are adorned with an improbable and frankly self defeating number of belts to the point where additional belts have been added just to support the weight of the already superfluous belts.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    you guys are going Full Nomura right out of the gate, huh

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    you guys are going Full Nomura right out of the gate, huh
    Remember, JRPGs are the order of the day.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
    DelzhandMojo_JojoPolaritie
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    see317 wrote: »
    Whoever they are, and whatever they're wearing, both Brother's and Sister's outfits are adorned with an improbable and frankly self defeating number of belts to the point where additional belts have been added just to support the weight of the already superfluous belts.

    I figure we can have one belt king and one fancy butler who definitely hasn't chopped off their own hands and had demon hands grafted onto their stumps

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    B4

    We stole their child, to save and doom the world.

    Throw some boots under those belts, that go all the way up.

  • PolaritiePolaritie Sleepy Registered User regular
    Brother has a shirt made entirely of belts.

    Steam: Polaritie
    3DS: 0473-8507-2652
    Switch: SW-5185-4991-5118
    PSN: AbEntropy
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Dark World Regent Santa DestroyRegistered User regular
    B3

    And let's go classic: Fighter & Mage.

    Brother(Alexei) is lightly clothed, more like a ranger than a knight, tunic and slacks, especially since they're on the move.

    Sister(Sandra) has a beige cloak worn over a long dress, in case she needs to blend in.
    She dresses modestly to hide several burns on her forearms, the results of elemental teachings gone badly.

    cNd9yAa.png
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited June 28
    Voting closed. You have chosen the child, and the light. The story will proceed in short order.

    Delzhand on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited June 28
    Tia adjusts the wide brim of her hat as the winds begin to pick up.
    Ardor & Obligation OST Track 2
    ALEXEI: Any idea what it is, Tia?
    TIA: Sleet.
    ALEXEI: You're right, the child might hear us and run to the authorities.

    Tia considers giving her brother a withering glare, but her eyes remain fixed on the treeline.

    TIA: It's just a bad habit, Whisper. One day you'll slip up in the company of someone you can't trust.

    Alexei sheathes his sword and tightens one of the myriad straps affixing it to his back. His tattered poncho flutters, except where the scbbard belts keep it firmly in place.

    TIA: And no, no idea.
    ALEXEI: Well, then, come on.

    The infant in her arms squalls.

    TIA: I can't handle this. You take him. We never should have...

    Alexei waits for the end of a sentence that evaporates, lost into the sounds of nature.

    ALEXEI: Fine.

    Alexei takes the child. Unburdered, Tia stretches, experimentally curling her fingers. Her slick black elbow gloves then vanish into the folds of her faded brown cloak. Its silver buckles dance as she jams her hands into the pockets of her striped waistcoat.

    ALEXEI: How are your hands?
    TIA: How's your face?

    A pause.

    TIA: ...Sorry. They're fine. What are we going to do with the kid? Durandal's not going to be happy.
    ALEXEI: I'll deal with Durandal. We'll drop the kid at an orphanage.

    Tia sighs.

    TIA: At least he won't grow up to be some spoiled aristocrat.
    ALEXEI: Hey, we turned out okay.

    Tia grunts dismissively. The strange apparition wavers ominously, and the siblings descend the hill.
    Dark arrives sooner than anticipated, and with it the rain. Heavy rain that turns the fertile soil of the Martelba Plain to a rich mud.

    ALEXEI: I wish I had your boots.
    TIA: My boots wouldn't fit you.

    Alexei contemplates his response carefully.

    ALEXEI: ...I was wrong. We're not going to make the border.
    TIA: I know. What should we do?

    Alexei scans the prairie behind them. The strange luminescence has vanished. There's a rocky outcrop that would provide suitable shelter.

    The border, and presumably safety, are beyond reach.
    A. Take shelter and weather the storm. Build a fire to keep any nocturnal predators away.
    B. Take shelter, but build no fire, to avoid unwanted attention.
    C. Push on in the darkness and rain, despite the risks.
    X. _____

    If sheltering, who takes first watch? If pushing on, who walks in front?*
    1. Alexei
    2. Tia
    * The child will be cared for by whoever is on watch, or carried by whomever is not leading the way.

