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[CYOA] Ardor & Obligation (Epilogue.)

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  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Ardor & Obligation Track 6
    The plan was simple, really. With the empire's armies largely engaged in the south, there were few companies of knights available for patrols along the roads of the east coast. In this state, banditry had taken root as a reliable way to make one's way. The problem wasn't so bad that a merchant shipping goods overland was guaranteed to have any given caravan attacked, but it was a very well-known risk.

    Some merchants would hire private guards for their wagons. Paying for a group of guards to escort their goods one way, and receiving no benefit on the return journey, however, was unpalatable to many. Looking to cut corners and increase profits, as merchants are wont to do, many instead opted to contract with Whitecloak, a mercenary company.

    Whitecloak would, for a fee, escort a caravan to its destination, and offer to insure the cargo arrived safely at its destination, whereupon the mercenaries would be assigned to another shipment leaving that city. Secretly, most of the "bandits" along the east coast were, in fact, in the employ of Whitecloak, a fact that allowed Durandal to advertise that due to it's fearsome reputation, goods protected by Whitecloak were attacked with far less frequency.

    In theory.

    The bandit clan that fell upon Alexei and Tia was six strong.

    Proceding south on the plain, trees dotted the landscape, and eventually grew in such density that they had closed in around the road, the Martelba Plain giving way to the Uddam Forest. The road itself eventually took on the contours of the natural lowlands, snaking through the trees, sharp turns obscuring both ahead and behind. It was a natural spot for an ambush. Alexei and Tia knew this, as they'd done it themselves several times.

    There was no surprise as arrow after arrow thudded into the wood slat sides of the lead wagon. Several of them were tipped with flaming pitch rather than sharpened heads, and these Tia suffocated dismissively. Alexei leapt in front of the wagon driver, attempting to shield him from a lethal skewer. Only the tangle of belted leather around his forearm prevented the arrow from shattering his ulna. He suddenly felt compelled to buy a targe.

    Hilda volleyed back, sharply picking one of the assailants out among the trees. A cry of pain was heard, and the others rushed the caravan, weapons drawn in anticipation of melee.

    They reached Tia first. Channeling astra was an act that required focus and intent, and denied this opportunity, she instead defended herself with the spiked cesti she kept beneath her cloak. As the bandit heaved his axe overhead, she rushed him. He'd overcommitted, and she punched for his leg, driving black steel teeth into the unguarded flesh.

    Alexei, for his part, was ably keeping two of the bandits occupied. He had leapt from the wagon seat, rolled, and sprung to his feet behind his attackers, a flurry of thrust and slashes now pinning them against the huge beast drawing the cart. Agitated thus, the creature reared up, and one of the bandits fell backwards beneath it.

    Stafford, despite being more adept at treating wounds than causing them, was nonetheless still a mercenary, and had engaged another of the bandits with a short sword. They circled each other guardedly, neither wanting to commit to the first attack. Stafford's patience won out, and the bandit lunged, thrusting his spear. Stafford's textbook parry caught only empty air, though, and the bandit followed his feint with a smashing blow to the ribs.

    Stafford wheezed, and prepared for another blow that never came. The bandit fell forward onto dry dust, clutching for an arrow he had no chance of reaching, tucked as it was between his shoulderblades. Hilda winked at the young healer from her perch atop the wagon.

    Alexei's other target fell beneath his sword, though he could feel blood leaking from a wound on his scalp. He'd not even felt it. He scanned the area. Five accounted for. Hadn't he seen six? Were there others yet to show themselves?

    ALEXEI: Sleet! The trees!

    Tia focused her mind, and exploded the spot the bandits had emerged from. Gouts of flame shot up and past the tops of the trees. There was a shout, an arrow flew well wide of the mark, sailing over the wagons and into the trees across the road, and a man engulfed in fire ran for the deeper woods.

    Her fingers prickled with heat. She was already paying the price for such indiscriminate use of her art.

    The assault has been turned back. What now?
    A. Tend to their wounds, check the security of the goods, and rest for a spell.
    B. The party should continue on immediately, their destination isn't that much farther.
    C. Search the area to ensure there's no other dangers - it won't do to have unsanctioned banditry in these parts
    X. ______

    Status
    Alexei (Whisper)
    - Confident
    - Has Sword
    - Shady Dealings
    - Head wound?

