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[CYOA] Ardor & Obligation (Epilogue.)

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Music
    The tavern was empty of all but the most dedicated day-drinkers at this early hour, and the closed shutters kept out most of the light. The barkeep looked up as they entered, and his gaze lingered on Hilda for a moment before he returned to his duties. This did not go unnoticed by Hilda. She sized him up surreptitiously - he had the physique of a farmhand, the clean cut face of a lord, and the hands of...

    Tia interrupted her train of thought.

    TIA: A whiskey for me, and for my companion...
    HILDA: Gin, if you have it.
    BARKEEP: We have gin.

    He poured two tin cups and passed them over the bar.

    HILDA: To another job well-done!

    She raised her cup, and Tia knocked hers against it. Tia knocked back her drink, Hilda savored it in her mouth for a moment before swallowing.

    TIA: A job well done, then. A pity we've taken so long to meet. There are plenty of escorts I rather you'd been with me than who I ended up with.
    HILDA: Oh yeah? Do tell.
    TIA: You ever run with Hathaway?
    HILDA: Gods above. Isn't he the worst?
    TIA: He's competent in a fight, but I'll never work with him again.
    HILDA: Wish I had that luxury. I go with the groups the marshal assigns me to. I'm hoping to make captain soon.
    TIA: I'm surprised you're not a captain already. Have you ever asked Durandal for a promotion?
    HILDA: I've thought about it, but... I keep thinking I need more experience.

    Hilda signalled for another pair of drinks.

    TIA: I've met other captains less capable in a fight than you. I've seen some people made captain who I'd never have promoted, if it was up to me.

    Hilda took a drink.

    HILDA: I just think I'd have a rough time of it. A lot of mercenaries won't take orders from a woman. I don't exactly have a commanding demeanor.
    TIA: Well, if you're a captain, you can put together a squad of people you trust. If someone doesn't work out, you just don't work with them again. There's a reason some people never move up.
    HILDA: Gods, can you imagine Hathaway as a captain?
    TIA: I cannot. ...Can you believe he showed me his prick once?

    Hilda finished her drink.

    HILDA: That sounds like Hathaway. Ugh. What'd you do?
    TIA: I told him a small one is nothing to be ashamed of, but if he didn't put it away I'd set his pubes on fire.

    The bartender stifled a laugh as he refreshed Hilda's drink.

    HILDA: Ha ha ha! ...Speaking of which, I have to ask. Why Sleet, if you're a flameworker?

    Tia raised an eyebrow.

    HILDA: I asked Whisper about his name, and he dodged the question. It does't take a genius to realize a fake name.
    TIA: Hmm.
    HILDA: Where are you two from? Some terrible past you're running from?
    TIA: Next question, please.
    HILDA: That bad, huh?

    The friendliness went out of Tia's face, and Hilda read the message, plain as day.

    HILDA: Okay, sore subject, I can see that.

    Hilda started her third drink, Tia finished her second.

    HILDA: How about you ask me a question? Anything you ask, and I'll answer honestly!
    TIA: I can't promise the same in return, you know.
    HILDA: Ah, who cares? What's the fun in drinking with friends if you can't mix up some lies in the truth?

    Tia smiled wryly.

    TIA: Are we friends?

    She'd said it with a tiny measure of hostility, just enough to put a bit of distance between them. Hilda ignored it roundly and answered as if it had been an honest question.

    HILDA: We could be. I'm an open book, Sleet. Everyone needs a confidant. Surely there are things you can't talk about with your brother. You know, like... sexy things?
    TIA: Hilda!
    HILDA: Go on!

    Tia pondered for a moment. It would be nice to have someone to talk to.

    TIA: Your first time. What was it like?
    HILDA: It was with this boy named Connor. He was two years older than me, and neither of us knew what we were doing. We had sex behind the cooper he worked at. He pulled out and came on my dress. I know, I know. Not a very exciting story.
    TIA: Is he still in your life?

    Hilda stared into her cup for a moment before draining it.

    TIA: Easy, there. It's not a race.

    Hilda looked at the empty cups on the bar.

    HILDA: Yeah, maybe just one more.
    TIA: Well... pace yourself.
    HILDA: Connor and I were romantic for a little while, but we drifted apart. We both said some hurtful things to each other, and now he's dead.
    TIA: I'm sorry.
    HILDA: It was Sevando.
    TIA: Ah.

    The silence grew long and uncomfortable, neither of them finding anything to say that seemed appropriate. Hilda recovered first.

    HILDA: Barkeep? What's the news around these parts?

    The barkeep gathered up the empty cups and dumped them into a washbasin.