    Status
    Alexei (Whisper)
    -Confident
    -Has Sword
    -Carrying an infant

    Tia (Sleet)
    -Cautious
    -Has ?Weapon

    Inventory
    -Heirloom Crest (Alexei)

    Delzhand on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited June 28
    Oh, and one more thing. Give me three CHARACTER FLAWS, unassigned to anyone in particular. One per poster!

    Delzhand on
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    B. The wind is picking up, but it's not winter. The green leaves of the trees suggest that the rain won't turn to snow or ice yet. It'll be a cold night, but not lethally so without a fire.
    A. Alexei will take first watch, Tia's been carrying the child for most of the day.

    Character flaws:
    Slow to anger, but overtaken by an unnatural and nigh uncontrollable blood lust once in a fight.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    edited June 29
    C. It's far more dramatic if we continue to flee in the dark during heavy rain

    Flaw: Gambling vampire: Can't turn down the thrill of a long shot or the business opportunity of a sure thing. Also needs to drink human blood.

    Mojo_Jojo on
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  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited June 29
    A, 2
    The child will need a fire.
    If our choices are caterwauling and light we can block and hope to disguise, we should take the latter.
    Assuming the light following is cares any.

    Character flaw: Prone to monologing

    discrider on
    Steam Community page: http://steamcommunity.com/id/discrider/
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  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    I am assuming this is the baby's character flaw until proven otherwise.

    Steam Community page: http://steamcommunity.com/id/discrider/
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  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Any one of those would be amazing for the child.

  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    A, 2
    I doubt our pursuer is hunting by sight alone, so a little heat for the babe won’t hurt.

    Character flaw: Barely contained laser eye powers.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    You guys have a weird definition of character flaw! I was expecting, like "impulsive" or "takes criticism poorly" or "bad hygiene". But I can work with these :biggrin:

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    C. It's far more dramatic if we continue to flee in the dark during heavy rain

    Flaw: Gambling vampire: Can't turn down the thrill of a long shot or the business opportunity of a sure thing. Also needs to drink human blood.
    Nice edit.

    "Okay so what's your main weakness?"
    "Sometimes I overstep the mark and risk more than I can afford.
    ..
    Oh, and before I forget, I sometimes turn to dust in sunlight"

    Steam Community page: http://steamcommunity.com/id/discrider/
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  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    edited June 29
    discrider wrote: »
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    C. It's far more dramatic if we continue to flee in the dark during heavy rain

    Flaw: Gambling vampire: Can't turn down the thrill of a long shot or the business opportunity of a sure thing. Also needs to drink human blood.
    Nice edit.

    "Okay so what's your main weakness?"
    "Sometimes I overstep the mark and risk more than I can afford.
    ..
    Oh, and before I forget, I sometimes turn to dust in sunlight"

    Yeah, I wrote the original and then by the time I arrived at work I realised it was trivial to make much more interesting

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited June 30
    Ardor & Obligation Track 3
    Alexei had attempted to find some firewood during a brief break in the rain, but it didn't amount to much. Tia had instead opted to set her own fire, conjured from the latent astra. She fixed the gentle flame over a flat stone, that it might hold some warmth when it was her turn to sleep. Alexei wouldn't be able to keep it going. He never seemed to have the gift of magic, but Tia was sure that even if he had, he'd not have practiced it. He was always too concerned with other people. Harnessing astra was a solitary art.

    She stared over at him, sleeping soundly. Now there was a talent she envied. Alexei always seemed to drift off to sleep with little trouble. Tia knew that when she lay down, her mind would race. Re-examining the events of the past few days. The attack on the caravan. The people they'd killed. Setting the merchant goods ablaze... hearing the wail of a child, whose mother Alexei had killed had struck down moments prior.