    Tia (Sleet)
    - Cautious
    - Has Cesti
    - Afflicted

    Hilda
    - Charming
    - Has Bow/Arrows

    Stafford
    - Calm
    - Dazed
    - Broken ribs?

    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)

    Endless_Serpents
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    A. We were sent to escort goods, if the goods aren't in order, we should know before we deliver them.

  • zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    C

    We're the only bandits on this road!

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    C
    We aren't that hurt. And the healer needn't come with us if he wishes to tend to himself.

  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    D2

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    C

    There's probably a bandit queen back in the nest. And a bandit nest is bound to have the thick saffron honey they gather to feed their young and last out the winter

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Tiphareth wrote: »
    D2

    I'm not sure how to count this! Was this vote for the previous post?

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    B

    There's probably a bandit queen back in the nest. And a bandit nest is bound to have the thick saffron honey they gather to feed their young and last out the winter

    Uh
    B is a vote to keep moving on?
    Not sure how you're intending to sample the honey if you leave it behind.

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    discrider wrote: »
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    B

    There's probably a bandit queen back in the nest. And a bandit nest is bound to have the thick saffron honey they gather to feed their young and last out the winter

    Uh
    B is a vote to keep moving on?
    Not sure how you're intending to sample the honey if you leave it behind.

    The alphabet is a harsh mistress

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
    Delzhanddiscrider
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Bonus question:

    How does Alexei feel about the emperor? Is this a common sentiment in these parts?

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    All these votes for hunting down the bandits. Bandits on the path boosts the value of our guard duties, we can probably charge 25% more next time.
    The experience will also help our noobies get some experience under their belt. The sooner they realize that getting stabbed is bad, the sooner they'll figure out how to stop being stabbed.

    Bonus question:
    As for the Emperor, Alexei knows deep in his heart that the Emperor is a stone cold bastard with a secret layer of bastard wrapped around a nougaty bastard core.
    But he does the job of keeping the Empire more or less in line, and anyone who would sign up for that job is going to be at least as much of a bastard as the Emperor. Better the devil you know, and all that.

    Most common folk agree with the general "He's a bastard, but he's our bastard" outlook, though the nobility is largely split between ingratiating themselves to his service or slipping a dagger into his back in hopes they'd get in good with the next bastard in the big chair (if they're not in line themselves).

    Delzhand
  • zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    Alexi feels the Emperor is a doddering old fool, and that new blood needs to move in and bring much needed change. Most folks are respectful, due to the emperor's age and not knowing anything outside of his rule.

    Delzhand
  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    X. Invoke the blue Gigan Hypurr, who will fully heal us and put the winds at our back, speeding us along… in return for a promise that must be fulfilled.



    I agree with @see317 on the level of bastitude.

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    The Emperor is a myth told to frighten children so that they behave. Alexei suspects the truth is far worse and there really is an Emperor.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
    Delzhand
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Weekend System Update
    bcee6j6aylel.png

    Other random thoughts:
    • I'm a meticulous note-taker, so if I've called for input and haven't used it, or if certain plot lines ever seem abandoned, rest assured! I haven't forgotten. At least... I hope not.
    • I actually specced out a very crude combat engine to see how that fight was going to go. It's written pretty close to how the numbers shook out, I hadn't planned on Hilda being such an all-star, but she got really lucky.
    • Finding a place for laser eyes and vampires has probably been the biggest challenge, but they'll definitely happen in some form at some point.
    • I know I've switched tenses as I settled into a writing convention. Writing in present tense ended up being a bit awkward.
    • I am really enjoying this. I hope you all are too. Feel free to PM me any feedback!

    Delzhand on
    Endless_SerpentsMojo_Jojocj iwakura
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Music
    Alexei picked his way through the singed scrub, Hilda trailing behind. Tia and Stafford had remained with the wagon driver as a safeguard. There was a natural cave in one of the hillsides around here, and it made a suitable hideaway if you didn't mind bats shitting all over your belongings. He stopped to listen, and Hilda followed suit.

    His ears caught the distant sound of falling water, giving him a clue as to how close they were to the cave.