    BARKEEP: Moldaba's always the last place to hear the news, so I doubt I can tell you aught you haven't already heard. Taxes are going up, bandits are in the woods, emperor's crossing the Valtan border again. You know. The usual.
    TIA: What, what? We're invading Valta again? Where'd you hear that?
    BARKEEP: Just some peddler on his way through town a few days ago. It could just be a rumor. Traveling folk, who knows? Hell, he could have been Valtan spy himself, stirring the pot.
    HILDA: Why would a Valtan do that?

    The barkeep shrugged.

    BARKEEP: I don't pretend to know the politics. The aristocrats are gonna do whatever they're gonna do. We won't know for sure it's true until some knight in polished armor shows up here trying to convince the young people it's a righteous cause. And some of 'em will believe it, and off the the frontline they'll go, never to return.

    Tia grimaced. He wasn't wrong. Joining the military was seen by many as a sure way to acquire some real coin and potentially move up in the world, assuming you survived. Whether that was true or not...

    HILDA: It's not right. I've met people from Valta. They're not any different than us, except they were born on the other side of an invisible line...

    Up next: Hilda and Stafford's conversation. Voting options and party status will accompany Tia and Alexei's conversations, some time tomorrow.

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Music
    Stafford found Hilda in the town market just before dusk. After the encounter that landed him a hue-shifting bruise, he'd reconsidered how much gear he was carrying. Being relatively new to mercenary work, he'd packed away extra clothes, a heavy blanket, enough provisions for a trip twice the length, and spare canteens. He'd been over prepared, and perhaps all that weight slowed his reaction time.

    He'd sold a lot of it off at a heavy discount, although the shopkeeper and a customer both wanted his blanket, and bid each other up to something approaching a reasonable value. It was a lesson cheaply learned, though it'd be a few weeks before he would take another mission. The only treatment for cracked ribs was rest.

    Hilda waved him over.

    HILDA: Stafford! Unloading some gear?
    STAFFORD: I may have erred in my preparations.
    HILDA: Everyone does, their first mission. Half of being a mercenary is learning from your mistakes.
    STAFFORD: What's the other half?

    Hilda thought for a moment.

    HILDA: Flexible morality?
    STAFFORD: Hmm.

    He thought back to the aftermath of the fight. They'd dragged the bodies of the bandits off the main path, so they could be reclaimed by nature.

    STAFFORD: I didn't think there would be any killing, to be honest. I've sparred plenty of times, but everyone always talks about how bandits don't dare attack Whitecloak caravans.
    HILDA: You thought you'd have a few boring escorts before you had to use your weapon, huh?
    STAFFORD: I suppose so. I thought I'd be able to make more use of my other talents.
    HILDA: I've run plenty of missions, and let me tell you, usually I'd do anything to have a healer as part of the group. Whisper and Sleet are in a class of their own. Being outnumbered like that, there's almost always someone who needs patching up.

    She kicked a clod of dirt in the road.

    HILDA: If you're less lucky, someone who needs to be put out of misery.
    STAFFORD: I hadn't thought about that. As a healer you're taught to do everything in your power to help someone.
    HILDA: Maybe it'll be different for you, but sometimes saving someone's life isn't a mercy.

    Stafford had learned his trade from his father. He was a methodical, quiet man, and he never gave up on a patient. He said it was the patient's job to live, and his to heal. Not to decide life and death. But then he'd been killed on the road while traveling, and Stafford's mother had taken her own life in grief. Stafford swore revenge at the time, but age and a caring foster family had cooled his rage, leaving him with a dedication to the craft, if not the dogma of preserving life. He joined Whitecloak hoping to prevent tragedies like the one that had defined his youth.

    As they walked they passed a stall selling small carved statues. Hilda stopped to look. There were ebon-stained figures of a goddess with four arms, a lapis-blue serpent coiled around an egg, and a disk ringed with wings and eyes, among others. Hilda picked up the serpent statue and looked at the wizened woman sitting cross legged behind the menagerie.

    HILDA: Did you make this?

    The crone nodded. Hilda put the idol back down.

    HILDA: I always hated this one. Hypurr worshippers are a cult.
    CRONE: I don't judge, only make, sell.
    HILDA: Do you sell a lot of these?
    CRONE: Athmaub, yes, many. Hypurr, only a few. Mostly Angka, these parts. Want? Only three ord.

    The woman tapped one of the ochre-colored bull statues.

    STAFFORD: I don't know much about Hypurr. Why do you say it's a cult?
    HILDA: Hypurr-worship is fairly common where I'm from. There's a big community of them. They think the great blue serpent will awaken one day and flood the world, leaving the faithful to rebuild civilization. They're very... aggressive in their faith.