    She tried to push those thoughts from her mind. Peering out through the curtain of rain, she watched the grassland. It would be nice to just leave it all behind. Go somewhere like this, build a small cabin, a vegetable garden, maybe a hound for company...

    Alexei would never have it, of course. He had big dreams. He wanted a name for himself, he wanted to lead. And he would be a fantastic leader. He had a way of getting people to see his way of thinking. And he needed her help. He told her this often. She was the only person he trusted to watch his back. The only voice of reason he'd listen to.

    A flash of lightning lit up the sky in the distance. She contemplated the luminous mass that had exploded from the burning crates in the wrecked wagons. Was it alive? Some kind of... creature? The caravan had been toting mostly imported goods from the northern isles. Maybe there was some kind of creature that gathered astra to itself, the way an squid would enshroud itself in ink...

    The rumble of thunder arrived a few seconds after the lightning. It was a low, steady sound. The storm seemed to be moving off towards the east.

    She'd wake Alexei soon. But for now she would enjoy the quiet even noise of the rain.
    She checked on the child. It slumbered fitfully. She didn't care for children, on the balance. It'd be hungry when it woke. Tomorrow wasn't looking good. She considered salvaging some of the straps and buckles from their gear to create a crude papoose, but...

    She gingerly pulled off her long gloves, revealing ghost-white skin streaked with pinkish-brown scars. She held them out beyond the cover of the outcrop. The rain hissed and spat as it touched her flesh. She sighed. When they got back to Runo perhaps she could talk to Ophelia about getting some more silverpetal oil, and perhaps relief of other sorts as well. But of course, Alexei would want to go straight to Durandal to deliver his report on the mission.

    Gods, what she really wanted, though, was a drink. Something that burned on the way down, and left you coughing.

    The infant sputtered, whimpered, and fell back into silent sleep. They'd have to deal with this, too...

    Tomorrow the siblings will arrive in Runo, a moderately sized city they call home. Which 2 tasks will they attend to first, and in what order?
    A. See Durandal, the taskmaster. Collect our pay and see what else needs doing. Hopefully the next job will be easier on the conscience.
    B. Figure out what to do with the child. The orphanage is one option, but while the child is motherless, his father is likely a noble. Could be a ransom?
    C. Visit Ophelia (Tia only). A salve-maker and attentive companion, her company is perhaps one of the few things keeping Tia sane.
    D. Go to the tavern. Guaranteed to have the latest gossip. Of particular interest, there are rumors the emperor is in poor health.

    Status
    Alexei (Whisper)
    -Confident
    -Has Sword
    -Carrying an infant

    Tia (Sleet)
    -Cautious
    -Has ?Weapon
    -Discontented

    Inventory
    -Heirloom Crest (Alexei)

    Delzhand on
  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    D Shots shots shots shots shots shots

    Then:

    B Nobody wants a baby and a hangover

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
    see317Polaritie
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Dark World Regent Santa DestroyRegistered User regular
    A then B.

    Also, character flaws:
    Alexei is prone to random acts of chivalry, unable to not help someone in danger(especially damsels), which often leads to trouble.
    Tia is a chronic bookworm, and any sources of lore or knowledge easily pulls her off the beaten path, sometimes for hours.

    cNd9yAa.png
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    The character flaws are assigned to as of yet introduced characters, but that said, you're remarkably close to the mark anyway! For your insight, the status window has been upgraded!

    Status
    Alexei (Whisper)
    -Confident
    -Has Sword
    -Carrying an infant

    Tia (Sleet)
    -Cautious
    -Has ?Weapon
    -Discontented

    Party Inventory
    -1x Heirloom Crest (Alexei)

    Forum Inventory
    -1x Lens of Truth (cj iwakura, consumable, reveals a hidden consequence of any vote option)

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    D Shots shots shots shots shots shots
    Then:
    B Nobody wants a baby and a hangover

    Yes, hit up the tavern to see if any wealthy local Merchant Nobility recently lost the lady of the house in a tragic roadside incident with a merchant cart and an unseasonable amount of flame magic. And how much of a reward there may be for returning the heir to the grieving parent.
    And then we see if we can cash in. Not as a ransom (I don't think we want to go full mustache twirling villain this early), but certainly some reward for braving the wilds while carrying the lone survivor of a terrible tragedy back to town would be appropriate.