    HILDA: So.
    ALEXEI: So?
    HILDA: Did your parents name you Whisper?
    ALEXEI: No, it's a nickname I picked up, on account of talking so little. I liked it so much that I kept using it. After all, when you live the mercenary life, you learn the value of keeping things close to the vest. I mean, who really knows if someone has something to hide? Just keep your mouth shut, that's my motto. And it's served me well.

    Hilda squinted at him.

    HILDA: I can't tell if you're serious.
    ALEXEI: Well, I was going to keep going until you laughed.

    Hilda chuckled, at that.

    ALEXEI: What do you think of Stafford?
    HILDA: He's green, but he survived his first fight. Some don't.
    ALEXEI: Too true... I lost a novice once. ...It was horrible. He was too young for the work, but Durandal insisted.

    Hilda looked into the distance, lost in thought, but said nothing.

    They continued further into the woods.

    ---
    HILDA: Have you worked for Whitecloak long?
    ALEXEI: A few years.
    HILDA: What'd you do before that? Most people don't pick "mercenary" as their first vocation.
    ALEXEI: ...Carpentry.
    HILDA: Why don't I believe you?
    ALEXEI: No, it's true. I can make a very good chair.
    HILDA: Fine, fine, don't tell me.
    ALEXEI: What about you?
    HILDA: I was... a teacher, if you believe it.
    ALEXEI: Huh. How'd you end up working for Durandal?

    Hilda sighs.

    HILDA: I lived in Sevando five years ago.
    ALEXEI: Oh.

    Little else needed to be said. What the empire did in Sevando wasn't mentioned in polite conversation, a topic even avoided by the emperor's ardent supporters, which Alexei decidedly wasn't. It was a small mining town far to the southwest, nominally within the empire's desmesne, but far from the protection of any border-fort. Soldiers from Valta had occupied the town and begun diverting the fruits of the mine to their own nation. Rather than allowing such riches to fall into the hands of the enemy, the emperor's generals had attacked the town and burned it to the ground, and then collapsed the entrances to the mine. The citizens weren't warned, of course, a sudden exodus of people from the town would have betrayed the plan.

    HILDA: For a long time I didn't do much beside drink myself stupid.
    ALEXEI: What changed?
    HILDA: It's a long story. Is that our cave?

    She pointed.

    ALEXEI: So it is! Good eye! I almost walked past it.

    ---
    They spent a few minutes picking through the items in the cave. It was, in fact, the bandit hideout, and to the bandits' credit, most of the space wasn't too covered in guano. The spoils of a few raids were scattered around. Alexei counted six bedrolls and cursed silently. Had this been a waste of time?

    Hilda fiddled with the lock on a wooden chest for a moment, then opted to simple smash in the top with a warhammer whose owner wouldn't be returning unless ghosts were real.

    HILDA: Hey, look. Some good stuff here.

    They spread out the contents.

    ALEXEI: Too bad we can't carry all of this back to the wagon. Why don't you take first pick? You spotted the cave.
    HILDA: Easy. I want this stuff.

    She holds up a glass jar with viscous, reddish gold substance.

    The duo can carry 3 more points worth of items. What should they take?
    A. A sizeable sack of coins (2 points)
    B. Several bolts of fine silk (2 points)
    C. A business ledger, recently dated (1 point)
    D. A satchel of correspondence (1 point)
    E. A scrimshaw carving of a dancing figures (1 point)
    F. A map of an area you don't recognize (1 point)
    G. A box containing what appear to be game pieces (1 point)
    H. A trio of medicinal-smelling bandages (1 point)
    Carrying their treasures, they departed the cave, leaving the other objects who ever came after. Perhaps they'd even return along the same route.

    The light, unnoticed, watched them go. It bent into a loop, a spiral, a helix, and returned to gentle waves.

    has it been so long?

    07oxq0tc3mpv.png

    Edited to make the status window easier to read on mobile.

    Delzhand on
  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    I mean what has the Emperor or the Empire ever done for us?

    Besides the roads.
    And the plumbing that mostly works.
    And we haven't had a major war in a while.

    But if he were really doing anything with our taxes, people wouldn't need to pay us for our protection from bandits, now would they?