    Stafford picked up one of the black goddess statues. Athmaub. His mother had a statue like this one. Lacquered to a sheen, gleaming darkly on the shelf in the kitchen. Stafford felt ill. He put it back, and in doing so knocked over the pearlescent figure next to it.

    CRONE: Oh! Bad luck, strike figure of Hollos! Better buy, twenty ord, or get swallowed up by sky!

    Hilda looked at the display. She hadn't heard of Hollos. It was unique among the pantheon on display.

    STAFFORD: Hollos? Why is it so much more than the others?
    CRONE: Rare wood, hard to carve, but more make detail. Only make one a year!

    He examined the figure. He'd never had any interest in Ardor-worship, but there was an undeniable charm to the craftsmanship. Hollos was portrayed as a face with closed eyes and a beatific smile, framed by ripples. Tiny humans at the base of the figure raised their arms. Whether in terror or jubilation, it wasn't clear. He chose to believe the latter.

    He paid the twenty ord. Faith or no faith, it would make a fine souvenir of his first job...

    Voting resumes with the next conversation, Tia and Alexei!

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Minor change of plans. Alexei and Tia's conversation wasn't flowing well, so I'm going to take another pass at it. We'll have a small interlude today.
    Adjin raised the visor of his helmet as his lieutentant approached. He didn't know why he did it, since Tyree's blindfold always obscured his eyes, on account of his sorcery's curse. Of his three associates, he respected Tyree the most. Perhaps that was it.

    TYREE: You give Chatter and Dover too much leniency. They're toying with him. He's not going to talk, he's barely sensate.

    Adjin looked over Tyree's shoulder at the scene behind him. A lady with vibrant red hair and cruel eyes was working a knife into the flesh of their captive's back, and whispering something in his ear. Chatter, they called her. She loved to talk, and she often didn't care if anyone was listening. It was all a bit melodramatic, if he was being honest, but he supposed that her love of violence wasn't really compatible with a career on stage.

    Or maybe it was. Adjin didn't know much about theater. But he knew when one of his associates was having a bit too much fun.

    ADJIN: Chatter! If he isn't going to talk, just kill him. Quit faffing about.
    CHATTER: Just a few more minutes, boss! I bet Dover he wouldn't talk until I'd bled him ten times.

    Dover was a pale man with pointed teeth who kept to the shadows, but nonetheless was a jovial enough fellow. He got on well with Chatter, and he had an incredible talent for sensing danger.

    Adjin scowled. Perhaps he was too lenient.

    ADJIN: Don't make me repeat myself. Tyree says his mind is already gone.

    Chatter pouted and jammed the knife into the man's back, twisting it for good measure.

    DOVER: Ha ha ha, I win again! You owe me fifty ord!

    Chatter ignored him and circled the tree, cutting the ropes binding the unfortunate victim's wrists. He slumped to the ground.

    Adjin mounted his horse. He blamed himself for this. Normally they were good at ensuring one survivor was in good enough shape to talk. He'd let Chatter and Dover off their chains. He made a mental note to discipline them later.

    After all, what was more important than discipline?

    Who are these horrible people?
    A. Imperial soldiers sent to investigate bandit activity on the coast.
    B. Valtan spies looking for a way to break a key fort's defenses.
    C. Mercenaries hired by the infant's relatives to get revenge.
    D. Religious zealots engaged in sectarian violence.

    Delzhand on
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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    C. Mercs who were too nutty to make it in the official army.
    Spies would be more circumspect when it came to torturing a body, and religious zealots wouldn't have stopped the torture just because somebody found it distasteful.

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    Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    B. I hear Valtans eat babies and are communists.

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    discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    D.
    The torture stops when you're dead.
    And they've got other business than torture at the moment.

    discrider on
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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
    C they're coming to get us! And for our back taxes!

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
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    zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    A

    It's the fuzz!

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    It's been decided! The quartet of apparent villains are rival mercenaries hired by... well, keep reading. You'll figure it out.
    Tia rapidly tapped the penquill on the desk, lost in thought. The wording of the knight commander's letter had stood out to her. The phrasing was odd, and some sentences ended abruptly or ran on with non-sequiturs. She'd spent the better part of the day with it, and her room at the inn was littered with crumpled-up scraps of paper. But she'd cracked it, finally, and she was convinced that between this and the credit note, whatever revelation Alexei was going to bring to her would pale in comparison.

    She set the penquill down and flexed her fingers. They tingled faintly, but it wasn't painful - more of an awareness, an annoyance. As long as she was careful with her magic, it wouldn't get any worse. She thought of Ophelia.

    Beautiful Ophelia, whose doe-eyed gaze and soft features belied her strong will, her expert knowledge in salve-craft, and her hungry eagerness in bed. Tia thought of the fullness of her tanned thighs, her apron strings dangling as she untied them, reclining slowly onto the bed, her hair spilling--

    A knock at the door interrupted her reverie.