    Then we can split up, Tia can look up her dealer, Alexei can report in on the mission progress.

    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    A and C. Booty and booty, the goal of all young mercenaries.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
  • XaquinXaquin Right behind you!Registered User regular
    edited June 30
    hmmmmm

    ok

    edit wait, this is not a peaceful time!

    Xaquin on
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    A, C
    Gotta get the money so you have something to booze and gamble away, also I guess medical marijuana or whatever is cool too.

  • FishmanFishman Sugar and Tea and Rum Registered User regular
    edited June 30
    Not I, but I will say that I'm very disappointed that no-one nominated "small but vocal incestuous shipping fandom that the producers demand you keep on-side, but the rest of the internet finds squicky" as a character flaw.

    Fishman on
    X-Com LP Thread I, II, III, IV, V
    That's unbelievably cool. Your new name is cool guy. Let's have sex.
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited June 30
    Ardor & Obligation Track 4
    They had entered the city alongside one of the emperor's supply lines. Alexei had presented their traveling papers, and no one had questioned the presence of the infant. Runo was large enough that they felt no need to attempt to conceal their presence, it was a simple enough matter to blend into the general population, and in any event, it was home, or at least the closest thing thereto. Tia scanned the area outside the city gates uneasily. The mystery of the strange light, it seemed, would go unanswered. It needled her, but they had more pressing concerns. Perhaps if there was time before the next job...
    Durandal regarded the infant with suspicion. He was a hard-faced man, well into his sixties. His skin was oiled bronze, and his eyes were steel. He'd built the mercenary company himself, after retiring from piracy on the open seas. Allegedly. Alexei waited patiently to be excoriated.

    DURANDAL: Why do you do this to me, Whisper?
    ALEXEI: As opposed to... infanticide?
    DURANDAL: You could have taken the child somewhere else. Left it on a doorstep in Timys.

    Alexei considered whether there was any gain in leaving the phenomena out of the story, and decided no, there wasn't.

    ALEXEI: We couldn't to to Timys. There was something dangerous in the cart. This floating, glowing... orb?

    He looked at Tia, who shrugged.

    ALEXEI: It shot up out of the flames and started pursuing us. We managed to keep a distance from it. We think we lost it on Martelba, during the storm.
    DURANDAL: Sleet, what's your take? You're the adept.
    TIA: Just theories. Nothing solid.

    Alexei looked distant for a moment. Durandal leaned back in his chair. The infant cooed. Having been fed and changed had done wonders for its volume level.

    DURANDAL: I'll figure something out. In the meantime, any expenses the kid incurs are coming out of your pay.
    ALEXEI: Now wait just a minute-

    DURANDAL stood up.

    DURANDAL: Hear me clearly, Whisper.

    In a lower voice, he continued.

    DURANDAL: This little scheme of ours works because neither of us pushes the other too hard. You drum up business for me, you bring me recruits, I pay you well and I keep your secret. You start bringing me messes that I have to clean up, things that tie me to what happens out there, and it breaks down.
    ALEXEI: Fine, fine. Just don't smother him as soon as we're out of the building, okay?

    The siblings stand up to leave.

    DURANDAL: Wait. I've got another job for you. It's a short deadline. You'll have to head out first thing tomorrow.
    ALEXEI: We just got back!
    DURANDAL: Don't worry, this is a white-cloak job. There's a caravan leaving here for Moldaba. Standard rate.
    ALEXEI: A white-cloak job? You never give us those anymore. What's the deal?
    DURANDAL: They're paying for four guards. I need to get some of the recruits up to par. Take another one of the veterans with you. Three of you should be able to compensate for a novice.
    TIA: Who?
    DURANDAL: I'm not picky. I'm just short of people I can send into the field. Take your pick.