  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Oh boy, time to loot!
    A. Merc life. Copper copper coin, ya'll. (I'm assuming it's very sizable stack of coins, if it takes the same amount of space/weight as several bolts of silk.
    D. A bunch of letters. Maybe some have valuable blackmailing material in them.

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Ugh.
    The business ledger is bad news.
    Are we able to read it and note the transactions?
    We do not need competition, and the business ledger is most likely going to tell us who had these people in their employ.

    discrider on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Alexei could make sense of it given a few hours, but nothing useful at a glance.

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Can Alexei bind himself with the bandages now, and save the unit of carrying capacity?

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    .....
    Damn it
    C, D, F
    Attempt to use H immediately on Alexei.

    And hopefully the coins and silk will still be here when Durandal sends someone to retrieve them.
    And that it comes off Alexei's debt when they do.

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

    C, D, F

    Ledger, letters and a map. That's right, we're opening a private postal service as a side hustle. We just need to secure a long term source of mail.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    discrider wrote: »
    Can Alexei bind himself with the bandages now, and save the unit of carrying capacity?

    I might have updated the status window after you saw it, but he's no longer bleeding. However, to compensate for missing it originally, I've added 1x Heal to the inventory (I'll update the graphic in the next story post).

    Just as a reminder, except for items assigned to a forumer, anyone can call for the use of an item with any vote, or as an alternative vote option. They can be sold, bartered, given away, examined, consumed, etc. as long as the person carrying them is involved in the action.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    C, D, F

    Ledger, letters and a map. That's right, we're opening a private postal service as a side hustle. We just need to secure a long term source of mail.

    Brb, renaming this thread "A Postal Time", this is now a mail sim :rotate:

    Delzhand on
    see317Endless_Serpentsmrpaku
  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    discrider wrote: »
    Can Alexei bind himself with the bandages now, and save the unit of carrying capacity?

    I might have updated the status window after you saw it, but he's no longer bleeding. However, to compensate for missing it originally, I've added 1x Heal to the inventory (I'll update the graphic in the next story post).
    Wasn't clear whether bleeding meant the bandages would be ineffective on the lost HP.

    Frankly I thought it just meant whatever wound had clotted, and he would be better off bound.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Strike through gray text indicates something that was removed/used up/no longer applicable in the post, gold/bold v text indicates something new.

    Although I'm portraying it like a classic JRPG status window, there's no actual game engine in play - HP is just an abstraction to represent how willing/able a character is to fight. It might go up or down due to the dictates of the story.

  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    E, D, F

    I’m pretty sure we need the dancing figures to open up a class option for someone in the future.

    discrider
  • zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular

    C, D, F

    Things you read always end up more useful than money.

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    The unanimous preference for one of the objects has been noted, and it has been granted tremendous power to alter the narrative!

    Music
    Hilda practically leapt onto the wagon, grinning. She handed the satchel to Tia.

    TIA: What's this?
    ALEXEI: Just a little light reading. Hilda and I found it the cave out past the waterfall. There's more, but this is all we could carry.
    TIA: Letters?
    HILDA: More than that. I found a jar of saffron honey. If you're nice, I'll share it with you.

    Alexei clambered up the back of the cart as the wagon driver urged the hebas forward. He'd seemed put out by the wait, but one of the conditions of hiring Whitecloak was that the guards set the pace.

    ALEXEI: I also grabbed this. I'm not sure if it's worth anything, but it's a way to pass the time. You can learn a lot from business records.

    He opened the ledger and leafed through it idly. He'd been formally educated in his youth, and accounting was a skill that had been drilled into him so thoroughly that even though his life hadn't gone the way he planned, he still kept up the habit. There was a trust depository in Runo with his name on it, and he kept accurate records. He thought about the infant. He hoped Durandal was keeping receipts.

    He checked the inside back cover.

    Nereid Trading Company.

    The owners of the cart they'd just ransacked a few days ago.

    From across the cart, Tia watched his expression grow grim. She didn't ask, she knew from experience that he'd share his finding. Perhaps he'd found something best discussed in private. She busied herself with the contents of the satchel.

    It appeared to be postal goods. She immediately ignored most of the contents in favor of the manifest. She located it and went down it, line by line. Most of it was of little consequence, although some families would certainly miss hearing from remote loved ones. Further down the list was mercantile correspondence. These she put in a pile for Alexei. Finally, she reached letters to and from nobles and government officials. There were fewer of these, and she immediately set to opening them.