    TIA: Godsdamn it! What?

    Tia was flushed, and more than her fingers tingled.

    ALEXEI: It's me. Bad time?

    Tia grumbled curses and insults under her breath. Her daydream shattered, she snatched up her gloves and pulled them on. She stalked quickly across the room and threw the door open. Alexei pushed past her and sat on the bed, shaking off his poncho and scabbard.

    ALEXEI: What do you know about Nereid Trading Company?

    Tia sighed.

    TIA: I've heard of it. That's all.
    ALEXEI: They're based in Corobel, south of here. They have over four million ord in assets. Their main investor is Count Pineas Aldove. Heard of him?
    TIA: Get to the point.

    Alexei looked defeated. Tia could tell he wanted to show off, but she was in no mood for quizzes and being led around a conversation like a child.

    ALEXEI: Here's another name. Arfeld Aldove. It probably doesn't sound familiar, since he's only a few months old.
    TIA: Felathas.
    ALEXEI: Felathas is right. There are two equally bad possibilities.
    TIA: Do you think Durandal knew?
    ALEXEI: Durandal's network of informants is very reliable. I don't doubt he knew it was Nereid's caravan.

    Alexei held up a finger.

    ALEXEI: Option one. Durandal knows the child is present, and thinks the extra guards Aldove has hired will make short work of us. This means Durandal wants us gone. It wouldn't surprise me.
    TIA: Hmm.
    ALEXEI: Option two. Durandal didn't know about the child, and we're in a heap of trouble when Aldove's men come asking questions. If anyone ties the child to him, no number of mercenaries will be able to save him, and by extension, us.
    TIA: He could just turn the child over and concoct some story about rescuing him.
    ALEXEI: Yeah, if the kid is still alive.
    TIA: You think Durandal would kill an infant.
    ALEXEI: I think it's even money, if you're betting.

    Tia'd been standing this whole time, and she walked over to the desk.

    TIA: So you're saying we can't go back to Runo.
    ALEXEI: Probably not. I've been trying to think of how we can get at our money. Who we know in town that could withdraw it for us and make the journey here.

    Tia bit her lip anxiously.

    ALEXEI: There aren't many people I actually trust, really. Do you think Ophelia could do it?

    The question hit her like a ton of bricks, even given a second to prepare. How could she possibly involve Ophelia in this? They'd be asking her to uproot her life, get entangled in a criminal conspiracy, and go on the run with them. Sweet Ophelia, who didn't even know Tia's real name?

    TIA: Absolutely not.
    ALEXEI: Think about it, Tia. It's either this, or not seeing her again.
    TIA: Maybe that's for the best! Just leave the money where it is, and not involve her! She deserves a normal life!
    ALEXEI: We can't start over from nothing again, Tia. I won't do it.

    Tia had previously planned on telling Alexei about the credit note, but his insistence on putting Ophelia in danger just to serve his own ends changed her mind. She would be damned if that money went to further his selfish goals. And she'd see him eat dirt before she sent a letter asking Ophelia to withdraw from the trust in her name.

    Her eyes fell on the decoded letter.

    She snatched it up, eager to derail the conversation.

    TIA: If you could prevent a war, would you do it? Even if it put you in danger?
    ALEXEI: What does that have to do with anything?
    TIA: Answer the question. If you had certain knowledge that a war was about to break out, and you could stop it, would you have an obligation to act?

    Alexei rubbed his beard.

    ALEXEI: Is this philosophical? What is that?

    He reached for the letter, and Tia snatched it away. Her brother had always insisted that he had a grand destiny, a fact she was prepared to exploit to keep Ophelia out of their problems.

    Choose a course of action. Does Alexei think there's a moral imperative to save lives?
    A. Yes, war is a tragedy that benefits only the rich. We have to save lives if we can.
    B. No, we have to get our money from Runo and get far away from here.
    C. No, but maybe we can leverage the knowledge to our own advantage?
    D. It doesn't matter. Maybe it's possible to get ahead of this situation if we return to Runo?

    Status
    1p9sm3hcbpfm.png

    Delzhand on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    I have no idea why Vanilla insists on upscaling images in spoiler tags, but I hate it.

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    zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    C

    Alexei seems a bit too cynical, a war will happen even if we stop it today, might as well use it to help ourselves.

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    Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    A.
    Money is fleeting, EXP is forever.

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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    B. Get paid. Get gone. Leave a beautiful bonfire in our wake.

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    mrpakumrpaku Registered User regular
    A. Idealism, even if it's gullible, is better than cynicism

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    There are major repercussions to this particular vote, so I'm gonna let it sit a bit longer. In the meantime, open Q&A about anything that's happened so far!