    You're guarding a caravan that's traveling through a rough area. Which veteran will you ask to go with?
    A. Hathaway: Boorish and insufferable, but an excellent soldier who will always follow orders. Wields a battle-axe.
    B. Hilda: A charming and affable archer. A peerless shot, but useless in close quarters. Knows her limits in combat, less so when drinking.
    C. Forsyth: Taciturn scout. Capable of acquiring information and securing objectives. Personality like a stone.
    D. Portentia: A noble swordswoman, but with a bit of a hero complex. An excellent ally so long as her orders align with her own moral compass.

    You'll also be responsible for training a rookie. Which one?
    1. Stafford: A healer with a steady hand and cool demeanor, but has never had to raise arms in battle himself.
    2. Licia: A morose, friendless girl, but unmatched with a spear. Shunned by others for her unseemly obsession with death.
    3. Farid: A timid boy with strong, if unreliable, magical abilities. Eager to please, but lacks confidence.
    4. Kaya: A young fencer who trains for hours a day, every day. Skilled with multiple weapons, but takes criticism poorly.

    Ardor & Obligation Track 5
    Tia knocked on the door. In the dimness of dusk, most of the shops in the east end had closed for the day, including Ophelia's. But a candle burned in the upstairs window.

    Though the glass of the door, Tia perceived movement in the oily blackness of the shop interior. There was the sound of a chain being drawn, and the door opened just a hair.

    TIA: Ophelia.
    OPHELIA: Sleet. I wasn't sure if I'd see you. Are you staying?
    TIA: Just for the night. Can I come in?

    Ophelia opened the door all the way, allowing her guest inside.
    Tia's bare arms shimmered with heat. Ophelia dipped a rag into a bowl of milky-white oil, and squeezed off the excess. She worked deftly, careful not to touch the skin directly. It would have been like touching cast iron straight off the flame. The oil, itself treated with astra, would mitigate the effects for a time. How long depended on how often Tia used her magic. If left unattended, it could creep up her arms and into her vitals. A fair number of adepts went out that way, especially those who worked with fire.

    Ophelia was the same age as Tia, though her face was young and round, having endured little of the hardship that seemed to define mercenary life. She wiped her brow with her forearm, sweat pasting her chestnut bangs to her face. The oil on Tia's arms turned from white to clear, and the heat lessened.

    TIA: Gods, yes. More of that, please.

    Tomorrow morning she'd probably break the poor girl's heart, again. But at least for a while, at least for tonight, she could use her hands, and she knew what she wanted to use them for.

    Status
    Alexei (Whisper)
    - Confident
    - Has Sword
    - Carrying Infant
    - Shady Dealings

    Tia (Sleet)
    - Cautious
    - Has ?Weapon
    - Afflicted
    - Discontented

    Party Inventory
    - 1x Heirloom Crest (Alexei)
    - 1x Silverpetal Oil (Tia)

    Forum Inventory
    - 1x Lens of Truth (cj iwakura, consumable, reveals a hidden consequence of any vote option)

    Delzhand on
  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    C2
    Hopefully we won't run into any trouble, but if we do, we probably want a rookie that doesn't mind a bit of that.
    Especially if we have to do away with protection racket competition.

    Of the others, given the choice between the scout and the archer, I'd take the one that's able to deal best with an ambush.
    Probably won't complain about Licia's proclivities either.

    Steam Community page: http://steamcommunity.com/id/discrider/
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  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    I’ve played Fire Emblem, I know my early game units.

    B1

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 1
    [edit: had a better idea]

    Delzhand on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    I'm gonna leave this one in the oven a little longer and try to scare up some more voters!

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    edited July 1
    B. Hilda.
    1. Stafford.

    I don't know much about Fire Emblem, but I do know that an archer is good for hitting people before they get close enough to stab our people. May also be helpful for hunting.
    And, of course, healing magic for when our archer fails and someone winds up getting stabbed.

    see317 on
    Ringo wrote: »
    Well except what see317 said. That guy's always wrong.
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