    The nobles of Bolcourt sought parliament's arbitration in a border dispute. The lord of Harubry sent a wedding invitation to a relative in the capital. A local knight commander had requested additional troops for the defense of Moille...

    She read this last one again, drumming her fingers on the wagon seat.

    A knight captain... Moille...

    She checked the manifest for the destination address. It was the central government, just as she'd thought. But Moille was way to the west, it wouldn't have been on this postal route...

    She tucked the letter into her cloak. Something about it made her feel uneasy.

    STAFFORD: Do you have any plans for the satchel?
    TIA: You want it?
    STAFFORD: If you don't mind, sure. Healers love a good satchel. The more pockets the better. Plus I can wear it on my good side and keep some pressure off the ribs.

    She handed it over.

    STAFFORD: Oops, looks like you missed one.

    He pulled a letter from a pocket she hadn't noticed, and handed it to her. She looked at the manifest, but there was no entry for it. She opened it.

    A bearer credit note.

    She folded it in half and stashed it with the other letter, hoping her face hadn't betrayed anything. A small fortune, transferred directly to the trust account of the person presenting it, no questions asked. It wasn't that she specifically intended to deceive anyone, but she needed to think...

    ---
    Moldaba came into view suddenly, the twisting forest road revealing the town all at once. It was nestled into the woods and surrounded by a timber wall. It wasn't large enough to be called a city, but nonetheless it was moderately prosperous, owing to the constant demand for lumber. The town gate was open, and watched over by a only a pair of guards, who stood casually talking to each other, spears leaned against the wall. They took almost no notice of the wagon before waving it through and resuming their conversation.

    They'd see their cargo to its destination, check in with the local Whitecloak captain, and be released from duty. Marshal Durandal was a merciless taskmaster, but Alexei had more wiggle room outside of Runo.

    What would a JRPG be with social links and hidden affinity stats? Alexei and Tia will have at least one conversation in private about their findings. Who else will?

    Choose any two characters, and a topic.
    A. Mercenary life
    B. Current events
    C. Childhood
    D. Romance
    E. Hopes and dreams
    F. Family
    X. ____

    at0gue2wxp9m.png

    Delzhand on
  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Chantry of NightmaresRegistered User regular
    D & B

    Also, somehow this manages to have a better font and UI than a certain official release.

    cj_iwakura.gif
    DelzhandEndless_Serpents
  • see317see317 Registered User regular
    Hilda and Stafford should talk about The Mercenary Life

  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    D & B

    Also, somehow this manages to have a better font and UI than a certain official release.

    Which 2 characters?

    And yeah, the FF remasters text font just looks awful...

  • cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Chantry of NightmaresRegistered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    D & B

    Also, somehow this manages to have a better font and UI than a certain official release.

    Which 2 characters?

    And yeah, the FF remasters text font just looks awful...

    Alexei and Tia.

    cj_iwakura.gif
  • TipharethTiphareth Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    Tiphareth wrote: »
    D2

    I'm not sure how to count this! Was this vote for the previous post?

    I admit nothing!

    Also, uh, A & D, Tia and Hilda.

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Tia and Hilda should talk about X: Quest Hooks Wild Rumours

  • Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Hilda and Stafford will debate X: Religion is Bahamut a god or
    a demon? Or is it all a politically funded front?

    Mojo_Jojo on
    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
    discrider
  • Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    Hilda and Stafford will debate X: Religion is Bahamut a god or
    a demon? Or is it all a politically funded front?

    I agree. What capricious forces play with mortal lives?

  • discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Mojo_Jojo wrote: »
    Hilda and Stafford will debate X: Religion is Bahamut a god or
    a demon? Or is it all a politically funded front?
    Party:
    Alexi
    Tia
    Hilda: Charming
    Stafford

    discrider on
  • DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Today is The First Empress Day, a holy day in the Empire! As a result, ALL VOTES currently cast will be honored (however, the post may be later than usual)!

    Alexei/Tia: plot items, current events, romance
    Hilda/Stafford: merc life, religion
    Tia/Hilda: merc life, romance, wild rumors

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