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    discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    C A

    Who would benefit from a war?
    Us?

    We could run away, and maybe get ahead.
    But the ones that benefit are those that already have the people behind them to survive.

    We're not going to get ahead by running or taking advantage of this.
    All we can do is try to stop it getting worse.

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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    Delzhand wrote: »
    There are major repercussions to this particular vote, so I'm gonna let it sit a bit longer. In the meantime, open Q&A about anything that's happened so far!

    With this in mind, @cj iwakura , maybe use your Lens of Truth to give us some guidance about the consequences of our inevitable bad decision?

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Too late! The siblings' fate has been sealed. They have chosen to save lives. Post is in the works.

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    ALEXEI: I'm not going to answer if you're trying to trap me. What do you know that I don't?

    Tia held the letter just out of reach for a moment. She had his curiosity, and that would probably be enough. She handed it to him. Alexei's eyes skimmed the paper, flipped it to see if anything was written on the back, and then re-read it.

    ALEXEI: What am I missing here?
    TIA: Nothing is missing, but there's rather more than there needs to be. Try reading only the words in each paragraph that fit the golden sequence.

    Alexei read the letter again, counting the words out. First, second, third, fifth, eighth...

    ALEXEI: I see.

    Tia nodded. The decoded letter spelled out plans to assassinate the imperial prince, Herrist, and pin the deed on the ethnic Valtans living in the capital. When the emperor died, the prince would by birthright inherit the throne. He had inherited his politics from his father, chiefly that the empire could not grow so long as the recalcitrant Valtans maintained control of the lucrative southern ports.

    Herrist's sister Agatha, by comparison, favored economic negotiations. She believed in letting Valta maintain sovereignty and paying tariffs on imports and exports. But she wasn't favored for the throne, so her diplomatic positions had earned her little, except for the loyalty of those Valtans living within the empire's borders.

    ALEXEI: If his son is killed, the emperor will go to war, with or without the backing of parliament or the people.
    TIA: What's odd is that I heard a rumor that the emperor already has troops pushing into Valta.

    Alexei stood up and paced around the room. Tia had decoded the letter, but she couldn't figure out the politics behind it.

    Alexei stopped pacing.

    ALEXEI: How many years do you think the emperor has left?
    TIA: How should I know? He's past his prime, but if he's taken ill he's done an excellent job of hiding it.
    ALEXEI: The way I see it, if we have a choice between certain war now or potential war later, that's no choice at all.
    TIA: Do you think we could stop it from happening?
    ALEXEI: We could try. But we'd have to find a way into the capital. And we'd have to find out who's behind it. Both very difficult when you have no money.

    Tia pulled the credit letter from her waistcoat and flashed it at him.

    TIA: I think I have a solution to that problem.

    Alexei eyed her suspiciously.

    ALEXEI: Why didn't you lead with that?
    TIA: I'm telling you now.
    ALEXEI: Gods be good, this is enough money to live comfortably until the end of our days.
    TIA: It crossed my mind several times. The money doesn't go as far split four ways, but it's still a tidy sum.
    ALEXEI: You mean to split it with Hilda and Stafford?
    TIA: By your account, Hilda found the satchel, and Stafford found the secret pocket containing the note. Seems only fair.
    ALEXEI: That's true. We'd have to go to a larger city to deposit it. They'll have to accompany us.
    TIA: What do we tell them?

    How much do you trust your companions?
    A. Tell Hilda and Stafford about the money.
    B. Tell Hilda and Stafford about the plot and our plans.
    C. Tell Hilda and Stafford about the truth behind Whitecloak.
    D. Tell Hilda and Stafford about Nereid, and your real role at Whitecloak.

    Choose as many as you wish!

    Delzhand on
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    cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    I'd say D, but can I use the lens to see the consequence of A?

    wVEsyIc.png
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    zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    A and B

    No need to give too much, but they are going to get a cut of that money and if we want them to help us out, should tell them about that war thing.

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    cj iwakura wrote: »
    I'd say D, but can I use the lens to see the consequence of A?

    The Lens of Truth reveals a hidden consequence!

    Choosing A alone will raise Hilda's loyalty to the siblings, and they may be able to count on her in the future, but she will leave the party for now.

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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
    D Full truth. And then we can sack off this world saving malarky to focus on getting a proper postal service up and going

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
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    discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    A and B
    Wouldn't they know about Whitecloak already?
    Maybe not Stafford I guess, fresh-faced as few is.

    Can't remember what the deal with Nereid was though, will have to go back and try to remember who it was that was coming for Durandal

    Ok, also D
    Durandal has trouble coming to him, best the others come with us

    discrider on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Re: option D
    Most mercenaries who work for Whitecloak don't know about the racket part where they are actually the bandits attacking merchants. Alexei and Tia don't know whether Hilda does, Stafford almost certainly doesn't.

    Nereid Trading owned the caravan they attacked that had the baby in it, relative of a powerful noble.

    Option D is essentially saying "we did awful things and we probably just made a powerful enemy"

    Delzhand on
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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    A, B, C and D
    Full disclosure. We're rich, and we're terrible, but maybe we can be less terrible.

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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Weekend System Update

    (this post does not interrupt vote counting for the previous post)

    Welcome to A Post-ful Time!
    This is a mail delivery side-quest! Going forward, any time you leave a city or other appropriate locale, Geth will roll a d3. This is how many piece of mail are available. The party can hold up to 10 pieces of mail at a time. When entering a new locale, Geth will roll a d6 for each piece of mail on hand. Each 6 rolled indictes that a piece of mail's destination is in this locale. Mail need only be dropped off at the post office, and they'll take care of the final leg of its journey - no need to track down individual addresses. The post office will reward 1 PostToken for each delivery! PostTokens can be redeemed for special goods at the PostToken Shop*!

    PostToken Shop
    Gifts - Can be gifted to any character. Increases loyalty. Some characters may react more strongly to certain gifts!
    - Scarab Brooch: 1pt
    - Smoky Spices: 1pt
    - Violet Dye: 1pt
    - Heroic Poem: 1pt
    - Feline Carving: 1pt
    - Weird Leaf: 1pt
    - Strong Tea: 1pt
    Meta Items - Affect voting in strange ways!
    - Lens of Truth: 2pt (reveals hidden option consequence)
    - Wendigo Fang: 3pt (removes an option)
    Useful Goods - Various utilities
    - Heal: 2pt
    - Nightglass: 3pt (prevents surprise attack - used automatically)

    * The PostToken Shop is a metanarrative construct that is always available, even in the middle of fights. PostTokens are a collective forum resource, spent on a first-requested basis. If a gift is purchased, it can be gifted in person (at the next available narrative opportunity), or sent by post. Conflicting requests will be arbitrated by dice roll. Prices and mechanics subject to change.

    Delzhand on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    Tia poked her head into the inn's hallway, checking both directions, then closed the door behind Hilda and Stafford. The four of them now stood in Alexei's room. A rainstorm had come to Moldaba, providing a blanket of steady noise, except when the wind picked up and it drummed directly against the glass windowpanes.

    Alexei's face was grim. Stafford stifled a yawn, he's probably been sleeping.

    HILDA: What's going on? New job?
    ALEXEI: For Tia and I, at least. I want to tell you some things before I ask whether or not you're interested.

    He looked uneasily at Tia. She nodded.

    ALEXEI: Several things have recently come to light. I'll start with the good and... work my way down, I guess.

    Hilda sat on the floor, cross-legged. Stafford leaned against the wall.

    ALEXEI: We found, among the mail in the satchel, an unclaimed bearer credit note of... high value. Tia and I agreed it's only fair that we share it.
    HILDA: Ha ha! How much are we talking about?

    Alexei held out the note so her and Stafford could read it. Hilda's eyes went wide.

    STAFFORD: That's a healthy number, isn't it? Even split four ways. Sorry, maybe that's presumptuous. What's the split?
    TIA: You have it right. Equal splits. A quarter to each of us, but there's a catch. Moldaba doesn't have a trust office, so we'll have to go to a city that does.
    HILDA: So? There's a trust in Runo.
    ALEXEI: We're not going to back to Runo anytime soon. Which I'll get to in a moment. I'll let Tia explain the second order of business.

    Tia looked at the letter in her hands and nodded.

    TIA: I deciphered an encoded letter in the post. It details a plan to assassinate Prince Herrist and lay the blame with Valta. We think, since it was never delivered, that we can prevent it.

    Hilda grimaced.

    HILDA: I wouldn't stick my neck out for him. Hard to imagine either of you doing so either, to be honest.
    STAFFORD: Yeah, but if Herrist dies there would be chaos. Emperor Serdis would be commanding his generals to invade Valta within the hour, and he'd probably get way more popular support than he has now.
    TIA: We think Stafford's right. Most of the army is already in the south, but the emperor is a man of passions. He'd empty the imperial vault to expand the military and finally crush Valta. He's already been embarassed in three campaigns.
    HILDA: Okay, so why doesn't Durandal just warn someone by official channels?
    ALEXEI: Durandal doesn't know. We haven't told him.
    HILDA: Anything to do with why you're not returning to Runo?

    Alexei paused for the briefest of moments.

    ALEXEI: Yes, actually. There's something you ought to know about Whitecloak. It's more than a mercenary outfit.
    TIA: It's a protection racket.

    Hilda looked at Tia, Stafford's eyes remained on Alexei.

    TIA: Durandal markets his services as wainguards, escorts, and professional soldiers. But in order to ensure a steady stream of business, sometimes merchants need to be reminded how dangerous it is to leave the safety of their goods and employees to chance.
    ALEXEI: Simply put, Whitecloak is the guards and attackers both.

    Hilda chewed her lip, taking it in. Stafford appeared to be trying to stare a hole in Alexei's head. There was a tense silence in the room, except for the rain.

    Stafford broke that silence first.

    STAFFORD: Can I assume... that since you've not told anyone until now... that you're among these marauders of his?

    Alexei nodded.

    HILDA: This is the first I've heard of it. Why are you telling us now?
    ALEXEI: Because our days of working for Durandal are done. Our previous job, we think, was supposed to be a suicide mission. He sent us to attack a caravan owned by Nereid Trading. It was heavily guarded, and we barely escaped with our lives.
    TIA: We also didn't complete the job. We were to kill everyone present, but one of the passengers was an infant. We took him back to Durandal. It turned out to be the nephew of Count Aldove.

    Hilda groaned. Count Pineas Aldove had a reputation as a pitiless businessman and magistrate.

    HILDA: Felathas.

    Stafford pushed away from the wall and took a step towards the door.

    STAFFORD: Get out of the way, Sleet.
    TIA: It's Tia. ...Tia and Alexei.
    STAFFORD: I don't give a damn. Move.
    ALEXEI: Let him go. It's a lot to take in.

    Tia stepped aside, and Stafford pushed through the door, leaving it open behind him. Tia, Alexei, and Hilda listened to his footsteps recede down the hall.

    After a moment, Tia closed the door.

    HILDA: Not exactly what I meant by confidant, Tia.

    She gave an uneasy smile.

    TIA: I'm sorry. We've done some terrible things, I know.
    HILDA: I'm not angry. But I need to know why. Why go along with Durandal's scheme?

    It's an honest question.
    A. Durandal has leverage on us for some previous crime.
    B. The money was the only way to solve some trouble from our past.
    C. We owe Durandal a huge personal debt.
    X. _____

    If we see Stafford again before leaving town...
    1. Apologize and tell him his share of money will be in (whatever city the party visits next).
    2. Try to convince him of our cause one more time.
    3. Leave him be. There's clearly something on his mind and we have no right to press.
    ?. _____

    Status
    9wtvcengii0q.png

    Delzhand on
  • Options
    Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    C ? (Kill him)

    Loose lips sink ships. We can't take the risk.

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
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    discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    C 1 - Explain that it's not safe going back to Durandal if the Count comes knocking, but that we understand if he doesn't want to come with.

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    cj iwakuracj iwakura The Rhythm Regent Bears The Name FreedomRegistered User regular
    A - 2.

    wVEsyIc.png
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    zekebeauzekebeau Registered User regular
    C 2 -

    Don't want him spreading info, best to try and keep him close.

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    see317see317 Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    X: No dark secrets from the past. We were greedy, and Durandal paid well. Killing a baby was a step too far, even for us. Well, a half step.
    2.?: Try to convince him to join us one more time. Otherwise, we can't take the risk of him telling someone what we know.

    see317 on
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    Endless_SerpentsEndless_Serpents Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    C ?

    Have Alexei challenge him to a duel to the death at the local gladiatorial pit. We’re not animals, @Mojo_Jojo

    Endless_Serpents on
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    mrpakumrpaku Registered User regular
    C - 2.

  • Options
    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    C ?

    Have Alexei challenge him to a duel to the death at the local gladiatorial pit. We’re not animals, @Mojo_Jojo

    Alexei vs a neophyte with a cracked rib, this just sounds like "kill him" with extra steps

  • Options
    Mojo_JojoMojo_Jojo We are only now beginning to understand the full power and ramifications of sexual intercourse Registered User regular
    But this way the law of chivalry let's god choose who is right

    Homogeneous distribution of your varieties of amuse-gueule
  • Options
    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    edited July 2021
    ALEXEI: We owe him a lot of money. Almost a hundred and fifty thousand ord at one point. When he offered us a chance to cut that debt in half, we couldn't afford to say no.

    Hilda's eyes were wide.

    HILDA: A hundred and fifty thousand ord?! What could possibly cost that much?
    TIA: Academy tuition for two foreign nobles.
    HILDA: You became maruaders because of student debt? Wait, you're nobles?
    ALEXEI: It's a long story. Our family name carries almost no status these days. But we were facing expulsion for failure to pay, and Durandal offered us a loan.

    Hilda rubbed her temples.

    HILDA: What you know could destroy Whitecloak. All it would take is one attack of conscience.
    TIA: We think that's what Durandal was afraid of. If we started having doubts, it would shift the balance of power away from him.

    Hilda stood up, carding her fingers through her wavy blonde hair. She went to the window and stared out into the rain. There wasn't much to see at this hour.

    TIA: What do we do about Stafford? We can't leave him on his own. He could be in danger.
    ALEXEI: Or he could be a danger to us.
    HILDA: Let me talk to him. I don't think there's anything you two can say to him.
    ALEXEI: What are you going to tell him?
    HILDA: ...
    HILDA: I'll figure it out on the way.

    ----
    She found him sitting on a bench in the greenway across from the inn. He was soaked from head to toe, and still in his nightclothes. The light from Hilda's lantern illuminated his face. She didn't like what she saw there.

    STAFFORD: Did they send you to talk to me?
    HILDA: They're worried about you.
    STAFFORD: They barely know me. Neither do you.
    HILDA: So tell me about yourself.

    Stafford searched her face, and was momentarily disarmed by the genuine curiosity in her eyes. He sighed.

    STAFFORD: My father was killed by bandits. He was a healer, too. I idolized him. I can't travel with those two and spend every waking hour wondering if I'm working alongside my father's murderers.
    HILDA: You could ask. Alexei and Tia are many things, but they're not liars.

    Stafford considered this.

    HILDA: Or don't. They're not going to force you to do anything. But you probably shouldn't go back to Runo either. I doubt you want to keep working for Durandal, and if you quit after a single mission he's going to be suspicious.
    STAFFORD: What are you going to do?
    HILDA: I'm going to help them. I've seen the horrors of war firsthand. If there's a chance we can stop things from getting worse, I'm going to take it.
    STAFFORD: Even knowing what they've done?
    HILDA: I've been a mercenary for a while, Stafford. My hands aren't clean. Who do you think bandits are? "Bandit" is just a name we give to people who've given up on lawful society. We call them bandits so we don't have to think about the conditions that made them take up that life.
    STAFFORD: But they've all made the decision to turn to robbery and violence.
    HILDA: You think so? Remind me why you became a healer?
    STAFFORD: To follow in my father's footsteps...
    HILDA: And you know some bandits have children, too?
    STAFFORD: Alright, alright, I see what you're getting at.
    HILDA: You haven't killed anyone, yet. You can still make the choice to leave this life. But you shouldn't stay here.

    There was a long pause.

    HILDA: How long ago did your father die?
    STAFFORD: Eight years ago.

    Hilda did some quick math.

    HILDA: For what it's worth, I don't think Alexei and Tia were even living in the empire that long ago. They said they were foreigners.

    The rain was starting to let up. Stafford had been hunching his shoulders the whole time, he made a conscious effort to relax his body even as his mind raced.

    STAFFORD: I don't know what to do.
    HILDA: If you want my advice, come with us. Durandal knows we're here, but he won't know where we go next. We'll go somewhere new, you can get your share of the money, and make a decision there.

    She stood up, rested a hand on his shoulder for a moment, and stepped away from the bench.

    HILDA: Don't stay out here too much longer. You'll get pneumonia.
    STAFFORD: That's a myth, actually.

    Hilda smiled.

    HILDA: Well, all the same.

    ----
    The timeline hadn't added up. There was no way the siblings were involved with his father's death. That came as a relief, though it did little to quell his unease with their past. All the same, he agreed to join them, and he stood alongside Hilda as Alexei conversed with two agitated gate guards.

    Finally, Alexei returned to the others.

    ALEXEI: They said the road isn't safe. They found evidence of a grevit nest nearby, and the three guards they sent to clear it haven't returned. I told them we were willing to help.
    TIA: Ugh. I hate grevits.
    HILDA: I agree, but better us dealing with it. They only sent three guards to clear a nest?

    Which direction are we heading?
    A. West, towards Moille, the trade hub city.
    B. Northwest, towards the Imperial Capital.
    C. South, towards the Valtan border.

    What's a grevit?

    Geth, roll 1d3 for outbound mail

    outbound mail:
    1d3 3 [1d3=3]

    Delzhand on
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    DelzhandDelzhand Hard to miss. Registered User regular
    Sorry folks, laptop is almost dead. I'll add music and status window later. Auspicious max value roll for mail, though!

  • Options
    discriderdiscrider Registered User regular
    Probably B? Are we welcome there? Banditry might not be regarded highly... And Stafford might get ideas about turning us in.

    A grevit is a rabid wedding cake
    There is great dishonor in not capturing one big enough to feed your guests, but they also cannot be taken lightly, especially when they swarm.

    They also smell terrible when immolated.
    Just burning sugar.


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